London's Story

Edwardian London

London got its first ever directly elected government with the creation of the London County Council in 1889 and this body attempted to address some of the dire social problems of slum housing and overcrowding after 1900. The first motor-buses were on the streets of London by 1904, followed by motor cars – which swiftly replaced the horse drawn cabs, coaches and carts. By 1911 the use of buses drawn by horses had stopped altogether.

In 1909 the first American-style department store was opened in Oxford Street by an entrepreneur called Gordon Selfridge: another famous store in Knightsbridge called Harrods opened soon afterwards, followed by Liberty’s in Regent Street. Posh hotels like the Ritz opened, to cope with rich visitors to London. London also experienced a flood of new theatres and music halls, designed to cash in on the need to entertain those of London’s population who had made some money and wanted to enjoy spending it.

The Ritz SW June 06.jpg
The Ritz Hotel - main entrance

The Great War, which started in 1914, changed the way of life for most Londoners. The young men were called up to go and fight the enemy. The older men – and many young women – were drafted into munitions factories and other war work. Ladies who had never had to work to earn their own money before now found themselves in jobs such as office typists and secretaries, and some became conductresses on the “omnibuses” and trams. Often they were doing the sort of work the men would have done before the War. Aspirations for most female Londoners were changed forever. London suffered in the War, but not to the same extent as it did during the Second World War. Parts of London were bombed by “zeppelin” dirigibles. These were giant balloon-like craft which were powered, and from which bombs could be dropped on civilians. About 60 Londoners were killed during these zeppelin raids.


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