Thursday 17 December 2015

The Archery Rooms

A garbled and verbose description of the 'Archery Rooms', which appears to be hosting a masquerade ball of a middling sort, patronised by shop-assistants and the like (and ladies of easy virtue). All I can find on the internet is that this venue was at 26 Bath Place, New Road, and also used for chartist lectures and meetings. If you know any more, please do let me know. 

There is a place of amusement professedly of this description, located in the New-road, not far from Tottenham-court-road. Those who wish to visit it cannot fail to identify it - being blessed with those very necessary articles vulgarly called eyes, but scientifically known by the name of organs of vision - by observing the exterior adorned in various places with bulls' eyes, with straw retinas.
    Now any one in his every-day senses would imagine that he might have his "dozen o'arrows" for his threepence, and shoot all round the target with perfect satisfaction to himself and to the proprietor; but he may be satisfied it is all moonshine. Not that there is not a deal of archery going on too, but the targets being animated, and fixed upon locomotive crutches, why they may naturally be allowed to put in a negative as to being shot at indiscriminately; and there can be little doubt that steel-pointed shafts would be not altogether so congenial as those of softer construction and tipped with gold.
    The visitor having discovered the whereabouts, walks up-stairs to door No.1, and after making the proprietor aware of his presence by ringing an alarm, he is ushered into the passage, and if he be fortunate enough to possess a ticket, he is suffered to progress on payment of a sixpence; but if he has no ticket, there are no hopes of his further advance unless he advance a shilling. He is then asked whether he will leave his hat, which, if he be green, he will do, and will retire with an exchange, of course, not for the better. He then walks to door No.2, which a little imp of vagabondism unlocks, and, immediately on his left, he finds himself at the approach of the "Archery Rooms;" he walks down three steps, and he is in the very vortex of -----— Instead of archery, what does he see? Servant girls, who serve more masters than one, dressed a la Grecque; French girls, rather furrowed by time, however, with short petticoats, barely reaching below the knee, and too much shrunk above to prevent the display of the bust; in fact, fig-leaves in a state of expansion - flesh-coloured stockings, and white Adelaides, unlaced at the top; married ladies, who occasionally make and keep appointments with unmarried gentlemen; and unmarried maidens who are perfectly indifferent to the ceremonies of the church, and who please according to the favors received; lawyers' clerks; linen-drapers' shopmen and handicraftsmen, transformed into poor imitations of something above their own comprehension, and that of every body else; automaton sailors, frightened at the popping of a soda-water bottle! fighting gladiators, who never touched anything more ponderous than a bodkin; Bedouin Arabs, stiffer than a stretched rope; opera-dancers, whose utmost art is to double shuffle; ostrich feathers in extreme lassitude; velvet bonnets; ravens' wings; dirty stockings; straw cigars! hot water and sugar, mystified with gin; strong smells; sweat and filth; - all these he will meet with at the Archery Rooms - and more. 
    The masquerade, it is said, would take it as a great boon if the proprietor would convert one of his little dark rooms into a dressing-room; for who, with common decency, which no doubt encumbers them, can like to disrobe in the aforesaid passage, through which only ingress and egress is maintained. This is strictly true, and many a ragged shirt has fluttered in the breeze of the two doors, to the admiration of the comers-in and goers-out. Very few persons like to make a public exhibition of dirty flesh and raggedness, and the proprietor knowing this, ought to have a little regard to the delicate and complicated nerves of his supporters. It is not pleasant to see a youth with begrimed legs walk into a pair of loosely-woven blue-striped stockings, and know that, by his exertion in the coming dance, the perspiration will ooze out, dirt and all, and be disseminated in a very attenuated, though palpable, form, into the olfactory nerve of the bystanders. Besides, those ladies who have had the pleasure of witnessing his little innocent preliminaries, will not allow the fact to remain with themselves, and the poor fellow, instead of sporting his twelve inches of foot, will have a chance after all his anxiety to sit alone ingloriously in his dirt, with his yard of clay before him.
    Every one is free to visit the Archery Rooms, in masquerade or not, as fancy or necessity may advise; and, doubtless, nudity might be accommodated if impudence would push him on, but things having been, in the long course of ages, tortured from their natural shapes, art steps into the place of native innocence and simplicity, and Monmouth-street finery covers the dirt of the back settlements.
    The well-dressed young gentlemen who may always be seen at the "Archery" are the young would-be Waterfords of the day, had they the means; and had they, no doubt they would be terrible fellows - terrible in the extreme - there would be no withstanding them; the days of the Mohawks would be revived; but, on second thoughts, it may be questionable whether dare-devilism would expend itself on any other than inanimate objects. Fortunately where the money of a marquis can screen him from the more severe penalties of the law, these droll young men about Town, not having that panacea, are subjected to its visits, to their great and excessive inconvenience. This, likely enough, accounts for their sprees taking place in the dead of the night, when they may prowl about in perfect safety from the police. Accident might, perhaps, lead a policeman from his usual watering-house and a short pipe, and he might catch one of these Waterfords with a knocker in his hand, or a drain-spout on his back, and a magistrate might fine him five pounds, in, in default &c.; but what a difficult job he would have to raise the cash. He would have to provide an intimate wit a pair of hob-nailed boots to run all over the town to collect the money from his friends, and he would inevitably lose his situation behind the counter.
    But to return to the Archery Rooms. About two o'clock in the morning, the announcement is made that "Coffee is ready." It is well that the proprietor has given it a name, as it would sorely puzzle any one to classify it, other than something wet and warm. Now coffee, or whatever else it may be, is not to be had for nothing, and money at the Archery Rooms is much more scarce than may be imagined; the inference, therefore, is, there are very few gentlemen who play the amiable by honouring that place of refreshment with their presence, or that of their fair partners. It is ludicrous to observe how many excuses they are compelled to adopt to prevent a shabby appearance with their partners; some collect in groups, and parade the room; others seem to discover that they have sticks, and look with great admiration and affection on them; many appear quite unconscious of any announcement having been made and anxiously enquire when the next set of quod-rilles (with particular emphasis on the first syllable) will be danced; and when the discordant strains issue from the elevated orchestra, and three or four half-starved cripples of musicians, styled by the proprietor, "Weippart's band increased," it is quite gratifying to see their faces lighted up with such sudden satisfaction. To it they go again in an uninterrupted whirl, till the tallow-dips sink into their sockets, their peculiar smell overpowering the odiferous exhalations already dripping down the walls, and the company adjourn to the coffee-room, where a "free and easy" at which a daughter who has been dancing and selling flowers all the evening, presides, terminates the amusements. Such is a sight and general sketch of the "Archery Rooms."

The Town, 8 July 1837

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Black Sall

The Town was a "lads' mag" (to borrow a modern phrase) that flourished in the late 1830s, early 1840s, aimed at 'men about town'. The tone was often semi-pornographic, with features including 'Sketches of Courtezans', describing the life histories of well-known prostitutes, and the occasional description of 'low life' in the Pierce Egan style. The description below covers this ground - and I apologise, in advance, for 1830s racism, orientalism, sexism &c. - painting a fascinating picture of 'fast' life in the maritime world of the East End, and early-Victorian prostitution.


"The lady with the diamonds and laces,
By day may heighten her charms.
But Sall, without any such graces,
At night lies as warm in your arms.

The night, when her sable o'ershades us,
Will veil all the pomp of the day;
Then Sall is as good as my lady,
And cats are all equally grey."

Our readers will no doubt be struck with the contrast which our present sketch forms to the bland elegance of that which graced the columns of our last number.
 settlement so long sought for by Mr. Buckingham in reference to the East, nor do we allude to the eastern land of the genii of our childhood - "The Arabian Nights." We refer only to the eastern hemisphere of our vast metropolis; and to aid us in our treatise, and to illustrate our views, we have taken the liberty of introducing Black Sarah, the far-famed mollisher of Radcliffe-highway, to the notice of our friends in the West.
  Oh, gentle readers, few of you, we fear, have busied yourselves with oriental research; few, indeed, are wise in the affairs of our Eastern settlements. We must explain: we do not mean the
    Blue-gate Fields is a small narrow turning about the centre of Ratcliffe-highway, leading into the back road, St. George's in the East; facing it in the Highway is a pawnbroker's and a gin shop; near to the top of it, in the road, are East India Company's Chinese and Lascar barracks, for the last thirty years, and we believe now, under the superintendence of Mr. Gole. - These same Lascars and Chinamen, though odd-looking persons in appearance, are still prone to the natural indulgence of the sex, and what our best-beloved cousin, the beauteous Ellen Clarke is to the Duke, the count and others, such is Black Sarah to these eastern wights; and the proximate situation of the before-mentioned Blue-gate Fields, where she resides, to the barracks, makes it very convenient for these luxurious sons of India to call and revel in the dusky charms of the finely-proportioned worsted-headed Sall.
    Sall, it will be instantly perceived, is not one of the insipid things they call genteel; she may be compared in maritime analogy, to a Dutch-built piratical schooner, carrying on a free trade under the black flag; ergo, in the same spirit, the ladies of her calibre in the west, may be said to resemble the pleasure yachts of noblemen and gentlemen, and to a certain extent, they more than bear out the metaphor. But let not our friends be deceived in Sarah - she is better than she looks:

"For 'tis vain to guess,
At woman by appearances;
They paint, and patch their imperfections
Of intellectual complexions,
And daub their tempers o'ver with washes
As artificial as their faces." - Hudibras

"Beauty soon grows familiar to the lover, fades to the eye, and palls upon the sense;" at any rate, it is evident our jolly Jack Tars entertain this opinion in its fullest sense, and act upon it oo; for many and many a stout and lusty lagger has bourne down upon, and hoisted the British standard over, our sable privateer, Black Sall.
    Sall is a good creature in her way. She never was taken before the cadi (for we must give the beak his eastern appellation) upon any change worse than "drunk and disorderly;" and she had been heard to declare that she "niver had more dan two mons wid labour since she valked de High-vay;" or, to use our own classic phraseology, since she has done the peripatetic on the pavé of the "city of (gin) palaces".
    We have heard talk of eastern magnificence, of seraglios, of baths, of mosaic pavements, of temples and mosques, dedicated to the worship of the Prophet Mahomet; but our eastern sketch treats not of them, and yet there is much of oriental luxurious indolence about the character of our women and men of the east end of the town. If we travel into the regions of Shadwell, Gravel-lane, the Match-walk, or Wapping, and take a peep up the little courts and allies there, we see stretched on the chairs and beds of the lower apartments, in true Sardinapalus-like style, the jolly Jacks smoking, not the hookah, like the Mussulman, but the short dudee, and beside them sit or squat, strictly after the oriental fashion, their sultanas for the time being, clad in the gorgeous and varied colour of the rainbow; and in the evening, the ear is saluted, not with the "lascivious pleasings of a lute" but the enlivening scrapings of a fiddle. Jack does not sit, like the great caliph, quietly, to observe his girls dance, but, in right good earnest, enters into the sport himself, toe and heeling it in company with his Moll, black or white; for Jack, as we said before, is not one of those "d-----d nasty particular sorts of fellow as stands nice about the colour of the craft, so long as she's a fast sailer." Such is black Sarah, and therefore a favourite with black and white; she is the very life and soul of the neighbouring lush cribs, and sticks to her locality as if she know no other. Who is there that knows anything of the Highway that will not immediately recognise our friend Sall, attired exactly as our artist has represented her, walking from ken to crib, in company with Cocoa Bet, Bet Moses, the Mouth of the Nile, Salmony-faced Mary Anne, Peg Mitchell, Poll Sellers, Kit Fury, Bet Blake, Long Nance Taylor, and others, who surround and form a kind of convoy to her of the black flag.
    The gay daughters of Eve, in this quarter, are rarely seen in bonnets; their morning habiliments are racy in the extreme; they actually walk the streets in a short bed-gown, or night-jacket. In the afternoon they dress and visit the public-houses as regularly as our fair ones in the west do the theatres. The Half Moon and Seven Stars in the Highway, the Ship and Shears and the Duke of York in High-street, Shadwell, and the Shakspeare's Head in Shakspeare's walk, we may mention as houses frequented by Sall and her numerous circle of bewitching satellites.

The Town, 8 July 1837

Tuesday 29 September 2015

A Dress Lodger

Dress lodgers were prostitutes who were kept in permanent 'debt' to a madam/pimp for the cost of a dress which the procurer 'loaned' to them, often their only garment, without which they could not leave the house - a form of sex slavery. They were sent out on the streets to pick up men, and carefully watched, in case they ran.

‘Mrs. Barrett had two dress lodgers (who gave up their infamous earnings to her) when I resided with her. Mrs. Barrett used to say to them at night, “Come, girls, the sooner you get out, the more chance you will have.” Mrs. Barrett had all the money they produced; if they were backward to go out, she would threaten them, and sometimes beat them. She would call 3l. 10s. a bad week’s work; a great number of boys under the age of 15 would come to the house, mostly on Sunday evenings. They were encouraged to do so. About the latter end of last December one of her dress lodgers left, and the same night Mrs. Barnett told me to get my bonnet and shawl and accompany her and Mrs. Phillips, her aunt, who keeps a house of the same description, over London-bridge. Near the Town-hall we met Charlotte Waller. We went out to look for honest girls. Mrs. Barnett said, ‘My dear, where are you going?’ She said she was looking for her father, and had travelled 112 miles, and could not find her parent. Mrs. Barrett said she hoped she was a good girl, that I was her servant, and that she wanted another to nurse her children and inquired if she would go home with her. The girl appeared surprised, but after a little consideration went along with us. When we got home, the girl appeared astonished at the house, and Phillips and Barnett talked together in the Hebrew language. I was then told to take her up stairs to bed, and by my mistress’s order I brought her clothes down, and the next morning took up a light dress, which she at first refused to wear, as she said she was in mourning; but on my telling her my mistress never allowed her servants to wear their own clothes, she consented. She had some money about her, which I took to my mistress, by her order. The girl had a bundle when we met her, which Barnett took, and I don’t know what came of it. The girl appeared surprised that she was not set out to work. The next night Barnett took her out, and they returned with a stout gentleman, between whom and Mrs. Barnett some conversation took place. Liquor was sent for, and Charlotte Waller was forced to drink; she was then sent up stairs ... I heard a shriek and went up stairs; the stout man was there with Miss Waller, who said ‘You are a witness to my murder’. My mistress called me down and scolded me, saying that I had no business there. The man went away out at the back door. After this Miss Waller was compelled to receive the visits of some man every night. Mr. Barnett was always watching her. I thought, if she was a virtuous girl, she was a great fool. On the following Sunday she was ill, and could not go out. Mrs. Barnett got her a bottle of physic, and brought home some boys. Waller was forced to go out afterwards but walked with great difficulty. On Tuesday, she said she would not go out any longer, she would sit on the steps of a door and die, before she would pursue such a horrible course of life any longer. Mrs. Barnett abused her, and she said she should not skulk there again, although she was very ill, and people remarked, ‘God help the poor creature, where did she come from?’ When she could scarcely move about, Mrs. Barnett used to abuse her dreadfully. Waller was a quiet inoffensive girl. I knew that Phillips and Barnett had agreed to divide her earnings, because they were both together when she was picked up and decoyed to Coburg-street. She often lamented her situation to me. She was sent to the hospital and died there.’

11 March 1835 Times

Thursday 10 September 2015

'London Brothels'


In our writings under this head, we wish it to be clearly understood that we are not the advocates of vice and profligacy. Our sketches are intended to serve a great moral purpose; and we shall endeavour to say nothing to offend the most fastidious.
    It has been calculated by the society for the prevention of juvenile prostitution, that, exclusive of the city, there are 1500 brothels in the metropolis, and we may presume this census only includes the houses of a public description, and principally in low neighbourhoods. The objects of this association, at once recommend themselves to the consideration of the humane and benevolent. As good wine needs no bush, so the cause of real philanthropy needs little comment at the hands of a public writer. It is not liekly that we should find amongst the 1500 houses many of the private aristocratical nunneries with which the west end abounds. In the most stylish streets where, from appearances, you would imagine, that none but the patrician hosts hold sway, we find, emblazoned in the Court Guide, the names and residences of the common prostitutes of ton. Jermyn-street, Cleveland-row, Bury-street, St. James’s Place, Piccadilly, Regent-street, and other streets in St. James’s may be mentioned as places where they are located. Again, in the fashionable purlieus of Portman-square, the ‘birds of paradise’ nestle in flocks, supported in splendour and luxury, in open defiance of popular prejudice and parochial interference. Somerset-street, Hereford-street, Connaught-terrace, Seymour-street, Berkeley-street, are all alike favoured in the season by the visits of the ‘terrestrial feathered race.’ That they are birds of passage is evident from the fact of their migrating with the rest of the elite of town, either to watering places or inland cities of amusement, as soon as the west-end of London assumes a dull appearance. In York-street, Baker-street, we find a brothel kept positively, for the sole accommodation of a noble duke, and he far advanced in years. Of this house, and some others, we shall treat more fully, under the head of Sketches of Courtezans in the future numbers of The Town. We shall, goodnaturedly, set forth the pecadilloes of his grace, and his fair hair’d inamorato; for we quarrel not with gallantry, and war not with the fair, however frail they may be. Still we can safely promise our readers much amusement at the expensive of his graceless grace.
    Lord Viscount Gage lately presided at a meeting of the society we have alluded to. His lordship concluded by stating that they had met to oppose the great Moloch which has impressed the foulest blot on a civilized community; the abandonment of thousands upon thousands of poor innocent female children to hopeless infamy and vice. We know not if the noble duke, so creditably mentioned, has enrolled his name amongst the list of subscribers to this laudable institution; perhaps his grace thinks it better to have a interview with the poor deluded creatures, and in private bestow that charity and advice, which would appear like ostentation to offer in public.
    The private brothels of the aristocracy seldom contain more than three women; the lady of the house, or lady abbess, generally occupies the parlours; Lord Squander keeps a lady on the first floor; and the second is rented by a damsel of doubtfl age, possessing the relics of great personal attraction, who piques herself upon her small ancle, &c., and whose friend does the mysterious, calls himself Mr. James, and is designated by his mistress as “my city man”. The soubriquet of “city man” is sometimes, however, changed for “my strawberry friend;” for, if the gentleman happens to have a penchant for that fruit, or any other, he gets baptized accordingly. In like manner, if he has ever, in the plenitude of his liberality, purchased half a dozen pair of silk stockings, for a new year’s gift for the lady, he immediately becomes “my stocking man;” so he is named according to his deeds or predilections.
    We do not mean to assert that these ladies, living thus privately, are constant to their respective protectors; it is the nature of women to this class to be faithless. The lady abbess in the parlours has got a good friend who pays her rent; the receipts of her house are not inconsiderable, considering it all let; still there are rumours than an old gentleman in black, with short inexpressibles, wearing powder and a pig-tail, is occasionally seen knocking at the door; and the big, broad-shouldered fellow from the barracks, who enters the house by the area steps, it is faintly conjectured, is not old Sarah the cook’s ‘cousin’; in fact, the boy that cleans the knives and shoes, upon one occasion, made a communication to Lord Squander’s lady, about the mysterious appearance of a pair of trooper’s boots, that occasionally obtruded themselves upon his notice to be cleaned; that he could not find the master for them, unless, as was faintly conjectured by the boy, he “vos in missus’s bed-room”. Lord Squander’s lady is sometimes seen riding out, in the cab of Lord Squander’s friend; and the top-sawyer  in the second floor, once a week regularly dresses herlsef as a respectable scullion, and is watched to an introducing-house kept by old Madame Somebody, in some street near to such a square.

The Town, June 10 1837

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Strict Ballroom

Sometimes, when you are asked to dinner, your host and hostess will conduct you with them to a ball, your conduct on this occasion, therefore, will form our next subject of comment. The proprieties of ball-room etiquette are very nice and should be carefully studied by those who wish to keep on good terms with that sex which forms the great charm and ornament of all society. Dancing is an accomplishment which, though generally assiduously cultivated by the female sex, is too often neglected or disregarded as a necessary branch of a gentleman's education.In our great public schools no provision is made for it in the academical course; and the boy of good family who is sent to them must learn the art, if he learn it at all, by fits and starts, during his holidays, and, as is very often the case, he will dislike to do so even then, for fear of being laughed at by his schoolfellows for cultivating so effeminate an accomplishment. Nature has made every Frenchman and Frenchwoman agile, and has implanted in all classes as love - almost a passion - for dancing; and if Art were called in to enforce universally on our countrymen the elegancies and proprieties of this delightful exercise, she might, without injury to our more manly virtues, make us "a nation of dancers" as well musicians. Many object to dancing because it has been abused to bad purposes, but is has been abused only in company with many other good things; and if late hours, bad associations, and habits of excitement - often ending in a languor as mischievous as dangerous - are the common results of this exercise, these surely are not inseparable from dancing; and the best way to counteract these results is to provide proper hours, proper places, and proper rules and regulations for its enjoyment.

On entering a ball-room and especially when the company is large, you will perceive several individuals who officiate as 'masters of ceremonies', or stewards for the occasion. We are here, of course, speaking of a public ball-room, for, at a private party, the host and hostess will introduce parties to each other. The duty of the steward is to see that everything is conducted with order and propriety in a way conducive to the enjoyment of the company, and to procure partners for any strangers that may be present. If a stranger see a young lady in the room, apparently disengaged, with whom he desires to dance, the steward will present him to her, unless there be a material difference of rank between the two parties. But a stranger must, on no account, go up to a lady in a public room and ask her to dance with him, as that is considered to be presumption. A ball-room acquaintance does not constitute an acquaintance out of the ball-room, and, therefore, you must not consider that you have a right to address your partner of the night before, should you happen to see her elsewhere. If you find her conversation agreeable, and she appears to find your conversation to her taste, she will give the first sign of recognition herself, on the next occasion of meeting. Do not appear in a ball-room with black gloves on. It is said to be a sign that the person wearing them does not intend to dance, but this is an innovation. White gloves are always the etiquette of a ball-room; and you must be careful not to dance without gloves, as this is considered offensive to a lady. Lead your partner in the dance; do not drag her, or take hold of her hand too tightly.

It may not be considered a disgrace not to be able to dance, as we are not obliged to learn that accomplishment unless we please; but it is quite evident that it is better for those who do not dance to stay away from a public ball-room. But, if anyone in the ball-room ask you, with a kind of sneer: "Don't you dance?" there is no occasion for feeling ashamed to reply in the negative.

A ball-room dress should be as light, and as little cumbersome, as possible - such as, in fact, is most desirable for the purposes of quick movement. Gentlemen should wear black trousers; white waistcoat, or an embroidered black one; black dress coat; black or white neck-cloth; dress boots or pumps; and black silk stockings, with light-coloured gloves. Ladies should have their hair neatly and prettily done, and should not wear flowers and bows of a mixed colour. Dingy white should be avoided in shoes, and other things, and cleaned gloves should never be worn. The top of the ball-room is at the same end as the orchestra, when that is at the end. When the music is in the middle the top is farthest from the door.

If a lady be taken by a gentleman to a ball, he leads her to a seat. While dancing with her, he will pay her exclusive attention, and at the close of a dance will invite her to take refreshments. After leading the lady to her seat, he will leave her with a bow, or, if she think proper, will converse with her for a little time before leaving her. He may claim her hand for one of the subsequent dances, and then he will seek another partner for the ensuing dance.

Usually, both at public and private balls, the dancing is adjourned between twelve and one o'clock to allow time for the supper. To this necessary refreshment, each gentleman must escort his partner in the last dance, or if she has been already engaged for that purpose, he should then offer his services to any lady who may have accompanied him. Should he be alone in the ball-room, it would be polite in him to offer his arm to any lady in the room who is without a companion, and it would be very proper, during the dancing, to engage with a lady for a partner. The gentleman must wait up on the lady whom he has escorted to the supper-table, and not venture to take any refreshment himself until all her wants have been attended to. The gentlemen of the company, in most cases, prefer to stand and wait upon the gentler sex, and when their fair partners have retired (it being considered good manners to do so as soon as the demands of the appetite are satisfied), to sit down to this refection together.

When the ball is approaching its termination, or when the ladies of a party appear desirous to leave the festive scene, the gentlemen who have danced with them will consider it their privilege to call their carriage, and escort them to it; but the gentlemen must be careful not to volunteer their services in escorting their partners home, as that is considered an impropriety. If they have engaged in an animated and agreeable conversation, it may no be out of place, on leaving, to express a respectful hope that the acquaintance may be further cultivated; but this should be only ventured upon in a case where little doubt is entertained of the propriety and acceptability of the offer.

These rules are applicable to private as well as to public balls.

With regard to the dancing itself, we may make a few remarks on the most popular dances, and the etiquette required in engaging in them. The Quadrille may be considered old fashioned by certain young persons, but it will always retain its place in our assemblies as the most pleasant and entertaining dance, and therefore, we give it the first place. It is very easy to learn this dance, for it requires little agility and skill; indeed, little beyond actual walking through the steps is required. If possible, a gentleman will escort his partner to the "top" place; should that be occupied, he will secure the next in position. There were originally six figures in the Quadrille; but, of these, only five are danced now - "Paine's first set," two sets of "Lancers," the "Caledonians," and the "Parisian."

The "Schottische" is the favourite dance of the German peasants, and is a kind of mixture of the waltz and the polka. Some people dance it advancing and retiring, but it is more convenient to dance it to the right and left. In this dance the gentleman will exercise caution in taking hold of his partner's waist; and avoid pressing it, except in the lightest manner, as any such dereliction of good manners may entail angry looks on the part of the lady, and, probably, result in a disinclination on her part, to accept the hand of the offender in future. This caution will apply to the "Waltz" and the "Polka" equally with the "Schottische."

The "Waltz" (which it may be observed, should be pronounced "valtz") is of various kinds; there are the common waltz, the waltz a deux temps, the waltz called the "Redows", and the waltz "Cellarius". Of these, the second is the most fashionable.

The "Polka" is a foreign novelty, and its popularity is almost unprecedented. From its nature, great decorum and propriety are necessary in dancing it; that the lady should lean too heavily on the gentleman, or that the latter should press too closely on his partner, is considered a violation of good manners, which is not tolerated either in private circles or in public assemblies of reputation.

These are the chief dances in vogue. We may here remark that, although it is necessary in a public room to abstain from forcing an acquaintance on anyone, yet acquaintances are made in ball-rooms which, carefully prosecuted, ripen into friendships and not unfrequently terminate in a still dearer connection. Good temper is an essential element of ball-room success. Do not unnecessarily allow any little annoyance resulting from another couple coming into collision with you in the dance, or from your partner being found engaged to another after she has declined the offer of your hand - to irritate you, or to deprive you of the polite calmness which good-breeding requires. Avoid these indications of ill-temper, be polite to your partner, gentlemanly and obliging to all the company with whom you may happen to converse, and your society will be considered acceptable. If these are the necessary formalities of a gentleman's conduct in a ball-room, they may, with a few alterations, comprise those of a lady's on the same occasion. A lady has a perfect right to exercise her own choice in accepting or declining the offer of a gentleman for her hand in a dance and no man of sense would consider a refusal in the light of a personal objection, or resent it as a personal insult. It is only necessary that politeness and proper consideration should be shown in the manner of the lady declining the offer; of course, she should never, either from a motive of vanity, or from a change of temper, or a whim, accept another partner after such a refusal. A lady should always adopt this simple rule of good-breeding when she refuses to dance. In the ball-room, she should be neatly but not gaudily dressed, graceful and gentle, and, at the same time, cautious not to overstep the bounds of propriety and modesty, and she may rely upon it that she will never want a partner in the dance, or continue without  the companionship of a gentleman through the joyous whirl of life.

'The Science of Etiquette, Deportment and Dress', in The London Journal, 16 May 1857

Friday 21 August 2015

St George in the East

Ratcliff-highway is the Haymarket of the East-end, with filthy paint instead of gaudy gilding, with beershops instead of cafes, with calico and cheap finery instead of velvet and silk. Here congregate sailors from all parts of the world, to waste in squalid debauchery the hard earnings of long voyages; and here are to be seen such specimens of womanhood as appal to the eye and cast a blight on the imagination. One who knows it well, who has spent the best part of ten years in the midst of it, who has laboured as few could labour to do some good, temporal as well as spiritual, to its teeming thousands, tells a sad story of it. This gentleman, the Rev. C.F.Lowder, M.A., in his "Five Years in St. George's Mission" (and he has the same story to tell when he has nearly doubled those years) gives us a glimpse of what the parish of St. George-in-the-East was and is.

"Within the boundaries of this immense parish (of over 50,000 souls) lies the greater portion of the London Docks. Ratcliff-highway, so notorious for deeds of violence, scenes of debauchery, and flagrant vice, runs right through, and is chiefly contained within, it. Its population is for the most part connected with the docks or river; it abounds in lodging houses for sailors, public houses, dancing and concert rooms, and various low places of amusement; brothels swarm in it, and their wretched inmates are permitted to flaunt their sin and finery and ply their hateful trade openly by day and night without let or hindrance in the most public thoroughfares. There are also large sugar refineries which employ a great number of Germans, so that the population of St. George's is, perhaps, as mixed as any in the world. Foreign sialors from every country, Greeks, Malays, Chinese, Lascars, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Austrians, may be encountered everywhere; the Irish may be numbered by thousands. The mixture and recklessness of vice, the unblushing effrontery with which it is carried on, when the lowest of every country combine to add their quota to the already overflowing stock, can scarcely be conceived. Public opinion against it there is none, for the parochial authorities are themselves too much interested in its continuance to dare to suppress it; some are publicans, at whose houses these wretched girls congregate, and some of these publicans it must be remembered, actually employ such girls to entrap the sailors; in fact, to some houses, a staff of prostitutes is a necessary part of the stock in trade, and instances could be adduced in which brothels have been attached to the public houses or rented by their owners. Such is the publican interest, by far the strongest in the parish, so much so that for years one at least of the churchwardens was a publican, another parochial officer is notoriously living in incest, another vestryman was lately the owner of houses of ill fame ... At midnight when the public-houses are closed, the quarrels, fights and disturbances are such a matter of course that none can hope for a night's rest until they are inured by habit. There are frequent fights between foreign and English sailors about the girls with whom they are keeping company, and it is not uncommon to see desperate encounters between the girls themselves, kicking, tearing one another's hair, and biting, as they roll together in the streets, a crowd standing around, and instead of interfering, encouraging the combatants. ... Then again, the poverty of the parish is very great ... In the midst of such scenes of sin and misery, the children are brought up - the school of too many the streets, abounding in temptation, echoing with profane and disgusting language, and forming a very atmosphere of vice; their examples at home a drunken father and mother, with brothers and sisters already deep in sin, and abroad thieves and prostitutes a little older than themselves. thus they are early taught to thieve, to swear, to be bold and immodest in their manners and talk, and so to fall in with sins which they behold in others at the most precocious age. This is no exaggerated description of the whole of the parish, for it has no redeeming features.'

The Standard, 26 December 1865

Monday 3 August 2015

The Illuminated Public Indicator Company


The desideratum of a general public indicator, or pillar directory, calculated to afford a correct guide to the ever-moving masses of the metropolis, was practically realised on Thursday night by the establishment at Hyde Park-corner, Piccadilly, of an elegantly illuminated column or pharos in the centre of the thoroughfare, called by the enterprising company who have projected it, a general public indicator, the first of a series of similar district columns or obelisks, of sexagonal form, and which the author of the design, Mr T. A. Pouteau, of Belgrave House, Hampstead, has obtained permission to erect in the leading thoroughfares. These columns will form not only a highly elegant and ornamental, but a practically useful feature in all the central routes of the metropolis. The one at Hyde Park is some twenty-seven feet high by seventeen feet six inches round, and forms a refuge for pedestrians in the centre of that dangerous debouchement of vehicles from the Park. The column is richly gilt, by Mr Dickenson, of Cumberland-market, Regent's Park. Plate glass is let in down the entire shaft, which at night is illuminated down the centre, displaying on all sides advertisements and other transparencies of public information, which will go to pay the cost of the construction. The tout ensemble is surmounted with a very handsomely and richly ornamented lantern light, containing a much larger amount of gas-burners than any at present in operation. The primary and public uses of the indicator will be that in each locality where erected there will be found within them a post-office, and upon them instructions on the following points, viz. :—Indication of the nearest branch post-office—fire-engine station—fire escape—police station—alms box for poor—measured distances and cabriolet fares—all the squares, bridges, and public buildings, and all such parochial and public information as maybe generally useful.

Caledonian Mercury 27 June 1859


Sir,—Exactly opposite to Apsley-house a Small circular harbour of refuge for pedestrians has lately boon constructed in the middle of the street, into which they may scud when overpressed by stress of omnibuses and hack cabs, I do not know by whose authority this has been done, nor does it much matter; it has been well done, and the little haven is a great protection and comfort to everybody, especially to old people, cripples, and children.
    It would, perhaps, be more exact if I were to say that it would have been a great protection to such helpless ones had not some idiot (I use the mildest term applicable to this case) bethought him of establishing in its centre a gaudy glass column, obscenely splendid by day with gilding and the lowest class of advertisements, and by night a pillar of fire, such as of old led the chosen people through the desert, and such as will now frighten any decent cab horse out of its wits.
   Strong recommendations to hurry to the Casino and to Cremorne are thereupon intermingled with the manifestoes of anti-bilious pill-makers and with the mysterious suggestions of the Silent Friend, the place of honour on the western front being conceded to the questionable merits of Dr. Kahn's Venereal Museum. On the top of this frightful edifice are denoted by letters the four points of the compass; underneath is a small clock, superfluous from the fact that a much larger one (that over the Hyde Park Lodge) is in sight within 50 yards ; then we have the days of the week and month, then the various trashy advertisements to which I have alluded.
    Below are given the hackney carriage fares; the names and times of the omnibuses which ply along Piccadilly ; the addresses of the various parochial dignitaries, and of the police offices and stations. In short, the column is evidently intended to supply to bystanders much of the information usually found in a local almanac and to be a source of revenue to somebody through its advertising powers.
    Many of these details are given in very small print, and only the upper portion of the pillar—the advertising portion—is lighted up at night. The inevitable consequence is that the entire apace
intended for the protection of the old, the infirm, and the young, while crossing Piccadilly, is permanently occupied by persons consulting the hackney coach fares—looking for the day of the week or month, seeking the address of the beadle or the tax-gatherer, or pondering whether they had better have their families' likenesses taken at Messrs. Chisle'em's studio for a shilling a-head—take them to dance at Cremorne—hear Dr. Kahn's full. flavoured lecture—dose them with anti-bilious pills, or blow them out with Revalenta Arabica.
    Pedestrians, instead of being benefited by the arrangement, are thus forced far out of their reckoning into the chaos of Piccadilly to escape the crowd which the idiot who put up this ignoble contrivance has succeeded in establishing there and unless the higher powers of the parish or of the
State will at once interfere many days cannot possibly elapse before some deplorable accident is occasioned by it.
    I respectfully seek to know who directed this trumpery affair to be put up, who conceived and executed it, and on what pecuniary terms it has been erected?
    I am, Sir, your obedient servant,


The Times 27 June 1859


Sir,—Since I had the honour of addressing you on the subject of the astounding advertising post
erected opposite Apsley-house, a printed circular has been placed in my hands, signed by a person named Ponsonby, who styles himself "Manager of the Illuminated Public Indicator Company," and dated from their offices, 17., Southampton-street, Strand.
    This gentleman announces that his principals, have made arrangements with the authorities of the city of London, and also with the leading metropolitan parishes for the erection of indicators similar to that which has attracted so much animadversion in Piccadilly, in the principal thoroughfares of London.
   He states that they will afford instructions to the public on the following points:

"Indication of the nearest branch post office — fire-engine station — fire escape  — police station —alms-box for poor — measured distances and cabriolet fares — all the squares, bridges, and public buildings (?) — and all such parochial and public information as may be generally useful."

   Mr. Ponsonby then goes on to expatiate on the elegance and utility of these tawdry erections for advertising. For  a very small sum (24s. per pane for four weeks) he undertakes to advertise anything and everything, from ginger beer to commissions in the cavalry, day and night, in all the most
prominent positions about the metropolis.
    Now, Sir, if the proprietors of the Illuminated Public Indicator choose to hire houses in any of
our streets, there can be no objection to their advertising whatever they please in the windows of those houses, and charging what they please for such advertisements; but it is surely intolerable that they should be permitted to collect crowds in the precise places where crowds are exposed to most danger when so collected—as at the crossing in Piccadilly— simply with the view of making a profit at  the risk and at the expense of the public.
    The information which they propose to impart is merely put forward as a peg on which to hang their money speculations ; I don't deny that it may be very useful information ; but the middle of a dangerously crowded thoroughfare is decidedly not the proper spot in which to impart it ; any more than it is to acquaint the lieges with the geography of Northern Italy, or the state of the poll at the Oxford election.
   I do hone, Sir, that you will use all your influence to extinguish these abominable illuminated indicators as soon as may be.

Your obedient servant,

The Times 29 June 1859
During the ensuing week, TWO INDICATORS will be placed respectively - ONE at CORNHILL and ONE at WHITEHALL - For particulars and information, apply at the offices. 11, Southampton-street, Strand, W.C. THOMAS T. PONSONBY, Manager

Daily News 1 July 1859

The good people to the out of Temple-bar have displayed greater spirit as respects the so-called Public Indicators than their western fellow-townsmen. The other day preparations were made for erecting one of these monstrosities. at Exchange-buildings but the workmen employed were compelled to desist from their operations. The  company were then served with notices by the parish of St. Michael, Cornhill, with threats of an appeal to the Court of Chancery, if the notices were not found sufficient. They have not, however, ventured to push matters to extremity, and the pavement has boon restored to its original state. It seems a pity that the inhabitants at the western extremity of London will not employ similar moans to got rid of the deformity opposite Apsley-house. Of course, we are not recommending a breach of the peace, but simply that lawful and proper means should be
taken to compel the parochial authorities to rescind their contract with the company, if a contract exists, or, at any rate, to recall the licence under which this public nuisance has been erected. Surely the roads and streetways of the metropolis an encumbered enough in all conscience without any endeavour gratuitously to diminish the space, already far too narrow, set aside for the public accommodation! There really is no reason why by night as well as by day we should have one of Mr. ALBERT SMITH'S China plates, or an image of the Talking Fish standing upon its tail and holding a dialogue with a mariner, kept continually before our eyes. The inhabitants of London do not want at all hours between sunset and sunrise to be asked "if they have bought six Eureka shirts," or, "Do they bruise their oats yet?" Will any one seriously pretend that the announcements made on these Indicators are of any use or moment to the public? The whole process is just that of illuminated billsticking for the profit of the bill-stickers—nothing more.

The Times 15 December 1859

ILLUMINATED PUBLIC INDICATOR - Notice is hereby given that unless the PUBLIC INDICATOR which has been removed from the Borough-road be TAKEN AWAY on or before the 31st July inst. and the expense to which the hereafter mentioned Vestry has been put be duly paid, the said indicator will be SOLD to pay the expenses incurred.
By Order of the Vestry of the Parish of St. George-the-Martyr, Southwark

The Times 10 July 1861

Friday 31 July 2015

Who was Jack the Ripper?

In light of the furore surrounding a Jack the Ripper museum in the East End - largely because it originally claimed to be a 'women's history museum' - I thought I would dedicated a blog post to the vexing question of 'Who was Jack the Ripper?' Bear with me, because this gets rather complicated.

Nobody knows. Just some sick fuck with a knife.


Friday 26 June 2015

Prostitution and Places of Amusement

(To the Editor of the Daily News,)--

Sir,—I have read with pleasure your leading article discussing the action of the Middlesex magistrates in the recent licensing cases. But, Sir, it seems to me that the comae they have adopted deserves more sweeping condemnation than is conveyed by mere doubts as to its prospect of success. The crusade against places of amusement has now been going on for some time, and it is therefore fair to look at its results, and these must be pronounced eminently unsatisfactory.
    Some time ago, Cremorne Gardens were closed, and the consequence was that the Argyll Rooms, the Criterion, and the Aquarium were crowded with the undesirable characters who had previously congregated there. Last year the Argyll Rooms lost their licence and we were promised order and quiet in the Haymarket and its approaches. This promise has not been fulfilled, and the revelry and not shift a few hundred yards eastward and re-appear in a worse form in Covent-garden, where Evan's Supper Rooms have become so notorious that a licence is now refused them, and other places of amusement have with difficulty obtained a renewal of their own.
    Nor is this all. The foyers and approaches to the theatres are far lees select than they were, and our streets at night are such that few would think of letting a lady walk home after the theatre. In this respect we are certainly put to shame by Paris, the city over whose dissipation we sigh so sadly. There, at least, one can at all times safely escort ladies through the principal streets, and it would be no exaggeration to say that during a month's residence in Paris such annoyances would not be experienced as in a single stroll at night (sometimes even in the day) down a leading thoroughfare at the West-end.
   Nov, Sir, my point is this. The attempted remedies of the magistrates are all in the wrong direction, and aim at an impossible mode of effecting a cure, instead of going deeper into the matter, which requires the application of a surer and more efficient preventive. As was pointed out by a lady in your columns in commenting on a recent police case, assaults and outrages upon women should be visited with the utmost rigour. At present, unfortunately, the penalty for seduction and the damages in an affiliation cane are so trifling that the principal offender gets off almost scot free, white the weaker party is at once classed in a category to which pity or assistance is too seldom extended, and hunted and harried from places of resort, where at least they required to be sought, to force themselves upon us, where from long prescription we possessed a fancied immunity. Like "Poor Jo," the memorable outcast in "Blank House," they're allus a movin' on," but it would be well if the magistrates realised this " chivvin' of 'em up and down," not only acts most injuriously to other places of amusement to which they naturally betake themselves, but renders our streets anything but pleasant to pedestrians. Apologies for the length of my letter, I enclose my card, and remain yours faithfully,
A BARRISTER.--Oct. 18.

Sir,—I shall be very grateful if you. could allow me space in your valuable columns to answer "A Barrister's" letter in your:issue of this morning. I also read with great interest and much sympathy your article upon the action of the Middlesex magistrates in the recent licensing cases; and I think, that before "A Barrister" pronounces what he call a "crusade against places of amusement "—what I should call a crusade against ill-conducted places of amusement—eminently unsatisfactory, he should adduce some evidence to prove that this crusade has had no moralising effect upon the proprietors of places of amusement generally, who are the only people it could , tend directly to moralise. It is obvious that bad men and women will not cease to exist, nor become suddenly good when a licence is refused to what has been till then their habitual place of resort. But I think it is reasonable to suppose that other managers will by this line of action be led to use a little more surveillance over the conduct, not the character, of the people they admit ; and that thus by degrees we women may gain some places of amusement to which we can go unprotected by men. This never can be the case till managers gain the moral courage, not to refuse admittance to the poor down trodden woman of the streets (to whom I for one think they have no right to refuse admittance whilst they pay their entrance money and behave properly), but to eject those men who insult women and otherwise misconduct themselves. I know that this is not done now, because it is apt to cause a little disturbance, which is liable to be reported in the morning papers next day, and thus to bring the place of amusement into disrepute. But it is the only way in which it ever can he made possible for respectable women to go in numbers to any public place, and until respectable women can do so I really do not see how any place of amusement intended for men and women can be called respectable. I cannot help regretting, that "A Barrister," with some of whose opinions I so heartily concur, should object to a crusade which might almost be entitled a, crusade to wrest places of amusement from the disreputable and hand them over to the respectable, and which notoriously goes hand in hand with societies for opening Coffee Music Hails and playgrounds for the girls of the poorer classes. For these last no thought has been taken till lately. And whilst in the teeth of opposition and , derision some of us, women are saving up our odd ha-pence —we women have so little money—to buy for poor girls pianos and battledores and skipping ropes, and are trying to secure rooms in which they can make use of them without losing their characters in men's eyes, we do feel it a little hard to be told we are joining in a crusade against amusement. It is, however, our wish, and I should think " A Barrister's" also, to convince those who invest their money in order to gain tenfold by leading others into temptation, that the investment is an insecure one, liable at any moment to be stopped by the strong hand of the law. Otherwise we may see becoming common among us such elegant establishments as are to be found in Paris, where, as " A Barrister" truly says, men may "at all times safely escort ladies through the principal streets "—that is to say, where a man can walk about without let or hindrance, but where, as he must surely be aware, no lady alone would take five steps at night without being insulted. And, though it may not be necessary for ladies to walk alone at night, there are large numbers of women who have to do so ; and if any one would wish to know the results for them in Paris let such ask to see S. Lazare.—I remain, yours faithfully,
A. E N. BEWICKE.-25, Hereford-square, S.W., October 21

correspondence in Daily News 21-22 October 1879

Monday 15 June 2015

Naked Slum Dancing

More on dubious slum dancing ...

‘There are dances at some of these lodging-houses, especially on Sunday evenings, at which a fiddler ordinarily attends. One penny is charged for each dance to each person. The dancing is continued till late at night. These dances are often scenes of great evil. Boys entice girls to dance with them, and afterwards to sleep with them. One missionary knocked in the middle of the day at the door of one of the rooms of these lodging-houses. A voice from within directed him to enter, when he saw two young men and two young women dancing together, all in a state of entire nudity, a fiddler playing to them in another part of the room, while they dance. He immediately insisted on the women’s dressing themselves, and he retired; and while he did so, the men escaped.’

London City Mission Magazine, 1845 p.176

Music and Dancing

On a private dance in the Field Lane (Irish) slums ...

In Red Lion-court and Blue-court, there is the most public and wanton desecration of the Sabbath. Two Missionaries recently visited Blue-court on the Sabbath evening, and found a large room in one house crowded with persons, who had been admitted at a charge of one penny each person. and who were assembled for music and dancing. About 100 yards from this spot, the door of another room stood open in Red Lion-court, and as they approached they heard the sounds of music and dancing here also. The Missionaries entered and found the company composed of young men and women of various ages, many of the latter not more than sixteen years of age. The females sat on forms around the room, while the men stood, leaving a space in the centre for the dance. At one end sat the fiddler, in full employ, and the dance proceeded. As soon as the fiddler rested, they approached the woman to whom the room belongs (who immediately recognised one of the Missionaries) and addressed her on the open violation of the Sabbath, which she both permitted and encouraged in her house. For a time silence prevailed, and the attention of the company was arrested. The blame was thrown by the woman upon her son, who was the fiddler. He excused himself by saying that he was out of work, and had no other way of getting his living. While he was speaking a general movement took place, the men attempted to crush the Missionaries against the wall. Some shouted, “Put them out;” others, “We are not of your religion;” and others called to the fiddler, “Play up, play up”, which was done. Many of them followed the Missionaries shouting and yelling after them into the street. About sixty persons were present in this one room.

London City Mission Magazine, January 1842, p.56

Thursday 14 May 2015

Tavern Singing, and an Irish Wake

I knew the landlord very well, and was on friendly terms with him; this was what is termed and 'Irish' house, and the host, himself an Irishman, had but little indoor custom except amongst his countrymen: and they were mostly of the labouring class. I was well known to the different parties that used the place, and was invariably treated by them with great civility. There was one young man, a breeches-maker, with whom I was intimately acquainted; he worked at a shop close by, on Moorfields pavement, and happening just now to drop in, asked me, " If I had ever been to an Irish 'cock and hen' club?" Upon my replying that "I had not," he requested me to go upstairs: saying, that I should see some excellent fun.

The room we entered was about forty feet by twenty, rather indifferently lighted; the company was a motley gathering of choice Hibernian specimens, both male and female. Quarts of porter were circulated in rapid succession; halfpints of gin were gallantly handed round to the 'ladies,' with compliments in Irish, pure as the sweet waters of Killarney. As their hearts warmed with potent draughts of the ' cratur,' they began capering about and whirling round with the velocity of spinning-wheels,—occasionally, in the course of their evolutions, giving vent to such discordant shouts, as called to mind the descriptions of an Indian war-dance.

At length the floor was cleared: and two fine daughters of the emerald isle, stepping gracefully into the centre, commenced a jig. They began to slow time, but kept on gradually increasing in speed amidst the shouting and clapping of hands, till both performers appeared wrought up to the highest pitch of frenzy; and perspiration streamed down their blowzy faces as they whirled dizzily round, urged on by the mad drunken creatures that surrounded them, until one dropped.

As the girl who had tired the other down was a great favourite, the delicate half-swipy gentlemen surrounded her: all scrambling to snatch a kiss from the lips of the victorious damsel, who had saved the credit of their province. The vanquished was taken below, and received the benefit of the pure air to be found in the skittle-ground,—for this was one of the most confined and offensive localities in London; the sign of the house was the 'Punch-bowl,' in Half-moon alley, Little Moorfields. When the girl had recovered from the effects of her over-exertion, she was brought back into the room by her friends; and singing and dancing continued till the entire group was furiously excited. One of the pot-valiant heroes smashed the fiddle, because the fiddler was too far gone and had fallen asleep, his head hanging over the back of his chair in the corner.

At this peculiar juncture, a mighty storm arose in the assembly. One Jim Donohoe was seen to kiss Mr. Pat Flannigan's wife as she came up the stairs: 'Och, by St. Pathrick,' roared out Pat, 'and is it that you mane, Mr. Donohoe ?'—'You dirty spalpeen,' retorted Jim, 'I don't care the great-coat of a pratie for the like o' yees, nor all the Flannigans 'twixt here and Belfast, your dirty native place!'—' Och, by the powers then,' said Pat, 'just be after bringing your filthy carcass downstairs, and I'll tache you better manners than you ever larned under that bottle-nosed ould sexton of a Protestant at Mullingar: where you could never git a congregation at all, at all, if the ould woman as opened the pews happened to be sazed wid the toothache!' 

'D'ye say that, ye dirty blackguard!' roared out Jim; 'faith, and I'll make ye know your lord and master from Biddy Sullivan!' Downstairs they rushed by mutual consent: and at it they went in true Irish style,—when both being drunk, tumbled against each other and fell rolling over like a couple of hogs at sea. After this splendid display of science the combatants were propped up, while they shook hands, kissed, and made it up; but in attempting to put on his shirt poor Jim was terribly bothered. The sleeves had got so entangled with the fragments of the body (which was slit into ribbons) that from what was once a shirt, it had become a puzzle of so difficult a nature that the poor fellow gave up the attempt in despair, exclaiming: 'By Jasus, although I've been a long time acquainted wid yees, I can't find the way into yees at all, at all,—any more than if we'd been strangers!' With this short soliloquy he gave up the job, and put on his clothes without the usual under garment.

Treating the late belligerents to half-a-pint of whiskey at the bar, we took leave of the interesting revellers: and strolling up the City-road as far as the Angel, on our return looked in at old Rouse's twopenny concert; the tickets for which were eightpence, but each entitled the bearer to sixpenny-worth of grog. Here some of the best room-singers of the day were engaged; amongst them was Charley Rayner, with Bob Glendon, Joe Martin, and other celebrities of the time; there were also two brothers (boot-closers) who recited remarkably well.

The company was a mixture of both sexes, and of all ages, from sixteen years of age up to middle life; nay, even greyheaded old men and women were there, who seemed as well pleased as their juvenile companions. On a platform elevated about three feet from the floor stood a piano; at which a man presided, who accompanied the vocalists. Some of these could sing to music; but in the case of such as could not, the pianist accommodated the music to the voice, as he best might. The singers were introduced according to the programme, and announced by a conductor or master of the ceremonies; and, on finishing their allotted parts, each and all enjoyed a hearty round of applause.

Rouse, the proprietor, was very particular in keeping order during the hours of performance: and, always proceeding systematically, in the end found himself at the head of a most superb establishment. I have never seen a place of the kind fitted up with such taste and elegance; the grounds are spacious, lighted up with a profusion of gas, and ornamented with grottoes and statues; the saloon, or theatre, is commodious and beautifully adorned with various designs painted on the panels of the dress-circle, which have a very lively and pleasing effect.

But at the time when my friend and I spent our evening here, the original house yet stood. It was an old-fashioned inn, called the 'Shepherd and Shepherdess', with skittle-grounds attached, and a few ill-conditioned arbours where the company smoked their pipes and quaffed their ale. At the back part of the premises, the 'governor' had raised (what he called) 'Russian mountains,' with steep circuitous pathways, made corkscrew fashion, and running from top to bottom: down which the adventurous public travelled in chairs with considerable velocity. The charge for this amusement was something very trifling—I believe a penny, or twopence; but the numbers made it a profitable speculation. From such small beginnings did ' Governor Rouse' elaborate that famous resort known to the world as the ' Eagle Tavern' in the City-road.

On the conclusion of the performances, we made the best of our way home; and parted under a promise to meet again the next evening at the 'Golden Hind' in Little Moorfields, kept by one of my friend's countrymen named Murphy; where we frequently met some excellent players at 'draughts,' in which game both of us were also acknowledged proficients. Eight o'clock being the time appointed for our meeting, I repaired punctually to the little back-parlour, which was our usual rendezvous. On entering the room, I found my friend in serious conversation with a man whom I had frequently seen in the same place, a cooper by trade, who worked at the docks. I soon gleaned from their conversation, that the cooper was inviting my friend to accompany him to an Irish wake: which the latter declined doing, on the ground that he was engaged to spend the evening with me. To obviate this little difficulty, I was also invited; and having never witnessed this ceremony, (except as typified in the wild grief of the poor young widows on board the Tigris) I readily availed myself of the occasion; and we all set out for the locality indicated.

The house was situated in one of the most secluded and dirty lanes betwixt Cripplegate workhouse and Fore-street, then called Featherbed-hill. As we approached the door, which was open, I perceived a number of lighted candles ranged in order, which were stuck into ginger-beer and blacking-bottles. Upon a table close to the door was a plate containing a quantity of silver coin,—into which my two friends threw a shilling each, as did I also, understanding such to be the custom: and then taking my seat on a plank laid between two chairs, proceeded to take a cautious survey of the company who were jabbering away together in their native Irish.

All present seemed of the lowest order; and in one corner sat three hideous-looking old women smoking short pipes black as ebony; it struck me they would have done well for the witches in Macbeth. Some of the younger females had washed their faces, and put on what (I suppose) were intended for clean caps; but the dresses of the entire company were neither of the finest quality nor latest fashion; and were besides, in many instances, considerably patched.

At the further end of the room was the corpse, laid out in white, and surrounded with candles, which threw a glare of light upon the sickening spectacle. The child (for such it was) had died of the most virulent kind of small-pox; the head had swollen beyond all proportion, and wore the appearance of an immense plum-pudding; the features being absolutely obliterated by the horrid disease. Two large bunches of flowers were placed on each side of the body; where sat the parents and kindred of the deceased. In the centre stood a can of beer and three or four earthern pots without handles, which were constantly being handed round,—with, at intervals, a glass of the 'cratur.'

As the liquor began to operate the talk became fast and furious: but what was said I knew not, as all was carried on in the Celtic vernacular. Just when the storm was at its height, the before-mentioned old women broke out into the most hideous yells that ever scared man or beast; the other females joined in a chorus loud enough to have awakened all the Irish that have been buried since the days of St. Patrick; the men began raving and fighting; pots and cans flew about in every direction: over went the tables, out went the lights, and lastly down rolled the corpse upon the floor to be kicked and trampled on by the bacchanalian mourners!

Of all the absurd rites connected with the idea of a religious (!) observance, the ceremony above described is certainly about as brutal and debasing, as any ever practised by the veriest savages in creation. I sat near the door; and, having taken the precaution to put my hat under the seat, as soon as this infernal hubbub reached its climax, I made a hasty retreat, followed by my friend and by the man who had introduced us to this extraordinary exhibition. Glad as I was to escape from such a disgusting scene, I nevertheless felt gratified that I had at least witnessed something to be remembered. The frantic sounds soon died away in the distance: and finding that it was still early, I invited our late guide to return with us and take a glass of grog.

John Brown, Sixty Years' Gleanings from Life's Harvest, 1859 [describing early 1820s]

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Illicit Amusement

I beg to report that a public concert was held on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturdary evenings at the ‘Australasian and New Zealander’ Public House, No.429 Oxford St. landlord James Kibble and that 3d each was chaged for admission.
At 8 ¾ the 25th inst I visited the house in plain clothes. I paid 3d to Mr Kibble at the Bar and received a piece of card on which was written the word ‘Refreshment’. I showed the ticket to a man standing at the stairs leading to the Concert Room, and was allowed to pass. In the room I found abut 30 persons most of them youths and girls. Some of the latter appeared to be about 14 old. A man was playing a piano and a professional chairman presided. He announced that he would open the Concert by singing the first song himself. He afterwards announced the singers who followed him by name, but they all appeared to be visitors, each person that sang left his seat and went and stood on a small platform near the piano. I saw several of the persons get ale or beer or their tickets. There were about 60 persons in the room when  I left at 10pm.

The house is not licensed for music. Mr. Kebble has applied for a Music licence and the application will be heard at the ensuing licensing meeting.

Police report to Middlesex Magistrates, 26 September 1869

Wednesday 29 April 2015

More Teenage Nights

The price of admission is twopence or fourpence ... we paid fourpence. On receiving our tickets we went into the lower part of the room, and the sight which then presented itself baffles description. The performance had commenced; and what with the "mouthings" of the performers, the vociferous shouts, the maledictions, and want of sufficient light, and the smoke from about one hundred tobacco pipes, the effect was quite bewildering for a few minutes. The room is of an oblong form, about 30 yards by 10, and capable of holding, with the galleries, from 800 to 1,000 persons. One end is fitted up as a stage. The bar, where the liquors are served out, is placed in the middle. The place between the bar and the stage is appropriated to juveniles, or boys and girls from ten to fourteen years of age. Of them there were not less than one hundred; they were by far the noisiest portion of the audience, and many of the boys were drinking and smoking. The compartment behind the bar appears to be fitted up for the "respectables", the seats being more commodious. Leaving this lower part of the room ,we had to proceed up a dark staircase (some parts being almost impassable owing to the crowd of boys and girls), to the lower gallery which extends round three parts of the room. This gallery was occupied by the young of both sexes, from fourteen years and upwards. To reach the top gallery, we have to mount some more crazy stairs. This gallery is composed of two short side sittings and four boxes in the front. The occupants of these boxes are totally secluded from the eyes of the audience. They were occupied by boys and girls. From this gallery we had a good view of all that was passing in the room. There could not be less than 700 individuals present, and about one seventh of them females. The pieces performed encourage resistance to parental control, and were full of gross innuendoes, "double entendres", heavy cursing, emphatic swearing, and incitement to illicit passion. Three fourths of the songs were wanton and immoral, and were accompanied by immodest gestures. 

The last piece performed was the "Spare Bed" and we gathered from the conversation around that this was looked for with eager expectation. We will not attempt to describe the whole of this abominable piece; suffice it to say that the part which appeared most pleasing to the audience was when one of the male performers took off his coat and waistcoat, unbuttoned his braces, and commenced unbuttoning the waistband of his trowsers, casting mock-modest glances around him; finally he took his trowsers off and got into bed. Tremendous applause followed this act. As the many lay in bed the clothes were pulled off; he was then rolled out of bed and across the stage, his shirt being up to the middle of his back. After this he walked up and down the stage, and now the applause reached its climax - loud laughter, shouting, clapping of hands, by both males and females, testified the delight they took in this odious exhibition. This piece terminated about eleven o'clock and many then went away. It is necessary to state that the man had on a flesh-coloured pair of drawers, but they were put on so that the audience might be deceived, and some were deceived. It needs little stretch of the imagination to form an opinion what the conduct of these young people would be on leaving this place - excited by the drink which they had imbibed - their witnessing this vile performance - their uncontrolled conversation ... It is the manufactory and rendezvous of thieves and prostitutes ...

Preston Guardian, 25 January 1851

Teenage Nights

‘I spoke to my sister, who is married, about going to these singing rooms. She said it was very wrong for married people to go, but there was no harm for single young chaps ... I told her if it was wrong for married people to go, it must be wrong for single people ... I’ve seen enough going to singing rooms .... Just before my father died, he went to live with some woman who had five children – that, you may say, was through singing rooms. My father used to say the “Effingham” was a very comfortable place; you could sit and have your pipe and your pint very comfortable. It was a noted place of mine to go. He used to let us go as we liked. .... These singing-rooms are generally at beershops – at some places you can go in if you are only 14. At most all the beershops the admission is free – some charge a penny, some a halfpenny. Some places they put a penny a pot on the beer; they charge 5d. for porter, and 6d. for ale, for which you pay 4d at the bar; they knows how to do it; don’t matter to them who drink as long as they get the money. I have seen a boy with a girl laying hold of his arm, go up enough to make you laugh to look at them. If you were to wait outside the ––––, you would see boys and girls coming out between 12 and 1 o’clock in the morning; their language is awful; bad in the extreme. There are more go to these places on Saturday and Monday nights. Saturday is pay night ... A great many go on Sunday night, but there is no singing then – the law won’t allow it. I could take you to almost every singing room in Bethnal-green-road; there are very few but what I have been to. If you notice, you will see put up “Select harmony this evening, admission free.” some have written up “Select concert – Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evenings.” The chairman sits at one end of the room and the deputy at the other. The Judge and Jury clubs are open on Sunday night: they are generally held at beer-shops, sometimes at public-houses. Boys and girls are admitted to these as well ... If either the complainant or the prisoner or any of them don’t speak the words right, they are fined ½d; the fines are kept on till they get to 1s. which is spent after it is over in liquor – sometimes the money is saved up for a supper once a quarter. If they see a stranger come into the room they will knock his hat over his eyes, and if he swears he is fined 2d. It is all done to pass the evening away. I was asked to belong to a Judge and Jury Club lately, by a man I know, the fines are to go to an excursion.'

Daily News, 23 May 1850

Thursday 23 April 2015

Attractions Offered in Liverpool

This appeared in the Morning Chronicle 2 September 1850, from 'Our Special Correspondent' under 'LABOUR AND THE POOR'. It is the work of Henry Mayhew, better known for his descriptions of London poverty, and describes early music halls (though the term used in 1850 was 'concert rooms').

The first I visited is one of the largest concert rooms in Liverpool. The advertised charge for admission was threepence, but on my tendering that sum to the money-taker at the door, he refused it, and informed me that the charge was sixpence. An explanation was asked and given, from which it appeared that the money-taker decided from the dress of the visitor whether he should pay the greater or the smaller sum. Threepence, he said, was the price to sailors and the working classes only; and sixpence was always charged to gentlemen. "But then," he added, "it comes to the same thing, as the full value of the ticket is returned in drink; and the 'gent' who pays his sixpence has a glass of spirits and water, or a bottle of porter for it; while the working man has no more than a glass of beer for his threepence."

The room was large and handsomely decorated. It was fitted up with a stage at the further end and with moveable scenery as at a theatre. There were about 400 people present. The audience were arranged on benches, in front of small tables, or rather ledges, with just sufficient room before each person to place a bottle and a glass. Men, women and children were mingled together. A dense cloud of tobacco-smoke filled the room. The greater portion of the auditors were evidently mechanics and labourers, with their families; but there was a considerable number of sailors, British, American, and foreign. There was also a large number of young boys, of from fourteen to sixteen years of age, of whom there was scarcely one without a pipe or a cigar in his mouth. The presence of these boys was the most melancholy part of the whole exhibition. Their applause rang loudest throughout the room - their commands to the waiters for drink were more frequent, obstreperous, and rude, than those of other persons - and their whole behaviour was unbecoming and offensive.

The performer in possession of the stage was a man dressed from chin to heel in flesh-colour cotton, fitting tight to the form, to represent nudity. He played the part of Lady Godiva riding through Coventry. In front of him projected the pasteboard figure of a pony's head, and behind were seen the posterior quarters of the animal. A long drapery concealed his legs, as he skipped about the stage, whilst a pair of stuffed legs, to represent the nude limbs of Lady Godiva, dangled over the saddle. He sang a comic song - a mixture of the old legend with modern allusions. The whole composition was not only vulgar and stupid, but indecent. He was greeted with loud applause, and called upon for an encore.

To him succeeded a genteel-looking young woman who sang a sentimental song with considerable taste and feeling. The curtain then fell and allowed a pause for a few minutes, during which the waiters zealously plied the guests to give their orders for liquor. An elderly woman seated on the bench before me called for ginger beer. She was very meanly dressed and altogether unprepossessing; and when the waiter brought the liquor, in exchange for her threepenny ticket, he neglected to bring a glass for it. He was about to pour it into the glass of a previous visitor, in which were some remains of porter, when she held back his hand and insisted upon a clean glass. The man told her that she was rather too particular, and that if she could not drink without a clean glass she might let it alone. She insisted that, having paid her money, she was as much entitled to a clean glass as anyone else, although perhaps she was not quite so well dressed as some others in the room. The waiter insolently told her to "hold her jaw; glasses were scarce; and if she did not like the glass before her she could drink out of the bottle."

The lowering of the gas-lights gave notice that the exhibition of the poses plastiques was about to commence. The room being reduced to semi-darkness, the curtain slowly rose, the whole blaze of the floodlights was thrown upon the stage, and a tableau vivant was exhibited. The performers were three females and one male. The tableau represented a classical subject; and the criticism of the spectators, though somewhat freely expressed, and not of the most delicate kind, as regarded the development of the female forms exposed to their gaze, was in the highest degree approbatory of the exhibition. As the curtain began to fall, there was a loud clapping of hands, and stamping of feet, a jingling of glasses and bottles, and a call for an encore. In the midst of the uproar of applause, and before the slowly descending curtain concealed the performers from sight, the elderly woman before mentioned directed my attention to the principal female figure in the group - a finely formed and handsome young woman. "The waiter treats me in this way," she said, "because I am old and badly dressed; but I'll ket him know that I am somebody, after all. That young woman, sir, is my daughter."

I sympathised in her grievance respecting the waiter, upon which she became very communicative, and gave a detail of the professional life of her daughter. She was, she said, one of the first that ever exhibited in England, in the poses plastiques, and learned the art under Madame Warton. Her salary was a pound a week, for which she performed four or five times every night. She had to provide her own flesh-coloured silks out of her earnings, and these articles were very expensive. Though the salary was not high, her daughter would have been contented with it; but the master of the establishment having determined to cut it down to 18s. a week, she had given him notice to quit, and the present was the last night of her performance in Liverpool. She had received another engagement in Manchester at 21s. a week, and was to leave on the following Monday to make her first appearance. "It is very hard work," said the old woman, "and is not sufficiently paid, considering the expense of the dress."

A comic song from a young man dressed as a sailor interrupted her further confidences, and she soon afterwards left her seat, but not before bestowing a parting malediction upon the waiter. At the conclusion of the song, I left the place, and visited another concert-room of the same kind. This establishment is divided into two separate rooms; the one entitled the "House of Commons," and the other the "House of Lords." The "House of Commons" is open to all comers, male and female; the "House of Lords," where the liquors are sold at a price somewhat in advance, is reserved exclusively for the male sex. The Hall of the "House of Commons" was a large room, in which about three hundred persons, sailors and their wives and sweethearts, mechanics with their wives and children, and a number of young lads and girls were assembled. The place was filled with tobacco smoke. The walls were adorned with gigantic full-length portraits of celebrated prizefighters, all in boxing attitude, and painted apparently in fresco. As at the previously visited establishment, there was a stage with moveable scenery at the extremity. A man in the traditional stage garb of  a sailor sang a nautical song and danced a hornpipe. He was followed by a female performer in the sentimental line, who was twice encored. She was succeeded by a couple, representing a cobbler and his termagent wife. They performed a comic duet, abounding in double entendres, which elicited roars of laughter. The performances in the "House of Lords" were of a similar character, the principal difference being the exclusion of women and the superior attire of the guests, who seemed to be composed of clerks, shopmen and tradesmen.

I also visited other establishments of the kind. Their general characteristics were the same, except that the rooms were smaller, in some instances not being calculated for the accommodation of more than forty or fifty people. The performers were invariably on the best of terms with the company. The men smoked and drank with the auditory, and the woman drank with all who invited them, until they were summoned by a little bell to appear on the stage, and sing the songs set down for them in the programme in the evening. This done, they returned to the body of the room without the least ceremony, and again mingled with the guests, the whole performance and arrangements being of the simplest and most primitive kind.

I took the opportunity of asking one of these young women, whom I had seen drinking brandy and water, gin and water, and beer, with at least half a dozen people, whether she did not find it prejudicial to her health, to drink so many mixtures, and whether she drank as much every night? She replied that it sometimes made her very ill. "Ours is a very disagreeable life," she added. "We are obliged to drink with all sorts of people who ask us. It brings company to the house, and if we did not drink with the sailors and others who invite us, we should lose our situations. We are not told this, but we know what would happen if we did not. Singing in such houses is hard work, and altogether our kind of life is very disagreeable. I should be glad to exchange it for any other. But what can I do? I do not know a note of music. I sing altogether by ear, and if I left my present situation, I should either have to take in needlework or go into the streets. At needlework I could not earn 5s. a week, and I gain 18s. a week at this. So you see if it is good pay, and though disagreeable for some reasons, it is better than needlework, and more respectable than the streets."

Though no positive coarseness of language was used in the song and dialogues of the characters, the allusions were often broad and indecent enough, and we received with obstreperous merriment. The squabbles between husband and wife were frequently imitated, apparently to the immense delight of the company. The great majority of the auditors appeared in the garb of sailors, or mechanics; and as usual, the young boys, many of them prematurely old with dissipation, mustered in large numbers, and drank, smoked, and applauded with more vigour than the old portions of the company. It would be but a useless repetition to detail the various scenes of the kind of which I was a witness. The staple amusements were same, except that the nearer the concert-room was to the docks, the larger the proportion of sailors that attended. In one or two instances families of Irish emigrants were among the auditors. In some of the houses, dancing was a portion of the entertainment and included "nigger dances," the sailor's hornpipe, and the jig, and in one house a dance in pattens, by a women with her face blackened, to impersonate a negress, and in another an imitation of Boz's Juba. In no instance did I observe any quarrelling or disturbance.

Such are the attractions offered in Liverpool to amuse the people in their houses of leisure.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Resorts of Musical Entertainment

Canterbury Hall, Lambeth, is widely cited as the original of the 'music hall' in London. Here's an early description. I was surprised to see opera featuring so heavily (confirmed by many contemporary adverts for the Hall):

Canterbury Hall ... is one of those many resorts of musical entertainment which have of late spring up in such numbers in the metropolis, combining the attractions of the tavern with those of the concert-room. For the moderate entrance money of one sixpence, a spacious and brilliantly lighted saloon, a very interesting gallery of pictures, and four or five hours unceasing ‘entertainment’ is at the disposal of any one ‘out for the night’. The ‘entertainment’ originally consisted of the usual sestett of principal singers, and a very efficient chorus, who performed the principal music from favourite operas, such as ‘Norma’, ‘Lucrezia’, ‘Trovatore’, and others, in a most creditable manner. This ‘high art’ was also varied by the addition of comic songs of all nations, from the old established countryman in an ante-diluvian flowered waistcoat, and Paddy with half a coat and a shillelagh down to (and no lower depth could be sounded) “Sally, come up”, and “Sister to the Cure.” All this while the pleasure-seeker can comfort his inner man with almost any variety of eating and drinking which he is likely to fancy and pay for. Even the mysterious delights of tobacco are not denied him; and though pipes are prohibited in the ‘reserved seats’, and only the lordly cigar permitted in those aristocratic precincts, yet in any other part of the spacious building a twist of bird’s-eye and a yard of clay may be seen in the mouths of three quarters of the assemblage. It is but fair to add that nothing can exceed the good order with which everything is conducted at this establishment, and it is almost needless to say that the attractions which this and other such places of resort present to the humbler classes of society have interfered most seriously with the profits of the legitimate, or perhaps we should rather say the licensed theatres.

Morning Post 7 March 1861