Category Archives: London Characters

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.

London Ghosts 4

London Ghosts 4a

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.

London Ghosts 3

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.

alondoninheritance.com

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:

Bedford Row 18

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.

Bedford Row 17

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.

Bedford Row 16 small

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:

Bedford row 1

And just further along I found the following plaques:

Bedford Row 19

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

The far house is original and the house nearest the camera is a 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

alondoninheritance.com

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

alondoninheritance.com

 

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

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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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The Tower Hill Escapologist

These photographs were taken on Tower Hill in the early 1950s, no later than 1953 and show Johnny Eagle, the Tower Hill Escapologist and Strong Man who performed on Tower Hill for many years.

The Tower Hill Escapologist

The following photograph is taken from almost the same viewpoint. The new Visitor Centre, built in 2004 covers the area where my father took the original photo so I could not get exactly the same perspective.

Note how the level of the roadway and pavement up against the wall has been raised considerably. The building behind the KFC and Costa advertising is the original building from my father’s photo (this advertising is indicative of one of the big differences between the streets of London in the late 1940s and early 1950s and today, the amount of street clutter we now have, whether advertising, traffic signs, CCTV cameras etc.)

From The Same Viewpoint, 60 Years Later

Johnny Eagle, the Tower Hill Escapologist, performed at Tower Hill for almost 20 years and was also to be found at other city locations across the country, such as the Birmingham Bull Ring.

There is a British Pathe News film clip of a Buskers Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969 which includes Johnny Eagle performing. It gives you an idea of what his performance on Tower Hill would have been like. Find it here: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/buskers-concert-at-royal-albert-hall

He was born circa 1916 and died in 2001 and was buried in Witton Cemetery near Birmingham.

The white post at bottom right on the 2014 photo is a Tower of London Liberty Boundary Marker. As a royal palace and garrison, the Tower had a special administrative status for taxation and law enforcement from the middle ages to the late 19th Century. The markers ensured it was clear where the boundary between the authority of the City and the Tower was to be found.

This photo is looking back towards the Tower.Escapologist-2

The Paynes Tea van is from George Payne & Co, a Tea Merchant based near Tower Bridge. The Company was involved with the development of tea brands for Sainsbury’s, which included the Red, Blue and Green labels that were launched at the opening of the Ealing branch of Sainsbury’s in 1903. George Payne & Co evolved into Finlays who still produce Sainsbury’s Red Label tea, although now from near Doncaster rather than central London.

The following is looking back up Tower Hill towards the offices of the General Steam Navigation Company (GSN). The Company was founded in 1824 and ran steam ship services around the UK, near-Continental and to the Mediterranean. GSN ran the very popular London to Margate passenger service and for several years the annual number of passengers carried exceeded a million. Londoners escaping the city for the seaside! GSN continued through the 19th and 20th centuries running passenger and cargo services, but in 1971 the General Steam Navigation Company was fully purchased by P&O.

Escapologist-3

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The Chair Repair

Within my father’s photo collection, there are many photos of people across London. Whether as part of an overall location, or frequently the focal point of the photo.

This week’s post is from the later category. I have no idea where this was taken or who he is. Checking the photos on the negative strip either side of these photos it is safe to assume they were taken in central London, however I can find no clues within the photos as to a possible location.

Chairmender1

I am impressed by the good condition of his well polished shoes.

The close up nature of the photo shows that he did not have a problem with my father taking his photograph. These are not photos taken from a distance. He carries on with his work with an obvious high degree of concentration, and I am sure, pride in his work.

Chairmender2

This type of scene would once have been very common on the streets of London, but was soon to be replaced by a throwaway consumer culture where everyday objects are cheaper to replace than to repair.

It would though, be good to know if that chair is still in use, somewhere in London.

 alondoninheritance.com