Rat catchers, trapeze artists and leading politicians will feature in a new exhibition at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) that will shed new light on the working lives of Londoners from the 15th century through to Thatcherite Britain.
The Londoners: Portraits of a Working City 1447 to 1980 will bring together a huge range of photographs, prints and drawings from the extensive archives. “Our vast collections are a treasure trove and this exhibition is an ideal opportunity to put on show some fascinating and, in many cases, rarely-seen images of Londoners as they went about their daily work,” explained the Corporation’s head of digital services at LMA, Laurence Ward.
“My colleagues and I have been particularly keen to put on display a wide array of images so that visitors will come face-to-face with servants, circus performers, famous statesmen, nurses, and even a 15th-century City Alderman.
“Some of the individuals are very well known, while others have been recorded purely because of how their work benefited fellow Londoners and the Capital. “Some of their jobs and professions will appear very familiar to us, while others will seem like a mystery now.”
The exhibition will also feature portraits of Charles Dickens, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Oliver Cromwell. Some of the images on display will include: London’s Last Night Watchman, a rare photograph of Charles Rouse, reputedly the last night watchmen still on duty in London in the middle of the 19th century; Street Trades, an 1830 lithograph of a crossing sweeper, the ‘Old Commodore of Tottenham Court Road’; and The Roaring Twenties, a number of photographs shot by George WF Ellis in the mid-1920s, a period of significant change in the working world.
Additional portraits include Dora Russell, a feminist and socialist campaigner standing for the Labour Party in Chelsea in the 1924 General Election. The Londoners will run from 6 February until 5 July and admission is free. The exhibition forms part of the 950 Years of London’s Archives celebration which will run throughout 2017.