London in Lockdown

When lockdown was announced on 23 March 2020, it was permitted to take “one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk or cycle – alone or with members of your household”. I decided to use my exercise time to cycle into the centre of London, expecting to find a post-apocalyptic wasteland in the manner of 28 Days Later.

While it was eerily quiet, it didn’t have the feel of an apocalypse; partly because it was unseasonably sunny, and partly because there was a handful of other people around, all of whom had presumably had the same idea as me. Still, it was a once-in-a-lifetime – hopefully only once, anyway – chance to see usually crowded areas devoid of people.

Buckingham Palace looking empty without tourists visiting. One month into lockdown, 20 April 2020.
Workers maintain an empty Trafalgar Square, 20 April 2020.
Covent Garden, 20 April 2020.
Covent Garden, 20 April 2020.
Covent Garden, 20 April 2020.
Seven Dials, 20 April 2020.
Chinatown, 20 April 2020.
Oxford Circus, 20 April 2020.
Regent Street, 20 April 2020.
Piccadilly Circus, 20 April 2020.
The statue of Eros, Piccadilly Circus, 20 April 2020.
Looking down Piccadilly past the Royal Academy, 20 April 2020.
The corner of Piccadilly and Duke Street, Saint James, 20 April 2020. “Thank You NHS” messages appeared in all sorts of windows during lockdown, including in this case the luxury food store Fortnum & Mason.
A sign in Green Park encourages people to maintain social distancing, 20 April 2020.
Cycling through an empty Hyde Park, 20 April 2020.
A penny-farthing rider makes the most of the empty streets in order to cycle near Hyde Park Corner, 20 April 2020.
Parking the bike near a very empty Albert Memorial, Hyde Park, 20 April 2020.
The closed gates of the Natural History Museum, 20 April 2020.

A surgical mask placed by a practical joker on Francis Derwent Wood’s 1929 bronze sculpture of Atalanta. Chelsea Embankment, 14 May 2020.
Signs encourage a one-way system on the Albert Bridge, 14 May 2020.

In summer 2021, things began to feel a little more normal. More and more venues had reopened, at least with outdoor seating, and councils had found solutions to venues without outdoor space – often creating, in the process, more liveable city spaces.

Temporary outdoor seating in Soho, 29 July 2020.
Soho’s temporary street closures for outdoor seating, 29 July 2020.

The Guildhall, closed in order to conduct Covid testing one year after the first lockdown began. 20 April 2021.