Glimpse history through old images of Oxford Street, London.
Oxford Street is one of Europe’s busiest shopping streets, offering 1.5 miles of retail, entertainment and places to eat. It runs all the way from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch, via Oxford Circus.
No wonder the cameras have long loved visiting this famous London destination.
Old Photos of Oxford Street
John Lewis Strike (1920)
John Lewis opened his store on Oxford Street in 1864, and even today the nationwide retailer retains its Oxford Street flagship store.
But on 27th April 1920, during a post-war period of discontent and recession, 400 men and women working for John Lewis went on strike. They wanted representation by a trade union, to help guarantee fair treatment, pay and working conditions.
The founder was having none of it, and his hard stance led to the strikers losing their jobs. There was such public compassion for the strikers that funds were donated to them from many sources including Harrods, the Army and Navy Stores, and even Queen Mary.
The Oxford Street Shop Strike Aka The Oxford St Shop Strike (1920) – British Pathé on YouTube
Oxford Street (1931)
It’s a shame that the novelty toys take up so much of this 43 second silent, black and white footage, and that the camera only captures the passing vehicle in one corner. But it’s still interesting to see how much things had changed just a mere three decades or so later than the above photos of the same street.
RETAIL: Christmas shoppers in Oxford Street (1931) – British Pathé on YouTube
Oxford Street in the 1950s
In 1954, reporter John Parsons braved the heavy smog to pester young women, before going on to bother more of them at work and in the West End.
London Girls (1954) – British Pathé on YouTube
Next, a brief piece of silent, black and white footage of Oxford Street and Berwick Street includes the C&A store.
Oxford Street (1950-1959) – British Pathé on YouTube
On 13th June 1957, at 2.50pm, a Number 7 double decker bus on the route to Acton veered into a queue of 40 people waiting for the Number 73. Five men and two women died that afternoon, and of the 20 injured people 12 went to hospital and one later died from their injuries.
The driver of the Number 7, 63-year-old Harold Hiscocks, had never had an accident in his 18 years of driving, but for some reason he blacked out behind the wheel on his last journey of the day, causing the bus to veer onto the pavement and into the waiting queue.
One of the survivors was Lythi Florentzon, a 17-year-old student nurse at Kingston Hospital. A young man had pushed her out of the way, causing her to fall but out of the path of the bus.
Rush Hour Tragedy (1957) – British Pathé on YouTube
1957 also saw a large fire break out in one of London’s most famous streets.
Selected Originals – Oxford Street Blaze Aka Oxford St Blaze (1957) – British Pathé on YouTube
Oxford Street Blaze Aka Oxford St. Blaze (1957) – British Pathé on YouTube
Oxford Street in the 1970s
Several pieces of footage from the 1970s show the big stores then on this famous shopping street, as well as the front of some of the buildings, and many pedestrians shopping and going about their daily lives.
The first item, from 1970s, opens from inside a store, where you can see what modern grocery shopping of that era was like, including the pre-decimalisation till.
(Decimalisation in the UK was implemented 15 February 1971.)
Oxford St. Crowds (1970) – British Pathé on YouTube
London (1970-1979) – British Pathé on YouTube
Oxford Street (1970-1979) – British Pathé on YouTube
Oxford Street (1970-1979) – British Pathé on YouTube
Thames TV visited the famous London shopping street to gather clips for the ‘Inside Business’ programme broadcast on the 14th June 1979. In this clip, they captured the outside of British Home Stores.
1970s Oxford street | 1970s BHS | 1970s London | Inside Business | 1979: ThamesTv (YouTube)
Next, they filmed the HMV record shop, in an age of vinyl.
1970s Oxford Street | 1970s HMV | Record Shop | Records | HMV | Inside business | 1979: ThamesTv on YouTube
By 1978, the pedestrians seem outnumbered by the buses and black cabs.
Vintage London | Oxford Street | 1978 – ThamesTv on YouTube
Oxford Street (1982)
When Bournes closed its doors for good in the summer of 1982, it was the third major London store lost that summer alone.
At the time £1.8 billion was spent on Oxford Street each year, but department stores, most founded in the Victorian era, were falling out of favour.
Staff asked about it noted how they were not as smartly dressed as ten years before, and ladies no longer arrived in London for a day of leisurely lunch and shopping because middle class women were now more likely to be busy working. Fast, convenient shopping was now desired, along with convenient car parking.
Demise of the department store | Shopping | Oxford Street | Reporting London | 1982 – ThamesTv (YouTube)
Oxford Street (1990)
The tite of this footage is labelled 1980s, but a canny YouTube observer noted the HMV sale starting Friday 20th July, which suggested it was actually 1990.
Shops seen include HMV, Debenhams, John Lewis, D.H. Evans, BHS, and South African Airways.
1980’s London | Oxford Street | British shops | Thames Television | 1980’s – ThamesTv on YouTube
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