October 2015 | Fiona Karn-Smith


The Old Royal Naval College (ORNC) is delighted to be hosting London 1840 - a unique project to build a complete scale model of London as the city appeared at the beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria.

The first phase, to be built here over the next 9 months, takes in the East End and south-east London from The Tower to the River Lea and Whitechapel and Bow to Bermondsey, Deptford and Greenwich.

London 1840 Model - Andrew Byrne
Project originator Andrew Byrne with the laser engraved baseboard 


The laser engraved baseboard for this phase, measuring 4m x 4m, features a wealth of detail including every street, canal, dock, churchyard and millstream - with the great River Thames at its heart. The buildings, modelled in maple wood, are at a scale of 1:1500 - and provide a startling insight into the changes that this part of the capital experienced in the early 19th century with the construction of vast new docks and canals and the arrival of the railways.

The ORNC is excited to be sharing the project with different visitors and we are hoping to work in partnership with University of the 3rd Age (U3A) on a Shared Learning Project in which members will contribute to the research and help us share the project with a wider audience.

The London 1840 project at Greenwich is being led by its originator Andrew Byrne (pictured above). 

This is not just a physical model' says Andrew. 'The research necessary to build it will generate a wealth of digital data which, with further research, will produce almost limitless applications. We will be able to produce an 1840 'Streetview', build a database of all the inhabitants and users of the buildings both demolished and extant, map the trades, the poverty and the wealth, population densities, building dates - all as virtually reality apps.

The model will serve as a planning aid and learning tool, and will intrigue and entertain by depicting a time when London was at its height, the World capital and the most populous city in the world.

London 1840 is a not for profit project nurtured by 1st Framework, an arts charity established in 1982. Its patron is Joanna Lumley, who has always taken a keen interest in London's past and future. 

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