Monday 19 April 2010

Horse Traction

Just came across an article which the hard-core equine economists amongst you might enjoy ...

Horse Traction in Victorian London by Ralph Turvey

For a similar contemporaneous account, see The Horse World of London.

Sunday 18 April 2010

Sounds Underground

A great sound installation is running at (well, underneath) Somerset House until 31st May entitled "River Sounding" ... I just went today and I wish I could go during the late-night opening on Thursdays (when it gets dark and must be seriously spooky). I seriously recommend it, if you have a few minutes to spare ... website here ... spotted via the great

Sunday 11 April 2010

Saoirse Louise

Dutiful readers may recall my quest for a comic-book illustrator. News is pending there. Meanwhile, I want to draw to your attention (no pun intended) to a marvellous young artist whom I've been chatting with, during this last week or two. I just love her work! Her name's Saoirse Louise and her website is here:
but see also

She's a young artist, looking for commissions and - unless I'm very much mistaken - she won't find herself short of work for very long.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Cremorne in detail

A large piece on Cremorne from Warwick Wroth, Cremorne and the Later London Gardens, 1907 - click here.

Please note - my talk on this subject at the MUSEUM OF LONDON on Friday - see details below.

White Lead

Finally got round to reading Jack London's People of the Abyss. A good read - the American author masquerading as a poor worker to plumb the depths of East End poverty in 1902 - but nothing that remarkable in comparison with other slum pieces from the Victorian era. I've picked out one snippet for my website on white-lead poisoning but I rather like this description of street prostitution:

But they were not the only beasts that ranged the menagerie. They were
only here and there, lurking in dark courts and passing like grey shadows
along the walls; but the women from whose rotten loins they spring were
everywhere. They whined insolently, and in maudlin tones begged me for
pennies, and worse. They held carouse in every boozing ken, slatternly,
unkempt, bleary-eyed, and towsled, leering and gibbering, overspilling
with foulness and corruption, and, gone in debauch, sprawling across
benches and bars, unspeakably repulsive, fearful to look upon.
And there were others, strange, weird faces and forms and twisted
monstrosities that shouldered me on every side, inconceivable types of
sodden ugliness, the wrecks of society, the perambulating carcasses, the
living deaths--women, blasted by disease and drink till their shame
brought not tuppence in the open mart; and men, in fantastic rags,
wrenched by hardship and exposure out of all semblance of men, their
faces in a perpetual writhe of pain, grinning idiotically, shambling like
apes, dying with every step they took and each breath they drew. And
there were young girls, of eighteen and twenty, with trim bodies and
faces yet untouched with twist and bloat, who had fetched the bottom of
the Abyss plump, in one swift fall
The book, in fact, is not generally written in this over-wrought style, and yet I'm rather drawn to it.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

The Giant Rat of Wapping

One of the first programmes I ever saw that drew me into the Victorian era was the Dr. Who story The Talons of Weng-Chiang, featuring the marvellous Tom Baker (and Louise Jameson as his otherworldly Amazonian assistant, Leela, forced to dress in leg-of-mutton sleeves instead of the usual Jungle bikini outfit). The story featured (as well as the usual complement of villainous aliens) a Victorian music-hall and a giant rat loose in the sewers of the East End (some exterior shots were filmed around Wapping). Now it's on the Internet - that's if you're in the UK and don't mind adverts at regular intervals ...