Hogarth’s London

This blog has gone all Hogarthian of late. And with good reason. One of the greatest of all Londoners, we commemorate the 250th anniversary of his death, which occurred on the evening of 25/26 October, 1764 at his town house in Leicester Fields.

The Cartoon Museum (one of our favourites) gets into the spirit of things with this exhibition which opens today. It features 50 engravings covering a period of over 40 years.

All our favourites are there, as you’d expect: Gin Lane, Beer Street, Rake’s Progress and so on. You also get the opportunity to check out lesser known items, such as Four Times of Day, which I particularly enjoyed, and very early stuff like The South Sea Bubble from 1721, astounding work from the 24 year old engraver. I was very happy also to see the judges and their wigs, an image guaranteed to make you smile every time.

The south sea bubble, william hogarth

The South Sea Bubble (1721)

When viewing Hogarth’s work, we tend to focus – as we are supposed to – on the people: 18C Londoners (mainly) in all their appallingness. What this show does is to point out the actual locations where all the action takes place, something most of us perhaps don’t think about that much. In some cases it’s obvious, such as the Tyburn  gallows featuring the Idle ‘Prentice. Other places less so, Cheapside for the Industrious ‘Prentice, a thoroughfare which also features in The Harlot’s Progress. The South Sea Bubble, mentioned above, is at the foot of the Monument. I always thought the March to Finchley (a personal favourite: the original painting is in the Foundling Museum) was in Finchley. Not so: it is set in Tottenham Court Road. There is also Covent Garden, St James’s, Charing Cross, Sadler’s Wells, St Giles (of course), and more.

The March of the Guards to Finchley (1750)

The March of the Guards to Finchley (1750)

So a romp through the streets of London with William Hogarth. It’s an angle which works splendidly in this thoughtful and thoroughly enjoyable exhibition. Many of the pieces on show are loaned by the excellent William Hogarth Trust, one of the show’s sponsors, also responsible for Hogarth’s House in Chiswick, which I urge you to visit: it’s free.

Hogarth’s London runs from 22 October to 18 January 2015 at the Cartoon Museum in Little Russell Street (very close to the British Museum). It’s free with your entry ticket of £7. Art Fund Members free. London Historians Members £1 discount. No, they don’t give you a pound if you belong to both.


Finally, here’s a suggestion for you to celebrate William Hogarth this Saturday. First visit this exhibition at the Cartoon Museum. Then jump on the Tube to Turnham Green. Walk past Hogarth’s statue on Chiswick High Road and doff your hat, metephorically if necessary. Continue on to Hogarth’s House (open 12:00 – 17:00), about a 15 minute walk and check out the man’s “country” home where he lived for the last 15 years of his life. Gape at the strange Hogarth flyover as you pass by! Expore the house and enjoy The Small Self as mentioned in the previous blog post by Val Bott. Then have a bite in one of Chiswick’s many pubs and restaurants and return to St Nicholas Church (around the corner from Hogarth’s House) for 18:45 for wreath-laying at the Hogarth family tomb and a celebration of Hogarth’s life, featuring period music by Handel, Arne and others, including songs and ballads, the Beggar’s Opera etc. £10 entry. All details here.

A guest post by London Historians Member, Val Bott.

the painter and his pug by william hogarthWilliam Hogarth died 250 years ago on 26 October 1764. He spent Thursday, 24 October working on his engraving plate of The Bench at Chiswick but, too unwell to work on the 25th, he was taken to his town house in Leicester Fields while his wife remained at Chiswick. On going to bed, he was taken suddenly very ill and died a couple of hours later in the arms of his wife’s cousin, Mary Lewis, who had helped run the print business for years. He was buried at St Nicholas Church by the Thames at Chiswick, where later a fine memorial was erected with an epitaph by David Garrick.

That week a piece in the the London Evening Post commented that in Hogarth were happily united ‘the utmost force of human genius, an incomparable understanding, an inflexible integrity and a most benevolent heart. No man was better acquainted with the human passions, nor endeavoured to make them more subservient to the reformation of the world than this inimitable artist. His works will continue to be held in the highest estimation, so long as sense, genius and virtue shall remain among us’.

Hogarth's tomb in St Nicholas Churchyard, Chiswick, on the banks of the Thames.

Hogarth’s tomb in St Nicholas churchyard, Chiswick, on the banks of the Thames.

Hogarth was a Londoner through and through, depicting daily life in clear reality and with affection, while mocking those of whom he disapproved. A brilliant engraver and a fine self-taught painter, he produced memorable images which we love today. With an astute business sense he sold his prints by subscription and protected them from piracy through his successful campaign for the first artists’ Copyright Act. He was a generous man and his love for animals and children is evident in his work. A philanthropist, he was a governor of the Foundling Hospital, he oversaw the wet-nurses who cared for foundling babies in Chiswick and, with his wife Jane, fostered foundling children. When financially secure he acquired his much-loved second home a Chiswick which is now a museum about the Hogarths, their Chiswick friends and neighbours, and other past residents of the house. The walls are hung with his most important prints, depicting London as the backdrop to his famous series of modern moral subjects, but also at the theatre, in the crowd at Southwark Fair, in the streets in Four Times of Day.

Hogarth's House

Hogarth’s House.

The William Hogarth Trust has worked with Hogarth’s House this year to produce a new exhibition, The Small Self, which has just opened. Supported by a grant from the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, it was devised by trustees Chrissy Blake and Jason Bowyer, who sent out sixty foot-square artists’ boards with an invitation to use these to submit a self portrait in homage to Hogarth. Fifty-three self-portraits have arrived, from the Trust’s patron, Sir Peter Blake, Royal Academicians William Bowyer, Anthony Green, Ken Howard and Humphrey Ocean, cartoonists Steve Bell and Martin Rowson, designers Cath Kidston and Toni Marshall, writers such as Jaqueline Wilson and Mike McCartney, performers including Harry Hill, Holly Johnson, Jim Moir and Joanna Lumley and members of the New English Art Club. This exhibition is testimony to a strong continuing enthusiasm for Hogarth; a beautiful little catalogue illustrating them all is on sale at £6.95.

Self portraits. Sir Peter Hall and Bowyer.

Self portraits. Sir Peter Blake and Jason Bowyer.

On the evening of 25 October the Trust and the Friends of St Nicholas will be mounting a special commemoration at Chiswick’s St Nicholas Church. Ars Eloquentiae will perform music Hogarth would have known (with some audience participation!) and Rosalind Knight, Lars Tharp and others will be reading 18th century texts to celebrate Hogarth’s life and work. Admission is £10, refreshments will be available and there will be a souvenir programme on sale. The event is supported by the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, Hounslow Council and Fleet Tutors.

On 22 October The Cartoon Museum opens Hogarth’s London, a must for London Historians. It draws together a range of prints (including a number on loan from Hogarth’s House) to celebrate his love of the capital city and to reveal the vitality and the suffering of life here 250 years ago.

The Small Self continues until 11 January 2015, 12 noon to 17.00 Tuesday to Sunday, admission free.
Hogarth’s London continues until 18 January 2015, 10.30 to 17.30 Monday to Saturday, Sunday 12 noon to 17.30, at 35 Little Russell St, London WC1A 2HH. There is an admission charge – full details at cartoonmuseum.org.

Disaster in Harrow

A guest post by London Historians Member, Simon Fowler, who remembers London’s worst railway crash. 

harrowplaque200Today marks the anniversary of London (and England’s) worst railway disaster and one of only three accidents in the United Kingdom in which more one hundred people lost their lives. In total, 112 people died and more than 300 were injured. It was also an exceptionally rare three train collision.

The accident took place at Harrow and Wealdstone station in north London at exactly 8.19am on 8 October 1952. It was a very foggy morning. The 7:31am Tring to Euston local passenger train stopped at Harrow and Wealdstone station, seven minutes late due to the fog. It had switched to the fast line just before the station to keep the slow lines to the south clear for empty stock movements. Carrying approximately 800 passengers, the train was much fuller than normal, as the previous service had been cancelled.

At 8.19 am, just as the guard was walking back to his brake van after checking doors on the last two carriages, the train was struck from behind by the night express from Perth travelling between 50 and 60mph.

The Perth sleeper train consisted of 46242 City of Glasgow with eleven carriages and some 85 passengers. Because of fog and other delays it was running approximately eighty minutes late.

A second or two after the first collision the 8am express from Euston to Liverpool and Manchester with its fifteen carriages and 200 passengers hauled by 45637 Windward Islands and 46202 Princess Anne, came through on the adjacent fast line in the opposite direction at about 60mph. The leading locomotive struck the City of Glasgow and came off the track.

Sixteen carriages were destroyed, of which thirteen were concertinaed together under the station footbridge.


The subsequent safety report found that the sleeper train had passed a caution signal and two danger signals before colliding with the local train. Why this occurred will never be known as the driver Jones and fireman Turnock on the footplate of the City of Glasgow – both experienced footplate crew – were killed in the crash. It is likely that the driver was concerned to make up time as the train was running very late and he and the firemen missed the warning signals in the fog.

A subsequent Metropolitan Police report praised the response from the emergency services. Co-ordination on the spot was hampered, however, by the lack of communications equipment. There was only one walkie-talkie that, in the end, was not used. And the only telephone was a walk away.

An exotic element was the arrival of medical personnel from the neighbouring American base at Ruislip. One sergeant from Boston commented on the behaviour of the injured: ‘The British don’t cry’.

The accident had two effects. Firstly it accelerated the introduction of the Automatic Warning System that told drivers that they had passed an adverse signal, although because of the cost its arrival on many lines was very slow. And the crash confirmed the strength of the new all steel carriages British Railways had begun to introduce as they were less severely damaged (and protected passengers better) than the older pre-war wood and steel carriages.

Because the accident happened on the outskirts of London there was huge media interest. As a result, unlike most other railway accidents, it is well documented photographically.

Find out more in Simon Fowler’s Railway Disasters (Pen & Sword, 2013 ISBN ISBN: 9781845631581)

A guest post by London Historians Member, Christopher West.

DSC03440blogEntering the Docks from Tower Bridge Road, you will see the cast-iron grey Tuscan Columns which adorn International House- these were saved from the original Hardwick warehouses built for the Telford Docks, opening in 1828. Walk along the new waterside pathway and notice the original wall, complete with mooring rope rings, looking up at the grey columns and at the nearby historical Thames Barges.

Back in the 10th century, King Edgar gave this land to a group of knights who traded here, then in c 1147 the Royal Hospital of St Katharine was founded, on the orders of Queen Matilda, by the then proprietor, an Augustinian Priory at Aldgate, governed by a Master, three Brothers and three Sisters. Later, a Church was added and a community that became known as St Katharine’s Precinct developed. Some of the land was sold to allow the Tower Of London to build the East side of its moat and the precinct developed its own orchards, school, court, prison, factories, breweries and various types of housing. It had a ‘dokke’ at least from the 14th century.

Medieval Church of St Katharine by the Tower. Image by Jane Young.

Medieval Church of St Katharine by the Tower. Image by Jane Young.

Sadly and controversially, the ancient Royal Hospital, Church and more than four thousand people were removed in 1825, to make way for the new Telford Docks, which was built in a record three years, opening in 1825, trading in luxury items from all over the world. The Royal Hospital and Church were relocated at Regent’s Park, together with splendidly preserved relics, which are still in use at today’s Royal Foundation Of St Katharine at Limehouse. Throughout its history, Royal patronage has remained (usually the Queen) and today’s Master was appointed by the current Queen, continuing the tradition which has survived since the 12th century.

Builders Taylor Woodrow renovated the Docks, following the closure in 1968, first having to clear war damage and demolish derelict buildings. When pulling down the brick walls of a late 18th century warehouse, a grand wooden framework was discovered, so it was moved 70 metres and became the basis for today’s Dickens Inn. Modern offices were built in place of the Hardwick warehouses, including Commodity Quay, which housed two thousand commodity traders and Reuters News Agency. Ivory House (1852) was turned into luxury flats and numerous others were added surrounding the East Dock. Various shops and restaurants were built, creating the ‘Yacht Haven’, eventually becoming the sparkling Marina that we know and cherish. Still on show today are the Telford Bridge, numerous sculptures by Paula Haughney, (representing luxury items such as turtle shells, herbs, spices and exotic feathers), Wendy Taylor’s famous Timepiece and various other treasures.

Dickens Inn at St Katharine Docks

Dickens Inn at St Katharine Docks

Starbucks Coffee Shop is on the site of the ancient Hospital. It was built as the Coronarium, an all denomination chapel, again featuring original Tuscan Columns; unfortunately, after 19 years of use, it was closed, to reopen as a coffee shop. The mural in the window depicts a sketch of the intended new Docks c 1823.

Today, St Katharine Docks hosts boats from all over the World, as well as historical vessels which include the Royal Barge Gloriana, Havengore, which carried Churchill’s body in State, Flamant Rose, which belonged to Edith Piaf and the majestic Thames Barges.

Christopher West has written a book, The Story Of St Katharine’s, which chronicles the area from the tenth century to today.  He can be contacted on thestoryofstk@outlook.com.

St Katharine Dock today.

St Katharine Docks today.

St Katharine Dock today.

St Katharine Docks today.

St Katharine Dock today, view upriver.

St Katharine Docks today, view upriver.

Played in London

played in londonReview: Played in London: Charting the heritage of a city at play by Simon Inglis.

I’ve met the author of this book once or twice, the last occasion at an event just over a year ago. He told me about his book and why it was taking a bit of a while, essentially to do with the sheer amount of research required. And sure enough, the research that has gone into this book is staggering*. It is a massive topic, for sure, but with a copy in my hands, now I really understand. Played in London is the size and weight of a medium telephone directory (remember those?), is beautifully laid out in four column format and illustrated with nearly 1000 photos, illustrations and maps. In short, it’s a quality object.

The obvious place to start is with the sports themselves. There are fourteen chapters devoted to individual sports, with appropriate space allocated depending on popularity, so 34 pages for football down to around eight or ten for some of the others. And it’s those others which fascinate and tell us much about the public taste. The final two chapters cover greyhound racing (three tracks remaining today out of 30+) and speedway (including cycle speedway) – now disappeared. Both of these were massive in their time, that is to say mid-20C. The oldest sport, as one might expect, is probably archery. There is a wonderful 1594 map of the archery ranges in Finsbury fields – over 180 of them. Throughout, the author’s meticulous research throws up wonderful detail and trivia. If you wished to play every hole of golf in London, expect to walk 301 miles (or in my case, twice that). We are introduced to heroes of each sport, not just the players, but legendary managers, administrators and visionaries. There are many pictures of their blue plaques. Most pleasing for the historian, I think, are the illustrations – so evocative. Old team photos, of course, but advertisements, old tickets, match programmes, maps, mementoes, paraphernalia plus an abundance of museum pieces which leave you wondering: how on earth did they manage to strike that with that?

Spread from chapter on cricket.

Spread from chapter on cricket.

The book dedicates nine chapters to sporting organisations and buildings. So membership clubs, gymnasiums, swimming pools, billiard halls and most interesting for me, company sports and social clubs, which seem today to be from another age. Which of course they are. Unlike today, where organisations simply subsidise staff membership to some ghastly chain of gyms, in the late 19th and most of the 20th Centuries they were more likely to have their own in-house clubs with playing fields and facilities, or at the very least, shared ones: the civil service and various branches thereof, the Prudential, Debenhams, the Southern Suburban Gas Company, famously the Thames Iron Works which transmogrified into West Ham United. And many others. There is a map on page 132 showing 51 separate facilities in an area of South East London alone. Many of their clubhouses and pavilions were gorgeous.

Spread from chapter on company sports clubs

Spread from chapter on company sports clubs

Finally, my favourite thing about the book and one senses the topic which is the author’s also: architecture. It’s something that either we take for granted or that those with little interest in sport hardly notice. I for one shall henceforth pay more attention. Stadia and their grandstands; clubhouses and their pavilions; purpose built snooker halls, indoor baths and lidos. There is a complete chapter dedicated to grandstands. Stay with me on this, it’s an eye-opener and deeply interesting. I always thought cantilevered grandstands were a modern thing. We have a photo of a pair of beautiful structures from Northolt Park Racecourse from 1929, now long swept away with the racecourse itself. I can’t help thinking that because sport is such a social thing that these buildings were designed with more love than most, and indeed many a pavilion was done free of charge by a sports-loving architect who happened to be a club member.

This is a wonderful book. Yes, it relates the history of sport as it should. But it really succeeds in nailing the heritage in its title: it invokes nostalgia really powerfully. London sports fans will love this book, of that there is no doubt. Sports loving architects will adore it. And I would go so far to say that even historians without any interest in sports at all will enjoy Played in London. It’s that good.

Played in London (360pp) by Simon Inglis is published on 28 August 2014 by English Heritage with a cover price of £25, but available for less.

* Additional research by Jackie Spreckley

I’ve received many notifications the past week or two from dear friends, via LinkedIn, to congratulate me on my “work anniversary”. I must apologise to them for LinkedIn’s impertinance and, I suppose, thank them too for acquiescing to the bot. (book title? album title?)

But at least is served to remind me that London Historians has been going for four years. Already. So I’ve spent a little  (a lot) time going through photos of our events over this period. I’m struck by actually how many there have been: about a hundred, I reckon. But also, it’s reminded me that in London Historians we do actually have a jolly good time. Most of all, though, I’m humbled by the number of wonderful people who have “got” the London Historians thing, and backed us by becoming Members. That is what this is all about.

Rather than create another album on Flickr of grand palaces, livery companies, historic bridges and so on, I’ve made one that focuses on our Members. Each image has a caption about the event featured. Although we started in August 2010, these begin early in 2011 because it took us some months to get a little Membership going. We’re now over 500, if you’re asking.

The full album on Flickr is here.

By way of introduction, I’ve chosen one for each year to put here, but do go and see the full set which I think goes some way to answering the question: What are London Historians like? And if you fancy joining our gang, that’d be terrific. You can do so here.

London Historians Launch Party

16 March 2011. Scene from our official launch party at Georgian Group HQ, Fitzroy Square.

10 March. Tour of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Britain's oldest business.

10 March 2012. Tour of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, Britain’s oldest business.

16 April. In a bascule chamber beneath Tower Bridge.

16 April 2013 . In a bascule chamber beneath Tower Bridge.

12 June. Checking out the King's Topographical Collection (K-TOP) at the British Librar with Head of Maps, Peter Barber.

12 June 2014. Checking out the King’s Topographical Collection (K-TOP) at the British Librar with Head of Maps, Peter Barber.


gresham grasshopper

The Gresham family badge: a grasshopper.

Elizabeth I’s most well-known favourites were bellicose types like Sir Francis Drake, Sir Walter Ralegh or Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, whose head in the end was too hot for his own impatient, impetuous shoulders. They smote the queen’s enemies and filled her coffers using fire and sword.

Far more considered and cerebral ways of benefiting the Exchequer were employed by an altogether lesser-known servant: Sir Thomas Gresham (1518/9 – 1579). From a family of Norfolk merchants, this London-born entrepreneur gave the City not one but two great institutions: the Royal Exchange and Gresham College.

Gresham achieved better results than most by more peaceful means.

His upbringing was a privileged one. He was the younger son of Sir Richard Gresham, a successful merchant and Lord Mayor of London 1537. Born at his father’s house in Milk Lane in 1518/9, Thomas’s boyhood remains obscure but he spent some years at Gonville Hall, Cambridge, where he didn’t complete his degree but instead was apprenticed in the mercer’s trade under his uncle, John Gresham. Young Thomas spent much of the seven year apprenticeship on the continent, learning French and Flemish, building on his family’s network of trade contacts and indeed taking on much of the work. He soon caught the eye of royal agents – including Thomas Cromwell – who began putting royal work his way.

sir thomas gresham

A self-confident Thomas Gresham in his mid-20s. Gresham Collage.

This marked the start of service under four Tudor monarchs which saw its apeothis under Gloriana, Queen Elizabeth herself. Gresham’s skill, acumen and a studied disinterest in religion and politics gave him a cloak of immunity during the religious tumult of these reigns. He was the perfect servant for an avaricious and thrifty monarch such as Elizabeth.

Gresham spent his best business years from the late 1540s to the mid 1650s working both on the family’s account and as a royal agent, mainly in the Netherlands, occasionally Spain. In the Gresham interest he acted as both merchant and agent in the cloth trade and also the universal staple of guns and ammunition (“harness”). As the royal agent, his aim was to reduce the royal debt in Antwerp to from around £250,000 to zero. By anticipating interest rates in an extremely volatile market and negotiating the best deals (better than the Habsburgs themselves were able to secure) with bankers, brokers, underwriters, etc., by 1565 Gresham had reduced the Royal foreign debt to a mere £20,000. It was during this period, in 1559, that Gresham became Sir Thomas, before departing on a diplomatic mission.

While all this was going on, domestically Thomas was thriving too, having inherited family estates after his father’s death in 1549 and through an advantageous marriage to Anne Read, the widow of William Read, a wealthy fellow mercer and family friend. So at home in England, in addition to his ongoing mercer’s business, Gresham had considerable holdings in Norfolk, Suffolk and within the City of London.

Although Gresham had illegitimate progeny, his son Richard died in 1564, leaving him with no heir. Like most of the great philanthropists, he pondered his legacy and how best to use his fortune. First, he addressed something that he and his father both hankered after for London so that it could properly better its European rivals: a bourse, or exchange. So he bought up many properties in the Cornhill area, demolished them and built the first Royal Exchange, opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1571.

Today. The third Royal Exchange on the same site, by William Tite. It's now populated by fancy goods shops, coffee bars and over-officious security guards.

The third Royal Exchange in Cornhill, by William Tite. It’s now populated by fancy goods shops, coffee bars and over-officious security guards.

He financed eight almshouses at the rear of his house in Bishopsgate, a common and popular type of endowment during this period.

Finally, and crucially, he wished for London to have a prestigious seat of learning like Oxford and Cambridge. It was unthinkable that the City should lack such an institution. So he left provision for Gresham College to have a premises and funding for seven professors, each to deliver a lecture once a week in Latin and English. The chairs were, and are: Astronomy; Divinity; Geometry (i.e. Mathematics); Law; Music; Physic; Rhetoric. An eighth chair – Commerce – was added in 1985.

The College has had various homes over the centuries. Since 1991 it has resided at Barnard’s Inn in Holborn, formerly the Mercers’ School. The mediaeval Barnard’s Inn Hall is the gorgeous centrepiece of the complex where Gresham College holds many of its free lectures. There are over 100 of these every year, both at the college and the Museum of London. I can’t recommend them too highly. Full programme for 2014-15 is here. And, superbly, all lectures are recorded, there is a huge back-catalogue of worthy material to enjoy.

Gresham College

The first Gresham College and former home of Sir Thomas. Image: Gresham College.

Gresham College

Entrance to Gresham College in Holborn.

Barnard's Inn Hall, Gresham College

Barnard’s Inn Hall.

It is London Historians’ massive privilege to be holding our inaugural annual lecture at Barnard’s Inn Hall on 4 September. Adrian Tinniswood will be talking about Sir Christopher Wren who was once the Gresham Professor of Astronomy. Unfortunately, if you haven’t a ticket yet, it is fully-booked.

Gresham College website
Wikipedia on Sir Thomas Gresham
Wikipedia on Gresham College
Excerpts from Gresham’s Will

A Brief History of Gresham College (1997) by Richard Charteris and David Vermont
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (subscription site), where the writer is overall quite mean about Gresham’s achievements!

Gresham College.

Gresham College.

Greshamiana 1: Victorian  period statue above Holborn Viaduct.

Greshamiana 1: Victorian period statue above Holborn Viaduct.

Sir Thomas Gresham

Greshamiana 2: Stained glass panel depicting Gresham Arms in an office building in Basinghall Street. Gresham’s family home was once in the same street.


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