Page 102. " the George Street rookery "

Boundary Street, part of the Old Nichol slum in East London c. 1890
Public DomainBoundary Street, part of the Old Nichol slum in East London c. 1890 - Credit: SasiSasi
A ‘rookery’ was a nineteenth century inner-city slum, an overcrowded area of poor housing, lacking in sanitation and populated by the poorest inhabitants of the city, often including a high percentage of criminals and prostitutes. The name originated from the similarities between a slum and a rook’s nest – large, noisy, untidy colonies crammed close together in a tree top. The St Giles rookery, near Covent Garden, was considered one of London’s worst, beaten only by the Whitechapel area which was notoriously dangerous. George Street is now demolished, but in the Victorian era it was at the heart of the Whitechapel rookery and may well have been considered a small rookery in its own right. Three of Jack the Ripper’s victims lived in George Street.

A couple of articles containing useful information about life in the London rookeries:

The Rookeries of London – a contemporary Victorian perspective.

Slum living in Georgian London.

Tower Hamlets history online.

Page 102. " accrued in Oxford Street "

Oxford Street is a major street in central London, running from Marble Arch to the intersection at Tottenham Court Road. It follows the route of the Roman road, the Via Trinobantina, which became a major route in and out of the city. Once known as Oxford Road, between the 12th and 18th centuries it linked London to Oxford, beginning at Newgate, one of the exits from the city. The street and those surrounding it were developed in the late eighteenth century and it became popular for street entertainers, theatres and concert halls. In the nineteenth century the shops moved in, and it is now Europe’s busiest shopping street. Although not the most expensive shopping street in London, it has several major department stores including Selfridges, the flagship stores for a large number of high street chains and hundreds of smaller shops and restaurants. Along with Regent Street and Bond Street, Oxford Street helps to form London’s primary shopping area. All three streets are coloured green on a standard London Monopoly board.

Page 102. " burnt off their legs and sent them begging "

During the Victorian era, huge poverty amongst the population of inner-city London meant there were a great number of beggars, many of them children. The extremely poor faced two options in the nineteenth century: the workhouse or the streets, and due to the harsh conditions in the workhouses, many opted for the streets as they had just as good a chance of survival there.

There were also a huge number of orphans in London, many of whom were snatched up by professional criminals to form gangs of pickpockets or beggars. Treated extraordinarily badly, it was not uncommon for the orphans to be disfigured in some way so that they would look more pitiful to passers-by. Organisations such as the Foundling Hospital attempted to care for some of the parentless children, but it was too great a problem to combat. Sometimes known as ‘The Great Waif Crisis’, the issue of London’s orphans was brought to attention most notably in Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist, in which the title character runs away from the workhouse as a young boy and falls in with a gang of child pickpockets run by the master criminal Fagin.

Page 104. " turned right into Virginia Road "

Virginia Road is an L-shaped road in East London. It links Boundary Street and Columbia Road and belongs to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Page 104. " Around the corner, over Swan Street "

Swan Street is a road in the London Borough of Southwark, southeast London. It runs between Great Dover Street and Harper Road.

The Swan Street Catherine is in, near Virginia Road, is actually called Swanfield Street – a longer road running north-south between Virginia Road and Redchurch Street. This whole area would once have been part of the notorious Old Nichol Slum.

Page 104. " arrived here from the north at Charing Cross "

Charing Cross is a road junction in central London where the Strand, Whitehall and Cockspur Street all meet. Once a small hamlet simply called Charing, it takes its name from the Eleanor Cross, a monument built by King Edward I in 1291-94 in memory of his wife, Eleanor of Castile. Pulled down by the government in 1674 at the time of the civil war, the spot where the cross stood is now marked by a statue of King Charles I on a horse, as well as a Victorian replacement cross, built in 1865. It is this point that is generally accepted as the centre of London for measuring distances. Charing Cross has always been an important thoroughfare: Charing Cross station, opened in 1864, serves trains from the southeast of England and throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries coaches from Dover, Brighton, Bath, Bristol, Cambridge, Holyhead and York used to arrive at and depart from the Golden Cross Inn which stood at the junction until it was demolished to make way for the building of Trafalgar Square.

Page 107. " not a bright family home, not at all, but a gin shop "

The World's End in Camden Town, one of the typical Victorian London pubs which would come to replace the gin shops
Public DomainThe World's End in Camden Town, one of the typical Victorian London pubs which would come to replace the gin shops - Credit: André Leroux
Gin shops were small 18th century shops, often chemist’s, which sold gin to take away or drink standing up. Gin was a very popular drink, as it originally had medicinal associations and could be obtained relatively cheaply. In the 1820s the first ‘gin palaces’,  such as Thompson and Fearon's, were built – changing legislation meant that the shops had to serve beer and wine as well, and more space was needed for the customers. At first considered vulgar, they were the precursors of Victorian pubs which sprang up rapidly during the nineteenth century. Beer replaced gin as the favoured drink (see bookmarks on Hogarth’s Gin Lane, page nine) and the ‘gin palaces’ gradually died out.

Charles Dickens on the gin shops of St Giles.

Page 117. " propping the horse-hair pad against her head "

In the 18th century high-piled hairstyles were very popular amongst ladies, particularly those of the upper classes: the higher and more ornate the better. Pads made of horsehair or cage frames were used to construct hairstyles and intricate decorations added to them; hours could be spent making one style which would then be left in for as long as possible due to the amount of work that had gone into it. By the Victorian times hairstyles were not quite so over-the-top, neatness and elegance prevailing, but a horsehair pad may well still have been used as a prop. The following website offers more interesting information on hairstyles throughout the ages.

Page 118. " “Ring a ring a roses, a pocket full of posies” "

‘Ring a ring o’ roses’ is a nursery rhyme and playground singing game. It first appeared in print in 1881 but versions are thought to have been sung as folksongs since 1790. It is sometimes interpreted a referring to the Great Plague of 1665 – victims would develop a red ring-shaped rash, the prelude to them ‘falling down’ dead. However, many folklorists discount this theory as other similar versions of the rhyme were sung across Europe and the earliest versions do not fit especially well with sickness symptoms. There are many versions of the rhyme; the most well-known being

A ring, a ring o' roses,

A pocket full o’posies,

Atishoo! Atishoo! –  

We all fall down.

Page 121. " soon be another bout of the sickness "

In 1832 a cholera epidemic broke out in East London, killing 800 people. A recurring disease, it claimed more than 6,000 lives between 1832 and 1851 in London alone: the rest of England, as well as Paris, Russia, Hungary, Germany, New York, Quebec and Egypt were also affected in this period. Cholera is a usually fatal sickness caused by drinking contaminated drinking water and was a widespread problem in the nineteenth century. This was responded to by huge social pressure and resulted in the building of the London sewer system, which stopped sewage being dumped directly in the River Thames, the source of the city’s drinking water. Cholera is still prevalent in the developing world, where it is thought to cause more than 100,000 deaths a year.

Page 121. " Silk Street "
The Barbican Arts Centre
GNU Free Documentation LicenseThe Barbican Arts Centre - Credit: Nevilley

Silk Street is a road in the City of London, beginning at the junction with Beech Street, Whitecross Street and Chiswell Street and ending at Moor Lane. It is home to the Barbican Centre, Europe’s largest performing arts venue, which holds concerts, theatre productions, art exhibitions, film screenings and conferences, as well as being the base of the London Symphony Orchestra. The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is also located in Silk Street.

Page 121. " The farmland past Chiswick "
Chiswick House
Public DomainChiswick House - Credit: Patche99z

Chiswick is a suburb of London, located on a meander bend of the River Thames in the west of the city. The name is from Old English and means ‘Cheese Farm’ – until the 18thcentury a cheese fair was held annually in the meadows by the river. Originally a fishing and farming village, by the early nineteenth century trade was beginning to wane as the pollution of the River Thames meant it could no longer be successfully fished. As Chiswick was easily accessible it had often been used as a country

The River Thames flooding Chiswick Mall
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe River Thames flooding Chiswick Mall - Credit: Jon Rogers

retreat, and during the nineteenth century it was one of the places turned to by the population moving out of over-crowded London. The population grew almost tenfold during the 1800s and into the twentieth century; it was officially made a municipal borough in 1932. Chiswick is also known as the home of the Palladian villa Chiswick House and the 350-year-old brewery Fuller, Smith & Turner P.L.C., and it was the site of the Royal Horticultural Society’s first flower shows and school, before they moved to Wisley in 1904.

Page 121. " The Thames was sinking low "
The River Thames flowing through Central London
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe River Thames flowing through Central London - Credit: David Iliff


Punting on the River Thames in Oxford
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePunting on the River Thames in Oxford - Credit: Zxb
The River Thames, flowing through southern England, is the longest river in England and the second-longest in the United Kingdom. Its name is thought to derive from the Celtic name Tamesas, meaning 'dark'. Beginning at Thames Head in Gloucestershire, it flows over 215 miles (346km) to the Thames Estuary where it runs into the North Sea. It is most famous for flowing through central London and has become an iconic image of the city, but it also flows through Oxford, Windsor and Henley-on-Thames, amongst other towns and cities. With over 80 islands along its course, the river is home to an abundance of flora and fauna and has been used by humans as a fresh water source, transport route, economic industry and leisure facility. The Thames is the home of competitive rowing in the United Kingdom, with over 800 clubs along its length and some of the country’s most famous races, including the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race and the Henley Royal Regatta.

Page 121. " out further to Oxford "
The 'dreaming spires' of Oxford, seen from above
Public DomainThe 'dreaming spires' of Oxford, seen from above - Credit: SirMetal

Oxford, county town of Oxfordshire, is a city in central southern England and most famous as the home of the world-renowned Oxford University. Around 50 miles (80km) northwest of London, the city was settled in Saxon times and gained importance under the reign of Henry II when it and its inhabitants were granted the same privileges as the city of London - due to its proximity to the capital, some parliament sessions were even held here. The collegiate university was established in the 12th century, making it the oldest in the English-speaking world, and its beautiful buildings have made Oxford come to be known as ‘the city of dreaming spires’. In the twentieth century car-manufacturing came to Oxford and since then it has been a city of two halves: the industrial to the east and the university to the west. As well as the university college buildings, other attractions in Oxford include the Bodleian Library, Carfax Tower and Oxford Castle: the city plays host to many tourists all year round.

Page 123. " The Romance of the Forest, The Castle of Otranto "

The Romance of the Forest was the first novel of Ann Radcliffe, published in 1791. It is a Gothic novel which follows the heroine Adeline and was a huge success. The Castle of Otranto, the 1765 novel by Horace Walpole, is regarded as the first Gothic novel and Radcliffe’s work owed much to the themes of romance, terror and the supernatural which were first used to effect in Walpole’s novel.

Page 123. " The Murderous Innocents "

The Murderous Innocents is a fictional title – no reference can be found to a real book by this name in the nineteenth century, although in 1994 Frank Jones published a selection of biographical stories under this name, all of them about children who have killed.

Page 123. " from Liverpool Street Market "

Liverpool Street Market may refer to Spitalfields market (see bookmark for page 1) which is just down the Brushfield Street, opposite Liverpool Street Station on Bishopsgate. Read more on the markets of London here.

Page 125. " a small cup from the collection they used to heat and place on my back to take the blood "
A patient receiving fire cupping treatment
Creative Commons AttributionA patient receiving fire cupping treatment - Credit: Alanna Ralph

Cupping (sometimes known as fire cupping) is an alternative form of medicine which is thought to date back to around 3000BC. Small porcelain cups are heated and placed on the patient’s skin, forming an airtight seal. As the cup cools, the air inside contracts which forms a partial vacuum and suction on the skin, drawing blood to the area. The practice is sometimes combined with blood-letting: a small scratch is first made in the skin; when the cup is placed over it, the pressure difference causes blood to be drawn out of the wound.

Cupping was a common form of therapy which general practitioners used until the end of the 19th century. It is now uncertain whether it does actually have any benefits – the American Cancer Society has refuted any health benefits of the technique, but in some countries it is still widely practised. The British Cupping Society is attempting to keep the practice in use and can provide more information about the methods and supposed health benefits.