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The Highdays & Holidays Of Old London

April 1, 2024
by the gentle author

Join me for THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S TOUR OF THE CITY OF LONDON this afternoon Easter Monday 1st April at 2pm or Sunday 21st April



On Easter 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

8 Responses leave one →
  1. April 1, 2024

    The photo of the boys lining up at The Oval in c1930 makes me wonder if tickets for thousands of excited school children were free. Or if their parents or schools paid for their admission

  2. April 1, 2024

    Oh, that fresh-faced lad in the top photo. Yes, that one. He probably just emerged from that throng behind him. Just a moment ago he was shoving, and jostling with his buddies. Now, bright boy, he’s noticed the camera man. A limp white collar, weathered overcoat belonging to an older brother, scuffed shoes. Indomitable eager look. Tell me, what happened to this boy? Where did he end up? What path did he take in life? Most of all, did he maintain that look of curiosity and boyhood excitement?

    Thank you for this wonderful array of photos. SOME may have the day off — but today is
    a Monday here. A working day, and down to the studio.

  3. Christine permalink
    April 1, 2024

    Beautiful nostalgic look back at events. So much seemed to go on back then within communities but sadly this really is dying out! Neighbours don’t even know each other ! 😢

  4. Billy permalink
    April 1, 2024

    Re: “Feeding pigeons outside St Paul’s, c.1910”:

    Reminds me how, in January 2001, I made the mistake of buying a bag of birdfeed for the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. You know, feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Charming, I thought.

    Most disgusting experience of my life, and that says something. The wing-ed rats mobbed me.

    I understand feeding the pigeons in Trafalgar Square has been banned, and for some time. Health reasons, I imagine.

    All these other practices, beating the bounds at the Tower, say- still in force? Hope that one is, it’s so nutty. And healthy, as long as the little heathens don’t use their wands to attack the one another. Or the teachers.

  5. Guillaume permalink
    April 1, 2024

    There are two churches in New York State that I know of dedicated to St. Charles. Mystifying, who was St. Charles in the Episcopalian calendar? Well, with time, I found out. Filial devotion.

    Greaze Day at Westminster. Yeech. And who paid for the dry-cleaning?

  6. Marcia Howard permalink
    April 1, 2024

    Fabulous images to a step back in time. And obviously littering isn’t something new! Thank you for sharing.

  7. April 1, 2024

    When was the Thames ever blue like the canals of Venice?

  8. Winnie permalink
    April 2, 2024

    Particularly liked the Vintners procession
    And physio at a sanitarium

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