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 – 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?
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