How London barely changed in 300 years
At first glance they look like entirely different cities – one its skyline dominated by church spires and palaces, the other a modern tangle of skyscapers and tower blocks.
But a rare 7ft print showing a panorama of London almost exactly 300 years ago, which has come up for sale as part of a collection of pictures of the capital, shows that, if anything, little has changed.
The work by Johannes Kip, a Dutch artist who moved to London following the accession of William of Orange and Mary, was originally intended to be published around 1715 but delayed first by the Jacobite rebellion and later a rift at the heart of the Royal Family.
Intricately detailed, it shows the view from Buckingham House, which would later become Buckingham Palace.
It includes men playing what appears to be cricket on the edge of the Mall; a herd of deer dashing across Green Park towards Piccadilly, where now the only herds are shoppers, and a fleet of London cabs making their way around what is now Horseguards – on foot of course.
In the centre, St James’s Park is immediately recognisable, although the rectangular edges of its lake have since been softened by landscaping. At one end a group of maids sit on stools milking cows – on a spot where the only milking done today is that of tourists.
To its right, Westminster Abbey stands in its medieval form, still 30 years before the distinctive towers designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor would be completed.
Next to it is Westminster Hall, itself unchanged but now overshadowed by Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
And across the river, a row of nondescript wharves or warehouses stand on the spot now dwarfed by the London Eye while a windmill sits on the edge of the Thames, taking the place of today’s trendy bars.
The work is expected to fetch £60,000 as part of a sale of 150 prints of London through Daniel Crouch Rare Books.
It was originally dedicated to Caroline of Ansbach, the then Princess of Wales and future queen.
She and her husband the Prince of Wales appear in a coach directly behind that of the prince’s father George I, in what Kip originally intended as a display of loyalty.
But his plan came unstuck amid a bitter rift between father and son, which prevented him publishing the work for another five years until they were reconciled.
“This is a magnificent early panorama of London with a wonderful history,” a spokesman for Daniel Crouch Rare Book, which is handling the sale, explained.
“The print itself is a fantastic work of art, at the time it was the largest panorama of the capital ever produced.
“The story about the prince and the king meant Kip had to delay its publication a number of times.
“It’s a fascinating story.”