Grandfather’s London v. Grandfather’s Greenwich

Last week Chris asked me about R.L. Sims and Co. the photographer. I initially found the question quite hard to answer and ended up doing more round-and-round the garden research than I needed to because I didn’t know something that I only discovered because Gerald (of the Dreadnought Hospital photos fame) mentioned a book I thought I had.

On discovering that Sims was a friend and fellow-conspiritor of the Rev Spurgeon, who in taking dozens of photos of everyday life in Greenwich for a magic lantern show, created a unique and important record of London streets in late Victorian times, I immediately turned to my book on the subject, Grandfather’s Greenwich.

I knew it was a 1972 reprint, and I was fine with that – there’s only a certain number of first editions available and all I was interested in was the information inside. The photos are well reproduced and the commentary seemed perfectly good, if a little thin on the ground. There was a little intro and a short caption for each photo.

Then Gerald sent me some scans from another book< Grandfather's London – clearly the same photos, but an entirely different commentary. Each photo got a double-page spread – one half devoted to the photo, the other half an explanation, with the subject, how the photographer probably set up the shot and, very importantly for locals, exactly where the picture was taken. There’s a longer introduction, that discusses the ‘world-picture’ (well, okay, the London-picture) and, in short, 127 pages instead of 63.

Had I had the second book, I would have known much more about The Champion Piemaker, The Third Class Milkman and the Threepenny Bumper than just the picture titles and, more importantly, I wouldn’t have gone on a wild goose chase around Deptford looking for King Street and had to rely on Joe to remind me that it’s now King William Walk.

So, folks, a word to the wise. If you’re just after the pictures and a perfectly acceptable overall view, (by the usually highly enjoyable Alan Glencross) Grandfather’s Greenwich is fine. But by far the better book, with glossy pages and a more in-depth commentary, you need Grandfather’s London by O J Morris (the reputed third conspiritor). They’re both easy to find second hand, both about the same price on Amazon market place, Abebooks etc. but they are not both made equally.


the attachments to this post:

Spurgeon old bill
Spurgeon old bill

grandfathers london
grandfathers london

spurgeon cover
spurgeon cover

Spurgeon hokey pokey
Spurgeon hokey pokey


3 Comments to “Grandfather’s London v. Grandfather’s Greenwich”

  1. David Carson says:

    Fantastic book-related tip; I’m on the hunt… What gems we get lead to by the Phantom!

  2. Miffee says:

    Mine has been dispatched,thank you Phantom.

  3. Ivan says:

    Funnily enough, I was flicking through this book yesterday in West Greenwich Library, so go there if you just fancy a look at it – their local history section seems pretty good.