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Today marks the 5th anniversary of the founding of London Historians.

The first London Historians member card. Somerset House.

The first London Historians member card. Somerset House.

I’d like to thank every single member who has joined us in that time. I’d also like to thank all the friends we’ve made at museums, libraries, historic buildings, local history societies and other heritage groups, the London Topographical Society, to pick a random example. Curators, librarians, authors, academics, genealogists, archaeologists. And tour guides, a special mention for them: there are several dozen among our membership which now stands at 520. I wonder if we can make that 600 in 24 hours?

SPECIAL OFFER NEW MEMBERS. This Day Only, ends midnight.
If you’re a non-Member reading this and would like to take the plunge, we commemorate this anniversary with a £10 discount on joining. 24 hours only! Please proceed to this page. (for “Qualifying Group”, please put LH5).

Here are some highlights, events, memories.

2010
26 August. London Historians founded with web site and bank account.
2 September. First blog post. Not very exciting!
8 September. New member cards designed and ordered.
20 September. Our first paying Member!
Early member newsletter web site articles in 2010 by Brian Cookson, Russ Willey, Emily Brand, Lucy Inglis and Christian Wolmar (yes, the transport guru and current London Mayoral candidate).

Historian, Blue Badge Guide, author Brian Cookson. He wrote our first article and in 2011 conducted our first guided tour.

Historian, Blue Badge Guide, author Brian Cookson. He wrote our first article and in 2011 conducted our first guided tour.

2011
15 March: Our launch party at the Georgian Group HQ in Fitzroy Square.
31 March. Our 100th Member. Take a bow, Essie Fox!
Weds 4 May. First ever monthly pub meet-up at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. (now Hoop & Grapes, Farringdon Street). Three members show up. This event has run on the first Weds of the month unbroken ever since, now attracting dozens of members and guests. So we’ve had 52 at time of writing.
21 May. Our first guided walk under LH banner, and led by LH Member, Brian Cookson.
28 July. Awayday trip and conference in Bath organised by LH Members from Bath Spa University led by Prof Elaine Chalus.
18 September. Tour of Kensal Green Cemetery.
21 September. Our first History in the Pub. Unthemed. Speakers Lucy Inglis and Prof Jerry White. Live music from Ruairidh Anderson, quiz by Matt Brown. Matt continues as our MC for all subsequent History in the Pub events.
30 November. History in the Pub 2. Unthemed. Speakers are historian Nigel Jones and Prof Tim Hitchcock. Live music from Ruairidh Anderson again and Henry Skewes.
17 December: Art and the City. Tour of some Wren churches and the Guildhall Art Gallery, let by LH Member Colin Davey.

Members and guests and our launch party.

Members and guests and our launch party.

Audience at our first History in the Pub.

Audience at our first History in the Pub.

2012
7 February. We witness the opening of The Trial of the Pyx.
10 March. Visit to Whitechapel Bell Foundry. We repeated the exercise in 2015.
13 March. History in the Pub 3: sounds of London. Our first themed effort. Featuring archivists from BBC, British Library and Wellcome Library Terrific.
25/26 April. Two behind the scenes visits to the Parliamentary Archives, led by LH Member Caroline Shenton. Wonderful.
1 May. Behind the Scenes at Kew National Archives. We repeated this tour in 2013.
5 May. Visit to Turner’s House and Marble Hill House.
17 July. History in the Pub 4. Theme East London.
25 July. Member tour of Fulham Palace.
16 August. Member tour of the Supreme Court.
October. History in the Pub 5: Fire. Member tour of London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC), Oddities of the Strand walk with LH Member Peter Berthoud. Blog summary.
25 November. Pub meet-up to celebrate Henry Mayhew’s bi-centenary.
7 December. 10,000 followers on Twitter

One of two group visits to the Parliamentary Archives.

One of two group visits to the Parliamentary Archives.

Behind the scenes at the National Archives, Kew.

Behind the scenes at the National Archives, Kew.

Oddities of the Strand guided walk.

Oddities of the Strand guided walk.

2013
13 January. Sold-out panel conference to celebrate 150 years of the Tube at London Transport Museum.
12 March. Behind the scenes member tour at the Wellcome Library.
21 March. Behind the scenes member tour of the Old Bailey
16 April. Member tour of Tower Bridge, including bascule chamber.
18 April. History in the Pub. Theme: Tudor London with Suzannah Lipscomb, Mathew Lyons and Andrew Maginley
20 June. Member guided walk of the Caledonian Road with LH Member Rob Smith. Flickr album.
27 June. Curator-led member tour of the Government Art Collection.
9 August. Member tour of London Transport Museum Acton Depot.
16 August. Awayday curator tour of Watts Gallery, Guildford, with lunch. Flickr album.
18 August. Guided walk of Jewish East End and Bevis Marks Synagogue with LH Member Clive Bettington.
2 September. Exploring the Thames forshore with Thames Discovery Programme.
7 September. Walk Every Street in Soho with LH Member Peter Berthoud.
12 September. Lecture and member tour of London Metropolitan Archives.
25 September. Coroner’s Inquest historical re-enactments at the George in the Strand with Univerisity of Herts.
26 September. Petty Sessions historical re-enactments at the George in the Strand with Univerisity of Herts.
8 October. History in the Pub. Theme: Sex and the City
10 October. City of London Slavery walk led by LH Member with LH Member Will Pettigrew.
18 October. Macdonald Gill curator private view at Pitzhanger Manor.
14 November. History in the Pub. Theme: London’s Street Poor.
19 November. Bollards, Breweries and Bullets. Conference at the National Archive, Kew.

Exclusive tour of London Transport Museum Acton Depot

Exclusive tour of London Transport Museum Acton Depot

At Bevis Marks Synagogue.

At Bevis Marks Synagogue.

2014.
FLICKR ALBUM OF 2014 HIGHLIGHTS

13 February. Member tour of the Royal Courts of Justice led by LH Member, Colin Davey.
26 February. Curator-led member tour of Georgians Revealed at the British Library.
5 March. Curator preview of Brits who Built the Modern World at RIBA.
14 March. Curator-led member tour of the Royal Institution with Charlotte New and Laurence Scales.
20 April. Behind the scenes at HMP Wandsworth and private museum, led by a serving prison officer and LH Member.
25 April. Curator-led tour of Bank of England Museum.
29 April. History in the Pub. Theme: Beer, Pubs and Breweries incl. LH Member Martyn Cornell.
16 May. Walking tour of St Katharine Docks and Royal Foundation led by LH Member Chris West.
29 May. Archivist-led member tour of Westminster School.
12 June. Behind the scenes exclusive member tour of British Library map collection with Peter Barber.
18 July. Member tour of Apothecaries’ Hall.
19 July. Walking tour of Industrial East London and House Mill led by LH Member Rob Smith.
22 July. Curator-led member tour of Dr Johnson’s House
29 July. History in the Pub. Shakespeare’s Local. Author talk at the George Inn, Southwark.
13 August. Member tour of the Government Art Collection.
22 August. Excl. member tour of Sutton House.
27 August. Walking tour of Smithfield and Bart’s Hospital and churches, led by LH Member Peter Twist.
4 September. LONDON HISTORIANS INAUGURAL LONDON LECTURE. Barnard’s Inn Hall, Gresham College. LH Member Adrian Tinniswood OBE on Christopher Wren, Extraordinary Genius.
3 October. Post Office Big Day Out. Storage Depot in Debden and Heritage Library, London.
12 October. History in the Pub. Theme: History OF the pub.
13 December. Member tour of BBC Broadcasting House. More on Flickr.
16 December. Private view and wine reception, Hogarth’s London exhibition, Cartoon Museum.

Tour of Apothecaries' Hall.

Tour of Apothecaries’ Hall.

Adrian Tinniswood about to deliver the inaugural London Historians Annual Lecture.

Adrian Tinniswood about to deliver the inaugural London Historians Annual Lecture.

2015
The theme for the year is the City of London’s Livery Companies.
8 January. Member tour of the College of Arms, led by the Windsor Herald.
16 January. Member tour of Merchant Taylors’ Hall.
24 February. Member tour of Cutlers’ Hall.
3 March. History in the Pub. Theme: Sport in London with Simon Inglis and Clive Bettington.
6 March. Member tour of Drapers’ Hall.
21 March. Supper at Yeoman Warders’ Club, Tower of London and Ceremony of the Keys.
17 April. Member tour of Stationers’ Hall.
21 April. Site visit to Crossrail archaeological site at Liverpool Street Station.
24 April. Derelict London walk and St Dunstan’s Stepney tour with Paul Talling and Dave Whittaker.
9 May. Member tour of Boston Manor and guided walk to historic Brentford.
20 May. Seminar at Information Technologists’ Hall. Heraldry and Regalia of the City of London and Livery, by LH Member Paul Jagger.
5 June. Member tour of Vintners’ Hall
12 June. Brixton tour. HMP Brixton and Brixton Windmill.
14 June. Walking tour. Battle of Waterloo commemoration.
20 June. Member tour of Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Our second visit.
29 June. Member tour of Watermen’s Hall.
11 July. Walking tour of industrial Woolwich with Laurence Scales.
21 July. History in the Pub. Theme: Inky Fingers – London and the Press.
24 July. Member tour of Armourers’ and Brasiers’ Hall.
26 August: 5TH ANNIVERSARY OF LONDON HISTORIANS

Brixton Windmill.

Brixton Windmill.

Armourers' and Brasiers' Hall.

Armourers’ and Brasiers’ Hall.

Today we honour the memory of a most courageous and remarkable academic – the archaeologist Khaled al-Asaad – who was murdered in cold blood at the cowardly hands of ISIS in his homeland of Syria. His crime? Refusing to give up the secret locations of Palmyra’s antiquities which he had hidden from their vandalistic intent. One can only wonder at such bravery and dedication. Dedication to his craft. Dedication to the honour of his home town, Palmyra, and to Syria. Dedication to History.

Khaled al-Asaad, the Director of Antiquities and Museum in Palmyra, in 2002.

As London Historians we have little in common with him in the narrowest sense but everything in common as historians. It’s a je suis Khaled thing. We would urge those in a better position than us to condemn and reject the agenda of ISIS by honouring this man in a meaningful and concrete way. The most appropriate institutions in England to do this should be led, of course, by the British Museum. Other guardians of antiquities such as the Ashmolian and Fitzwilliam museums should join in. They could each name a room after him or at least mount a plaque in his memory. How about the Khaled al-Asaad Annual Lecture? Please add your ideas in Comments, below, and use #HonourKhaled on Twitter.

I’d go further and suggest that this crime of ISIS, which contrasts so starkly al-Asaad’s sacrifice, deserves an even wider and bolder response. Every museum and gallery, every history, classics, antiquities and archaeological faculty and institution – here and elsewhere – should make a gesture in defiance of the ISIS agenda.

From us at London Historians: Khaled al-Asaad, we salute you.

The Murder of Khaled al Asaad.
The Guardian
The Telegraph
The Spectator
BBC News

Stanley Gardner (1911 – 1991) was London Transport’s first ever heritage guide, known among colleagues as the Memory Man.

DSC09586bAbout a month ago I received through the post a large cardboard box containing hundreds of slides of pictures featuring historic London scenes, mostly taken in the 1960s. They were sent to us for safekeeping by the son of Stan Gardner who at that time gave public talks about London’s history. I pressed Stan’s son Graham for more information and just a few days later arrived an altogether smaller wooden box. Written on the lid: “STANS [sic] STUFF.”

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Inside Stan’s little box was a magazine: the London Transport Magazine of August 1954. It features Stan on the cover talking over the PA to coach passengers. On page 12 is an article which tells us that by then London Transport had nine trained “inspector-guides”. Stan observes that “the coach is often a regular family of nations with a dozen different races aboard”. But there are Londoners too. “Two of our regulars are London charwomen, who take each trip in turn on their days off.”

Stan Gardner.

Stan Gardner.

In addition to the magazine were a number of personal effects: London Transport badges, cloth and enamel; two enamel tour guide badges from the British Travel Association and the London Tourist Board; Stan’s PSV Driver badge; a button badge with the legend It Feels Good In London (and who can argue with that?). Best of all, I think, is Stan’s Record of Service Card. It shows that he was once a rifleman, army number 1773798. He served in the Royal Artillery from February 1941 to November 1944, and from then until May 1946 with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

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We have many guides among the London Historians membership. It is therefore a humbling privilege to have in our possession these personal items of an illustrious predecessor. We shall take great care of them and as soon as we’ve had a chance to go through the slides, we’ll report further. My thanks to Graham Gardner for trusting us with the care of his father’s effects.

DSC09588b

doggett1_2501 August 1715 was the first instance of Doggett’s Coat and Badge rowing race between newly-qualified watermen, up the Thames from London Bridge to Chelsea. Unlike today, there were no further bridges to pass under and the river was almost entirely unembanked, hence considerably wider than today. Once past Westminster, the vista would have been comparatively sparce of buildings on both banks. The boats are notably different too. The original participants raced in the craft of their craft: a wherry, the London cab of its day.  Today, the racers are more fortunate, using modern Olympic class single skulls. This race has been competed almost every year since, making it the longest continuously-run sporting event in the world. Yet compared with the much newer Boat Race (1829), it is hardly known. The prize for the winner is a handsome scarlet coat decorated with a solid silver sleeve badge. It comes with a dinky matching cap. The badge depicts a leaping horse and the word “Liberty”. The founder of this ancient competition was Irish-born Thomas Doggett (1640 – 1721), an actor and successful theatrical impresario. He was and ardent Whig and supporter of the new Hanoverian monarch, George I. He endowed the Doggett’s Coat and Badge race in celebration of the new Georgian dynasty, leaving provision in his will for its continuation in perpetuity. It was supposed to be administered by the Watermen’s Company – logical – but an executor of Doggett’s will, Mr Burt of the Admiralty Office, instead charged the task to the Fishmongers’ Company, who do the job to this day. The fund in 1722 was £350.

Modern winners of the race on procession at St Katharine Dock, 2015.

Modern winners of the race in procession at St Katharine Dock, 2015.

There is a dedicated web site to the race, here. It has lots of information including history, the course, the rules, a list of every winner, etc. The line-up this year are: Louis Pettipher, 24, from Gravesend, Charlie Maynard, 23, from Erith, Dominic Coughlin, 24, from Cuxton, Ben Folkard, 23, from Maidstone all of whom raced last year, plus first-timers Frankie Ruler, 21, from Blackheath, and Perry Flynn, 21, from Kennington. The race starts at 11:30 at London Bridge tomorrow, 1 August. Approximately half an hour later it will finish at Cadogan Pier, Chelsea, next to Albert Bridge. I am meeting some fellow London Historians on Albert Bridge at 11:30 to see the end of contest. We’ll then go to the Cross Keys pub nearby. Anyone is welcome to join us.

Pimlico RoadMore Dubai on the Thames luxury flattery. On this occasion it’s the Duke of Westminster via his property company, Grosvenor Estate. Luxury flats. How original. But why not? Everyone else is at it – it’s the most efficient way to turn a buck.

This is not a class warrior thing with me. Rather, I despair at the homogenisation of London by developers, this incessant conversion of historically significant buildings and areas into luxury apartments. There have been a few small, yet pleasing wins. A pub here, another one there. The retention of West Smithfield for the Museum of London. But mostly it’s the chucking up of bland glass and steel, little of it with much architectural merit. Stinking up the place and blighting the skyline.

But back to the story. Grosvenor Estate has given a group of six shopkeepers in Pimlico Road notice to quit their premises by the end of the year. The plan is to bulldoze the lot and replace them with luxury flats and, oh, some larger retail units. The owners of these shops – all successful – are none too pleased, needless to say.

Pimlico Road.

One of the units is a Victorian timber yard which has been in continuous business since 1840. Run today by Travis Perkins, for most of its history it was owned by the family firm WH Newson, who founded the business 175 years ago. Travis Perkins has recently been celebrating this fact with its Pimlico Road employees.

Pimlico Road.

Pimlico Road.

Back in 1840 Pimlico was very much on the up, largely thanks to that titan of suburban development Thomas Cubitt, who had a massive goods yard on the Thames nearby. The area had formerly been virtually uninhabitable owing to its marshy, mosquito-ridden landscape. But Thomas Telford’s new St Katharine’s Dock east of the Tower of London had changed all that when spoil from the development had been used to reclaim land in the Pimlico area, hence rendering it fit for development. One wonders whether Cubitt’s contractors and foremen engaged WH Newson as a supplier? Highly likely.

Pimlico Road is located opposite the dual intersection with Ebury Street and Bourne Street (formerly Westbourne Street). It wasn’t called Pimlico Road in 1840 either: west of Ebury Street it was Grosvenor Road, and to the east, Queen Street. If you look it up on a map, you’ll see it sits right where Chelsea meets Belgravia meets Pimlico, in the middle of an area largely dominated by the Grosvenor and the Cadogan estates, both of which resulted hundreds of years ago from lucky young chaps marrying phenomenally wealthy heiresses.

They have proved over the years largely to be enlighted and responsible landlords, something one hopes this may prevail in this particular case and that Grosvenor may yet change its mind over Pimlico Road as it did once before, in 2001.

More on this story as reported in yesterday’s Evening Standard.

2015 is the Year of the Big Anniversary, it seems. They just keep coming. Here’s another one for you: this year is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. It was published in London by Macmillan & Co on 26 November 1865 with 42 illustrations by John Tenniel. This is key, because immediately the words and the pictures formed a symbiotic relationship which informed everything to do with Alice from that day hence, influencing how other illustrators, film-makers, producers etc visualised and presented and re-presented Alice to this day.

Alice in Blunderland by John Tenniel, 1880

Alice in Blunderland by John Tenniel, 1880

No where is this better demonstrated than at a new exhibition which opened this week at the Cartoon Museum: Alice in Cartoonland. 

As it happens, Charles Dodgson (i.e. Carroll) fancied himself as something of an illustrator and despite being turned down by various journals (“not up to the mark”), had plans to illustrate Alice himself. Fortunately, friends – including John Ruskin – persuaded him to engage a professional, and John Tenniel got the gig. The dream ticket, as they say, for there was none better.

Tenniel_sigAside from the man himself, dozens of cartoonists and illustrators who have sat on Tenniel’s shoulder this past 150 years are represented here. E.H.Shepard, David Low, Carl Giles, Steve Bell, Wally Fawkes (TROG), Ralph Steadman, Martin Rowson are just some who caught my eye. Steadman, in particular, stands out. At least three of his pieces from his award-winning Alice book from the early 1970s are featured here. For Alice’s situations and scrapes lend themselves as metaphors to a thousand situations for political satirists. Cartoonists love it, not least because it gives them an opportunity to acknowledge Tenniel by reproducing his showy mark!

Freeman Moxy © Martin Rowson

Freeman Moxy © Martin Rowson

The appeal of Alice is universal, hence this exhibition has much more of an international flavour than most previous Cartoon Museum shows, quintessentially British. Items from both Disney (1951) and Hanna-barbera (1966) studios typify American contributions, though there are others too from non-English countries such as Czechoslovakia. I particularly liked the trans-Atlantic colour cover illustrations for the New Yorker by Irish-born cartoonist Kenneth Mahood.

Alice in Cartoonland at the Cartoon Museum runs from 15 July to 1 November. Entry is included in the museum’s standard admission of £7.

London A Travel Guide Through Time, Matthew GreenThis is the first book by Dr Matthew Green, an academic historian who has turned his hand to popularising London history through his speaking engagements and immersive guided tours of the City and Westminster. Given the idea behind this book, it’s notable that Green in person has something of a Tom Baker mien, in appearance at least.

We visit London at six different years in history and in the tradition of time travel genres they are chronologically random:
1603: A Whirlwind Tour of Shakespearean London
1390: A Descent into Medieval London
1665: A Mournful Walk through Plague-struck London
1884: Depravity and Wonder on a Tour of Joseph Merrick’s London
1957: London Rising – A Tour of the Blitzed City
1716: Four Days in Dudley Ryder’s London

This works rather well. You’ll notice a cluster of three between 1603 and 1716, so this work is a draw for Early-Modern aficionados in particular. The remaining three years are deftly chosen. Fans of the “long 18th Century” may be disappointed, but they needn’t be: there are compensations aplenty in this brilliantly-observed work.

Green starts each chapter by plonking you in a very specific location – richly described – in the London of the year featured. You then visit various parts of the metropolis by both day and night, usually on foot though a sedan-chair journey is nicely described in 1716. Not just a comic book staple, this was a viable, quick and much-used method of getting around town, by the wealthy at any rate.

Though the book is quite long at 450 chapter pages of around 75 pages each, the author ladles in plenty.

In flavour, A Travel Guide is simultaneously engaging, breezy, scholarly and yet solemn in the obvious places such as the plague year of 1665 or where describing the crushing brutality of the penal system from Newgate Prison to Old Bailey to Tyburn in 1716.

The author guides you the time-traveller to contemporary phenomena worthy of note. And like a skilled guide or conversationalist he succeeds in making them genuinely interesting. As a former addict, I enjoyed reading about tobacco in 1603: even at that early date it had London in its thrall and yes, from the off we knew of the health hazards. Hawking and jousting in 1390. In the grim plague year of 1665 we examine The Royal Society; Pepys and Hackney; dog massacres; the emergence of coffee and chocolate. Late Victorian 1884 takes us “slumming”, a preoccupation of the well-to-do, and introduces us to the era’s take on pornography – quite the opposite of the period’s self image.

The passage I enjoyed most of all – perhaps surprisingly – was the most recent: 1957. Brutalist housing estates, the Chelsea Set, Bohemian Soho, and the slow-fading scars of the Blitz still all too apparent.  In particular it’s delightful fun to track the rising star of working-class Mary Quant and her irresponsibly louche side-kick Alexander ‘Plunket’ Green, along with their wider set of bohemian bon-viveurs, anticipating as they did the Swinging Sixties. Throughout the book, in fact, we meet a wonderful set of characters, old favourites (and several new ones) the mad, bad Earl of Rochester (1665); Charles Jamrach, petshop owner (1884); William Dugdale and Henry Ashbee, pornographers (1884); General Monck in his less well-known role and plague tzar (1665); and many, many more.

There are almost 50 pages of Notes and Further Reading at the end of the book which are as engaging as the rest of the work and readable in their own right. One is reminded of the end notes in George Macdonald Fraser’s Flashman novels.

This is a wonderful debut and goes straight in our shortlist for Book of the Year for 2015. It is also our book prize for this month (Members only).

London: A Travel Guide Through Time (512pp) by Dr Matthew Green is published by Penguin. Cover price is £12.99 but it is available for a bit less.

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