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Street Life

Pavements thronging, traffic pressed nose to bumper (or tail) - the Edwardian street buzzed with life.

Much of Edwardian life was lived in densely packed public spaces. The industrial revolution had swollen the populations of Britain's towns and cities, and the evidence was there to be seen - and filmed - on the streets.

'Street scenes' were a staple of early filmmaking, and many of Mitchell and Kenyon's, restored from original negatives, are particularly stunning. They teem with life and historical detail, revealing how our ancestors behaved, dressed and moved in public and how their towns and cities were organised.

These streets have a bewildering chaos to them. The full onslaught of the motor car still lies ahead, but in a time before traffic lights, the tide of vehicles never lets up: horse-drawn carts, bicycles, omnibuses and trams (some of them electrified). Miraculously, the pedestrians weaving between them always seem to emerge unscathed.

We may never hear the sounds of the city - or smell its smells - but the images alone still have the power to astonish. They evoke a society in rapid change: an urbanised, increasingly mobile, consumer Britain not so very different from our own.

Digitisation of this collection was funded by The National Lottery.

"The local street scenes, of which there are many... create roars of laughter as fellow townsmen are recognised hurrying to and from business."

Halifax Evening Courier, 31 January 1902

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Street Life

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