Glimpse history through old images of Lambeth, London, England.
Lambeth Bridge Construction 1931
Lambeth Palace was 700 years old when the new steel bridge was constructed in front of it, replacing a narrow suspension bridge which no longer met the local traffic requirements.
This newsreel was made in 1931, two years into construction of the new bridge and a year before the opening, at a point when the steel girder work was in place and the structure was taking shape.
On the other side of the bridge, residential communities had been swept away along with buildings hundreds of years old, to be replaced by office buildings. The new Thames House accommodated 3,000 workers.
It’s worth watching this newsreel alone for the sight of the steamboat on the Thames, which looks like something out of a steampunk animation.
The Houses of Parliament seem to be partially under heavy scaffolding.
Lambeth Bridge Has Begun To Take Form – British Movietone on YouTube
Lambeth Bridge Opens 1932
The new Thames viaduct cost over a million pounds, a breathtaking sum in the early 1930s.
King George V and his wife Queen Mary came to inaugurate the new structure, arriving in a horse and carriage. As they cross the River Thames, there is a great shot of the tall chimneys along the shore.
His Majesty Opens Lambeth Bridge- British Movietone on YouTube
Maid’s Wedding 1935
Newsreels in the early 20th century often recorded the marriages of the aristocracy. But here, they filmed housekeeper Miss Jane Gould arriving at Lambeth Palace, to be married by her employer the Archbishop, to policeman Mr A.R. Harvey.
Maid’s Wedding At Lambeth Palace- British Movietone on YouTube
Lambeth Walk 1938
Vast crowds turned out to see Lupino Lane as he visited the place he made famous with one of his songs. He stood on a rooftop as people sang and danced along the road and sidestreets.
Includes some lovely shots of the surrounding buildings.
The “Lambeth Walk”- British Movietone on YouTube
Freedom of the Metropolitan area of Lambeth was given to senior Labour politician Herbert Morrison in 1951. The newsreel all takes place inside a ceremonial room and can be watched on YouTube.
Queen Mary’s Visit 1938
On 17th October 1938, huge crowds turned out to see Queen Mary’s arrival to officially open the new wing of Lambeth Town Hall, which had cost £90,000 to build.
Lots of local children smile at the camera. We see the exterior of the Town Hall, and a glimpse of nearby buildings.
The Town Hall had been opened in 1908 by King George V, when he was still Prince of Wales.
Queen Mary In Lambeth- British Movietone on YouTube
Fire Brigade 1938
The Auxilliary Fire Brigade, staffed by volunteers, had new headquarters officially opened in 1938 by the Home Secretary, Samuel Hoare.
War had not yet started, but already they were preparing for air raids, and practiced putting out a fire in a purpose built multi storey building.
A.R.P. Rally – Lambeth (1938) – British Pathé on YouTube
Queen Mary’s Visit 1939
Queen Mary was back again in 1939, this time to drive through the market, with barely enough space to get through the crowds of wellwishers.
Monty Motlyn had heard she was visiting the Town Hall, and had written to ask if she would visit the market on the way. He is briefly seen on camera, wearing a medal.
Queen Mary In Lambeth (1939)- British Movietone on YouTube
Blitz Bomb Sites 1940
Lambeth Walk suffered badly from the bombs dropped by the German Luftwaffe.
The silent images open with the painted side of a flat above shops, with happy, smiling faces looking out of broken windows.
Around the windows, painted on the bricks, are messages such as ‘Mourning Orders Dyed Black in 24 Hours’, and ‘Suits, Costumes, Coats, Dry Cleaned & Pressed 5’/6’.
The camera pans round to look down Lambeth Walk. One portion of the terrace is in ruins.
Nearby, a smaller terrace is also in ruins, the debris scattered throughout the yard in front.
A couple of men in civilian clothes work through a huge pile of debris, which towers higher than they are. Nearby, drawers from a chest of drawers sit on the pavement, still holding oddments of clothing and inexpensive jewellery. Number 136 is just gone, replaced with a pile of debris.
Lambeth Walk Bombed (1940) – British Pathé on YouTube
The Lambeth Walk Pub 1951
In 1951, a pub (the Rub-a-dub-dub in cockney slang) called the Masons Arms changed its name to the Lambeth Walk.
Lupino Lane, who wrote the famous song, joined the pearl kings and queens as the new pub sign was unveiled, and of course then sang the song that made this part of London famous.
There are also some quick glimpses of surrounding buildings, and a small gathering of local people.
The pub at 17 Lambeth Road closed in 2010, and converted to flats.
Pearlies Open Lambeth Pub (1951)- British Movietone on YouTube
Lambeth Palace Garden 1958
Lambeth Palace hosted an ecclesiatical garden party of a truly international nature in 1958. The newsreel is short and all inside the palace garden with no views of further afield. You can watch the newsreel on YouTube.
Town Hall Dance 1955
The newsreel from earlier decades show that people of different races had long lived in the area. West Indians had moved into the area in greater numbers in the post war period, encouraged to do so by the British authorities.
The law did not allow racial segregation – ‘the colour bar’ – but it was known businesses quietly did as they pleased. So the Town Hall organised a dance, so local people could get to meet each other.
Along with glimpsing a bit of local life in 1955, there is also a quick shot of some of the nearby streets.
Lambeth – “No Colour Bar” Dance (1955) – British Pathé on YouTube
Holmes Court 1955
1955 marked the year Lambeth built its 2,000th post-war home, in a block of flats located on a former Blitz bomb site.
The modern homes had electric heating, rather than the coal fires which contributed to London’s smog problems.
Clement Atlee, the former post-war Prime Minister, came to visit the new flats with his wife on a day when the ground was covered in snow. He was greeted by the architect, Sir Lancelot Keay, and accompanied by the Mayor.
Mr Atlee met an 88 year old man who was about to move in.
Then he visited the tenant of the 2,000th home, Mrs Hall. She was now living in a ground floor flat, no longer having to be carried up and down her old fifth floor home. What’s very funny is that earlier scenes showed her sitting in a chair reading a book, but when she is visited by a sizable group of visitors, she is tucked up in bed.
In 2022, these former council flats were valued around £350,000-£400,000.
London – Attlee In Lambeth (1955) – British Pathé on YouTube
Lambeth Magistrates Court in the 1980s
Although this short clip focuses on the tunnel for vans and coaches entering and leaving the underground car park, and the paps trying to photograph the occupants, it does show some of the exterior of the magistrates court, a nearby building, and some of the people walking along the street that day.
1980s Police Van | London Court | Lambeth Magistrates court | TN-SL-066-021 – Thames News