The Diamond Jubilee…1897

Well Queen Elizabeth will be celebrating (along with many of her subjects no doubt!) the 60th anniversary of the accession of her good self to the  throne of the British Empire as did Queen Victoria’s back in 1897.

Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth have a certain amount in common really, obviously both Queen but the only two to have reigned for 60 years and both enjoy a level of ‘esteem’ I suppose you could call it which has not always been for  the monarchy of the united Kingdom

In 1887 the British Empire was at its peak with Queen Victoria the head of a realm of 450 million people that covered all four corners of the earth, she the head of an empire that ruled a quarter of the world’s population.

Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee was huge with many nationwide festivities taking place and even modern-style royal walkabouts for the elderly and less the robust monarch. Nevertheless the idea of staging celebrations from one end of the nation to the other was really rather novel, quite simply we hadn’t done it before and didn;t really see ourselves as the party nation.

Historian Prof Walter Arnstein writes:

Britons hadn’t seen themselves as very good at such things. It was the sort of thing that people in Napoleonic France or Russia had been associated with. Queen Victoria herself didn’t much care for the idea. She thought it was not altogether appropriate and had to be talked into it.

However she found it was much more than she had expected.

She enjoyed it in retrospect, but beforehand had made things quite difficult for [prime minister] Lord Salisbury at the planning stage.

In fact Queen Victoria went on to say:

The crowds were quite indescribable and their enthusiasm truly marvellous and deeply touching.

So on Tuesday 22 June, named as Jubilee Day was celebrated across the globe. Like today it was a bank holiday, not just here but in India and  Ireland.

This year we have the Royal Flotilla as the highlight, in contrast Queen Victoria’s was a procession along six miles of London streets of the extended Royal Family and the leaders of the self-governing dominions and Indian states, that must’ve been quite a sight!

The Army, Navy (of course there was no air force for sometime to come)  was accompanied by colonial forces from Canada, India, Africa and the Antipodes dolled up their most colourful dress uniforms, unfortunately the Queen (still dressed in black) had painful arthritis and couldn’t get out of the state coach.

The parade started at Buckingham Palace went via Mansion House along past The Houses of Parliament, across Westminster Bridge and then headed up to St Paul’s Cathedral for a special service. This surely was  “Queen of earthly Queens” day as it was said at the time.

The Queen at 78 wrote:

No-one ever, I believe, has met with such an ovation as was given to me, passing through those six miles of streets… The crowds were quite indescribable and their enthusiasm truly marvellous and deeply touching. The cheering was quite deafening and every face seemed to be filled with joy.

Street parties were laid on for 400,000 of London’s poorest residents and 100,000 of Manchester’s. Sir Thomas Lipton of tea fame, sponsored and supplied free bottles of ale and pipe tobacco. These continued into the late evening with a chain of beacons lit across Britain.

All the celebrations were very much focused on the empire, its success, its expansiveness and its seeming invincibility not something we can celebrate today as we have slipped to be one of the smaller players on the world stage.

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Body Building

Eugen Sandow

Well we’ve seen for years Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone probably the best know body builders but the very first body building competition was held in the year of Queen Victoria’s demise in 1901.

The Royal Albert Hall was the venue and was plunged into darkness, spotlights picking out the 80 or so competitors in their body hugging tights and leopardskin leotards as they made their way to the stage, flexing their well-developed muscles.

Judging was one Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle, creator of the master detective who had become a close friend Eugen Sandow, the world-famous strongman and music-hall performer who provided personal fitness coaching from his Institute of Physical Culture at 33a St James’s Street, in the heart of London’s fashionable clubland.

Conan Doyle had been following Sandow’s training for a few years when his car snagged a gatepost and ran up a high bank and overturned pinning him beneath it.

Conan-Doyle managed to take the weight of the car on his back, reportedly one ton and put this down to Sandow’s training with whom he had become friends at the Albert hall display of muscles.

Knife of Jack the Ripper?

Jack the Ripper and his knife?

Jack the Ripper never seem to cease fascinate us, but why?

Well I would hazard that it is the classic ‘whodunit’, it is also the setting of poverty and squalor which all tied up in the literature of the time from Dickens to Conan-Doyle.

So to add to all this we have Tony Williams, 49, Sir John Williams great-great-great-great nephew.

He has now published a book which features the startling image of the knife, supposedly used by he ripper, his relative’s.

The Welsh surgeon Sir John Williams was a chief suspect in the Victorian murders. Sir John or ‘Uncle Jack’ as he was known to his family was (and more importantly) the surgeon to Queen Victoria who was living in London at the time of the slayings. Sir John Williams removed himself from the capital after the murders.

Back to the present day, it appears that Tony Williams has unearthed the old black-handled surgeon’s knife which he used for operations and believes it could be the murder weapon, but then again he was a surgeon and I’m sure that he had several knifes as tools of the trade so to speak.

The knife was among a number of possessions left by the Welshman which included three glass slides which contains smears of a uterus.

Mr Williams told The Telegraph:

”Why would he leave this behind? I am convinced that this is the knife used by Sir John Williams to murder those women. ”It is widely know that the person who carried out the killings would have had significant medical knowledge. ”Sir John Williams was an accomplished surgeon and routinely performed abortions on women. He held surgeries all over London at the time of the murders.” He added: ”Dr Thomas Bond, a pathologist who examined the body of Mary Kelly, said the ripper had used the same six inch knife in all the murders. ”He said it would have been at least six inches long, very sharp, pointed at the top and about an inch in width – a surgeon’s knife. ”This is the knife that fits the description that I’ve held in my hand back in the National Library of Wales.”

Tony Williams claims that the possessions including an old diary, the knife and some glass slides prove his ‘Uncle Jack’ had the medical expertise and motive for the murders.

He went to tell the Telegraph:

”I looked through the possessions that he left and found the knife along with three glass slides. ”The smears on the glass slides have been tested and are confirmed as being matter from the uterus. ”I know Sir John was obsessed by the fact that his wife, Mary Hughes, could not have children. I think that was his motive.” He added: ”I think he was a Jekyll and Hyde-type character who may have been driven to commit murder because his wife could not have children. He was also known to be working on a cure for his wife’s problem.”

So another theory to add to the ever-growing list and tine continue to feed our fascination with the most infamous serial killer of all time.

Victorian Dentistry

Dentistry becomes a female occupation in 1887 and here is an ode to the fairer sex from Punch Oct 29th 1887.

TO A LADY DENTIST.

[It is announced that Ladies are to be enabled to take diplomas in Dentistry.]

Lady Dentist, dear thou art,
Thou hast stolen all my heart;
Take too, I shall not repine,
Modest molars such as mine;
Draw them at thine own sweet will;
Pain can come not from thy skill.

Lady Dentist, fair to see,
Are the forceps held by thee;
Lest those pretty lips should pout,
You may pull my eye-teeth out;
I’m regardless of the pangs,
When thy hand extracts the fangs.

Lady Dentist, hear me pray
Thou wilt visit me each day;
Welcome is the hand that comes—
Lightly hovering o’er my gums.
Not a throne, love, could compare
With thine operating chair.

Lady Dentist, when in sooth
You’ve extracted every tooth,
Take me toothless to your arms,
For the future will have charms:
Artificial teeth shall be—
Work for you and joy for me!

Undershaw – Our Heritage

Undershaw with Mary and Kingsley Conan-Doyle in the driveway 1897

I love Victorian Architecture, the grandness of it, the attention to detail, the municipal building, parks, gardens, stately homes, and houses. Our Heritage is something that should be preserved for generations.

I am a rather big admirer of Sherlock Holmes, The great detective as portrayed on television superbly by Jeremy Brett, on audio book superbly by Clive Merrison and of course written superbly by Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle.

Clearly Holmes is still very relevant as the Robert Downey Jr movies and the BBC Sherlock series prove which makes it even sadder when the former residence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his family

Here he wrote ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ and ‘The Return of Sherlock Holmes’ and entertained many notable people, including Bram Stoker, the author of ‘Dracula’, J M Barrie, the creator of ‘Peter Pan’, and the young Virginia Woolf. The Undershaw Preservation Trust

It is also a great example of late Victorian Architecture (as you can see by the image at the top of the article) is left to fall apart.

So the campaign is on to save Undershaw in the guise of the The Undershaw Preservation Trust. A brief history of the house from TUPT:

‘Undershaw’ was built by Conan Doyle so that his invalid wife Louise, who was suffering from tuberculosis, could benefit from Hindhead’s healthy micro climate and glorious views down the Nutcombe Valley to the South Downs. Nestling in its three acre plot, Doyle himself drafted the first designs of the house, before passing them on to architect and friend Joseph Henry Ball to complete. Doyle had many inspired ideas for his family’s new home, especially the installation of an electric plant (somewhat a rarity in those days) and a magnificent railway in the grounds that proved a constant joy to his children.  (More information about the monorail is currently being researched).                       

Undershaw’s location added a few more years to Louise’s life, but she eventually died in 1906 and is buried in the local  Grayshott churchyard along with Doyles mother and later being joined by her daughter Mary, who died unmarried in the 1970s, and son Continue reading

Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Story – review

Jack the Ripper’s dead 
And lying in his bed 
He cut his throat 
With Sunlight soap 
Jack the Ripper’s dead. 

The Whitechapel Murderer, Leather Apron or as he is commonly know Jack the Ripper has been a source of fear and fascination since the horrific serial murders of 1888 and although released in Jan 2011 I came across ‘Jack the Ripper – The Definitive Story’ a few nights ago on HD5.

Great CGI/real life

I have a hard time to believe that this is the ‘definitive’ story, more like another story really or opinion but it is very well put together.

It starts off informing us that jack started his attacks with Emma Smith and Martha Tabran, they were attacked around the same time, in the same area and they too were alcoholics very much other 5 known victims.

    • Mary Ann Nichols
    • Annie Chapman
    • Elizabeth Stride
    • Catherine Eddowes
    • Mary Jane Kelly

Initially there was some belief that a solider, a coldstream guard was the killer but that proved to be false.

An 'expert' - Bill Beadle

There are lots of ‘experts’ pop-ups, some good acting and the computer graphics are not bad really and do make good backgrounds and give you an idea of what it was like compared to Whitechapel nowadays.

There are maps with arrows showing who was where, the CGI has the lighting set as it was in 1888.

It gives the gruesome details of death and the authentic photos of the victims and lots of ‘facts’ are bombarded at you..but It was very interesting to hear the background of the victims, something we don’t often hear.

It was also interesting to see how the press dealt with it and the sensationalism around the case.

I guess my only problem was whether to believe these’ facts’ or not, and sadly I understand these were cut (no pun intended) by some 45m mins so we didn’t get the whole story anyway.

and the conclusion…well you need to watch it for yourself but all in all a great introduction to one of the defining crimes of the Victorian Era.

From the makers:

Jack the Ripper the Definitive Story. Written by Paul Begg and John Bennett. Featuring experts: Philip Hutchinson, Richard Jones, Neil Bell, Neal Shelden and many more experts.

JTR, The Definitive Story, is a two hour docudrama that sets out to portray the Jack the Ripper murders as accurately as possible. Going back to original source materials and featuring the virtual environments of Jakko Luukanen.

The program sets out to reconstruct the witness statements as accurately as possible using the latest technologies available..

Broadcast on Channel FIVE in December 2010 and HISTORY UK in February 2011, JTR The Definitive Story is set for world wide release. DVD featuring extra footage!

Our aim is to provide the most accurate portrail of the Jack the Ripper murders ever . Two hours of cats taken from original source material and in conjunction with the soon to be released Jack The Ripper A to Z

Jack the Ripper, The Definitive Story is the first HD surround sound documentary ever created by Ripperologists. A program at last dedicated to the facts surrounding the case. 

Produced/Directed by Jeff Leahy

Currently available to watch on Channel 5

The First Eye of London

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Have you been on the London Eye?

The London Eye is a blot on the majestic skyline of the Capital and does in fact make it look akin to a fair ground…I am not keen on it.

Anyway I was coerced onto the London Eye fairly early one morning. Now I am not too good with heights and the big wheel is 442.913386 feet high but it was a good ride and it was a bright morning so we got to see right across The City and down the Thames…a great view that I and the 30 million other visitors had.

The First Eye!

However what I didn’t realise is that in In 1887 J R Whitley opened an amusement park on derelict land between railway lines at Earls Court. One feature was the Great Wheel which was 310 feet high, the first London Eye. It also included Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and permanent attractions included the aforementioned Big Wheel, a helter-skelter and a water chute.

In the current London Eye you travel around the big wheel in pods but if you look at the photo of Whitley’s wheel is the traditional ‘hang on for dear life’ seat with a bar!