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

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.

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 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 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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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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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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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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Gunmen in Piccadilly (Edgar Wallace)

Found in the Haining archives - this slightly scaremongering article by Edgar Wallace from Nash's Pall Mall Magazine in March 1931. Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was the adopted son of a Billingsgate fish porter in London, and largely self-educated - the newspaper boy who became one of the most famous writers in the world. He sold millions of books, but he was plagued by debts due to an extravagant lifestyle. He left Britain for the United States in 1931, only to die in Hollywood in 1932, aged 56, after writing the original story for King Kong. His body was returned by ocean liner in honour, only to be reunited with an ocean of outstanding bills.It is said all his debts were paid off in a few years from massive book sales. This article was copyrighted from America and one can imagine him churning it out in Hollywood to pay the bills. The title belies the content which is about criminal gangs anywhere in Britain- even art thieves. A BBC radio programme earlier this year by thriller writer Mark Billingham on Edgar Wallace (The Man Who Wrote Too Much?) suggested he was somewhat forgotten. He may not be much read anymore but his books are still collected throughout the world…

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Harold Nicholson and Desmond McCarthy—the terrible twosome

Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough, but the only photos I’ve seen that feature Harold and Desmond have also included other Bloomsberries, notably Vita Sackville West. I’m not a fan of Bloomsbury and could only bear to watch ten minutes of one episode of the current TV drama, Living in Squares, but I don’t think either man was part of the Virginia 'n Duncan inner circle, as it were, and I don’t think the two were great friends. But there must be some reason why they were snapped together. Perhaps it was another bookfest organised by the Times or Sunday Times, as was the case with the Read and Spender press photo. This one, from the Graphic Photo Union,  bears identifications in pencil on the reverse . Desmond died in 1952, aged 75, a year after being knighted for services to the critical essay and the amusing anecdote, so the photo was probably taken around the mid 1930s.

Some of the most entertaining and scathing remarks on MacCarthy and Nicholson can be found in Virginia Woolf’s published Diaries. I have the volume for 1931 – 36. Here, for instance, are her views on Desmond:

Thursday, 3rd September 1931
‘…Oh, I was annoyed at Desmond’s usual sneer at Mrs Dalloway---woolgathering. I was inspired to make up several phrases about Desmond’s own processes, none of which, I suppose, will ever be fired off in print. His worldliness, urbanity, decorum as a writer; his soft supple ways. His audience of teaparty ladies & gentlemen. His timidity. How he wraps everything in flannel…His perpetual condescension.His now permanent stoop in the back. His aloofness---in the bad sense. I mean, he never takes a nettle by the leaves: always wears gloves…’

And Nicholson:

August 12, 1934
‘…Vita thinks Harold is getting soft & domestic, because he talks of grandchildren & wants to have a butler to brush his clothes & a spare room…’

[R.M.]
King27s_Bench_Prison_-_Principal_Entrance_by_Thomas_Shepherd_c.1828.

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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Dame Dorothy Brock, O.B.E.

Found among the papers of L.R. Reeve* this affectionate portrait of Dorothy Brock much admired educationalist and the headmistress of the Mary Datchelor School in Camberwell for 32 years.

DOROTHY BROCK

Dame Dorothy Brock, O.B.E., was at one time Headmistress of the Mary Datchelor School, in Camberwell. Her pupils were very fortunate indeed to be learning under the direction of one of the best speakers in London, and much as I admired the platform genius of the late Mrs E. M. Burgwin of Brixton, I am fairly sure that if it were possible to have a choice of listening to one of them on the same evening I should choose Miss Brock.

It may be that her successor was, or is, as excellent a teacher as her immediate predecessor, and as charming a personality, for probably the appointment was open to all the leading women of Great Britain, but whatever the name of the fortunate successor, she had one of the hardest tasks in the country when she stepped into Dr Brock's shoes, and one would like to know how the traditional pioneers of public schools for girls, Miss Beale and Miss Buss, would stand up to such an appointment.

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Henry Harben and his ‘Dictionary of London’

Henry Harben's Dictionary of London is a detailed gazetteer of over 6000 street and place names in the City of London; their location, origin and changes. Henry Harben died in 1910 and his work was published posthumously in 1918. Unfortunately Harben died before being able to complete the extension of his work to cover Westminster and Southwark. He is unknown to the DNB and Wikipedia, although there is a cricketer and an industrialist who share his name. Our man's full name was Henry Andrade Harben. This well researched piece about him was found in the front of a copy of his dictionary in the collection of Ralph Hyde, a great scholar of London history and topography.

Harben's Dictionary (of just 'Harben' as it tends to be called) is one of the most useful London reference books ever to have been complied and published, yet scarcely anyone has heard of it. Copies of it surface very rarely. When a copy does, dealers charge the earthier for it, selling it to a few who are in the know*.

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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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Literary Cranks of London– The Whitefriars Club

This was established in 1868 in three rooms at Radley’s Hotel, in New Bridge Street, Blackfriars. The authors don’t mention the fact, but  in the 1820s Radley’s was known as Walker’s Hotel and was infamous as the HQ of the generally despised Constitutional Association, the reactionary group dubbed by William Hone, the ‘Bridge Street Gang’, which harassed radical booksellers  it accused of circulating seditious libels--- usually the pirated works of Thomas Paine.

By the time it had come to house the Whitefriars ( incidentally, a humorous reference to the nearby Blackfriars) Radley’s was a respectable family business with ‘ an old-fashioned cuisine and an excellent cellar of wines ‘. Of the three rooms occupied by the Club, the one used as a dining room had ‘three windows looking out on Ludgate Hill Station, filled with heavy furniture and black horse-hair sofas of a late Georgian period’. Behind this was a smaller room dedicated to ‘smoking and writing’, which  commanded a view behind the Bridewell gaol ‘of a neglected bit of ground, on which flourished rank grass, oyster shells , and dead cats…and a row of picturesque and irregular backs of ancient houses, delightful for their finely-toned red brick, their old red tiles and their quaint chimney pots ‘. By 1900, when the history of the Club was privately published, Radley’s Hotel had been pulled down ‘for improvements’.

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Etching of Farringdon Road bookstalls in the 1930s

Photographs exist of the famous bookstalls in Farringdon Road, dating from the nineteen forties and fifties, and the one by Moholy-Nagy that illustrates the excellent London Street Markets, was taken in the thirties. But as far as I know, the stalls were never the subject of an etching, of whatever date. Here, dated 1934, is an etching by the brilliantly talented Nathaniel Sparks (1880 – 1956), one of the most popular masters of this art, which of course became moribund almost overnight as a result of the Wall Street Crash.

During the American-led collecting craze, which began just before the First World War, Sparks produced a huge number of etchings, many of them of notable London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and Tower Bridge, and it is surely a sign of its fame in the thirties that Sparks regarded Farringdon Road as a fit subject for an etching. At that time he was doubtless a customer at the stalls himself, and it is known that in his last sad months, when poverty and illness had him holed up as a lodger in Somerton, he comforted himself by collecting old books. It is also likely that in the last half of a largely peripatetic life, which saw him living with gypsies and farmers in Somerset and the New Forest, he was forced to jettison many of the books he had picked up over the years, in favour of his paints and paper.

Naturally shy, physically slight, and all too aware of the severe rhinophyma which disfigured his face, Sparks sometimes cut a pathetic figure. He could not help compare his ill luck with the fame and fortune that attended his much older cousin, Thomas Hardy, and recorded his resentment in an unpublished satire. Things came to a head in 1940 when an enemy bomb smashed his printing press and he was forced to abandon etching entirely and eke out a living producing pellucid watercolours of scenery in his beloved Somerset.

[R.M.Healey]

The author is grateful for the excellent Nathaniel Sparks Gallery for allowing him to reproduce the two etchings.

Now have proof positive that the etching is of Exmouth Market! (ed.)

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Sir Edward Bond—the man who transformed the British Museum Library

There aren’t many librarian superstars. Casanova was one, I suppose, but he was better known for his extra-mural activities. Panizzi of the British Museum was possibly another, but a successor, Sir Edward Augustus Bond (1815 -98), was arguably a greater innovator and was certainly more industrious.

Bond proved that if you had natural talent and were hard working and dedicated, you didn’t need a university education to get to the top in the British Museum at least—though this institution was an exception to the general rule that an Oxbridge degree was de rigueur for a career in the world of Victorian scholarship. Bond earned his spurs and his reputation as a gifted palaeographer, especially in Anglo-Saxon, while in the manuscript department of the Museum, which he had joined directly from school at the age of 17 in 1832. Although he ended up as Keeper of the department in 1867, he was expected to remain there until his retirement, so it came as a shock to many with more conventional educational backgrounds when he was chosen for the top job in 1873.

This letter, which is dated 19th January 1882 and was written to Robert Harrison, who may have been a proof reader,  belongs to his fifteen year reign as Principal Librarian, when, among other innovations, he introduced electric light into the Reading Room and storage areas( how amazing that there weren’t more fires in libraries during the eras of candles, gaslight and oil lamps) , built a large extension to house prints, drawings, manuscripts and newspapers, and oversaw the publishing of  the printed catalogue of books. In the letter Bond refers to certain errors (possibly printing errors) that Harrison has pointed out to him and requests that he:

...be so good as to return to me 2 copies of each set of the Printed Accessions delivered to you during the past year, and I will instruct Messrs Clowes & Sons to send you for the future only one set of the Printed Accessions, together with the Printed General catalogue...

Bond retired in 1888, aged 73, and doubtless spent much of the remaining ten years of his life on scholarly projects. His publication legacy is not big—a four volume facsimile of Anglo-Saxon Charters and an edition of the speeches of Warren Hastings were notable—but his greatest gifts to fellow scholars are the innovations that  made the British Museum Library one of the world’s greatest academic collections. [RH]