Friday, 1 July 2016

The London of 1949

The Pool of London in 1909
This is the Pool of London in 1909.

Fifty years later given a few changes and a bit of bomb damage and it is pretty much as I remember it.

Fast forward another half century and I doubt that  either me or the photographer would recognise much beyond the bridge and the Tower.

All of which is not so much a trip down memory lane, but an introduction to some of the films I got for Christmas.

Of these it is Train of Events and Pool of London I want to write about.  Both were made in 1949 and are very much of the period.

The Thames, the cranes, ships and the Tower, 1909
Train of Events starred Jack Warner and was one of those disaster morality movies, where a collection of little dramas are acted out in advance of a train crash and yes the murderer and the thief do not survive the crash.

In Pool of London a fairly ordinary crime story is given bite with the exploration of one of the first inter racial relationships in a British film.

Both reveal a wonderful slice of London life on the edge of the 1950s.  Here are trams, bomb sites, the rather shabby side of a post war London and plenty of scenes now lost forever.

In that respect they are fascinating social commentaries and perfectly capture the period I grew up in.

The river was still a working river, Tower Bridge opened and closed regularly during the course of a day, the trains were all pulled by steam locomotives and there were references to rationing, shortages and the last war.

Trafalgar Square, 1955
Not that this is some rosy, cosy nostalgic trip.

The interiors of the houses remind me of how little there was in terms of affluence for most people, and there is that prevailing sense that this is still the era of make and mend.

It was also a time of blatant racial prejudice and intolerance towards “living over the brush” and one where some at least had not yet managed to forgive our former enemies.

So watching the two as I did yesterday was both a pleasure and a lesson in history.  I am too young to remember the old trams but here they were, along with some old 1949 television programmes and some fine scenes of the river, the city as well as Blackheath and Greenwich.

Now for a historian and a Londoner that can’t be bad.

Pictures; The Pool of London, 1909, from the series London, and Trafalgar Square, 1955 from the series London, both marketed by Tuck and Sons, courtesy of Tuck DB, http://tuckdb.org/

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