Archive for September, 2012

So wrote Victorian business magnate Thomas Holloway (1800 – 1883) to Professor Henry Fawcett in a letter dated 20 February 1875.

This was Holloway’s philosophy on architecture, adapted directly no doubt from his philosophy on advertising. For it was global advertising on a massive scale which created the fortune that paid for two notable institutions, the Holloway Sanatorium and Royal Holloway College, only the latter of which remains active. What Holloway advertised was his patent pills and ointments, manufactured at his premises first in the Strand where the Royal Courts of Justice now stand, and then in Oxford Street. Here is a typical example.

holloway's pills

Thomas Holloway and his wife Jane (d1875) had no children. In the 1870s the fabulously wealthy entrepreneur started to think about his legacy; it was very much the age of philanthropy. He first decided to found a sanatorium for the mentally ill and then, having consulted the ultimate philanthropist the 7th Earl of Shaftsbury, decided also to endow a college. But not any old college. Prompted by his wife Jane, from the start it was to be a women’s college (Holloway liked to call it a women’s university) and it was to be the equal of any college in the land. Girton had recently been established at Cambridge (as featured on last night’s One Show), and indeed Holloway attempted unsuccessfully to headhunt its founder, Emily Davies. Around this period when he was keeping rarified academic company and establishing himself as an educator, Holloway wisely suppressed his self-awarded title of Professor!

The tycoon also insisted that the college was to be secular and indeed no clergyman, lawyer or doctor was to sit on the Board of Governors. The college was opened by Queen Victoria in 1886, three years after the founder’s death.

Both the sanatorium and the college were designed by the architect William Crossland (1835 – 1908). Holloway and Crossland spent several weeks examining grand buildings in France and decided that the college should resemble Chateau de Chambord in the Loire.

holloway sanatorium

Holloway Sanatorium,  Virginia Water, now a private housing estate for the super-rich. Photo taken on possibly its last ever public open day.

Founders Building Royal Holloway

Founder’s Building, Royal Holloway, University of London – Egham. Now for both women and men.

thomas and jane holloway

Thomas and Jane Holloway

Dictionary of National Biography (sub required)
Thomas Holloway, Victorian Philanthropist (1994) by Anthony Harrison-Barbet

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Not a bad Open House. We got to London Fire Brigade Museum; Ealing Town Hall; Chiswick Town Hall;  Boston Manor; and Osterley House (magnificent, but too gloomy! put some lights on, National Trust!). William Kent’s Horse Guards, as expected, was way over-subscribed, no help to being featured on the One Show Friday evening. But for me the highlight of all was a genuine, difficult-to-get-to-except-by-car, hidden treasure: St Mary’s Perivale.

This ancient little 12C church has claim to being the oldest in Middlesex. Surrounded by swanky Ealing Golf Course and a less-swanky Premier Inn, it sits south west of the Hoover Building, separated from the Art Deco masterpiece by the Western Avenue. Before reaching the church you see its pretty lych gate (sponsored by the widow of John Boosey of Boosey & Hawkes, who is buried outside the church).

st mary's perivale

Unless you knew it were here, you would never see it. I was unaware it existed until someone told me a few months ago. Although used for classical music concerts, it has not held services since the early 1970s, although it remains consecrated.

st mary's perivale

st mary's perivale

The nave is the oldest part of the church, believed to have been built around 1135, the chancel in about 1250 with the vestry and wooden tower being added early in the 16th Century. Before the 20th Century, the Perivale area never had more than several dozen parishioners. These numbers shot up to over 10,000 with the coming of the railway and the building of light industrial estates, shops and suburban streets. Unfortunately, St Mary’s found itself on the “wrong” side of the greatly expanded and extended Western Avenue, becoming more isolated than ever. Following its closure in the early 1970s it suffered several years of neglect and extreme vandalism.

The Friends of St Mary’s was set up and given a 99 year lease by the Church Commissioners to repair the building and look after it. The organisation is still going strong, holding frequent classical music concerts in the venerable old church. Attending one of these is the best way of accessing the Grade I-listed building. Unless you travel by car, the best way to reach St Mary’s is via Perivale tube station on the Central Line. Looking at the map, I’d guess it’s a 15 minute walk from there.

st mary's perivale

st mary's perivale

Oldest memorial in the church is in the nave, showing Henry Mylett (d1500), his two wives and many children. The two wives are replacement brasses after post-vandalism theft.

st mary's perivale

Font (c1450), font cover (1665)

st mary's perivale

This memorial to Ellen Frances Nicholas (d1818) we are informed is by Richard Westmacott of Achilles, Hyde Park Corner fame, a delightful find.

st mary's perivale

This low window with a lovely stained glass, was hitherto used to serve communion to lepers.

St Mary’s Perivale web site.

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London Pride

A guest post by Noel Coward.

noel cowardDuring the Blitz, Coward wrote this defiant song on behalf of all Londoners. It evokes a manly tear, that’s for sure, and cannot be improved upon in my opinion. What a talent. London Pride (saxifraga urbium) is a small pink flower which sprung up on bomb sites during World War II. Anyway, grab a tissue and enjoy.

London Pride. 

London Pride has been handed down to us,
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride is forever will be.
Whoa, Liza,
See the coster barrows,
The vegetables and the fruit piled high,
Oh, Liza,
Little London sparrows,
Covent Garden Market where the costers cry.

Cockney feet
Mark the beat of history.
Every street pins a memory down.
Nothing ever can quite replace
The grace of London Town.

There’s a little city flower,
Ever spring unveiling,
Growing in the crevices,
By some London railing.
Though it has a Latin name
In town and countryside,
We in England call it
London Pride.

London Pride has been handed down to us,
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it forever will be.
Hey, lady,
When the day is dawning,
See the policeman yawning
On his lonely beat.
Gay lady,
Mayfair in the morning,
Hear your footsteps echo
In the empty street.

Early rain,
And the pavement’s glistening,
All Park Lane
In a shimmering gown.
Nothing ever could break or harm
The charm
Of London Town.

In our city, darkened now,
Street and square and crescent,
We can feel our living past
In our shadowed present.
Ghosts beside our starlit Thames
Who lived and loved and died
Keep throughout the ages
London Pride.

London Pride has been handed down to us,
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it forever will be.
Grey city,
Stubbornly implanted,
Taken so for granted
For a thousand years.
Stay, city,
Smokily enchanted,
Cradle of our memories,
Of our hopes and fears.

Every Blitz,
Your resistance toughening.
From the Ritz
To the Anchor and Crown,
Nothing ever could override
The pride
Of London Town.

There are quite a few renditions of London Town on YouTube. This one is by the Master himself, very upbeat. Not sure who’s singing this one, but it’s a good version and I especially like the video they’ve put together featuring lots of pluckly Londoners getting on with it amidst the rubble of the Blitz. What’s more, it’s got BBC pips and the famous photo of the intrepid milkman. Very good.

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A guest post by London Historians member Mike Rendell.

I recently came across the bill submitted to my ancestor Richard Hall by the Funeral Director on the occasion of the death of his first wife Eleanor in 1780. The undertakers (that is to say, the company which undertook the arrangements….) were John Cooper & Co. Here is the bill.

I have included it because it gives some idea of what was involved in a funeral in the Georgian Era in the latter part of the 18th Century. Eleanor Hall had died in her 47th year – she got up and had breakfast as normal on 11th January 1780 at her home at One London Bridge, had a splitting headache at midday, and was dead by six in the evening. In all probability she suffered a brain haemorrhage. It must have been a terrible shock for Richard, who had married Eleanor nearly 27 years earlier, and for their three grown-up children, who all lived at the property.

Richard records her death in his diary “Oh the affliction of this Day. My Dear and Affectionate Wife was suddenly seiz’d with a pain in her head after Twelve at Noon, which issued in a Fit; no Prescription of Physician Avail’d”

1780 london funeral

Richard was devastated and made this beautiful cut-out in paper as a memorial. The memento is only just over one inch across and is extraordinarily delicate.

He would have employed the firm of John Cooper & Co to make all the arrangements for the actual funeral, which was to take place at Bunhill Burial Grounds (where many Dissenters were buried). Richard and Eleanor were both Baptists and as an additional incentive to choose Bunhill, it was where both her parents had been buried back in 1754. The expenses even included opening up the family vault and constructing a tent over it so as to keep prying eyes at bay.

1780 london funeral

The invoice starts by showing the actual funeral as taking place on January 18th, exactly one week after Eleanor’s death.

To start with the actual coffin and furniture:

  • An inside Elm Coffin lined and ruffled with fine Crape and a mattress (£1/11/6)
  • A Superfine Sheet, Shroud and Pillow (£1/15/00)
  • An outside lead coffin with plate of Inscription (£4/10/00)
  • An Elm case covered with fine Black Cloth, finish’d in the best Manner with black nails and drape, Lead Plate Cherubim handles, lead plate and wrought Gripes (that is to say, grips) (£5/10/00).

Then there were the extras:

  • 4 Men going in with Lead Coffin and Case (10/-)
  • 7 Tickets and Delivering – 7 shillings. (These would have been official invitations to attend the funeral service, sent out to close friends and often in the form of Memento Mori like this one, shown courtesy of the University of Missouri ).

1780 london funeral

Hanging the Shop and Stair-case in Mourning (in other words, draping black cloth over the entire ground floor and stairs of One London Bridge, from where the funeral procession started its sad and solemn journey).

  • Use of 16 double silver’d sconces and Wax Lights for ditto
  • 2 Porters with Gowns and Staves with Silk cover & hats & gloves
  • The best Pall

1780 london funeral

There then follow a few items which are hard to decipher. What looks like:

  • A coffin lid of black feathers and man in hatband and gloves
  • Crape hatbands
  • Silk ditto
  • Rich three quarter Armageen (?) scarves for a Minister
  • 12 Pairs of Men’s laced kid gloves
  • 2 Pairs of Women’s ditto
  • 6 Pairs of Men’s and Women’s plain and one pair Mitts
  • Use of 11 Gent Cloaks
  • A Hearse and 4 coaches with Setts of horses
  • Velvet Coverings and black feathers for hearse and six
  • 10 Hearse pages with truncheons , 6 of ye bearers
  • 10 Pairs of gloves and favours for ditto
  • Eight coach pages with Hatbands and gloves
  • Use of 5 Coachmans cloaks
  • 10 pairs of gloves for ditto and Postillion
  • Paid at Bunhill for opening the Vault and for Tent
  • Fetch and carrying Company
  • Turnpike and drink for the Men

A total of £51/8/6 which you would need to multiply by perhaps seventy to give a modern-day equivalent i.e £3500 or $5250

It must have made a sombre and imposing sight as the funeral cortege wended its way north of the Hall household on its one mile journey to the graveside. As Richard noted in his diary that night, it had been “a very damp day, some part Foggy, not very Cold” You can almost see the black horses with their black plumes, attended by page boys dressed from tip to toe in black, the heavy coats of the pall bearers, the coffin lined with black velvet….

1780 london funeral

Mike Rendell is the author of The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman (2011) which has sold out its first print run. He wishes to engage a publisher for the 2nd Edition.

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This MS has been blitzed which accounts for my delay in delivering it and its slightly crumpled condition, but it is not damaged in any way.

So wrote George Orwell in a letter dated 28 June 1944 to T.S. Eliot. The manuscript in question was Animal Farm. The house in which Orwell, his wife Eileen and adopted baby Richard lived was 10a Mortimer Crescent, NW6. It, along with neighbouring homes, was destroyed by a V-1 flying bomb some days previous. Fortunately, the family was not at home. Armed with a wheelbarrow and a shovel Orwell returned to the bomb site to dig his manuscript out of the ruins.

The Orwells had lived in Mortimer Crescent for two years, a significant period of the author’s time in London. Yet there was no plaque to commemorate this fact. Until last week. On Tuesday 11th of September a green plaque was unveiled by Richard Blair himself, Orwell’s adopted son. The sign was commissioned by The Historic Kilburn  Plaque Scheme – led by local historian Ed Fordham.

George Orwell in Kilburn

George Orwell in Kilburn

Richard Blair addresses an enthusiastic group of local residents, journalists, photographers and Orwell fans.

George Orwell in Kilburn

Richard Blair and Ed Fordham

George Orwell in Kilburn

Highlight of my day. Richard signed this picture in one of my Orwell biographies (the Michael Shelden one, for you Orwell aficionados)

The plaque is attached to Kington House in Mortimer Crescent, a block of 1950s flats which were built directly above the original bomb site.

You can read about another pilgrimage and Orwell plaque here: George Orwell in Hayes.

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A guest post by London Historians member, Colin Davey.

The Barbican is probably one of the most Marmite (love it or hate it) pieces of architecture in London.

Rising phoenix-like, although very slowly, from the ashes caused by the bombing firestorm of 29/30 December 1940, its mass dominates the north of the City of London.

The style of the external surfaces, beton brut, has been connected with the Brutalist architectural style, but often in a pejorative way. “Brutalism” has commonly garnered a negative connotation of ugliness, whereas its literal interpretation is “rough concrete”. A Grade II Listing has not helped to ameliorate the views of the detractors.

A look at a 1914 map of the Barbican area (Old Ordnance Survey Maps – The Godfrey Edition) reveals the street layout of the Ward of Cripplegate Without. That Ward still exists today, combined with Cripplegate Within to become (as one of the 25 Wards) plain Cripplegate, an administrative district within the City of London.

It is the road pattern on the map that strikes you straightaway. Most marked is Jewin Crescent. This has been suggested as being on the line of today’s Frobisher Crescent within the complex, although that conclusion looks questionable if you take the map and orientate by the pervasive St Giles Cripplegate (see below), the map putting the Crescent further west..

The Crescent marks the site of what has been described as the only permitted Jewish cemetery in England up until 1177. The Ward name alone tells us that the cemetery stood outside the old City wall. Today I still regret not having the meaning explained to me as I sang in school assembly, with bemusement: “There is a green hill far away, without a City wall.”

Switching religion, at the end of the Crescent stood the 18C Wesleyan Chapel, sold in the 1870s and with the receipts being passed over to the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road.

If you stand today at the bottom of Whitecross Street, your view straight down is interrupted by the entrance to the Barbican Arts Centre on Silk Street.

The Barbican, City of London

Pre WW2 Whitecross Street extended down to St Giles Cripplegate. The name of the street supposedly comes from a white cross painted outside a house on the street that belonged to Holy Trinity Priory.

Dominating the area that today broadly contains the Arts Centre was the Midland Railway Goods Station and Booking Office for parcels and passengers. Nearby Barbican station of today was then called Aldersgate Station

The Church of St Giles Cripplegate is well-enough documented not to need any treatment here. The “Cripple” most probably comes from the Anglo-Saxon “crepel”, meaning a covered passageway to a watchtower or barbican, although some would look to the image of cripples begging at the gate to the old City.

St Giles Cripplegate

The western end of the Barbican complex also yields history. All those entering the Museum of London will have passed the Conversion Memorial of John Wesley – the Aldersgate Flame (Martin Ludlow – 1981), marking the event of what was called his “second conversion” nearby in 1738. The memorial takes the form of a simulated sheet of paper, standing on one corner with the upper corners folded over.

Barbican City of London

The final item concerns Beech Street. Local residents and workers will have witnessed the “Beech Street tunnel panic”, where a novice visitor to the Arts Centre begs for directions, the Centre not having the best reputation for accessibility.

Beech Street is an original street, pre-WW2 running east from the Golden Lane junction to Whitecross Street. The western part of today’s Beech Street was then known as…..Barbican.

For the Beech connection, we need to go up a level on to the Barbican pedway. At a point near to the bridge over Aldersgate Street stands a knarled lump of wood in a base.

The adjoining plaque tells us that the wood comes from Burnham Beeches, the site purchased by the Corporation of London on behalf of the nation in 1880 and the wood reclaimed after a storm in 1990. The composer Felix Mendelssohn was apparently fond of the area as a source of musical inspiration. And thus the lyrical name for the lump of wood – the Mendelssohn Tree.

Barbican City of London

Colin Davey is a qualified City of London Guide, City of Westminster Guide and National Trust Guide. His web site his here.

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Regular readers will be used occasionally to reading funnies from an old Punch book in my possession.

mr punch in london town

But open it up, and what’s this?

mr punch in london town

That’s right. 3rd September 1939. My dad’s birthday. He’s Billy and he was nine that day. 82 today. Happy Birthday, Dad.

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