Victorian Monopoly – From ‘The Strand’ to ‘Jail’

Overview
“Go” to “Just Visiting” | “Pall Mall” to “Free Parking” | “Strand” to “Jail” | “Regent St” to “Mayfair”

In this third segment we press on with our journey around the Monopoly Board using only images from the Crace Collection of antiquarian prints and maps held by the British Museum. Our 1850s Londoners are tasked with traversing streets and locations immortalised since the London version of this iconic board game first appeared in 1936. We will begin in The Strand but shall inevitably end up in Jail, before our final turn homewards. But will the places we visit be familiar to Victorian eyes?

The Strand | Fleet St | Trafalgar Sq | Fenchurch St Station
Leicester SqCoventry StWater Works | PiccadillyGo To Jail

The Strand

The Strand (1781) by Thomas Malton

From the Middle Ages the Strand served as the principal route between the twin Cities of London and Westminster, deriving its name from its close proximity to the River Thames – which made it a thoroughfare liable to flooding right up until the construction of Victoria Embankment in 1870. For many centuries one of London’s best-known roads, the Strand might have had a still a greater claim upon the map of modern London: – Not once but twice stations that were called ‘The Strand’ have been subsequently renamed (Aldwych and Charing Cross). ‘Strand Bridge’ too was nearing completion, when the Duke of Wellington’s famous victory over Napoleon in 1815 caused it to be re-titled ‘Waterloo’ Bridge. Bordered to the west by Trafalgar Square, and to the east by Fleet Street., the Strand was a thriving commercial thoroughfare, instantly recognisable to Victorian Londoners

Exeter Change, The Strand

We are going to alight at Exeter Change, or Exchange as it was also known, on the north side of the Strand – where the Strand Palace Hotel now stands. The Change was built in 1676 on the site of the London mansion of the Earls of Exeter. Despite being demolished in 1829, this building retained a very special place in the memories of older generation Victorians. It was designed and built by a Dr Barbon as a kind of bazaar – similar to a modern-day shopping mall –  with various outlets, entertainment, and retail spaces. At the front was an arcade extending forwards right into the Strand. Initially Exeter Change housed a number of fine tailors, milliners, hosier and other fashionable shops – with an auction room (that also occasionally served as a Court room) on the upper floors. These were prime units, for it was recorded that one Thomas Clark, a cutler, accumulated a vast fortune via trade from the Change – enabling him to purchase the upper parts in 1773 as an investment – and thereafter to establish the first of a series of menageries, or private zoos – for which Exeter Change became most truly renowned

The Exeter Change menagerie at various times included lions, tigers, monkeys, and other exotic species, all confined in iron cages in small rooms. The roaring of the big cats could be heard outside, often frightening horses passing in the street below. Gilbert Pidcock bought the menagerie in 1793, and it later subsequently passed into the hands of Stephani Polito. Both Pidcock and Polito operated of travelling circuses, using the Exeter Change as winter quarters for their animals, which was a neat way of earning revenue off-season. The menagerie was extremely popular across all sections of society, and was well-advertised as a tourist attraction.

Pidcock’s Royal Menagerie Brochure

A few years before Exeter Change was swept away as part of a grander scheme to improve The Strand, it was the scene of a tragic and sensational event – revealing the cruelty and barbarity of Georgian society towards animal welfare; namely the death of Chunee in 1826. Chunee was an Indian elephant brought to London around 1809 and put to work at Covent Garden Theatre. His acting career got off to a bad start because ‘the tremendous noise of his reception deprived him of sense’ causing Chunee to refuse to allow ‘the Sultan of Cashmire’ to dismount him during an important scene,. Instead of following the script, Chunee scarpered off-stage into the wings knocking all around him asunder. Fortunately no one was injured in the ensuing melee, and the sensation caused by his impromptu ad-libbing added boosted ticket sales. Chunee soon overcame his stage-fright to complete a 40-day pantomime season in front of packed houses, and then had the honour of appearing alongside Edmund Keane at Drury Lane. By 1812 Chunee was in retirement at Exeter Change, where he was placed in an oak and hammered-iron cage, and rapidly became one of London’s most iconic tourist attractions. This must have been a miserable existence for such a huge beast – as he was almost permanently locked up for human entertainment.

Chunee ate his keeper’s clothing in 1819

As Chunee grew older the sheer tedium and loneliness of his existence made him angry and hostile. By the mid-1820s there were entire seasons when he was considered ungovernable. Eventually on March 1st 1826, Chunee became extremely agitated and began violently striking his den.  His exasperated owner and keeper, Mr Cross took the heartless decision to poison him. But this failed, so he sent for his gun, ignoring the pleas of his staff, declaring ‘no pecuniary loss could induce me to endanger the lives of other humans’ by keeping Chunee alive. Thirty bullets were fired from close range but the Chunee continued to struggle and actually succeeded in smashing the front section of his cage open. As the case was now desperate, soldiers bearing muskets were called upon from Somerset House and a further hundred musket balls were fired.  When Chunee eventually sunk to his knees – the firing continued. In fact it took another 90 minutes for this poor elephant to die. A grotesque crowd of onlookers witnessed the appalling spectacle of Cross finishing his off his prize exhibit with a sabre. Afterwards the newspapers commiserated with Cross over the loss of such a valuable asset (said to be in the region of £1000) – but there was barely a mention of the horrific ordeal suffered by Chunee.

The barbaric slaughter of Chunee the elephant (1826)

Yet Chunee’s demise may be seen as a parable for changes underway in British society as the Georgian era reached its end. Most people relished the cruelty of blood sports – indeed hundreds of people paid a shilling to watch Chunee’s dissection at the Royal College of Surgeons (where his bullet-ridden hide was sold off for £50). But there were also some green shoots of Victorian respectability arriving, and the emergence of sense of feeling towards animals. -This can be seen via a letter sent to The Times a few days afterwards

To place an elephant, or any beast, without a mate, and in a box bearing no greater proportion to his bulk than a coffin does to a corpse, is inhuman; and there can be no doubt that confinement and the want of a mate caused the frenzy… If a very small part of the money voted for the Royal Palace were applied to the purchase of a few acres of ground, we might [be able to exhibit] Nature’s wonderful works in the style worthy of a great city…

This correspondent’s wishes would not be realised for another three decades (with the opening of Regent’s Park Zoo). As for the menagerie – when Exeter Change was finally demolished, it was re-opened further down the Strand, in a building near Charing Cross. Exeter Change may have been no more for Victorians, but legend says that Chunee can still be found in the Strand – inspiring this 1829 poem by Thomas Hood

Lines from Chunee’s Ghost (1829)

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Fleet Street

Fleet Street has for centuries been a major street in the City of London, extremely well-known to Victorians, especially because it was the site of Temple Bar, an ancient landmark serving as the principle ceremonial entrance on the royal route between the St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower of London on one side, and the Palace of Westminster on the other. Temple Bar was intended as a barrier regulating trade passing into the City, but it became a symbol of the rule of law because it was situated close to the Inns of Chancery. After 1800 the Royal Courts Of Justice, transferred to Fleet Street from Westminster Hall, adding to Fleet Street’s status as a legal quarter. So, while Fleet Street’s historic connection with newspapers and the press has come and gone, it remains today very much associated with the law.

Temple Bar c.1700

The baroque version of Temple Bar erected c.1680 was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and as can be seen above was still used as a place for displaying the severed heads of executed prisoners, as a warning to others. Temple Bar spanned Fleet Street right up until 1878, when it was removed because it caused too much of a bottleneck for passing traffic. After many years away from London, Wren’s arch can nowadays be found in Paternoster Square, adjacent to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Fleet Ditch (1841) – a true Dickensian slum

Fleet Street gained its name from the River Fleet which crossed the roadway at Fleet Bridge – nowadays known as Ludgate Circus, and for many years whilst there was an open ditch north of Fleet Street, surrounded by ramshackle housing, prone to flooding and cholera. Not surprisingly crime proliferated – and by the 1826 it was so bad that a drastic reform of policing was necessary.

The nuisance, by the assemblage of groups of dissolute girls and men of notorious character, in the vicinity of Temple Bar, Fleet Street, and the Strand, is now likely to be abolished, as it is in contemplation to establish an effective street police… [ensuring] ‘free passage’ and ‘safe walking’ to the public in these great thoroughfares… to break the almost impassable file of pickpockets and women of the lowest description, who plant themselves in this most crowded… and most convenient thoroughfare for their plunder.

The Metropolitan Police Act 1829 rescued Fleet Street from becoming a no-go area but Victorian Monopoly player’s would have looked for Fleet Street at the cheapest section of section of their game, rather than the upper-middling red area it was allotted by 1936.

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Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square c.1852

By choosing Trafalgar Square to complete their red section, the original creators of the London Monopoly board displayed a sensible and logical understanding of this City’s topography; for Trafalgar Square stands at the western end of the Strand, which in turn leads on to Fleet Street. Trafalgar Square owes its existence to an Act of Parliament (1826) enabling the redevelopment of Charing Cross. This area had been an important meeting place for Londoners since the 13th Century, so it was very suitable for renewal on a grand scale, and perfect to receive a name synonymous with Britain’s new sense of her own power and patriotism. Began by John Nash, Trafalgar Square was finally completed in 1844, though it’s new name, recalling Horatio Nelson’s famous victory over the French (1805), was routinely in use as early as 1833.

When its iconic fountains were added in 1841 at a cost of £11,000, the earth removed was used to level off Green Park. The centrepiece – Nelson’s Column was erected in 1843.

 

Queen Victoria’s Coronation

As we know it today, Trafalgar Square is closely associated with public gatherings, protests, and pageantry. For the Victorian monopoly player this tradition would have reminded them of a very important day – the coronation of their Queen on June 28th 1838. The Standard reported that the mob were ‘never so well behaved’ as they lined the streets to witness the Queen’s ceremonial procession

From the earliest dawn… Charing Cross was presented with a scene of unusual bustle and interest. Many persons, it is understood, passed the night in the open space in Trafalgar Square in order to  be in good time for a good view of the procession. Others took up their positions in the taverns and public-houses in the neighbouring streets, from which they sallied forth as early as 5 o’clock, who joined their counterparts in front of the National Gallery. By 6 o’clock the space between the statue of Charles I, and the front of the National Gallery, was filled as far as it could be and by nine it was crowded to such a degree as to make ingress or egress impossible… The appearance of the whole area was one of the most imposing kind. At the west side of Trafalgar Square the Union Club had erected two galleries, which were filled with an elegant assemblage of beauty and fashion. In the distance on weither side were other galleries as attractively occupied. Every  front storey of every house in the whole line teemed with well-dressed spectators, chiefly ladies. Even the house-tops to the chimney-pots were crowded at every place which could command a view… At seven o’clock there was a sharp shower… but after a short time the weather became fair, and for the remainder of the day was as favourable as could be desired… cloudy, without rain. Precisely at ten o’clock the firing of the guns in the Park announced the procession had commenced its movement from the Palace. At this moment the crowd in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square was immense… we do not exaggerate when we say… there were not less than 200,000 persons assembled. Considering the immense assemblage, the order and decorum observed were on the whole highly creditable to the people, to the solemn occasion… and to the civil and military authorities.

What a spectacle it must have been to stand in Trafalgar Square watching young Princess Victoria pass by on her way to become the monarch that gave her name to a golden age in British history – but it’s time to move on to our next destination…

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Fenchurch Street Station

Fenchurch Street Station (1854)

Fenchurch Street Station was opened in 1841 by the London & Blackwall Railway Company, and then rebuilt as per Thomas Hosmer Shepherd‘s painting above. Let us go back to the 5th of July 1840, where we shall learn that Fenchurch Street began its life as a massive pulley-operated terminus running ‘trains’ down and back from the river Thames at Blackwall. The Times recorded its opening day

At an early hour in the morning carriages began to draw up at the terminus, filled with Members of Parliament, merchants, and private gentlemen, accompanied by their ladies… by 12 noon being the hour at which it was arranged the first train should start, there must have been 1500 elegantly-dressed persons in the waiting room

This was to be an exclusive event, and only those with special invitations were admitted into the new station. This did not stop the gathering of an immense but good-natured crowd outside, hoping for a glimpse of Royalty and yelling ‘Where’s the Queen!’ In this they were to be disappointed as Victoria was not present. The distinguished guests were ushered onto the platform, and entertained by an orchestra as they boarded the train. For the passengers there was plenty of incredible engineering to behold

The trains are propelled to Blackwall by means of two stationary engines of 120 horse power each, which are worked in shafts sunk into the earth on each side of the railway lines. To these engines fly-wheels are attached, each of which weighs 43 tons, and is 22 feet in diameter. A tail rope is fasted to the fly-wheels which is wound and unwound at each end by the stationary engines… as the train proceeds to Blackwall the fly-wheels at Fenchurch unwind the rope… and to prevent the rope becoming entangled… a break is placed on the edge of the platform… at which a man is employed to regulate the unwinding of the rope. The ropes (one for each direction) cost upwards of £1200 and the fly-wheel drums take 30 turns to every mile of rope, each of which are three and a half miles long…

Perhaps the greatest source of wonderment was the electric telegraph, invented by Cook and Wheatstone enabling ‘parties at each end of the railway to hold conversation with each other in the most perfect facility’ – with telegraphs placed at each station on the line – meaning that staff and engineers could communicate with one another instantaneously. Given that the telephone was not patented until 1876 – this is truly a remarkable feat that Fenchurch Street had a near-perfect phone system at its disposal in 1840!

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Leicester Square

The Monster Globe at Leicester Square

Leicester Square was laid out in 1670 and was named after nearby mansion Leicester House. Originally intended to be residential, the Square soon became popular with eighteenth century trendy types – and home to perhaps the two most celebrated painters of the eighteenth century – William Hogarth and Sir Joshua Reynolds. Reynolds was a prolific portrait painter, founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts (1768) – and he exploited his fame by using his house in Leicester Square as a kind of gallery – and was rewarded by many sophisticated visitors who subsequently became clients. The artistic connection has never left Leicester Square, for it has remained a popular site for public entertainment. Nowadays Leicester Square is THE place for film premieres, but in the Victorian age its star attraction was theatre. Then (as now) the central garden area served as an arena for singers musicians and performers to entertain the many visitors. No Victorian monopoly player could fail to recognise this place. especially in 1851 because Leicester Square acquired a new kind of attraction, namely the Monster Globe – seen above (1854) in a print by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd.

A cross-section of Wyld’s Monster Globe

The Monster Globe was the brain-child of James Wyld, an MP, and map-maker from Charing Cross. Early in 1851 he took out a ten-year lease on the Leicester Square Gardens to construct a visitor attraction showcasing his cartographic talents. The full story of Wyld’s Monster Globe is succinctly described by the Guildhall Library – suffice to say it didn’t end well, and his huge and costly structure was unceremoniously demolished in 1861. However, let us go back and see what the fuss was about, courtesy of The Standard, May 30th 1851

Yesterday a private view of this most interesting work of art was given to the press previous to the opening to the public. A globe having a surface of 10,000 feet is a novelty in geographical science… only after many failures has Mr Wyld succeeded and the Great Model Globe will probably take its place in the public estimation as one of our greatest national works of art…Within the structure are 4 galleries… modelled on a colossal scale are Europe, North America, and North Asia, with the expanse of the oceans…

Though Wyld tried hard to keep his attraction fresh, by organising exhibitions and inviting distinguished lecturers – he could not sustain the project long-term – and perhaps it was too much of a vanity project to succeed. Victorians shed no tears because they knew that Leicester Square would soon regenerate as a visitor attraction

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Coventry Street

View from Coventry Street

Coventry Street is one of the more obscure addresses to be found on the Monopoly Board, given that it is merely a side-road off Haymarket. Built in 1681 and named after a Henry Coventry secretary of Charles II and one-time ambassador to Sweden, whose house once stood on the north side of Panton Street, adjacent to what is now Leicester Square. Although Coventry Street has always stood in a location filled with bars, restaurants, theatres and entertainment – in the Victorian era it was better known as an industrial area, housing a number of tradesmen and factories. Amongst the various workshops stood some very good coffee houses and dining rooms, making Coventry Street a capable supporting act to its better-known rivals.

However, one type of entertainment did thrive in Coventry Street, and that was prostitution. On March 24th 1841 The Times reported

We some months ago called the attention of the police to the shameful scenes exhibited every night in the Haymarket and Coventry Street by the prostitutes who infest that neighbourhood… and are herded during the day time in the infamous brothels in Coventry-court…

This campaign had for a time been successful, until a local police magistrate, inundated by cases of fallen women brought before him for sentence, declared ‘prostitutes must walk somewhere’. To celebrate their victory the local prostitutes then took to ringing doorbells of local houses at all hours of the night and shouting obscenities at their owners. This new development caused The Times to request

It is the duty of the police to see that [prostitutes] walk in such a manner so as not to annoy and insult peacable persons and modest women, and that their ‘walking’ does not extend to the knockers and bell-handles of the householders

If you had the time, Coventry Street was the place

The catalyst for change in Coventry Street came in 1850, as it so usually does in London, when an act of God swept away many of the factories and workshops allowing the area to be rebuilt. On January 3rd at 11pm a very serious fire broke out in the premises of Creese & Co, boot and shoe-makers. Within a very few minutes the whole factory was ablaze and the fire spread to adjacent properties. Despite the efforts of St Ann’s parish fire brigade, who were able to use brand new mains water provided by the New River Company, the fire raged for 13 hours. The following businesses were affected

  • 3 Coventry Street – Mrs Mary Taylor, stationer, burned down
  • 4 Coventry Street – Creese & Company, bootmakers, burned down
  • 5 Coventry Street – Samuel Walters, a tailor, back of building destroyed
  • 6 Coventry Street – Mr Reid, hosier, back of building destroyed

Properties in Rupert Street and Princes Street were also both fire and water damaged – including three bootmakers, a gunsmith, poulterer and a carpet-maker. Coventry Street was redeveloped to become an asset rather than a liability to London’s amenities. Attractive new buildings replaced the old shops and tenements, and London’s oldest trade was forced to find refuge elsewhere in Soho, but still remained close enough to maintain this area’s modern-day seedy backdrop. In 1907 the first Lyons Corner House was built in Coventry Street, hence its reputation would have improved enough to justify inclusion in the 1936 monopoly board line-up

After 1850 Coventry Street became gentrified

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Water Works

York Buildings Water Works

The spectre of death and disease was never far from the streets of Georgian London, and though it was not then known to be the cause of cholera outbreaks, Londoners were fully aware of the importance of clean drinking water.  As early as 1671 the Thames Water Company was established at York Buildings, at the end of Villiers Street, near Charing Cross. It utilised early steam technology to distill water and provide it at a cost to local residents. But the process was slow, and its machinery soon rendered obsolete by rivals such as Chelsea Water Company to the extent that by the 1730s it was no longer a viable concern. Despite this lack of business success, York Waterworks became a significant London landmark – principally on account of its 70 feet tall wooden tower, which was erected around 1698. A heavy weight was pushed to the top of the tower by steam power in order to create sufficient pressure to pump clean water into nearby houses. With its distinctive shape and curious windows, York Water Tower went on to become a very familiar sight, not least for the many artists who have included it in their Thames landscapes.

Canaletto’s view of York Water Tower c.1750

Thomas Malton’s York Water Tower c.1792

The Shard Building, London Bridge (2009)

It is not known exactly when York Tower was removed, but it must have been gone by the time the Victoria Embankment was constructed the early 1860s. York Water Gate (seen in Thomas Malton’s image above) still stands in the park. York Water Tower may be lost but its one-time dominance of the Thames panorama is thought to have influenced architect Renzo Piano’s design for the Shard building at London Bridge. Piano has credited Canaletto’s painting seen above for formulating his idea. Not only can we see that the Water Works was a familiar landmark during the Victorian era, but we still have a super-sized reminder of its existence.

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Piccadilly

Devonshire House, Piccadilly (1844)

Piccadilly spent the early years of its life deciding whether or not it ought to be called Portugal Street, an issue that was finally resolved in its favour around 1750. It came to prominence after the old road between Charing Cross and Hyde Park Corner was closed to enable the creation of Green Park in 1668. Continual development meant that by 1800 there were many elegant mansion houses, such as Devonshire House , coaching inns, clubs, hotels, and shops all the way to Hyde Park Corner, and within a few decades the fabulous Nash facades were added to its junction with Regent Street. By Victorian times Piccadilly certainly was a very exclusive neighbourhood.

St James’ Church came into existence primarily because of the rapid expansion of Piccadilly. In the 1660s local residents put forward a Bill to create a new parish separate from St Martin in the Fields, and eventually obtained permission to construct. Built by Sir Christopher Wren for a cost of £5000, it was first consecrated in 1684 – and lent its name to the area which became known as St James’ Parish (or St James’ as it is today).

St James Piccadilly

St James Piccadilly played a very important role in the life of ‘Wicked William’ Long-Wellesley, for it was the scene of his marriage to Wanstead House heiress Catherine Tylney-Long in March 1812. But it has other more noble claims to fame such as the poet William Blake‘s (baptised there 1757) or the burial place of legendary Georgian caricaturist James Gillray.

White Bear Yard, Piccadilly c.1850

The White Bear situated in Piccadilly was one of London’s foremost coaching inns. Despite the decline in coach travel by the 1840s it was still a thriving inn – though this report from The Times shows that you had to chose the right time to enter its yard, without incurring the wrath of Ann Bond

A foreign person, Mr Paul Decone, was passing through White Bear Yard a few evenings ago, about half past seven o’clock, when he was suddenly deluged by the contents of a pail thrown from the first floor window… a very short time afterwards he discovered that his clothes were turning red, and parets of his hat were burnt off. The defendant Ann Bond admitted throwing the water out of her window into the drain below, but denied that it was contaminated… [but] the defendant had for a length of time been in the habit of throwing water over people passing through the yard at dusk… and the police had been called several times before. It being a public thoroughfare tests were carried out on the water, which was found to contain vitriol. [The Judge] was willing to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt, but in order to put a stop to a most unjustifiable proceeding, that of throwing water out of a window, by accident or design, so as to cause an assault, he should inflict a fine of 50 shillings and costs. The money was duly paid…

Its appropriate to leave Piccadilly on a criminal note as we are now off to prison

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Go To Jail!!

Fleet Prison 1840 – relying on charity to survive

Prisons were very familiar buildings in Victorian London, the spectre of which hung wide sections of the population. Alongside the traditional prisons such as Newgate, were a plethora of debtors prisons and asylums which were to all intents and purposes also places of permanent incarceration, plus some decaying hulk ships housing alien prisoners and those awaiting transportation. My own research subject ‘Wicked William’ spent time in Fleet Prison for contempt of court, and in the Tower of London for abduction. His ordeal would have been nothing compared to the vast number of desperate and destitute souls finding themselves behind bars in Victorian London, and hoping for the kindness of strangers

Millbank Prison  c1829

Millbank was a new type of prison built on marshland west of Westminster between 1813 and 1823. The works were beset with problems not least because Millbank was traditionally a bit of a swamp liable to flooding from the Thames, hence its construction became a very challenging task. The idea was to create a prison purely for those whom it was considered capable of reform – and sentences between 5 and 10 years were given as an alternative to transportation.

Almost as soon as Millbank Penitentiary was opened the Morning Chronicle commented 

It is seated in a marsh, beneath the bed of a river, through which the vapours of stagnant water are constantly exhaling. The effluvia from the mass of human beings confined within its walls cannot dissipate from deficient ventilation… lingering confinement cannot fail to produce all the diseases which take place…  One would be almost tempted to think that the mind of the person who contrived this prison had been influenced by the diabolical idea of saving the expense of conveying convicts to distant settlements, by a commutation that would end all their earthly troubles… There is but one remedy – to place as much gun-powder under the foundation as may suffice to blow the whole fabric into the air.

This savage indictment did not prevent Millbank from continuing to operate until a new prison was opened at Pentonville in 1842; and thereafter it became a holding prison for transportees.

The Governors Report for 1842 makes grim reading:

For the year 1842 there were 707 prisoners, of which 408 were males, 157 females, and 142 soldiers… twenty prisoners died [including] 11 from dysentery, 5 from consumption… 18 were released on medical grounds including 5 to a lunatic asylum… the Committee stated that the distressing increase in the number of insane prisoners had been arrested by a new regime imposed in July 1841… limiting inrercourse between prisoners for the first three months after their admission, and then to be placed on a modified system of intercourse, consisting of permission to converse, during the hours of exercise, with tow or more fellow-prisoners. This privilege is liable to be suspended for misconduct… this new system has cut cases of insanity by a third…

What a horrific place Millbank must have been. To think that only those most likely to reform and be rehabilitated into society were sent to this hell-hole. There was absolutely nothing to encourage improvement, just daily exposure to disease, and Governors imposing a minimum of three months isolation as the means to control mental health. Thankfully the sheer cost of this brutal regime prevented it carrying on any longer, and the prison was downgraded shortly afterwards. Millbank Prison closed in the 1880s, and was fully demolished by the end of the Victorian era.

Pentonville Prison c.1850

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In conclusion we can see that your average Victorian would have felt well at home making his way across the top part of a modern Monopoly board. Though he would have wondered how places like Fleet Street and the Strand could ever be considered so appealing given their proximity to slum housing, disease and crime. Given this fact our trip to prison at the end of this journey would hardly have been unexpected. Please join me for the final segment as we get released from our cell to examine London’s elite areas from Regent Street to Mayfair.  What were these exclusive areas like for Victorian-age Londoners? Find out next time!

For a blog post of this scope, I have struggled for brevity. Despite its ridiculous length, I hope you will have enjoyed the stopping points we have made on our Victorian Monopoly odyssey, learning a little about each place on the way. There are a myriad of internet resources available for those interested in the history of London’s streets and enclaves. You may like the following further reading resources:

The Strand – British History On Line, Rachel Knowles visits Exeter Change, Know Your London: Exeter Change, Mike Rendell’s Sad Story of Chunee the elephant, or Jane Austen’s London

Fleet Street – A history of Temple Bar, British History of Fleet River and Ditch, The Londonist looks at Fleet Ditch today, or Charles Dickens and Fleet Street

Trafalgar Square – Trafalgar Square Website, The Londonist asks: How much do you really know about Trafalgar Square?, Londontopia has some great random facts, or click here for a fuller description of Queen Victoria’s coronation day

Fenchurch Street Station – Black Cab London looks at its history, and Isle of Dogs Life looks at the London & Blackwall Railway

Leicester Square –  Hidden London’s brief history, The Guildhall Library looks at Wyld’s Monster Globe, and David Morrell has used the Monster Globe as a setting for his novel Ruler of the Night

Coventry Street – British History Online, or the strange tale of the Coventry Street Vampire & the role of Lyon’s Corner House in Gay History

Waterworks – For an excellent history of the York Watergate click here, Leslie Tomory has written a book about London’s water companies 1580-1820, and IanVisits has unearthed some great info on York Water Tower

Piccadilly – St James Piccadilly Website has an excellent history section, or read about the early history of Piccadilly

Victorian Prisons – London for Free has a great guide to Historic Prisons, Old Police Cells Museum looks at life in a Victorian Prison, and London Lives looks at the rebuilding of Georgian prisons

If you are interested in London’s history you might also like to read about Walthamstow Murderess Elizabeth Jefferies, or know the sad story of Regency Prizefighter Tom Shelton. If buildings interest you then read the multi-layered history of 3 Savile Row, or follow Regency artist Anne Rushout on Tour

Thanks for reading my blogs, and for all your feedback. I have written around 80 original posts in the past three years, and hope to continue adding to this on a more regular basis, as time permits.

All comments and feedback are welcome!

 

Murder in Walthamstow! – Elizabeth Jeffries: Killer or Victim?

Elizabeth Jeffries (1727-1752)

During my rambles around Georgian London I came across the story of Elizabeth Jeffries – said to be one of Walthamstow’s most notorious murderers. Superficially her crime seems to have been driven by a combination of stupidity, greed and ingratitude. But a re-examination of the circumstances reveals that much deeper, darker, concerns – going a long way to explain why a financially secure and well-educated young lady should resort to murder.

In the early hours of Saturday July 3rd 1751 Mr Buckle of Wood Street Walthamstow was awaken from his slumber by the sound of screaming coming from his neighbour’s property, and upon going to his window he saw 21-year-old Elizabeth Jeffries standing outside her house, wearing only a night shift, in some state of distress. Upon going down to investigate Elizabeth told Buckle ‘Oh! They have killed him! They have killed him, I fear!’ and she directed him into her uncle’s house.

Joseph Jeffries lived in the vicinity of Wood Street, Walthamstow

Buckle was admitted to the crime scene by man-servant John Swann, and found Joseph Jeffries was lying on his side with three gaping wounds in his head. He was not yet dead and was able to grasp Buckle’s hand with some force. A doctor was sent for and Buckle was then informed that a botched robbery had taken place – after which the culprits escaped carrying various items of value. Mr Forbes a surgeon from Woodford attended the scene, observing the congealed blood in the room, finding that Jeffries had been both shot and stabbed, with a very serious wound behind one ear, that would likely prove fatal – Poor Jeffries had to endure another day in great agony before his death, and was unable to shed any light upon the perpetrators. However, other attendees at the house began to sense that all was not as it seemed. It was noted there did not seem to be any evidence of strangers having been in the house, and the dew on the grass around the building did not appear to be disturbed.John Swann appeared to be in a state of agitation, unable to account for his movements during the commotion, and repeatedly stating that he wished he died with his master.

Jeffries’ man-servant John Swann

Despite these misgivings, a few days later Elizabeth was examined by two magistrates, and no evidence could be found to incriminate her. So she was enabled to prove her uncle’s will at the Doctors Commons and take possession of the estate. However, she did make the fatal mistake of implicating a former servant Thomas Matthews, and therefore set in train a line of investigation which was to prove her undoing. The subsequent Coroner’s inquest ruled that Matthews could be a material witness, and committed Elizabeth and Swann to prison in Chelmsford until this could be ascertained. Not surprisingly both sides were anxious to dispose of the matter quickly, but the search for Matthews meant that this case was had to await until Chelmsford Assizes reopened in March 1752.

Chelmsford Assizes (courtesy Essex Record Office)

When events were reported in the London newspapers they came to the attention of a Mr Gall, landlord of the Green Man and Bell public house in Whitechapel, who had cause to remember both Swann and Matthews since they had been extremely drunk at his establishment just a few days previously. Whilst trying to eject them Gall found two pistols in Matthews’ great coat, and had both men arrested. The following morning they were remanded to Bridewell prison. Shortly afterwards Matthews and Swann were bailed by none other than Elizabeth Jeffries, who actually visited Gall’s house with both men afterwards in order to apologise and compensate him for his trouble. She told Gall that the pistols belonged to her uncle and that she had ‘borrowed’ them to put down as security for a debt she owed to a family friend – and implored him to keep the matter private ‘as the disclosure of it to her uncle might lead to her ruin’.

Matthews was more of a reveller than a hit-man

Gall determined to find Matthews, and (in typical East End style) put the word out on the streets to track down his man. Sure enough, Matthews was seen coming out of India House, where it was discovered that he had secured an engagement overseas in the service of the East India Company – and he was soon found in lodgings in Rosemary Lane. This arrest proved pivotal; for Matthews story shed light on the whole murky affair. Matthews was a needy and poverty-stricken Yorkshireman who had met Swann by chance while travelling through Epping Forest on his way to London. Swann took Matthews home with him and engaged him in the gardens of his master’s house – without wages – with only his food and lodgings provided.

According to Matthews, Elizabeth called him into the house after just 4 days service, asking him ‘What will you do if a person would give you £100?’ This was a colossal sum of money – perhaps five times what Matthews could earn annually through hard labour – hence his reply ‘Anything, in an honest way’. Elizabeth then sent him to see Swann, who took him to a garden out-house and declared ‘I will give you £700 if you would knock the old miser, my master, on the head’. Matthews refused to comply, but just two days afterwards found himself on the wrong side of old Jeffries, who dismissed him from his service, with just a shilling to send him on his way. Swan intercepted Matthews on his departure with a guinea – asking him to buy a brace of pistols to murder their master. Matthews was a simple man, but not a bad one, and he soon wasted his booty at the Green Man pub in Leytonstone, before deciding to continue his journey into London. However,  Matthews was soon intercepted by Swann – who took him to Whitechapel, bought the pistols, and proceeded to get them both drunk in front of landlord Mr Gall.

The Green Man, Leytonstone – scene of mischief for centuries

Matthews admitted visiting Gall with Elizabeth and Swan the day after their committal to Bridewell, and testified that he afterwards travelled to the Buck Inn, Epping Forest to partake in the murder plot. On the night of Friday 2nd July Matthews arrived at Jeffries house in Wood Street, let himself in the back door,  and hid in the pantry. At midnight Elizabeth and Swann came to him stating ‘now is the time to knock the old miser on the head’. They had already hidden some plate and other valuables in a sack in the cellar so as to make it look like a robbery. Faced with the enormity his task, Matthews declared ‘I cannot find it in my heart to do it’. Swann threatened to blow his brains out for the refusal, but left him cowering in the pantry, after first forcing Matthews to swear an oath of secrecy. Not long afterwards Matthews heard the sound of pistol shots, and escaped from the house, towards the ferry on the River Lea, crossing over to Enfield Chace.

On 10th March 1752 at 6am Elizabeth and Swann appeared before Justice Wright and a jury at Chelmsford. The Court was packed with spectators eager to see justice done. Swann was charged with ‘Petty Treason’ for the ‘wicked murder of his late master’ and Elizabeth for aiding and abetting the said murder. It was quickly established that Elizabeth and Swann were involved in a relationship, which had caused a breach with her late uncle. Old Jeffries had repeatedly threatened to alter his will ‘if she did not alter her conduct’ – and this threat was put forward as her primary motivation for arranging his death. It was said that Swann and Elizabeth had been together for at least two years, during which time old Jeffries, a previously kind employer, had become increasingly hostile towards Swann – meaning that the lovers must have plotted his downfall for a very long time. Witnesses came forward to complete the picture of events. For example the local barber testified that he had been offered financial inducements to get the old man drunk in a pub on the evening of his murder, and servants revealed the increasingly sour atmosphere within the house. Richard Clarke, a servant at the house, testified that six months previously he had been taken for a walk by Swann into the grounds of nearby Wanstead House where he was asked about his prowess with a gun, to which he replied ‘I’m no sportsman’ – though Swann offered him £50 if he was willing to use a gun. On the night of the murder, however,  it was recorded that no bloodstains were seen on Elizabeth or Swann – and several testified that Elizabeth was very kind and attentive to her uncle.

Inside Chelmsford Court (courtesy Essex Record Office)

The trial lasted 19 hours, including one hour in which the jury deliberated – which is actually quite a long time for that era. Elizabeth fainted repeatedly throughout, at one point delayed proceedings for half an hour. The pair were found guilty, and a few days afterwards a sentence of death was passed upon them both. On the evening of her conviction Elizabeth made a full confession in which she accepted joint-responsibility alongside Swann, and totally exonerated Matthews of any involvement. Swann was furious and refused to corroborate Elizabeth’s version of events until after his death sentence was pronounced.

The Procession to Elizabeth’s Execution

Consequently, in the early hours of 28th March 1752 an execution procession set out from Chelmsford towards the site of execution, which was to be six-mile stone in Epping Forest – somewhere near modern-day Whipps Cross roundabout. Elizabeth was taken by cart, sitting upon her own coffin, but Swann was dragged behind by sledge as a consequence of his conviction for Petty Treason. When they reached the gallows, Swan was forced to stand on the cart while Elizabeth, being only 5’1″, stood on a chair alongside him. Their legs were not tied and they were not blindfolded. A crowd of 7,000 people gathered to watch them hang. Neither Elizabeth nor John acknowledged one another, while the hangman cracked his whip and drove the cart out from under them. John died in less than five minutes. Elizabeth, however, being lighter than Swan, took over fifteen minutes to die, struggling to the end. It must have been a ghastly spectacle. Elizabeth’s body was released to relatives for burial, but Swann’s indignity was to continue – for his body was chained  up and placed in a gibbet and hung up in the forest to serve as a deterrent to any domestic servant thinking of betraying their master.

Elizabeth sat on her own coffin on the way to her execution

Swann’s body was strung up as a warning to others

Despite their confessions this case leaves many unanswered questions, such as, why didn’t old Jeffries simply dismiss Swann if he knew the man-servant was carrying on with his niece? And why indeed did Elizabeth need to kill Jeffries at all? OK, he had been threatening to disinherit her – but this had already been hanging over Elizabeth for at least two years  – so what changed that forced her to take action now? The answers can be partly found via letters Elizabeth exchanged with another lady, also found guilty of murder in March 1752 and incarcerated in prison awaiting execution. Mary Blandy was found guilty of poisoning her father, and – like Elizabeth – was middle-class and well-educated. Her case has been excellently presented on the Capital Punishment UK website – revealing the sensation aroused by these concurrent trials. Not one but two supposedly devious female killers were the hot topic of conversation in 1752.

Mary Blandy was hanged on April 6th 1752

Elizabeth’s letters reveal that her life with old Jeffries was far from idyllic. It appears that she was the victim of sexual assault at the hands of her uncle from a very young age, culminating in her first rape at the age of 15. Given these circumstances it is easy to see why Jeffries continually threatened his niece with disinheritance, for he knew that her refusal to submit to his perversions – would leave her on the streets and destitute. Far from being an ‘instance of the most unnatural barbarity’  Elizabeth’s murder of her uncle may have been a last resort to protect her from ruin. The timing of Jeffries murder was interesting – for Elizabeth had long since come of age, perhaps entitling her to a greater degree of freedom. It was claimed at the trial that Elizabeth was pregnant carrying Swann’s child and knew that once her uncle became aware of this situation, they would both be turned out. But her pregnancy would clearly have been impossible to hide, and there is no mention of Elizabeth’s subsequent childbirth, so we must assume this was untrue.

Contrary to classical art – there is nothing noble about rape

However,  Elizabeth’s motherhood status is less certain. Not only via her letters to Mary Blandy, but also locally it was known that Elizabeth already two children by her abusive uncle – one of whom was described as ‘a fine boy’ in some versions, and in other accounts had not survived childbirth. Many people believed that old Jeffries had caused Elizabeth to abort both children, and so it would seem that incest was the main factor of this tragic case. The colossal power retained by men in Georgian society, meant that Elizabeth was in almost every respect just another one of Jeffries’ goods and chattels. It is therefore difficult to imagine how she could have put an end to years of control and abuse without resorting to killing her uncle.

Elizabeth’s trial transcripts were published less than a week after her death

So the question must remain as to whether Elizabeth Jeffries really belongs in the canon of cold-blooded calculating killers, or if indeed she was really the victim – left with no other avenue to take – willing to forsake her inheritance – to escape the clutches of an evil monster.

I must acknowledge some great existing resources examining this case, including

  1. Bill Bayliss’ very good summation of events via Walthamstow Memories
  2. Caroline Gonda’s chapter  in Women, Writing and the Public Sphere, 1700-1830, edited by Elizabeth Eger and Charlotte Grant (Cambridge University Press, 2001), Gonda draws an excellent summary of both the Blandy and Jeffries cases, and rightly identifies incest as the primary motive in the Walthamstow case.
  3. Capital Punishment UK website – which has excellent and in-depth analyses on a great many cases including the one referred to in this blog
  4. The image above of six mile stone is taken from the very brilliant Spitalfields Life website, in an article written by Julian Woodford

 

I have strayed beyond the boundaries of Wanstead a little for this blog, but Wanstead House still made a guest appearance in the evidence presented. However, there are some very good internet resources available for Walthamstow including

If you are interested in London’s history and traditions you may like a brief history of the Epping Hunt – or  to find out just how multicultural Georgian Wanstead might have been – via the writings of Thomas Hood. Learn to find your way round Regency London’s departure points, or pay a visit to one mansion with 6 layers of history

My next blog will return to the Victorian Monopoly Board – If you have not yet joined me on this journey, there is still time to catch up!

Victorian Monopoly – From ‘Pall Mall’ to ‘Free Parking’

Overview
“Go” to “Just Visiting” | “Pall Mall” to “Free Parking” | “Strand” to “Jail” | “Regent St” to “Mayfair”

In this second section we continue our quest to navigate the Monopoly Board using only images held in the Crace Collection of antiquarian prints and maps held by the British Museum. By doing so we will find out whether an 1850s Londoner could have made sense of the streets and enclaves immortalised when this iconic board game first appeared in its London format in 1936. We shall wend our way from Pall Mall up to Free Parking, constituting the half-way point – but will our journey founder upon the altar of modernity? Highlights include a fond farewell to Carlton House, a fruitless search for Marylebone Station and a daring escape from Bow Street Police Station:

Pall Mall

This scene looking east down Pall Mall -with Carlton House immediately on the right and the colonnade to the opera house on the left, was published in Ackerman’s Repository of the Arts magazine in 1822. It shows Pall Mall during a time of great change. Carlton House was entering its last days, but the Royal Opera Arcade (built in 1818 and still here today) was the shape of things to come – for Pall Mall was to be an integral part of George IV’s vision of a new London – which was made real over a decade of great change for this locality.

Pall Mall was originally built in 1661, though a thoroughfare existed here since Saxon times – and its adoption as a roadway in 1662 made it the official route between St James’ Palace and the Mall. Just a few years earlier this strip of land had been fenced off and used as a ‘pelemele court’ by Charles II  – but this early version of croquet was often spoiled by dust blown over by carriages passing on the adjacent lane-way – so the loss of this sporting venue was largely unlamented. Almost as soon as it was paved over, this new street became known as ‘Pall Mall’, a name it retains to this day.

South Front of Carlton House (1819)

When the Prince Regent became King George IV in 1820 he was living at Carlton House, and this continued to operate as his principal London residence until 1826 when he moved to newly refurbished and extended Buckingham Palace. His association with Carlton House began in 1783, and within a few years the then Prince of Wales transformed the mansion along French neoclassical lines. During its lifetime Carlton House’s ambition was only constricted by the size of the Prince’s debts – meaning that it endured bursts of intense re-modelling sandwiched between periods of relative calm. Over time this mansion became one of the most important venues for entertainment and pleasure amongst the ruling elite. Consequently Carlton House’s fall from grace in just 5 years seems drastic – but it was quite typical of George to switch the focus of his creative attention elsewhere. Once he decided upon Buckingham Palace, and appointed Nash to undertake its rebuilding, Carlton House was living on borrowed time. George IV’s other great passion was the development of London along classical lines – and his desire to link Regent Street with the Mall meant that Carlton House needed to go. On March 30th 1826 The Times reported

Carlton House will be taken down at the latter end of the ensuing summer, and preparations are now being made for the temporary reception of the furniture belonging to that royal residence, till the new palace at Buckingham House is completed. On the ground opened by the removal of Carlton House, many noble edifices are to be erected, all of which are to be occupied by our first Nobility… It is also likely that a Club House, for the United Service Club, enlarged and on a much greater scale than heretobefore, will stand in this area. There is to be an opening into [St James’] Park which will be a striking improvement: from this (turning to the right) will be a noble row of architectural houses facing the canal. These will stand on a terrace, and stretch from the opening (at Waterloo Place) to the Ordnance Office… occupying the present gardens of Carlton House – now bounded by the dead wall towards the ride in the Park.

United Service Club, Pall Mall

The United Services Club was completed by 1829 (when this Thomas Hosmer Shepherd image was drawn), surviving until the late 1970s, and the building is still there today as part of the Institute of Directors. As for Carlton House – its famous front facade – reused for the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, is still a pleasing sight today.

For my final word on Carlton House, I must defer to His Majesty George IV, and a newspaper clipping from The Age March 9th 1828, demonstrating the King’s emotional attachment to his old home

Adieu to Carlton House – by George IV (Allegedly)

We are informed that his Majesty, since his arrival in Town, made a pilgrimage to the ruins of his old Palace, scarcely a vestige of which now remains. On his return to St James’, his spirits were much depressed, when he retired to his own apartment. The above elegy was found upon the table

The Lothians Blogspot has written a very detailed and interesting history of the rise and fall of Carlton House

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Electric Company

Finding an electric company in 1850s London was, not surprisingly, a difficult task. For this I was fortunate to locate just one suitable print from the 5000+ held in the Crace Collection – to enable us to progress further

This particular scene from 1852 shows two views of the time-ball on top of a turret in the Strand; the view on the left including the Electric Telegraph Company’s offices, and on the right a close-up of the time-ball on top of the turret. Clearly, electrical power was in its infancy by the 1850s. A quick trawl of the newspapers shows that the Electrical Telegraph Company spent a great deal of its early existence dealing with court cases relating to patents for its new technology. It claimed to own no less than 40 of its own patents, but I think this indicates that electrical power was being developed by a wide number of groups simultaneously. For, as early as 1838 London hosted a meeting of the Electrical Society at which Mr Crosse gave a full account of his electrical experiments. The Society itself was formed to ‘for the purpose of explaining and making public the mysteries’ of electricity, so we can imagine this encouraged more widespread interest and investment in this nascent technology. Thus, a Victorian landing upon Electric Company may be ignorant of what it entailed, but not unaware that electrical power was in the process of development

Thus, on August 19th 1852, The Times reported on the new electric time ball installed in the Strand (pictured above)

After a satisfactory completion of the requisite arrangements which had for some time been pending between the Electric Telegraph Company and the Astronomer Royal at Greenwich, Mr Edwin Clark [was entrusted for] the construction of the ingenious apparatus for the development of the electric telegraph system, as applied to the regulation of time on a plan for distributing and correcting mean Greenwich time in London and… throughout the UK every day at 1 o’clock

Perhaps the most important outcome of this new development was the standardisation of time throughout the UK – which would have been of massive benefit to the railways – ensuring that timetables would be accurate to a specific location, namely Greenwich mean time. For Victorian Britain, this was to be a significant shift towards modernity

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Whitehall

One of the most frequent images found in the Crace Collection is that of the Banqueting House at Whitehall – famous for being the place where Charles I was beheaded in 1649  – when Britain entered a period of commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell (who coincidentally took up residence in Whitehall thereafter). There has been a roadway at Whitehall since the 12th century, but it most likely adopted its name from the Palace of Whitehall, which was the residence of English Kings from Henry VIII to William III. The building burned down in 1698 – apart from the before-mentioned Banqueting House which is still with us today. The above image shows Whitehall and the Horse Guards circa 1811, and we can see that at that time is was still little more than a dirt track

As is is today, Whitehall was synonymous with the heart of Government in Victorian times – housing numerous Departments of State including the Admiralty, the Horse Guards and the Treasury.

A view of the Admiralty, 1818

This view from the street of the Admiralty in Whitehall comes from Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts , showing the arched entrance to the forecourt and screen wall. This three-sided building (not to be confused with the Admiralty Arch at Trafalgar Square) was constructed in 1726 to a design by Thomas Ripley, but was instantly criticised for its baroque-style which was thought out-moded by the new fashion for Palladianism. However it has endured until today, and it is thought to be the first ever purpose-built office. Thoughtfully renamed the Ripley Building, this property is now used by the Department for International Development

Unlike us, the Victorians would have also associated Whitehall with the River Thames. Its piers were important departure points for both Government and Royalty – most notably serving as the main exit route for important personages fleeing London during the Great Plague in 1665. By the 1830s Whitehall even had its own annual regatta – traditionally held in July – a contest for double scullers, offering various prizes put forward by noblemen and gentry. On July 17th 1843 The Morning Post reported

Amongst the nobility and gentry who subscribed to the regatta for men plying at Whitehall stairs, were his Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Sir Robert Peel… the race was contested on Friday, with six pairs of sculls in two heats. At an early hour in the afternoon the whole of the men started… at half past six the final was held, four were afloat to race from the Duke of Buccleuch’s, down round the Thames… up round Westminster Bridge, and finish at Whitehall. T Piner junior retained the lead and won by a length and a half… his father finished in third.

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Northumberland Avenue

This is the first serious stumbling block on our journey around the early Victorian monopoly board, because Northumberland Avenue was not built until 1876, following the demolition of Northumberland House near Charing Cross. This image from 1826 shows Northumberland House in the background with an equestrian statue of Charles I on the right and the Golden Cross Coaching Inn on the left. However, we must recall that Northumberland Street (to the rear of the mansion) already existed in 1850 – and the House itself was a well-known landmark  to the south of Trafalgar Square – meaning that most Victorians would have known where to go to locate ‘Northumberland Avenue’ on their Monopoly Board.

Northumberland House – James Green (1761)

Northumberland House, built in 1605 to a Jacobean style, lay on a roadway down to the busy wharfs of the Thames serving Charing Cross and Westminster. But as Northumberland Street became increasingly commercialised this mansion eventually became the last bastion of residential homes which once lined that street. After the 1820s the Duke of Northumberland came under increasing pressure to sell his mansion to the Metropolitan Board of Works, who wished to build a new, wider road down to the river. But the Duke was unwilling to leave his ancestral home and resisted all overtures – until disaster forced his hand. On August 22nd 1868 Bell’s Life in London reported

Shortly before midnight on Thursday last the town residence of the Duke of Northumberland was discovered to be on fire. Five steam engines were quickly on the spot, but the flames were not extinguished until the roof of the south-west wing, used as a ball-room, was burned off, paintings, furniture, and decorations partly destroyed… with confectionery rooms underneath damaged by fire and water. Fortunately the drawing room, dining room, marble staircase, and upper suite of saloons and valuable paintings have escaped destruction. though some splendid friezes have been more of less injured… but these are insured… Workmen employed at the house are supposed to have caused the fire.

As a consequence of this carnage, the Duke of Northumberland agreed to sell his mansion for £500,000 – a colossal sum by today’s standards (perhaps £50M) – paving the way for Northumberland Avenue to appear on the London map

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Marylebone Station

The only station serving the parish of Marylebone in the 1850s was at King’s Cross, so a Victorian would have scratched his head at the thought of another station in that area. However, such was the craze for railroads in mid-Victorian times, that no Victorian would have been entirely surprised at the thought of one springing up in the heart of Marylebone. But no such station appeared – and until the 1890s Euston, King’s Cross and Paddington became the key transport hubs for that area.

A trawl of the Crace collection finds just one image of a railway in Marylebone – which is an 1837 view from beneath the Hampstead Road Bridge looking towards Euston Station, as a steam train comes into view. It looks like the rush hour that day for we can see a queue carriages and waggons on the bridge – though we also have a hot air balloon high in the sky above – so not everyone is at work. There is so much to see in this 180-year-old scene – which convinces me to go on from this setback and see what else confounds us on our journey.

Never a real London landmark – Marylebone Station

As for Marylebone Station, we must halt a while to question why that poorest relation of all London mainline stations should ever have been included in the 1936 Monopoly board game. This station only opened in 1899 as the London terminus of the Great Central Main Line, being the last major railway to open in Britain in over 100 years, linking the capital to Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester. Marylebone was always too small to compete with its rivals, poorly conceived in relation to connection with tube stations already in operation nearby – and must be considered a failed vanity-project. It never really had a heyday and was lucky to survive complete closure in the 1980s.- ironically saved by public appeal.

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Bow Street

We’ve had a real wobble on our last two stops round our Victorian monopoly board, so its great to land back on more secure ground at Bow Street, a roadway situated just south of Covent Garden, parallel to the Strand – which has been around since the 1630s. Once a home for London’s aristocrats, by the 1750s Bow Street had declined into a seedy area frequented by journalists and prostitutes (rather fittingly), as well as lodgings for actors serving theatres in Covent Garden and Drury Lane. But its decline was halted after a magistrates court was built there in 1740, and a decade later the novelist Henry Fielding established the Bow Street Runners – a kind of embryonic vigilante group – paid to catch and convict miscreants. This 1825 view by James Winston shows the old police office used by the Bow Street Runners. Even after the newly-founded Metropolitan Police built their own station at Bow Street in 1832 – the Runners continued to operate – but they disbanded in 1839 as proper policing became established.

On September 5th 1825 The Times reported upon a daring escape attempt made from the Bow Street Police Office:

Mary Anne Smith, a woman of about 25 years of age, was committed to the House of Correction, for an assault upon a watchman. Previously to her removal she was locked up in the gaol yard [which is] about 20 or 30 feet square and surrounded by a brick wall about 20 feet in height, and it was over this formidable barrier that the prisoner Smith resolved to effect her liberation. Taking advantage of the temporary absence of the gaoler she placed a wooden bench, upon which the prisoners it, upright, and using this as a ladder… thence to gain the top of the wall. From here she made her way over house and chimney-top until she entered a window at Mr Day, boot-maker in Russell Street. From the window she made a dangerous leap over an interval descending the whole depth of that building – had she missed her footing instant death would have bee the consequence. The gaoler followed close behind fell and for some time hung on for his life at the ledge of the window… The woman got to the street door where she met Mr Day – to him she confessed her purpose and he told her the best place for concealment was the cellar – but officers then arrived at the house and secured the prisoner… The poor creature stated that she had been driven to risk her life on account of two infants who depended upon her, their father having died three weeks ago.

This desperately sad story has a compassionate ending for the chief officer at Bow Street, Mr Minshull ‘with a suitable admonition, humanely ordered her to be discharged. He considered the terror at the situation which her hazardous enterprise evinced, would operate to deter any future offence.’  We don’t know what became of Mary Anne Smith, but she went into the record books as the first person to successfully effect an escape from Bow Street police station.

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Marlborough Street

Our next port of call is Marlborough Street, where we find our subject remains police-related. This Thomas Hosmer Shepherd painting from 1854 shows the front of a Police Office on the north side of Marlborough Street, with a few police officers standing by the entrance. These police certainly look pretty much how we would imagine  Victorian ‘Peelers’ would be. Marlborough Street first made an appearance on 1704 and lies in Soho just south of Oxford Street. Perhaps its most famous building nowadays is Liberty Store which stands on the junction with Regent Street.

Marlborough Street has a Police Office from around 1800, which also served as a magistrates court. Quite often the court dealt with the very lowest section of society – committing to prison petty thieves, drunks and beggars. These cases often attracted little attention – it was only when the rich or powerful got involved, that press coverage was guaranteed. One such occasion was in 1826 when a case was brought on by the Mendacity Society, against an 80-year-old tramp. She was defended by Lord Maryborough  ‘with a zeal, feeling, and good sense, which would be a credit and ornament to any man’. Ellen Goodall’s crime was to stand with her hand out near Hanover Square – considered as begging – and despite Maryborough’s involvement she was sentenced to a fortnight in prison.

The idle rich had no respect for the police

Marlborough Street also had a long and chequered history of dealing with badly behaved aristocrats, whose lenient treatment proved a stark contrast to the often savage sentences meted out upon the poor.  Young bucks enjoyed nights out on the Town, usually getting drunk, and then proceeding to beat or attack person positions in authority. It was almost a right-of-passage for young Lords to misbehave and behave antisocially on London’s streets –  knowing full well they would escape the consequences. For example, on June 22nd 1825 the Morning Post reported

Yesterday Lord Harborough was charged by a watchman with having violently assaulted him at Steven’s Hotel in Bond Street…. striking him several times with a poker… and his fists… to wound him most severely. [He] was very noisy in the street… On the other hand, a Gentleman, who was looking out of the window at the time, deposed that no such noise had been made… the the Gentleman had been willing to come forward to answer any charge… and that he was only resisting attacks by the watchman, who outrageously rushed into the Coffee Room upon him, and then the alleged assault had been committed. 

Not surprisingly the (probably paid) witness swayed the case and the Magistrate bailed Lord Harborough pending further investigation. Given that the watchman would not have had the means to proceed, we must assume that this arrogant toff went unpunished – reinforcing the ingrained injustice of our legal system at that time.

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Vine Street  – (Lambeth not Piccadilly)

This is a peculiar step on our journey because Vine Street is probably the most obscure location to be found on the Monopoly board – being a very tiny cul-de-sac to the rear of Piccadilly. In the days before Regent Street this was a much longer road, and it would certainly have been well-known to Victorians on account of Vine Street Police Station, founded around 1750, which grew from a watch-house into one of the busiest police stations in the world, and sat alongside a court-house which was active throughout the Victorian era. Bow Street, Marlborough Street and Vine Street share an association with law courts – and this explains why they were grouped together in the orange section of a Monopoly board.

There is no question that Vine Street was recognisable to Victorian Londoners – but they would have instantly asked: Which One? For London had a second Vine Street just south of the river in Lambeth and was the main thoroughfare towards Hungerford Bridge, which was opened in 1845. This Vine Street was engulfed by a natural disaster which occurred on January 29th 1850

The tide rose so extraordinarily high as to overflow the walls of the river and inundate the various thoroughfares along either shore. So unexpected was the high tide that no one had made any preparation to preserve their property, and the consequence was that mischief to an incalculable amount was done… The first notice the inhabitants received of this fearful visitation was shortly after three o’clock – about half an hour before high water. At that period water began to flow over the banks.. and in the space of ten minutes it became apparent that a fearful destruction of property, if not human life, was inevitable. The various wharfs along the river soon presented immense sheets of water, timber, and other articles being forced about with the strength of the tide in terrible confusion… The property destroyed in Lambeth Parish must reach many thousand pounds… The whole of Vine Street was one great expanse of water, and the only means for the residents to leave their habitations were in boats… The water travelled as far as the terminus of the South Western Railway, in York Road. In Vine Street it rushed into kitchens, and forced the furniture up to the ceilings. In one house three children nearly perished; their mother being upstairs… hearing them scream, she rushed downstairs and found the water half way to the ceiling, and the children up to their necks in water…

The great flood as seen from Lambeth Stairs (1850)

This upper Thames flood was recorded as the worst for 50 years, and helped to accelerate two major improvements – firstly the construction of embankments on either side of the Thames, which vastly improved flood defences; and secondly; the improvement in London’s sewage management. Just a few weeks before this flood, MPs debated the awful problem of pollution on the Thames and how it could be alleviated. To have that dank and deadly water overspill into homes and businesses so soon afterwards must have been a catalyst for change, and began London’s long road towards environmental recovery

—–

Free Parking

Free Parking was probably a bit of a bonus in 1936 as London was already well accustomed to traffic gridlock. Today it is just a pipe-dream for London’s motorists, used to Congestion Charging, Residential Parking Permits, Red Routes, and Pay-by-Phone extortion – should they ever decide to travel in by car. For the Victorians parking was never an issue, but they would have been accustomed to knowing where to find parked hansom cabs in order to travel from A to B – and these would have commonly been found outside hotels and inns, stations, shops and businesses. Above we see a view of Oxford Street in 1831 – with carriages waiting outside Stafford House – ready for hire.

Let’s wait until the next segment before we catch our taxi onwards to cross the Victorian Monopoly Board, and conclude this second part by reflecting upon a difficult journey,  which began at Pall Mall and had us lost for a while in Northumberland Avenue and Marylebone Station, before putting us back on surer, more familiar territory amongst the orange enclave – which last delivered us safely to ‘Free Parking’.

I hope you will join me for Part 3 of our trip, which sets out from The Strand but almost inevitably will put us all in ‘Jail’.

If you are interested in London history, you may like to learn about 3 Savile Row or find out how to catch a stagecoach (1819-style)

Beyond my own pages, I would recommended the following excellent London-related blogs:

 

Victorian Monopoly – From ‘Go’ to ‘Just Visiting’ Prison

Overview
“Go” to “Just Visiting” | “Pall Mall” to “Free Parking” | “Strand” to “Jail” | “Regent St” to “Mayfair”

In this section we set off from ‘Go’ on our quest to navigate the Monopoly Board using only images held in the Crace Collection of antiquarian prints and maps held by the British Museum. How far can we get before modernity prevents our progress?

Old Kent Road

Here is a view for the Deaf and Dumb Society Asylum which was built around 1807 in Old Kent Road, with the original stone being laid by the Duke of Gloucester – whom was their patron. Originally founded by Reverend John Townsend in 1792, just around the corner in Grange Street Southwark, the Society met half-yearly to raise funds for the assistance of those unable to meet the fees required to attend the asylum.

On July 19th 1808 The Times reported on the Society’s General Meeting at which a list containing 69 child candidates had been voted upon by its members. As the new building in Old Kent Road was not yet ready, it fell upon the committee to report on a ballot involving its membership – which was to decide who they could make room for at that time. William Hayler topped the poll with 2128 votes and everyone down to 8th placed John Nicholls (896) were awarded a place. Just one girl, Elizabeth Campion, made the cut. Selecting children in this kind of incapacity competition was a very difficult operation:

This election… made a distressing impression upon the minds of those who witnessed the sorrowful and effecting disappointment felt by the unsuccessful candidates. The melancholy met these 61 unhappy children, for want of room in the present house, necessarily remained excluded from the benefit of the Institution, impressed more strongly than any language could do, the necessity of endeavouring to procure, with all possible speed, the means of completing the new building

A total of almost £350 was raised that night including 20 Guineas from the Duke of Gloucester, and we now know that their building in Old Kent Road did open in October 1809 – hopefully putting an end to the awfully high rejection rate experienced the previous year. The Deaf and Dumb Society are a very important milestone in the history of deaf education – and they were to remain at this site until the late 1960s. The patients would be taught how to speak, read, write and cipher so that they were capable of finding work after they were discharged from the institution.

There are numerous excellent resources for learning more about the history of London’s Deaf and Dumb Society – of which here are just a few

Community Chest

‘Community Chest’ is a phrase inherited from the original American version of Monopoly and refers to fund-raising organisations which sprang up throughout in the United States and Canada after 1914, who sought to raise money from local businesses and workers in order to donate it to community projects. Charitable organisations have been around London since Medieval times, and the Crace Collection has numerous examples of buildings and organisations dedicated to helping those less well-off in the community – such as that we just passed in Old Kent Road.

Above is a picture of Mrs Hillier’s almshouses which stood between 119 and 120 Curtain Road, in what is now Shoreditch – also listed as Holywell Street (which may have been at the rear). These eight small houses were built in 1812 and sat behind a dwarf wall and railings. Each dwelling housed two poor women and the project was endowed by Elizabeth Hillier, who lived in Pancras Lane. I have been unable to find out what became of this building

Whitechapel Road

Here is a view of Whitechapel Road in 1851, a watercolour by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. We are  looking west towards Aldgate; with a line of carriages visible on the right side of the road; and a coach approaching in the foreground. My favourite detail has to be the man on left carrying what looks like a box of fruit on his head – perhaps he’s been to Spitalfields Market. This mid-century scene of Whitechapel seems a million miles away from the days of Jack the Ripper, which were almost four decades later – and seem to have permanently associated the area with

In a strange way the elegance of Whitechapel then seems much more in tune with how this area is today – a very chic and sought after location just on the cusp of the City.

Income Tax

On your standard Monopoly board death may be avoidable, but sadly taxation is not. However, it was not always so inevitable that your wages were subject to income tax – for it was only introduced in December 1798 by Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. Intended to fund Britain’s war effort, this first iteration of income tax was abolished in 1816 (after a brief sojourn in 1802) as it was considered unnecessary for peace-time Britain. It was only in 1842 that incoming Prime Minister Robert Peel, alarmed by the country’s budget deficit, decided to drop his opposition to income tax – and legislate for its restoration.The above image from 1854 depicts newly the opened Inland Revenue Office, which adjoined Somerset House, in the Strand – more or less permanently establishing this form of tax.

 

Kings Cross

Here is a view of the south front of the Great Northern Station at King’s Cross, as it was in 1852 by artist unknown.

The Smallpox Hospital, which was demolished to to build King’s Cross Station

The station took its name from the King’s Cross area of London, itself named after a monument to King George IV that was demolished in 1845 Construction was on the site of a fever and smallpox hospital and it replaced a temporary terminus at Maiden Lane that had opened on 7 August 1850, but was already considered inadequate. Built to a design by Lewis Cubitt, a lesser-known brother of two other more renowned Cubitt family members, his design was based on two great arched train sheds, with a brick structure at the south end designed to reflect the main arches behind. The loggia beneanth the arches and clocktower was a nod to classical architecture. One of the great advantages of railway transportation was speed of travel and goods, but it also very quickly led to the now common practice of fare evasion. For example, on July 10th 1852 the Morning Post reported

Mark Johnson, aged 18, dressed as a sailor, came before the bar at Clerkenwell charged on the following circumstances: On thursday last, on the arrival of the train from Doncaster into the King’s Cross Station, Mr Garnett, an officer in the company’s service, went to collect tickets… when he found the prisoner concealed in one of the third-class carriages… without a ticket… He said he had run away from his ship, at Newcastle [and] travelled on foot without food or money until his feet were blistered and bleeding… arriving at Doncaster exhausted and got into one of the carriages to come to London… He was given into custody when the judge asked if non-payment was a regular occurrence and was told that [fare evasion] had been a big problem during the Great Exhibition, but not so frequent of late

Despite a plea from Johnson’s mother, who had made the journey to support her lad, the judge decided that it was necessary to deter others from such a practice, especially as it was still a problem for the railways. Therefore he fined Johnson 20 shillings, or 14 days imprisonment – the latter of which was imposed because the family were unable to make the payment.

Before we leave our first Monopoly board station, I’m taking a small detour to look at why this area of London acquired its name, as the station above was actually built in a hamlet called Battle Bridge, which was the site of an ancient crossing of the Fleet river. In Crace’s collection I found the answer. King’s Cross has its origin in a monument to King George IV which stood in the area from 1830 to 1845. Built at the crossroads of Gray’s Inn Road, Pentonville Road and New Road, which later became Euston Road. It was sixty feet high and topped by an eleven-foot-high statue of the king, and was described by Walter Thornbury as “a ridiculous octagonal structure crowned by an absurd statue”. It may have only lasted 15 years but this failed monument was around long enough to ensure its name was adopted for the new railway terminus, thus the hamlet of Battle Bridge was consigned to history – usurped by King’s Cross. An item in the Crace collection records the removal of King’s Cross and is less than complimentary about its existence.

King’s Cross – the real one, graced London from 1830-1845

                                                                                                                                                                                            What strange mutations does the hand of ‘public improvement’ work in our metropolis. Less than a score of years have rolled away since a very anomalous pile was reared at the point where meet the New-road, Maiden Lane, Pentonville-hill, the Gray’s Inn-Road &c.; the spot receiving the somewhat grandiloquent name of ‘King’s Cross’. The building boasted, however, of correspondent pretension; the lower story was classically embellished, as the portion in our engraving shows; the upper stories were less ornate; but, if the expression be allowable, the structure was crowned with a composition statue of the Fourth George – and a very sorry representative of one who was every inch a king…  people [soon realised the above was a very uncomplimentary effigy of majesty; even the very cabmen grew critical; the watermen jeered; and the omnibus drivers ridiculed royalty in so parious a state, at length the statue was removed in toto, or rather by piecemeal. / We cannot tax our memory with the uses to which the building itself has been appropriated; now a placeof exhibition, then a police-station, and last of all (to come to the dregs of the subject) a beer shop. Happily, our artist seized upton the modern antique just in time for rescue from oblivion; and his sketch is far more picturesque than would be’a proper house and home’. The ‘time to pull down’ at length arrived; the strange pile has been cleared away.

The Angel, Islington

The Angel Inn is thought to have existed since around 1614, built on the site of an old monastery and over time associated with Islington, though it was actually in the parish of Clerkenwell. An important stagecoach Inn, the Angel was for many years seen as an outpost for London – beyond which lay dangerous and bandit-ridden country. This scene by C R Matthews is from 1842 when London’s reach had gone far beyond Islington, and looks down the City Road from the Angel Inn; which is shown on the left  By 1831 a topographical guide to Britain recorded

The Angel Inn at Islington presents a busy scene. A road called the New Road, comes up from the ‘west end’ and just where this inn stands, joins the city road. Here between the ‘west end’ and the bank, ply fifty-four omnibuses. Through Islington too, pass a great number of vehicles to Holloway, Highbury, Hornsey &c

In the early 1920s the Angel Inn became a Lyons Tea Room, and the building still stands today as a bank with offices above.

Chance?

In 1806 London started a brief craze for House Lottery ticket sales- this became possible after an Act of Parliament that year gave permission for such raffles. Purchasing a ticket afforded you the chance to own a splendid new London townhouse and contemporary newspaper reports indicate that participants came from throughout the UK. One winner was from Suffolk and the other from Sussex and their prizewas valued at £300 per annum just to rent out, which was a considerable amount when you consider that most families lived on less than £50.

You could win this house in Pickett Street

What a lovely house this lottery offered – hard to think what it would be worth today. The other prize house in Skinner Street, was very close to the East India Company offices – redeveloped in 1803, Skinner Street was demolished in 1860 to make way for the Holborn viaduct.

 

Euston Road

Here is a view of Euston Road c.1825 by Charles T Heath, with the St Pancras New Church on the right. We can see that it was a wide road lined with elegant houses visible in the distance. Built in 1756 as London’s very first by-pass – Euston Road was originally called New Road. It enabled farmers to take their livestock to Smithfield from the west of London without having to drove them into Oxford Street. In 1837 it was chosen as a site for a new railway station.

St Pancras New Church (so-named to distinguish itself from the old one) was built in 1822 to the designs of William and Henry William Inwood. It has a long and fascinating history and is today one of London’s most popular landmarks. The Independent has written a good article upon the politics of St Pancras Church’ construction, which also reveals that its pulpit was carved from the very famous Fairlop Oak, which blew down in 1820 – the loss of Wicked William Long-Wellesley (then Warden of Epping Forest) was blamed

Pentonville Road

I tried hard to avoid putting a picture of the prison when looking for Pentonville in the Crace collection, since we are about to go visiting there in the next picture. Hence I have opted for a picture drawn by Charle H Matthews in 1840, but which recalls a view of Busby’s Folly, in Pentonville, as it appeared in 1731; complete with a rustic wooden fence, a barn to the right.

From the 1660s this area of Pentonville became renowned as a place of entertainment and received many travellers from the City. Busby’s folly was a house of entertainment with an adjacent bowling green, set in the fields. It was names after Christopher Busby who was the landlord of the White Lion in Islington and built his folly to attract day-trippers. From 1664 it became the meeting place of the Society of Bull Feathers Hall, which seems to have been a drinking and revelling club – as it had manners, rites and customs which included a musical parade from Busbys Folly to Highgate. In 1710 one visitor left Busby’s Folly decidedly poorer for his journey

Busbys Folly for a time appeared as a landmark on 18th century maps, but by the 1750s it was renamed Penny’s Folly, eventually demolished to make way for a pub called the Belvedere Tavern, which was built around 1780 and still stands at 96-98 Pentonville Road.

Jail – Just Visiting

Fleet Prison was founded as early as 1197 and was to blight London’s landscape until its demolition in 1846. Largely destroyed during the Gordon Riots if 1781, the prison spent its final decades housing mainly debtors and bankrupts. Whilst some inmates had the luxury of financial support from friends and family, a great many of the inmates were entirely destitute. These desperate captives had to rely on charity which they could receive at this barred window beneath a stone arch. This image from 1840 show an unkempt prisoner accepting money from a well-dressed lady and child. This prison features in my own research project, for Wicked William Long Wellesley spent time here in the early 1830s. For him the experience was less traumatic because his celebrity status afforded him a range ‘of choice viands and wines’ from a local inn-keeper. It;s alright for some then.

So – we have managed to get to the first corner of our Victorian Monopoly board without too much trouble. But tune in for my next post to see how much further we can go on our journey, which relies entirely on prints in the Crace Collection.

I hope you are enyoying this odyssey and will join me again for the next leg from Pall Mall to Free Parking


If you are a lover of London History you may like to read about Stagecoach Inns or perhaps to see how multlcultural late Georgian society really was via the work of Thomas Hood. Also I have written about the amazing history of one London mansion

Let’s play Monopoly, early Victorian Style

Overview
“Go” to “Just Visiting” | “Pall Mall” to “Free Parking” | “Strand” to “Jail” | “Regent St” to “Mayfair”

My current fascination with the Frederick Crace collection of antiquarian prints and maps of London has led me to consider an important and hitherto unanswered historical conundrum:

Could Victorians have played Monopoly?

This question has loomed large since I discovered the extent of Crace’s portfolio kept at the British Museum – and it has me wondering if it would be possible for 1850s Londoners to traverse a traditional Monopoly Board  – without scratching their heads at the areas, streets and locations as set down by Waddington’s when they first sold this game under licence in 1936.

Trafalgar Square (1852) – that’s an easy one

So I have set myself the challenge of seeing how far we can travel around the Monopoly Board – but ONLY using images found within the Crace Collection. This gives us scenes covering the period up to 1860 – Now, now I already hear you baulk at the chances of getting past stations and waterworks, or beyond impossibly modern enclaves. Do not despair – you may be surprised how far we can go, and where we end up!

I intend to divide our journey into 4 parts – each will represent one side of a Monopoly Board. But as we all know, you can’t begin any game without having the requisite pieces and cards – so this post deals with the essentials: namely the bank and 6 playing pieces. Luckily for me the racing car was not an original playing piece in Monopoly, however the remainder have been pretty tough considering I am using a topographical archive, containing very few objects – hence on this part of my mission I will have to resort to a touch of artistic licence

Hat

Hat – for this I have opted for a very dapper image of Charles I as painted by Anthony Van Dyke in 1649 – showing our soon-to-be beheaded monarch wearing a broad rimmed black, and St James’s Palace in the background.

We have to shop for the thimble

Thimble – this was a tough one but I’m sure you’ll agree that we can pay a visit to Fadie & Co, Leather Dressers and Haberdashery in which can be found in Queen Street, an extract of a watercolour from 1852 by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. This shop stood right next door to the business premises of Frederick Crace and Co, Decorators to the Queen, so would have been more than familiar to the man who commissioned its painting.

Where better to get an Iron than an ironworks?

Iron – This may seem is a little tenuous – but an all irons start their lives at an iron works such as Fowler’s Ironworks which stood on the Thames in Lambeth just close to Waterloo Bridge. I have not been able to ascertain exactly when the iron works was closed, but assume it would have been before the turn of the nineteenth century when heavy industry such is this moved downstream as London became increasingly urbanised.

A suitable boot – high above the crowd

Boot – I had to trek back to 1770 to find a satirical print depicting an ideal boot for Monopoly purposes. The scene is a fair outside the gate of St. James’s Palace, in which King George III’s friends are satirized as showmen; the principal booth displays the sign of a boot, which is said to represent  the 3rd Lord Bute (1713-1792) – a Scottish nobleman and former Prime Minister thought to hold too much sway over the King’s opinions.

Battleship at anchor in Greenwich

Battleship – We travel downstream to Greenwich to find this particular playing piece – and from the banks of the Isle of Dogs (William Parrott, 1842) we have an excellent view of the hospital and the Observatory. But the real action is in the water, where we find a steamship at anchor and the huge hulk of an un-named Dreadnaught battleship being prepared for return to sea.

 

The Cadiz Memorial – still found in Horse Guards Parade

Cannon – This is an image of a statue built to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s military victory over the French near Salamanca in 1812. Now known as the Cádiz Memorial, it was originally nicknamed ‘the Prince Regent’s Bomb’  because the word ‘bomb’ used to be pronounced ‘bum’ and the cannon’s considerable size was therefore likened to George’s own huge posterior. Now a grade II listed building worth a look if you are visiting Whitehall.

Now we have our pieces, all we need is…

A 1785 view of the Bank of England

Bank – For a serious game of Monopoly I can look no further than the Bank of England, founded in the 1690s and situated in Threadneedle Street since 1734. The above structure was built by Sir Robert Taylor around 1764, but Taylor’s real legacy was in expanding the site to enable legendary architect Sir John Soane room to rebuild upon classical lines in 1788. The Crace collection has a number of alternative views of the Bank, most of which include the Royal Exchange opposite – and these old images are strikingly similar to how that area looks today.

Looks like we’re all set to go then. So why not join me in subsequent posts on our trek round the Victorian Monopoly board?


If you are a fan of London and sporting history you may be interested in the tale of Royal Ascot, the rise and fall of the Epping Hunt, or to box a few rounds with The Navigator Tom Shelton

But for a some purely financial insight, and to commemorate 200 years since the Great Re-Coinage – you may enjoy learning how we got silver sixpences, shillings and crowns

Finally, if Regency London is not your scene – find your way home via a coaching inn

 

 

Ratcliff – The other Great Fire of London

Not just 1666! – Fires were a regular occurrence in London

The Great Fire of London is a very important and well-remembered event in the timeline of London’s life story. Over a period of 4 days beginning 2nd September 1666 the fire destroyed most of the medieval City of London, sweeping away over 13000 houses, numerous wharves and businesses, and 87 churches – including St Paul’s CathedraI. This disaster has been widely recorded, not least by diarist Samuel Pepys. Its aftermath led to the reconstruction of early modern London, replacing narrow thoroughfares and wooden structures with wide streets and brick buildings – and brought us 51 new churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren. ‘Great Fire’ certainly befits this calamity; but it should not mask the fact that London (like many other early modern cities) always lived under the constant spectre of fire, and that buildings and places of importance were lost to fire on a fairly regular basis. Hence it is useful to look beyond the Great Fire of 1666, and at other fires in order to fully appreciate the extent to which blazes were a very real and life-changing disaster for the people affected. The best place to start, therefore, is to find another great fire of London- so we head east of the City to Ratcliff.

 

Ratcliff Cross (1791)

This blog examines the Ratcliff Fire, said to be the biggest conflagration that London saw between 1666 and the Blitz in 1940. This fire seems to have escaped attention perhaps because its victims were poor (who were irrelevant) or tradesmen (who were probably insured), but hopefully because its aftermath was dealt with so quickly and humanely. Ratcliff(e) in earlier times was also known as “sailor town”, was originally known for shipbuilding but from the 1300s more for fitting and provisioning ships. By the end of the 1700s Ratcliff was a village-cum-shanty-town on the Thames situated between Shadwell and Limehouse, due south of Stepney village, still offering various maritime services, but now also containing warehousing and storage for a variety of imported goods, from which manufacturing industries nearby relied. Ratcliff tended to specialise in docking of combustible cargoes considered too risky to be bulk-handled in the City, and this ultimately proved to be its downfall. Here are some contemporary reports of the fire:

On Wednesday afternoon at 3 o’clock on July 23rd 1794 the hamlet of Ratcliff suffered a dreadful fire. It began at Mr Clove’s, a barge-builder at Cock Hill, and was occasioned by the boiling over of a pitch kettle that flood under his warehouse, which was consumed within a very short time. It also set light to a barge (it being low water) lying close to the premises, laden with saltpetre – which subsequently spectacularly exploded. The blowing-up of the saltpetre occasioned large flakes of flame to rain down upon riverside buildings – one of which belonged to the East India Company, from which a store of saltpetre was in the process of removing to the Tower of London – 20 tons of which had been fortunately removed the preceding day. Consequently the fire wrought carnage both on land and river – and very soon all the houses on either side of Brook Street were destroyed as far as Ratcliff Cross, as well as several alleyways – and several large ships, including the East Indiaman Hannah, which was about to depart for Barbados, and other smaller boats were utterly burnt out. The fire found new fuel at Ratcliffe Cross when it over-ran a sugar-house. This new ignition point meant that the adjacent glassworks and a lighter-builders yard were lost.

Ratcliff Fire damage – as seen from the Thames

The blaze continued until the following morning and its progress was helped mainly by the narrowness of the streets, which prevented fire engines being of any practical service. The wind blowing strong from the south fanned the flames onwards: it reached the premises of Joseph Hanks, a timber merchants, in London Street and extended on into Butcher Row – the whole of the west, and part of the east side of which was consumed. At Stepney Causeway the fire caught the premises of Mr Shakespeare, a rope-maker, and burnt through to the fields at the other side before dying down. It was only the boundaries of urban development that prevented further progress of the inferno. Almost no property in the vicinity was spared loss or damage, though it was singularly odd that the dwelling house of Mr Bere – a very extensive building – was surrounded by fire but emerged entirely unscathed.

Scene showing Mr Bere’s house escaping the inferno

It was reported that Mr Clove broke an arm fighting the initial fire, and one of his servants was sent to London Hospital with terrible burns. A survey carried out after the fire showed that only 570 out of 1200 buildings survived – and that most of those lost served as housing for the poor. The Government reacted by erecting 120 tents in Stepney Fields to accommodate the poor – hardly a generous deed given that 1000+ people were made homeless. The loss to tradesmen was equally bad – for example Mr Whiting, who owned the sugar-house, lost £40,000 worth of stock. There is no record of any loss of life resulting from the fire, but Lloyd’s Evening Post does seem to imply death amongst the poor without enumerating the extent.

The distress of the miserable inhabitants exceeded all description. In the surrounding fields were deposited a few goods, consisting chiefly of bedding, they were able to save. Stepney Church was opened for their reception, and above a thousand people were obliged to remain all night in the fields, watching the remnants of their property. Children crying for their lost parents, and parents lamenting the fate of their children, added to the horrors of a scene not equalled during the present century

Before any financial assistance arrived in the Ratcliff area, a very different kind of flood inundated the scene. This was in the form of thousands of spectators arriving from the City to view the extensive ruins. It was reported that a great many carriages deposited men and women decanting on foot for a closer look at the scene, including a tour of the rows of tents erected for the poor. But these were not mere gawping onlookers, because evidence reveals their prime motivation was charitable feeling towards to the distressed families they came to see. Within a week the True Briton was able to report that charitable subscription from all quarters had already exceeded £4000 – a figure that rose to £15000 within a few weeks. Business was also quick to resume in the area. By November 1794 the Whitehall Post announced that the East India Company had commenced rebuilding its saltpetre works at Ratcliff, engaging 200 men in the process

The public responded quickly for victims of the fire

Historic UK has a detailed report and more images of the Ratcliff Fire together with the pleasing news that the Corporation of London, Lloyds and the East India Company also contributed almost £2,000 to the relief of the homeless.

This is one of a series of posts I will be doing in 2017 based upon the Crace Collection at the British Museum – all images used here come from that source.You may wish to know more about Frederick Crace or Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (one of his principle contributors).

For other London related posts, you might be interested in the death of a Regency Prizefighter, or see how multicultural Regency London may have been via this post on Thomas Hood . Finally, for a wider look at Regency era sketches why not join Anne Rushout on tour.

 

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd – A Recorder of London

T H Shepherd – painted the good, the bad & the ugly of London’s streets

In my previous post I wrote about the tremendous debt Londoners owe to Frederick Crace, whose collection of some 5000 prints, maps and paintings of London and its environs was purchased by the British Museum in 1880. Actively collecting between 1815 and his death in 1859, Crace amassed an cornucopia of scenes encompassing and embracing times of great change in the topography of the city. He particularly excelled in ensuring that soon-to-be demolished buildings were recorded for posterity. Sometimes the doomed structures were depicted in their final dismal state, but others were carefully illustrated as they were in their heydey.

Self-Portrait of Shepherd and his muse: London

This post is about perhaps the most important artist associated with Frederick Crace’s collection, certainly in terms of output, if not by reputation. Crace’s collection contains individual works by legendary artists, such as Paul Sandby or Wenceslaus Hollar, but it is dominated by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, whose 720+ works constitute about 15% of the entire portfolio. Additionally, the British Museum holds almost 300 Shepherd artworks not associated with Frederick Crace. So here we have in just one location over 1000 examples of his works of art:-  the fruits of a very industrious and important artist principally engaged in recording London as it was undergoing huge changes towards modernity.

Tumbledown buildings in Grub Street complete with broken windows c.1840

A quick search on google returns some 192,000 pages linked to Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. But this is entirely down to the wide dissemination of his drawings and watercolours. Very little is recorded about his life and times – and practically no images of the artist himself. When I searched the British Library newspaper archive I found that Shepherd’s death on July 4th 1864 was not reported in the press – indicating that his final years were spent in obscurity. However, I was pleased to discover that Shepherd does have a blue plaque at No 26 Batchelor Street in Islington, so at least he is being commemorated today.

T.H Shepherd’s old stomping ground at Islington Green (1850)

The story of Thomas Hosmer Shepherd in many ways mirrors the life of any struggling painter in the early modern period: i.e. one of dependency upon a patron in order to facilitate one’s career. In the age before consumerism it was common for artist to find favour with a wealthy or influential connoisseur through which they were enabled to thrive. Artists such as Hogarth and Nollekins forged their career in this way. However by the late 1700s a new genre of independently successful artists emerged – most particularly Sir Joshua Reynolds – who were sufficiently renowned to stand on their own merit, and benefitted from a surge in purchasing power from the mercantile and middling classes as Britain underwent rapid industrial change. However, when we look at Thomas Hosmer Shepherd we can see that even by the mid 1800s it was only the very elite artists that were capable of choosing their own commissions and setting their own prices.  For everyone else it was a question of finding favour with clients, meeting their needs, and striving for regular and constant output – without which the spectre of poverty always beckoned. Shepherd’s story of boom and bust parallel’s that of Thomas Hood, of whom I have previously written.

Landmark or no mark: Shepherd always had bystanders

Thomas Hosmer Shepherd was born in France on 16 January 1793, the son of a watchcase maker. At this time France was in the throes of revolution, and war was about to break out against a coalition of her neighbouring countries including Britain. So the family hastened home settling in a house near the City Road, in what was then the village of Islington, and Thomas was baptised at St Luke Old Street, on 24 February.

St Luke’s Church, Old Street (Magnoliabox.com)

Perhaps Thomas’s most important influence in his early years was older brother George, an artist working in both pencil and watercolours – who began working for Frederick Crace around 1810. By this time young Thomas had already obtained commissions from Rudolph Ackermann, for whom he regularly supplied prints and etchings right up until Ackermann’s magazine The Repository of Arts folded in 1827. The two brothers often worked together on projects as their skills complemented each other – George was very fast with the pencil outline, and Thomas a better finisher. Thomas did very little work for Frederick Crace before 1820 (certainly not that he was credited for) and looked more likely to establish himself independently, as he undertook a series of sketching tours and earned his living in that way. However, it seems that once Thomas settled down and became a father, it became vitally important for him to have a regular workflow – so he gravitated back to employment by others.

George Shepherd was more adept with a pencil than brother Thomas

Thomas married in 1818, spending his honeymoon in France. Somewhat tellingly his first-born son was named Frederick Napoleon Shepherd, perhaps in homage to his nationality and political leanings (in terms of Napoleon) but also crediting his benefactor (Frederick Crace). By 1820, the family lived at 26 Chapman Street (now Batchelor Street), Islington, just west side of Liverpool Road. He used his home address when advertising as a drawing master.

Shepherd’s seemingly mundane images are fascinating for historians

Throughout the 1820s Shepherd worked hard to establish himself as a popular artist, both by touring and contributing to numerous topographical publications. He undertook a series of paintings of Edinburgh, and also worked at Bath and Bristol. But after 1830 his output as an illustrator of books rapidly declined  – possibly due to a change in public demand for such books, as a couple of planned commissions that year never came to fruition – one of which had necessitated a wasted trip to Ireland.

Edinburgh Castle (1829) with obligatory dog and kilts

Shepherd then took a change of direction by exhibiting four watercolours of Scotland at the Society of British Artists, in 1831 and 1832, but as the years passed by he increasingly relied upon Frederick Crace for employment. Luckily for Shepherd, Crace seems to have accelerated his demand for pictures – and work was plentiful right up until Crace died in 1859. In the early 1840s Shepherd moved to 2 Bird’s Buildings (now part of Colebrooke Row), north of Camden Passage, Islington – and he also began contributing images for The Illustrated London News. Shepherd’s final years were spent in poverty, possibly through ill health as old age set in, but more likely as a result of lack of work after Crace passed away. It is sad to think that somebody capable of creating thousands of historically important images of nineteenth century Britain should die unnoticed and unwanted, just as new photographic technology usurped his genuine talent for recording life as it was back then.

Temple Bar (1844) – Streetscene as interesting as the edifice

Shepherd’s style of painting was characterized by an attention to detail towards to subject building or street being depicted, but his scenes often contained people, carriages, horses, or dogs. Thus his collection of paintings gives us an excellent by-product of olde London via the fashions and activities of the people. For example we often see children playing in the streets, and the enduring British love for dogs is more than abundantly represented via a variety of pooches of differing sizes and shapes adorning his works. Whilst it is true that Shepherd’s paintings tend to avoid the filth, smoke, and grinding poverty of London – he doesn’t shy away from decay or of realistic portrayal of slum areas and prisons, which he was commissioned to accurately record. We must remember that his brief was to concentrate upon the buildings  as subjects, and that his only individual artistic outlet was the ability to add by-standers for context and adornment purposes. In his world too, it seldom rains and plants are always in bloom – So we get Dickensian buildings in abundance – without the depressing realism of London as it really must have been.

I hope you will join me on this progressing journey through olde London courtesy of Crace and Shepherd. I have already extensively used their images for my series of postings on Regency Stagecoach Travel and also when relating the story of Wellesley Pole at the Mint

As my series of posts relating to the Crace Collection unfolds, Thomas Hosmer Shepherd will feature heavily. All images used will come directly from the British Museum images database. However, Shepherd’s prints are abundantly held by numerous other public bodies – most notably Kensington and Chelsea Library -which has done a series of excellent posts regarding their own collection, the V&A Museum, the Science Museum, the Government Art Collection, and a small number at the Royal Academy.

Shepherd as a recorder of change: Blackfriars Bridge and Steamship (1848)

Please note that my use of British Museum images in on a non-commercial basis –  my primary intention being to promote the British Museum as a source of reference for all historians. Several times in the past I have paid initial photographic fees to digitise their images for my own use, knowing that once this fee is paid such imagery becomes available to all. I could not recommend use of the British Museum strongly enough, especially if you are looking to source illustrations for publication. In return for obtaining pricelessly detailed high resolution images, you in return get the satisfaction of knowing that you are contributing to the continued development and protection of this vital resource.

For more information on Thomas Hosmer Shepherd I recommend

  • Brian Reginald Curle and Patricia Meara, Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, 1793-1864, (London: Kensington and Chelsea Public Libraries, 1973)
  • J F C Phillips, Shepherd’s London, (London: Cassell, 1976)
  • Chris Beetles Gallery has a range of original Thomas Hosmer Paintings for sale as well as an excellently detailed biography
  • On 6th April 2015 Bonhams sold an exquisite collection of Thomas Hosmer Shepherd views of Edinburgh, pencil on paper – with 5 in watercolour for £5625.00

Frederick Crace – London’s Forgotten Benefactor

frederick_crace_oil_on_canvas_on_diplay_at_the_royal_pavilion_large

This is Frederick Crace (1779-1859) – a man who deserves to be remembered for his cultural contribution to the history of London. Between 1820 and 1860 Crace collected and collated a visual record of London every bit as vital as that which has been described by Charles Dickens in the pages of his iconic novels – i.e an aura of ‘Olde’ London at a time when it was quickly (and quietly) vanishing beneath the relentless march of Victorian ‘modernisation’. The era when Crace operated saw stagecoach transportation gave way to steam locomotion, clearance of slums and construction of elegant new town squares – extending London’s boundaries far beyond their traditional limits. Ports, churches, thoroughfares and dockyards were rebuilt as industrialisation changed the face and spread of London almost beyond recognition even for those who witnessed it.

bedford-sq-c1850

Bedford Square c.1850 (Crace Collection)

For all his efforts, it is particularly sad that Frederick Crace doesn’t seem to have a permanent London memorial. He doesn’t have a blue plaque, and even his graveyard memorial in West Norwood Cemetery has long since been destroyed. For a man who did so much to record London in the era before photography, we really ought to celebrate and commemorate him better. So I am going to begin here by giving a brief outline of Crace’s professional career, and then follow up with a series of posts examining the the many London scenes he commissioned for his unique collection. If you want a taster why not start with my recent blog about London’s coaching inns – which uses images entirely drawn from Crace’s collection.

Crace’s appointment as Commissioner of Sewers in 1818 may have literally been ‘a crap job’, but it did stimulate his interest in the history of the streets of London because he began to collect maps and views of the city from that point right up until his death in 1859. What Crace was unable to procure from collectors, he commissioned via renowned artists, in particular Thomas Hosmer Shepherd. A very large collection of maps and pictures was assembled under his care. Crace had some of Shepherd’s paintings collated and published as ‘Views of London’. But many of the scenes recorded were ordered by Crace upon a whim, or at the drop of a hat, whenever he saw anything important to record for posterity.

http://www.chrisbeetles.com/gallery/early-english-18th-early-19th-century/st-marys-aldermanbury.html

Courtesy www.chrisbeetles.com

St Mary’s Aldermanbury by T.H. Shepherd c.1850

Thanks to Crace we have a significant record of early Victorian transformation of the old Georgian landscape – because his vast collection now resides to the British Museum, having been purchased from Crace’s son in 1879. More joyously still, we now have access to hundreds of beautiful London street scenes (such as the one above) via their excellent online search engine. The true beauty of Crace’s collection is that the traditional tourist panoramas, such as St Paul’s Cathedral or the Tower of London, play a very minor role in the whole ensemble – because Crace concentrated on what was leaving the landscape, rather then what endured. We therefore have a wonderful myriad of London back-streets, shops, inns, churches and housing – perhaps too idyllically depicted – nonetheless vital to grasping an essence of life in London almost two centuries ago.

fishing-templeThe Fishing Temple at Virginia Water, by Frederick Crace c.1825

Frederick Crace, was one of a dynasty of interior designers that graced British homes and palaces between 1750 and 1899. Originally founded as a decorating company by Edward Crace (1725-99), 4 subsequent generations of Craces, in various partnerships and guises,  transformed the business into what the Victoria and Albert Museum have described as ‘the most important family of interior decorations in 19th Century Britain’.

Courtesy Smithsonian Museum

A lot has been written about the Crace family, not least Frederick who is chiefly remembered for the chinoiserie interiors of the Brighton Pavilion. Just recently London Street Views have written a very informative blog about their business base at 14 Wigmore Street. The family firm was created around 1750 by Edward Crace (1725-99) and quickly established themselves as favoured contractors to George III. Edward was not just a paint-splosher, and his services were more akin to interior design, earning him extensive commissions both at Buckingham House and Windsor. Edward’s talents were far-reaching, for in 1770 he authored an influential book upon designs for coach panels (his own father had been a coach-maker), and not long afterwards he became Keeper of the Royal Collection of Paintings, which involved both cataloguing and maintaining the King’s art collection. This was a job Edward kept right up until his death.

Royal Pavilion by Frederick Crace

The Music Room, Brighton Pavilion – Frederick Crace c.1820

Edward’s eldest son John was equally proficient and renowned for his decorating skills, though he set up in practice separately from his father due to a dispute about his choice of bride. John Crace (1754 – 1819) set up on his own in 1776 and by the end of the century was employing his very highly-rated son Frederick. Their clients included leading architects such as Henry Holland and many of the late Georgian housebuilders. John was as favoured in Royal circles as his estranged father – and he was used extensively by the Prince of Wales (later Prince Regent) – working at Carlton House and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. When in 1788 John was commissioned to source and supply a collection of Chinese art to the Royal Pavilion, he could not have known that this was to lay the groundwork for his own son’s most famous and enduring project.

brighton-pavilion

Brighton Pavilion – the Prince Regent’s playground

It is said that young Frederick first came to the attention of the Prince of Wales whilst he was at work gilding a staircase at Windsor Castle. The Prince was so enamoured with the artistry on show that he asked Frederick to decorate the Royal Pavilion in a style to match the Chinese art housed therein – hence Frederick designed and installed the exotic Chinese-inspired décor of the Music Room and later, when the Prince Regent became George IV, he decorated the King’s private apartments at Windsor Castle. Other significant projects attributable to Frederick included designing the St James’s Theatre (1835)

st-james-theatre-exterior

St James’ Theatre (1835) designed by Frederick Crace & Son

Frederick died peacefully at his home in Hammersmith on 18th September 1859. The Morning Post eulogised upon his professional talents and achievements but went on to add

Mr Crace has always taken a great interest in the history and topography of London, but for the last 30 years of his life he has devoted himself with untiring energy and industry in perfecting a very valuable and extensive collection of maps, plans, and views of every part of the metropolis from a very early period to the present time

Frederick’s collection was left to his son John, who further added to it, catalogued it and eventually put it in a free exhibition at South Kensington Museum in December 1878. The Morning Post enthused called ‘a most honourable monument’ to Frederick’s patriarchal and archaeological skills:

To historians and antiquarians it will prove of great value as describing the marvellous changes enacted by the lapse of time, not alone in the architecture of London, but also in the manners, fashions, and social usages of its inhabitants.

Within two years (around 1880) John Crace sold the entire collection to the British Museum, where it remains today every bit as important as the Morning Post described it 140 years ago. I am not sure what the Museum paid for the privilege of owning this collection, but I hope and suspect that the Crace family would have been more anxious to preserve the collection than to maximise profit by this transaction.

craces-home-by-shepherd

In my next post I will introduce Thomas Hosmer Shepherd and talk about his life, and in subsequent posts will collate some of Shepherd’s images into themed headings and try to provide more background upon each London scene. I hope you will be able to join me as I try to add historical notes to the images selected, to help breath life back into Crace’s London.

In conclusion, I am irresistibly drawn to make a comparison between Frederick Crace and the modern-day work of Mr Paul Talling, who I believe is undertaking an equally commendable and worthy task of recording derelict and forgotten London before it too disappears from our consciousness. Whereas Frederick relied upon artists such as Shepherd, Paul is able to utilise his own camera to capture equally historic scenes which are already being acknowledged as culturally vital – Its good to know that the feelings which motivated Frederick Crace remain alive today with modern historians of London life.

For further information on the Crace family, may I recommend and cite as sources of reference

  1. London Street Views – page on the Crace business premises
  2. Victoria and Albert Museum Archive of Art and Design catalogue of items relating to Frederick Crace
  3. Carlton Hobbs’ excellent images and details about the Crace family
  4. Cooper Hewitt’s list of Crace items at the Smithsonian Museum
  5. A visit to the Brighton Pavilion to see Frederick’s Crace’s masterpiece of the Music Room as well as his portrait

If you are interested in the lost history and traditions of London, you make like my series of blogs on the Epping Hunt, or the history of Royal Ascot. Or for another forgotten and under-appreciated genius why not check out William Wellesley-Pole – the man who gave us the splendid shilling – which is fast approaching its bicentenary of creation.

 

 

The Last Victims Of Waterloo? Sea Horse Tragedy 1816

The Wreck of the Sea Horse, Tramore, 1816

On January 30th 1816 Waterloo veterans met a watery grave

As a second-generation Irishman whose parents live in deepest Tipperary, it is almost obligatory that my visits to Ireland include an excursion to Tramore in County Waterford. Its lovely sandy beach, funfair and (one-time) myriad of slot machine arcades providing something for all ages, PLUS the added bonus of Dooly’s truly excellent fish and chip shop – supplies the perfect end to any day trip. They don’t serve seahorse, but you don’t have to look far to see them in this town.

Yet, amidst my nostalgia for Tramore, the presence of a shipwreck on the beach (when I was a lad) was always a stark reminder of the perils facing mariners daring to enter her waters. To this end I have long appreciated why each side of Tramore Bay has so many large beacons – one of which is be-topped by a ‘Metal Man’ which I was wrongly informed had been erected as a kind of corporate stunt. Compounding things further, I always assumed that Tramore’s cute seahorse emblem was just an obligatory tacky seaside symbol, on a par with saucy postcards, donkeys and kiss-me-quick hats.

tramore golf club

Tramore Seahorse Logo – not tack, but genuine respect

But thanks to the magnificent people of Waterford, a monument is about to be unveiled which not only makes me humbly eat my words about Tramore and its logo, but is also a very sincere and poignant memorial for a maritime disaster of the highest order, which occurred on 30th January 1816 involving the ill-fated transport ship Sea Horse.

sea horse memorial

The new Sea Horse Memorial at Tramore

Whilst walking the promenade at Tramore this weekend I came across this delightful stone-built memorial commemorating the bicentennial of the tragedy of the sinking of the Sea Horse – when 363 lives were lost as she foundered during a storm in Tramore Bay. The story of the Sea Horse is very sad, not least for the 2nd Battalion, 59th (2nd Nottinghamshire) Regiment – who were all but wiped out in the icy waters of Tramore Bay. This Battalion (formed in 1806) had been garrisoned in Ireland until 1814 when they were called up to form part of the army of occupation in Paris. After Napoleon’s escape from Elba, the 2/59th were present at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18th 1815. In this bloodiest of battles, the 2/59th were fortunately spared – having not been called into action by the Duke of Wellington.

waterlooaftermath

The 2/59th Regiment – Escaped death at Waterloo (but not for long)

In the aftermath of Napoleon’s final defeat, peace and subsequent demobilisation – the 2/59th sailed back to Dover, making the short journey to Ramsgate, for embarkation upon the Sea Horse which was commissioned to return them to barracks in Ireland. The full story of what happened to the 2/59th is recounted by the Lancashire Infantry Museum. It reveals that Sea Horse was one of a convoy of ships wrecked along the Irish coast that fateful night – raising the overall death toll in this regiment to 550 souls.Their account highlights one important event – in itself a tragedy – but which triggered the horrendous loss that ensued:

At 4pm Ballycotton Island was seen at about 12 miles distance. On board the Sea Horse, the Mate, John Sullivan, who was the only person aboard with knowledge of the approaching coast, climbed the foremast to spy out the land, but he fell, breaking his legs and arms. He died three hours later in his wife’s arms; a loss of local knowledge which was to have tragic consequences for his ship….

Local knowledge was indeed essential because the treacherous bay of Tramore could easily be mistaken for the calm waters of the Waterford Estuary – which lay just east of where the Sea Horse ultimately foundered

shipwreck4

Shipwrecks were almost daily reported in the early C19

Contemporary newspaper reportage of what was at that time (and perhaps until the sinking of the Lusitania) Ireland’s worst maritime disaster, was scant. All I could find was a report in the Morning Post (6th February 1816)

The transport Sea Horse sailed from a port in England a few days ago bound for Waterford or Cork, with a large detachment of the 59th Regiment, consisting of about 16 officers, 287 men, 33 women and 31 children… On the morning of the 30th ult the vessel was driven into Tramore Bay by a desperate gale from the south. The severity of the weather had compelled her to cut her mizen mast, before she came within the bay… she continued beating off with a view to get around Brownstown Head, and thus to reach the harbour in safety, but totally without effect. The top fore-mast fell, killed the mate, and broke the leg of one of the seamen. Two anchors were thrown out but these were dragged by the violence of the storm, and rendered totally unavailing. The vessel was then driven forward, within half a mile of the shore, in presence of hundreds of people, who could give the unhappy persons on board no aid. It was low water at the time, about one pm, which on such a beach, rendered every chance of escape almost utterly hopeless. Much of them on board then retired below, and resigned themselves to their awful and impending fate. The vessel struck upon the sands… and in a few minutes went entirely to pieces. There were 363 drowned and only 31 saved… One of the [surviving] officers clung onto something belonging to the ship… had nearly abandoned himself to his fate, when a countryman rushed into the sea, at the peril of his life, and rescued the stranger from death… It was not within the compass of human power to prevent the sad catastrophe..

shipwreck1

363 lives were lost in Tramore Bay

Captain Gibbs was one of the few survivors and later wrote a full narrative of events. He said of his fellow passengers

There was no disturbance amongst them, most were saying prayers, women were heard encouraging husbands to die with them, and a sergeant’s wife, with three children clasped in her arms, resigned herself to her fate, between decks.

Children fared worst of all, for many had been placed in trunks by their parents in futile hope they might float to safety. One large chest was later recovered containing the bodies of 4 tots – another child was found in the arms of his father who had refused to give him up to save his own skin. Corporal Malone (a survivor) found his son amongst many bodies piled upon the shore, and he removed his shirt to wrap the naked boy for burial.

Christ Church Tramore

Sea Horse Memorial in Christ Church, Tramore

For those left behind, the human cost can perhaps best be summed up via this advertisement from the Morning Post (February 10th 1816), which reveals the awful situation to which one widow was plunged. If only I had a time machine to help the family of ship’s carpenter Russell from Rotherhithe, who had only recently joined the Sea Horse crew and by his death left a wife and 6 children

t russell dead sea horse

An uncertain fate awaited the bereaved families

To conclude, I have to say that I felt a immense pride and admiration for the people of Waterford when I learned how much this awful event is woven into their cultural history, and how fitting and respectful their hard work to memorialise the victims has been. As for me, I now understand why the Sea Horse logo so aptly befits Tramore – and I’ve finally realised that the ‘corporate’ bigwigs I believed responsible for the Metal Man – were in fact Lloyds of London who erected these maritime beacons in 1823 on the orders of the Admiralty in London, as a direct consequence of the Sea Horse disaster.

metal man tramore

So, if you are ever in Ireland and fancy a day out – why not go down to Tramore and see for yourself their heartfelt recognition for the loss of 363 souls who might, in a less tolerant society, have been disdained as soldiers from an army of occupation – rather than desperately sad victims of mother nature’s wrath.

 

For Further Information

Ivan Fitzgerald’s Blogspot is absolutely the best resource for information on the Sea Horse – not least for this 1820s poem lamenting the loss of life in Tramore Bay

tramore poem

For information as to where the wreck of the Sea Horse rests visit Wreck Site, or you might like the Sea Horse Commemoration Facebook Page. James Donahue has written a great piece on why the Sea Horse tragedy still resonates today

The Sea Horse Tramore Blog is a voluntary group comprising of various local bodies in Tramore dedicated to the memory of this event, and the Waterford Chamber of Commerce considers it to have ‘left a lasting mark upon the people of Tramore’

I have strayed off usual territory a bit here, but if your interest is The Battle of Waterloo, you might like to read about Wellington and Fitzroy Somerset or the history of the Waterloo Medal. Or if you are more of a landlubber like me, some information on London stagecoaches might be in order

 

Stagecoach Travel: Information on Porters, Goods & Luggage (1819)

Rules of the Road | Wanstead | UK Destinations | Porters, Goods & Luggage

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

The coaching era is generally thought to have begun around 1660 and lasted until the late 1840s when the last passenger-carrying mail coaches and stage services were discontinued, as the age of steam travel was now upon us. Though several key routes were established from London across Britain during the reign of Charles II, the state of roads meant that coach travel was only ever undertaken if absolutely necessary. However this was all to change after the creation of various statutory bodies empowered to raise tolls for the maintenance and improvement of important stretches of road. By the reign of George III there were over 1000 of these ‘Turnpike Trusts‘ administering about 2500 miles of roadway.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Turnpike at Kings Road, in rural Chelsea c.1819

Turnpike tolls ranged from a penny per person or horse to sixpence for carts, waggons and coaches. But the mail coaches, the army, and local labourers on foot were allowed to use such roads free of charge. At first the Trusts were little more than local tax-raising fiefdoms, as very little of the money raised was invested in road improvements. However, two technological breakthroughs changed all this, leading to an era of fast and efficient stage coach travel – perhaps reaching its apogee in the 1820s. Firstly, the appointment of engineer Thomas Telford (1757-1834) signalled a policy of easing gradients on existing roads, and finding short cuts which avoided uneven terrain. Telford also implemented new systems of drainage meaning that the roads were passable more often and over a greater period of the year. Secondly the introduction of a new road material, ‘tarmacadam’, named after its inventor John Macadam (1756-1836) was vital for modernising Britain’s roadways, ushering in an era of mass stagecoach travel both for  business and pleasure. These advances meant that a stagecoach journey from London to Manchester (which would have taken 4 and a half days in 1750) could be done in 26 hours by 1821.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Expect to be fleeced at provincial coaching inns

When undertaking a long journey from London, the cost of your fare and luggage was far from the only expense to be considered. Provincial inns has a reputation pretty much like today’s motorway service stations and were only to ready to fleece passengers for all manner of additional charges as they stopped for rest and refreshment. For example it was widely established that stops should only last 20 minutes. Passengers were expected to pay for their meal in advance but rarely had time to eat it before going on their way. So coaching inns commonly re-sold ‘left-overs’ to the next coach party. If you were unfortunate enough to stay overnight, it was usual to tip the coachman and any accompanying staff, waiters, coaching inn porters, and even charges for candles in your room (which could be as much as 5 shillings extra per night!). There were even ‘local’ taxes levied for support of the poor. Hence lengthy journeys often led to hefty bills, so the best option for any departee from London was to find a regular service from an established carrier, using good roads with minimal stops.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Fully laden stagecoach at Highgate c.1835

The cost of travel was also affected by tax charged upon each and every coach using the roads. After 1776 there was a £5 Stamp Duty on all coaches, plus from 1783 half a penny per mile travelled was levied – applying whether the coach was fully loaded or not. Hence it became economic to load up coaches as much as possible to spread the cost, but also resulted in less frequent winter services due to reduced passenger numbers making it uneconomical. Over time these taxes increased by degree, reaching 2 and a half pence per mile by 1838. The Government perhaps inadvertently hastened the decline of stage coach travel by being very slow to release stage coach operators from the burden of excise duty, at a time when railways were taking away much of their trade.

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Porters – vital  cogs in the wheels of industry right back to Roman times

In Roman times carriages and chariots were prevented from driving into the forum by barriers across approaching roadways. All merchandise had to be handed over to porters, whose job it was to unload and distribute deliveries to and from the forum. The above image can be found on a wall behind the forum at Pompeii, signifying the important role carried out by porters. Fast forward to 1819 and we find that the most important job at any London coaching inn is carried out by the head porter. It was a well paid, responsible, and powerful job – The porter was the main point of contact with passengers, and organised staff at the inn and on the coaches – collecting tips and other benefits on their behalf during the loading and unloading process. Anyone staying overnight could rely on the head-porter to act as a concierge procuring goods and services or arranging entertainment for clients satisfaction. However, my guide to Stage Coaches for 1819 sets down some very important standards of behaviour expected from head-porters in the performance of their duties

wicked william's guide to stagecoach travel 1819

Beware the unscrupulous porter

A porter must ensure that parcels conveyed from coaching inns will not exceed the following rates:

  1. Anything up to a quarter of a mile – 3 pence
  2. Between 1 and up to two miles – 6 pence
  3. Two miles and above – 10 pence with an additional 3 pence for every half mile thereafter

Any person or porter demanding more than the above rates, for any parcel not exceeding 56lb*, will be compelled to forfeit 20 shillings

Any inn or warehouse keeper neglecting to send a Ticket with every parcel, containing the Name or Description of the Inn or Warehouse from whence the same is sent, with the Christian and Surname of the Porter who is to deliver the same, and Carriage and Porterage marked thereon, forfeits 40 shillings, and the Porter not leaving the Ticket with the Parcel, or, altering, or wilfully obliterating, anything written thereon, forfeits 40 shillings. and if he demands more than written on such ticket, 20 shillings

Every parcel arriving by Coach to be delivered within 6 hours after such Arrival; (if not after 4pm, or before 7am, then within 6 hrs after 7am;) or by Waggon, within 24 hours after such arrival; or Inn-keeper to forfeit 20 shillings 

Parcels directed ‘to be left till called for’ to be delivered on Payment of Carriage and 2d Warehouse-room for the first, and 1d for each week after, or forfeit 20 shillings

Every porter misbehaving, forfeits 20 shillings

These offences are cognizable before any Justice of the District.

*56lb was 4 stone in imperial weight, which is about 25 kilos. This is not a bad baggage allowance when thinking about airlines today.

waggon

If moving a load, then waggons or carts are for you

As well as the above rules of conduct for porters, it was important to be aware of charges payable for larger items being transported. My guide book sets it out thus:

  1. A ‘load’  = 25 hundredweight (1.25 tons)
  2. A ‘half load’ = 15-19 hundredweight (from 0.75 up to one ton)
  3. A ‘small load’ anything under 15cwt (0.75 tons)

Some items which might constitute a load: Two hogsheads of sugar, 50 baskets of raisins, 20 barrels of figs, 5 barrels of rice, 3 bales of aniseed, 6 barrels of almonds or 10 barrels of fish oil

hogshead of sugar

A hogshead of sugar – very popular with children

A half load tended to be scaled down quantities of full load items, such as one hogshead of sugar

A small load might be made up of: 50 jars of raisins, one butt of currents, or 3 puncheons of prunes

The orange wharf at London bridge

The Orange Wharf at London Bridge

If you direct a coach or waggon to collect goods on your behalf from any of London’s many wharves – there are a sliding scale of costs applicable. For example quays around London Bridge incur a surcharge per load of 3 shillings and four pence, but wharves around the Tower of London charge as much as 4 shillings and a penny. In all wharves goods such as wine, olive oil, rum, and brandy are liable to additional charges – which can vary by individual wharf – often dependent on how the goods are packaged and distributed from the ships or barges.

Goods collected from wharves and leaving the City of London by more than a mile radius are charged 5 shillings and two pence, rising on a sliding scale thereafter according to distance travelled to point of delivery

stagecoach 1

I hope you have enjoyed this little dip into Regency transport for London, and that reproduction of any part of this blog will be fully acknowledged or credited. Any comment or feedback is always welcome.

For the modern-day equivalent of Regency stage coach service why not consider a London & UK Taxi Tour – or for a broader brush look at all things Georgian try Rachel Knowles’ Regency History website. To learn about Britain’s very first celebrity couple – who caused a Regency scandal extraordinaire visit author Geraldine Roberts

For more about horsemanship in Georgian Britain why not check out the Epping Hunt – or follow Wicked William off to war