Animated time travel photos reveal the changing face of Britain's cities

Liverpool in the Victorian age - St George’s Hall survives but the streets have since transformed
Liverpool in Victorian times - St George’s Hall survives but the streets have since transformed Credit: onstride

The last 125 years has seen the streets of Britain transform almost beyond recognition – for better or for worse.

Gone are the horse-drawn carriages, and many fine buildings from London and beyond; lost to war, fire and changing fashions.

Major change, too, can be seen across many of our once-glorious, now faded seaside resorts, where grand piers have been repurposed again and again over time.

Blending modern photography with archive images, the following animations, compiled by Onward, reveal five cities in the UK and how they've morphed since the Victorian ages. 

1. Victoria Embankment, London

Central to the scene, Cleopatra's Needle, the obelisk, which dates back nearly 3,500 years to 1450 BC, was given to London by the ruler of Egypt and erected beside the Thames in 1877, and still stands proud. A time capsule was concealed inside it holding all manner of curios, including a set of 12 photographs of the best-looking English women of the day, a set of imperial weights, a baby’s bottle, copies of the Bible in several languages, a Bradshaw Railway Guide, and copies of 10 daily newspapers. Look closely if you visit, and you’ll see shrapnel holes on one of the sphinxes caused by a German First World War bomb.

As for waterloo bridge behind it, the version in the Victorian photo was demolished in the 1930s – it was the only Thames River bridge to incur damage from German bombs – and rebuilt by a team of women during the Blitz, though it took a while for their story to emerge due to statements like then-Deputy Prime Minister Herbert Morrison’s: “the men that built Waterloo Bridge are fortunate men.” More recently, it was the site of the major global warming protests of Extinction Rebellion.

2. St George’s Hall, Liverpool

The area between Lime Street railway station (right) and St George’s Hall opposite – a neoclassical building which remains exactly where it stood when it opened in 1854, despite a persistent urban myth that it was accidentally built back-to-front – is a rare example of a barely-changed landscape in this part of the city.

The area of Lime Street around the corner from the gothic buildings has been radically transformed in the last few years, while if you were to turn 180 degrees and walk into the shopping district, you’d find it barely recognizable compared to a decade ago – before the redevelopment of ‘Liverpool One’.

3. The Spa at South Bay, Scarborough

The first wave of tourists descended on the North Yorkshire town of Scarborough in the early 1700s when a doctor prescribed its healing thermal waters as a near-certain cure for gout. Although the public are no longer allowed to wallow in the thermal water, the beautiful spa building (left) – a wide, treacle-coloured structure built in the mid 1800s – still overlooks the sand today.

The key difference between the pictures here is the enclosure of the Sun Court in the later image, which, along with the adjoining Grand Hall, today hosts Britain’s last surviving professional seaside orchestra most mornings and many evenings over the summer season. “The audience, a sea fret of silver hair for the most part, responds with tapping feet and nodding heads,” Stephen McClarence writes for Telegraph Travel.  “It’s a living piece of musical history.”

4. Marine Parade, Worthing

The pier at Worthing was first opened in 1862, with the South Pavilion in the background of the original photo later added in 1889. The pavilion survived a gale that washed away much of the pier in 1914, but in 1926 it disappeared behind the newer, larger modern Pier Pavilion, which dominates today’s photo. 

Then, in 1933, the last of the original structure burned down in a fire, and was subsequently rebuilt in the Streamline Moderne style. It later became a nightclub, before returning to use as a café and entertainment venue, while the pavilion in the modern picture is used mostly as a theatre. In 2017, Worthing was among the top ten most popular destinations for British retirees to move to, according to Telegraph analysis.

5. St Augustine Parade, Bristol 

Built in 1470, for several centuries the Saint Stephen’s church tower (right) was a landmark that seafarers could use to guide themselves in to Bristol Harbour. Today, it’s tucked behind new developments such as Colston Tower (left). 

Gone entirely, however, in the modern image is a portion of the River Frome that was paved over in 1938; one of the latest developments in a long history of diverting and culverting the river to boost trade around the harbour.

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