Museum of London

If you are in London then I would recommend that pop into the Museum of London.

For those like ourselves with an interest in Victoriana it has a good part about Victorian London.

It is a miniature mock up of Victorian London and great for Parents and Children.

The Museum of London documents the history of the UK’s capital city from prehistoric to modern times and is located in the City of London on the London Wall, close to the Barbican Centre and is part of the Barbican complex of buildings created in the 1960s and 1970s to redevelop a bomb-damaged area of the City

Mudlarking for half term

Here in Great Britain it’s half term, a time for a break from school for the children and myself (seeing as I work in a school).

My daughter (who has an interest in history) and I trudged up to the Thames foreshore near the OXO Tower up to the Millennium Bridge and spent a couple of hours larking.

I find it fascinating and I love to find shards, pipes etc. There is some Victorian pieces as well.

  1. A Stopper from a sauce bottle. There would have been a ring of cork inside he lip of the bottle to ensure a seal was made.
  2. Possibly a Penny Ink Well.
  3. Shards.
  4. More shards from Victorian Era.
  5. Pipe bulb is a typical early 19th century plain form with a thin brittle bowl and a flat based spur.

If you want to go there are a few things that you should know:

1. Always wear gloves. Whilst the Thames is cleaner than it has been in decades its water still carries rat urine which will give you the likes Weils Disease.

2. Make sure you always keep an eye on the tide. It is best to go when the tide is going out, the river is unforgiving with very strong under currents so please be very careful. You can check tide times here.

3. Wear some tough boots as are there are sharp rocks and pieces of metal sticking.

4. If you do not have a permit you cannot dig but you can look and pick up. If you want one you will need to contact the London Port Authority.

Poverty in London: Spitalfields

Spitalfields Nippers – these photographs were taken by Horace Warner in Spitalfields at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and were not reproduced until very recently, they had hardly been seen by anyone outside his immediate family.

A fascinating look at the poverty in the area at the end of the Victorian era, one of the most prosperous financial era of Great Britain.

I wonder where all the money went!

The Lodge

This is Fife Arms a newly opened hotel with 46 guest rooms in the town of Braemar, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. I would love to stay here – it is beautiful.

The hotel is housed in a former hunting lodge, originally remodeled by architect Alexander Marshall Mackenzie (who also designed the Waldorf Astoria in London), now owned by renowned art dealers Hauser & Wirth. Together with Moxon Architects, designer Russell Sage, and a team of local artisans and craftspeople from Aberdeenshire, Iwan and Manuela Wirth were careful to preserve the building’s grand architectural details (dark wood moldings, marble, chimneys, and timber-frame windows), then fitted the interiors with 12,000 Victorian-era objects and furnishings. The result, they say, is “more like a private country house than a hotel.”

With the blueprints for the original building housed in the National Archive and a grand opening attended by none other than His Royal Highness Prince Charles himself, it’s a new opening with an already historic legacy.

Death of Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria passed away on 22 January 1901 and died of an Hemorrhagic stroke at her favourite place to be and this was Osborne House, East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

Queen Victoria’s funeral procession begins…

As Queen Victoria ended the 19th century, she was not her usual self. She was visibly fading: her voracious appetite had disappeared and she had lost almost half her body weight. She was confined to a wheelchair, almost blind and had lapses of memory and moments of confusion. Yet no one could contemplate the mortality of the little old lady who had sat on the throne for almost 64 years. Her children were in denial, her government was unprepared, and the public knew nothing at all. Victoria’s own view of the future was bleak: “Another year begun, I am feeling so weak and unwell, that I enter upon it sadly.”

Twenty-two days later, shortly after 6.30pm on Tuesday 22 January 1901, Superintendent Fraser ordered the household police to surround the queen’s Isle of Wight residence Osborne House. All telephone and telegraph wires were to be suspended, and any servant or messenger to be prevented from leaving. A short while later he walked down the long gravel drive to the entrance gate where a large crowd was waiting, and pinned a small notice on to the bulletin board.

“Osborne House, January 22, 6.45pm

Her Majesty the Queen breathed her last at 6.30pm, surrounded by her children and grand-children.”

She had ruled over Britain and its empire for almost 64 years and her death marked the end of the Victorian era. 

Kodachrome #6

Victorian photos capture the time and the place with photography still in its infancy. There are some very well known ones especially of the poor or royalty.

So here is an usual image from the tail end of the Victorian era. The fisherman is standing outside his cottage in West Looe, Cornwall. The hat he is wearing is a flannel-lined oilskin and was too preserve him all kinds of weather.

To protect themselves from the icy winds and spray, they wore felt-lined rubber boots and jackets and hats made of oiled canvas.

The Chimes

A New Year and time for me too have a read of The Chimes by Charles Dickens.

I have to admit I am a slow reader and found this a bit of a struggle.

The Chimes, or to give it its full title, The Chimes, a Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In.

The Chimes, or to give it its full title, The Chimes, a Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In, is the second Christmas book by Charles Dickens. It was written in 1844, a year after the evergreen “A Christmas Carol” with high hopes after the huge success of Carol.

The story has a lesson (like Carol) for us to learn from with Toby ‘Trotty’ (because he trots everywhere) Veck.

Trotty Veck

Trotty works as a ticket-porter, waiting all day outside the door of St. Malackey’s bell tower for odd jobs. He is a poor, simple, “weak, small, spare old man”. From my point of view he seems like a kind man, has a daughter, “Meg”, whom he idolises who is young, virtuous, beautiful and kind. She has a sweetheart, a worthy blacksmith called Richard, and they want to marry.

We are introduced the self-important Alderman Cute, who enjoys teasing Trotty about his  situation and stealing his scant food, as he shows off to his two companions. The three continually “put down” the engaged couples’ plan to marry, drumming into them how selfish and irresponsible it would be. Dickens voice is very clear for dislike of the cruel and unkind voice of wealthy Victorians.

At length Trotty is given a note to take to a local MP, Sir Joseph Bowley, who makes a great show of dispensing charity to the poor. Bowley is of the ilk that Dickens detests and is cast in the same mould as the Alderman.

Bowley makes a point of chastising Trotty for his debts, whilst ostentatiously paying off his own debts before the new year, completely ignoring the fact that Trotty has no way of paying off what he owes to his local shop. He drums into Trotty his one great moral lesson, which he says the poor need to learn…which is fine if you have the funds, we can see such things in The United Kingdom today.

Trotty is in despair by this point…and the bells are calling him and it is here we meet Will Fern, a poor countryman, and his orphaned niece, Lilian.

He goes off to the church and finds the tower door unlocked and climbs up to the bellchamber. There follows one of Dickens’s most whimsical atmospheric passages, describing the spirits’ goblin helpers and then the spirits of the bells themselves. Very reminiscent of ‘Carol’ with phantoms.

Trotty’s “crime”, he is told, is in not taking personal responsibility, in not having any inner convictions, and in losing confidence, faith in a higher power, and hope and determination that life would improve. He is reprimanded for his condemnation of people less fortunate than himself, offering them neither help nor pity which for me just doesn’t really work with Trotty’s character.

He is also told to try to improve conditions in the here and now, not to sorrowfully remember a fictitiously “better” time in years past which I think we can all do with ‘rose tinted glasses’.

It was a hard read for me, especially as Trotty comes across a kind man who circumstances are not his fault.

Extraordinary People

‘Extraordinary People’ is a weekly show that introduces you some of the world’s most interesting, peculiar, extraordinary people in and around New York.

On this episode of Extraordinary People, a quirky couple is obsessed with the Victorian era. Sarah and Gabriel Chrisman wear 1880s-inspired clothing, cook with a wood stove and live their everyday lives, in Port Townsend, Washington, as if it’s the 19th century. “I found a way to do a little bit of the time travel,” said Sarah, a writer. She and her librarian husband — who rides a penny-farthing bicycle around town — hope to inspire others to pursue their dreams, whatever they may be.

Does Victoriana influence your life in anyway…let me know.

The Man of Pleasure’s Illustrated Pocket-Book

A pocket guide to Victorian London’s secret brothels and prostitutes disguised as a wallet was thought too up to £500 at auction but actually went for £4000.

The copy of The Man of Pleasure’s Illustrated Pocket-Book for 1850 provides an eye-opening insight into the the capital’s red light districts during the 19th century. It describes, for men with ‘rebellious members’, individual prostitutes using equestrian and seafaring references as a coded language as well as 50 sketches of women.

It is an interesting document as it shines a light on the darker side of early Victorian morality or lack of. These women below were all someones daughter and maybe someones mother.

The book itself is anonymous – it would be fascinating to know who would’ve used it at the time, something I guess we will never know.

Miss Alice Grey – The love-inspiring queen 

One page of the guide describes a Miss Alice Grey, of Portland Road, Westminster, as ‘frequently mounted a la militaire, and as frequently performs the rites of the love-inspiring queen according to the equestrian order, in which style she is said to afford uncommon delight.’ 

Miss Murray – A frigate fit for a king 

The book calls Miss Murray, of Foley Place, Oxford Street, ‘a little frigate fit for a king to board.’    

Hansons Auctioneers books expert Jim Spencer said: ‘Early erotic publications are extremely sought after with collectors both nationally and internationally. Books like these were published and sold in secret at a time when they would have been regarded as obscene.’

‘The fact that this latest find was disguised as a wallet speaks volumes about its content.’

Miss A Parks – ‘She performs her part with admirable skill and dexterity’

The raunchy guide goes on to describe other prostitutes including Miss A Parks who is noted for her singing when she ‘visits the side-boxes’.

It says: ‘In duets she employs her tongue and voice full as satisfactory as when it emits the shrillest note.

‘She performs her part with admirable skill and dexterity, and in such cases chooses the lowest part’  

However, the unknown author also offers a glimmer of romance among the debauchery, writing of Miss Parks:

‘Observe the rapture-giving squeeze

The glowing cheek, the sparkling eye

The falt’ring voice, the trembling knees

That speak in silent words – I die’

Another unnamed woman found at Jessops near Windmill Street is also recommended.

It adds: ‘Her conversation is pleasing, she drinks little, and swears seldom, so that, as time go, she is a very desirable companion.’

Miss Fowler – ‘Makes the most of her leg’ 

Then there is Miss Fowler ‘who when stepping into a cab or coach, she makes the most of her leg.’

It continues: ‘She generally sets fire to all the male passengers, so that you see them fidgeting and adjusting their rebellious members the remainder of the journey.’

Dracula BBC 1

The first part of this BBC mini-series is great, it is a thoughtful and imaginative twist on the classic Bram Stoker tale and thankfully set in 1895. Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss who are responsible for the very excellent and somewhat successful Sherlock (especially ”The Abominable Bride” set in Victorian London (which I absolutely love) demonstrate their love for the source material whilst adding their own playful spin on this newest venture.

It is excellent casting with Claes Bang as the ancient Count Dracula whilst Dolly Wells is brilliant as Sister Agatha.

In this first episode we have the talented John Heffernan as the innocent Jonathan Harker. Heffernan has the task of playing Harker as the fresh faced individual who first steps into Dracula’s castle and the shattered shell of a man who has faced the devil himself.

This is well worth watching and is available on the BBC iplayer.