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.

Tea auction 1936

THE LONDON TEA Auctions lasted from 1679 until their eventual supercession in 1998 by telephone and internet trading.  According to an anonymous London trader writing in 1826, quoted on the UK Tea Council’s website:

To the uninitiated a Tea sale appears to be a mere arena in which the comparative strength of the lungs of a portion of his Majesty┬┤s subjects are to be tried. No one could for an instant suspect the real nature of the business for which the assemblage was congregated.

Things seem to have calmed down by the time this recording was made in October of 1936. The auctioneer is brisk and efficient and most of the bidding is for Assam and Darjeeling tea. The second track on the transcription disc features a cocoa auction.

The auction’s venue was the London Commercial Salerooms at Mincing Lane in the City of London. By the 1950s around a third of the world’s tea was traded there.

Recording © copyright BBC. Audio digitisation and restoration by the London Sound Survey. Many thanks to BBC Worldwide for granting permission to reproduce this recording here.

Tea auction Mincing Lane 1:40