Westminster City Archives

Westminster City Archives Archives Centre and Local Studies Library for City of Westminster We're the premier destination for exploring the social, economic and cultural history of City of Westminster.
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Nestled in a quiet street, just a stone's throw from Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, City of Westminster Archives Centre houses a host of manuscript sources, historic photographs, prints, books, maps, and much more, unlocking the door to the past of our fascinating city. Our special Art and Design Collection has been recognised as being of national importance, and our extensive Theatre Collection is one of the most extensive public collections on the history of the West End stage. Our page is a great way to stay in touch with everything going on at the Archives Centre, from brand new exhibitions, walks and talks, to on-line projects and the latest additions to our collections.

Operating as usual

These two bollards stand at diagonally opposite corners of the crossroads between Hill Street and Chesterfield Hill in M...
16/05/2021

These two bollards stand at diagonally opposite corners of the crossroads between Hill Street and Chesterfield Hill in Mayfair. They are Grade II listed and have an entry as such on the Historic England website (https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1066632). There they are dated to the early nineteenth century and described as cast iron of the cannon type.

If you look hard you can just about see parts of what originally would have been clear, cast text half-way up the bollards, marking them as street furniture belonging to the parish/vestry (i.e. council) of St George’s Hanover Square, now much blurred by centuries’ worth of paint application. This is the local authority that covered this area at the time.

Bollards like these were intended to protect pedestrians from large vehicles that would otherwise be tempted to cut the corners. Bollards in the general sense of short sturdy posts were first used on ships and quays to aid mooring, etc. The ones on quays were often recycled cannon, partly buried muzzle-first in the masonry, with the breech end giving the rounded top. This is the origin of the design of our purpose-cast ones.

Image descriptions: two colour photographs of black-painted bollards standing in the kerb, between tarmac street in front and flagged pavement behind. One photograph shows a building behind and the other a fuller view of a street. The bollards are cylindrical, narrowing slightly upwards, have a section of a sphere as top, and have three flanges around them, two towards the top, one towards the bottom.

(Photographs courtesy of Tim Reid)

This is a view of the Great Exhibition by John Nash showing the interior of the Crystal Palace, a vast glass structure t...
13/05/2021

This is a view of the Great Exhibition by John Nash showing the interior of the Crystal Palace, a vast glass structure that was built in Hyde Park. The Great Exhibition was the first in a series of World's Fairs, exhibitions of culture and industry that became popular in the 19th century. The brainchild of Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, it was extremely Victorian in its outlook: England was experiencing a manufacturing boom and this was an opportunity to show off, on the international stage. There were some 100,000 objects, displayed along more than 10 miles, by over 15,000 contributors. Find out more about the exhibits in this article from the British Library:
https://www.bl.uk/victorian-britain/articles/the-great-exhibition#

The Exhibition opened on 1 May 1851 and by the time it closed, on 11 October, over six million people had visited. The Palace structure was relocated to Sydenham, South London in an area later known as Crystal Palace where it stood from 1854 until 1936 when it was destroyed by a fire.

Image Description:
A colourful image of the interior of the Crystal Palace. Light streams in through the glass ceiling and you can see that the hall is very long, stretching off into the distance. Lots of men and women in Victorian dress are gathered around the edges of the hall and on mezzanine balconies.

Image ref: E136.1 (016)

This is a view of the Great Exhibition by John Nash showing the interior of the Crystal Palace, a vast glass structure that was built in Hyde Park. The Great Exhibition was the first in a series of World's Fairs, exhibitions of culture and industry that became popular in the 19th century. The brainchild of Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, it was extremely Victorian in its outlook: England was experiencing a manufacturing boom and this was an opportunity to show off, on the international stage. There were some 100,000 objects, displayed along more than 10 miles, by over 15,000 contributors. Find out more about the exhibits in this article from the British Library:
https://www.bl.uk/victorian-britain/articles/the-great-exhibition#

The Exhibition opened on 1 May 1851 and by the time it closed, on 11 October, over six million people had visited. The Palace structure was relocated to Sydenham, South London in an area later known as Crystal Palace where it stood from 1854 until 1936 when it was destroyed by a fire.

Image Description:
A colourful image of the interior of the Crystal Palace. Light streams in through the glass ceiling and you can see that the hall is very long, stretching off into the distance. Lots of men and women in Victorian dress are gathered around the edges of the hall and on mezzanine balconies.

Image ref: E136.1 (016)

12/05/2021
Wordsworth Donisthorpe's 1890 film of Trafalgar Square

Today, our volunteer David Evans writes about Wordsworth Donisthorpe.

Want to see moving pictures of life in the City of Westminster from as early as 1890? This is not as impossible as it seems for ten frames of film taken that year have survived. These were captured by a Leeds-born barrister and inventor named, rather poetically, Wordsworth Donisthorpe who set up his prototype camera in Trafalgar Square that year. He called his device the "Kinesigraph" but, unfortunately, he did not go on to develop his invention so that by the time the French Lumiere Brothers "Cinematographe" first arrived in London in 1896, his pioneering work had been largely forgotten. Happily, by reading this, you are remembering him here today.

[The video shows 10 frames filmed by Donisthorpe in Trafalgar Square 1890. The film is played in a loop.]

We are sharing today two photographs of Roman roads in Westminster.If you’d been a soldier in Roman Britain, you might h...
09/05/2021

We are sharing today two photographs of Roman roads in Westminster.

If you’d been a soldier in Roman Britain, you might have marched west out of London along Oxford Street and beyond to Staines, an important crossing of the Thames. If you’d turned right at Marble Arch - as it happens, a nineteenth-century re-creation of a Roman triumphal arch, you would have gone up Edgware Road to St Albans, north-west England, and North Wales.

Our photographs today both show the very long, very straight stretches that we associate with Roman roads: the first is a photograph of Oxford Street of 1938; the second a photograph of Edgware Road of 1910, taken looking north, up from the junction with Bayswater Road.

Image Descriptions: (1) black and white postcard view looking straight down the street full of pedestrians and traffic; (2) sepia photograph of the junction showing at least six double-decker horse-drawn buses.

Archive Refs: T138 Oxford Street (007c); P138 Edgware Road (010).

Today, London Mayoral and London Assembly elections are taking place, among others across the UK. Today’s photographs sh...
06/05/2021

Today, London Mayoral and London Assembly elections are taking place, among others across the UK. Today’s photographs show historical electoral registers that cover our territory, which are housed in our public search room.

Historical electoral registers can be an important research resource for family historians and others. A wealth of current and historical information about electoral registers, elections, and the development of the electoral franchise, as well as on how to access electoral registers, is available via this page of the British library website: https://www.bl.uk/collection-guides/uk-electoral-registers#.

For detailed information on electoral registers covering our area, both those we ourselves hold, and those held elsewhere, please see:https://www.westminster.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/documents/Poll%20books%20and%20electoral%20registers.pdf

Image Descriptions: Three colour photographs of hard-bound volumes of varying sizes, formats, and colours, with gold, tooled lettering on their spines in various configurations. The volumes sit on robust, built-in shelving of pale wood.

05/05/2021
London: An Oral History - A talk by documentary films makers, digital:works

London: An Oral History - A talk by documentary films makers, digital:works

If you missed this talk hosted by City of Westminster Archives Centre on 31 March this year, then this is your chance to watch the recording.

Matthew Rosenberg and Sav Kyriacou from digital-works talk about the many fascinating oral history projects they have run recording the stories of London and Londoners.

You can watch films by digital:works , listen to the podcast, listen to the full interviews as well as see the work done in schools on the project website: http://www.digital-works.co.uk

This video can be viewed with auto generated subtitles on YouTube from this link: https://youtu.be/xsAPZ3CW3oQ

Searching for London's lost rivers with Dr Tom BoltonTuesday 11 May 20216.30pm - 7.30pmBook your free place via Eventbri...
04/05/2021
Searching for London's lost rivers with Dr Tom Bolton

Searching for London's lost rivers with Dr Tom Bolton

Tuesday 11 May 2021
6.30pm - 7.30pm

Book your free place via Eventbrite: https://londonslostrivers.eventbrite.co.uk

When people think of rivers and London, they think of the Thames. But the city was built around many other rivers too, and many traces of these can be found for those who know where to look. A secret network of underground rivers snakes beneath the capital. In some places they can be seen and heard. Rediscovering them and following their courses transforms the way we see London. Using the visual - and aural - clues hidden in the streetscape, we can burrow down through layers of London history to river level, revealing the city as it once was.

Tom Bolton is a researcher and writer, the author of London’s Lost Rivers: A Walker’s Guide Volumes 1 & 2, Vanished City: London's Lost Neighbourhoods, Low Country: Brexit on the Essex Coast; and Camden Town: Dreams of Another London.

Tom's website is https://tombolton.co.uk

Join us to for a journey down through the layers of London to rediscover the lost rivers of her past.

A quote from this day in 1559, recounting May day celebrations on small boats called pinnaces on the Thames.  Captured i...
01/05/2021

A quote from this day in 1559, recounting May day celebrations on small boats called pinnaces on the Thames.

Captured in the diary of Henry Machyn, published in the book The London Year.

Image Description: blue square with white text that reads, On this Day, May Day Celebrations 1559.

"The first day of May there was two pinnaces decked with streamers, banners and flags and trumpets and drums and guns going a-Maying, against the Queens Place at Westminster and there they shot and threw eggs and oranges one against another."

A quote from this day in 1559, recounting May day celebrations on small boats called pinnaces on the Thames.

Captured in the diary of Henry Machyn, published in the book The London Year.

Image Description: blue square with white text that reads, On this Day, May Day Celebrations 1559.

"The first day of May there was two pinnaces decked with streamers, banners and flags and trumpets and drums and guns going a-Maying, against the Queens Place at Westminster and there they shot and threw eggs and oranges one against another."

The Pagan festival of Beltane which marks the beginning of summer is more familiar to us as May Day. In pagan tradition ...
01/05/2021

The Pagan festival of Beltane which marks the beginning of summer is more familiar to us as May Day. In pagan tradition it was celebrated with bonfires to welcome in the new season.

When the Romans took over the British Isles, they brought their own traditions including a five-day celebration (April 20 and May 2) known as Floralia, devoted to the worship of Flora the goddess of flowers the rituals of this celebration eventually combining with Beltane.

Evolving over the centuries the festival is celebrated with folklore traditions such as dancing around the maypole, choosing a May Queen and a procession of the Jack-in-the-Green.
The earliest known account of a Jack in the Green came from a description of a London May Day procession in 1770, by the nineteenth century, the Jack in the Green tradition was largely associated with chimney sweeps.

In this picture from the archive from the 19th century (1837-47) you can see a Jack-in-the-Green Procession on Upper Lisson Street. The Jack-in-the-Green costume made from a wooden wicker frame covered in woven foliage and worn on the upper part of the body a hole in the front allows the wearer to see where they are going.

Image Description: A painting of Lisson street in orange tones, in the middle of the street revellers dance around a Jack in-the-Green, whilst a crowd watches.

Image ref: T138 Upper Lisson Street (002)

The Pagan festival of Beltane which marks the beginning of summer is more familiar to us as May Day. In pagan tradition it was celebrated with bonfires to welcome in the new season.

When the Romans took over the British Isles, they brought their own traditions including a five-day celebration (April 20 and May 2) known as Floralia, devoted to the worship of Flora the goddess of flowers the rituals of this celebration eventually combining with Beltane.

Evolving over the centuries the festival is celebrated with folklore traditions such as dancing around the maypole, choosing a May Queen and a procession of the Jack-in-the-Green.
The earliest known account of a Jack in the Green came from a description of a London May Day procession in 1770, by the nineteenth century, the Jack in the Green tradition was largely associated with chimney sweeps.

In this picture from the archive from the 19th century (1837-47) you can see a Jack-in-the-Green Procession on Upper Lisson Street. The Jack-in-the-Green costume made from a wooden wicker frame covered in woven foliage and worn on the upper part of the body a hole in the front allows the wearer to see where they are going.

Image Description: A painting of Lisson street in orange tones, in the middle of the street revellers dance around a Jack in-the-Green, whilst a crowd watches.

Image ref: T138 Upper Lisson Street (002)

Today we have some then-and-now photographs. These are of Wimpole Mews, in Marylebone, taken in 1963 and 2021. In 1963, ...
28/04/2021

Today we have some then-and-now photographs. These are of Wimpole Mews, in Marylebone, taken in 1963 and 2021. In 1963, at no. 17, lived Stephen Ward, society osteopath and establishment scapegoat in the Profumo affair, a major political scandal of that year.

The first photograph is from our collections and described in the catalogue as ‘Photographed from an upstairs window in Harley Street by Ms M. Gunst.’ No. 17 is the upper façade visible to the right of centre with the two windows with a lot of separate panes, and with window-boxes under. Presumably there was difficulty in photographing the building from closer to.

The second photograph shows the same building this year, recently completely remodelled. The third, taken on the same visit, shows the building in context in the Mews.

Image Descriptions:

(1) A black-and-white photograph. No. 17, as described above, appears between the upper parts of two other buildings in the Mews, which is seen over slated roof tops, and with rear elevations of much higher buildings behind it. All are brick built.

(2) Colour photograph. Façade in pale yellow brick with three large windows at first floor level, three dormer windows above, in a steep slate roof. All these are sash. At ground-floor level, there is a very contemporary styled arrangement of front door and garage doors as well as small, frosted-glass areas, in dark wood. Small ornamental trees and shrubs stand in containers in front, on the cobbled surface of the Mews.

(3) Colour photograph. A general view of the Mews. Buildings range from ones looking as though they are the original through to the completely remodelled or rebuilt. Many have the coachhouse/garage doors at street level, so characteristic of Mews as originally built.

Archive Ref: T138 Wimpole Mews (002) - Oversize

(Contemporary photographs courtesy of Tim Reid)

We think that this is probably the only piece of public sculpture in Westminster carrying an inscription saying that it ...
24/04/2021

We think that this is probably the only piece of public sculpture in Westminster carrying an inscription saying that it was erected by a body of the organised labour movement in Britain. It stands in front of the railings of Whitehall Gardens and faces the river across the road of Victoria Embankment, a little beyond its junction with Northumberland Avenue, if you are proceeding south from Embankment tube station.

It is a monument erected by the National Union of Seamen in 1929 to Samuel Plimsoll, the nineteenth-century reforming politician and campaigner for the interests of workers, especially seamen. He is best remembered for introducing the compulsory marking of ships with what is known as the Plimsoll line. This is a mark on ships’ hulls indicating the highest point that water should reach when a ship is being loaded, so that safe buoyancy is maintained when underway. It is designed to prevent unsafe overloading. It has since been modified to take account of the different densities of water according to temperature, the salt/fresh distinction, and other factors. The monument is by F. V. Blundstone.

Image descriptions (all colour photographs):

(1) A monument of stepped plinth and column in greyish stone, supporting dark metal figurative sculptures, the whole standing in front of railings and walling, with pavement in front and garden behind, and about the height of two people.

(2) Closer view of the same. On top of the column, a bust of a nineteenth-century-looking man. In front of the column, on the plinth: left, a seaman holding a wreath and some shipping equipment; right, a woman holding a wreath, a sword, and something else I cannot identify; between them, a shield with a sailing ship above it. On the front, lowest part of the plinth, a pattern of white inlay.

(3) Closer view of the shield. It bears the inscription ‘SAMUEL PLIMSOLL / BORN 1824 - DIED 1898 / ERECTED BY THE MEMBERS / OF THE NATIONAL UNION OF / SEAMEN , IN GRATEFUL / RECOGNITION OF HIS / SERVICES TO THE / MEN OF THE SEA / OF ALL NATIONS’ . At the very top of the shield is a small circle with a horizontal line running through the middle of it and sticking out a little on either side, very reminiscent of the London Transport symbol. This is the basic form of the symbol marking the Plimsoll line.

(4) Closer view of the white inlay pattern on the plinth. This is a more elaborate version of the Plimsoll line symbol. As well as the ‘London Transport’ symbol on the left, there is on the right a vertical line with several horizontal lines running off it at different heights. Various letters label all the horizontal lines.

(Photographs and text from Tim)

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Comments

Hi, I have in the past used parish registers kept in Westminster Archives on Find My Past. But I now find they are not there, although the accompanying index entries are. Have the registers been removed from FMP and where can I find them now?
LMA (Lisboa Metropolitan Area) and the Lioz Limestone Selection Environment Influence, by Laurindo Amorim This manuscript covers a lot of ground, delving into the history, archaeology, and even chemistry of Lioz limestone with the selection environment influence and other types of stones in Portugal. Describes the countless utilities that can be used with stone. As well as making known the role of some places in the Lisboa Metropolitan Area in the distribution of the stone in various places around the world. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087L2YX5J?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860
Does anyone remember the Grand Slam Club? It ceased trading around the mid 1960s. Jimmy Stone owned it. We are researching family history and trying to find out more.
The adventure starts here, with a picture from the Westminter Archives...
I've used the Westminster City Archives for decades. It's first-rate research facility. Its people are reliably helpful & pleasant. Thank You.
This is one of my favourite places to do research.
Am big enthusiast of the Westminster Archive - Happy New Year to all there.
About the value of libraries!
Dear Westminster City Archives This week the Lost Cousins newsletter (https://www.lostcousins.com/newsletters2/midjul17news.htm) reports on an exciting collection of 1915 National Registration - 9 boxes containing over 13000 forms. When I consulted the online catalogue I found just 2 items matching the search terms 'national registration'. So diappointing! The newsletter contributor has made a good start on a description of this collection, so please update the catalogue with some alacrity.
Searching for the removal records of bodies removed from St. Martin in the Fields.