Skip to content

Highdays & Holidays In Old London

May 25, 2017
by the gentle author

With another Bank Holiday imminent, it is time for us to consider highdays & holidays in old London

Boys lining up at The Oval, c.1930

School is out. Work is out. All of London is on the lam. Everyone is on the streets. Everyone is in the parks. What is going on? Is it a jamboree? Is it a wingding? Is it a shindig? Is it a bevy? Is it a bash?

These are the high days and holidays of old London, as recorded on glass slides by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society and once used for magic lantern shows at the Bishopsgate Institute.

No doubt these lectures had an educational purpose, elucidating the remote origins of London’s quaint old ceremonies. No doubt they had a patriotic purpose to encourage wonder and sentiment at the marvel of royal pageantry. Yet the simple truth is that Londoners – in common with the rest of humanity – are always eager for novelty, entertainment and spectacle, always seeking any excuse to have fun. And London is a city ripe with all kinds of opportunities for amusement, as illustrated by these magnificent photographs of its citizens at play.

Are you ready? Are you togged up? Did you brush your hair? Did you polish your shoes? There is no time to lose. We need the make the most of our high days and holidays. And we need to get there before the parade passes by.

At Hampstead Heath, c.1910.

Walls Ice Cream vendor, c.1920.

At Hampstead Heath, c.1910.

At Hampstead Heath, c.1910.

Balloon ascent at Crystal Palace, Sydenham, c.1930.

At the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens, 1896.

Christ’s Hospital Procession across bridge on St Matthews Day, 1936.

A cycle excursion to The Spotted Dog in West Ham, 1930.

Pancake Greaze at Westminster School on Shrove Tuesday, c.1910.

Variety at the Shepherds Bush Empire, c.1920.

Dignitaries visit the Chelsea Royal Hospital, c.1920.

Games at the Foundling Hospital, Bloomsbury, c.1920.

Riders in Rotten Row, Hyde Park, c.1910.

Physiotherapy at a Sanatorium, 1916.

Vintners’ Company, Master’s Installation procession, City of London, c.1920.

Boating on the lake in Battersea Park, c.1920.

The King’s Coach, c.1911.

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee procession, 1897.

Lord Mayor’s Procession passing St Paul’s, 1933.

Policemen gives directions to ladies at the coronation of Edward VII, 1902.

After the procession for the coronation of George V, c.1911.

Observance of the feast of Charles I at Church of St. Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, 1932.

Chief Yeoman Warder oversees the Beating of the Bounds at the Tower of London, 1920.

Schoolchildren Beating the Bounds at the Tower of London, 1920.

A cycle excursion to Chingford Old Church, c.1910.

Litterbugs at Hampstead Heath, c.1930.

The Foundling Hospital Anti-Litter Band, c.1930.

Distribution of sixpences to widows at St Bartholomew the Great on Good Friday, c.1920.

Visiting the Cast Court to see Trajan’s Column at the Victoria & Albert Museum, c.1920.

A trip from Chelsea Pier, c.1910.

Doggett’s Coat & Badge Race, c.1920.

Feeding pigeons outside St Paul’s, c.1910.

Building the Great Wheel, Earls Court, c.1910.

Glass slides copyright © Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

The Nights of Old London

The Ghosts of Old London

The Dogs of Old London

The Signs of Old London

The Markets of Old London

The Pubs of Old London

The Doors of Old London

The Staircases of Old London

8 Responses leave one →
  1. May 25, 2017

    Dear GA … touring Europe by train with Bertie. A year to the day since my course with you. Looking forward each morning to wonderful blogs like this one. Times when I was young when the world was England. Everywhere else was beyond my reach or indeed my interest. I had been born in England.

  2. Greg Tingey permalink
    May 25, 2017

    The photo of The Spotted Dog must be after 1935-6 as Trolleybus wires are visible!

  3. Jim McDermott permalink
    May 25, 2017

    Blimey, Chelsea was a lot prettier back then! It takes this sort of collection to make one realise how television and then computers revolutionized (actually, almost snuffed out) the communal experience. And it’s good to see the police not taking any chances with those dangerous schoolboys – why bother with the avuncular clip ’round the ear when you can wade in knee-first!

  4. Barbara Hague permalink
    May 25, 2017

    Is the “Spotted Dog” still there?
    Used to go there many years ago for their traditional pudding “Spotted Dick”

  5. Helen Breen permalink
    May 25, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thanks for culling such a vibrant variety of photos from Bishopgate’s wonderful collections. Particularly liked “The Foundling Hospital Anti-Litter Band, c.1930.”

    Also, thoughts and prayers from across the pond to all in England for the atrocity of this week…

  6. Gary Arber permalink
    May 25, 2017

    There is a memory from my youth, Walls ice cream from the refrigerated box tricycle.
    He rang his bell, called “Wallseys they’re lovely, You could get a penny fruit ice in a packet like the modern Toblerone, if you only had a halfpenny he would cut one in half for you.

  7. May 25, 2017

    Is the Doggett’s Coat & Badge Race, c.1920. picture reversed?

    It is the Rennie bridge but if looking North shouldn’t Fishmonger’s hall be on the other side.

  8. Shawdian permalink
    May 26, 2017

    What a marvellous collection of photographs each with their own individual story encourages me to research those events of which I am not familiar. What a shame we do not appreciate nor make full use of our Towns and Cities as we used to do. Moving pictures and technology opened up the world making it a smaller place when it comes to ‘Getting Outhere’ experiencing public gatherings for whatever reasons. I loved those days when all my family were together in the huge crowds for a relaxing and often a time of learning something new where we all went home feeling we had ‘achieved something’. Well done GA for sharing another superb collection from your treasure box of curiosities of life, we need these.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS