These photographs promise to ‘bring a lost London back to life’.
They’re black-and-white images which have been specially colourised for instance the fascinating recent book Colors of London: A History, by biographer and critic Peter Ackroyd, published by Frances Lincoln.
The book explores how London’s ‘many hues have come to shape its history and identity’. ‘Consider the colors of London and what do you imagine? The reds of open-top buses and terracotta bricks? The grey smog of Victorian industry, Portland stone and pigeons in Trafalgar square? Colors of London shows us that color is all over the place in town, and each holds myriad links to its past,’ the publisher notes.
A shocking picture of an upturned bus within the aftermath of a World War II bombing raid, a poignant shot of the London floods of 1928, and a Nineteen Fifties image of kids paddling within the Thames are among the many eye-opening colourised pictures within the tome.
Jordan J Lloyd of Dynamichrome colourised a lot of the photographs within the book. Reflecting on the method, he writes: ‘What I discovered extraordinary was not how much, but how little has modified; the view could be as familiar to a Londoner in the course of the reign of Queen Victoria as it might be today.’
He explains that experts were consulted to create an ‘authentic color interpretation of the black-and-white original’. ‘I stress the word authenticity (somewhat than accuracy) because, like several period drama, we take clues from the true thing in an effort to inform a version which is just not intended to be an alternative to a historically accurate original,’ he adds. Scroll right down to see a handful of the images within the book that take you on a vibrant walk through history…
The colourised snapshot above portrays children paddling at low tide within the River Thames on June 2, 1955, with Tower Bridge within the background. Ackroyd describes the Thames as ‘neither secure nor peaceful… sometimes a treacherous ally of town’, noting that there ‘have been floods throughout the tempestuous history of each’, with six within the Nineteenth century that caused ‘much destruction of life and property’
LEFT: This poignant picture shows the aftermath of a German bombing raid on September 9, 1940. Within the shot, a bus lies against the side of a terrace in Harrington Square, Mornington Crescent. Ackroyd explains that the ‘first assaults on London from the air’ began in July of that 12 months, and so they were initially aimed toward outer London. ‘At 5pm on September 7, the German air force got here in for a significant attack on London itself. 600 bombers, marshalled in great waves, dropped their explosive and high incendiary devices over east London. Beckton, West Ham, Woolwich, Millwall, Limehouse and Rotherhithe went up in flames,’ the book reads, adding that ‘the Thames was described as a lake in Hell’. It continues: ‘The German bombers got here back the following night, after which the following. Between September and November, some 30,000 bombs were dropped; almost 6,000 residents were killed, and twice as many badly injured. It looked as if it would some that the tip of the world had come.’ Ackroyd says that at the moment, the ‘predominant colors’ in London were ‘of sunshine and fire’. RIGHT: This atmospheric shot shows a bus stop near Trafalgar Square in 1953. The book notes that town became known for its foggy conditions by the mid-Nineteenth century, attributable to emissions from the likes of coal fires, furnaces and gas works. Ackroyd says: ‘When the fog was overtaken by the smoke and industrial pollution of the twentieth century there emerged the phenomenon of smog, as widespread and deadly as any disease.’ The 12 months before this picture was taken, town was struck by the Great Smog of 1952. ‘It’s estimated that 4,000 Londoners died of its effects, and an unknown number became sick,’ Ackroyd says, adding: ‘Between December 4 and December 8, the measurements suggested that the PM concentration, or the quantity of noxious particles within the air, was 56 times greater than average and that the degrees of sulphur dioxide within the air were multiplied by seven’
The precise date of this picture of Buckingham Palace is not known, however the book explains that it should have been taken before 1911, because that was the 12 months that the Queen Victoria Memorial was erected in front of the palace, and it is not visible within the shot. The image shows the East Wing of the palace with its original facade, designed by Edward Blore in 1847. The book says of the palace’s early appearance: ‘It had previously resembled a fortress or castle constructed out of soppy creamy-yellow Caen stone, which quickly darkened and deteriorated within the pollution of town. It had grow to be brown. The brown was mournful somewhat than decorative.’ In 1913 the choice was taken to renew the facade, the book reveals. Its current facade – designed by the architect Aston Webb – is constructed from Portland Stone, transforming a ‘somewhat dour and dilapidated structure right into a brilliant and good recent creation’. ‘The white facade of the East Wing is thought throughout the country and the world,’ Ackroyd adds
LEFT: This colourised picture was snared in 1875 by Alfred and John Bool of the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London. Ackroyd explains that it shows The Oxford Arms on Warwick Lane, ‘one among the last surviving galleried coaching inns in London’. Speaking of the colors of London’s architecture at the moment, specifically the homes of the wealthier classes, Ackroyd says: ‘The homes of the late Nineteenth century may appear to be the color of sepia or russet verging on rust red, with brown or green doorways, while the backs of homes tended to modulate between all of the varieties of grey and brown brick.’ He notes that the ‘houses of the poor’, meanwhile, were ‘slums or tenements, obscure and brown as mud’. ‘It was a world of brown dilapidation,’ he declares. RIGHT: This photograph shows the inside of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in the course of the Great Exhibition – an 1851 showcase of 100,000 exhibits from countries all over the world, from mechanical inventions to sculptures. Touching on the Crystal Palace’s construction, Ackroyd says that ‘glass had never been employed on so large a scale, stretching over some 226 hectares (560 acres)’. In line with the tome, the glass structure reflected the ‘light of the sun as never before seen in London’. The Great Exhibition was ‘in some respects a multi-coloured extravaganza’ with ‘color all over the place’, from blue and white paint on the outside to strips of red, white and blue in the inside. The writer says: ‘The Crystal Palace resembled a magic lantern that burned as brightly because the day… it astonished and eventually modified architectural taste.’ The Crystal Palace was subsequently moved to Sydenham, ‘where in 1936 it was destroyed by fire’
This photograph of St Paul’s Cathedral was captured from the South Bank of the River Thames in around 1875. Discussing the color of the river, Ackroyd notes that the Thames has been ‘generally depicted’ as blue on maps of town, ‘when in reality it has 100 different hues’. In paintings of the late Nineteenth and twentieth centuries ‘it’s predominantly grey, silver or brown’ with ‘glimpses or slivers’ of the blue, he says. Seeking to contemporary times, the writer says that today, the Thames is ‘continually illuminated’ because of the ‘street lights and the sunshine blazing in innumerable adjoining buildings’
This picture of Covent Garden Underground station winds the clock back to around 1927. Ackroyd says: ‘The greenest or probably the most intense green spot in London was the fruit and vegetable market of Covent Garden.’ Touching on the history of the market, the book says that within the early 1700s, shops were arrange in two rows in the realm. This market expanded in the course of the Nineteenth century, selling vegetables, fruit and flowers. ‘It became probably the most famous market in England,’ the book reveals. Today, the ‘bustle of the old trades has gone from Covent Garden however the spirit of the market survives in the brand new lifetime of the piazza where the road musicians, jugglers, acrobats, in addition to the shops and restaurants of the current consumer period, still thrive’
A rainy day on Fleet Street in October 1915 is depicted on this picture. Discussing the presence of promoting on the streets of London, Ackroyd writes that by the center of the Nineteenth century, London’s business premises had ‘a wide range of papier-mache ornaments or paintings to indicate the trade of the occupant’. ‘Many coffee houses had a logo of a loaf and cheese along with a cup… the destruction of Pompeii seemed a fitting commercial for a patent cockroach exterminator,’ the book says. By the tip of the Nineteenth century, the ground-floor shops of town provided ‘bursts of color and variety’ with their signs
This striking colourised picture depicts the London floods of January 1928, when the Thames’ tide ‘peaked at its highest recorded level of 5.5m (18ft)’ and ‘parts of central London resembled Venice’. The book notes that the basement of the Tate Gallery was flooded to a depth of two.4m (eight feet); some ‘vital paintings’, including artworks by JMW Turner, were submerged. The world of Millbank was ‘so badly affected that it needed to be rebuilt; the old dwellings and warehouses were washed away or damaged beyond repair’ and the moat across the Tower of London was ‘filled for the primary time in eight a long time’. The book notes that there have been several fatalities and altogether some 4,000 Londoners were rendered homeless within the tragedy