Roger Mayne: London Photographs 1956

Southam Street in West London was made world-famous in the photographs of Roger Mayne. He photographed the street and its inhabitants extensively during 1956.

Most of the street was declared ‘unfit for human habitation’ in 1969 and demolished in the same year. Only the short section west of Golborne Road remains. It is close to Westbourne Park Tube Station, Golborne Road Market, and Portobello Road Market. Although a long way from where I was growing up at the time, I later worked nearby for over 20 years, in the Ambulance Station close to Ladbroke Grove.

Children playing in the street on a hot day.

A man pretending to be an orchestra conductor. No idea why.

Boys on their bicycles.

Bomb-damaged buildings from WW2.

Playing marbles in the street.

A Football game.

The area was one of the first parts of London to see significant immigration by West Indians. This photo shows it was an early multi-cultural part of London.

Southam Street in 2021. All that is left of it.

32 thoughts on “Roger Mayne: London Photographs 1956

  1. I hadn’t thought about playing marbles in the street in ages, Pete. That picture made me think of my most cherished marbles back in the day…none of which I have any more…which is fine. I think my marble-playing days are well behind me now.

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  2. (1) “Let’s play firing squad. You two wait here while I got fetch my squirt gun.”
    (2) Actually, the photo of the conductor was taken by one of the musicians in the orchestra. He was later admonished for neglecting his violin. #StreetMusicFestival
    (3) “Are you sure the girls will come by on their bicycles? I’m getting tired of riding in circles!”
    (4) Building’s last words: “You da bomb!”
    (5) Playing in the street? Those kids have lost their marbles!”
    (6) Mum prepping the goalie while one of the players practices kicking the ball.
    (7) We have Indians out West, too. In fact, the Southern Paiutes have two reservations near Las Vegas (Moapa River Indian Reservation; Las Vegas Indian Colony).
    (8) I’m not familiar with Southam Street. I’m not even familiar with Sesame Street. At my age, I decided Sesame Street was unfit for human observation.

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  3. People looked so different then, because they were I suppose. I wonder where all those kids are now! Black and white photography certainly conveys the post-war situation. Mostly the kids look happy enough. I imagine everyone was just enormously relieved that the war was over and they had survived. My parents really never spoke much of it. I wish I had asked more although my brother was told not to talk to my dad about it. I have no idea why although he was invalided home from Malta after the siege.

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    1. My dad had an ‘easy war’, in India. But my mum was traumatised by the bombing of London during the Blitz, and she never fully recovered from that terror. Most of the kids in the photos will be older than me now, if they are still alive of course.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. So many areas were demolished because of either bomb damage, or slum clearance. Luckily, the majority of old London can still be found. You just have to know where to look.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It certainly does, Liz. I suspect that man might have had some mental health issues.
      And it was quite unusual to see candid photographers wandering the streets at that time, so they may have been ‘acting-up’ for him.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. The late Roger Mayne seemed an interesting character from University studying chemistry. I wonder how many other streets got picked on in such an amazing way by others.

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    1. There are huge numbers of similar archives to discover. I have found some in Manchester, Leeds, and Salford. But I tend to focus on London when I was young because that is so familiar to me. You might remember Southam Street from working at North Ken. It is close to Trellick Tower.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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    1. Bottles were returnable for a deposit, and people had to take shopping bags to the shops. Everything was wrapped in paper, not plastic, and there were no drinks in cans. The only take-away food was fish and chips, and that was also wrapped in paper. We could learn a lot about litter management by looking back at the 1950s, Jon. 🙂
      One small metal dustbin was adequate for a family’s rubbish, and emptied once a week.
      As for cars, they were a luxury item for the working classes in London that few could afford until the 1970s.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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