All Hallows’ Eve

In searching for a publication or writings of some description pertaining to the metropolis on the evening before All Saints Day, although no doubt there are many in existence, only one was readily apparent for the time being. Written by Charles Williams  All Hallows’ Eve (1945)  was apt for the subject of today’s post at least in terms of title and setting if nothing else.

Charles Williams was born Islington 1886 living in Holloway until 1894 when his parents moved to St. Albans from where they ran a shop selling art materials. Later returning to London to study at University College. In 1908 he began work as a proof reader for Oxford University Press at the London offices in Paternoster Row moving to Warwick Square 1924 where the name Amen Corner given to the warehouse on the site of the old Newgate Prison still remains. Rising to editor Williams worked in London until 1939 when the outbreak of the Second World War saw the publishing house relocate the London arm of the business to Oxford. The move to Oxford was instrumental in Williams becoming a member of the Inklings literary society formed by C. S. Lewis which included J. R. R. Tolkien in the group.

Charles William’s tale of All Hallows Eve was not to the taste of boz. Supposedly a story of divine love triumphing over evil; this reader found it to be sickening and trite. In the intentions of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers Fat Boy “I wants to make your flesh creep” it succeeds but in that it  makes the reader uncomfortable in the manner of voyeur not because it is a frightening narrative. However it is not for boz to impose unasked for opinions on the readers of this post therefore for those not familiar with Charles William’s All Hallows Eve (1945) it may be read here:  http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks04/0400061.txt

All Hallows Eve takes in some parts of the City beginning on Westminster Bridge continuing the narrative encompassing St. Paul’s, Holborn, Tooting and Highgate Hill. Central to the story is a hall described as being ‘Behind Holborn, close to Great James Street, in a short street undamaged by the raids’. The reality of this imagined street could be any of a half dozen in that neighbourhood, however for the purposes of this post it is well suited to the convenience of boz to suppose that it may well have been Dombey Street. The reason for this is nothing to do with the street’s 1936 renaming after a novel by Charles Dickens. This thoroughfare was formerly known as East Street and as we have been disappointed with fictional tales we may conjure some factual horrors for All Souls Eve in the form of the building practises of Nicholas Barbon who obtained the reversion of a fifty one year lease for the development of East Street in 1684. Of the original houses put up by Barbon only numbers nine to fifteen have survived as a result of restoration much as took place in Red Lion Square for any who recall last weeks post.

The major source of biographical information on Nicholas Barbon is from The Autobiography of the Hon. Roger North‘s who wrote of him:

“. . . . with his much dealing in building, and consequently transacting with multitudes, he was exquisite mob master, and knew the arts of leading, winding, or driving mankind in herds as well as any that I ever observed. “

And a description from purchasers of two of Barbon’s houses:

“were very incomplete, imperfect and unfinished, and such works as were done were so ill and artificially done that the same were found to be new done and amended and repaired, several of the piers being cracked, the floors shrunk, and the house in some places in danger of falling . . . the vaults thereof are not tight but are so built whereby the rain comes in to them whereby the defendants cannot lay any goods in them.”

This related from PRO Chancery Cases within an excellent account of both Nicholas Barbon and speculative building in the eighteenth century The Birth of Modern London (1999) Elizabeth McKellar.

Being not currently in possession of any pictures of Dombey Street we will make do with a photograph of a street which at the time of capturing boz did not take care to note so beyond recalling that it is very near the locality of Red Lion Square it will remain uncatalogued until a return to that district is made. Should it be identified by any observers in the meantime that would be most useful in facilitating the correction of such negligible reporting.

Street WC1

Attempting to remain on the subject of grimness whilst not straying into the occult and also inspired by the site of the Oxford University Press warehouse; we will finish (as finish we must or this post will lose a little of its pertinence beyond midnight) with an account of Newgate Prison:

“It was a spacious, bare, whitewashed apartment, lighted of course, by windows looking into the interior of the prison, but far more light and airy than one could reasonably expect to find in such a situation. There was a large fire with a deal table before it, round which ten or a dozen women were seated on wooden forms at dinner. Along both sides of the room ran a shelf; and below it, at regular intervals, a row of large hooks were fixed in the wall, on each of them was hung the sleeping mat of a prisoner; her rug and blanket being folded up, and placed on the shelf above. At night these mats are placed on the floor, each beneath the hook on which it hangs during the day; and the ward is thus made to answer the purposes both of a day-room and sleeping apartment.”

This 1836 account by Charles Dickens taken from Chapter twenty two of Sketches by Boz alludes to a scene which could be considered if not cheerful then one could certainly forgive the reader for believing the establishment described to be warm and well ordered in fact rather more welcoming than most workhouses at that time if this observation is accurate. For now the benefit of the doubt must be granted so we will return to Newgate at a later date when there has been time enough for a little research away from the rose tinted glow of Dickens spectacles.
For quite some time now the spectre of the Shard has afforded some fascination in these quarters. So on an evening of apparitions will bid farewell with a night time view; taken from the gutter whilst looking at the stars; the wisps are likely to be from the smokers in the alleyway but can be viewed as something more whimsical should it so please.

Shard from the gutter

A Walk through Town I

It has taken a little time for this post to be compiled as a result of an eclectic collection of snapshots taken on a warm Spring evening 26 April this year. The only connection between the photographs is that boz paused long enough to look and wonder on the way from Clerkenwell to a destination in Covent Garden.

First stop Red Lion Square which has since resulted in a confusion with numbers. Being a rare occassion when not in a hurry to be elsewhere, it was possible to stop and photograph two buidings I have oft admired. The first being a rather nice example of interwar architecture at number 25 Red Lion Square:

Conway Hall

Building commenced 1926 and completed 1929 for the congregation of the South Place Ethical Society, a group of non conformists formed 1795 known as the Philadelphians or Universalists. Originally based in a building at 11 South Place, Finsbury  where William Hazlitt was a regular attendee and from which they retained the name on moving to the larger premises at Red Lion Square. Apparently Red Lion Square was numbered differently with the site of Conway Hall being number  37 not 25 as it is today. Have been unable thus far to find any evidence of renumbering and no Census from 1881 to 1911 lists a number 37. The site of Conway Hall was supposedly purchased as a tenement block but again no such building is in evidence by 1911.

The Charles Booth notebooks have little to say about Red Lion Square though do note the existence of flats and a lodging house:

“A few inhabited homes. Many are business premises. At the corner of Leigh Street are flats. Pink as map. There is a common lodging house on the NE side of this square which is not registered because it takes a stipulated sum per week and does not put more than a given number in a room. This seems to be the difference between lodgings and a common lodging house.”  Booth Notebooks B354 p21 As observed by George Duckworth walking with Police Constable Turner Tuesday July 12th 1898.

It is doubtful that the flats noted are the tenements that later became Conway House being that Leigh Street was on the opposite side of the Square. It is likely that the lodging house that perplexes George Duckworth was the Girls Friendly Society lodgings at number eleven present until the 1911 Census with boarders being young women only. Any information as to the renumbering of Red Lion Square would be very well received.

The development to build Red Lion Square was commenced 1684 on the site of Red Lion Fields by Nicholas Barbon, a surgeon who diverted into speculative builder, notorious for his sub standard buildings and dubious land acquisitions. As a result not many of Barbon’s buildings have stood the test of time and most houses in Red Lion Square were rebuilt throughout the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The exception being numbers fourteen to seventeen which remain the originals built by Barbon refronted in the nineteenth century of which number seventeen is well known:

17 Red Lion Square

17 Red Lion Square

It is here that Danté Gabriel Rossetti is reputed to have briefly lodged in 1851 and later recommending the same rooms to William Morris and Edward Burne Jones in 1856 which were apparently damp and decrepit. Given that these were within the original building the condition is to be expected of Nicholas Barbon’s standard of construction indeed it is to be wondered upon that the house was still standing at all in 1856. 1861 saw the firm Morris, Faulkner & Co. established at number 8 Red Lion Square.

There is of course much more of interest in Red Lion Square and numerous notable residents, but that is not for this post lest we forget that we are on a walk and dusk is approaching so must continue our journey en route to Seven Dials. Down Red Lion Street and along High Holborn takes us by Grape Street where it is deemed necessary to capture the stage door of the Shaftesbury Theatre. Although disappointingly lacking in thespian activity at such an early hour in the evening it does retain a couple of original sash windows (to the right of the picture) sash windows being of particular attraction for boz. Opened 1911 as the New Prince’s Theatre and becoming the Prince’s Theatre 1914 it was acquired by EMI 1962 to be renamed the Shaftesbury Theatre 1963. The Booth notebooks make little mention of this site as the area was being rebuilt as our guide George Duckworth notes on his travels of 1898 with Grape Street as yet not in existence.

Srage Door at the Shaftesbury Theatre

Across Shaftesbury Avenue into Neals Yard. Colourful now but according to George Duckworth report for the Booth Notebooks all stables in 1898 the Poverty map showing Black edged with Purple.

Neals Yard

Continuing onto Long Acre via brief visit to Stanfords’ excellent emporium of maps and printed goods back into Rose Street by the establishment of the Lamb and Flag public house. Being suit time on a clement Tuesday evening there is a throng at the bar spilling into the street. Reputedly the oldest pub in Covent Garden although records are sketchy, the earliest date at which the house is recorded as licensed premises in the Greater London rate books is 1772  as the Cooper’s Arms. According to Strypes Survey 1720 Rose Street was originally named in two parts as White Rose Street being the northern arm and Red Rose Street the southern part over time the distinction is lost. Another example of confusion with numbers the building which is the Lamb and Flag at number 33 was originally 11 Rose Street and listed as such in the 1881 Census with one Caleb Cullen and his wife Hannah in residence as wine and spirit merchants.

Whilst considering if time would permit the wait to be served at the bar, and reluctantly conceding that it would not; a hitherto unnoticed building was observed:

Westminster Fire Office

At the time of taking the photograph it was not realised that the building would be later encountered in researching the career of Arthur Rackham; stalwart readers will recall this from the last post as being the one time workplace of the illustrator. Now part of Garrick House which incorporate numbers 27-32 King Street and housing solicitors offices. It should be noted that the rather unnecessary and quite dreadful plastic bunting to the left of the picture was a temporary nod to patriotism given impending nuptials and fortunately not a permanent fixture.

From here through Mercer Street where we find a lovely example of the work of Ben Eine:

Ben Eine Mercer Street

For the best available accounts of the work of Ben Eine I can do no better than refer you to the inimitable writing of the Gentle Author to be found within the highly esteemed                 Spitalfields Life http://spitalfieldslife.com/2010/08/23/the-rise-of-ben-eine/

Onward to Shorts gardens almost at the destination. Dusk is by now apparent serving to enhance the light in the shop windows making one notable cheesemonger appear quite magical:

Neal's Yard Dairy Shorts Gardens

This shop which opened and took its name from Neals Yard in 1979 later moved to 17 Shorts Gardens 1992. There is no number 17 Shorts Gardens listed on the 1881 Census as yet it is unclear if this presents another instance of renumbering. Of the area the Booth Archive Police Notebooks have this to say:

“small shops, Irish, rough poor, working class, ‘fling bricks at the police but are not criminal’ DB (Dark Blue) as map.” Booth Notebooks 354 p107

Thus noted George Duckworth citing Police Constable Tait’s observation 26 July 1898.

Being much too interested in the business of others boz wonders if the flat above number 17 is now let; who has taken it; what sort of a person they are. In pondering this the journey ends at the Crown in Monmouth Street so must take leave with a sketch for now.

Little bit of a big print

Illustrated News

There has been a distinct lack of posts for the duration of August and September although it is hoped that the narrative for October may be a little more prolific, beginning with two small acquisitions to the bookshelf. A slight anomaly in fact as boz does not as yet have book shelves in the building site, rather disorganised stacks that are there to be tripped upon and apt to topple when searching in haste for a particular tome.

In recent weeks the electronic auction house has been visited and two purchases made to further add to said precipitous pile. The first purchase was a faithful reproduction of a title to which it is perhaps surprising to have hitherto not been in possession of a copy.

A new acquisition

Despite being very familiar with most of the chapters contained therein these have been largely gleaned from perusing  articles, contained in issues of the Pall Mall Gazette and Morning Chronicle and the Monthly Magazine for the greater part, in archive offices and local studies libraries. In existence are many pages of cheap photocopies dog eared and tea stained from many years of recourse.

Unable to run to a proper first edition boz was very pleased to happen on the above, quite by chance whilst seeking a cast iron down pipe for the building site. Cheaply bound, with a strange flimsy bonded leather almost soft cover, a 1907 reprint of the original publication. It is likely to be little used as old habits die hard and the tattered photocopies of individual articles retain their place for now. Nonetheless it has proved a very satisfactory purchase and has now completed a collection of Dickens works, all of which are a hotchpotch of mismatched editions spanning more than a century and several publishing houses.

Part of  the appeal of this volume was that it holds facsimile prints of the illustrations by George Cruikshank including a reproduction of the original drawing for the wrapper to the first complete edition published in one shilling monthly parts by Messrs.  Chapman and Hall from November 1837 to January 1839.

Design for wrapper drawn by George Cruikshank

Cruikshank was Dickens’s illustrator from 1836 for the first and second series of Sketches by Boz and Oliver Twist (1837) after which he did not illustrate any of Charles Dickens other serials being engaged exclusively by the publisher Richard Bentley for Bentley’s Miscellany when it was founded in 1837. Cruikshank did however redraw his original illustrations for the Chapman and Hall 1839 edition of Sketches by Boz, Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People along with a new frontispiece for that edition:

Facsimile title page of Edition of 1837

George Cruikshank 1792-1878 was London born and very familiar with its low life. Frequently likened to Hogarth, although perhaps lacking that particular artist’s finely wrought skill and tender detailed observations. In Cruikshank’s illustrations for Pierce Egan’s Life in London a monthly shilling journal published from 1821 there begun what might be considered one of the first attempts in “establishing forms of pictorial realisation that became such an important feature of Victorian publishing.”  as described in the synopsis for Unkown London: Early Modernist Visions of the Metropolis, 1815-1845 (2000) John Marriott, Masaie Matsumura, Judith R. Walkowitz. An unrivalled anthology of literature and illustration on the Metropolis with an introductory chapter from John Marriott exploring the significance of the rare texts which laid the foundations for Charles Dickens, Henry Mayhew and their successors.

Cruikshank was for the most part a caricaturist and the personal preference of this boz has always been for the more ethereal illustrations of Dickens’s next illustrator Hablot Knight Browne 1815-1882. As a child often walking along Ladbroke Grove one particular house bearing an English Heritage Blue Plaque inscribed with the name “Phiz”  possesed an enchanting curiosity long before ever having heard of any such person as Charles Dickens.

If we continue along Ladbroke Grove this will bring us close by to Kensington Gardens and thus to the second acquisition. The next small purchase was the result of trying to research some Arthur Rackham illustrations online and deciding that a printed version would be preferable. Although it would appear that the difficulty  may rest with a requirement for  spectacles rather than the computer screen.

The illustrations sought were those created by Arthur Rackham for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906). J. M. Barrie, published in response to the success of the play Peter Pan The Boy Wouldnt Grow Up which debuted at the Duke of York’s Theatre St. Martin’s Lane 27 December 1904. The play was a different story to the first publiaction of the book. Barrie’s original version was part of a dark novel for adult readers The Little White Bird (1902) from which chapters thirteen to eighteen were republished under the title Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906) containing fifty colour plate illustrations by Arthur Rackham.

The very inexpensive version obtained by boz is not so grand, being a 1951 reprint of a 1929 edition and ‘Retold for Little People by May Byron with the permission of the Author’. It does however contain eight of the Rackham colour plates including one particular favourite:

Altered the hour on the board

Also therein are some reproductions of Rackham’s charming drawings for the 1912 edition:

Kensington gardens are full of dogs, and fairies, and children

Arthur Rackham 1867-1939 was born in Lewisham and studied at the City of London School and would have been a pupil at the original site in Milk Street off Cheapside, where he became known for his art. In 1885 he obtained work as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office and continued to study part time at the Lambeth School of Art. Making occasional sales as an illustrator for magazines this led to employment with a weekly magazine the Westminster Budget as an illustrator in 1892. By the 1906 publication of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens Arthur Rackham was already a successful and known book illustrator going on to illustrate Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907).

The purchase of the 1959 copy with its few colour plates was to provide inspiration for a new screen print A London Fairytale:

Sketch for A London Fairytale

The rough sketch is the beginning of the screen to be completed soon and will be found: ‘Second to the right, and straight on till morning’.