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Radio actuality recordings

A unique collection of original BBC and other radio actuality recordings brings to life the London of the 1920s to the 1950s. These sounds were captured at street markets, fairgrounds, skittle alleys, auction houses, hopfields and elsewhere.

Hammersmith South by-election 1949

THE CONSTITUENCY of Hammersmith South had consistently elected Conservative MPs and was only won by Labour’s William Adams in 1945 with a relatively slender majority of 3,458. When Adams died in 1949, the Conservatives were confident of winning the February by-election and devoted extensive resources to the campaign, including a tour by Churchill.

A series of BBC transcription discs bear recordings made during the election campaign, featuring canvassing by the two main parties and the reading of the results at the town hall. Labour’s Thomas Williams won with a reduced majority, and his speech is reproduced here from a transcription disc with the BBC catalogue number of 822561.

The mayor and the returning officer speak at the beginning, and there are brief interjections from an unnamed radio commentator. Striking to modern-day ears is the sustained enthusiasm of the large crowd of supporters and spectators, including a brief burst of ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’. Photographs from the Time-Life archives support this impression of a widespread interest in the by-election on the part of the public. Both Labour and the Conservatives were evidently capable of mobilising large numbers of supporters during the canvassing.

Many thanks to BBC Worldwide for granting the London Sound Survey permission to reproduce this recording. It is not covered by the site’s Creative Commons licence so please don’t try to download or redistribute it.

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