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The Railway Children, or, A Moving Story of Youthful Heroism

If, like me, you enjoy looking at old maps of London, the name Edward Stanford will have a familiar ring.  Stanford was a leading figure in the world of Victorian map-makers, and his Library Map of London, which was first published in 1862, is cartography at its finest.  You can access various editions of Stanford’s map online.  The 1872, for …

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Leda and the Swan, or, Vandalism at the National Gallery

On Tuesday the 23rd of January 1844 Mr Edward Grant—a belt, braces and breeches maker of 23 Piccadilly—was enjoying an afternoon of art appreciation in the Great Room of London’s National Gallery.  Although some might have criticised the appearance of the building designed by William Wilkins, Grant enjoyed the privilege of free admission to see great art, as did many …

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A Thief by Any Other Name, or, The Adventure of the Vicar’s Boots

On Sunday the 24th of June in the year 1888 Amos Axell was busy performing his familiar routine before going home.  He was a builder in his mid thirties, but he was also the verger of All Saints Church in Kenley in what is now the London borough of Croydon.  He did a circuit of the vestry, checking that the …

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Lights Out, or, The Strange Story of the Plaistow Ghost

You may have read my recent piece on the Woburn Square ghost, which can be found by following this link.  The essence of that affair, which occurred in 1867, was that rumours of hauntings and other supernatural phenomena were liable to whip up a sort of collective hysteria.  A desire for free entertainment combined with honest curiosity was able to …

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Drunk on Love, or, 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 all the cards delivered in London, if stacked on top of each other, would be taller than the Monument, which stands at two hundred and two feet.  If laid in a line they would run from London to Dover, a …

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The March of Time, or, A Portrait of Sergeant Drummer Henry Gribble

A while ago I wrote about the artist George Percy Jacomb-Hood in an article that can be found on the London Overlooked website by following this link.  Jacomb-Hood, who was born in 1857, was as versatile as he was talented, and his output ranged from society portraits to illustrations for the Graphic.  One minute he was working on Andrew Lang’s …

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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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Thrills and Spills, or, The Ghost of Woburn Square

In May 1867 a boy by the name of Frederic Horgan, a carpenter’s labourer, appeared before the police court in Bow Street.  He was about sixteen years old, and was charged with creating a disturbance and causing a crowd to assemble in Woburn Square in Bloomsbury.  He had been taken into custody by Police Constable James Hogan of the ‘E’ …

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Pleasing Decay, or, Another Look at the Art of Algernon Newton

A while ago I came across a discussion on twentieth-century art.  I was interested because the painter under consideration was Algernon Newton, who has already been the subject of an article on this website, which can be accessed here.  Newton, possibly more than any other, captured the emptiness but also the strange beauty of London back streets and industrial wastelands.  …

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The Adventures of the Wandle Pirates

Picture the quintessential pirate.  He is likely to be a man sporting a black curly wig à la King Charles, and a full beard, and possibly accessorised with an eye patch, a wooden leg or a voluble parrot who shrieks “pieces of eight.”  He is brutal, amoral and greedy, and he cares little for the suffering of those who stand …