London, 1954: Kids Playing On The Streets

During the school summer holidays of 1954, photographer Thurston Hopkins went out with his camera to capture the antics of young children on the streets of the capital.

This boy is hiding in a drain access. He has removed the metal cover, and is standing on the step inside. Dressed as a red Indian, he is firing his cap gun at unsuspecting passersby.

A street, and an old piece of rope to use for skipping. All they needed to have fun.

This girl is chalking on a wall. She has even added her name and self-portrait to the artwork.

Playing ‘War’. The boy on the pavement is pretending to have been killed.

These boys have made home-made bows and arrows from garden canes and string. They are firing them at a street sign. Five years later, I was doing the same thing.

The little girl is content with her ice-lolly.

This well-dressed youngster is taking her nice dolly for a walk in its pram.

These girls have constructed a primitive ‘sun lounger’, using old crates.

Boys taking turns driving a metal pedal-car.

Friends playing on a derelict bomb-site from WW2. Something I did every year as a child.

Dirt, and a discarded wheelbarrow. Ideal playthings.

This boy is playing cricket, but he doesn’t have a proper bat. He is using a stick instead.

Who knew that pushing a cardboard box along the pavement could be so much fun?

Play Streets were closed to traffic at certain times of the day so that children would be safe.

A boy in a pedal car, wearing an oversized chauffeur’s hat.


Playing on a parked coal lorry.

These naughty boys are actually throwing gravel and small stones at passing cars!

Two boys on home-made wooden scooters. I had one just like those, which my dad made for me.

Reading comics. I used to be bought The Topper every week. One of the boys is reading that.

37 thoughts on “London, 1954: Kids Playing On The Streets

  1. This must have brought you many smiles with your memories. What a wonderful collection of children playing back in our day. Of course it was baseball here, not cricket. And, we had no WWII remnants (although that must have been fun for playing.) I wish children today had the same freedom of play.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. (1) The dog’s name is Trigger.
    (2) Bandit, at the hanging tree: “Sheriff, can we skip the rope?”
    (3) If walls could chalk…
    (4) “You can pretend to be alive now, boys… Uh… Boys?”
    (5) Headline: “London County Council members ambushed. Police busy removing arrows from their chest.”
    (6) Young girls should never lollygag.
    (7) I’ve never seen a dolly gag.
    (8) Those girls later went from sun loungers to day trippers.
    (9) A metal pedal-car unfit for off-roading.
    (10) Friends having a blast at a derelict bomb site.
    (11) “There’s gotta be some worms in here somewhere!”
    (12) Crickets drive me batty.
    (13) Someone please tell that paleface girl that pushing a cardboard box towards that manhole cover is a big mistake. #ApacheWarrior
    (14) Yes, it’s safe to climb up high on a Play Street sign. Until that moment when…
    (15) Sign: “Human Road Kill Discouraged.”
    (16) Future Formula 1 driver.
    (17) It ain’t the OK Corral, but it’s better than nothin’.
    (18) “Nice coal lorry! But where are all the telephones?”
    (19) Wait till their gravel plans unravel. #VengefulDriver
    (20) Wooden scooters like that be fun to ride?
    (21) The boy in the background dreams of being a stand-up comic. Or maybe a prime minister.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh the grubby little so and so’s! Kids could improvise anything and I think it’s a healthy way for them to grown up. They were so naughty but it was mostly pretty harmless. Though why is it that from an early age boys wanted to play war games? I don’t remember feeling the need myself but my brother used to love bashing things. We would walk down a country lane and he would be attacking the bushes. Is it a male thing? Are humans naturally aggressive? These kids don’t have a whole lot, but they all seem quite happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the kids were happy. I know I was. Boys played ‘War’ because most of our fathers had been in WW2. We watched war films and westerns at the cinema, and expected to have to go into the forces to do National Service. (I missed that by a good few years.) So playing at war seemed natural.
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. By 1950, most had been cleared by Bomb Disposal. There were still many in the River Thames though, and they continue to find those to this day. They could still explode, even after 82 years in the mud!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes, I remember sitting on my doorstep reading a pile of comics. I also remember chalking on walls and on roads, skipping, and playing on derelict bomb sites. Much fun. However, I don’t remember ‘Play Streets’. We played in the roads as there were not many cars then.

    Liked by 1 person

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