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.

Smithfield market 1935

THIS IS RECORDING is the final excerpt taken from the BBC Dinner is Served radio documentary of 1935, catalogue number 870309. It features a workplace ritual among the meat porters of Smithfield known as ‘ringing in’.

As the catalogue entry explains:

This is what happens to the late-comer if he is not in his place when the market opens at 4.00 a.m. It sounds as if someone were playing “bells” on the metal piping waiting to be set up, accompanied by good-humoured jeering. Comrades are making sure the late-comer does not sneak is unnoticed. Also hammering, shouting and clanging of metal being thrown.

Similar noise-making rituals, sometimes called ‘hammering out’, took place in the engineering, car-making and printing industries. They were part of the informal ceremonies reserved for young workers on finishing their apprenticeships.

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.

Smithfield market 1:06