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This article is a guest post by Dr Mary L. Shannon. It first appeared in London Historians Members’ newsletter of May 2015.


Last week, I turned a street corner near Oxford Circus and bumped into a friend from university who I had not seen in a good while. We both exclaimed at the coincidence which had brought us both to this same spot at the same time. If one of us had chosen a different route, or been delayed by a few minutes, we would never have even been aware that we had been in such close proximity. What a chance encounter, we both exclaimed, in a city of 10 million people.

And yet, when I thought about it afterwards, the encounter was not so much of a co-incidence after all. The same factors which made us friends in the first place (age, interests, values) brought us to the same city and then made us familiar with the same areas of it: the same locations, the same streets. Our work and social lives brought us to similar places, week in, week out; it was only a matter of time before we crossed paths again. This kind of encounter is not unusual, I think, for many people who live in London. This may be a city of strangers, but it is also a collection of villages, and on a surprisingly regular basis I find myself bumping into friends on busy tube station platforms, on bridges, and at the theatre. When you share similar interests and lifestyles, London can begin to feel like a much smaller place. When you work in the same part of London, it feels localised. When you work on the same street, it feels simultaneously large and small at the same time.

So as an academic who works on nineteenth-century literature, I began to wonder about Victorian London, and whether Dickens and his associates experienced a similar kind of interconnected city. With his network of friends, colleagues and rivals at work in journalism, literature, and the theatre, Dickens operated in a shared environment of print culture and visual culture: newspapers, magazines, serial fiction, plays, playbills, prints, and illustrations. Indeed, Dickens’s biographer Forster declared that Dickens had a favourite theory as to ‘the smallness of the world’, and the many coincidences and connections in his fiction seem to attest to this idea. But could I find any more concrete evidence of the importance of networks and face-to-face connections in Dickens’s professional (which was of course tied up with his social) life? And what might this tell us about the importance of physical proximity in the city for the development of the nineteenth century periodical press and publishing industry?

Often in research you need a bit of luck, and my serendipitous moment came when I compared the office address on the back of Dickens’s magazine Household Words (1850-59) with the office address on the back of Reynolds’ Newspaper (1850-62). This newspaper was established and edited by one of Dickens’s biggest rivals G.W.M. Reynolds, who was also developing into something of Dickens’s arch-nemesis. Reynolds made his name initially through publishing imitations of Dickens’s popular fiction: Dickens published Pickwick Papers, Reynolds published Pickwick Abroad; Dickens published Master Humphery’s Clock, Reynolds published Master Timothy’s Bookcase. By 1850, Reynolds and Dickens were conducting a war of words in their publications; by this point Dickens was objecting to Reynolds’s political radicalism and revolutionary politics as much as his literary appropriations. In March, Dickens delivered his opening appeal to the readers of Household Words in which he described Reynolds as one of the ‘Panders to the basest passions of the lowest natures – whose existence is a national reproach’. In June that year, Reynolds returned the favour in his own new publication, Reynolds’s Weekly Newspaper, by publishing a scornful denunciation of Household Words:
[Dickens] sees the condition of [London’s] population but dimly […] and hopes to cure all the complaints and troubles of its inhabitants by a little small talk, ‘familiar as household words’, and about as much use as lip-sympathy to a starving man.

This attack, similar to others in the Chartist press, aims to separate the politics, writings, and publications of ‘true’ radicals from those of Dickens. The implication is that if Dickens sees the true state of London ‘but dimly’, Reynolds not only observes it correctly, but transforms his observations into publications which are much better placed to help the poor. However, my comparison of their office addresses showed that this denunciation of Dickens and of Household Words was published from the same street as the very periodical which it attacked. Reynolds’s office was just across the road from Dickens.

The street they both worked on was Wellington Street (home then as now to the Lyceum Theatre), which today finishes at the Strand just above Waterloo Bridge and begins at Bow Street below Covent Garden Opera House. These two significant mid-century rivals, then, vented their diatribes in publications that were based just a few yards away from each other: Dickens was at 16 Wellington Street North from 1850, and Reynolds was across the road at number 7. When they visited their offices, they could easily have passed each other on the street. As I investigated further, it became apparent that Wellington Street was in the heart of the publishing world of London, and indeed of the burgeoning Empire. St. Paul’s Churchyard and Paternoster Row remained the key bookselling district, and Holywell Street was the place to go for cheap pornography, but printers and publishers clustered around the Strand well into the mid-19th century, so Reynolds and Dickens were surrounded by the networks, and suppliers and distributors, for their trade. But they were also surrounded by many other well-known writers and editors.


Wellington Street, bi-sects the Strand on this map of 1851. Collection of Hawk Norton.*

On Wellington Street, you could find the offices of some of the most well-known and influential newspapers, miscellanies, and serials of the mid-Victorian period. In the 1840s and ‘50s it was home to more than twenty newspapers or periodicals, and thirteen booksellers or publishers. The Punch office was at 13 Wellington Street South until January 1844. When Reynolds arrived at number 7 around 1846, number 14 was the office of the Athenaeum. This highly respected literary journal was published by John Francis, who helped to prop up the Daily News after Dickens had abandoned his ill-advised job as its editor. Until 1849, number 14 also contained the offices of the Railway Chronicle. This was edited by John Scott Russell, who had been railway editor for Dickens at the Daily News. A two-minute stroll away, at number 5 Wellington Street South was the office of the Examiner, edited by Dickens’s close friend and literary advisor John Forster. At 17 Upper Wellington Street lived briefly one of the most famous contributors to Household Words, G.A. Sala, while Henry Mayhew published the serial version of London Labour and the London Poor from an office in 16 Upper Wellington Street.


Henry Mayhew.

These writers and editors wrote for multiple publications, collaborated again and again in different combinations, and helped each other through shared contacts and shared publishing ventures. Punch-ites Gilbert a Beckett and Jerrold both had plays or adaptations of their fiction performed at the Lyceum Theatre on Wellington Street; many of their circle visited the local coffee rooms, and set up informal clubs in local taverns. London’s publishing world in the Strand area in general, and in Wellington Street in particular, was made up of interconnected social and business networks.


View of Wellington Street today. Pic: Mary Shannon.

So although the novel and the newspaper were intended for an anonymous mass reading public, the experience of Dickens and his contemporaries on Wellington Street was one of working in a remarkably interconnected community, made up of interlocking networks. This makes Dickens’s fascination with coincidences and connections in his fiction seem much less surprising, I think. This networked way of working and socialising fed into the ways in which writers such as Dickens, Reynolds, and Mayhew represented their readers. Editors and writers on Wellington Street frequently addressed these anonymous readers as friends, as if they were part of their immediate social network. Despite advances in literacy, print technology, and communications, London in the 1840s and `50s was not a place where face-to-face interactions (more commonly associated with the print trade in smaller Renaissance cities) disappeared. The modern city is not a place where you can escape connections, partly because it is made up of such interconnected villages. That this can be a threatening possibility for the urban writer, as well as an enabling one, is revealed by the work of the writers and editors of Wellington Street.

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A guest post by John Hawkins. This article was first published in London Historians members’ newsletter from December 2014.


 

In 1855, members of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society visited the Inner Temple, taking time to admire its collections of paintings and prints. Referring to one of the engravings in the old Parliament Chamber, the report of their visit that was published subsequently said:

A bird’s-eye View of the whole of the (Inner and Middle) Temple is also here, engraved by R. White in a large plate (35 by 18½ in.), which was published in 1671, when Sir Heneage Finch, Attorney-General, was Treasurer of the Inner Temple. In one corner are his arms, and in the other those of the Duke of York, with the Holy Lamb and Pegasus, the emblems of the two Temples, and in the margin several other shields of the Benchers. From this print a copy was made at the expense of the Society of the Inner Temple, in 1770 [see Ill. 1], but without engraver’s name. It is of the same size as the original, and intended for a facsimile, but is not quite faithful in some minor details. The same view had, however, been previously copied in Stow’s Survey, edit. 1720, and it is identical with that of which a reduced copy in Brayley’s Londiniana, vol. iii. [1829], is entitled ‘The Temple Buildings in 1720’, and with a print published by Laurie, 1831, entitled ‘The Temple in 1722’. Also in Strype’s Stow, dated 1755. (1)

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Anon. after R. White: The Temple in 1671, re-engraved 1770.

‘R. White’ is presumably Robert White (1645-1703), who is generally believed to have assisted David Loggan with the engravings for Oxonia Illustrata between 1665 and 1675 and would therefore have been very familiar with the bird’s-eye views of buildings that were used extensively by Loggan at Oxford and later at Cambridge. White also produced engravings of other London buildings at around this date, for example Bethlem Hospital in 1677. If we can believe the report of the visit, the 1770 version (36 by 19 in) is indeed similar in size to the lost 1671 version. It is regrettable that the report does not itemise the changes ‘in some minor details’.

Although the report’s author did not say so, versions of the Temple engraving had also by then appeared elsewhere. (2) From the end of the seventeenth-century, a number of illustrated books on London were published, arguably reaching their high point with John Strype’s 1720 edition of John Stow’s Survey of London. Four of these publications contained very similar engravings of the Temple, of which the two earliest are almost certainly based on the lost version of 1671. A significant difference is immediately noticeable between two late seventeenth-century engravings (from Delaune’s London, c.1681 and Morden & Lea’s Prospects, c.1687) and two from the early eighteenth-century (from Strype’s Survey, 1720 and Bowles’s London Described, 1731), which is the change in the layout of the gardens. By the early 1700s the western and middle gardens were planted more formally than they had been in the late 1600s and the eastern garden had apparently disappeared entirely. The fact that the less formal, but more extensive, garden is shown in the 1770 re-engraving of the 1671 print suggests that this reflects a real change that occurred towards the end of the seventeenth-century. That the less formal garden was also present in the 1671 version is supported by the fact that the report refers to changes in minor details compared to the re-engraving of 1770, but not the major change that would have resulted from a complete redesign of the gardens. The catalogue of the Guildhall Art Gallery, which holds the Corporation’s collection, lists seven versions of the Temple print, those listed above, plus two others of probably later date derived from them. (3)

The size of the 1671 original engraving suggests that it was not intended as an illustration for a book, but for use as ‘wall furniture’, an increasingly popular use of larger prints at this time. Evidence for this is provided by the complete absence of any references to engravings of the other Inns of Court made to a similar scale, or as early as 1671. This being the case, the mortality rate of prints in such use tended to be high and it would not be surprising if only a limited number of copies survived. In this case, however, it would seem that there may now be no surviving copy at all. This may well have resulted from a short print run. Although copper plates, when treated with care, could be used for making several hundred engravings before a deterioration in quality became noticeable, the limiting factor in this case was more likely to have been the specialist interest of the subject matter. It is very unlikely that White would have produced the plate (or, more likely, plates – there would probably have been two) speculatively and he probably received a fee from the Society for the considerable amount of work involved. This was around the time subscription lists for books and engravings of various types were becoming common, but no advertisements for the 1671 engraving have thus far been identified in the contemporary press.

In the introduction to the first volume of his calendar of the Inn’s records, Inderwick refers to ‘a drawing of the Temple in the possession of the Inn … dated 1563’ and a ‘drawing … published in 1770, by the Hon. Society of the Inner Temple, describing the Inn as it appeared in the year 1671, when the Duke of York, afterwards James II., was made a bencher, and before the great fire which occurred in the Temple in 1678’. He does not explicitly refer here to the 1671 version of the engraving and it is thus possible that by 1898 it was no longer in the possession of the Inn. However, in his introduction to volume three he refers to ‘a map [sic] in the possession of the Inner Temple … “as it was in 1671, when the king and the duke of York dined with the treasurer” Sir Heneage Finch’, which could be a reference to the earlier version. (4)

Given the subject matter, there are several collections that might be expected to hold copies of the 1671 engraving, including those of the Corporation of London and the Royal Family. Unfortunately neither of these do, and a copy is similarly absent from the collections of the British and Bodleian Libraries, the British, Ashmolean and Fitzwilliam Museums and the Museum of London. The fate of the Inn’s own copy is unknown. It is possible that it was the ‘map’ referred to when Inderwick wrote his introductions, but even if this were the case it does not seem to have survived the bombing of 1941. Will a copy ever resurface? It is not beyond the bounds of possibility and would certainly fill an important gap in the history of not only the Inner Temple, but also of seventeenth-century London. ‘Let diligent search be made …’
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1) Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, vol. 2 (London: J.H. & J. Parker, 1856), pp. 66-7.
2) John Stow (ed. John Strype) Survey of London 5th edn. (London, 1720); 6th edn (London, 1754/5).
3) I am grateful to Sir John Baker for pointing this out.
4) Frederick Andrew Inderwick (ed.) A calendar of Inner Temple records 5 vols. (London: Inner Temple, 1858-1936), vol. 1, p. xxx and vol. 3, p. xxxi.

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The River’s Tale: Archaeology on the Thames foreshore in Greater London by Nathalie Cohen and Eliott Wragg.


MoL Docklands One Colour LogoI am somewhat late with this. A year late, to be precise. In mitigation, a year ago I wasn’t a trained FROG (Foreshore Recording and Observation Group) operative, hadn’t been on several related outings, nor joined in the Thames Discovery Programme‘s 10th anniversary celebrations in October.

The Thames Discovery Programme is the organisation primarily responsible for observing, measuring and recording the archaeology of the foreshore of the tidal Thames. Put simply, this runs from Teddington in the west to well into the estuary in the east. Hence it is a massive site, managed by a mere four full-time staff at the most (it has often been just two or three). Through most of TDP’s  short but already illustrious history, two of those have been the authors of this book. The group’s additional responsibility involves – among other things – public outreach and engagement with schools and children’s groups. An impossible task for so few, you may think, except for the aforementioned FROGs – trained volunteers – of whom there are around 500, with about 35 new additions each year.

But interest in exploring the foreshore is not a recent thing. Famously, the Victorian mudlarkers of Henry Mayhew’s acquaintance searched for anything sellable for a living. Their better-off near contemporaries – antiquaries like Sir Montagu Sharp and collectors such as Thomas Layton – paid close attention to the clues which Thames shared with them. But the father and early guiding spirit of modern Thames archaeology has to be Ivor Noel Hume, who from the early 1950s and off his own bat began systematically to observe, survey and map the foreshore, albeit on a short piece of it in the City. ‘Proper’ archaeology of the Thames sites began in the 1990s by the Thames Archaeological Survey (TAS) which ran from 1996 to 1999. After this various organisations, including UCL and the Richmond Archaeological Society, kept the flame alive until the advent of the TDP in 2008.

It’s important to note – as the authors do – that there are other organisations involved in related activity, notably the Thames Explorer Trust ; also a huge and constant presence in the person of Dr Gustav Milne who has been intimately involved in riverside archaeological projects for over three decades, written, broadcast and talked about them and to this day spread the good word with infectious enthusiasm.

Since its genesis a decade ago, TDP has organised hundreds of field trips and guided walks. The discoveries, finds and observations have added immeasurably to our understanding of the historic peoples of London – their buildings, their diet, their lifestyles and habits. Samples and objects include human and animal remains, building materials, clay pipes, domestic objects, tools, nails, wire, crockery, coins etc.

The book continues, chapter by chapter, examining the many different roles of the river. Nathalie Cohen covers fish and fishing; also the Thames as a vast sacred site, both of burial and ritual deposits. Eliot Wragg addresses the river’s industrial role as both a busy port and a centre for shipbuilding, ship repair, chandlery etc. Both writers address the historical topography of the Thames: embankments, bridges, wharves, stairs, jetties and slipways.

The book is richly illustrated with photos of sites, site activities, objects, maps old and new, aerial photos as well as maritime paintings and engravings. There is a good list at the back of Sources and Further Reading.

Thanks to organisations such as MOLA and the TDP, London’s ‘liquid highway’ is giving up some of its secrets. Acquaint yourself with these vitally important programmes through this excellent introduction.


The River’s Tale, (116pp) by Natalie Cohen and Eliott Wragg is published by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has a cover price of £15. You can buy it online at MOLA,

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A guest post by John Bennett.

On the anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street on 4 October 1936, this piece examines two different eras of the East End’s turbulent history which have sealed its reputation for challenging extremist right-wing ideologies: the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ in the 1930s and clashes with the National Front in the 1970s.

The ‘Battle of Cable Street’ in October 1936 showed the political loyalties of the East End tested considerably. Despite Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists extolling a protectionist view of multiculturalism, the privations of the recession of the 1930s had made the ideology popular in the area, even counting some Jews as supporters. Nonetheless, racially motivated violence against Jews had become common, particularly in Shoreditch and Hoxton. Mosley’s decision to march through the East End was understood to be a provocative flashpoint and East Enders of all creeds set up barriers around Cable Street to stop the procession. The result was messy: the BUF were redirected away from the east, but the disorder created by the creation of barriers led to pitched battles between protestors and police. It appears no fascists were actually involved in the disturbances but the protestors had won the day and the ‘Battle of Cable Street’ has since been seen as a successful of example of the people rising up against what they saw as a threat to the cohesiveness of their community.

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Battle of Cable Street memorial mural. 

The East End was at a low ebb in the 1970s. A major housing crisis in Tower Hamlets had been exacerbated in many people’s eyes by the large influx of Bengalis to the area following the civil war in Bangladesh. Accusations of housing queue-jumping and squatting only inflamed resentment of the newcomers. Far right groups such as the National Front found a willing audience in the area, bolstered by skinhead youth groups looking for an identity. Throughout the mid 1970s, violence against Asians and their property became commonplace, resulting in the racist murder of Altab Ali in Whitechapel in May 1978. This more than any other incident galvanised the Bengali community to take action, forming their own ‘vigilante groups’ to nip violence in the bud and campaign for police intervention which, on the face of it, had been severely lacking up to that point. Vandalism and physical attacks by NF supporters in Brick Lane in June 1978 (‘the battle of Brick Lane’, as the local press dubbed it) created a backlash by the Asian community to stymie the attacks as they happened, resulting in a stronger police presence and the street’s own police station.

Although fascist groups would once again raise their heads briefly in the early 1990s, the events of the late 1970s would see the subsequent rapid decline of right-wing activity in the East End, thanks to a more successful cohesion of community and law-enforcement and a more established Asian population.


John Bennett’s book Mob Town, A History of Crime and Disorder in the East End was published last month by Yale.

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Or know about. I contend that you can’t begin to understand London’s history properly without a pretty decent knowledge of its geography too, and how it’s changed over time. The answer, of course, lies in maps.

There have been many, but here – up until the end of the 19C – are the most notable, milestones if you will (with a few other items thrown in, e.g. Visscher, Tallis).

500px-braun_london_ubhd

Tudor London by Braun and Hogenberg

500px-rocques_map_of_london

Mid 18C London by John Rocque

c1560 Ralph Agas (attr. disputed)

1572 Braun and Hogenberg, Civitates Orbis Terrarum

1593 John Norden. Maps of the Cities of London and Westminster

1616 Claes Visscher (1586 – 1652)   A Panorama of London

1667 Wenceslaus Hollar (1607 – 1677), City of London after the Fire, and more

1676 John Ogilby (1600 – 1676) and William Morgan (d 1690), City of London

1682 William Morgan, London &c Actually Survey’d, London and Westminster

1746 John Rocque (1706 – 1762) A plan of the cities of London and Westminster, and borough of Southwark.

1762 House numbering introduced.

1799 Richard Horwood (1757 – 1803), PLAN of the Cities of LONDON and WESTMINSTER the Borough of SOUTHWARK and PARTS adjoining Shewing every HOUSE

1827 Christopher (1786-1855) and John  Greenwood  (d 1840) Map of London.

1840 John Tallis (1817 – 1876), London Street Views

1898 Edward Stanford (1827 – 1904), Stanford’s Map of the County of London.

My list is just scratching the surface. There are dozens – possibly hundreds – of omissions, not least speciality maps relating to bombs, insurance, poverty, temperance, religion etc., And then there are the panoramas. Pure joy.


Recommended Reading/Owning
The Times Atlas of London (2012)
London, a History in Maps (2012)  by Peter Barber
Mapping London, Making Sense of the City (2007) by Simon Foxell


Recommended Sites
Locating London’s Past
Mapco
Motco
Stanfords


My final tip. Join the London Topographical Society.

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I live a matter of a few hundred yards from the major trunk road in question, so when I spotted this in a shop in Kew last week, I had to have it.

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It’s a print commemorating the opening of the Great West Road in 1925 by George V and Queen Mary (who’d be a monarch, eh?). Made of tissue and folded like a paper napkin, it would have been dished out to the local crowds, or perhaps sold for a penny or two. It’s in really good condition, a remarkable survival.

The text badly spills over into the border decoration. This tells us, I think, that the souvenir printers made large stocks of coloured templates and then customised them for different occasions by overprinting text etc in black.

“The new Great West Road which has just been completed at a cost of £1,000,000 , will be opened by the King, accompanied by the Queen to-day. 

This new arterial road, which is eight miles in length, has for the greater part a width of 120ft. It extends from the Chiswick High-road near Kew Bridge, by-passes Brentford and enables traffic to avoid the congestion bottle-neck in the town.

The road continues through Isleworth and meets the main road again at the Bath Road, just beyond the Hounslow Barracks Station, then crosses the main road and passing through Hatton Village, joins the main Staines Road at Bedfont.” 

The building of the Great West Road was essential. Historically, the route to Bath and the west ran through Brentford. There was bad enough congestion during the days of horse-drawn vehicles, but once cars, buses, lorries and especially trams hit the streets, the narrow high street became all but impassable.

It didn’t take long for large businesses to realise the potential that the new thoroughfare offered. Beautiful industrial art deco buildings sprang up, giving us Brentford’s “Golden Mile”.

LH Member James Marshall wrote a book about this back in 1995. It’s out-of-print now, so available copies are very pricy. They are easily borrowed from local libraries however.

 

 

 

 

 

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Best London History Books of the Year 2016

For various reasons this year I didn’t get around to as much reading as I usually manage so have probably done someone an injustice of omission. However, our shortlist of favourite books of the year is as follows:

Benjamin Franklin in London by George Goodwin
Mr Barry’s War by Caroline Shenton
Curiocity by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose
Mansions of Misery by Jerry White
The Boss of Bethnal Green by Julian Woodford

Our winner of London Historians Book of the Year for 2016 is Curiocity by Henry Eliot and Matt Lloyd-Rose. Unconventional format compared with “regular” titles, but so utterly brilliant, we couldn’t not. Thank you Henry and Matt, and congratulations to everyone for such outstanding work.

Previous winners:
2011 Mr Briggs’ Hat by Kate Colquhoun
2012 Mr Foote’s Other Leg by Ian Kelly
2013 Beastly London by Hannah Velten
2014 Played in London by Simon Inglis
2015 The Street of Wonderful Possibilities by Devon Cox

A tad late, but there are still four shopping days left till Christmas. Any one of these will get you brownie points on Sunday morning. Merry Christmas.

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