In its long existence, London has seen monumental changes to its landscape and architecture. And while for centuries artists used pencil and paint to record scenes that are now long gone, only the advent of photography allowed real images to be made of a changing capital.

Lost London, an exhibition taking place at Kenwood House, lifts the veil on a vanished city. It presents almost 100 images from the years 1870 to 1945, from the horse-drawn Victorian age to the devastated streets of World War Two.

The exhibition showcases images from the English Heritage archive of early London photographs, which were inherited from the former London County Council, originally taken to provide a record of those districts of London marked for demolition.

The exhibition is divided into four themes – Work, Poverty, Wealth and Change – and includes images of medieval timber-framed houses, factories and warehouses, newsagents and tobacconists, and the townhouses of the aristocracy. Many great architectural and ordinary buildings, streets and signs were swept away by road widening, slum clearance, commercial redevelopment and German bombs.

The photographs include one showing two women engaged in upholstery and trimming for the furniture trade, in a room in Archer Street, Soho in 1908. The upper floors of many Soho houses were used as workshops, often serving the larger West End stores.

Euston Arch, 1934 shows the huge Greek Doric gateway, built in 1838 and rising 70ft to form a grand entrance to Euston and a monument to Britain’s railway age. It was demolished in 1962.

A photo of 336 Old Street, Shoreditch, from around 1910, shows a gilded cockerel that once adorned The Cock public house in Fleet Street. It was later acquired by Edward Maud, who placed it on the front of his premises in Old Street.

Lost London is at Kenwood House, Hampstead Lane, Hampstead until Monday, April 5. Free entry.