These incredible images show what life in 1950s London was really like

Alice Howarth
Norman McCaskill/Rook Gallery

1950s London was the heyday of the baby boomers. There was no longer rationing post war and the city was undergoing huge social and economic change. A new Queen was in charge of the country who was vibrantly popular and hope hung in the air for a new era.

It was also the decade when televisions and washing machines first appeared in houses - something that would transform the housewives day-to-day - and the standard of living was generally improving as council houses offered respected alternatives to slums and the welfare state was in full bloom.

Norma McCaskill’s father, Norman, who was in his thirties during the decade was an avid photographer and dedicated much of his time to documenting daily life in the capital.

“I have vivid memories walking the streets of London with my father who knew his territory and took his Leica everywhere with him”, says Norma. “He was an observer of the street and had a wonderful eye, creating images at a decisive moment. He loved people (most of his street photography was shot in and around Portobello Road Market), architecture and the River Thames, which comes through in his work.”

His only child, Norma holds thousands of images her father snapped of the 1950s and ‘60s. Black and white, women in bell skirts and stockings browse Portobello market alongside their husbands, men and women enjoy cigarettes outside the local boozers and couples bask in the sun outside Notting Hill estates.

Norma says her father “always wanted to preserve life as it was" and he knew when he was capturing something that was changing. "He was aware that he was getting the last shots of workers at Brentford Docks on the River Thames as London was already transforming then”.

Norma now lives in Suffolk with her partner and dog, but she hasn’t made a career in photography.

“Dad had a small darkroom where he would spend hours, it used to fascinate me a small girl watching these photos come to life hanging in his room and I got my first camera around my 8th or 9th birthday. We trawled around taking photos but unfortunately I just didn’t inherit my father’s eye”.

This is the first time the archive has been shown. Norma, now 52, decided to curate the pictures when she found more time on her hands after her children left home.

If you’re interested in purchasing a print from the above gallery or seeing more of Norman's work, you can contact Norma at