1940s London in stunning hi-res colour...

These beautiful photographs were taken using Kodachrome film by the improbably and wonderfully named Chalmers Butterfield, probably in 1949.

The two pictures above are of Shaftesbury Avenue at Piccadilly Circus.

The picture above is just off Sloane Square

Click through to see the photographs in high resolution.

14 comments to 1940s London in stunning hi-res colour…

  • Tal

    Incredible! More of the same please!

  • *gets misty-eyed*

    [...] These pictures are from here. [...]

  • Twittertastic | Uninvisible

    [...] some pretty awesome colour pictures from 1940’s London http://howtobearetronaut.com/2010/01/1940s-london-in-stunning-hi-res-colour/ [...]

  • Shane

    It’s not until you take a good close look at the people in these pictures that you see how different things were back then.

    I could identify Piccadilly Circus right away, I’ve walked down Regents Street a million times before, and architecturally not very much has changed… but the people look so different.

    I could stare at these photos for hours. Great site, I’ll be checking back often.

  • All-B

    What would be awesome is if someone finds the same vantage points, and take photos today and put them side by side. London 1949 vs London 2024. Gorgeous colors and the res is awesome.Where these prints, slides or scanned negatives? Was any restoration needed?

  • admin

    These were Kodachrome slides which Chalmers’ son scanned in. I did some minor tweaks by straightening them and balancing out their levels.

    Cool idea about the vantage points. When we launch The Retroscope around July, it will be possible to stand at the same vantage points and, using a smartphone, see these pictures hovering over the scene as it is now, in Augmented Reality

  • Daleos

    I never imagined there would be enough cars for traffic jams back then.

  • Londiniensis

    The men are all wearing hats!

  • gwyneth

    `oooowh . . . . .takes me back . . . . . Yes everyone did wear hats then, great idea!

  • Nick Wright

    The last (lowest) one shows, I think, how much better everything looked before there were yellow lines and bollards everywhere. I can just about remember how it was then, but I was only 2 when these pictures were taken and the parking restrictions and such-like didn’t kick in till the early 60s.
    One of the things you I notice in films which fake the past using current locations is how they have to paint out and conceal all the street markings and furniture.

  • gabriel

    great pictures. what’s the deal with using/reprinting them?

  • admin

    Hi Gabriel

    The pictures are owned by Chalmers Butterfield’s son and he has specified:

    “Use this image as needed, but for uses other than personal, please credit as “Photo by Chalmers Butterfield”.”

    It would also be very cool if you could mention “How to be a Retronaut”


  • Myles

    I love those old fashioned neon signs. When lit up they were much more exciting and glamorous than the current “digital” offerings at Piccadilly Circus. Another case of “improvement means less”

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