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Endymion Porter

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The current exhibition at the National Archives – With Love: Letters of love, loss and longing –  is as delightful as it is eclectic. One of the main exhibits is a letter written from Spain in 1623 by Sir Endymion Porter (1587 – 1649) to his beloved wife Olivia. He was accompanying the Prince of Wales, later Charles I, on the young royal’s bizarre and ultimately unsuccessful secret mission to procure a Spanish wife. The Porters’ happy marriage was not untroubled by mutual jealousy. To allay his wife’s fears, in this document, the royal sidekick writes “I kiss thy sweet mouth a thousand times” and “in thee I am rich and without thee I am nothing but misery”. This was, after all, the age of Shakespeare.

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This exhibit had me pondering. Porter’s name was familiar to me but I couldn’t quite place it. It niggled. Then, less than a week later, I was loafing around Tate Britain and it all came together: his portrait by William Dobson. Of course!

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Endymion Porter by William Dobson. Tate Britain.

This picture was painted during the Civil War. Porter, an unwavering though not uncritical friend of the king, was by this time in his mid-50s. Here his blotchy face shows a life well-lived. The portrait below, by Daniel Mytens (who also ‘did’ the king), portrays him about 15 years younger.

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Endymion Porter by Daniel Mytens. National Portrait Gallery, London.

And this one – with and by Anthony Van Dyck – falls between the two.

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Endymion Porter and Anthony Van Dyck by Van Dyck. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Van Dyck also did this family group portrait of the Porters.

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Sir Endymion Porter, his wife and three sons by Anthony Van Dyck. National Trust.

All of these pictures, I feel, show a happy-go-lucky individual whose main concern was the good things in life. He was a royal favourite of both James I and Charles I, who dabbled in diplomacy and commerce, not always successfully. Like both monarchs – especially the latter – he was an aesthete, a connoisseur with a particular love for paintings. In 1649 he returned from exile, dying only a matter of months after the king and was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields, appropriately the final resting place also of Dobson (d.1626). The painter was known to be a heavy drinker and one can easily imagine the pair of them sharing a glass or two between sittings.

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There are quite a few more portrait images of Endymion Porter out there, including engravings and miniatures. Just look them up in Google Images.

Guest post by LH Member Laurence Scales. This article first appeared in LH Members’ Newsletter of July 2019. 


Dean Street in Soho was probably named after a dean but sources disagree about which one. In this article I shall brandish for your casual admiration some deans whose names are commemorated in the streets of central Westminster. Regular readers of my articles will not expect me to fuss about ecclesiastical history but this little collection of deans includes a number notable in other ways.
Victoria Street, an unlovely main thoroughfare running south west from Westminster Abbey, was a Victorian invention, the clue is in the name, and its birth flattened a large area of mean and decayed housing, including Dickens’ “Devil’s Acre” for which the slang word slum was brought first into general use. This and follow-on improvements around central Westminster, and a weeding of duplicate street names to help the postman, resulted in a number of new streets in the area named after deans.

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Victoria Street, 1854.

Not being part of the diocese of the Bishop of London, there is no Bishop to house or commemorate at Westminster Abbey. The Abbey is a Royal Peculiar, or church under the direct control of the monarch, and the highest ranking divine of that shrine is the Dean. After Victoria Street ploughed across the cityscape Dean Street, running south outside Westminster Abbey, was subsumed into Great Smith Street. Concealed hard by Westminster Abbey there is also Dean’s Yard, named for the deanery there.
I became interested in the topography of central Westminster named after specific deans having noticed several, and then been surprised to find one of them named for the Victorian Dean Farrar whom I recognised from the historical back catalogue of lecturers at the scientific Royal Institution of Great Britain. But I will come to him later.

Before we consider the Victorian deans in the new wave of streets christened after the First World War, we should perhaps note briefly some of the other divines name-checked in the streets of the vicinity. John Islip (1464–1532) was abbot of the monastery of Westminster shortly before Henry VIII’s dissolution. (There has been a connection down the centuries between the Abbey and the village of Islip in Oxfordshire, and Dean Buckland died there.) John Islip street runs south towards the Tate Britain. Then Atterbury Street, which contains the new entrance to the Tate, was named for a Dean of Westminster appointed in 1713.

Vincent Square is named after Dean William Vincent (1739-1815), once also the headmaster of the ancient Westminster School which has a discrete frontage in Dean’s Yard. The school has the green centre of Vincent Square for its games. Vincent displayed an intriguing mania for researching the particulars of the trading voyages of the ancient Greeks extending into the Indian Ocean. (Vincent’s father was a merchant.) He compared the Greek’s anecdotal accounts of their travels with current knowledge in The Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean (1807). Here is a taster.

“We shall have reason to observe as we proceed, that fish is almost the only means of supporting life, or furnishing the conveniencies of life, such as they are, to the natives; that their houses are constructed with the larger bones of fish, and thatched with the refuse; that their garments are of fish-skins; that their very bread is a fishy substance, pounded and preserved; and that even the few cattle they have, feed on fish.”

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Dean William Vincent. National Portrait Gallery, London.

His publications on this subject included the contribution of the previous Dean of Westminster, Samuel Horsley, who provided an astronomical appendix on the rising of the Pleiades constellation above the horizon in classical antiquity, but who did not (apparently) merit a street being named after him.

Apart from the loose canon (pun intended) of Dean Farrar, whose street leads off to the north of Victoria street, the other named Dean Streets are around or close to Smith Square. In that square, the architectural oddity of St John’s Church of 1728 lies, according to Dickens, “On its back with its legs in the air.”

Dean Trench was Richard Chenevix Trench (1807-1886). Dean Trench Street, west of Smith Square, was roughly a replacement for Little Tufton Street, which could otherwise be confused with its grown-up neighbour, Tufton Street. His address of 1857 On some Deficiencies in our English Dictionaries at the London Library to the Philological Society is regarded as launching the 80-year effort to produce the Oxford English Dictionary. The complete OED, distinctively, charts the changes in the meanings of words over the centuries, by example. The murderer William Minor and polymath John Lubbock were among many contributors of illustrative quotations.

Dean Stanley was Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-1881) who enjoyed a particularly good relationship with Queen Victoria. Dean Stanley Street, east of Smith Square was formerly Church Street of which London already had a few namesakes. Refreshingly, for a cleric in the Church of England, in which music plays such a large part, Stanley was apparently “incapable of distinguishing one tune from another.” He had a favourable opinion of the Quakers and saw Christians for what they had in common rather than what divided them. Notably, this made for his key role in university reform – as secretary to a royal commission of 1850. This commission urged removal of the requirement for students to subscribe to the 39 articles of faith of the Church of England in order to attend universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, and be awarded a degree. University College London had already broken with the practice but London had promptly founded a new Christian college, King’s. Previously, some of the most distinguished scientific minds in the country had been denied a university education, through being nonconformists. But the other side of the coin was that their thinking had been novel and untrammelled by the natural philosophy routinely taught at the ancient universities. Earlier reform might have denied the country many a celebrated savant.

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Dean Arthur Stanley. National Portrait Gallery, London.

Dean Bradley was George Granville Bradley (1821-1903), and his claim to inspiring the name of a street is, to me, obscure. Dean Bradley Street, south of Smith Square, was new. His main claim to fame is as the author of a number of Latin textbooks, on which subject I shall leave my next Dean to comment more eloquently than I ever could.

Frederic William Farrar (1831-1903) was an archdeacon at Westminster but a Dean at Canterbury. He was also a schoolmaster at Harrow and eager for educational reform. I must admit to cheering at his remarks that I found in his Royal Institution lecture, so unexpected in Victorian Britain, although the first below is perhaps unlikely to find favour with London Historians’ chief executive today.

‘We commonly see boys ready to sacrifice everything to cricket… they talk cricket, think cricket and dream cricket, morning, noon and night… This mania of muscularity has its share in the hunger-bitten poverty of our intellectual results.’

‘I must avow my distinct conviction that our present system of exclusively classical education… is a deplorable failure… Classical Education neglects all the power of some minds, and some of the powers of all minds.’

Farrar, published his views in Essays on a Liberal Education and sanctioned the burial in 1882 of the atheistic Charles Darwin in Westminster Abbey as deserving of that honour. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, who famously attempted to ridicule Darwin’s ideas in debate with Thomas Huxley at Oxford in 1860 was, himself, formerly a Dean of Westminster. No street was named for him!

Remembrance of the unknown warrior was a concept born of mass slaughter beyond reckoning in the mud and chaos of no-man’s-land in the First World War and it found public expression first in memorials in Westminster and in Paris. Herbert Edward Ryle (1856-1925), Dean Ryle, was responsible for taking for Westminster the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Dean Ryle Street, south of Smith Square and Horseferry Road was a new creation.

My favourite dean, Dean William Buckland (1784-1856), was a cracking eccentric, significant in the history of geology, zoology and gastronomy, who included in his adventures a minor dalliance with cannibalism. But unfortunately, he is still waiting for a Westminster street to be named after him.


Laurence Scales is a specialist guide and lecturer interested in the history of science, invention, engineering and medicine in London. He is a volunteer at the archives of the Royal Institution and Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Sir Rowland Hill

A guest post by LH Member Martin Thompson.


rowland hill portraitSir Rowland Hill is best known as the originator of the Uniform Penny Post. In the 1830s the postal system was mismanaged, wasteful, expensive and slow. Letters were normally paid for by the recipient, not the sender. The recipient could simply refuse delivery. For the working class, a letter could cost more than a day’s wage. In addition, postal rates were complex, depending on the distance and the number of sheets in the letter.

Rowland Hill was born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire on 3 December 1795 into a family of enlightened educators during an age notorious for public school brutality as shown in the books of Charles Dickens. The family ethos was to instill moral training by kindness instead of fear of authority. At the age of 12, Rowland became a student teacher in his father’s school. He taught astronomy and earned extra money fixing scientific instruments. He also worked at the Assay Office in Birmingham and painted landscapes in his spare time

On 27 September 1827, Hill married Caroline Pearson, from nearby Wolverhampton. The couple had one son and three daughters. Hill became frustrated in his role as a schoolmaster and started looking for other avenues to achieve social progress and personal advancement. He worked on all sorts of ideas, inventions and innovations. Hill served from 1833 until 1839 as secretary of the South Australian Colonisation Commission, which worked successfully to establish a settlement in what is today Adelaide. Rowland Hill’s sister and her family emigrated there in 1850.

penny blackIn 1835 Rowland Hill published a pamphlet entitled Post Office Reform. Hill’s Penny Post plan was revolutionary, leading to various reforms and the introduction of the first postage stamp. On 10 January 1840, the Uniform Penny Post was established throughout the UK, facilitating the safe, speedy and cheap conveyance of letters which could be prepaid with the first postage stamp, known as the Penny Black. Since Britain was the first country to use adhesive stamps, she is the only country in the world that does not have to put the name of the country on them. Hill’s ideas were adopted virtually world-wide within a generation.

In 1849, Hill moved to Bartrams House – demolished in 1902 – near Hampstead Green on the corner of Haverstock Hill and Pond Street. He lived there for over 30 years until his death on 27 August 1879. While in Hampstead he served as Secretary to the Postmaster-General from 1846 to 1854 and then Secretary to the Post Office from 1854 to 1864. He received a knighthood in 1860 for his contribution to postal reform. Soon after Hill’s death, his house was incorporated into the North Western Fever Hospital which was replaced by the larger Hampstead General Hospital in 1905 and finally by the vast Royal Free Hospital, completed in 1975. A road behind the hospital bears his name. He was honoured by being buried at Westminster Abbey on 4 September 1879.

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There are three public statues of Hill; the earliest stands in Birmingham, one is in his hometown of Kidderminster and a third in King Edward Street in the city of London outside what was at one time the General Post Office Headquarters.

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On the boundary wall of the present Royal Free Hospital complex, facing down Rowland Hill Street, a chocolate-brown coloured plaque erected by the Society of Arts commemorates the originator of the Penny Post with the words: Sir Rowland Hill KCB originator of the penny post lived here 1849-1879 Born 1795 Died 1879. This is currently obscured by panels whilst a new building is being erected.

Notre Dame de France

I always encourage people to wander into churches if they have even a few minutes to spare. Or any place of worship for that matter. I did this recently with quite a modern-looking church that lies between Chinatown and Leicester Square in Leicester Place: Notre Dame de France.

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It is, of course. a French church, founded in the 1860s at the behest of Cardinal Wiseman to serve the considerable French diaspora living in the immediate area. For most of its existence Notre Dame de France – a Marian church as its name suggests – has been run by the Marist Brothers. It is one of four Catholic churches in the West End.

It suffered severe bomb damage early in WW2 and its story is really about its rebuilding, refurbishing and redecorating later in the war and the years immediately afterwards.

When you enter you immediate realise that the church is a rotunda, that’s to say domed, its form having been inherited from a precious building on the site, Burford’s Panorama. Large scale panoramas had been popular forms of entertainment in the late Georgian period but by the mid 19th Century somewhat out of fashion.

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The most noteworthy item in Notre Dame is group of chapel murals painted by Jean Cocteau (1889 – 1963) in November of 1959. Largely forgotten today, Cocteau was internationally renowned at the time. A film director, writer, playwright, artist and poet, he was invited to paint three murals depicting the Annunciation, the Crucifiction and the Assumption. For a week he turned up at 10 in the morning, lit a candle and got on with the job, including a self portrait in the work. He additionally painted a panel of wood which was used to obscure an altar mosaic by the great Boris Anrep. This bizarre business was only rediscovered in 2003 whereupon the work was uncovered and remains so till this day.

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The Anrep mosaic.

There are other lovely bits of artwork dotted around the church, notably a large altar tapestry by the Benedictine monk, Dom Robert.

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Do pop in to Notre Dame if you find yourself in the Leciester Square or Chinatown area.

Website of Notre Dame de France.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the death of George Orwell, on 21 January 1950. One of the greatest writers of the 20th Century passed away just after midnight in Room 65 of University College Hospital, London. He was just 46 years old.

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At the time, Orwell, diagnosed with tuberculosis since 1947, was hoping to travel to a clinic in Switzerland to help improve his chronically weak lungs. His medical team were also considering treating him with penicillin, then a new wonder-drug, but still in short supply.

Orwell knew he was dying. Working with his doctor, Dr Morland, it was hoped that he could extend his life for a few more years at least. Morland had previously treated D.H. Lawrence for TB, but ultimately without success.

The writer had been checked into hospital in September 1949. He had a private room costing £17 per week (good socialist!). In this room, on 13 October, he was married for the second time, to Sonia Brownell (1918 – 1980) whom he’d met at Horizon, the literary magazine run by Cyril Connolly, his school friend from Eton. For the ceremony, he was too ill even to leave his bed, but nonetheless exceptionally happy. Brownell took care of all his affairs from then on and indeed years after his death, sometimes controversially.

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The old University College Hospital building, now Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research. Pic: M Paterson.

In his final days, one of Orwell’s main concerns was his son Richard, whom he’d adopted with his first wife Eileen. Fear of infection prevented the boy from coming close to his father which caused terrible frustration. After the writer’s death Richard Blair was brought up by Orwell’s sister Avril. In retirement, he is very supportive of Orwell-related events and activities. Interview.

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When Orwell checked in at UCH, Nineteen Eighty-Four had been published just three months. While Animal Farm (1945) had turned him into a widely known writer, it was his masterpiece that secured his finances, reputation and legacy. Indeed, fame.

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George Orwell’s grave, Sutton Courtenay, near Oxford. Pic: M Paterson.


George Orwell in Wikipedia.

Biographies.
Orwell The Authorised Biography by Michael Shelden.
George Orwell: A Life by Bernard Crick.
Orwell: The Life by D.J. Taylor.

2019: Our Year

Here are most of the events we held this year, with a picture for each. A couple – e.g. King’s Army Parade and Lord Mayor’s Show – are obviously not ours as such, but a contingent of Members always meets up at them to join in the celebrations.

In addition to those listed, we have a monthly pub meet-up every first Wednesday of the month (but 8th not 1st in January 2020). After many happy years at the Hoop & Grapes, Farringdon, we felt it time for a change and for most of 2019 we used the Bishop’s Finger in Smithfield. Note that all are welcome at this event, not just Members.
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I’d like to thank everyone who led tours or spoke at our talks evenings and all of the London institutions who generously hosted us and extended the best hospitality.

With over 600 Members, increasingly our events are becoming Members-only. At any rate, LH Members get cheaper (or sometimes free) tickets. If you like what you see below and would like to join us, please do so here.

Sunday 27 January
King’s Army Parade 2019.
Approximately 500 Royalist re-enactors commemorate the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649, marching along the Mall to Horseguards.

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Monday 28 January
Tour and Visit of Stephens Ink Museum (Stephens House and Gardens). Led by LH Member Melanie Wynyard.

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Monday 18 March
Tour of Watermen’s Hall.

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Thursday 28 March
Bazalgette 200 Tour
on the 200th anniverary of the birth of the great engineer. Led by LH Member Rob Smith. On this all day event we travelled from Putney in the west to Abbey Mills in the east, stopping at the Institute of Civil Engineers with a pub lunch in Covent Garden. We did him proud.
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Monday 1 April
Fortnum & Mason archivist’s talk (and tea!).
by LH Member Andrea Tanner.
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Tuesday 30 April
History in the Pub: Theme of Animals in London
Full house of an evening of talks and quiz. Speakers included LH Members Joanna Moncrieff, Diane Burstein, Hannah Renier, Rebecca Preston, Rob Smith, Jane Young and Tom Almeroth-Williams, author of City of Beasts (our Book of the Year for 2019).
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Friday 3 May
Tour of Accountants’ Hall.
led by LH Member Sharon Grant.
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Saturday 18 May
George Orwell’s London.
Walking tour led by LH Member David Poyser.
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Monday 20 May
Tours of Tower Bridge (x2)
to celebrate the 200th anniversary of architect Horace Jones.
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Wednesday 29 May
London Historians Big Quiz 2019
Quizmaster LH Member Matt Brown. Winning team, 50 Shades for the second year.
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Tuesday 4 June
Brompton Cemetery Tour.
including the catacomb and refurbished chapel. Led by Robert Stephenson.
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Tuesday 18 June
Holden Goes West
A tour of some of the great Tube architect’s stations on the western end of the Piccadilly Line. Led by London Historians members David Burnell and Steve Leppert.
All proceeds to London Transport Museum.
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Tuesday 25 June
Tour of London Transport Museum art collection, Acton Depot.
Led by LH Member David Burnell. Poster shown here is by Man Ray.
All proceeds to London Transport Museum.
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Wednesday 26 June.
History in the Pub: The London Book Trade.
Evening of talks by: Margaret Willes, Anthony Davis, Henry Eliot and Diane Burstein. MC Colin Davey. Quiz questions: Matt Brown.

Thursday 4 July.
Curator Tour of Dr Johnson’s House, with punch!
Led by LH Members Celine McDaid and research academic Prof Sheila Cavanagh.
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Friday 5 July
Tours of Charlton House and Severndroog Castle.
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Tuesday 9 July
Book Lovers’ St James.
Walking tour led by LH Member Anthony Davis.

Thursday 22 August
From Pilgrimage to Biscuits: Harlesden and Willesden.
walking tour and church visits led by LH Member Andrew Teather, Dean of Brent.
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Monday 26 August
Foundation Day Life Members’ Lunch.
Parcel Yard, King’s Cross Station.
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Saturday 24 August
LH annual Ian Nairn birthday pub crawl.
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Thursday 29 August
Tours of Wiltons Music Hall and Hoxton Hall.
London’s only two surviving music halls.
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Sunday 1 September
Awayday: Historic Croydon
Croydon Aerodrome followed by guided walk by LH Member Gavin Webb.
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Thursday 5 September
London Historians Annual Lecture 2019
at Gresham College. Talk by Prof Arthur Burns from KCL.
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Thursday 19 September
Tour of 55 Broadway
Our annual tour of Charles Holden’s 1929 masterpiece, formerly HQ of London Transport/TfL. Led by LH Members Edmund Bird and David Leboff. Proceeds to the Railway Children charity.
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Tuesday 22 October
Novo Cemetery and Ragged School Museum.
cemetery bit led by LH Member Caroline Swan.

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Thursday 24 October
History in the Pub: More Favourite Londoners.
Eight speakers on eight Londoners of note. Talks from LH Members Laurence Scales, Rob Smith, Joanna Moncrieff, Daniella King, Jen Pedler, Robert Kingham, Diana Burstein, Marilyn Greene. MC and quizmaster: Matt Brown (pictured).
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Friday 25 October.
The Changing Face of Brentford.
Tour led by local historians Janet McNamara. We’ll do more London suburbs in 2020. Yes, I know Brentford’s a town, but you get my drift.
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Friday 1 November.
Tour of BT Archives in Holborn.
Documents, objects and ephemera dating back to 1840.
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Wednesday 13 November.
History in the Pub: Four London Artists named William.
(Dobson, Hogarth, Blake, Turner). Our speakers: Waldemar Januczszak (pictured), Val Bott, Jon Newman, Catherine Parry-Wingfield. MC and quizmaster: Matt Brown.
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Thursday 14 November
Tour of Salters’ Hall and archive.
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Wednesday 27 November
Roger Williams Whitebait Supper.
at the Trafalgar Tavern, Greenwich. This was a celebration of the life of LH Member Roger Williams who died in August. He was a leading authority and author on the London and Thames historic whitebait industry. Proceeds to British Heart Foundation.
whitebait

Monday 2 December
Tour of Down Street Station.
Historic ‘ghost’ station, closed in the early 1930s. Used in WW2 as an underground HQ of the London Transport Executive and also a favourite bolt hole of Winston Churchill. Led by LH Member David Leboff.
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Books of 2019

Yes, more on books. We haven’t managed to get through as many as in previous years despite sterling review assistance from our members. Here they are.

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A Year of London and the Thames* by Roger Williams
review by Jane Young
* currently out of print

London Vagabond: the Life of Henry Mayhew by Christopher Anderson
review by Laurence Scales

The Royal Society and the Invention of Modern Science by Adrian Tinniswood
review by Laurence Scales

The Hidden Horticuluralists by Fiona Davison
review by Val Bott

Orphans of Empire by Helen Berry
review by Julian Woodford

Faber & Faber: the Untold Story by Toby Faber
review by Mike Paterson

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Trading in War* by Margarette Lincoln
review by Mike Paterson
* a late review of what was London Historians Book of the Year for 2018

Night Raiders by Eloise Moss
review by Tony Moore

Palaces of Pleasure by Lee Jackson
review by David Brown

London Bridge and its Houses by Dorian Gerhold
review by Hannah Renier

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Gunpowder & Geometry by Benjamin Wardhaugh
review by Laurence Scales

Londonist Drinks by Londonist staff writers
review by Mike Paterson

Tracing Your Insolvent Ancestors by Paul Blake
review by Joanna Moncrieff

City of Beasts by Thomas Almeroth-Williams
review by Mike Paterson


Finally, every month in our members’ newsletter we have a book competition which readers enter to win a signed book . Some, not all, are already listed above. They were:

January: A Year of Turner and the Thames by Roger Williams
February: The Worst Street in London by Fiona Rule
March:  Orphans of Empire by Helen Berry
April:  Crusoe, Castaways and Shipwrecks in the Perlilous Age of Sail by Mike Rendell
May:  London Baroque by Robert Kingham & Rich Cochrane
June:  City of Beasts by Thomas Almeroth-Williams
July:  Faber & Faber by Toby Faber
August: Trading in War by Margarette Lincoln
September: Mudlarking by  Lara Maiklem
October: Londonist Drinks by Londonist staff
November : The  House Party by Adrian Tinniswood
December: Christmas Traditions by George Goodwin