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…… flaunting her assets at the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square, London, September 1959

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Sunshine has returned to the capital following four days of dense fog in which London transport was brought to a standstill. The atrocious conditions led to widespread disruption of rail, road and air services and affected shipping on the River Thames.

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As freshening winds and milder temperatures dissipated the fog today London buses and coaches ran normally but still with some delays on the Southern Region railway.

The fog, which began on 5 December, also affected other areas of the south-east, with icy roads causing several road accidents. Ambulance men and firemen had to walk ahead of their vehicles to reach those in need. It also spread as far as northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

A cross-channel ferry carrying 300 passengers from Folkestone to Calais was 15 hours late. The ship had to anchor off the French coast, unable to get into port due to poor visibility.

Virtual shutdown

Fog descended on London once again yesterday evening at the end of a relatively clear day.By 18:30 London Transport reported a virtual shutdown of its north-east London service and nearly all buses were out of action.

Only the London Underground was still running, but as buses stopped running once visibility was reduced to a few hundred yards this too became congested.  At Stratford, on the Central Line, 3,000 people queued for tickets.

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London Airport was also severely affected – BOAC reported just two departures and four arrivals yesterday. All other flights were diverted to Hurn, near Bournemouth and passengers were taken by train to Waterloo.

Crime spree

The severe weather conditions led to a rise in crime as robbers used the cover of fog to break into houses and shops and attack and steal from Londoners making their way home in the darkness.

The weather even affected cattle brought into Earls Court in preparation for the Smithfield Show. Farmers spent hours trying to reach the capital and when they finally arrived found many livestock had breathing difficulties. At least one animal died.

Opera and football cancelled

There was no escape from the fog inside either, as it seeped into buildings as well as filling the streets. Last night, the Sadler’s Wells theatre had to end a performance of La Traviata after the first act because the auditorium had filled with fog.

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The fog also took its toll on several sporting events. A University Association Football due to take place at Wembley was postponed. It is the first time any fixture has been cancelled at the stadium since it opened in 1923.

Most rugby matches were cancelled and no Association Football League matches took place in London

In Context

In the weeks following what became known as the Great Smog of 1952, it emerged that at least 4,000 people had died as a direct result of the weather.

They were mostly the elderly, the very young and those with respiratory or heart problems.

The main causes of the smog were by-products of coal-burning that had reached exceptionally high levels combined with high pressure, near-freezing temperatures and very light winds that meant the smog lingered for several days.

The authorities realised that drastic action was needed introduced the Clean Air Act in 1956.

It restricted the burning of domestic fuels in urban areas with the introduction of smokeless zones, but heavy fogs continued for some time after the Act while residents and operators switched to new sources of energy.

The Act was revised in 1968 when industries burning coal, gas or other fuels were ordered to use tall chimneys. In 1974 the first Control of Air Pollution Act introduced regulations on the composition of motor fuels.

By the 1980s and 1990s the increasing use of the motor vehicle led to a new kind of smog caused by the chemical reaction of car pollutants and sunshine.

The 1995 Environment Act introduced new regulations for air pollutants.

Text from BBC’s "OnThisDay"

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WESTMINSTER SCHOOL – This is Little Dean’s Yard, around which the main buildings of London’s most famous public school are grouped. The school (or St Peter”s College, as it is also called) dates back to the 14th century, but was refounded by Queen Elizabeth in 1560. From the early 17th century until 1884 almost all the boys were taught in the one great schoolroom, the upper school being divided from the lower school by a curtain hung over the oak beam, over which the pancake was tossed in the Shrove Tuesday ceremony. Among the headmasters of the school were Nicholas Udall, author of Ralph Roister Doister, Williamj Camden, the antiquary, and Dr Busby, famous both for his library and the floggings he carried out during his long headship from 1638 to 1695. Among the distinguished pupils were Ben Jonson, Hakluyt, Dryden, Wren, Southey, Warren Hastings, Gibbon, Froude, Charles Wesley, Matthew Prior and William Cowper.

From “Country Life Picture Book of London” with photos by G F Allen

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LOOKING DOWN WHITEHALL -The statue, seen just to the right of the Big Ben tower, is of the Duke of Cambridge, who lived from 1819 until 1904 and was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army from 1856 to 1895. The sculptor was Adrian Jones, he was also responsible for the Quadriga in Constitution Hill, the Royal Marines monument in the Mall and the Cavalry War Memorial at Stanhope Gate, Hyde Park and it stands almost opposite the Horse Guards, where the Duke worked for so many years. This was before the present War Office was erected on the other side of the street. Many other government buildings are also in Whitehall, including the Admiralty, the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the Treasury. The first building on the left in this picture is the Banqueting House, designed by Inigo Jones for Whitehall Palace, while behind the tree on the right of the picture the Cenotaph can just be seen.

From “Country Life Picture Book of London” with photos by G F Allen

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Video found at travelfilmarchive

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THE ST JAMES’S PARK BRIDGE. This is the new bridge over the St James’s Park lake about which there was much controversy when it was proposed to replace the old chain bridge erected in 1857, An anonymous testator had left a sum of £20,000 to be spent on erecting a new bridge and, under the terms of his will, the money could not be used for the much-needed repairs to the old bridge. Preparatory work began on the new structure in December, 1956, and it was opened to the public on 5th October, 1957 – after twenty guardsmen from nearby Wellington Barracks had tested its stability in various ways, including crossing it at the double. From both the old and the new bridges a delightful view of the elegant government buildings across the Horse Guards Parade may be obtained. The present lay-out of St James’s Park, which has been a royal park since the 17th century, is due to John Nash.

From “Country Life Picture Book of London” with photos by G F Allen

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CHANGING THE GUARD

‘They’re changing guard at Buckingham Palace;
Christopher Robin went down with Alice … .’

Many people think of the catchy little tune to A. A. Milne’s words when they happen to be passing the Palace at the time when the Queen’s Guard is being changed. The ceremony of the changing, with one of the Guards’ bands playing in the forecourt, is always one of the most popular of London’s ‘free shows’. The duty of providing the Guard is undertaken in turn by the various regiments of Guards and occasionally, as a special privilege, by other British or Commonwealth regiments. The guardsmen seen here belong to the Coldstream Guards, distinguished from other regiments by the fact that their tunic buttons are grouped in pairs.

From “Country Life Picture Book of London” with photos by G F Allen

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