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1846 Diary of J.W.Penfold—inventor of the octagonal pillar box

Any Jotters who in their childhood tuned into Danger Mouse, which is about to be revived, must know that his sidekick was called Penfold. It would seem that this character was named after the Victorian architect John Wornham Penfold (1828 - 1909), who is perhaps best known today as the inventor of the octagonal pillar box, several examples of which can still be found in Cheltenham.

But here we have a copy of the Punch Pocket Book for 1846 (discovered many years ago in an antique shop) that once belonged to the future architect and designer, then aged just eighteen, while he was working as a lowly assistant draughtsman in the London office of the renowned architect and illustrator Thomas Talbot Bury (1809 -1877) and his partner Charles Lee (1803 – 1880). At this time Penfold’s duties were various, and included surveying at proposed sites, researching legal documents, studying plans, often of proposed railways, and copying and preparing plans and delivering them with other related material to clients and lawyers. The Diary, also records Penfold’s churchgoing, social life, including visits of friends and relations, dining out, trips to the theatre and concerts, excursions to art galleries and museums, and visits home to his home town of Haslemere. Here  then  is a rare glimpse into the world of a trainee architect in early Victorian London at a time when  the ‘Railway Mania ‘ was raging across England and the metropolis was rapidly expanding.  Not surprisingly, most of the more interesting entries in the Diary illustrate the way in which these developments relate to Penfold’s work. Here are some examples:

January:
Wednesday 14th.Took letter to B. Williams, Waterloo Place & to Humby, Carlton Chambers. Copying Plan of Sewer under Richmond Railway on Mr Leader’s land & Beck’s Bill to W. Clay.

Monday 26th. …went with Sydney to measure across Westminster Bridge road where the south east extension is to cross by Miss Carr’s property. Inking in tracing of South Eastern Extension Ry.

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The Cavern – a view from 1964

Found in Arrows 87 (Summer 1964, edited by Roger Ebbatson) this amusing piece about 'Beat Music.' The magazine was produced by Sheffield University Union and had poems articles, graphics etc., This article was by Peter Roche a poet who was affiliated with the Liverpool Scene. He edited a 1960s anthology Love, Love, Love (The New Love Poetry) and is to be found in various poetry collections and anthologies. He was also a friend of John Peel and Cream lyricist Pete Brown.The article shows how, at the time, The Cavern (the club where the Beatles played and were discovered) was not universally loved...

Beat City by Peter Roche

Let me tell you all  a fairy story. Once upon a time, in a  city far away across the hills to the west, there was an old warehouse, in an alley off a side street. And underneath this warehouse was a cellar, where the local groups used to play their music far into the night. And people who lived on the banks of the river used to go to this cellar, because it was somewhere to go when the pubs had kicked out and you were half cut and there was nowhere else to go, and anyway there was a fair old chance of picking up a judy there. And everyone was fairly happy, minding their own business and having the occasional punch-up.

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Eviction of Adam and Eve

Found in Arrows 87 (Summer 1964, edited by Roger Ebbatson) this amusing piece about Adam and Eve. The magazine was produced by Sheffield University Union and had poems articles, graphics etc., This squib was by Peter Mottley (1935-2006) who became an actor, director and playwright.

Eviction by Peter Mottley.

Dear Mr. Adam,

I am instructed by my client to serve the enclosed eviction order concerning the property you now occupy.

He feels that he is justified in this action in view of your recent behaviour, which constitutes a breach of the terms of your lease.

You will remember the Clause 4 in your lease permitted you full access to the garden on condition that you undertook 'to dress it and keep it', and that my client generously allowed you to take for your own use any of the fruits and flower which grow there. However, he specified quite plainly that you were not under any circumstances to touch the prize-winning fruit tree in the south-east corner. This clause has been broken quite blatantly by your wife, who has freely admitted taking fruit from this tree. Her excuse, that she thought it would be all right, is considered by my client to be inadequate.

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Son of the Sixties

Found - in Axle, a short lived magazine, from June 1963 this amusing and intriguing portrait of a sixties type (or archetype.) It was written  by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley the editors of the magazine. These 2 men, 23 at the time, went on to become successful pop music composers - hits included Dave Dee's Xanadu..In 1970 they even wrote a song for Elvis ('I've lost you'.)The reference to 'Dexadrin' is obscure- can find no trace of such a magazine, possibly ingested rather than read...

Son of the Sixties

Build: Tall; slim; muscular without exercise. Complexion: clear; permanently bronzed without sun or Man-tan; never sweats...Seldom laughs (but rare smiles are planned and dazzling - he was born in natural fluoride area). Hair: Black; well-combed, no dressing; styling suggests but never quite descends to more obvious fashions of the day (Frost, Como, etc.) Clothes: by John Michael and Marks and Spencer. Can wear white shirt for whole week. General appearance: Air of masculine competence cunningly offset by one or two ambiguous touches (name-bracelet, St. Christopher chain, pastel denim shirt); usual expression, mixture of Come-Hither and Come-Off-It; can appear alternately boyish and authoritative, a trump combination arousing maternal and subject feelings in women simultaneously, rendering him irresistible. Looks at best after all night party. Background: only son of fashionably separated parents (White Russian mother, Franco-Jewish father) whom he visited alternately in school holidays; discreet fostering of their sense of guilt won him ample allowance and Porsche at 18. Education: Attended Bedales where he swam on summer nights in nude and was encouraged extracurricular activities; he in turn encouraged extra martial activity of master's wife who fondly imagined she had done the seducing. Always the centre of any group, without responsibility of actual leadership...Scraped 3 G.C.E. passes and entered St. Martin's Art School where... he gained undistinguished diploma. Occupations: rejected father's suggestion that he should 'work his way up from the bottom' (in three years) in his costume jewellery business. After spell as bar steward on Azores run where he cut dashing figure in whites, found (with friend of girl friend's help) tailor-made niche as London P.R.O. for obscure but loaded mining venture in Pretoria which enables him to indulge twin ambitions of luxurious living and complete independence. Residence: From liberal expense account was able to set up basement flat in renovated Earls Court terrace, where he frequently throws lavish (but informal) parties that are unexceptionally tremendous successes and are usually raided. (But he has a way with The Law). Clubs: Discotheque, Le Gigolo, Muriel's National Film Theatre, La Poubellle, Rockingham, Ronnie Scott's (offer drinks at, but has never joined The Establishment). Takes: The Observer, Peace News, Dexadrin. Glances at: The Times, Daily Express, Izvetzia, Private Eye, Encounter, Town, Playboy, Paris-Match, Sight and Sound, his horoscope. Went through novel and poetry reading stage at 15; still studies reviews quite carefully. Listens to: Today (2nd edition), Pick of the Pops. Watches: Panorama, Tonight, Compact (for laughs and because he knows some of the cast very intimately), Points of View. Outlook: Intellectual inferiors regard him as unassumingly highbrow, while academics find his 'untouched originality' refreshing. Remarkably adaptable, is equally at home in company of Soho villains and company directors, pop singers and clergymen. Mixes everything from sex to drinks and generally likes neither straight. Believes in experience (hash-smoking, etc.) as a right rather than as anything wildly off-beat, but demands best in everything. A self-confessed dilettante, seeks to avoid type-casting; likes to confound admirers of both sexes by appearing in public with wholly atypical companions. An agnostic, takes pleasure in arguing case for Christianity and was cynical at attempts at compromise in Honest to God. Politics: Wouldn't vote in next election even if he were 21. Occasionally supports Committee of 100 demonstrations, but no longer marches ... Future: Middle-age. And then…?
(Excerpt)
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Leon Gambetta’s crisis

Leon Gambetta—‘ the grand orateur et homme d’Etat’.

So reads the printed label stuck on the back of this carte de visite by a French dealer sometime early in the twentieth century. It is indeed a ‘ curieuse piece ‘, as the dealer avers. Gambetta has addressed in pencil, above his printed name, the following remark to an unidentified friend or colleague:

‘Le crise dures toujours, impossible de mettre le nez dehors…’
(The crisis is lasting for ages, impossible to stick ones nose outside…)

Historians might debate what crisis Gambetta is referring to. There were doubtless several in the tempestuous political career of one of France’s greatest heroes. But the date of 12th December that Gambetta adds at the end of his message might offer a clue. In Paris from 23rd November to 15th December 1877 the improbably named President McMahon presided over a ministry that excluded all ‘parliamentary hands‘ like Gambetta and his democratic colleagues. During this period it was felt that MacMahon was planning a coup d’etat and this crisis came to a head around December 10th and 11th. The idea was to deny power to Gambetta, who may have felt that his life was in danger during this time. Excluding Gambetta worked for a few years, but eventually, in 1881, he was asked to form a ministry. This lasted for just 66 days.

Around late November 1882 Gambetta was shot in the stomach, but this was an accident. However, it may have contributed to the stomach cancer that eventually claimed his life, on 31st December 1882.

[R.R.]  

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A charitable action from Richard Arkwright—the richest shareholder in Britain

Every schoolboy knows about Sir Richard Arkwright, the pioneer factory owner from Derbyshire whose invention of the water frame contributed hugely to the Industrial Revolution. Well here’s a scrawl from his son, Richard Arkwright junior (1755 – 1843), who took over the business and proved to be an even greater industrialist than his father had been. On the latter’s death he sold some the factories he had inherited and ploughed back the capital into property, shares and a bank. At his death his fortune was estimated at £3m, making him the richest man in Britain outside the landowning classes.

The letter, which is dated 20 February 1837 and is addressed from the family home of Willersley Castle,
just down the road from Arkwright senior’s Cromford Mill, asks an unidentified correspondent to attend to a cripple, Eliza Freer, who is related to someone known to him.  Let Richard himself explain:

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The A.A. Gunner’s creed

A.A. RAF team in Normandy.
Many thanks Histomil
Found in The Journal of the Royal Air Force Volume 15, no. 2 Autumn, 1935. pp 229-230 The A.A. Gunner's Creed, by H. W. H. The journal preface the creed by stating "…the origin of this creed is unknown, and the Editor publishes it hoping that he is not infringing any copyright" - a sentiment we also echo. HWH shows considerable wit and was probably a formidable gunner. A.A., as every WWII buff knows, stands for 'Anti-Aircraft.'

Whosoever will be saved: before all things it is necessary to hold the A.A. Faith.

Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled: without doubt he shall miss the target everlastingly.

And the A.A. Faith is this: that we worship Calibration and the Mean of Three Height Readings.

Neither confounding the Height-takers: nor cavilling at their marvellous discrepancies.

For there is one Height of the Mirror, another of the Altimeter: and another of the U.B.2.

And yet there are not three Heights; but one Height.

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A rare souvenir of London’s Great Wheel

The Great Wheel, which was built for the Empire of India exhibition at Earl’s Court in 1895, and was the ‘London Eye’ of its time, is pretty well documented. Postcards showing various aspects of it can be had quite easily, as can medallions, which were struck periodically throughout its career, right up to 1907, when it was demolished. But what we have here is something quite rare—on a number of levels. Firstly, it is a large photographic image of the wheel—four times the size of a postcard—which was mounted on board and sold –presumably to be framed and hung—by the famous  commercial printers of posters, stamps and banknotes, Waterlow and Sons Ltd. And there on the lower right hand corner is the signature of the Wheel’s ‘constructor ‘ Walter B Basset ‘, which may be original, but could equally be a facsimile. Lastly, we can date the photograph because it depicts the Wheel looming above the temporary constructions in painted wood and ironwork—some especially imported from India-- that comprised the Exhibition, which was the brainchild of Imre Kiralfy, a producer of burlesques and spectacles.

Interestingly, in the background can be glimpsed  the warehouses that stored the forage for the horses that transported goods of London largest department store, Whiteleys, while in the bottom left hand foreground can be seen a very early example of an elaborate electric floodlighting system for the Exhibition. If the signature is a facsimile then this mounted photograph could well have been a bit of opportunistic merchandising by Basset, who remains a very significant figure in the history of the amusement industry. Born Walter Basset Williams in 1864, the scion of an ancient Devon family, whose seat was Watermouth Castle, he entered the Royal Navy but left in 1882, possibly due to ill health, and instead took up engineering with the well established Maudslay Sons and Field, which specialised in steam-power. Here he did well and by the age of just 27 had become managing director. In 1894, inspired by the pioneering example in Chicago, he begun to build his first steam-powered Ferris Wheel at Earl’s Court, which when completed stood 300 feet high and contained 30 carriages, each of which could carry 30 passengers. It was an immediate success, but its popularity waned over the following years and in 1907 it was dismantled and the metal sold for scrap to the same company which 46 years later was to buy the Skylon at the Festival of Britain and produce cigarette cases from the scrap metal.

While the Wheel was still operating, however, Basset built other Ferris Wheels at Blackpool and Paris, but neither were a financial success, and when Maudslay went bankrupt in 1899, he set up his own business, The Basset Nut and Screw Company, in Belgium. In the end the destruction of his prized project at Earl’s Court may have been the last straw for a man in poor health, for in May 1907 he died, aged just 43, at the family home in Devon.  Thankfully, the Vienna Riesenrad survived its creator and is now one of the city’s greatest attractions—it featured in the films ‘The Third Man’ and ‘The Living Daylights’.

[R.M.Healey]
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A begging letter from a debtor’s prison

Begging letters from debtors don’t usually survive, although there are at least three reasons why they might. Perhaps the writer was a well known person who at the time was down on his luck and counted on a friend or person of means to help him out. Alternatively, the writer could later have become famous or even notorious and the letter would be regarded as a souvenir or talking point. Of course, the writer could have been neither famous nor notorious, and the retention of a begging letter was a means of recording a favour that one man owed to another.

This particular letter is from someone who signs himself M. Eurius Beaubrier, and is addressed to a Henry Clarke. Although preliminary research has revealed nothing of the writer, who may have been French, the handwriting is that of an educated man and the tone is rather pathetic. The letter suggests that both he and Clarke, who is also hard to identify, had dealings before.

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki seventy years on–a naval officer’s visit to Japan in 1946/1947

To mark the terrible events of seventy years ago in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, here are some postcards bought by my late father while visiting Japan, late in 1946 or early in 1947, as a commander in the Royal Navy. They were found interleaved in the first volume of a two volume guide book entitled We Japanese, first published in December 1934 and June 1937,by H.S.K Yamaguchi, the managing director of the exclusive Fujiya Hotel at Miyanoshita, situated in the mountainous region of Hakone, eighty miles SW of Tokyo.

The first and second volumes of this four hundred page guide to ‘many of the customs, manners, ceremonies, festivals, arts and crafts of the Japanese’ were reprinted in October and December respectively. A third and final volume appeared in 1949. My father probably bought his copies while staying at the hotel, which was established in 1878 by a member of the Yamaguchi family, and today advertises itself as the oldest ‘Western-style’ hotel in Japan. He wouldn’t have met the guide’s author, who had made great improvements to his hotel in the thirties, because he had died in 1944, but he might have rubbed shoulders with some of its famous guests. During the war one of these was the loathsome ‘Butcher of Warsaw’, Joseph Meisinger, but he had been captured by the Allies in September 1945. At other times celebrities staying at this exclusive hotel included Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Charlie Chaplin, and the Emperor of Japan himself. In 1978 Yoko Ono took John Lennon here.

Today, at £133 pp per night, the Fujiya Hotel no doubt trades on its exclusive reputation, but it is still cheaper than a less famous rival nearby. If you do decide to visit it, the receptionist may let you consult the final issue (1950) of the guide to Japan that my father bought nearly seventy years ago. [RMH]

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Francine Saigon parodist of Francoise Sagan

Found  - a Keystone file photo from March 9th 1963 of 16 year old  novelist Felicity Moxton. Her book Bonsoir Maitresse: a novel (Pavilion Publications, London 1963) was a parody of Francoise Sagan's bestselling 1954 novel Bonjour Tristesse. It is quite rare but looks like this (the design very much like Francoise Sagan's French paperbacks):-

The back of the press photo reads:

Only 16 years old… is the young English writer Felicity Moxton and in a short time her first book will be to get in all book-shops. Felicity is the daughter of a writer in London. Her first book has the title 'Bonsoir Maitresse' and her pseudonym is 'Francine Saigon'. Everybody can see by this title and this name, that Felicity thought to the famous French author Francoise Sagan and her book 'Bonjour Tristesse'. Felicity told a newspaper, that she wanted to make a joke about the books of Francoise Sagan. Let us see, what Felicity had to write!

There are fake reviews at the rear 'Sagan, beware' (Paris Snatch) and 'Proceeds entrancingly from one triviality to another.' (Figarifico). The fictitious former works by Francine Saigon are noted as -Un Certain Sneer, Aimez-vous Hams? and *Marvellous New Ages. The blurb reads:

What is a mistress? How does a mistress begin? How does a mistress end? Exploring this theme, Francine Saigon's new novel tells the story of a young girl's relationship with a father who is more faithful to his old mistress than his successive wives.

Written in the inimitable style which is so familiar to Saigon devotees, 'Bonsoir Maitresse' will linger in the reader's heart long after the covers are closed.

* Les Merveilleux Nuages

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Gad About Guide (London 1948)

Found - a city guide book from 1948 - the year of the London Olympics. The tone is upbeat. There is no mention of the war or austerity, there is even talk of one businessman commuting to work by helicopter. The guide was put out by a long defunct car hire company called Walter Scott, possibly named after the novelist…the guide book is a good snapshot of late 1940s London. The letters of appreciation from aristocrats and a 'world famous actress' are especially amusing.


GAD ABOUT GUIDE

Issued every now and then, to help
busy people get about London quickly.


THIRD EDITION

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1930s Diatribe against wage slavery

The recent Jot reproducing manifestos from The Idler that celebrate freedom from the corporatist world remind me of a wonderfully invocatory collection of poems from Kenneth Muir called The Nettle and the Flower, which came out in 1933. Muir, then just 26, had, just a few years before, graduated from St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where Geoffrey Grigson was his senior by two years. I seem to recall that Muir, being a rather serious-minded student, took against Grigson ostensibly because he performed a prank in which he dressed up as a ghost. But it is more likely that the freshman of solid Labour convictions felt contempt for anyone of a privileged background (though Grigson, who attended a very minor public school, was hardly in this category) who had broken the General Strike of 1926. Grigson was one of many at the University who helped unload ships at Hull docks.

Anyway, The Nettle and the Flower, though rather unfocussed politically, certainly reflected Muir’s equal hatred of the Stalinist view of conveyor-belt drudgery as something noble that contributed to the power of the worker-state, and exploitative Big Business. This is from a Poem to William MacCance:

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The Tragedy of Copped Hall

The effects of the First World War were wide and long lasting, not just for those who were directly involved in it, one way or another , but for the architectural heritage of Britain. The deaths of so many sons of the upper class meant that estates that had been run so successfully up to 1914 were plunged into uncertainty. Great mansions were sold off or demolished. A different fate befell one great house and its astonishing gardens in Essex, as some clippings found among the papers of the late Peter Haining, who must have passed the site regularly on his route to and from his Essex home, tell.

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A Shilling a Day on Food

Found--a cutting of an interesting article from the mid 1920s by Walter M. Gallichan, journalist, novelist and writer on health, sex education and fishing. Undated but probably from the Daily Mail (mention of Woodman Burbidge on the rear of the press-cutting puts in the 1920s when he was chairman of Harrods.) The purchasing power of a shilling (5p) then is about £2.50 now, still a fairly low sum for a day's food.

A Shilling's worth. Full day's Food - by Walter M. Gallichan.

A shilling spent with discrimination will purchase a substantial and savoury meal of non rationed foods. The foods that offer the highest nutritive and force-giving value are still fairly cheap. A shilling may be wasted upon food of an expensive kind containing only a minimum of nutriment. For example, a shilling's worth of jelly may be purchased under the delusion that gelatine is an excellent food, possessing considerable nutritive value. As a matter of fact, the calf's foot jelly commerce and the packet 'jelly squares', thought easily digested and pleasant to the palate, are practically worthless for repairing the waste of the body and giving energy.

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The Meaning of the Missiles

The Meaning of the Missiles---a Cold War warning from American peace organisations.

If the cease fire in Eastern Ukraine fails and the US government votes to arm the Ukraine forces, some experts predict that this dangerous escalation could create a situation similar in its ramifications to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

This 'Survival Leaflet no 6', which was issued in 1958/59 by three American peace organisations, possibly  directed by Quaker pacifists, but acting in concert, seems deliberately alarmist in its predictions of a push button nuclear war in which American cities are atomised by Soviet H bombs and cities in the Soviet Union are destroyed by rockets from European installations under the control of the Pentagon. But this destruction was quite feasible in 1957, when, according to the leaflet there were 'precise plans to erect in Europe some fourteen rocket positions in each of which will be emplaced perhaps fifteen missiles.'

The antidote to such warmongering, according to the authors of this pamphlet, is love and pragmatism overcoming political ideology. Public opinion in favour of a build up of missiles must be changed and the way to do this was for American lovers of peace to write to their representatives, talk to those in positions of power, organise local meetings and distribute copies of this leaflet, which cost $1 for 50. [RR]

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C.M.Westmacott—a blackmailer of the Regency

This scrap of a letter, on paper watermarked 1824, was discovered a few years ago in a pile of autographs. It had been sent by the rather obscure W.B.MacDonagh, author of The Hermit in London to Charles Molloy Westmacott, editor of the notorious Age newspaper, and author of the London Spy, and proposed a meeting to discuss business.

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W.H.R. Rivers

Sometimes now known as 'The Psychiatrist of The Ghost Road' W.H.R.Rivers has a formidable reputation and holds a pivotal place in the development of neurophysiology, psychiatry/ psychology and anthropology - but he is probably most widely known for his wartime association with Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves and is featured in Pat Barker's 1995 Booker prize winning novel The Ghost Road. L.R. Reeve* some of whose encounters with famous people we are posting, actually never met him but saw him lecture and, sadly, missed a chance to meet him '…after he had addressed an audience at Cambridge he invited the London contingent to his rooms at St John's College for coffee and discussion. Some of us, I among them, wanted to return by the next train and reluctantly refused. What a chance I missed!' Nevertheless he has a good account of him:

W.H.R.RIVERS

Dr Rivers (1864 - 1922) was one of those rare men who call forth the best generous impulses of anyone with whom they come in contact. No extreme selfish extrovert, no criminal, nobody I should think, could resist his unconscious charm; and he himself, like Harold Nicolson, couldn't hate anybody.
  
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Fat Mary’s brother, a royal sex scandal and a precedent created

As a follow-up to a very recent Jot on Princess Mary of Teck, whose biography was called The People’s Princess, here is a short letter from her brother, found amongst a pile of old letters acquired a few years ago.

 Prince Francis of Teck seems to have followed the age-old career path of minor royalty—public school, Sandhurst, and action abroad -- only this particular royal seems to have been a philanderer and gambler. He had an affair with the beautiful Ellen Constance, wife of the 3rd Earl of Kilmorey, and this together with his ruinous gambling got him sent to India. In the letter, dated March 20th 1893, written when Francis was a lieutenant in the 1st Royal Dragoons, he thanks someone called Mowbray for sending him an ‘ excellent photograph’ but regrets that due to an ‘ exam’ that he is obliged to take on the 4th May, he cannot accept an invitation to visit him. This exam may have been for the rank of captain, and though he probably failed it on this occasion, he was promoted the following year. After India he served in Egypt, and later saw action in the Boer War, eventually retiring in 1901 with the rank of major.

In 1910 Francis died suddenly at Balmoral of pneumonia, aged 39.When his will was read it was discovered to his family’s horror that he had bequeathed to his mistress Ellen the famous Cambridge emeralds, which were part of the family jewels. It was then left to his sister, now Queen Mary, to have this will sealed, thus creating a legal precedent. Previously, royal wills could be publicly examined. The Queen also  negotiated to buy back the emeralds, reportedly paying £10,000 ( around £600,000 today ) for them. Mary then wore them at the coronation of her husband in 1911.

A few years ago actress Sarah Miles claimed that not long after this letter was written, Francis fathered an illegitimate son called Francis Remnant, who became her maternal grandfather. This makes the beautiful Sarah second cousin of the present Queen.

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Charles Pearson & James Watt association

Discovered in 1998 on a market stall off Brick Lane is this copy of the exceedingly rare Substance of a Address by Charles Pearson at a Public Meeting (1844). The book is scarce enough (none on Abebooks, nor likely to be in the near future), but my copy also bears an inscription from the author to James Watt, son of the famous Scottish engineer.

Watt (1769 – 1848) who, like his father, was an engineer, but was also a radical political activist in the turbulent 1790s, has his own Wikipedia entry, but there is no mention in it of Pearson. Nevertheless, the two men had much in common. While in France Watt’s support for the French revolutionaries and his friendship with Joseph Priestley, got him condemned in the British Parliament and he remained in self-imposed exile until he felt it was safe to return home. A generation younger, Pearson, as the radical Solicitor for the City of London, was the champion of parliamentary reform who defended radicals in court. He also was in favour of the disestablishment of the Church of England, opposed the system of packed juries and fought commercial monopolies in London. A year after his Substance on an Address appeared, he published a pamphlet which called for an atmospheric railway that would follow the ancient Fleet ditch to Farringdon. This was rejected and I seem to remember that Punch had great fun with the idea. Other railway schemes supported by Pearson were also rejected, but at last in 1854 the Royal Commission accepted a proposal to build an underground railway, using the ‘cut and cover ‘method, from Praed Street to Farringdon. Work began in 1860 and within three years the new line was completed. The world now had its first underground railway. Unfortunately, Pearson had died while the work was still in progress and he never got to ride on the first train.

It would be nice to think that Watt, the consultant engineer behind the building of Fulton’s North River Steamboat of 1807, and the marine engineer who in 1817 was responsible for the first steamship to leave an English port, had something to do with Pearson’s atmospheric railway of 1845. It seems very possible, especially as Watt’s expertise was in steam power and pneumatics. In addition, Pearson’s address of 1844 tackles many of the issues that would have been close to Watt’s radical heart and the younger man would have taken great pleasure in presenting a copy of his book to the septuagenarian former firebrand.

One question remains. Watt died at his home, Aston Hall, near Birmingham, in 1848. So how did his book end up on an East End junk stall in 1998 ?