Monday 29 November 2010


The 'electrophone' is a forgotten broadcast medium (the first commercial broadcast medium?) - which delivered concerts &c. over telephone lines - you dialled a number and were connected to the broadcast. Here's George Sims in 1902:

The most picturesque and entertaining adjunct of Telephone London is the electrophone. There is not a leading theatre, concert-room, or music-hall but has the electrophone transmitters - in shape like cigar-boxes - installed before the footlights, out of sight of the audience. They are at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; and in many of the principal places of worship a wooden dummy Bible in the pulpit bears the preacher's words, by means of the N.T.C. telephone lines, to thousands of invalid or crippled listeners in bed or chair in their homes or hospitals. It was thus that Queen Victoria, seated at Windsor Castle, heard 2,000 school children in Her Majesty's Theatre, in the Haymarket, cheer her and sing "God Save the Queen" on her last birthday. King Edward was likewise relieved from ennui at Buckingham Palace during his illness, for the brightest music, mirth, and song of London were ever on tap at his side. Queen Alexandra is also a devotee of the electrophone, more especially throughout the opera season. On the other hand, the cruel lot of certain hospital patients, of the blind, and even the deaf - for the micro-phonic capacity of the electrophone enables all but the stone-deaf to hear - is thus greatly brightened by science. The sadness of the bedridden, the incurable, or the sufferer from contagious disease is enlivened by sacred or secular song and story, and, as a much-to-be-welcomed addition to the alleviations of London's strenuous life, the benefits of the electrophone are innumerable. It may be added that in the imposingly decorated salon in Gerrard Street from time to time fashionable parties assemble and "taste" the whole of London's entertainments in one evening. Thus, over mammoth aerial and subterranean wire-webs does London, annihilating distance, work and play by the aid of Science.

George R. Sims (ed.), Living London, 1902
One commentator from 1895 noted that 'The only fault to be found with the electrophone is that while using it you cannot keep your dignity.' An 'electrophone salon' in Gerrard street (which further research suggests was 'Pelican House', headquarters of the Electrophone Co.) perhaps shows us why ... [click picture to zoom]

Quality was a little variable: a report on a connection to the Paris opera in 1896 says that the female voices were less distinct than the male, and that the applause resembled 'the rustling of leaves'.


The BBC has a nice piece on the Electrophone, including costs:

Sunday 28 November 2010

The Squeezed Middle

A great article from 1888 on 'How to Live on £700 a year' (from the journal called The Nineteenth Century), essentially advocating a little restraint and economy amongst the children of the upper middle class. It begins with the claim that to 'live upon £700 a year' is:

"A question which has to be solved by many a young couple who have been brought up in luxury - and who have to live in London. It is rather a fashion amongst the bachelors of clubland  to say that it is an impossibility to begin married life on less than a thousand a year ... Of course, it will be understood that, in saying that it is impossible to live on less than a thousand a year in London, absolute want is out of the question. What is really meant is that a young man and a girl, both of whom have been accustomed to all the ordinary luxuries of the upper middle classes, he to  a share in the use of his father's stable, the drinking of good wines, the smoking of good cigars, the luxuries of clubland, and such like; she to driving in the her mother's carriage, wearing of nice frocks, nice gloves, and neat hosiery, stalls a the opera, popular concerts and so on - that such a young man and young woman cannot, without an undue relinquishment of such advantages, venture upon a joint existence with less than the said sum as a settled income."

The advice is, naturally, to look for savings.

"What is it but pride that makes us on a fine day prefer a hansom cab to the box seat of an omnibus or the garden-seated top of a road-car? .... If travelling is done day by day on the Metropolitan and District Railways, consider the saving that putting out pride into our pockets and taking out a third, instead of a first-class fare effects ...

"Take again the habit of smoking ... he must be aware, if he has ever kept an accounts, what an appalling amount a regular expenditure on cigars will reach at the end of a year .... nine smokers out of ten will tell you that a pipe is the pleasantest of all 'smokes' ...

"A half-guinea stall at the theatre is an expensive luxury ... an ascent must be made to the upper circle ... for eight shillings, two people may see the same show as one in a half-guinea stall ...

"It will not be out of place to point out that the domestic hearth affords a great counter-attraction to the evening amusements considered almost essential in days of bachelorhood ...

"How may she better employ her mornings than by doing her marketing herself? By this means she becomes informed of the proper value of groceries, meat, fish, game, etc."

In typical Victorian fashion, the article provides a sample list of annual accounts, by which one might keep within a £700pa budget:

  £ s d
Rent 105 0 0
Rates and taxes (including gas) 38 18 10
Coals 12 8 6
Wages 48 2 1
Food: Butcher 46 9 11
Food: Baker 9 8 8
Food: Dairyman 35 4 8
Food: Grocer 38 8 10
Food: Greengrocer 10 6 0
Food: Poulterer 10 3 7
Dress: Wife 35 8 4
Dress: Husband 29 17 3
Washing 34 14 9
Doctor and chemist 33 1 0
Travelling and tips 43 7 5
Local travelling 19 17 9
Stamps 7 16 7
Stationary 8 1 3
Pleasures, presents, smoking 35 18 2
Wine 15 0 8
House repairs &c. 26 12 10
Garden 4 13 9
Balance 50 19 2
  700 0 0

Unusually - such household budgets are quite common in the literature - the article provides a clear description of the actual household it envisages running on such an 'economic' model. To give you a clue - the average servants wage would be £12-20pa (admittedly with food and lodging free); a skilled labourer could maybe earner £75pa; a police inspector £100; a middling City clerk, £300. So what sort of household are we looking at here?

"The house is situated close to Kensington Gardens, in a cheerful terrace upon sandy soil, in a thoroughly respectable, if not fashionable, neighbourhood. It has a small garden in the rear, and stands back about ten yards from the roadway. It comprises kitchen, scullery, and servants' hall, with separate entrance in the basement; dining-room and drawing-room on the ground floor, four large bedrooms, two small, a dressing-room, and a bath-room, as well as an ample supply of offices. The household, besides Monsieur et Madame, consists of one child and three servants - nurse, cook, and house-parlourmaid - "

Hmmm. I wonder how much that would set you back nowadays?

Saturday 27 November 2010

How to Tell a Married Man

From The London Journal of 1895, a nice piece, redolent of late-Victorian domesticity:

How to Tell a Married Man

A MARRIED man always carries his condition with him like a trade-mark. Anybody of average discernment can detect him at a glance. He does not pinch his toes with tight boots. He does not scent himself with violets. He never parts his hair in the middle. He keeps his seat is the railway-carriage when the pretty girl, laden with bundles, comes in - he knows that his wife wouldn't approve of his rising. He does not get up flirtations with the good-looking shop-girl where he buys his gloves - he remembers that little birds are flying all around telling tales, and he has a horror of curtain-lectures. Somehow married men never seem to arrive at that state of beatitude when they do appreciate the kind of literary performance known as curtain-lectures.
    The married man goes to sleep in church. He is a placid when somebody's baby cries at the play. He knows the price of sugar and steak. He knows that bustles are going out of fashion. He knows that women put their hair in papers. Powder is no longer a mystery to him. He can detect it on the face of his female friends, and he looks out that it does not get on his coat, because his wife can detect it too.

Friday 26 November 2010

Photo Story

I never read Jackie magazine - I wasn't really the target audience - but I do know that girls' magazines of my youth used to feature little stories in comic-book form, created by compiling photographs of love-struck teenagers (some of the best people starred, apparently).

You know what's coming next, don't you?

This is from the 'Play Pictorial' 1902 (which contains the whole story, over twenty pages) ... 'Lady Sylvia - I had no idea you were so ... imaginative ...' ... the hussy!

Thursday 25 November 2010

Shop Assistants

William Whiteley's department store in Westbourne Grove was the department store in mid-Victorian London (indeed, arguably the first department store in London). You can read a full article here but what I find most interesting is the paternalistic way that Victorian employers (at least, the large organisations) looked after their workers- both housing and entertaining them:

As the Provider has become one of the largest employers of labour in this country, be has not been unmindful of the duties of his position. He has now in his employ nearly three thousand persons, male and female, and all are admirably cared for. A large proportion of these are resident hands, and for their accommodation Mr. Whiteley has leased several houses in Westbourne Grove Terrace; the female establishment occupying one side of the street, the male the other. The commissariat for this immense staff is a department in itself, and, perhaps, no employés are better fed than those of the great Provider. In joints alone they consume more than half a ton per diem, and the weekly bills of the Provider reach the following astounding figures: seven thousand pounds of fresh meat, forty sacks of potatoes, four thousand two hundred loaves of bread, eighteen hundred quarts of milk, three hundred pounds of butter, three hundred pounds of cheese, a thousand gallons of beer, three hundred pounds of tea, five hundred of loaf and two hundred Of moist sugar, two sacks of flour, six hundred eggs, seven hundred pounds of ham and bacon, one hundred and fifty pounds of currants, and an equal weight of rice, tapioca, and sago. About fifteen hundred persons sit down to the general meals of the day, and at tea that number is increased to eighteen hundred. Their chief is not content with supplying them with work and animal food, but has thoughtfully given them the means of innocent amusement. They have already in existence two cricket clubs, two rowing, clubs, two football clubs, a dramatic club, and the Mississippi Minstrel Troupe. The Provider's young people have also an athletic club and a brass band ; and with smoking and reading rooms for the men, reading and music rooms for the women, and an annual ball, are made very much at home. The Universal Provider takes good care of everybody, and, it is recorded, once covered himself with glory by making a match. An unbelieving customer was going to India, and, having purchased a liberal outfit, turned round like the man who ordered the elephant, and said, "Now, Mr. Whiteley, you have furnished me with everything but one—a wife." The Provider was equal to the occasion, presented the young gentleman to one of the prettiest of the young ladies in his employment, and created a love-match on the spot. The young gentleman did not go alone to India.

The red morocco leg patent goloshed vandyked button boot

Here's a great article which pins down the mid-Victorian love of prententious (often classical) language:

WALKING the other day through one of the busy streets of London and glancing at the varied novelties and splendours of the shops, this question occurred to us: 'Whence do the shopkeepers get their Greek?' It is not, we can assure the reader, a very easy question to answer: we confess to be puzzled by it. Take, for instance, this tailor with a comprehensive mind; he draws our attention to his 'Anaxyridian trousers.' Now, what does he mean by Anaxyridian, and how and where did he compose the word? He tells us that his trousers are so cut that they remain as a fixture to the heel without straps or braces; and we suppose we are to infer that this property is expressed by the word Anaxyridian. We can the more readily believe this, because Mr Puff. in the Critic, made Lord Burleigh express by a single shake of the head the doctrine, that even though they had more justice in their cause, and wisdom in their measures, yet if there was not a greater spirit shewn on the part of the people, the party would at last fall a sacrifice to the hostile ambition of the Spanish monarchy ;' and although Mr Sneer expressed a doubt whether his lordship could convey so much by a mere shake of the head, Mr Puff settled it conclusively by saying: ' Every word of it—if he shook his head as I taught him.' In the same way, we suppose, Anaxyridian ought to convey the idea of traceless and strapless trousers, if we only use our Greek as the tailor wishes. But where, we ask again, did the tailor find or make his Greek? Did he obtain a dictionary, and compound a word of several Greek particles? or has he a promising son, who is picking up bits of Greek at school? or did he beg or borrow a little Greek from one of his well-to-do customers? All these matters, perchance, are anion, the secrets of trade, and our attempt to bring them to light has failed.
     One thing is certain, that manufacturers and shopkeepers are becoming remarkably prone to the use of fine hard unknown names. An 'emporium' sounds much more important than a 'shop;' ergo, it is better to keep an emporium than a shop; ergo, it is desirable to give your shop the dignity of an emporium. But it is in the names of commodities that this superhuman learning shows itself: we do not know how great our Greek and Latin knowledge is until we have studied the sign-boards and shop advertisements. Nor is it merely Greek and Latin; there are French, and Italian, and original, and composite names in good store. Let us see around us a little.
     The names which manufacturers give to their woven goods are so capricious, that we cannot fix them down under any rule at all. Sometimes the name is an elaborate combination of Greek or Latin syllables, to denote in some degree the quality of the cloth; sometimes it is an imported French, or Italian, or Spanish name; frequently it is the name of a town or a district ; quite as frequently it is the name of a person. Among cotton goods we find 'saccharillas,' 'nainsooks,' 'tarlatans,' 'surougs," grandvilles,' 'Selampores,' 'denims,' 'panos da Costa,' 'Polynesian swansdown' (did the cotton come from the breast of a swan, and did it grow in Polynesia?) 'doeskins, and moleskins, and lambskins'  'coutils,' and a host of other queer examples. The woollen and worsted people are not less liberal in nomenclature, for they give us 'anti-rheumatic flannel,' 'swanskin,' 'valencias,' 'reversible Witneys,' 'double-surfaced beavers,' 'Himalayas,' 'satin-face doeskins' (a doe would hardly know herself with such a face), 'fur Janus beavers,' 'Moscow beavers,' 'Alpa Vicunas,' 'three-point Mackinaws,' 'barege-de-laine,' 'Saxes Coburgs,' 'Orleans,' 'napped pilots,' 'double Napiers,' 'elephanta ribs,' 'elephant beavers' (unknown to naturalists, certainly), 'rhinoceros skins,' 'paramattas', ' barracans,' 'moskittos,' stockinettes,' wildboars,' 'aravenas ponchos,' 'princettas,' 'plain backs,' 'fear-noughts,' 'chameleons,' 'figured Amazonians,' 'alpaca incas and madelinas,' 'velillos,' and 'cristales,' and 'cubicas,' 'Circassians,' 'madonnas,' 'balzarines,'  'durants,' and 'cotillions,' 'Genappes,' 'Henriettas,' 'rumswizzles'— all, be it observed, varieties of woollen and worsted goods. Nor do the silk-weavers forget to supply us with 'mayonettes,' ' diaphanes,' 'glace gros d'Afrique,' 'brocatelles,' 'barrattheas,' 'armoyine royales,' Balmorals,' 'paraphantons,' 'Radzimores,' 'moiré antiques,' 'Algerias,'  'levantines,' and other oddly-named goods. The flax-folks, too, have their own favourite list ; such as 'dowlases,' 'ducks,' 'drills,' 'huckabacks,' 'gray Baden Badens,' 'diapers,' 'drabbets,' 'tickings," 'crankies,' 'commodores,' 'Wellingtons,' 'towellings,' 'dusters,' 'paddings,' 'Osnaburgs,' 'ficklenburgs', 'Silesias,' 'platillas,' 'estopillas,' 'bretanas,' 'creas legitimas,' &c.
     The boot-and-shoe fraternity have their own list of fine names. We talk not of the 'red morocco leg patent goloshed vandyked button boot,' or the 'ladies' ottoman silk goloshed elastic button gaiter,' because these are simply heapings-up of words one upon another, to astound the purchaser with a verbal crash. But the 'soccopedes elasticus' is much more classical : do we not feel at once, even in the very words, the softness of the ladies' elastic silk-boots? Our old friends the 'acmé' boots seem to have died away, and all we can recollect concerning them, is the first two lines of some beautiful poetry which the bootmaker addressed to his customers :—
         Acmé boots and shoes you'll find
         Better than any other kind.
     The 'pannuscorium boots' ought surely to be worn by every Latin school-boy ; and the 'resilient boots' are little less worthy of attention.
     The tailors beat the bootmakers hollow in their Latin and Greek. The 'subclavian sector' is tremendous—it sounds so surgical-like ; it is, however, very innocent—nothing more than a tailor's measure. And a tailor's measure, likewise, is the 'registered symmetrometer.' We are afraid to say how many learned names besides 'siphonia' are given to waterproof garments. The 'unique habit,' cut in one piece, and having no seam on the top of the shoulder, or the outside of the arm, or down the middle of the back, is one among many examples of an ambitious kind of tailoring; of which Mr Watts's 'complete coat, trousers, and waistcoat, in one piece, without any seam,' is another. And if 'unique' be a good name, why not 'bis-unique?' There is, accordingly, the 'bis-unique or reversible garment,' a cunning device, which presents two sides: you turn your coat or vest inside out, and present another surface of a different colour, both surfaces being prepared and finished sufficiently for external show. The 'Anaxyridian trousers' we have already duly honoured, and have only to hope that the wearers, depending abidingly on the soundness of the Greek, will find that the trousers 'remain as a fixture to the heel without straps or braces.' The bis-unique theory is carried to P. further stage by another tailor, for he has coined the name 'monomeroskiton'—long enough to form a very pretty Greek lesson—for a, 'single-piece coat, cut from one piece of cloth.' So far as we can venture to guess, the 'duplexa' must be first-cousin to this bis-unique family ; for it is a 'morning and evening coat, intended to answer the purpose of two garments of opposite character.' The 'anti-rheumatic belt and drawers' we will say nothing about, for rheumatism has, unfortunately, become quite as much English as Greek. The 'registered auto-crematic gown,' which is prevented from falling from the shoulders by the nicety of its cut, and the adjustment of elastic springs, must surely be a treasure, even for the sake of its name. The 'patent euknemeda,' a cloth or leather fastening for stays and ladies' dresses, seems scarcely soft and ladylike enough in its sound for such delicate use ; but it looks like Greek, and therefore we suppose it will do very well.
     Nor have hats, and bonnets, and hosiery, and shirts been left unadorned with Greek and Latin trimmings. The 'ventilating chaco' will not perplex us much, because the chaco (chako, sliaco, shako), as a foreign name for a military-hat, is becoming naturalised among us. But Mr Fox's 'korychlamyd' is a crusher. Of course no one knows what it means, and this enhances the importance. It seems to be a new kind of helmet-cap; but we much prefer the idea of a military officer saying to Jeames, his servant: 'Bring me my korychlamyd.' The 'novum pileum' hat suggests this query: Did the Latins ever wear silk hats ? The 'areophane bonnet,' a pretty name for a pretty garment, is too transparently beautiful to seem like hard Greek. As to 'goffered crinoline,' the two words appear to be French; and the material so named is, we believe, used not only for bonnets, but for garments which men-folk are supposed to know nothing about. The 'brayama gloves,' from Nottingham, rather puzzle us; we know not what the name can import. But O for an 'el dorado shirt!' This must surely be a golden fit. The shirt-makers are bold polyglottists; for besides the 'dorado,' we have the 'eureka,' and the 'corazza,' and the 'giubba,' and the 'elastique transpirante,' and the 'tourist sottanello,' and others so bedizened with names that we can scarcely recognise then as plain, honest, well-meaning shirts. Another member of the series, the 'registered sans-pli shirt,' is, we believe, made without those crinkum-crankums which seamstresses call gathers. Collars, cravats, gloves, stockings, braces, all have obtained proof that the schoolmaster is abroad, or rather in the shop: all are now tricked out with fine and high-sounding names.
     The patent-medicine people are famous hands at their Greek, and Latin, and florid nomenclature. It is just possible that a purchaser will deem the medicine more powerful and efficacious, if it have a fine long hard name: we strongly suspect that some such purchasers are anion- our own personal acquaintance. Has not Mr Rowland sold much more `Macassar,' and 'kalydor,' and 'odonto,' and 'dentifrice,' than if those perfumes had had more simple names? And then think of the 'rondoletia soap,' the 'poudre subtile,' the 'oriental Oil,' the 'almond tablet,' the 'oxaline,' the 'pomade divine,' and such-like adjuncts to the toilet. The 'cough elixir,' the 'ophthalmic ointment,' the 'tonic pills,' the `bunion solvent,' the 'tonic invigorating restorative,' the 'polar liniment for chilblains,' the 'infallible preventive specific,' the 'collyrium' for the eyes, the 'tooth tincture,' the 'anti-consumptive liniment,' the 'astringent antiseptic tooth-powder'—we may safely consider the little bits of Greek and Latin comprised in these names as so much capital to the seller, yielding, good monetary returns.
     Pottery used to be pottery, but now it is 'ceramic' manufacture. 'Burnt clay' would be a poor dull name, but 'terra cotta' has a fine aesthetic Italian sound about it. Fine china is not a good enough name for statuette material ; we must call it 'Parian.' Although we do not use any hot wax in ornamenting our tiles, yet we like to talk of 'encaustic tiles.' Our fathers and mothers delighted to look at a magic lantern, but we must have either a 'camera obscura ' or a 'phantasmagoria;' or both. Our exhibitions would once draw shillings by the aid of simple English names, but we must now have 'dioramas,' 'cosmoramas,' 'cycloramas,' 'panoramas,' 'polytechnics,' 'pantechnicons.' Musical instrument-makers have rushed into Greek and Latin, like other manufacturers: they give us 'piccolos,' 'harmoniums,' 'microchordians,' 'microphonic pianos,' 'aeolians," ophicleides,'  'cornopeans,' 'floetinas,' 'flutinas," 'accordions,' 'concertinas,'  'melodeons,'  'seraphines,' 'autophons,' 'serpentcleides,' 'enharmonic' guitars and organs, 'symphonions,' 'zeolophons;' while, for time and tone measuring instruments, we have such brave names as 'metronomes,' 'tonimeters,' and 'normae virium.' Ought the world to remain ignorant of music after all this ? Shorthand is 'stenography,' and good writing is ' calligraphy ;' and open-air exercises are 'gymnastics,' and ladies' gymnastics are 'callisthenics.'
    Some of these latter examples are more professional, more gentlemanly, more polished ; but the real shopkeepers' Greek is the most curious : it is curious often because of its incongruity, and also because one wonders how and by whom it was concocted. There was a company started a year or two ago under the tremendous name of the 'British Exodus, or National Emigration Fund of the Hunter River Gold-mining Company'—a name which we can understand in spite of its length, because the component words are nearly all familiar ; but if we are to meet with many more 'anaxyridians,' ' monomeroskitons,' ' euknemedas,' and 'korychlamyds,' there is but one resource—we must walk through Holborn and the Strand with a Greek dictionary in hand!
Chambers Edinburgh Journal, 1853

Sunday 21 November 2010

Passionate Pauline

Romantic novelists have never been respected ... viz this Punch cartoon from 1891:

Skeleton Crew

I can't be bothered to check what was happening with fishing fleets and Newfoundland in 1890 to prompt this grim image [caption: "THE VICTIMS OF HIGH SPEED. The dream of an anxious captain after tearing across the fishing-grounds of Newfoundland"] but I like it nonetheless - another flight of fancy from Punch ...

Coiffure Octopus

One of Punch's occasional sallies into the surreal, from 1873:

'Over Hungerford Bridge'

The original Hungerford Suspension Bridge,
demolished a few years prior to this article.
A tour of the south bank ('Surrey side') of the river Thames, in 1867 - an article called 'Over Hungerford Bridge' by the journalist Richard Rowe - added to ... you'll find it here. The description of this industrial side of the river is not positive ... "The general characteristic of Surrey-side thoroughfares is gritty desolation." ... but the piece also includes a great description of the Victoria Embankment, under construction at the time:

"... country passengers excitedly gather at the windows to catch a glimpse of the bright bustling river and the busy embankment works.
    They certainly are worth looking at : it is a queerly chaotic waste to see so near the serried rows and jumbles of dusky dwellings that crowd down upon it. Yonder there is some sign of cosmos emerging from the chaos ; the earthwork plateau is filled in, and the granite facings glisten in the sunlight. But near the bridge the scene is, to the non-professional eye, a mere nightmare vision of hopelessly confused and behind-hand engineering. A tiny cascade is tumbling from the riverside boarding as water splashes down the gates of a canal lock or a mill-dam. Alongside lies an arid earth-barge, into and out of whose open hold navvies' barrows, slung in a triangle of hooked cord, are constantly descending empty and ascending full. A panting steam crane hauls them up; its grimy driver, glued to its little wooden step, looking, as he swings backwards and forwards with his engine, a mere piece of its machinery. All over the works these industrious little black monsters keep up their consequential pant. A heavier puffing proceeds from a pumping engine, planted on an oasis of small coal, and a dismal clank from the huge, clay-coloured links of its ever revolving chain; whilst through a grotesquely bent pipe water runs out into a muddy reservoir. Here yawns a deep, broad gap, sided and crossed with an angular confusion of planks, which give it the look of a Noah's ark in frame. There curving tramroads run apparently nowhither. Along springy paths of plank, navvies, in blue check shirts, and dirty white jumpers, are wheeling their barrows, piled high like jelly glasses, with straining arms, or sauntering back with them empty, propelling handles turned into carelessly drawing shafts. Ballast-waggons and contractors' tumbrils seem to be emptying their loads at random,—sierras of loam and gravel to be rising under a fortuitous concourse of atoms. In two or three places men are laying fat bags, which, when thrown down, give out a cloud of white dust, like flour sacks. In the centre of the level that has been made stands a shanty, as black, and rough, and desolately ruinous as the remains of a log hut in the midst of a fire-blasted prairie. Here drain-pipes are littered like the chimney-tops of houses engulfed by earthquake ; there lies a massive wooden pile like the stranded kelson of a wreck; and yonder bask half-a-dozen granite blocks like fallen obelisks in an Egyptian sand-plain."

Friday 19 November 2010

Best Victorian Places in London

A twitter request for best Victorian places in London (combined with my own ideas) has so far come up with:
  • Abbey Mills pumping station
  • Abney Park Cemetery
  • Albert Bridge
  • Albert Embankment
  • Albert Hall
  • Albert Memorial 
  • Alexandra Palace
  • Arnold Circus
  • Artillery Mansions, Victoria 
  • 'Big Ben'
  • Bishopsgate Institute
  • Blackfriars Bridge
  • Brixton Prison
  • Brompton Cemetery 
  • Bryant and May factory (now housing)
  • Caledonian Market Clock Tower
  • Campden Baths and Wash Houses, Hampstead (now housing)
  • Castle Climbing Centre, Green Lanes (formerly pumping station) 
  • Charing Cross Station/ Hotel
  • City of London School (now offices? nr. Blackfriars Bridge)
  • Cleopatra's Needle
  • Columbia Market
  • Covent Garden roofing - 1870s 
  • Crimea War Memorial, Waterloo Place
  • Crossness Pumping Station
  • Crystal Palace, ruins and dinosaurs 
  • Dickens House Museum
  • Down Street tube station
  • 'Eros', Piccadilly
  • Farringdon Station (first underground station)
  • George Trumper, barbers, Mayfair
  • Gordon's Wine Bar, Villiers Street
  • Harrods
  • Herne Hill Velodrome
  • Highgate Cemetery
  • Holborn Viaduct
  • Holly Village, Hampstead
  • Imperial Institute (now Imperial College, small Victorian bits remain?)
  • James Smith & Sons, umbrella shop
  • Kensal Green Cemetery, esp. catacombs 
  • Kensington Gore
  • King's Cross Station
  • Linley Sambourne House
  • Little 'Big Ben', Victoria Station
  • London Library
  • Lord Leighton's House
  • Markfield Museum, Tottenham 
  • Museum of Childhood (formerly the South Kensington Museum, rebuilt in Bethnal Green)
  • Natural History Museum
  • Necropolis Railway facade, Waterloo
  • Nunhead Cemetery
  • Palace of Westminster 
  • Patent Office, now Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane
  • Peabody Housing, first estate, Blackfriars
  • People's Palace, Mile End (now Queen Mary, small Victorian bits remain?)
  • Percy Circus
  • The Polytechnic (309 Regent St. - now Westminster University)
  • Postman's Park
  • Prince Alfred pub, Maida Vale
  • Princes Arcade, St. James
  • Princess Louise pub, Holborn
  • Prudential Insurance building, Holborn
  • Queen Adelaide's Dispensary, Bethnal Green (now housing)
  • Ragged School Museum
  • Pentonville Prison
  • Public Records Office, now King's College, Chancery Lane
  • Roupell Street, Waterloo
  • Royal Courts of Justice 
  • Royal Docks
  • Royal Exchange
  • Rules Restaurant
  • Russell Hotel 
  • Saint Pancras Station / Midland Grand Hotel
  • Scotland Yard (1890s building, Thames)
  • Simpson's In the Strand
  • Smithfield Market 
  • Thames Tunnel (now East London line)
  • Tower Hamlets Cemetery
  • Turkish Baths, Old Broad St (now club?)  
  • Victoria and Albert Museum
  • Victoria Embankment
  • Victoria Park
  • Victoria Station / Grosvenor Hotel
  • Westminster Bridge
  • West Norwood Cemetery 
  • Wiltons Music Hall
Has anyone visited all of these? I'm probably at 90% of them ....

More please ...

The Famous Stoke Newington Ass-Woman, and other Lady Pugilists

Wandering a little out of our era (by about a century) I find this announcement in the Daily Post from July 7th 1728 (reprinted in the Fortnightly Review, 1899) pertaining to 'my manor' ... one for anyone interested in the history of lady pugilists ... if only all advertisements were this eloquent:

AT Mr. Stokes Amphitheatre, in Islington Road, this present Monday, being the 7 of October, will be a complete Boxing Match by the two following Championesses: Whereas I, Ann Field, of Stoke Newington, ass driver, well known for my abilities in boxing in my own defence wherever it happened in any way, having been affronted by Mrs. Stokes, styled the European Championess, do fairly invite her to a trial of her best skill in Boxing for 10 pounds, fair rise and fall; and question not but to give her such proofs of my judgement that shall oblige her to acknowledge me Championess of the Stage, to the entire satisfaction of my friends.
    I Elizabeth Stokes, of the City of London, have not fought in this way since I fought the famous boxing-woman of Billingsgate 29 minutes, and gained a complete victory (which is six years ago); but as the famous Stoke Newington ass-woman dares me to fight her for the 10 pounds, I do assure her I will not fail meeting her for said sum, and doubt not that the blows which I shall present her will be more difficult for her to digest than any she ever gave her asses.
     Note. A man, known by the name of Rugged and Tuff, challenges the best man of Stoke Newington to fight him for one guinea to what sum they please to venture.
    N.B. Attendance will be given at one, and the encounter is to begin at four precsiely. There will be the diversion of Cudgel-playing as usual.
I suspect such bouts were relatively rare and promoted for their novelty value. You do find occasional  reports of women fighting/boxing in early Victorian London, too. Here's a couple of examples:

DISGRACEFUL SCENE- On Wednesday night two amazons named Pyne and Russell (well known in St. Giles's and to the police), had a quarrel at a public-house, and it was agreed that they should settle their differences in a pugilistic conflict in the street. They accordingly stripped themselves to the waist, tied up their hair, and having appointed backers or seconds in the persons of two other of the "softer" sex, repaired to Tottenham-court-road, where, pursuant to the usages of the prize ring, they prepared for the "fray," amidst a crowd of profligate and idle spectators, who formed a ring, and the combatants commenced striking at one another right and left and dealing knock-down  blows, whilst the screams and bellowings of the crowd were like a gang of savages. At length police constables 5 and 41 E arrived on the spot, and interfered, when they were attacked; but they seized on the principals and seconds. The latter quietly surrendered themselves as did also Russell; but Pyne, after great resistance, fell on the ground, fought, bit, kicked, and tore like a mad woman, and it required eight officers to take her to the station-house; and, strange to say, on her arrival there the officers were more exhausted than herself. She and the other prisoners were locked up, and yesterday morning the whole of them were taken before the magistrate at Clerkenwell police-court. Pyne was committed to the House of Correction for a month, Russell for seven days, and the seconds were discharged with a salutary admonition. Pyne tripped lightly from the bar, saying she would have it out another day.
Times, 1844

Sir, - "G.W." in to-day's Times, expresses his surprise that no man was found who would assist in the capture of the brute who knocked a woman down. Your correspondent will probably cease to wonder when he reads the following:- About a month ago I was at breakfast with my family at Kensal-green, when I perceived a number of persons passing through the field adjoining my house. I endeavoured to ascertain the cause. With much difficulty I did so. The stream of men and women had come from Paddington to a prize-fight between two - no, not men - women! One of my family, being incredulous, contrived to look across the fields, and there saw the combatants stripped to the waist and fighting. Men took them there, men backed them, men were the bottle-holders and time-keepers. They fought for about half-an-hour, some say for 5s., some say for a sovereign, and some say they will do it again. I saw the winner led back in triumph by men. After the above, I think your correspondent will cease to wonder at the indifference of a Paddington mob. You, Sir, have already drawn the moral from such things. Perhaps you will permit me to add my matured conviction that some vices and some crimes are too disgraceful for mere punishment of a clean, well-ordered, and well-fed prison. Let us have the whipping-post again, and at the flogging let the crime of "unmanly brutes" be written over their heads.
    Aug. 31                                                C.E.W.
letter to The Times, 1852

Thursday 18 November 2010

The Sad Decline of Kensington and Belgravia

The grand Victorian houses of the West End of London faced a threat in 1919. Taxation and overheads were rising; 'homes fit for heroes' were being built for the poor; and the working-classes were simply loathe to 'skivvy' in Kensington, Belgravia or Bayswater, as new work opportunities opened up in modern manufacturing and service industries. This article from the Saturday Review of Politics in 1919, mischievously entitled 'Housing the Poor', bemoans the lot of the upper-middle-class, forced to abandon their decaying mansions. The writer cannot envisage the possibility of splitting such places into flats ("... they might be occupied by two or three tenants, each on a floor, if they could agree to use a common kitchen and to use a common staff of servants. And why should they not do so? Because Britons are shy and quarrelsome animals ..."), yet many of them would become precisely that - via Rachman's slum rents some thirty years later (Rachman was born in 1919, as it happens) followed by either demolition or gentrification in the 1970s/80s.

[click here for some great images of derelict West London]

LET no one imagine that we purpose writing about the provision of £l,000 houses to be let at £10 a year to the overpaid, underworked, overfed classes, once known as the labouring or deserving poor, now sponging by virtue of an exploded title on the crushed and terrified victims of their blackmail. Nothing of the sort is in our mind : the proletariat have champions and flatterers to spare. It is about the housing of the upper and upper middle classes that we are concerned. Where and how are they to live? The other day we wandered round Bayswater, South Kensington and Belgravia. We passed through streets and squares of gracious, Spacious houses, two-thirds of them apparently shut up, at least the blinds were down, though, of course, the family, like the De Courcys in Tollope's novel, may have been living in the little back room, politely called by advertisers "the study." Take Lancaster Gate, for example, and Queen's Gate, and Eaton Square. How are people to go on living in these houses without servants, and with rates perpetually rising? Last year the County and Borough Councils suddenly raised the rate by 14 per cent., so that he who formerly paid £87 a year now pays £100. With large housing and educational schemes in sight, these rates will have to he raised again, probably by 50 per cent., until the rates will equal half the rack-rent. This is bad : but it is not so bad as the impossibility of getting servants, even at double the pre-war wage. These Bayswater and South Kensington and Belgravian houses require a staff of servants running from four to ten in number, four being the irreducible minimum. Eaton Square is a good old country gentleman's square; Queen's Gate and Lancaster Gate, and their vicinage, have been the homes of the prosperous professional and City classes. With incomes halved by taxation, and the remaining moiety halved by the present prices, how are these people to meet the demand for double wages advanced by demoralised servant girls? The thing is not to be clone. The question presses, what is to be done with these large houses, built nearly a century ago? It is a question which touches nearly the great ground landlords of London, whose leases will be falling in during the next twenty years, some of them at an earlier date. Marylebone, which is divided between Lord Portman and Lord Howard de Walden (the successor to the late Duke of Portland), was built before what used to be called Tyburnia, and is now called Paddington or Bayswater. On the Portman and Howard de Walden estates the leases have in many cases not more than five or six years to run. On the Paddington estate, which is divided between the trustees of the Bishop of London and the Thistlethwaites, the leases have about sixteen years to run. On the South Kensington estate, partly owned by Lord Iveagh, who bought from Lord Kensington, and Smith's trustees, the leases are running to about forty years. On the Duke of Westminster's estate the run of the leases is about twenty years, though many new leases have been granted. The last developed of the London estates is the Pont Street, Cadogan Square and Sloane Street portion of Lord Cadogan's property, and there the leases are quite long, running to seventy or eighty years. Of course the jewel of the Westminster property is Mayfair, and there a great deal of rebuilding has been done in the last forty years, and new long leases have been granted. We can remember when Mount Street consisted of two rows of what we should now call hovels.
     There can be no doubt that there will always he enough rich people to occupy a few favoured spots, Carlton House Terrace, Berkeley Square, Grosvenor Square, and Belgrave Square, though Grosvenor Place is in some peril. The millionaire will always be with us, no matter what taxation may be imposed, and the tribe will be large enough to fill the houses on the Olympian heights described above. But of the other houses that we have indicated, in the "gardens," "gates" and "squares," we know not where the occupiers will be found. The usual answer is that they will be turned into flats. But it is easier said than done. Take an average house of  £300 a year, with rates of another £100 a year. Such a house has three or four sitting rooms (the fourth a cupboard, in effect, or closet), eight or ten bedrooms, and the basement occupied by kitchen, servants' hall, butler's room, etc. How is such a house to be converted into flats? The ground floor consists of an entrance strip, or corridor, a dining-room of good size, a small back-room, called a library or study, and sometimes a smaller third room, which ought to be a lavatory. The first floor is entirely occupied by what is called a double-drawing-room, that is a large room shaped like the letter L, which would make two good separate rooms; nothing else at all on that floor. How can you make flats out of such houses? Where are the kitchens, pantries, lavatories, to be found, as they ought to be, on each floor? Where are the separate entrances, which are necessary to secure the comparative privacy of a flat? Where are the lifts to be put? Apart from the expense, there is no room for a lift in the average Bayswater or South Kensington House. These houses cannot be converted into flats, as that term is ordinarily understood. But they might be occupied by two or three tenants, each on a floor, if they could agree to use a common kitchen and to use a common staff of servants. And why should they not do so? Because Britons are shy and quarrelsome animals, not in the least gregarious, like the Americans, or the French. The instinct of self-preservation is, however, stronger than the longest habit; and we think that hard necessity may force some families to give up hating their component members, and others to abandon their exclusiveness. The difficulty, of course, is with the women. There ought to be no difficulty in bachelors of the class we are thinking of combining to run joint establishments of quite a luxurious character. Another result of this housing problem may be that the pleasant suburbs, so vulgarly derided by Gilbert and Oscar Wilde, may once more creep into favour. Lord Chesterfield maintained a summer house at Blackheath, and Horace Walpole lived at Twickenham, while the great Bacon died at Hampstead. The great difficulty which the upper and upper middle classes have at present is to get out of their town houses. We suggest that they might offer them to the County Council as new homes for the idle rich under their protection. The paying-guest system will doubtless be adopted, in secret, by many aristocrats. The contributory arrangement was the usual thing among relatives, and even friends, in the Elizabethan and early Stuart days. The first P.G. was undoubtedly King Lear ; but he, if we remember right, did not find it a workable plan ; and amongst "the splendid women" of war-times we fear there will be found not a few Regans and Gonerils.

The Undeserving Poor

There's been a lot of talk recently about Con/Dem policy going back to 'Victorian values' and the 'undeserving poor'. I thought I'd have a look at a couple of articles and see what our ancestors had to say on the subject. Here's a quote from an article in the Westminster Review of 1904, entitled 'Social Parasites' (so you can probably guess the author's political leanings) ... do you recognise any of these factors given as 'causes of poverty'? They seem very familiar to me, in terms of modern political debate about benefits &c. - so is it true that 'the poor are always with us', or do we still live in a Victorian/Edwardian world?

"As philanthropic efforts, backed up by lavish outlay, have failed to deal effectually with our existing pauperism, and its many resulting evils, I would suggest that the causes of such imperfect success, and also of the widewspread poverty which at present affects such large classes, might generally be regarded as coming under the following heads:
    (1) The fact that money or its equivalent is often to inconsiderately given under the name of charity, that thrift, foresight, self-reliance and self-respect are positively discouraged.
    (2) The frequent misdirection and misappropriation of funds subscribed for definite benevolent purposes. Amounts much larger than necessary are in many cases applied to working expenses, payments to officials, and sometimes to more unwarrantable purposes.
    (3) The want of thrift so noticeable in the lower working classes.
    (4) The prevailing tendency of the poor to contract early and imprudent marriages.
    (5) The gambling tendency rapidly spreading amongst the lower orders.
    (6) The universal tendency to drink, owing to obsence of moral self-control, amongst the very poor, who find the public-houses, always in evidence, a ready temptation, and drink the only solace for a dreary and monotonous life.
    (7) The prevalence and tyranny of trade-unionism, which is driving our industries to foreign lands and driving our artisans out of work.
    (8) Foreign competition.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Somalis in Victorian London

The Somali population in London currently runs to 100,000 people (although that's a guess, pending another census) but when did the first Somalis arrive?

There may well, of course, have been odd Somali merchant seamen in the London docks, at various points in the 19th century, However, the first clearly attested trip is the 'African Exhibition' of 1895.

'Exhibitions' of people from different countries were a feature of Victorian London life. A 'Chinese family' was included in the Chinese Collection at Hyde Park Corner in 1851; a 'Japanese Village' was set up at Albert Gate in 1885; there are other examples. In 1895, however, an entrepreneur decided to bring a whole Somali village to the Crystal Palace. A special liner was hired; African animals and 'native' huts were included; and only a few props (rocks, mountain backdrop) were set up, to present an 'authentic' African scene to the curious public, although the 'natives' themselves were not from the same village, and seem to have been whomever the promoter could persuade to travel to England.

I've included some great contemporary reports below. I say 'great' because I find them fascinating. They are, naturally, riddled with the imperialist and racial prejudices of Victorian England. Africans are 'child-like' (ie. in need of British paternal governance); and the performance - for this was something of a 'theatrical' venture, as you'll discover - includes 'European hunters' who settle the disputes between 'warring tribes'. I know nothing about imperial history, so I'm not expert enough to comment on how often this actually happened, or whether it's just what the Victorian public wanted to hear. It's certainly interesting that this is the keynote: the British Empire providing a 'pax romana' for the 'quarrelsome' Africans (and - it's taken for granted, I think - making a healthy profit in the process, of course ... the exhibition also included an exhibit of African diamonds).

The Daily News piece ends with "They were not at all disconcerted by the attention they attracted, though the party of visitors invited to meet them on their arrival must have seemed quite as strange to their eyes as they appeared to the company who saw them at Tilbury preparing for their first railway journey." ... and, yes, wouldn't you just love to know what the Somali 'visitors' made of Sydenham and their bowler-hatted, waistcoat-wearing hosts?

AN AFRICAN EXHIBITION AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE. So much interest is felt in all that relates to Africa that the directors of the Crystal Palace Company have. been well advised in getting up the two-fold exhibition which is to be opened at Sydenham this day week. The presentation of a village in Somaliland, with its inhabitants in their manner as they live, is certain to prove very attractive to the public at large, while the loan exhibition will be of great practical interest for all who are concerned in the development of colonization and trade in the dark continent. The idea of transporting a whole Somali village from Berbera to the banks of the Thames was a very happy one, but it would have been impossible to find the necessary space for reconstructing it even in the large grounds at Sydeaham had not the Crystal Palace Company recently laid out, at a cost of something like £16,000, a sports arena where football and other games are to be played. This tract of ground has been set apart for the village encampment throughout the summer. In order to obtain, together with a contingent of natives, a representative collection of the wild animals indigenous to Somaliland, the Crystal Palace Company made arrangements with Herr Hagenbeck, the well-known collector and trainer of animals at Hamburg, and with Herr Josef Menges, who accompanied the late General Gordon in his expedition up the Nile, and who has been a scientific explorer in Africa for the last quarter of a century. Herr Menges had made so many excursions into the interior since permanent relations had been established with the tribes on the coast that he was in possession of the fullest information about the country, and he experienced little difficulty in obtaining the consent of some 70 Somalis of different tribes to undertake the voyage. They, together with the animals, were landed in England a week or two ago, and they are the first of their race who have been seen in Europe. As was pointed out in the article "An African Outpost of India-Somaliland," which appeared in The Times of February 16, the land which they inhabit, no longer to be designated, as it was by Speke 40 years ago, "the Unknown Horn of Africa," is " inhabited by a manly and tractable people, much addicted to the chase, both of wild animals and of each other, alternating trading journeys to the seaports with predatory forays and tribal feuds, and seeking in the alliance and under the protectorate of the British flag to find both an umpire in their intestine disputes and a refuge from the better-armed and more powerful neighbours, such as the Abyssinians, by whom their dearly-loved independence stands in danger of being impaired."
    These are the men who are now putting up their encampment in the gardens laid out by Sir Joseph Paxton, and they number 53 in all, with six women and as many children. Coming from the north of Somaliland, and belonging to different tribes, the men are for the most part tall and well-built, the great majority of them being of the Arab rather than of the negro type. The men have a habit of combing their hair all their leisure time, and some of them rub into it a yellow paste made of clay and lime, while they evidently take great pride in their teeth, which they are constantly rubbing with a small bit of wood. The few women in the detachment are not very attractive in features or dress, but while the unmarried owes wear their hair in curls like the men, the married women have theirs done up in shawls, men and women alike wearing long white robes called "tobe," though the chiefs are attired in coloured garments. The whole of them wore landed in England without mishap, and Herr Menges was scarcely less fortunate with the freight of animals, which included 25 native horses, 20 dromedaries, half a dozen lions, six ostriches, cheetahs, pumas, leopards, sheep, and birds. The cargo also included several antelopes but four of these were lost on the voyage while the taller antelope, which had reached Sydenham in safety, has also died.
    The Somalis themselves, though they have been provided with covered buildings for passing the night—the climate of this country being too cold to admit of their sleeping in their mat huts—will pass the day in these huts, which form a picturesque encampment upon the new sports enclosure, and which, like the animals, have been brought over with them from Somaliland. The process of putting up and taking down these huts, cooking their food, and engaging in mimic warfare will, undoubtedly, be watched with eager interest, especially by those who remember the vivid description which the writer of the article referred to above gave of "the excited, shouting, leaping crowds with the brandished spears, the fluttering white or tartan scarves, the gleaming black bodies, and the glittering white teeth, who performed before us at Berbera and at Zeyla." The national sports and dances, which will be performed two or three times each day, and attacks of one tribe upon another will be simulated, Europeans coming to the rescue, while the horse and dromedary races will be very genuine, because the area over which they are to take place is so extensive. The most effective feature, however, in the whole display will be the passing of an immense caravan made up of all the natives and animals in the encampment, and the sentiment of reality will be much heightened by the clever arrangement of the scenery representing Somaliland, which has been painted by Mr. Bartlett, and which has been placed round the encampment, some of the set pieces being 30ft. high. The loan exhibition, which will be held in the Grand Nave of the palace, is not limited to any one region of Africa, but will include articles of interest from every part of it. Mr. P. C. Salons has sent the whole of his valuable collection, which has never been shown, including, of course, his fine trophy of wild game, and Mr. H. M. Stanley has promised to lend several curiosities, among them being an original map by Livingstone. Messrs. White send 140 paintings by Thomas Barnes, which present a vivid panorama of South African life and scenery as they were 30 years ago, while Mr. Denny contributes, together with specimens of ivory, tusks, carved ivory, native weapons, articles of dress, and King Bonny's state umbrella, which is capable of sheltering 20 people. The De Beers Company exhibit diamonds in the rough and matrix, together with a model of their mine, while Mr. Horniman lends the whole of the African collection from his private museum, and the Imperial Institute a portion of its Cape section. Mr. Barney Barnato has lent the first diamond-washing machine used in the South African fields, and among the other exhibitors of curiosities are the Union and Castle lines (which show models of their steamers going to the Cape), Sir Donald Currie, Sir Frederick Young, M. Coctermans, of Antwerp (who lends the Star of Belgium, a stone of 200 carats weight), and a number of companies and corporations which are interested in the development of the mineral wealth of South Africa.
The Times, 1895

THE EAST AFRICAN EXHIBITION. Yesterday the directors of the Crystal Palace gave a private view of their East African Exhibition to a large company of invited guests. The chief feature of the show, a description of which appeared in The Times of Saturday last, is the presentation of a Somali village, and the display will not fail to attract, interest, and amuse large numbers of visitors during the coming season. Herr Hagenbeck and Herr Josef Menges, who have made the arrangements for the Crystal Palace Company, have certainly succeeded in bringing together a company of natives whose village life, with all its picturesque surroundings, affords an African scene of a novel and pleasing character. The troupe consists of 53 men, six women, and six children. With the exception of a few men of low caste—smiths and hunters—they belong to the tribes inhabiting the western part of the north coast of Somaliland and the interior. The new sports arena in the palace park forms an excellent ground for their operations. They have erected huts which have been brought over from their own country, and the nature of the ground enables any number of spectators to have an uninterrupted view of the village and everything that takes place around it. Unfortunately, the present weather is a discomfort to the natives. But, notwithstanding this, they braved the cold wind yesterday, and went through their performance in native costume. They evidently took much interest in the various contests, as well as in the method by which the spectators showed appreciation of their efforts. The scene opens in front of the village, where the natives are following their daily occupations. Dromedaries and other animals are grazing near to the huts. Some brigands appear and attempt to steal the dromedaries, and at once, amidst great excitement and much noise, the villagers, both men and women, attempt to beat off the thieves. There is a wild fight ; some European hunters arrive, and the brigands are driven away. Many of the latter, however, are captured and detained as hostages, and have to be ransomed by presents of sheep, goats, and ostriches, while the brigands receive one of the maidens as a guarantee of peace. Festivities follow—dances of love and war, throwing the spear, shooting with the bow and arrow, dromedary races, horse races, and the like. The European hunters arrange a zareba in the village to buy animals, illustrating how young animals, birds and reptiles, are nursed, trained, and bartered, after which most of the hunters leave for the hunting grounds. They return, bringing with them some large game. Then follows a striking scene. A great caravan is formed, in which all the natives and animals take part ; and, after parading the village, it finally disappears behind the mountain scenery. In addition to the native village there is an excellent African loan collection formed in the nave of the palace. The first public performance will be given to-day.
The Times, 1895

AFRICA IN LONDON. The company of Somali natives, with their belonging, who will reproduce at the Crystal Palace the life of an East African village, arrived in London late on  Wednesday night on board the Clan Rosa, and were landed yesterday morning, when they were taken on at once by special train from Tilbury to the Crystal Palace. The African Village will no doubt become the popular feature of the exhibition, which will bring together at the Crystal Palace one of the most interesting and instructive collections ever seen in England. Certainly we have had nothing like the African Village. It is intended not only to reproduce in all its details a Somali village, but the occupations and diversions of the natives will be represented in action. . . . They number sixty men and women, and a few young children. They have not been long in discovering the vagaries of the English climate, but in spite of the variable weather of yesterday, they did not seem to find their simple native costume insufficient. It is only fair to assume that we have here the picked men of their race, and the Somali is certainly a very handsome fellow, with fine features and handsomely proportioned. The type is that of a Arab, though they dress their hair in negro fashion. The dandies of the tribe devote a good deal of attention to their hair, which is not only curled, but is sometimes dyed a peculiar light shade of brown. The women wear their hair in tiny ringlets. They seem all highly intelligent, if one may judge from the expression of their faces, or the manner in which they went about their work, and exceedingly good-tempered. They were not at all disconcerted by the attention they attracted, though the party of visitors invited to meet them on their arrival must have seemed quite as strange to their eyes as they appeared to the company who saw them at Tilbury preparing for their first railway journey.
Daily News, 1895

 . . . Next comes a quaint and grotesque "love dance," which is followed by an exhibition of skill and strength in throwing the spear, an exercise at which the Somalis are very expert, sending their weapons flying through the air to long distances. A horse race on the wiry native ponies is spiritedly contested, and a war dance is done with much demonstrative energy of gesture and movement. A dromedary race is particularly interesting to those who have read about the difficulty of riding one of these "ships of the desert," which, however, the practised Somalis seem to do easily enough. The pace at which the dromedaries - which bear the same relation to the ordinary camel of burden as the cart horse does to the thoroughbred - move is fair, and their appearance at the gallop, though odd, is not unpicturesque. More horse-racing follows, and sham fights on foot and on horseback are gone through. The Somalis imitate a combat very dramatically, and some of them have a good idea of low comedy business. The European hunters then form a caravan, which starts off on a hunting expedition, presently returning in a long file with captured ostriches, elephants, lions, monkeys, and antelopes. This is a very pretty picture, the elephants of which there are more than a dozen, looking very fat and healthy. The encampment is then broken up and the departure of the cavalcade continues the show, which gives an excellent idea of the mode of life of the curious people, of whom Sir Richard Burton in his "Footsteps in East Africa," says, "They have all the levity and instability of the negroes, are light-minded as the Abyssinians, constant in nothing but inconstancy, soft, merry, affectionate souls, passing without apparent transition stages into a state of fury, in which they are capable of the most terrible atrocities." Fortunately our Somali visitors at Sydenham display only the good side of their characters, and do not pass into the "furious" stage. In addition to introducing to us the Somalis, Herr Hagenbeck is making a very interesting experiment at the Palace. He does not believe in isolating wild carnivorous animals by placing them in small separate dens. He has, therefore, brought to Sydenham a huge cage, in which he has placed twelve young lions, one tiger, three bears, three hyaenas, four cheetahs or hunting panthers, and one dog. Other animals will be added until the total reaches at least fifty, and Herr Hagenbeck intends that these animals, while enjoying comparative freedom by having a large playground, shall enjoy each other's company for a space of at least three years from the date of the opening of the East African village.
The Era, 1895

SOMALILAND AT SYDENHAM. Since the object of East Africa at the Crystal Palace is to display the manners and methods of the East African native at home, and to afford a glimpse of daily life in " a Peaceful Somali Village of Red Mat Huts," it follows that there cannot be much which properly remains "behind the scenes" in that region as fascinating to those who do not visit it as Alice found the world on the other side of the looking-glass. . However, there are a few properties and legitimate deceptions in the presentation of Somaliland at Sydenham, though they are confined to the landscape, and it is this land of mountain lath and valley plaster that our artist has called the interior of Africa. In other respects there is an agreeable lack of stage effects and dresses in the domestic drama of Somali life. The obvious delight of the natives in "play-acting," a delight apparently as natural to them as to children, is one of the chief charms of the display. At the same time life in what is described as a peaceful Somali village appears to be tolerably eventful. When the curtain goes up, that is to say when the spectators have taken their places, it is true that the outlook is calm and undisturbed. The women are tilling the ground, carding the wool, running through the light task of the weekly washing, preparing the meals ; the men are leaning up against the huts and discussing the prospects of the hunting season. Dromedaries and goats are peacefully browsing in the suburbs ; the Somali children are congratulating themselves that for the moment they have done nothing for which they require immediate correction. Upon this quiet scene a band of brigands suddenly intrudes and attempts to steal the camels. The inhabitants of the village, men and women, turn out to resist the outrage - the children express their dissatisfaction in the usual manner ; there is much sound of battle, but happily little bloodshed, and only one native is carried off the field. In the end the brigands are beaten off by the opportune re-inforcements of European hunters, and retire, leaving behind them some of their number as prisoners. The frugal villagers propose to exchange the prisoners for what are euphemistically called "presents " of sheep, goats, and ostriches, and the discussions which follows between villagers and brigands as to the exact equivalent of four prisoners of varying attractiveness are characteristically of considerable animation. Much of the barter is carried on by the wounded villager who was carried off the field, and who, now recovered, enforces his opinion of economic values by hitting the captives with a spear  whenever their opinions are called into dispute. At last, however, the bargain is clenched by the offer on the part of the villagers of a young maiden in marriage. At last, however, matters are settled, and the marriage dances begin. These, which are very long, are at last stopped by one of the "European hunters," who suggests that now they had better get to business and provide the European market with animals for Mr. Hagenbeck's menagerie. This accordingly is done. The bride goes back, metaphorically, to her "bees and her cows," and her husband goes out with the rest of his companions hunting. They return in a few minutes from the canvas mountains with a truly magnificent collection of elephants, dromedaries, zebras, ostriches, and antelopes; and the day's work and the day's entertainment conclude with some highly interesting dromedary racing, spear throwing, and "general rejoicings."
The Graphic, 1895

Tuesday 16 November 2010

A London Boy's Saturday

Here's an unglamorous but informative article about children's lifestyles in 1906:


By T. E. HARVEY, Deputy Warden of Toynbee Hall.
     IN taking the subject of a London Boy's Saturday, I wish, if I may, to lay before the reader a little raw material from the sociological laboratory of the elementary day school, and prepare it to some extent for examination by others, touching upon some of the possibilities of service and of educational reform that open up before one who tries to study it.
     One word of explanation. Saturday is a day of peculiar interest in the child's life. It is a whole holiday, as far as school is concerned, though anything but a holiday to many London children. It is a day in which the child shares the ordinary life of the home, and, to a larger extent than most people realise, the work and cares of his elders.
     Some little time ago the Enquirers' Club, which meets at Toynbee Hall, decided to devote an evening to the consideration of this subject, and a few School Managers got the older children in their schools to take as the subject of their weekly composition class: "What I did last Saturday." This was done in consultation with the teachers, so that there was no need for the children to have any idea of the purpose which their essays would serve, while at the same time it was thus possible to get together many hundreds of essays from different parts of London, all telling of what was done on the same day, and giving a glimpse into a great variety of homes and lives. Of course we must remember that we are getting this glimpse through the coloured glass of a child's memory, and one must not judge altogether of the boy's day by his essay, for we are not dealing with skilled writers. But although the survey these papers afford is necessarily one-sided and imperfect, still one cannot rise from reading them without feeling that one has a wider knowledge of the facts of life in a London child's school-days, and, indeed, of something more even than this.
     The Saturday chosen was a fine day in May, and essays were obtained from schools in Limehouse, Ratcliff, Whitechapel and St. Luke's, as well as from North St. Pancras, and elsewhere. The group of schools of which I am a manager all sent essays, but I wish more especially to deal with those which were written by the boys of the one which I know best. This school is quite a small one, in comparison with most of those built by the London School Board, but it has accommodation for 240 boys, 240 girls, and 320 infants, drawn mostly from the streets close at hand. In the immediate neighbourhood are a number of very poor and over-crowded houses, some in process of demolition in connection with one of the County Council's housing schemes ; over the road the new block dwellings have already replaced a similar insanitary area, while a little further away large blocks of so-called model dwellings are the homes of many of the children. The majority, however, probably still live in the small narrow streets of the district, which is a peculiarly poor one. The great city warehouses extend year by year along the main roads, and back from them ; but a resident middle class, apart from parsons and doctors, is practically non-existent. The teachers almost all come in daily to their work from a distance, and one cannot wonder that they should do so. The only open spaces the neighbourhood affords are disused burial-grounds; it is three-quarter of an hour's walk to the nearest park, though a new tube railway puts another one within easy reach of any wealthier children to whom a return fare of 4d. might be of small account; as yet, however, it would not seem as though very many children had ever made use of this, even for an exceptional holiday. In many schools which are more fortunately placed in the neighbourhood of some park or recreation ground the assistant masters, and sometimes even the head teachers, give up their Saturday mornings to help the boys in their games, but this means a sacrifice of time which we have no right to ask of the staff, especially when the teachers are, most of them, tired men who have been working many years in a difficult neighbourhood, and the nearest cricket field is far enough away. So in too many districts like this the children are largely left to their own devices. For most who have the time for it, the only playgrounds are the streets, or the asphalted courts of the Peabody Buildings.
     As has been noticed already, the children attending this school come, on the whole, from very poor homes; some are the children of costermongers or of the small stall-keepers of the "Petticoat Lane" of the district. On the Saturday in question a number of children were taken by the head teacher to the Crystal Palace on the occasion of a great distribution of prizes and certificates to London school children arranged by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. The Society which organised the festival would perhaps be interested in one boy's brief account of the ceremony:
     "When I got there I saw prizes given out for Cruelty to Animals."
     Five boys were also taken by one of the managers and a friend to see the Tower of London. This accounts for 24 out of the 84 boys who wrote essays; many of these would have been working, no doubt, under ordinary circumstances, and some of them managed to do a certain amount of work for their mothers before starting. Of the remaining 60 boys, 16 went to the music hall or theatre in the evening, the favourite places of amusement being the King's Theatre, Pitfield Street, Hoxton (where admission can be got for 2d.), and the Sadler's Wells. It is curious to note that while a large number of boys from a school only four minutes' walk away went to the Cinematograph show at a neighbouring Mission that night, none of these boys seem to have been there. Sixteen boys (7 of them in the fourth standard) were at work all day, but half of these were doing work for their parents at home for part of the day. Of these 36 boys of the fourth standard 4 only played all day, 21 running errands or doing work for their mothers during part of the day.
     With regard to household work, apparently cleaning the knives and forks is exclusively the work of Standard IV, while preparing the breakfast is only attempted by their seniors. Similarly with regard to work outside, selling wood seems to be the work of the younger boys, the more lucrative occupation of newspaper selling being sought by those in the higher standards. One boy makes 2/6 in the afternoon in this way.
     Of the upper Standards, one boy only played all day and went to the music hall at night, one paid a visit (after doing a few errands) to an aunt and uncle at Edmonton, and one who should have gone to the Tower was prevented by illness, but recovered sufficiently to go to a music hall at night to see a play called "The Gay Deceiver." The remaining 9 boys of the upper Standards did various odd jobs and ran errands as well as played. It is interesting to note that the boys in the lower Standards give the fullest particulars of their games and amusements.
     Amongst the lads of another neighbouring school, one notes that he began the day with a cold bath, but none of our boys were so lucky: "I dressed and washed myself " was no doubt the natural order to most of them. It will be noticed that a very large number of the boys begin the day by lighting the fire or doing housework at home, some of them making breakfast ready before their mothers get up, though very few have anything like the monotonous round of housework and scrubbing which falls to the lot of the girls, with little variation save a walk or a game in "St. Luke's Park," the one green place near by, which is no park, but an old graveyard showing clearly still its original object.
     The games at which the boys played are not always specified; tip-cat is a favourite; "secrets "—another name for hide and seek—and "release " are played by the younger boys as well as by the girls; one or two go to Victoria Park for a swim; five play cricket or football; and others spend their twopence in the Baths at Pitfield Street. One at least had two baths in the day. One went to the Tower on his own account with a friend; two others to St. Paul's; and two to St. James' Park. Several were fortunate enough to find a halfpenny in the street, one truthfully adds "and I spent it." One lucky boy went to Hampstead Heath and found sixpence, which went where the good sixpences go—in buying sweets and apples. One or two are taken for rides by carmen, while only one goes out with his father and mother—by omnibus from the Angel to Hyde Park and back by Trafalgar Square.
     The essays of the younger boys are naturally less explicit: one plays at "buttons," whatever that may be; another at "knocking down ginger," which would appear to be an exciting game, for he adds, "one of the boys got court by one of the women and got a good hiding off of her." One or two boys go fishing, one by night with his father, apparently on a poaching expedition. The game of "dusters," described by a Whitechapel boy, does not appear to have spread to this district to add to the joys of boy life. It consists of lying in wait, cap in hand, until someone passes with a pipe in his mouth. You then aim at the pipe. The victor's reward is not stated.
     Of the methods of earning money, by far the most important is newspaper selling, by which a great many boys add to the family income; one boy, who began the day by fetching home some wood before breakfast, and then sold the Evening News "until the 4-30 race," tells us that in the evening he "played banker and won 6½d.," on the proceeds of which he went to the King's Theatre. Two boys were chiefly occupied in minding babies—.in one case this was evidently the usual thing, for the boy speaks simply of  "my baby," a phrase that one constantly sees amongst the girls' essays.
     The essays of the boys who went to the Crystal Palace are disappointing. The top boy does not seem to have observed much ; he writes neatly, uses long words which he has learned from books and lessons; one seems to hear an echo of some vote of thanks when he tells us that "the Countess of Dudley had undertaken the arduous task of presenting the prizes." However, this is the sort of boy and essay that our system tends to make ; he has been given full marks by his master and no doubt will go on and prosper. Very different are the attempts of two Standard V boys, Ernest and Dan, neither of whom get high marks. One has seen a thief caught, and describes it vividly ; the other makes one realise his day's experiences, in spite of his bad grammar, far better than does the more commonplace top boy, and he probably spent as interesting a day, working for his mother and his master, selling his papers, boxing with his friend, going to the music hall, and eating his ice-cream. He has an observant eye, too, for he notices that he sells most of his evening papers to the telegraph boys of St. Martin's le Grand. On the whole I should like to have given the prize for the best essay to Dan.
     Of the following twelve specimen essays, six are by boys who went to work, two by boys who went for a ride or walk, one by a boy who was house-moving (there were two such cases on that one day), one by "Ernest" (who saw the thief caught), one by "John," the top boy, who went to the Crystal Palace, one by "Dan " (the last). The date of the Saturday the essays refer to is May 13, 1905.
     "On Saturday last I went out selling papers to earn a few pence for my mother. The stand which I sell papers on is Lyons' Restaurant and Company. I go's out selling papers on every winner. Last Saturday I earnt about eightpence or ninepence. My mother was very pleased with what I earnt. The reason why I sell papers, is because my father has no work, and I have to sell papers. On Saturday, May 13, I was stopped by a policeman in the City for selling papers late at night. When I took my earnings home to my mother, she gave me twopence to go to the King's Theatre. I came out at a quarter to twelve and went towards home. As I was walking home I met my sister. I and my sister went home too bed."
     (One notes the effect of recent legislation on the employment of children, and cannot help regretting that the Home Office has not confirmed the bye-laws framed in 1905 by the County Council with the object of further shortening the hours during which school children may be employed.)
     "On Saturday last I arose about 5 o'clock. Then I roused my brother, and told him to light the fire, and while he was doing so, I washed myself, brushed my hair, and got myself ready for work. By this time, the kettle had boiled, and tea made, I went into the bedroom to ask my mother whether she wanted a cup of tea and she said 'yes.' I had my breakfast at six o'clock and went to work at half-past six. I went to the butcher's shop where I work and tore up some paper ready to wrap up the meat for customers. When I had done this I went and got my own butcher's coat, put it on and started work. The first thing I did was to go to certain places and take orders. When I came back I helped to cut a sheep up, and then carry it from one stall to another. I then went to my mother to ask her for a halfpenny to have something to drink. I went and helped to sell the meat and weigh it."
     "Last Saturday I spent my time in selling books, to earn a few pence for my mother. It was about half-past seven when I arose, I dressed, cleaned my boots, made the fire, washed, and made the breakfast. When I had had my breakfast, I started off to buy the books which I was going to sell. It took me about a quarter of an hour to get to the shop, and ten minutes to get to the place where I sell the books. I sold the first lot out and then hastened back to get the next lot. It was about five minutes to two when I arrived at the shop, and they were getting ready to close. I then went back to my 'stand.' I sold them out and hastened for home to have my tea. It was about ten o'clock when I started out and five o'clock p.m. when I arrived home. I gave my mother the money and then I had my tea. When I had finished my tea, I went to the new King's Theatre, which was very grand. I arrived home about half-past nine, when I had my supper and then went to bed."
     "Saturday last I spent in the following way. I arose at half-past seven in the morning. The first thing I did was to light the fire. Then I aroused my mother, and she made our breakfast. I was ready to go out at half-past eight. I proceeded to Spitalfields Market. I was accompanied by my father, brother, and a friend of mine. I remained there, minding a barrow for two hours, when my father bought some cabbages. I then helped to pull them home. When I had my breakfast I proceeded to the newspaper offices. I then got some papers to sell. I sold them all out by twelve o'clock. I then went home to have a little refreshment. I then went to get some more papers. I was finished about half-past five o'clock. I then went home to have some tea. Then I assisted my father to sell out his goods, which he soon did. We returned home and had a hearty supper, and retired to bed about ten o'clock."
     "On Saturday last I arose from my bed at half-past seven in the morning, to go and get some hot bread. I washed and had my breakfast. Soon afterwards I had a game at football for three quarters of an hour. When the game was over I took the ball into my bedroom and put it under the table. I went to work at a quarter past eight. I had finished my work at half-past ten. I then had another wash and took orders to different coffee-shops. My work consisted of selling fish in Whitecross Street. Before I was done work we did a very good trade. When I had finished I went to bed for the rest of the day."
     "My brother and I arose at half-past eight last Saturday morning. I had to clean my mother's knives and forks, and when I had finished I had to go for some errands for her. I then had a game of knocking buttons out of a ring with a ball. At two o'clock in the afternoon I had to wash and make myself tidy to go to work. I had to stand outside a shop, selling, in High Street, Stoke Newington Road. The man that got me this job was one whom my mother knew. I had to get there at three o'clock in the afternoon and stop till eleven o'clock. I arrived home at a quarter to twelve Saturday night. I then had my supper and went to bed. I was very tired and glad to rest myself."
     "Last Saturday I went for a ride in the country with my brother. I and my brother started away from our home about seven o'clock in the morning and went to Leyton. It was a fine day. When we were there we went for a walk over the fields. I and my brother amused ourselves very much. We arrived home about nine o'clock at night. When I and my brother arrived home we washed and then went to a theatre. We were satisfied with what we saw there. When the performance was over I and my brother returned home. We arrived home about eleven o'clock. We then had supper and went to bed. I and my brother were very tired."
     "Last Saturday, I arose from my bed at exactly half-past six in the morning. I put on my trousers, waistcoat, and my boots and socks, and put the kettle of water on the gas-stove which was already alight. The kettle was not long before it began to boil. After it had boiled a little while I made some tea. I woke my mother up and gave her some tea and toast. She asked me if I would awake the girls, I replied in the affirmative. I went up to the bedroom door which was locked and called them by the names 'Louie, Lena, and Hettie, it is getting late.' They all came down and washed theirselves and then my mother gave them their breakfasts and they put on their hats and coats and wished my mother 'good morning.' I cleaned my boots and washed myself and my two little sisters and I sat down to our breakfast. I went for a few errands for my mother and the landlady, and they both gave me a halfpenny. The landlady's boy and I went to Wood Green where we caught some frogs and tadpoles. Whilst coming home I had the misfortune to drop the jar in which they were, and the jar broke and the poor things were run over by a passing cart. My friend who accompanied me said he would share his with me and he did so. We sat down to a hearty dinner at two o'clock after which I helped my mother to clear away the dinner things. The end."
     "Last Saturday I arose from my bed at about seven o'clock a.m. I prepared the breakfast and was finished by half-past eight a.m. My mother and I were very busy in packing up different articles as we were about to remove to another house. I cleaned the knives and forks and the tea-pot. When my father returned from his work about three o'clock p.m., he helped my mother in taking the bedsteads down. The things were taken down into the ante-room. The cart arrived at our house at seven o'clock p.m. 1 looked after the baby whilst the goods were removed from the house into the cart. It took an hour and a half to do the work. The expenses were only two shillings. Whilst going there, I sat at the back of the cart, so nobody should steal any goods."
    "On Saturday last, May 13th, I enjoyed a trip to the Crystal Palace. I had important business there to attend to, namely, to receive a prize, which was to be awarded to me for an essay, which I had written, on ' Man's duty towards Animals.' I arose from my bed, as is my custom at 6-30 a.m. After preparing the breakfast-table, I myself prepared for my excursion. I arrived at the school-gate at to o'clock, which was the appointed time. Finding that my headmaster did not arrive, two of my companions and I proceeded to Snow Hill Station, where I embarked, with some more of my comrades, for the Crystal Palace. Arrived at our destination we proceeded to the Palace. I then left my companions and entered the orchestra, and sat in my place. After I had received my prize, which was presented by the Countess of Dudley, who had undertaken the arduous task of presenting the prizes, I quitted the orchestra and made my way to the Palace grounds. I had heard so much of the 'Somali Village' that I paid my fee and entered the arena. I was very pleased with the performance, and after it was over, I went to the big clock inside the Palace, where we were to assemble, in order that we might return home together. Mr. J. arrived, and we all went home, I myself feeling happier for my outing. I showed my parents my prize, and they were very pleased, and congratulated me on my success."
     " Last Saturday I arose from my bed at seven o'clock a.m. I washed myself and then went for an errand. At half-past nine o'clock a.m. I prepared to go to get some wood for my mother's fire. As I was coming home with the wood, I saw a man run away with a parcel. He ran through a street, named Fann Street. He was soon caught by a detective, the man said that he was running in case the shop where he was going to take the parcel was shut. The detective did not let the man go. The man struggled with the detective but it was no use, the man could not get away. The detective blew his whistle and five constables arrived. The man was taken to the police station. When I took my wood home to my mother, one of Pearks' carmen asked me to go with him for a ride to Plaistow. Having not been there before I amused myself very much there. We arrived home at half-past eight p.m., and when I arrived at my house at nine o'clock p.m. I had my supper and then I went to bed at eleven o'clock p.m."
     "Last Saturday I rose at twenty minutes to six, I had my breakfast, and started doing my mother's work. When I had done it, I went out and tried to get some wood. When I had obtained some, I took it home, and I washed myself and went to Sidney Street to see my aunt, over money affairs between her and my mother. When I had arrived home, and told my mother what my aunt said, I went to work. When I had obtained my master's lunch, and a few more errands, I asked him if he wanted me any more that day, and he said he didn't, so I hid him 'good-day' and came away. I then went to some lady and obtained for her some errands, and she gave me a penny. At about half-past two I helped a boy sell his newspapers, and when I had sold nine he gave me a penny. I sold them outside the tube station in Newgate Street, I sold most newspapers to telegram boys. When I had sold out I went up the street where I live, and met one of my play-mates. He asked me if I would have a 'box' with him. I consented, and we had a 'box' in his yard, for about a quarter of an hour. When we had finished I went and washed myself, and at half-past six I went to a music hall, and came out at nine o'clock. As I was coming home I went into an ice-cream vendor's and bought some ice-cream. When I had eaten it I came home, and went to bed."
     The two other schools in the group to which the one we have been dealing with belongs, are much larger, and in one the children come on the whole from more comfortable homes in the surrounding blocks of "model " buildings. A smaller percentage of the boys in this school worked for the whole day than in the case of the boys of whom we have written, but fewer also speak of playing the whole time; almost all are engaged for part of the day in doing work for their parents. Occasionally work done for the family is handsomely rewarded. "I got up at 6 o'clock," one tells us, "so as to wake my uncle, who works at Cassell's, the printers, for this I got sixpence."* [* This boy notes that by the help of some overtime work on Saturday afternoon his week's earnings came to 5/-.]  The work done consists chiefly in minding stalls, delivering milk, selling papers, oranges and vegetables, and going out with vans. One boy got up at 3 a.m. to go to Covent Garden, and did not go to bed till a quarter to eleven at night.
     It is noticeable that these boys from homes which are on the whole more comfortable, mention a larger variety of games played (among them cricket, football, "base-ball," release, egg-cap, swimming, "tibby-cat," bicycling, fishing, ping-pong, "knocking up catches," ludo, and draughts), and several mention the papers and books which they read (The Evening News, Alone in London, True Blue, The Royal Magazine, The Children's Friend, A Christmas at Crag Castle College). A large number help in cleaning the knives and forks and in doing polishing and scrubbing work at home; one goes out with his mother to Highbury Fields and plays " hide and seek " with her, also instructing her in "knocking up catches"; "My mother," he tells us, "did not know how to play, I showed her how, and then she had a longer innin's than I did." But even in this school many have hard and long work to do, and we cannot wonder that one such boy concludes his essay with the words: "Gentlemen, how would you like to do this? not much!"
     Of the three essays subjoined two may be regarded as to some extent typical of the majority, the third of the minority of much poorer boys.
     "I got up in the morning at 8 o'clock. Then after breakfast I did some work up to 11 o'clock a.m. Then I dressed myself and when I was tidy I got some errands. When I got all the errands in I went and had a read because I could not run about or play because I had a bad leg. Not knowing what to do as I could hardly walk, I went for a ride to Homerton to see the Boys' Brigade Cricket Club play. I got home at 8-30 p.m., and had a good tea. After that I went in the Memorial Hall to hear a music class. I came out at [ o p.m. and went in my house. At 11 p.m. I went to bed."
     "Saturday last, I woke at seven o'clock, cleaned my boots, had a good wash, then had my breakfast, wished my mother and father good bye for the day. At eight o'clock I started to go to work at Carwardine and Co., on one of their vans, delivering flour around Bermondsey. At three p.m. we had our dinner, and at four o'clock started on our journey. At eight p.m. I had finished my work, I called at the Leysian Mission and saw Cinematagraph scenes. I returned home at ten p.m. I had a wash, had my supper and thanked God for keeping me safe through the day and then went to sleep."
     "On last Saturday I got out of bed at 6 o'clock and had my breakfast, and washed myself. After that I had to go to Spitalfields Market to buy some onions, cucumbers and radishes, and several other things. When I came back I had to go to another market to get some watercress, then when I came back I had to serve at the stall till 1 o'clock, I then went to have my dinner. When I had my dinner I came back to the stall to sell some more things till 5 o'clock. At 5 o'clock I went to have my tea, and after that I had to go down the meat market to sell some cucumbers and other things on a barrow till 10-30 o'clock, and when I came back I was so tired that I went straight to bed."
     The remaining school is probably intermediate between the other two as regards the poverty of the homes of the children ; in this case the boys make less mention of work done, and we have several fresh games named (French touch, hat touch, rounders, "bogie-man,"  "twopence-tube," and " horse-racing "both the latter being indoor games played on a board by throw of dice). Only one boy mentions spending his time in reading, beginning with Scott's poems, and finishing up with "The Adventures of a Three-guinea Watch."
     In this school more than half of the boys of the three upper standards went to the Crystal Palace, so that it is not so easy to form a judgment of the normal Saturday occupation of the majority. The two essays that follow are perhaps the most interesting. They are by two brothers who were in different classrooms. It is curious to notice that neither mentions the other, though both tell how they took their baby brother out for a walk, and evidently had spent a good part of the day in each other's company. One is reminded of another kind of public school in which it is sometimes counted bad form to have anything to do with one's brother ; or is it mere accident in our case?
      "About 6-30 a.m. I was awakened by the chirping of the house sparrow. I looked out of the window and saw we had the prospects of a fine day. After I had dressed myself the first duty I had to perform was to light the fire. At 7-3o a.m. I had a nice cup of tea made for mother and myself. After breakfast I had a nice wash and brush up for the day. I asked mother if I could take baby out as he was not very good tempered. First I took him round to Old Street to look at the pictures at the committee rooms. Next I took him into St. Luke's Park as I knew he would like to run about. Seeing it was the usual hour for dinner I took him home. There I found the dinner waiting for me. I devoured it with great relish. At 1-30 p.m. I went out and joined my companions in a game of cricket. We got tired of that in an hour, so we picked upon a game of football in the shade. After scoring six goals to none I found it getting too hot. We waited till we got cool and started home for tea. When I had had my tea I joined my companions again. We were in a fix to know where to go. So I said to the biggest of us, 'Let us go to Victoria Park for a swim.' We all agreed upon it. We started about our journey which took three quarters of an hour. After getting up there we found the boys a swimming. So we undressed ourselves and had a swim. We were all refreshed after coming out of the water. It took the same time to get home. We were tired when we got home and I was glad to have my supper, which consisted of bread and butter. I was glad to get to bed, I had no sooner put my head upon the pillow than I went to sleep. When I awoke on Sunday morning my limbs were a bit stiff."
     "It was about 6-30 o'clock when I was awakened by the chirping of the house sparrow. I looked out of the window and knew that it would be a beautiful day. So I lit the fire and made a cup of tea for my mother and myself. It was about 9 o'clock a.m. when I cleaned the cups and saucers I asked my mother if I could take baby, who's name was Harry, in the park I knew he would enjoy looking at the flowers. I kept him out till dinner was ready, then I devoured it with great relish. Then I came to the playground and played cricket and got sick and tired of that, and then played football and found it was too hot. So all of us went home to tea. I soon joined my companions and asked the biggest if he would come to the swimming lake, and he said 'no.'"
     Similar essays were obtained from the girls' department in all three schools, but the girls' essays are naturally somewhat less interesting reading from the fact that all but very few, and those chiefly younger girls, give a larger part of their Saturdays to work at home, preparation and purchase of food also forming part of the task for many. In the largest school, of those who wrote essays only two in the fourth standard played the whole day, about 20 per cent. were able to go to some kind of entertainment in the evening; and minding the baby, although an absorbing task, is often evidently a pleasant one too. Two mention playing the piano, and others such games as swinging, hop-scotch, skipping, egg-cap, dolls, "gobs," "boncer," 11 five-stones," "mothers and fathers," "school," and " higher and higher." A few find time to read (Spare Moments, Home Chat, and Golden Chains are named by some, while one twelve-year-old girl demurely read her Bible in order to please her Sunday School teacher next day). The record of the day for the most part ends with an account of the Saturday evening bath, and plaiting of the hair in preparation for Sunday. The chief contrast to the boys' essays lies in the much greater monotony of the girls' work, and the quieter character of their amusements, which for some consist simply in a walk with a baby or a friend. It is small wonder that many go tired to bed.
     The best summary of such essays as these is hardly to be found in statistics, but lovers of those deceptive symbols may care to have the following table :—
1st School. At work all day. Part of day. Housework for most of day
Standards V,VI and VII (one class) 32% 56% 96%
Standard IV ... 2nd School 12½% 75% 87%
Standards V, VI, and VIII 15% 83% 100%
Standard IV ... 3rd school 5% 85% 95%
Standards V, VI and VII 5% 45% 90%
Standard IV 7% 60% 97%
In all cases children who were taken to the Crystal Palace are not taken into account in these figures, and in the case of the third school, these were so numerous that the figures might have varied considerably had another day been chosen.
     It is interesting, after dealing with poor schools like those of St. Luke's, to pass to a school not very far away from Parliament Fields, where many of the children come from comfortable artizan homes. Perhaps the greatest contrast in this school is seen in the girls' essays. The girls of St. Luke's have almost all of them to tell of a like monotonous round of drudgery ; these children, many of them, get away for a whole day's holiday. One twelve-year-old accompanies her father and mother and two of her sisters to Pinner. Her father goes there to sketch, and she has an eye for the various wild creatures and especially for the flowers—" There were a lot of hyincths growing, and the air about a yard from the ground looked quite blue " ; the flowers she brought home weighed, she tells us, 3 lbs. 8 ozs. Another child goes to St. Margaret's, Westminster, to see a Hindu lady married, and afterwards visits the National Gallery. Several girls went to the British Museum by themselves, and with observant eyes.
     Even when children spend a good portion of the day in work for their parents, there are signs of greater comfort in the home life : references to watering the flower-pots, to " rugs and mats," cleaning the " silver ware," to a music lesson, all point to a very different milieu from St. Luke's. One child tells us : "I then waited for my money which I have every week from mother. Mother had given it two me and I was waiting two give it two father two put it away, for me." Amongst some thousands of essays this appears to be the only instance of juvenile thrift recorded by the writers.
     As one turns from the perusal of some hundreds of these children's essays and the visions they conjure up of the lives behind them, full of work already, many of them, yet varying strangely and not lacking in interest and colour (unless it be indeed those of the poor girls whose day is spent in a weary succession of scrubbing, washing and polishing), many thoughts crowd in upon the mind. One sees how the work into which a boy has drifted or been forced on his Saturdays, may determine his after-life ; how the lad who has been able to earn 1/6 at paper selling in a single day may be tempted to go on earning a high wage for the moment until when two or three years have gone by he is left stranded without a trade, while the boy who spends his day earning 6d. by helping to mind the cart of a friendly carrier, gets to like the carman's life and will go out of school to become a van-boy and perhaps be turned adrift in a few years' time again, when he has grown too old for the work, and there is not room for him in a better post. All this, however, is closely connected with the haphazard way in which the ordinary schoolboy chooses his trade or has it chosen for him by his parents within a few days of his leaving school, and the absence of any organised system of employment bureaux acting in close touch with the school. As it is most boys will leave school the moment they are fourteen, often enough without having had any serious thought at all given to their future work. The first job that comes, if the wage immediately earned is high enough, is taken, even in preference to one with surer future prospects but smaller present earnings. Only now and then is there a committee of managers which will take the trouble to give advice to the parents in such cases.
     And then one cannot but be struck by the way in which the free time of the ordinary London boy is mis-spent, simply because he does not know how to use the resources at his disposal and has no one to help him. Many children never get the chance of learning how to play as they might. With the street as their one place of amusement, they grow up with narrow horizons and in an atmosphere very different from that of the child of the village or the country town. In some parts of London something has already been done to teach the children how to spend their leisure by the Children's Play Hour scheme initiated by Mrs. Humphry Ward, and by her admirable experimental Vacation Schools. But something much more than this is needed; an arrangement which will deal with children less in great masses and more as individuals.
     Of course, in many cases, great things are being done in this way by the school teachers themselves. But we have no right to claim this work from them as part of their duty, and if it were done as such it would fail to be what we want. There remain the school managers, and it is not too much to hope that more and more men and women will take up this office with the special object of caring for the children out of school hours and providing healthy recreation for them This can be done both by arranging for organised games for larger numbers, and by taking, week by week, little groups of two, four or six children to places of interest within easy reach. This is an entirely different thing in every way from the annual visit of a class to the Zoo, or the more occasional visits paid, under the charge of a teacher, to St. Paul's or The Tower, when the children are marched round in a squad, told what to see, and feel that they are still, to some extent, in school. When you can get them in twos and threes, they look at the same sights with other eyes, they are with you as your friends, not as units in a big class, and in this way a confidential relationship arises between the manager and children, which is of the utmost value to him in his work, and a real help to many of the boys and girls.
     It is too much to expect of many of the existing boards of managers that they will give the time and thought to this work, which such a task calls for; many of their members are local councillors or aldermen, who may come to the managers' meetings, but rarely visit the schools. But almost every body of managers contains at least one or two men and women who are really anxious to promote the interests of the school, and it should surely be possible to form, in connection with them, a committee for every school which should concern itself with the life of the children out of school, including not only the organisation of walks and games, but advice as to what trade a lad should enter, and help in times of sickness. A nucleus for such committees already perhaps exists in the shape of the sub-committees to deal with underfed children, which it is the managers' duty to appoint in all necessitous schools, and in the unofficial local committees of the Children's Country Holiday Fund, which meet in the spring and summer in most parts of London.
     Is it too much to think that by some such means it may be possible to introduce a system which may do for the towns of England what is being done by a very different organisation in Elberfeld? Imagine, for a moment, that we had at least one such committee for every elementary school in the country. This would mean that the whole of the child population would be under the oversight of a band of workers whose sole object would be to encourage everything which made for a wider and deeper life amongst their boys and girls, and who by this means would have the entree into the poorest homes, not as suspected inquisitors, as the best workers of the Charity Organisation Society are so often treated, but as the children's friends, advisers who would be trusted and respected, even if they were not always listened to.
     And for the present those of us who live in towns can do something towards bringing about this ideal by doing what we can to get good men and women to take up the work of school managers, and inducing our friends to join us in giving up, now and then, and if possible, regularly, a few hours on Saturday or Sunday to help in that pleasantest side of the work which is involved in taking a few children for a walk or helping a larger number to play a good game. Such a walk is a wholly different thing to the child from the annual Sunday School treat, when he is one of an excited crowd, and games that he has never learned to play he may learn to enjoy keenly by the help of the simplest organisation and supervision. Above all, the friendly intercourse between the children and their grown up friends will widen limited horizons and form ties of attachment which may make life richer and fuller of meaning and helpfulness, and that not to the child alone.
Saint George, 1906