Boxing Day

Boxing Day is celebrated on 26th December annually, well not so much celebrated as remembered.

A Victorian Alms Box

Under Queen Victoria it was brought up to date and became a time for the wealthy to show their generosity by way of gifts to those of the poor. In fact so much so that it became a national holiday in England in 1871.

It is a shame it is not still seen as a time to get out and help the poor but as just a day to go to the sales to pick up a bargain.

Originally and according to Charles Dickens Boxing day was a holiday

‘on which postmen, errand boys, and servants of various kinds received a Christmas box of contributions from those whom they serve’

An Alms (charity) Box (thus it became boxing day) was placed in every church for the poor of the parish and the money distributed on Boxing Day which is also the Feast day of St Stephen. St Stephen was one of the first deacons and the first Christian martyr.

In the Acts of the Apostles the name of St. Stephen occurs for the first time on the occasion of the appointment of the first deacons. Dissatisfaction concerning the distribution of alms from the community’s fund having arisen in the Church, seven men were selected and specially ordained by the Apostles to take care of the temporal relief of the poorer members.

Of these seven, Stephen, is the first mentioned and the best known. In fact this is reflected in the Christmas Carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’

Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, tho’ the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gath’ring winter fuel.

John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore wrote the carol which was first published in Carols for Christmas-Tide in 1853. Neale was known for his devotion to High Church traditions. Neale’s lyrics are possibly a translation of a poem by Czech poet Václav Alois Svoboda, written in Czech, German and Latin.

Martin Ware Auction exceeds expectations

TWO collections of rare British Victorian pottery sold for £250,000 at Salisbury auctioneers Woolley and Wallis smashing pre-sale hopes of £160,000.

The top two selling pieces alone took more than £50,000 between them – a rare Wally bird tobacco jar and an ultra-rare Bird man jar.

For Woolley and Wallis Head of Design Michael Jeffery, this was a personal as well as professional triumph, as he pioneered UK sales of Martin Ware.

“If only the four Martin brothers were here today to see this,” said Michael. “They were geniuses, really, with many of their designs decades ahead of their time and anticipating modern art, but only one of them lived to see their creations meet any sort of financial success.”

Auction pieces

The collections of 250 pieces, which were expected to fetch around £160,000, were auctioned by Woolley and Wallis on November 27.

The pottery business started in the family home in 1873, when the four Martin brothers – Robert Wallace, Walter, Edwin and Charles – fired up their first kiln.

Moving to a disused soap works in Southall, west of London, four years later, their 50-year production would come to an end in 1921, when only Robert Wallace, the eldest, was still alive to see bidding at Sotheby’s in London reach £50 for a single bird jar.

The family had only ever known poverty as they struggled to fulfil their artistic dreams. In 1910, he had said “my brothers and myself never got more than a labourer’s wages”.

Robert Wallace modelled the figures with Walter overseeing the kiln, mixing glazes and throwing pots, Edwin decorating the output and Charles managing the shop where they attempted to sell their wares.

However, problems came with the commercial side of the business. Charles hid his favourite pieces under the floorboards of the shop because he could not bear to part with them and turned away potential customers. The shop burnt down in 1903, destroying the stock.

Charles ended up in an asylum where he died in 1909.

The other brothers could only afford to fire the kiln once or twice a year and because they had no money to pay for the protective containers needed to hold the pots during firing, many ended up damaged.

Two years after Charles’s death, Edwin started to show signs of the facial cancer that would kill him in 1915; shortly after that Walter knocked his elbow while packing the kiln in 1911. The resulting wound and blood clot caused a fatal cerebral haemorrhage just three months later.

Despite their tragic fates, the brothers’ reputation grew quickly, with royalty and leading artistic lights of the day, such as the Pre-Raphaelite painters Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rosetti, becoming avid collectors. In 1914, Queen Mary ordered 60 pieces of Martin Ware to be exhibited at the Paris Exposition.

Production came to an end in 1923 when Robert Wallace died.

A Christmas Carol

Another adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Tom Hardy featuring Guy Pearce, Charlotte Riley, Stephen Graham, Andy Serkis and Vinette Robinson is to be aired on the BBC (hopefully it will be better than the much slated War of the Worlds.

Episode one begins on 22nd December 2019 at 9pm on BBC One. Episode two airs on 23rd December at 9.05pm, and the third and final episode will air on 24th December (Christmas Eve) at 9pm all on BBC One.

There will also be a US broadcast on FX.

Writer Stephen Knight revealed in July 2019:

“A Christmas Carol is done. And is in the can, and is bloody marvellous. I mean I would say that, but Guy Pearce is brilliant. Stephen Graham is brilliant, and it looks quite amazing.”

Tom Hardy who is involved generally produces good Television so I think this will be good, not along the lines of the book, but from a different angle.

Guy Pearce has been cast in the starring role, playing cold-hearted miser Ebenezer Scrooge. The actor’s previous credits include Jack Irish, The Innocents, Memento, Mary Queen of Scots and not forgetting long running aussie soap Neighbours!

Lord of the Rings actor Andy Serkis will play the Ghost of Christmas Past, while Stephen Graham (of Line of Duty and This Is England) will play Jacob Marley.

Peaky Blinders and Call the Midwife star Charlotte Riley will take on the role of Lottie, and The Favourite’s Joe Alwyn will play Bob Cratchit. The role of Mary Cratchit will be played by Doctor Who’s Vinette Robinson, and Remmie Milner plays Martha Griffin.

What We Do In The Shadows star Kayvan Novak has been cast as Ali Baba, while Lenny Rush will play Tim Cratchit (aka Tiny Tim).

Blade Runner’s Rutger Hauer was originally cast as the Ghost of Christmas Future (or the “Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come”), but sadly he became too unwell to film the role and died in July 2019. He has been replaced by Jason Flemyng.

A Christmas Carol is written and executive produced by Steven Knight, and executive produced by Tom Hardy, Ridley Scott, Dean Baker, David W. Zucker, Kate Crowe and Mona Qureshi for the BBC. It is directed by Nick Murphy and produced by Julian Stevens.

Happy Advent

Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for both the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas and the return of Jesus at the Second Coming. 

It is a time for Christians across the world to prepare ourselves, much as our Victorian fore fathers, to prepare ourselves spiritually.

In the Roman Rite of the readings of Mass on the Sundays of Advent have distinct themes:

  1. On the First Sunday (Advent Sunday), they look forward to the Second Coming of Christ.
  2. On the Second Sunday, the Gospel reading recalls the preaching of John the Baptist, who came to “prepare the way of the Lord”; the other readings have associated themes.
  3. On the Third Sunday (Gaudete Sunday), the Gospel reading is again about John the Baptist, the other readings about the joy associated with the coming of the Saviour.
  4. On the Fourth Sunday, the Gospel reading is about the events involving Mary and Joseph that led directly to the birth of Jesus, while the other readings are related to these.

A Christmas Carol

I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,

C. D.

December 1843.

And so it begins, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, probably the most famous Christmas book ever produced.

Published in 1843 by Chapman & Hall (although Dickens paid the publishing costs) and the illustrator was John Leech.

It is a great story of discovery, of redemption, of sadness and joy. Charles was involved in charities and social issues throughout his entire life.  At the time that he wrote A Christmas Carol he was very concerned with impoverished children who turned to crime and delinquency in order to survive.

Dickens, as well as others, thought that education could provide a way to a better life for these children. The Ragged School movement put these ideas into action.

The schools provided free education for children in the inner-city. The movement got its name from the way the children attending the school were dressed. They often wore tattered or ragged clothing.

In September of 1843 Dickens visited the Field Lane Ragged School. In a letter to his friend, Miss Coutts, he described what he saw at the school:

I have very seldom seen, in all the strange and dreadful things I have seen in London and elsewhere anything so shocking as the dire neglect of soul and body exhibited in these children.  And although I know; and am as sure as it is possible for one to be of anything which has not happened; that in the prodigious misery and ignorance of the swarming masses of mankind in England, the seeds of its certain ruin are sown.

C.D. 1843

We can see that Scrooge is a a greedy, selfish person with an utter disdain for humanity in general. Dickens saw him as the businessman of the day – of course that doesn’t of seem to have changed much in my opinion.

“Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” to the man who “knew how to keep Christmas well”

Scrooge is a miser, a hoarder who shows a decided lack of concern for the rest of mankind. However after a ghostly night, Scrooge sees life in a whole new way. For us, we can see how our past influences our future and how we need to live in the present, as Scrooge does.

He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Dickens seems to be reminding us of the importance in taking notice of the lives of those around us and being in the present.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

” This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want “

This message is a still as true today as it was in 1843 with the scourge of hunger and poverty still an issue across our nation.

You can read it here A Christmas Carol

Tower Bridge Kodachrome #4

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge in 1900, the ending of the Victorian Era – I wonder what the PC is thinking standing there/

Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London, built between 1886 and 1894. The bridge crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and has become an iconic symbol of London. 

It is one of five London bridges owned and maintained by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable trust overseen by the City of London Corporation. It is the only one of the trust’s bridges not to connect the City of London directly to the Southwark bank, as its northern landfall is in Tower Hamlets.

Tower 2015 taken by myself

Jack the Ripper

A new round of scientific tests of a shawl reputedly carried by a woman killed by Jack the Ripper reinforces an author’s claim that the serial murderer was an insane Polish barber named Aaron Kosminski.

But this news has not yet been widely accepted. Any theory of the identity of Jack the Ripper inevitably is met with furious debate, and this theory — and its supporting scientific evidence — is no exception. Kosminski has always been on the list of suspects. But this “proof” is questionable.

Aaron Kosminski was a Polish immigrant who police suspected at the time of being the murderer. In 1888, he was in his early twenties, living with his two brothers and a sister on Greenfield Street, just 200 yards from where Elizabeth Stride, one of the victims, was found dead on September 30th.

It is the shawl supposedly belonging to the fourth victim, Catherine Eddowes, that led to this announcement. Author Russell Edwards, who first revealed that he was in possession of the shawl in 2014, said that it contained genetic material from both Eddowes and Kosminski. He bought the shawl at a 2007 auction.

Kosminski’s identity was reportedly confirmed by researchers from Liverpool John Moores University who shared their recent findings in the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

The 1894 memorandum written by Sir Melville Macnaghten, Assistant Chief Constable of the London Metropolitan Police, naming ‘Kosminski’ as one of three suspects in the Jack the Ripper case.

“We applied novel, minimally destructive techniques for sample recovery from forensically relevant stains on the evidence and separated single cells linked to the suspect, followed by phenotypic analysis,” they wrote. “The mtDNA profiles of both the victim and the suspect matched the corresponding reference samples, fortifying the link of the evidence to the crime scene.”

“Genomic DNA from single cells recovered from the evidence was amplified, and the phenotypic information acquired matched the only witness statement regarded as reliable. To our knowledge, this is the most advanced study to date regarding this case.”

Jack the Ripper is believed to have murdered five women in the Whitechapel district of London, ending with the horrific killing of Mary Jane Kelly on November 9, 1888.

A new book titled The Five is drawing a great deal of attention, with its emphasis on the lives of those women. The author, historian Hallie Rubenhold, said in an interview with The Vintage News, “My book is the first full-length biography which looks at the five women’s lives in detail, apart from their murders or the story of the murderer. It also adds badly needed context to the women’s lives. For over 130 years, our society has been more interested in solving the murders than it has been in looking at those who were murdered.”

Any narrative on Jack the Ripper always begins with the horrific murders of these women. “The narrative was not concerned with who they were, but generally regarded their deaths as a way of figuring out the identity of the murderer,” said Rubenhold. “By understanding their lives, we can now insert their stories back into this episode of history and make it less about the murderer and more of a well-rounded story about the people and the community who were effected by these terrible events.” The Kosminski family was a part of that community without question. On July 12, 1890, Kosminski’s brother placed him in a workhouse because of his behavior. He was released soon after but the following February his family committed him again, and this time he was transferred to an asylum. It was noted as part of his admission that he had threatened his sister with a knife.

He died in an asylum in 1919.

Kosminski, who suffered from auditory hallucinations, feared food, and would not wash or bathe, does not fit the image some people have of a mastermind sadist able to elude police in the densely populated Whitechapel. Nor does he seem capable of sending a series of taunting letters to the press and police signed “Jack the Ripper.”

The most famous of those letters is the “Dear Boss” missive, sent to the Metropolitan Police on September 29th, beginning with “I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they wont fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track.” Another was sent on October 1st in the same handwriting, “You’ll hear about Saucy Jack’s work tomorrow double event this time…

Although the letter indicates knowledge of murdering Stride and Eddowes, it could have been written and posted after those murders were common knowledge.

Moreover, some experts take the position that the letters were a hoax, or written by a reporter to increase newspaper circulation.

Kosminski was a suspect at the time of the murders and an eyewitness on the scene identified him, but he was never arrested.

In an article about Kosminski written by Dr. Frederick Walker and posted on the Jack the Ripper Casebook, he writes, “Aaron Kosminski is one of only two suspects (the other being Joseph Barnett) against whom there is real evidence or testimony. The case against Kosminski is stronger than many of us who believe in alternate theories are generally prepared to admit — it is even stronger than those who suspect Kosminski usually dare to argue.”

The problem with the shawl is that it is never been verified that it belonged to Catherine Eddowes. The shawl was obtained from David Melville-Hayes, who is the great-great nephew of Amos Simpson — an acting sergeant in the London police who it is said recovered the shawl from the Eddowes crime scene. The weakness in this chain of evidence is, skeptics say, the shawl was not listed as evidence at the time of the murder.

Nonetheless, Jari Louhelainen of Liverpool John Moores University said in the report he has linked some of the DNA from the stains to the genetic signature of Eddowes’ distant relatives. Another DNA signature, purportedly attributed to semen on the scarf, was linked to relatives of Kosminski.

Hallie Rubenhold is highly doubtful that this shawl “news” solves the case.

“This recent paper proves nothing,” she said. “Nothing fundamental has changed about it, yet it’s being dangled in front of us as if it’s all new. Geneticists investigated the claims years ago and determined there were serious problems with the so-called results.”

She continued, “Additionally, from the historical point of view, there is absolutely nothing that connects this shawl to Catherine Eddowes — not one piece of evidence, not one document. You simply can’t make up the provenance of an object, it has to be backed up with documentation — ask any curator.”

Another skeptic, Dr. Adam Rutherford,  a geneticist, said about the shawl on Twitter, “Even if it was really present at the murder scene, and bizarrely was kept (none of Catherine Eddowes’ other clothes were), and kept unwashed, the way it has been handled since would render DNA analysis cripplingly problematic.”