Visiting London in the 1950s


This film clip of a drive round London in the 1950s is a little gem. The film has been enhanced and stabilised and has a lovely piano accompaniment.

Apparently the route is:

Kensington High Street

Allen Street

Abingdon Street

Phillimore Gardens

Upper Phillimore Gardens

Kensington High Street

Argyll Road

Phillimore Gardens again.

In the 1950s my family went on a visit to London. We stayed for three nights in a B&B in South Kensington.

We did all the sights and had a day at London Zoo where we saw the famous Chimps Tea Party. Four chimpanzees were taken by their keepers to sit at a picnic table and drink tea and eat sandwiches, cakes and lollipops. The highlight, of course, was when one of the chimps drank straight out of the teapot. The chimps didn’t seem to mind being the source of so much public amusement and at least they weren’t wearing dresses which was what happened when you saw chimps at the circus.

We went to look at Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament which we recognised from the H.P. Sauce bottle.

HP sauce
image credit: By ChrisDC62 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons
We went to see the Tower of London and threw pennies to the mudlarks at the foot of Tower Bridge; admired lots of paintings in the National Gallery; fed the ducks in St. James’ Park and the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. We also paid our respects to the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey.

In the summer of 1965 we visited London again. This time to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. The excitement of London now that it was Swinging was even greater than before. We had a day ticket and caught the train from Peterborough railway station and were in the capital a couple of hours later.

Our dad decided that our education would benefit from an immersion in art and we spent much of the day in the National Gallery. The highlight of the visit was seeing the Leonardo Cartoon which had been purchased a couple of years earlier by the gallery after a well-publicised appeal for donations.

Leonardo cartoon
image credit: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Then after a brisk walk round St James’ Park and a Lyons Corner House for something to eat and we headed to South Kensington for the concert.

The programme for the concert was:

Neville Marriner directing the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in a Handel concerto. The premiere of Michael Tippett’s piano concerto conducted by the composer with John Ogden as soloist. After the interval Malcolm Sargent conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Singers in a performance of Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

At the time we loved The Planets and didn’t mind the Handel. However we hated the Tippett and couldn’t wait for it to finish. Listening to it again over fifty years later, I’ve enjoyed it!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

You can read more of my memories from the 1950s and 60s in Cabbage and Semolina and Jam for Tea available in ebook for Kindle and paperback.

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Afternoon Tea, Sunday Tea and a very fine teapot.


I got a bit carried away yesterday with #NationalTeaDay and downloaded some interesting images for tweeting.

This oil-painting is by artist Yehia Dessouki, an Egyptian painter and visual artist making contemporary art using diverse kinds of media both traditional and digital.

Image credit: By Artist Review [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.

Afternoon Tea (1905)  by Isidore Verheyden, a Belgian painter of landscapes, portraits and still life.

Image credit: Isidore Verheyden [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Afternoon Tea: Rhymes for Children by J. G. Sowerby and H. H. Emmerson. London: Frederick Warne & Co., 1880.

Image credit: By John George Sowerby (1850–1914) and Henry Hetherington Emmerson (1831–1895) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the 1950s, Sunday Tea was always the same.

The best cups and saucers came out of the cupboard along with the starched, white tablecloth and the two-tier cake stand.

Slices of buttered white bread and Hovis; a salad made up of one or two lettuce leaves, a few slices of cucumber and bottled beetroot and two quarters of a tomato; a lump of tinned salmon (preferably John West’s) with the bones picked out and the skin removed; half a hard-boiled egg; and a shake of Heinz 57 Varieties salad cream. For afters: tinned fruit in syrup with Carnation evaporated milk which always curdled if poured over tinned pineapple; fruit scones; sponge cakes; and tea with sugar and a splash of milk.

It was the same if we went to visit our relatives on a Sunday. Whichever aunt, great-aunt, granny or friend of the family we went to see the identical tea was served; only the patterns on the cups and saucers were different.

But the amazing thing is that my husband, who grew up at the other end of the country, had the same Sunday Tea as well. And he says it was exactly the same when they went to visit their relatives too.

The only difference between my family and his was that our cakes were home baked and his came from a baker’s shop. And he says they had custard on their tinned fruit.

Did everyone have this meal in the 1950s? Was it replicated from John O’Groats to Land’s End? Were there any regional variations? Not much difference between the West Riding of Yorkshire and the East End of London if our experience is anything to go by. And has anyone else, apart from us, continued the tradition?

(From Cabbage and Semolina: Memories of a 1950s Childhood © C Murray 2015)

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Shocking hat film from 1952

teddy bear

The juxtaposition of hat trimmings in this film clip with the types of wild life that sourced them is truly awful.

And filmed at London Zoo too.

I think this film clip speaks volumes about changed attitudes in the last fifty or sixty years. Can you imagine the outrage now if fashion offered anything remotely like these hats?

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Library for hats?

hat library

Want a posh hat?

Can’t afford to pay the full top fashion price?

This 1954 hat library might be the answer!

Er – maybe not if the hygiene aspect is perturbing. Apparently the opening shot which looks like a display case or maybe a small fridge is actually a hat steriliser. That’s alright then!

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

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Crazy Hats from the 1950s

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Crazy Hats from the 1950s

kitchen utensils

This 1959 film of hats inspired by kitchen equipment is bizarre!

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

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5 Old Hat Films to Celebrate #NationalHatDay

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Spring Fashions from the 1950s

fashion 1955

Enjoy the Fashion!

Cringe at the Commentaries!

Spring Fashion from the 1950s.

Some odd styles in this set from 1958.

Lots of footage of empty chairs in this one.

And this is mercifully silent!

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Hope you found something you might like to wear!

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#OnThisDay in 1936 Thomas William Hicks was born #TommySteele

white bull

Thomas William Hicks

also known as

Tommy Steele

was born on this day in 1936.

Tommy Steele is reputed to be Britain’s first teen idol and rock-and-roll star.

In 1957 his rendition of “Singing the Blues” catapulted Tommy to the top of the hit parade.

Although the whistling in the accompaniment is really irritating!

One of Tommy’s jobs was as a merchant seaman. But whenever he wasn’t working he sang and played guitar or banjo in two coffee houses in Soho, the 2i’s Coffee Bar and the Cat’s Whisker. Sometimes Tommy performed solo and at other times with Wally Whyton’s Vipers Skiffle Group.

Tommy found fame as the frontman for The Steelmen

a rock and roll band whose first single, “Rock With the Caveman”, reached number 13 in the UK Singles Chart in 1956.

A few months later, Tommy was filming his life story.

With his musical collaborators, Lionel Bart and Mike Pratt, Tommy wrote twelve songs in seven days. “The Tommy Steele Story” dramatised Tommy’s meteoric rise to fame.

The story is that Tommy works as bellboy until he injures his spine doing judo. In hospital he is given a guitar to help with his therapy and he starts to play to entertain patients and staff. He works on an ocean liner, performing in his spare time, and gets a job playing in a coffee bar. He is popular with audiences and gets a recording contract.

“The Tommy Steele Story” was the 13th most popular film at the British box office in 1957.

Tommy was also voted the seventh most popular star in Britain for that year.

1959 saw the release of “Tommy the Toreador”

in which Tommy plays a sailor from Liverpool who disembarks in Spain and tries his hand at bull fighting.

We saw the film at The Regal Cinema in Wakefield, Yorkshire and loved every minute of it.

My sister and I were word perfect in every verse of “Little White Bull”, the song we liked best in the film.

Our copy of the record was the second 45 rpm we owned.

(The first was “Walking Back To Happiness” sung by Helen Shapiro.)

Tommy’s cringe-making live performance of “Little White Bull” on this Perry Como Show in 1966 is a long way from rock-and-roll!

Actually the B side of “Little White Bull” stands the test of time much better.

Happy 81st Birthday, Tommy.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

You might also like #OnThisDay Frank Sinatra Sings For You!

or to check out my Christmas Book of the Day at