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.

Cane chairs to mend 1955

ITINERANT TRADESMEN, such as chimney sweeps, knife grinders and rag-and-bone men, were seen and heard in central London up until the early 1970s and possibly later.

One side of a BBC 12” vinyl transcription disc (catalogue number 889192) is titled London Street Cries and bears three recordings from 1955. The one reproduced here is of a chairmender identified as Mr Kirby of Kilburn and was broadcast as part of the program All In a Day’s Work.

Kirby raises his melancholy cry as he walks past the recordist Audrey Russell in Wimpole Street, just north of Oxford Street. The catalogue entry makes the unnecessary and inaccurate observation that Kirby pronounces ‘cane’ as ‘kine’.

The two other tracks on the disc feature Audrey Russell interviewing a muffin seller and a violet seller. Russell joined the BBC in 1942 and became its first woman reporter, followed by Sally Holloway.

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.

Cane chairs to mend 0:58