A while ago, I was looking on eBay for something. I can’t remember what. Maybe I was just a bit bored. I spotted an old postcard of Post Office Tower. I had a look for some more. I thought it would look kind of nice to have three postcards of Post Office Tower in a little frame. The same building, but seen from slightly different angles, three times in a little row. So I bought a few of the postcards, but then I thought that perhaps two rows of three would look better, so I bought a few more. Then I thought that maybe four rows of five would be even better. The mistake I made was to start buying the postcards before I bought the frame.

I’ve created a Flickr set and started scanning the postcards I bought. You can see them here. I’ll add to it as the collection grows.

Some of the postcards had been used. Simple messages sent from trips to London. I like reading old postcards. It gives you a glimpse into someone’s life, but doesn’t feel too intrusive. A letter can contain personal information. It’s private, sealed in an envelope. A postcard is more public. The person writing it knows the postman can read it. They’re often stuck on a fridge or a pinboard where other people can read them. Nothing too personal gets put in a postcard.

I wondered how London had changed since the photos for these postcards were taken. Obviously the Tower is still there, although that itself has changed. The triangular cones replaced by round dishes, then eventually removed. The Billy Butlins Top Of The Tower revolving restaurant no longer there (since its closure, there is now only one revolving restaurant in the UK, at Elveden Forest Center Parcs). The building now closed to the public.

Some of the postcards showed views of the Tower from the air, or from the tops of buildings, but a few of them showed views from the street level. It seemed easy to visit those places and compare how it looked then:

Clipstone Street then

With how it looks now:

Clipstone Street now

There’s something reassuring about the fact that the betting office on the left is still there today.

There seem to be a lot more trees today. This was Charlotte Street in 1966, not long after the Tower opened:

Charlotte Street then

And this is it from more or less the same spot today:

Charlotte Street now

I had to work out where the original was taken based on the pattern of the rooftops on the other side of the road, although you can’t actually see them in the photo because of the trees.

More trees, but fewer phone boxes:

Charlotte Place then

Charlotte Place now

Charlotte Place then and now

I’ve created a Google Map showing the original postcards along with the view today (if possible) and any messages which were written on the back of the postcards, which doesn’t really make sense because it’s not like the person who sent the postcard went to the place where the picture was taken before writing their message. That’s not how postcards work. You might visit the place shown in the picture, but probably not the place the picture was taken from. Anyway, it’s done now.

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