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Old London – Celebrating London's rich history

Princess’s Theatre, Oxford Street, London

The Princess’s Theatre or Princess Theatre in Oxford Street, London opened in 1828 as the “Queen’s Bazaar” and housed a diorama by Clarkson Stanfield and David Roberts. It was converted into a theatre and opened in 1836 as the Princess’s Theatre, named for then Princess Victoria before her accession as queen. After an unsuccessful series of promenade concerts, alterations were made on the interior, and the theatre was reopened on 26 December 1842 with Vincenzo Bellini‘s opera La sonnambula. The theatre, by now under the management of John Medex Maddox, presented operas and other entertainments, such as General Tom Thumb.

The theatre is best remembered for Charles Kean‘s Shakespeare revivals, beginning in 1849 and continuing for ten years. Kean presented these in lavish and well-researched “authentic” productions and also presented French drama. Dion Boucicault became the theatre’s leading actor, and Ellen Terry and Henry Irving got their starts at the theatre. Thereafter, the theatre presented mainly melodrama. H. J. Byron wrote a series of Christmas pantomimes for the theatre, beginning in 1859 with Jack the Giant Killer, or, Harlequin, King Arthur, and ye Knights of ye Round Table and followed the next year by Robinson Crusoe, or Harlequin Friday and the King of the Caribee Islands! In 1863, Sefton Parry, recently returned from Cape Town, appeared as Cousin Joe in the farce The Rough Diamond. In 1864, a particularly popular drama was presented at the theatre called The Streets of London. The theatre was demolished and rebuilt in 1879–80. After this, the theatre continued to present melodramas, including The Lights o’ London (1881) and The Silver King (1882).

The theatre closed permanently in 1902 after its last success, The Fatal Wedding, and the building became a warehouse. It was demolished in 1931 and replaced by a Woolworth store, and then subsequently by the Oxford Walk shopping centre. The site is now the location of a sports store.

Video: Tour of 1746 London (Map by John Rocque)

John Rocque (1709–1762) was a surveyor and cartographer. He moved to England with his parents, who were French Huguenot émigrés. In addition to his work as surveyor and mapmaker, Rocque was an engraver and map-seller. He was also involved in some way in gardening as a young man, living with his brother Bartholomew, who was a landscape gardener, and producing plans for parterres, perhaps recording pre-existing designs, but few details of this work are known. Rocque produced engraved plans of the gardens at Wrest Park (1735), Claremont (1738), Charles Hamilton’s naturalistic landscape garden at Painshill Park, Surrey (1744), Wanstead House (1745) and Wilton House (1746).

Amazing colour film of London in the 1920s

London is the last stop in an epic trip across Britain filmed in remarkable early colour and restored by the BFI National Archive. London was the final stop in a marathon journey around Britain filmed as a series of cinema travelogues. Pioneering filmmaker Claude Friese-Greene brought these picture-postcard scenes to life with a specially-devised colour film process.

Old Hungerford Market, London, 1805

Hungerford Market was a produce market in London, at Charing Cross on the Strand. It existed in two different buildings on the same site, the first built in 1682, the second in 1862. The market was first built on the site of Hungerford House, next to Durham Yard, the town house of the Hungerford family. The house had burned down in 1669 as is recorded in the Diary of Samuel Pepys. It was replaced by a new Italianate market building by Charles Fowler, which opened in 1833. The new market was unsuccessful. It was damaged when the adjoining Hungerford Hall burned down in 1854, and was sold to the South Eastern Railway in 1862. Charing Cross railway station was built on the site and opened in 1864.

Westminster Bridge with the Houses of Parliament, London by Louis Grimshaw

Louis H. Grimshaw (1870 – 1943) – The son of the artist John Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893), Louis Grimshaw was born in Leeds and brought up at the family home, Knostrop Hall, a subject often depicted by his father. Louis studied as a pupil of his father, collaborating with him on a number of works typically painting the figures while John Atkinson Grimshaw would execute the sky and backgrounds. Both father and son had an abiding interest in photography, the father using photographs of subjects in his early years in order to portray scenes with exact detail and precision, in later life, from 1890-93 both father and Louis were members of the Leeds Photographic Society.

Following the death of John Atkinson Grimshaw, Louis Grimshaw continued his career as an artist. He painted predominantly moonlit city views, amongst others Edinburgh, Hull, Leeds, Durham but above all London, many views of the latter being commissioned by the art dealer Jackson in the 1890’s. In 1902 he produced a series of views of the capital decorated for the coronation of King Edward VII.

The precarious nature of an artist’s life however, persuaded Louis to abandon his career; he joined the Manchester Guardian as a cartographer in 1905. He left a small corpus of high quality works comparable to those of his father. Another brother Arthur abandoned his burgeoning career as an artist for his first love music, becoming the organist for St. Anne’s Cathedral, Leeds.