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January 18, 2023

Traffic on Blackfriars Bridge, 1896

An actuality record of Blackfriars Bridge, London, taken from the southern end looking northwards over the Thames by R.W.Paul in July 1896. It was screened as part of his Alhambra Theatre program shortly afterwards, certainly no later than August 31. Two or three of the pedestrians seem aware of the camera's presence, though not to any particularly noticeable extent.


The definition of ‘rush hour’ in London grows woollier as the years pass: at its worst it seems to stretch demonically from 6am to 9pm. Journey back over a century to July 1896 though and this tantalizing half-minute of footage reveals Victorian counterparts making their way to work across the Thames by tram, horse-drawn carriage and, for the health-conscious (or the poor), good old Shanks’ pony. More or less business as usual then, although compared to the daily human onslaught we face in 21st century London, the commuters caught by R.W. Paul’s static camera proceed at an enviably elegant pace.




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