1960s: Fragments of London



Bob Hyde (1927-73) studied and then taught at St. Martin’s; from the mid-sixties until his death he was a senior lecturer at Wimbledon School of Art and lecturer at the Royal College of Art, where he helped establish the Environmental Media Degree with Sir Hugh Casson.

In 1966, Bob devised and directed a ballet for ITV involving two dancers and projected images and in 1969 he designed Play Orbit, an exhibition organised jointly by the ICA and the Welsh Arts Council for the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales. This exhibition invited one hundred British artists to create a toy or game.

Through his photography, Bob captured London and Britain in fragmentary form, creating work justifiably comparable in quality to that of Saul Leiter.








Enjoyed this capsule? Please show your support by donating to Retronaut below:

Donate to Retronaut

 All pictures: Shima Banks


c. 1890: The sea & a Kodak No. 1

The Kodak No. 1, on the market between 1889 and 1895, came pre-loaded with film for a hundred round photographs, each with a 2½ inch diameter. The images were round for two reasons - firstly because the camera had no view finder and, unlike a square picture, the photographer did not have to hold the camera level to get a straight image. Secondly, the corners of the photographs tended to be low quality.

When the 100 photographs were taken, the photographer sent the entire camera to Kodak for the film to be developed, and the camera was returned reloaded with film.

Enjoyed this capsule? Please show your support by donating to Retronaut below:

Donate to Retronaut

 All pictures: National Science and Media Museum / Kodak Museum


1950s: Blackheath fair

(c) Wolfgang Wild


(c) Wolfgang Wild

(c) Wolfgang Wild

(c) Wolfgang Wild

(c) Wolfgang Wild

Enjoyed this capsule? Please show your support by donating to Retronaut below:

Donate to Retronaut

 All pictures: Wolfgang Wild


1985: A visit to HMV

The first HMV ("His Master's Voice") shop opened in 1921 on London's Oxford Street, with an opening ceremony performed by composer Edward Elgar.

During the 1970s it was Britain's leading music retailer.  Despite going into administration in 2013, in 2015 it overtook Amazon to be the UK's largest retailer of physical music products.

(I myself worked in the Cambridge branch of HMV in the mid 1990s - Wolfgang)


(c) HMV Get Closer

Enjoyed this capsule? Please show your support by donating to Retronaut below:

Donate to Retronaut

 All pictures: HMV Get Closer


1941: Gunners in drag

This set of photographs, taken by photographer John Topham while working in RAF intelligence, was censored by the British Ministry of Information. It shows British soldiers manning the anti-aircraft guns “somewhere in Kent” whilst dressed in full dame costume - having to attend during the rehearsal for a pantomime.

   (c)  Top Foto

Enjoyed this capsule? Please show your support by donating to Retronaut below:

Donate to Retronaut

 All pictures available to license from Top Foto


1952-59: London Smog

Piccadilly Circus, December 1952 (c) Top Foto

The London smogs - poisonous combines of smoke and fog - reached their zenith during the 1950s, and specifically with the Great Smog of December 1952. Trapped by a layer of air derived from an anticyclone, the smoke from the city's factories and coal fires bonded with the freezing fog to coat London and its population for five days - Friday, December 5th until Tuesday, December 9th. 

Over the five days, 1,000 tonnes of smoke particles entered London's air environment. Not only was all public transport halted, bar the Underground, but so was London's ambulance service.  When the weather changed, the smog disappeared - but more than 4,000 people had died as a direct result, in what remains the worst air-pollution event of the United Kingdom's history.

Embankment, 1949 (c) Top Foto

Victoria Station, 1959 (c) Top Foto

December 6th, 1952 (c) Top Foto

December 6th, 1952 (c) Top Foto

Leicester Square, December 5th 1952 (c) Top Foto

Leicester Square, December 5th 1952 (c) Top Foto

Enjoyed this capsule? Please support Retronaut by donating below:

Donate to Retronaut

 All pictures available to license from Top Foto


1905-1908: London Street Style

Thursday August 2nd, 1906: Kensington Church Street

May 1906: Kensington Church Street

Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910) was illustrator and chief cartoonist of English magazine Punch, and a keen amateur photographer. Linley Sambourne lived in London's Kensington area - his house, 18 Stafford Terrace, is now a museum - and took photographs of people he knew to use as the basis for his illustrations. He was to amass a huge collection of photographic images.

As these photographs show, Linley Sambourne also took photographs of people he didn't know, on the streets of Kensington and almost exclusively of women. In many of the instances, he recorded the location and day of the photograph. In her diary, Linley Sambourne's wife Marion said his photography transitioned from an enthusiasm into an obsession.

Linley Sambourne's great-grandson was the renowned photographer Lord Snowden.

Tuesday June 26th, 1906: Kensington  

Tuesday June 26th, 1906: Kensington  

Tuesday July 3rd, 1906: Kensington

Wednesday July 12th, 1905: Cromwell Road

Saturday June 30th, 1908: Kensington

   Friday May 10th, 1907: St. Albans Road

Friday May 10th, 1907: St. Albans Road

Friday May 10th, 1907: St. Albans Road

Friday July 12th, 1907: St Albans Road

Wednesday July 4th, 1906: Kensington

Saturday July 20th, 1906: Notting Hill Gate

Wednesday June 27th, 1906: Kensington  

Saturday September 8th, 1906: Kensington Church Street

1906: Cromwell Road, Kensington

Tuesday, June 26th 1906: Cromwell Road

Saturday September 8th, 1906: Kensington

Tuesday February 20th, 1906: Cornwall Gardens

Tuesday June 26th, 1906: Cheniston Gardens

Tuesday June 26th, 1906: Cheniston Gardens

Enjoyed this capsule? Please support Retronaut by donating below:

Donate to Retronaut


c. 1890-1910: People of Amsterdam

Workers on the Van Diemenstraat.

The work shown here is by Dutch artist and photographer George Hendrik Breitner. Born in 1857, he initially became a painter and was a prime mover in the Impressionist movement in the Netherlands. He worked closely with Van Gogh. 

In his 40s, Breitner turned further attention to photography, initially as a way to record scenes, and particularly weather conditions, for his paintings. 

Breitner died in 1923, aged 66.

Reflection of canal houses in the water on the Singel 377 to 385

A cyclist on the Prinsengracht.

Geldersekade and Geldersche quay.

   View of Gasthuismolensteeg on the corner of the Herengracht.

View of Gasthuismolensteeg on the corner of the Herengracht.

A view of the Rokin.

Children play in a sand dump near Prince Island.

A snowy view of the Damrak.

Workers at the construction site of the Municipal Bath and Swimming Facility at the Heiligeweg.

Cavalry resting in a field

Portrait of a mounted gunner with two horses,

Artillery riders on horseback

Yellow Riders on horseback near Arnhem


   The Handboogstraat

The Handboogstraat

View of the Looiersgracht in Amsterdam

Enjoyed this capsule? Please support Retronaut by donating below:

Donate to Retronaut


1967: Cars / models at Earl's Court

   "A general view of the Aston Martin stand during the press preview of the the London Motor Show at Earls Court"      (c)  TOPFOTO

"A general view of the Aston Martin stand during the press preview of the the London Motor Show at Earls Court"


"Marie Hardie, wearing mink tunic and while leather boots, reclines on the bonnet of an Aston Martin DBS - a highlight of the 1967 London Motor Show which will be officially opened by Viscount Atkinson of Woking at Earls Court.  The picture of 19-year-old Marie and the car was taken during a press preview."


"The Aston Martin stand at the preview of the Motor Show"


"Seen at a press preview at the Motor Show at Earls Court, London today, the Aston martin Volante convertible." 


"The Aston Martin stand at the preview of the Motor Show at Earls Court"


"Seen at a press preview at the Motor Show at Earls Court, London today , the Aston martin Volante convertible.  Standing on top of the car, is model Penny Brahms"


"AMC Javelin V8"


"A couple inside the Aston Martin DBS at the International Motor Show at Earls Court which was opened by Princess Alexandra"


Enjoyed this capsule? Please support Retronaut by donating below:

Donate to Retronaut

All pictures available to license from Top Foto


c. 1973: Covent Garden Market


London's Covent Garden fruit, vegetable and flower market - on the site of a medieval convent's garden - was a continuous presence in London's West End starting in the middle of the seventeenth century. From 1830, the market was housed in and around a bespoke neo-classical building built by William Cubitt and Company.

However, by the 1960s, the large delivery lorries which brought in and took away the market's supplies of produce became an increasingly problematic traffic issue, creating major congestion in the area. In 1974, the market relocated from its position in the heart of London to the district of Nine Elms, south of the Thames. In 1980, the central market hall was reopened as a range of shops.

These photographs show the market in the last of its three hundred years at Covent Garden.




Enjoyed this capsule? Please support Retronaut by donating below:

Donate to Retronaut

All pictures: Wolfgang Wild


1918: Salvaging a U-boat

U-Boat 110, a general view looking aft

The photographs shown here are of U-Boat 110, a German Submarine that was sunk and risen in 1918. 

They are taken from an album of photographs found in the Swan Hunter shipbuilders collection at Tyne & Wear Archives. The album is from 1918 and documents the U.B. 110 before she was scrapped on the dry docks of Swan Hunter Wigham Richardson Ltd, Wallsend.

The twin-screw German submarine U.B. 110 was built by Blohm & Voss, Hamburg. 

On the 19th July 1918, when attacking a convoy of merchant ships near Hartlepool, she herself was attacked by H.M. Motor-Launch No. 263 and suffered from depth charges. Coming to the surface she was rammed by H.M.S. Garry, a torpedo boat destroyer, and sunk.  

In September she was salvaged and placed in the admiralty dock off Jarrow slake. She was then berthed at Swan Hunter's dry docks department with an order to restore her as a fighting unit.  

The Armistice on 11th November 1918 caused work on her to be stopped. She was towed on the 19th December 1918 from Wallsend to the Northumberland Dock at Howdon and was subsequently sold as scrap.

The album of photographs, taken by Frank & Sons of South Shields, documents the U.B. 110 in extensive detail. The photographs provide an insight into the mechanics and atmosphere of the raised German submarine.

Control Room looking forward to port side

Control Room looking forward to port side

Control Room looking forward

“Shall I risk another run at him, as he is still showing up on the surface? At all costs, he must not escape, so, once again we race through the water and settle the matter by hitting again and this time ripping her up completely and ourselves as well. Down went “U110" where she belonged and down we went by the bows."


- Charles Herbert Lightoller, Commander of the HMS Garry in “Titanic and other ships”, 1935


Control Room looking forward

The control room looking aft, starboard side

   Control Room looking aft

Control Room looking aft

   Four Torpedo Tubes

Four Torpedo Tubes

"I left the rescue work to the others, who picked up fifteen out of the water and then took stock of the damage we had sustained. No doubt it was serious and the vital question now was - should we chance it and try and get back to our base in the Humber?”

- Charles Herbert Lightoller, Commander of the HMS Garry in “Titanic and other ships”, 1935

Four bow Torpedo Tubes & forward hydroplanes


c. 1930: Hand-tinted flowers

Love-in-a-Mist: Flowers in 3 stages; youngest at right, to show change in position of pistils

The 24 photographs shown here - lantern slides - were created by William McCalla, a Canadian botanist and teacher. The colours of each one were added by hand.

Born in 1872, McCalla published the illustrated book "Wild Flowers of Western Canada" in 1920. Two years later, he became librarian for Edmonton Normal School and later a teacher of the study of nature. From 1925 to retirement in 1938, McCalla taught natural history at a school in Calgary.

Over the course of his career, McCalla crafted over 1,000 such hand-coloured lantern slides of plants and animals. In 1956, the University of Alberta presented him with an honorary degree and in 1960, McCalla gave his herbarium collection - around 14,000 sheets, to the University.

McCalla died in 1962, aged 90. 

Epilobium angustifolium: Fireweed


Ten Weeks Stock

Fireweed blossoms in middle stage of bloom

Hybrid cactus dahlia, El Granada

   Lavatera, bud and fruits

Lavatera, bud and fruits

   Single Dutch Hyacinth

Single Dutch Hyacinth

Miniature Narcissi: N. Bulbocodium citrinius: N. Bulbocodium conspicuous, N. triandrus pulchellus

Garden Iris, purple and cream

Darwin Tulip

Annual Poppy

Early Double Tulip

Early Single Tulip

   Garden Aster

Garden Aster


Annual Candytuft

Garden Asters

Monkshood (Cultivated)

Fritillaria Pudica Spreng - Yellow or Mission Bell

Calypso bulbosa Oakes

Townsendia Parryi

Helianthus lenticularis Doug. - Annual Wild Sunflower

Eplilobium angustifolium discharging seeds

All pictures: Provincial Archives of Alberta / Retronaut


1898-1900: Picnicking with Theresa

Above: August 20th, 1898 - "Buckboard ride to Northport and Belfast"

Theresa Babb (1868-1948) was married to C. Wilkes Babb, director of Knox Mill, Camden, Maine. For reasons unknown, she also possessed a gift for taking spontaneous and immediate photographs of her friends and family  - such as these, while picnicking. 


Writing in the Penobscot Bay Pilot, Barbara F. Dyer tells us that "The Babb family has been a prominent family in Camden for many years and still live in town today"

Above: 1900 - A picnic at Sherman's Point, Camden. Theresa is second from left, drinking from a bottle.

Above: c. 1900 - "Camping crowd at Ogier Point."

Above: June 1900 - "Some of Miss Garland's girls, Class of 1900. Taken at Milton [MA]"

"Theresa was a member of the St. Thomas Episcopal Church, the Monday Club, the Monday Evening Reading Club, the Camden Garden Club and the the Camden Outing Club."

- Barbara F. Dyer

Above: c. 1900 - Friends and family of Theresa P. Babb at the shore in midcoast Maine.

Above: September 1900 - "Grace G. and Grace Parker row on Lake Megunticook."

Above: 1900 - a picnic at Sherman's Point in Camden. Theresa Babb is seated in front.


Above: July 1900 - Picnic at Ogier Point. Theresa's sister Grace is in the middle with the white hat, and their mother, Mrs. Parker, is at the far top right.

Above: May 30th, 1900 - "Grace and Mary at Ipswich Beach"


1977: The AX-3 Spacesuit

This is the third AX (Ames Experimental) hard suit developed by NASA, following two between 1964 and 1968. California's Ames Research Center (ARC), founded in 1939, is a primary NASA research center.

Unlike the soft-shell suit, hard-shell space suits like the AX-3 enable movement by using ball bearings and wedges at the joints. The suits also hold their position without effort from the wearer, and can function at higher pressures, meaning the wearer does not need to pre-breathe oxygen in order to adjust their internal pressure moving from cabin to suit.

The man inside the suit is Vic Vykukal, the NASA engineer responsible for designing the suit, its predecessors and its final mode, the AX-5 in the 1980s. 

All pictures: Retronaut


1977: A carnival for the Jubilee

In 1977, the 50-year-old Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom had been on the throne for 25 years. Peaking on June 7th to tie to the Queen's Official Birthday, the anniversary year - the Silver Jubilee - saw street-parties and carnival parades across the country, 4,000 organised in London alone.  

These photographs show one such event - a tractor-led street carnival in Cobham, Surrey.


All pictures: Topfoto


c. 1900-1930: Weddings of Sogndal


The Norwegian municipality of Sogndal, in Sogn og Fjordane county, sits on the northern shore of Sognefjorden. The photographs shown here, spaning the first decades of the twentieth century, portray assembled guests at local weddings.


The more recent photographs were taken by Olai Fauske (1887-1944).  Born into a farming family Fauske trained in Bergen and then worked from the town of Førde.

c. 1928: Wedding at Husetuft

The bride and groom may be Nikolina Husetuft (b. 1901) and Ingolf Åsen (b. 1903). In the second row to the right of the bride and groom, dressed in a grey suit, is Nils Husetuft (1871-1962). He is the father of the bride. To the left of Nils is his brother Andreas Husetuft (b. 1873).

1928: Wedding at Støfring

The wedding of Kristina K. Støfring (b. 1902) and Nikolai B. Støfring (b. 1892). The parents of the groom is seated to the left of him, the parents of the bride are seated to the right of her. The three girls in bunad (Norwegian national costume) seated to the right in the front row, are probably the bride's sisters. The man on the left in the grey suit is Kristian Eikås (1899-1974) who later founded the school "Heimeyrkesskulen i Jølster". Behind and to the left of Eikås is Anders D. Gjesdal who was the master of ceremonies at the wedding.

c. 1912-1920 Wedding

The bride is wearing a bunad (Norwegian national costume) and bridal silver. Both the mother of the groom and the mother of the bride are wearing traditional dress from the Sunnfjord region.

The older photographs, taken around 1900, are the work of Knut Aaaning (1880-1922).  Like Fauske, Aaning had also trained as a photographer in Bergen. He then worked from his hometown of Stryn - and possibly from his home

Although Aaaning left behind thousands of glass plate negatives on his death, today only 23 negatives remain, and show extensive water damage and other forms of corrosion. The six images showed here - five below and one at the beginning - have been digitally restored by Retronaut's team.






All pictures: Sogn og Fjordane County Archives / Retronaut


May 1970: Racing at the Speedway

1959-1972: Ireland in colour

Above: March 8th, 1966 - A half-demolished Nelson's Pillar on O'Connell Street, Dublin

"The top of Nelson Pillar, in O'Connell street, Dublin, was blown off by a tremendous explosion at 1.32 o'clock this morning and the Nelson statue and tons of rubble poured down into the roadway. By a miracle, nobody was injured, though there were a number of people in the area at the time."

 - Irish Times, 8th March 1966

Above: June 1963, O'Connell Street, Dublin (Photograph by Richard Tilbrook)

Above: September 1961 - Airport Bus, Store Street, Dublin


Above: June 1963 - Garda directing traffic, O'Connell Bridge, Dublin

Above: c. 1972 - Molesworth Street, Dublin 

Above: c. 1971: Georgian houses on Ardee Street, Dublin, from Cork Street

Above: April 1, 1962 - The Theatre Royal, Hawkins Street, Dublin


Above: 9th April 1970 - Aftermath of a huge fire at Thomas McKenzie & Sons Ltd., Pearse Street, Dublin, opposite Tara Street Fire Station

"The blaze was the worst experienced by crews of Dublin Fire Brigade in five years, according to the city's chief fire officer, Mr. Thomas O'Brien. The entire stock of the shop—one of the biggest ironmongery firms in the city—was lost. The estimated damage was put at £300,000 by the firm's managing director, Mr. Michael O'Keeffe."

- Irish Times, Friday 10th April 1970


Above: 1959 - C.I.E. Barge 37.M at Portobello

Above: c. 1960 - A fishing trawler returning to Skerries, Co. Dublin

Above: June 1963 - The Fisherman aka Tadhg Devane (Photograph by Richard Tilbrook)

"He was a fisherman, boat-builder and a great character. The Devanes, like the tribe of Dan, abode in boats and came originally to Portmagee from Dingle. His daughter, Mary, and family and his niece, Helen, still live in Portmagee."

- Mossy Carey

Above: c. 1960 - Clifden, Co. Galway

Above: 1963 - Group of men, Corpus Christi procession, Cahir, Co. Tipperary

Above: c. 1963 - Patrick Sullivan's Bar

Above: c. 1960 - Ford Consul Mk II., Ring of Kerry (Photograph by Richard Tillbrook)


Above: c. 1960 - Seamus Johnson, working alongside the Gallarus Oratory on the Dingle Peninsula, Kerry (Photograph by Richard Tillbrook)

"He always had a dog with him. He was a very kind and gentle man. He was paid by the government to be the caretaker of that ancient church. He used to stand up at the oratory and tell people the history of the place. People used to think he worked there and they would tip him."

- Sean Johnson, Seamus' nephew


Above: June 1963 - Horse drawn plough, Ring of Kerry

All pictures: National Library of Ireland / Retronaut


1914-1918: Black British WWI Forces

Above: July 1917 - West Indian men serving in the British Navy, in the Fleet Auxillary.

Despite the protests of Lord Kitchener who believed black men should not be allowed to serve, many black men volunteered for and were recruited to all branches of the British armed forces during the First World War. 

Black men were recruited from Britain's African colonies including Gambia, the Gold Coast, Nigeria,  and Sierra Leone - a total of more than 120,ooo Black African men. More than 15,000 black men from the Caribbean volunteered to serve in the British Army. At first, they were placed within regular units across the service, but in 1915, the decision was made to form a new regiment specifically for them - the British West Indies Regiment (BWIR).

Those men who volunteered from the Caribbean had to travel to England at their own expense.  When their ships were forced to divert course via Canada, hundreds were afflicted with severe frostbite. These men had to return to the Caribbean as unfit to serve, and received neither benefits nor compensation.

All commanding officers in the BWIR were white, and no black man was permitted to hold a higher rank than Sergeant. Once deployed, all fighting was carried out by white soldiers, while the BWIR were given support work loading ammunition, laying cables and digging trenches. Most were unarmed.

"Stripped to the waist and sweated chest, midday's reprieve brings much-needed rest; 

From trenches deep toward the sky, non-fighting troops and yet we die."

- "Black Soldier's Lament", by an anonymous trooper

The BWIR's rôle in the conflict was considerable, in particular in fighting the Turkish Army in Palestine and Jordan. Of the Regiment's eleven battalions, the 1st and 2nd were deployed chiefly in Palestine and Egypt; the 3rd, 4th, 6th and 7th were deployed in France and Flanders; the 5th were reserves; the 8th and 9th were deployed in France and Flanders and then Italy; and the 10th and 11th were also deployed in France and Italy.


Above: 1917 - Egyptian Labour Corps and British West Indies Regiment building dug outs for the XXth Corps Headquarters on the cliffs near the shore of the Mediterranean near Deir el Belah. The old headquarters camp at Deir el Belah had been shelled from Gaza by a Naval gun and also bombed by aeroplanes on four successive nights.

"I have great pleasure in informing you of the gallant conduct of the machine-gun section of the 1st British West Indies Regiment during two successful raids on the Turkish trenches. All ranks behaved with great gallantry under heavy rifle and shell fire and contributed in no small measure to the success of the operations"

- Palestine Campaign General Allenby to the then Governor of Jamaica William Henry Manning:

At the end of the War, in November 1918, the BWIR was chiefly stationed in and around the Southern Italian coastal town of Taranto. While white soldiers were being readied for demobilisation, and were awarded a pay rise, the men of the BWIR were still put to service, including constructing latrines for white soldiers.  On December 6th, the 9th Battalion off the BWIR refused orders and put forward a petition of complaint, signed by 180 sergeants. Three days later, the 10th Battalion also refused orders. 60 of the men were then tried for mutiny and sentenced to between three and five years in prison.  One man was imprisoned for twenty years, and one other man was executed.  

The British West Indies Regiment received more than eighty medals for bravery between 1914 and 1918. 

Above: July 1917 - Men from Trinidad, Jamaica, and Barbados receive free refreshments at a buffet. A sign reads "Economy in Food - please do not take more than 1 sandwich"

Above: 1916 -  British West Indian troops undergo physical training at Kingston, Jamaica

"Nothing we can do will alter the fact that the black man has begun to think and feel himself as good as the white."

- Secret British Colonial Service memo, 1919

Above: July 30th 1918 - A royal visit to Roehampton Hospital, specialising in the treatment of  soldiers who have lost limbs. The King speaks to Private Davis, a West Indian soldier who has two artificial legs

Thank you to: Black History 365; Steven Johns

All pictures: Topfoto