Music in the 1960s and 70s

Panel 04 Beatles ticket

This is a resource to help school groups learning about 20th Century and local history. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the information panels are linked from this page. A pdf of this resource and a class activity can be downloaded by clicking the link below.


60s Hoe St

By the start of the 1960s Walthamstow, like other places, had largely recovered from the effects of the Second World War. New flats had been built, some of them in the newly fashionable form of high rise blocks. Houses had been repaired. Bomb sites had been built over. There was more money about, and more jobs.

For more information about Walthamstow’s recovery after World War II click here to read ‘Walthamstow: Survival and Change’

Spinwasher AdvertAlong with the extra money, more consumer goods were available. Fashion clothes at affordable prices had arrived. Labour saving devices such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners were in the shops. And with full employment and good pay, there were better holidays and more possibility of time off, and the energy to enjoy it, in the working week.

For more about 1960s consumer goods, inventions and holidays, click here.

Panel 03 Walthamstow Mods

For the younger generation, this was a time of expanding horizons. The new universities that began to welcome students in this decade offered higher education to many young people who would previously have thought this was “not for them”. And colleges nearer home offered training, while changes in secondary education offered the opportunity of leaving school with some qualification to many more young people.

Click here for more information on 1960s fashion

twistingAlong with other new possibilities, this was a time when many young people had more freedom and more opportunities than ever before. The term “teenager” came into general use; for the first time, many young people had influence over their futures. And, on a smaller scale, many young people had a first taste of independence, making many decisions for themselves and relishing the music, entertainment, transport and food that were available to them.

Click here for more on 1960s bands and the local venues that hosted concerts.

Terry Rance (one of the original members of Iron Maiden) grew up in Queens Road. Click to read more

This was a time, too, when many new people came to live in the area. There were jobs available, and, increasingly, houses and flats. Many of them had been specifically recruited to come to the UK to work in factories, in the new NHS and in the public transport system. Many of them settled down happily, but not everyone.

Not everyone was comfortable with the changes. And for those broken or bereft by the war, they came too late. But for many, this was a time of hope.

More information on the Beatles and other popular songs of the era can be downloaded here:


Music and performance in the late nineteenth century

Conductor 1890

There is information on the panels and elsewhere on this website about Walthamstow’s rapid transformation from village to commuter town to urban area over just a few decades.

To download this teachers resource along with a suggested activity please click the link below:


(c) Vestry House Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) Vestry House Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

As it grew, Walthamstow changed in character. Many of the comfortably-off families who had lived in the area in the 1860s began to move further out of London, often making a handsome profit by selling their substantial gardens and orchards for development. Many local Victorian houses have one or two very old fruit trees or even a magnolia in their garden, survivals of past grandeur.


Click to read the panel ‘Walthamstow Transformed’


27 Chelmsford RoadBut there was also more investment, in everything from churches to factories to schools. Education for all children was now compulsory, and free, and that education included music as well as the Three Rs. In Walthamstow as elsewhere, the newly literate wanted more, and better, education for themselves and their children.

Click here to read the panel ‘Our Town’

Poverty Children's breakfast fund concert 1899The first public concerts began to be held, first in church halls, and then in the grand Victoria Hall built by J F H Read – a prosperous resident who stayed on, helping the town as philanthropist, musician and promoter of many good causes.

Click here for more information about  JFH Read and the house he lived in – The Chestnuts

At this time the only official safety net for those who fell on hard times was the workhouse. But there was also a network of local charities, providing everything from medicine to layettes for new babies to fuel to evening classes, with money raised by special events of all kinds as well as direct donations. . And increasingly those in need themselves became involved in raising the money needed.

Click here to see the information panel ‘Music for Charity’

It was very common for local schools and churches to organise boot clubs. At a time when many children missed school because their families could not afford to buy them footwear, parents who could would pay a subscription to spread the cost of shoes. And for those who could not, the community would get together to find ways and means.

Click here to see the information panel ‘Music for All’


Music Resources






Music in Tudor Walthamstow

Henry VIII psalter image

This is a resource to support school groups learning local and Tudor history at KS2. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the information panels. A pdf of this resource and class activity can be downloaded by clicking the link below:


HenryVIIIAt the time when Henry VIII was spending his father’s legacy on bringing both London and the Royal Palaces to the highest level of luxury and taste, Walthamstow was still a country village – or, more accurately, a string of hamlets joined by lanes. Church End, where the church was and is, was one of these. A time traveller from the present day would find the nights dark, the roads muddy and the buildings few and unfamiliar.

Click to here to read the information panel ‘Growing London’


The church was in the same place but the windows and doors and stonework different. The house one day to be called the Ancient House was a farmhouse surrounded by meadows and fields. High Street and Hoe Street were in the same places, but lined only with a few substantial houses. There was no Lea Bridge Road, and anyone wanting to travel to London needed either to go south to Stratford and cross the Bow Bridge or cross the River Lea by the ferry at Tottenham. For those wanting to save the price of the ferry fare or bridge toll, there was always the Black Path from Walthamstow to the City. This was the drovers’ road where animals were driven to be sold at the London markets.

For the information panel on Tudor Walthamstow click here

But this was a privileged area, with prosperous farms, many producing some of the already immense quantities of produce needed to feed London. It was a good place, too, for people who had made a fortune in London to buy a house and land so their children could grow up in healthier air.

Two of the Bassanos did just that, acquiring at least two houses and plots of farmland, one near what is now the High Street and the other in the Wood Street area. The Bassanos became well respected members of the local community for several generations.

To read ‘Venice and the Bassanos’ about the family’s life before they came to England click here

While we do not have detailed descriptions of the Bassanos’ house, it is very likely to have been a timber framed house similar to the one now known as the Ancient House, which was rebuilt in the years before the Bassanos’ arrival, and which was typical of the area. If so, it was a hall house, with a central living area and with extensions on each end, one for the kitchens and the other for private space and bedrooms for the family. By the time the Bassanos came to Walthamstow the house might well have had brick chimneys and a separate dining room for the family rather than the whole household, including the servants, eating together every day. There would certainly have been several living-in servants to do the work of the house, and more to run the home farm that would have produced much of the food for the household.

To read more about the Bassano family coming to England, click here

At this time anyone who could afford it would eat as much meat or fish as they could. This, though, was cooked in many different ways – joints were appreciated, but so were spiced stews and pies. Better-off people would eat vegetables in season, for example a dish of peas or asparagus. And everyone would eat vegetable broth in winter when food was short, especially after a bad harvest. Everyone ate a lot of bread, fine white manchet for the grandest, coarse rye bread for those at the bottom of the social heap, and something resembling modern wholemeal for those in between. There were, as yet, no potatoes, tomatoes or tea or coffee or chocolate. Most people drank ale (not yet beer) with most meals, with wine for the better off. Fruit was regarded with suspicion as being indigestible, and usually cooked before eating.

At this time, as we have seen, most music and entertainment happened at home. And everyone expected to sing, dance and, ideally, would play one or more musical instruments.

For more information on Tudor music making click here

There were Bassanos in Walthamstow for at least a hundred years – one of them had to pay extra tax in 1615 instead of helping to maintain local roads. And in London, there were Bassanos living at their house in Mark Lane until at least the 1640s.

To read more on what happened to the Bassano family after the Tudor period click here

Music Resources






Food and Cooking

Tinned food such as peas, pineapple, peaches and corned beef was available. Baked beans in tomato sauce had yet to make an appearance, but margarine was in the shops – this was the hard variety.

Victorian Walthamstow could offer much take-away and street food. Queen’s Road featured a fried fish shop, and there were several others in the High Street. Fish and chip and pie and mash shops were very common. And in the market there were stalls offering baked potatoes, roast chestnuts, coffee and sarsaparilla. Sarsaparilla was a soft drink, the late Victorian equivalent of coca-cola, and highly popular.

Teacher’s resource – Food and cooking

Going Out

Clacton 1920s railway poster

Until the 1850s public meetings were generally held in pubs and hotels, and impromptu entertainments were often in the same places. By the middle of the nineteenth century, music hall was coming into being – performances, originally held in pubs, during which the audience could eat, drink and smoke as well as listening to music and watching dance and comedy.

In the earlier years of the nineteenth century working hours were long and there was no right to paid holidays. For example, most domestic servants were expected to work from early in the morning until late at night with a few hours’ respite on Sunday afternoons, but no time to do much other than sitting and chatting.

But in the 1870s bank holidays became a legal requirement, and this gave all working people at least a few days a year when they could go out and have fun. This coincided with the expansion of cheap railway fares, and it was then that many Londoners could spend a day enjoying themselves – going to the theatre or having a day out, in the country or at the seaside. It was also then that bank holiday crowds became notorious.

Teacher’s resource – going out

The Railways

Lea Bridge Station in 1897

In the period between 1870 and 1880 massive numbers of houses were built, and the area changed for ever from a rural village with plum orchards and watercress beds to an area of houses, streets and shops. New houses were built for lower middle class and working class families.

The relative closeness to London, and the cheapness of the trains (if you were prepared to get up early) attracted less well paid City workers – clerks and shopworkers- and people from all over the country came, as has happened through history, to try and find a better life in London.

Teacher’s Resource – Railways

The Dyson family and the workhouse

Original block now converted to housing

When the Dyson family left West Ham Union Workhouse, their young son George was sorry. He had always had enough to eat there, and the teacher was kind. His baby brother Walter had been born in the workhouse infirmary – George had been allowed to visit his mother and the new baby. The worst things about living in the workhouse was only seeing his parents on Sundays. Now the family was returning to their Essex village, as the job their father had been promised in Walthamstow had only lasted a few weeks. The children’s grandfather had a good job as a farm bailiff at Stambourne Hall, a local manor house and farm, and was able to get work for his son to tide him and his wife and children over until they were ready to try their luck in London again.

This resource looks at conditions at the Union Workhouse in the 1890’s. Using this resource, children are asked to imagine a week in the life of Edith and George Dyson, in the week when they learn that the family is splitting up and some of them are moving to the workhouse.

Click on the link below to download the resource.

The Dyson family and the workhouse

Time Detectives – who lived here?

Alexander Downe 1911 census

When undertaking the research for this project we wanted to know who moved into the thousands of new houses that were built over only a few years at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The population of Walthamstow had been just over 11,000 in 1871 – by 1911 it was more than ten times as many, and the fastest growth in the Queen’s Road area happened during the 1890s.

That time is now, of course, beyond living memory. There are some local residents whose grandparents were among those incomers, and from them we have pictures, letters and passed-on anecdotes about those particular people. There are also newspaper reports, advertisements and official reports about the area.

Examining census returns offers us another good way of gaining information about a lot of people.  A national census has been taken every ten years since 1801 – the first three were essentially just head counts, but starting in 1841, the aim was to gather personal information about everyone in the country, including their whereabouts on the chosen day. Census returns are made publicly available after one hundred years, so the most recent information currently available dates from 1911.

All the census returns up to and including 1911 are now available to everyone, both online and in local museums.

Click on the links below to download this Teachers Resource and some sample census returns from Chelmsford Road.


Time Detectives – Who lived here?

Chelmsford Road Census Returns 1891, 1901 & 1911


One Walthamstow Family

Francis Alexander 1891 census

Until only a few years ago, there were people living in the Queen’s Road area of Walthamstow whose memories went back to the time when our streets were mostly fields. The transformation happened very quickly – dozens of streets and thousands of houses appeared in just a few years.

The people who came to live in the houses were from many different places. When the census was taken in 1901, nearly nine tenths of the adult residents were listed as having been born outside the area. Each of those people and families had their own story; each story is unique to the people concerned. But those stories often form part of a pattern that is echoed by the experiences of other people. Here is just one of them.

One Walthamstow Family – Download Resource