If you walk the streets of London often enough, it’s easy to forget the massive amount of history that surrounds you. But, just looking up can send your head spinning into the past again. From the giant dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, to the towers of Westminster Abby and the quiet banks of the Thames in Greenwich, almost every view of the old city is filled with stories from the past. Redditor shystone recently when on an internet odyssey using classic paintings from the city’s history and matching them up with modern day views from Google Street View.
Each example here is filled with fascinating details and obvious comparisons in life separated by centuries… even if the buildings remain the same. In the classic paintings, many by the Italian painter Canaletto, we see an 18th century city filled with street life of the two footed kind. The modern day world that surrounds the painting is filled with automobiles, far fewer pedestrians and very few horses. It’s a drastic change in the use of public space.
(above: St Martins in the Fields (1888) by William Logsdail)
Westminster Abbey with a Procession of Knights of the Bath (1749) by Canaletto
In some images we see buildings yet to be built; in others buildings that would be demolished, but the main structures of the past remain.
It’s easy to romanticize the past, especially while looking at the glowing hues and unusual scenes in each painting showing the old city; and that’s why it’s important to remember the how impartial and unimaginative Google Street View can be. Google, unlike these classic painters, has no “rose colored” lens to view the city through.
Find all these examples along with anecdotes from shystone on Imgur.
The River Thames with St. Paul’s Cathedral on Lord Mayor’s Day (1746) by Canaletto
Northumberland House (1752) by Canaletto
Covent Garden Market (1737) by Balthazar Nebot
The Strand Looking East from Exeter Exchange (1822). Artist Unknown.
The 9th of November, 1888 (1890) by William Logsdail
View of The Grand Walk (1751) by Canaletto
Blackman Street London (1885) by John Atkinson Grimshaw
A View of Greenwich from the River (1750-2) by Canaletto