Christmas Shopping In London Has Always Been A Total Crush

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By M@ Last edited 9 months ago
Christmas Shopping In London Has Always Been A Total Crush

Oxford Street today can be a bit of a crush at Christmas time, but the scene was even more cramped in 1937, as this cover to the Sphere newspaper shows.

Behatted shoppers press against one another, and the side of buses, in the scramble to stock up with gifts and food. Image from The Sphere, 25 December 1937. (c) Illustrated London News Group. Courtesy of the British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive.


Meanwhile, over in Knightsbridge, this 1925 painting shows an altogether different side to Christmas shopping.

Image from The Sphere, 5 December 1925. (c) Illustrated London News Group. Courtesy of the British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive.


Impressive decorations and window displays are also nothing new. In 1929, Selfridges erected a row of mechanical jack-in-the-boxes on its Oxford Street store.

As can be seen in the lower part of the photograph, the crowds flocked to see the display. A similar spectacle could be found at Harrods in Knightsbridge. Image from The Sphere, 28 December 1929. (c) Illustrated London News Group. Courtesy of the British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive.


This Christmas card scene was painted in 1931, in the run-up to Christmas.

The November snows have brought chaos to Piccadilly. Shoppers slip and slide in the compacted snow. Snowball fights break out here and there. Few people brave the open-air top deck of the omnibus. Image from The Sphere, 23 November 1931. (c) Illustrated London News Group. Courtesy of the British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive.


It wasn't just the West End that attracted huge shopping crowds. Petticoat Lane market also saw crushes during the festive period. Here we see the market in 1953.

The accompanying article tells us that, contrary to popular opinion, 'spiv' types are not so common in Petticoat Lane as they are in the West End. Image from The Sphere, 19 December 1953. (c) Illustrated London News Group. Courtesy of the British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive.

And here's Petticoat Lane market again in 1948. Can you imagine being in the middle of that throng?

Image from The Sphere, 25 December 1948. (c) Illustrated London News Group. Courtesy of the British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive.


Even war couldn't entirely deter the Londoner's love of Christmas shopping. This is the scene on Oxford Street in December 1939.

There might be fewer people than previous years, but the shopping street is still busy.

Image from The Sphere, 23 December 1939. (c) Illustrated London News Group. Courtesy of the British Library Board, via the British Newspaper Archive.

See also: the weirdest Christmas adverts from London's history.

Last Updated 12 December 2017