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Down Among the Paddington Dust Heaps, or, The Story of Henry Pearson

In volume 5 of Old and New London Edward Walford describes at length what was then the north-western suburb of Paddington.  Time had wrought dramatic changes.  When the Great Western Railway opened in 1840, the wide spaces of Paddington were still a patchwork of market and nursery gardens, and working men and working women lived in picturesque poverty in red-tiled …

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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 …

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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 …

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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 …