View Post

Facing the Music: Mr Rawlins and the Organ Grinding Nuisance

Noise nuisance, it would appear, is not a modern problem.  The soundscape of Victorian London was redolent with the clatter of horse-drawn vehicles, bustling railway stations, cries of costermongers, barking stray dogs and incessant street music—all of which, particularly the last, could drive Londoners, such as Mr Thomas James Rawlins, to distraction. In 1861 Henry Mayhew estimated that there were …

View Post

Queen Victoria’s Hairdresser: Nestor Tirard and the Crowning Glory

Recently a curious advertisement in The Morning Post dated the 1st of March 1879 caught my eye: Her Majesty’s Drawing Rooms Lessons in the correct court headdress as Approved at the Lord Chamberlain’s Office, given daily by Nestor Tirard, Coiffeur Fleuriste by special appointments To her Majesty the Queen H.R.H. the Princess of Wales H.I. and R.H. the Duchess of …

View Post

How to Get Sent to a Victorian Reform School

In April 1899 Police Constable 390 W was walking the beat in North Street, a thoroughfare that runs from Wandsworth Road to Old Town Clapham.  He spotted a stationary van—a covered wagon that was used for transporting goods and people—and thinking that there was something odd about it he took a closer look.  Inside the van were three young boys …

View Post

A Window in Whitechapel, or, The Sad Story of Eliza Wilmot

In the winter of 1848 a rather melancholy case came before the magistrate’s court in Worship Street in Shoreditch.  Presiding over the court was Mr Hammill. The complainant was a man by the name of Saunders.  He was a dealer in furs, with premises in the Whitechapel Road in the East End.  The defendant was one Eliza Wilmot, and we …

View Post

William Weale, Brother Francis and the Bad Boy

The victim was scarified from ankle to thigh, with some deeper cuts marking his mottled flesh.  One witness described his buttocks as resembling nothing so much as raw beef with blood streaming from it.  The damage had been caused by a punishment beating of between thirteen to twenty strokes with a two-foot-long gutta percha rule. Before he collapsed on the …

View Post

One Man and His Dog, or, Edward Wix Comes Home

There is rather a good story about a missionary and his dog.  We feel it fully qualifies for inclusion here, as it is a nineteenth-century story with a London connection.  Aside from the two protagonists—the human and the canine—there is a ship and a ship’s captain and a hospital.  The joy of the story lies in part in the connections …

View Post

Colonel Rackstrow’s Peculiar Museum

Walk along the north pavement of Fleet Street between Chancery Lane and Bell Yard, and you will pass a heavily rusticated building of imposing proportions, home of an executive recruitment firm and a magazine publishing company.  But in the late eighteenth century there stood here a row of brick-fronted premises, one of which was owned by a Benjamin Rackstrow.  He …

View Post

The Prince and the Paupers, or, The Soup Kitchen in Leicester Square

Can a building qualify as an overlooked Londoner?  On this website it can.  Take for example no.40 Leicester Square, which is currently festooned with hoardings and scaffolding.  Next year, if all goes to plan, it will open as a luxury hotel.  Formerly it was a cinema, which opened in 1930 as the Leicester Square Theatre, and was renamed the Odeon …

View Post

A Theatrical Undertaker: Theophilus Dunkley

Theophilus Dunkley was described by those who knew him as convivial, clubbable, charitable and very fond of the music hall, not qualities one immediately associates—perhaps unfairly—with the Victorian undertaker.  Theo lived on and around Westminster Bridge Road all his life, and now rests in Lambeth Cemetery in Tooting among the many variety performers who were both his friends and clients. …

View Post

A Marked Man, or, The Trials, Tribulations and Tattoos of Samuel Carlton

The year is 1836, the last year of the reign of William IV, and the sunset of the Georgian era.  The month is March, and the day is the 3rd—a cold and cloudy Thursday.  The setting is the workhouse in Lambeth in Surrey, where one of the inmates has just died. Ordinarily the death of a workhouse pauper would pass without …