Whilst perusing Youtube for old footage of London, I came across an astonishing black and white film that shows London in the year 1903.
It provides us with a truly wonderful opportunity to, literally, look back in time – although I’m not certain about the musical accompaniment which, I have to confess, I found somewhat annoying and not at all appropriate for the era being shown – so much so that I chose to mute the volume. But, that is probably me simply being pedantic. It can happen!
A GLIMPSE OF BYGONE LONDON
What cannot be denied, is that this four minute black and white film is a true treasure, providing as it does the a glimpse back on a side of London that is now lost to us forever.
Watching the horse drawn buses and other similarly horse powered vehicles weave their way across and through the London streets is a true delight. I was also struck by the number of people who are just strolling, nonchalantly, in the middle of the roads, seemingly impervious to the rumbling great carriages and horse-drawn buses that dodge around them with a grace that could almost be choreographed.
WATCH THE FILM
Anyway, you can watch the film below.
THE BABBLE OF CONVERSATION
One of my favourite scenes is the segment that shows passengers climbing on and off a boat on the River Thames, all of them dressed in the fashion of the age!
As they mill around, another boat steams away from the pier and heads out into the centre of the River, bound for who knows where.
Even though the scene was filmed over a hundred years ago, there is an urgency about it. You can almost feel the buzz in the air and here the babble of the conversation as those Edwardian Londoners prepare for whatever it is they were going to do with the rest of their day.
RECOGNISABLE LONDON LOCATIONS
Some of the street locations – the Crimean War memorial, the Charing Cross and the Royal Courts of Justice to name but three – are still recognisable today, albeit the film seems to imbue them with an almost ethereal quality.
THEY WEAVE AND THEY DODGE
But, it is the people who really grab your attention.
They just move around one another, they dodge between the oncoming traffic and, generally, they just go about their daily business, the majority of them seemingly oblivious to the presence of the camera.
We are simply seeing the people of London of 113 years ago, and it really is amazing.
JUST 15 YEARS AFTER JACK THE RIPPER
The thought that this was just fifteen years after the Jack the Ripper murders had occurred in the East End of London, a stone’s throw from where much of the footage was shot, is a spooky though indeed.
Many of the people in the film would have lived through, and probably remembered, the autumn of terror, albeit the events of the Whitechapel Murders were, by that time, doubtless little more than a distant memory.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little look back on bygone London, but please, take my advice and mute the sound!