Today marks the 59th anniversary of my commencing a six-year composing apprenticeship in Clerkenwell, at the time an area populated by Italians behind delicatessen counters, greasy spoon cafes. Opposite the factory was the huge Old Holborn tobacco factory on the corner of Leather Lane market and just down the road the beautiful St. Peter’s Italian Church which was commemorating 100 years of welcoming worshippers.
This wasn’t the Swinging Sixties beloved of writers, but old badly maintained Peabody social housing, wide-boys selling hookey gear from suitcases in the market and huge bomb sites.
This great photograph from Christopher Fowler’s excellent blog via the postcard archives of London, shows Piccadilly Circus in 1963, emerging from the austerity of the fifties, but minus the huge snowfall we endured earlier that year.
What surprises me is the vividity of the circus-like colours (forced, obviously, but still very jolly – click to enlarge). Buses each manned by a clippie, only one person sitting on the Eros steps (I’ve never seen that even at night). I rather liked the bright lime green minivan and notice the majority of adverts were for booze and fags.
The number of cars equalled cabs, you’re not likely to see that today, also the nearest cabs were ancient FX3s and note the absence of nearside doors leaving the driver open to the elements.
But most of all I like how the vehicles look like Dinky Toys.