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George Davison Reid produced a wealth of remarkable photographs illustrating the streets of London in the pre-war era.

Reid was born in Sunderland to a family that owned shipbuilders and breweries in the northeast of England. In around 1900, Reid studied photography, learning from a professional, Benjamin Scott, in Carlisle. He engaged in research as a member of the Newcastle Society of Antiquaries between 1904 and 1909.

At some point after that, Reid moved to London. Record show that he lived at 51 Grosvenor Road, SW (which later became part of Millbank) in 1930–31. During his time in London, he embarked upon an ambitious and imaginative project to record photographically an extended walk through the cities of Westminster and London. Reid wanted to record the streets and architecture together with the people and traffic that animated the scenes.

Reid wheeled around a custom-built piece of apparatus that enabled him to take pictures from an elevated viewpoint. His makeshift handcart contained a stepladder that could stretch to 10 feet (3 metres). Reid could attach his wooden whole-plate stand camera to the top. Using this, plus an array of sensitive photographic materials, Reid took a variety of pictures in different and sometimes difficult lighting conditions.

By the time of his death in 1933, Reid had created over 700 photographs for the project. He had organised them into a series of albums, and written two accompanying manuscripts entitled ‘The Route Ornate’. These annotated in rhyme his photographic walk through the streets.  

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Further information

  • Photographer

  • Born: 1871

  • Died: 1933