London, 1927

by Harry on November 10, 2009



Russell Arben Fox 11.10.09 at 3:22 am

Incredible. Where did this originate, Harry? Do you know?


Kieran Healy 11.10.09 at 3:39 am

These are by Claude Friese-Greene and his colour process. (I think you see some of him and his dog at the end of the clip.) He drove around Britain filming — look on YouTube for clips of Cardiff and parts of Scotland, amongst other places. The Edinburgh clip is disappointing because it’s mostly of the zoo, whereas of course we want to see what the people looked like.

When I watched it I was struck by how clean and new the roads looked.


Beryl 11.10.09 at 6:15 am

Clean and new, perhaps, but probably also reeking of car and bus exhaust, to judge by the puffs of bluish smoke emanating from tailpipes. At least one industrial skyline view also shows thick black smoke rising from chimneys.


dominic 11.10.09 at 7:15 am

It’s 1926, not 1927 (at least, that’s the date of the Oval Test).


chris y 11.10.09 at 8:49 am

Dominic, it says 1927 on the clip. I suspect he spliced material he’d shot over a period of time. I like the Blackpool scenes best.


derek 11.10.09 at 10:37 am

The funny thing is that I was watching out for buildings that aren’t here any more, and I couldn’t identify many. I’d expected the war, and sixties redevelopment, to have made more obvious subtractions. Admittedly he showed mostly the West End, that was less heavily bombed, and of the City, the parts of Wren’s churches most bomb resistant were the towers, the very parts that would be visible in the twenties films, not the fragile walls.

The most striking difference was sparrows. They were still that common when I was young, but the population has collapsed since the seventies.


Hidari 11.10.09 at 11:00 am

Imagine! People drove around in ‘cars’ in London in those days!


Richard J 11.10.09 at 11:34 am

I don’t know – surprisingly large numbers of the buildings round London Bridge and the Tower were still familiar. The two buildings on either side of the north end of London Bridge are still both there. The opposite bits of Southwark have changed completely though, thanks to a combination of the Blitz and the collapse of the London docks.


JoB 11.10.09 at 12:24 pm

Who are those 2-legged creatures? So-o funny that they are.


Barry 11.10.09 at 2:26 pm

derek 11.10.09 at 10:37 am

“The most striking difference was sparrows. They were still that common when I was young, but the population has collapsed since the seventies.”

What happened to them?


Nickp 11.10.09 at 2:51 pm


Interesting. Here in the eastern U.S., “English” sparrows are invasive pests, and people who install bluebird nest boxes are encouraged to destroy sparrow nests that they find.

It would be an odd situation if the species were simultaneously endangered in its natural habitat and killed as a pest elsewhere.


chris y 11.10.09 at 2:58 pm

What happened to them?

Nobody really knows. Some sort of epidemic preventing hatching seems to be the leading theory, but it’s all a bit speculative. There are parts of the countryside where they’re still common.


Ceri B. 11.10.09 at 3:37 pm

That’s marvelous. Thank you for sharing it. :)


JohnTh 11.10.09 at 10:50 pm

Fantastic. The lack of colour in the male crowd scene is also very striking – browns, greys and blacks – nothing like London today. And never mind the sparrows – I wouldn’t mind understanding how fast the hat disappeared – not a single bare head in 10 min (saving one small child)


derek 11.11.09 at 10:02 am

No mystery. The Eastern US is much less densely populated than Southern England (England has a population equal to the state of New York plus California plus half Texas, and the majority of it is in that bit in the south east corner. I don’t expect the bluebird would do too well in those conditions either.

As the previous commenter says, in pockets of the area that aren’t completely packed, sparrows still thrive, which doesn’t indicate an infectious disease. It seems more likely that concrete and traffic noise are interfering with wildlife that lives on worms and sings for a mate. Sparrows are famous as a “city” species, but there are different kinds of cities, and London has become a different kind of city. I grew up in what I thought of as an urban environment, but I’m shocked when I go back there to see how much less of a built-up/green balance there is there now, and how much more it’s just all built and no green.

Scientists have identified something similar in places like the Florida Keys, where each generation takes its level of marine wildife for eternal, but when you talk to older generations the picture of extinction is clearer. They call it the shifting baseline, we could call it the boiling frog.


Beryl 11.11.09 at 12:38 pm

Comments on this entry are closed.