London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

Doing my (little) bit to help the homeless

I have a confession to make. Before I started buying the Big Issue from the same person every week I was quite ignorant about homeless people. Shamefully I had never considered that there were many different reasons why people had ended up without a home because I had never stopped to ask.

I can’t recall exactly when I started buying the magazine regularly but I think it was around March last year when I first came across Donny who stood at the junction of Oxford Street and Great Portland Street. 

Over the course of the year in my brief stops to chat with him on my way to my other job (part-time in a West End solicitors) I got to know him a bit. I never asked about his circumstances but got to know his likes and dislikes. He liked to talk and sometimes it was difficult to get away! 

Like me Donny is interested in London’s history and had now and again attended free history talks. Sometime last year I gave him a list of upcoming free talks and walks and in return he offered to give my business cards out to people when circumstances arose. From asking my London obsessive friends on Facebook to stop and talk to him I discovered we had a mutual friend – my friend Phil who knew Donny when he used to sell at Green Park. It’s a small world.

Back in February when the weather was quite cold he told me that another of his customers had promised him an old coat but kept forgetting to bring it in. I wanted to help and after getting no results from friends I did a trawl of my local charity shops and eventually found a down filled jacket size extra large for £2 (reduced from £3 when I told them why I was buying it). Down filled coats aren’t ideal when you’re out in all weathers but it was the only thing I could find that wasn’t horrendously overpriced. 

So now I’m wondering how he’s faring and whether any of the money that I’ve donated to the Big Issue has reached him. I saw a comment from one of the other sellers that as well as the income he was missing the social interaction and I imagine that is true of Donny as he was always so cheerful and positive. I’m sure I’m not his only customer who misses chatting to him.

Unlike many of my tour guiding colleagues I do have money coming in from the office job (I’m now working from home) so I’ve been able to make a donation to the Big Issue. The cost of a 3 month subscription (£32.50) is only a couple of days’ travel costs that I’m not currently spending.  Here’s the link if anyone would like to do the same

The Chigwell Row Medicinal Springs – a ‘lost’ manuscript?

There is one benefit to ending up (by slightly devious means*) on the Chingford Historical Society Committee in that amazing books keep being donated to the Society. I have already acquired several of them – giving the Society a donation of course. Strangely other members of the Society don’t seem to be interested or maybe they have more self control than me!

Often these donations come after a death and the person who donates the books from their late spouse’s collection has no idea how these books were acquired.

One such manuscript which is currently in my possession really should be in a museum. In fact it was originally in a museum being in the Essex Field Club collection held at the Passmore Edwards Museum in West Ham. This museum closed in 1994. We don’t know how this book and the others that were donated with it ended up in a private collection.

The title of the manuscript is ‘A short account of the Mineral Water found at Chigwell Row in the County of Essex’.  
First text page of the manuscript
The manuscript has been bound into a book and the cover page reads “The Chigwell Row Medicinal Springs: a late 18th century account of them by (?) the Rev Dr William Martin Trinder. See article with above title by Miller Christie FLS in Essex Naturalist XVIII 1915 pp60-70. Bound in cloth, January 1919.”
On the inside cover of the book is a bookplate which says ‘Presented by Mr T Fisher Unwin’. 
Cover page to manuscript
Book plate on inside cover
Through the archives of the Essex Field Club online I have found the relevant pages of the Essex Naturalist magazine and they can be read starting here – 0060 which from the evidence I have written above would I think prove they are one and the same book. This article written in 1915 lists the research that has been done to try to find the author of the manuscript. The report also includes a transcript of the manuscript.

1st page of the 1915 article. Read the rest here

1st page of the 1915 article. Read the rest here

I will write today to the Essex Record Office in the hope that they can add this book to their collection and will update here when I hear back from them. It would be interesting to know if someone was able to continue the research to see if the author can be identified.

This does make you wonder what other treasures are waiting to be discovered in people’s bookshelves and attics.

*I was invited to what I thought was a talk about local author and photographer James Brimblebut it turned out to be a committee meeting. By the end of the meeting I was on the committee!

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified tour guide and leads walks in the West End, Islington, Walthamstow and Chingford. 
Details of all Joanna’s walks bookable by groups can be found here 

The Welhams of Walthamstow

Having lived in Waltham Forest most of my life I have walked up and down Church Hill Walthamstow many times and sat on the top deck of many buses on that route too. So how is it that I have never before noticed this house on the corner of Stainforth Road.

Welham House, Church Hill, Walthamstow

What I noticed first was the ornate design underneath one of the windows.

Welham House

A close up of the design underneath the other window taken from the top deck of a 212 a few days later

Until earlier this year Welham House aka 12 Church Hill housed both a Barnados office and Waltham Forest Music Service. 

The house is sadly boarded up but on checking the council’s planning applications I see approval has been granted for it to be converted into flats (1 studio, 5 one bedroom and 1 two bedroom). At least it’s not being demolished or left as a façade. Reading the planning application documents makes me wonder how closely the applicants have looked at the house. Immediately obvious on the front of the house is the wording ‘Welham House 1893’ yet one of the planning documents suggests it is Edwardian or late Victorian. Edward VII didn’t come to the throne until after his mother’s death in 1901!

But my inquisitiveness didn’t stop there. I wanted to find out who was the Welham who built this rather grand looking house. 1893 is 23 years after the railways had arrived in Walthamstow and many of the rich had scarpered. As mentioned in my recent post about little known philanthropist John Francis Holcombe Read the cheap workmen’s fares which were applicable for all stations up to Wood Street meant rapid house building in Walthamstow. The population of Walthamstow increased exponentially between 1851 and 1901. In 1851 the population was around 5,000. Fifty years later its population was around 95,000. The population of nearby Chingford which was beyond the boundary for cheap workmen’s fares increased from just 963 to 4,373 and the house building was on a very different scale.

In the 1901 census we find Thomas Welham, his wife Alice, son Henry aged 12, niece Mary aged 16, Alice’s widowed father Henry and Thomas’s widowed mother Ellen living at the Church Hill house. Thomas Welham is described as living on own means. Alice’s father Henry Osborne is a retired licensed victualler. Thomas’s widowed mother Ellen is also living on own means. They have one servant.

Ten years on in the 1911 census Thomas Welham is described as a gentleman and is still living there with his wife, son and his widowed father-in-law. His widowed mother Ellen is a visitor alongside Gertrude Pluckrose another visitor.

Twenty years previous to that it was a different story. Thomas Welham was running a pub – the Coach & Horses in St James’s Street Walthamstow. He was living there with his wife, son, niece aged 6 and 3 servants.

When Thomas died in 1930 he left £2,845.  When his wife died 7 years later she left £18,000. Their son who died in 1973 left £36,980.

So what prompted their change of fortune. 

Through the online records of Waltham Forest Family History Society I discovered some of the family are buried in a rather grand tomb in Queen’s Road Cemetery. Not only is this quite impressive to look at but it is on the main path, close to the entrance to the cemetery; it must have cost a packet.

Private vault of Welham family, Queen's Road Cemetery, Walthamstow

Private vault of Welham family, Queen’s Road Cemetery, Walthamstow

Queen’s Road Cemetery. Walthamstow. The edge of the Welham vault is just visible to the right of the photo.

I was beginning to get quite addicted to this research which initially had no purpose for me. Although the Church Hill house is on my ‘From Monoux and Morris to Beer and Bacon Jam’  walk route I would have to drop something else from the walk in order to fit this story in. But still I continued researching

Discovering the location of the tomb was however fortuitous. I am currently putting together a new Walthamstow walk ‘Penny Loaves, Poisoning, Poverty and Pubs’ which I am leading for the Queen’s Boundary Community on 31st August. Perfect. The tomb is close to the entrance to the cemetery which features on my walk and there is a pub connection. My research hasn’t been wasted.

Whilst delving into their story I discovered that Thomas’s mother had rather a sad life. Clarissa Ellen Welham who died in 1912 is separately buried in Queen’s Road Cemetery with 2 of her grandsons. All 4 of her grandsons from her daughter of the same name pre-deceased their grandmother.

Her daughter’s husband Robert Girling Norman (not buried here) committed suicide in 1888 at the Chester Arms, Albany Street, Regent’s Park.  The inquest verdict was “Suicide when of unsound mind induced by habits of intemperance.” It was reported in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper in August 1888 0004

Her grandson also called Robert Girling Norman drowned in the River Lea in Summer 1909. It was a very hot day but the coroner recorded that there was a history of insanity in the family. The verdict reached by the jury was ‘Found drowned’ holding that the evidence was insufficient to show how he had reached the water. Robert Girling Norman lived in Borough so it would have been quite a journey to reach the Lea. A full report of the inquest can be found in the East London Observer on 21 August 1909. 0002

I have been unable to find out how his brother Charles Girling Norman died; he was only 25. The last person in this tomb is Ellen Hyde. After her husband’s suicide Clarissa Ellen’s daughter married a Richard Hyde. I have spent too long trying to figure out their relationship but surmise that Ellen was in someway related to Richard.

There was also another brother not buried here. John Girling Norman died aged 34 in 1910. His widow age 24 was left to bring up 3 children under 7 by herself.

John Girling Norman was a publican too. He is buried in Chingford Mount Cemetery. His widow Alice (nee Bolwell) is separately buried in Queen’s Road Cemetery with members of her Bolwell family. Details here

Image (c) Waltham Forest Family History Society

Queen’s Road Cemetery is rather overgrown and as you can see from the picture above and those below of unrelated graves the ground was totally unsuitable for a cemetery in the first place. I was unable to find the grave of grandmother Clarissa and her grandsons although I know it is in the same part of the cemetery.

Partly collapsed graves in Queen's Road Cemetery, Walthamstow

Partly collapsed graves in Queen’s Road Cemetery, Walthamstow

I originally started this research with the hope of discovering the story behind the house. Instead my research has taken me in many different directions. Although I still haven’t discovered how the building of Welham House came about this has been a bit of an eye opener into the hard lives suffered by the wider Welham family.

Although I would still like to know more I need to wean myself off this subject and concentrate on the rest of my walk research. If you would like to join me there are currently just 5 places left for this walk on 31st August 2019. If you can’t make that date I could of course lead it on future occasions. Get in touch by emailing Joanna [at] westminsterwalks [dot] London if you’d like to book me to lead this as a private walk.

Booking info for the 31st August can be found here penny-loaves-poisoning-poverty-and-pubs-a-walthamstow-walk-tickets-65596339417

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified tour guide and leads walks in the West End, Islington, Walthamstow and Chingford. 
Details of all Joanna’s walks bookable by groups can be found here 

Rat Killing at the Old Queen’s Head, Soho

I have a dilemma. Last night at London Historians’ excellent History in the Pub where 8 speakers talk for 8 minutes each on a pre-determined theme I gave my talk on rat killing matches in London pubs.

This may appear to be a strange subject to talk about but as a London tour guide finding out the history of something that has been largely forgotten is what us tour guides love.

Back in 2012 I was contacted by the manager of the Queen’s Head pub in Denman Street, Soho. They had found a link to my website on Londonist – thanks Londonist! They were looking for a tour guide to do a circular walk from their pub finishing with Sunday lunch at the pub. The manager, Joe, who had taken over the pub the previous year informed me that he had been given a copy of a painting owned by the Kennel Club which depicted one of the very first dog shows which took place at the Queen’s Head in its previous building. The current pub dates from 1928 when the Piccadilly Theatre next door was built. A copy of this painting hangs in the back of the pub. I confess I haven’t been recently but hope it’s still there. As the Kennel Club hold the copyright to this painting I can’t post it here but can link to the page where you can see it early-canine-meeting-10644868.html

So anyway back in 2012 I put together a walk taking in the history of Soho’s pubs including lots of info related to this painting. Jemmy Shaw who is the chap standing in front of the fireplace was a retired lightweight pugilist and before showing dogs in pubs was involved in the rather unsavoury sport of ratting. According to Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor some 70 pubs had regular ratting meetings. Shaw was known as Mr Ratting!

Mayhew's London

There is absolutely tons of information about this ‘sport’ in Mayhew’s book under the title ‘A Night at Rat-Killing’. Although the pub’s name isn’t mentioned it is implied that the proprietor is Jemmy or Jimmy Shaw.

Dog owners who wanted to prove their dog could kill x number of rats in a specific time would advertise in the newspapers. An event would be set up and bets would be taken as to whether said dog would achieve this.

There were rules and regulations surrounding these events. There would be an umpire and a timekeeper. Sometimes owners would sprinkle pepper on their dogs to try to stop the rats biting. It then became a rule that dogs should be bathed in milk or water before the match and the opposing side were invited to lick the dog to check this had been done.

Jemmy Shaw also had a sideline in providing rats for these events and at any one time had 2,000 rats on his premises. Barn or country rats were more expensive than town or sewer rats but they were better for the dogs. As would be expected sewer rats stank to high heaven and could also pass on infections to the dogs. Jemmy worked with local rat catchers such as Jack Black who described himself as Rat Catcher to Queen Victoria. Mayhew interviews him too and he describes how he melted down his wife’s saucepans to make the rat ‘decorations’ on his outfit.

Jack Black, Rat Catcher to Queen Victoria

Jack Black, Rat Catcher to Queen Victoria

Another Quennell book I have – Mayhew’s Characters – has an interview with Jemmy Shaw where he mentions that most of his ‘country’ rats come from Clavering in Essex and also Enfield which he describes as ‘a kind of headquarters for rat-ketchers‘!

Mayhew's Characters book

Preparing for my talk to London Historians I decided to do a bit more digging about Jemmy Shaw as a person. He is all over the newspapers of the time. He had been a boxer and then went into ratting and showing dogs. He died of ‘softening of the brain’ in 1886 at the Metropolitan Asylum in Caterham and is buried in Brompton Cemetery. He was in his seventies.

Searching “Jemmy Shaw” on British Newspaper Archives I’ve found his obituary in The Sporting Life of 11 January 1886, page 3. The obituary lists his sporting achievements including the pubs that he ran. Another of his pubs was the Blue Anchor, Bunhill Row – today the Artillery Arms. A picture in the Museum of London’s collection shows ‘Tiny the Wonder Dog’ in action at this venue. meet-beast-tiny-wonder-dog

However scrolling down the obituary I discovered that the Queen’s Head pub was not the Queen’s Head, Denman Street but the Old Queen’s Head, Queen’s Head Court, Great Windmill Street! Admittedly this pub would have been only yards away from Denman Street but the fact of the matter is I have been talking about the wrong pub for 6.5 years!

From studying some old maps Queen’s Head Court appears to have been south of Archer Street close to where the Lyric Theatre is today. I need to do more research as to exactly where it was and when it was demolished.

The newspaper report says that Jemmy Shaw bought the pub from Jem Burn. I have also discovered that Shaw had a son called Billy. The evidence is here on the Pubs History website:

Information for the Queen’s Head, Denman Street (then Queen Street) for the same period:

So I have two dilemmas. Firstly whether I should tell the Queen’s Head Denman Street – and in fact the Kennel Club – that they have been referring to the wrong pub. The second dilemma is whether I need to entirely change my walk to find another site in Soho to talk about these unsavoury goings on or whether I could include the above info as to how I came about this misapprehension. Maybe that’s a story in itself!

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified tour guide and leads walks in the West End, Islington, Walthamstow and Chingford. 
Details of all Joanna’s walks bookable by groups can be found here 

Walthamstow’s Forgotten Musical Heritage

Ten years on from qualifying as a City of Westminster Guide I wouldn’t have imagined that one of my most successful walks would be in Walthamstow. I’m sure that many of my social media followers are beginning to despair that I will ever do a walk again that’s not in this area.*

I started leading walks in Walthamstow back in 2012 as part of the Appetite Festival which was organised by the same people who organise the excellent E17 Art Trail (2019 details here).  Since then my Walthamstow walk has changed substantially and to be honest changes each time I do it as I find out something new. My research now is an ongoing (and rather obsessive) process. I am currently spending rather a lot of time researching one of the many occupants of the house in the picture below and at some point in the future this will probably be written about in another blog post.

Orford House

Orford House

When I started guiding I confess that I probably didn’t know each area in detail but now see the error of my ways. It would however be impossible to know the full history of any area and researching for the walk I am doing this Saturday 30th March as part of Walthamstow Notes has introduced me to a side of the area I had never considered before – Walthamstow’s musical heritage in the period after the arrival of the railways.

On my regular From Monoux and Morris to Beer and Bacon Jam’ walk I explain that the arrival of the railways with the accompanying cheap workmen’s fares was a catalyst for a lot of the rich people moving out. Edward Lloyd whose children bequeathed what is now the William Morris Gallery and the surrounding park to the people of Walthamstow moved his family to Westminster in 1885. He believed there wouldn’t be enough suitable companions for his growing family. William Morris himself was also quite scathing about Walthamstow. In a letter of 1883 Morris said the area was “… once a pleasant place enough but now terribly cocknified and choked up by the jerry builder”.

Having said that going back further into the history of Walthamstow there are many rich people who wanted to help the less fortunate of the area – George Monoux being the most famous one but there are many other benefactors who left money to improve the lives of the poor.

Then I was introduced to John Francis Holcombe Read, a composer whose name already existed in my notes as he had built the Victoria Hall which was on the site of what is now Mirth Marvel and Maud. He spent his own money to build this hall partly so his composition ‘Harold’ could be performed!

The Chelmsford Chronicle, 11th November 1887. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The Chelmsford Chronicle, 11th November 1887. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Here was a man who had moved to Walthamstow after the arrival of the railways. He had made several fortunes as a City stockbroker but he was very much involved in music too being a musician and composer. Much of the money he had made in the City was spent in Walthamstow improving the cultural lives of the residents.  When I started digging deeper I found he was connected to many cultural societies in Walthamstow and further afield. If you know where to look his name is everywhere!

To find out more about Mr J F H Read as he is more commonly known and the Walthamstow of his time why not come along on my walk this Saturday 30th March. Tickets are free this time but please book as I do have to put a limit on numbers. As mentioned above this is part of Walthamstow Notes a day of free music and talks taking place both at Read’s former house, Chestnuts House and Vestry House Museum.

Chestnuts House, 398 Hoe Street

Chestnuts House, 398 Hoe Street

The walk starts from Chestnuts House at 398 Hoe Street but do please book your place in advance via this link

* I do have a couple of walks outside Waltham Forest coming up – A Drinking History of Clerkenwell on both Tuesday 2nd April and Easter Monday 22nd April. Details of these and all my upcoming walks can be found here

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified tour guide and leads walks in the West End, Islington, Walthamstow and Chingford. 
Details of all Joanna’s walks bookable by groups can be found here 

Walthamstow Matters from 1962/63

I have recently become rather obsessed with old guide books and in fact have a backlog of ideas for posts taking excerpts from such books as they contain so much of interest.

My latest purchase was last night at Chingford Historical Society’s monthly meeting.  My purchase was the Summer 1962 and Summer 1963 editions of ‘Walthamstow MattersA review of local affairs past and present’.

Walthamstow Matters 1962 and 1963

These were issued by Walthamstow Borough Council a couple of years before the creation of the London Borough of Waltham Forest in 1965.

Today a booklet like this would probably be overlooked but these two publications have a wealth of interesting information of what life was like in Walthamstow in the early 1960s.

There was an amazing amount of entertainment being provided by the Council as can be seen on the programme below from the 1962 booklet. There is similar going on in 1963. Modern dancing every Saturday, weekly ‘Funtime’ for children, leading bands and artistes playing every Sunday and variety entertainment every Saturday night too at both the Assembly Hall and the now long gone Lloyd Park Pavilion.

Entertainment in Walthamstow 1962

On the opposite page is an advert inviting people to lend their money to the council with a minimum investment of £100 at an interest rate of 6.5%.

Scrolling through the section entitled ‘You and Your Rates” I found this gem:

“When you consider that for a house with a rateable value of £26 you will pay less than 14s per week – the price of four packets of 20 cigarettes (and without any cancer content) – the value received seems pretty good.”

The same issues then as now:

“The Council have considered the implications of installing parking meters but have decided against erecting them. The problem of car parking for shopping and commercial purposes and outside private houses is no nearer solution.

About the proposed Victoria Line:

“The Victoria Line which will complete the development at the corner of Hoe Street and High Street is still in a state of ‘suspended inanimation’ and has now become enmeshed in railway reorganisation generally under the guidance of Dr Beeching. The London Transport Executive have decided, however, that because of technical difficulties which have become more apparent since the electrification of the Liverpool Street to Chingford Line, the Victoria Line should terminate underneath, and be linked with, Hoe Street Station and not at Wood Street Station. There will be a saving of £1,000,000 in the capital cost. The Council have accepted the position for the time being but are seeking an interview with the Minister of Transport to find out his intentions about constructing the Victoria Line and to make sure he does not lop off any more of the line.”

And on traffic jams:

“The Ministry of Transport’s answer to the traffic problems at the Crooked Billet is – traffic lights are no solution, there must be a large ground level roundabout, and a flyover above – all very expensive. The roundabout will come first …”

Thankfully the flyover never arrived.

I am sure I have read something recently about alternatives to the borough’s name of Waltham Forest and the 1963 publication has a list of some of the contenders. I rather like Waltham on (or by) the Lea but am so pleased they didn’t choose Walchingley. 

Potential names for what became the LBWF

Lastly within these two booklets is lots of very interesting local history information which I will be reading avidly. The detail is thorough which is just what I want. No doubt some of this content will end up in one of my local walks!

Join me on my best selling Walthamstow walk ‘From Monoux and Morris to Beer and Bacon Jam’  tomorrow, 19th January 2019, with the next one after that on Sunday 10th February. Find out more here 

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified tour guide and leads walks in the West End, Islington, Walthamstow and Chingford. 
Details of all Joanna’s walks bookable by groups can be found here 

A Carillon London Christmas

There is one building that really stands out on my Christmas Lights walk and for many of those on my walk not only is the look of the building a surprise to them but if we manage to get there at the right time they will be treated to a carillon recital too.

Atkinson's building Burlington Gardens

This wonderfully decorated building on the corner of Burlington Gardens and Old Bond Street looks like it has been transported from Belgium or the Netherlands.

It was purpose built for J & E Atkinson perfumers in 1926 when their previous premises on the same site burned down. The business was founded in 1799 by James Atkinson in Cumberland and had moved south firstly to Gerrard Street Soho before settling in Burlington Gardens, Mayfair. Their speciality was rose scented bear grease balm which was a mixture of unmentionable ingredients and perfume and was used by bald men to supposedly make their hair grow. It was thought that as bears were hairy that this would in turn work on men! Their other specialities included a perfume made from the flowers in Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet and the Oddfellow’s Bouquet being a favourite of Lawrence of Arabia. The shop was well known and in fact was included in Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway.

When their previous premises burned down Atkinsons decided to outshine their competitors with their new building. Their rivals were operating from ordinary, formerly residential buildings. Atkinson’s new home was built by architect Emanuel Vincent Harris most of whose other work is so different it’s hard to believe it’s the same architect. Emanuel Vincent Harris also built Manchester Central Library, Kensington Central Library and the Ministry of Defence, the latter being described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as a ‘monument of tiredness’! Pevsner is more complimentary about 24 Old Bond Street describing it as ‘a successful freak … the design is nice, and one gets used to it’.  The coloured panels were carved by Nathaniel Hitch after designs by George Kruger Grey.

The Gresham grasshopper City of Westminster arms

Within the spirelet or flèche on top of the building is housed a carillon, the only one in London. This musical instrument is played from the loft of the building and the frame holding the bells takes up the entire space within the spirelet.

A carillon consists of a number of bells played via a console/keyboard. There are 15 carillons in the British Isles but only one in London. This instrument which is made up of 23 bells was built by Gillett and Johnston who are still in business today. Looking at the British Carillon Society’s website I’ve found this wonderful video showing exactly how a carillon is played. The carillon in this film is in St Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh, Co. Cork and consists of 49 bells the largest in the British Isles. As Adrian Gebruers, the carillonneur says the first requirement is to be able to climb a lot of stairs the Cobh one being a climb of 200!  This video of the carillon in Bournville shows it can be a bit of a workout to play too and shows the variety of pieces that can be performed. Here the carillonneur Trevor Workman is playing Abba’s Super Trouper. Lastly here is a wonderful film from British Pathé in 1948 showing Atkinson’s Carillon being played by the only woman carillonneur at the time.

Unfortunately the brand of Atkinsons practically disappeared after the Second World War and went through a number of owners. However the brand re-emerged in 2013 and now trades from Burlington Arcade a minute’s walk from the Old Bond Street site. They proudly claim they were founded in 1799 and again sell the Nuptial and Oddfellow’s Bouquet perfume but thankfully not the bear grease.

I have been leading my Christmas Lights walks for quite a few years now and it is always a wonderful surprise to find that the carillon is being played during my walk. It is so Christmassy!

Why not join me this Saturday 15th December 2018 when myself and fellow guide Ray Coggin will be leading a special charity Christmas Lights walk raising funds for the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans

If all goes according to plan there will be a practice session on the carillon during Saturday’s walk – but believe me you wouldn’t realise it was not an actual recital. The walk takes in the best Christmas lights of the West End, the best shop window displays, the history of Christmas food, cards, trees etc and of course there will be a mince pie or two. All we’re asking is a minimum donation of £10 per person. We’ve raised £145 so far and have 10 people booked on the walk but there’s room for a few more. This is one of my favourite walks and having the carillon being played is definitely a bonus. Find out more about the walk and the charity and how to book your place here.

Charity Christmas walk poster

Mayfair Christmas lights Regent Street Christmas window

There will also be a carillon practice during my Foodie themed Christmas Lights walk on Tuesday 18th December. Details of this and all my other public walks can be found here.

From now until Christmas:

Carillon Recitals
Friday 14th 7.00-7.30pm
Saturday 15th 3.00-3.30pm
Sunday 16th 4.00-4.30pm
Friday 21st 7.00-7.30pm
Sunday 23rd 4.00-4.30pm

Carillon Practices
Tuesday 11th 7.15-8.15pm

Saturday 15th 6.00-7.15pm
Tuesday 18th 7.15-8.15pm
Saturday 22nd 6.45-7.45pm
Sunday 23rd 6.00-7.15pm

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. 
Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 

Book Review: Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane

Helen Oddfellow is a tour guide and an expert on Christopher Marlowe. After a local paper features her Deptford walk she is contacted by historian Richard Watson who needs her help in his quest to track down a supposed lost Marlowe manuscript.  My initial thought was I wish something exciting like that would happen to me but I soon changed my mind as the story became a terrifying nightmare for Helen and I no longer wanted to be in her shoes.

The story starts with a horrific murder of an (as yet) unidentified man outside a pub in Deptford and then goes back to tell the story starting from two weeks before the attack. So although we knew what was going to happen it still came as a shock to me, maybe because I identified so much with Helen who seemed to share some of my characteristics which was a bit unnerving!

In the second part of the book Helen continues with her quest to find the truth about the manuscript the plot of which would have ramifications on history as we know it and to escape those who are determined that the truth shouldn’t emerge.

There are many separate strands to this story and it is one of those books that is very hard to put down. When I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it and wondering what would happen next and how all the strands would tie up.

As real places and historical figures are used in the story I found it to be extremely believable and this probably made it all the more terrifying.  It was very difficult to know just who you should trust.

There has been lots of speculation over Christopher Marlowe’s murder in real life and although this was fiction it did make me stop and think. This is definitely a book that will stay with me and I hope to read more of Anna Sayburn Lane’s books in the future. 

If I was leaving this review on a book review website I would give it 5 stars out of 5

Unlawful Things by Anna Sayburn Lane was published in October 2018

I was given a complimentary copy of the book via Footprints of London and the above is my honest review

The Fascinating History of Twinings Tea

Have you ever noticed that the sign hanging outside Twinings’ shop on the Strand shows that it sells coffee as well as tea?

Twinings tea and coffee sign

In fact Twinings started off as a coffee house and if it wasn’t for a recession in weaving in Gloucestershire the business may not have been established at all.

Thomas Twining founder of the business was born in Painswick, Gloucestershire in 1675. His father Daniel was a weaver; in fact for many generations the Twining family had been weavers in that same area.  The family had been based in Painswick for many hundreds of years. Before that they came from Twyning near Tewkesbury (pronounced Twinning).

Daniel obviously wanted his sons to follow him into this business but the recession hit and in 1684 he made the decision to move to London. The family settled in St Giles Cripplegate.

Daniel’s eldest son also called Daniel started an apprenticeship with a weaver and on becoming a freeman of the City of London took on a job as a lace weaver. His younger brother Thomas was then apprenticed to him. Following Daniel Jr’s death in 1695 Thomas was then apprenticed to Daniel’s former master John Dowse.

Thomas had started his apprenticeship at age 19 which may seem rather old. It is thought that this was to enable him to become a freeman as without such an attribute he would be unable to follow any trade within the City walls.

In 1701 Thomas attained this and started working for Thomas D’Aeth a wealthy East Indian merchant based in Cripplegate and Philpot Lane.

5 years later he had acquired enough business knowledge to set up by himself and took over management of Tom’s Coffee House situated in Devereux Court off the Strand roughly behind where Twinings is today. This was a good move as after the Great Fire of London in 1666 all the wealthy people were moving west. This coffee house was on the western border of the City. It should not be confused with another Tom’s Coffee House which was in Russell Street, Covent Garden not that far away.

At that time there were many coffee houses in London but Thomas did something a bit different. He introduced tea. From gaining knowledge whilst working with an East Indian merchant he had a feeling that tea was going to be the next big thing. It was very expensive and although the price was dropping slowly as the imported volume increased it wouldn’t drop substantially until the Commutation Act of 1784 when the tax was substantially reduced from over 100% to 25%. Until that time legally obtained tea was for the rich only and poorer people acquired it on the black market. After the taxes were reduced which came about after many conversations between the Prime Minister William Pitt and one of Thomas’ descendants Richard, the smuggling trade ceased and the legal trading of tea increased exponentially

Sign in Devereux Court

Site of the 1706 House of Twining

Back to Thomas in 1706. There were enough rich people around when Thomas started selling tea and so he made enough money to open a shop next door to the coffee house with entrances from Devereux Court and Palsgrave Head Court which was parallel. Thomas had put his money into property which seemed the safest way to invest.

This new shop at the sign of the Golden Lion opened in 1717 and meant that women who were prohibited from entering coffee houses were able to visit the shop either to take tea on the premises or to buy dry tea or coffee for consumption later. As tea was so expensive they generally wouldn’t want to trust their servants to buy it for them.

The undated wrapper below dates from between 1734 and 1741. The shop name changed depending on what members of the family were running it. Thomas’s son Daniel joined the firm in 1734 and Thomas died in 1741. Looking at the history of the Twining family it can get rather confusing as they did like to recycle the Christian names!

Twinings wrapper between 1734 and 1741

Looking at this wrapper they were covering all bases by selling ‘healthy’ spa waters and less healthy alcohol. The spa waters, which were sometimes described as spaw waters, came from many different places. Pyrmont water was from Bad Pyrmont in Northern Germany and was naturally carbonated.

Arrack was a popular drink in the 1700s often used as a base for punch and sometimes preferred to rum. Depending on where the Arrack came from it had different ingredients. Batavian Arrack is from Java and is distilled from sugarcane and fermented red rice. Arrack from Sri Lanka is made from fermented coconut sap. I was very surprised to discover that both these types are still available from good off licences such as Gerry’s in Old Compton Street Soho. I don’t think it’s as popular now as it was then as in the year 1715-16 Twinings sold 240 gallons!

It is amazing to think that in 2018 the Twining family are still running the shop. However not all members of the Twining family were interested in joining the business.

Thomas’s grandson, also called Thomas (1735-1804), went to university and became a cleric, a linguist, a letter writer and a musician. Some of his letters were later edited into book form by one of his descendants.

Two sisters Elizabeth and Louisa Twining (1805-1899 and 1820-1912) were noted philanthropists and much more besides.

The sisters’  great grandmother Mary Twining (née Little) married into the family and as a widow of the original Thomas’s son Daniel, ran the company by herself for 21 years from 1762 to 1783. I wanted to find out more about Mary and I know she wrote a diary but enquiries at Twinings’ shop came to nothing. The book where I gleaned much of my information ‘Two Hundred and Fifty Years of Tea and Coffee” published in 1956 has just one sentence about her. If anyone reading this can enlighten me as to where I can find out more about her life please let me know.

250 years of Twinings book

It was Mary’s son Richard Twining, called away from his studies at Eton age 14 to help his mother with the business, who later became Chairman of the London Tea Dealers and who was consulted by Pitt regarding proposals which led to the Commutation Act mentioned above.

It was also this Richard Twining who in 1787 moved the entrance from the side of the shop to the Strand where it is today and came up with the famous design featuring the lion and the two Chinamen which we all know. He also decided not to use an apostrophe.

Twinings frontage

Reading extracts from some of the ledgers reproduced in the 1956 book it is no surprise to me that they branched into banking and in 1825 Twinings Bank opened next door. There was a connecting door between the businesses and it wasn’t unusual for a cheque to be cashed and part given in cash and part in tea or coffee. The bank lasted until 1892 when it was absorbed into Lloyd’s.

Today the shop is very much a tourist destination and although their teas can be bought in every supermarket the shop has a wider choice of teas which are mostly displayed in more decorative packaging. There is also a small museum at the rear of the shop. The 10th generation of the family still run the business but it has been part of Associated British Foods since the 1960s.

This is just a brief summary of the history of Twinings and was put together by me to deliver at London Historians’ retail themed History in the Pub on 21st August 2018. I had just 8 minutes to deliver and needless to say I didn’t manage to say all that I wanted to, hence this blog post.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. 
Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 

Walthamstow’s Wonderful Community Mosaics

Like many people I know I always want to discover something new and in relation to my guided walks it’s always a bonus to discover something that you have never noticed before on a well trodden route.

Back in early April  on the morning of the day that I was going to lead my ‘From Monoux & Morris to Beer & Bacon Jam’ guided walk around Walthamstow I had a message from artist Maud Milton who told me that she had just unveiled some mosaics on Church Hill and thought I might like to know. Maud came along on the walk and my group were all suitably impressed by the works which were created by Maud and pupils and staff at Walthamstow School for Girls. The designs of the mosaics are all connected in some way to the local area and history: Epping Forest, Walthamstow Wetlands, William Morris, his daughter May Morris and ceramicist William de Morgan are all represented. 

Artyface mosaic - Walthamstow Wetlands

Artyface Walthamstow

Artyface mosaic peacock

Artyface birds mosaic

I have been leading this walk about once a month and last Saturday I was very pleased to discover that another 5 wonderful mosaics had been unveiled. What a treat. Look closely at the butterflies pictured below – can you see swimmers and boxers? These particular tiles were donated by former Walthamstow resident and ceramic artist alicemaraceramics

Artyface mosaic

Artyface stag mosaic

Artyface mosaics

These mosaics were all created by volunteers both from schools and in the community. There is much more about this wonderful project on Maud’s instagram account including lots of great interviews with local people.

This isn’t just a Walthamstow project but is happening in other areas of London too. Artyface Community Art – what a brilliant way to get the community involved and bring some colour to otherwise drab streets.

If you would like to see these mosaics ‘in the flesh’ and learn more about the history of Walthamstow I will be repeating my ‘From Monoux and Morris to Beer & Bacon Jam’ Walthamstow walk on Saturday 29th September 2018. A link to the page showing this and any future walks can be found here 

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) leads walks in the West End, Islington and further afield. 
Details of all walks bookable by groups are listed here 



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