Tony Lord: The vanishing world of the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

Henry Priestly was a photographer who was obsessed with trams.

His pictures not only show us trams but also the vanished world of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

On this sunny September morning in 1951, Henry has taken his camera to Lewisham Road just along from the junction with Blackheath Hill on the right and Blackheath Road on the left.

In a minute that 58 tram will continue it’s journey to the Blackwall Tunnel along Greenwich High Road.

There’s a lot of people standing about so it’s probably a Saturday.

The very clean looking tram car has just come into the loop where there are two tracks which allow trams coming the opposite way to pass each other.

What happened in the foggy pea-souper nights of that time when the hapless driver couldn’t see more than five yards ahead I don’t know. I can only imagine the fruity language when the trams met each other head-on on the single track in the gloom.

Of course, the 58 tram didn’t go through the Blackwall Tunnel. It was too big so the track ended about 50 yards away from the entrance and, after the driver and conductor had cups of tea and a drag on their Woodbines, the driver simply walked to the other end of the tram while the conductor tipped all the backs of the seats up the other way before starting back for Victoria.

There were two pubs at the crossroads, the one on the right was The George and Dragon.

You’ll notice that the ornate lantern which used to hang from the cast-iron support outside has been nicked and the unsavoury character leaning on the lamp post looks as though he’s had a few already.

Across the road we see Charlie in his white coat, standing in the doorway of his cafe. Business must be slow.

The would-be passengers for the tram are standing in the road waiting to get aboard.

This was part of the trouble with trams being in the middle of the road, traffic behind them had to wait until everyone had got on. I bet the driver of the green car is fuming.

Next to Charlie’s greasy-spoon stands The Coach and Horses, a Barclay Perkins House.

One of the Anchor Breweries’ proudest products was its Russian Imperial Stout. No one had ever been known to drink more than two pints of this without having to be helped home by their friends.

We can see the railings round the subterranean public lavatories. They are long gone now.

I wonder if the lovely old mahogany cubicles and shiny brass fittings were removed before they were filled in with tonnes of builders’ rubbish?

The large advert about the Greenwich Confectionery business assures us that two pints of milk go into every half pound bar of Cadbury’s chocolate and the sign posts by the traffic lights point the ways to New Cross and Lewisham.

Drivers are left to find their own way to Blackheath, apparently. This area was a hot spot in the summer of 1944 with more than its fair share of flying bombs crashing down.

Yet, amazingly, more than 70 years later, all the buildings in the photograph still survive today. I wonder if they’re still brewing that Russian Imperial Stout? A drop of that around bedtime would definitely help me sleep well.

Next week we go further along the road to Lewisham.

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