Monthly Archives: June 2014

Last Tram Week in London

62 years ago this coming week was “Last Tram Week”. The last week of tram services before they were finally withdrawn on the 5th July 1952.

From the early 1860s through to 1952, various parts of London had a tram service. Initially pulled by horse, but later replaced by electric trams.

The following is my father’s photo of a tram just outside Embankment Underground Station on the last day of operation.

Last Tram 2

And another photo from the same location (Hungerford Railway Bridge is the bridge on the right side of the photo):

Last Tram 1

The same view today:


To get an idea of the size of tram operations in London, the following is taken from the “1935 London Transport – A Record and Survey”

The system consists of 328 miles of route including 18 miles of trolleybus routes, with a fleet of 2,560 tramcars and 61 trolley-buses. 101 routes are worked over, including 4 operated by trolleybuses and there are 32 depots in use.

The history of London’s tramways begins with the line built by George Francis Train, an American engineer between the Marble Arch and Notting Hill Gate. This opened to traffic on March 23, 1861, but was taken up shortly after, the projecting flanges on the rails having proved a source of danger to other vehicles, while Train also encountered legal difficulties. The first regular service was provided by the Metropolitan Street Tramways Company, which inaugurated its line between Brixton Station and Kennington Gate on May 2, 1870. Exactly a week later, the North Metropolitan Tramways Company started a service between Whitechapel Church and Bow Church.

Electric traction was inaugurated by the London United Tramways Company in April 1901, on two sections: from Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush to Kew Bridge and Shepherd’s Bush to Acton. The first section of the London County Council Tramways to be converted to electrical working was the Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges – Clapham – Tooting line, the date being May 15, 1903.

In 1932 there were 9 local authorities and 3 companies running trams across London with the London County Council being by far the largest running 1,714 cars and Ilford the smallest with just 19 cars.

Looking down on the number 40 to New Cross:

Last Tram 3

The same view today where the car has now taken over the roads:


There was no specific reason for the end of the tram, rather a number of issues conspired to end this means of public transport.

There was a believe that they caused congestion, London streets were too narrow and new housing was being built far from the tram routes.

Photos from the 1935 London Transport Record and Survey provide an insight into the operation of the tram and similar means of transport long disappeared from the streets of London such as the trolleybus.

LT book scan 1


LT bookscan 2

There are two really good videos on YouTube on the tram and the last night of the tram. these can be found here and here.

Murals and Street Art from 1980s London

In the 1980s there was a growth in the amount of murals and street art across London, a mix of decoration or serious and politically inspired.

These photos were taken in 1985 and 1986 and demonstrate not only considerable skill and effort but many also reflect the social and political concerns of the time. Some of these murals still exist, however they are now much faded. These photos show them shortly after completion with their detail and vibrant colours.

The following picture shows Greenwich Park, the Queens House and the Royal Observatory in the centre with the Thames curving past the Isle of Dogs which is to the left. Above and below is a horrific scene of missiles falling onto the population of London, presumably with the aim of destroying the people and the city.

Starting from the mid 1980’s, the Cold War was coming to a gradual end, concluding a period when nuclear annihilation had been a real possibility, which this work probably represents.

Many of the people are holding hands around the vision of London, their outstretched arms appear to be hitting out at the missiles. A representation of people power against the nightmare of nuclear war?

Mural 12

And note the fine example of a 1980s car in the foreground, a Ford Capri.

The following was painted in 1985. The lettering top right of the smaller picture states that this was GLC funded. The GLC (Greater London Council) was dissolved in 1986 following the Local Government Act of 1985.

The TV is showing a picture of Margaret Thatcher. It was mainly the conflict between Ken Livingstone’s policies at the GLC with the Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher that led to the abolition of the GLC.

Mural 2

The following mural shows El Salvador in Latin America. A country that was going through considerable violence and turbulence throughout the 1980s following a coup d’état in 1979.

The mural appears to represent the idyllic cooperative movement rolling back the military and industrial complex back into the sea.

The mural is still there, although much faded. The location is the side of Macey House, Horseferry Place, Greenwich.

Mural 10

The following picture seems to cover a number of events. A street party with a banner referring to the Silver Jubilee in the background. In the background to the right is a banner referring to Victory in Europe, probably referring the previous street celebrations.

Mural 9

Street market, Wentworth Street in E1.

Mural 4

Continuing the above mural to the left:

Mural 5

The Waterloo Mural near Waterloo Station. The detail on the newspaper identifies this as completed on the  20th October 1980 by Carolynne Beale and Cat… (rest hidden behind the tree) of Murals Unlimited.

Mural 3

Could this be the same people as Carolynne and Kate?

Mural 1

Fantastic artwork on the side of a house in Wolsey Road in Islington. This is still in place although a large tree has now grown in the garden in front and covered most of this work. Mural 7

Detail of the window:

Mural 8

In Camden:

Mural 11

Giant Rabbits:

Mural 6

And across London there was always plenty of window art as illustrated by the following photo:

Mural 13


I suspect that this period was a peak for this type of street artwork. Walking around London now, I do not see very much contemporary work and there is certainly very little that has the same political inspiration as that created during the 1980s.

Shepherd Market – A Village in Piccadilly

Throughout London there are many small areas that have their own distinct history and unique atmosphere. One of these is Shepherd Market and part of the title of this week’s post “A Village in Piccadilly” is taken from the book of the same title by Robert Henrey, first published in 1942 and describing life in Shepherd Market during the early part of the last war.

Shepherd Market is the core of the area between Curzon Street and Piccadilly, the site of the original May Fair that gave the district its’ name. The following map is taken from the book A Village in Piccadilly:

map from book

Robert Henrey was a journalist, however his wife was the French writer Madeleine Gal who also wrote under the name of Robert Henrey. Writing was a joint enterprise with much of the material being hers and he supplied the editorship. Their son, Bobby Henry was the child star of the British 1948 film “Fallen Idol”.

See the Guardian obituary of Madeleine for more information.

The Henrey’s lived in Shepherd Market during the 2nd World War and the majority of the book is a fascinating account of the impact of the war on life in Shepherd Market and the immediate area around Piccadilly.

Shepherd Market was the site of the original May Fair. This had started in the reign of Edward 1 as the annual St. James Fair after Edward 1 privileged the hospital of St. James to keep an annual fair “on the eve of St. James the day and the morrow, and four days following”. By the reign of Queen Anne it had become the May Fair. The fair had a considerable reputation. A review by the editor of the Observator from the reign of Queen Anne (1702 – 1707) states:

“Oh! the piety of some people about the Queen, who can suffer such things of this nature to go undiscovered to her Majesty and consequently unpunished! Can any rational man imagine that her Majesty would permit so much lewdness as is committed at May Fair, for so many days together, so near to her royal palace if she knew anything of the matter? I don’t believe the patent for that fair allows the patentees the liberty of setting up the devil’s shops and exposing his merchandise for sale”

Unfortunately he does not state the nature of the merchandise for sale !

From 1701 the fair was growing considerably in scope and occupied the area on the north side of Piccadilly, in what would become Shepherd Market, Shepherd Court, White Horse Street, Sun Court, Market Court and the area as far as Tyburn (now Park) Lane.

Within the area of the May Fair was a cottage built in 1618 which was the home of the herdsman who looked after the cattle during the annual fair. This cottage lasted until 1941 when it was destroyed in an air raid. One of the many examples of the large loss of historic buildings during the bombing of the last war.

Robert Henrey’s book describes how the area that held the May Fair became Shepherd Market:

To the north of our village in 1708 was a low house with a garden embowered in a grove of plane-trees. Here lived Mr Edward Shepherd. In 1708 Mr Shepherd had seen a lot of disorderedly behaviour at the May Fair so much that the fair was abolished by Grand Jury presentment, “the year riotous and tumultuous assembly …in which many loose, idle and disorderedly persons did rendezvous, draw and allure young persons, servants, and others to meet there to game and commit lewdness”

The fair did return after a short pause (the temptation of gaming and lewdness probably too much for Londoners of the time), however with London expanding the land started to be built on. Mr Shepherd noticed that the market value of the land made building profitable and he bought the irregular open space on which May Fair had been held and in 1735 built Shepherd Market.

The core of the market consisting of butchers’ shops and the upper floors containing a theatre.

In the map at the top of the post, Hertford Street can be seen to the west of Shepherd Market. In this street was the “Dog and Duck” public house with its duck pond and shaded by willows. Duck hunting was described as one of the “low sports of the butchers of Shepherds Market”.

My reason for tracking down Shepherd Market was to identify the location of two photos taken by my father in the late 1940’s.

The first is of the pub “Ye Grapes” and can be located in the top right hand corner of the map at the start of this post. The following photo is my father’s original:

Ye Grapes

Almost 70 years on, the area is still very much the same. Ye Grapes is still a pub, the alley leading through to Curzon Street is still there and the newsagents to the left of the alley is still a newsagents.


Ye Grapes is recommended for a drink after some London walking. The bar area is many years old and is what a local London pub should be.

The following is my father’s photo of Market Street:

market street

And the following is my 2014 photo:


I recommend Robert Henrey’s book, A Village in Piccadilly as it provides a very detailed description of life in a small part of London at the start of the war, when the bombing of London was at its most intensive. The book is a very personal account of the impact on individual shopkeepers and inhabitants of the area through the dramatic early years of the last war.

Whilst the buildings of Shepherd Market have not changed significantly, the area is now home to many small restaurants and does almost have a “village” atmosphere after the noise and congestion of Piccadilly, just a short distance away.

Looking back down towards Shepherd Market from the alley that leads to Curzon Street:


The following is from the book “A Village in London” and shows an area in 1910 which was later destroyed in an air raid. As the text states, it was kept by the newsagent to remember the “old days”.

shepherd market in 1910

So, if you are in the Piccadilly area, take a short detour to Shepherd Market. Enjoy the restaurants and the pubs, but be moderate with the drink otherwise the riotous and tumultuous assembly and lewd behaviour that was the defining feature of this area for so long may still be just below the surface.


Foyles and the College for the Distributive Trades

London can be a very impersonal city, constantly changing, busy with people visiting the city for a few days, dashing between the main tourist sites, workers who depart to the suburbs at the end of the day. However beneath this, every inch of the city has a history touched by the millions of people who have called London home or a place of work over the centuries and it is this that I want to discover and document in my blog through the generations of my family that have called London home.

Today’s post bring this together through an interesting set of coincidences with the London bookshop Foyles moving into new premises at 107 Charing Cross Road.

After a short period at Cecil Court, Foyles moved to Charing Cross Road, starting at 135, then expanding to cover 121 to 135 and on Saturday 7th June 2014 opened in a new location at 107 Charing Cross Road.

My father started buying books at Foyles in the 1940s. I still have books about London purchased from Foyles with the original Foyles payment slip inside the book. Foyles had a very interesting purchase process where you would take the book to an assistant who would bag it and retain, give you a payment slip to take to a cashiers kiosk for payment. With the payment slip stamped to prove you had paid, you return to the original assistants desk to reclaim your book. I cannot remember exactly when this process changed, however I remember purchasing books via this process well into the late 1990’s.

Despite this archaic system, Foyles had (and still has) the most fantastic selection of books and hours could be lost just browsing the shelves.

Many of the London books I have from my father still retain their original purchase receipt. I found the following in the “Historic Streets of London”, purchased from Foyles on the 9th October 1948 for 3 shillings and 6 pence.

book and slip

One of the books that my father bought from Foyles in 1941 was the 1940 edition of Bartholomew’s Reference Atlas of Greater London. This was displayed on a shelf beneath a large notice which read that maps could only be purchased by members of the public in uniform. A neighbour of my father’s who was in the Home Guard purchased the book for him. I still have this Atlas.

To get to the main point of today’s post, Foyles has moved into 107 Charing Cross Road. This building originally consisted of two educational establishments, the College for the Distributive Trades and the St. Martins School of Art and during the war was one of the few still operating in central London.

My father was evacuated from London at the start of the war, but returned after 5 weeks to spend the rest of the war living on the Marylebone Estate near Regents Park.

As most of the schools in central London were closed during the peak of the bombing on London, education was a problem. The following is from my father’s account of his time in London during the war. This section taken from the year 1940:

My old school remained closed and evacuated in Buckingham. Other local schools were in a similar situation, the part-time local attempts at education were a failure so in desperation, father installed me in a small private school in Gloucester Avenue, Chalk Farm, which proved equally unsuccessful specialising in Latin and ancient Egypt. However father at last found a college that was open. Alas I was too young to be accepted. This was my last chance; luckily father cajoled the Headmaster into accepting me. The normal age for admission was the late teens, therefore, at my preliminary interview the Head instructed me to lie about my age (13). I was to be sixteen and never to appear in short trousers, and so I entered the College for the Distributive Trades at No. 107 Charing Cross Road.

The college had but one class with few fellow students, all about 4 years older than myself. I was a puzzle to them and my solution was to keep a low profile and keep out of trouble. The day time raids helped for the “education” consisted of little more than card games in the basement “air raid shelter” by candlelight for the caretaker turned off the power when the siren sounded.

A general sense of anarchy prevailed in the shelter for we were unsupervised. The building was shared with the St. Martins School of Art who were located on the top floors and although St. Martin’s was meant to use a specified area of the shelter there was a large amount of mingling.

As October (1940) arrived several of my classmates left to enter the forces until four of us remained. Any dilemma of how to run a college consisting of a single class of four was solved one night when a bomb fell through the gymnasium floor and exploded in the basement shelter, a very lucky escape for us all. Also, about this time, a large bomb fell between the college and Foyles, leaving a very large crater where the road had collapsed into a void, caused amongst other things by the collapse of an underground brick culvert.

This is the building in which Foyles will be opening their new store on the 7th June!

I do not know if the new Foyles will have a book department in the basement. I look forward to visiting and if so, it will be intriguing to be looking at books in the basement that my father used as an air raid shelter.

The following photo shows the building that was the College for the Distributive Trades and the St. Martin’s School of Art and will be the new home of Foyles.


The old Foyles can just be seen to the left of the bus at the far end of the street. Entrances to the College and School are at the left and right edges of the building. The bomb that my father refers to, fell between the bus and the white van. Above the door on the left the original name and year of build has been retained.


As has the St. Martin’s School of Art above the entrance to the right:


The original Foyles which will be closing prior to the move into 107 Charing Cross Road:


Close up of the street sign “Foyles for Books”:


With the continued growth in Internet shopping for books and the use of e-books rather than paper books it is really good to see a bookshop having the confidence to invest in a new store.

Much of my London book collection has been built up from Foyles over the past 70 years by my father and myself and I hope to continue for many years to come.

When next in Charing Cross Road I will be visiting Foyles, looking past the books and thinking about what was happening there in 1940.


Londoners – 1953

One of the great pleasures of scanning old negatives is that you never really know what the photograph will be until it appears on the computer screen. You can get a glimpse by holding the negative up to a light, but it only gives an outline of the photograph.

I recently scanned a series of my father’s negatives covering photos taken in 1953 at the time of the Coronation. It was interesting that there were no photos of the main participants of the Coronation, the photos instead being of the people waiting to watch along with other photos of Londoners at around the same time.

Coronation day was Tuesday 2nd June 1953, so these are photos taken around 61 years ago tomorrow (this post was published on Sunday June 1st 2014)

So for this week’s post, I present a series of photos showing Londoners from 1953.



I have no idea where in London this photo was taken, but I suspect an opportunistic photo given the two very well dressed gentlemen and the sign. They are obviously waiting for someone or something, perhaps a taxi?

It demonstrates the benefits of always having a camera to hand when walking London, something I always try to do.

It is easy to take this type of photo with current camera equipment, even a mobile phone, but the above photo was taken on a camera that had manual focussing, speed and aperture adjustment, and a standard lens so it was not taken at a distance.

Coronation Crowds in the Mall

coronation crowd 1

The photo above and the one below are from a series of photos taken of the crowds after, and waiting for the Coronation. My father did not taken any of the Coronation procession, he was much more interested in the people waiting along the route.

The photo above shows a very busy Mall between Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace.

Waiting for the Coronation

coronation crowd 2

The above photo was taken in Trafalgar Square at the base of Nelsons Column looking towards the National Portrait Gallery.

The weather on Coronation Day was not good. Dull skies, a cold wind and occasional outbreaks of rain as highlighted in the above photo. This was the 2nd June 1953, typical British June weather !

The construction on the left of the photo is probably a BBC commentary / camera position. The two men at the top left have headphones on. This was the first time such an occasion had been televised.

Childrens Entertainment

children watching

I do not know where or when this photo was taken, but it was on the same strip of negatives as the Coronation photos. It may show children’s entertainment set-up as part of the Coronation activities.

All these children must now be in their mid to late 60s. It would be wonderful to put names to them.

When scanning this photo and a couple more of the same scene, I was hoping that my father took a photo of whatever it was that they were watching. It would be great to see what was causing such reactions, but no, only a few photos of the children. This has informed my own photography. Whilst a specific subject may attract your attention when taking a photo, those viewing many decades later will want to know more, not just about the subject, but also about the surroundings, what else was happening at the time etc. This is obviously much easier now with digital photography where the cost of photos is almost negligible, but when these were originally taken film was expensive and my father did all his own developing which was time consuming and costly. I can understand why he only took a few of a specific subject, but many times when I have been scanning I was wishing he would have turned slightly and taken another photo.

Speakers Corner

speakers corner

Preaching the Gospel at Speakers Corner. Bible in hand and very intense. This is one of these photos where I wish my father has turned to the left and taken some photos of the crowd. It would be good to see their reaction.

Watching on a Motorbike

man and womman on bike

This couple have come up to London and found a position to watch a procession from their motorbike. I suspect they have come from outside central London as the woman is holding an ABC map of London.

Not the headgear that you could legally get away with these days. Not exactly suitable shoes for a motorbike, however I wonder if they had come up to London to visit a cinema, see a show or go to a restaurant.

I hope you enjoyed this series of photos of Londoners (and probably visitors to London) from 61 years ago.  Snapshots in the lives of people and of this wonderful city of London.