Welcome to Then and Now, where each week we compare images of Manchester streets, landmarks and buildings from bygone days with how they look today.
Our main image this week shows what seems to be pedestrians picking their way through the fog on a cold evening on Oxford Street in November 1953.
The lights of Boots the chemist and the Odeon and Plaza cinemas twinkle in the gloom as cars drive with full headlights in the rain.
But, believe it or not, this photograph was not taken at night or even late afternoon. It was shot at 1.30pm – the middle of the day!
Smog – a mixture of smoke and fog – has descended on the city. It was commonplace in the 1950s and early 1960s as the atmosphere became thick with fumes from home fires and factories.
In some areas, the yellowy brown smog was so dense that it was impossible to see more than a few yards. The air smelt of eggs due to the presence of sulphur dioxide.
Smog was caused by smoke being trapped by an anti-cyclone pushing rising air back down. Research estimated that 4,000 to 12,000 people in the UK died as a result of smog in 1952 and a further 100,000 were taken ill.
One of Manchester’s solutions to the pollution problem was to introduce fog pilots – a motorcycle combination fitted with powerful lamps front and back to guide buses through the smog.
The soot and grime on Manchester’s buildings have all but disappeared today as a result of measures introduced after the Clean Air Act of 1956.
*Many more images from Then and Now are featured in The Changing Face of Manchester published to mark the 150th anniversary of the M.E.N.
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