City of London: Local History Old Photos & Film

City of London England UK Local History old photos & films

The City of London has changed dramatically through the years since people started filming it back in the 1800s.

The City Before The Great War

“Britain in 1900”

YouTube channel The History Room uploaded this documentary featuring Cheapsidein 1900 when there were only 38 million people living in Britain. Observations from experts and recollections of people who lived in the area at the time intermingle with period footage.

“1910s City of London, Bank of England, Monument, HD Master”

This footage from thekinolibrary collection starts with “The Bank of England – the hub of the universe” and is a reminder than London has long been expensive. 

The freehold land in the immediate neighbourhood at the time of filming was worth c £3.25m per acre, and the rateable value of the square mile was almost £6m per annum. 

The Monument is shown, which was erected by Wren following the Great Fire of London of 1660 when £10m of property was destroyed.

City Life In The 1920s

“Photographs of London in the 1920s”

Nigel Fowler Sutton has pulled together a photo montage of London during the 1920s, popularly known as the ‘Roaring Twenties’. Amongst the points of interest is the moment a flock of sheep are herded down the main road.

“London Scenes (1920)”

This silent film from British Pathé shows the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and 10 Downing Street in 1920.

“1920s, Bank of England, London, Streets, Traffic”

Part of thekinolibrary collection, this footage from the 1920s includes the Bank of England, London streets and traffic.

“500 Special Constables Receive Freedom Of The City (1920) “

The full title of this British Pathé film is “500 SPECIAL CONSTABLES receive Freedom of the City for service during the war”. It is set at the Guildhall in London.

Into The 1930s


British Movietone footage showing horses and carts, children cycling and rollerskating in the roads whilst avoiding the occasional car.

The Day The London Stock Exchange Closed

This film from HuntleyFilmArchives records the day the Stock Exchange was closed because the Gold Standard was suspended. It was an important economic event, so crowds of city workers gather in the street outside. 

An explanation is provided by Josiah Stamp, (21 June 1880 – 16 April 1941) Chairman of the LMS Railway and Director of the Bank of England. In 1938 he became 1st Baron Stamp, known as Sir Josiah Stamp.

“London Traffic – Early (1932)”

This  British Pathé footage of London traffic in the early 1930s includes a policeman, pedestrians, motor traffic, horse and cart, roadworks, and few bicycles. However, it’s all much quieter than outside the Bank of England in London today.

“London Early Morning People Going To Work (1933)”

Probably dated to the early 1930s, these 11 minutes of British Pathé footage shows a busy rush hour in the City of London. Commuters appear from the underground station, buses rush by while a policeman directs traffic.

The bridge may be the original London Bridge, and it is busy with pedestrians, trolley buses and taxis.

Underneath the bridge, a couple of men wearing flat caps drink a cup of tea.

There’s also a shot of a flower seller.

“London – White City (1939)”

In 1939 British Pathé filmed the Minister of Health, Mr Walter Scott, opening a new LCC (London County Council) block of flats in White City. They were designed for workers and eventually housed more than 11,000 people in 2,000 self contained flats.

One of the new residents, Mrs Theis, shows Mr Elliott, Herbert Morrison and the Chairman of London County Council, Mrs EM Lowe around her modern flat.

London Bomb Damage In 1940

“City Fire Raid – Fire Of London 1940”

On Sunday, 29th December 1940, thousands of incendiaries dropped were dropped on the City of London by the Luftwaffe. Also that night the Guildhall was burnt out. This British Movietone film shows how firemen bravely tackled the huge blaze despite expecting more bombers arriving.

“London 1940’s film 44179”

This footage held by HuntleyFilmArchives shows the Cunard White Star ocean liner, London Zoo and afternoon tea in the suburbs. But it is juxtaposed against the bomb damaged sites of the east end of London and the properties for sale. 

Although it’s in colour, the film is silent and somewhat eerie in atmosphere.

“The Central Line Extension, 1940’s – Film 7590”

This short film in the HuntleyFilmArchives collection records the expansion of the London Underground system as the eastern extension of London Transport’s Central Line from Wanstead to Newbury Park is opened. The film opens with St. Paul’s Cathedral against the backdrop of bomb damage London suffered during the Second World War.

London Tourism In 1950

“This Is London Reel 1 (1950)”

The British Pathé collection holds this British Travel Association travelogue of London in the 1950s.

Rex Harrison (later Sir Reginald Carey Harrison; born 5 March 1908 and died 2 June 1990) provides the commentary. Highlights include:

  • River Thames
  • Tower of London
  • A procession of judges
  • Bank of England
  • Fleet Street
  • St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Temple Bar
  • Piccadilly Circus
  • Pall Mall
  • West End
  • Bond Street
  • Shepherd Market.  Various shots of the market.  
  • Palace Garden
  • Dorchester Hotel 
  • Statue of Peter Pan
  • Serpentine
  • Open air theatre production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” 
  • Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

“Globe Theatre London, 1950s – Film 91430”

This short film of the Globe Theatre in London during the 1950s was made by Tennant Productions Ltd and us now held by HuntleyFilmArchives.

The City of London in the 1960s

“Around City Of London In Colour AKA London Scenes (1961)”

This British Pathé film from 1961 is silent but is in colour. It’s a story about London places and people, and contains a lot of interest for modern audiences.

For example, the builders and bricklayers working on the Barbican scheme aren’t wearing overalls, gloves or hardhats. They look older than you may expect, and smoke as they work.

There are still bomb damaged buildings present. The skyline does have lots of cranes, but no skyscrapers.

There are plenty of women seen on their way to work.

Down on the river, working boats rather than tourist boats dominate the scene.

“1960s Portobello Road Market, London, from 16mm”

From the thekinolibrary collection comes this 16mm film showing Portobello Road Market in the 1960s. We see food, antiques, council housing, an office block, and lots of 1960s fashion.

The 1970s in the City of London

“Tour of London Traffic: Double-Decker Buses & Black Cabs (1970) | British Pathé”

This 1970s film from British Pathé is in colour but without sound. It tours the streets of London, taking in double-decker buses, black cabs and city landmarks including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square.

“Banking in the 1970’s – Film 3675”

This film held by HuntleyFilmArchives showing banking in the 1970s is a great look at the fashion and hairstyles of the time. There’s also footage of Tony Caunter, an actor who played the character Roy in Eastenders from 26 December 1994 to 18 March 2003.

But most importantly, we see the introduction of financial resources we use on a daily basis today. They include the ATM, cheque and bank cards, and credit cards. Furthermore, transactions are recorded on tapes, which have to be physically delivered and copied.

“1970s City of London, Bank of England, Businessmen, HD”

Held in the thekinolibrary collection, this short film shows the City of London, its landmarks  and its workers, through various timepoints in the 1960s and 1970s.

“1970s South Bank Skateboard Park, Skateboarding in London”

This popular footage of the 1970s London South Bank skateboard park is held by the thekinolibrary.

London Policing In The 1970s

“London Police in the 1970’s. Archive film 95078”

This is an entertaining and amusing film from the HuntleyFilmArchives. It was created to show the work of the London Police force in Britain in the 1970’s, but comes across more as a soap opera.

The scene where a room of pensioners are shown a cinefilm of a madman going beserk in a room as a warning to keep their doors locked is particularly funny. 

Only one female police officer was lucky enough to appear in the film. However, she is ferocious and shows little empathy with the domestic abuse victim she is supposed to be helping.

The only black man seen is late reporting to the station as part of his bail conditions. He explains his car broke down, so gets a verbal ticking off.

The narrative of the film portrays a world where policemen are white, male and constantly in danger, while most members of the public are aggressive and cowardly.

City Workers In The 1980s

“City of London – Archive Film 36435”

At the time this HuntleyFilmArchives footage was recorded, 350,000 people commuted into the City of London each working day.

Although the sound isn’t great, the old fashioned commentary and overwhelmingly white and male City workers are an interesting juxtaposition to the 1980s fashions which suggest a more modern age.

“The City of London | Square Mile | Reporting London | 1988”

Filmed in 1988, ThamesTv ‘Reporting London’ looked at the City of London.

“Evening Standard Seller | 1980s London | City of London | City Programme | 1988”

ThamesTv first broadcast this extract on 21st January 1988, although the footage here is silent. We see lots of people coming out from their office work at the same time,. Otherwise, the street is fairly deserted.

The City of London In The 1990s

“Mid 1990s City of London, Banks, Summer”

Despite the location and summer weather there are few pedestrians seen in this thekinolibrary footage. However, there is a lot of noisy traffic in the background.

“London Aerial shots | London in the 90’s | The city of London | Thames Television | 1990”

According to ThamesTv, these aerial shots of the City of London were captured by a Thames news camera crew in 1990. While the footage is silent, in the background you can hear the helicopter they were travelling in.

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With thanks to Free-Photos for use of the image shown at the top of this page.

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