Tuesday, 31 December 2013

More reviews of 2013

Having shared my own look back at 2013, here are similar reviews from some favourite blogs. What better way to gently see in 2014 than by looking back on some of the most interesting articles of last year?

As a regular visitor to France, I really enjoy two (English-language) 'invisible city' blogs. Both, Invisible Paris and Invisible Bordeaux, have looked back on their favourite posts of the year, as well as their most popular (Paris, Bordeaux).

Back in London, IanVisits shares his top ten posts of the year. Londonist lists the best London books, top London art exhibitions, and biggest stories of 2013. It also has a charming review of the year in sketches by Lis Watkins.

If you'd rather listen than read, then excellent weekly podcast Londonist Out Loud has a compilation of 2013's best bits

London Historians looks back not at features but at some of its excellent events - so many that they're divided into parts one, two, three and four.

Finally, time to look forward with Londonist's - entirely plausible - predictions for 2014!



Sunday, 29 December 2013

Review of 2013

As the new year approaches, it's time to look at what has happened here in the last year. First, this year's top five most-read posts:

  1. Walking Rotherhithe Tunnel (unofficial subtitle: I did it so you don't have to). Since thinking of the experience still makes my lungs smart, it's good that I've been able to share it painlessly with so many people!
  2. Much more pleasant was my visit to the London Sewing Machine Museum. Highly specialist, yet absolutely fascinating, this museum highlights not only mechanical but also social history: a real hidden gem. 
  3. Fabulous ceramics make Lloyd's Bank on Strand the finest cashpoint in London. Discover its story in Tea, Fish and Finance.
  4. It's a film star, an engineering marvel, and a thing of beauty, so St Paul's Cathedral Geometric Staircase deserves its place on this list. I saw it on a triforium tour of the Cathedral which also took in the library and Great Model.
  5. No London-y list would be complete without the Underground, especially in its 150th birthday year. It's represented here by the Edwardian beauty and missing apostrophe of Barons Court underground station.

It's always nice to see older posts still being read, and here are the five most-read this year:
  1.  Perhaps Downton Abbey accounts for the rising popularity of a post on servants' bells, inspired by a visit to the wonderful Tyntesfield.
  2. One of my favourite London transport stories, Drama on Tower Bridge combines my favourite bridge and a heroic double-decker bus driver.
  3. Shippams of Chichester features the finest clock-with-wishbone-ornament you'll ever see!
  4. An Edwardian souvenir of the Tower of London made for a fascinating photograph - its row of hansom cabs particularly caught my eye.
  5. Perenially (un)popular is what may be London's ugliest example of facadism - although it has strong competition from this year's winner of the Carbuncle Cup!

My pages on ghost signs and Postman's Park were joined by a new page, unusual London places to visit

Outside these pages, I share more information on similar topics on Twitter and the Caroline's Miscellany facebook page. A more unusual offshoot is a serial novel inspired by a post title, Victoriana and the Telectroscope. Created and co-ordinated by Ralph Hancock, it's now up to chapter 9! I contributed chapter three; why not add a chapter yourself?


Finally, and most importantly, huge thanks to everyone who has read and commented throughout 2013. My very best wishes for 2014!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Time and Talents, Bermondsey

The Time and Talents association has rather special premises in a former Rotherhithe mortuary - but used to occupy an equally interesting building in nearby Bermondsey. Today, it is a charity providing community services for young and elderly people; when it was founded in 1887, it focused on encouraging privileged young women from the West End to help others, especially factory girls. 

It was part of a wider settlement movement which created such London institutions as Toynbee Hall, all aimed at getting middle-class people to live and work among the poor they were trying to help, forming connections with them and sharing knowledge. Many settlements had religious connections too, and Time and Talents was an Anglican organisation founded by Minna Gollock, who was active in missionary work and sought to promote women's status and involvement in the missionary movement.


By 1899, Time and Talents had found permanent premises in Bermondsey Street which it would occupy for over sixty years. The building now on the site was completed in 1908 in Arts and Craft style, and included a hostel for young women as well as space for 'healthy recreation'. Its name is proudly emblazoned across the facade in rather wonderful lettering. 


Cross of Sacrifice, Tyne Cot
The architect was Sir Reginald Blomfield. His varied practice included country houses such as Chequers; school and university buildings; The Quadrant, Regent Street; and the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres. Many of the Crosses of Sacrifice in First World War cemeteries were designed by him, including the one at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Flanders, which incorporates a German blockhouse in its base. Blomfield was also a friend of leading members of the Arts and Crafts movement including Edwin Lutyens and William Morris - although when he built Time and Talents, he was already moving away from that style towards Classicism.

Today, the Bermondsey Street building houses studios and flats. The work of Time and Talents continues in Rotherhithe, but its former home in Bermondsey remains a tangible - and eye-catching - part of the streetscape.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Seasonal gift ideas


If you're looking for the perfect gift for a London history enthusiast, then here are just a few ideas.

The first is actually international in scope: the Ghost Signs calendar has contributions from several continents as well as some London favourites. It costs £19.99 and can be ordered online.

I've mentioned Amelia Parker jewellery in previous years - not only does it look lovely, but it's made from centuries-old clay pipes found on the Thames foreshore. Her range has now expanded to include wallets, phone and spectacles cases, and light pulls.

After visiting the amazing Crystal Palace Subway this year, I'm particularly appreciative of Matt Bannister's artworks, which feature not only the subway but also the park's famous dinosaurs and sphinxes. They are available as prints and cards - and for those who prefer something less South-East London-y, there are designs featuring Boudicca's statue in Westminster, the City dragons, and even Victoria and Albert.

Designers London Kills Me have a wide range of products, among which are cushions, slate placemats, prints and more with London designs. 

For other London-y ideas, Londonist has a 'Santa's lap' series with some very desirable city-themed gifts.

Finally, why not give the gift of London Historians membership? Benefits include a great events programme (this year, for example, I enjoyed guided walks, a visit to GF Watts' gallery in Compton, and several History in the Pub evenings of talks, quizzes and entertainment. See more of their events in a review of the year, part one and part two), a monthly newsletter, and various members' discounts.



Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A 'Victorian' serial novel

I've always greatly enjoyed, and learned much from, the comments on this blog. Perhaps the best response yet is that to the post Victoriana and the Telectroscope. Inspired by the title, Ralph Hancock has written the first chapter of a 'Victorian' serial story; Hugh B has added the second. They're great - launching us into a transatlantic tale with an army major, a daring young girl, and some sinister exterminators! Do read them, and if you're inspired to add chapter three...

** Update: you can now read the chapters here, and submit your own contributions by email! **

** And a second update: I've contributed chapter three. Over to you for chapter four! **

** FINAL UPDATE: the novel is now complete! **



Monday, 9 December 2013

Gladstone's orphans

William Ewart Gladstone, four times prime minister, is known for his championing of Irish Home Rule, his rivalry with Benjamin Disraeli, his enthusiasm for cutting down trees, and his evangelical Christianity. The latter famously inspired his mission to reform London prostitutes, going out on the streets to talk to them and offer them accommodation, medical treatment and employment. (This attracted a great deal of almost certainly unjustified scepticism, although he did admit that part of the purpose of this work was to put himself in the way of temptation and resist it.)

However, William and his wife Catherine Glynne Gladstone also engaged in another philanthropic act which is less colourful and therefore less well-known. It also connects the capital with a small village in North Wales, just a few miles from Chester. 

As a regular visitor to the London Hospital, Whitechapel, Catherine saw at first hand the effects of the 1860s cholera epidemics on the East End poor. She founded an orphanage for the children of cholera victims, in a large house in Clapton. It also took in convalescent patients, and the convalescent home later moved to Woodford Hall, Essex, in 1866. Adults and children were sent here from the London Hospital in the East End to recover from illness or surgery. The home moved to Mitcham in 1900, eventually closing in 1940.

As for the orphaned boys, Catherine sent them from Clapton to a new orphanage in the Gladstones' home village of Hawarden. Initially, she took a dozen boys from London to the village and accommodated them in a former coach house; Gladstone paid for their keep. (The couple also accommodated unemployed Lancashire mill girls and elderly women on their estate.) The orphanage continued for many years, and seems to have taken in other children in need of a home. A guide to the village of 1890 describes it as housing twenty to thirty boys and being 'hard by the Castle [the Gladstones' home] and across the yard'. 


A plaque in the village church commemorates Sarah Jones, who was 'for 16 years Matron and Mother of the Orphans in Mrs Gladstone's Home'. Since she died in 1885, she must have worked at the orphanage for a significant part of its existence.



Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Victoriana and the Telectroscope

There are still a few days left to catch Guildhall Art Gallery's Victoriana exhibition, which ends on 8 December. I finally visited today, and enjoyed it very much. The works are not from the nineteenth century, but rather demonstrate The Art of Revival: contemporary pieces with Victorian inspiration. 

As well as a host of media - taxidermy, letterpress, engravings, colourful ceramics, kinetic sculptures and a zoetrope-inspired installation - there is a strong steampunk current running through much of the work on display. There are also plenty of major names: Yinka Shonibare is inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, Paula Rego by Jane Eyre. The work of Paul St George is fun, and partly takes up the themes explored in his Telectroscope which linked London and New York in 2008. In fact, it was the first thing I blogged about - as a taste of his work, here it is again. 

Telectroscope

Earlier this week, I went to City Hall to look at/through the telectroscope, an art installation which is on the riverbank until Sunday. The story is:
Hardly anyone knows that a secret tunnel runs deep beneath the Atlantic Ocean. In May 2008, more than a century after it was begun, the tunnel has finally been completed. An extraordinary optical device called a Telectroscope has been installed at both ends which miraculously allows people to see right through the Earth from London to New York and vice versa.
Okay, something tells me this might not really be done by a long, long tunnel and some mirrors. Nonetheless, you truly can see New Yorkers at the other end (by Brooklyn Bridge) in real time - there were some very excited people waving at friends when I was there - and it's a fun idea. See it in lots more detail on the website.
 
 
 

Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Charterhouse

The Master's Cloister, looking into the Tudor Great Hall

Among London myths, 'built on a plague pit' is perennially popular. The Charterhouse has a better claim than many, at least to being built beside one: Charterhouse Square was originally a 14th-century burial ground for victims of the Black Death. Part of the land, unused for burials, later became the site of a Carthusian monastery, founded in 1371 by Sir Walter de Mauny. 'Charterhouse' is a corruption of 'La Grande Chartreuse', the order's mother house.
 
Chapel
 
The Great Chamber

When Henry VIII dissolved England's monasteries, some of the monks were executed for refusing to conform to the Act of Supremacy; others starved to death in Newgate Prison; while the Charterhouse was converted into a private house. The Duke of Norfolk bought and further altered it. Finally, in 1558, it took on a new role - one it still performs four centuries later. 

Tudor Great Hall - fireplace detail

Thomas Sutton was apparently the wealthiest commoner in the country, having made his fortune in money-lending, coal mines and munitions. He used his wealth to found a charity which was to provide housing for 80 men and schooling for 40 boys. Originally the site was to be outside London, but the Duke of Norfolk's son was selling Charterhouse to build a new home at Audley End, and Sutton bought it from him. When he died in 1611, most of his fortune was bequeathed to the charity - so it's no surprise that his heirs contested the will. However, with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chancellor among the charity's governors, Sutton's wishes were carried out. While the school moved to Surrey in the nineteenth century, having grown far beyond forty pupils, the almshouses are still thriving on the original site. (Officially, it is still called Sutton's Hospital.)


Wash House Court

The result of this history is that the Charterhouse is a charming mixture of eras and materials - mediaeval stone, tudor brick, seventeenth-century wood panelling. 

Tudor Great Hall
 
Before they moved out of central London, the boys of Charterhouse School would play football in the Norfolk Cloister. Apparently the rules of football, notably throw-ins and the offside rule, were first developed here. 

Norfolk Cloister

Because it's still home to a number of 'brothers', the Charterhouse is usually closed to the public. However, it opened its doors last month for an exhibition on Philanthropy in the City of London. (In fact, the Charterhouse is just outside the City, but only by a step or two!) Although the exhibition has now finished - I only made it on the last day - the guided tours will resume in January and can be booked. 


The Londonphile and Londonist have also visited. 

Tudor Great Hall - the brothers eat all their meals here



Friday, 29 November 2013

Great Central Hotel

Great Central Street is neither great nor central, being a short road opposite Marylebone Station. Instead, it was named for the Great Central Railway, whose aspirations included making Marylebone the hub for a train service stretching across Europe. There is, however, a rather glorious Victorian building on its west side.


A grand station would need a grand hotel, and so the Great Central Hotel was planned. When Sir Edward Watkin, the railway's amibitious leader, ran out of funding the project was taken over by Sir John Blundell Maple - better known for the Maple's furniture company. Since they were already leading furnishers of London's hotels, a move into building one perhaps didn't seem too great a leap. Indeed, Sir John also opened a Maple's shop in the station, so hotel residents could buy the furniture if they liked it!

In 1899, this large, grand hotel was opened, attached by a glass and cast-iron canopy to the small station behind. A large central courtyard not only brought light to inner bedrooms but allowed coaches to bring their passengers to the heart of the hotel; it later became a winter garden and is now a restaurant.


The hotel is perhaps the most tangible reminder at Marylebone of what the railway project was envisaged to be, in contrast to its more modest outcome. As a railway hotel, the Great Central enjoyed only a few decades of success; once railways lost customers to cars, the hotel's popularity declined. In the Second World War it was used by the army - Airey Neave was debriefed here after his escape from Colditz; thereafter, it served as offices for the British Railways Board. 

Like its older sister at St Pancras, however, the Great Central was destined for a return to glory. It reopened as a hotel in the 1990s and is now the five-star Landmark Hotel.



Sunday, 24 November 2013

Octavia on Oxford Street

This rather lovely sign in St Christopher's Place, off Oxford Street, marks the entrance to Sarsden Buildings. These are homes built by Victorian philanthropist Octavia Hill, and still managed by Octavia Housing


Hill began her work in Marylebone, although she extended it over much of London: I have previously discussed her work in relation to White Cross Cottages in Southwark. While she began her housing work in 1864 by renovating properties, she moved on to build new housing as well. Sarsden Buildings was among the renovation projects: some of the houses had been condemned by the Medical Officer of Health before she took them over. 

It is hard to believe today, standing a few steps from Selfridge's and with the fashionable shops and restaurants of St Christopher's Place all around, that these buildings were considered among the worst when Hill took them on. Then known as Barrett's Court, its tenants were described by her as 'almost the poorest class of those amongst our population who have any settled home.' That must have made her success all the sweeter. Among her first projects, Sarsden Buildings is the oldest which continues to provide social housing today.



Thursday, 21 November 2013

Steamship in stone


Denmark House on Tooley Street, by London Bridge station, is a flamboyant Edwardian building, built by architect S D Adshead in 1908. At first glance, the putti ornamentation at roof level is just more flamboyance.


A closer look shows that the plump little figures are supporting a steamship - for this is the former premises of the Bennett Steamship Company. The company sailed between Goole, London and Boulogne. It was at its height when these premises were built; after the First World War its heyday was over and it declined rapidly after the Second World War. Today, Denmark House is part of London Bridge Hospital. However, the jaunty ship is a reminder of when this area was all about shipping.



Monday, 18 November 2013

Chester



It may not have the most obvious vintage charm, but there's something rather pleasing about this combined lighting and signage at Chester railway station.



Thursday, 14 November 2013

Baking better bricks

 
When the Saint Ilan brick and tileworks were built in 1864, they used cutting-edge technology. Their location on the bay of Saint Brieuc also provided high-quality clay. As a result, the products became well-known throughout Brittany and beyond. 

That state-of-the-art technology, a Hoffmann kiln, still survives today and forms the centrepiece of a museum, La Briqueterie. Although Saint Ilan was early to adopt the new process, invented in 1858, it spread throughout the world and transformed brickmaking into a far more efficient process. 

Hoffmann kiln interior

In the centre of the kiln was a long, narrow tunnel which acted as a flue. Running around it, a long but wider tunnel was divisible into separate sections; bricks would be loaded into one of these sections and its entrance closed up. As the fire moved towards it, the gases would progress from being warm enough to help dry the clay, to hot enough to heat the bricks, and finally of a high enough temperature for the firing itself. Coal was added through holes in the roof; dampers and flues helped to control the flow of the hot gases. As the fire moved on (by about five metres a day), the bricks would gradually cool and could be removed and replaced by a new batch. 
Hoffmann kiln flue

This process was a great advance because it allowed the firing process to be continuous. Without having to load, heat, fire and cool one batch at a time, the number of bricks a single kiln could produce increased dramatically, and the fuel was used much more efficiently: Saint Ilan could fire 15,000 bricks a day using half the energy of a traditional kiln. The results were also more consistent, and with experienced operators the wastage rates were lower. Today, Hoffmann kilns have been largely replaced by tunnel kilns which move the bricks rather than the fire; but they remain in use in some developing countries.

Kiln interior - roof detail

In its new life as a museum, the brickworks at Saint Ilan also explores other local occupations including salt-making, shellfish-gathering and market-gardening, as well as Harel de la Noƫ's masterpiece, the Cotes du Nord railway.


Further reading;
Low-Tech Magazine has a fuller description of the Hoffmann firing process. 
A Rotherhithe Blog, in exploring the history of London stock brick, discusses earlier firing methods.



Sunday, 10 November 2013

Forage on the Foreshore

 
 
A narrow alleyway, an iron gate, a flight of stone steps... Even if the buildings alongside are now modern flats, it's easy for a moment to imagine oneself back in Victorian Wapping. At the bottom of the stairs is a broad, sandy beach with views across Docklands. However, buckets and spades are definitely not allowed - there's a strict 'no digging' rule - and anyway, the threatening rain made playing in the sand a less inviting prospect. 


Instead, I was here with a group led by Jane of Jane's London, creator of the wonderful Amelia Parker jewellery using Thames clay pipes. We were exploring this beach which only exists at low tide, looking for the historical treasure which the river casts up. 


My favourite find was this seventeenth-century pipe bowl. Despite a few hundred years in the Thames, its interior is still smoke-darkened and the decorative line round its rim still sharp. It would have been made by one of over a hundred London pipe factories, all producing disposable pipes in that pre-cigarette era. (Tobacco pipes had been introduced to the city in the 1670s, while the cigarette didn't become popular until well into the nineteenth century.) The cheap, moulded pipes soon clogged with the less-refined tobacco, and would simply be thrown away - often into the river. Today, their rubbish has become our treasure: there's something very special about the opportunity to happen across an everyday item from three centuries ago.

If you'd like to join Jane's next 'Forage on the Foreshore', it's on 5 January 2014.
 


Thursday, 7 November 2013

Light fantastic!

Before each London to Brighton veteran car run, many of the cars parade on Regent Street. I've been several times before, and it gets busier each year.


With so many people looking at the cars, it was best to focus on photographing details. The variety of headlamps particularly caught my attention: all shapes and sizes, and some fine engraved plaques. Enlightening!


(Click on images to enlarge.)



Sunday, 3 November 2013

London's last 'embassy chapel'

A small, unassuming Georgian building behind Regent Street, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory is not among London's most well-known. However, this Warwick Street building is of historical significance: the last survivor of the city's 'penal period' embassy chapels. 


From the Reformation until 1791, Roman Catholic worship was illegal in England. Until the seventeenth century, priests risked execution; thereafter, social attitudes softened but criminal penalties remained. Thus there were no Catholic churches, although a few private chapels - generally in country houses - did exist. 

That was a problem for ambassadors from Catholic countries, and the solution was to build chapels on the 'extra-territorial' embassy land. Our church, originally built in the early eighteenth century, was the chapel of the Portuguese embassy in Golden Square. In 1747, the Portuguese moved to South Audley Street (their chapel there would be demolished in 1831), and both house and chapel were taken over by the Bavarian embassy. Other embassy chapels included those of the embassies of France, Venice, Austria, Spain and Sardinia; they were increasingly used by English worshippers, since they were the only places where Mass could legally be said.


Anti-Catholic prejudice in the capital famously erupted in the Gordon Riots of 1780. The chapel in Warwick Street was badly damaged, and had to be rebuilt. In 1790, the current building was opened, its facade deliberately unremarkable, with yard-thick walls and fire-resistant doors lined with metal. 

A year later, Catholic worship was made legal. In 1854, the chapel became a parish church although its nickname, the Bavarian chapel, lasted another half-century. Today, it is the last of the embassy chapels standing in London. Most were demolished; the Spanish Chapel was replaced by St James, Spanish Place in 1849 and the Sardinian Chapel by the church of St Anselm & St Caecilia, Kingsway in 1909. 



Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Roman Eagle in London

Minories, a City of London street leading from Tower Hill to Aldgate, takes its name from the Minoresses  (nuns) who had an abbey here in the middle ages. However, its history goes back much farther than that, as evidenced by an extraordinary recent find. Excavating the site of a new hotel development, Museum of London Archaeology discovered an eagle and snake on the final day of the dig. 


The Roman sculpture was carved in the first century, from Cotswold limestone. It has survived in remarkably fine condition, intact except for a broken wing and with details still sharply delineated. Indeed, it's the best example we have of Romano-British carving.

The eagle seems to have adorned the mausoleum of a prominent Londoner, functioning as a symbol of power and good. As for the serpent, it represents evil - and has a rather unlikely set of teeth. Archaeologist Michael Marshall told the Guardian that 'We did have a go at identifying the species of snake when we had some zoologists in – but they just said 'it's a snake'.' 

When the mausoleum was demolished, its centrepiece was thrown into a muddy ditch where it lay for the next nineteen centuries. Discovered just a month ago, the sculpture is now on display in the Museum of London's Roman galleries for the next six months. Go, and meet its haughty gaze!




Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Ghost signs (102): Marshall's Lysol

On my way to the ghost signs walk around Stoke Newington, I jumped off the bus early to photograph this advertisement for Marshall's Lysol. It reads 'Ask for Marshall's chemists brand Lysol. [It's the?] genuine'. Unfortunately, the sign is partly obscured by a vinyl advertisement for a minicab company - itself somewhat vintage, judging by the '01' telephone code.


Lysol is a brand of disinfectant, and Marshall's seem to have marketed under the name 'Marshol' as well as Marshall's Lysol. The Lysol brand was founded in Germany in 1889 but soon gained worldwide popularity. It was so toxic that drinking Lysol was a not-uncommon method of committing suicide - London poet Charlotte Mew killed herself this way in 1928 - and was advertised in the United States as a (dangerous, ineffective) method of birth control. Lysol remains a major brand in the USA, now owned by Reckitt Benckiser. 



Friday, 25 October 2013

Ghost signs (101): the walk


Wonderful as photographs of ghost signs are, there's nothing like seeing them in real life. One of the best places to do so is Stoke Newington, which has London's finest concentration of signs, and the best guide is Sam Roberts, founder of the ghost signs archive. Happily, he is now offering guided tours of the area's ghost signs, and I was fortunate to try one last week. 


The walk doesn't only take you to some wonderful signs. It also introduces you to all the key features: palimpsests, deciphering wording, famous brands of the past, and the sadness of lost signs. The fascinating hour-and-a-half walk ends, as the best walks do, in the pub. Even a sudden rainstorm hadn't dampened our enthusiasm!


I'd definitely recommend this exploration of ghost signs in their natural habitat. There are walks coming up in the next three months - a perfect seasonal present! 



Thursday, 17 October 2013

Ghost signs (100): Bermondsey leather

A century ago, Bermondsey was full of industry - and much of that industry was tanning. Skins were cleaned, with the wool going to felters for hat-making and the flesh turned into gelatine, some used by nearby Crosse and Blackwell. The cleaned hides were then tanned - a noisome process involving dog poo and human urine, among other delights. I doubt many within smelling range of the area are sorry that those tanneries are gone. 


They've left some lovely reminders behind, though. The London Leather, Hide & Wool Exchange, built in 1878, was more of a social club than a trading floor. Aptly, it's now a pub, but the tannery connection is visible not only in the carved name over the main door but also in five roundels depicting (idealised) scenes from the tanning process. 



 


Next to the red brick and sculpted decoration of the Exchange is the larger, but more restrained, Leather Market in yellow London stock brick. Now studios and offices, this was where the hides and skins were traded when the tanneries thrived. 


Beside the door is a small ghost sign, another reminder of the industry. It reads 'M Emanuel Ltd, Leather & leather pieces, Office ground floor, Leather Market'.


Describing the market in 1879, Charles Dickens Jr failed to conjure up much enthusiasm. Instead, he was preoccupied by the pungent odours all around:
The neighbourhood in which it stands is devoted entirely to thinners and tanners, and the air reeks with evil smells. The population is peculiar, and it is a sight at twelve o’clock to see the men pouring out from all the works. Their clothes are marked with many stains; their trousers are dis-coloured by tan; some have apron and gaiters of raw hide; an about them all seems to hang a scent of blood. The market itself stands in the centre of a quiet block of buildings on the left hand side of Weston-street, the entry being through a gateway. Through this a hundred yards down, a square is reached. Most of it is roofed, but there is an open space lathe centre. Under the roofing are huge piles of fresh hides and sheep-skins. There is no noise or bustle, and but few people about. There are no retail purchasers, the sales being almost entirely made to the great tanners in the neighbourhood. The warehouses round are all full of tanned hides; the yards behind the high walls are all tanneries, with their tens of thousands of hides soaking in the pits. Any visitor going down to look at the Bermondsey hide-market should, if possible, procure beforehand an order to visit one of the great tanning establishments. Unless this be done the visit to the market itself will hardly repay the trouble of the journey, or make up for the unpleasantness of the compound of horrible smells which pervade the whole neighbourhood.

I discovered the Leather Market and Exchange on a Victorian Society guided walk - one of their many excellent events - led by the extremely knowledgeable Stephen Humphrey


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