Category Archives: London Characters

Sir Polydore de Keyser – Hotelier And Lord Mayor

There are names that keep coming up whilst exploring London’s history, and this week’s post is about one of those names, Sir Polydore de Keyser.

I first came across him whilst writing about the area directly to the north of Blackfriars Bridge. Then a few months ago, my blog started to get a number of redirects from the Guardian website from an article about the Supreme Court judgement on Brexit – a judgement in which de Keyser’s hotel was referred to several times. I also recently found Polydore de Keyser again during a walk through Smithfield.

I was taking photos of the market buildings as the area will undergo considerable change in the years to come, when I saw a plaque I had not noticed before on the corner of a building at the junction of West Smithfield and Snow Hill (the corner of the building facing the camera on the right of the following photo, the plaque is just below the round window)

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The plaque records that the market was opened by Sir Polydore de Keyser on the 7th November 1888:

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So who was Polydore de Keyser? There does not seem to be much written about him, so I thought a read through some old newspaper archives might shed some light on this interesting character with the foreign sounding name, and from the above plaque was Lord Mayor in 1888.

I found the fascinating story of an immigrant from the Continent who reached the highest of offices in the City of London, but who also faced continual criticism because of his origins.

Polydore de Keyser was born in 1832 in the Belgium town of Termonde (the French name or Dendermonde in Flemish) in the north west of Belgium between Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent.

He moved to London in 1842 with his father, Constantin de Keyser and mother, Catharina Rosalia Troch. His father had been a teacher in Belgium, but on arrival in London he purchased a hotel which he renamed de Keyser’s Royal Hotel. A strange career change and I have been unable to find any references as to why the de keyser’s moved to London and took up the hotel business.

One of the first references to Polydor de Keyser are in newspaper adverts across the country from 1856. He was an importer of the German drink “Maitrank” and his advert in the Newcastle Journal on the 19th July 1856 reads:

“THE LIQUID HEAVEN of the Germans – Who that has tasted the delicious ‘Maitrank’ or May drink of Germany, can ever forget it. Poetic in name, and inspiring in its essence, it is the wine of wines. the exquisite flavour of that lovely mountain flower – the Waldschloschen appears to be heightened by its being wedded to the juice of the grape, and may well the refined connoisseur hang upon the memory of its tempting fragrance. The worshippers of this nectar have become almost frantic with delight by the announcement that a Herr Polydore de Keyser has succeeded at length in imparting to it the additional charm of effervescence, a right sparkling attribute, which it alone required to bring it to perfection”.

Orders were requested to be sent without delay to either Polydore de Keyser of 24 Cannon Street, London, or to his agents across the country. Maitrank could be purchased for 72 shillings per dozen.

Also in 1856, Constantin left the running of the hotel to his son Polydor.

He does not seem to have been involved in any activities that justified a newspaper article for a number of years, he was running his hotel and probably getting involved in societies and good causes in his local area and that justified an interest due to his background.

In 1866, at a meeting in St. Ann, Blackfriars, Polydore de Keyser subscribed £2, 2s to a testimonial to acknowledge the service of Mr. R.E. Warwick who had “for many years past has endeavored to obtain a better distribution of the charges for the relief of the poor in Unions”. At the meeting, other subscribers included the Mayor and Alderman so de Keyser was moving amongst those who managed the running of the City.

A year later, de Keyser was perhaps using his European contacts as he was acting as a steward for an anniversary celebration for the German Hospital in Dalston, held in the London Tavern on Bishopsgate Street.

Polydore de Keyser already had a hotel in Blackfriars, the hotel that his father became the proprietor of when he arrived in London. This was the Royal Hotel, in Chatham Place, New Bridge Street, Blackfriars.

Chatham Place was the space at the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge, between the bridge and New Bridge Street. The following map shows the location in 1832:

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I cannot find the exact location of his original hotel, however I suspect it was part of the block on the left of Chatham Place as this is where his new hotel would be built.

Newspaper reports help provide an idea of the way local commissioners and wards worked, and how complaints could be resolved. In the London City Press on the 26th March 1870 there is a report that he was summoned before the Commissioners of Sewers.

He had been summoned to explain why he had not carried out a number of works to his hotel to make it safe. There was a crack in the hotel but it had been filled in years before and had not changed since. The charge was thrown out on the grounds that Alderman Stone found the building was not dangerous and that the complaint by a Mr Power was malicious as de Keyser had apparently made an earlier complaint against him to the Commissioners of Sewers.

By 1872, de Keyser was ready to make his mark on Blackfriars and an article in the Morning Post of the 6th May 1872 announced the plans for his new hotel:

“IMPROVEMENTS AT BLACKFRIARS – In the background of the Victoria Embankment there are many ugly spots, which can only be beautified by the enterprise of private individuals, the Metropolitan Board of Works having no authority over the unsightly  looking places alluded to. One of the chief eyesores is the ungainly group of gasometers at Blackfriars Bridge, and it would certainly be a pity if such monsters should remain in their current position. It is gratifying to know that they will cumber the ground where they are reared but a short time longer, as a very enterprising and highly respected Belgian, Mr. Polydore de Keyser, of the Royal Hotel at Blackfriars, now a citizen of London, has matured a vast plan by which a hostelry such as can only be paralleled by that called ‘grand’ at Paris will be shortly added to the few handsome buildings to be seen along the river front. This hotel, when completed, will extend from the corner of William Street, along a curved frontage of 380 feet, on to the entrance of the ground at the back of the embankment, sweeping away the gasholders now there. 

The hotel, the design for which is in the modern French style, will have an entrance from the embankment into a spacious courtyard, into which carriages can drive, whilst the ground floor and basement will contain a series of elegant shops. The hotel is to be fitted up on the Continental system, with a spacious and handsome dining room as well as another room facing the embankment. Mr Gruning is the architect, and Messrs. Trollope and Sons the builders. it is anticipated that it will be completed and opened within a period of 21 months. On Saturday the foundation-stone was laid, in the presence of a large company of ladies and gentlemen by Miss Wich, daughter of the Belgian Consul, and at the dinner which followed, Sir Benjamin Phillips who was in the chair, wished every prosperity to Mr. de Keyser, a sentiment in which his numerous friends most cordially joined.”

The hotel opened in 1874 and the following print shows the hotel in that year.

de Keyser

An interesting feature appears to be a tunnel from the edge of the river allowing deliveries to be made by river, then transported into the hotel underneath the road. If you click on the photo to enlarge, you will see there is a man rolling a barrel into the tunnel.

This later photo from the southern end of the bridge also shows the hotel curving round from the Embankment.

de Keyser

The Morning Post on the 7th September 1874 carried the following report of the opening of the hotel:

“THE NEW ROYAL HOTEL – The latest addition to the palatial hotels with which London is now adorned is to be found in the new Royal Hotel, at the City end of the Victoria Embankment, which is to take the place of the Royal Hotel in Bridge Street, so long kept by Mr. Polydore de Keyser, representative in the Common Council of the Ward of Farringdon Without. This hotel, now completed, was open to the friends of Mr and Mrs de Keyser on Saturday, and after a pretty thorough inspection of this magnificent building, it may be safely said that in many respects it is altogether unequaled in London or in any of the great Continental cities, not excepting the famous caravanserai in Geneva, Interlaken, and other places to which tourists resort in such numbers. As Mr de Keyser has had ample experience in providing for his numerous foreign and English visitors, and as the internal arrangements have been carried out after his own designs, it may be safely said that nothing is wanting to make a stay in the new hotel agreeable. The view from the front windows over Blackfriars Bridge and the Embankment and over the busy Thames extending to London Bridge on the one hand and Westminster on the other, is most remarkable, and will give anyone a just idea of the immense traffic constantly going on in the metropolis.

The restaurant is capable of seating 400 visitors, and on the five floors there is a vast number of rooms either for bed chambers or sitting rooms. Those on the lower floors, which may be presumed to be state apartments, are fitted with exquisite taste and with every comfort; while in the upper apartments are equally calculated to make a stay in every way agreeable. All the adjuncts of a first class hotel, such as billiard, smoking, reading and drawing rooms for ladies, are provided, and the lifts and arrangements for ventilation are on the most approved principles. On Saturday Mr. and Mrs De Keyser welcomed at a dinner and subsequent concert some 400 of their friends, who heartily wished them success in their great undertaking. The new building, large as it is, is but half of that which is intended, the other portion being destined to occupy, with some slight deviations, the site of the buildings in which business has hitherto been carried on.”

The following pages from an 1891 brochure for De Keyser’s Royal Hotel provide an idea of what would await a guest during their stay at the hotel. (From New York Public Library Digital Collections – free to use without restrictions)

de Keyserde Keyser

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De Keyser seems to have been involved in numerous other activities as well as running his hotel. In 1875 he was elected to the Committee of the Hotel Keepers’ Association and in 1876 he was on the London Executive Committee for the organisation of the British exhibits at the Brussels Exhibition. It was at this exhibition that he would meet the Prince of Wales who declared himself “well pleased with the British section in all respects”.

I get the impression that de Keyser was a master of the art of networking.

In 1877, de Keyser was elected as a Common Councilman of the Ward of Farringdon Without and in 1882 he was elected as an Alderman of the same ward, although this was not an appointment to which everyone agreed. There were two protests against de Keysers appointment, one by Mr. ex- Sheriff Waterlow who was the unsuccessful candidate and one by Mr. john Hill and other electors of the ward, on the grounds that de Keyser was an alien born, and that he was the holder of an innkeepers licence.

To address these protests, a special meeting of the Court of Aldermen was held at the Guildhall on Tuesday 20th June 1882. He had won the election by over 300 votes so he had won the election fairly and clearly. The final decision was delayed until the first week of July when the protests that he could not be an Alderman as being alien born and holding an innkeepers licence were overruled and de Keyser took his seat as an Alderman of the Ward of Farringdon Without.

An example of the activities that de Keyser took part in through his role as an Alderman is a report of a meeting of the inhabitants of the Precinct of St. Brides, held in St. Bride’s Church on Thursday May 22nd 1884 when de Keyser was in the chair. The meeting was held to discuss the impact of the London Government Bill, part of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1882 that was continuing the consolidation of powers from the various Vestries and Wards that had been the traditional holders of local power across London.

The meeting resolved that “In the opinion of this meeting the Municipal Bill for London, if it becomes law, would be prejudicial to the interests of local self-government, and would create a vast system of centralization involving increase of rates, with no compensatory increase of efficiency.”

Despite the meeting’s resolution it was powerless to prevent the gradual centralization of powers across London.

In 1887 de Keyser reached the pinnacle of City of London governance when he was elected Lord Mayor, however the election was somewhat contentious and newspaper reports highlight the fact that he was an “alien” he was “born in Belgium” and that he was “the first Roman Catholic who has been elected to the civic chair since the Reformation”.

One newspaper report stated that “The gentleman who took his seat on Tuesday in the civic chair of the City of London has before him a somewhat difficult task. The difficulty arises from the fact, principally, that Mr. Polydore de Keyser is a foreign born subject of her Majesty. The spirit of freedom and tolerance, of which Englishmen are prone to boast upon every available occasion, has made it possible that a naturalized alien should occupy the high position of Chief Magistrate of the greatest city in the world. Unfortunately, however, there is just now rife a feeling of resentment against anything foreign among the masses, which Mr. Polydore de Keyser will, we hope, do nothing to aggravate. he has hitherto demeaned himself under inquisitiveness of a peculiarly active kind so wisely and so well that we may safely give him credit for sufficient tacticianly discretion to sail the civic ship safely and unimpaired through the troubled waters into which, we fear, she is destined to pass before the expiry of his term of office at the helm.”

A rather amazing article which seems to be saying that although we are tolerant, just keep quiet and see out your term as quickly as possible.

As a Catholic immigrant from Belgium, Polydire de Keyser who started selling Maitrank through newspapers was now the owner of the Royal Hotel, Blackfriars and the Lord Mayor of the City of London – quite an achievement.

The following portrait of de Keyser (© National Portrait Gallery, London) shows him in November 1887 at the start of his year as Lord Mayor.

de Keyser

And a photo of him during his term as Lord Mayor:

de Keyser

During his term of office, de Keyser took part in all the activities expected of a Mayor. There were preparations for an exhibition in Paris, he attended fund raising events (for example a “Smoking Concert” in aid of Police Charities), there was plenty of entertaining at the Mansion House, concerts at the Guildhall School of Music, fairs and bazaars to be opened.

In May, probably due to his heritage, there was a reception and dance at the Mansion House for the “burgomasters and aldermen from Belgium” at which there were “over 500 ladies and gentlemen present to meet the representatives of Belgian municipalities, and the guests on arriving were received in the saloon by the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress” – one of the very few references to de Keysers wife, Louise Piéron who he had married in 1862.

During his term of office, there were continuing critical, often abusive, articles written about de Keyser, for example:

“The worthy Polydore de Keyser must be either an exceptionally guileless or an abnormally conceited person. Last week he inspected the boys of the training ship Warspite, and, of course, favoured them with the usual florid oration. In the course of his speech he announced that the Lady Mayoress had great pleasure in giving each boy a Jubilee shilling, which he hoped they would keep throughout their future lives as a souvenir of the present occasion!’ The notion of a British tar treasuring up Herr de Keyser’s shilling for years, and studiously refraining from spending it on grog is really sublime.”

In August, de Keyser returned to the town of his birth, Termonde in Belgium where the “streets and houses were gaily decorated with the mingled colours of Belgium and England, and the arms of the City of London”.

The following painting (By Jan Verhas (kunstschilder) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons) shows the celebrations put on by Termonde for de Keyser’s return:

de Keyser

In September, there was the prospect of a new Lord Mayor with thoughts turning to who would follow de Keyser. Newspaper reports continued to focus on de Keyser’s foreign birth as in the following from the London Letter section of the South Wales Daily News:

“Next Saturday the Livery of the City of London will meet to elect a successor to Alderman Polydore de Keyser as Lord Mayor. After this strange foreign name it will be a relief to get a thoroughly English patronymic as Whitehead. There is little doubt but that Mr Whitehead, who is the senior Alderman not having passed the chair, will be selected.”

The “Jack the Ripper” murders took place during de Keyser’s time as Lord Mayor. Although Whitechapel was outside of his jurisdiction, on the 2nd October 1888 it was reported that “the Lord Mayor, Mr Polydore de Keyser, after consulting Sir James Fraser, Chief Commissioner of the Police of the City of London, announced that a reward of £500 would be given by the Corporation for the detection of the miscreant.”

At the end of his term as Lord Mayor, de keyser became Sir Polydore de Keyser and performed his last public duty as Lord Mayor, the opening of the new Fish Market which is where I found the plaque featured at the start of this post. The London Evening Standard report of the official opening published on the 8th November 1888 reads:

“THE NEW FISH MARKET – The Lord Mayor (Sir Polydore de Keyser) yesterday opened the new Fish Market in Farringdon Street which has been specially erected for the trade by the Corporation of the City of London. The building, which was designed by the late Sir Horace Jones, has been constructed by Mr. Mark Gentry, at a cost of about £26,000. It is situated at the southern roadway leading from Farringdon Road to Long Lane and fronting Snow Hill. The market, which covers an area of 14,000 square feet, has been erected over the joint lines of the Metropolitan and London, Chatham and Dover Railways.

The Lord Mayor, who went in semi-state, accompanied by the Sheriffs (Mr. Alderman Gray and Mr Newton) was received at the principal entrance of the building by the Chairman (Mr. James Perkins) members of the market committee and the Town Clerk.

A silver gilt key was handed by Mr. Perkins to the Lord Mayor, with which he unlocked the huge iron gates amidst the cheers of those assembled outside.

His Lordship having been conducted by the Town Clerk and the members of the Market Committee to a dais, covered with scarlet cloth, at the southern end of the building.

Mr. Perkins, Chairman of the Markets Committee, briefly explained the circumstances which had induced the Corporation to construct the present market. The old fish market on the other side of the roadway, which was originally intended for the sale of fruit and vegetables, had proved a loss to the Corporation of about £10,000 a year. Hence the erection of the present market, Billingsgate having proved insufficient for the supply of fish for the Metropolis. Nearly every shop in the new market was let, and the old market would be used in future for fruit and vegetable. the Corporation hoped that it would be successful, and prove advantageous to the salesman.

The Lord mayor, who was heartily cheered, in declaring the market open, said he was exceedingly pleased to think that his last public duty in his official capacity was to open a market which, he hoped, would result in great benefit to the community, to the Corporation, and to the ward of which he was Alderman (cheers). the Corporation had for years past shown the great interest it took in these matters, and how thoroughly alive it was to the great responsibility of making all our markets as complete and as commodious as possible (cheers). In addition to supplying the wants of London and the suburbs, which now numbered nearly 6,000,000 inhabitants, our markets supplied the wants of the people all over the country. Having complimented the architect and builder upon the magnificent market which they had succeeded in producing, his Lordship formally declared the market open,

Cheers having been given for the success of the market, the proceedings terminated.”

de Keyser ended his term as Lord Mayor at the end of the same week as opening the new market. Even then, newspapers continued to provide a negative portrait of de Keyser as a foreigner, for example, in reporting on the banquet for the new mayor, the Pall Mall Gazette on the 10th November 1888 reported:

“The faces of the distinguished guests afford a remarkable study in physiognomy. The new Lord Mayor has a handsome, clear-cut head and an expansive brow, offering a marked contrast to the florid and jolly hotel-keeping countenance of the late Belgian de Keyser. It was very amusing to hear the toastmaster pray for silence of the late Lord Mayor, as if poor Sir Polydore de keyser were dead and about to rise – say, from the Guildhall vaults.”

On the 4th December 1888, de Keyser was at Windsor Castle to receive his knighthood from Queen Victoria.

After ending his term as Lord Mayor, de Keyser continued organising British participation in overseas exhibitions. In 1889 he was the Executive President of the British Section at the Paris Exhibition.

He also continued his role as Alderman of the Ward of Farringdon Without and in October 1891 was presiding over a meeting of the inhabitants of the ward who were objecting to the letting of any portion of land on the Thames Embankment to the Salvation Army as it would be detrimental to the interests of the City including the concern that “there was no doubt that the processions &c, with drums, trumpets and cymbals, would lead to danger”.

In 1892 de Keyser resigned from the post of Alderman on the account of “bodily infirmity” – among other issues, he was going deaf.

In July 1893 a bust of Sir Polydore de Keyser was unveiled at the Mansion House. It was presented as a token of respect to de Keyser who had played an important part in the affairs of the City and the Ward of Farringdon Without.

de Keyser

Sir Polydore de Keyser died on Friday 14th January 1898 after a “long battle with cancer”. His funeral was on the 19th January and on the 20th the London Evening Standard reported on the funeral:

“The remains of Sir Polydore de Keyser, formerly Lord Mayor of London, who died on Friday last, were interred yesterday in the family vault in Nunhead Cemetery. There was a large attendance of mourners, headed by Mr. Polydore W. de Keyser, his adopted son and nephew, and Messrs. C.M. and A. Fevez, other nephews. Among those present were Alderman Sir Joseph Savory M.P. who served as Sheriff with Sir Polydore in 1883; Mr Alderman Treloar, who succeeded him in the Court of Alderman; Mr. W.J. Soulsby, representing the Lord Mayor; Mr. Marshall Pontifex, Ward Clerk of Farringdon; the Rev. Henry Blunt, rector of St. Andrew’s Holborn, who was Sir Polydore’s Chaplain when Lord Mayor; Colonel Sewell, representing the Spectacle makers’ Company; Mr. H. deGrelle Rogier, the Belgian Consul; Mr. Wilhelm Ganz, Mr. E.A. Gruning, Mr. Walter Wood, Mr. C. Val Hunter and deputations from the Belgian and other Societies with which Sir Polydore was associated. The Service at the grave was read by the Rev. John Stevens, rector of the Roman Catholic Church of Our Immaculate Lady of Victories, in Clapham Park Road. Lady de Keyser who died in 1895, is buried in the same vault.”

de Keyser did not have any children of his own, but appears to have had a large extended family, including a number of nephews, one of which he appears to have adopted in some way. In the year before his death, his ownership of the hotel was transferred into a separate company, the Company of de Keysers Royal Hotel Limited. I assume he did this to make the distribution of his assets after his death easier as shares in the company were set aside to provide annuities to various members of his family. His adopted nephew Polydore Weichand de Keyser also inherited an annuity and the residue of his estate.

Sir Polydore de Keyser then fades into history. His nephew however continues to play a part both in the governance of the City and in London’s hotel business.

An article in The Sphere on the 9th May 1908 reports on the opening of a new hotel – The Piccadilly Hotel – of which the nephew Polydore de Keyser (he appears to have dropped the name Weichand) was the joint manager. He was described:

“as a man of great energy and ability. He is the nephew and adopted son of Sir Polydore de Keyser, who was Lord Mayor of London twenty years ago. Educated at Westminster School and on the Continent, de Keyser has devoted many years to the practical study of modern hotel-keeping. The great success of de Keyser’s hotel affords conclusive proof of his administrative ability. he is deputy lieutenant of the City of London and a member of several City companies.”

So as well as the hotel business, he was also following in his uncle’s footsteps in the City of London.

de Keysers Royal Hotel continued in operation until the First World War when it was requisitioned to house officers. I suspect that after the war it had lost much of its pre-war grandeur and the world was a very different place approaching the 1920s than it had been when the hotel was built in 1874. In 1921 it was leased to Lever Brothers who eventually purchased the building in 1930 in order to demolish it, and build their new office, which is still on the site today, and occupied by Unilever (formed by the merger of Lever Brothers and Margarine Unie in 1929).

Margerine Unie originated in the Netherlands in the 1890s when Jurgens Van den Bergh opened the first factory to produce margarine.  Given de Keyser’s continental European origins it is somewhat fitting that a part Dutch business occupies the same site as his hotel.

One final question – why did de Keyser feature so prominently in the Supreme Court judgement on Brexit? The Guardian article explains this better than I can, however in summary it appears that the de Keyser hotel company applied for compensation after the hotel at Blackfriars was requisitioned during the First World War. Government did not approve any compensation although Parliament had already set out terms for wartime compensation so it was whether the Government has the right to ignore a decision already made by Parliament, and de Keyser’s judgement of 1920 was one of the landmark cases as the de Keyser Hotel Company successfully sued for compensation.

Unilever House is now on the site of de Keysers Royal Hotel at the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge. This is Unilever House under construction:

de Keyser

And this is Unilever House today. The curved facade follows the same curve as de Keyser’s Royal Hotel.

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That is Polydore de Keyser, a fascinating Londoner. An immigrant from Belgium who became Lord Mayor of London and a leading London hotelier. As far as I have been able to check, there have not been any other Lord Mayor’s who came to London as an immigrant since de Keyser.

Newspapers only provide a glimpse of his life, but I suspect he must have been highly ambitious and driven to achieve what he did. I hope the plaque at Smithfield survives to keep his name associated with the market he opened in 1888.

alondoninheritance.com

 

Gray’s Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen And A London Kidnapping

The subject of this week’s post is another post war photo taken by my father showing a bombed building with only the lower part of the front facade remaining.

The one distinguishing feature is the plaque on the remaining wall. The location is Gray’s Inn Place, a small gated area within Gray’s Inn. The gate separates Gray’s Inn Place from Warwick Court which leads down to High Holborn.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

The same location today:

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

The building on which the plaque is now mounted is the City Law School. The building to the right is the same in both photos and appears to have been faithfully restored with the majority of the external features remaining the same.

The wall and railings in both photos also appear the same, confirming that the physical separation of Gray’s Inn from the local area has been in place for many years.

The plaque is to Sun Yat-sen and given that it appears to be undamaged in the post war photo, I have no reason to doubt that it is the same plaque in place today.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

Sun Yat-sen is recognised as the father of the Chinese Republic and is honoured in both China and Taiwan. I am not going to attempt to explain his role in the complex Chinese politics of the time. I have read a number of histories and chronologies of his life on the Internet and it would take a much better understanding than I have of Chinese history at the end of the 19th Century and start of the 20th to try and explain his role. The key fact is that he was the first President of the Chinese Republic and worked to bring about a modern approach in a country that had been under Imperial rule for many centuries. In this post I will focus on his brief time in London and the affair that made headlines in the country’s newspapers in 1896.

Sun Yat-sen originally studied medicine at a college in China run by a Dr James Cantlie and qualified in 1892. Sun was also involved in a number of political activities including a coup attempt in 1895 which went wrong and resulted in Sun having to escape from China and a long period in exile.

In 1896 he arrived in London where he again met Dr James Cantlie who had returned to London in 1895 and it was Cantlie who arranged the lodging in Gray’s Inn Place for Sun.

The impact of Chinese politics extended to London. Sun would walk regularly to study in the British Museum and also to visit Cantlie and whilst on one of these walks on Sunday October 11th 1896, close to the Chinese Legation in Portland Place, he was tricked by some Chinese men into entering a building which was part of the Legation.

Cantlie received word of Sun’s imprisonment at the Legation and started to campaign for his release trying both the Home and Foreign Office and the newspapers, initially with The Times (who did not appear interested and would not publish the story) to The Globe who did publish with such graphic headlines that it resulted in the Government taking action, and Sun being released on Friday 23rd October 1896.

The Globe article on the 23rd October was titled “The Kidnapping Case” and read:

“We have received information this afternoon of the fact that depositions reached the Home Office yesterday to the effect that Sun Yat Sen was detained at the Chinese legation, and these were immediately communicated to the Foreign Office. Lord Salisbury has, in consequence, addressed a request to the Chinese Minister for the immediate release of the prisoner”.

The Globe article also included Dr. Cantlie’s statement which makes for a fascinating read of what was happening on the streets of London in 1896:

“A representative of “The Globe” called to-day at the house of Dr. James Cantlie, Dean of the College of Medicine for Chinese who is the friend of Sun Yat Sen, referred to in the accounts of the kidnapping case which has been published. Dr. Cantlie had drawn up a full statement of the affair which the following is the substance:

Sun Yat Sen says the Doctor is a Chinese friend of mine, and has been detained in the Legation since last Sunday week. I knew Sun in Hong Kong intimately. He studied medicine at the College there, at which I was a lecturer, from the year 1887 until he qualified. He was a brilliant student and started to practice in Macao, a settlement some 13 miles from Hong Kong. He was, owing to the success which attended his practice there, induced by his friends to go to Canton. I then lost sight of him for some months, but fortunately he called upon me in Hong Kong, and said he had got into some trouble with the Chinese government. I recommended him to consult a lawyer. I saw a lawyer the next day, but he would not tell me where Sun was, in case the news should get about. I next saw Sun in Honolulu, on my way home in March of this year.

I found he was going England, and I urged him most strongly to prosecute his medical studies in England, and advised him to come to London in October, when the medical classes opened.

This he did for he called upon me in London on the 1st October. He spent the day with me at my house. I then found lodgings for him for a few days. He came backwards and forwards to my house, but suddenly his visits ceased, and I learned from his landlady that he had not been seen at his lodgings for a few days.

On Saturday evening, October 17th at 10:30 I received information from a source there was no gainsaying that Sun was a prisoner at the Chinese Legation, and that in a few days he was to be sent out to China, where he would certainly lose his head. I immediately went to Sir Halliday Macartney’s house at 3, Harley-place, but the house was shut up, and the constable on duty in the road told me they had gone away for six months. I then went and reported the matter to the Marylebone Police station. Not receiving any offer of immediate help, I then went to Scotland Yard and laid the matter before the authorities.

On Sunday, October 18th, I again called at 3 Harley Place in the hope of finding a caretaker from whom I might get Sir Halliday’s address. Not gaining admission, I went to seek the advice of Dr. Manson, as he knew Sun while his pupil, and who had seen him at his house in London a few days previously. Whilst I was there we received confirmation of the previous night’s report from another source. This was communicated in, if possible a still more definite way and we were able to get at the truth.

A note from Sun placed the matter beyond all doubt, especially as his handwriting is familiar to us. Dr. Manson took the case up, and we went to Scotland Yard to report further particulars. Afterwards we called at the Foreign Office and reported the matter there. Dr. Manson then called at the Chinese Legation and asked for Sun. He was told there was no such person there, and he then told the Chinese that we knew Sun to be there, and the fact of his detention had been communicated to the Foreign Office and the police,

We then had the further satisfaction of knowing that should the Chinese ascertain that something had leaked out, Sun light be saved. I posted a private detective to watch the Legation, in case an attempt should be made to smuggle him away in the night. Our information was that he would be smuggled away and that in all probability the attempt would be made on Tuesday, the 20th.

The time at our disposal was so short that we did not know how best to obtain protection. On Sunday night, October 18th, I called at the office of the Times and reported the matter there, asking if they thought it better to delay publication of the news until it was seen how things would turn out. On Monday 19th, I had again a private detective employed in watching the house. I kept him there until Tuesday, when I removed him, as I learned that a Scotland Yard official had taken up the duty of watching the premises.

Since then I have had surreptitious communications from Sun. and have been able to convey a message to him, stating that Dr. Manson and my self were doing everything possible to secure justice. He had taken his food better since and has also slept better. He was afraid to eat previously, being in the greatest dread of Poison. At one time he threatened to commit suicide, but our communications allayed his fears. His guards have been doubled since the Chinese got to know the circumstances, and his window has been secured, as it was found that he was writing notes and throwing them out the window. The endeavor to obtain his release, I believe proceeded satisfactorily, and unless deferred hope causes him to give way to extreme measures, all may yet be well.

Sun thus briefly describes the procedure of his capture. Whilst passing the Chinese Legation on his way to my house, on October 11th, he was accosted by two China men, who quietly go on either side of him, and, as they were opposite the Legation, hustled him in and locked the door. He was then pushed into a room by an English gentlemen, who locked his door, and stationed a guard over it. The report given out by the Chinese Legation that Sun is a lunatic is ridiculous, but it was on that pretence that his passage was engaged on board a vessel that was to take him to China.

The latest report from the Legation is that the Emperor of China does not want Sun now,

At one time in this singular affair it was put in our power to effect a rescue. we were sorely tempted to do this on being constantly met at the legation with the direct lie that Sun was not there. Considering however, the slur cast upon the laws of this country by the Chinese, we thought, and were advised, that it would be more in keeping with the dignity of British law that justice should be more effected through the ordinary channels.

When the matter is concluded and Sun is set at liberty, I will ask the public to reward my informants, who have, no doubt, been the direct means of saving a man’s life. they made the communication at great personal risk and sacrifice.

(Signed) James Cantlie. M.B., F.R.C.S”

After his release from the Chinese Legation and the threat of certain execution had he been smuggled out to China, Sun continues to spend many years in exile, travelling the world to gather support for his cause, before finally events in China allowed him to return on January 1st, 1912.

On May 5th 1921 he was sworn in as President of the Republic of China, something that would not have been possible if not for the efforts of Dr. James Cantlie in London in 1896.

Returning to Gray’s Inn Place, I cannot find a date for when the plaque was made and installed, but it must have been pre-war. It was made by the Estonian sculptor Dora Gordine who moved to London in the early 1930s, so I suspect the plaque was made between then and 1939.

Dora Gordine married Richard Hare and set up a studio home at Dorich House in 1936, which Dora had designed, near Richmond park. The house is now the Dorich House Museum.

The following photo shows the house at the end of Warwick Court, next to the building on which the plaque is mounted. Compare this with the post war photo and as well as the main features of the building, there are a couple of other survivors.

On the first floor, to the left of the central window is a Hydrant sign which was in the pre-war photo, where there was also a plaque on the extreme left of the building at the same level. Whilst the plaque is not there, the outline of the plaque remains. I wonder if this was the Gray’s Inn boundary marker (dated 1697) now on the second floor the house.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

The best place to see the plaque is in Gray’s Inn. If you walk up Warwick Court and entrance is closed, you can still see the plaque on the wall to the right. Even here, the conversion of so many London buildings to luxury apartments continues.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

The following photo shows the entrance to Gray’s Inn Place today.

Gray's Inn Place, Sun Yat-sen

A fascinating story of a London kidnapping, a story that I did not know about until I found the location of my father’s photo of a bombed building and a single plaque that had survived the considerable damage inflicted on Gray’s Inn.

There is a chronology of the life of Sun Yat-sen on the web site of the Dr. Sun yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei.

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A Visit To Hogarth’s House In Chiswick

Hogarth’s House in Chiswick has long been on my list of places to visit and a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity. The drawings of William Hogarth have featured in a number of my posts. His observations provide a remarkable insight into 18th Century London society so I was very pleased to have the time for a trip out to Chiswick.

Hogarth’s House is next to the busy six lane road that leads from the Hogarth Roundabout to the M4, one of the main entry and exit routes into London from the west. On the day of my visit it was strangely quiet. An overnight accident next to the roundabout had resulted in a fuel spill on the road which was consequently closed for resurfacing. Very long queues of traffic led from the roundabout back into London, but adjacent to Hogarth’s House all was quiet.

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The house can easily be missed, but once seen it is clear that here is a building worth visiting. Viewed from the road in the photo below, the house is on the left, with a high garden wall running to the right. As with so much of London, the house is surrounded by construction activities with new apartment buildings rising in the background.

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The area of ground on which the house is built was originally part of a larger orchard. James Downes, a baker, inherited the land in 1713 and built the house in one corner of the orchard.

The house was purchased by Hogarth in 1749 from the widow of Georg Andreas Ruperti who had purchased the house new in 1717. Ruperti was the Pastor at the German Lutheran Church at the Savoy and was obviously a wealthy man as on his death in 1732 there was a sale of many of his possessions including 1,090 lots of books.

The following extract is from John Rocque’s map of 1746, three years before Hogarth purchased the house. The map shows the house to the northwest of the village of Chiswick, the last in the lane approaching Chiswick Common Field. I have circled the house in red. As can be seen, apart from building along the river, much of this area was still very rural.

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The following print (©Trustees of the British Museum) titled “Published as the Act directs by Jane Hogarth at the Golden-head Leicester Fields 1st May 1781” shows the view across the Chiswick Common Fields to Hogarth’s House which can be seen to the left of centre with the garden wall running to the right. This is the rural scene that Hogarth would have known. Today, the Hogarth Roundabout is on the far left and the six lane A4 runs from left to right across the scene, immediately in front of Hogarth’s House and the garden wall.

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Hogarth had been living in central London and his choice of a house in Chiswick may have been due to the heat wave in the summer of 1749 prompting a move to an area that was at the time mainly countryside, as well as Chiswick being the home to several of Hogarth’s friends.

The house, when purchased by Hogarth was a three storey brick-built building with wood paneled walls. Hogarth extended the house in 1750 by adding an additional room to each floor and a building in the garden included a first floor room which Hogarth used for painting.

The extension to the house can clearly be seen by the difference in mortar and brickwork. Hogarth also added the large oriel window in the centre of the house.

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Hogarth lived in the house for 15 years until his death in 1764. His wife Jane continued to live in the house until her death in 1789 when the house was inherited by Jane’s cousin Mary Lewis who had supported Jane by running the business to continue the sale of Hogarth’s prints. As well as the house, Mary also inherited the printing plates.

After Mary’s death in 1808, the house passed to Richard Lovejoy who may well have been Hogarth’s doctor. Lovejoy only had the house for 4 years until his death in 1812.

The house then went through a succession of owners during the 19th Century. The area around the house and the rest of Chiswick was changing fast. The construction of houses and the growth of industry including the nearby Griffen Brewery of Fuller, Smith and Turners (1828) was sweeping away the fields that Hogarth would have known.

The house was at risk of destruction in 1901 when plans were proposed for the building of new homes on the land occupied by Hogarth’s House. A committee was formed to try to raise funds to buy the house, however not enough was raised and after an appeal by The Chiswick Times, a Lieutenant Colonel William Shipway who also lived in Chiswick, purchased the house for £1,500. Shipway also paid for the restoration of the house, which was then opened to visitors in 1904.

William Shipway had to take legal action to preserve the house. From the London Daily News of the 26th March 1902:

“Colonel Shipway applied to Mr. Justice Buckley in the Chancery Division yesterday for an injunction to restrain Mr. Percy from excavating some land at Chiswick in such a way as to endanger the stability of Hogarth House. The defendant is a builder, and he had acquired some land at the rear of Hogarth House, and Colonel Shipway contended that he was working the valuable building sand which was beneath the surface in a manner which was likely to let Hogarth House down, and cause great damage. This the defendant denied. Mr. Justice Buckley, after hearing evidence said that there had been movement observed in the house by reason of the removal of saturated sand, and though the damage was slight it was sufficient to entitle the plaintiff to an injunction, which he accordingly granted, with costs.”

In 1909 Shipway made a gift of the house to Middlesex County Council with custodians living in the house rent free in return for showing visitors around the house.

The house suffered considerable damage in 1940 when a landmine fell nearby. It was repaired in 1951 and reopened the same year. In September 2008 the house closed for further restoration work, interrupted by a fire in 2009, with the fully restored house finally opening in 2011.

As well as being saved from demolition and damage by 2nd World War bombing, during the 20th Century the house also survived the building of the Hogarth Roundabout and the transformation of the road running alongside the house from the original Hogarth Lane into the A4 which was subsequently widened into the six lane road we see today. The house has also been surrounded by new building, and the Hogarth Business Park between the house and the roundabout. Building directly adjacent to Hogarth’s House continues to this day.

The view of Hogarth’s House from the end of the garden.

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The ground floor dining room:

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Hogarth’s bedroom:

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There are numerous copies of Hogarth’s drawings around the house. Here the six prints from the series “The Harlot’s Progress”, the first of his sets of prints where each individual print told part over an overall story. The Harlot’s Progress sold 1,240 sets of prints at a price of one guinea per set.

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Looking out from the large oriel window:

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Portraits of Hogarth’s sisters painted by Hogarth in 1740. Anne on the right who died in 1771 and Mary on the left who died in 1741. The sisters ran a dress shop in Smithfield and then in Cranbourn Street in Leicester Fields (now between Long Acre and Leicester Square.

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The house has been superbly restored. The wood paneling, layout of the floors and shape of the rooms does provide a good impression of what the house would have looked like when Hogarth was in residence.

Toy theatre and more prints:

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View from the 1st floor looking across the entrance to the house to the very quiet A4. Normally there are six lanes of traffic running along this road into and out of London. Very different from the narrow lane and fields that Hogarth would have seen through this window.

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An impression of what the lane that originally ran alongside the house was like in the 19th Century can be gathered from a newspaper article in the Daily Gazette, dated the 20th September 1878, where Hogarth’s House is described as “At a short distance north-west of the church, in a narrow and dirty lane leading towards one entrance to the grounds of Chiswick House still stands the red-bricked house which was once occupied by Hogarth, and still bears his name”.

A view from the rear of the house shows the unusual shape of the building. Hoarding reaching up to the house shows what is being built immediately to the rear.hogarths-house-11

Hogarth is buried in the nearby church of St. Nicholas. To reach the church, it was a short walk back to the Hogarth Roundabout, cross the roads by way of the underpass and walk down Church Street with the Fuller, Smith and Turner brewery on the left. The church is towards the end of this road on the right before reaching the River Thames.

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The tomb and monument to Hogarth is just to the side of the church.

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Inscriptions on the side of the monument read:

“Here lies the body of William Hogarth Esq. who died October the 26th 1764 aged 67 years” and “Mrs Jane Hogarth, Wife of William Hogarth Esq, died the 13th of November 1789 aged 80 years”.

The main inscription is an epitaph to Hogarth written by his friend, the actor David Garrick:

“Farewell great Painter of Mankind, Who reach’d the noblest point of Art, Whose pictur’d Morals charm the Mind, And through the Eye correct the Heart.

If genius fire thee, Reader, stay, If nature touch thee, drop a tear; If neither move thee, turn away, For HOGARTH’S honour’d dust lies here”.

In looking for Hogarth’s tomb I made the mistake of walking down the northern side of the church to the large entrance shown in the photo below. The churchyard is split into two sections, the original churchyard around the church and a much large extension to the churchyard that is accessed through this entrance.

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Plaques on the pillars of the entrance record that an additional acre of ground was given to the Parish of Chiswick by His Grace the Duke of Devonshire in 1871 and that the churchyard was then enlarged by the “addition of twenty five perches of ground given to the Parish by His Grace William Spencer in 1888”.

This extended churchyard is now a busy mix of very different styles of gravestone and monument.

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Part of the inscription on Hogarth’s tomb reads “If genius fire thee, Reader, stay, If nature touch thee, drop a tear”. After looking at the tomb I turned to look at the church and found that nature was indeed watching over Hogarth’s tomb:

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The River Thames is very close to the church and on the side of the churchyard wall is a plaque recording one of the floods when the Thames overflowed the very shallow banks along this part of the river.

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View from the side of the churchyard wall looking down towards the Thames. Hogarth would have known this part of the river very well.

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Some examples of Hogarth’s work (all ©Trustees of the British Museum). Here is Beer Street, a companion print to the famous Gin Lane. Beer Street is probably not so well-known as the scene is a more positive image than Gin Lane. Beer Street shows a happy, healthy and industrious population, all as a result of drinking beer.

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Whilst Gin Lane shows the dreadful effects on society of drinking Gin. Mother’s dropping their babies, a suicide hanging in the upper floor of the building on the right, the decay of buildings and general chaos on the streets. It was estimated that by 1743 the average consumption of gin was 2.2 gallons per person each year. The Gin Act came into force in 1751 to try to control the epidemic of gin drinking and Hogarth’s prints added to the impact of the campaign.

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The following print is titled “A representation of the March of the Guards towards Scotland in the Year 1745”, also known as the March of the Guards to Finchley. The print is a fictional representation of the assembly of Guards at Tottenham Court Road on their way to Finchley to defend London from the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.

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The following print is the first from a set of eight titled “The Progress of a Rake”. These prints tell the story of Tom Rakewell from the first print where he comes into the possession of his father’s inheritance, through to the final print where we find Tom having descended into Madness and in the Bethlam Hospital.

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Tom’s journey from his inheritance is then covered by a series of prints titled The Levee (his rise in society), The Orgy (the descent begins), The Arrest (the party ends), The Marriage (Tom’s desperate sham), The Gaming House (Tom loses everything), The Prison (the beginning of Tom’s end) and finally The Madhouse (the end of the line).

Hogarth hated the abuse of animals that was so common in the 18th century. A series of four prints told a story of the Four Stages of Cruelty. As with the Progress of a Rake, these four prints also documented a journey and argued that if children were cruel to animals, and this was not prevented by society, they would grow into cruel adults.

The first stage of cruelty introduces Tom Nero as the central character who, along with other youths on the streets, is being cruel to a wide variety of animals. In the second stage (shown below) Tom Nero is now savagely beating his horse after the animal has collapsed under the weight of the cart.

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In the third stage of cruelty, Tom Nero has progressed from cruelty to animals to highway robbery and is shown after committing a murder. In the final print from the series titled “The Reward of Cruelty”, Tom has been executed at Tyburn and his body is shown being dissected for the purpose of the study of anatomy.

The four stages of cruelty are a shocking series of prints, and probably do show the horrific level of cruelty that would have been seen on the streets of London during the 18th Century.

I find Hogarth’s work fascinating. Whilst his work was certainly exaggerated somewhat for effect, it does provide an insight into 18th Century society without the romantic haze of looking back over a couple of hundred years. Life then could be hard and cruel.

A visit to Hogarth’s House is well worth a journey to Chiswick.

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Window Shopping At Hamleys – Christmas 1951

A brief post to say thank you for reading, commenting and subscribing to my blog over the last year and to wish you a very Happy Christmas.

Here are three photos my father took in the run up to Christmas 1951, looking through the window of Hamleys toy shop in Regent Street showing a group of window shopping children and their parents.

Hamleys 1 Hamleys 2 Hamleys 3

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London Ghosts

I read this week that sales of printed books are rising and that their demise at the hands of the eBook reader is hopefully not going to turn out to be true.

I love printed books. Not just to read, but also as a living record of information added by those who have owned the book. Many of the London books in my collection have annotations along with cuttings from newspapers and magazines over the last 70 years that add to the original text contained within the pages of the book.

The 1975 edition of Dan Cruickshank’s “London: The Art Of Georgian Building” has newspaper articles inserted detailing the destruction and development planned for London’s Georgian buildings during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The 1923 edition of Historic Streets of London by Lilian and Ashmore Russan has the comment “Rot !!! confused with Battle Bridge N.W.1”  against the entry for Battle Bridge Lane in Bermondsey which states that it “Marks the place where the Romans defeated the Iceni, under Queen Boadicea, in the year AD61”

Rather than a one off read, books can therefore be a repository for new information as well as something to challenge and correct.

One such book is “Unbidden Guests – A Book of Real Ghosts” by William Oliver Stevens published in 1949. As well as the contents of the book, my copy is also stuffed full of newspaper and magazine articles recounting ghost stories from the last 60 years, and for this week’s post, as we approach the shortest day of the year when darkness falls over London from the late afternoon, here are a few of those articles, a sample from a series printed by the London Evening News in the run up to the Christmas of 1957.

These were written by Leslie Thomas who would later find fame following publication of his book The Virgin Soldiers in 1966. At the time of these articles, he was a feature writer for the London Evening News. He worked for the paper from 1955 to 1966 when the success of The Virgin Soldiers convinced him that he could make a career as an author.

These stories of London Ghosts are written in a suitably dramatic form and most have an illustration of the haunting to draw in the reader. I like to imagine Londoners reading these articles as they make their way home in the evening on a cold, dark and foggy December night when anything would seem possible.

The first story is from 1926 when a Mr Gibson, a night watchman guarding roadwork’s in Church Hill Road, Barnet saw the ghost of Sir Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex as a skeleton clad in a metal breast plate and black cape coming up the road towards him.

There were two Sir Geoffrey’s in the 12th century, the elder inheriting lands in Essex, Middlesex and Hertfordshire. His political scheming resulted in him being accused of being a traitor. Sir Geoffrey and his followers carried out guerrilla warfare, travelling on roads to London through Enfield Chase and Barnet. On his eventual death his body lay in Old Temple, Holborn for 20 years without burial. The second Sir Geoffrey had a fortress at Barnet and apparently fell from a tree and drowned in his own moat.

An old house in East Barnet called the Grange was allegedly built on the de Mandeville’s old fortress and when excavations disturbed the foundations of the old building the haunting started, including the stamping of footsteps and clanking of spurs, along with sightings as witnessed by the poor night-watchman.

The Evening News story concludes with a party of local people including a councillor spending the night at the night-watchman’s hut in Church Hill Road. Although nothing was seen, just after midnight the party heard a rumbling like that of many hoof beats and the ground shook.

A chilling tale from Barnet and I doubt the night watchman ever returned if the illustration is an accurate portrayal of his night on Church Hill Road.

London Ghosts 1a

London Ghosts 1b

The next tale is from Pond Square, Highgate and starts with the experience of Aircraftman Terence Long in December 1943. Walking through Pond Square he heard the sudden pulling up of a carriage and then a frightening shriek.  Moonlight revealed the sight of a ghostly chicken – “It was a frightened, squawking fowl, dashing about in frenzied circles, half running, half flying, and shivering.”

The unlikely story of the chicken goes back to the 17th century when Francis Bacon was riding through the snow covered streets of Highgate. Pondering scientific questions, he suddenly asked his coachman to stop and fetch a chicken. The chicken was killed, and Bacon promptly stuffed it with snow and then put it in a bag filled with more snow. This experiment was following Bacon’s observation that the grass underneath snow always appeared fresh and he wondered whether snow and the cold could help with the preservation of food.

Whilst working on this experiment in the cold Highgate night, Bacon collapsed and was taken to the home of Lord Arundel in Pond Square where he died a few days later.

The chicken has since been seen many times in Pond Square, although why the chicken continues to haunt rather than Francis Bacon is a bit of a mystery.

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The next story moves into central London, to Covent Garden underground station and tells the story of the ghost of the Victorian actor, William Terriss.

On November 24th 1955, the foreman ticket collector Jack Hayden was in the staff mess room which was divided in two with a partition which included a door when, “This door was open and in the other section of the room there appeared the figure of a tall man, grey of face and wearing white gloves.” Jack Hayden and a colleague who had also seen the ghost were shown a photo of Terriss and immediately recognised him. William Terriss had been murdered at the nearby Adelphi Theatre.

Along with the ghost story, this cutting from the Evening News includes a fascinating advert for “Trips by Trains” and includes:

– Football excursions to see Sheffield United play Leyton Orient from St. Pancras. Grimsby Town play Charlton from King’s Cross and Colchester United play Brentford from Liverpool Street.

– There is a train leaving Paddington to see the Passing-Out Parade of Naval Apprentices at H.M.S Fishguard, Torpoint

– A Sunday timetable of trains, mainly with buffet cars from the main London stations

– weekday trains to the “Hants & Dorset Resorts”

This was when a train ticket from Waterloo to Bournemouth would have cost 15 shillings.

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The next story is from south London and starts with the terrifying headline “It came to Battersea and terrorised a family until they did what it wanted.”

The haunting at the house in Eland Road, Battersea owned by the Robinson family, started on the 27th November, 1927 with breaking glass in the Conservatory, which was followed by flying coal, pennies and soda, loud noises and bangs, furniture falling in all directions, broken windows and door panels.

Mr Robinson called in the Police who were also subjected to flying coal, but could not do anything to help, so “the Robinsons spent the most miserable Christmas of their lives in a house that was full of flying coal, pennies and soda.”

Despite a steady stream of people trying to help, police, clergymen and spirit investigators, nothing could be done. There were also newspaper reporters and crowds of “open-mouthed sightseers.”

Members of the family tried to stay in the house, but were gradually driven out. The last to stay, a Mrs Perkins, was hit by a large lump of flying soda – “She ran from the kitchen followed by a tumult of banging’s and a shower of heavy pieces of coal. By this time, almost in tears she cried ‘Alright I’m going’ immediately the noise and the flying coal stopped.”

With the family who lived in the house now gone the spirit was satisfied and peace descended on the house in Eland Road.

London Ghosts 2

Leslie Thomas went on to publish 30 novels until his death in 2014. These articles highlight some of his earliest writings for the Evening News, nine years before publication of The Virgin Soldiers.

They also tell of some of the many possible ghostly encounters you may experience walking the streets of London after dark.

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A Water Pump, Bedford Row And Tracing Harpur’s Bedford Charity Estate

There are some locations in London that have changed remarkably little over the last seventy plus years. There are also locations where decisions made 500 years ago are still in evidence. Not the usual candidates such as the Tower of London or St. Paul’s but amongst the ordinary streets of London.

One of my father’s photo’s from 1947 was the water pump in Bedford Row.

From Chancery Lane underground station, walk along Holborn to the west until you come to Brownlow Street. Head up this street and at the end you will be in part of Bedford Row, facing the water pump shown in the following 1947 photo:

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And in 2015 the scene is remarkably much the same. The pump has been painted, a sign with the street name has been put on the building behind and there are now bollards around the pump.

The buildings behind are almost unchanged, even the metal fencing along the building to the right is the same.

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The pump is also a perfect example of not always believing what you see in London. Take a look at the bollards and they are marked St. Pancras Street Works Department, 1826, so it would be a reasonable assumption that they have been in place since 1826, however the 1947 photo clearly shows a much smaller surround to the base of the pump and no bollards.

I assume that with the size of cars and lorries that are now in use on London roads, it was decided prudent to enlarge the base and provide some protection to the pump using bollards from some other location in St. Pancras.

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I always find it fascinating to look at the buildings around any location I am photographing. On the building just to the left of the pump is the remains of the original street signage for Bedford Row:

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And just further along I found the following plaques:

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Not so easy to read. The one on the left reads “Ms. Eliz Doughty 1824” and the one on the right “Bedford Charity Bounds 1824”

These are boundary markers and were essential to identify ownership of blocks of land prior to the availability of accurate street mapping. In the days before clearly defined ownership boundaries, when parcels of land were let and sublet, when it could be decades between the times when ownership of land needed to be checked and when owners could easily extend their boundaries in the hope of expanding their ownership before anyone realised, boundary markers played a key role in defining ownership.

Much of the land across London was originally held by the Crown or Church in large blocks, and over the centuries this has gradually been sold off to leave much smaller parcels of land, however some large estates still remain.

The Bedford Charity seemed an ideal candidate for some further research, to find the original boundaries of the estate, how the estate came into being, and if anything remained.

The origin of the Bedford Charity is a gift of land made by Sir William Harpur in 1566 to the corporation of Bedford.

Sir William Harpur was very much a self-made man of the times. The Harper family (the spelling of the name appears to have changed to Harpur around 1764) had lived in the area around Bedford for many years prior to the 16th century.

A school had been operating in Bedford since before 1166 and as with most schools of this period it was part of the church and Bedford school maintained this connection through to the dissolution during Henry VIII’s reign.

William Harpur attended the original Bedford School before leaving for London. His early days in London do not appear well documented, however from the book “The Harpur Trust” by Joyce Godber;

“It my be that he was apprenticed to a tailor, but there is no certainty about this; nor is there evidence of his connection with any other trade.”

The assumption of his original apprenticeship seems likely to be correct due to his later career, as William Harpur was admitted to the Merchant Taylors company in 1533.

Harpur’s progression through the Mechant Taylors resulted in him becoming Master in 1553, the same year he became an alderman for the ward of Bridge Without.  When a vacancy appeared for an alderman within the much older and prestigious ward of Dowgate, Harpur was elected to this ward in 1556. He also served a year as treasurer of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and was a sheriff between 1556 and 1557.

His rise continued and in 1561 he reached the peak of his career becoming Lord Mayor of London.

Through his contacts, Harpur would have been very aware of the work of others within the City of London in support of schools throughout the country.

Whilst Harpur was Lord Mayor the Merchant Taylors school was founded by Richard Hilles, the master at the time and a contemporary of Harpur. He would have known of the founding of St. Paul’s school by Dean Colet in 1509 and the work being done by schools such as Winchester where the earliest printed school text books were compiled in 1559.

He had already been assisting the school in Bedford. Newnham Priory, originally attached to the school had been closed and the property confiscated. Again from “The Harpur Trust” by Joyce Godber;

“These were unsettled times in religious matters. In 1533 when he was approaching the age of 40, Harpur would have heard that, like monasteries elsewhere, Newnham Priory had been closed, the canons pensioned off, and the property confiscated. When he visited Bedford again he would find the priory site desolate, with much of the stone carried away and what was left was being converted to a house. At Bedford it would seem he found the school still existing, probably under an aged master, but it was clearly at risk, like similar schools elsewhere; for the building was up for sale with a number of other ex-monastic properties.

And now Harpur seems to have got in touch with John Williams, perhaps once his schoolfellow. Williams in 1545 obtained a large grant of former monastic property, and with it the school-house in School Lane.

In 1548 Edmund Green came from New College, Oxford to teach at Bedford. Probably Harpur arranged this and paid his stipend. But at this stage he did not commit himself further.”

Given his position in the City, he was probably a wealthy man.

Joyce Godber’s book also provides an insight into Harpur’s life as the Lord Mayor of London;

“On the 12th January, when Harpur and the alderman went to St. Paul’s and all the crafts in London in their livery, and then came into Cheapside a lord of misrule from Whitechapel with a great company”

and in September 1562 after an inspection of the conduit heads of London’s water supply:

“after dinner they hunted the fox, and there was a goodly cry for a mile, and after the hounds killed the fox at the end of St. Giles, and there was a great cry at the death, and so rode through London my Lord Mayor Harpur with all his company home to his place in Lombard Street.”

It would not be until 1564 that Harpur commenced the work that would provide a lasting endowment for Bedford.

On the 30th September 1564 for £180, 13 shillings he purchased 12 acres and 3 roods of meadow outside the City at Holborn, old monastic land that had formerly belonged to Charterhouse.

On the 22nd April 1566 he and his wife, Dame Alice, conveyed the land to Bedford Corporation.

The following map (kindly provided by the Harpur Trust) shows the approximate boundaries of the original deed of gift by Sir William Harpur in 1566:

The Harpur Trust estates map Sep 2013 FINALWhilst this map shows the majority of the original estate, it was not until 1654 when it took this final shape. There were some small blocks of land in Harpur’s deed separate from the main block and in a Chancery decree of the 16th February 1654 an exchange of smaller, detached parcels of land took place leaving the estate in its final form.

The following map from the Joyce Godber’s Harpur Trust book shows the original blocks of land identified by the red crosses to the left of the main block of land, which were part of the exchange to consolidate the estate into a single block.

book map 1

Just prior to the transfer of the land to Bedford Corporation, in 1565 the land was let on a 40 year lease to Richard Bacon. On transfer, this brought in a sum of £12 per annum.

Having found the first boundary markers for the Bedford Charity, I wondered if any further remained and if it was possible to trace the outlines of a 1566 transfer of land, on the streets of 2015 London.

I started at the Holborn end of Bedford Row, with the water pump to my right. Bedford Row is a superb wide street of broadly similar architectural styles (despite the rather aggressively pollarded trees). Bomb damage during the war has been repaired rather than rebuilt.

From this point of view, the boundary runs down the centre of the street and the original Harpur land is to the left.

Bedford Row 7

I made two visits to the area, one on a cloudy, wet day, the other with clear blue sky and a February sun which really highlighted the brickwork:

Bedford Row 3

Due to the proximity of Grays Inn, many of the buildings now house activities associated with the legal profession.

Bedford Row 5

Although some buildings retain reminders of earlier occupation:

Bedford Row 4

So how many indications of the original Harpur land could I find? I have annotated the Harpur Trust map with the locations of the boundary markers that I was able to find.

Marker 1 is the first, at the end of Bedford Row, adjacent to the water pump shown in the earlier photo:

Harpur map with locations

At the end of Bedford Row, at marker 2 in the map where I found the following from 1803 to show where the boundary came from the centre of the street onto the edge of the building.

This one is dated 1803. The different dates are down to the building work that was being carried out on the land, and when the commissioners of the charity would periodically come down from Bedford and “perambulate” the boundaries of the land.

Bedford Row 6

Now cross over Theobalds Road and walk down Emerald Street. At the very end at marker 3 in the map is this boundary marker.

Bedford Row 8

Now head down the small alley from Emerald Street, leading up to Lamb’s Conduit Street and half way along on the right are two of the Bedford boundary markers, one from 1776 and the other from 1838. These are shown in marker 4 in the map.

Bedford Row 9

From Lamb’s Conduit Street we can look back down the alley (part of Emerald Street). Boundary marker 3 can be seen half way up the wall of the building at the far end of the alley. Marker 4 is half way along on the left.

Bedford Row 12

Lamb’s Conduit Street derives its name from William Lamb who erected a water conduit n the site in 1577 by restoring an earlier dam in one of the tributaries of the River Fleet.

The next set of boundary markers are on a building in Lamb’s Conduit Street, directly across from the alley. These were from 1803 and 1838. Marker 5 on the map.

It is here that there is a marked boundary with another estate. Just below the Bedford markers on the building on the right is a boundary marker for the Rugby Estate, dated 1824. The Rugby estate was an 8 acre parcel of land that was part of a bequest to Rugby School in 1567. As with the Harpur estate, the Rugby estate was mainly meadow / pastureland at the time of the bequest, however rapid development over the coming years would add considerably to the estates income.

Bedford Row 10

Photo taken from the end of the alley looking towards the building with the Bedford boundary markers and the Rugby marker on the building on the right. Not easily seen, but are just behind the tree branches.

Bedford Row 11

The next pair of markers are strange. I cannot explain their location. Following the map, to get from Lamb’s Conduit Street to Orde Hall Street where I expected the next set of markers to be found, I found the pair shown in the following photo at marker 6 in the map. This area should be clearly within the Bedford / Harpur estate, however the marker on the right is Bedford 1883 and on the left is Rugby 1884. I can only assume that this was a later sale of land between the two estates in the later part of the 19th century, although strangely the Harpur map shows these buildings as being still owned by the Harpur Trust in 1985 and 2013.

Bedford Row 14

Despite walking the rest of the route of the boundary I was not able to find any more boundary markers, although there are still a number of reminders of the Harpur legacy.

A small alley off Dombey Street leads to Harpur Mews:

Bedford Row 13

And this is Harpur Street:

Bedford Row 15

A couple of original buildings surrounded by much later post war development.

An example of how boundaries between estates were often challenged can again be found in the book “The Harpur Trust” by Joyce Godber;

“There were soon to be more complications over the London lease. The Great Fire of 1666 set in motion a tide of building in London. One of the most active developers was Nicholas Bourbon, who had qualified as a physician, but who had speculative interests  which included setting up in 1681 an office for fire insurance. A contemporary says that the trade of medicine failing, he fell into that of building, and the fire of London gave him means of doing and knowing much of that kind….All his aim was profit. By 1683 he had contributed to the development in the Strand, Soho and elsewhere. Another contemporary notes in his diary in 1684 on 11 June “Dr. Barebone, the great builder, having some time since bought the Red Lyon fields nears Gray’s Inn to build on….the gentlemen of Gray’s Inn, thinking it an injury to them, went with a considerable body of 100 persons, upon which the workmen assaulted the gentlemen and flung bricks at them. Red Lyon Field, now Red Lyon Square, adjoined the revised Harpur land on the southwest; between it and Gray’s Inn were trees and open space, now Bedford Row. the case came before the Privy Council, where it was said that Barbon marched about the fields at the head of his workmen, shouting and halloing.”

William Harpur died on the 27th February 1574 at the age of 77. He was buried in St. Paul’s church, Bedford.

The Bedford Charity is still going, renamed the Harpur Trust, and still using income from the properties owned within the original Harpur estate to support education in the town of Bedford.

Remarkable that 450 years later, Harpur’s original bequest continues to benefit education and can still be traced on the streets of London, and that going in search of a water pump can lead you off in a totally different direction of London’s history.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • The Harpur Trust 1552 – 1973 by Joyce Godber published in 1973
  • My thanks to the Surveyor of the Harpur Trust for the provision of the map

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The Ghosts Of London

I first started walking London in the very early 1970s when as children we had family walks exploring the city. We were too young to appreciate exploring a London that would soon be changing so dramatically, so probably to try and keep our interest my father would tell stories of some of the myths and legends of where we walked, including tales of the ghosts of London that haunted many of the locations we passed.

Many of the locations that would be expected to have ghost stories associated with their history do not disappoint. The Tower of London has several reported apparitions. Lady Jane Grey seems to be the most frequent having been seen in the Bloody Tower as a long-haired woman dressed in a long black velvet dress with white cap and in the Salt Tower where she was seen as a white shapeless form. Anne Boleyn has been allegedly seen in the White Tower and on Tower Green. A bear has also been seen by some of the military inhabitants of the Tower, perhaps a survivor of the time when the Tower was used as a menagerie. Sir Walter Raleigh’s ghost has also been reported near the Bloody Tower.

Westminster Abbey has the ghost of a monk gliding some distance above the floor, presumably due to changes in floor level due to alterations to the Abbey over the centuries. In the Deanery the ghost of John Bradshaw, president of the court which condemned Charles the 1st has been seen.

There are also many stories of ghosts in the more unexpected locations.

So, as we reach the shortest days of the year, when the long cold nights open the imagination to the more mythical aspects of London, join me on a walk across the city to hunt down some of the ghosts of London. Characters that do not make much of an appearance now with the bright lights, noise and pace of the city crowding out the more fleeting visions of past lives.

Belgravia is our first stop. Find Wilton Row, just off Wilton Crescent and almost at the end of this hidden street is the Grenadier.

Grenadiar 1

The Grenadier has been a pub since 1818 but was originally the Officers Mess of the First Royal Regiment of Foot Guards and was built-in 1720.

The pub is proud of its supernatural heritage, allegedly being haunted by the ghost of Cedric, a young Grenadier who was apparently beaten to death by his comrades after being found cheating at cards. Apparitions, footsteps, noises and an icy chill have all been reported by both landlords and visitors to the pub over the years.

Well worth a visit, even if you are not lucky enough to witness one of Cedric’s manifestations.

Now take the short walk up to Hyde Park Corner Underground Station and take the Piccadilly Line to Covent Garden Underground Station where as you queue for the lifts, or regret the decision to take the stairs, you may meet the ghost of the actor William Terriss who was murdered outside the Adelphi Theatre in 1897, but for some unknown reason started haunting the underground station in 1955.

covent garden 1

In November 1955 the foreman ticket-collector was in the staff room of the station. He recalls that:

“the door was open and in the other section of the room there appeared the figure of a tall man, grey of face and wearing white gloves”

He assumed it was a passenger and asking if he could help, the figure silently turned and disappeared behind a partition. A week later, another station employee was found shaking with fear announcing that he had seen a ghost, claiming ” he stood in front of me and put his hands on my head”

A séance was later held at the station and the ghost claimed to be the Victorian actor William Terriss. He was seen many times later on the platforms, passageways and emergency stairs of the station, along with station workers hearing phantom footsteps and feeling an icy chill.

covent garden 2

William Terriss was stabbed by a fellow actor as he entered the stage door of the Adelphi Theatre. The murderer, Richard Prince was jealous of the popularity of Terriss. Whilst he was found guilty, he was also diagnosed as insane and died in Broadmoor.

There is a plaque to William Terriss at the rear of the Adelphi in Maiden Lane.

adelphi 1
The rear of the Adelphi, it was here that William Terriss was murdered. He is also said to haunt the theatre, but why he should be haunting the Covent Garden Underground Station rather than just the scene of his murder remains a mystery.

adelphi 2

The next stop is the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, (which although includes the name Drury lane, the main frontage is actually on Catherine Street) which has no less than three possible ghostly inhabitants. The first, and perhaps best authenticated is a “man in grey” who appears between the hours of 9am and 6pm, not the typical hours for a ghostly appearance. The ghost has been seen many times over the years by actors working at the theatre including Harry Secombe who was appearing in The Four Musketeers in the early 1960s. He said “the whole ruddy cast saw him once. He always made his appearance before 6pm and then popped off again. Haunting to rule, I suppose.”

The identity of the man in grey is a bit of a mystery. Possibly that of the actor Arnold Woodruffe who was killed by Charles Macklin some 200 years ago in a burst of anger. When the theatre was rebuilt around the 1850s a small room was found which contained the skeleton of a man with a dagger in his ribs. His identity was never found, and he is also one of the possible candidates for the man in grey.

Other ghostly appearances at the Theatre Royal have been a man with a long white-painted face who was occasionally seen sitting behind people in the boxes. He was thought to be the famous clown Joe Grimaldi.

The comedian Dan Leno was also allegedly seen at times, but was one of the more infrequent ghostly visitors to the Theatre Royal.

The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, frontage on Catherine Street:

drury lane 1

A theatre has been on the site of the Theatre Royal since 1663. The theatre went through several phases of demolition and rebuilding until the present theatre which was built-in 1812.

The colonnade walk alongside the Theatre Royal:
drury lane 2
Now we head into the City of London. Walk up Ludgate Hill and just before reaching St. Paul’s turn left into Ave Maria Lane. A short distance along, on the left is Amen Corner and Amen Court. At the far end, through the gateway in the following photo can be seen a wall, the old city wall built on Roman foundations.

amen court 1

This wall separates Amen Court from Dead Mans Walk where those hanged at Newgate Prison were buried in quick lime. This is a possible explanation for a “Thing” that has been seen at night creeping along the top of the wall. No one has been able to see this vision close enough to identify what it may be.

So when out in London during the dark nights of winter, keep an eye out for the ghosts of London, shadows from London’s past who may still retain a fleeting presence in today’s city.

The sources I used to research this post are:

  • Memories from walking London with my father in the early 1970s along with 60 years of notes he kept in the book Unbidden Guests – A Book of Real Ghosts by William Oliver Stephens published in 1949. He kept notes on London covering subjects such as architectural, historical as well as ghost stories in a wide range of books about London. One of the many reasons I much prefer books to eReaders.
  • Our Haunted Kingdom my Andrew Green published 1973

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Londoners – 1953

One of the great pleasures of scanning old negatives is that you never really know what the photograph will be until it appears on the computer screen. You can get a glimpse by holding the negative up to a light, but it only gives an outline of the photograph.

I recently scanned a series of my father’s negatives covering photos taken in 1953 at the time of the Coronation. It was interesting that there were no photos of the main participants of the Coronation, the photos instead being of the people waiting to watch along with other photos of Londoners at around the same time.

Coronation day was Tuesday 2nd June 1953, so these are photos taken around 61 years ago tomorrow (this post was published on Sunday June 1st 2014)

So for this week’s post, I present a series of photos showing Londoners from 1953.

Gentlemen

gentlemen

I have no idea where in London this photo was taken, but I suspect an opportunistic photo given the two very well dressed gentlemen and the sign. They are obviously waiting for someone or something, perhaps a taxi?

It demonstrates the benefits of always having a camera to hand when walking London, something I always try to do.

It is easy to take this type of photo with current camera equipment, even a mobile phone, but the above photo was taken on a camera that had manual focussing, speed and aperture adjustment, and a standard lens so it was not taken at a distance.

Coronation Crowds in the Mall

coronation crowd 1

The photo above and the one below are from a series of photos taken of the crowds after, and waiting for the Coronation. My father did not taken any of the Coronation procession, he was much more interested in the people waiting along the route.

The photo above shows a very busy Mall between Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace.

Waiting for the Coronation

coronation crowd 2

The above photo was taken in Trafalgar Square at the base of Nelsons Column looking towards the National Portrait Gallery.

The weather on Coronation Day was not good. Dull skies, a cold wind and occasional outbreaks of rain as highlighted in the above photo. This was the 2nd June 1953, typical British June weather !

The construction on the left of the photo is probably a BBC commentary / camera position. The two men at the top left have headphones on. This was the first time such an occasion had been televised.

Childrens Entertainment

children watching

I do not know where or when this photo was taken, but it was on the same strip of negatives as the Coronation photos. It may show children’s entertainment set-up as part of the Coronation activities.

All these children must now be in their mid to late 60s. It would be wonderful to put names to them.

When scanning this photo and a couple more of the same scene, I was hoping that my father took a photo of whatever it was that they were watching. It would be great to see what was causing such reactions, but no, only a few photos of the children. This has informed my own photography. Whilst a specific subject may attract your attention when taking a photo, those viewing many decades later will want to know more, not just about the subject, but also about the surroundings, what else was happening at the time etc. This is obviously much easier now with digital photography where the cost of photos is almost negligible, but when these were originally taken film was expensive and my father did all his own developing which was time consuming and costly. I can understand why he only took a few of a specific subject, but many times when I have been scanning I was wishing he would have turned slightly and taken another photo.

Speakers Corner

speakers corner

Preaching the Gospel at Speakers Corner. Bible in hand and very intense. This is one of these photos where I wish my father has turned to the left and taken some photos of the crowd. It would be good to see their reaction.

Watching on a Motorbike

man and womman on bike

This couple have come up to London and found a position to watch a procession from their motorbike. I suspect they have come from outside central London as the woman is holding an ABC map of London.

Not the headgear that you could legally get away with these days. Not exactly suitable shoes for a motorbike, however I wonder if they had come up to London to visit a cinema, see a show or go to a restaurant.

I hope you enjoyed this series of photos of Londoners (and probably visitors to London) from 61 years ago.  Snapshots in the lives of people and of this wonderful city of London.

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An AESD March and a St. Pancras Draughtsman

The title of my post this week is “An AESD March and a St. Pancras Draughtsman”. The AESD was the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsman, the trades union established in 1912 to represent Draughtsman working in these industries.

After National Service, my father worked as a Draughtsman for the St. Pancras Borough Council Electricity and Public Lighting Department.

The job of the Draughtsman is one of those long replaced by computer based applications. It was the role of the Draughtsman to draw up plans, whether these be the design of a ship, train or plane, along with all the components that make up these complex systems along with drawing up street plans, building construction plans etc. It was a key role that enabled the installation or manufacturer of almost everything in an industrial society.

Within the photo collection, there are photos of a march by the AESD. I have no idea of whether he was a member of the AESD, was participating in the march or just there to take photographs.

The following photo shows the AESD march about to reach Oxford Circus (I have included the rest of the photos of this march at the end of the post).

AESD March 2

I suspect this photo may have been taken in 1953. From what I have been able to find out, the AESD did not take much action, however there was an AESD strike at the Middlesex
Tool & Gauge Company in 1953. This lasted for five weeks from late August 1953 and did get national support, so this march may have been in support of this action. The dates fit well with other photos on the same set of negatives.

Like many small Associations and Unions representing specialised groups of workers, the AESD had to evolve and merge as the working landscape changed.

The AESD changed into the Draughtsman and Allied Technicians Union (DATA) to broaden the scope of membership. DATA then grew into the TASS (Technical, Administrative and Supervisory Staffs) which then became the MSF (Manufacturing, Science and Finance) following merger with the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs, which then merged with the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union to form Amicus which then merged in 2007 with the Transport and General Workers Union to form Unite (I did not think it would be that complicated when I started checking !).

The benefit of working for the St. Pancras Borough Council Electricity and Public Lighting Department is that this work took him across much of London, drawing street plans and where electrical installation work was required. A perfect job for someone who loved walking London.

Plans were recorded onsite in a sketch book, then taken back to the office to be converted into large scale plans ready for work to be carried out.

The following is a sample page from one of my father’s sketch books:

Notebook

The left page covers Belgrave Square whilst the right shows the area around Grosvenor Gardens with Victoria Street, Buckingham Palace (B.P.) Road and Ebury Street. The markings are for the position of electric street lamps. The red line across the plan indicates that the transfer to a working plan had been completed.

Street surveying and documenting was all done manually. This is before the days of GPS, theodolites with integrated electronic distance measuring etc.

Within my father’s photo collection there are some photos he took of the St. Pancras Draughtsman’s office in which he worked. These show a very different working environment to that you would find today where this type of work is carried out on a computer with large screens showing the plans being developed.

Drawing up plans:

draughtsman 4

Tea break:

draughtsman 1This type of work was very tiring as it required concentration, drawing to an accurate scale, very neat and standardised lettering, good eyesight and attention to detail.

Note in the following photo the drawing tables placed against the windows. Natural light was still the best form of lighting in which to work. Also the magnifying glass for detailed work.

Taking a quick sleep at lunch break:

draughtsman 2All calculations were performed manually and a good knowledge of maths was required. Complex calculations were performed using aids such as Logarithm tables and slide rules:

draughtsman 3

The tools of the trade. Some of my father’s old drawing instruments:

Draughtsmans tools

The instrument hanging on the wall in the following photo is a draughtsman T-Square. The shorter length was placed up against the side of the drawing table and the long edge ran across the table. This was then used as a guide for drawing horizontal lines and as a rest whilst general drawing.

draughtsman5

The face of experience:

draughtsman6

Other photos of the march:

AESD March 4

The solitary police escort:

AESD Marcg 3

AESD March 5

 alondoninheritance.com

 

The Chair Repairer Found !

A few weeks ago I published a short post with two of my father’s photos of a man repairing a chair in the street. I have always been fascinated by these as the concentration and craftsmanship was clearly visible in the work being performed.

The Gentle Author included my blog on his Saturday posting at http://spitalfieldslife.com/ and the extra viewers and distribution across Twitter reached a wider readership than normal, and to my surprise I received an e-mail from Rachel South identifying the Chair Repairer as her grandfather, Michael George South of Ladbroke Grove.

What makes the story even better is that Rachel is the third generation in the upholstery business and chair caning, so there is a continuous line from Michael in my father’s photo to the present day.

See Rachel’s web site at: http://rachaelsouth.com/ The photo of the Chair Cave on Facebook is incredible.

Rachel provided the following information about her grandfather:

Michael South was born around 1903. He was from an Irish travelling background and had grown up in west London with his father and a number of half brothers and sisters. He died in 1964 from a brain haemorrhage which it was assumed was due to his other career as a bare knuckle boxer! My mother recalls two of his half brothers one called Danny who only had one ear and another who rode a motorbike on the wheel of death. So a lively background to say the least. 

Michael usually sat in Kensington or Knightsbridge to work.

So now, after more than 60 years since my father took these photos, it gives me great pleasure to introduce again, Michael South, chair caning craftsman of Ladbroke Grove:

Chairmender2

Chairmender1

 

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