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Algernon Newton, or, The Canaletto of the Surrey Canal

If you read our recent post on The Peckham Ghost, you will remember the haunting picture of the Surrey Canal at Camberwell, which was painted in 1935 by Algernon Newton.  The canal is no more, but in its heyday it snaked through the southern stretches of the capital.  So it is not unreasonable to look on it as a Londoner …

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Drunk on Love: A Victorian Postman’s Valentine’s Day Disgrace

Valentine’s Day was as significant in the Victorian calendar as it is today.  The Globe newspaper of 1855 estimated that, if all the cards delivered in London were stacked on top of each other, they would be taller than the Monument, at 62 metres.  If laid in a line, they would run from London to Dover, a distance of 68 …

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Sōseki Natsume: The Loneliness of a Japanese Writer in London

Many a fine phrase has been spun about old and new London, capturing its bustling spirit, its metropolitan beauty and its romantic heart.  But not all those who have lived and breathed the life of the city have such wonderful words to share with us.  For some it is not solely a centre of great history, art and culture: it …

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The Man Who Stole a Knighthood

One of the strangest stories in the long history of investiture must be the knighting of Francis Columbine Daniel early in the reign of George IV.  The occasion was marked with the usual pomp and ceremony, and was widely reported in the newspapers.  However, not everything was quite what it seemed, and not everyone was impressed. So who was the …

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The Poisonous Pownall Sisters of Stoke Newington

The respectable Misses Pownall—Martha and Sarah—were certain that their brother was being slowly poisoned by his wife, no doubt to get her hands on his army pension.  They had not liked Emma from the start: she was much too young at twenty-seven to make Thomas at fifty-one a good wife.  This suspicion turned to certainty when they saw her and …

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William Turner & Son, or, The Barber of Maiden Lane

We at London Overlooked see it as our raison d’être to search the shadowy corners of the city’s history for the lesser known.  And of all the causes of undeserved obscurity, none can be more poignant than the brilliance of one’s own child.  Which is why we have chosen to write about Turner. Not about Joseph Mallord William Turner, the painter, but …

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Reynolds Revisited: Who was the Strawberry Girl?

Readers of this blog with an interest in art may well remember that this question was raised in an earlier piece on Sir Joshua Reynolds’s delightful picture The Strawberry Girl, which hangs in the Wallace Collection at Hertford House in Manchester Square.  We stated there that the identity of the great artist’s young subject has long been shrouded in mystery.  …

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The Peckham Ghost

Just before 7 p.m. on Sunday the 10th of November 1872.  Misses Margaret and Constance Carver were preparing to go to church with their governess, Mary Prentice.  They were daughters of Canon Alfred Carver, headmaster of Dulwich College, and they lived with their family in the south wing of the new College buildings in semi-rural Dulwich. Margaret, who at thirteen years …

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The Magic of Christmas, or, Charles Dickens and Hamley’s of High Holborn

One of the most delightful items of Dickensiana to have come my way is the memoir of her father—My Father As I Recall Him—written by Mary “Mamie” Dickens.  The 1897 edition printed by the Roxburghe Press is a slim octavo, its blue cover adorned with a gold embossed image, the significance of which is explained by the author in Chapter …

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Staring Death in the Face, or, The Atrocious Attack on William Day

If you read our article on the wolf that escaped from the menagerie in the Strand—the menagerie on the upper floors of Exeter Change—then you will certainly have felt sorry for William Day.  He was the trunk-maker living next door to Exeter Change, and it was his premises the fugitive wolf entered through a skylight on a stormy morning in …