The Oldest Known Footage of London (1890-1920) Shows the City’s Great Landmarks

The City of London has exploded like Blade Runner in the last couple of decades with glass and concrete and shrines to global capitalism like St. Mary Axe (aka the Gherkin) and the Shard (aka the Shard). But has the view from the ground stayed the same? According to this charming then vs. now video assembled by a company called YesterVid, yes.

Trawling through the oldest surviving public domain footage from the early days of film (1890 – 1920), the videographers have placed old and modern-day shots side by side, matching as close as they can camera placement and lens.

Missing from today: the soot, the filth in the gutter, and the free-for-all in the streets as horse-drawn carriages and early busses battled it out with pedestrians. Streets are safer now, with railings to protect citizens, though the signs of increased security are also apparent, and CCTV cameras are most probably filming the director…somewhere!

St. Paul’s still needs room to breathe, and while the Empire Theatre may not show any more Lumiere Cinematographies, it’s still a cinema showing IMAX films. It didn’t suffer the fate of many cinemas outside of London after the ‘60s: being turned into bingo halls or just torn down.

Also: the sea of red poppies seen at 4:28 during the shot of the Tower of London’s moat is an installation work by artist Paul Cummins. Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red was installed between July and November of 2014 and, according to Wikipedia, it consisted of 888,246 ceramic red poppies, each intended to represent one British or Colonial serviceman killed in the Great War.

Final point: the oldest pub in London, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, still stands, and during the sweltering summers provides a cool respite, as most of its drinking rooms are underground. Cheers!

via Coudal

Related Content:

London Mashed Up: Footage of the City from 1924 Layered Onto Footage from 2013

2,000 Years of London’s Historical Development, Animated in 7 Minutes

Prize-Winning Animation Lets You Fly Through 17th Century London

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

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