Tuesday 25 November 2014

A Publican's Meetng


ON Saturday last, it was announced by placards in the various public-houses in the Broadway, Westminster, that Mr. Rowbottom would lecture against tee-totalism in the Westminster Theatre on the following Monday, (Oct. 12,) that discussion would be allowed, and that the admittance would be free. I have since learnt that the theatre was engaged by a milkman, as was supposed by the proprietor for a masonic meeting; this milkman, however, was acting for a publican, named C—,, keeping a gin palace in the Broadway, so you may guess what the tee-totalers had to expect. The Theatre was crammed, the different tap-rooms in the neighbourhood being emptied for the purpose, and many of the audience being quite drunk. Mr. Rowbottom commenced, and during his lecture, he was several times interrupted, but the tee-totalers on the stage interfered with success, to obtain a fair hearing for him—what return they got for this, you will presently hear.

Mr. Rowbottom said, that it was asserted in `' Anti-Bacchus," that the only object of eating and drinking, was to nourish and strengthen the body, that alcoholic drinks, as wine, ale, and porter, contained no nutriment, [false : no such assertion made in " Anti-Bacchus;"] therefore such fluids were not capable of nourishing and strengthening the body. He denied this, for the greater portion of what we took into the body was water; three-fourths of potatoes consisted of water in a staid form, animal food the same, bread one-half, and fish a great deal more. The blood itself was principally formed of water. As to the alcohol contained in strong drinks, it was decomposed in the lungs, and went to strengthen and nourish the body [false.] Wine, &c., contained a great portion of solid matter, and in its best form! Fluids were capable of nourishing the body, and of being formed into solid matter. Mr. Rowbottom then went into a long rigmarole about strength, velocity, and momentum, and said, that the fluids of the body being put into more rapid motion by alcohol, of course, the individual had more strength! and therefore wine, ale, and porter, were strengthening! and he came to the comfortable conclusion, that he was right, and that the tee-totalers were wrong.

It was now suggested to the lecturer, that if there was to be a discussion, he ought to allow time for it, and it was now getting late. He agreed to conclude his lecture, and allow a quarter of an hour for a reply. The publican's mob, however, refused to hear any reply. Hissing, hooting, whistling, foul language, assailed every one who attempted to address them; they would not listen to their own lecturer, when he appealed to them to hear his opponents. Mr. C—, the publican, being roused by a word about traffickers in strong drink, made an amusing exhibition, by standing up in the boxes and holding out his hat, as if he required a few more fool's pence, from the poor drunkards assembled, and patted his immense corporation with astonishing self-complacency and laughable effect. After a quarter of an hour's battling with the mob, who were afraid to hear their lecturer's arguments overturned, his falsehoods exposed, and his sophisms demonstrated, some of the tee-totalers began to retire; a number of drunken fellows now got from the pit on to the stage, and one of them, a brewer's drayman, rolled about like a fish on dry land, or a pig in a kennel ; a scene of uproar and confusion, struggling and staggering, above which, rose the yells and screams of the drunkards, ensued, which beggars description. The tee-totalers, not wishing to take their chance of going to the station-house with these brutes, now retired, and the drunkards kept up their infernal saturnalia by a demolition of the benches, &c.

This was the public discussion promised! This is the way--the fair, open, honest way in which the publicans and their tools meet us ! There will be more tee-totalers made by last Monday's exhibition, than if it had been a tee-total meeting, for numbers of moderation men were disgusted by the gross conduct of the publicans party, and many more will be led to inquire into the subject. The damage done to the theatre, the proprietor expects C—, the publican to pay; and no doubt it was the strength afforded by his strong drink, that enabled his worthy followers to destroy the property they did.

Mr. Rowbottom promised a discussion on the following Friday, the admission to be by tickets, half to be taken by the tee-totalers and half by his party -- will he keep to this arrangement? nous verrons.

So much, Sir, for a public discussion under the auspices of publicans.

Oct. 13, 1840. H. FOSTER.

The Journal of the New British & Foreign Temperance Society, 31 October 1840

Monday 24 November 2014

Gin Palaces

"What," asks my reader, "is that immense looking house, the front of which displays, in all its architectural magnificence, pillars of the Corinthian order? It has, also, a large illuminated clock, and a lamp, of gigantic proportions, suspected over the entrance!" This, gentle reader, is a gin-shop; or, in more classically elegant language, a Gin Palace! While the rich man is sipping his claret in one of the splendid apartments of his princely club, the poor man is enjoying his gin in a room, the fittings-up of which, cost several thousand pounds. Refinement has made such rapid progress in every direction, that the beggar who sweeps the crossing thinks it vulgar to be seen in a common tap-room; and so he oes to the gin-palace and gets drunk in style, at the expense of three-halfpence farthing. I will tell my readers how these things are managed; and how it is that the proprietors of Gin Palaces make their immense fortune in three or four years: - In some obscure part of town, upon an unoccupied piece of ground, several houses of the smallest kind are built. One of these, the retailer of gin purchases as soon as it is erected, fits it up as a small distillery, and there secretly manufactures an immense quantity of illicit spirit, which is conveyed by his agents into the gin palace. By defrauding his majesty of the duties, he is enabled to undersell others in the trade!

Some gin-sellers, however, are more honest. The purchase the raw spirit from the distiller, paying all the duties; then they adulterate it more than one half with the most poisonous materials. They do not cheat the King's revenue, they only destroy the King's subjects! The profit arises from the extent to which they can adulterate the raw spirit, or procure an illicit distillation, and from the immense quantity drunk by the lower orders! With the money thus obtained, a 'Palace' is opened, and the liquid poison, being sold in twenty times greater quantities than before, makes the villainous proprietor a noble fortune. These places cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands annually.

Kidd's London Directory, Vol. 3 (1836)

Monday 17 November 2014

Sherlock at Museum of London

The Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London (runs until 12 April 2015) is a masterful and marvellous piece of work. Anyone with an enthusiasm for Holmes or his late-Victorian/Edwardian milieu, will absolutely relish the experience. I've been round twice now; I've taken my parents. I almost bought a deerstalker.

I joke about the deerstalker (though they are on sale in the shop, naturally). 

The exhibition is divided into four main sections. The first (entered through an amusingly concealed doorway) contains banks of screens, showing highlights of numberless TV and film adaptations, from a John Barrymore 1922 silent to the work of Robert Downey Jnr. (and seemingly every major UK character actor in between). There's also a lovely 1903 film reel of traffic and scenes in Edwardian London, taking up an entire wall.

The video walls are, perhaps, a prelude to the exhibition proper. For the next section considers the origins of Holmes from Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue to Conan Doyle's faltering start, which almost saw his great detective christened Sherrinford. There's also a chance to hear a 1927 interview with Conan Doyle, and note his Scottish accent; see a rare original of A Study in Scarlet as it appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887 (only eleven copies survive) and see Holmes come to life in Paget's famous illustrations.

Sherinford Holmes in Conan Doyle's original MS (copyright Museum of London)
The next section explores Holmes' London, largely through maps, paintings and photographs. Video monitors show modern hi-speed dashes through routes taken in the stories. Nineteenth century maps, above the screens, place them in context. Small photographs of street scenes, on a wall nearby, are fascinating documents of the period (and include quite a few I have not seen before). The paintings are familiar from other exhibitions but gorgeous (Dollman's Les Miserables - showing a snowbound cab shelter, cabs and horses - is a real treat). Neat touches include a wall of random Edwardian postcards, showing Imperial London in all its grandeur (and a chance to read the messages on the back - including one in indecipherable shorthand).

(copyright Museum of London)
(copyright Museum of London)
Finally, you come to Sherlock himself - or, rather, the character and his world, broken down into material categories: clothing (from Edwardian evening wear to - gasp, ladies, contain yourselves - Benedict Cumberbatch's coat); technology (telephones, telegraphs, typewriters); detective equipment (police handcuffs, fingerprinting kits); and various everyday (and not so everyday) things that feature in the stories. Thus you can also see pipes and tobacco; a box of Victorian theatrical make-up (in honour of Sherlock as master of disguise); and guns and swordsticks (loved the swordsticks).

(copyright Museum of London)

(copyright Museum of London)
Throughout, there is a sense of perfect balance: between the demands of hardcore fans (several items in the exhibition are normally in the hands of private collectors and won't be seen again in a hurry) and the general public; between the broader 'world' of Sherlock Holmes, and the details of the character; and, not least, between the various competing TV/film adaptations and the original Victorian literary origins. There is not much at all of the present Benedict Cumberbatch version (I guess some people may find that surprising, but I was grateful for it); and I came away with two thoughts - that the Museum had really captured the essence of Sherlock; and that they'd had a whale of a time putting this together, an enthusiasm which will undoubtedly transfer to their visitors.

The curator hard at work (copyright Museum of London)

Tuesday 11 November 2014

The Food of the Poor

[note: my paragraph-isation, just to spread things out a bit, ed.]

It is a busy night in the market street. The street is in the midst of neighbourhood that boasts of a great many factories, a population of what might be termed "casual mechanics," poor labourers, and a large percentage of bad characters - these last, however, keeping "themselves to themselves" in their own particular courts and slums.

As we wedge our way though the stream of purchasers at the gutter stalls, we can see that the majority of the men are unskilled labourers, earning a somewhat precarious living, being occasionally out of work, and never being absolutely certain of getting the next week's pound to five-and-twenty-shillings. Most of those who are not eagerly making their way to the Blue Boar are busy marketing with their wives; and truly the market is a good market, with a plentiful supply of food sold at very moderate rates.

Watching a man who stands with his wife and little girl before a butcher's shop, let us see what they have to choose from in buying for the next day's dinner. On the shelves set out in front of the shop meat scraps are offered at 3½d the lb.; better scraps (or "block ornaments" as they are termed) at 4d.; somewhat shapeless small joints of beef from inferior parts at 5d.; one coarse shoulder of mutton at the same; tolerably good-looking meat at 6d.; mutton chops at 7d. and 8d., and rump steak at 10d. Our labourer is a decent and sober - well, not over-beery-looking fellow. In making up his mind at what he is going to buy he takes but little time - he instantly points to the rump steak, the dearest of all the food in the shop, and his wife asks for a pound and a half, producing her 1s. 3d. with a cheerful alacrity. 

Next, the family proceed to the greengrocer's. Potatoes there are sold at five, four, and three pounds for 2d. The good wife buys the best, at the same time taking, for a Sunday treat, a pound - at a penny the pound - of unpleasant-looking squashed-up dates. For her pound and a half of steak and three pounds of potatoes she gave then 1s. 5d., that is to say a possible third of her husband's daily earnings, presuming him to be at work. 

After the family have gone on their way, we ask the butcher what sort of meat men and women of that class generally buy. He answers promptly, and somewhat indignantly, "The best." And is a fact that a destitute man or woman who gets a shilling ticket for meat is hardly ever known to spend it on anything but prime steak. But let us look again at the butcher's shop and then at the gutter stalls, and see what sort of meal might be had for three people (father ,wife and one child, say), with something to leave over for the man to take with him to work the next day, the meal, of course, to cost less than 1s. 5d.

At any of the stalls onions are sold at a penny the pound, turnips and carrots at three pounds for twopence; mixed lots, too, of turnip, carrot and onion, weighing apparently over a pound, the lot for a penny. Now, with a pound and a half of meat at 5d.  for the block ornaments at 4d. and 3½d. it must be owned, do not look particularly tempting, and a penny lot of carrots and onions, a good haricot could be made for 8½d. This with 4lb. of potatoes at two pence, they being quite good at that price, would give the family a supply of food two pounds heavier in weight for 10½d. than with the rump steak and potatoes they paid 1s. 5d. for. 

But for what particular reason is it that stew is so little favoured? The answer is promptly given by the proprietor of a rough-and-tumble china and glass shop, who seems not to be on apparently good terms with the butchers. "For three reasons - first of all, the woman don't know anything at all about cooking; secondly, they're too lazy for it; and thirdly, they like to have everything to the last, and so haven't time to make stews." It is not, we are told that anyone has any objection to stews. On the contrary, cold Irish stew, if "oniony" and with lots of pepper, is always liked. Besides, there is no reason why the labourer should have his Irish stew cold. He works near by, and his wife or child could bring it to him in a basin hot. Our Saturnine shopman shakes his head somewhat mysteriously, and says that the wives can't abide the basin business - that is to say, they do not care to the take the trouble to warm up the cold food, and they do not care for the exertion of walking half a mile with it.

On the subject of the laziness of women, which he evidently considers the key to the position, our informant waxes eloquent, and subsequent investigations go a long way to sustain his facts. It is a curious thing, he observes: but women seem to grow lazier and lazier with regard to cooking. In the corner of the china shop is one of those brown earthenware double baking dishes that are used for baking a joint, a batter pudding, and potatoes at the same time. The sale of these dishes has fallen off considerably. The batter took time to make, and the journey with it to the baker's was "too much of a good thing." Yet this was once almost the Sunday national meal with the London labouring classes. Lying about us here are a number of blocked tin articles of various sizes and uses. There cannot be possibly any objection to cooking at home on the score of the expense of the utensils. A quart saucepan can be had for fivepence, a two-quart for tenpence. It is mentioned, too, as an odd proof of the laziness of wives, that our informant sells a hundred teapots to one coffee-pot, and yet coffee is more drunk for breakfast than tea. The reason for this is that ready-made coffee of good quality with sugar and milk can be got from the coffee-houses, while ready-made tea loses its flavour by being kept boiling. In fact, the women buy the good ready-made coffee always, of course, at a profit to the maker, only to save the trouble of making good tea at home, although most of them prefer the taste of tea to coffee, as most women have done ever since tea has been brought into the country. Yet tea can be bought for 1s. 4d. a pound in the market and loaf sugar at 2½d. Looking in a grocer's shop window to take note of prices, we see that calico bags of table-salt are sold at 1½d. It occurs to us to ask the grocer's assistant whether the ready-ground table-salt is ever bought by the wives of labouring people. He answers, of course it is, and that it saves them the trouble of grinding and scraping at home, although of course it is dearer than buying in the lump.

One's attention is also directed to the great increase in the sale of cooked food. Brawn can be bought for 6d. a pound, and brisket is ever so much cheaper than it used to be. It is only laziness that makes the demand. An experienced police inspector, with whom we have some talk, tells us that he knows the case of a woman who often gives her children tinned lobster (7½d. the tin) and bread and butter for dinner because she does not care about the bother of cooking. Another thing noticeable is the great demand for, and supply of, cheap and certainly not always wholesome luxuries. Thousands of pots of jam at 3lb. for 7½d., sardines at 3½d., dried sprats a halfpenny a bundle, dates a penny the pound, chocolate (so-called) three ounces a penny, gill-and-a-half bottles of sauces at 1½d., mixed sweets four ounces a penny.

It is not always the fault of the wives that labourers feed extravagantly. Their husbands insist upon having the most expensive rump steak. In fact, from a sort of ludicrous spirit of snobbery, a labourer will term a fellow he dislikes a "beggar who eats a chuck," chuck being a low-priced part of the carcase. Still, this is by no means the general rule. Indeed, the wives are going from bad to worse from having less to do. Even the School Board, by taking their children from them, leaves more time on their hands than in the old days when the children hung round about the house and wanted more looking after, And the children do suffer terribly from being fed on so-called "handy snacks". The grocers shops are crammed with jars of pickles, sold at a sixth of the price they were twenty-five years ago. And no child dislikes a meal of saveloys and pickles, or coarse German sausage or brisket. Of course, such food must and does have an injurious effect. It trains their stomachs so that they care only for sweetstuff and savories. And the grocers seem specially to lay themselves out for children's caterers. At a grocer's shop near by, sweet rich cake can be had for 2½d. a pound, and damaged cake for 2d. and less, yet but a few years back it was thought quite a wonder when cake was offered for 4d. What will the future of the London poor be, as far as their digestions are concerned, is, indeed, a problem - fed on makeshift meals of prepared salted meats, cheap pickles, cheap sweetstuffs, and abominable cakes and pastry. 

On all sides the story is that "It's all the fault of the mothers and the cooked-food shops only encourage them in their laziness. What with the penn'orths of stewed eels and ha'porths of fried fish, and saveloys and brawn and sausage, it will be a miracle to make them go in for honest food."

Doubtless the drink has a good deal to do with all this. Bad drink and bad food are alternately cause and effect in a dozen ways. A man gives his wife, say, ten pence to find food for the day. The woman has four pennyworth of gin out of it; she has lost her time gossiping in the public-house, and then, meal times coming on before she notices them, she dashes to the cookshop with the money that she has left.

As to any talk as to the expense of fuel for cooking purposes, that is altogether absurd. Loose wood can be bought at the shed for 3 lb. a penny, coke at 5d. the bushel, and coal at 1s. a cwt. And a woman if she cooked properly, even if she had but a few pence in hand, could still have plenty of variety. Rice can be got at 1d. a pound, oatmeal at 2d., fish is to be bought at less than 4d. a pound, and surely out of all this there need be no lack of change. It is worth noticing also that although rice is so cheap, the London poor do not seem to take to curries, despite their taste for savoury foods. As to a woman thinking of making fish curry at a time when there is a glut of fish in the market, such a thing has never been dreamt of. Even, too, when fresh herrings are sold from the barrel for five a penny, as they were during the season last year, it was quite common to see working men's wives buying the soused herrings from low-class fish shops. The trouble of pickling herrings in the Dutch fashion, so as to have a cheap relish for the Winter would be looked upon as gratuitous martyrdom.

The idea of taking advantage of a glut of anything in the market seems to be beyond the comprehension of the London poor. Even the increased popularity of tomatoes arises a great deal from idleness. Last year tomatoes could be bought at twopence a pound; yet they were very rarely cooked, being nearly always eaten as a "handy" relish, sliced, with vinegar. If they had required cooking of the simplest kind the run on them would have been ever so much less. Still, the number of tasty dishes that could be made from the "love apple," at a very low price indeed, is well known to everyone having the least knowledge of cookery.

When we inquire where the thriftless wives come from, a little more light is let on the matter. But few of the mothers, we are told, have ever been in any domestic service. They have been bookbinders, boot closers, label pasters, and such like. In fact, they have been girls who have been used to "their liberty," and flimsy finery. They are deep readers of novelettes and cheap penny awful literature. That is, they are as unfitted as they well can be, to be frugal wives and careful mothers. They never had any home training before they were married.and they are not any more likely to learn it afterwards. And, of course they have never had the chance of knowing how to cook. They have not oven got so far as to know that it would be of any advantage to them. It is only the rich who go to schools of cookery, whereas it is a great deal more important that the poor should.

Walking further down the market our ears are greeted with "Observe the price before going elsewhere. Now, buyers, come along, do. Don't be down-hearted, observe the prices! " And really the prices are very low. But how as to cheap drinks? We walk into a gin palace of the latest fashion: that is to say, of the fashion which England has been so busily importing from Scotland during the last few years. The bar is divided into a number of small compartments, so that the good wives can do their drinking on the sly much more conveniently. This compartment fashion, one need not be told, is helping on drunkenness admirably, especially among many women who like drink, but are afraid of drinking openly. Overhearing the talk outside the gin palace, we catch one woman saving to another, "Have a drink; I've got four soup tickets." In this case the economy of the household is evidently very little affected by outside charity. While the mother may have a little more money for drink, the children will in all probability have only soup and bread for dinner instead of cold brisket or saveloys and bread.

And now as to the quality of the drink. Being in Rome, we do as Rome does, and try it. The glass of stout is comparatively harmless, but a "nip" of Scotch whisky is apparently compounded of  "silent" spirit and paraffin. Zeal in the good cause of inquiry should tempt to a trial of the gin beloved by slattern wives, but there are limits to self-sacrifice even in the public service. Seated on a table in the open space at the end of the passage, into which the drink-boxes open, is a young fellow of about twenty. He is singing, "If I were in a colony I'd live like a lord." Looking at him admiringly is a decent-looking girl of seventeen. In the next compartment a pair of ladies are engaged in a noisy quarrel over a social quartern. That quartern will cost a husband an unwholesome dinner, and dyspepsia probably send him here for Scotch whisky, which will send him home mad to beat his wife, who will console herself with more gin tomorrow. Such is the merry-go-round.

"The Poor at Market", The Standard, 20 January 1888

Leicester, England

The Victorians were wont to transport small groups of 'natives' to England and, often, exhibit them in mock-ups of their 'natural habitat' as instructive entertainment. The people in question - from China, Japan, Africa, Australia, New Zealand et al. - were not confined in these spaces; but these were, in effect, human zoos. The interactions of the 'exhibits' with the locals remains a source of queasy fascination. Here's a piece from The Standard 31 January 1851, which contrasts the 'South African' (presented as something of an innocent 'noble savage') with the hooting mobs of English ...

SCENE IN A CATHEDRAL. In the Worcestershire Journal of Wednesday last appeared the following announcement:-- "South Africans. - An interesting physiological fact occurred at Leicester on Saturday, December 21st, at which place the South Africans were being exhibited, the Amaponda woman, wife of the Zoolu chief, having given birth to a female infant, the only instance of a child of these African tribes being born in Europe. We understand that their conductor intends introducing the party to a Worcester audience, and that the infant will be baptised in our cathedral on Monday, the Lord Bishop having promised to administer the sacred rite in person."

Just before the afternoon service on Monday a carriage, which was followed by hundreds of women and children, drove up to the cathedral. It contained the African woman, whose name is said to be Macomba Faku, the godfather, and two godmothers, one of whom carried the infant. They were conducted to seats between the pulpit and chancel, had they were no sooner seated there than the cathedral began to fill, while two or three hundred persons crowded themselves into that confined part of the choir where the attraction presented itself -- squeezed themselves in heaps on the seat mounted each other's shoulders, bestrid the chancel rails, and got into every position which commanded a view of the poor, wondering, half-frightened woman. Presently the bishop arrived, also Canons Benson, Wood, and Cocks, and occupied their usual stalls. When the service commenced, as also when the organ struck out, Macomba evinced some surprise, but on the whole her conduct and demeanour were decidedly a pattern for those by whom she was surrounded. Neither the solemnity of the service nor the, sacredness of the place produced any effect, in checking the: disgraceful extravagancies of the mob, who were walking about, laughing and talking loud all the time, some men in their shirt sleeves, women and girls without bonnets, &c. Meanwhile, a large party had taken possesion of Jesus Chapel, in the nave where the font is placed, and which of course was to be the scene of the principal part of the ceremony. Here were men and women of the lowest character, using language which would have disgraced a gin palace, and all struggling to obtain the most advantageous positions. By and bye the services in the choir were concluded, and as by this time upwards of 2000 persons were assembled, the rush towards the font was terrific. With great difficulty the bishop arrived at the spot, accompanied by Canons Cocks and Benson, Macomba Fako, and her friends with the baby, the choristers and vergers, &c. The pressure was now terrific; children were knocked down, the shouts. and catcalls became deafening, and boys who had climbed on the tops of the monuments in the chapel screamed with delight as though they were the genii of the anarchy around them. The canons and Lord Sandys (the latter of whom was obliged to do battle with the multitude) were nearly taken off their legs, and at one time we thought that the font itself would have been upset by a coup de main. The lay clerks also were compelled to act as special constables to  ward off the multitude. The bishop, however, proceeded with the rite, which, it is needless to add, was a dumb show to all who were not close to the spot. The woman, who stood resting against the font, behaved in the most exemplary manner, eyeing the bishop at times with some curiosity; the infant also (which was dressed in a long white robe, that contested curiously with its little black limbs) proved itself to belong to a well-bred race by preserving the utmost decorum, and not allowing even a whimper to escape its lips ; indeed, the poor thing had been so kissed and pulled about that mere fatigue might account for its quietude. On its being sprinkled with the water the mother looked with great surprise and concern and held an eager conversation with her guardian and the women; his lordship hastened this part of the ceremony, as though fearful of the consequences, and soon put down the child, which had the effect of restoring confidence to the poor woman. The name given to the child, we are told, was "Leicester, England,"

Friday 7 November 2014

Gin Palaces

The original gin palaces were lavished open-plan bars, which you were expected to drink standing up. Here's a nice description ...

A splendid gin palace has been lately erected in Rosemary-lane, in the midst of the old clothes market called “Rag Fair”; and its magnificent fittings up, polished mahogany doors, large squares of plate glass, a very handsome lamp, which alone is said to have cost 100 guineas, and a large clock, which is illuminated after dark, as a beacon to lure the victims of the liquid fire gin, to the Moloch within, forms a very striking contrast with the mean dwellings, dirt, and misery which surround it. The interior is fitted up in the same splendid manner, with massive gas burners and casks of the most gaudy colours. A gin palace on a very large scale is about to be erected in High-street, Shadwell (a continuation of the Ratcliff-highway), on the site of an old and unpretending public house, called the “Ship and Shears”, which, with another house adjoining, has been pulled down for the purpose. The police expect a very great addition to their labours in this disorderly neighbourhood, on the completion of the gin palace, as the street already abounds with liquour shops, which are always filled with sailors and drunken prostitutes. The shopkeepers view the intended erection with feelings of dismay.

The Standard, 19 August 1834

Thursday 2 October 2014

An Application for Shares

A written application for shares, from 1852, resides in the archives of the 1851 Commission for the Great Exhibition. The dates means it was an application intended for the Crystal Palace Company, who were rebuilding the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. Here it is in full;

Paxton with Fox and Henderson
Did raise a spacious Palace
But Vandalism and her son
Condemned it to the gallows;
A deed so rude, so base, so vile,
And cannot be forgiven,
But science art and beauty will
Soon be revenged (by heaven).

Paxton will make a garden and a grove,
Through all the seasons, and where all may rove
Mongst natures fairest flowers, to elevate
The lower classes, and amuse the great.

For Joseph Paxton.

I presume to ask of you to look with a favourable eye upon my letter of application for 25 shares and you will greatly obliged your admirer and a lover of that grand Institution which in my humble opinion will be a boon and a blessing to many thousands born and yet unborn and will amuse, recreate and improve the masses.

I am your obt. sert.

Charles Mott

12 Flask Walk, Hampstead
May 25 1852

The Alcohol-Free Great Exhibition

The following letter shows the advice received by the Commissioners of the Great Exhibition on the subject of drink  (preserved in their minutes) ...

21 Regent Street, July, 1850


I have just been told upon what must be good authority, that a part of the plan of the 1851 Exhibition consists in proving a Kitchen and Refreshments of all kinds for the visitors. As I have some personal experience in this sort of operation, where English crowds collected, you will perhaps allow me to tell you what it amounts to.

When the great meetings of the Horticultural Society were first organised, it was part of the plan to supply Wine, &c., with Cold Meat, Poultry, &c., to those who would pay for such articles; but we found that many of our visitors thought more of eating and drinking than of the objects of the Exhibition, and that the garden was converted into an eating-house - with just such consequences as might have been anticipated from the presence of Wine, &c.

We were, therefore, compelled to abandon that part of our plan, and to limit the refreshments to Ices, Cakes, Lemonade, Orangeabe, and Iced Water. We do not suffer any Meat, or Wine, or Spiritous Liquors to pass our gates, and the consequence has been that the serious inconveniences formerly felt have disappeared. It is true that our visitors were a much mixed class, yet certainly not more mixed than those to be expected in 1851 must necessarily be.

I would, therefore, very strongly advice you to draw the attention of the Executive to this point, upon which much of the comfort and respectability of the Exhibition will depend. It is no doubt desirable that something should be provided; but the Articles usually to be found in a Confectioner's Shop, Liqueurs, &c., excepted, are all that can be required. To those who want more substantial enjoyment there will, no doubt, be abundant accommodation on the outside of the Park.

Pray believe me to be,
Yours very truly,

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Toilets at the Great Exhibition

Regular readers will know that I have a long-standing interest in Victorian public toilets ... indeed, public loos are a crucial chapter in my forthcoming book Dirty Old London (look right, if you want to order a copy).

It's often said that the public toilet originated at the Great Exhibition, which is something of a myth (a point I'll be addressing in a blog over at Yale Books next week) but there were toilets there - and many of the 'shilling day' people may not have seen one before. I've always wondered what the experience was like.

So, a little belatedly, I went today to the archive of the 1851 Commission that ran the Exhibition, which still resides in 'Albertopolis' - within Imperial College. There wasn't much on the toilets themselves (the official 1852 government report on the Exhibition does, at least, contain a whole page on the subject) but there were some very detailed plans of the building.

The toilets (aka 'Retiring Rooms') were located at the three 'Refreshment Rooms' - this much I knew.

The Refreshment Rooms were basically snack bars where it was intended (according to the Commission's tender for the food and drinks contract) you might buy the following:

Area No.1 (in the centre of the building): For Ices, Pastry, Sandwiches, Patties, Fruit, Tea, Coffee, Chocolate, Cocoa, Lemonade, Seltzer and Soda Water

Area no.2 & 3 For Bread, Butter and Cheese, Tea, Coffee, Chocolate, Cocoa, Ginger Beer, Spruce Beer, and similar drinks 

[click here for a full list of what was actually sold at the Exhibition]

The idea was that there would be no cooking (not least for danger of fire); no alcohol (for danger of rowdiness); and no seats (to keep people circulating within the building).

It's always said that toilets were an afterthought, prompted by the inquiries of the Royal Society of Arts (if anyone has detailed citations for correspondence between the RSA and the Commission, let me know - there were, certainly, some letters in the newspapers which suggest this; but I think I may be missing some other source).

Here's how they related to the refreshment areas:

image courtesy of Royal Commission for the Exhibition

image courtesy of Royal Commission for the Exhibition

image courtesy of Royal Commission for the Exhibition

There was one toilet superintendent, presumably responsible for good order in all three places, and 25 attendants, who - if this was like other Victorian toilets - ensured good conduct, cleaned seats after each flush and offered toiletries and towels for freshening up (although, note, handwashing was not seen as a hygienic necessity in this period; no-one knew about bacteria).

The curved lines in the refreshment rooms are presumably the bar areas, and you can see the dimensions of the spaces quite well - the ladies' retiring room in the Central Refreshment Room was about 24x24 feet or thereabouts; the men had lots of space devoted to urinals.

Some small facts gleaned, then - nothing world-shattering, but interesting enough?

Wednesday 10 September 2014

The Cemetery that Never Was

George Carden, who laid claim to being the found of the General Cemetery Company, and originator of Kensal Green Cemetery, fell out with the company directors not long after the cemetery had opened. A little known fact is that he decided to open a rival venture, in what is now Holland Park - still semi-rural in the 1840s - just that little bit nearer to fashionable West London, to trump his former associates. The scheme never got off the ground, but this is the prospectus ... this is, broadly speaking, how the joint stock cemeteries of the 1830s and 1840s were touted. Note also that Carden even suggests he will attempt to build the (quite mad) scheme for a pyramid mausoleum that was still doing the rounds (Carden and its originator were in talks at one point). West London would have looked very different.


Public Meeting in Favour of the Scheme of The Great Western Cemetery, After the Plan of Pere La Chaise

Shares, £21 - Half Shares, 10 Guineas each.

An Exposé of the Scheme of ex-urban Burial will be made by the Found in the appropriated Ground,

Notting Hill, Bayswater, At the Two-mile Stone from Oxford Street

On Saturday, June 21, at Three o'Clock, And the Modelled Design will be again exhibited.

This scheme embraces a great public benefit, and, under proper management, offers expectations of a very profitable investment without risk. The site is nearly equi-distant from Piccadilly, up Church-street, Kensington, thus embracing on its upper and lower ranges, the extremely populous and most respectable neighbourhoods of Belgrave Square, Sloane Street, Brompton, Knightsbridge, and Kensington - also of the continuation of Oxford Street, Bayswater and Notting Hill. From the Bayswater-gate of Kensington Gardens, the distance is about ten minutes walk; and from London, through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, it is within the limits of a moderate ramble through the most delightful  part of the environs of the metropolis. The SITE COMPRISES 52 ACRES in extent in one ownership, available for such a purpose, which must surprise even those persons most intimately acquainted with the outskirts of London. One portion of the estate, "Norland Farm", is let to a farmer at a considerable rental. Another, comprising twelve acres and a half, is walled in; these were the grounds of Norland House, occupied, ten years ago, by H. Drummond Esq., until destroyed by fire. All around are lofty trees, many of which are of great beauty and size. There are also numerous woody plantations, gravel walks and shrubs. At the further extremities are two ancient mounds, most beautifully embellished by towering trees, forming arches groves of peculiar magnificence. At some future day, these spots may offer attractions of more than ordinary interest. On the right of the enclosure is, at present, an extensive enclosed garden; on the left, a wilderness of brushwood, and a long hedged-in footpath, bordered by an extensive range of various trees. The centre of the ground exhibits a lawn most beautiful to look upon, without any trees, and at the extremity is a double range of lofty poplars, through which, at the side entrance, the chapel will be visible in a most picturesque manner, when erected in nearly the centre of the ground. The celebrated Norland Well, within the grounds, must not be forgotten, so great was the depth required to be dug to gain the spring. It is concealed by a thicket near the entrance to the grounds, and is surrounded by five trees of very large girth. About the year 1756 its waters were in great celebrity. There are many other things of interest within the grounds. The spot is known by the name of Norlands. At either extremity along the Uxbridge Road, are in large letters on boards, "The Great Western Cemetery Company." The extent which already is enclosed is set forth in the Prospectus. In fine, it may be truly said of this site, that near the metropolis no fitter spot could be found for a mansion of rest, and that this cemetery will ere long become equal in appearance to THE FAR FAMED CEMETERY OF PERE LA CHAISE, NEAR PARIS.

The Mechanics Magazine Saturday April 12 says "we can hardly imagine a spot better fitted for an establishment of this kind than the ground selected for this new cemetery - indeed, we had no idea there was any thing so suitable WITHIN SO SHORT A DISTANCE OF TOWN."

Capital £31,500 in 1,500 shares of £21 each; Half shares 10 Guineas each


Charles Forbes Calland, Esq., 83 Upper Norton-st; The Rev. M'Donald Caunter, 13, Regent Street; Geo. F. Carden, Esq., 1 Mitre Court Building, Temple; Tipping Thomas Rigby, Esq., 12 Paper Buildings, Temple; Captain Geo. Webb Derenzy, Robert Street, Adelphi; Geo. Thoas. Williams, Esq., 51 Montague Square.
(Additional Names to be added from among Subscribers)

AUDITORS - Three (to be chosen at General Meeting from among the Subscribers)
SOLICITOR - John Hare Webb, Esq., 9, Gray's Inn Square
BANKERS - Messrs. Wright, Robinson and Co., Henrietta Street, Covent Garden

The price and conditions upon which the Company become entitled to the lad, declared to parties interested.

A portion of the ground intended to be consecrated, a part not, that the Cemetery may be used generally by the members of EVERY religious community.*

[*A Dissenter cannot by law officiate in consecrated, neither a Member of the Church of England in unconsecrated ground.
Speech of Lord ALTHORP, March 18, 1834 - "These (naming them), he believed, were all the grounds of complaint (no - no - burial in churchyards) he begged pardon, he had forgotten that, yes, the last point was that of burial in churchyards, without the ceremony of the Church of England. Now, he needed not to remind the House of the strong feeling which existed on this last point throughout the country. He hoped, therefore, that some plan, other than by legislative enactment, might be adopted which would have the MERIT of not interfering with that feeling."]

An Act of the Legislature is to be applied for.

The capital of the Company to be raised by shares of £21, and half shares of Ten Guineas each.

Holders of five shares, qualified to be Directors, Trustees or Auditors. Joint Holders of 100 shares qualified, at once, to nominate on their own behalf, one qualified Subscriber as a Director.

The Treasurer not to hold fewer than 50 shares.

Subscribers entitled to one vote for every share; at general or ordinary meetings, or among the Directors. Voting allowed by proxy given to a shareholder.

To guard against that grasping system of fraudulent mismanagement embraced in the terms, expensive extravagance to serve private interests, the prompter of this scheme has the advantage of 400 votes, so that with a moderate concurrence on the part of those who, bona fide, wish to see the plan executed, he can almost  venture to put forth a pledge that there is scarcely a hazard of the purpose being defeated; and this scheme is intended to be conducted as if it were the property of an individual.

The number of Directors, all honorary, 24; three to go out annually.

Three Directors a quorum; proceedings to be confirmed at a subsequent meeting.

The Treasurer, for the time being, by virtue of his office, to be a Director.

The following are the periods at which it is now requisite that subscriptions should be paid;-
At the time of subscribing - £5 per share, £2 10s per half share.
First Instalment on the 8th of August - £5 per share, £2 10s per half share.
Second Instalment on the 15th of January, 1835 - £5 per share, £2 10s per half share.
Third Instalment on the 15th of July - £3 per share, £1 10s per half share
Fourth Instalment (if needed) on the 15th of January, 1836 - £3 per share, £1 10s per half share.

But interest at the rate of £5 per cent. per annum will be added to each share paid up in full - and also upon deposits or instalments, from the time the monies are paid, until the whole of the shares are taken and the whole amounts due thereon equally paid up by each subscriber.


Persons desirous of procuring freehold sites for future use without being subscribers, or subjecting themselves to an expense, may treat for the same.

Persons desirous of promoting this scheme, whether individuals or corporations, by a present advance of capital, may have the right of granting free burial for such persons as the donors may please to select to the full extent of such donation.

Within a limited period, original subscribers may transfer a share in value £21, and become in lieu thereof entitled to a double grave, in perpetuity, to hold not fewer than ten coffins; and for half shares of 10 guineas each, in perpetuity, a single grave to hold not less than five coffins, without being at a limited time required to make a monumental structure. - The public will be at liberty to employ their own architects.

This NATIONAL work is intended to be further beautified by means of loans without interest, and, should it merit it, by PUBLIC DONATIONS. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem has been selected as an appropriate design for the exhibition of monumental sculpture, and will probably be a model for one of the funeral chapels. The distant boundaries (as exhibited in the model) afford very appropriate sites for alms-houses. Religious societies or charitable institutions desirous of erecting memorials or alms-houses will be readily and beneficially treated with.

The number of burials annually in London, exclusive of the burials in the extensive out-parishes of St. Pancras, Paddington and Marylebone, is upwards of FORTY THOUSAND, and the most casual observer can perceive how much new places of sepulture are required, in the visibly over-crowded state of all the Metropolitan Burial Grounds. IN London, sites for burial cannot be obtained. His Majesty's Commissioners for building New Churches, &c., found this to be the case. Armed with power and the resources of a government, they could not obtain sites whereon to build the new churches, until they had pledged themselves not to appropriate contiguous open spaces for burial. There seemed, indeed, to be GENERAL determination on the part of the landed proprietors TO RESIST THE CREATION OF NEW METROPOLITAN churchyards. During twelve years, up to the year 1824 inclusive, it was found that 333,000 bodies had been interred in London, exclusive of the burials in the parishes above named.

Shocked by the frequent excavation of burial-grounds, the time is not far distant when the thinking public will wholly discontinue to bury in London. The expense is enormous, the tenure precarious; and the consecrated sanctuaries of the dead cease to afford security for permanent repose. Within the last ten years seven or eight churchyards in this metropolis have been WHOLLY EXCAVATED, and as much churches demolished and the remains carted out without rite, or ceremony.

Some parishes have no burial-ground belonging to them, other parishes have only vaults for interment. The dead, when buried in vaults, should be secured in coffins of lead. This creates great additional expense. In upwards of fifty vaults of the metropolis, the dead were found to have been deposited in coffins of wood only!!! and many of the vaults were in immediate connexion with the church. A system more destructive of the public health can scarcely be imagined, and this owing to the want of new, approximate, and economical places of burial. It is not within the means of every one to use church vaults. Persons anxious to inter in another parish are subjected to pay as non-residents, TRIBLE the amount of fees payable by a parishioner; sometimes it is only double. For strangers, and even lodges, double or TREBLE fees are required, although the burial take place in the parish in which the party dies.

The friends, then, of every stranger, of every lodger, and also the Parishioners of parishes not having burial-ground of their own, would eagerly avail themselves of this ex-urban Cemetery.

SECURITY.  - In consequence of Mr. Warburton's Anatomy bill, the remains of the dead are not likely to be disturbed. None but medical practitioners licensed by Government can possess a corpse for dissection, and an account must be duly rendered to the Secretary of State, whence and how the body was obtained, and that the remains after dissection, have been properly interred. This project, then, has nothing to fear from the resurrectionist: his horrid trade is wisely destroyed, and this site will afford convenient opportunity for economical interment. Some practitioners pay hundreds of pounds yearly for burials!

EXPEDITION WITH ECONOMY - The shape of the ground is peculiarly advantageous for Economical Walling. Along the line of the Uxbridge Road, the frontage is about 2,500ft.; of which 1,750 ft. are already enclosed. The breadth in th rear of this is 1,450ft.; on the right 1,750ft. whereof 1,100ft. are also enclosed, and on the left 2,000 ft.

The contemplated arrangements can be so accomplished as to obtain the freehold of the Premises and complete Cemetery, at a cost not exceeding the fixed capital. The public will therefore be accommodated on a plan uniting utility and economy, with great profit to Subscribers.  Of the almost numberless wealthy families of this great metropolis, it is beyond a merely speculative statement that thus enabled, at hardly any cost, at a mere trifle, indeed, compared with existing charges for family vaults, that 1,500 families will, without delay, purchase freehold sites, each sufficient for ten burials, at the very small sum of £21. This alone wold be £31,500,* the whole amount of the capital necessary to purchase the estate, &c. &c. &c. and complete the Cemetery.

[* In consequece of the frequent excavation of burial grounds, and the crowded state of the public vaults, remains contained in lead will almost of necessity be removed into this new Cemetery. Taking the number upon a very moderate calculation to be only 5,000, in ten years, the account would be ...
5,000 removals if belonging to Subscribers at £2 each, 10,000 .... the public, if only at £3 each, 15,0000. But of these, 2000 would very probably belong to different families who would purchase sites at £21.
If Subscribers, the amount would be 42,000 = Total £52,000 ... the public, if only at £25 each, 50,000 = Total £65,000
Which return is wholly independent of the revenue from ordinary burials, sales of vaults &c.
There are now about ten Cemeteries established for country towns, upon the plan first promulgated in the year 1824 by Mr. G.F.Carden, founded of the General Cemetery Company, established by Act of Parliament. Of these, it may be interesting to state the progress made in the New General Cemetery, Liverpool, which was begun in the yer 1825.
Interments: 1825-6-7-8: 1,895; 1829: 743; 1830: 930; 1831: 1,277; 1832: 1,402; 1833: 1,505; total 7,752; besides 140 vaults and 1,102 family graves sold.]


The model, to which the public are invited upon presenting their cards, is now at the Company's offices, 13, Regent-street. It shoes the whole space of fifty-two acres as it will afterwards be approximated. One portion, containing twelve acres and a half, is already entirely enclosed, and most magnificently wooded. The principal entrance will be above the side centre of the grounds, by the roadway which at present exists, until the new roads at the back of Notting Hill are completed. From this entrance there is a sweeping avenue of trees, and a broad roadway running around the church, and terminating in the public road by Sheppard's Bush. The church, for the service of the Church of England, is built upon arches, which are the catacombs for the dead. The building is after the design of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which internally is admirably adapted for the display of full-length marble figures, on account of the niches with which internally is surrounded. About two thirds of the outer boundary of the whole has to be enclosed with a wall. The grand avenue of trees being formed, and catacombs under the church made, the church built, and this wall completed, the cemetery is finished for the public use; all of which, if the funds allow, will be completed during the present year. Fortunately for the speculators, the whole estate is brick earth; so that all the work of excavation will turn to account, and the soil be made, at the upper extremity, into brick, and every brick required for use can be made upon the estate. With this great advantage, and economical management, the subscribers will possess, first, a beautiful property of fifty-two acres, including numerous outbuildings, a farm, and buildings, and have all the works just named executed for the comparatively very trifling sum of £31,500. A large portion will remain unconsecrated, for the use of those dissenting from the Church of England; viz. one-half of the further outer boundary on the Uxbridge side, and a large piece internally, together also with a piece, one-half, of the present enclosed garden. There is a very sweet Gothic chapel for their especial use. As the estate is so extensive, and in order both to give a ton to the scheme, which will surpass every other, and comfortable security to relations and friends, all around are erected almshouses at shore distances from each other. The tenants of these being pensioners from corporations and other charitable societies, are a class of persons in whom confidence can be placed, and whose interests will secure good behaviour, in the little perquisites and rewards they will, no doubt, often obtain from visiters and the friends of those who inter there. Another arrangement generally strikes our fancy: the walks are so laid out, that plots of ground are at once visibly divided, and capable of being used wholly by the Catholics, the Jews, Quakers, or any other brotherhood, in case they should prefer doing so to having the use of the general ground set apart for the "Dissenters". There is another structure which we have yet to notice, a pyramidical form, capable of containing sixty thousand coffins. This is a range of layers, one above the other, decreasing gradually in size, and intended to be constructed out of the excavated soil in the cemetery, the overplus in making family vaults, when the future profits of the Company shall be sufficient to leave a surplus to create a building fund. Such an intent, considering the great value of building-ground, and that the cemetery of Pere la Chaise, 120 acres in extent, is now losing its beautiful shrubberies, by reason of the great use and fulness of the ground, is a work not of fancy, but of wise for-thought. Within three months pasts, for the reasons stated, an edict was issued in PAris, requiring super-structures to be made in Pere la Chaise. Considering, then, as the proprietors of the company set forth, "that on the burial of every stranger, of every lodger, and also of parishioners no having ground of their own, and of parties dying in extra-parochial places, double and even treble fees are now required", this Cemetery will be hailed as conferring a great public benefit; and considering that if only 1,500 families, at the trifling cost of £21 (instead of hundreds charged in some places) purchased their family vaults, capable of containing the remains of ten members, the sum would REIMBURSE the proprietors every shilling of outlay. With the advantages of situation and cheapness, there cannot be a doubt of the appoval and support of the public, and the consequent success of the Company.

The grounds, we had forgotten to say, are in every direction interspersed with walks, and tombs and monuments of elegant device, the handy-work of Mr. Day, the modeller. Ladies' Magazine and Museum, June 1834

[Since the above description, there have been added sundry elegant and tasteful arcades which will serve alike, when constructed, for use and shelter.]

Cunningham and Salmon, Printers, Crown-court, 72 Fleet-street.

Monday 8 September 2014

Sanitising History

Radio 4's 'Thought for the Day' today (8/9/14) was by Rev Professor David Wilkinson, about ebola. You may want to listen to it yourself. [link here]

Wilkinson starts his talk by noting that the head of Medecins Sans Frontieres has criticised the 'lock down' planned in Sierra Leone, on the grounds that it will undermine trust and drive down notifications of the disease. Wilkinson agrees; and he makes - I assume very valid -  points about the failure of the existing market-driven system to produce a vaccine before this vast outbreak; and the need, in future, for partnerships between pharmaceutical companies, government and local health providers. He finishes with "As a Christian I want to join with many other voices in highlighting that in this we need a common concern and action for the poor."

All excellent; but Professor Wilkinson sandwiches a historical homily between these thoughts.

History, of course, must offer countless parallels. We might look, for instance, at cholera coming to England in 1831/32 - an equally terrifying plague and, at the time, infinity more unknowable than ebola is today. The Central Board of Health - the government's medical advisors - toyed with the idea of internal quarantine  but decided it was impracticable  - and, of course, an affront to the much-vaunted personal freedoms of the English. Do the inhabitants of Sierra Leone feel any different about being trapped in their homes?

Professor Wilkinson, however, refers  back to John Snow's famous epidemiological studies of cholera in the 1850s.

Here's what he says:
On this day, 160 years ago on the instruction of Dr John Snow, the handle of the pump on Broad Street in Soho was removed. Snow had argued that its water was the source of an outbreak of cholera that had killed over 500. This was not an easy argument to win. Christian reformer, the Earl of Shaftesbury had for some time failed to persuade the authorities that improving sanitation would minimise cholera outbreaks. Opponents objected to the cost, but also were convinced that cholera was caused by miasma, a mysterious kind of ‘bad air’.

 By careful investigation and plotting the locations of deaths, Snow was able to argue that the disease was spread by germs and the outbreak originated from raw sewage that had contaminated the pump water. But Snow did not do this alone. Henry Whitehead, an evangelical Anglican curate, lived in the impoverished area of the city, and although initially sceptical of Snow, through meticulous research became one of his most vocal and influential supporters in arguing for germ theory and action in the light of it. His faith motivated his sympathy for the poor, his commitment to live with them and led him to oppose the view that cholera was simply a consequence of laziness which led to poverty. Snow and Whitehead’s partnership gave birth to the science of epidemiology and significant improvements in public housing and sanitation.
The point seems to be that a combination of clear-thinking science (Snow) and Christian charity (exemplified by Shaftesbury and Whitehead) ultimately reformed public housing and sanitation.

No-one but a lunatic would deny that Christianity was a major driving force in Victorian social reform - perhaps the driving force - but the above story is just plain wrong.

I'll explain why:

1.  Shaftesbury, a devout Christian, was a leading 'sanitarian' and social reformer. He was also, famously, a devout miasmatist. Here he is speaking in *1859* ...

"Filth and miasma will, in some form or other, accomplish their work, and, like evil spirits, anxious only for destruction, if they cannot exstinguish the physical, will corrupt the moral life of many generations ..."

In other words, Snow's epidemiological proof of cholera - widely ridiculed and ignored in the 1850s - had little or nothing to do with Shaftesbury's already long-standing interest in sanitation, housing and social reform.

2. "Opponents objected to the cost, but also were convinced that cholera was caused by miasma" ... Yes, cost was a major concern in sanitary reform. For example, there was great unwillingness on the part of central government to foot the bill for sewer schemes in London, which had been on the drawing-board since the late-1840s. But almost everyone, on all sides of the debate, was a miasmatist.

Edwin Chadwick, the civil servant who had carved his own niche in the running of the country by describing the insanitary hell of its great towns and cities, was the great proponent of miasmatic theory. Shaftesbury was one of his great supporters. By the 1850s, miasmatic theory was everywhere, not the preserve of opponents to social improvement. Indeed, quite the opposite, the ardent proponents of improved sanitation were all miasmatists.

3. The claim that Snow and Whitehead's work ultimately drove change is just wrong, except in the longest possible of historical long lenses. Every major sanitary reform that actually took place in Victorian London - sewerage, parochial cemeteries, model housing - had its basis in Chadwick and Shaftesbury's sanitary agitation of the 1840s. And their great article of faith was - you guessed it - that bad air caused disease. Chadwick, moreover, was not a great man of faith - rather, a ruthless Benthamite utilitarian, also remembered for the cruel calculus of the New Poor Law.

It's fascinating how Snow's genius has made him a latter-day saint of rational scientific inquiry - and much deserved. But we need to remember that he had little actual impact on the health of the metropolis. I certainly do not wish to diminish the importance of religious faith to the sanitary reform movement - it's absolutely crucial - but the notion that a marvellous alliance of enlightened scientists and Christians improved Victorian London is simply erroneous. There was a good deal of trial, error and dismal failure; and almost universal belief in 'miasma' persisted throughout the century. Moreover, there was many a dedicated church-goer who explicitly objected to helping the poor with better housing or drains; others, tacitly, had a nice row or two of slum properties from which they collected a modest rent.

Apologies for the rant, but these are not obscure facts - so let's remember them.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Fitzrovia to Euston Walk

A walk through central London again, including a derelict hospital ...

Tuesday 8 July 2014

The Difference between a Squib and a Puff

[probably to be taken with a pinch of salt, like all articles 'revealing' the true nature of the criminal underworld]

It appears by the Enquiry made by the Justices of the Peace for the City and Liberty of Westminster, that there are in the Parish of St. Paul's Covent-Garden twenty two Gaming Houses, some of which clear sometimes 100l. and seldom less than 40l. a Night.

The Gamesters have their proper Officers both Civil and Military, with Salaries proportionable to their respective Degrees, and the Importance they are of in the Service, viz.

A Commissioner or Commis, who is always a Proprietor of the Gaming Houses: He looks in once a Night, and the Week's Account is Audited by him and two other of the Proprietors.

A Director, who Superintends the Room.

The Operator, the Dealer at Faro.

Croupees, two who watch the Cards and gather the Money for the Bank.

A Puff, one who has Money given him to Play, in order to decoy others.

A Clerk, who is a Check upon the Puff, to see that he sinks none of that Money.

A Squib, who is a Puff of a lower Rank, and has half the salary of a Puff.

A Flasher, one who sits by to swear how often he has seen the bank stripped.

A Dunner, Waiters.

An Attorney or Solicitor.

A Captain, one who is to fight any Man that is peevish, or out of humour at the loss of his Money.

An Usher, who takes care that the Porter or Grenadier at the Door suffers none to come in but those he knows.

A Porter, who at most of the Gaming-Houses is a Soldier, hired for that purpose.

A Runner, to get Intelligence of all the Meetings of the Justices of the Peace, and when the Constables go upon the Search; his Fee half a Guinea.

Any Link-boy, Coachman, Chair-man, Drawer or other Person who gives notice of the Constables being up on search, has half a Guinea.

  1. Daily Journal, 11 January 1722

Sunday 6 July 2014

A Proposal to put a stop to Street Robbing, 1728

To the Author of the London Evening Post ...

First, That an Order be directed by the Lord Mayor of the City of London, and by the Justices in the Out-Parts, to the Constables of the respective Parishes, commanding them to be at their Watch Houses by Eight o'Clock in the Evening, from Michaelmas to Lady-Day, and by Nine o'Clock from Lady-Day to Michaelmas; and that they call over their Watch every Evening at the Time above-mentioned; and every Constable disobeying the said Order, for the first Office to forfeit 10l. the second Office 20l. and the third Offence 30l. and one Months Imprisonment, (the Money to go towards defraying the Charge of the Watch.) And that no Constable presume to go off of his Duty, or leave his Watch-house, unless on his Rounds, which he is to go once in an Hour, or two at farthest, under the abovementioned Penalties; there being nothing more common than for a Constable, after he has impanelled his Watch, either to go home to Bed, or else to the next Tavern, and leave the Care of the Inhabitants and the Watch to a drunken Beadle; by which Neglect in the Constable, many a House and Shop has been broke open, many a drunken Gentleman abused by the mercenary Beadles and Watchmen, by extorting Money from them to buy Drink, as well as many a Villain let go for a Bribe.

Secondly, That the Number of Watchmen in every Parish be doubled, and none younger than Twenty four, nor older than Forty-five at most employed, and their Pay doubled; That every Watchman be sworn to a due Observance of his Duty and the Orders which shall be given him in Print, at the Time of his Entrance, by the Constable, who should be authorized for that Purpose. And that no Constable discharge his Watch till Six in the Morning from Michaelmas to Lady-Day, nor before Five from Lady-Day to Michaelmas. And that each Constable discharge his Watch in his own proper Person at the Times abovementioned, under the Penalty aforesaid, and call them over at the Time of discharging them. That every Watchman be armed with a Brace of Pistols and a Hanger at the Parish Charege; (but as these are of dangerous Consequence, the Watchmen should be regulated according to a further Scheme printed in this Paper the 10th of October) that each be loaded every Night before the Constable with Powder and Ball, and drawn the next Morning at the Time of their Discharge, and left in the Care of the Constable till next Night. And that every Watchman be hired [....] Constable and Churchwarden and at the time sign an Instrument with a Penalty for his true and due Performance of his Duty for that Time, to prevent his leaving his Place on any Reprimand, or the like on Male-Behaviour. That no Watchmen beat his Round or call the Hour, it being very notorious that when a Villain is breaking open a House, the Watchman, by calling the Hour, gives Notice of his Coming, the Rogue has then nothing to do, but to conceal himself till the Watchman is gone by , and then he knows he has another Hour to work, in which Time he seldom misses to effect his Villainy; and by this Means most of te Shops and House are broke open in the Night, which, by the Watchman's going his Round silently would be prevented, and the Rogue often-times apprehended, by coming upon him unawares. That the Watch go their rounds every Hour, two together, without talking, unless upon a Challenge of Who's there? Who comes there? or the like. And every Watchman that shall come drunk up to his Watch, to be found so when upon it, or be absent at the Time of calling over either at Night or Morning, or otherwise neglecting his Duty, or disobeying his Orders, which as it will be Perjury so to do, shall for the first Offence be whipt and forfeit forty Shillings, and for the second Offence be pilloryed and discharged. These may seem to some very severe Injunctions and Impositions; but it is certain that our Watch have for many Years past been very negligent, (not to say any worse of them) and without a strict Regulation and Reform of THEM I dare undertake to say twill not be in that Power of human Prudence to prevent STREET ROBBERIES.

Thirdly, That every Street-Robber that shall be taken, whether Man or Woman, upon Conviction of the Fact, be executed in this Manner; if a Man Convict, as soon as he has received his Sentence, he shall have one hundred Lashes on his naked Back with a Wire Whip, and three Days afterwards be hanged in the same Street where the Robbery was committed. If a Woman as soon as convicted and Sentence past, she shall have a hundred Lashes in the same Manner as the Man, and be burnt the Fourth Day in Smithfield. Every convicting Prosecutor to receive the Reward allowed for such Conviction in open Court, as soon the Verdict is brought in, without any Fee or Reward whatsoever; and the Charge of such Prosecution to be sustained by the Parish where such Robbery was committed. Tho' this rigorous and severe way of Punishment may startle some at first, yet let such consider the Nature of the Thing, and the absolute Necessity there is for it; for is a base Set of Miscreants, who are so abandoned to Vice and Villainy will, in Defiance of all Laws Human and Divine, become the Pest of Society, and laugh even at the extremest Punishment which the Law has at present provided (HANGING) I think it highly reasonable and necessary, there should be some more severe Punishment constituted for them than at present, that DEATH might appear in his Ushering in more terrible, and the Execution more exquisite and dreadful; for it's Severity in the Punishment that must deter others from these Villainies: The unheard of Barbarities in these STREET-ROBBERS, do in strict Justice require as severe Punishments; and till they find it, all Efforts to suppress them will be useless and vain. I know very well none but the King and the Legislative Power can do this; and as the Sitting of the Parliament is near  approaching, I humbly and earnestly recommend it to the serious Consideration of our Worthy Representatives of this City, to think of the Heads of Bill to lay before that August Assembly, and heartily wish them Success in their Undertaking. For surely nothing can more redound to their Honour, than to excite themselves in the Defence of the Liberties of that City they represent, and which is now so villainously disturbed by a Set of Miscreants, that us Inhabitants with the utmost Hazard go about it, to transact their lawful Affairs, to the great Decay of the Trade of this NOBLE CITY.

Fourthly, if his Majesty at any time upon the Conviction of a Street-Robber whether Man or Woman, should (our of his Royal Goodness and natural Propensity to Mercy) be pleased to mitigate the Sentence of Death by Transportation, I wish it was humbly moved to his Sacred Person that the Offender might first be branded in the Forehead with these Letters (S.R.); and then transported for 21 years, under the Penalty of suffering as above on returning within the Time; then, like CAIN, all Mankind would know them.

I question not but if these four Articles (with the former inferred in this Paper) were strictly put in Execution, the Number and Mischiefs of these Miscreants would soon lessen./ For there's nothing more in it than to stop the Cause, and the Effect will naturally cease; and I believe the Articles with the former point out the Way in a good measure to it.

London Evening Post, 31 October 1728

Wednesday 2 July 2014

King's Cross to Oxford Street (via Regent's Park)

A new walk ... click on the pic ...

Thursday 5 June 2014


New Cross Gate to Deptford ... click on pic ...

Stoke Newington to Wapping ... click on pic ...

Thursday 22 May 2014


I've been curious about this book for ages, because I follow Fern Riddell on twitter, and hints about its genesis have been scattered through her twitter feed, not least the remarkable discovery of an advertisement for a 'Femme de Voyage or Artificial Fanny' - the original blow-up sex toy. The Femme de Voyage may or may not have existed (as Riddell readily acknowledges in her blog post, it may be the work of a contemporary or latter-day satirist / hoaxer) but the Victorians' interest in sex - and having good sex - was very real, which brings us to The Victorian Guide to Sex.

The book is not a big academic tome on Victorian sexuality - although backed-up by rigorous research - but playfully presented as a genuine Victorian sex/relationships manual. Such books existed ... I have a copy of Augustus Gardner's The Conjugal Relationship as to Health (1894) on my shelf (doesn't every one?), one of the more finger-wagging examples of the breed, not least on 'personal pollution' amongst women, i.e. masturbation ... 'much of the worthlessness, lassitude and physical and mental feebleness attributable to the modern woman are to be ascribed to these habits'. Gardner, however, is/was just one voice (and not necessarily a great read) whereas Riddell brings together her compendious knowledge of 19C sex/relationship books, to present a synthesised fictional manual for the young (or young-at-heart) Victorian.

This could go awry but it's a nice pastiche and the result is very interesting and worthwhile - and something you wouldn't get from, say, just picking up an old copy of Gardner or one of his contemporaries. Rather, the modern reader obtains a fascinating and comprehensive insight into the advice our ancestors could obtain on sexual matters. This includes not only more familiar topics (e.g. masturbation - very much against) but the Victorian conception of healthy sexuality - i.e. within a conjugal relationship and, surprise surprise, involving mutual pleasure (albeit perhaps heavily geared towards conception). Riddell says she wants us to move away from the modern idea of Victorians as either moustache-twirling perverts or repressed piano-leg coverers, and she does a great job of presenting a much more balanced view.

There are, of course, much bigger, more detailed books on Victorian sex, not least from the golden age of Victorian Studies, such as Steven Marcus's The Other Victorians, or Ronald Pearsall's The Worm in the Bud (checking my copy of the latter, I find it's a 1993 edition, withdrawn from Croydon public libraries - Croydon's loss is my gain). Riddell's focus on the sex/relationship manual, however, provides a slightly different way into the subject - and basically this is a fun primer, not so much for hard-core (cough) Victorianist researchers, as those with a general interest or curiosity in the subject. The only negative, perhaps, is that the pastiche format means there's an absence of citations (although a list of principal sources at the back).

I'm also still a bit sceptical that Vigor's Horse Action Saddle was anything other than an exercise machine - but don't let that hold you back ... I agree that the hand-turned mechanical spurting dildo couldn't really double as anything else.

There's a sentence I won't be writing again in a hurry.

Monday 19 May 2014

Dead Carcasses of Dogs and Cats

At last, out they set; and with them a Torrent of Mob bursts through the Gate. Amongst the lower Rank, and working People, the idlest, and such as are most fond of making Holidays, with Prentices and Journeymen to the meanest Trades, are the most honourable Part of these floating Multitudes. All the rest are worse. The Days being known beforehand, they are a Summons to all Thieves and Pickpockets, of both Sexes, to meet. Great Mobs are a Safeguard to another another, which makes these Days Jubilee, on which old Offenders, and all which dare not shew their Heads on any other, venture out of their Holes; and they resemble free Marts, where there is an Amenity for all Outlaws. All the Way, from Newgate to Tyburn, is one continued Fair, for Whores and Rogues of the meaner Sort. Here the most abandon'd Rakehells may light on Women as shameless; Here Trollops, all in Rags, may pick up Sweethearts of the same Politeness. And there are none so lewd, so vile, or so indigent, of either Sex, but at the time and Place aforesaid, they may find a Paramour. Where the Crowd is the least, which, among the Inhabitants, is no where very thin, the Mob is the rudest; and here, jostling one another, and kicking Dirt about, are the most innocent Pasttimes. Now you see a Man, without Provocation, push his Companion in the Kennel; and two Minutes after, the Sufferer trip up the other's Heel's and the first Aggressor lies rolling in the more solid Mire; And he is the prettiest Fellow among them, who is the least shock'd at Nastiness, and the most boisterous in his Sports. No modern Rabble can long subsist without their darling Cordial, the grand Preservative of Sloth, Jeneva, that infallible Antidote against Care and frugal Reflection; which, being repeated, removes all Pain of sober Thought, and in a little Time cures the tormenting Sense of the most pressing Necessities. The Traders, who vend it among the Mob on these Occasions, are commonly the worst of both Sexes, but most of them weather-beaten Fellows, that have mispent their Youth. Here stands an old Sloven, in a Wig actually putrify'd, squeez'd up in a Corner, and recommends a Dram of it to the Goers-by. There another, in Rags, with several Bottles in a Basket, flits about with it, where the Throng is the thinnest, and tears his Throat with crying his Commodity; and further off, you may see the Head of a third, who has ventur'd in the Middle of the Current, and minds his Business, as he is fluctuating in the irregular Stream; Whilst higher up, an old decrepit Woman sits dreaming with it on a [illegible]; and over against her, in a Soldier's Coat, her termagant Daughter sells the Sots-Comfort with great Dispatch. The intelligible Sounds that are heard among them are Oaths and bile Expressions with Wishes of Damnation at every other Word, pronounced promiscuously against themselves, or those these speak to, without the least Alteration in the Meaning.
     As these undisciplined Armies have no particular Enemies to encounter, but Cleanliness and good Manners, so nothing is more entertaining to them, than the dead Carcasses of Dogs and Cats, or, for want of them, Rags, and all Trompery that is capable of imbibing Dirt. These, well trampled in Filth, and, if possible, of the worst Sort, are, by the Ringleaders, flung as high and as far as a strong Arm can carry them, and commonly directed where the Throng is the thickest; Whilst these ill-boding Meteors are shooting thro' the Air, the Joy and Satisfaction of the Beholders is visible in every Countenance and Gesture; and more audibly express'd by the great Shouts that accompany them in their Course; and, as the Projectiles come nearer the Earth, are turn'd into loud Laughter, which is more or less violent in Proportion to the Mischief promis'd by the Fall. And to see a good Suit of Cloaths spoiled by this piece of Gallantry, is the tip-top of their Diversion, which they seldom go home without enjoying: For tho' no People in their Senses would venture among them on Foot, in any tolerable Dress, yet there are young Rakes of Fortune, who care not what they lavish or destroy. Of these the maddest Sort will often, after a Night's Debauch, mix with Crowds, and thrust themselves in the Midst of the most abominable Rabble, where they seldom fail of meeting with such Adventures.
     Tho' before setting out, the Prisoners took care to swallow what they could, to be drunk, and stifle their Fear; yet the Courage that strong Liquours can give, wears off, and the Way they have to go  being considerable, they are in Danger of recovering, and, without repeating the Dose, Sobriety would often overtake them: For this Reason they must drink as they go; and the Cart stops for that Purpose three or four, and sometimes half a dozen Times, or more, before they come to their Journey's End. These Halts always encrease the Numbers about the Criminals; and more prodigiously, when they are very notorious Rogues. The whole March, with every incident of it, seems to be contribved on Purpose, to take off and divert the Thoughts of the Condemned from the only Thing that should employ them. Thousands are pressing to mind the Looks of them. Their quondam Companions, more eager than others, break through all Obstacles to take Leave: And here you may see young Villains, that are proud of being so, (if they knew any of the Malefactors) tears the Cloaths off their Backs, by squeezing and creeping thro' the Legs of Men and Horses, to shake Hands with him, and not to lose, before so much Company, the Reputation there is in having had such a valuable Acquaintance. It is incredible what a Scene of Confusion all this often makes, which yet grows worse near the Gallows; and the violent Efforts of the most sturdy and resolute of the Mob on one Side, and the potent Endeavours of rugged Gaolers, and others, to beat them off, on the other; the terrible Blows that are struck, the Heads that are broke, the Pieces of swingeing Sticks, and Blood, that fly about, the Men that are knock'd down and trampled upon, are beyond Imagination; whilst the Dissonance of Voices, and the Variety of Outcries, for different Reasons, that are heard there, together with the Sound of more distant Noises, make up a Discord not to be parallel'd. If we consider, besides all this, the mean Equipages of the Sheriffs Officers, and the scrubby Horses that compose the Cavalcade, the Irregularity of the March, and the Want of Order among all the Attendants, we shall be forced to confess, that these Processions are very void of that decent Solemnity that would be required to make them awful. At the very Place of Execution, the most remarkable Scene is a vast Multitude on Foot, intermixed with many Horsemen and Hackney-Coaches, all very dirty, or else cover'd with Dust, that are either abusing one another, or else staring at the Prisoners, among whom there is commonly very little Devotion; and in that, which is practis'd and dispatch'd there, of Course, there is as little good Sense as there is Melody. It is possible that a Man of extraordinary Holiness, by anticipating the Joys of Heaven, might embrace a violent Death in such Raptures, as would dispose him to the singing of Psalms: But to require this Exercise, or expect it promiscuously of every Wretch that comes to be hang'd, is as wild and extravagant as the Performance of it is commonly frightful and impertinent: Besides this, there is always at that Place, such a mixture of Oddnesses and Hurry, that from what passes, the best dispos'd Spectator seldom can pick out any thing that is edifying or moving.
Here I must observe, that the Possibility of Pardons and Reprieves, that often come very late, and which, with or without Grounds, most Criminals continue to hope for, 'till they are hang'd, is another great Clog, that keeps attach'd to the World those that are less abandon'd, and more relenting than the Generality of them; and who, without that Hindrance, would, in all Probability, prepare themselves for certain Death, which overtakes many whilst they are still doubting of it. The Ordinary and Executioner, having performed their different Duties, with small Ceremony, and equal Concern, seem to be tired, and glad it is over.
    The Tragedy being ended, the next Entertainment is a Squabble between the Surgeons and the Mob, about the dead Bodies of the Malefactors that are not to be hanged in Chains. They have suffer'd the Law, (cries the Rabble,) and shall have no other Barbarities put upon them: We know what you are, and will not leave them before we see them buried. If the others are numerous, and resolute enough to persist in their Enterprize, a Fray ensues: From whence I shall take an Opportunity of saving something upon the Occasion of it. I have no Design that savours of Cruelty, or even Indecency, towards a human Body; but shall endeavour to demonstrate, that the superstitious Reverence of the Vulgar for a Corpse, even of a Malefactor, and the strong Aversion they have against dissecting them, are prejudicial to the Publick: For as Health and sound Limbs are the most desirable of all Temporal Blessings, so we ought to encourage the Improvement of Physick and Surgery, wherever it is in our Power. The Knowledge of Anatomy is inseparable from the Studies of either; and it is al|most impossible for a Man to understand the Inside of our Bodies, without having seen several of them skilfully dissected. Kings and Princes are open'd, and have their Hearts and Bowels taken out, and embalm'd. It is not then Ignominious, much less offensive to the dead Body, which may be interred with as much Decency, after Dissection, as if it never had been touch'd. But suppose that many of our common Thieves were not to be buried at all, and some of them made Skeletons; and that several Parts of others, variously prepared, should be preserved for the Instruction of Students? What if it was a Disgrace to the surviving Relations of those, who had Lectures read upon their Bodies, and were made use of for Anatomical Preparations? The Dishonour would seldom reach beyond the Scum of the People; and to be dissected, can never be a greater Scandal than being hanged. The University of Leyden in Holland have a Power given them by the Legislature to demand, for this Purpose, the Bodies of ordinary Rogues executed within that Province; but, with us, it is the general Complaint of all Professors of Anatomy, that they can get none to dissect: Where then shall we find a readier Supply; and what Degree of People are fitter for it than those I have named? When Persons of no Possessions of their own, that have slipp'd no Opportunity of wronging whomever they could, die without Restitution, indebted to the Publick, ought not the injur'd Publick to have a Title to, and the Disposal of, what the others have left? And is any Thing more reasonable, than that they should enjoy that Right, especially when they only make use of it for commendable Purposes? What is done for the common Good, every Member of the Society may, at one time or other, receive an Advantage from; and therefore quarrelsome People, that love fighting, act very preposterously and inconsistent with their Interest, when they venture to have their Bones broke, for endeavouring to deprive Surgeons of the Means to understand the Structure of them.

British Journal, 13 March 1725