Walking The Streets On The Evening Before The 1981 Royal Wedding

A couple of weeks ago I published the photos my father took of people waiting for the Coronation in 1953. That post can be found here.

Just under 30 years later there was another royal event in central London, and on the evening before people were finding the best position along the route to watch the events of the following day.

This was the wedding of Charles and Diana that took place on the 29th July 1981 and on the evening of the 28th July I took a walk from St. Paul’s Cathedral and along Fleet Street and the Strand to take some photos.

Starting at St. Paul’s Cathedral, this is where the best positions were and large crowds had already found their place ready for an overnight stay.

I must have had a couple of photos left on some Black and White film before moving to colour.

Outside St. Paul’s Cathedral:

Royal Wedding St. Paul's

Crowds at this perfect position looking across at the steps leading into the Cathedral: Royal Wedding St. Paul'sI must have then switched to a colour film:Royal Wedding St. Paul's

Looking back up Ludgate Hill. Although this was the evening before, the road had been closed and a large number of people were just walking the route, taking in the atmosphere and watching the people who were settling in for the night along the edge of the route. It was a warm evening and I remember there being a real sense of a big event taking place the following day.

Royal Wedding Ludgate Hill

The same view today looking back up Ludgate Hill towards the cathedral. St. Martin Ludgate on the left is still there, along with many of the buildings on the right.

Ludgate Hill

Just to the right in the above photo in 1981:

Royal Wedding Ludgate Hill

Now in Ludgate Circus. This was when the railway bridge still ran across the start of Ludgate Hill.

Royal Wedding Ludgate Circus

Just to the left of the railway bridge is the Old King Lud pub, decorated for the event. This was a lovely Victorian pub, built-in 1870,

Royal Wedding Ludgate Circus

After going through some changes in the 1990s, the pub finally closed in 2005 and became yet another of London’s lost Victorian pubs. The site is now occupied by a fast food store with offices above:

Ludgate Circus

Moving up into Fleet Street. This road was still open and the pavements were busy with those walking and those waiting:

Royal Wedding Fleet Street

This was when Fleet Street was still occupied by newspaper publishers. The Express offices on the left and those of the Star on the right. I remember walking along Fleet Street and the side roads leading down to the Thames on a late Saturday afternoon / early evening and listening to the sound of the newspapers being printed and the amount of activity to get the next day’s edition distributed. All very exciting when you are young and exploring London.

Royal Wedding Fleet Street

Prepared for a night’s wait:

Royal Wedding Fleet Street

Along the side of the Royal Court’s of Justice:

Royal Wedding Law Courts

The George pub in the Strand which fortunately is still there:

Royal Wedding Strand

Most of the decorations were put up by the owners of the buildings along the route. “Official” street decoration was very limited, mainly these pennants hanging from lamp posts. Union Jacks along with red, white and blue bunting was out in abundance.

Royal Wedding Strand

One of many events that have taken this route to St. Paul’s Cathedral, but a special event for me as this was my first opportunity to get out and photograph the streets and people preparing for the following day.



4 thoughts on “Walking The Streets On The Evening Before The 1981 Royal Wedding

  1. Tim Chamberlain

    Great photos. I remember watching the wedding on TV, I was 5 years old! … If I remember correctly I think we were given silver jam spoons at school as official mementos.

    I went in search of the Old King Lud in the 1990s when I was an undergraduate after reading Jack Kerouac writing in ‘Lonesome Traveler’ that he’d visited it when he’d passed through London, c.1950s. Sad to find even then that it wasn’t quite the same, but at least it was still a pub and so I was able to raise a pint in his honour.

    1. admin Post author

      I think Whitbread changed the name in the 1990s, and you are right it was not the same. In 1980s it still very much an original pub. Sad to see these places go.

  2. David Lawson

    I was in Covent Garden that night with my wife and two friends and after we’d finished our meal we all decided to take a look at those awaiting the wedding and ended up walking to Buck House and then back to Fleet Street. Sadly I didn’t have a camera with me but the atmosphere was great. Little did anyone know what was to become of that marriage.

  3. Paul Garth

    Brings back memories at age 13. I enjoyed going Red Rover bus-hopping around London, and on the wedding day there was a special of a combined bus and tube pass. Got up early that morning and was able to maneuver to St. Paul’s Cathedral and took a position on the right side with a clear shot of the steps. Was a bit shorter then, so I bought a periscope (with red and white stripes) from a street vendor. Saw Spike Milligan horsing about on the top steps which his top hat. Who could forget her train. It was one of those magical moments that is etched in my memory. Attempted to walk down the Mall to Buckingham Palace afterwards, but the crowds were really packed.


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