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Guest post by LH Member David Brown. Book review of the recently-published Palaces of Pleasure by Lee Jackson. 

PoPPalaces of Pleasure is the most recent book written by Lee Jackson, who is well-known to London history enthusiasts for the Dictionary of Victorian London website, and for his previous book Dirty Old London (Yale, 2014, our review here), a good history of sanitation in London. The subtitle of the book “From Music Halls to the Seaside to Football, How the Victorians Invented Mass Entertainment” lays out the ambition of the author to cover a broad range of entertainments.

The volume provides a very enjoyable read, showing how people in the 1800s spent their free time.

After an introduction, the first three chapters look at how the public house transformed into Gin Palaces, covering the evolution of club and music rooms, and in turn creating the Music Halls. Further chapters investigate dancing rooms, academies and the brief flowering of dancing casinos. Chapters on pleasure gardens and exhibitions are included. Two final chapters cover the seaside and the emergence of football as an entertainment. The conclusion brings together many of the themes and explains why there was such an extraordinary growth in mass entertainment in the Victorian period.

Throughout, the book takes a look at the entrepreneurs that emerged, and how they had to navigate the perils of newspaper sensationalism, the impact of legislation, the temperance movement and the role of the magistrate in shaping the entertainment world. One theme is how the pleasures of the everyday man were seen as threatening and in need of suppression and regulation, whilst the pleasures of the aristocrats and the well-off rarely rated the same view. While in the early period these activities were mainly male, another theme in the book explores how women were perceived, challenges some of the myths around prostitution, and demonstrates how everyday Victorian women increasingly took part in leisure activities.

The author ranges widely, and although most of the places talked about are in London, he also contrasts examples from outside London and particularly in the North of England to show broader trends. Some of the chapters include good case studies (like Samuel Thompson’s wine and spirits business on Holborn Hill and Charles Morton’s famous Canterbury Hall).

Each chapter has a detailed set of end notes. The author uses a wide range of sources (particularly strong on the press), and provides a good bibliography and index. I’d have liked to see more pictures and ideally in the sections of the book that they relate to- here the illustrations included are limited in quantity (26, mostly half page, bound together in the centre of the book).

This is a book that could benefit every London Historian who is interested in 19th Century London. It’s full of anecdotes and facts that will delight the reader. Thoroughly recommended.


Palaces of Pleasure, From Music Halls to the Seaside to Football, How the Victorians Invented Mass Entertainment (320 pp, hardback) by Lee Jackson is published by Yale University Press with a cover price of £15.99.

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A guest post by Jamie Ross and Husayn Smart.

Sport has been at the centre of London’s cultural history for hundreds of years. London is the only city in the world to host the Olympics three times – but beyond the huge stadiums and global events, London’s streets and suburbs are marked by a rich and diverse history of sporting competition and character.

American and Canadian troops at the since-demolished White City Stadium, 1944

American and Canadian troops at the since-demolished White City Stadium, 1944

London’s oldest surviving sporting structure is nearly 500 years old and totally hidden from public view. Commissioned by Henry VIII in the 1530s, Whitehall Palace was a wonder of the age, designed for decadence and pleasure. The northern wall of the Palace’s tennis court remains at the very heart of modern Westminster – within the Cabinet Office itself. It is believed that Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, was watching (and betting on) a game there when she was arrested and charged with adultery. Henry could not bring himself to live at the Palace after her supposed betrayal – but it, and its custom-built sports complex, would become the proud home of his and Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth I.

Not that the young Queen was much of a popular sports fan – in 1572, she tried to have ‘foteball’ players banned from the City of London ‘on pain of imprisonment’, following in the footsteps of her father, who banned the sport entirely in 1540.

Much to the probable annoyance of the Tudors, football would arguably become the sport most synonymous with the city, and the appetite of Londoners for the beautiful game has not dwindled. However, the capital has lost many notable, now forgotten, football clubs – teams that fell into non-existence, whether by financial strain, obscurity, world events or a combination of pressures. The likes of Clapham Rovers FC, founded as early as 1869, won the FA Cup in 1880 yet didn’t survive beyond the First World War, whilst plucky minnows Walthamstow Avenue, who famously held both Arsenal and Manchester United to draws in the FA Cup during the 1950s, would last 88 years before merging into non-existence.

Football has long been a big part of London’s identity (1950)

Football has long been a big part of London’s identity (1923)

Ever heard of the Islington Corinthians? They were never quite as illustrious as their north London footballing neighbours, but their unlikely story is a remarkable example of London’s global sporting story. Picked to play a friendly against the Chinese Olympic team at Highbury in 1936, the club embarked on a remarkable global tour across the 1937-38 season. They played an incredible 95 games across the world, from Egypt to Hawaii – even meeting David Niven on a Hollywood film set! It would be war that again spelt the end of the adventure for the Corinthians – the club folded for good in 1940.

The neon sign welcoming you to Walthamstow Stadium

The neon sign welcoming you to Walthamstow Stadium

Greyhound racing hit a peak of popularity during the 1920s and ‘30s, drawing crowds as large as any football match. There were a remarkable 27 tracks across the city, but today, just three tracks remain – at Wimbledon, Romford and Crayford. Despite closing in 2008, the vintage 1950s neon signage of the stadium at Walthamstow has been listed and will be kept – even as the stadium itself becomes a luxury housing development. Retaining this history can be difficult – but where intelligent investment is made, preservation can be combined with effective regeneration. The Ironmonger Row Public Baths in Islington were built in 1931, and hosted many Olympic divers during the 1940s and ‘50s. The building recently underwent a £17 million renovation – ensuring its valuable presence in the community for the next century.

The Rom Skatepark, Hornchurch (1988)

The Rom Skatepark, Hornchurch (1988)

Supporting communities and cultures is one of the great things sport can do in cities like London. The capital is home to some of Europe’s finest and oldest skateparks. The Rom Skate Park in Hornchurch was built in 1978, and was the first skatepark in Europe to be given protected Listed status. Stockwell Skatepark, known as ‘Brixton Beach’, was also built at the end of the 1970s, on the first wave of skating mania – and remains a vibrant and challenging spot for skaters to test their skills. Today, this fantastic tradition continues – Better Extreme opened in 2015, becoming London’s largest indoor skatepark.

It’s easy to feel distant from some of the elite sport that happens in London – so keeping in touch with the city’s heritage is all-important to celebrating London’s enduring position as a global capital of sport.

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Cuthbert OttowayLong-standing readers may remember the story of Cuthbert Ottaway (1850 – 78), England’s first ever football captain. It was a guest post written by Ottaway’s biographer, Mick Southwick. Some seven years ago, Mick had discovered that Ottaway’s grave in Paddington Old Cemetery was in a terrible state: completely dilapidated and overgrown with weeds. England fan Paul McKay picked up on the story and so commenced a lengthy campaign to restore the footballer’s resting place to a state worthy of one of the great sportsmen of the era.

It was a great privilege for me to be present yesterday at the memorial unveiling and re-dedication of Ottaway’s last resting place. Paul and Mick were both there, of course, along with representatives of the Football Association, Marlow FC (Ottaway’s club), Councellor Roxanne Mashari from the Borough of Brent, the Town Mayor of Marlow, Councellor Suzanne Brown. Paul McKay read goodwill messages from – among others – the Prime Minister, the Mayor of London, Gordon Taylor of the Players Football Association and Ottaway’s descendants who all reside in Canada. The new memorial, draped in the flag of Eton College, was unveiled by Sir David Calvert-Smith, President of the Etonian Association. For Cuthbert Ottaway had been a King’s Scholar. He also represented Oxford at Athletics, Real Tennis, Racquets and Cricket (during his subsequent short career he often opened the batting  with W.G. Grace). Not bad.

No surprises, we also sang Abide With Me and Jerusalem, led by Mother Christine Cargill, the vicar of the local St. Anne’s Brondesbury, who conducted the service.

Ottaway captained England against Scotland twice, in 1872 and 1874. He also won an FA Cup medal in 1874 representing Oxford University v Royal Engineers. He died unexpectedly and suddenly from pneumonia aged just 27 when his Canadian wife was expecting their first child.

Cuthbert Ottoway

Paul McKay addresses us before the unveiling.

Cuthbert Ottoway

Paul McKay and Mick Southwick

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A guest post by Michael Southwick

cuthbert ottaway

This is the final resting place of England’s first football captain, Cuthbert John Ottaway – a rather unassuming and neglected affair, sitting, as it does, unrecognised amidst a thousand other such plots in Paddington Old Cemetery off Willesden Lane. The photograph was taken in 2006, after a hurried twenty-minute tidy by cemetery staff – goodness knows what condition it’s in now.

Ottaway is not a well-known figure. He made only two appearances for England– both as captain: one in the world’s very first official football international (against Scotland) on 30 November 1872, then again two years later against the same opponents and at the same venue in Glasgow in 1874. He died in April 1878, aged 27.

cuthbert ottawayCuthbert Ottaway was a native of Dover, the only child of an aging professional middle class couple. He was schooled at Eton, where he made a name for himself for his sporting prowess across several disciplines. Oxford University afterwards benefited from his singular talents, most notably, perhaps, in the fields of cricket and association football. He captained both university teams – leading the latter to their only FA Cup Final victory in 1874.

His connections with the capital are considerable. He graced the city’s many cricket grounds on an annual basis during the 1870s – Lords, The Oval and the long-gone Prince’s Cricket Ground in the West End– appearing for Middlesex (& Kent) and most of the ‘Gentlemen’ sides of the pre-England era. He opened the batting with W.G.Grace on many occasions, and almost always kept wicket with famed agility.

He appeared at The Oval, too, as a pioneer footballer – the setting of his 1874 Cup Final win. He was a runner-up, too, in the finals of 1873 (at the old Lillie Bridge Ground, near Stamford Bridge stadium) and 1875 (for Old Etonians). He also turned out for Crystal Palace and Marlow FC, and no doubt on countless other, unrecorded occasions for minor football and cricket clubs across the south-east – and all as an amateur. He even toured Canada and the US with W.G. and his illustrious contemporaries in 1872 on a prestigious cricketing tour.

Canada was where he first met his wife, Marion Stinson, whom he eventually married (in Canada) in 1877. Within months he died from pneumonia at his residence off Sloane Square, after catching ‘a chill’ following a night out – leaving his pregnant teenage wife to face the world alone.

It is difficult to believe that an individual who holds such a unique place in the annals of our national game should remain so obscure – and that his grave should remain as equally anonymous.

Update 2 April 2013: Work has begun on a new memorial for Ottoway at Paddington Old Cemetery. There will be an unveiling and dedication ceremony on 13 August.

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England’s First Football Captain: A Biography of Cuthbert Ottaway, 1850-1878 by Michael Southwick is available from SoccerData (see www.cuthbertottaway.blogspot.com ).

Michael also maintains the British & Irish Genealogy blog at www.bi-gen.blogspot.com.

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