This area, just on the edge of the village of Charing Cross and north of the Royal Palace of Whitehall, was for many years a crime-ridden and dangerous area. To the north, where the National Gallery is now, were the Kings Mews where his hunting falcons were kept. In 1820 the whole area was cleared and a grand square was built.
In honour of Nelson’s victory over the French in 1805 it was renamed Trafalgar Square and it remains one of London’s grandest and largest gathering places. As you stand here, picture the rundown stable and the cries – mews – of the caged birds.
Meard Street was developed in the early part of the 18th century and appears on all the TTX maps as a narrow way between Dean Street and Wardour Street. The developer, John Meard, was a carpenter. The first houses were build in around 1720 and today Meard St has scarcely changed. It is well worth a visit to see these beautifully-preserved 18th century houses.
St Paul’s Cathedral and Carter Lane
During the Great Fire of London in 1666 over two thirds of the City of London was destroyed. The destruction of St Paul’s Cathedral was a huge blow, although it led to the building of Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece with which we are so familiar today. The earlier cathedral was even larger, both longer and wider.
If you stand to the south of St Paul’s on the grass area near the information booth, you are standing by the walls of the old cathedral. Behind you is Carter Lane, now a nondescript little street lined with sandwich bars like so many in the City. In the 17th century, however, this was the main route from the City towards Westminster. You can imagine crowds and the traffic fighting its was along it.
Parliament Square, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament
The view hasn't changed a lot in the last 100 years but the traffic certainly has. A motor car is clearly worth a second look from the gent in the foreground, horse-drawn vehicles were much more common. The group of people on the left are equally curious about it.
Fashions have also changed a lot - no one, man or woman, would be seen out without a hat and suits were the norm. A man's position in society can be determined by his hat - look for flat hats, bowlers and the occasional silk top hat.
At the rear, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament look just as they do today.
Westminster Abbey, the Minster in the West, was built by Edward the Confessor in 1067. As the city of Westminster grew Whitehall Palace was built between the Abbey and Charing Cross: it was a huge building stretching right across the road that now bears its name.
Originally this road was simply a public right-of-way through the palace grounds: today the road is enormous and only fragments of the palace remain – the Banqueting Hall on one side and Horseguards on the other. Picture the palace without the traffic and government buildings
Brompton Road and Harrods
This view of Knightsbridge with Harrods in the background is probably a century old. No cars, not that many coaches, and pedestrians enjoying the wide, tree-lined pavements.