Cabaret, Chinese food and national anthems in Yorkshire’s most eccentric pub

Showers John StanhopeAn entry in the 1961- 62 edition of The Good Food Guide describes the exuberant John Showers and his’ inn’, the Stanhope in Calverley Lane, Rodley, south east of Leeds, thus:

‘He fills out the nightly menus with his own essays, and he has written two books about it. Foreign visitors, of which there are many, are liable to be welcomed in their own tongue (Mr Showers’circular green notepaper has Cheerio on it in thirty languages) and escorted to their tables to the sound of their own national anthem. There is a nightly cabaret, by no means undistinguished and not ‘blue’ for which he sometimes writes the script. The dining-room is very small, and serves some English dishes but ignore them ( except for no. 80 ’curried octopus’—so English, don’t you think?) and go for the Chinese food. Try, divided among a party, the Sea Salad (9/-), inkfish with bean sprouts (8/-), Stanhope Special ( based on chicken , pork and water-chestnuts, 8/ 6) or ask for some advice…

Reading the two books in question one will discover that before he opened The Stanhope, the Essex-born Showers was, among other things, a male manikin, bus conductor, and a banana planter. In 1937, inspired by the example of the new king and his consort playing darts publicly he installed a board in his saloon, hoping to attract the upper middle class. Alas, only the local proletariat came to play, and eventually the board was relocated to the tap-room. All of which recalls Basil Fawlty’s disastrous ‘gourmet night’ ! Continue reading

Havelock Ellis on British geniuses

 

Havelock Ellis picFound in a album of cuttings from various East Anglian newspapers in the early twentieth century is a review that appeared in The Leader, December 24th, 1906 of A Study of British Genius by the pioneer sexologist Havelock Ellis. The reviewer gleefully notes that East Anglia seems to have produced a high proportion of geniuses. To make his point he lists in order of greatness those English counties that have contributed most to the making of English men of genius. These were:

Norfolk

Suffolk

Hertfordshire

Warwickshire

Worcestershire

Herefordshire

Buckinghamshire

Cornwall

Dorsetshire

Oxfordshire

Shropshire

Ellis looked at the genius’s place of origin—that is, the district to which his four grandparents belonged. London as a birthplace was ignored altogether. This was because, where information was available, it was nearly always found that the parents had migrated to London. It rarely occurred that ‘even one grandparent belonged to London ‘. Continue reading

Going to the Sales in 1906

olivias-shopping-001Now that the January sales appear to be in full swing it might be valuable to take the advice of the pseudonymous ‘ Olivia ‘, a copy of whose ‘ prejudiced guide to the London shops ‘of 1906 cropped up in a pile of books. This chatty and opinionated, and possibly American-born, veteran of West End emporia, took retail therapy to new heights in her search for quality, elegance and good value. Here’s what she has to say about the vexed matter of sales.

The magic word that stocks our wardrobes, deletes our purses, disorganizes our routine, fascinates us, repels us, delights us, disappoints us twice a year regularly in London—for how much is it not answerable?

The ethics of sales are so disturbing, one time so morally and clearly good, the next minute so conspicuously disappointing and bad, that no woman, I believe is quite settled in her mind regarding them. 

Personally, I find it a delightful thing to buy a pretty piece of stuff ‘marked down ‘.Even when I can buy the same thing fresh and by the yard, and at the identical price, it never thrills as does that remnant with the wrong amount of yards, the torn edge, and the marked down price. There is no doubt we all love a bargain, even when it is only on paper.

This trait in our feminine character is fully appreciated by the shopkeeper. Therefore, there are sometimes disappointments to be encountered at sales. On the other hand, some of us attempt to remain level-headed in the matter, and are not to be won over. Continue reading

Barbara Lea – a forgotten Fenland poet

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Found – a copy of The Urgent Voice: and other poems by Barbara Lea  (Fortune Press, London 1948.) She lead a short but productive life and is unknown to Wikipedia or any online database apart from Peerage.com who have a good factual entry* on her as, unusually for a Fortune Press poet, she was an aristocrat. The foreword is anonymous and it is just possible it is by Reginald Caton, the founder of the press but is more likely to be by a friend or family member. We append a good East Anglian poem by her after the foreword.

Barbara Lea (nee Pell) was born at Wilburton Manor in the Isle of Ely in 1903. She never lost her early passion for the Fenland, nor for the house in which she was born; indeed, she loved houses and places, before people, witness her poems ‘East Anglia Revisited’, ‘In Time of Trouble’, ‘First Visit’.

She married in 1924 and had five children, the last being born in 1934, and in spite of all the ties of home life, she became increasingly interested and active, in politics and the Women’s Institutes.

When the war started in 1939 she was on the Executive Committee of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, as well as the Worcestershire Committee, and Chairman of the Woman’s Land Army in Worcestershire; a member of the County War Agriculture Committee, and was occupied by a large number of less onerous activities, such as Justice of the Peace, Guardians’ Committee, Parish Council, Parochial Church Council, District Nursing Association, and others too numerous to mention. In 1943 she was awarded the O.B.E. Continue reading

Maundy Gregory – a St John’s Wood Gatsby

IMG_1829Found in a 1955 Punch – a review by the novelist Anthony Powell of Honours for Sale. The Strange Story of Maundy Gregory. (Gerald Macmillan, London: Richards Press 1954). Maundy Gregory had in the 1920s what amounted to a licence to print money. He sold honours, a profession that made a comeback in the Blair years. For £10,000 (about $1 million now) he could get you an earldom; knighthoods were a bit cheaper. You could, in fact, sign a cheque to him in your expected new name–only cashable when you assumed the title. He liked rare books, especially the works of the fantastical Frederick Rolfe (Baron Corvo.) In some cases (according to AJA Symons in Quest for Corvo) he would pay his agents to track down supposedly unfindable books, money no object. He had a mansion in St John’s Wood which later became the world famous Beatle’s recording studio.

Powell calls him an ‘honours tout’, a ‘real life Gatsby’ and ‘a mad aspect of the 1920s incarnate’. He suggests that anyone  ‘who enjoys a good laugh’ should read the list of  guests at his Derby Eve Dinner at his own club ‘The Ambassador’s.’ Something of a ‘sausage fest’ (i.e. no women) but, as Powell says, Gregory certainly knew how to ‘bring them in.’  The author of the book, Gerald Macmillan, may  be exaggerating when he says it was the most distinguished gathering ever held…

List of guests at Ambassador Derby Eve Dinner, held on June 2, 1931.

Major-General J. E. B. Seely (in the Chair), Sir Austen Chamberlain, Mr. Winston Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, Mr. J. H. Thomas, the Duke of Sutherland, Viscount Craigavon, the Marquess of Reading, Major-General the Earl of Scarborough, Sir John Simon, Lord Southborough, Viscount Elibank, Mr. J. Maundy Gregory, Lord Jessel, Mr. Ralph E. Harwood, Earl Winterton, Lord Queenborough, Lord Bayford, Mr. W. Dudley Ward, Lord Plender, Marquis del Moral, Lieutenant-Commander Sir Warden Chilcott. Continue reading

London A to Z (1953)

IMG_1381Found – this rare and attractive paperback guide to London published by Andre Deutsch in 1953 and illustrated by Edward Bawden. This extract of three entries gives the flavour
of the book. How many people raise their hats (head-gear?) when passing the Cenotaph in 2016? How many people still possess bowler hats and who could still call its football team ‘poor old Chelsea.’?

BOWLER HAT. The possession on of the correct type of bowler, hairy, not too large and curly-brimmed, is as essential to the young man about town as a pair of trousers. It is worn e either in the hand which is not carrying the rolled umbrella, or, sometimes, even on the head, tilted forward over the eyes at the angle adopted by villains in Victorian melodrama. The most London of all headgear…

IMG_1382CENOTAPH. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, the simple and auster national memorial to the dead of the Commonwealth in both world wars stands in the middle of Whitehall.  It is the focal point of the nation’s morning on Remembrance Day. Men raise their hats when they pass it.

CHELSEA. Long famous as the home of artists, London’s nearest approach to a Latin Quarter, is now the favourite area of civil servants and businessmen as well.

An attractive and friendly place, which centres around the Kings Road and runs from Sloane Square down to the river, it’s studded with some very good cheapish restaurants, antique shops, drinking clubs. Both the men and women wear corduroy trousers. It also houses the Chelsea Football Club (at Stamford Bridge), long known as ‘poor old Chelsea,’ the despair and the delight – mostly the former – of its supporters.

Miseries of Twenty First Century Life – Travelling

Miseries of travelling picMiseries of Twenty First Century Life (inspired by James Beresford’s 1806 masterpiece).

Miseries of Travelling.

Arriving at Middlesborough station and finding your way somehow to your B & B in some godawful back street, you are show to your room but after unpacking your suitcase, find that a mini-monsoon has prevented you from leaving your room in search of a pub, and with the town centre over a mile away. The TV doesn’t seem to be working, you can’t get a signal on your mobile , so for entertainment you first inspect the walls for perhaps an old steel engraving of a local beauty spot or two and find instead a reproduction of a rural scene by Helen Allingham and a daub of a cat by a girl aged 8; you then turn in desperation to a couple of shelves opposite the bed and find a Goss china souvenir of Harrogate, a lamp made out of a Chianti bottle, a pottery frog and a leaping dolphin hand crafted from grey resin. You look among some likely looking books and find nothing but three scruffy paperbacks of James Herbert, a mint copy of The Maid of Buttermere by Melvyn Bragg, a slimmer’s cookbook with an introduction by Gloria Hunniford, four Joanna Trollopes, two chicklit novels by women called Charlotte Gibbons and Vicki Manderson, an Argos catalogue of 2003, a battered poetry anthology by C Day Lewis, an odd volume of the works of Walter Scott, undated but c 1880, the autobiography of Alan Shearer, a paperback of popular astrology by Dale Winton, a local bus timetable dated 1985, a 1970s guide to Athens and an old copy of This England with several pages missing… [R.M.Healey]

The Golden Dustmen of Dickens’ time

Dust heap Somers TownA central character in Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend (1865) is Nicodemus Boffin, nicknamed ‘The Golden Dustman ‘ because of the wealth he inherited from his old employer John Harmon, who had made his fortune as a Dust Contractor at Somers Town. These famous rubbish piles stood where the filthy Maiden’s Lane (now roughly York Way) joined onto Pentonville Road, near where Kings Cross station now stands. Here, just about anything could be found—‘dust ‘ was a Victorian euphemism; there was more likely to be dead dogs ,cats, horses, discarded pots and pans, crockery, shoes, boots, old clothes and all sorts of debris from the surface of roads, including grit, horse dung, dog dirt, as well as the human excrement collected by the scavengers. All this so called ‘dust’, once separated, could be sold to various factory owners for large profits. Dickens, who loved exploring London, once lived in Doughty Street, which is just a mile from the famous Somers Town dust heaps, and must have known them well. He also became friendly with a wealthy Dust Contractor from Islington called Henry Dodd who, at his death in 1881, left a fortune of £111,000. It has been argued that the character of Boffin was based on Dodd.
A contemporary sketch of the Somers Town site is dated 1836, but doubtless contractors had been adding to the muck heaps for many years up this date. Scavengers are depicted clambering over the filthy heaps in search of the more valuable items to sell on, a process that still takes place in some third world countries. It is interesting to find, therefore, a London Times classified advertisement of December 6th 1820, when Dickens was a boy of eight, requesting Dust Contractors to tender for a contract in Chelsea.

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Oswell Blakeston on Drinking in the City

Posted by jotter HB this piece by Oswell Blakeston – of whom his partner Max Chapman said- “.(he had) a quick eye for the bizarre and the outrageous”. The portrait of him is by fellow avant-garde film maker Bruguiere.

george-eastman-house-bruguiere-series-1379746538_bBut of course ‘drinking in the City’ means different pleasures to different people. One can drink the whole fascination of a nation’s trade with the gentlemen who (say) leave their bowler hats on the mantelpiece in The Capataz in Old Broad Street. They may look ‘ordinary’, these quietly cultured men, but they have much strange lore, and maybe one deals in tea leaves which have been grown on a mountain called ‘The Thousand Acres of Cloud’ and another in furs caught by trappers in a landscape that is so chill that words turn into icicles. One may imbibe in the City in tall rooms with one great sheet of mirror behind the bar and stand next to dark-suited clerks who know all about jungles where the vegetation gasps for air or about Arctic wastes that exist as fables agreed upon.

Oswell Blakeston, the pen name of Henry Joseph Hasslacher (1907-85), was an editor, travel writer, film critic and poet. He also wrote cookery books, including Edwardian Glamour Cooking Without Tears (1960).  – lib.utexas.edu

The Book of the City, a collection of essays, was published by Ian Norrie (d. 2009), the owner of the High Hill Bookshop in Hampstead. (We have more from Ian Norrie in recently purchased archives.) [HB]

A Georgian Giles Coren 2

More extracts from an anonymous ‘Review of Taverns , Inns, Coffee Houses and Genteel Eating Houses’ published in the New London Magazine, July and August 1788. The web has done part of the work  by publishing the first part of this survey of eating places, which appeared in the June 1788 issue of The New London Magazine. Luckily, the second and third parts of this series remain offline. So here are some of the highlights of this witty and very politically incorrect survey of eateries in late Georgian London. See our earlier posting A Georgian Giles Coren for more..

Spread Eagle, Strand.

Long noted among the society of the humorous and intelligent. The rooms are here remarkably spacious. Indeed they are in stile. As to the bill of fare, it abounds with every article in the season, from a mutton chop to a bustard or John-dory. The wines are all pure and well flavoured. If there be any preferable to others, it is the sherry and the port. The master and waiters are as civil and patient at four in the morning as at eight in the evening; and the prices of the various articles are very moderate.

58791Toy, Hampton-court.


Pitch-cock eels are here in the utmost perfection. Being in the vicinity of the palace, it is ever frequented in the summer months, by the great, the dissipated and the inquisitive. The apartments are airy, the bill of fare is rich and diversified.
The wines are all excellent. If the bill appears stretched sometimes, strangers cannot much repine, as they have always the best of everything for their money, and likewise the utmost alacrity of attention. The guests would rather pay a guinea at the Toy, from experience, that fifteen shillings for the same fare any where contigious.1)

August 1788

 Windsor Castle, Richmond.

 Long has this house been in estimation. Rigby, who often formerly used to bait here, en tete a tete, used to say “ that further up you may fare worse! “ . The apartments are all spacious, and the view from behind a most luxurious landscape! Good eels, good fowls, and good venison, are found here. The various courses are all served up in style, and there is not a wine but what is of the highest flavour, and best quality. The stables too are excellent in equestrian accommodation; and that is no secondary consideration with a man of feeling, who feeds his horse himself, while the cuisineur is preparing his own feed. The charge is by no means extortionate, and there is as grateful a fair hair’d curtsey at the bar to be had for a shilling as for a guinea. In the left front parlour is a room befitting even Middleton himself. It was lined by India, at least in painting—the panels were formed for the room, and then sent out for Asiatic gilding!

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A Ghost Story of Princes Risborough

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Catalogue of 1997 Contents Sale

From some papers relating to the Grubbe family of Priory House, Blythburgh, Suffolk and Horsenden Manor, Princes Risborought, Buckinghamshire this true ghost story with diagrams etc., The haunted Horsenden Manor is now inhabited by a rock musician, one Jay Kay of the band Jamiroquai. A Ghost Story and some Considerations thereon. L.C. Grubbe, Southwold, Suffolk. The following pages may be of service to seekers after the truth about ghosts and indeed interest many people not yet attained to the omniscience necessary in order to exclude such things altogether from the pale of possibility. I say ‘omniscience’ because in a universe so vast as ours, one must manifestly know everything that is there, before he can assent positively what is not. The discoveries constantly being made by science of secrets that for ages have lain concealed in our midst prove the immensity of the fields open to exploration as well as the dense ignorance about them in which the human mind is still wrapped. Every new fact brought to light concerning nature and her resources is as a window added to the chamber of human consciousness opening on visas of possibility never before entertained, and stretching away again into the dim haze of the absolutely unknown. What I have to relate is a very plain matter of fact story. In a secluded part of one of the midland counties stands an old country house, the home of many generations of my family, out of whose hands it passed some 60 years ago. Possibly the site has been occupied ever since Roman times, for Roman masonry was found in the foundations during alterations, but he present main building though added to and in some part of the 7th century altered is probably the same as stood during the civil wars. I am however only concerned with a certain small portion of it, which during my grandfathers time bore the reputation of being haunted, though neither he nor his children have ever been accused of undue prejudice in form of what is to my mind miscalled ‘The Supernatural’. Continue reading

Joan Abbay – Art & The Holy Grail

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Found —  a slim volume of poetry from 1927 Lodequest: A Ballad of the Grail (Ancient House, Ipswich 1927) by Herbert Hudson. His wife produced the illustrated cover and also contributed one of the poems. She was Joan Abbay an East Anglian artist, and this is the only example of her work currently online, although it is possible some of her paintings are occasionally sold at auction.

The introduction to the book places the Grail legend in context, quoting from Jessie L Weston’s The Quest of the Holy Grail (1913)- (also an influence on a somewhat better known poem*):

“Every student of mediaeval literature will bear witness that there were strange current stirring in those days, that more was believed,that more was known than the official guardians of faith and morals cared to admit; that much, very much of this undercurrent of yearning and investigation was concerned with the search for the source of life; life physical, and life immortal. I contend that the Grail romances were a survival that period of unrest….The secret of the Grail I hold to be above all a human problem. When seekers after Truth will consent to work together in harmony, doing full justice to each other’s views, then,and not till then, the secret of the Grail will cease to be a secret.” Continue reading

A Georgian Giles Coren

The Red Lion in the 1930s

A Georgian Giles Coren

Extracts from an anonymous ‘ Review of Taverns , Inns, Coffee Houses and Genteel Eating Houses’ published in the New London Magazine, July and August 1788.

The web has done part of my work for me by publishing the first part of this survey of eating places, which appeared in the June 1788 issue of The New London Magazine. Luckily, the second and third parts of this series remain offline. So here are some of the highlights of this witty and very politically incorrect survey of eateries in late Georgian London

July 1788

Brentford Eights, an island in the Thames off Brentford

This is rendered famous for pitch-cock eels. It is likewise celebrated for a very favourite Dutch dish called Vater Zuchee. This dish is composed of perch, parsley-roots and vinegar, served up in a deep dish, with slices of bread and butter. The visitors of the Eights, in gormandising this dish, have no occasion for any other knives and forks than what nature has given them. It is common to eat with digits only.
If any stripling of fortune, whether a coxswain of a barge, or the supercargo of a post chaise, wishes to be indulged, he may be served here with zouchee to the amount of eight shillings a head.

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The Library of J-P Mayer

Found among the papers of  J-P Mayer (1903 – 1992) – this appraisal of his massive library by his friend F.R. Cowell. Peter Mayer was  Professor Emeritus at Reading University and author of books on De Tocqueville, Max Weber, the sociology of films,  and French political thought. He fled to England in 1936 having been a leading figure in the anti-Nazi movement in Germany. He then worked for Britain in the Ministry of Economic Warfare.His library was acquired by us last year, many of the high price items having been taken by Bonham’s auction house. This included a presentation copy from John Stuart Mill to Alexis de Tocqueville and  signed material from Friedrich Engels which made £100,000 plus each. Oddly we (Any Amount of Books, Charing Cross Road) also bought in 2009 a large part of the library of F.R. Cowell another man with a very large and interesting book collection. Both men went on book hunts together, Paris being (then) fertile ground. Mayer also bought heavily while in America. F. R. Cowell was a historian and author of Cicero and the Roman Republic, The Athenaeum, and Leibniz Material for London and many other works on ancient history, horticulture, economics and bibliography. In the accompanying letter (shown) he invites J-P Mayer to join him for a meal at his London club – The Athenaeum (February 1962). It appears that Mayer was trying to sell his library to ‘Boulder’ -presumably the University of Colorado. Evidently the sale never happened and the books stayed in his house in Stoke Poges for another 50 years. The house was near St. Giles church where Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is believed to have been written. It took 5 large vans to move the books. F.R. Cowell’s book collection just two…

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Madge Gill and the Bournemouth crime

Found - a curious and very rare spiritualist book The Spirit of Irene Speaks published in Bournemouth in 1923. The title refers to a notorious murder in 1922 of a young cook, Irene Wilkins, who had travelled down to Bournemouth to London in response to a potential employer from an advertisement she had placed in a local paper. She had been met at the station in a large Mercedes and her body was found in a field the next day battered to death. Eventually a chauffeur was arrested, one Thomas Henry Allaway. An astute car designer had noted the car's registration number at the station and he was also recognised by a telegram clerk… The book claims that through 'psychometrics' (in this case the psychic tracing of the murderer through clairvoyant communications from an object from the murder scene) a medium had solved the case and there is a weight of convincing evidence in the book and suggestion of police co-operation. No account of the case found online mentions this aspect of the case.

However the book is notable for other reasons. It has a long plea at the beginning by Dr Abraham Wallace for the repeal of capital punishment as being irrational and unchristian and a further article on 'The Futility of Capital Punishment.' The endpapers of the books are designed by the cult outsider artist Madge Gill. She is mentioned in the text as having produced these 'automatic drawings'. She is called Madge E. Gill from London ('this lady through her mediumship obtains gorgeous oriental designs in marvellous colour schemes, and quite unusual in conception.  She also, under control, does the most beautiful embroidery and needlework…)

Madge Gill (1882- 1961) was a prolific outsider and visionary artist.  She was introduced to Spiritualism by an aunt when she was in her teens in East London. Later when she was about 40 she began creating thousands of mediumistic most done with ink in black and white. She claimed to be guided by a spirit she called "Myrninerest" (my inner rest) and often signed her works in this name. Many feature a young woman in intricate dress  often thought to be a representation of herself or her lost (stillborn) daughter, and female subjects dominate her work. Her drawings are characterised by geometric chequered patterns and organic ornamentation, with the blank staring eyes of female faces and their flowing clothing interweaving into the surrounding complex patterns.These endpaper drawings, different at both ends (rear endpapers pictured) do not have the female face…a book on her came out in 2013 by the musician and occultist David Tibet.

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Earthquake in England

Found in John Thomas's Earthquake in England (Unbelievable but True) -published by Blackwood's in 1938, this press cutting from the late 1970s from an unnamed newspaper.

Quakes can be our worry, too. Peter J. Smith

At 9.18 on the mining of April 22, 1884, Dr Alexander Wallace and his family were in their garden looking across at the roofs and spires of the town near by. Suddenly, with a roll of sound like "passing wagons", the buildings began to sway and chimneys crashed to the ground in clouds of dust. Dr Wallace saw his house rise and fall and heard ornaments hitting the floor. He felt sick and shaken, but the fence he grasped for support was rocking too. Less than six seconds later it was all over.

What Dr Wallace and his family had experienced was an earthquake. But they were not visiting Japan, California, the Mediterranean or any other of the world's known belts of destructive earthquakes. This was Colchester, Essex, where such things were unheard of.

In the town itself more than 400 buildings were damaged... the brunt of the damage was taken by villages closer to the shock centre to the east and south-east of Colchester. At Peldon, for example, no house or cottage escaped and 70 percent of chimney stacks were thrown down. Nobody was killed, but within an area of about 150 square miles more than 1200 buildings required repair.

The Colchester earthquake of 1884 was the most destructive ever known in Britain and was felt as far away as Exeter in the west and beyond York in the north. But it was not the first British earthquake; nor, contrary to popular belief, are such events uncommon.

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The Princess Alice paddle steamer disaster of 1878—-why was the death toll so high?

The late Peter Haining was one of many writers fascinated by the terrible events of the evening of 3rd September 1878, when the paddle steamer ‘Princess Alice’, laden with over 800 day trippers returning from an excursion to Margate, was rammed by the collier Bywell Castle close to North Woolwich. Over 630 men, women and children perished in the disaster, which remains the worst in the history of river navigation—not just in the UK, but in the world.

Hoping to publish a book on the subject, Peter Haining kept clippings both from the centenary coverage of the disaster in 1978 and from August 1989,when a much smaller vessel, the ‘Marchioness’, sank further upstream in the Thames. He also researched a similar Victorian sinking in 1875, when the’ Deutschland’ went down off the Kentish coast, carrying among its passengers,   five German  nuns--- a disaster which  prompted Gerard Manly Hopkins to compose his famous poem The Wreck of the Deutschland.

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The Beatles – Where do they go from here? (1965)



Found in Photoplay from April 1965 this speculative article about The Beatles by Anne Hooper -'Where do they go from here?' Some now slightly forgotten names are mentioned -Pete Murray, Ray Noble, David Jacobs, Maureen Cleave and also the unfortunately not forgotten Jimmy Savile ('that crazy, way-out disc jockey') who claims (surely falsely?) that  he worked at Liverpool  docks with the lads...

What is to happen to our golden boys? How along will they last? What will they be doing in , say five years time? These are among the dozens of questions that are asked today about the phenomenal Beatles.

Rumours of splits and break-ups are often heard. Fierce competition from groups like 'The Rolling Stones' has had the fans shaking their heads and saying, "Well, they've had it good, but can't last." But it has, though. The Beatle's last single "I Feel Fine" proved that the boys were still very much on top. They haven't been eclipsed by the Stones and, with their second film about to be produced, they're not likely to be by anyone...

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I once met….John Heath-Stubbs

John Heath-Stubbs by Patrick Swift

Coming across a copy of a relatively recent booklet entitled The Guide to Bayswater (Sunrise Press) I turned to the page on Artesian wells which  accounted for much of the water supply to Bayswater in the early nineteenth century. The next entry was on Artesian Road, which reminded me of a visit to the poet and critic John Heath-Stubbs circa 1994. I think I must have got his address and phone number from Who’s Who.

I knew little about him as a person, apart from the fact that he was blind and had a very large head. I didn’t much enjoy his poetry, but was interested in hearing his views on Geoffrey Grigson, on whom I was writing a biography-- not because either of them had seriously clashed in print or in person, but because Heath-Stubbs was part of the neo-Romantic reaction to Auden and his generation, of which Grigson was a member, and also perhaps because the latter had violently attacked two neo-romantic poets—George Barker and Dylan Thomas, and inter alia their literary mentor, Edith Sitwell.

Looking back over twenty years, all I can recall of our conversation was the fact that Heath-Stubbs defended the poetic aesthetic of Sitwell, which I had decried, and that he showed a degree of irritation with the more extreme manifestations of neo-romanticism.
He also urged me to read his recently published autobiography, Hindsights, which alas, I had failed to do.

But what impressed me the most about this very remarkable man, whose head was indeed enormous, was the way he coped with his blindness. I had never before interviewed a blind man—indeed I had never been inside the home of one. Something I did find bizarre was the fact that as someone who had been totally blind for nearly forty years, he had pictures on his wall.Unless these had been hung when he had had some residual vision, their presence seemed pointless. I was also appalled by the large and obviously dangerous holes in his carpets. Why had no-one urged him to install brand new ones? These might have incurred some expense, but tripping up on a threadbare carpet could have killed or seriously injured the poet. It then occurred to me that as a blind man it was in his interest to know where all the potential dangers in his home were located, and these included holes in carpets. I was also impressed by the ease with he made me a cup of coffee, although the mug was left balancing precariously on the edge of a table. I later learnt that he often cooked for his guests—and did it well—so for him making a coffee must have been a simple task. I also noticed, as so many others had done, before and since, the evidence of spilt food and drink on his clothes.

Just before I left, a much younger man let himself into the house. He was clutching some books, I seem to recall, and I assumed that this was his friend and housekeeper, the legendary Eddie Linden, who was in the habit of reading to him.
[R.M.Healey.]

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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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