Tuesday 29 November 2011

Belle Isle

More on the lovely air of Belle Isle (the area just north of King Cross station) in the mid-Victorian period ... you can find more about it, including a map, here.


Sir,- I have read the letter of "Clericus" in your journal of to-day, and I could not conceive that any, excepting either a proprietor of the horse slaughter-house, or one of the Patent Manure Company, would maintain for a moment that these nuisances could be otherwise than injurious to health. I can only meet his statements with facts within my own experience.
    I have resided in Stanmore-street, Caledonian-road, for the last three years, and I must stay another twelvemonth, if I should survive so long in this filthy and offensive atmosphere. The evil has gradually increased until the effect is clearly showing itself by the desertion of the inhabitants of the surrounding neighbourhood, and if it is possible (which I do not believe) that no actual disease arisen, it produces nausea and vomiting to many people, of whom I am one, for on four recent occasions on my return home in the evening from the city, when the stench has been more suffocating than usual, I have positively vomitted in the gutter in the Caledonian-road. On several occasions two of my children, aged respectively 4 and 6, while playing in the back garden, have come indoors and complained about these smells, which often produced retching, and their health, as well as my own, has ben materially affected by those nuisances; and, without pretending to any medical knowledge, it strikes me that an atmosphere which causes nausea and sickness must be prejudicial to health, and that Nature herself indicates that one cannot breathe it with impunity, and it is a positive fact, as stated by one of the correspondent on this subject, that "It has a most deleterious effect upon the health of those who live within the area of its malign influence, rendering their very food unwholesome." Apologizing for the length of my letter,
I have the honours be, Sir,
Your most obedient servant,
THOMAS WATERS. 30, Stanmore-street, Caledonian-road, Sept. 28, 1855

Titles available in commercial/academic newspaper databases

Here's a comparison I've just knocked up of what's available in the new British Newspaper Archive vs. the Thomson Gale produced databases that have been available to academics for some years. This is not exact, and I haven't checked year coverage (although one randomly selected title on the new database did seem to go back much further than Thomson Gale). The result is quite clear - the new BNA all but replaces the Thomson Gale database and add lots of new local titles. How interesting these new titles are, I don't know - my guess is that the Manchester Evening News, for example, is a major addition - are there any proper scholars able to comment?

This, found by Sharon Howard (ta, Sharon), explains the background to this change ... http://digitisation.jiscinvolve.org/wp/2011/11/29/1966/ ... hopefully universities will gain access to the new database shortly ...

Plain = Thomson Gale 19th Cent. Newspapers
Blue = Thomson Gale Periodicals
Red = British Newspaper Archive

Aberdeen Journal |  Aberdeen Journal
Aberdeen Weekly Journal
Aldershot Military Gazette
Alexandra Magazine and Woman’s Social and Industrial Advocate
Aunt Judy’s Magazine
Ayr Advertiser
Bailey’s Monthly Magazine of Sports and Pastimes and Racing Register
Baner Cymru | Baner ac Amserau Cymru
Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette
Belfast News-Letter | Belfast News-Letter
Bell’s Life in London
Berrow’s Worcester Journal
Berwickshire News and General Advertiser
Big Budget
Birmingham Daily Post | Birmingham Daily Post
Birmingham Gazette
Blackburn Standard |  Blackburn Standard
Boy’s Own Magazine
Boys of England
Boy’s Own Paper
Bradford Observer | Bradford Observer
Bright Eyes
Brighton Patriot | Brighton Patriot
Bristol Mercury
British Mothers’ Magazine
British Women’s Temperance Journal
Bucks Herald
Burnley Advertiser
Burnley Express
Burnley Gazette
Bury and Norwich Post | Bury and Norwich Post
Bury Times
Caledonian Mercury | Caledonian Mercury
Cambridge Chronicle and Journal
Captain: A Magazine for Boy and Old Boys
Carlisle Journal
Champion | Champion
Charter | Charter
Chartist | Chartist
Chartist Circular| Chartist Circular
Chelmsford Chronicle
Cheltenham Chronicle
Cheltenham Looker-On
Cheshire Observer | Cheshire Observer
Chester Chronicle
Chester Courant
Child’s Companion
Children’s Friend
Chums: An Illustrated Paper for Boys
Cleave’s London Satirist and Gazette of Variety
Cobbett's Weekly Political Register | Cobbett's Weekly Political Register
Cork Examiner
Coventry Evening Telegraph
Cycling: An Illustrated Weekly
Daily Gazette for Middlesborough | Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough
Daily News
Dart : A Journal of Sense and Satire
Derby Mercury | Derby Mercury
Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald
Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette
Dorset County Chronicle
Dumfries and Galloway Standard
Dundee Advertiser
Dundee Courier | Dundee Courier
Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser
Dunfermline Press
Edinburgh Evening News
Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser
Elgin Courier
Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine
Englishwoman’s Review
Era | Era
Essex Newsman
Essex Standard | Essex Standard
Evening Telegraph
Every Boy’s Magazine
Examiner | Examiner
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette Daily Telegrams
Exeter Flying Post
Falkirk Herald
Fancy, or True Sportsman’s Guide
Father william’s Stories
Figaro in London
Fife Herald
Fishing Gazette
Freeman's Journal | Freeman's Journal
Friendly Companion and Illustrated Instructor
Funny Folks
Genedl | Genedl
Girls Own Paper
Glasgow Herald | Glasgow Herald
Gloucester Citizen
Goleuad | Goleuad
Good Words for the Young
Graphic | Graphic
Halfpenny Marvel Library
Hampshire Advertiser
Hampshire Chronicle
Hampshire/Portsmouth Telegraph |  Hampshire Telegraph
Hastings and St Leonards Observer
Hearth and Home
Hereford Journal
Hereford Times
Hertford Mercury and Reformer
Herts Guardian, Agricultural Journal, and General Advertiser
Horse and Hound
Huddersfield Chronicle | Huddersfield Chronicle
Hull Packet | Hull Packet
Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette
Illustrated Chips
Illustrated Police News | Illustrated Police News
Ipswich Journal | Ipswich Journal
Isle of Man Times | Isle of Man Times
Isle of Wight Observer | Isle of Wight Observer
Jackson's Oxford Journal
John Bull
Journal of the Women’s Education Union
Juvenile Companion and Sunday School Hive
Kate Greenaway’s Almanack
Kendal Mercury
Kentish Chronicle
Kentish Gazette
Kind Words for Boys and Girls
Ladies Cabinet of Fashion, Music and Romance
Ladies Fashionable Repository
Ladies Treasury
Lady’s Monthly Museum
Lady’s Newspaper and Pictorial Times
La Belle Assemblee
Lancaster Gazetteer | Lancaster Gazette
Leamington Spa Courier
Le Follet
Leeds Intelligencer
Leeds Mercury | Leeds Mercury
Leeds Patriot and Yorkshire Advertiser
Leeds Times
Leicester Chronicle | Leicester Chronicle
Leicester Journal
Leicestershire Mercury
Licensed Victuallers Mirror
Lichfield Mercury
Lincolnshire Chronicle
Little Folks
Little Wide Awake: A Story Book for Children
Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Mercury | Liverpool Mercury
Lloyd's Illustrated Newspaper | Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper
London Daily News
London Dispatch | London Dispatch
London Standard
Louth and North Lincolnshire Advertiser
Luton Times and Advertiser (1856 - 1876)
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
Manchester Evening News
Manchester Mercury
Manchester Times | Manchester Times
Merry and wise
Monrthly Pack of Evening Readers for Younger Members of the English Church
Morning Chronicle | Morning Chronicle
Morning Post | Morning Post
Morpeth Herald
Motherwell Times
Myra’s Journal of Dress and Fashion
Newcastle Courant | Newcastle Courant
Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury
Newcastle Journal
Norfolk Chronicle
North Devon Journal
North Wales Chronicle | North Wales Chronicle
Northampton Mercury
Northants Evening Telegraph
Northern Echo | Northern Echo
Northern Liberator | Northern Liberator
Northern Star | Northern Star
Nottingham Evening Post
Nottinghamshire Guardian | Nottinghamshire Guardian
Odd Fellow | Odd Fellow
Operative | Operative
Our Little Dots
Our Young Folks Weekly Budget
Oxford Journal
Pall Mall Gazette | Pall Mall Gazette
Passing Events at Home and Abroad
Penny Illustrated Paper
Penny Satirist
Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette
Peter Parley’s Annual
Pick Me Up
Picture Politics
Pierce Egan’s Book of Sports
Pierce Egan’s Weekly Courier
Poor Law Unions’ Gazette
Poor Man's Guardian | Poor Man's Guardian
Portsmouth Evening News
Preston Chronicle | Preston Chronicle
Racing Illustrated
Racing Times
Reading Mercury
Reynolds's Newspaper | Reynolds's Newspaper
Rochdale Observer
Routledge’s Every Girls Annual
Royal Cornwall Gazette | Royal Cornwall Gazette
Salisbury and Winchester Journal
Salopian Journal
Sheffield Daily Telegraph
Sheffield Evening Telegraph
Sheffield Independent | Sheffield Independent
Sherborne Mercury
Shield: The Anti-Contagious Diseases Acts Association’s Weekly Circular
Shields Daily Gazette
Southampton Herald
Southern Star
South London Press
Southern Star
Sporting Gazette
Sporting Times
Sportsman’s Annual
St. Nicolas Scribner’s Illustrated Magazine for Girls and Boys
Staffordshire Advertiser
Staffordshire Gazette and County Standard
Staffordshire Sentinel
Staffordshire Sentinel and Commercial & General Advertiser
Stamford Mercury
Star | Star
Stirling Observer
Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette
Sussex Advertiser
Tamworth Herald
Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser
Tiny Tots
Trewman's Exeter Flying Post
Union Jack
Walter’s Theatrical and Sporting Directory
Wells Journal
West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser
West Kent Guardian
West Middlesex Advertiser and Family Journal
Western Daily Press
Western Gazette
Western Mail | Western Mail
Western Times
Westmorland Gazette
Woman at Home
Woman’s Advocate
Woman and Wort
Women’s Penny Paper
Women’s Union Journal
Worcester Journal
Worcestershire Chronicle
World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons
Wrexham Weekly Advertiser | Wrexham Advertiser
York Herald | York Herald
Yorkshire Gazette

Monday 28 November 2011

Soho Drains

You wouldn't necessarily want an attic room in Soho in the 1850s:

"The number of houses inspected has been 207, in which are situate 218 waterclosets, most of them fixed over cesspools, 20 open privies, 88 dustbins in yards, 78 ditto in vaults or areas, and 25 in kitchens under the stairs; these dustbins are kept in a comparatively clean state. 
    Throughout the neighbourhood it is important to observe that the houses are for the most part let out in lodgings; a separate family, and in some cases even two, are living in one floor, whereas but one watercloset or privy in the yard or area exists for the use of the whole house; consequently, in the rooms above the ground floor, portable cesspools or slop-pails are kept, into which night soil and dirty water and all refuse are thrown, and these are emptied about once a-day, either down a sink or into the watercloset or privy, and not unfrequently into a gully in the street. On the top or attic floor the occupants generally make use of the gutter for the emptying of these accumulations, which find their way down the rain water pipe into the paving in the yard at the back of the house, and sometimes into the footway in the street in front. It is a fact worthy of notice, that the greatest mortality has taken place in the upper floors of nearly all the houses. "

Report on Cholera in Westminster, 1854

Thursday 17 November 2011

Ten Years


My compendious website of Victoriana www.victorianlondon.org is officially ten years old this week. So here's some not-so-fascinating facts about the site, and (not really) a competition for the artistically inclined ...

  1. I started the site because I was writing a historical novel, and wanted to compile all the fascinating snippets of Victorian stuff I was finding in books. My original idea was simply to create a meta-index of all the indexes in my non-fiction reading. But that was tedious. So I began scanning the full text of Victorian documents. That was tedious too, but I'm a librarian by training, so I stuck with it. At some point between 2001 and 2011, it started to get out of hand. I will leave you to decide when.

  2. I have written six or seven novels using the site as my electronic brain, but many more successful authors have found it rather handy. For example, it's credited in Michael Cox's The Meaning of Night and, most recently, Anthony Horowitz's The House of Silk. I do not receive their royalties. Boo.

  3. The site was originally hosted on stokenewington.junglelink.co.uk for a few months in 2001 ... sites like this http://www.maberly.name/links.htm may need updating.

  4. My best random connection was when a reader, searching the web, noticed an article on the site. It mentioned in passing a Victorian worthy who kept two inkstands made from the hooves of his favourite horses (as you do) engraved with the horses' names, in his office. The reader in question was the man's grandson and recalled the inkstands very welll from his grandfather's house; but, until then, he had never before understood why his grandfather treasured them, or what the names meant. You perhaps had to be there. Of course, now, I cannot find the article in question. I have the nagging doubt that I may have made this up.

  5. My worst recollection related to www.victorianlondon.org is being persuaded to give what I thought was an informal chat to a class of history students at Dulwich College. It turned out to be the entire lower sixth, although, being Dulwich College, the year was called something antique and intimidating, like 'The Relieve'. More accurate would have been 'The Nose-Picking, Living-Dead-Eyed-Is-it-Lunch-Yet-Who-is-this-schmuck-Hormonal Teens'. I blame the parents. I still cannot pass Dulwich without a brief shudder. Not my finest hour.

  6. The best thing that www.victorianlondon.org has obtained for me, apart from an enormous sense of spiritual peace and physical well-being [*WARNING: Site does not contain an enormous sense of spiritual peace and physical well-being] is two weeks in Perth, Australia, giving lectures to retireees and wandering around the Antipodes. I enjoyed both the lectures and the trip to a guilty degree.

  7. The site currently averages 1,612 visitors a day.

  8. Some recent questions asked of Google that led people to the site:

    • why was victorian london smelly?
    • who was queen in victorian london?
    • what would a victorian maid call her master?
    • what were the toilet habits of the victorians?

    Answers on a postcard to the usual address.

  9. I am pretty sure that site usage peaked in about 2005. I have some stats here http://www.victorianlondon.org/stats.htm which show a clear dip, although the current visitor numbers are not remotely comparable, as Webalizer is infinitely less reliable than Google Analytics, which I now use, and has always seemed to return about x3 what Google tells you. The reason for my certainty is more the numbers of emails which I receive, which is much fewer - my guess is that people spend less time 'browsing' the web at random for interesting and cool stuff, and more time on social media.

  10. That said, site visitors still come from all over the world ... here's a map from the last month ...

    As you can see, Mongolia needs to make more of an effort.

I hope you've enjoyed www.victiorianlondon.org as much as me these last ten years, although that's hardly likely.

Would I do it all again, knowing what I know now? Tragically, I fear I would.


This is not really a competition, so don't get excited. It just occurred to me that it would be nice to have a picture of a cake on the site.

Would any of you fabulous artistic people out there be able to draw me a Victorian-themed cake?

The prize will be that it appears on front page of my website. This is not really a prize; but that does not matter.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Soot and Shelter

The "Mall" and "Bird Cage Walk" although much altered are still in their general effect, such as you must remember them, with their long rows of elsm which are now in the first freshness of their young green leaves, and which look particularly beautiful contrasted with the stems and branches, that town smoke has made completely black. The leaves, I grieve to say, will soon feel the same influence, and then woe to the inexperienced wight who takes refuge from a pelting shower beneath their branches, for each leaf, as it is struck by a heavy drop, flings out a little sprinke of soot in its rebound, and this descending with the drop that had disturbed it, daubs, with most inhospitable smuts, the shelteree beneath. But even six weeks of London atmosphere, though it does much to spoil the daylight freshness of those trees, does not prevent them from being very beautiful on a moonlight night.

Familiar Epistles from London, Dublin University Magazine, June 1833

Monday 7 November 2011

Lanny and the Lion

"Landseer was a most delightful person, and the best company that can be imagined. My father and mother were quite devoted to him, and both of them always addressed him as "Lanny."  My mother going to call on him at his St. John's Wood house, found  "Lanny" in the garden, working from a ladder on a gigantic mass of clay. Turning the corner, she was somewhat alarmed at finding a full-grown lion stretched out on the lawn. Landseer had been commissioned by the Government to model the four lions for the base of Nelson's pillar in Trafalgar Square. He had made some studies in the Zoological Gardens, but as he always preferred. working from the live model, be arranged that an elderly and peculiarly docile lion should be brought to his house from the Zoo in a furniture van attended by two keepers. Should any one wish to know what that particular lion looked like, they have only to glance at the base of the Nelson pillar. On paying an afternoon call, it is so unusual to find a live lion included amongst the guests, that my, mother's perturbation at finding herself in such close proximity to a huge loose carnivore is, perhaps, pardonable. Landseer is, of course, no longer in fashion as a painter."

Frederick Spencer Hamilton, The Days Before Yesterday, 1930

The Finest Water in Mayfair

I think I am right in saying that pumps and wells persisted as a source of water for many Londoners, well into the Victorian period, even as tap water became increasingly commonplace. This was not only in poor areas. The aristocracy of Mayfair might prefer to rely 'spring water'; at least, until they looked into it more closely:-

Parish pump in St. Paul's Churchyard.
We lived then in London at Chesterfield House, South Audley Street, which covered three times the amount of grund it does at present, for at the back it had a very large garden, on which Chesterfield gardens are now built. In addition to this, it had two wings at right angles to it, one now occupied by Lord Leconfield's house, the other by No.s 1 and 2, South Audley Street. The left-hand wing was used as our stables and contained a well which enjoyed an immense local reputation in Mayfair.  Never was such drinking water! My father allowed any one in the neighbourhood to fetch their drinking water from our well, and one of my earliest recollections is watching the long daily procession of men-servants in the curious yellow-jean jackets of the "sixties", each with two large cans in his hands, fetching the day's supply of our matchless water. No inhabitants of Curzon Street, Great Stanhope Street or South Audley Street would dream of touching any water but from the famous Chesterfield House spring. In 1867 there was a serious outbreak of Asiatic cholera in London, and my father determined to have the water of the celebrated spring analysed. There were loud protests at this:- what, analyse the finest drinking-water in England! My father, however, persisted, and the result of the analysis was that our incomparable drinking-water was found to contain thirty per cent. of organic matter. The analyst reported that fifteen per cent. of the water must be pure sewage. My father had the spring sealed and bricked up at once, but it is marvel that we had not poisoned every single inhabitant of the Mayfair district years before.

Frederick Spencer Hamilton, The Days Before Yesterday, 1930