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Making the High Street: Walking Tours and Street Views in the 1830s

Stobart, J (2017) Making the High Street: Walking Tours and Street Views in the 1830s. Journal of Victorian Culture, 22 (3). pp. 354-361. ISSN 1355-5502


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Directories and town guides provide rather different representations of the town: typically, the former offer a kind of socio-commercial quantification through lists of tradesmen and private residents; the latter unfold qualitative descriptions of key historical and cultural locations and create a topographical picture for the visitor. Tallis’s London Street Views (1838–40) and William West’s History of Warwickshire (1830) both do something rather different. Tallis’s street views are well known: a unique visualization of commercial space; West is less familiar and forms the main focus of my paper. I explore the ways in which he drew on particular facets of Birmingham’s commerce and married this both spatially and architecturally with key cultural infrastructure to create a uniquely Birmingham high street and a particular view of the city as commercial and dynamic yet cultured. I then use this perspective to reconsider Tallis’s street views: to consider the spatial context of high street commercial retailing (the buildings and spaces between shops) and whether these were views of London or a series of different districts within London.

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