Tuesday 31 July 2012

The Ladies Sanitary Association

In which Ladies demanded water closet accommodation:


A letter having been addressed by the Secretary of the Ladies Sanitary Assocation to the Vestry respecting the present absence of water closet accommodation for women, the matter was referred jointly to the Works and Sanitary Committees, and was several times under discussion. Mr. Voss was requested to write to the Secretary, and enquire what had already been done in the matter by other Vestries. The following reply was received:-

london, December 3rd, 1878

DEAR SIR, - In reply to yours of the 28th November, I write to mention that the Committee have appealed to all the Metropolitan Vestries and District Boards, and that there is reason to be satisfied that the matter referred to will be seriously considered by many Vestries and Boards, particularly by St. George's Hanover square, St. George's Southwark, St. Saviour's Southwark, St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Paddington, St. Pancras, Kensington, Camberwell, St. James's, Westminster, St. Luke's, &c.
    I do not know of any public free provision having yet been made for women, and have reason to believe none such exists in London. The difficulty of obtaining sites is one that troubles some Vestries, and has led the Commitee to suggest the utilization of existing buildigns over which the Vestry may have some control, viz., at park lodges, cemeteries, recreation grounds, model lodgings, hospitals, laundries, baths, dispensaries, workhouses, School Board schools, tram and omnibus stations, churches and chapels, or the opening of small shops where articles are or could be sold in which women are interested.
    The best plan, of course, would be special erections placed in a well-frequented part of the parish, not in a mews or middle of the roadway, or close to a public house. If an attendant - and the Committee think one is justified at each station - were supplied and a lavatory added, it would be quite possible to make a charge for accommodation; but a free W.C. should always exist at a paying station. The Committee simply suggest a charge where a lavatory is supplied, because it is known that supervision, &c., would be appreciated by many. The increasing number of women (working) of all classes who travel about London daily renders such provision of serious moment.
    The Committee earnestly hope that the Vestry of Bethnal Green may find it possible to help a class who naturally find it difficult to ask for public consideration in this matter, while experiencing grievous suffering. Whichever Vestry shall first give proof of humane consideration will have earned the gratitude of all women, and set an example that cannot fail to be beneficial to health and social morality.
    I shall be glad to reply to any inquiry you may desire to make,
           And remain, dear sir, sincerely yours,
                     ROSE ADAMS, Secretary.

As to the necessity for such accommodation there can be no doubt, as at present confectioners shops and the waiting rooms of railway station are the only available places at which women from home, on business or pleasure, can answer the calls of nature; while, on the other hand, urinals for men are pretty freely distributed all over London. This selfish inequality calls for immediate readjustment for the misery and illness entailed upon women by it is enormous.
    From a special report upon the subject by Dr. Stevenson, the Medical Officer of Health for Paddington, I make the following extract:-

Upon the medical aspect of the question it is not necessary to enlarge. Of this aggregate of moving feminine humanity referred to, of all ages, and belonging to every grade of society, it is sufficient to say that every unit of it has, in common with men, the same physical necessities. For the maintenance of life it is not more necessary to take food and drink than subsequently to get rid of what the system cannot appropriate. The one organic necessity involves the other: they are correlated. It is a mistake to suppose that there are such differences in the female organization, that these primal requirements of physical being can be disregarded by women with less suffering than by men. There are periods and conditions peculiar to the sex when latrine accommodation would be specially convenient; and as at such times the requirements of nature are apt to be more urgent and more frequent, women would be spared much unnecessary mental and physical distress, were the accommodation provided.
    It is true that by the exercise of the will we can control for a time the muscular openings which serve an inlets and outlets to the body, and that we thus have the power of resisting, to a considerable extent, the calls of nature when inconvenient. This power is not possessed by infants or young children, or by the aged or the infirm. But such resistance, which circumstances too frequently impose upon women, if habitually practised, is sure to be followed by injurious results. Apoplexy is an everyday consequences of constipation. Much of the cerebral and cardiac disturbance of the present day - and it is alleged to be on the increase - is probably due to the same cause. It is certain that almost every form of disease, whether local or constitutional, is likely to be aggravated by constipation; and that, whether it be the cause or effect of other diseaes, it is sure to occur if the evacuation of the bowels, from choice or from necessity, be persistently delayed. It should also be borne in mind that diseases of a grave character, induced by constipation, are apt to continue their course independent and unchecked, long after the cause may have ceased. The same remarks apply, in a great measure, to retention of urine, which is the other condition most likely to arise from the want of the provision in question. Again, persons of both sexes and of all ages suffer at times from diarrhoea and irritable bladder, and must be greatly inconvenienced by the want of the required accommodation.
    There is abundant testimony from medical men and others, available if necessary, to prove that this is no imaginary want - the creation of sentimentalism, but that it is really a great and growing one, which calls for the prompt and careful consideration of those who busines it is to make provision for it, and at the same time deserves their beneficent efforts, seeing that it is experienced by those whose natural reserve upon such a subject, and whose positions in life, for the most part, prevent them from making themselves heard. Modesty suggests that nurses should have the opportunity of privately performing their duties to their little charges. Ladies who are interested in the welfare of those below them in the social scale are ready to declare that poor women have often told them, with tears in their eyes, of the agony and shame they have endured in circumstances which it is not necessary to particularise. Sir James McGarel Hogg has recently expressed himself as quite alive to the want, which he considered to be a real and a serious one. "There is no doubt," the Lancet  has remarked, "that the establishment of retiring rooms for ladies will prove a great boon." To obtain this much-needed accommodation, some ladies go to restaurants and order refreshments which they do not require, and others to milliners and confectioners' shops. It may be safely assumed that the money thus spent, even when it is only a few pence, cannot always be conveniently spared.

The Vestry have undoubtedly power to make this provision, as will be seen from the following extract from 18th and 19th Victoria (1855) sec. 88: - "It shall be lawful for every Vestry and District Board to provide and maintain urinals, water closets, privies and like conveniences, in situations which they deem such accommodation to be required, and to supply the same with water, and to defray the expenses thereof; and any damage occasioned to any person by the erection thereof, and the expense of keeping the same in good order, as expenses of sewerage, are to be defrayed under this Act."
    In Paris, and in other cities on the continent, water closets are provided for both sexes, and a charge of three-halfpence is made to each person using them. Most of these are, I imagine, private speculations, and I have no doubt that they pay a reasonable profit. Whether the Vestry would be empowered to make a similar charge I am not prepared to say, but certainly each latrine should be placed under the charge of a responsible attendant, who should be required to exercise considerable vigilance in the matter of cleanliness, as otherwise contagious diseases would undoubtedly be communicated.
    I have on one or two occasions visited latrines on the continent where no charge was made and where there was no attendant. In each case the condition of the place was most disgusting.
    The matter deserves futher consideration, and I trust that we shall at an early date see in this Parish conveniences of the kind mentioned.

Report on the Sanitary Condition and Vital Statistics of the Parish of Saint Matthew, Bethnal Green, during the year 1878

Myself, Wife, and seven Children at your Mercy.

More from Bethnal Green Vestry Minutes, 1834 ... in this case, a parish Beadle tries to keep his job, after being discovered to have double-charged for certain parish monies, and kept the profits. I admire his chutzpah and the Dickensian mixture of 'humility' and self-justification ...

To the Vestrymen-Governors of the Parish of Saint Matthew Bethnal Green-


      With a Heart overwhelmed with the deepest anguish, at the Awful Situation in which I find myself unhappily placed, I beg leave most respectfully, in the first instance to return my grateful Thanks to the Vestry, for all their past favors and kindness towards me, assuring thme of my unfeigned Sorrow and Contrition, at the Circumstance that has occurred, and although I am unable to offer any satisfactory Explanation for what appears against me, after a lapse of four Years and at a time of great harassing Parochial Business, when we had these Board Days a Week for Relieving the Out-Door Poor, with sometimes eight or ten Removals on one Day besides [illegible word] Warrants, Visitations and sometimes a dozen Persons in one Summons to answer at Worship Street, yet I can venture to assure the vestry I never had the most distant intention to do a wrong Act intentionally. One of the Cases indeed to which the Committee kindly directed my Attention is so full of Mystery that I must have been bereft of my Senses in asking for two Receipts for the Sum of Four Guineas, from Mr. Carter on the same Day. I have no recolletion whatever of the Circumstance, and I will not attempt to reason on the fact which appears clear that the Amount was received by me from Mr. Carter. But what adds to my afflictions is that any other Person should be supposed to be concerned in this most wretched Mistake of mine. No Gentlemen, if I am to fall let the disgrace be on me alone. I feel bound to acknowledge my Error and to intreat your forgiveness. I at once throw myself upon your kind forbearance, hoping that your Judgment will not forget the side of Mercy, if not on my Account, I would earnestly intreat you on behalf of my Wife and seven Children, were it not for them I could endure any Privation even Banishment or Death itself. May I then be permitted to cherish the hope that my Case has not been wholly prejudiced by the Circumstance of Your Commitee's Report being substantially divulged throughout the Parish, before it was made known officially to the Vestry. Calculating on my dismissal some Candidates have already offered themselves for the Situtaion but I have hitherto previously abstained from Soliciting the benevolent Office of any Governor on my own behalf under existing Circumstances. In refunding the Vestry the Sum of £6 which I admit to have received, I once more humbly throw myself upon your generous consideration most earnestly hoping that as I have been in my Situation above ten years and several under forty four [illegible word] without a single compaint will have some weight with the Vestry in my favor, but whatever the Decision of the Vestry may be I will not presume to murmer nor offer a Complaint against any Individual for the part he may have thought fit to have taken against me on this trying Occasion. Mr. Lane I hope will allow me to Appeal to him as to the wish frequently expressed by you that all my Accounts might be brought under one head as I was afraid I might possibly get into Errors by paying and receiving Money from so many different Persons. I now beg leave to Thank the Committee for the kind way in which I was treated by them during the present trying Inquiry and I now humbly wait for the Vestry's determination, under the severest Anguish both of Body and Mind humbly praying that I may be restored to your Favor and Confidence under any Security that may be required. Several kind Friends who have witnessed my deep Distress having voluntarily offered to become Bound in any way for my future Conduct. I now Gentlemen leave myself Wife and seven Children at your Mercy. Most humbly begging your Pardon for the great trouble I have given you.
    I remain with all Humility Your Unhappy Servant,
          John Davis, Beadle.

Vestries and the Poor Law

London's parish vestries weren't terribly keen on the New Poor Law of 1834 which created a centralised national authority for Poor Law administration, and made various other changes to how paupers were treated. Here's how one parish responded to the Bill going through parliament. It's probably only of interest to those of you who contemplate the Poor Laws more generally, but I rather like the language of it:

St. Matthew Bethnal Green in Vestry Assembled
Most respectfully Sheweth
    That your Petitioners having carefully examined the Bill now before Parliament "for Amendment and better Administration of the Poor Laws in England and Wales" cannot help viewing several of its Provisions with a considerable degree of Alarm and Anxiety not onliny in a Constitutional Sense (regard being had to the Powers of the Commissioners) but more especially with reference to the Social Interests of this Parish, for although Your Petitioners (as is well known to His Majesty's Government) have for a long series of Years been oppressed with Pauperism, and would therefore feel most grateful to be relieved from so serious a weight, Yet Your Petitioners venture to assure Your Honourable House, that the Bill as it now stands according to their practical Judgment and long Experience in Parochail matters will only tend to increase their Burthens; what indeed may prove very advantageous to a Rural District would be highly prejudicial to the Interest of this Parish.
   That whilst Your Petitioners cannot fail to be aware and admit that the Intention of Your Honourable House undoubtedly is to remedy many Evils existing in the Poor Laws by relieving the Burthens of Parishes and at the same time to improve the condition of the Poor themselves, Your Petitioners most humbly submit that the Representations of a great Body of Parishioners, under their Local Act of Parliament in Vestry Assembled, should be still the only legally constituted authority for levying Rates and administering teir own Parochial Affairs and that to delegate unlimited Power to Commissioners having no practical or Local knowledge might tend to a vexatious not to say arbitrary Exercise of such power thus degrading any Vestry or Board of Guardians that may hereafter by Appointed, without the Right or permission of Appeal, except to Your Honourable House.
    Your Petitioners can not imagine the slightest Benefit to arise by uniting Bethnal Green (containing a Population of nearly Sixty five Thousand Inhabitants) to any other Parish, the Operative Silk Manufacturers being more peculiarly Circumstanced and perhaps oftener Distressed than the Poor of any other District, a Union therefore, as it appears to Your Petitioners, would not at all benefit the Inhabitants or tend to that most desirable of all Ends namely a Diminuition of Poor Rates, such a Measure however could with no Difficulty be accomplished, if the substantial, the affluent Parishes in and round the Metropolis (who really see nothing and only occasionally hear of one's Condition) were to Contribute to our Assessments. By them it would scarcely be felt but the Eastern District of London, would experience an all important Benefit an instantaneous Relief. Your Petitioners with great Humility therefore venture to arrest the Attention of Parliament and most respectfully to press this part of their Memorial on the just Consideration of Your Honorable House by Conjuring Parliament forthwith to try the effect of a General Assessment for London and Middlesex on the like Scale as the County Rate. If that Plan succeed the Poor Rates throughout the Kingdom might then be speedily consolidated, and thus a National Assessment under proper Authority and Regulations, would be the surest way of promptly alleviating not only the existing Burthens of this Parish and District in particular but the Country at large; ultimately perhaps doing away with the Necessity and Expense of Removals althogether.
    Your Petitioners are apprehensive that the intended Regulations as to Out Door Relief will be found to be almost impracticable at any rate to fall short of the Object of the present Bill in as much as we have frequently Hundreds of Families (able-Bodied People) soliciting Support who are not able to find Employment and we have likewise a vast number in work who are not paid sufficient to support their Families and come to the Board for the Residue. Hence the Enlargement or Re-building of Workhouses in such a District as this, would under the Provisions of the Bill now before Parliament be attended with Ruinous Expense without ultimately realizing the intended Benefit to this Parish or the Country.
    With regard to the Clauses making Birth, Parentage and Marriage the only Legal Settlements Your Petitioners beg leave respectully to represent to Your Honorable House that this being a Silk Manufacturing Parish Containing nearly Fifteen Thousand Houses (of which the major part are small Tenements with Rents extremely low) the Facilities and Inducements as will readily be perceived by Your Honorable House are very strong to Individuals taking up their abode among us more especially those from the Country who come to seek Employment. It is perfectly clear that such Individuals cannot possibly present themselves to gain a Settlement in the more affluent Parishes and that their thus making a Home in Bethnal Green will eventually burthen us with additional Settlers.
    With respect to the Section intending to repeal the existing Laws which now Compel putative Fathers of Illegitimate Children to provide for their Offspring, Your Petitioners respectfully beg to observe that such a repeal appears to offer a Premium to Profligacy, Prostitution, Poverty and perhaps ultimate Destruction so far as regards the unfortunately Deserted Female, all which seem to require the most serious attention of Your Honorable House, and in regard to the Facilities just spoken of, cannot help to entail a perpetual Incumbrance on this Parish. Your Petitioners are well aware that Your Honorable House in most instances can only Legislate generally and not partially, but in a measure of such vital Importance as the present Bill contemplates more especially regarding the established Law of Settlements Your Petitioners humbly yet Confidently trust Your Honourable House will in its Wisdom provide against one portion of His Majesty's Subjects being exposed to comparative Ruin at the Expense of another. But in endeavouring to strike at the Root of so vast an Evil as is undoubtedly the present System of Relief to Outdoor Poor Your Petitioners venture to think that the Provisions of the Bill will not at all benefit this large Parish or the Eastern part of the Metropolis.
     In Conclusion, Your Petitioners most respectfully beg leave to observe that in as much as the Bill proposes to introduce a wholly new System into the Administration of the Poor Laws which is uniformly admitted to be most difficult and Complex Question to Legislate upon And as the substitution of Birth Settlements cannot fail very seriously to Affect the Inhabitants of this Parish in particular
    Your Petitioners therefore most humbly pray that Your Honorable House will be pleased to take their Case into Your serious Deliberation and if necessary allow that Your Petitioners may be heard by their Counsel Agents and Witnesses against such Clauses in the Bill which appear so materially to Affect the Welfare and Interest of this Manufacturing Parish.

[A petition recorded in the Vestry Minutes of St. Matthew Bethnal Green, 1834]

Sunday 29 July 2012

Look To Your Children



December 1859

THERE is a great deal of Smallpox about St. Giles's at present, and people are dying from it every week. This comes of their not being thoroughly Vaccinated. Only half the population is rightly protected in this way. If every body were properly vaccinated, there would be very little smallpox or none at all, and if people did catch it, they would he almost sure to get well, without any scars on their faces.
    A person who has not been vaccinated, or if he have no mark of vaccination on his arm, is extremely likely now-a-days to catch smallpox and to have it badly. You cannot tell how soon such a person may be attacked.
    A person with one or two marks on his arm is not so safe from smallpox as if he had three or four; and if the marks are faint and difficult to find, such a person also is very likely to get the complaint at the present time.
    Look to your own Arms and your Children's Arms, and remember that it is in your own power, and that it is your own duty, to preserve yourselves and them from the terrible disease of smallpox. You are earnestly recommended to have all your children Vaccinated again, unless they have three or four vaccination marks, plain and easy to see. Do not trust to one or two marks, nor to any number of faint ones; let your children be vaccinated again. It will only cause a little redness and itching of the arm, and will make them safe against a very fearful disease which might carry them to their graves.
    Vaccination is performed without charge, by Mr. Bennett, Public Vaccinator, at No. 7, Vinegar-yard, Broad-street, St. Giles's, daily, between the hours of 10 and 11 in the morning.
    Or, if preferred, persons may be vaccinated, also without charge, and without any letter of recommendation, at the Bloomsbury Dispensary, 62, Great Russsell-street, at one o'clock every Wednesday and Friday.
    This warning is issued by Dr. Buchanan, Medical Officer of health, who will receive information as to the outbreak of smallpox or other contagious (catching) disease. He will always be ready to point out the best means of preventing the spread of these diseases. Apply to him at the Office of the Board of Works, 199, Holborn, any morning at nine o'clock.

Chalets de Nécessité

Chalets de Toilette et de Nécessité 

On the 5th March 1880, Mr. Watkyns applied to your Board for permission to erect certain chalets for the convenience of men and women in the public ways of your district. The chalets as proposed were to be of the following dimensions, viz, 20 feet long, 12 feet wide and 13 feet 9 inches high to the ridge of roof; they were to be divided into two compartments with a separate entrance at each end, one end being for the use of men, and the other for women; each compartment was to contain 4 WCs, a dressing room and lavatories. On one side of the chalet a kiosqque for the sale of newspapers and periodicals was proposed, it was to be in the form of a bay, 5 feet in length.
     The promoter Mr. Watkyns proposed that the Board should grant him a concession for the erection of one or more chalets for a term of thirty years, the concessionaire to pay the Boarrd a rent of £10 per annum for each chalet erected within the district.. He is to be allowed to charge persons using the chalet three-half pencfe each for the use of the WCs and one penny each for the use of the lavatory and dressing room. At the expiration of the thirty years the chalets to become the property of the Board without payment. The proposal was fully considered by your Board who had skeleton models erected ... 

The Board of St. Giles District Board of Works, possibly on the grounds that the 'chalets' were too large and liable to block the pavements, declined the offer (the scale models had been made to assess the impact of the chalet's dimensions on streets). Alfred Watkyns himself blamed 'local factions' in the Vestries, who took against his scheme. Urinals were common in this period, so this wasn't a big problem for the Vestry's members [no pun intended, cough]. Meanwhile, ladies had to just cross their legs.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Tuesday 24 July 2012


October 1856

St Giles Church

Vaultt 100 x 60 x 5 = 30000 cubic feet

In this space are piled up (and some of them chained together in unseemly heaps) about 979 coffins, containing the remains of human beings in every stage of decay, from a period of three years (the date of the last interment in 1853) to one, two or three or even more centuries, for it is said that several of these coffins have been removed successively from two or more ancient churches formerly standing on this spot. The older coffins are all of wood, and most othem in a state of decay. In some instances the coffin has crumbled to dust, exposed the dry and shrivelled corpose which has the appearance of an Egyptian mummy. Thirteen of these mummies were formerly standing upright in a heap in he recess beneath the lobby of the church in the south-west corner of the vault. They are now reposing iin modern wooden coffins, with loose lids, provided for them by order of the churchwarden some twenty years ago. With this exception, the modern coffins in the vault amounting to some hundreds in number, are all of lead. Of these, only thirteen are believed to have burst. When this occurs, there is no large rent, but an aperture in the lead, through which a horribly offensive gas as well as a quantity of putrid fluid usually escapes. In order to bury this fluid, it has been the custom to dig a hole in the earthen floor of the vault and when all the fluid is drained away to fill up the hole and solder up the coffin. What becomes of the gas is not so easily discovered, but the nature of it may be guesesed at by the fact, that in one instance the plumber employed in soldering up the coffin imbibed a sufficient dose of the poison to endanger his life, and had several days illness in consequence. This is by no means surprising when it is recollected that 979 coffins occupy only 30,000 cubic feet allowing rather more than a cubic yard for each coffin. In fact, the vault is literally full of coffins from the floor to the roof, as it can well hold. There is scarcely room for a person to walk through the central space from one end to tthe other. Consequently the unoccupied area is very small and easily filled by a sudden esscape of poisonous gas - and herein lies the danger. ... With regard to the general sanitary state of the vault at the present moment, I may state that there is a closeness which is much more oppressive in the interior than at the door; and as you enter the recess under the steeple vault the breathing becomes sensibly affected and nausea subsequently ensues.

Radical Bladders

Mr Bethell begs leave to call Mr. Wright's attention to a nuisance which the Inhabitants of the extreme part of Southamptton Buildings next Staple's Inn have to complain of. Persons passing through that part to and from Staple's Inn conceive themselves at liberty, from its being a retired and quiet situation, to satisfy any call of nature against the low wall as immediately below the rails of the Inn and though Mr Bethell has had Notices fixed up yet they are wholly useles in stopping the practice. The rabble too that congregate at the Mechanic's Institution on the nights whem Mr. Cobbett or the Radical Reformers meet leave the street in the most filthy state and Mr. Bethell has accordingly spoken to the Secretary of the Instituion who state that the Committee are desirous of pujtting up fresh iron rails so as to exclude approach to the wall.

15 March 1830 Paving Committee Minutes of St. Andrew and St. George Holborn Vestry

In Henry Street, the Urinal at the North West Corner of this Street which is of Wood, is very incommodious and a nuisance to the Neighbourhood and should be taken down and a new Urinal of Stone set up in its place and the water carried away by a drain into the sewer.

15 May 1830 Paving Committee Minutes of St. Andrew and St. George Holborn Vestry

In Robert Street the urinal has been removed to accommodate various Inhabitants of this street and the Neighbourhood and it cannot be placed in any situation where it will create a less nuisance than at present and therefore ought not to be removed but that an upright stone on the Northside of the urinal would screen persons using it and that a Stone of this description should be placed there.

22 August 1831 Paving Committee Minutes of St. Andrew and St. George Holborn Vestry

 [residents] 'much injured and annoyed by a certain nuisance etween the houses no.22 and no.23 in the same street [Gloucester st] respectfully request you will have the goodness to cause the same to be removed and a proper convenience substituted in the passage betwene Gloucester Street and Devonshire Street which is a very private and proper place or elsehwere as you may deem fit. We beg to observethat this nuisance is so public and offensive as to prevent Females from approaching the Windows of the opposite Houses without being disgusted by the sight of the above nuisance.

7 May 1832 Paving Committee Minutes of St. Andrew and St. George Holborn Vestry

... 'There is a Doorway adjoining the County Court which being seldom opened and from its locality to the court is the constant resort of Men for the purpose of making Water. My house being exactly opposite and the street very narrow my Wife and Family whose occupation is from necessary a great part of their time in the shop are consequenlty subject to great annoyance by this indecency, because the unwholesome accumulation of filth which it occasions in so confied a situation.

5 November 1832 Committee Minutes of St. Andrew and St. George Holborn Vestry

Thursday 19 July 2012


Annual cost, to the nearest pound, of Maintaining the Poor, in St. Andrew Holborn and St. George the Martyr Vestry, reported 8th June 1825 in the Vestry minutes:

£592   Bread
£570  Meat
£88    Cheese
£98    Butter
£20    Bacon
£208  Beer
£50    Cornchandlery
£160  Grocery
£40    Milk
£50    Potatoes
£156  Porter
£25    Wine and Spirits for the Sick
£200  Annuities
£20    Apprentice Fees
£360  Clothing
£120  Coals
£470   County Rates
£50     Disbursements, Stamps and Advertisements
£72     Incidents
£218   Insane Paupers
£200   Law Expenses
£130   Masters' disbursements
£110   Materials of Employment
£120   Oilmen's Goods, Soap and Candles
£37     Visitors Expenses
£2080 Pensioners and Casual Poor
£60     Repairs
£10     Rent
£477   Salaries
£100   Stationery, Printing &c.
£30     Undertaker
£20     Upholsterer
£750   Bills unpaid
£200   Parliamentary costs
£51     Sundries

Monday 9 July 2012

Old Islington

I will neither take you abroad, nor lead you astray. Come, then, with me to Islington - not Islington of 1860 but Islington five-and-forty years ago, when the "Angel" tavern was a fine old crumbling inn, with a courtyard and galleries, with pigeon-hole bedrooms and capacious stables; when the "Peacock" was the grand rendezvous of the northern mails, and the scarlet coats of the guards and coachmen made the old king's birthday a gala in goodly Islington.
    At that time Islington as comparatively a suburban village; old "White Conduit House" and "Highbury Barn" were landmarks for cockney adventurers; and so, indeed, was "Copenhagen House" where now stands the Cattle Market, and where the water to make tea for the company was dipped from a proximate pond and blackberries were plentiful in the vicinity where now costly edifices, termed villa residences, have been erected, and adorn the neighbourhood by their architectural good taste and beauty. "Canonbury House" was then in existence, and the pond opposite the old tower abounded in gold and silver fish; and just beyond that spot the schoolboys, now grown old men like myself, went to bathe in that part of the New River called the "Sisters", where, at the present time, terraces of well-built houses with grassy slopes grace the river bank.
    The oldest public-house in the vicinage of London bowed its venerable head in the Lower Road; and ancient chronicles tell us that in that hostelry Izaak Walton, the poet and angler, had often rested and related his sport to the assembled guests. A modern gin-shop now desecrates that hallowed spot; and the native antiquary sheds a tear as he passes over old recollections, and, if not a very pious man, is apt to give way to an anti-benediction against modern Vandalism.
    Close to the old "Queen's Head" (for such was the sign of the antiquated public-house reverted to) in Colebroke Row, dwelt that accomplished, though simple essayist, Charles Lamb. There, in the cottage now dedicated to the manufacture of double soda-water by one Webb, a man of great, though effervescent popularity, did the author of "Elia" ponder obver his graphic pen, and give to the world those masterly essays and criticisms which, though he has long since departed from amongst us, still live to embelish our literature, instruct our youth, and adorn our libraries.
    Just be stood Rhodes's cow-house, wherefrom I have many a good time got up early and fetched milk to boil for my breakfast, that same milk, with bread, being a great treat to me in my boyhood's days, which, by the by, I cannot say were entirely passed in Islington, but in the main entry to that ancient village, St. John's Street or Islington Road, which happens - as, indeed, also does the tavern so well known as the "Angel" of Islington - to be in the parish of Clerkenwell. Islington, however, was the Brighton, Margate, and Ramsgate of the boys of the adjoining localities; and every half-holiday country lodgings were taken and occupied in the trees and fields near to the bathing-quarters of the "Sisters", High-bank, the Sluice House and Hornsey Wood.

Renton Nicholson, The Lord Chief Baron Nicholson: An Autobiography, 1860