Photographs show Christie’s Auction House rebuilt after London Blitz

Rare vintage photographs of Christie’s Auction House rebuilt after a WWII bomb almost destroyed it show London’s art market getting back on track

  • The auctioneers had to move from King Street in St. James’s, central London following bombing during WWII 
  • Photographs show auctioneers back at their building in July 1954 following extensive repairs after The Blitz
  • Among the items up for auction was furniture, rugs, porcelain and artistic objects which all made £22,479

Christie’s Auction House was left just a shell after bombing during the London Blitz, with the auctioneers having to move out of the premises for extensive repairs to be carried out.

It wasn’t until July 1953 – 12 years after the building was bombed in 1941 during WWII – that they were able to move back into the building on King Street in St James’s, central London.

More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged and of those who were killed in the bombing campaign, which hit other British towns and cities, more than half of them were from the capital. 

Now fascinating photographs reveal Christie’s full of life once again in the months after extensive repairs to their King Street premises with excited bidders inspecting different pieces and auctioneers busy at work.   

Among the images is one of Edward Smith, the auctioneer’s clerk, who has been working with Christie’s for over 60 years. He is pictured assisting the auctioneer in the packed auction room.

Further pictures show bidders inspecting different pieces and waiting in the crowd for their favourite pieces to be put up for auction. The black and white images show them dressed in attire typical of the time.  

Despite the impact on currency and other implications of the post-war world, the photos show that London remained the centre of the art market and Christie’s was a great focus of that market in London.

This particular auction of furniture, rugs, porcelain and other artistic objects managed to gather £22,479 and nine shillings.

Christie’s moved back into its premises on King Street in 1953 following extensive repairs. Bombing in London during WWII left the premises just a shell, and they had to hold auctions at Derby House on Oxford Street and Spencer House in St James’s for some time. This image shows three carpet dealers examining an Ispahan carpet from the late 16th century. It was the property of a Mrs Thomas Kelly from New York. It fetched £3045 (2900 guineas) at auction

 Despite the impact on currency and other implications of the post-war world, these photos show that London remained the centre of the art market and Christie’s was a great focus of that market in London (pictured, a woman discussing an item up for sale with a dealer). This particular auction featured items including furniture, rugs, porcelain and other artistic objects


Assistants exhibit various items in front of a packed crowd at their newly-repaired auction house on King Street. They parade the items in between three tables, as bidders strain to get a glance. The property was badly damaged by incendiary bombs in 1941, so auctions had to be held at Derby House on Oxford Street and Spencer House in St James’s for some time. Christie’s was only allowed to move back into King Street after the building was repaired in 1953

Christie’s was founded in 1766 by auctioneer James Christie. Its main premises are on King Street, St James’s, but following the London Blitz it had to hold auctions elsewhere until repairs were completed. Business continued as normal during this time. At one of the first auctions held following the completion of repairs, a large of number of eager bidders gathered to get hold of items including furniture, rugs, porcelain (pictured, women waiting for the next lot to come out)

A woman takes a curious look at one of the tables up for auction at Christie’s in July 1954 – 13 years after the building was bombed in 1941 during WWII. The firm was founded by James Christie in 1766 and its original premises were in Pall Mall. In 1823 it moved to King Street, just off St James’s and it stayed there until 1941 when German bombs completely gutted the building. It moved back in to the premises in 1953 following extensive repairs (pictured, the the first auction)


Porters wait to display two Georgian mahogany coal buckets (left), lined and decorated with brass. The buckets fetched 72 guineas at the auction, which was attended by hundreds of eager bidders. And entering into the phlegmatic spirit of it all, a young Frenchman props himself against a fine old cabinet and reads his Figaro (right)

Sir Henry Floyd, the furniture auctioneer at Christie’s, takes bids of various items during the event. A chandelier hangs over his carefully-brushed head as he conducts the room. Christie’s Auction House was left just a shell after bombing during the London Blitz, with the auctioneers having to move out of the premises for extensive repairs to be carried out. But it is pictured here full after life after extensive repairs were carried out to the building

A porter displays a candelabrum to the buyers at the Christie’s auction in July, 1954. This particular auction of furniture, rugs, porcelain and other artistic objects managed to gather £22,479 and nine shillings. Also pictured is Sir Henry Floyd, the furniture auctioneer at Christie’s, who is seen taking bids on various items during the event


A mother attends the auction with her daughter (left) to see if there’s anything that catches her eye. She is pictured inspecting the listings for the day, at the King Street premises which had only recently opened following extensive repairs. There was a wide range of people searching for an item at the auctioneers that day, including two elderly ladies (right)

Among the images is one of Edward Smith, the auctioneer’s clerk, who has been working with Christie’s for over 60 years. He is pictured assisting the auctioneer in the packed auction room. The images are taken soon after the auction house re-opened, but the first sale held at King Street was in October 1953. It was called ‘Ancient and Modern Pictures and Drawings’ and formed part of the Cowper collection from Panshanger, sold by order of the Public Trustee as Executor of the late Lady Desborough’, with 154 lots. The sale realised £7,700


An Armenian antique dealer waits for an object he’s interested in to come up for sale (right), while another gentleman checks his catalogue for the next lot in July 1954 (left). Christie’s had opened a few months before following extensive repairs as a result of bombing during WWII. More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged and of those who were killed in the bombing campaign, which hit other British towns and cities, more than half of them were from the capital

How the Blitz was the most intense bombing campaign Britain has ever seen – claiming more than 40,000 lives

A boy retrieves an item from a rubble-strewn street of East London after German bombing raids in the first month of the Blitz, September 1940

The Blitz began on September 7, 1940, and was the most intense bombing campaign Britain has ever seen.

Named after the German word ‘Blitzkrieg’, meaning lightning war, the Blitz claimed the lives of more than 40,000 civilians.

Between September 7, 1940, and May 21, 1941, there were major raids across the UK with more than 20,000 tonnes of explosives dropped on 16 British cities.

London was attacked 71 times and bombed by the Luftwaffe for 57 consecutive nights.

The City and the East End bore the brunt of the bombing in the capital with the course of the Thames being used to guide German bombers. Londoners came to expect heavy raids during full-moon periods and these became known as ‘bombers’moons’.

More than one million London houses were destroyed or damaged and of those who were killed in the bombing campaign, more than half of them were from London.

In addition to London’s streets, several other UK cities – targeted as hubs of the island’s industrial and military capabilities – were battered by Luftwaffe bombs including Glasgow, Liverpool, Plymouth, Cardiff, Belfast and Southampton and many more.

Deeply-buried shelters provided the most protection against a direct hit, although in 1939 the government refused to allow tube stations to be used as shelters so as not to interfere with commuter travel.

However, by the second week of heavy bombing in the Blitz the government relented and ordered the stations to be opened. Each day orderly lines of people queued until 4pm, when they were allowed to enter the stations.

Despite the blanket bombing of the capital, some landmarks remained intact – such as St Paul’s Cathedral, which was virtually unharmed, despite many buildings around it being reduced to rubble.

Hitler intended to demoralise Britain before launching an invasion using his naval and ground forces. The Blitz came to an end towards the end of May 1941, when Hitler set his sights on invading the Soviet Union.

Other UK cities which suffered during the Blitz included Coventry, where saw its medieval cathedral destroyed and a third of its houses made uninhabitable, while Liverpool and Merseyside was the most bombed area outside London. 

There was also major bombing in Birmingham, where 53 people were killed in an arms works factory, and Bristol, where the Germans dropped 1,540 tons of high explosives and 12,500 incendiaries in one night – killing 207 people. 

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