Saturday 30 October 2010

You may wish to avoid

I have just moved to a new host.

The reason?

I 'upgraded' my website to a new package on and found that the advertisements/banners did not work anymore.

Easily were, frankly, rubbish in dealing with this. I waited days and days. There were two long phone calls explaining the problem; several emails and - in the end - my own research (and I am an ignoramus on programming and servers) narrowed it down to a likely cause. I won't go into the technical details but the 'solution' eventually proposed was basically to rename all the files extensions on my site. Several thousand of them. Files which had worked perfectly well on their old setup. Files to which lots of people already had links, links which would then be broken. Files which, incidentally, now work fine, migrated to the new host.

I will stop what could turn into a long whinge. The short summary - best avoided, if you want anything remotely resembling support or customer service.

Furious Driving

More local news from Stoke Newington, in The Morning Chronicle of 1838:

FURIOUS DRIVING - Two stylishly dressed individuals named Stephens and Shreeve, the former of whom stated himself to be a master tailor, were charged under the following circumstances:
    It appeared from the evidence of a gentleman named Wilkes, that on the evening before he was walking in the green lanes at Stoke Newington, where his country residence is situated, when he perceived the defendants in a gig, which they were driving towards him at a most furious rate, pursued by a policeman on horseback. He had just time to step hastily aside, when the gig passed him so closely that he was within an inch of being run over. The lane was thronged with woman and children, and it appeared almost a miracle that no serious accident occurred.
    Police constable 144 N stated that he was on horseback in the lane when the prisoners drove up to him at full speed. He thought the horse had run away at first, but as they passed him the prisoner, Stephens, who was lying on his back, excessively drunk, gave hmi a cut with his whip. He pursued the gig. and after a hard chase, during which Stephens kept incessantly lashing on the horse, he overtook them, and with the assistance of two other policemen, took them into custody. They both resisted and assaulted the officers, and the prisoner Shreeve said that "he would serve them as Lieut. Bennett had been served."
    In their defence the prisoner Shreeve, who acted as spokesman, pleaded his friend's intoxication, and denied that he had used the language imputed to him.
    Mr. BROUGHTON said that it was a most disgraceful transaction, and might have led to fatal consequences.
    The prisoner Stephens was ordered to pay a fine of 40s.,  and the prisoner Shreeve 20s.

Friday 29 October 2010


Sometimes you find stuff in the press worthy of the best penny dreadful. A cliché in many such dreadfuls and, indeed, Victorian novels, is that of the corrupt 'madhouse keeper' who imprisons the heroine, at the behest of a corrupt husband or relative. Here's a story from the Morning Post of 1838, a little local news from my neck of the woods, with a similar sort of disappointment in store:
LAMBETH-STREET - EXTRAORDINARY AFFAIR - Yesterday an exceedingly good-looking and respectably-dressed young female applied to Mr. Hardwick for his advice and assistance under the following circumstances:-
     The applicant stated that on Friday, the 30th of March last, she was married at the parish church of St. Mary's, Stoke Newington, to Mr. Robert Wall Stephens, whose friends were highly respectable, and who himself held a situation in an extensive mercantile establishment in the City, at a salary of 300l. a year. On the day after their marriage her husband went to a tavern that he had been in the habit of frequenting, and on the following morning (Sunday, the 1st of April) two keepers came to their lodgings in Stoke Newington, and with much force and violence dragged him (her husband) away from her, and took hint to Miles's mad-house at Hoxton, though it was her (applicant's) perfect conviction that he was perfectly sane at the time. He was, however, kept there until Friday last, when he was removed to Bethlem, where she was refused admittance to see him. The applicant, in conclusion, said that she was satisfied her husband was by no means insane, and that it was her belief that he had been confined by his friends for the purpose solely of putting the marriage on one side or rendering it illegal, as they felt annoyed at his marrying, as they supposed, a person inferior in station and family to himself.
     Mr. Hardwick (to the applicant)—Did you notice anything in the manner or conduct of your husband to lead you to suppose him insane?
     Applicant—No, Sir, never; but his being dragged away from me as he has been, and confined in a madhouse, is enough to make him so, and naturally a source of great uneasiness to him ; at the same time he is no more insane than I am.
     Mr. Hardwick— How long had you known your husband previous to your marriage?
     Applicant—I became acquainted with him about three months before; but for a fortnight previous to our marriage I had been intimately acquainted with him, and during that time, as well as on the last time I saw him, he seemed perfectly collected. I have no doubt that the object of his brothers and friends in taking him away, and confining him, it to set aside our marriage.
     Mr. Hardwick—At a public hospital like Bethlem the regulations as well as the law requires the officers to be very particular before they admit patients, and they must have the certificate of two medical men as to the insanity of the party before they can receive them into the institution.
     Applicant—It was very odd, Sir, that Mr. Houghton, of Earl-street, Blackfriars, the medical gentleman who attended my husband, dined with him and me on the day before our marriage, and also drank wine with my husband after dinner, and neither then nor before did he say a sentence as to his insanity.
     Mr. Hardwick—Where was that?
     Applicant—At the Portugal Hotel, in Fleet-street. We went there on the Tuesday, and were to be married on the Thursday, but it was put off till the Friday. On the Thursday evening my husband's father and mother visited and stopped with us some time there, and neither said a single word about the inanity of their son.
     Mr. Hardwick—Were they aware at that time that you were going to be married on the following day
     Applicant—Oh. yes Sir ; and Mrs. Stephens even came up to my bedroom, kissed me, and said she hoped I'd be happy with her son. Besides, Sir, both my husband's father and one of his brothers were present at our marriage on the following day.
     Mr. Hardwick— Are you sure your husband is in Bethlem?
     Applicant—Oh yes, Sir ; he was taken there from Miles's on the Friday morning.
     Mr. Hardwick—When did you go there?
     Applicant—On the Friday evening, but was refused admittance to him, and was told I could not see him. Nor would he he released, though I offered to take all the responsibility of taking care of him myself.
     Mr. Hardwick here wrote a letter, stating the particulars of the application, and requesting some information on the subject, to Mr. Nicholls, the steward of Bethlem Hospital, and having despatched Davis, one of the officers, with it, requested the applicant to wait until he had received an answer. In about an hour Davis returned with an answer, and Mr. Hardwick having read it observed that the husband, as she described him, of the applicant was a decided lunatic, and that he was taken in on the necessary medical certificate, granted on a petition which had been signed by his brother.
     The applicant said she suspected all along that his brother was the cause of his confinement, and she was still of opinion that he was perfectly sane. Mr. Hardwick observed that. if the applicant felt at all dissatisfied, it was requested in the letter he had received she should attend on Friday next, either at Bridge-street or the Hospital, when Mr. Nicholls, the steward, would take her before the committee for managing the institution and he (Mr. Hardwick) felt confident those gentlemen would pay every attention to and do what was necessary in her unfortunate case. The applicant expressed her thanks to the learned magistrate for his attention and trouble, and left the office, declaring her conviction that her husband was no more insane than she was, and that she should never rest until she obtained his release.

Thursday 28 October 2010


Here's an article from Bow Bells in 1872, on Halloween customs. We've kept bobbing for apples (well, maybe) but here's what we've lost in the meantime:


THERE is, perhaps, no night in the year which the popular imagination has stamped with a more peculiar character than the evening of the 31st of October. The leading idea amongst the inhabitants of the lands of Shakespere, Moore, and Burns respecting this festival is, that it is the time of all others when supernatural influences prevail. It is the night set apart by superstition for a universal walking abroad of spirits, both of the visible and invisible world; one of the special characteristics attributed to the occasion being the faculty conferred on the immaterial principle in humanity to detach itself from its corporeal tenement and wander abroad through the realms of space. Divination is then believed to attain its highest power ; and the gift asserted by Glendower, of calling spirits "from the vasty deep," becomes available to all who choose to make use of the privileges of the time.
    There is a remarkable uniformity in the the fire-side custom of this night throughout England, Ireland,Scotland, and Wales. Nuts and apple are everywhere in requisition, and are consumed in immense numbers. From this fact the name of "Nutcrack Night" has often been applied, especially by the people of the north of England. The nuts are not only cracked and eaten, but made the means of vaticination in love affairs, as will be seen by the following which we quote from Burns's poem of "Halloween":—

The auld guidwife's well-hoordit nits,
Are round and round divided,
And monie lads' and lasses' fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle coothie, side by side,
And burn thegither trimly;
Some start awa, wi' saucy pride,
And jump out-owre the chimlie
Fu' high that night.

Jean slips in twa wi' tentie ee;
Wha 'twas she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, and this is me,
She says in to hersel:
He bleezed owre her, and she owre him,
As they wad never mair part;
Till, fuff! he started up the lum,
And Jean had e'en a sair heart
To see't that night.

It is the custom in Ireland, when the young women would know if their lovers are faithful, to put three nuts upon the bars of the grate, naming them after the lovers. If a nut cracks or jumps, the lover will prove unfaithful ; if it begins to blaze or burn, he has a regard for the person making the trial ; if the nuts named after the girl and her lover burn together, they will be married.
    There is an old custom, still generally observed, of hanging a stick horizontally by a string from the ceiling, and placing a candle on one end and an apple on the other. The stick being made to turn rapidly, the merry-makers in succession leap up and snatch at the apple with their teeth; but it very frequently happens that the candle comes round before they are aware, and scorches them in the face or anoints them with grease. The disappointment and misadventure occasion, of course, abundance of laughter, and so the hours speed.
    But the grand sport of Halloween is the "ducking." A number of apples are placed in a tub of water, and the juveniles - the use of their hands restricted - take turns in diving therefor, catching them with their teeth. Great fun goes on in watching the attempts of the youngster in the pursuit of the swimming fruit, which wriggles from side to side, and evades all attempts to capture it, whilst the disappointed aspirant is obliged to abandon the job in favour of another whose turn has arrived. Some of the competitors deftly suck the apple, if small, into their mouths. Others plunge manfully overhead in pursuit of a particular one, and forcing it to the bottom, seize it with their teeth, and emerge dripping and triumphant with their prize.
    Of late years a practice has been introduced, probably by some tender mammas, timorous on the subject of their offspring's catching cold, of dropping a fork from a height into the tub among the apples, and thus turning the sport into a display of marksmanship. This, however, forms but as indifferent substitute for the other plan. In Scotland there exists a custom which generally opens the night's amusement, called "pulling the kail stocks" (cabbage) The young people go out hand-in-hand, blindfolded, into the garden and each pulls the first stalk met with.  They then return to the fireside to inspect their prizes. According as the stalk is big or little, straight or crooked, so shall the future wife or husband be of the party by whom it is pulled. The quantity of earth sticking to the root denotes the amount of fortune or dowry and the taste of the pith, or custoc, indicates the temper. Finally, the stalks are placed, one after another, over the door, and the Christian names of the persons who chance thereafter to enter the house are held in the same succession to indicate those of the individuals whom the parties are to marry.

An Evening of Crime .2

Just to say thanks to Kay and everyone at Leatherhead Library for making tonight a very pleasant evening - one of the best 'author events' I've had the privilege of attending. I also got to meet William Sutton and Ian Porter who talked eloquently about their books and writing in general, plus a quick hello to Malcolm of the magnificent Victorian Turkish Baths and a brief chat with The Amateur Casual. This could almost pass for serious Victorian networking, had not Mr. Sutton brought his ukelele, thus guaranteeing that every reader present will remember it as 'that event with the ukelele guy' ... next time I shall bring my cornopean.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

An Evening of Victorian Crime

In the statistically unlikely event you are in Leatherhead tomorrow (Thursday 28th October), then you can find me talking at the Mole Valley Festival, about all things Victorian and criminal ... more information here ...

Sunday 24 October 2010

Is Society Worse Than It Was?

An inconsequential little article, with a good couple of quotes ... it gives a good idea of the moral tone of Edwardian London ...


When Queen Victoria began to reign, her youth and innocence had such an effect on Society that people, conscious of their imperfections, began to amend their former ways. Respectability became the fashion, and those whose conduct had not been irreproachable' were ashamed, and, outwardly at least, conformed to all rules, of propriety.
    This, however, lasted only for the lifetime of one generation, and then, as Society grew larger, people became more and more worldly, and less and less careful to maintain a high standard until now, when though perhaps not sufficiently ashamed of it they are not altogether pleased with the state of affairs.
    If the question be asked, 'Is Society now better than it, was, a hundred years ago?' the frequent answer hastily and cheerfully given is, 'Yes, undoubtedly, for people are more sober, more refined, and no longer swear.'
    This is true to a certain extent, but when we consider how much more educated, refined, and sober the whole nation has become, and what vast strides have been made in science and all kinds of knowledge, then in comparison Society seems to have made little, if any, progress. There may be now as many wise, charming, and brilliantly clever people as there were then, but they have not increased in number, though Society has.
    Society has its rules, and claims as heretofore to be an example-in good manners and honourable behaviour. Any person openly convicted of cheating, or of breaking the marriage laws, is expelled. A few who manage to conceal their misdoings and appear outwardly respectable are welcome to remain.
    There are others, really noble and good, who, though in the-world, are not of the world, whose homes are an example of all that is best in the British nation, and whose good influence would be felt if Society had not grown so large that it can no longer be controlled by one set. There are now many circles within it, each containing people who consider themselves leaders of their own surroundings,. some of whom are so far from being patterns of good behaviour that it becomes a question whether the term of reproach 'not in Society' may not in future become one of commendation.
    But let us consider first the improvements claimed to have been made within the last century—in sobriety, manners, and refinement. Certainly among men it is no longer thought a fine thing to drink too much.. Insobriety happens very seldom, and when it does, is considered a disgrace. But women drink far more than they did fifty years ago, not only wine, but spirits and liqueurs. People interested in the subject say that the liking for alcohol is increasing alarmingly among them, though of course they indulge in it secretly. It is said that dressmakers and grocers procure wine or spirits for 'the lady,' and call it by some other name in the bill paid by the husband. Whether this be true or not, there is little doubt that many women drink far more than is necessary or good for them. Perhaps the now common practice of smoking cigarettes habitually may tend to increase this evil. Then the taking of drugs seems much more common. There is a greater impatience at the least pain. A slight headache, often caused only by racketing about after too many pleasures, is made an excuse for taking antipyrine, or some other soothing medicine, with results disastrous to heart and nerves.
    As to manners, it is curious to observe how far less they have improved in Society, than among those from whom good manners are least expected.. Except in the case of a panic, it was less disagreeable to be in a common crowd at the entrance of an exhibition or theatre, than in a large drawing-room at the Palace, before the new regulations were made. In the common crowd, you are good-humouredly tolerated, sometimes even assisted, never intentionally pushed.
    In Croker's Diary we read: 'A great crowd at the Drawing-room, and the absence of hoops brings the ladies into such close contact that some of them quarrelled, and were near pulling one another's feathers.' We are not quite so bad as this now, but some years ago a man in uniform, desirous of helping his wife and daughters to the royal. presence, forgetting his manners, said, 'No room ? Oh, you just follow me, I will make room,' and assisted by sharp epaulettes he did so.
    Good manners are often to be met with in a 'bus or third-class railway carriage. There you are welcomed with kind hands stretched out to lift your birdcage or bandbox. It is surprisingly rare to meet with common civility in a first-class carriage: For instance, going by train to garden parties near London, without any encumbrances of birds or boxes, you are unwillingly, ungraciously permitted to squeeze into a seat, the other occupants of the carriage making it very clear that, because you happen to be unknown to them, no civility is to be expected on their part. It may be urged as an excuse that heat, stuffiness, and overcrowding are more annoying to gentlefolk, but then good manners should conceal it. As a French writer has said, 'La politesse a été inventée pour remplacer la bonte de coeur qui nous manque.' But those wanting in kindness of heart do not always avail themselves of the invention.
    The same can be said of those who extinguish all view of the stage with their large hats at a morning performance, and others who discuss the play, or their own affairs, in a loud voice during the performance. This, in the last few years, has become an intolerable nuisance. Can nothing be done to put an end to it? In a Paris theatre any attempt at talking is instantly stopped by loud hisses. In London a polite request for silence has no effect. It is people in Society, as well as those out of it, who are guilty of this kind of selfishness. The other day a little girl, whose father had vainly tried to remonstrate with some chatterer in the stalls, said in a clear but subdued voice, 'Oh, it's no good; leave him alone, papa! He looks like my dentist, and might pay me out some day.' The child's remark had the desired effect.
    As to refinement, of course a spade is no longer called a spade quite so plainly as long ago, and swearing is never heard. Some of the slang expressions now in use may not be considered very refined, but they are harmless. It is, however, doubtful if anything in former years can have been more seriously objectionable than the conversation that goes on in some houses at the present time. What excuse can be made for people, by birth gentlefolk, who allow stories and jokes to be circulated round the dinner-table in whispers, because they are too bad to be repeated aloud; and for those women who encourage by their laughter coarse conversation full of allusions and doubles-ententes, who discuss such disgraceful gossip in their drawing-rooms that it must poison the mind of any innocent young woman who may be present?
    Honesty has always been reckoned one of the essential qualities of every member of society, and when it concerns gambling and racing is strictly adhered to. But in other matters not connected directly with friends or acquaintances, some people have very lax ideas on the subject. To be so extravagant as to buy more than can possibly be paid  for, is certainly cheating, though not perhaps of the same kind as Society blames most. And this is done by many without shame or remorse for the ruin it often causes to the tradespeople. There are women, for instance, who indulge in every kind of extravagance they cannot afford, and at the same time are willing enough to give away money which is not theirs, thereby gaining the credit of being charitable. In a few instances they have even been heard preaching to working girls on the desirability of dressing quietly and being respectable. It is doubtful if such incongruity and hypocrisy were practised a hundred years ago.
    No doubt there always were, and are now, people who do not pretend to be otherwise than worldly, and are for ever striving to obtain pleasures or advantages. Some of them, whose greatest fear is being uncomfortable or bored, try to avoid these by running after the wealthy. Now and then they discover new rich people, and hastily introduce them into the inner fashionable circle, without the least caring whether they possess anything besides money, nor how this was acquired. They stand at what we will call the 'turnstile' of Society, and say in veiled language no doubt), 'What will you give in return for these introductions ? ' The answer comes later, honestly paid in some substantial form or other, a carriage, horses, or a sum of money purposely lost at a game of cards. Occasionally some charity benefits largely, but seldom in the real giver's name. Once through the gate, they are welcomed by many ; albeit some may smile and call them 'vulgar,' in reality they are not more so than those who introduced them.
    Sometimes, when fault is found with the present-day manners and morals, the blame is laid on Americans and nouveaux riches, of whom there are a greater number than formerly. But it is doubtful whether this accusation is justified. It is true American girls are supposed to be independent and free and easy in manner, but surely not so silly or so devoid of womanly dignity as to behave as a few English young ladies do, who, in trying to copy fast married women, only succeed in imitating the saucy, romping manners of factory girls, and even, like them, in 'keeping company with their young man.' For what else can it be called, when girls consent to drive off at night in hansoms with their partners, instead of dancing? Yet this has been known to occur at balls where chaperones were considered superfluous.
    As to American women, they certainly encourage extravagance in dress, but they are generally speaking well-educated, energetic, self-reliant, and those who have married Englishmen have in most cases proved to be exemplary wives and mothers.
    As a rule the nouveaux riches help to exaggerate the importance of wealth by their extravagance, but there are many exceptions. Some, aware of the responsibility of riches, spend their money not only in the encouragement of science, culture, and art, but also in charity. If some bring an element of vulgarity into Society, it is no serious fault, nor one that can be cavilled at by those who toady to and worship the wealthy.
    If there be reason to think that Society is deteriorating rather than improving, it is not owing to these, nor even perhaps, as some suppose, to the bad influence of a few among the aristocracy, who, by their conduct, have extinguished the respect hitherto accorded to their old family names, but rather to the apathy of some, and the timidity amounting to cowardice of others, belonging to that vast majority of respectable people who condone conduct which in their heart of hearts they condemn.
    They ought to be the example, but they have never realised their responsibilities. With some the dread of being considered strait-laced or prim, is far greater than the fear of evil. Virtuous themselves, they yet know and believe all the evil gossip about others from whom they readily accept: invitations and benefits. They allow gambling to go on in, their houses, for they have not the pluck, to. forbid games of cards being played for money. Idle people are encouraged by them to play 'bridge,' not merely as a recreation in the evening, but, as the business of the day, beginning after :luncheon and continuing throughout the night. In entertaining their friends and acquaintances, so anxious are they to. be popular and please those who are the fashion of the day, that they encourage flirtations among married people, and would sooner think of leaving out the husbands, than of not including in their 'invitations the well-known admirers of their guests.
    They pride themselves in knowing all the on dits and latest gossip, so that they may be able to arrange for people to meet in their houses whom, it would be far kinder to keep apart. If it result in marring the happiness of some man or woman's life, they are unconcerned. ' It is no business of theirs,' they say. If, however, it all ends in some open scandal,, they are the first to turn away in virtuous indignation, and are shocked at what they themselves have really done their best to bring about. It never dawns upon their minds that they have shared in the evil, and are in a great measure responsible for what has occurred. If, however, they suspected their cook of making rendez-vous with the married policeman, they would see the harm more clearly, and consider it their duty to put a stop to it at once.
    These are people who never think perhaps, because they never give themselves time. By no means wicked, for, on the contrary, they are kind, well-intentioned, and even in their way religious. They go regularly to church, and are horrified at any unorthodox ideas. When for a moment they have time to speak seriously, you find that Divine words, like 'Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of these,' are loved and reverenced by them, but, like holy relics, of some long lost friend, they are locked away and. treasured. carefully, but have no part or meaning in their daily life.
    Yet it is to them that many a man or woman might-point and say, 'In your house the great sorrow of my life began;' or `The gambling in your house was the beginning of my ruin.'
    With. some, respectable persons the fault lies in their denseness or stupidity. For instance, one will tell you all sorts of wicked unpardonable things Lady X. has done, and shortly afterwards will say: 'She is giving, a ball next week. There she is,  standing near the door in pale green. Shall I introduce you ? She may invite you and your pretty daughter!'  Surprised, you reply, 'No, thank you; after all, you have told me I would rather not make her acquaintance.'  'But she gives such excellent balls ; surely for the sake of your daughter?' and if you, take the trouble to explain that you object to making the acquaintance of, or accepting a kindness from anyone whose conduct you abhor, your opinion is received with the same shocked surprise as if you had spoken lightly of the Bible.
    Or, again, somebody deplores to you in confidence, 'What a dreadful pity it is that' the objectionable little Mrs. Dragonfly has quite got hold of Mr. Z., who is so charming. I know you have asked him to your dance, but I fear he will not come unless you send an invitation to Mrs. D. !' Then you answer, 'I agree with you, Mr. Z. is charming, and he will come or not as he chooses, but I shall not ask Mrs. D.' This somebody goes on urging you, saying, 'After all, Mrs. Dragonfly is very pretty, lively, and much admired. Everybody asks her. You know, a few smart married women like her are always an attraction to any ball.' This advice, if worldly, is genuine and kindly meant.
    Another time some timid woman will reveal to you in confidence how terribly shocked she was at something said in the conversation, when the women were alone after dinner. When you ask, 'What did you do ? Did you remonstrate, or get up and leave them ?'
    'Oh no,' she answers, 'I could not get up. I was afraid they would think me prudish, or that I considered myself better than they; I said nothing.'
    Sometimes this kind of weakness only comes from humility or a mistaken idea of charity. 'Are we then,' they ask, 'to decline to invite or to meet any person whose conduct, in our opinion, does not come, up to our own standard? Are we to judge others whose lives may be more beset with temptations, difficulties, and dangers than our own If so, is this consistent with Christian charity?'
    No, nor are they required to judge others, but rather to judge themselves. To be lenient to the faults of others, only if they be fashionable, and for as long as they prosper, and their friendship be of worldly advantage, is not charity. It is also easy to forgive sins when they are not committed against ourselves. We know that, though we may love sinners, we are to hate sin.
    It is possible to be hospitable, generous, considerate, and kind to all our friends and acquaintances, and at the same time to be firm and true to our own principles.
    Parents who are not wise in choosing their friends, and invite gamblers and other idlers, to, their houses, cannot bring up their children well. This may account for there being: now so many young people who spend their whole time in madly rushing after amusements. Though born in a position where the highest education is attainable, they seem to be idle, uncultivated, with little interest in anything beyond childish pleasures. If you ask them to go to the play, they will only consent provided it be one devoid of story, but with plenty of dancing and singing in it. They groan at the very mention of Shakespeare.
    Even if they wish to improve, having never been taught the necessity of any duty or work, always surrounded only by the worldly, frivolous friends of their parents, it is almost impossible for them to do so. The boys go to school, and may come in contact with better influences; but the girls, if they marry, have little chance of becoming good wives or mothers, or in any way useful members of society.
    Men, as well as women, may be held equally responsible for the faults of society. But women, if they have the will, possess greater power for good. A man, beyond his own personal example, has fewer opportunities of influencing others. He is afraid of appearing priggish if he expresses disapproval, and believes he has no influence.
    Yet, though he may not know it, sometimes he possesses more influence than he thinks. One word of good and true friendly advice of his may have more effect on a woman than any preaching from her own sex. From them she is accustomed to hear virtue extolled, but from him it surprises her and obliges her to think. Perhaps startled to find his ideals are higher than her own, she follows his counsel; and who knows whether or no it may be just at a turning point of her life? If men, on the other hand, realised the effect their flippant words may have on others, they would be more careful.
    A woman, however, has the greatest influence over society in general. To begin with, the home and children are much more under her influence. If she entertains, all the invitations and social arrangements are, generally speaking, entirely under her control. Therefore her opportunities for influencing the conduct, manners, tone, and conversation of her surroundings are greater than those of her husband. There are many good women who do all this, but it were better if there were more. As long as people continue satisfied, the present state of affairs will continue.
    That the responsibilities of Society are very great and can in no way be evaded is true, for no one denies that the vices of Society have a disastrous effect on the nation at large.
    If a desire for improvement were to arise again as in 1837, it would be hailed with joy by all those who still cling to the old-fashioned ideas embodied in the saying, Noblesse oblige.
    No doubt the leaven is there, but the mass of -dough is too great to be effectually pervaded by it. The hope for improvement lies in the young people of this present generation. If some young married women will only lead the way, others will follow.
    Do not listen to the cynical worldling who tells you there is no use in trying to alter anything. Let him sit with folded hands in contented apathy saying, 'All is not so bad,' and that it is better to live and let live,' and surtout point de zele! Pay no heed to him; remember that Society's influence reaches to the heart of the nation; so for the sake of your country, for the sake of all you love best, cling to your highest ideals of life, and your home will become a beacon for good. No matter if you are poor or stand alone, there is still power in your life's example if only (to use the words of Emerson) you take care to ' hitch your car to a star.'
The Nineteenth Century, 1903

Friday 22 October 2010

Hyde Park Police

Did you know that Hyde Park used to have its own police station?

The Police Station where I served has given way to a more commodious and modern building of that name. (Rebuilt 1902.) I will, however, give a brief description of the old place as far as I am able to relate. Anyone walking by the footpath through Hyde Park from the Marble Arch to the Magazine, and when about halfway, would pass on their left-hand side a quaint one- storied old brick building, with its long verandah and grass lawn, surrounded with iron rails; this was the Police Station,(Originally used as a Military guard-room.) certainly nothing to indicate it, being so different to the uniform building we see in the streets with the familiar blue glass lamp over the door; not one out of every dozen that passed this place - non-Londoners especially - ever dreamt that it was a Police Station; but a Police Station it had been for the last forty years at least. Yes, and some of the worst of characters have been marched under its portals, and placed in the iron oblong dock, from the "gentleman got-up" thief, with his dust-coat on his arm, who moves about Society on the side of Rotten Row, to the dirty cad pickpocket who attends large demonstrations and steals all, he can, from a pocket-handkerchief upwards; the cowardly bully who lives on the nightly immoral earnings of his paramour, and who, when she cannot give him the required sum he demands, knocks her with his fist flat to the ground. These and many more of a similar type have been brought to book in that old place. Happily the Park is better lighted now, and such characters as the last two mentioned are few and far between. 
...     About thirty of us single men resided in the old station, and, antiquated as it may have appeared outside, it was clean and comfortable inside. On entering the doorway, right and left were the Inspector's (or Enquiry) Office, Charge-room and cells respectively; passing a little further on the right, is the mess kitchen or dining-room; continuing through brings you into the library, a nice spacious room, with its full-size billiard table and well-stocked book cupboards; through another door on the left brings you into the cooking kitchen; following on leads along a passage down a few steps into the yard below, where we find the stables for the horses of the Mounted Police. This was the station I made my acquaintance with in April, 1874.

Edward Owen, Hyde Park, Select Narratives, Annual Event, etc,
during twenty years' Police Service in Hyde Park,

Thursday 21 October 2010

Research I like. Research I don't like.

I know a bit about Victorian London.

I love it when people get in touch with family history questions, after they've been researching their ancestors, and I can tell them something useful or interesting about Victorian London. I don't charge for doing this - it's just pure fun.

I love it when people pay me to do some research; that's good too. Very good.

What I also get, however, are queries from TV researchers. It doesn't do well to generalise, but, after years of gathering evidence, I can say they are amongst the least welcome emails I receive. Maybe a touch above viagra spam; but at least that's offering a service.

They follow one of two formats, which I can summarise below. The first type is fairly plain:


I am doing some research on [x] for [famous broadcasting company / company producing programme for famous broadcasting company]

Your site is great! It has something about [z]. I know nothing else about [z].

I wonder if you know anything more about [z] or know someone who knows more about [z]?

Tell me what you know.


The second is a more oblique approach.


We are making a programme on [x] for [famous broadcasting company / company producing programme for famous broadcasting company]

Your site is great! You plainly know things about [z] which is mentioned on your site.
We are scouting for experts on [z] for the programme and I'd love to have a chat with you about it. When can we talk?


The second, you may notice, hints at APPEARING ON TELLY. This is meant to instil a fervour of anticipation.

In fact, both types are exactly the same thing; the second approach is just more insidious. They are designed to elicit any knowledge I may have upon a given subject, at no cost whatsoever.

I am sorry to say, that's the truth of it. This post probably makes me sound cynical and grumpy and, quite genuinely, I'm not ... I'm just exasperated.

So this blog is going to be my generic reply:

To inquirers of the first type:

If you are a researcher, and I have specific information readily to hand, on my site, or nestling in my brain (the latter is more unlikely) I will happily direct you to it. I am a generous soul, at heart, and I will not tell you to bugger off, even though I have spent years researching Victorian London for sheer pleasure and you, on the other hand, are being paid for the privilege.

To inquirers of the second type:

Bugger off. I will not 'chat' to you about a subject, whilst you take notes on the other end of the phone. I will not provide detailed information, on the vague hope that you are actually 'compiling a list of experts' who may appear on your programme, with the only payment being 'expenses'; nor do I care if you 'filming next week, so it's really urgent;' or 'there's really no budget for research'.

Now, I generally tell people where to go (no, in a nice way ... eg. archives, museums, databases) but - get this - in maybe five years of such approaches from TV people, I have 
  • been paid once (for appearing on a cable TV show)
  • encountered one researcher who clearly knew their subject
That's not a high strike rate, is it?

I'm all about free information.

My website is free. This blog is free.

But I'm quite content not to be on telly, ok? Just bear that in mind, if you get in touch.


An interior of a first-class London and South Western Railway carriage, Southampton steamer-express, 1898. Those were, indeed, the days ...

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Opening Your Shutters

I shouldn't find this funny. Interesting, too, that indecent exposure in the street was - although ultimately prosecuted - apparently tolerated for a good while.

A BEAST.—On Tuesday, William Wallace, a haggard-looking man, wearing a Scotch plaid coat, was placed at the bar charged with indecently exposing his person to several females and others. Mr. Amos, a linendraper in the Blackfriars-road, stated that some time ago his female servants complained of the disgusting conduct of a man who presented himself in front of the parlour windows when they were undoing the shutters of a morning; that, with the view of punishing such a miscreant, he employed a policeman to watch for the fellow, and that morning the prisoner again appeared, as on former oncasions, in front of his parlour windows and exposed his person. The policeman and one of the female servants gave evidence, and confirmed the account given of the prisoner's beastly propensities. Mr. Power, a gentleman residing in Nelson-square, stated that for the last six months the prisoner was in the habit of acting precisely in a similar disgusting manner in front of his house, particularly on the occasions when any of the females approached the windows; that he had witnessed his abominable behaviour, and had run out of the house and pursued him, but he was such an extraordinary quick runner that he always outstripped him, and escaped. Mr. A'Beckett said the prisoner's conduct was unnatural and disgusting in the extreme, and that he should commit him for three months to gaol.

Monday 18 October 2010

The Rag and Bottle Man

A Leisure Hour piece from 1863, giving details of one of the many Victorian professions revolving around 'recycling':


FOG ALLEY is a small and circumscribed place, forming a sort of microcosm or little world of its own. We are not going to inform the reader as to its precise locality, for reasons which may appear : if he be an inhabitant of London, and a person of observation, he will be at no loss to fix upon the site at once and if he is not, of course it can be of no importance to him to know whereabouts Fog Alley is located. There are thousands of people who pass by the narrow entrance to the alley every day of their lives, and yet know nothing about it ; for the entrance is so small and unpretentious, and so dirty withal, that it presents no attractions to the explorer, who must walk between walls scarcely three feet apart, for a distance of some twenty yards, before he can be said to have entered the precincts. Once fairly within, however, and the prospect, though of the dingiest, is not wanting the elements of life and activity. The alley is paved with flags, and is so closed up at both ends as to be inaccessible to anything broader than a wheelbarrow; still, for most of its length it shows a comfortable area, in which a round number of swarming denizens, chiefly of the struggling classes, fight the battle of life after a manner of their own. The dwellings are half shops, and half, we were going to say, private houses; but we question the application of that term, to houses which are open daily and nightly to the wayfarers of all the world, and which never close their doors, unless they happen to be full, against the traveller who can compensate their hospitality with such a thing, say, as threepence. Among them there is "The Traveller's Rest," "The Wayfarer's Home," "The Wanderer's Refuge," and we know not how many others, with equally romantic and benevolent titles, where the poorest wretch (who can pay for it) can shelter his homelessness.
    The shops are much in keeping with these philanthropic hostels, and deal exclusively in such matters as the struggling classes want to buy or sell. There is a baker, whose oven keeps the flags in front of him warm and dry all the year round, and whose bread, if it is sometimes a little sour, is always twopence a quartern under the tip-top price, and who every now and then displays a huge broadside in his window, bearing the words "DOWN AGAIN TO 5d." There is an amalgamated grocery and general shop, which does business on as cheap a principle ; there is a coal-shed and potato-store equally moderate in its demands ; and among other shops no less necessary, but less worthy of note, there is the rag-and-bottle shop of Mr. Daniel Taggs, whom it is our intention, with the reader's permission, to introduce more particularly to his notice.
    At the first glance, Daniel's shop would seem the least promising in the place. Over its entrance hangs the effigy of something which oscillates between the traditionally black doll of our forefathers, and the Aunt Sally of modern fairs and rough play-grounds. The pendent figure may be either one or the other, the weather-stains of unrecorded summers and winters having bleached and soddened it out of any very exact semblance to either. The shop window is crammed with old-world linen garments, with the concave heels of bottles heaped against the panes, with fragments of many-coloured kerseymere and broadcloth, with small collections of tangled horsehair, with patches of chintz and damask, of faded embroidery and damaged moreen, from the folds and interstices of which peeps forth here a crippled bootjack, there a patent corkscrew minus the worm, and in a dozen other places, the relics and remnants of Brummagen jewellery, shorn of its gems and polish the whole collection being buttressed by a mass of leather just a little mouldy, and consisting of the cashiered hoots, half-boots, bluchers, high-lows, shoes, and slippers, of all grades of society. The inside of the shop is much more striking, though not from the elegance of its contents; it is in fact one congeries of lumber, heaped about on all sides in apparently hopeless confusion. The collection comprises barrels, tubs, pails, stone jars, pots, kettles, plates, dishes, rolls of floor-cloth, packing-chests, barrel-stoops, kitchen-ranges, copper-boilers, sets of shelves, knife-boards, done-up cooking utensils, run- down bottle-jacks, stew-pans that have sprung a leak, foundered fish-kettles, heaps of old books and newspapers, yawning pans of dripping, tubs of housemaid's tallow, and above all, bottles of every conceivable size and shape, and rags of every imaginable texture and hue. Nor is this all ; for the walls are draped with carpets of various pattern algid no pattern, with window-curtains and hangings, and with counterpanes, blankets, and bed-linen ; while a collection of miscellaneous hardware, the fragments of implements of brass, iron, copper, and tin, flanks the open door-way.
    In contemplating such a shop as Daniel Taggs' two questions are apt to present themselves. By what means does the proprietor obtain his multifarious properties? and by what means does he get rid of them? both of which we shall endeavour to answer as briefly as may be. In the first place, Dan's clients from whom he purchases, are in good part the servant girls, who sell to him their presents and perquisites, in the shape of cast-off finery, their own or their mistresses', when it is done with ; and in the shape of candle-ends, kitchen refuse, the disjecta of departed lodgers, the contents of the rag-bag, old cast-off shoes, hats, bonnets, the physic bottles and phials which are left after a bout of sickness in the house, and various other things which their employers desire to got rid of. All these et-ceteras Betty will bring readily enough to Fog Alley, and turn them into cash, while gossiping with Taggs over his counter ; though it is a question whether Betty would carry them for sale at all, if the transaction had to take place in an open and frequented thoroughfare, like Holborn or the Strand: she would probably feel her respectability come promised by conducting such a negotiation in the face of the world, and would decline it altogether. The favourite time for this department of Taggs' business is just when darkness has set in, and before it is time to fetch the supper beer from the public-house ; sometimes, indeed, as we know from observation, both commissions are executed, as they say, under one ; for we have seen Betty in close conference with Taggs, with the supper-jug in her hand, while he was appraising her bundle of commodities. But better clients than the servant girls are to Dan, inasmuch as they yield him a far wider margin, are the householders living in his neighbourhood, who from time to time move from one house to another. When Robinson has got up in the world, and built or bought a new house, or when he has received notice to quit from his landlord whatever may be the cause of his moving, he is sure to be in a more or less excited state about it. The pulling down and packing up the uncarpeting of floors the dismantling of walls the uprooting of garden-beds—the row that is made the dust that is raised the lumbering, racketing, smashing and reckless injury inflicted upon his poor penates— all these things disturb and disarrange his nervous system, and he pants for the hour that shall see it all at an end, and himself once more in a comfortable home. When the last van has started on its way from the old house to the new, and there is nothing further to do than to get rid of the lumber left behind, he sends for the rag-and-bottle man to come and clear it off. Perhaps while the messenger has gone, he strolls through the dusty rooms, and sums up the items of the remaining wreck ; there is that parlour-carpet that has been down seven years, and may have years' wear in it yet: but of course he must have new for the new house ; there are those old French bedsteads ; there are a dozen cane-seat chairs ; there is some half ton weight of old journals and newspapers; and, together with no end of abandoned kitchen utensils, there are long rows of empty bottles in the cellar to say nothing of a heap of old clothes, hats, and boots heaped up in the ball. Robinson has not the remotest idea of the marketable value of all this collection, and perhaps it is as well that he has not; but he is not a little startled when the dealer, having made his appearance and taken a critical survey of the whole, makes him the magnificent offer of "fourteen shillings for the lot."
    "Fourteen. shillings!" shouts Robinson; "you are dreaming."
    The dealer, who considers himself wide awake, makes no reply to this ejaculation, but after a pause, and another glance round, adds coolly, "That's my price, sir, for the lumber; of course if you can do better with it, you does, an' no harm done."
    What is Robinson to do? There is no other dealer in the neighbourhood, and at twelve o'clock he must deliver up the key to the landlord or else pay another quarter's rent a contingency which is quite as well known to the dealer as it is to him. So the end of it is, that the, cunning knave gets the goods at his own price, and all the compensation Robinson has, is the pleasure of being cheated, which the author of "Hudibras" extols; but which, having never been able to realize it in practice, we take to be only a poetical figment.
    Now, we can say this much for Daniel Taggs, that when he is called in to pronounce in such cases, he does not fleece his clients in that abominable style. Dan carries a conscience with him to his work, and, acting on the principle of doing as he would be done by, gives a fair price, although he is his own appraiser. Of course he takes care of himself, as he is bound to do ; but his liberal dealing is well known in his own neighbourhoods and it has won him a connection whose patronage is worth more to him than the sharp practice of some of his congeners in the trade is worth to them. Another market to which Dan is indebted for a good part of his wares is opened to him by auctioneers and their foremen, who, when a house has to be cleared of goods by sale, consign to him the uncatalogued waifs and sundries which escape being knocked down by the hammer, and which, if not removed, would rot on the premises or be appropriated, if not thrust out, by the next tenant. Of goods bought over the counter, Dan might possess much more than he does ; Fog Alley is conveniently recluse and out of the way of the public—the very place, it might be thought, for a receiver of stolen goods to set up his den. Years ago some of the London thieves, thinking Taggs' was "a fencing ken," brought their plunder to him, and got into prison in consequence of his want of sympathy with them. They never make that mistake now, and Dan is not troubled with that fraternity.
    But Taggs buys in order to sell. Let us see now how he gets rid of his goods. In the first place, he sells more in his shop than you would think. The very poor are not choice as to the markets in which they buy; the broken chairs and tables which came to Dan as lumber are repaired by his own hands, and sold to the a labouring and working ranks at a low price. His carpets, his hangings, his blankets and bed linen, find their way into the low lodging-houses, whose owners often bespeak them, and pay for them by instalment, on the tally system. For the bottles be has a sure vent among the wine-merchants, beer-sellers, spirit-dealers, etc. The doctors' phials he cleans and sorts, and sells by the gross to the practitioners among his connection. The cooper will take his casks and tubs, if he cannot meet with private customers for them. His stock of boots and shoes are repaired by a travelling cobbler, who contracts for them by the dozen, and on the Saturday night they walk off scores at a time, to cut a figure on Sunday. Even for his broken glass he has a claimant, who comes round regularly and clears it away, at so much a hundred- weight. Of course the tallow and the grease go to the candle-makers ; and the bones for Taggs deals in bones, though you do not see them in the shop are sold for manure. Concerning the rags, which after all form the most important section of his trade, we might enter into details if we chose, which would fill half a dozen columns. Enough to say, that they are sorted by Mrs. Taggs and the children, in a warehouse at the back of the shop, and though bought by weight in the mass are sold according to their value. The most valuable are the remnants and fragments of old linen which has been often washed without being much worn and wasted ; this is consigned to the lint-makers, who will pay a high price for it. The paper-maker has the next best kind; and the refuse is disposed of to a contractor, who fetches it away, for what purpose Taggs does not care to inquire—though, since the repeal of the paper duty, this refuse grows less and less in quantity.
    Buying cheap, and selling at a swingeing profit, the rag-and-bottle man is almost invariably a prosperous trader. It is true that he labours under the stigma of a rather doubtful character ; but, as in the case of Taggs, this is by no means always deserved. On the contrary, many of them are honest and morally respectable. Now and then you see one struggling to emerge from the unsavoury slough of his repulsive business; first he will drop the trade in grease; then he declines the bones; then the bottles are cashiered ; and lastly, he will bid adieu to the rags, transforming his shop by degrees into that of a general dealer, glittering with articles of taste, enlivened by a few pictures, and abounding in the polish of old Spanish mahogany. This transformation, however, is not over common among them, nor is it always desired. As a class they are earnest seekers after wealth, and they know well enough that fortunes have been won by persevering traffic in the rubbish and refuse which is their peculiar merchandise. It is only in nomenclature that there is such a tremendous gap between the rag-and-bottle man and the millionaire; they have been known before now to be in person one and the same.

Sunday 17 October 2010


'Banting' was the Victorian term for dieting, due to William Banting's A Letter on Corpulence (1863), in which he explaining his own personal method of how to lose weight - a best-seller of its day. Here it is, summarised in the Leisure Hour of 1864.


[* "A Letter on Corpulence, addressed to the Public." By William Banting, Sen., late of St. James's Street, Piccadilly, now of Kensington. Third Edition. Harrison. The present article has had the advantage of revision by Mr. Banting, who has inserted the results of his most recent experience. The Editor can attest the general efficacy of the system. Having suffered from sedentary labour, he reduced himself in one month, by diet and regimen, 7lbs. 2 oz., or more than half a stone. He did not follow strictly Mr. Banting's plan, to some of the details of  which more than necessary importance is attributed; but in the main it agrees with the ordinary rules for training. Lean meat, especially broiled mutton, fish, green vegetables, toasted or "pulled" bread, are the staple articles of food with claret or sherry and water for drink, and tea with little or no sugar and milk. The more exercise the better, and especially early in the morning before breakfast. The minute vessels of nutrition are at that time keen set, and, till food is supplied from without, they will employ themselves in abstracting the superfluous stores in the body. This early exercise trainers know to be quite as important as diet. Being hurtful, however, to some constitutions, medical advice should be first obtained.]

I AM now nearly sixty-six years of age, about five feet five inches in stature, and, in August (1862), weighed 202 lbs.
    Few men have led a more active life - bodily or mentally - from a constitutional anxiety for regularity, precision, and order, during fifty years' business career, from which I have now retired; so that my corpulence and subsequent obesity were not through neglect of necessary bodily activity, nor from excessive eating, drinking, or self-indulgence of any kind.
    None of my family on the side of either parent had any tendency to corpulence, and from my earliest years I had an inexpressible dread of such a calamity; so, when I was between thirty and forty years of age, finding a tendency to it creeping upon me, I consulted an eminent surgeon, now long deceased - a kind personal friend - who recommended increased bodily exertion before my ordinary daily labours began, and thought rowing an excellent plan. I had the command of a good, heavy, safe boat, lived near the river, and adopted it for a couple of hours in the early morning. It is true I gained muscular vigour, but with it a prodigious appetite, which I was compelled to indulge, and consequently increased in weight, until my kind old friend advised me to forsake the exercise.
    He soon afterwards died, and, as the tendency to corpulence remained, I consulted other high medical authorities (never any inferior adviser), but all in vain. I have tried sea air and bathing in various localities, with much walking exercise; taken gallons of physic and liquor potassae, advisedly and abundantly; tried riding on horseback ; the waters and climate of Leamington many times, as well as those of Cheltenham and Harrogate frequently; have lived upon sixpence a day, so to speak, and earned it, if bodily labour may be so construed; and have spared no trouble nor expense in consultations with the best authorities in the land, giving each and all a fair time for experiment, without any permanent remedy, as the evil still gradually increased.
    I am under obligations to most of those advisers for the pains and interest they took in my case, but only to one for an effectual remedy.
    When a corpulent man eats, drinks, and sleeps well, has no pain to an of complain , and no particular organic disease, the judgment of able men seems paralyzed; for I have been generally informed that corpulence is one of the natural results of increasing years: indeed, one of the ablest authorities as a physician in the land told me he had gained 1 lb. in weight every year since he attained manhood, and was not surprised at my condition, but advised more bodily exercise, vapour-baths and shampooing, in addition to the medicine given. Yet the evil still increased, and, like the parasite barnacles on a ship, if it did not destroy the structure, it obstructed its fair, comfortable progress in the path of life.
    I have been in dock, perhaps twenty times in as many years, for the reduction of this disease, and with little good effect—none lasting. Any one so afflicted is often subject to public remark ; and though in conscience he may care little about it, I am confident no man labouring under obesity can be quite insensible to the sneers and remarks of the cruel and injudicious in public assemblies, public vehicles, or the ordinary street traffic, nor to the annoyance of finding no adequate space in a public assembly if he should seek amusement or need refreshment ; and therefore he naturally keeps away as much as possible from places where he is likely to be made the object of the taunts and remarks of others. I am as regardless of public remark as most men ; but I have felt these difficulties, and therefore avoided such circumscribed accommodation and notice, and by that means have been deprived of many advantages to health and comfort.
    Although no very great size or weight, still I could not stoop to tie my shoe, so to speak, nor attend to the little offices humanity requires, without considerable pain and difficulty, which only the corpulent can understand. I have been compelled to go down stairs slowly backwards, to save the jar of increased weight upon the ankle and knee joints, and been obliged to puff and blow with every slight exertion, particularly that of going up stairs. I have spared no pains to remedy this by low living (moderation and light food was generally prescribed, but I had no direct bill of fare to know what was really intended), and that, consequently, brought the system into a low impoverished state, without decreasing corpulence, caused many obnoxious boils to appear, and two rather formidable carbuncles, for which I was ably operated upon and fed into increased obesity.
    At this juncture (about three years back) Turkish baths became the fashion, and I was advised to adopt them as a remedy. With the first few I found immense benefit in power and elasticity for walking exercise; so, believing I had found the "philosopher's stone," pursued them three times a week till had taken fifty, then less frequently (as I began to fancy, with some reason, that so many weakened my constitution), till I had taken ninety, but never succeeded in losing more than 6 lbs. weight daring the whole course, And I gave up the plan as worthless ; though I have full belief in their cleansing properties, and their value in colds, rheumatism, and many other ailments.
    After consulting many physicians in vain, I found the right man, by whom I was advised to abstain as much as possible from bread, butter, milk, sugar, beer, and potatoes, which had been the main (and, I thought, innocent) elements of my existence, or at all events they had for many years been adopted freely.
    These, said my excellent adviser, Mr. W. Harvey, contain starch and saccharine matter, tending to crate fat, and should be avoided. At the first blush it seemed to me that I had little left to live upon; but my kind friend soon showed me there was ample, and I was only too happy to give the plan a fair trial, and, within a very few days, found immense benefit from it. It may better elucidate the dietary plan if I describe generally what I have sanction to take; and that man must be an extra- ordinary person who would desire a better table :-
    For breakfast I take four or five ounces of beef mutton, kidneys, broiled fish, bacon, or cold meat of any kind except pork; a large cup of tea (without milk or sugar), a little biscuit, or one ounce of dry toast.
    For dinner, five or six ounces of any fish except salmon; herrings, and eels, any meat except pork and veal, any vegetable except potato and other vegetable roots, one ounce of dry toast, fruit out of a pudding, any kind of poultry or game, and two or three glasses of good claret, sherry, or madeira—champagne, port, and beer forbidden. Green vegetables should be selected at all times. Eggs and cheese may be sparingly used, and are not absolutely forbidden.
    For tea, two or three ounces of fruit, a rusk or two, and a cup of tea without milk or sugar.
    For supper, three or four ounces of meat or fish, similar to dinner, with a glass or two of claret.
    For nightcap, if requires, a tumbler of grog (gin, whisky, or brandy, without sugar), or a glass or two of claret or sherry.
    This plan leads to an excellent night's rest, with from six to eight hours' sound sleep. The dry toast or rusk may have a tablespoonful of spirit to soften it, which. will prove acceptable. Perhaps I did not wholly escape starchy or saccharine matter, but scrupulously avoided milk, sugar, beer, butter, etc.
    On rising in the morning I take a tablespoonful of a special corrective (alkaline), prescribed by my medical adviser, in a wineglass of water, a most grateful draught, as it seems to carry away all the dregs left in the stomach after digestion, but is not aperient ; then I take about five or six ounces solid and eight of liquid for breakfast ; eight ounces of solid and eight of liquid for dinner; three ounces of solid and eight of liquid for tea; four ounces of solid and six of liquid for supper, and the grog afterwards, if I please. I am not, hoverer, strictly limited to any quantity at either meal, so that the nature of the food is rigidly adhered to.
    I do not recommend every corpulent man to rush headlong into such a change of diet, but to act advisedly and after full consultation with a physician.
    My former dietary table was bread and milk for breakfast, or a pint of tea with plenty of milk and sugar, and buttered toast ; meat, beer, much bread (of which I was always very fond), and pastry for dinner ; the meal of tea similar to that of breakfast, and generally a fruit tart or bread and milk for supper. I had little comfort and far less sound sleep.
    I can conscientiously assert I never lived so well as under the new plan of dietary, which I should have formerly thought a dangerous, extravagant trespass upon health ; I am very much better, bodily and mentally, and pleased to believe that I hold the reins of health and comfort in my own hand; and though at sixty-six years of age I cannot expect to remain free from some coming natural infirmity that all flesh is heir to, I can. not at the present time complain of one.
    My weight is reduced 46 lbs. ; and as the very gradual reductions which I am able to show may be interesting to many, I have great pleasure in stating them, believing they serve to demonstrate further the merit of the system pursued.
My weight on 26th August 1862, was 202 lbs.
On 7th September it was 200lbs., having lost 2lbs.
On 27th September it was 197lbs., having lost 3 more.
On 19th October it was 193lbs. having lost 4 more.
On 9th November it was 190lbs. having lost 3 more.
On 3rd December it was 187lbs. having lost 3 more.
On 24th December it was 184 lbs. having lost 3 more.
On 14th Jan., 1863, it was 182lbs. having lost 2 more.
On 4th February it was 180lbs. having lost 2 more.
On 25th February it was 178lbs. having lost 2 more.
On 18th March it was 176lbs. having lost 2 more.
On 8th April it was 173lbs. having lost 3 more.
On 29th April it was 170lbs. having lost 3 more.
On 20th May it was 167lbs. having lost 3 more.
On 10th June it was 164lbs. having lost 3 more.
On 1st July it was 161lbs having lost 3 more
On 22nd July it was 159lbs. having lost 2 more.
On 12th August it was 157lbs. having lost 2 more.
On 26th August it was 156lbs. having lost 1 more.
On 12th September it was 156lbs. lave lost 0 more.
Total loss of weight: 46lbs.
My girth is reduced round the waist, in tailor phraseology,12¼ inches ; which extent was hardly conceivable  even by my own friends, or my respected medical adviser, until I put on my former clothing over what I now wear, which was a thoroughly convincing proof of the remarkable change. These important desiderata have been attained by the most easy and comfortable means, with but little medicine, and almost entirely by a system of diet that formerly I should have thought dangerously generous. I am told by all who know me that my personal appearance is greatly improved, and that I seem to bear the stamp of good health. This may be a matter of opinion or friendly remark, but I can honestly assert that I feel restored in health, "bodily and mentally," appear to have more muscular power and vigour, eat and drink with a good appetite, and sleep well. All symptoms of faintness, of acidity, indigestion, and heartburn (with which I was frequently tormented) have vanished.
    I am now in that happy comfortable state that I should not hesitate to indulge in any fancy in regard to diet, but if I did so, should watch the consequences, and not continue any course which might add to weight or bulk and consequent discomfort.
    Is not the system suggestive to artists and men of sedentary employment who cannot spare time for exercise, consequently become corpulent, and clog the little muscular action with a superabundance of fat, thus easily avoided?
    Pure genuine bread may be the staff of life, as it is termed. It is so, particularly in youth ; but I feel certain it is more wholesome in advanced life, if thoroughly toasted, as I take it: My impression is, that any starchy or saccharine matter tends to the disease of corpulence in advanced life; and whether it be swallowed in that form or generated in the stomach, that all things tending to these elements should be avoided, of course always under sound medical authority.*
[* The following tabular statement in regard to weight as proportioned to stature may be interesting and useful to corpulent readers:-
5 feet 1 should be 8 stone 8 or 120lbs.
5 feet 2 " 9 stone 0 " 126lbs.
5 feet 3 " 9 stone 7 " 133lbs.
5 feet 4 " 9 stone 10 " 136lbs.
5 feet 5 " 10 stone 2 " 142lbs.
5 feet 6 " 10 stone 5 " 145lbs.
5 feet 7 " 10 stone 8 " 148lbs.
5 feet 8 " 11 stone 1 " 155lbs.
5 feet 9 " 11 stone 8 " 162lbs.
5 feet 10 " 12 stone 1 " 169lbs.
5 feet 11 " 12 stone 6 " 174lbs.
6 feet 0 " 12 stone 10 " 178lbs.
This tabular statement, taken from a mean average of 2648 healthy men, was formed and arranged for an insurance company by the late Dr. John Hutchinson.
Postscript by Mr. Banting.
I can now confidently say that quantity of diet may be safely left to the natural appetite ; and that it is the quality only which is essential to abate and cure corpulence. I stated the quantities of my own dietary because it was part of a truthful report ; but some correspondents have doubted whether it should be more or less in their own cases - a doubt which would be better solved by their own appetite or medical adviser.
    The question of four meals a day, and the nightcap, has been abundantly and amusingly criticised. I ought perhaps to have stated, as an excuse for such liberality of diet, that I breakfast between eight and nine o'clock, dine between one and two, take my slight tea meal between fire and six, sup at nine, and only take the nightcap when inclination directs. My object in naming it at all was, that, as a part of a whole system, it should be known, and to show it is not forbidden to those who are advised that they need such a luxury; nor was it injurious in my case. Some have inquired whether smoking was prohibited. It was not. My impression from the experiments I have tried on myself of late is, that saccharine matter is the great moving cause of fatty corpulence. I have not found starchy matter so troublesome as the saccharine, which, I think, largely increases acidity as well as fat.]


The Georgian coffee-house was a place for City gents to meet and discuss the stockmarket. By the Victorian period, however, duties on coffee, tea and sugar were reduced, and thus the coffee-house was a more variable creature, and - in many cases - a fairly downmarket establishment, intended for the working man. Here's a nice pic and a quote from the Leisure Hour of 1863:

"What is chiefly remarkable in these popular resorts is their Protean variety and their wonderful adaptation to the circumstances of the neighbourhood. While some are handsomeley furnished saloons, where French café is served in china, where the customers smoke cigars and play critically at chess, first dropping a shilling for admission, others are little better than mere barns, where you see the navvy and the hodman importing their own provisions, and paying their one penny for a pint of the liquid, which, so that it be stingingly hot, satisfies them well. In some districts you find the coffee-house a single room, and that but thinly frequented; in others you shall remark that it overflows several floors of the house, threatening even the attics. In the neighbourhoods of large industrial establishments, you find them usurping all the available premises and driving other tradesmen aways; and if you enter of thsese at any of the intervals between working hours, you shall see an interesting spectacle. Pushing open the door, which turns noiselessly on its hingers, you are at once in the presence of two or three hundred of the hard-working ranks, all as quiet ast least as a class of young school-mates in the presence of the master, and all eating, drinking, reading, or sleeping, in an atmosphere which, be it winter or summer - for the season makes little difference - would send the thermometer up to eighty or beyond. Coffee, hot and hot, of an honest piquant brewst - for the workmen won't stand any trifling in this respect - is served at a penny the cup, or three half-pence the pint; while two thick slices of bread anad butter go to the penny, and eggs, rashers of bacon, chops, kidneys and cold beef and ham are dispensed, when called for, at rates proportionately reasonable. At the same time, while the outer man is fed thus cheaply, the mind is regaled still more cheaply, as every man who is awake has soom publication or other, or  at least a portion of one in his hand, and is devouring the news of the day - the last cruel murder, the last prize fight, the coming content for the belt, the exciting romance, the comic story, or the jokes from "Punch." Few of the readers have a whole publication, unless it be an old one - the subdivision of the newspapers and periodicals into sections of four pages being dound more economical by the proprietor, who is thus enabled to restrict his outlay in the literary department.

Mystery Location No.5

Ok, actually, this isn't a location question ... I'll give you that ... it's somewhere on the Victoria embankment. But what's odd about this picture, and why? [you may want to zoom]


Well done to Amateur Casual for guessing the answer ... these three designs were previewed by the public in 1870 ... here's a press cutting:


Those who have lately visited the Thames Embankment may have observed some lamps which have been placed between Hungerford and Waterloo Bridges. Three designs are submitted for inspection and approval, in order that the details and the decorations may, in their appropriateness and excellence, do justice to the grander features of the undertaking. The first, by Vulliamy, is of classic character in the stem, with two dolphins supporting or ornamenting the base. The second, prepared by the Board of Works, is in a purely classic style. The third, by Mr. Timothy Butler, represents two boys climbing a column, and the upper boy receiving a lighted torch from the boy beneath. Two overflowing cornucopias form the base of this composition. The idea is suggestive of the transmission of scientific truth and its results in the blessing of abundance for mankind. The designs have considerable merit. Neither seems unfitted for its position of dignity, yet each might bear reconsideration and improvement before any great number are executed. In Vulliamy's, objections might be taken to the position of the dolphins, which look as if they had slid from the glass dome above. In the Board of Works' design the lion legs, issuing from the columnar stem, strikes us as being far from happy. Something distinctly masonic or architectural might be preferred. In Mr. Butler's design, the stem is certainly disproportionately large for the mere support of the boys and glass globe, and a bolder curve might be given to each cornucopia. Allowing for these defects, the design is admirable. It is full of the sense of energy and enterprise, and, moreover, it has the rare merit of being equally effective when beheld from the river or from the embankment.

The Standard, March 21, 1870

Despite the Standard's approval, it was, of course, the 'cornucopia and boys' design which was never introduced, presumably turned down by the Metropolitan Board of Works. Vulliamy's work graces the central London portion, whilst the 'lion foot' version can be found, I think, in Chelsea.


No, I was wrong ... they kept one example of the cornucopia design, to mark the Chelsea Embankment ... or, so it seems, looking via flikr 

Friday 15 October 2010

Mystery Location No.4

Where is this? There's only one real clue here, I think. [click to zoom]

Mystery Location No.3

How about this one ... where could it be? And what is it?


Twitter folk are just too quick with their answers ... yes ... the Wellington clock tower on the south side of London Bridge ... read more here

Now located, bizarrely, in Swanage.

Mystery Location No.2

Where in London is this? Somewhere by the river? Care to guess?


Clearly too easy ... yes, Somerset House in the early 1860s, before the Embankment.

Thursday 14 October 2010

The Reputations of London

A search of the Oxford English Dictionary to find whether London's districts are associated with anything in particular. The answer, albeit often rather obscurely, is yes.

Here's London as you don't know it (with the possible exceptions of Whitechapel and Hackney, ahem).

Summary: Meh.
Battersea enamel.

Summary: Literary and political
Bloomsbury group (also 'Bloomsberries')   |   Bloomsbury gang ("a political party that appeared in July 1765")

Summary: Antiques.
Bow china

Summary: An interesting range.
Chelsea bun  |  Chelsea porcelain  |  Chelsea pensioner  |  Chelsea boots   |  Chelsea tractor

Summary: Religious and proverbial
Clapham sect ("a name applied derisively early in the 19th c. to a coterie of persons of Evangelical opinions and conspicuous philanthropic activity, some of whom lived at Clapham")  |  "the man on the Clapham omnibus"

Summary: A quirky one-off, albeit with disputed etymology
A loaded die.

Summary: Suitably nautical.
Greenwich barber ("a retailer of sand")  |  Greenwich goose ("a pensioner a Greenwich hospital")  |   Greenwich stars ("those used for lunar computations")  |   Greenwich time (Greenwich mean time)   |  Greenwich meridian  

Summary: Whoredom and horses.
"a horse for ordinary riding"   |    "a horse kept for hire"   |   "a common drudge, fag, slave"    |    "a woman that hires herself, a prostitute"    |    "Hackney coach, a carriage for hire"   |   anything for hire    |   "Worn out, like a hired horse, by indiscriminate or vulgar use; threadbare, trite, commonplace; hackneyed."

Summary: Mineralological.
Highgate resin ("a mineral resin similar to copal found in Highgate Hill.")

Summary: New labourite.
attrib. "relating to a middle-class, socially aware person with centre-left or left-wing views supposedly characteristic of Islington residents. esp. in Islington Man, Islington Person."

Summary: Needlework.
Kensington stitch ("a needlework stitch")

Summary: Pottery and dance.
Lambeth Walk  |  Lambeth earthenware

Summary: Political.
vb. "To make fiery speeches such as Mr. Lloyd George made at Limehouse in 1909."

Summary: Golden age of crime.
Mayfair boys = gentleman crooks  c.1940s

Summary: Drink and clothing.
"A type of strong ale brewed at the Pimlico Tavern in Hoxton in the first decade of the 17thC."  |   "A kind of drinking vessel, perh. waisted or marked with a hoop on the inner surface."  |   "A white fabric used for clothing"

Summary: Parliamentary and educational.
A pupil at Westminster school   |   Westminster chimes/quarters ("the pattern of chimes struck at successive quarters by Big Ben")   |   Westminsterism (" the principles characteristic of the Westminster Assembly of 1643.")

Summary: Squalid, poor.
adj. low, vulgar (eg. "The humiliation of the party by the Whitechapel scene of Tuesday.")   |   Whitechapel portion  ("two torn Smocks, and what Nature gave.")   |   Whitechapel breed   ("fat, ragged, and saucy")     |    Whitechapel beau   ("dresses with a needle and thread, and undresses with a knife.")   |    Whitechapel, or Westminster Brougham    ("a costermonger's donkey-barrow.")   |     Whitechapel shave  ("whitening judiciously applied to the jaws")   |    Whitechapel fortune ("a clean gown and a pair of pattens.")   |   Whitechapel play ("irregular or unskilful play in whist or billiards")   |   Whitechapel needle (type of needle, US)   |   Whitechapel cart ("a light, two-wheeled spring cart")

Mystery Location

I know the answer, but I wonder if anyone else recognises this location ... care to hazard a guess? [click to enlarge]