Easter was very much part of Victorian life, the Church itself was important not only as a spiritual guide and charity but also as a great reformer of the age.

20160326_104323Victorians expressed devotion with beautiful floral arrangements that decorated churches as I did yesterday. Easter is about Jesus being risen from the grave, so new life is tied up in any decoration and in any spiritual significance.

In Ladies Fancy Work from 1876  described how to make Easter crosses with myriad elaborately handmade wax flowers, as well as rustic cross pictures sprinkled with diamond dust and hand-embellished with mosses, ferns, coral, shells and bark. Based on publications of the time, floral arrangements of Easter lilies, white and yellow tulips, violets, purple pansies, lilacs and Chinese azalea adorned Victorian vases and mantels. Women also made token gift posies with white and yellow or purple flowers, such as lily of the valley with violets, of course men decorate as well nowadays.

We had an Easter Egg hunt for our children today, a tradition in our church that probably stretches back into the Victorian Era. In Delineator’s April 1896 story “Easter in a Southern Town” described their hunt for colored eggs hidden in boxed hedges, honeysuckle arbors and among lilies. Today our children enthusiastically leap around our graveyard seeking out small brightly covered eggs which they all find at least one…

He is risen…

He is risen indeed

A happy Easter to one and all.

The execution of Sherlock Holmes

There are many, many Sherlock Holmes stories, novels, novelettes on tip of the glorious canon left by Conan-Doyle.

The execution of Sherlock Thomas is a particularly enjoyable one. We find Holmes at his best against relatives (I didn’t like that idea but it works…more or less) of arch villains he taken down and finds himself drugged and locked up in the notorious Newgate Prison.

Watson of course tells the story but it really has the feel on Conan-Doyle…it just hits the spot for me.

Have a read…it is really rather good!images

Ripper Street season 4

Ripper Street is back…

…and a good thing too!

Season 4 begins in 1897 with Queen Victoria celebrating her diamond jubilee. Edmund Reid (the great Matthew Macfadyen) has retired from the force and left Whitechapel for good. However he soon finds himself drawn back to Whitechapel when he discovers that his old friend Isaac Bloom (Justin Avoth, Merlin) is set to hang for a brutal murder; a murder of which Reid believes he is innocent.

Again the grimy streets of Victorian Whitechapel are well depicted and we even get the front of the notorious Newgate Prison.

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The actors are brilliant in this and the detail is such that is should be lauded but it is not. The second season flagged a bit but the third certainly improved and I have high hopes for this season.

It is currently on Amazon Prime…Enjoy!

Newgate Prison

Newgate Prison closed in 1902.

It had been operating for about 700 years. It was notorious and had held some surprising criminals such as:

  • Daniel Defoe (Who wrote Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe
  • William Kidd (the pirate known as Captain Kidd)
  • Lord George Gordon – UK politician whom the Gordon Riots are named after
  • Sir Thomas Malory – highwayman, possible author of Le Morte d’Arthur
  • Catherine Murphy, an English counterfeiter who became the last woman to be officially executed by burning in England and Great Britain in 1789 – Ouch!

And many, many others. Reformer Elizabeth Fry had for some time been particularly concerned at the conditions in which female prisoners and their children were held (yes children went to prison or were born in prison and stayed with their parents). She presented credible evidence to the House of Commons and improvements were made. In 1858, the interior was rebuilt with individual cells.

A big draw for Newgate were public hangings (I can’t think of anything worse!) these were crowded affairs and many people would gather to see these criminals hang. In fact one of the great events in the early years of Queen Victoria’s reign was a public hanging, a bit like a royal wedding in that the number of spectators might range anywhere from 20,000 up to 100,000, the number, according to The Times, attending Kirkdale Gaol in Liverpool for the mutiple hanging of four men on 11 September 1863.

In amongst the mob one found many of the labouring classes; mill-hands, factory girls and women, bricklayer’s labourers and dock workmen, either hoping for some entertainment on their way to work or enjoying St. Monday. Women and children were frequent spectators and at the last public execution in England, The Times commented on the “blue velvet hats and huge white feathers which lined the great beams which kept the mass from crushing each other in their eagerness to see a man put to death.” At any execution one might see ragged children darting to and fro to “play their usual pranks at the foot of the gallows.”

For about 60% of offences punishable by the death sentence, the magistrates recorded that it had been carried out, then gave a less serious punishment. As the century went on, the number of people who were sentenced to be hanged decreased. Between 1801 and 1837, 13 executions took place in Bedford, but between 1838 and 1878 there were only 4. Despite this, between 1800 and 1900, of the 3524 people sentenced to hang in England and Wales, only 1353 were for murder.

From 1868, public executions were discontinued and executions were carried out on gallows inside Newgate. Michael Barrett was the last man to be hanged in public outside Newgate Prison (and the last person to be publicly executed in Great Britain) on 26 May 1868. In total (publicly or otherwise), 1,169 people were executed at the prison.

The Old Bailey now stands on the site of Newgate Prison.


Sherlock – a timeline

Ah Sherlock…we have been so blessed by the incarnations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John H. Watson including William Gillette, John Barrymore, Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, Sir John Geilgud, Carelton Hobbs, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Plummer, Vasily Lavanov, Charlton Heston, Jeremy Brett, Clive Merrison, Robert Downey Jr, Matt Frewer, Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch.


Here’s a reading time line for anyone who is a fan of Holmes…and of course Watson!

July 3, Saturday — “The Gloria Scott”

June 23, Thursday — “The Musgrave Ritual”
July 16, 1881, Saturday — Holmes meets Watson in Chapter One of A Study in Scarlet

April 1, Sunday — “The Speckled Band”

March 4, Tuesday — The investigation of A Study in Scarlet
March 29, Saturday — “The Yellow Face”

January 6, Tuesday — “The Red Circle”

February 26, Friday — “The Beryl Coronet”
October 2, Saturday — “The Resident Patient”

April 26, Tuesday — “The Reigate Squires”
July 19, Tuesday — “The Second Stain”
July 29, Friday — “The Naval Treaty”
August 30, Tuesday — “The Crooked Man”
September 16, Friday — “The Five Orange Pips”
October 6, Thursday — “The Noble Bachelor”

January 7, Saturday — The Valley of Fear
March 20, Tuesday — “A Scandal in Bohemia”
April 16, Monday — “A Case of Identity”
June 20, Wednesday — “The Greek Interpreter”
September 4, Tuesday — The Sign of the Four
October 25, Thursday — “Silver Blaze”

June 1, Saturday — “The Stock-broker’s Clerk”
June 8, Saturday — “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”
June 21, Friday — “The Man with the Twisted Lip”
June 30, Sunday — “The Engineer’s Thumb”
August 30, Friday — “The Cardboard Box”
October 1, Tuesday — The Hound of the Baskervilles
December 27, Friday — “The Blue Carbuncle”

March 18, Tuesday — “The Copper Beeches”
October 11, Saturday — “The Red-Headed League”

January 12, Monday — “Charles Augustus Milverton”
April 23, Friday — “The Final Problem”

March 24, Thursday — “Wisteria Lodge”

March 15, Wednesday — “Three Gables”

April 3, Tuesday — “The Empty House”
June 1, Friday — “The Mazarin Stone”
August 1, Wednesday — “The Norwood Builder”
November 23, Friday — “The Gold Pince-nez”

April 20, Saturday — “The Solitary Cyclist”
May 6, Monday — “The Three Students”
July 10, Wednesday — “Black Peter”
November 21, Thursday — “The Bruce-Partington Plans”

September 22, Tuesday — “The Veiled Lodger”

February 6, Saturday — “The Missing Three-Quarter”
February 15, Monday — “Abbey Grange”
March 16, Tuesday — “The Devil’s Foot”

July 25, Monday — “The Dancing Men”
August 20, Saturday — “The Retired Colourman”

October 4, Thursday — “Thor Bridge”

May 16, Thursday — “Priory School”
November 19, Tuesday — “The Sussex Vampire”

June 4, Wednesday — “The Six Napoleons”
June 19, Thursday — “The Three Garridebs”
July 26, Saturday — “The Disappearance of Lady Francis Carfax”
September 3, Wednesday — “The Illustrious Client”

January 21, Wednesday — “The Blanched Soldier”
May 26, Tuesday — “Shoscombe Old Place”
September 6, Sunday — “The Creeping Man”
November 8, Sunday — “The Dying Detective”

July 30, Tuesday — “The Lion’s Mane”

August 2, Sunday — “His Last Bow”

TB…it’s back in the UK…

Royal Sea Bathing Victoria Ward…but did it ever go away?

World TB Day on 24 March commemorates the discovery of the causative agent of tuberculosis by Robert Koch in 1882. It aims to raise global public awareness of TB.

So…is this quote from a Victorian source or Modern Source?

‘Homelessness is a risk factor for TB, but it is also a risk factor for failure to treat and cure TB leading to an increase in suffering and expense, reduced accessibility to services, and a higher risk of community transmission’.

Sadly a modern source. In 2014:

  • There were 6,520 TB cases
  • 39% of cases were in London
  • 72% of cases were among non-UK born people
  • 10% of people with TB had at least one social risk factor for TB (a history of alcohol or drug misuse, homelessness or imprisonment)
  • 30% of people with pulmonary TB waited over four months from onset of symptoms to beginning treatment

Tuberculosis or Consumption as was known was a major disease throughout Victoria’s reign, killing one in four of its sufferers. London had the highest rate of TB admissions (15.3 per 100,000 population), with North Yorkshire and the Humber having the lowest (1.5 per 100,000 population). Among TB’s most famous victims were Emily Brontë, who succumbed to the bacterial infection in 1848, and Florence Nightingale in 1910.

I find it rather shocking that cuts in public finance are taking us back to the awful days of those awful diseases.

London 1839

This is (as far as I know) the oldest remaining image of London. I’m afraid I don’t know where it is but wow!!