Friday 28 May 2010

June Tabor

Not remotely Victorian (except, perhaps, that she regularly performs ancient folk-songs, which would have been familiar to our Victorian ancestors) but I'm sitting here listening to June Tabor and I just want to share her with the world. Sit back and listen to these four songs on Spotify and I challenge you not to be astonished.

June Tabor on Spotify - click here ...

Sunday 23 May 2010

How Burglary is Managed

Just in case you were wondering, here's a piece from the Cornhill Magazine, anthologised in the Times of Dec.27, 1862.

HOW BURGLARY IS MANAGED. We will suppose a burglary completely arranged and a dark gusty night arrived to favour its execution - bright nights are never chosen for such enterprises. After drinking a courage cup together, the thieves start away, but not in company. There are usually three in a gang, two to enter the house, and one to keep watch outside. Each man takes his own road to the house; and should anyh of them be watched or followed by the police, he avoids the place of rendevous, and the "job" is off for the night. The tools are either carried by one of the party in a travelling bag, or, more frequently, they are bestowed in multitudinous pockets about the person. There is no difficulty in carrying the most complex and formidable apparatus in this way, for such tools are made to separate into many pieces. And the thieves have agreed upon a plan of action for every emergency. Sometimes the motto of the expedition is "every man for himself," in which case each man makes his escape as best he can, should the attempt fail; but oftener it is understood that they shall stand by each other from first to last. The police-constable has once more passed the houses in his weary round, his footfall sounds far away down the street, and now the burglars commence operations. If yyou have a watchdog it is drugged; if you have a corruptible servant, he has been bribed, perhaps. A mould has been taken of your house-key by some innocent-looking woman, who has got into the hall for a moment on pretended business, and the door yields instantly to the counterfeit. Or perhaps your house is regularly broken into; and there are various ways of accomplishing that feat. "Jumping a crib" is entrance by a window; "breaking a crib," forcing a back door; "grating a cri,b" through cellar gratings;  "garreting a crib," through the roof or by an attic window. Entrance through the roof is sometimes cleverly effected (from the leads of an empty house adjacent) by means of an umbrella. First a few slates are removed, then a small hole is made, and through this aperture a strong springless umbrella is thrust and shaken open. Again tthe thieves go to work upon the hole in the roof, which they widen rapidly and with perfect confidence, since the debris falls noiselessly into the umbrella pendant beneath. By one of these means, then, the burglars have entered the house; and when they are determined to come in it is almost impossible to keep them out; and once within they fall to work rapidly and noiselessly.  At one time housebreakers held to the supersition that no sleeper could awake and no waking man could see them, if they carried their candle in a dead man's hand. There are no such superstitions now, but there are silent matches and indiarubber goloshes - things far more to the robber's purpose. Or he pulls a pair of thick stockings over his boots, and so moves about unheard within, while his confederate, the "crow," keeps watch without. The policeman again passes the house where this treasure is being sought; but nothing is discovered to him. Even if a panel hhas been cut from the door, and the constable, in passing, turns his head lantern on the very spot, discovery is by no means certain; for the panel has been replaced by a sheet of grained or painted paper provided for the purpose. The scout's signalss are anxiously observed by his comrades. By a cough, a whistle, a stamps of the foot, or by mewing like a cat, perhaps, he is able to inform them instantly, while they are at work in one room, that a light has beren struck in another; that the inmates are aroused, in fact, and immediately retreat necessary. Nor do burglars venture to leave the house, even when the booty is secured, until they are signalled that the way is clear for an escape.
The original Cornhill article is called "The Science of Garotting and Housebreaking" (and the whole thing, of course, dates from the garotting panic of 1862) and it can be viewed here.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Little People

One of the things I love about old photographs (of which I don't possess any originals - just Victorian photo books of 'sights' of London, which were mass produced for tourists) are the little people just visible in the picture. Two of them grace the title of this blog - a couple caught crossing Westminster Bridge, as it happens - I love the way he's carrying the baskets for them both - and how you can tell they're working class from him doing just that, and the cut of his clothes.

At the other end of the spectrum, I just came across this trio near Green Park

Of course, they may not be a trio at all ... the man on the left is looking away, as they cross the road. But I love his jaunty steps, the brisk walk with the cane, as opposed to the man on the right, loosely holding his umbrella, seemingly just sauntering - his wife hitching up her skirts to avoid the mess on the road. The man with the cane has a self-important air about him - was he a leading politican, financier or just a military man with an upright bearing?

All that's left of him, of course, is this smudge on a page.