This film is part of Free

May Pole Dance July 1956; Picnic Trip to Finchley July 1956; London Zoo Aug 1956; Windsor Castle Sept 1956

Four films capturing a family summer in 1956, with highlights coming from London Zoo, where a very different attitude to animal care is on display.

Home movie 1956 13 mins Silent

From the collection of:

Logo for London's Screen Archives


A quartet of films of the Lawford family in 1956, starting with a neatly choreographed dance round the maypole with local children, presumably on a common in Harrow. Next is a picnic in Finchley, and then it’s to London to meet the animals. Trafalgar Square first to feed pigeons, and then London Zoo, to ride the elephant and camel. The fourth film is from Windsor Castle, showing marching soldiers – the children copycat, like Christopher Robin – and beautiful, eerie gardens.

Filmed respectively in May, July, August and September 1956, the highlight is the third film, showing a trip to London Zoo. What’s extraordinary to modern eyes is the very different conditions the animals are kept in. An elephant stands marooned on a concrete island eating food offered by the crowds; the Lawford children ride a camel round the zoo – all three at once! – and then do the same on the back of a baby elephant. We then see some bears in a tiny cage, fighting, swinging and getting rather personal. Also filmed are goats, a polar bear and a great grizzly, the latter on Bear Mountain, which now houses wallabies.