Underground London in the 1920s

The speaker at our April 2023 Monthly Meeting was Nick Dobson, a former Redbridge Librarian, champion fuscia grower and amateur opera singer, who chose as his subject “An Underground Guide to London in the Roaring Twenties”. This intriguing title was explained further as his talk was delivered.

The Underground in question was the London Underground. At the start of the 1920s, the Underground system was owned and run by individual companies – essentially one per line. By the end of the 1920s, the system had merged into London Underground Limited, and a new office block had been created for the company at 55 Broadway, near St James’s Park.

We were shown a mix of stations photographed in the 1920s, including some experimental photographs, and a mix of celebrities and dignitaries who were influencing London at that time. King George V and Queen Mary featured, as did various musicians and singers, as well as Marie Stopes and Sir Alexander Fleming.

At that time, there were economic difficulties for the country combined with a rash of strikes, leading to the General Strike. There was also pressure on the pound sterling in the international markets. We also saw the flood damage caused at Rotherhithe station in 1927. All this was just a little too familiar for those observing London today!

For some, it was the first time to meet a Cats’ Meat Man, and a Knocker Upper – trades which are now long forgotten.

The talk led to many questions about forgotten lines and stations, and questions about how big London was in the 1920s, and how the population then compares with the population now. This was a talk full of information, facts and details, and kept the audience’s attention throughout.

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