Picture, courtesy Dominic Winter Auctioneers Ltd

The images of 36 ‘London character types’ were captured by photographer John Thomson and published in a book mostly written by socialist journalist Adolphe Smith.

They sold for £12,500, more than double the pre-sale estimate of £6,000 at Gloucestershire auction house Dominic Winter, where experts described the work as ‘striking and groundbreaking’.

Subjects featured include fish, fruit and flower sellers, cabmen, locksmiths and street doctors.

Auctioneer Chris Albury added: ‘This is an incredibly important work, being one of the earliest uses of photography as social documentation.

‘Smith and Thomson argue for social reform and an improvement of these squalid conditions of a neglected and exploited underclass.’

All pictures, courtesy Dominic Winter Auctioneers Ltd