Non-Tourist London: Ed Sijmons, 1978

In 1978, Dutch tourist and photographer Ed Sijmons walked around central London with his camera. He avoided the usual tourist sights, and instead took photos of everyday life around the capital. Most of these colour photos are quite grainy, and make 1978 seem a lot further back in the past than it is. Nonetheless, much has changed in those 44 years.

The Wimpy Bar in Soho.

Run down shops in Tachbrook Street, Pimlico. (All since demolished.)

Cars in a Soho car park. Even then, the cars shown were quite old.

An Express Dairy electric milk float. At one time, milk deliveries were all done using such vehicles.

The Ladies’ public toilet in Rochester Row, Victoria. The lady posing is Ed’s girlfriend.

Ed seemed to like English ice cream vans. Here are two he photographed in Victoria.

An Evening Standard newspaper delivery van. They would be rushing around London all day, delivering newpapers to street vendors.

A single decker ‘Red Arrow’ bus. Those buses went some distance across London from A-to B, without stopping in between. Long gone now.

The classic London licenced taxi. This one is painted to advertise a coffee company.

The Art Noveau Michelin Tyre building in Chelsea. Now renamed The Bibendum, it is an expensive eatery.

Hamley’s famous toy shop in Regent Street. Still as popular today.

Ed made the journey across to East London, to Cheshire Street near Brick Lane. At the time, it was a rather shabby street market.

52 thoughts on “Non-Tourist London: Ed Sijmons, 1978

          1. There’s one in Shrewsbury we went to when there for a model show, wasn’t quite the same as I remember (is anything?) but really nice anyway. They didn’t have the toamto shape ketchup bottles which was disappointing!

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  1. (1) If the weak and cowardly go to the Wimpy Bar, where do the strong and intrepid go?
    (2) Those shops aren’t run down. Every vehicle in the photo has avoided them!
    (3) Not interested in the Soho car park. Rather see a Hobo cart park.
    (4) Express Dairy electric blueberry float. Stimulating and delicious!
    (5) Ed’s girlfriend is waiting for a sign from her bladder.
    (6)/(7) Mr. Curly Top is anticipating a turf war. I hope he whips the competition.
    (8) I dialed 01-353.5000 to run a classified ad: “Stolen news van. Chockablock with newspapers. Ransom: ยฃ50,000. Pay by midnight or expect a bonfire.”
    (9) Not only did the โ€˜Red Arrowโ€™ bus cross London nonstop, it never stopped at all. And now it’s long gone.
    (10) Is that taxi in the U.K. or Costa Rico?
    (11) Bidendumb?
    (12) Does Hamley’s sell piggy banks?
    (13) That lady is a mad hatter. She’s looking to buy a litter box for her Cheshire cat.
    (14) Stan Linker’s table is a stinker.

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  2. I have a program that restores closer to original color in faded 70s photos. Can’t do much that doesn’t look artificial to the graininess. Two favorites – Colour TV Rentals, would have been perfect for the times we bought one to watch an event and returned it. And the Michelin building. Many old factories have been reborn as condos and pricey restaurants. The over 100-year-old Ford Model T factory where I grew up is now a posh museum/hotel.

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    1. That’s right, Phil. The Michelin Building is an architectural gem, and it once had a test track for new tyres on the roof. Now it is a swanky restaurant, an oyster bar, cocktail bar, and there is also a delicatessen inside.
      (Hope your surgery went well?)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I like how you say the vans were rushing about London. I gather it is not possible to rush on London streets anymore, or have thins improved? London taxis always amazed me. Are they still the same? I remember the sound of the milk float. Really interesting to look back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The London Taxis are essentialy the same, in that they are distinctive and recognisable. However, they now need to have Disabled Access, (ramps) many have airconditioning, and there are increasing numbers of all-electric London Taxis too. The number of licensed cabbies is reducing considerably, as their trade has been badly affected by Uber.
      As for the newspaper vans, they ‘rushed’ around heavy traffic by cutting corners and flouting or ignoring traffic rules. Those evening newspapers are long gone now, replaced by a free newspaper called The Metro.
      Best wishes, Pete.


      1. It’s too bad about Uber. My one experience with them was a total failure. I can see they have a place in the world but in London taxis were so great. It is a shame such an institution had to go up against “modernisation”.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, and those jobs were very well-paid too, as I recall. I knew a kid at my school who left early in 1968, to work as a ‘boy’ on the Evening Standard vans when he was 16.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  4. The Michelin Building is gorgeous, but all the images seem much older. Colour pics seem to grow older faster than black and white do, perhaps because of the changes in technology. I am quite fond of ice cream vans as well. Not something I had seen before I came to England. Thanks for sharing those, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the Bibendum Building is a joy to see. It used to have a test track on the roof, and cars would be driven around it to try out new tyre designs. As for the colour photos, I think we are seeing scans of old prints here, rather than fresh images from negatives.
      Best wishes, Pete.


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