Bank of England and Royal Exchange in 1891

“London in 1891”

Although the picture shows a scene near the Bank of England in 1891 – almost 130 years ago – anyone who knows this busy junction will have no problem recognising it. Apart from people’s clothes and the modes of transport, most of the buildings remain almost unaltered.

The Bank of England is seen on the far left with only the smallest part of Princes Street on the very left-hand edge of the view. It is presumably the start of the working day because there are many people to be seen walking on the pavement outside the Bank of England and two horse-drawn carts towards the left appear to be making deliveries. The street is, of course, Threadneedle Street. Just right of centre is shown the Royal Exchange with its ornate pediment supported by eight pillars. To the right of the Royal Exchange can be seen Cornhill with two churches on the far right of the view. The square stone tower rises above the church of St Michael, Cornhill and behind it is the spire on the church of St Peter, Cornhill (which stands at the crossroads with Leadenhall Street, Gracechurch Street and Bishopsgate.

One feature that has not changed very much is the traffic which is as busy in the picture as it is today. On the left is shown a large cart whose contents are rather unclear. There is a second one in front of it. They are following a Hansom Cab which would have been pulled by a single horse. Ahead of that is an open-top horse-drawn bus known as a ‘knife-board’ on account of the bench seats on the top deck. Obscuring part of the view of the Royal Exchange is another horse-drawn bus in the middle distance. In the foreground is another similar bus with a cover over the driver’s feet with the words ‘London Omnibus’. It was probably cold weather on the day the scene was painted because most of the people shown in any detail are wearing large coats.

The painting was made by the artist William Luker (Junior) (1867-1951) who, among other things, illustrated several books about the history of London by the Irish writer William Loftie (1838-1911).


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