Page 126. " due at the Royal, Holborn, in fifteen minutes "
High Holborn, as it is today
Public DomainHigh Holborn, as it is today - Credit: Edward, Wikimedia Commons

The Royal, Holborn, whose full title was the New Royal Musical Hall, was sited on London's High Holborn between 1887 and 1892, when its name was changed to The Royal Holborn Theatre of Varieties.

Prior to 1887, other music halls had existed at this location, and following the demolition of the Theatre of Varieties, the Holborn Empire was built on the same site; this was demolished in 1960.

Follow this link for a fuller history, and pictures.


Google Map
Page 129. " in Oxford bags and boaters "
Man wearing a boater on a 1910 postcard
Public DomainMan wearing a boater on a 1910 postcard - Credit: unknown

Oxford bags are a type of very baggy trousers, traditionally worn by students at Oxford University; they were particularly popular during the period 1920-1950.

At various points during the 20th and 21st Centuries, Oxford bag-style trousers have been a women's fashion item.

A boater is a type of summer hat, usually made of straw. It was a popular form of headgear for men during the late 19th and early 20th Century; slightly different styles of boater were also worn by women.

Later on, it became part of some summer school uniforms, and remains so in certain English boys' public schools, and at boys' schools in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Follow   this link to see modern Oxford bags for women;

             this link to see old-fashioned Oxford bags for men;

             this link to see old-fashioned Oxford bags gone mad!

woman's boater
Public Domainwoman's boater - Credit: unknown
Page 131. " They're not like us, at all. They're toms. "
Sappho and female friends depicted on a vase (c.440-430BC)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSappho and female friends depicted on a vase (c.440-430BC) - Credit: Marsyas, Wikimedia Commons

Toms (sometimes Tommies) was Victorian slang for lesbians, particularly boyish ones.

Other more orthodox 19th Century terms for lesbians were Sapphists (derived from the Ancient Greek poet Sappho) and tribades.

A Dictionary of Victorian sexual slang

Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811)

Page 132. " I might have been Narcissus, embracing the pond in which I was about to drown "

'Echo and Narcissus' by Waterhouse (1903)
Public Domain'Echo and Narcissus' by Waterhouse (1903) - Credit: John William Waterhouse
 Narcissus is a figure in Greek mythology; the best known version of his story is Ovid's in book 3 of the Metamorphoses.

Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection in a pool; this is a punishment meted out by Nemesis (the goddess of retribution) for having spurned prospective lovers, including the wood nymph Echo. The punishment is intended to show him the nature of unrequited love.

Initially, unable to tear himself away from his reflection, Narcissus wastes away; he then realises the true meaning of what he is seeing, and dies overcome by grief and anguish.

Page 136. " Deacon's Music Hall in Islington "

Deacons was a music hall in Clerkenwell in the London Borough of Islington; it was situated on Myddelton place opposite the Sadler's Well's Theatre; Myddelton place was later absorbed into Rosebery Avenue.

The music hall opened in 1884 as an extension of the Sir Hugh Myddelton Tavern and was demolished in 1891.


Google Map


Page 136. " a week at Sam Collins' "
Islington Green, London
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeIslington Green, London - Credit: Robin Hall, Wikimedia Commons

Collins' Music Hall was situated on Islington Green.

The music hall, which opened in 1863, was a converted pub. It was named after its founder, the variety entertainer Sam Collins.

In 1958, the building was almost completely destroyed by fire. Today, it is the site of a Waterstones bookshop.

However, in 2008 work began on a new theatre complex known as the Collins Theatre, which is situated at the corner of Islington Green and Essex Road, and incorporates part of the old music hall.

Follow this link to see a sketch of the old music hall.

Follow this link to see a picture of the theatre, whose opening has been delayed because of legal wrangles.




Google Map
Page 139. " a song called 'Scarlet Fever' "

There is no mention on the internet of a Victorian Music Hall song called Scarlet Fever.

Does anybody know whether such a song actually existed?

In the song, of course, scarlet fever refers to a passion for soldiers, not to the illness.

Follow this link to see the male impersonator Vesta Tilley dressed as a soldier, and to listen to her sing Jolly Good Luck to the Girl who Loves a Soldier.

Page 145. " It was to Stamford Hill that we moved "
Members of the Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMembers of the Orthodox Jewish community in Stamford Hill - Credit: Danny Robinson, Wikimedia Commons

Stamford Hill is an area of North London, situated in the London Borough of Hackney.

It is notable for its very high Orthodox Jewish population, estimated to be in the region of 20,000 (sources vary on this point).


Google Map
Page 146. " the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton "

The Britannia Theatre was situated at 115-117 High Street*, Hoxton, in the London Borough of Hackney.

It operated between 1858 and 1900, when it was severely damaged by fire.

A Gaumont Cinema was built on the site in 1913 (some sources say 1923), but this too was largely destroyed during the Blitz in 1940.

Follow this link to see a commemorative plaque for the theatre.

*now generally known as Hoxton Street.


Google Map
Page 146. " playing Dandini to Kitty's Prince "

Dandini is a character in the pantomime Cinderella; he is the right-hand man, or valet, of the Prince who falls in love with the heroine.

The character is found in Rossini's opera La Cenerentola, based on the fairy tale.

Page 147. " half-a-dozen pygmy horses "

A mini working as a guide horse
Creative Commons AttributionA mini working as a guide horse - Credit: DanDee Shots, Wikimedia Commons

 Pygmy horses, now generally known as miniature horses or minis, are horses specially bred for their small size: their height is between 34 and 38 inches (86-97 cms).

Miniature horses have been bred throughout the world over many centuries, particularly in Europe and the Americas.

They are kept as family pets and sometimes used as assistance animals for people with disabilities, although this is somewhat controversial.

In the past they were used in coalmines in Europe and America in the same way as pit ponies, and as performing horses in travelling circuses and carnivals; they may occasionally still be seen in circuses today. 


Miniature horse
Creative Commons AttributionMiniature horse - Credit: Jean, Flickr

Page 149. " He was a black fellow who had run away from a sailing family in Wapping "
John Spencer & son, with their servant Caesar Shaw by Knapton (c.1744)
Public DomainJohn Spencer & son, with their servant Caesar Shaw by Knapton (c.1744) - Credit: George Knapton

Wapping is a district of northeast London, in the Borough of Tower Hamlets; it forms part of the area known today as the Docklands. It has a long maritime history. The London Docks were built there between 1799 and 1815.

In the 17th and 18th Centuries, some African and Afro-Caribbean slaves were brought to Britain to work as servants in aristocratic families. It is also estimated that by the 1800s there were between 15,000 and 20,000 free black people living in London. 

The Slavery Abolition Act was passed by the British Parliament in 1833.


Google Map
Page 149. " to join a minstrel troupe "
Minstrel poster (1896)
Public DomainMinstrel poster (1896) - Credit: Storbridge Lithographing Co., Cincinnati & New York

Minstrel shows, a form of entertainment which included comic skits, singing, dancing and variety acts, were popular during the 19th and early 20th Centuries in both Britain and America. The performers were black, or otherwise white people using the theatrical make-up known as blackface.

For example, two black troupes known as the Original African Opera Troupe and The Ohio Minstrels (a group of ex-slaves) performed at the Tyne Concert Hall in Newcastle during the 1860s.

During the 20th Century, the use of blackface, with its racist and derogatory connotations, became increasingly unacceptable; however the British television series The Black and White Minstrel Show, which featured performers in blackface, was broadcast as late as 1978 when the programme was finally discontinued. 


Singers in blackface on sheet music (1900)
Public DomainSingers in blackface on sheet music (1900) - Credit: unknown