Spitalfields Market has existed in Spitalfields, East London, since 1638. The current buildings were built in 1887 to house a wholesale fruit and vegetable market, and are now known as Old Spitalfields Market. The wholesalers moved in 1991 to New Spitalfields Market, but the old market, complete with restored Victorian buildings, remains one of London’s most popular – open seven days a week but especially popular on Sundays, it is renowned for its fashion, food and vintage stalls and a tourist attraction in its own right.
Between 1839 and 1860 the one-pence coin was made of copper and showed a ‘Young Head’ of Queen Victoria (issues from later in her reign showed the ‘Second Head’ and ‘Old Head’). In the old British currency system there were twelve pennies to a shilling and twenty shillings to a pound. A Victorian penny would have had the equivalent spending worth of 18 modern pence.
Long Acre is a street near Covent Garden in central London. It starts at St Martin’s Lane and ends at Drury Lane, and in the nineteenth century was famous for its coach makers. It is currently home to many high street shops and Stanfords, one of the oldest and largest map shops in Britain.
net or embroider yourself!
Boot polisher (or boot black) was another common street-based job in Victorian times, especially for young boys. Shoe polish was not widely available as a commercial product until the 20th century, so the boys would ply their trade on the street and shine the shoes of passers-by.
Kingsway is one of the broadest streets in Central London and runs from Holborn in the north to Aldwych in the south. It was not actually built until 1900 – a part of the area redevelopment which cut through the former maze of small streets in Holborn – and had a tunnel for a tram system running underneath it. The original buildings were built between 1903 and 1905 and include offices such as the Civil Aviation Authority and buildings belonging to the London School of Economics.
High Holborn is a road in the area of Holborn, Central London. It runs west to east, from St Giles Circus to Gray’s Inn Road. Its most famous building is Staple Inn, a legal chambers and one of London’s surviving original Tudor buildings. The road has a claim to fame in Adrian Mitchell’s poem, ‘Celia, Celia’:
‘When I am sad and weary
When I think all hope has gone
When I walk along High Holborn
I think of you with nothing on.’
Holborn has always been a centre for London's lawyers and contains many famous legal chambers. The area was also a known haunt for prostitutes in the poverty-stricken nineteenth century and earlier still, in 1726, made the headlines as being home to London's most prominent gay brothel.
St Paul’s Cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks on London. Situated on Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, a cathedral has been there since around 604 AD, dedicated to Paul the Apostle. The current building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and consecrated in 1705 after the Great Fire of London destroyed its predecessor. The dome is one of the highest in the world at 365 feet (111 metres) and until 1962 it was the highest building in London.
St Paul’s has played host to a myriad of important services – the funerals of Lord Nelson and Winston Churchill, jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria and the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, among others. It received iconic status as a symbol of London and Britain as a whole when propaganda pictures were released featuring the dome rising tall amongst the smoke and ashes of bombed London during the Blitz.
London Wall was built by the Romans as a defence around the city of London and was maintained until the 18th century. It was roughly 3 miles long and contained seven gates to roads leading out of the city. Since demolition work in the 18th and 19th centuries and damage caused during the Blitz it has been a road running along part of the former course of the wall. Some fragments of the wall can still be seen at locations including the Museum of London, Barbican Estate and Tower Hill. In 1984 the Museum of London set up a self-guided walk of the wall from the museum to the Tower of London which can still be followed in part.
Bishopsgate is a ward and street in northeast London. It was named for one of the gates built in the London Wall by the Romans which led onto the Old North Road out of the city. The gate itself, demolished in 1760, often used to display the heads of executed criminals on pikes as a deterrent to further crime.
Today, Bishopsgate is a busy thoroughfare home to the London offices of several major world banks such as the Royal Bank of Scotland. It also features a number of skyscrapers, such as Tower 42 and Heron Tower (the City’s tallest building). The ward of Bishopsgate has a working population of 46,000 but only 48 residents.
Shoreditch High Street is the old main road of Shoreditch in the north of London. It runs between Norton Folgate and Kingsland Road and forms part of the old Roman Ermine Street, a road which connected London to York. In the nineteenth century it was home to the famous National Standard Theatre, which became one of the city’s largest theatres before its closure in 1926, and the Shoreditch Empire (also known as The London Music Hall).
‘Fallen women’ was a term used to describe a woman who had lost her innocence and fallen from the grace of God. Specifically, this meant the loss of a woman’s chastity outside wedlock and in the nineteenth century it came to be seen as a very large social and moral problem. Women were supposed to be homemakers, protected by a man, and the society of the time looked down on those who had sexual experience before marriage. To be termed a ‘fallen woman’ was a disgrace which could not be easily recovered from, although especially during the 19th century various organisations were set up to attempt to offer help and ‘reform’ the unfortunate women.
Much literature and art of the period explores the fallen woman, often seeing her as a victim. Famous examples include Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Dickens’ David Copperfield and Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton. More information can be found in the following online essays:
St Magnus the Martyr is a Church of England church in Lower Thames Street, near London Bridge. Evidence suggests that a church has been on the site since the eleventh century, but the current baroque-style building was completed in 1687 to a design of Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London destroyed the previous church. St Magnus was the Earl of Orkney, who died in a political struggle in the early twelfth century. The church was dedicated to him officially by the Bishop of London in 1926.
Boundary Street is a small road in east London, running north to south between Calvert Avenue and Redchurch Street.
William Hogarth (1697-1764) was an English painter, engraver, printmaker and cartoonist. He is famed for his moralizing and satirical pictures of 'modern moral subjects' and credited as being the Western pioneer of the comic-strip. Many of his works were of political, social or moral commentary and were published in newspapers and magazines. Hogarth was also in demand as a portrait painter throughout his career.
‘Gin Lane’ is a famous print from 1751 which was published along with ‘Beer Alley’ as propaganda against the dangerous effects of alcoholism. ‘Beer Alley’ shows a happy society drinking ‘good’ English beer, whereas the inhabitants of Gin Lane are prey to the vices of harder spirits and are sickly and careless – at the front of the picture, a woman is allowing her baby to fall to its death. This was probably with reference to Judith Dufour, a woman who strangled her baby so she could sell its clothes for gin money. The pictures were published in support of the Gin Act of 1751.
Princelet Street in Spitalfields, east London, was formerly known as Princes Street. It links Wilkes Street in the west with Spelman Street in the east, crossing Brick Lane at its centre. At number 19 is a restored Huguenot master silk weaver’s home, open occasionally to the public with exhibitions about the area’s past as a major centre of silk production.
Governesses were a common feature of household staff amongst upper class families in the nineteenth century. A girl or woman of a middle class background, she was in charge of the girls and young boys of the family – once a boy was old enough, he would usually leave his governess for a tutor or boarding school. A governess was expected to teach reading, writing and arithmetic, perhaps another language such as French, music, painting and manners. She was also responsible for the moral upbringing of the children, particularly in strict households where the children were expected to be ‘seen and not heard’ – very often a young girl would spend more time with the governess than with her mother. Despite this, governesses were often isolated in their households, being neither servant nor family member.
The Governess, a 1998 British period drama film, takes a look at the life of a Jewish governess in London in the 1830s.
Bath is a small city in the south-west of England, in the county of Somerset, with a population of around 84,000. Home to naturally occurring hot springs it was founded as a spa by the Romans in 43AD and given the name Aquae Sulis (‘waters of Sulis’ – as early as the Iron Age the area had been dedicated to a goddess named Sulis). The Roman Baths (though much reconstructed) still exist today and have led to the city being granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Much of the town was built up in the Georgian period when it was an incredibly popular spa town and a key feature on the fashionable circuit. Royal Crescent, Landsdown Crescent and other iconic residential areas date from this time, as do many of Bath’s theatres and art galleries. Bath’s main industry today remains tourism, with around 3.8 million day visitors each year who come for the ancient baths, elegant architecture and beautiful countryside surrounding the city.
Rome, the capital of Italy, is no exception to the rule. Major art galleries include the Galleria Borghese, the Galleria Colonna, Barberini Palace and National Museum of Antique Art, the Gallery of the National Academy of St Luca and the Musei Capitolini. Between them, the museums and galleries house works of art from the world’s most influential painters throughout the ages, ranging from Etruscan to Modernist art. A full list of Roman art galleries can be found here.
Queen Elizabeth I (sometimes called Queen Bess) was the second daughter of Henry VIII, from his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Heiress presumptive at the time of her birth, after her mother’s execution as a traitor, she was declared illegitimate, the same fate as that of her older half-sister Mary (daughter of Catherine of Aragon). After Henry VIII’s death, his only son Edward VI became king, aged nine. He died six years later, his will leaving the throne to Lady Jane Grey, a niece of Henry VIII. She was, however, extremely unpopular and deposed after nine days. Queen Mary I rode in triumph into London along with her half-sister Elizabeth who, after Mary’s death, finally became queen in 1558.
death mask is a mask made of the features of a dead person’s face. Made commonly in Europe until the nineteenth century, they remain today an important part of culture in many African and Asian lands. The masks are a reminder of the dead, but are also used to facilitate communication between the living and dead and play a major role in funerary rites and some spiritual rituals. Not always recognisably a human face, the masks are made from the deceased’s features but may then be adapted to look more like an animal or other ‘spirit’.
In the Victorian era all major cities suffered with the problem of gangs, often violent groups who controlled certain ‘territories’ within the cities. One of the most famous of the time were the Manchester ‘Scuttlers’ who were prevalent at the end of the nineteenth century and subject of a recent book detailing their history.
‘Malay’ was commonly used in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to describe the ethnic groups from Austronesia – lands in Oceania and Southeast Asia sharing common linguistic heritage. Ethnic Malays can today refer to the people of the Malay Peninsula (Malaysia, Singapore and some of Burma and Thailand), or the ethnic groups found in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Borneo, Sumatra and Australia.
In the early hours of Sunday 2nd September 1666, a fire broke out in a bakery in Pudding Lane, in the City of London, rapidly spreading west into the heart of the city. Overcrowded with wooden and thatched houses, the city was an easy target for the flames which were fanned by strong winds from the east and devoured everything in their path. The main firefighting technique of the time was to demolish the buildings in the path of the fire so it would have nothing to catch, but the authorities were too delayed in their response and the fire became too large for the demolition to have any effect. It raged until Wednesday 5th September when the winds died down and the garrison at the Tower of London used gunpowder to explode the buildings nearby, causing firebreaks big enough to halt the flames in their tracks. The devastation to the city, however,St Paul’s Cathedral and most of the City authority buildings were destroyed, leaving 70,000 out of the inner city’s 80,000 inhabitants homeless. Westminster, the court at Whitehall and the suburban slums remained untouched and fewer than ten people died (although there is suggestion that many more deaths were caused but went unregistered), but the aftermath of the fire saw a gutted city with thousands homeless and the danger of rebellion. Various attempts were made to lay the blame at the doors of the Catholics or the French, among others, but it is today believed that the cause of the fire was simply an accident. On the orders of Charles II, many of the dispossessed were evacuated and the rebuilding of the city began slowly, using a similar plan as before but less flammable building materials and greater organisation. Catastrophic as it was, the fire did much to make London a cleaner, safer and more modern city. Most of the buildings built after the fire remain in the City of London to this day.
There are several excellent eyewitness accounts of the Great Fire of London in literature and works of art, one of the most famous of which is Samuel Pepys’ diary. A Monument to the Great Fire of London was erected on the corner of Pudding Lane, a London landmark known today simply as ‘The Monument’.
Play the Great Fire of London educational game online.
Sèvres is a fine, expensive make of French porcelain.
The original factory was opened by Louis XV as the Vincennes manufactory, and then moved to Sèvres in the southwestern suburbs of Paris in 1756. The porcelain was supposed to rival that produced in China, and Sèvres soon became Europe’s leading manufacturer of delicate, exquisitely decorated vases.
The Sèvres Museum, which is independent of the factory, houses 50,000 pieces of porcelain from throughout the ages.
Covent Garden is an area to the eastern edge of the West End of London, and is also the name of the famous square and market at its centre which gives the area its name. Partly settled in 1200, some of the fields in the area were walled off and given to Westminster Abbey for use as orchards and gardens: ‘the garden of the Abbey and Convent’ gradually
Mali is a landlocked republic in Western Africa, and despite great economic growth in recent years is one of the poorest countries in the world. Home to around 14.5 million people, it was under control of the French during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and its population is made up of numerous ethnic groups, the largest of which is the Bambara, and who are mostly rural. Mali has many ancient customs and traditions and is particularly famous for its music and dance.
The Huguenots were French Protestants who fled France in the late seventeenth century in the face of persecution by their Catholic homeland. Charles II offered them refuge, and between 1670 and 1710 around 40,000-50,000 settled in England, mostly in London. Spitalfields in particular, where housing and living was cheap, became the main point of immigration for the Huguenots. Working in the fledgling silk industry which already existed in Spitalfields, the Huguenots put the area on the map for the quality of the silk which it produced. Many became wealthy and the ‘master silk-weavers’ built large houses for their families and workers which still exist today, such as the one restored at 19 Princelet Street. In the late eighteenth century fabrics began to be imported more cheaply from the Far East and, although still patronised by some of the upper classes, the Spitalfields silk industry went into a sharp decline and the East End saw the rapid increase of poverty and slum dwellings. Around the beginning of the nineteenth century the Huguenots, who were becoming more assimilated in British society, began to move out of the city and the bustling weavers’ attics and warehouses became a memory of the past.
Babylonia was a region in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) which existed from around the 18th until 6th century BC. Its main power existed between 1894 and 1500 BC (dates approximate), but it remained an important religious and cultural centre of the Mesopotamian area, which came under the rule of various empires including the Persians, Hittites, Kassites and Assyrians. The capital of the region was the city-state of Babylon, whose Hanging Gardens were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The ruins of Babylon can be found in Iraq and much cultural evidence of Babylonia has survived to the present day.
Friezes were a common part of Babylonian art and architecture. Buildings were made of mud-brick as there was a lack of stone in the area, and columns and frescoes were typical features of the buildings. Temples especially, but other buildings too, were lavishly decorated with painted tiles, murals, friezes and three-dimensional statues. Walls were often plated with gold or embedded with the few precious gemstones which could be found.
Children’s crafts – making an Egyptian collar necklace.
Damascus is the oldest still-inhabited city in the world, the capital of Syria. Settled in the 3rd millennium BC, the city in the Levant’s political power has somewhat waned since its founding, but it is still an important religious and cultural
Chatham is a town on the River Medway in Kent (southeast England) with a population of 70,540. It was once a major dockyard, established as such in 1568 due to its strategic position facing the Continent which made it an ideal location to harbour warships. Its most famous launch was HMS Victory, built in the 1760s. In the nineteenth century it was a ship-building yard employing thousands of men, but with the repositioning of Britain’s naval bases its importance gradually declined and it was closed in 1984. The town still contains several defensive forts, built during the early 1800s, and the dockyard has been preserved as Chatham Historic Dockyard.
Magdalen is one of the colleges at Oxford University. Founded in 1458, its grounds contain a deer park and Addison’s Walk; the buildings themselves feature Magdalen Tower, on which the chapel choir traditionally sings every May Morning (1st May). Regarded as one of the most beautiful colleges, it is also currently the most successful, with over half of 2010’s finalists achieving first-class degrees. Notable former members include William Tyndale, Oscar Wilde, Erwin Schrödinger and Sir John Betjeman.
Six hundred pounds in 1840 would be worth £26,460 of today’s money – a small fortune to lose.
Brick Lane is a road in the Borough of Tower Hamlets, East London. Originally called Whitechapel Lane, it then took its current name from the brick and tile manufacturers located on the street. From the 17th century onwards, Brick Lane has been a centre for immigrants to London – first Huguenot silk weavers, then Irish, Jewish and Bangladeshi communities. Currently it is the heart of London’s Bangladeshi community and is famous for its curry houses, artistic graffiti and trendy clubs and bars. The Brick Lane market has existed since the 17th century when it sold fruit and vegetables; the markets have now expanded to selling clothing, food and bric-a-brac and are extremely popular amongst Londoners and tourists alike. Brick Lane was famously portrayed in Monica Ali's controversial novel of that name, about a young Bangladeshi woman who moves to Tower Hamlets to marry a much older man. A film was made in 2007.
The City of London is a small area just over one mile square at the very heart of London; the original settlement around which the city grew. London was founded by the Romans around 47AD and by the end of the first century was the largest settlement in Britain. In the Middle Ages the City was the entire extent of London, but since then it has been expanding ever-outwards, particularly in the eighteenth century when the Industrial Revolution occurred and Britain began to build the Empire of which London was the centre.
The original boundaries of the City have not changed since Medieval Times, and it is often referred to as ‘The Square Mile’ or ‘The City’ because of this. The population is 11,000, but around 330,000 people work there as it is the centre of London’s financial, business and legal centre. ‘The City’ also refers then to Great Britain’s financial industry, which was the world’s leader in the nineteenth century and today is ranked number one alongside New York. The London Stock Exchange and the Bank of England are both in the City of London, along with 500 banks’ offices and the headquarters of a number of major international organisations. The architecture of the City varies from historical buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral and Mansion House to the financial sector’s skyscrapers such as Tower 42 and Heron Tower.