Friday, July 17, 2020

The Long View of London

Panoramic maps are a wonderful hybrid of landscape painting and city map. The panoramic bird's eye views of cities we see in panoramic maps provide a wonderful historical snapshot of a city at a particular moment in time.

London is lucky in that over the centuries a number of beautiful panoramic maps of the city have been lovingly created by some wonderful artists. Interestingly these panoramas have almost always been drawn from a similar point of view - looking north from south of the River Thames. Viewed in sequence they provide an invaluable insight into the development of London through time.

The Wyngaerde Panorama depicts London in 1543, in the last years of the reign of Henry VIII. The map was drawn by the prolific Flemish topographical artist Anton van den Wyngaerde.

The panorama shows London (as seen from south of the river looking north) from the Palace of Westminster in the west to a very rural looking Greenwich in the east. The Palace of Westminster had become the home of parliament only in 1512. A fire in that year destroyed the royal residential (privy) area of the palace and Henry VIII moved his court to the Palace of Whitehall. The Palace of Westminster then became solely the home of the two Houses of Parliament and various royal law courts. The Old Palace of Westminster seen in this panorama burnt down in 1834.

The Wyngaerde Panorama is the only map on this page which shows the Old St. Paul's Cathedral with its spire intact. 18 years after this panorama was drawn, on 4 June 1561, the spire was hit by lightning and caught fire. The spire was never rebuilt.

In 1616 Claes Jansz Visscher created a beautiful engraving of medieval London's skyline as seen from the south bank of the River Thames. 400 years later, artist Robin Reynolds created a modern 6.6 ft panoramic drawing showing London today from exactly the same point of view.

In 2003 The Guardian created four interactive images which allow you to compare Visscher and Reynold's panoramic views of London in detail. Each of the images shows a close-up scene from Visscher's engraving with Reynolds' modern drawing of London superimposed on top. The screenshot above of Visscher's panorama shows the Old St. Paul's Cathedral without its spire (which was struck by lightning in 1561).

The London depicted in the Visscher panorama is very similar to the view portrayed in The Long View of London. The Long View of London from Bankside is a panorama of London, as seen from south of the River Thames, in 1647. The panorama was etched by Wenceslas Hollar based on drawings he made from a vantage point on top of the tower of St Saviour in Southwark (which is now Southwark Cathedral).

The panorama provides a fantastic glimpse into 17th Century London. This view includes the Old St. Paul's Cathedral (which was shortly to be destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666). The panorama also shows the Old London Bridge (which as you can see in the panorama included buildings along its span). The Old London Bridge was demolished in 1831 and replaced with a newer bridge (which itself has since been demolished and replaced).

The British Museum has created a number of close-up views of the panorama which allow you to explore all seven plates of the original image in detail.

Sheet 1 and 7

Sheet 2

Sheet 3

Sheet 4

Sheet 5

Sheet 6

A Riverside View of Georgian London provides a fantastic view of London, as seen from the Thames in 1829. This tourist guide to London, published in the early 19th Century, provided a hand-drawn view of both banks of the Thames from Westminster to Richmond upon Thames.

Luckily for us Panorama of the Thames has provided a great tool for viewing A Riverside View of Georgian London. Its Compare Panoramas tool allows you to travel along the river in 1829, comparing Georgian London to the same river views as can be seen in modern day London. Press play on the 1829 panorama & on the 2013 panorama and you will be taken on a simultaneous journey down the Thames with synchronized views of both Georgian and modern London.

In 1845 the Illustrated London News printed a panoramic view of London (again looking north from south of the river). You can explore this map in loving detail on the British Museum website.

The Panorama of the River Thames in 1845 shows London from Vauxhall Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge. The panorama includes the Houses of Parliament - rather prematurely - as construction of the new Palace of Westminster wasn't completed until the 1870's. At the far right of the panorama you can see the modern St. Paul's Cathedral. Compare the modern cathedral, with its dome, to the earlier depictions of the Old St Paul's Cathedral in the Wyngaerde, Visscher and Hollar panoramas.

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