Dickens London Haunts

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Take a look at this. The real London locations which formed the settings for various Dickens novels are shown, sometimes with characters from the books superimposed. The remaining locations are all associated with scenes from the books: the Old Curiosity Shop off the Aldwych, the Adelphi arches (now Embankment), the site of the blacking factory at Hungerford Market and Jacob’s Island from Oliver Twist.

Based on a successful magazine, the film series Wonderful London captures the life of the capital in the 1920s. These simple travelogues contrast different aspects of city life; East End and West End, poor and rich, natives and immigrants, looking beyond the stereotypes to show surprising views of the city. These six restorations by the BFI National Archive reintroduce the films’ original colours, with new piano accompaniments by John Sweeney.


A real pea-souper!

fogLondon during the Victorian era was famed for its pea-soupers, in fact London was famous for pea-soupers for at least 500 years before that.

Pea-soupers or for that was so thick you would be lucky to be able to see 10 feet in front of you, apparently they could be so thick that people walked into the Thames. They had a greenish tinge to them that the nick name pea-souper.

The River Thames tended to cause fog but mixed smoke from the coal fires (there being no gas or electricity) that every Victorian house had.

From a handbook of the time:

Not only does a strange and worse Cimmerian darkness hide familiar landmarks from sight, but the taste and smell are offended by an unhallowed compound of flavours, and all things become greasy and clammy to touch.

During the continuance of a real London fog-which may be black, or grey or more probably orange-coloured-the happiest man is the one who can stay at home.

And lets face it a Victorian film without fog…that would be no good would it!

Victorian Climate Change

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Our carbon foot print, The Arctic melting, global warming, seas rising and climate change seems like a fairly new phenomenon but no, well not according to these pictures pictures published in 1899 in London Harmsworth Magazine. 

These are fascinating images, of course we see global warming as catastrophe whereas the Victorians saw it more as London turning into Venice…!

London’s Underworld Part 2

London streets during the hours of trade:

‘The pavement and the road are crowded with purchasers and street-sellers. The housewife in her thick shawl, with the market-basket on her arm, walks slowly on, stopping now to look at the stall of caps, and now to cheapen a bunch of greens. Little boys, holding three or four onions in their hand, creep between the people, wriggling their way through every interstice, and asking for custom in whining tones, as if seeking charity. Then the tumult of the thousand different cries of the eager dealers, all shouting at the top of their voices, at one and the same time, is almost bewildering. “So-old again,” roars one. “Chestnuts all‘ot, a penny a score,” bawls another. “An ‘aypenny a skin, blacking,” squeaks a boy. “Buy, buy, buy, buy, buy– bu-u-uy!” cries the butcher. “Half-quire of paper for a penny,” bellows the street stationer. “An ‘aypenny a lot ing-uns.” “Twopence a pound grapes.” “Three a penny Yarmouth bloaters.” “Who‘ll buy a bonnet for fourpence?” “Pick ‘em out cheap here! three pair for a halfpenny, bootlaces.” “Now‘s your time! beautiful whelks, a penny a lot.” “Here‘s ha‘p‘orths,” shouts the perambulating confectioner. “Come and look at ‘em! here‘s toasters!” bellows one with a Yarmouth bloater stuck on a toasting-fork. “Penny a lot, fine russets,” calls the apple woman: and so the Babel goes on.’ Henry Mayhew.

London’s Streets in the late Victorian were hell for the poor and destitute, nowadays we have the National Health Service and a benefits system to help, it’s not brilliant but it does do what it says. Of course it is a political football and of course our current government would gladly do away with it leaving the poor to return to this state:

Horrible speech and strange tongues are heard in it, accents of sorrow and bursts of angry sound prevail in it.

Drunkenness, debauchery, crime and ignorance are never absent; and in it men and women grown old in sin and crime spend their last evil days. The whining voice of the professional mendicant* is ever heard in its streets, for its poverty-stricken inhabitants readily respond to every appeal for help.

A mendicant is a professional begger, that is someone who relies on alms giving or charity as a way of life and we still appear to have plenty of those around.

And yet within the drunkenness and debauchery warmth is noted:

The prattle of little children and the voice of maternal love make sweet music in its doleful streets, and glorious devotion dignifies and illumines the poorest homes.

But Holmes continues:

Let us stand and watch!

Here comes a poor, smitten, wretched old man; see how he hugs the rags of his respectability; his old frayed frock-coat is buttoned tightly around him, and his outstretched hands tell that he is eager for the least boon that pity can bestow. He has found that the way of the transgressor is hard; he has kissed the bloom of pleasure’s painted lips, he has found them pale as death!

But others follow, and hurry by. And a motley lot they are; figure and speech, complexion and dress all combine to create dismay; but they have all one common characteristic. They want money! and are not particular about the means of getting it. Now issue forth an innumerable band who during the day have been sleeping off the effects of last night’s debauch. With eager steps, droughty throats and keen desire they seek the wine cup yet again.

Once again alcohol is the escape from a very derelict way of living but not for all:

Surely it is a strange and heterogeneous procession that issues evening by evening from the caves and dens of London’s underworld. But notice there is also a returning procession! For as the sun sinks to rest, sad-faced men seek some cover where they may lie down and rest their weary bones; where perchance they may sleep and regain some degree of passive courage that will Continue reading

Oxford Circus

I love looking at these old photos, im not quite sure what it is that draws me too them…they are so ordinary but seem to tell a story.

Oxford Circus 1888

This is Oxford Circus in 1888, a quite a chaotic scene and I can’t imagine getting from one side of the road to the other was either safe or fun.

It was the Earl of Oxford who developed the area but designed by John Nash. It became popular with its Victorian entertainers including bear-baiters and masquerades, and for entertainment venues such as the Pantheon.