St John’s Wood, 1940s, in colour

This colour film of North London in the late 1940s is a sequence of insignificant moments - a man leading a horse, children in a playground, flats being built, old women answering the door, cars in streets, empty streets. And yet, together with a soundtrack from George Delerue, it becomes something more.

What it becomes is an elegy. We see a man leading a working horse which will soon be utterly obsolete; children playing who can remember only warfare; posters advertising the Ideal Home next to embryonic high rise blocks; old women who thought themselves old at the end of the war to end all wars who have now witnessed another; a bomb shelter in the garden of a woman with prematurely grey hair; a dairy with no cows on a street with bollards still painted white from the blackout. This film shows the birth of Post War Britain - and the grief at the death of Britain before the war.


This film was curated by Cool it, Baby!, who also curated the film posted in The 80-year-old Little Girl.

If you like this, try:

9 comments to St John’s Wood, 1940s, in colour

  • Von

    this is really very touching and moving…and interesting to see the re-birth after the war. I love the simplicity of then and the technology of now.

  • Das Kraftfuttermischwerk » Die 40er in London in Farbe

    [...] (Direktlink, via How to be a Retronaut) [...]

  • Mikael Colville-Andersen

    Brilliant, moody film. Cracking website.

    Your ‘contact’ button doesn’t work. So… for your consideration for this site, this collection of photographs of mine on Flickr.

  • Steve

    Elegy, perhaps, but from those bomb shelters and crumbling blocks, in a short decade, would rise an astonishing world of art, music and culture.

  • Peter (Coolitbaby)

    Again, thank you for featuring this clip that I edited and for another beautifully written introduction. I do wish you had told me about it!
    Talking of old footage of England, I’m sure you’ll love this tremendous colour footage, filmed in 1939, of a journey along the Great North Road, from London to Grantham. It’s a REAL ‘Timetripper’!

  • Chris

    Thank you again Peter, for taking the time to comment about your film. As I mentioned under “The 80 year old little girl”, I am sorry not to have told you that your film had been featured on “How to be a Retronaut” - I was sure you would find it somehow, and I wanted you to be surprises - in a good way - by the impact of your films. I hope you have been. I found this film, combined with its soundtrack, to be something very special indeed. I would very much like to see any other film curatorial choices you make, and I will look at the other colour footage you mention straight away…

  • Chris

    Hey Mikael, I am very sorry not to have replied earlier to your comments - your collection is a fascinating piece of work, and would make a great feature on “How to be a Retronaut”…

  • Sarah

    This film is absolutely beautiful, and such hauntingly soulful music.

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