Anthony J Sargeant remembers the smogs in London during the 1950s when as shown in this photograph visibility could be so poor that paraffin flares had to be used to direct traffic in the city.
The Great Smog of London, or Great Smog of 1952 was a severe air-pollution event that affected the British capital in December 1952. A period of cold weather, combined with an anti-cyclone and windless conditions, collected airborne pollutants – mostly arising from the use of coal – to form a thick layer of smog over the city.
In those days most domestic heating was based on open coal fires and in addition there were major coal fired power stations in the centre of the city.
This hardback childrens’ annual was published by Dean and Sons of London in the 1950s. Such books were a popular Christmas present in those far off days. Anthony Sargeant found this copy in some boxes of books bought at auction.
Photographed in February 2013 at dusk by Anthony Sargeant from Greenwich Pier. Here looking back towards the magnificent Hawksmoor church of St Alfege’s (built 1712-14). Behind the photographer is the River Thames and out of shot to the left is the dry dock with the last of the great 19th Century sailing ships The Cutty Sark therein entombed.
Tony Sargeant has always tried to take a photograph from the bedroom window when he has stayed at hotels on conferences and holidays. This week we stayed at The Mercure Hotel (in Greenwich, London) which had some scaffolding on the outside of the building – nonetheless from between the scaffold we could see Flamsteed House and the Observatory on the top of the hill in Greenwich Park. The photograph was taken as the sun rose over the horizon. Flamsteed House with its signal ball is just to the right of the sun on the sky line and the dome of the observatory lies almost in the centre of the skyline.
The almshouses still house residents of Southwark. A remarkable enclave of peace next to what was Bankside Power Station (now Tate Modern). The almshouses were built in the first half of the 18th Century for the deserving poor of Southwark.
Remarkable survivor in what was a largely industrial area of Southwark – until gentrification in the late 20th Century.
Note in the background the scaffolding of the building site adjacent to Tate Modern (Gilbert Scott’s wonderful Bankside Power Station – as was – now a noisy ‘zoo’ for tourists!)
The plaque describing the history of ‘Hopton’s Almshouses’