The film was shot in 1904 as a 'travelogue' for Australians curious about life in what was "one of the most exciting cities anywhere", according to Professor Ian Christie. He discovered the 12 minute reel while trawling through archives in Canberra. Prof Christie said: "It's a rather clever mixture of what we would expect to see - such as the Embankment, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square - but it also has these wonderful close ups of individuals. "There's an old lady sleeping rough on a bench, children encouraging a dog to swim in the Thames, children paddling in one of the ponds in St James's Park."
But some things never change.
"There's a wonderful shot of roadworks on the Strand," he said. "The catalogue says, 'Street up as usual'. Road works were obviously a common feature of London in 1904 too." Other scenes show roads packed with horse-drawn traffic, the city "absolutely teeming with people", fish traders at Billingsgate Market and shoe-shiners in the West End. The footage, shot of 35mm film, also shows subtle insights into life such as the way people walked, he added. The academic, professor of film and media history at Birkbeck College in London, said the film, called Living London, was shot by pioneering Anglo-American film-maker Charles Urban.
How well dressed everyone is, and how much care they take over their appearance - in an age with no washing machines. The hats, ties, gloves. Respectability high, crime and bastardy low - although there were plenty of negative points - especially for the poor. Robert Roberts' "The Classic Slum" and (my favourite) "A Ragged Schooling" are brilliant portraits of Salford working class life in this period and also a great read. I read them 30 year back and I see they're back in print. If anyone's read any London equivalents I'd love to know about them.
I love that train going backwards over the bridge.