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Part of the four part London Then and Now Series

The Fruits of Industry

February 4, 2015

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Workers building a metro line in front of Somserset House. This was the first underground line ever built anywhere in the world. Initially poor ventilation meant the stations and cars filled with noxious smoke from the engines, though the novelty and convenience of the tube meant this did not greatly impact ridership.

London Industrializes

Industrialization has reshaped every city on earth, and few moreso than London. Britain spearheaded the development of factory mass production, railways, telegraphs, steamships, and every other conceivable industrial innovation of that transformative era. With her industrial strength, massive empire, and control of the seas, British companies were able to accumulate vast wealth and influence. London became the world's centre of finance and trade, in addition to a manufacturing hub.

Another photo of underground construction by Paddington Station. Constructed through the back-breaking cut-and-cover method, the work looks exhausting.

Another photo of underground construction by Paddington Station. Constructed through the back-breaking cut-and-cover method, the work looks exhausting.

Here we see welders at work on the SS Great Eastern on the Isle of Dogs. Working at night, the scene is lit by gaslight. The Great Eastern was meant to be a symbol of Britain's naval power, engineering prowess and industrial strength. Designed by the legendary Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the ship was six times bigger than any other afloat at the time of its launch in 1858. It wouldn't be surpassed for another 40 years.

Workers gather to listen to a preacher speak at the Gatehouse of the Royal Arsenal in Woolwich. Woolwich had been the centre of British armaments manufacturing since the 17th Century, one of the world's largest manufacturing centres. By the First World War, a few years after this photo was taken, over 80,000 people were employed in the sprawling complex. Today the Royal Arsenal is a historic site and hosts the excellent Royal Artillery Museum.

Regent's Circus, or Oxford Circus as it is now known. Most of the buildings have been knocked down or at least redeveloped in the last 130 years. In the foreground you can see a man pulling an organ grinder, a form of entertainment very popular with the urban poor at the time.

Harley Street, an upscale area where many doctors had their practices.

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