Vintage Photos Of London In The Snow

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 6 months ago

Last Updated 19 December 2023

Vintage Photos Of London In The Snow
vintage cars in a snowy trafalgar square
Trafalgar Square, 1947. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images

London is especially magical with a festive sprinkling of snow.

In a new book, simply titled London in the Snow, the capital of the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s is captured in that enchanting window when the snowflakes have settled, and haven't yet been churned into slush.

Father in a flatcap and two children toboggan on Hampstead Heath, 1937
Father and children toboggan on Hampstead Heath, 1937. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images

In this series of crisp, black and white shots, ice-caked bobbies go about their beat; Charlton Athletic and Chelsea play on despite there not being a visible blade of grass on the pitch; milkmen battle the elements to get bottles delivered on time; and London Zoo's Rusty the elephant helps his keeper shovel the snow.

There's a stoic sense of 'the city must go on', although judging by some of the skid marks on the street, there were one of two treacherous moments.

London Zoo’s head keeper and Rusty the elephant clear snow together
London Zoo’s head keeper and Rusty the elephant clear snow together, 1958. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images

As Lucy Davies says in her introduction to the book: "Whether now, or 50, or 100 years ago, snow comes like a blessing, its thick fall a type of grace. It covers blights and eyesores (nature's version of vaseline on the lens, perhaps), it softens clangs and shouts.

"In London, the effect is all the greater: the emptiness all the more pronounced, the silence all the more strange. And Londoners — even the oldest and most seasoned — never cease to be astonished by the world they have woken up to."

A Milkman delivers to a woman at Streatham Grammar School - both with smiles on their faces
Milkman delivers to Streatham Grammar School on New Year’s Day, 1939. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images

One of the most noticeable things from the photos is just how many Londoners back then seemed to have their own skis and sledges — many of them presumably fashioned at home.

They also knew how to have a snowball fight; in one image, youths hurl clumps of ice at one another in Trafalgar Square, some of them wearing shorts!

A snowy Bubble car with a face drawn into the windscreen
Bubble car, 1958. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images

It's a reminder that throughout time, the gift of a snow day has given Londoners an excuse to act like kids — whether or not they are.

kids throw snowballs at each other in trafalgar square
Trafalgar Square, 1938. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images
a couple gets about by skis on a snowy hampstead heath
Hampstead Heath, 1955. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images
Ice skater encourages swans towards the open
water on Wimbledon Common
Ice skater encourages swans towards the open water on Wimbledon Common, 1954. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images
Young athletes doing bar pull ups beneath a leafless tree
Young athletes train at the University of London Athletic Ground in Motspur Park, 1962. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images
Models show off Mansfield’s autumn collection on Great Titchfield Street
Models show off Mansfield’s autumn collection on Great Titchfield Street, 1966. Alamy/PA/PA Archive/PA Images
A very icy looking junction, picture taken from up high
Junction of Clerkenwell and Farringdon Roads on New Year’s Eve, 1962

London in the Snow is published by Hoxton Mini Press

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