Pea Soup Pranks & London Fog

MrRING

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I got through recently watching the old thriller flick Midnight Lace with Doris Day, and part of the plot revolved around the idea (early in the story at least) that heavy fog in London led to outrageous pranks being perpetrated. it is one of the reasons the police dispel initial fears that Doris has that somebody is trying to kill her by it being a fog prank, and the film shows the statue at Trafalgar Square with pink paint on top as example of a known prank.

My question for the board is if this was just a little bit of fluff for the film, or did the height of London fog lead to some outrageous pranks & behaviors?
 

rynner2

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My question for the board is if this was just a little bit of fluff for the film, or did the height of London fog lead to some outrageous pranks & behaviors?
I don't know, but Mr. Purplehead might have some relevent input!
 

stu neville

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Thank you, gentlemen.

I do know that the really bad fogs, and smogs, led to rise in the crime rates but not as much as people think. Pranks however rely on someone seeing them, or else they're pointless, and no-one knew how long the fogs would last. To be honest I doubt anything beyond the usual student-level japery happened, The smog especially was so acrid, owing to coal-smoke which added very small but nonetheless significant amounts of sulphuric acid into the mix, that no-one wanted to be outside for too long.
 

RaM

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Not London but I can remember the smogs in the NW were people me included walked
into lamp posts, I remember the bus services coming to a stop for days some struggling
along with the conductor walking in front of the bus, It could be very strange, you could
walk in and out of it into bright sunlight at times just like walking through a curtain,
sounds became muffled very strange at times, the councils used to put out lamps like
Aladdin magical one with a big wick in the spout and a flame, probably made things worse.
In those days you were lucky to see the end of the st, today I often see the Isle of Man 80
miles away, rivers that were so polluted that nothing grew withing 6 ft of them and we were
told even if all pollution was stopped it would take a 100 years to run clean now have fish
and weeds but due to this slowing the flow now flood many times more than they used to.
No action without a reaction but wile I don't want to go back to things as they were I don't
worry to much about the levels of pollution we have today, to me it's like well a breath of
fresh air.
 

PeteS

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Not London but I can remember the smogs in the NW were people me included walked
into lamp posts, I remember the bus services coming to a stop for days some struggling
along with the conductor walking in front of the bus, It could be very strange, you could
walk in and out of it into bright sunlight at times just like walking through a curtain,
sounds became muffled very strange at times, the councils used to put out lamps like
Aladdin magical one with a big wick in the spout and a flame, probably made things worse.
In those days you were lucky to see the end of the st, today I often see the Isle of Man 80
miles away, rivers that were so polluted that nothing grew withing 6 ft of them and we were
told even if all pollution was stopped it would take a 100 years to run clean now have fish
and weeds but due to this slowing the flow now flood many times more than they used to.
No action without a reaction but wile I don't want to go back to things as they were I don't
worry to much about the levels of pollution we have today, to me it's like well a breath of
fresh air.
Yep I remember those NW smogs as well. Some Novembers you hardly got to see daylight
 

MrRING

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So this sounds like another case of fiction bearing little resemblance to reality. Thanks!
 

Dick Turpin

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I got through recently watching the old thriller flick Midnight Lace with Doris Day, and part of the plot revolved around the idea (early in the story at least) that heavy fog in London led to outrageous pranks being perpetrated. it is one of the reasons the police dispel initial fears that Doris has that somebody is trying to kill her by it being a fog prank, and the film shows the statue at Trafalgar Square with pink paint on top as example of a known prank.

My question for the board is if this was just a little bit of fluff for the film, or did the height of London fog lead to some outrageous pranks & behaviors?
I remember this film. Rex Harrison played Doris Day’s husband (if my brain serves me correctly) – I’d forgotten it was called Midnight Lace though

As a fortean aside, I do believe Rex Harrison’s second wife’s grandfather, owned the very property that Mary Kelly was found murdered in. A Mr McCarthy I think. It was McCarthy’s assistant who went round to Kelly’s home that November morning to collect the rent and discovered the body.

Back to the London fog. I remember getting really pissed off with my dad as a 10-year-old, as he taped over a video recording I had of an episode of Match of the day, with the cowboy feature film Shane that was being shown on BBC 2..

When I asked why, he said that back in the 1950’s when the film came over to Britain, he went to see it at the Odeon Leicester Sq, only for the fog to get into the cinema and he couldn’t see the screen properly. Shane was being shown on a BBC2 matinee one Saturday afternoon, so he cheekily taped over my Match of the day video for Shane instead.

I don’t think I’ve really forgiven him for it tbh LOL
 

EnolaGaia

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So this sounds like another case of fiction bearing little resemblance to reality. Thanks!

Not so fast ... There are historical elements which may have provided a basis for associating pea soup fogs with pranks (or worse).

In Charterhouse: Old and New (Eardley-Wilmot, 1895) it's noted that boys would engage in candle-lit classroom mischief whenever 19th century pea soup fogs would render the school's interior murky. It also mentions playing football was surrealistic fun because the ball kept disappearing in the fog.

Pre 20th century pea soup fogs would also bring out linkboys / linklighters - street urchins with torches who'd light one's way for a petty fee. Linkboys / linklighters were reputed to sometimes cheat their customers or even lead them into the clutches of robbers.
 

Earthly oddity

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I got through recently watching the old thriller flick Midnight Lace with Doris Day, and part of the plot revolved around the idea (early in the story at least) that heavy fog in London led to outrageous pranks being perpetrated. it is one of the reasons the police dispel initial fears that Doris has that somebody is trying to kill her by it being a fog prank, and the film shows the statue at Trafalgar Square with pink paint on top as example of a known prank.

My question for the board is if this was just a little bit of fluff for the film, or did the height of London fog lead to some outrageous pranks & behaviors?
I wonder who climbed up the statue to paint it?

For anyone who wishes to watch it - this episode of Blue Peter with John Noakes climbing Nelson's Column (in that area) didn't strike me as dangerous as a young child, I thought it looked fun....Now it terrifies me to think of what might have gone wrong....
 

EnolaGaia

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For the sake of illustration ... Here are a pair of photos illustrating the London pea soup fog of 25 October 1938 and how people dealt with it.

otm_vlc_London_fog.max-2400x1350.jpg

otm_vlc_London_Fog_2_regents_Park.max-2400x1350.jpg

SOURCE / FULL STORY: https://www.gbtribune.com/news/local-news/no-hysteria-here-in-1938/
 

XBergMann

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My Dad (now 85) lived in Forest Gate in London back in the 50s.

He tells me of smog so bad that on occasion he couldn't see his hand when he stretched out his arm.

The 10 minutes walk home from the railway station could take an hour or more if a wrong turn was taken in the smog.

He was delighted to be called up for National Service and posted to Cyprus thus leaving the smog behind in London.
 

kesavaross

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I wonder who climbed up the statue to paint it?

For anyone who wishes to watch it - this episode of Blue Peter with John Noakes climbing Nelson's Column (in that area) didn't strike me as dangerous as a young child, I thought it looked fun....Now it terrifies me to think of what might have gone wrong....
I remember watching that as a child and like you didn't think it was dangerous. I watched that just now and my stomach was tying itself up in knots and I was almost climbing backwards up the back of my chair but I just had to watch it all.
 

kesavaross

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My Dad (now 85) lived in Forest Gate in London back in the 50s.

He tells me of smog so bad that on occasion he couldn't see his hand when he stretched out his arm.

The 10 minutes walk home from the railway station could take an hour or more if a wrong turn was taken in the smog.

He was delighted to be called up for National Service and posted to Cyprus thus leaving the smog behind in London.
Sorry, I can't work out the multi quote function.

I was born in 1957 and bought up during term time by my Aunt and Uncle who lived in the East End - Bethnal Green. My Uncle often also talked about smog so thick that he'd barely be able to see more that a few feet and that it had a weird yellowish colour or tinge to it. He often said the smog would eventually start to get indoors as the windows and doors didn't fit so well in those days and that after a while there'd be a haze indoors as well.

How people found their way around is a mystery.
 
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Dick Turpin

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My Dad (now 85) lived in Forest Gate in London back in the 50s.

He tells me of smog so bad that on occasion he couldn't see his hand when he stretched out his arm.

The 10 minutes walk home from the railway station could take an hour or more if a wrong turn was taken in the smog.

He was delighted to be called up for National Service and posted to Cyprus thus leaving the smog behind in London.
My old man had exactly the same experience Xberg. He was called up for national service and escaped the London fog and sent to Cyprus. What regiment was your Dad in?? Wouldn't it be strange if they served in the same regiment at the same time and even perhaps if they knew each other. My dads family came from Bethnal green btw so not a million miles away from Forest Gate.
 

XBergMann

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My old man had exactly the same experience Xberg. He was called up for national service and escaped the London fog and sent to Cyprus. What regiment was your Dad in?? Wouldn't it be strange if they served in the same regiment at the same time and even perhaps if they knew each other. My dads family came from Bethnal green btw so not a million miles away from Forest Gate.

He joined the RAF not the army and served in Signals which in those far off days meant using powerful radios with huge antennas.

There was a rebellion underway in Cyprus at the time over unkept promises made by Winston Churchill and the empire sent in the military to make them put down their guns and return to their valleys and their farms and no longer yearn to be brothers in arms etc ...
 

Victory

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Pre 20th century pea soup fogs would also bring out linkboys / linklighters - street urchins with torches who'd light one's way for a petty fee. Linkboys / linklighters were reputed to sometimes cheat their customers or even lead them into the clutches of robbers.

Linkboys were a regular feature of London regardless of fog.

Leading their clients home at night in the dark streets before gas lamps were present.

And sometimes the linkboys merely lead their clients down a dark alley and robbed them.

Link boys are why you find snuffers to extinguish torches outside some Georgian houses.

link.jpeg


This one is outside 50 Berkeley Square, itself known as London's Most Haunted House.

A famous painting of a link boy is Boitard's "The Covent Garden Morning Frolick"

With people attending the fruit and veg market early in the morning, a trio of late-night revellers are on their way home:

"Captain" Marcellus Laroon III (the artist).
His friend Captain Montague (brother of the Earl of Sandwich).
Betty Careless, the well-known courtesan.

Leading them is the Link Boy "Little Cazey", oft-accused of robbing his fares, a frequent visitor in front of the Bow Street Magistrates.


morning.jpeg


And here, in another of Boitard's works, is the same Little Cazey, in The Bridewell prison, just off Fleet Street.

cazey.jpeg


The Bridewell had previously been a Royal Palace, and was the setting for Holbein's famous painting "The Ambassadors".

Hans_Holbein_the_Younger_-_The_Ambassadors_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg


It was situated where now stands Unilever House and Crowne Plaza Hotel, to the South of Fleet Street, North of the Thames, and West of New Bridge Street, opposite Blackfriars Tube Station.
 
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