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History of Street Parties

Street parties in the UK started in 1919 as 'Peace Teas' after World War I as a treat for children in those times of hardship - see this video:

The History of Street Parties

1919 was the first time when street parties were organised by residents on a mass basis. The events were part of the Peace Treaty celebrations, and were formal sit down affairs. This is why street parties have until recently focussed on children sitting down for a tea.

After then this uniquely British tradition developed, mainly in England and Wales, as residents continued to organise them on all major national days of celebration - see below.

Street parties evolved out of earlier traditions of street dressing, parades, tea parties, banquets and fancy dress parties with children for national occasions - see below. This is also why we use bunting, which is practically compulsory at a street party.

This history is what Streets Alive has learned over the years and from our project in 2013. Contact us with any more materials.

Today - Street parties are now being held at any time for all ages and for the neighbourly fun of it, and to build community spirit at the street level. They are a more relaxed BBQ and bring food-to-share arrangement, and the kids can play freely. Because of the history, some older people can be bemused by this new format, still thinking that they are just for kids. Bristol is the UK's street party capital with 150 held each year.

1919   'Peace Teas' for children after the 1st World War

The start of street parties on a mass basis was a special treat for children as part of the peace celebrations and who were suffering after the war.

Townmead Road, Fulham, London
Townmead Road, Fulham, London

A family memory of 1919 Peace Tea
"Family photos of a Peace Tea in Townmead Road, Fulham, London. My mother was the youngest of 12 and she told me that most of her siblings were there, along with my cousin Teddy and other family who lived at number 8." (Angela Smith 2013)

1935   Silver Jubilee of King George V

The earliest living memory of a street party is of Ron Maddin who remembers having a street party in Sydenham, London on May 6th 1935. "I was seven at the time and was very impressed! It was a huge occasion, especially for the children. My father, who was a shopkeeper on the corner of Winchfield Road and Maddin Road, decided to organise the party with the willing help of all the local people. I would say we were hard up, but happy, especially on party day!" (email March 2013).

1937   Coronation of King George VI

See this story of regular street parties in a Leicestershire village since 1937.

Here are some interviews of street parties from 1945 onwards. On the internet there are many pictures, and some video records.

1945   VE and VJ Days after World War 2

1945 Story in Fishponds, Bristol
1945 Story in Manchester
Horfield, Bristol

More old videos of 1945 street parties:

Bromley, London: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ndoj2dgDeHU
Worcester Park, Surrey: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjueLccukdc
Northampton: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g30_vouG_P4

Street parties were also held at 50th and 60th anniversaries of VE Day in 1995 and 2005.

1951   Festival of Britain

1953   Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

1953 Story in Cardiff, Wales
1953 Story in Warwickshire
Lockleaze, Bristol

Old video in Chippenham, Wilts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5yJa_9I2hQ

1977   Silver Jubilee of the Queen

This was the biggest year when 10 million people took part in a street party, according to the BBC.

1977 Story in Bristol
1977 Story in Bolton
Redland, Bristol

Old videos

Barrow in Furness, Cumbria: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6TjR2dNlP8
Crosby, Liverpool: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnRrHSPcG0w

1981   Wedding of Prince Charles & Diana Spencer

1981 video in Gloucester
1981 video in Sheffield

Other old videos

Tonbridge, Kent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnIl9wg-WB4

There were also street parties in 1986 for the Wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson

2000/1   Millennium Summer Parties

2002   Golden Jubilee of the Queen

2002 video in Leigh, Lancashire
2002 video in Banbury, Oxon.
Worcester

2011   Wedding of Prince William & Catherine Middleton

Bournemouth
Southampton

More about the 2011 royal wedding.

2012   Diamond Jubilee of the Queen

This is the best home made video of a jubilee street party, held in Newcastle.

More about the Diamond Jubilee.

Other videos

Kingston upon Thames, London: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4L3xSupEyc

Street Dressing Before Street Parties

Street parties evolved out of earlier traditions. Before 1919 there had been a long held history of residents dressing streets for national occasions, using flags, garlanded material, sometimes with an arch. Residents in streets probably developed this from parades, tea parties and banquets in villages or towns. Some examples are shown below.

This seemed to be the general pattern up until 1919, though there were places where street dressing without a street party or tea did continue afterwards, even to this day.

Street dressing at some unknown early time came to be dominated by commercially available bunting. This is usually made of strings of triangular 'pennants' which were probably originally based on naval signal flags. See more detail here.

1887
Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee

Warminster, Somerset

1897
Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee

Twerton, Bath

1903
End of the Boer War

Newton St, Bensham, Gateshead

1911
Coronation of George V

Bollington, Cheshire

1937
Coronation of George VI

Wallasey, The Wirral

This history is what Streets Alive has learned from the public over the years and from our project in 2013. Please contact us with any quality photos, videos or websites of old street parties. Many thanks to the many contributors of stories and photos, directly and online.