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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.

Petticoat Lane pub songs 1947

The once-common tradition of London pub-goers singing around a piano is now restricted to just four pubs that I know of: the Coach and Horses in Soho, the Golden Eagle and the Duke of Kendal near Marble Arch, and Kennedy’s on Caledonian Road. Please get in touch if you can think of any others.

This recording (BBC catalogue number 825145) made on the 21st of December 1947 in an un-named Petticoat Lane pub. What the catalogue entry describes as an ‘old Cockney’ leads the singing of brief excerpts from music hall songs. Sometimes the microphone appears to be turned briefly to pick up the voices from elsewhere in the pub.

In order, the songs are ‘Boiled Beef and Carrots’ from 1909 by Charles Collins and Fred Murray, ‘Any Old Iron’ from 1911 by Collins, Terry and Sheppard, ‘Why Did I Leave My Little Back Room in Bloomsbury?’ from 1898 by Mills and Carter, ‘When I was Strolling Along Down the Mile End Road’ by Hunter (date unknown), and ‘Two Lovely Black Eyes’ from 1886 by Charles Coburn.

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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Petticoat Lane pub songs 2:06