Cannon Street in 1891

“London in 1891”

William John Loftie was quite a prolific writer of books on London. Some of them carried illustrations drawn by William Luker (Junior). One of Luker’s drawings is shown here – taken from a book called ‘London City’ published in 1891. The viewpoint is from the pavement outside the old forecourt of Cannon Street Station and looks west along Cannon Street with St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance.

Today the entrance to Cannon Street Station is one part of the ground floor entrance to large offices built on top of the station concourse. Both entrances lead directly from the side of the pavement. In the 1890s view, we can see driveways crossing the pavement from the roadway and leading into a forecourt beside the station concourse. The forecourt of Cannon Street Station in those days was very similar to that of today’s Charing Cross Station but not as extensive. A large ornamental lamp enclosure can be seen above the pavement (far left) which was obviously one of the station lamps. To the right of that lamp is another lamp in the street, mounted on a tall post. These days, lamps in the City are mounted on the walls of buildings in an attempt to reduce street clutter. Notice that high above Cannon Street are telephone wires. In 1891 they must have seemed quite strange because the telephone was then a new device – less than 25 years old.

On the pavement is a diminutive figure of either a boy or a short man, presumably selling matches from a tray suspended from a band around his neck. Behind him, a tall, well-dressed man is wearing a top hat and carrying a rolled umbrella. He is ambling away from our view. Beside the kerb is a brougham either waiting for a ‘fare’ or about to deliver someone at the station. Further in the distance is a horse-drawn cart, usually referred to as a ‘van’, in the middle of the road. On the far side of the road is a man pushing a barrow with a large box or case on it. He appears to be a railway porter.

Some of the buildings in Cannon Street are still Victorian and look rather like those on the far right. However, all the buildings that we can see have all either been bombed and replaced with new buildings or been demolished in order to rebuild. Because today’s offices are now much higher than those seen in this view, it is not possible to see so much of St Paul’s Cathedral when standing at this particular spot. Nevertheless, it is still possible to see the cathedral from the station and it is to be hoped that this will continue to be the case.


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