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.

11 thoughts on “Murals and Street Art from 1980s London

  1. Pingback: Gobbets of the week #12!  | HistoryLondon

  2. Sophie Wheeler

    Thanks for your interesting work on London murals. Would you happen to know where the one showing Greenwich Old Royal Naval College and the Ford Capri might be?
    I am a local resident and cant remember where this is.
    Best regards

  3. Frances Peacock

    I’m delighted to see a photo of the mural in Wolsey Road, Islington. I knew two of the people depicted in the mural (though not the child) and it’s great to know the mural still survives.

    1. Andrew Brown

      The child is a girl called Abby aged about 8. She still lives nearby on the corner of Wolsey Road and Mildmay Grove. I live at 117 Mildmay Road a couple of doors down from this mural. The tree obscuring it was removed last year and I look after the garden under the mural. Someone is interested in restoring the mural who I’m in contact with.

  4. Carolynne Beale

    Hi I painted the mural on Wolsey Road, and two of the figures were locals, though not the girl at the front. Myself and Cate Morris also did the murals of the street market in Spitalfields, and the one at Waterloo, which used to be on Westminster roundabout at the back of Waterloo Station. Cheers Carolynne Beale

    1. Andrew Brown

      Hi Carolynne,

      I’ve lived at 117 Mildmay Road since 1991 and look after the garden underneath the mural. A tree obscuring it was removed from there last year. The mural is looking oking tired now, but the beautiful artwork you did is still evident.

  5. Frances PEACOCK

    Hello Carolynne,

    Thank you so much for painting that wonderful mural. I was amazed when I first saw it and loved the fact that it features local people, especially my mother. She lived nearby for over 60 years and was well known in the area. Bob (the greengrocer) was also a much loved character and a very kind and generous man. It is indeed heartwarming to see ordinary people commemorated so beautifully.

    I will take a look at the Spitalfields and Waterloo murals you mention.

    Kind regards

  6. Frances Peacock

    Hi Carolynne

    Thank you so much for painting the mural in Wolsey Road, Islington. I was amazed when I first saw it and delighted that my Mum and other local people featured in it. My mother lived just around the corner for over 60 years and was well known in the area. Bob the grocer was also a much loved local character and a very kind and generous man. Do you happen to know who the lady in the window may have been? What a pity that a tree now obscures your wonderful work.

    Kind regards

  7. Carolynne Beale

    Hi Andrew it’s lovely to hear that people still appreciate my mural, even if it is a bit tired now. You say that someone is interested in restoring it. As I have copyright I will need to be involved in this. I am 68 now so I am not sure how much I would be fit for! Obviously scaffolding and paint will be needed, and I have the original design, so I will be happy to paint some of it. Please let me know if anything comes of the idea. Yours sincerely Carolynne Beale

  8. Andrew Brown

    Hi Carolynne,

    Thanks for the reply. I was clearing up the garden at the base of the mural a couple of weeks ago and a man asked me about the history of it as he’s interested in restoring it. I told him I’d do some research and try and contact you. I can speak to him and ask him to contact you if possible so you can discuss it with him.

    It’s perhaps best for me to give you my email address via a private message if you have messenger on Facebook, unless you can access it from this message. I did find your Facebook page and sent you the message I posted here last week, so if you can use that to reply to me then we can pursue it from there.

    The area is now a conservation area and it could be that the mural might attract funding under preservation rules.



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