The film This is Tomorrow about the history of the Festival Hall prompted thoughts of yesteryear for Alex Smith. Luckily, there are some excellent web archives to help him trip down memory lane

It’s been a good month for collaborations between film makers and the construction industry. First we had Sydney Pollack’s film on Frank Gehry (you can read our interview with Pollack here) and now the builders have taken centre stage in a film about the Royal Festival Hall.

This is Tomorrow is an uplifting 75 minutes on the history and refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall ( Star turns include the original architects, Trevor Dannatt and Jim Cadbury-Brown, and Di Haigh of Allies and Morrison, the architect that gave it its much-needed makeover.

One of the most fascinating parts of the film showed the buildings that previously existed on London’s South Bank. Rows of terraces were cleared to make way for the Festival of Britain and next door to the Festival Hall was a leadworks, which made lead shot for 100 years. A brick tower that used to turn molten lead into shot balls was still standing after the Festival Hall was completed.

It was while searching for information on the shot tower that I googled upon English Heritage’s archive of architecture. ViewFinder is a brilliant resource for anybody interested in the history of our built environment. The site features collections from the National Monument Record and is exhaustive.

The English Heritage ViewFinder is at Other archives worth looking at are linked below …