Changing London In Photos: 1955-1962

Keen photographer Allan Hailstone took over 120 photos of London for his book London: Portrait of a City 1950-1962. I have selected some taken between 1955 and 1962, when I was aged 3-10. Some scenes remain unchanged today, others have completely disappeared.

Allan took most of his photos on Sundays and Public Holidays. That meant much less traffic can be seen, and he was able to photograph what he wanted without too many distractions appearing in the photos. All the images are credited and copyrighted to Mr Hailstone.

(Images can be enlarged slightly by clicking on them.)

An open air concert at Crystal Palace, South London. The orchestra is The London Philharmonic.

A typical Sunday crowd in Petticoat Lane Market, East London. Going to that market was a ritual for many Londoners.

The Art Deco building of Victoria Coach Station. Coaches and buses left there for locations all over Britain, and also connected Heathrow and Gatwick airports.

The original Foyle’s book shop. The world-famous book superstore later moved location to a little further along Charing Cross Road.

The eastern side of Park Lane in central London. People are sunbathing on a Sunday, opposite Hyde Park. If they did that today, they would be sitting in the centre of a very busy road!

Cinemas on both sides of Leicester Square. You can see one is showing the Judy Garland version of ‘A Star Is Born’. The other is a ‘News Cinema’. They would show newsreels, documentaries, and cartoons.

Russell Square, in Bloomsbury. A family out for a Sunday stroll. This square looks exactly the same today.

At the time, The Monument was the tallest building in London. Built as a monument to the Great Fire of London in 1666, it involved a long walk up 311 steps to enjoy the view. It is still open to visitors today.
Allan took this photo of the view to the east, and it has changed a great deal since 1955.

St Giles High Street, central London. This is a photo of a ‘lost’ part of London. The area was mostly demolished for the building of the huge office block, Centre Point.

A quiet Sunday in Soho. The snack bar shown in the centre later became the Wimpy Bar I featured in colour photos recently. It is now a branch of ‘Ed’s Diner’.

Oxford Street. London’s main shopping street was being redeveloped in 1955. It looks very different today.

The Strand. One of London’s busiest streets containing shops, theatres, and Charing Cross mainline station. It was captured on a Bank Holday, almost deserted.

Marylebone Road, perhaps the busiest west-east thoroughfare in London. Again, it appears to be almost deserted. This was taken opposite Baker Street Station.

41 thoughts on “Changing London In Photos: 1955-1962

  1. Again great choices Pete, fond memories of Vic coach station, visiting family in Pompey going on holiday in Somerset the smell of diesel, always the start of great adventures 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was there in 1973, so far my only visit. A lot of it looked very similar then, especially the photo of Foyle’s(the street scape not the actual business.) I am sure I would be astonished at the intervening changes.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. A similar thing happened in New York City. So much of its distinction character has been replaced by chain shops and restaurants. Tourists flock to the familiar, missing the joy that the City used to provide with its serendipity.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. (1) The London Philharmonic was playing Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.
    (2) As a Capricorn, I was hoping for a photo of Pet-a-Goat Lane.
    (3) Guess what Mr. and Mrs. Deco named their son?
    (4) Does that bookstore sell in-folio editions of books by Sir Arthur Conan Foyle?
    (5) Most people don’t have the foggiest idea how rare it is to be able to sunbathe in London.
    (6) “Deep in my heart, I know a cartoon star was born in that corner bar.” (Monseigneur Charles Fleischer, referring to Baby Herman)
    (7) I’d like to walk around Russell Square.
    (8) At the time, no other building was a match for the one built as a monument to the Great Fire of London.
    (9) Janus was the god of beginnings and passages. OMG, they demolished The House of Janus?!
    (10) I want to see “Last Night in Soho.” For now, I’ll just have to pretend that I am a camera.
    (11) According to Carolyn Conroe, Double Diamonds are a drunk’s best friend.
    (12) Bank Holidays are also Salad Days.
    (13) News headline: Hailstone Discovered In Marylebone Road On Hottest Day Of Summer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of those cinemas is still there, but it has been a multiplex for many years now. I really miss the grand old cinemas of yesteryear. They were part of the whole experience of going to see a film.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I went often to the Victoria Coach Station. BA had a training centre near there. Foyles….wonderful and so large it was on both sides of the street. Russell Square…I had a cousin who lived there for some years. I still can’t get over how well dressed people were…so many men with ties! I also remember the Monument. Was taken there when quite young. Great pics once again.

    Liked by 1 person

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