London Footage – a Century ago

The definition of ‘rush hour’ in London grows woollier as the years pass: at its worst it seems to stretch demonically from 6am to 9pm.

Journey back over a century to July 1896, though, and this tantalising half-minute of footage reveals our Victorian counterparts making their way to work across the Thames by tram, horse-drawn carriage and, for the health-conscious (or the poor), good old Shanks’ pony. More or less business as usual then, although compared to the daily human onslaught we face in 21st century London, the commuters caught by R.W. Paul’s static camera proceed at an enviably elegant pace. (Simon McCallum)

Made over 100 years ago, this footage shows a number of scenes shot around central London, taking in locations such as Hyde Park Corner, Parliament Square and Charing Cross Station. We see crowds of people disembarking from a pleasure steamer at Victoria Embankment, pedestrians dodging horse-drawn carriages in Pall Mall, and heavy traffic trotting down the Strand.

This fascinating film provides an authentic view of London’s East End from over a hundred years ago. Flat-capped men flow in a Sunday morning tide down Middlesex Street – better known by its unofficial name, Petticoat Lane – just as they have for generations.

This most Cockney of London markets caters to the second clothes trade: at the time when this film was made, the market was dominated by the East End street sellers and the Jewish rag trade. As the camera pans across the market, we see the traders raised above the general level, barking at the crowd. The few women in the picture are stall-holders, selling patched-up trousers and restored boots, while a nearby card sharp tempts the punters.

The film was shot in 1904 as a ‘travelogue’ for Australians curious about life in what was “one of the most exciting cities anywhere.”

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