Lots Road Power Station, London, 1905 © English Heritage: BL18939

Lots Road Power Station, London, 1905
© English Heritage: BL18939

The profusion of architectural styles and buildings captured by the work of Bedford Lemere & Co between 1870 and 1930 reflects the vicissitudes of a growing nation at the head of an empire. The wealth and the feeling of optimism in the future at the end of the 19th century and the uncertainities and changes brought about by technological advances in the opening decades of the 20th are expressed in the images that came from Bedford Lemere, a firm that was based for much of its existence at 147 Strand, London. For 80 years the site served as an ideal base to record the large-scale transformations the capital underwent and to be close to clients.

Muslim Burial Ground, Horsell Common, Woking, Surrey, 1917 © English Heritage: BL23738/006

Muslim Burial Ground, Horsell Common, Woking, Surrey, 1917
© English Heritage: BL23738/006

Clients, including many architects, commissioned them to take photographs of new premises or works. What was then novel or a recent addition to our cities, such as K2 telephone boxes, are now a familiar part of our heritage. Bedford Lemere’s approach was to document contemporary buildings and the people in and around them, and not to romanticise. As a result, today their work still seems fresh and modern. It includes visual records of the construction of major buildings, the details of domestic interiors and, later, places serving new needs such as a motor showroom, a Muslim burial ground and a training station for radio operators.

Construction site, Fenchurch Street, London, 1920 © English Heritage: BL24824A

Construction site, Fenchurch Street, London, 1920
© English Heritage: BL24824A

In a new online exhibition, ‘Recording the New: The Architectural Photography of Bedford Lemere & Co. 1870 – 1930’, this leading firm of architectural photographers is explored: the early years, their varied list of clients, the buildings they recorded and its founder Bedford Lemere and his son Harry. The exhibition is mostly drawn from the holdings of the English Heritage Archive - the largest collection of Bedford Lemere & Co.’s photographs - with some material from the RIBA and the V&A. It is based on last year’s V&A + RIBA Architecture Partnership display at the V&A and was curated by Anne Woodward and Gary Winter of English Heritage Archive.

References:

  • Cooper N., 2011. The photography of Bedford Lemere & Co. Swindon: English Heritage
  • Kidd A., 2011 September. Bedford Lemere & Co, London. Burlington Magazine, Vol.153 (no. 1302), pp.619-620
About Wilson Yau
I work for the British Architectural Library at the RIBA as part of a team to share news, images and information online about the activities of the Library and the fascinating items we have in our architectural collections – it contains over four million items, so there's plenty to see! If you’re curious about what we do at the Library and with the collections, or want to discover the latest about our education programmes, public events and exhibitions at the RIBA, please visit www.architecture.com

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