London, 1940s, in hi-res colour

To view the images full screen, click the bottom-right icon in the viewing pane

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

If you like this, try:

50 comments to London, 1940s, in 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 [...]

  • 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”

  • Das Kraftfuttermischwerk » Die 40er in London auf Kodachrome

    [...] How to be a Retronaut gibt es ganz wunderbare Kodachrome-Aufnahmen in Hi-Res, die in den 40ern von Chalmers Butterfield gemacht worden sind. Leider nur vier [...]

  • Superheld » Blog Archive » London 1940

    [...] so viele Altbauten :) Nein, ich mag das Foto und die anderen auch. Die gibt es hier, gefunden habe ich sie dank [...]

  • Isak

    The last one is Grosvenor Chapel in Mayfair. Today’s photo from roughly the same location can be found on:,-0.150912&sspn=0.004534,0.00869&ie=UTF8&rq=1&ev=zi&radius=0.19&hq=church&hnear=&ll=51.508669,-0.15324&spn=0,359.99131&z=17&layer=c&cbll=51.508703,-0.15309&panoid=coXHiFtXfwx4evlR8u21eQ&cbp=12,79.76,,0,4.56

  • admin

    Fantastic! Thank you, Isak

  • London in den 40ern in stunning hi-res colour… | MonoStep

    [...] Geil. Meine Lieblingsstadt… hier ein paar hochaufgelöste Farbfotos aus dem London der 40er. [...]

  • cqmoi

    The third one (just off Sloane Square) is at:,-0.158148&sspn=0.002228,0.0053&ie=UTF8&radius=0.11&rq=1&ev=p&hq=church&hnear=&ll=51.493118,-0.157848&spn=0,359.9947&z=18&layer=c&cbll=51.49323,-0.157876&panoid=SlBWZtd-WUhk67e4zcTcag&cbp=12,162.44,,0,2.63

    Found it by looking up bus route 22! The only building that is in the two photos is next to the scaffolded building in the Google Street View.

  • John Kelleher

    This is just the sort of thing the web oes so well. Utterly fascinating. please post many many more

  • Jim Rafferty

    Stunning Stuff.

  • AA

    Sloane Square in stunning hi-res colour in 1949 and now in 2024!

  • Chris

    This is great, AA, thanks very much for taking the picture. How extraordinary that the bus is in the same place, and that you happened to capture a man in a hat!

  • O. Gail Poole

    I am so impressed with the quality of the photos! But at the same time, just looking at them makes me nostalgic and yet angry at “modern” architecture. These unique buildings demonstrate the ambiance possible when men create something other than mere boxes and are willing to spend additional funds to create settings that make one want to be there.

  • Gillian

    Fanstastic! The 1940s is one of my favourite periods in history.

  • Kenny

    Seriously these photos are glorious! I absolutely love them…Its like a time machine…I so wish I could be there back then…So much better than now

  • Color photos of London in the 1940’s on

    [...] How to be a Retronaut posted a couple of hi-res images of photos taken by Chalmers Butterfield in 1949 of London. I love the signs in this image above. Share this on TechnoratiStumble upon something good? Share it on StumbleUponShare this on RedditShare this on MixxDigg this!Share this on del.icio.usShare this on FacebookTweet This!Submit this to DesignFloat Permalink Comments (0) Tags: Chalmers Butterfield, color, Kodachrome, london, photograph, retro, signs, vintage Similar Posts on [...]

  • Color photos of London in the 1940’s « Stand Out Clothing | Jack Kaladjian

    [...] How to be a Retronaut posted a couple of hi-res images of photos taken by Chalmers Butterfield in 1949 of London. It slighly reminds me of New York -I love the signs in this image above. Posted by jkaladjian Filed in Photography ·Tags: Chalmers Butterfield, color, london, photograph, retro, signs, vintage Leave a Comment » [...]

  • 1940s London in stunning hi-res colour | SFU Communication: Curricular Video Supplements

    [...] 1940s London in stunning hi-res colour Posted on May 3, 2024 by sfucmns 1940s London in stunning hi-res colour… [...]

  • Derek Bowen

    I now life in Canada and was looking for some pictures for my desktop wallpaper, one of these has just become that, with this site added to be favorites.


  • Quando gli uomini portavano il cappello - cazzeggio

    [...] Avenue a Picadilly Circus. Potete vedere questo, e molti altri della serie, in alta risoluzione in How To Be A Retronaut , un sito web che sta cercando di abbinare questi punti di vista con le foto di oggi a Londra [...]

  • Rachel

    Here’s number 1 and 2. Interesting how the advertising is now on the other building.,+London,+United+Kingdom&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=52.77044,96.855469&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Picadilly+Pl,+Westminster,+London+W1J+9,+United+Kingdom&ll=51.509771,-0.134861&spn=0.01023,0.023646&z=16&layer=c&cbll=51.510098,-0.134551&panoid=pETppaBmo25WaiH_WpJHlQ&cbp=12,36.65,,0,-17.83

  • Bruce

    Can Kodachrome do red? Absolutely. Stunning pix.

  • “Got Prank?”

    [...] London in stunning hi-res [...]

  • Everything old is new again! « Hippie Cheese's Weblog

    [...] Fotograf - Chalmers Butterfield [...]

  • micheal

    Look at those pics. Really good. thanks

  • Murray

    Interesting to see a queue of people at the bus stop. Seems that nowadays we just get a big grouping of people on the pavement near the bus stop with no manners, no consideration of who was there first, etc.

  • lauri

    I think those busses are still in service ;)

  • Kristen

    Neat to see different colors of cars. Everyone assumes that all cars were black back then, due to B&W photos. But here we see burgundy, green, blue, black & gold cars!

  • 1940’s London - Linney Design

    [...] film by the improbably and wonderfully named Chalmers Butterfield, probably in 1949. Click here for the high res imagery. [...]

  • [...] on from the very popular post 1940s London in stunning high resolution colour, here are three more images taken less than a year later. All three were taken by Ed [...]

  • [...] on from the very popular post London, 1940s, in high resolution colour, here are three more images taken less than a year later. All three were taken by Ed [...]

  • Väder i Thailand

    Det är bara att hoppas att det blir bra väder på semestern. För oavsett om man åker till Paris eller London så vill man ju ha fint väder.

  • tug boat toby

    London 1940s in hi res absolutley stunning pics get the feeling you are actually there would be proud to have them in my own collection. Love the website keep up the good work

  • archer

    did you forget to include the high res of the first image, or was it not available?

  • Hi Archer. That was a limitation of our current light box, I am afraid. We are working on a new supercharged version of the site right now. In the meantime, here’s a link to the hi res version of the image.

  • Old London 1940 + in Farbe

    [...] Via Retronaut [...]

  • Wildaker

    I think it’s “probably in” 1950, not 1949 that these were taken. “Treasure Hunt”, directed by John Gielgud, opened on 14 September 1949 at the Apollo but it ran into 1950. Equally, Kay Hammond and John Clements are presumably in “The Beaux’ Stratagem”, which also ran over the year-end at the Lyric. The clincher is the show at the Globe, which is clearly “Ring Round the Moon”, a 1950 production that opened at the end of January.

    Stunning photographs…

  • Flavorwire » What’s On at Flavorpill: The Links That Made the Rounds in Our Office

    [...] condenses a 20-hour span of blizzard into about 40 seconds. We took a field trip back in time to 1940s London. We perused Forbes’ list of Hollywood’s 20 highest-earning men and women of 2024, and [...]

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>