The London That Never Was

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Last year, as part of Fantastic Feats: the building of London, the London Metropolitan Archives created an exhibition of grand proposals for London that never made if off the drawing board. The exhibition was on display at Guildhall Art Gallery. Explore some of the weird and wonderful ideas our ancestors had below - can you imagine a giant pyramid on Primrose Hill?

 

A Prospect of the City of London

John Rocque’s Prospect of London from 1758 shows the City devastated by the Great Fire and Sir Christopher Wren’s proposed rebuilding plan. The latter included wide boulevards and placed the importance of trade and commerce at the core of the City’s redevelopment by including a proposed wide Thames Quay, the relocation of the City Livery Companies in a prominent riverside location and the Royal Exchange as a focal point within the centre of the City.

© London Metropolitan Archives

Tower Bridge over the River Thames

This was an early design by Peter Barlow for a proposed suspension bridge across the River Thames. The design is notable for its suggested use of pillars on the embankment in the style of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

© London Metropolitan Archives

Pyramid Cemetery

The plan for a Pyramid Cemetery or Metropolitan Sepulcher to be built at Primrose Hill was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1824. Willson envisaged a massive structure standing 94 stories high and with a base covering some 18.5 acres. Tens of thousands of alcoves would each contain 24 bodies giving a total burial capacity of five million. The design had ramps around a central shaft for the movement of coffins and a viewing gallery at the top. Willson’s proposal was one of several made at the time as a solution to the lack of burial space within the inner London churchyards. The grand garden cemeteries developed by the Victorians eventually alleviated the problem.

© London Metropolitan Archives

Wake Up London!

This proposal is from a set of eighteen cheerful watercolour drawings showing ingenious but unrealised improvements for London. Drawn in 1913 - 1914 they envisage a brighter, cleaner, healthier and happier London of the Future in the year 1925. The images here are of a London Airport illustrating a London Terminus for the ‘Trans-Atlantic Aerial Transit Company’. View the full set of images on the London Metropolitan Archives' Collage website.

© London Metropolitan Archives
© London Metropolitan Archives