|The Society for Photographing Relics of Old London |
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The Society for Photographing Relics of Old London was established in 1875 and photographers Henry Dixon, William Strudwick and A[lfred]. & J[ohn]. Bool documented the buildings that were at risk of demolition in London. The project was published in annual parts over twelve years from 1875 onwards and included a total of 120 photographs.
The Publisher's Circular in 1879 commented on their work:
The Society for Photographing Relics of Old London is about to issue a fresh selection of views in permanent photography, carrying on the series of publications which illustrate many of the fast-vanishing historical and picturesque buildings of the metropolis. Canonbury Tower, Barnard's Inn, old houses in Aldersgate-street, Christ's Hospital, the churchyard of St. Laurence Pountney, and a house in Great Queen-street supply subjects for this issue.
In 1886 the following letter from George H. Birch was published in Walford's Antiquarian:
OLD LONDON RELICS.
Sir,—Some of the newspapers have been calling attention to the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London, deploring the necessity of its collapse, and attributing the same to a want of interest on the part of the general public, and of its necessary support in the form of subscriptions. This is scarcely a correct statement of the actual facts, although one which might very justly be deduced from the notice of this last issue being the final one of the "Society." In one sense, a society it never has been; for its management, the choice of subjects, the excellent letterpress accompanying each issue, and the various details and complicated work and trouble attached to it, have been the labour of love of one man only, Mr. Alfred Marks, the originator, director, and manager from the first, the funds derived from subscriptions having been expended entirely upon its publications; and the fortunate subscribers have received their photographs, not mere sun pictures, as evanescent and as fleeting as the very sunshine itself, but permanent memorials of an "Old London" fast disappearing from our view in our own times, here preserved to those that come after by the taste, energy, and forethought of one man, to whom others like myself will be for ever indebted. These labours have ended from lack not of support, but of material; 120 pictures of Old London practically exhaust the subject. But there is a moral attached. The first issue of these photographs was in 1875, and in the decade just elapsed nearly one-half have disappeared or are threatened with probable demolition. In the next decade to come how many of the remainder will be left? The subject is "too dismal to contemplate "—a wealthy city, not altogether without taste, and with such lovely memorials of the past, thus deliberately to denude itself of every atom, of every spark of its antiquity.
Devereux Chambers, Temple. GEORGE H. BIRCH, F.S.A.
- Λ Yale Center for British Art, 2016, Art in focus: Relics of old London, (Yale Center for British Art), Gallery guide for an exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art, , May 11-August 14, 2016.
- Λ May 16, 1879, The Publisher's Circular, vol. 42, p. 366
- Λ George H. Birch, July-December, 1886, "Old London Relics", Walford's Antiquarian, vol. X, pp. 47-48
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