Museum Records ‘Extraordinarily silent’ lockdown in London

An “extraordinarily silent” lockdown in London has been recorded for posterity by the Museum of London.

The museum’s first registered soundscape of the city was captured in September 1928 as part of a campaign asking for noise limitations on increasingly loud streets.
Empty roads at the same five locations have been recorded almost 100 years following.

The museum’s digital archivist Foteini Aravani said: “The 1928 anti-noise campaign happened when the impacts of sound pollution in central London were only beginning to be known.

“Almost a century later, sound levels in the capital are still an issue despite today’s legislation.
“But the marked reduction in street noise has become a distinct aspect of London in lockdown.
“We felt it was our responsibility to capture this rare and significant moment to not only contrast the 1928 recordings in our collection but also to provide a record of London’s rarely ‘silent streets’ for future generations.”
Both the historic and modern recordings are available to listen to for the first time on the Museum of London’s website.

The five central London places recorded in both September 1928 and May 2020 were Whitechapel East, St George’s Hospital (Hyde Park Corner), Leicester Square, Cromwell Road and Beauchamp Place in South Kensington.
The 1928 recordings were taken by the Columbia Graphophone Company with the Daily Mail to provide proof of the rising noise levels on the capital’s central streets, which were considered to be a “real menace to public health”.
It includes the commentary: “That was a large lorry with building materials, very noisy. There’s a motor bicycle without a proper silencer!” and: “That was the self-starter of a small seven-horsepower car … that was an awful vehicle on solid tyres.”