R L Sims and Co

Chris asks:

I am trying to trace the exact location of a Victorian photographic studio called R L Sims and Co, in King Street, Greenwich.

Can you help, and would you know the whereabouts of any collections of photographs taken by this studio?

The Phantom replies:

It took me a while to work out why this name was ringing a bell in the Phantom brain. At first I thought it was something to do with the Victorian publisher Henry Richardson or maybe I’d seen a photo for sale somewhere but then I realised that I’d seen it elsewhere.

Mr Sims was (possibly) part of a trio of photographers, led by the Rev. Spurgeon, who created a groundbreaking photography project in the latter part of the 19th Century to record ‘real’ Greenwich street life. The photos are world famous and often find themselves in books about general London/Victorian history. You know the sort of thing:

Of course with the sort of exposure time needed, these pictures would have been rather more posed than they first appear but even so, they are seminal in the history of photography and a very important collection.

Originally created in half-plate, the negatives and slides are now lost, but the proof prints survived, and were passed down from Mr Spurgeon via his son in law to Mr O J Morris, the third in the little trio of photo journalists. He presented them to Greenwich Libraries, so my best guess is that they are now held at the splendid Greenwich Heritage Centre.

I don’t know of any collections just by Mr Sims’s studio, though it’s likely the Heritage Centre will know more than me. I’m no photographic (or otherwise) historian.

But King Street? That one had me puzzled for a while, and I went of on a long wild goose chase trying to find it and, if you read an earlier version of this post you will have seen me place it in Deptford. But thanks to Joe, I can now place it where King William Walk is now:

…which makes a hell of a lot more sense than what is now Watergate Street in Deptford….

the attachments to this post:

Greenwood map of Greenwich 2
Greenwood map of Greenwich 2

KIng street on Greenwood Map
KIng street on Greenwood Map

Spurgeon matchseller
Spurgeon matchseller

6 Comments to “R L Sims and Co”

  1. JP says:

    Greenwood’s map of Deptford has St. Paul’s Church mislabelled as St. Nicholas.
    Several shots of this area 100 years ago and older are on other local websites.

  2. valley_girl says:

    Chris – this might be a useful starting point for you for more information about R L Sims and his work:


  3. Valley Girl where do you FIND this stuff? Cheers!


  4. valley_girl says:

    I just love doing the research – and I have too much time on my hands!

  5. Bea says:

    I have a few photographs of my family that were taken here… I’m not sure what years they would of been though.
    They lived in Deptford, and aparently on Birthdays they would come to Greenwich and have a photo taken!

  6. Dennis says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but that’s a pre “Improvements” street map, isn’t it? Are there any others?