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Charbonnel et Walker: Sweet Rivalry

The prestigious chocolatiers Charbonnel et Walker have been in business since 1875; now their flagship shop can be found at One, The Royal Arcade — the end that opens on to Old Bond Street end.  But who were Charbonnel and Walker?  A quick look on the company’s website will tell you that the founders — Mademoiselle Charbonnel and Mrs Walker …

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Wife Beater, Cheater and Abductor?  Mr Cambray Asks to Go to Prison

Those present at the Clerkenwell Police Court on Saturday the 13th of May 1871 probably sighed inwardly when the case against Leonard Albert Cambray was called.  Yet again a member of the working classes had drunk too much and attacked his wife.  For the forward thinking the only way of ending this vicious cycle was to encourage temperance, educate the …

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The Crimes of the Light-Fingered Clerk

Although Mrs Jane Carolan had not wanted to take a lodger, at least it was some comfort to her that the young man occupying a room in her house at 16 Union Road in Clapham was respectable.  A solicitor’s clerk, he was always well-dressed, and he seemed intent on self-improvement, if the large number of library books he borrowed was …

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A Writer Walks on the Wild Side, or, The Story of Elizabeth Banks

If you read my recent piece on George Ruby, the crossing sweeper, and his relationship with the tragic Jo in Dickens’ Bleak House, you may well have wondered what life was really like for these poor wretches.  They qualify all too readily for the title of overlooked Londoner.  And yet there was one particular crossing sweeper about whom we know …

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A Brother Betrayed, or, The Crime and Punishment of John Vivian

On the 20th of August 1838 a young man stood in the dock at the Old Bailey. His name was John Vivian, and he was twenty-four years old. He was five feet eight inches in height, and of slender build. The charge was burglary, and the inventory of stolen goods was pretty impressive. Eighteen spoons worth £9 10s. Sixteen forks …

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Rescuing George Ruby, or, Charles Dickens and the Crossing Sweeper

The story of Jo, the crossing sweeper in Bleak House, is one of Charles Dickens’s most searing indictments of child poverty.  Jo exists at the very edge of human society, with no family and no home, relying on the charity of strangers.  Utterly marginalised, his ignorance is so profound that he sees nothing odd in having only one short name.  …

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The Man who Moved the Crystal Palace by Horse and Cart

If you read my post on Loddiges nursery and the Empress Josephine’s palm tree, you might have wondered who the man on the horse is.  Well, the answer is one Thomas Younghusband, and I know this because he wrote a letter to The Times on 29 July 1854, that is to say, two days after the transporting of the tree …

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A Wife on Both Sides of the River, or, A Brush with a Bigamist

Regular readers of London Overlooked will recall our tribute to the “German siffleur”, the remarkable whistler who entertained certain quarters of nineteenth-century London with his imitations of birds and animals.  He was of, course, the celebrated David von Joel.  And it will be remembered that London could not quite decide what to make of him.  The reviews that he received …

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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 …