St Clements Hospital

2474127813Boris Johnson is coming to London’s East End to drive a bulldozer to start pulling down bits of an old Victorian hospital…a jolly wheeze eh!


Sadly this once beautiful building will soon be gone, then building can then start on Britain’s first urban land trust housing that he gave the green light to.

442711898_b96640739cApparently the scheme ‘by the East London Land Trust is the result of a 10-year campaign first raised as a permanent solution to London’s rising cost of housing when Ken Livingstone was mayor at a London Citizens assembly in 2004′.










guess it has to be done, as the population of our metropolis expands…however maybe they could just take the brownside land that has been held on to by builders and build on there thus saving great buildings for the nation!


Gertrude Bell and Desert Storm!

From Gulfnews










Gertrude Bell was the original desert storm — archaeologist, adventurer, diplomat, and soon the subject of a Hollywood film.

As grand reopenings go, it may prove to be a somewhat low-key affair. A decade after its 5,000-year-old treasures fell victim to the greatest act of ransacking since Baghdad’s Mongol invasion, the Iraqi National Museum is planning to open to the public again.

Painstaking detective work by antiques experts around the world has recovered more than half of the 15,000 artefacts looted during the chaos of the United States-led invasion, and some time later this spring, staff once again hope to remind the world that there is more to their country than car bombs and Saddam Hussain. All the same, security on the day will be heavy, and while the planned opening date is either this month or April, the canapés may be put on hold if the present wave of violence convulsing the country continues. Indeed, about the only certain thing is that the former US secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld — whose glib comment on the museum’s pillaging was that “stuff happens” — will not be cutting the ribbon.

Among the looted artefacts now awaiting new visitors is the museum’s very own “Mona Lisa”, a priceless face mask known as the Lady of Warka that was recovered a few years ago in an Iraqi farmer’s backyard. Yet one other grand old lady of Mesopotamia will be conspicuous by her absence. Nestling in one of the museum’s Art Deco-style archways used to be a bust of Gertrude Bell, the formidable British diplomat, explorer and archaeologist. A gap-year adventurer ahead of her time, who preferred wandering the Arabian Desert to life as a debutante in Victorian London, she founded not just the museum itself, but also much of modern Iraq.

Sometime before 2003, though, her bust went missing, along with a plaque beneath that read: “Gertrude Bell, whose memory the Arabs will ever hold in affection.” A genuine epitaph of friendship, or just wishful colonial thinking? Those whose memories of Britain’s entanglements in Iraq go back no further than 2003 might be surprised. A female answer to T.E. Lawrence, Bell shaped the country arguably more than any other figure, helping its Arab tribes rebel against the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the First World War, rebuilding its government, and advising on the new borders that turned Mesopotamia into Iraq. She also foresaw many of the problems that tested Britain and the US nearly a century later, as her headmistressy messages back to Britain often show. “We rushed into the business with our usual disregard for a comprehensive political scheme,” she wrote, upon arriving in Basra in 1916. “Muddle through! Why yes, so we do — wading through blood and tears that need never have been shed.”

Given that its unstable ethnic mix is now considered a textbook case of imperial meddling, it may seem surprising that anyone in Iraq today might have a kind word for Bell. But thanks to her legendary fondness for its people — she spoke much better Arabic than Lawrence — her memory has lived on far longer than the average colonial viceroy. To this day, British women working in Iraq often find themselves smilingly compared to “that Miss Gertrude”, be they diplomats, journalists or simply a bit feisty. “She was a colonialist, yes, but she seemed completely devoted to the country,” says Dr Lamia Al Gailani Werr, a London-based archaeologist who works closely with the Iraqi National Museum.

What is more, Werr says, Bell also helped avert an earlier mass-looting of Iraq’s artefacts — this time by fellow European archaeologists. “It is a shame the bust and the plaque of her have been stolen from the museum,” Werr adds. “Personally I would like to see one back there.”

As of yet, the British government has no plans to insist that the bust be reinstated, despite the British Museum working closely with its Iraqi partner. Today’s politically correct curators, after all, might well balk at insisting that a museum honour its colonial benefactors, even one so key as Bell. Her life, though, is about to get rather wider recognition — courtesy of a new Hollywood film starring Nicole Kidman as Bell, filming of which began in neighbouring Jordan recently.

Kidman, 46, has already played a similarly intrepid character as the war correspondent Martha Gellhorn in HBO’s 2012 film “Hemingway and Gellhorn”. But she admits that capturing Bell, whose extensive archive of letters and books is now held by Newcastle University, is a challenge. “It is a huge endeavour,” she told an interviewer in December. “I’m completely enraptured with her. She basically defined the borders between Iraq and Jordan that exist today, borders that she negotiated between Churchill and different Arab leaders. She went out to the desert with the Bedouin and all the different tribes that were feuding at the turn of the 19th century.” Indeed, given the extraordinary richness of Bell’s life — she was also an expert Alpine mountaineer — it is perhaps surprising that a biopic is only now under way. After all, “Lawrence of Arabia” is just the most obvious screen comparison that comes to mind. Fans of “Indiana Jones”, for example, would appreciate the idea of Bell riding to archaeological digs through deserts of hostile tribesmen, a pistol strapped to her thigh. And there is more than a touch of “Downton Abbey” in her dealings with her male colleagues in turn-of-the century Baghdad, some of whom did not like being bettered by a woman.

To quote the many words of Mark Sykes, architect of the Sykes-Picot agreement that carved up the Ottoman Empire, she was a “conceited, gushing, flat-chested, man-woman, globe-trotting, rump-wagging, blethering [fool]”. The real reason, though, that Hollywood haven’t touched the Bell story in the past may be because of the perceived lack of love interest. Romance, it seems, was the one area of her life where she did not excel. Born into an immensely wealthy steel family in County Durham, she was potentially a very good catch, even if her striking, angular looks did lead to her being described as “handsome” rather than beautiful. But her formidable intellect put off many would-be suitors, and an engagement in her early twenties was broken by her parents because of rumours that her fiancé was a gambler. She spent the rest of her days single, and died in Baghdad in 1926 aged 57, from a sleeping-pill overdose that may have been deliberate. However, over the past decade, new evidence has emerged that challenges Bell’s image as a spinster with better things to do than fall in love.

A cache of letters, some released after a 50-year embargo, has revealed the extent of her passionate affair with Major Charles Doughty-Wylie, an unhappily married Boer War veteran who served as a consul in Turkey. What followed was like a Mesopotamian version of “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”, the strait-laced Victorian husband becoming besotted with the unconventional woman outside his marriage. Doughty-Wylie, who will be played by “Homeland” star Damian Lewis, felt unable to leave his wife for Bell, and it is thought their relationship was never consummated. But their exchanged correspondence, which Lewis recently visited the Bell archive to study, shows their romance was not short on drama.

By the third year of their affair, Doughty-Wylie was at his wits’ end, having been warned by his wife that she would kill herself if he left her, and by Bell that she would kill herself if he didn’t. Scornful of convention as ever, she had urged him to ignore the social disgrace of divorce, telling him in one heartfelt letter: “It’s that or nothing. I can’t live without you.” Unable to keep either woman happy, he instead chose to lead a group of soldiers on a particularly dangerous beach landing at Gallipoli in April 1915. A Turkish bullet killed him at the moment of victory, and his gallantry won him a posthumous VC. Yet fellow soldiers noticed he seemed strangely calm during battle, taking no weapon with him and making no effort to avoid the Turkish guns. Did he have suicidal intentions of his own that day? Nobody can be sure. But either way, as Werr points out, “The Gertrude Bell story is definitely worthy of a film. She was an adventurer, a British Army officer — and someone who had affairs.”

So who exactly was the lady known as khatun, or “Desert Queen”? Raised by a family of steelmakers who supplied the railways of Britain’s ever-expanding empire, Bell could just have been married off into the aristocracy, as many industrialists’ daughters were. But the Bell family’s riches came with a social conscience. Her father, Sir Hugh Bell, was an active supporter of the trade union movement, and her stepmother, Florence, conducted a pioneering study of the working poor. Hence Gertrude’s education at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where, despite a male tutor who insisted that females sat with their backs to him, she became the first woman to gain a First in modern history. That honed intellect, though, led to her being deemed “too Oxfordy” for success at society balls in London, where she moved after university for her “coming out”.

More interested in metaphysics than marriage, in 1892 she jumped at a chance to accompany her Aunt Mary to Tehran, where her spouse was ambassador. Those early travels with her aunt were to shape the rest of her life. For, as many others have since found out, the Middle East can be a welcoming place for Western women, a place where men may be men but where women can be too, treated as they often are as honorary males. In the company of shaikhs, imams and tribal potentates, first in Tehran and later in Damascus and Baghdad, Bell suffered none of the social judgments made upon her in parlour society back home. Falling in love with the region almost instantly, she mastered Arabic, despite complaining that it had “three sounds almost impossible to the European throat”.

Soon she was roaming deserts where many other explorers feared to tread, relying on trusted local fixers and her own charm with local Bedouin shaikhs, who were always the key to securing safe passage. Wearing a “divided skirt” that allowed her to ride like a man, she would spend up to 12 hours a day in the burning heat, and drink water from stagnant pools.

Yet her travelling caravan also included a tin bath, a full Wedgwood dinner service and a formal dinner dress for evening wear. To the shaikhs she drank tea with, the small, waif-like figure with the ivory cigarette holder was a fascinating enigma. According to Georgina Howell’s acclaimed 2007 biography of Bell, “Daughter of the Desert”, many assumed she was a man until she opened her mouth. Such encounters, though, gave her an unrivalled knowledge of the way Arab society worked. And so it was that in 1917, as a British invasion via Basra sought to oust the Turks from oil-rich Mesopotamia, she was enlisted as the first female military intelligence officer, tasked with assessing Arab willingness to join Lawrence’s anti-Ottoman revolt.

The Turks eventually capitulated after fierce resistance. But what followed bears uncanny resonance with the campaign of 2003. Just like Saddam’s vanquished Baathist regime, the Ottomans left behind a corrupt, ramshackle infrastructure that virtually collapsed overnight, forcing the British to rebuild schools and hospitals from scratch. And as Bell drily remarked: “If it took rather longer to open some of the Baghdad schools than expected, the delay may be attributed to the people themselves, who looted all the furniture and carried off the doors, windows and other portable fittings.”

By 1920, the thinly stretched force of 60,000 troops was fighting an anti-British jihad, waged by extremist Shiites and Ottoman-bribed tribes. With the war-battered British Empire already wary of expansion, the solution was self-government under a British mandate. Bell then played arguably her most influential role, lobbying successfully for King Faisal, a Sunni leader of the Arab revolt, to be installed as Faisal I of what was now Iraq.

The arrangement did not stand the test of time. While the Arab world saw many worse governments, Faisal’s son, who succeeded him as king, was murdered in a military coup in 1958, paving the way for the Baathist takeover a decade later. Perhaps a more damning indictment of Bell’s political judgment, though, was that she saw Iraq’s better-educated Sunni minority as the natural party of government. The more devout Shiites, she said, were too easily swayed by “fanatic” clerics, despite being the two-thirds majority. Thus was sectarian division institutionalised in both the monarchy and Saddam’s Sunni dictatorship, paving the way for the Sunni-Shiite civil war that raged from 2006-07.

“In a sense, Gertrude Bell was right — the Shiites are more emotional people, but her ideas did lay the framework for people like Saddam,” says Mowaffaq Al Rubaie, a Shiite politician who saw the downside of Bell’s legacy first-hand. Tortured by Saddam, he was among the witnesses at the Iraqi dictator’s hanging in 2006, and today displays the gallows rope in his Baghdad home as a reminder of the bad old days. “There was a huge democratic fault in her thinking that would have minority rule forever.”

Nonetheless, she remains a figure of respect among contemporary residents of the British embassy in Baghdad, who keep her original writing table in the ambassador’s dining room.

“Any Arabist in the Foreign Office is always conscious of the remarkable people who first got to know the Arabs, and Gertrude Bell was one of them,” says Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s special envoy to Iraq from 2003-04. “As for her favouring Sunni rule — it was simply a different era. All over the globe, the British were looking for people whom they could work with in administration, so they tended to go for whoever was more educated.”

Today’s Foreign Office staff also envy the freedom she enjoyed. Bell roamed at will for months on end, meeting kings, beggars and jihadists alike. For her successors, every trip outside Baghdad’s Green Zone is security-vetted and requires an armoured car and bodyguards, depriving them of the richness of encounter that made her such an authority. Such knowledge, indeed, was sorely lacking in the post-2003 period, although as Sir Jeremy points out: “We have to be realistic — resources and the politics of dealing with other countries do not allow our diplomats to work like that anymore.” Either way, it is doubtful that Bell would be happy with the Iraq of 2014.

Exactly a century on from the start of the British Mesopotamian campaign, the country is still struggling, with a resurgent Al Qaida now threatening to plunge it back into the dark days of civil war again. Much of Baghdad still lies in ruins, and the small Christian cemetery where Bell’s body still rests is overgrown and bereft of visitors. In similar fashion, Doughty-Wylie remains buried at Gallipoli, where a few months after his death there was a mysterious postscript to their affair.

Towards the end of 1915, and well before the fighting had finished, soldiers reported seeing a visitor at his grave — a woman in a black veil who laid a wreath. Was it a grieving Bell on yet another daring mission? Many scholars of her life believe it was. But while it might make a poignant Hollywood ending for the Kidman/Lewis film, the letters in Bell’s archive shed no real light on the matter. On this particular matter, it seems, the lady who made her mark in so many other ways left no clues.

How to be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman

imagesThis is brilliantly detailed and interesting book. Ruth Goodman is a historian and is an expert in nineteenth-century social and domestic history and has presented a number of BBC television series such as Victorian Farm, Victorian Pharmacy, Edwardian Farm , Tudor Monastery Farm and Wartime Farm.

As a presenter I find her engaging and as a writer she is great as these quotes will attest…

Written with such passion that one cannot help but be carried along . . . Will fascinate and inform anyone who is in any way interested in Victorian ways of life (Dr Ian Mortimer, author of The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England)

A delightful read . . . allows us to see how the Victorians lived from day to day. A triumph (Judith Flanders, author of The Victorian City)

TVO - Victorian Farm ChristmasShocking, exciting, wonderful (Clive Anderson BBC Radio 4)

I absolutely love this book. Exuberant, absorbing … there’s scarcely a detail of Victorian life Ruth has not tried (A N Wilson Mail on Sunday)

Ruth – a woman who possesses so much elbow grease that she could probably can the overflow to sell on the side (Independent)

Goodman’s enthusiasm for history is as palpable as her contempt for misty-eyed interpretations of it (Telegraph)

Beetonian, compendious (Guardian)

Highly readable, often amusing and sometimes shocking, this is popular history at its best (BBC Who Do You Think You Are magazine)

Enlightening (Scotland on Sunday)

Fantastic book…make sure you buy it (London By Gaslight)

Ripper Street saved!

9553149Good news for those who are a fan of Ripper Street, me and many others it appears as it has been rescued.

The Victorian detective drama with a fantastic eye for detail was cancelled by the BBC earlier this year after two seasons because of poor ratings. TV execs…are ratings everything?

However the fans fought back after an online campaign and is returning for a third series through a deal between the British broadcaster and online retailer Amazon…hurrah!

Filming begins in May on the new series, which will be shown first on Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service, before airing on BBC television.

Matthew Macfadyen and Jerome Flynn return as 19th-century police fighting crime in the sordid streets of London’s East End.

BBC drama boss Ben Stephenson said Wednesday that the deal was “an exceptional opportunity” to bring the show back that would please fans while freeing up BBC money for new drama series.


250px-Floral_Badge_of_Great_Britain.svgScotland was a favourite of Queen Victoria. She loved the place and the people. Now the Scots have a huge decision to make. A choice to remain in the United Kingdom or go it alone for an independent Scotland.

Here is a few of the fantastic innovations that Scotland has achieved under The Union:

Macadamised roads: John Loudon McAdam (1756–1836)
The pedal bicycle: Kirkpatrick Macmillan (1813–1878) and Thomas McCall (1834–1904)
The pneumatic tyre: Robert William Thomson and John Boyd Dunlop (1822–1873)
The overhead valve engine: David Dunbar Buick (1854–1929)
Tubular steel: Sir William Fairbairn (1789–1874)
The patent slip for docking vessels: Thomas Morton (1781–1832)
Canal design: Thomas Telford (1757–1834)
Condensing steam engine improvements: James Watt (1736–1819)
Thermodynamic cycle: William John Macquorn Rankine (1820–1872)
Coal-gas lighting: William Murdoch (1754–1839)
Europe’s first passenger steamboat: Henry Bell (1767–1830)
The first iron-hulled steamship: Sir William Fairbairn (1789–1874)
Making cast steel from wrought iron: David Mushet (1772–1847)
Wrought iron sash bars for glass houses: John C. Loudon (1783–1865)
The hot blast oven: James Beaumont Neilson (1792–1865)
The steam hammer: James Nasmyth (1808–1890)
Wire rope: Robert Stirling Newall (1812–1889)
The Fairlie, a narrow gauge, double-bogie railway engine: Robert Francis Fairlie (1831–1885)
Cordite – Sir James Dewar, Sir Frederick Abel (1889)
The mechanical reaping machine: Rev. Patrick Bell (1799–1869)
Print stereotyping: William Ged (1690–1749)
Roller printing: Thomas Bell (patented 1783)
The adhesive postage stamp and the postmark: James Chalmers (1782–1853)
Universal Standard Time: Sir Sandford Fleming (1827–1915)
Light signalling between ships: Admiral Philip H. Colomb (1831–1899)
The telephone: Alexander Graham Bell (1847–1922)
The teleprinter: Frederick G. Creed (1871–1957)
The underlying principles of Radio – James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879)
The first edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica (1768–81)
The first postcards and picture postcards in the UK
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson (1889)
Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie, born in Kirriemuir, Angus
Long John Silver and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson…

And there are so many more…

The United Kingdom will be poorer without Scotland and it’s imaginative, innovative people.

Actually, Victorians invented New Man!

From The BBC Magazine Online

_73037330_newgibsongirlA recent Magazine article tracked the term New Man to the 1980s, but one reader – Patrick Thomas Morgan – points out here that it goes back much further than that.

Scholars studying 19th Century culture often like to point out, in response to “new” cultural trends and social movements, that there is nothing new under the sun. The Magazine article “Whatever happened to the term New Man?” seemed to be relying too heavily on the OED origin of the term, “New Man.” New Man may have been re-popularized in mass media during the 1980s, but its origin stretches back to Victorian era feminism.

In her 1882 novel, Doctor Zay, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps introduces to the world an independent, professional rural Maine doctor named Zaidee Atalanta Lloyd, who is called “a new kind of woman.” But, as Phelps writes, “The trouble is that a happy marriage with such a woman demands a new type of man.” Doctor Zay is one of many late Victorian texts that are categorized under the heading of “New Woman fiction.”

Patrick Thomas Morgan is a scholar of 19th Century American literature at Duke University, US. His “Aesthetic Inflections: Thoreau, Gender, and Geology” was published in The Concord Saunterer: A Journal of Thoreau Studies

The term New Woman was coined in 1894 by feminist Irish activist Sarah Grand to describe the emergence of a new socio-political category – the educated, emancipated, and self-sufficient woman. The term New Man followed soon after – around 1911 – to describe any man who was sympathetic to the New Woman philosophy, including the belief in egalitarian marriages. These terms were used widely in a form of mass communication that was popular in the early 20th Century: newspapers. As Lucy Delap, Maria DiCenzo, and Leila Ryan write in Feminism and the Periodical Press, 1900-1918, quoting the Anglo-American actress Beatrice Forbes-Robertson Hale: “In the United States, New York ‘advanced feminists’ referred to their husbands as ‘fellow-feminists,’ and welcomed the ‘new man’: ‘every son born to a feminist, and every man married to one, has the opportunity to develop into the new type.’”

Regardless of their precise linguist lineage, the terms New Woman and New Man are the conduits through which radical fin-de-siecle demographic and political changes found expression. The New Man is not an “exotic new species” of the 1980s, but a fin-de-siecle species that dived below the radar of mass media for a few decades before recovering at precisely the time when – much like the 1890s – women were redefining gender roles within the professional workspace.

Current Victorian Culture: Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful is an upcoming horror TV series created for Showtime by John Logan and executive produced by Logan and Sam Mendes. There is a production blog for a series with the launch of The Penny Dreadful Production Blog.

The venue will give viewers an online behind-the-scenes look at the series’ production from its early stages of filming in Ireland through the end of the first season, featuring interviews with cast and crew.

Looks good…enjoy!