The publication of the 1921 Census for England and Wales is the inspiration behind ‘The 1920’s Beyond the Roar’ exhibition. If you have never been to the National Archives in Kew, you now have the perfect excuse.

1920 Beyond the roar

There is a lot to take in so I have highlighted some of my favourite things to look out for.

Beyond the Roar | What was the impact at that time?

The exhibition’s angle is telling the lesser known stories at a time of great social change.

1920 Beyond the roar
Personal letter saying how hard it was to keep his house having returned from the war

It was a very political time in British history, having just come out of a world war and equal rights firmly on the agenda. The impact on people’s lives was enormous. The exhibition explores big themes through letters, papers, textiles, photography and culture.

Textiles at Beyond the roar
Textile patent designs included fabric by Gabrielle Chanel

Beyond the Roar | 7 highlights

The peace treaty of locarno at Beyond the roar
The Peace Treaty of Locarno
  1. The Peace Treaty of Locarno: This was the most important document to mutually guarantee peace in Western Europe.
  2. The Lonely Hearts Page: Many were so lonely after the war, that advertising for companionship was big news.
  3. Imperial Propaganda of the Empire: “the registration of coloured alien seamen”. Men were required to register with the police when they arrived back in the UK to prove their citizenship.
  4. Airship travel: People began to travel again after the war. In 1930 the R101 airship was launched to carry people between the UK and India. Unfortunately, it crashed on its first overseas flight, killing 48 people.
  5. Census from No.10 Downing St: It wasn’t even signed by the Prime Minister as he was living at Chequers, which had just been given to the nation. The majority of people staying in Downing St were women from Wales.
  6. Chanel in Textiles: examples of textile designers who registered copyrights on their work in the 1920’s included Gabrielle Chanel.
  7. The Memory photo wall: Returning service personnel and over crowded housing conditions affected their health and public morality. Reading through If you have any photographs you want to share, you can still upload and share with the NA website. link to the NA website.
Lonely heart publication at Beyond the roar
Lonely hearts publication

Leaving the exhibition you go through to the infamous 43 nightclub in Soho. ‘Nightclub Queen’ aka Kate Meyrick talks about life at the club that was constantly raided. She received five prison sentences for flouting licensing laws.

The National Archives have a series of online events and curator talks which bring the exhibition to life. This was a tumultuous decade in England and Wales, that to this day still the 1920’s stands out as a period of incredible social change.

The exhibition is free and parking available.
National Archives