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The Highdays & Holidays Of Old London

May 2, 2022
by the gentle author

On Bank Holiday Monday, let us to consider the highdays & holidays of 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

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Sally Bates permalink
    May 2, 2022

    Thank you for taking the time to share these lovely photos and your interesting articles

  2. Alison permalink
    May 2, 2022

    I love the pictures of Hampstead Heath. I have a treasured letter from my Great Aunt Ivy, my dad’s aunt, replying to his request for more information about his dad’s family and explaining about the fiery and amusing relationship between his grandmother Minnie and his grandfather Gus Leach. My great grandmother, Minnie, was married to her cousin (much older) Gus Leach, who was a music hall chairman and proprietor. Minnie married him when she was 16, and on a holiday day not long after being wed, he took her to The Old Bull and Bush, Hampstead (which was where the music hall community met up). Women were not allowed inside (only men and ladies of disrepute). So she had to wait outside with the other wives. Apparently, she was brought a drink and told that her husband was busy chatting. Eventually she got so fed up waiting for her new husband, that she took their horse and trap and drove it back home to Brixton all by herself (where she lived with her husband’s parents). That night, after climbing in to bed with her mother-in-law for fear of repercussions for her actions, Gus arrived back home roaring with anger, and promptly in frustration at no audience for his anger, put a hole in her hat.

  3. May 2, 2022

    Yes, the national holidays are already something important in the daily routine. It’s just annoying when they fall on a Sunday, like yesterday. 🙂

    Love & Peace

  4. James Hurley permalink
    May 2, 2022

    A superb collection of images. Thank you.

  5. May 2, 2022

    “Is it a bevy or a bash or……”. Clearly, its a hubbub. And we’re so fortunate to be right in the center of it, thanks to GA. That top photo is a stand-alone, study-it-all-day, put-it-under-the-enlarging-glass, descriptive wonder. The jostling motion, the barks and cries of boys and Bobbies, the scuffle of worn shoes, the smell of woolen jackets/uniforms, the closeness of bodies, the juggle of good-natured fun and “Now I’ve had just about ENOUGH of you lads” frustration. A few boys glance at the camera, and now WE are there.

    A wonderful treat on a Monday morning.
    Thank you, GA.

  6. Pence permalink
    May 2, 2022

    I love the street sweepers cleaning the path.

  7. Marcia Howard permalink
    May 8, 2022

    Wonderful images, albeit a bit before my time. I was born in a nursing home on Hampstead Heath, but grew up in Chelsea until the age of 11. Spent many a happy hour in the Museums of Kensington, and of course in Kensington Gardens and other London parks within walking distance of my childhood home. Too young to have gone on the big wheel at Earls Court, but did ride on the London Eye when it first opened. Another great post, so thank you Gentle Author

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