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John Sackhouse, or, An Inuit Comes to London

If you read our post on Valentine’s Day postmen, you will see a connection with this next item in the rather sad twist at the end! We start, though, on a chilly Saturday late in March, 1818. Although the temperature in London would not rise above 47 degrees Fahrenheit, a large crowd had gathered in the Royal Dockyard in Deptford. …

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Reynolds’s Lost Children: The Strawberry Girl and Others

It is hard not to be captivated by Joshua Reynolds’s painting The Strawberry Girl, which hangs in the Wallace Collection at Hertford House in Manchester Square. When it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1773, Horace Walpole jotted down in his copy of the catalogue the single word “charming”, and we can see what that eminent man of taste …

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The Rat-Catcher’s Daughters

Unlike many school leavers neither Nell or Kitty Jarvis of Camberwell in London had to worry about what to do next.  For they were destined to join their father in the noble art of rat-catching. This necessary occupation attracted the attention of the journalist Henry Mayhew, who wrote extensively about rat-catchers in London Labour and the London Poor.  He gave …

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Loddiges of Hackney, or, The Empress’s Tree Goes South

If you had been walking through the streets of what in 1854 was the village of Hackney on the 27th July—a warm summer’s day—you would have witnessed a remarkable sight.  A team of twenty horses were making their way, very slowly indeed, down Mare Street, heading south.  They were harnessed to a massive carriage – effectively a sturdy platform on …