Described by Adolphe Smith as an ‘old women reduced by vice and poverty to that degree of wretchedness which destroys even the energy to beg’

In the frantic pace of modern life, it is often easy to forget what life was once like for those who built the world we now live in.


These fascinating black and white pictures taken by photographer John Thompson show the reality of existence in the 1800s when photography was in its infancy.

In 1876 he set out with writer Adolphe Smith and together the pair spoke to people and the shots were later published in magazine, Street Life in London.

The pictures, now stored at the Bishopsgate Institute, capture the lives of street beggars, chimney sweeps, street doctors and market sellers among many others.

Each picture caption is accompanied by the words written by Mr Smith and originally printed in the monthly magazine.
Source Daily Mail

William Hampton of the London Nomades, a group of travellers who were staying on vacant land in Battersea

Caney the Clown once delighted at the pantomime but ‘since his exertions to please at Stepney Fair caused the bursting of a varicose vein in his leg, the mending of chairs brings him constant employment’

‘It’s not so much the imitation jewels the women are after, it’s the class of jewels that make the imitation lady’

‘If they walk on the pavement, the police indignantly throw them off into the gutter, where they become entangled in the wheels of carriages, and where cabs and omnibuses are ruthlessly driven against them’

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