Color film of 1927 London

This early (1927) color film shows 10 minutes of remarkable vintage London -- especially the Petticoat Lane market scenes around 6:00, which are a rare glimpse into the life of everyday people (it's even cooler if you were actually down on Petticoat Lane yesterday, as I was!).

The Open Road London (1927) (via Making Light)


  1. Oh, thanks for sharing this. I have no idea why I’m so addicted to archival footage… but I am! Amazing to see such an early colour video. Also amazing to compare the sites and citizens of London then and now.

  2. Fascinating. Lots of images that obviously went straight into Christopher Robin! Damn….who was that illustrator?

  3. Touching to see what must have been war widows at the memorial on Whitehall, (around 4.00). WW1 was only ten years before…..

  4. Ah yes, the great yellow-blue shortage of ’27

    This was a early color process that only used red and a greenish cyan color.

  5. Also, did anyone else expect the film to end with the police officer who approaches the camera around the 9 minute mark asking them to stop filming? That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the police officer walking toward the camera.

    1. Ah, the glorious 1920s, when peanuts were a fruit, people knew their place, and you could film in London without being arrested under suspicion of aiding terrorists.

  6. My first floor flat window looks directly into Petticoat Lane market.. and I think I recognized the very same building in this film!

  7. It looks so much better than now. Did you notice that the roads where almost completely free of markings? No yellow lines, etc I didn’t see any litter either. The only advertising seemed to be on the buses? Didn’t spot anyone obese either? You have to ask yourself that although somethings are better now (health care) somethings are much worse.

  8. Wow, remember when London’s police force and the UK parliament were something we could be proud of?

    Me neither.

  9. It is WAY WAAAY WAAAAAY cooler than a colorised film. If I’m not mistaken, it’s a very early 3D film!
    Notice the way objects ‘fringe’ off to blue/green on one side and to red on the other. The fringe disparity is larger and more obvious in objects/people in the foreground, and almost absent in background objects.
    This 3D film is meant to be watched with special glasses, one eye having a red lens (in which the red image will be washed out and the blue/green will be quite obvious) and one with a blue/green lens (in which the bluish image will be washed out). This gives slightly different images to each eye.
    Overall the effect will be stereo, but monochrome.

  10. The thing I notice is that the buildings are so filthy. Look at Nelson’s Column — it’s black!

  11. Quite fantastic. So clear. There must be some digital restoration at work here. But I don’t think it was shot in 3d, or else you would see double images phasing in and out as objects moved towards or away from the camera more. When the blue or red goes out of allignment, I believe that is the different “strips” of early 2 or 3 strip technicolor going out of allignment– technicolor was shot, for years, with literally two or three seperate films running in synch. See — at least, thats my guess.

  12. Wow, this is amazing. I don’t think I ca get over how quiet it is. It seems quite tranquil compared to today’s London town!

    A brilliant look into the past.

  13. The world looked a lot different prior to the invention of cheap, brightly colored pigments. Between Black and White, you pretty much have brown and blue, and apparently some women wore creme or beige according to this film. The red of the buses (and some signs) really stands out against bland London. I guess paint that could withstand the elements only came in black back then.

  14. I remember the BBC series on these films, back in 2006,
    “The Lost World of Friese-Greene”.

    According to Wikipedia, Claude Friese-Greene filmed his 1924-1926 road trip from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, using the Biocolour process. The original print of Claude’s film was subjected to computer enhancement by the British Film Institute to remove the flickering problem.

    There’s a BBC DVD of the programmes in the TV series.

  15. It would be even better if it were narrated in that (to modern ears) goofy official accent, by David Mitchell, Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield.

  16. There were a few pre-colour Hollywood films made with a two-colour Technicolour process similar to the Friese-Green process. Most noteworthy is Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933, remade more famously, but not as well, as House of Wax in 1953, with Vincent Price).

  17. The streets look very new/clean. All the men seem to wear smart clothes with a tie and flat cap, women smart dresses.

    Looks very civil and relaxed compared to the pace of London today, can’t imagine any crime whatsoever! I like it.

  18. Lovely images, great find! And the font and the unintended hilarity of the language, “Father Thames,” etc. Amazing.

  19. It’s not 3D though it might look at bit like it. The Friese-Greene projector took black and white film, and projected alternate frames through red and cyan glass. These two lights add together to give a neutral colour, a lot like the original Technicolor Process 1. However, to turn this into a video, someone had to make a single colour field out of two frames, which gave the fringing at the edges.

  20. i’ve never been to london, so i’m not familiar with how these places look now. i (for one) would love to see a side-by-side video comparison, showing all these places now.

    1. It wouldn’t be too difficult to find most of them on Google Streetview.

      Or perhaps I could film them next time I have a spare afternoon.

  21. Like other posters, the most remarkable thing is how unchanged a lot of views are, Hyde Park, Marble Arch, the Thames along the south bank opposite the Palace of Westminster. The ubiquity of hats is the main difference to strike you . . .

  22. yes the filming process had an alternating red/green filter that synched with the film frames. That’s why when you see the boys running at 00:32 there are alternating red/green boys

    Amazingly enough he did actually create 3d films before he started work on colour. Waaaay before !

    On June 21 1889, Friese-Greene was issued patent no. 10131 for his ‘chronophotographic’ camera. It was apparently capable of taking up to ten photographs per second using perforated celluloid film….
    In the early 1890s he experimented with cameras to create stereoscopic moving images but met with limited success.

  23. No crime in 1920s London? Haw!

    People are easily swayed by swept streets and a few hats.

    Re: whether we’re better off now … I prefer having health care for all and improved gender equality if it means enduring (so bravely!) some fat people.

    Worse, are we trying to imply that the world’s a better place without the widespread availability of the cheeseburger? Bite your tongues!

  24. Wonder how long it was before the Gentleman with the camera was reported, arrested and detained for suspicious activity?

    “You there sir! What is that contraption you are agitating openly?”

    “This constable, is a motion picture camera with which an individual may make reconnaissance for the planning of an devious attack on your civilised society.”

    “Right then, off to the tower with you…”

  25. It’s fun to think that the cop at the end probably didn’t really care about the camera, beyond being interested in it. Kind of like cops before graffiti was illegal. The passage of time and how everything was new to them, just like it is now.

  26. “Astronomers are funny-looking men with long whiskers who sit on the roof at night trying to discover new stars.”
    Hey! I resemble that remark!

  27. How strange to see almost exclusively men in the Petticoat Lane market. There’s nowhere I go that is uni-gendered.

    I have to count the fact that women are no longer chained to the kitchen as an advance worth celebrating.

    (It was however, quite charming to watch people react to the camera’s presence.)

  28. It’s fun to think that the cop at the end probably didn’t really care about the camera, beyond being interested in it. Kind of like cops before graffiti was illegal. The passage of time and how everything was new to them, just like it is now.

  29. Amazing… the camera caught markets, promenades, horse wagons, canal boats, sidecars, even bums sleeping at the base of the statue, and jaywalkers tipping their hat. Thank you so much!!! -Izzit

    1. #53. FWIW, no such thing as Jaywalking in the UK (apart from motorways/highways). You can cross where you like… just don’t always expect not to get flattened.

  30. Putting content and the novelty of color aside…this is fantastic camera work. Very “modern” and smooth compared to other things of this type I’ve seen from the 20s.


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