In photos: London's Christmas past

See how London celebrated the yuletides of yesteryear with our bumper gallery of old-school pics

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There's so much tradition to pack into December that it's no wonder Christmas seems to start before Autumn does these days. London has always been crazy for Christmas, though – just check out the gallery below, which showcases the city in festive trim as far back as 1956. All photos are from the Henry Grant Collection, held by the Museum of London. A large selection of the Museum’s collections are available to buy as prints from www.museumoflondonprints.com

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Exterior Christmas display at Selfridges, 1953

    Henry Selfridge first lit his store's windows at night in 1890, so that passers by would be tempted by his wares well past dusk. The Christmas displays got more extravagant from then on in; this one features Disney characters and Father Christmas in a huge ad for the toy department.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Christmas trees in Covent Garden Market, 1952

    Back when Covent Garden was still a proper market, it sold Christmas trees as well as flowers, fruit and veg.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    The Regent Street Christmas lights at night, 1960

    The tradition of draping Regent Street in festive lights began back in 1954 after The Telegraph's reports that it looked 'drab' at Christmas.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Fortnum and Mason's Christmas displays, 1953

    The elegant department store Fortnum and Mason was originally a grocery store, hence their coveted food hampers, which are still sold in their trademark wicker baskets.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Turkey display at Leadenhall Market, 1953

    The birds on this display of 'best British turkeys' at Leadenhall Market were fresh, plucked and ready to become somebody's Christmas dinner.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Regent Street snowflake Christmas lights, 1965

    Regent Street has always been a popular stretch for shoppers, and a trip to see its famous lights would always be added to Christmas excursions.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Trafalgar Square at Christmas, 1955

    Trafalgar Square's huge Christmas tree has been a gift to Londoners from the city of Oslo for 66 years now, and in 1955 the Mayor of Oslo himself switched on its lights.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Children peer into Hamleys toy store window, 1957

    While today's kids go nuts for games consoles, back in the '50s the must-haves were Noah's arks, model-making sets and a spinning top made by Tri-ang, the company whose chairman had rescued Hamleys from liquidation in 1931. Good save.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Christmas lights in Regent Street, 1960

    Regent Street's light displays became more elaborate year after year, until the cost meant the tradition was stopped altogether in 1971. Retailers and commercial supporters helped to provide the funds to bring them back in 1978.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Boys on a toboggan, Hampstead Heath, 1969

    Hilly Hampstead Heath has always provided the perfect slopes for sliding down, as well as London's most impressive views.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    'Gulliver's Travels' window display, Selfridges, 1953

    This animated mannequin was designed to entice families up to Selfridges' toy department on the third floor. It seems to be working.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Lion statue and pigeons in Trafalgar Square, 1957

    Even snow didn't deter London's most infamous wildlife from their prime lunch spot, Trafalgar Square.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Christmas lunch at Kingsgate Infants School, 1970

    Handmade hats make school dinners more fun for these pupils at a primary school in Kilburn, which is still running today.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Hamleys toy shop window, Christmas 1961

    There's no generation of Londoners that hasn't been tempted by Hamleys' endless toys and treats, and these ladies (and a little lady) have been drawn in by their elegant dolls.

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Children unwrap their Christmas presents, 1975

    This lucky young man got a coveted Dalek game for Christmas. Maybe he'll watch the 'Dr Who' Christmas special this year, too?

  • © Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

    Interior of Selfridges at Christmas, 1953

    Ladies browse Selfridges' selection of embroidery sets, presumably to get the latest cross stitch fashions added to their Christmas lists.

© Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

Exterior Christmas display at Selfridges, 1953

Henry Selfridge first lit his store's windows at night in 1890, so that passers by would be tempted by his wares well past dusk. The Christmas displays got more extravagant from then on in; this one features Disney characters and Father Christmas in a huge ad for the toy department.

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