“London in 1891”
This is an easy location to identify but the view today has also undergone drastic changes. The position of the artist, when he drew the picture was on the east corner of Gracechurch Street where it joins with Eastcheap. The artist is looking south, in line with Fish Street Hill where The Monument can be seen half-way down the hill and the elegant tower of St Magnus the Martyr at the bottom of the hill. Notice that the overhanging clock on the tower of St Magnus is clear to see.
That is the easy part of the description. Following on from that, nearly everything else has changed. The artist has shown a very large sign with the words ‘Metropolitan and District Railway’ at the top and an arrow immediately below saying ‘MONUMENT STATION’.
The station at ‘Monument’ opened with the name ‘Eastcheap on 6 October 1884, named after the nearby street and it was renamed ‘The Monument’ on 1 November 1884. As the large sign explains, trains from two companies served the station on the Inner Circle service. It achieved a separate identity as the ‘Circle Line’ in 1949 although its trains were still provided by the District or Metropolitan lines.
The station that the large sign refers to is still there and one of its entrances is still on the west side of Fish Street Hill, almost opposite The Monument. The station is called ‘Monument’ but it is ‘bundled together’ with ‘Bank’ underground station as if they are both side-by-side. As any user of those underground stations knows, it is a long boring march through pedestrian tunnels to interconnect with the two stations.
It should be mentioned in passing that, at the time of the picture, there was also a station called King William Street which was the northern terminus of the City and South London Railway (C&SLR). That station was beside the top end of Monument Street, near the junction with King William Street. It was the first deep-level underground railway in the world (often called ‘The Tube’) and also the first major railway to use electric traction. It was opened to the public on 18 December 1890. Initially, it had stations at Stockwell (the southern terminus), The Oval (now Oval), Kennington, Elephant & Castle’ Borough, and King William Street (which was then the northern terminus). Eventually, the northern extension of the line opened in 1900, by-passing the old King William Street station with a new station at Bank. The station was never used by the public again and a City Plaque now marks its location.
We now turn to looking at the other buildings. Even if you have known the City well for several decades, none of the other buildings is recognisable in any way. The terrace of houses in line with The Monument was demolished sometime after the 1970s and new office buildings stand in their place. The buildings on the far right look very impressive. There is even a large portico in the distance. They were probably bombed or demolished soon after the Second World War. Their sites today consist of all modern office buildings and shops.
This is a really Victorian view which, apart from the church and The Monument, has been completely lost with the passage of time, particularly after the Second World War and due to frantic redevelopment in the 1990s and later.