London's Story

London Between the Wars

At the end of this war King George V and Queen Mary came to the throne, and well-off Londoners developed a “live for today” lifestyle during the nineteen twenties, as if to compensate for the terrors, tragedies and horror of the Great War. However, the great mass of Londoners was caught up in unemployment and the effects of a post war slump. The new London County Council started a programme of re-housing slum houses in the centre of London and vast new social housing estates were built on the (then) outskirts of London in places like Becontree. The LCC also built new hospitals, constructed parks and open spaces, and new schools and libraries. They began to have a huge impact on the lives of ordinary Londoners.

In May 1926 the General Strike erupted in London, and so many workers “downed tools” that London virtually ground to a halt. The Government called in the Army to try and keep the buses and underground running and to maintain a semblance of order. Needless to say, this was seen as a heavy-handed tactic by the majority of Londoners, and it succeeded in producing a “them and us” class division and the resulting unrest labour in London and the rest of Britain for the rest of the twentieth century.

On the brighter side, this period saw the establishment in 1922 of the British Broadcasting Corporation (the BBC) and the first TV programmes, from Alexandra Park in North London in 1936. Improved transport links with the north west of London and with the suburbs around the southern edge of the city resulted in a huge boom in the building of houses for purchase from Croydon in the south to Barnet in the north. Londoners wanted to live in these mock-tudor “semis”, with their front and back gardens. By 1939 the population of London had reached 8.7 million.

 

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