Page 1. " going to the British Museum "
British Museum Reading Room
GNU Free Documentation LicenseBritish Museum Reading Room - Credit: Diliff, Wikimedia Commons

The British Museum housed a library in the famous domed Reading Room. This became part of the British Library in 1973, which has since moved to purpose-built premises at St Pancras in London, while the Reading Room has been restored to its former glory within the British Museum's Great Court.

Page 6. " the North-Western Railway "
One of the author’s humorous, though perhaps over-long, digressions is a tall tale about bringing back cheeses for a friend from Liverpool to London. The journey was by steam train, on the London and North Western Railway, which connected Euston station in London to many of the major cities, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Carlisle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. This railway called itself the Premier Line. Euston station, along with the famous Euston Arch, was controversially demolished in the early 1960s and replaced with a featureless design.

A LNWR society was established in 1973.


Page 8. " just off Southend Pier "
Southend Pier
GNU Free Documentation LicenseSouthend Pier - Credit: Damian Dukarski
The year that Three Men in a Boat was published, 1889, saw the opening of a new iron pier at Southend-on-Sea, to replace the old, wooden one. It extended far out into the Thames Estuary, beyond the mudflats, and here passenger boats were able to dock. It proved so popular with tourists that an extension was constructed a few years later. At 1.34 miles, it is now the longest pleasure pier in the world, and two trains carry passengers up and down. One of these is named after Sir John Betjeman, who declared that ‘the Pier is Southend, Southend is the Pier’. A Pier Museum is full of nostalgic exhibits, and the pier itself is a Grade II listed building, but over the years it has suffered many setbacks, including several fires.
Page 12. " It is difficult enough to fix a tent in dry weather "

Tents were at that time mostly bell tents and ridge tents, which were always a struggle to put up, with their heavy canvas and heavy wooden poles, dreadful in wet weather. Perhaps it is not surprising that camping as a recreational pursuit was only just starting to become acceptable at the time of Three Men in a Boat. A few years later, in 1901, the Association of Cycle Campers was founded in the UK with 13 members, which led to the organisation that is now known as The Camping and Caravanning Club. By 1906 there were several hundred members.


Page 20. " some tooth-powder "

Tooth-powder for cleaning teeth with toothbrushes came into use in the 19th century and was made largely from crushed chalk or brick dust, though some tooth-powder contained harmful ingredients. Toothpaste began to replace tooth-powder from the time of the First World War, though tooth-powder is becoming more popular once again because it can be carried on to planes in hand luggage more easily.

Page 22. " as the shilling shockers say "

Shilling shockers were novels that focused on crime and violence. They were particularly popular in this era of late Victorian England and originally cost one shilling. Penny dreadfuls were part works, printed on cheap paper, that cost one penny a time. This was pre-decimal money, when twelve pennies were equivalent to one shilling, and twenty shillings were equivalent to one pound sterling.

One shilling
Creative Commons AttributionOne shilling - Credit: woody1778a, Flickr


Page 23. " a methylated spirit stove "

Some small portable stoves for cooking used methylated spirit as a fuel, which is denatured alcohol with added methanol. Quite often it is dyed mauve in colour. 

Page 24. " the swiftest steam-roller ever built "
Great Dorset Steam Fair
GNU Free Documentation LicenseGreat Dorset Steam Fair - Credit: Peter Jewell

Each year the Great Dorset Steam Fair near Blandford Forum in Dorset has an incredible display of steam-rollers and other steam-powered vehicles and machinery.