In pictures: Was life in London better in the 1960s?
·17 min read
When you think of the 1960s, what comes to mind? The Beatles and the Stones? The World Cup victory of 1966? Or perhaps the civil rights movement in the US, the Vietnam War and political assassinations.
But beneath the big events, life in London rumbled along. On the ground, this was a decade defined by the dawning of counterculture and the revolution in social norms when it came to sex, drugs, fashion and music. The anti-nuclear and anti-racism movements took hold, while a new youthful generation of Baby Boomers brought fresh energy to the city.
Get yourself a drink, sit back, and allow us to take you on a journey through London of the 1960s.
On Carnaby Street you would find plenty of dandies like this fellow
Photographers didn't shy away from risque compositions
Dapper took on new meaning, as this man in a 'zoot suit' displays over in Notting Hill
People would take their horses for a trot on Rotten Row, in Hyde Park, just as they do today
Hold on a second. What's this hubbub all about?
Why, it's the first ever ATM machine, at a Barclays branch in Enfield
New projects were underway, like the building of the West Cross Route in west London
The tallest building in London went up in 1965 – named the GPO Tower (later, the BT Tower)
Is it a bird, is it a plane?
No! It's an amphibious motor scooter, taking a spin down the Thames
Technology was progressing at a pace – here, a young boy demonstrates the new Perdio Portorama portable TV receiver
This was the prediction, at that same Earls Court exhibition in 1961, of what the television of the future might look like
Any guesses what we're looking at here?
You got it! The world's first solar-powered car, designed by Dr Charles Escoffery
Hard to imagine how society would have progressed if this long-distance bait dispenser was never invented
Now we're talking. Here, families enjoy Battersea Park lido in 1960
You could get your fruit and veg from the bustling Berwick Street Market in Soho
Protest culture was taking off – and we started young
Kids had a lot of responsibility back in the Sixties
Here, Adam West (AKA Batman) fronted a road safety campaign – not sure why we needed one of those?
It's not like we used to play stick sword fights on the streets
Or start driving at six years old
Or use the middle of a road as our playground
That's more like it. Play in the junkyard, kids
Here, a look at the cityscape back in 1967
Good old Trafalgar Square, where little has changed in 60 years
Likewise over at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich (though the backdrop has changed now, somewhat)
Indeed, the skyline was absent of any of the skyscrapers we have today
As you can see slightly better, from this perspective
Is that definitely London? Yes indeed – the toll gate house up at the Spaniards Inn, in Hampstead
Just down the road in Hampstead village, an open-air art exhibition was underway
On the other side of the city, Brixton market was (and is) the best place in the capital to pick up some yams
We would express ourselves through our wallpaper
Some of which was printed over at Sanderson and Sons, in Islington
We would watch global icons strut their stuff in Hyde Park
Or strum their guitars on rooftops
Mods (and their conflicting subcultural counterparts, rockers) were labelled as 'folk devils'
The Notting Hill Carnival was as vibrant as it is today
These hippie squatters resided at 144 Piccadilly
A glimpse inside a pub over on Portobello Road
Others opted for a coffee, perhaps from the 2 i's over in Soho
Traditional entertainment endured in the East End's boozers
These chaps were part of a London modelling agency called 'UGLY'
We had hope for sporting victory, just as we do today
And for once, our dreams came true
Battersea Power Station was still in operation
And we paid the price, in the air quality across the city
Crime was rife – here, the criminal records file at Scotland Yard
Some protest movements continue to resonate today
Elephants would parade the streets – here, Billy Smart's Circus on Queenstown Road
We still had our milk delivered to the door
And we received our news from physical daily newspapers
Traffic wardens controlled the streets, like on this busy crossroads in Croydon
Although health and safety wasn't quite as it is today
People took to Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, just as they do today
Men who struggled to grow facial hair finally had a realistic alternative
Covent Garden still operated as a fruit market, rather than somewhere to buy a mulled wine for £13
The Tube was slightly less packed than it is at today's rush hour
Ford cars were all the rage – here, an assembly plant in Dagenham
Although some were trailblazing a more environmentally-friendly transport alternative
Some more practical than others
Who needs iPhones or new dating apps? 'Be Popular' was the advertisement seen here on the Bakerloo line platform
My word – what a beautiful Doric Arch you had back in 1960, Euston Station
Well, it was good while it lasted. The arch was dismantled to make way for today's monstrosity of a station, in 1961
Fortunately, the splendour of St Pancras has stood the test of time
Clapham Junction was, and remains, London's busiest station (here, a colour print painting by Terence Cuneo)
Wembley was yet to have received its facelift
On the Thames, the rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge was no less fierce than it is today
London Airport (now, Heathrow) was our gateway to the world
A peek inside the control tower, in 1964
In some ways, the London of the 1960s is unrecognisable
But then again, some things never change
Do you have memories of London in the 1960s? Comment below to join the conversation.