National Geographic : 1937 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE Photograph by B. Anthony Stewart ONE OF BRITAIN'S "SAFETY VALVES" BLOWS OFF STEAM IN HYDE PARK For years London crowds have flocked to hear soap-box orators in this open-air forum. On taxes, tariffs, politics, religion, war, peace, work, wages, speech is free and no proper theme is barred. Hecklers may heckle, but if speakers are molested, or abuse their privilege, watchful bobbies gently intervene (page 12). Historic Metropole Hotel served its last supper the week I reached London. Sad faced waiters closed its doors forever. Now famous Adelphi Terrace is being torn down, even as Hotel Cecil melted into scrap. As ancient city landmarks fade, queer modernistic structures, bewildering to Lon doners returning after long absence, rise in their place. Look at that big cube of metal and glistening black glass which holds Lord Beaverbrook's Daily Express in Fleet Street (page 5); or the classic stone temple of the British Broadcasting Corporation (pages 27 and 32). Or at Shell-Mex House on the Strand, Bush House in Aldwych, and all the mon ster new piles raised here as official headquarters by Canada, Australia, South Africa, and other members of the British Commonwealth-whose show windows dis play the products of these far-away lands. They seem unreal, out of place, in this long-static, smoke-stained, weather-beaten old town. Rise of new suburbs is no less aston ishing. "Satellite" towns, dormitories of 50,000 or more, spring up where yesterday lay green fields and truck gardens. Smoky forms of new factories rim the horizon. Middlesex County, men say, will soon be wholly urban. Steadily the city unfolds down through Surrey. Southeast towards the hop fields of Kent "ribbon towns" sprawl beside the highways; in Essex and Hertfordshire, "the scaffold poles of the builder are like wands that conjure new towns out of the ground" (page 50). Drawn by this boom, industry tends to shift here from the less prosperous North. Workers flock along; each year London adds a young city to its population, and each day 100,000 visitors pass through its streets. In one week, at Regent Palace Hotel, 40 different nationalities filled out the police form. Yet you see few idle men. Munition works run day and night; 40, 000,000 gas masks are being made-even every child is to have one; flying field schools turn out more and more pilots. To learn how London, growing so fast, handles its passengers, I went to "London Transport" headquarters, a system which hauls a crowd each year equal to twice all the tabulated people on earth.