The River Thames is busy with small boats in this topographical view, dominated by Old Westminster Bridge and including Westminster Abbey in the distance. The bridge seen in this engraving was designed by Swiss architect Charles Labelye (1705-1781) and was built between 1739 and 1750. It had 13 large semi-circular arches and two small arches, made of Portland stone. By the mid-19th century the bridge was in need of replacement. A new Westminster Bridge, designed by civil engineer Thomas Page (1803-1877), was opened in 1862. Page’s design is still in use today.
This view is the first of a series of five plates titled ‘Panorama of the Thames from Westminster Bridge to London Bridge’, published in 1749. When fitted together, the individual plates create an impressive panoramic view of London. The key to the most important buildings illustrated, seen below the images, continues across all five prints.
‘Westminster Bridge to the Treasury’ was drawn ‘from Mr. Scheve's Sugar House’, indicating that it was made from the roof of a sugar refinery, located opposite York House, a mansion on the Strand which faced the Thames. Both York House and the Sugar House have since been demolished.
Brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck were the leading British topographical draughtsmen and engravers of the 18th century. They produced several hundred drawings and engravings, including 87 ‘Prospects’ of England and Wales. The engravings are important visual records of the appearance of British urban landscapes prior to the Industrial Revolution. In many cases, the places depicted have since disappeared or changed beyond recognition. Their dedication in recording almost every corner of the country has left modern viewers with an invaluable record of Britain’s past. As demand for their prints fell away, Nathaniel took over a furniture business, while Samuel tried several professions, including teaching draughtsmanship and cleaning pictures.
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