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The Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
was a national exhibition and fair that reached millions of visitors throughout the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
in the summer of 1951. Historian Kenneth O. Morgan says the Festival was a "triumphant success" as people:

flocked to the South Bank
South Bank
site, to wander around the Dome of Discovery, gaze at the Skylon, and generally enjoy a festival of national celebration. Up and down the land, lesser festivals enlisted much civic and voluntary enthusiasm. A people curbed by years of total war and half-crushed by austerity and gloom, showed that it had not lost the capacity for enjoying itself....Above all, the Festival made a spectacular setting as a showpiece for the inventiveness and genius of British scientists and technologists.[1]

Labour cabinet member Herbert Morrison
Herbert Morrison
was the prime mover; in 1947 he started with the original plan to celebrate the centennial of the Great Exhibition
Great Exhibition
of 1851.[2] However it was not to be another World Fair, for international themes were absent, as was the British Commonwealth. Instead the 1951 festival focused entirely on Britain and its achievements; it was funded chiefly by the government, with a budget of £12 million. The Labour government was losing support and so the implicit goal of the festival was to give the people a feeling of successful recovery from the war's devastation [3], as well as promoting British science, technology, industrial design, architecture and the arts. The Festival's centrepiece was in London on the South Bank
South Bank
of the Thames. There were events in Poplar (Architecture), Battersea (The Festival Pleasure Gardens), South Kensington
South Kensington
(Science) and Glasgow (Industrial Power). Festival celebrations took place in Cardiff, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, Perth, Bournemouth, York, Aldeburgh, Inverness, Cheltenham, Oxford, Norwich, Canterbury
Canterbury
and elsewhere[4] and there were touring exhibitions by land and sea. The Festival became a "beacon for change" that proved immensely popular with thousands of elite visitors and millions of popular ones. It helped reshape British arts, crafts, designs and sports for a generation.[5] Journalist Harry Hopkins highlights the widespread impact of the "Festival style". They called it "Contemporary". It was:

clean, bright and new.... It caught hold quickly and spread first across London and then across England....In an island hitherto largely given up to gravy browns and dull greens, "Contemporary" boldly espoused strong primary colors.[6]

Contents

1 Conception and organisation

1.1 Displays

2 Principal events

2.1 England 2.2 Wales 2.3 Scotland 2.4 Northern Ireland 2.5 Travelling Exhibitions

3 The South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition

3.1 Upstream Circuit: "The Land" 3.2 The Dome of Discovery 3.3 Downstream Circuit: "The People" 3.4 Other Downstream Displays 3.5 Other features of the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition

3.5.1 The Skylon 3.5.2 Royal Festival Hall 3.5.3 Minor features

4 Festival Pleasure Gardens 5 Aspects of the Festival

5.1 Architecture 5.2 Design 5.3 The arts 5.4 Film 5.5 Science

6 Other Festival events 7 Attendance figures 8 Political responses 9 Legacy 10 Images of the Festival of Britain 11 Other references 12 See also 13 References 14 Further reading 15 External links

Conception and organisation[edit]

A view of the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition from the north bank of the Thames, showing the 300-foot tall Skylon and the Dome of Discovery.

The first idea for an exhibition in 1951 came from the Royal Society of Arts in 1943, which considered that an international exhibition should be held to commemorate the centenary of the 1851 Great Exhibition.[7] In 1945, the government appointed a committee under Lord Ramsden to consider how exhibitions and fairs could promote exports.[7] When the committee reported a year later, it was decided not to continue with the idea of an international exhibition because of its cost at a time when reconstruction was a high priority.[7] Herbert Morrison
Herbert Morrison
took charge for the Labour government and decided instead to hold a series of displays about the arts, architecture, science, technology and industrial design,[8] under the title " Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
1951".[9] Morrison insisted there be no politics, explicit or implicit. As a result Labour-sponsored programs such as nationalisation, universal health care and working class housing were excluded; instead what was allowed was town planning, scientific progress, and all sorts of traditional and modern arts and crafts.[10] Much of London lay in ruins and models of redevelopment were needed. The Festival was an attempt to give Britons a feeling of recovery and progress and to promote better-quality design in the rebuilding of British towns and cities.[11] The Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
described itself as "one united act of national reassessment, and one corporate reaffirmation of faith in the nation's future."[8] Gerald Barry, the Festival Director, described it as "a tonic to the nation".[11] A Festival Council to advise the government was set up under General Lord Ismay.[8] Responsibility for organisation devolved upon the Lord President of the Council, Herbert Morrison, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, who had been London County Council
London County Council
leader. He appointed a Great Exhibition
Great Exhibition
Centenary Committee, consisting of civil servants, who were to define the framework of the Festival and to liaise between government departments and the festival organisation. In March 1948, a Festival Headquarters was set up, which was to be the nucleus of the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
Office, a government department with its own budget.[9] Festival projects in Northern Ireland were undertaken by the government of Northern Ireland.[12] Associated with the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
Office were the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Council of Industrial Design, the British Film Institute and the National Book League.[8] In addition, a Council for Architecture and a Council for Science and Technology were specially created to advise the Festival Organisation and a Committee of Christian Churches was set up to advise on religion.[8] Government grants were made to the Arts Council, the Council of Industrial Design, the British Film Institute
British Film Institute
and the National Museum of Wales for work undertaken as part of the Festival.[9] Gerald Barry had operational charge. A long-time editor with left-leaning, middle-brow views, he was energetic and optimistic, with an eye for what would be popular, and a knack on how to motivate others. Unlike Morrison, Barry was not seen as a Labour ideologue. Barry selected the next rank, giving preference to young architects and designers who had collaborated on exhibitions for the wartime Ministry of Information. They thought along the same lines socially and aesthetically, as middle-class intellectuals with progressive sympathies. Thanks to Barry a collegial sentiments prevailed that minimised stress and delay.[13] Displays[edit] The arts were displayed in a series of country-wide musical and dramatic performances.[8] Achievements in architecture were to presented in a new neighbourhood, the Lansbury Estate, planned, built and occupied in the Poplar district of London. The Festival's centrepiece[8] was the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition, in the Waterloo area of London, which demonstrated the contribution made by British advances in science, technology and industrial design, displayed, in their practical and applied form, against a background representing the living, working world of the day.[8] There were other displays elsewhere, each intended to be complete in itself, yet each part of the one single conception.[8] Festival Pleasure Gardens were set up in Battersea, about three miles up river from the South Bank. Heavy engineering was the subject of an Exhibition of Industrial Power in Glasgow. Certain aspects of science, which did not fall within the terms of reference of the South Bank Exhibition, were displayed in South Kensington. Linen technology and science in agriculture were exhibited in "Farm and Factory" in Belfast. A smaller exhibition of the South Bank
South Bank
story was put on in the Festival ship Campania,[4] which toured the coast of Britain throughout the summer of 1951, and on land there was a travelling exhibition of industrial design.[8] The University of Brighton Design Archives have digitised many of the Design Council's files relating to the planning of the festival. Principal events[edit] England[edit] Exhibitions

South Bank, London Science, South Kensington Architecture, Poplar Books, South Kensington 1851 Centenary Exhibition, South Kensington Festival of British Films, London

Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea Park, London London Season of the Arts Arts Festivals Wales[edit] Pageant of Wales, Sophia Gardens, Cardiff St Fagan's Folk Festival, Cardiff Welsh Hillside Farm Scheme, Dolhendre Arts Festivals Scotland[edit] Exhibitions

Industrial Power, Glasgow Contemporary Books, Glasgow "Living Traditions" – Scottish Architecture and Crafts, Edinburgh 18th Century Books, Edinburgh

Arts Festivals Gathering of the Clans, Edinburgh Northern Ireland[edit] Ulster Farm and Factory, Belfast Arts Festival Travelling Exhibitions[edit] Festival Ship Campania,:[4] England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Southampton Dundee Newcastle Hull Plymouth Campania,[4] at Plymouth Docks Bristol Cardiff Belfast Birkenhead Glasgow

Land Travelling Exhibition : England

Manchester Leeds Birmingham Nottingham[8]

The South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition[edit] Construction of the South Bank
South Bank
site opened up a new public space, including a riverside walkway, where previously there had been warehouses and working-class housing. The layout of the South Bank site was intended to showcase the principles of urban design that would feature in the post-war rebuilding of London and the creation of the new towns. These included multiple levels of buildings, elevated walkways and avoidance of a street grid. Most of the South Bank buildings were International Modernist in style, little seen in Britain before the war.[14] The architecture and display of the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition were planned by the Festival Office's Exhibition Presentation Panel, whose members were:[8]

Gerald Barry, Director-General, Chairman Cecil Cooke, Director, Exhibitions, Deputy Chairman Misha Black G. A. Campbell, Director, Finances and Establishments Hugh Casson, Director, Architecture Ian Cox, Director, Science and Technology A. D. Hippisley Coxe, Council of Industrial Design James Gardner James Holland M. Hartland Thomas, Council of Industrial Design Ralph Tubbs Peter Kneebone, Secretary

The theme of the Exhibition was devised by Ian Cox. The Exhibition comprised the Upstream Circuit: "The Land", the Dome of Discovery, the Downstream Circuit: "The People", and other displays.[8] Upstream Circuit: "The Land"[edit] Architect: Misha Black
Misha Black
Theme: Ian Cox Display Design: James Holland The exhibits comprised:

The Land of Britain. (Architect: H. T. Cadbury-Brown. Theme Convener: Kenneth Chapman. Display Design: V.Rotter.) The Natural Scene (Architect: Brian O'Rorke. Theme Convener: Kenneth Chapman. Display Designer: F. H. K. Henrion) The Country. (Architect: Brian O'Rorke. Theme Conveners: A. S. Thomas, Peter B. Collins. Display Designer: F. H. K. Henrion.) Minerals of the Island (Architects: Architects' Co-operative Partnership. Theme Convener: Sonia Withers. Display Designer: Beverley Pick.) Power and Production (Architects: George Grenfell Baines and H. J. Reifenberg. Theme Convener: C. J. Whitcombe. Display Design: Warnett Kennedy and Associates Sea and Ships. (Architects: Basil Spence
Basil Spence
and Partners. Theme Conveners: C. Hamilton Ellis and Nigel Clayton. Display Designers: James Holland and Basil Spence.) Transport. (Architects and Designers: Arcon. Theme Direction: George Williams.)

The Dome of Discovery[edit]

Visitors to the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition with the Dome of Discovery
Dome of Discovery
in the background

Architect: Ralph Tubbs
Ralph Tubbs
Theme: Ian Cox Display: Design Research Unit The exhibits focused on scientific discovery.[15] They included:

The Land. (Theme Convener. Penrose Angwin. Display Designers: Stefan Buzas and Ronald Sandiford.) The Earth. (Theme Convener: Sonia Withers. Display Designer: Robert Gutman.) Polar. (Theme Convener: Quinitin Riley and L. P. Macnair. Display Designer: Jock Kinneir.) Sea. (Theme Conveners: C. Hamilton Ellis and Nigel Clayton. Display Designers: Austin Frazer and Ellis Miles.) Sky. (Theme Convener: Arthur Garratt. Display Designer: Ronald Sandiford.) Outer Space. (Theme Convener: Penrose Angwin. Display Designers: Austin Frazer and Eric Towell.) The Living World. (Theme Convener: Kenneth Chapman. Display Designers: Austin Frazer and Stirling Craig.) The Physical World. (Theme Conveners: Arthur Garratt and Jan Read. Display Designers: Ronald Ingles and Clifford Hatts.)

Downstream Circuit: "The People"[edit] Architect: Hugh Casson Theme: M.Hartland Thomas Display Design: James Gardner The exhibits comprised:

The People of Britain. (Architect: H. T. Cadbury-Brown. Theme Convener: Jacquetta Hawkes. Display Design: James Gardner.) The Lion and the Unicorn (Architects: R. D. Russell, Robert Goodden. Theme Conveners: Hubert Phillips and Peter Stucley. Display Designers: Robert Goodden, R. D. Russell and Richard Guyatt. Commentary: Laurie Lee.)[16] Homes and Gardens. (Architects: Bronek Katz and Reginald Vaughan. Theme Conveners: A.Hippisley Coxe and S. D. Cooke.) The New Schools. (Architects: Maxwell Fry
Maxwell Fry
and Jane Drew. Theme Convener: B. W. Rowe. Display Designers: Nevile Conder and Patience Clifford.) Health. (Theme Conveners: Sheldon Dudley and Nigel Clayton. Display Designer: Peter Ray.) Sport. (Architects and Designers: Gordon Bowyer and Ursula Bowyer. Theme Convener: B. W. Rowe.) Seaside. (Architects and Designers: Eric Brown and Peter Chamberlain. Theme Convener. A. Hippisley Coxe.)

Other Downstream Displays[edit]

Television. (Architect and Designer: Wells Coates. Theme: Malcolm Baker Smith.) Telecinema. (Architect: Wells Coates. Programme and Presentation: J. D. Ralph and R. J. Spottiswoode. The 1851 Centenary Pavilion. (Architect: Hugh Casson. Display Designer: James Gardner.) Shot Tower. (Architecture and Design Treatment: Hugh Casson and James Gardner.) Design Review. (Display Designers: Nevile Conder and Patience Clifford.)

Other features of the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition[edit] The Skylon[edit]

The Skylon on the Southbank, Festival of Britain, 1951

Main article: Skylon (Festival of Britain) An unusual cigar-shaped aluminium-clad steel tower supported by cables, the Skylon was the “Vertical Feature” that was an abiding symbol of the Festival of Britain. The base was nearly 15 metres (50 feet) from the ground, with the top nearly 90 metres (300 feet) high. The frame was clad in aluminium louvres lit from within at night. It was designed by Hidalgo Moya, Philip Powell and Felix Samuely, and fabricated by Painter Brothers of Hereford, England, between Westminster Bridge
Westminster Bridge
and Hungerford Bridge. It had a steel latticework frame, pointed at both ends and supported on cables slung between three steel beams. The partially constructed Skylon was rigged vertically, then grew taller in situ.[17] The architects' design was made possible by the engineer Felix Samuely who, at the time, was a lecturer at the Architectural Association
Architectural Association
School of Architecture in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury. The Skylon was scrapped in 1952 on the orders of Winston Churchill, who saw it as a symbol of the preceding Labour Government.[18] It was demolished and sold for scrap[19] after being toppled into the Thames. Royal Festival Hall[edit] Main article: Royal Festival Hall Designed by Leslie Martin, Peter Moro and Robert Matthew
Robert Matthew
from the LCC's Architects' Department and built by Holland, Hannen & Cubitts for London County Council. The foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
1949 on the site of the former Lion Brewery, built in 1837.[20] Martin was 39 when he was appointed to lead the design team in late 1948. He designed the structure as an 'egg in a box', a term he used to describe the separation of the curved auditorium space from the surrounding building and the noise and vibration of the adjacent railway viaduct. Sir Thomas Beecham
Thomas Beecham
used similar imagery, calling the building a "giant chicken coop".[21] The building was officially opened on 3 May 1951. The inaugural concerts were conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent and Sir Adrian Boult.[22][23] In April 1988 it was designated a Grade I listed building, the first post-war building to become so protected. Minor features[edit]

The Festival Administration Building, by Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew
Jane Drew
and Edward Mills.

Festival Pleasure Gardens[edit]

The Festival Pleasure Gardens

The Festival Pleasure Gardens were created as the lighter side of the Festival of Britain. They were put up in Battersea Park, a few miles from the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition. They included:

an amusement park which would eventually outlast all the other entertainments and later become 'Battersea Fun Fair', only closing in the mid 1970s. a miniature railway designed by Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
which ran for 500 yards along the south of the gardens with a station near the south east entrance and another (with snack bar at the western end of the line; "a 'West End' Restaurant with a terrace overlooking the river and facing Cheyne Walk; 'Foaming Fountains' (which have recently been restored); a wine garden surrounded by miniature pavilions; a wet weather pavilion with a stage facing two ways so that performances could be done in the open air, with murals by the film set designer Ferdinand Bellan; an amphitheatre seating 1,250 people, featuring the music hall star Lupino Lane
Lupino Lane
and his company on its opening, and later used as a circus;

Most of the buildings and pavilions on the site were designed by John Piper."[24] There was also a "Guinness Festival Clock". The Pleasure Gardens received as many visitors as the South Bank
South Bank
Festival. They were managed by a specially-formed private company financed by loans from the Festival Office and the London County Council.[9] As they failed to cover their costs, it was decided to keep them open after the rest of the Festival closed.[25] Aspects of the Festival[edit] Architecture[edit] The Festival architects tried to show by the design and layout of the South Bank
South Bank
Festival what could be achieved by applying modern town planning ideas.[26] The Festival Style, (also called "Contemporary")[27] combining modernism with whimsy and Englishness, influenced architecture, interior design, product design and typography in the 1950s. William Feaver describes the Festival Style as "Braced legs, indoor plants, lily-of-the valley sprays of lightbulbs, aluminium lattices, Costswold-type walling with picture windows, flying staircases, blond wood, the thorn, the spike, the molecule."[28] The influence of the Festival Style was felt in the new towns, coffee bars and office blocks of the fifties. Harlow
Harlow
new town and the rebuilding of Coventry
Coventry
city centre are said to show the influence of the Festival Style "in their light structures, picturesque layout and incorporation of works of art",[29] and Coventry
Coventry
Cathedral (1962), designed by Basil Spence, one of the Festival architects, was dubbed "The Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
at Prayer".[30] There was an exhibition about building research, town planning and architecture, the "Live architecture" exhibit of buildings, open spaces and streets in the Lansbury Estate, Poplar (named after the former Labour Party leader George Lansbury. Plans for social housing in the area had commenced in 1943. By the end of the war nearly a quarter of the buildings in the area had been destroyed or badly damaged. In 1948, the Architecture Council decided that the Poplar site would make a good exhibition partly because it was near to the other Festival exhibitions. Despite funding problems, work began in December 1949 and by May 1950 was well advanced. The wet winter of 1950–51 delayed work, but the first houses were completed and occupied by February 1951.[31] The exhibition opened on 3 May 1951 along with the other Festival exhibitions. Visitors first went to the Building Research Pavilion, which displayed housing problems and their solutions, then to the Town Planning Pavilion, a large, red-and-white striped tent. The Town Planning Pavilion demonstrated the principles of town planning and the urgent need for new towns, including a mock up of an imaginary town called "Avoncaster".[31] Visitors then saw the buildings of the Lansbury Estate. Attendance was disappointing, only 86,426 people visiting, compared to 8 million who visited the South Bank exhibition.[31] Reaction to the development by industry professionals was lukewarm, some criticising its small scale[32] Subsequent local authorities concentrated on high rise, high density social housing rather than the Lansbury estate model. The estate remains popular with residents.[31] Among the remaining 1951 buildings are Trinity Independent Chapel, and The Festival Inn and Festive Briton (now Callaghans) pubs. Misha Black, one of the Festival architects, said that the Festival created a wide audience for architectural modernism but that it was common currency among professional architects that the design of the Festival was not innovative. The design writer Reyner Banham
Reyner Banham
has questioned the originality and the Englishness of the Festival Style and indeed the extent of its influence.[33] Young architects in 1951 are said to have despised the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
for its architecture. "It was equated with the ‘Contemporary Style’, and an editorial on New Brutalism in Architectural Design in 1955 carried the epigraph, ‘When I hear the word “Contemporary” I reach for my revolver.’"[27] Design[edit]

The Royal Festival Hall, showing the lettering designed for the South Bank Exhibition by the Festival typography panel.

The South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition included a Design Review, that presented "an illustrated record of contemporary achievement in British industry", showing "the high standard of design and craftsmanship that has been reached in a wide range of British products."[8] The exhibits were based on the stock list of the Council of Industrial Design (CoID), chosen for appearance, finish, workmanship, technical efficiency, fitness for purpose and economy of production.[8] The Festival was an influential advocate of the concept of "Good Design", a rational approach to product design in accordance with the principles of the Modern Movement. Its advocacy had grown partly out of the standards of utility furniture created during the war (Gordon Russell, the Director of the CoID, had been Chairman of the Utility Furniture Design Panel) and partly out of the CoID's Britain Can Make It
Britain Can Make It
exhibition of 1946. The CoiD's stock list was retained and inherited by its successor, the Design Council. Design, science and industry came together in the Festival Pattern Group, which commissioned textiles, wallpaper, domestic objects and Festival exhibits based on x-ray crystallography.[34][35] The idea of using the molecular patterns revealed in x-ray crystallography in surface patterns was first suggested by Dr Helen Megaw, a leading Cambridge University crystallographer. After hearing a presentation by Dorothy Hodgkin
Dorothy Hodgkin
to the Society of Industrial Artists, Mark Hartland Thomas, chief industrial officer of the CoID, took up the idea and formed the Festival Pattern Group. Hartland Thomas was a member of the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
Presentation Panel and was co-ordinating the CoID's stock list. He secured the Regatta Restaurant, one of the temporary restaurants on the South Bank, for an experiment in pattern design with crystal structure furnishings as the theme of the décor. Designs were based on the crystal structure of haemoglobin, insulin, wareite, china clay, mica and other molecules. The work of the Festival Pattern Group fitted in well with displays in the Dome of Discovery about the structure of matter. Lettering and type design featured prominently in the graphic style of the Festival and was overseen by a typography panel including the lettering historian Nicolete Gray.[36] A typeface for the Festival, Festival Titling,[37] was specially commissioned and designed by Philip Boydell. It was based on condensed sans-serif capitals and had a three-dimensional form making it suitable for use in exhibition display typography.[38] It has been said to bear "a vague resemblance to bunting".[39] The lettering on the Royal Festival Hall
Royal Festival Hall
and the temporary Festival building on the South Bank
South Bank
was a bold, sloping slab serif letter form, determined by Gray and her colleagues, including Charles Hasler and Gordon Cullen,[36] illustrated in Gray’s Lettering on Buildings (1960).[40] It has been described as a "turn to a jauntier and more decorative visual language" that was "part of a wider move towards the appreciation of vernacular arts and the peculiarities of English culture".[41] The lettering in the Lion and Unicorn Pavilion was designed by John Brinkley.[42][43] The graphic designer for the Festival was Abram Games, who created its emblem, the Festival Star. The arts[edit] The South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition showed the work of contemporary artists such as William Scott, including murals by Victor Pasmore, John Tunnard, Feliks Topolski
Feliks Topolski
and John Piper and sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Lynn Chadwick, Jacob Epstein
Jacob Epstein
and Reg Butler.[8] Arts festivals were held throughout the summer as part of the Festival of Britain:[44][45]

Aberdeen Festival 30 July – 13 August Aldeburgh
Aldeburgh
Festival of Music and the Arts – "8–17 June Bath Assembly 20 May – 2 June Belfast Festival of the Arts 7 May – 30 June Bournemouth
Bournemouth
and Wessex Festival 13–17 June Brighton Regency Festival 16 July – 25 August Cambridge Festival 30 July – 18 August Canterbury
Canterbury
Festival 18 July – 10 August Cheltenham
Cheltenham
Festival of British Contemporary Music 18 July – 10 August Dumfries Festival of the Arts 24–30 June Inverness
Inverness
1951 Highland Festival 17–30 June Liverpool Festival 22 July – 12 August Llangollen International Eisteddfod) 3–8 July Llanwrst (Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales) 6–11 August Norwich
Norwich
Festival 18–30 June Oxford
Oxford
Festival 2–16 July Perth Arts Festival 27 May – 16 June Stratford-upon-Avon
Stratford-upon-Avon
(Shakespeare Festival) April – October St David's Festival (Music and Worship) 10–13 July Swansea Festival of Music 16–29 September Worcester (Three Choirs Festival) 2–7 September York
York
Festival (including a revival of the York
York
Mystery Plays)[46]

The London Season of the Arts comprised exhibitions specially arranged for the Festival of Britain. They included:

"An Exhibition of Sixty Large Paintings commissioned for the Festival of Britain" ("60 Paintings for '51"), Suffolk Galleries, organised by the Arts Council, prize awarded to William Gear;[47] Exhibitions of the works of Hogarth and Henry Moore, Tate Gallery; Open-air International Exhibition of Sculpture, Battersea Park; "Modern British Painting", New Burlington Gallery; "An Exhibition of Exhibitions", Royal Society of the Arts.[45] Two exhibitions at the Whitechapel Art Gallery: "Black Eyes and Lemonade" and "East End 1851".[48][49]

Barbara Jones and Tom Ingram organised "Black Eyes and Lemonade", an exhibition of British popular and traditional art, in association with the Society for Education in Art and the Arts Council. In the same year she surveyed the popular arts in her influential book, The Unsophisticated Arts, which included taxidermy, fairgrounds, canal boats, seaside, riverside, tattooing, the decoration of food, waxworks, toys, rustic work, shops, festivals and funerals.[50] She said of the popular arts," some of it is made for themselves by people without professional training in the arts or in the appreciation of them, and some of it has been made for those people by professionals who work to their taste."[51] The Festival was the occasion of the first performance of steelpan music in Britain by the Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra.[52] Film[edit]

Audience wearing special glasses watch a 3D "stereoscopic film" at the Telekinema on the South Bank
South Bank
in London during the Festival of Britain

The British Film Institute
British Film Institute
was asked by Herbert Morrison
Herbert Morrison
in 1948 to consider the contribution that film could make to the Festival.[53] It set up a panel including Michael Balcon, Antony Asquith, John Grierson, Harry Watt and Arthur Elston, which became a committee of sponsorship and distribution. Over a dozen sponsored documentary films were made for the Festival, including,

Air Parade, sponsored by the Shell Film Unit Family Portrait, made by Humphrey Jennings[54] David, made by Wide Pictures and the Welsh Committee (biopic of David Rees Griffiths) Water of Time, made by International Realist films and sponsored by the Port of London Authority Forward a Century, sponsored by the Petroleum Films Bureau.

Several feature films were planned, but only one was completed in time, The Magic Box, a biographical film about cinema pioneer William Friese-Greene, made by Festival Film Productions. There was a purpose-built film theatre on the South Bank, the Telecinema
Telecinema
(sometimes called the "Telekinema"), designed by Wells Coates, which showed documentary and experimental film exploiting stereophony and stereoscopy and the new invention of television. It was one of the most popular attractions of the Festival, with 458,693 visitors.[53] When the Festival ended, the Telecinema
Telecinema
was handed over to the BFI for use as a members-only repertory cinema club, re-opening in 1952 as the National Film Theatre.[53] Film was integral to the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition, used to explain manufacturing, science and technology. The Dome of Discovery, the Exhibition of Science in South Kensington
South Kensington
and the travelling Festival Exhibition made extensive use of educational and explanatory film. Film festivals, including those at Edinburgh Film Festival, Bath and Glasgow
Glasgow
participated in the Festival of Britain, and local authorities put on film festivals, helped by a BFI pamphlet, How to put on a Film Show. Commercial cinema chains and independent cinemas also joined in, the Gaumont and Odeon chains programming seasons of British films. "And finally, if the Festival visitor had not tired of the medium, they could purchase colour 16mm film of Britain’s historic buildings and pageantry and filmstrips of the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
and London as souvenirs."[53] One of the British Broadcasting Corporation's contributions to the Festival was a television musical called The Golden Year, broadcast on 23 June and 2 July.[55] T Science[edit]

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April 2015)

A new wing was built for the Science Museum to hold the Exhibition of Science. The first part of the exhibition showed the physical and chemical nature of matter and the behaviour of elements and molecules. The second part, "The Structure of Living Things", dealt with plants and animals. The third part, "Stop Press", showed some of the latest topics of research in science and their emergence from the ideas illustrated in the earlier sections of the exhibition. They included "the penetrating rays which reach us from outer space, what goes on in space and in the stars, and a range of subjects from the electronic brain to the processes and structures on which life is based."[56] Other Festival events[edit]

Postage stamps commemorating the Festival of Britain, with the Festival Star
Festival Star
on the 4d issue

There were hundreds of events associated with the Festival,[57] some of which were:

The selection of Trowell, a Nottinghamshire
Nottinghamshire
village in the middle of England, as the Festival Village.[58] The re-design of Parliament Square
Parliament Square
by George Grey Wornum
George Grey Wornum
in preparation for the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
year.[59] Commemorative postage stamps and many souvenirs, official[60] and unofficial.[61] A commemorative crown coin (presented with a certificate in either a red or green presentation box),[62] The crown coin featured on its reverse the St. George
St. George
and the Dragon design by Benedetto Pistrucci, best known for its place on British Sovereign coins. The certificate states "The first English Silver Crown piece was minted in 1551. Four hundred years later, on the occasion of the Festival of Britain, the Royal Mint has issued a Crown piece, bearing on its edge the Latin inscription MDCCCLI CIVIUM INDUSTRIA FLORET CIVITAS MCMLI-1851 By the industry of its people the State flourishes 1951". The first performance of Robert McLellan's play Mary Stewart at the Glasgow
Glasgow
Citizens Theatre.[63] An exhibition about Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes
(part of which is now owned by Westminster Libraries[64] and part by the Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes
pub[65]).

Attendance figures[edit] The Festival was highly popular in every part of Britain. Richard Weight estimates that of the national population of 49 million, about half participated.[66] The Festival largely ignored foreign tourists, with most of the visitors from the Continent being expatriate Britons.[67] There were over ten million paid admissions to the six main exhibitions over a period of five months:[68] The most popular event was the centerpiece at South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition with almost 8.5 million visitors, over half of them from outside London. The Festival Pleasure Gardens had over 8 million visitors, three-quarters of them from London. The Festival Ship Campania, which docked in ten cities, was visited by almost 900,000 people. The Travelling Land Exhibition, which went to four English cities, attracted under half a million. The most specialised events, in terms of attracting few visitors, were the architecture exhibition in Poplar, with 87,000 visitors and the exhibition of books in South Kensington, with 63,000.

Architecture Exhibition, Lansbury, Poplar (London) 86,646

Industrial Power Exhibition, Glasgow 282,039

Science Exhibition, South Kensington
South Kensington
(London) 213,744

South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition, Waterloo (London) 8,455,863

– Visitors from London 36.5%

– Outside London 56%

– Overseas 7.5%

– USA 15%

– Commonwealth 32%

– Europe 46%

– Elsewhere 7%

Land Travelling Exhibition 462,289

– Manchester 114,183

– Leeds 144,844

– Birmingham 76,357

– Nottingham 106,615

Festival Ship "Campania" 889,792

– Southampton 78,683

– Dundee 51,422

– Newcastle 169,511

– Hull 87,840

– Plymouth 50,120

– Bristol (Avonmouth) 78,219

– Cardiff 104,391

– Belfast 86,756

– Birkenhead 90,311

– Glasgow 93,539

Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea (London) 8,031,000

– Visitors from London 76%,

– Outside London 22%

– Overseas 2%

Ulster Farm & Factory Exhibition, Belfast 156,760

Living Traditions Exhibition, Edinburgh 135,000

Exhibition of Books, South Kensington
South Kensington
(London) 63,162

Political responses[edit] The idea of holding the Festival became a party political issue.[7] Although Herbert Morrison
Herbert Morrison
said that he did not want the Festival to be seen as a political venture,[69] it became associated with the Labour Party, which had won the 1945 general election, and it was opposed by the Conservative Party.[7] Hugh Casson said that, "Churchill, like the rest of the Tory Party, was against the Festival which they (quite rightly) believed was the advanced guard of socialism."[69] Churchill referred to the forthcoming Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
as "three-dimensional Socialist propaganda."[7] In an essay on the Festival, Michael Frayn characterised it as an enterprise of "the radical middle-classes, the do-gooders; the readers of the News Chronicle, the Guardian, and the Observer; the signers of petitions; the backbone of the B.B.C.," whom he called "Herbivores". In Frayn's view, "The Festival was the last, and virtually the posthumous, work of the Herbivore Britain of the BBC
BBC
News, the Crown Film Unit, the sweet ration, the Ealing comedies, Uncle Mac, Sylvia Peters." In making the Festival the Herbivores "earned the contempt of the Carnivores – the readers of the Daily Express; the Evelyn Waughs; the cast of the Directory of Directors".[70] Some prominent members of the Labour government considered the Festival to be a Labour undertaking which would contribute to their future electoral success, and Clement Attlee, the Labour Leader, wrote to Morrison saying that an election in autumn 1951 would enable the Labour Party to benefit from its popularity. In the event, Labour lost the autumn election. Churchill's contempt for the Festival led him to make his first act as Prime Minister in October 1951 an instruction to clear the South Bank
South Bank
site. Legacy[edit] The Guide Book to the Festival described its legacy in these words: "It will leave behind not just a record of what we have thought of ourselves in the year 1951 but, in a fair community founded where once there was a slum, in an avenue of trees or in some work of art, a reminder of what we have done to write this single, adventurous year into our national and local history."[8] While the idea of the Festival was being worked out, the government and the London County Council
London County Council
were at the same time planning the redevelopment of the South Bank
South Bank
site, including "a number of great buildings, which will form part of a co-ordinated design."[8] The first of these was the Royal Festival Hall. The Festival hastened the reclamation of four and a half acres of land from the river, which "transformed the familiar patchwork of rubble and half-derelict buildings which had for so long monopolised the propect from the North Bank".[8] The Festival site was, over the following thirty years, developed into the South Bank
South Bank
Centre, an arts complex comprising the Royal Festival Hall, the National Film Theatre, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room
Purcell Room
and the National Theatre. A 1951 office building at 219 Oxford
Oxford
Street, London, designed by Ronald Ward and Partners (now a Grade II* listed building), incorporates images of the Festival on its facade.[71] The Festival cost about £10.5 million, (apart from the loans for the Festival Gardens[70]) with revenues of about £2.5m.[72] The net cost was £8 million (equivalent to £231 million today). In 1953 the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
Office was abolished and its records were taken over by the Ministry of Works.[9] As well as the material legacy, the Festival gave rise to new traditions, in particular the performances of medieval mystery plays in York
York
and Chester. There was an explosion of interest[73] in these plays, regular performance of which have continued in those cities ever since. Images of the Festival of Britain[edit] Several images of the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition can be found on the internet, including many released by The National Archives on the 60th anniversary of the festival.[74] A filmed retrospective of the South Bank
South Bank
Exhibition, Brief City (1952), with special reference to design and architecture, was made by Richard Massingham
Richard Massingham
for The Observer newspaper.[75] A film comedy, The Happy Family, was made about working-class resistance to the demolition that the festival required. The Festival is featured in the early portion of the film Prick up your Ears. The archive of the Design Council
Design Council
held at the University of Brighton Design Archives includes several hundred images of the festival.[76] They can be searched via the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS). Other references[edit]

Archive of the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
held by the Archives of Art and Design, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Assorted film reports are available via the British Pathé
British Pathé
website http://www.britishpathe.com/workspaces/rgoldthorpe/Festival-of-Britain

See also[edit]

Britain Can Make It, of 1946 The Great Exhibition, of 1851 World's fair List of world's fairs

References[edit]

^ Eric Nahm. (1992). Britain Since 1945: The People's Peace. Oxford UP. p. 111.  ^ Bernard Donoughue, and G. W. Jones, Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician (1973), pp 492-95. ^ DK Publishing (2011). History of Britain and Ireland. p. 361.  ^ a b c d The Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
(Official Book of the Festival of Britain 1951). HMSO, 1951. ^ Barry Turner, Beacon for Change: How the 1951 Festival of Britain Shaped the Modern Age (2011). ^ Harry Hopkins, The New Look: A social history of the Forties and Fifties in Britain ( 1963) pp 271-72. ^ a b c d e f ""Circa 1951: Presenting Science to the British Public", Robert Anderson, Oregon State University". Osulibrary.oregonstate.edu. Archived from the original on 6 July 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Cox, Ian, The South Bank Exhibition: A guide to the story it tells, H.M.S.O., 1951 ^ a b c d e "The National Archives". The National Archives. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ Leventhal, "A Tonic to the Nation" p 447 ^ a b "V&A, ''Designing Britain''". Vads.ac.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ F.M. Leventhal, "'A Tonic to the Nation': The Festival of Britain, 1951." Albion 27#3 (1995): 445-453. ^ Leventhal, "A Tonic to the Nation" p 447 ^ Peter Newman, and Ian Smith, "Cultural production, place and politics on the South Bank
South Bank
of the Thames." International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 24.1 (2000): 9-24. ^ Sophie Forgan, "Festivals of science and the two cultures: science, design and display in the Festival of Britain, 1951." British Journal for the History of Science 31#2 (1998): 217-240. ^ Henrietta Goodden, The Lion and the Unicorn: symbolic architecture for the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
1951 (Norwich, Unicorn Press, 2011). ^ Henry Grant. "The Skylon in construction". Museum of London. Archived from the original (photo) on 30 July 2013.  ^ "Skyscraper news". Skyscraper news. 19 February 2000. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "Hansard". Hansard.millbanksystems.com. 5 February 1952. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ The Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
– Building the Future Archived 13 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 1 April 2007. ^ Jefferson, p. 102. ^ The Times, 21 November 1950, p. 6. ^ The Times, 5 May 1951, p. 4. ^ "''The Riverside Theatre, Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea Park, London''". Arthurlloyd.co.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "Treasury Historical Memorandum No.2". Archive.treasury.gov.uk. 8 March 1951. Archived from the original on 25 November 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ A Tonic to the Nation ^ a b Powers, Alan (29 June 2011). "Powers, A., "Sixty years on from the Festival of Britain", ''Architectural Review'', 22 June 2011". Architectural-review.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ William Feaver, "Festival Star", in Mary Banham and Bevis Hillier, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
1951, London, Thames
Thames
and Hudson, 1976 ISBN 0-500-01165-6, p. 54 ^ "English Heritage, ''PastScape'', "The Festival of Britain: 60th anniversary"". Pastscape.org.uk. 3 May 1951. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ [1] Miller, Keith, "Making the grade: Coventry
Coventry
Cathedral", Daily Telegraph, 5 April 2003 ^ a b c d "The Lansbury Estate". University of London & History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 1 September 2009.  ^ A. W. Cleeve Barr. Public Authority Housing. p. 175. OCLC 3780558.  ^ Reyner Banham, "The Style: 'Flimsy ... Effeminate'?" in Mary Banham and Bevis Hillier, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, London, Thames
Thames
and Hudson, 1976 ISBN 0-500-01165-6 ^ Jackson, L., From Atoms to Patterns, Richard Dennis, 2008 ^ "The Wellcome Collection". The Wellcome Collection. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ a b http://www.ae-pro.com. "Kinross, R., "The Royal Festival hall has regained the thoroughly English lettering of its origins in the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
– on one side only", ''Eye'', No.65". Eyemagazine.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "Monotype Imaging". Fonts.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ Berry, W.T., Johnson, A.F., and Jaspert, W.P., The Encyclopaedia of Type Faces, London: Blandford Press, 1963 ^ " Typography
Typography
at the Festival of Britain". Wharferj.wordpress.com. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "Kinross, R., ''Signs at the Royal Festival Hall''". Hyphenpress.co.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "University of Brighton Faculty of Arts, ''Design Archives material at Festival Hall''". Arts.brighton.ac.uk. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ Alex Seago, Burning the Box of Beautiful Things: The Development of Post-Modern Sensibility, Oxford
Oxford
University Press, 1995 ^ John Lewis and John Brinkley, Graphic Design, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1954 ^ ''Life'', Vol.30 No.4, January 22, 1951. Google Books. 22 January 1951. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ a b "The Festival of Britain, 1951', Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851–1951, University of Glasgow
Glasgow
History of Art and HATII, online database 2011". Sculpture.gla.ac.uk. 31 December 1949. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ " York
York
Mystery Plays site". Yorkmysteryplays.org. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ Frances Spalding, British Art Since 1900, Thames
Thames
and Hudson, 1996 ^ East End 1851: a Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
exhibition by arrangement with the Arts Council, 1951, Whitechapel Art Gallery. ^ Featherstone, S., ''Englishness: Twentieth Century Popular Culture and the Forming of English Identity'', 2009, Edinburgh University Press. Google Books. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "Ash Rare Books". Ashrare.com. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ Jones, B., "Introduction", Black Eyes and Lemonade, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1951 ^ Panqueen. "TASPO – Sterling Betancourt – The 1951 Festival of Britain". Youtube. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ a b c d "Sarah Easen, Film and the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
1951, British Universities and Video Council". Bufvc.ac.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ Family Portrait - A Film on the Theme of the Festival of Britain 1951. Wessex Film. 1950.  ^ The Annual Register of World Events: A Review of the Year, Volume 193 (Longmans, Green, 1952), p. 400 ^ 1951 Exhibition of Science, South Kensington, HMSO, 1951 ^ "The Museum of London". The Museum of London. Archived from the original on 30 July 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ " BBC
BBC
News – 'Festival village' Trowell
Trowell
marks 60th anniversary". BBC. 22 April 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "London Garden Online". Londongardensonline.org.uk. 29 August 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "The Festival of Britain". Museum of London. 31 August 2001. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "Festival of Britain". Oldcopper.org. Archived from the original on 5 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "Crown Story". 24carat.co.uk. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ Ian Campbell and Ronald Jack (eds), Jamie the Saxt, London, Calder and Boyars, 1970, p.154. ^ "Westminster Online". Westminster Online. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 June 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014.  ^ Richard Weight, Patriots: National Identity in Britain 1940–2000 (2002) p 205. ^ Mariel Grant, "'Working for the Yankee Dollar': Tourism and the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
as Stimuli for Recovery," Journal of British Studies 45#3 (2006) PP 581-601 ^ "Festival of Britain". Packer34.freeserve.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ a b Conekin, Becky, The Autobiography of a Nation: the 1951 Festival of Britain, 2003 Manchester University Press ^ a b Michael Frayn (3 May 2001). "Festival Spirit". The Guardian. UK. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ Historic England. "Monument No. 1541497". PastScape. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ Government White Paper, Cmd.8872, published 29 July 1953 ^ "Bristol University Theatre Collection". Bristol.ac.uk. 21 July 2010. Archived from the original on 18 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ " Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
Showcase". The National Archives. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ "''Brief City''". Archive.org. Retrieved 13 December 2011.  ^ 60th Anniversary of the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
2011 Retrieved May 2015

Further reading[edit]

Atkinson, Harriet. The Festival of Britain: A land and its People (IB Tauris, 2012). *Banham, Mary and Hillier, Bevis, A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951 ( Thames
Thames
& Hudson, 1976). ISBN 0-500-27079-1 Casey, Andrew. "Ceramics at the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
1951: Selection and Objection." Journal of the Decorative Arts Society 1850-the Present 25 (2001): 74-86. Clark, Adrian. British and Irish Art, 1945-1951: From War to Festival (Paul Holberton Pub, 2010). Conekin, Becky. The Autobiography of a Nation: The 1951 Exhibition of Britain, Representing Britain in the Post-War World (Manchester UP, 2003). Forgan, Sophie. "Festivals of science and the two cultures: science, design and display in the Festival of Britain, 1951." British Journal for the History of Science 31#2 (1998): 217-240. online Goodden, Henrietta. The Lion and the Unicorn: symbolic architecture for the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
1951 (Norwich, Unicorn Press, 2011), 144 pp. Hillier, Bevis, and Mary Banham, eds. A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain: 1951 ( Thames
Thames
and Hudson, 1976). Hoon, Will. The 1951 Festival of Britain: A Living Legacy (Department of History of Art and Design, Manchester Metropolitan University, 1996). Leventhal, F. M. "'A Tonic to the Nation': The Festival of Britain, 1951." Albion 27#3 (1995): 445-453. in JSTOR Lew, Nathaniel G. Tonic to the Nation: Making English Music in the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
(Routledge, 2016). Rennie, Paul, Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
1951 (London: Antique Collectors Club, Ltd., 2007). ISBN 978-1-85149-533-7 ISBN 1851495339 Richardson, R. C. "Cultural Mapping in 1951: The Festival of Britain Regional Guidebooks" Literature & History 24#2 (2015) pp 53-72. Turner, Barry. Beacon for change. How the 1951 Festival of Britain shaped the modern age (London, Aurum Press, 2011). Weight, Richard. Patriots: National Identity in Britain, 1940–2000 (London: Pan Macmillan, 2013), pp 193-208. Wilton, Iain. "‘A galaxy of sporting events’: sport’s role and significance in the Festival of Britain, 1951." Sport in History 36#4 (2016): 459-476.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Festival of Britain.

" Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
Set". Flickr. University of Brighton Design Archives.  George Simner, "Festival of Britain", The Observer Festival of Britain, e-learning module by the Design Council
Design Council
Archives The Festival of Britain The Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
Society The Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
– Exploring 20th century London https://www.flickr.com/groups/southbankcentre/ (A Flickr group dedicated to pictures of the Southbank Centre) http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/festival-memories/see-your-memories (Memories of the Festival of Britain
Festival of Britain
compiled by the Southbank Centre) Video of a talk by Robert Anderson on the development of the Exhibition of Science as part of the Festival of Britain Internet Archive
Internet Archive
Films:

Festival In London (1951) Brief City (1952)

British Pathé
British Pathé
Films:

http://www.britishpathe.com/search/query/festival+of+britain

Contemporary photos of the Festival Pleasure Gardens, Battersea 219 Oxford
Oxford
Street, with images of the Festival

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