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Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London

Engravings of London of more than 200 years ago.

Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Houses from the Reign of Elizabeth I

John Thomas Smith was an artist, engraver and writer who captured London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries as it underwent massive change and development. His artistic eye recorded buildings, streets and a diverse range of people in the burgeoning metropolis, often just before they were lost.


I recently came across one of his publications in the book market in Islington's Camden Passage and decided to find out more.

 

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For a schedule of forthcoming London On The Ground guided walks, please click here.

 

John Thomas Smith's life began when his mother gave birth in the back of a Hackney carriage on 23 June 1766 as she was returning to her home in Great Portland Street.


His father, Nathaniel Smith, was a sculptor working for Joseph Nollekens, who was regarded as the finest sculptor of his age. John later trained with Nollekens for a while before studying engraving and painting. He spent some time at the Royal Academy and in topographical drawing before starting to publish his books on London's antiquities. This led to his acquiring the nickname 'Antiquity Smith'.


In 1816 he took up a post as a keeper of prints for the British Museum, which allowed him to continue to write, paint and draw his own works.


He painted a portrait of the painter JMW Turner and acted as a mentor to John Constable.


John Thomas Smith published what has been described as a "gossip-filled" book about Nollekens and British art in 1828. He died in 1833 and his autobiographical 'A book for a rainy day' appeared posthumously in 1845.


Below is a selection of illustrations from two of Smith's publications: Ancient Topography of London (1815) and Antiquities of London (c1790s). I have selected pictures that illustrate houses in London that were already old, the majority pre-dating the Great Fire. In many cases, the houses were demolished by the time Smith published his engravings of them.


Future posts will present other aspects of John Thomas Smith's work.

Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Sweedon's Passage, Grub Street
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Sweedon's Passage, Grub Street, north-east view
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Inside view of the Poultry Compter
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
The north side of Long Lane, Smithfield
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
South side of a street called London Wall
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Porch in Hanover Court near Grub Street
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
The west corner of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Little Moorfields
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Off Bishopsgate
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Rectoral House, Newington Butts
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
King Street, Westminster
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Off Bishopsgate
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses of John Thomas Smith's London
Old houses near The Strand, demolished in 1798

A number of John Thomas Smith's books have been reproduced digitally by Google Books, the Internet Archive (archive.org) and other websites, including the excellent London Sound Survey (soundsurvey.org.uk).

 

Walks available for booking

For a schedule of forthcoming London On The Ground guided walks, please click here.

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