Radical London: Jeremy Corbyn and history’s Rebel Footprints

As the new leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition gears up for his first speech to the Labour Party conference in that role, here are some words he wrote to endorse a recently-published book called Rebel Footprints – A Guide to Uncovering London’s Radical History:

Anyone reading this will walk the streets of our city with a different view of the world, and what people can do when they act together.

The sentence captures the strand of the Labour Party to which Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, belongs: not so much the Labour Party as the wider Labour movement; not so much a parliamentary thing as a collective, grassroots thing with its own values, its own conventions and its own firm convictions about history.

David Rosenberg’s book is just as stoutly of that line. Reading it is, much like Corbyn’s astounding ascent, a rather nostalgic experience if, like me, you are old enough to remember when the word “Islington” was synonymous, not with Tony Blair and the self-satisfied “metropolitan elite” of Tory demonology, but with alternative theatre, musty left wing bookshops and, yes, bearded socialists.

Back then, some of the much older London stories Rosenberg tells – covering the 1830s to the end of the 1930s – were forever being told by lefties of that strain, usually in the upstairs rooms of pubs, with great reverence and a missionary desire to spread the word about great truths of the past that the Establishment preferred common folk not to know.

Here was the history they didn’t teach you in school with its deference to royalty and war. Here was the authentic, hidden history of ordinary peoples’ heroic dissent and their liberating discoveries of their own power in solidarity, even when its expression was harshly suppressed.

Rebel Footprints revisits such touchstone tales of the broad London Left’s enduring identity. It begins with Robert Peel’s newly-formed Metropolitan Police violently breaking up a workers’ rally against rising prices, unemployment and low pay held at Coldbath Fields where today stands Mount Pleasant Sorting Office (now the location for another kind of London power struggle).

A constable died, but an inquest jury defied the coroner’s direction to record a verdict of “willful murder”. The foreman, Rosenberg reports, described the behaviour of the police as “ferocious, brutal and unprovoked” and adds that “a cheering crowd carried the jurors through the local streets that night in a torch-lit procession.”

Ensuing pages escort us through the deep poverty of Bow, where thousands of East Londoners “slept rough or scrambled for places in shelters and lodging houses, mainly established by religious charities” but where landmark trade union battles were fought too, as well as closer to the City, in Spitalfields, with Jewish and Irish migrants to the fore.

Then we’re in Bloomsbury, coloured pink and red on Charles Booth’s 1889 map of poverty to denote “well-to-do-middle classes” where, to steal from Dorothy Parker, privileged radicals painted in circles, lived in squares and loved in triangles. Rosenberg, though, wants to reclaim Bloomsbury from its celebrated “Set”, documenting instead the endeavours of such as the Bloomsbury Socialist Society, whose members included Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl. And, hey, did you know that Edith Nesbit, author of The Railway Children, used to hang out there with her, and match girls’ strike leader Annie Besant and George Bernard Shaw?

Suffragette campaigns in Westminster get a chapter too, as do Bermondsey and Battersea, where Rosenberg takes me into historical territory I haven’t tramped through before, making introductions to, among others, local boy John Burns, the youngest of 16 children who went on to forge a Progressive Alliance of Labourites, Liberals and Radicals which conveyed him to parliament in 1892 and held local government power. Rosenberg describes Battersea at that time as “the beacon of municipal socialism in London.” Its Nine Elms neighbourhood was its poorest. Today, the same place name is synonymous with the pious satisfactions of being appalled by property porn.

Inevitably, Rebel Footprints draws to a close back in the East End, covering George Lansbury’s Poplar rates revolt and the 1936 Battle of Cable Street, perhaps the two events most frequently invoked for didactic and agitational effect among London’s present day protest milieu when they upbraid Labour boroughs – it’s always the poor, cash-strapped Labour ones they go for – for implementing government-imposed spending cuts or demolishing housing estates, or when demonstrating against the English Defence League.

Reaching these destinations in Rosenberg’s company stirs my heart’s old sympathies with the idealism of the radical Left but also my head’s familiar doubts about its grip on reality – the same mixture of feelings revived by Corbyn’s Labour leadership contest victory. Back in the days of “Islington Trendies” I moved among London’s Bennites, anarchists and Trots, but never join them. I liked their optimism, but was suspicious of some of their certainties. Could they ever hope to connect on any scale with an evolving working class whose interests they reckoned to represent, let alone anyone else?

These recollections might suggest a sniffy attitude to Rosenberg’s book. Not so. Like the late Bill Fishman, the distinguished historian of the East End whose memory Rebel Footprints is dedicated to, Rosenberg brings his London stories and their characters alive. He wants you to recognise their importance and to admire them. But he is wise to the dangers of sentimentalising them.

One of the many pleasures of his book is that its chapters are augmented with maps and walking routes, taking in streets and landmarks where events he describes occurred (he also leads such walks, which you can find out more about here). Rebel Footprints may stir an old ambivalence in me, but I still urge you to let Rosenberg take you on his London journey. It is published by Pluto Press. You can buy it here.


Central girls had influence on history

After many months in the wilderness, the students and staff of the old London Central collegiate institute were hopeful in the fall of 1921.

A fire on April 22, 1920, had destroyed the forerunner of London Central secondary school. The new school opened on Feb. 20, 1922, and a Central publication — The L.C.I. Review — dated from that era catches the sense of optimism and determination.

The students longed to escape the tiny desks of such temporary classrooms as those at the old Alexandria elementary school. The publication has recently surfaced in a private London collection.

“The exterior of the building has been scrutinized by many who were endeavouring to discover a door, accidentally left unlocked by the architect,” says a column by Gordon Silverwood.

It is on a page opposite a handsome photo, likely dating from the winter of 1921-1922, of the building which the architect was making sure no student entered before due time. The new school faced Waterloo St. Its predecessor faced Dufferin Ave.

First-year students were apparently being taught at Lord Roberts elementary school. The publication has many cries from their older London collegiate institute sisters and brothers to come and reunite the family as soon as possible.

That said, it appears the older students had been making the most of their own exile during the last months when the school would be “the L.C.I.” The school became London Central collegiate institute on June 6, 1922, with other schools emerging around the city.

Two photographs and some of the faces and names in them stand out as forthright examples of L.C.I. spirit.

One is of the girls high school club executive. Among its staff reps is the charmingly named Miss D’Avignon — and what are the chances she taught French?

The other is of the girls’ basketball team. Among its players was Marion Hayden who had a buzzer-beating bucket to defeat the young women at Western in a 12-10 thriller on Jan. 20, 1922.

The executive’s young women had an all-star lineup, too. Two of the cagers were members — Frances Talbot and Barbara Daly. Ernestine Partridge was the editor of that edition of The L.C.I. Review and a debater for the London school when the Central duo “marshalled their facts and presented their arguments in splendid style.” Their opponents — poor souls from St. Thomas, likely old St. Thomas collegiate institute — could only marvel at the Londoners.

More than 20 years after posing for the photograph, another executive member, Alice MacFarlane, looks to have been part of a historical talk that actually made history.

In 1946, an Alice MacFarlane spoke to the London Middlesex Historical Society about the doomed Lucan-Biddulph family, the Donnellys. As an ace local historian, MacFarlane espoused the conventional-at-the-time line that the Donnellys were beasts who needed putting down, something a mob of their neighbours was eventually forced to do.

However, when her talk related one of the most gory charges against the Donnellys, that they cut out the tongues of horses, there was commotion. An old man, toting a shillelagh in some versions of the tale, confronted the accomplished Central grad. “They never cut the tongues out of horses. Out of people, yes!” are the words my late father recalled after reading about the showdown in a Toronto newspaper. Whatever the exact turn of phrase, the old Donnelly defender made his point. In the crowd at the society gathering was London historian Orlo Miller. Inspired to study the Donnelly murders, Miller began to find more about their tragic story and repair their reputation.

Sisters in the photos may have been Sterling Westland (a basketball player) and Muriel Westland (on the executive). It is likely they were tied to long-established Westland Brothers, a family-run painting-wallpapering business.

Also on the executive was a young Madaline (spelled Madeline in the publication) Roddick. Later, she was a teacher and had her salary, along with that of others, listed in a city hall publication. Roddick was a local historian.

Teachers in the photos include Bessie McCamus, who lived at 427 Dundas St., and Edna Holland, of 471 Maitland St.

But the teacher who could have had the most unexpected influence was Dorothy McCann, a staff coach-figure with the basketball team in 1921-1922. McCann was known for calling her students “mes enfants.” A history of Central says McCann, like other women who taught in the era, had many additional qualifications and might have been a professor or CEO these days.

McCann was one of Central’s longest-serving teachers. She was also a great friend of Elizabeth A. (Bessie) Labatt.

At some point, in the 1950s let us say, the two friends seemed to have decided to play Cupid, goes Central lore.

Among the Golden Ghost-tied dates they engineered was a brief pairing of brewery family scion Arthur “Art” Labatt and a young woman who knew how to find Central on a map.

As it turned out, it didn’t work out.

Ah, but if it had, who knows what Western’s Arthur and Sonia Labatt Health Sciences Building might have been called?

Twitter @JamesatLFPress


Rathbone Market mural shows east London history through art

Artwork reflecting the changing nature of London will mark the revival of Rathbone Market.

The freehand mural by Lewis Campbell celebrates the evolution of the Canning Town site and centres on the theme Rathbone Market: Old and New.

Residents have been able to watch the tribute take shape as colours and designs have sprung up on the market hoardings.

Lewis said: “Rathbone market is situated in an area that has had a market presence for hundreds of years – long since decreed by Henry the third in 1253.

“The market place has a long and varied history and this mural is designed to encapsulate that in a vibrant and optimistic way.

“It can be read from left to right as a timeline, or viewed as individual panels.”

It was commissioned by the Rosetta Art Centre and will be made a temporary fixture at the development, which is currently in third phase, Lumire.

Lewis added: “The style of the mural is animated, energetic and playful to reflect the ever changing nature of London.

“I want the viewer to be reminded of all the characters over the years who have given Rathbone market it’s unique charm.”


Homo naledi fossil prints come to London

They are among the most sensational fossils to be found in Africa in recent years, and visitors to London’s Natural History Museum can see what all the fuss is about on Friday.

3D prints of the remains of Homo naledi will be on display at the NHM’s Science Uncovered event.

They were given to the institution by the Johannesburg discovery team.

Bones from perhaps 15 of the human-like creatures were recovered from a cave complex not far from the city.

It is the biggest haul of fossil hominin remains ever identified on the African continent.

The researchers – led by Lee Berger of Wits University – have scanned the bones to make faithful copies, and these have now been shared with the London museum.

At Science Uncovered, Dr Louise Humphrey will be explaining their significance and what they could tell us about human origins.

“I think the effect on the field is transformative,” she told BBC News, “not just because the morphology indicates a new species, but because there are so many unanswered questions.

“We don’t yet know how old these fossils are. We don’t know yet whether there will be full bodies in this chamber, or nearby chambers.

“The number of finds from a single fossil locality is unprecedented. There are apparently three small babies and three small children, some older children as well as some adults.”

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The diminutive hand of naledi found with all its bones found in position

NHM visitors will get to see a model of a skull. There are also examples of a hand, a foot, and some jaws.

They are all small because, even as adults, naledi is diminutive, perhaps standing no taller than about 1.5m (5ft).

Wits University has previously shared casts of other fossils it is working on, including those of a more ancient creature called Australopithecus sediba, which was also found in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in Gauteng province. These too will be available on Friday to compare and contrast.

Deep debate

There are probably two major unanswered questions surrounding H. naledi at the moment.

One concerns the age of the fossils. If any dating technique has been used to try to establish this, the results have not been released.

Currently, it is being assumed they are very ancient – maybe a couple of million years old – purely on the basis that some features seen in the bones look very primitive.

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3D printing is opening up the field, allowing many more scientists to assess finds

The second major question centres on what the remains were doing in the Rising Star cave complex.

The Wits team has mooted the possibility that naledi may have disposed of its dead there deliberately. That is a remarkable proposition if the creature is as old as has been suggested.

But it is perplexing to think how so many individuals could navigate their way into such a deep cave.

The scientists found the remains in an opening at the bottom of a very narrow chute. But even to get to the chute, the researchers had to crawl through other narrow gaps and make some steep climbs.

How naledi managed this is inexplicable. It is unlikely this creature had access to torches; controlled use of fire came much later in history.

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It is clear from the shape of the foot that naledi was an efficient walker

Already, some furious arguments have surfaced over the interpretations put forward by the Wits team.

Rival researchers have even questioned whether the fossil haul actually represents two or more different species, or just a slightly different version of a species we have seen before.

“Not everyone is going to agree with Lee Berger’s team. But all credit to them – they’ve put the material out,” commented Prof Chris Stringer from the NHM.

“If you don’t like their interpretation of the fossils, you can download the files and print your own. You can draw your own conclusions,” Prof Stringer told the BBC.

Science Uncovered is a free event. It is open to everyone, but is most suitable for adults. It starts at 18:00 BST.

Image copyright
John Hawks

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Homo naledi has a mixture of primitive and more modern features


Black History Month: Nigerian artistes storm London

By Simeon Mpamugoh

Black History Month (BHM) is held every October in Britain. Coincidentally, this year’s edition marks the 55th independent anniversary of Nigeria. It is celebrated yearly to promote knowledge of black history, culture and heritage, disseminate information on positive black contributions to British society as well as heighten the confidence and awareness of black people in relation to their cultural heritage.
The Nigeria Society and London Metropolitan University, 166-220 Holloway Road, London, and Lagos-based World Changers International  (Worchint) would be rallying the Nigerian Students Community in United Kingdon in commemoration of the event.
Abolore Akande, popularly known as 9ce in the music circle, has been confirmed to lead 2Face, AY, and Nollywood star, Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD) to London Metropolitan University (LMU), venue of the event, (also known as African-American History Month in America) for thrilling show.
The Black History Month celebration in London will run for two days and scheduled for October 8th and 9th 2015. Described as an annual observance in the UK for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the Africa people in the Diaspora, the event in London will also x-ray the “The Role of Youth in Diaspora in National Development” and will be chaired by the Executive Vice Chairman of Ibru organisation, Olorogun Oska Ibru.
Briefing Journalists in Lagos, the President of the group, Mr. Tim Abiodun, observed that Africa has suffered immensely from the menace of poor leadership, which had culminated in the several crisis and uprising in major parts of the continent.
He disclosed that the ocassion has become imperative in light of the continuing brain-drain and ever increasing population of Nigerian youth in Diaspora adding that statistics available indicated that the United Kingdom alone accounts for about 10% of the over 17 millions Nigerians in Diaspora; hence, the conference was aimed at fostering synergy between the Nigerian youth at home and abroad in order to convert the brain drain to a weapon for national development and gain.
He cited underdevelopment and poor management of resources as the root cause, adding that Nigeria Youth had been alienated from key decision-making and policy formulation processes which form the bedrock of nation building. He said, “The youths all over the continent have been manipulated to engage in heinous acts such as terrorism, violence and vices.”
On the antidote to tackling the menace, he said, “We have decided to take our destiny into our hand by putting the first food forward in these matters if we must promote good governance. We strongly believe that the solution lies in the talent and intelligent quotients of well renowned leadership icons and men that have made positive contribution in arts and sciences towards nation building.”
He pointed out the need for an intensive and strategic collaboration among African youths, adding that youth need to prove themselves beyond words in propelling positive image.
In concurrence, Muse Akintayo, a medical doctor and Vice President of the group, said Black History month was chosen as a platform to bring a lot of people to celebrate Nigeria at 55.
He clamoured for youth inclusion in the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, maintaining that youth should be involved in the process of policy formulation at the level of consultation, dialogue and implementation of the policy.
He noted that the enthronement of the present government to power was spearheaded by the youths who were keen on seeing a change, because corruption was at its pinnacle, even as he added that the only way they can be part of it was to be fully involved.
He observed that government, over the years, had not carried the youth  along, who could drive the 21st century creative information technology need  of the economy adding that attempts to drive the economy with 1960 technology would fail.
The Concert Producer, Tony Anifite, maintained that the musical concert cum awards was aimed at celebrating Nigeria at 55 in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and equally give awards of recognition to well meaning individuals who, in their own capacity, have contributed to nation building through youth empowerment, community development and in the projection of the country’s positive image at home and abroad.
Anifite, who believes that arts drive the process, said that many artistes based abroad were afraid to come home but the few who braved it were able to get soft landing from local producers. “They came in when the industry was just brewing up and got to their zenith. He said, adding, “Today, D’banj is an international star and Don Jazzy is arguably the best producer around. There are also some few other Nigerians who followed the line and embraced the Nigerian theme and music flavour.
He disclosed that the live performance was designed to sensitize Nigerians in London, adding that though the structure may not be in Nigeria compared to London but the artistes can contribute to the setting up of the needed structure.
He said that the idea behind the concert was to have at least two successful locally made artistes who started and made it with the structure in the country perform at the London Metropolitan University gig, adding that the person that met that criteria was 9ce and 2Face. “They would help us drive the process and equally show Nigerians in Diaspora that they were produced by the system that lacked structure to be become world-renowned super stars,” he added.
The Country Director, Eve Nnaji, who schooled in the United States before returning to the country said that she was in Nigeria to join hands with those who make up the power block to right the wrongs in the country.

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Facelift for Natural History Museum

Artist's impressionImage copyright

Image caption

A new bronze Dippy will feature in the eastern grounds

The front grounds of London’s Natural History Museum are to undergo a multimillion-pound redevelopment.

The landscaping, which is set to take place between 2017 and 2020, is part of an overall remodelling of the famous institution and tourist venue.

Officials say the gardens will reflect its key science themes of evolution, biodiversity and sustainability.

And there will be a new exterior position for the NHM’s emblematic Diplodocus – “Dippy”.

However, this hugely popular plaster-cast skeleton will have to be remade in bronze if it is to survive the elements.

The museum is opening an exhibition on Thursday to show visitors its plans, which have been drawn up by Niall McLaughlin Architects.

Directing flow

Justin Morris, the NHM’s director of public engagement, said the redevelopment would hopefully address one of the main complaints about the museum, which concerns access.

“We have a practical reality which is that we now have 5.5 million visitors a year, and for 50 days a year we are at capacity, which means people can be queuing for up to an hour and a half,” he told BBC News.

“It’s the one thing people tell us they really don’t like. We want even more people to engage with the museum, the collections and its science – but that is going to be a challenge unless we tackle these issues about access and circulation.”

The redevelopment should better direct the flow of people around and into the NHM. It will see a new entry point to the grounds via the pedestrian tunnel coming from South Kensington Tube station.

The museum recently adopted a guiding strategy that champions what it calls its “three great narratives”.

These cover the origins and evolution of life, the diversity of life on Earth today, and the long-term sustainability of humans’ custodianship of the planet.

The decision to re-hang the main entrance hall in 2017 with the skeleton of a blue whale is part of this strategy. The giant cetacean, which very nearly became extinct in the last century, is seen as having something very significant to say on all three narratives.

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Image caption

The western end will reflect more modern environments

Likewise, the front grounds will also now be modelled on the major themes.

Look at the façade of the iconic Alfred Waterhouse building and you can see sculptures of extinct creatures on the eastern wing, and extant (living) creatures on the west.

The intention therefore is to mirror those perspectives in the gardens below.

In the east, where the bronze Dippy will stand, will be a geological walkway. The stonework and planting will echo past epochs. There will be a lot of use of ferns, cycads and flowering plants that have a long history.

In the west, on the other hand, more modern environments will be emphasised, with the use of plants one might find around watercourses, meadows and in woodlands.

Dr Sandy Knapp is a botanist and lead scientific advisor from the NHM.

She told BBC News: “One of the great things about this is that the museum’s trustees and directors have really got behind the idea that we should be doing science in these gardens. They are not just a public amenity space. This is all about what we are as an institution.”

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Image caption

The eastern façade features extinct creatures like sabre-tooth cats

Image copyright

Image caption

The Alfred Waterhouse building is one of London’s major architectural jewels

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The blue whale skeleton, due to be hung in 2017, represents the museum’s major themes


Day in History: Former Rochester woman helping in London – Post

Posted: Tuesday, September 22, 2015 11:24 am

Day in History: Former Rochester woman helping in London


Post-Bulletin Company, LLC

1990 – 25 years ago

• Toys R Us is coming to Rochester. They will build a store on a 3.5-acre site east of Apache Mall. The store hopes to open in 1991.

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      Tuesday, September 22, 2015 11:24 am.

      | Tags:


      Day In History


      Brewing tour of London: UK’s first ever ‘hidden audio tour’ of London’s boozy …

      Rod Jones, Beer Sommellier Of The Year and Tour Guide at Meantime said: “18th century London was the epicentre of the brewing world, a metropolis that produced beers that quite literally shaped the world’s drinking culture. 

      “Today London’s brewing scene is brimming with life once again, and with the advent of Recho, this unique location based technology allows us to tell that story by tying pockets of knowledge to a sense of place in an exciting and innovative way.”

      He added: “By encouraging fans of craft beer to harness the power of their smartphone, we hope to enable them discover what makes this brewing city great – and why it firmly deserves its place in the books of brewing history.”


      A brief history of London tourism since 1800

      Period: 1830–40

      In the 1830s, a London tourist might have visited the fashionable Queen’s Bazaar in Oxford Street and paid one shilling to view the Royal Clarence Vase. Made to order for King George IV in the 1820s, the gold, glass and enamel object took 15 workmen more than three years to manufacture, and weighed eight tonnes. Viewed by gaslight, the vase was described in Kidd’s New Guide to the Lions of London (1832) as “dazzling and gorgeous in the extreme”.

      As well as descriptions of sites still popular with tourists today, including St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, Kidd’s Guide featured information on short-lived attractions such as the pavilion of the gigantic whale on St Martin’s Lane. The sole exhibit here was a 95-ft long whale skeleton – the whale had been found dead by fishermen off the coast of Belgium in 1827. The charge to enter the pavilion was one shilling. For an extra shilling, visitors were able to sit inside the belly of the whale.

      Kidd’s Guide also reminds us that in the 1830s the Regent’s Park Zoo had a rival attraction south of the river at Walworth. Here were the Surrey Zoological Gardens, covering 15 acres of land and opened to the public in 1831. For one shilling, visitors could view tropical plants and a variety of exotic birds and animals including zebras, pelicans and monkeys. 

      Zoological Gardens, Regent’s Park, London (engraving), 1835. © Look and Learn/Peter Jackson Collection/Bridgeman Images


      Period: 1870–80

      In the 1870s, a new craze for skating was reflected in the publications produced for visitors to London. Alongside detailed descriptions of all of London’s parks (at this time Primrose Hill was also known by the name Albert Park), The Saturday Half-Holiday Guide of 1877 included information about where the best skating might be had. Ice-skating could be enjoyed at numerous sites in severe winters, from the south-western suburbs of Surbiton and Kingston to the Lea River and Hackney Marshes in the east.


      Ladies keen to skate were advised to take up the “new and fashionable” amusement of skating on rollers – “one of the few athletic exercises in which ladies can join”. Other popular leisure pursuits at this time were rifle shooting, archery and croquet, which was played at Finsbury Park, Battersea and elsewhere. Also at Finsbury Park, the enthusiastic gymnast could take advantage of parallel bars and other equipment fixed to the trees near the lake and refreshment pavilion.

      A group of skaters at an ice-rink in Chelsea, London, 1876. (Photo by Illustrated London News/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


      Period: 1880–1910

      By the end of the 19th century, ‘exhibition fever’ had taken over tourist London. Ambitious events aimed at large-scale audiences curious to find out more about ‘exotic’ cultures were held in the capital in vast public arenas such as Earls Court and Olympia in west London and the Crystal Palace in south London.

      The Italian Exhibition (1888), Empire of India Exhibition (1895), Franco-British Exhibition (1908), Japan-British Exhibition (1910) and so on reflected and consolidated London’s growing reputation as a global city. A merger of commercial and national interests was evident in guidebooks that had often been sponsored or produced by railway companies, banks, shops or other businesses keen to promote their brand.


      Refreshments company Bertram and Co produced The ‘Only’ Guide to London and the Exhibitions of 1888. This volume tells us that visitors to late-Victorian London might have enjoyed an evening of al fresco ballet at Crystal Palace under the brilliant illuminations of 50,000 coloured lamps, or a magnificent buffet dinner at the new and elaborately furnished Prince’s Gate Hotel in Knightsbridge.

      The Women’s Exhibition, May 1909. The stalls displayed items such as postcards, art, needlework, flowers and farm produce. The event was held at the Princes’ skating rink, Knightsbridge, London. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)


      Period: 1920–40

      Spectacle and performance remained a feature of tourist guidebooks in the interwar period, with WDH McCullough’s guide, London (1938), describing and illustrating the pageants and ceremonies visitors might include in their itinerary. These included the changing of the guard, which happened daily at Buckingham Palace when the king was in residence, to trooping the colour annually on the king’s birthday, and swan-upping – a census of the swan population on the Thames – that took place near Southwark Bridge in July.

      McCullough also directed tourists towards a barristers’ wig shop in the Temple; the dog cemetery in Hyde Park, and to the sheep kept in Green Park – a reminder of the countryside in the modern city.

      Changing the guard outside Buckingham Palace, 2 April 1928. The guards are dressed in long coats and bearskin hats. (Photo by London Express/Getty Images)


      Period: 1950–70

      From the late 1950s, tourist guidebooks branched out beyond the wealthy or privileged visitor: there emerged free, student and alternative guides to London, as well as guides for women, which focused on social life and cheap eats. The Student’s Guide to London (1956) reveals that young visitors to the city enjoyed Club Tahiti on Shaftesbury Avenue; the Campari near Soho Square (with its modern, mirrored décor) and the Club de la Cote d’Azur on Frith Street, where there was always a crowd and “no need to bring a partner” if you wanted to dance to the mainly Mambo music.

      Meanwhile, Jane Reed’s Girl About Town (1965) warned the single girl that “most places won’t allow ‘unescorted’ females inside. Even some Wimpy bars refuse to serve unescorted girls after midnight… So that dispenses with any ideas of whooping it up by wine and candlelight without a man calling the tune!”

      A group of young women ‘hanging out’ on the streets of Soho, London, September 1956. (Photo by Werner Rings/Getty Images)

      Going out with boys meant more choice of venues, and Reed listed the Ad Lib, the Cool Elephant and Annie’s Room as the “in places” in 1960s London. For late-night pies and coffee, the Alternative Guide to London (1970) directed the London visitor to the Chelsea Bridge Pie Stall near the entrance to Battersea Park; the Cosy Café in Ladbroke Grove, and ‘Mick’s’ on Fleet Street.    

      Dr Michelle Johansen is a social historian of 19th and 20th-century London based at the Bishopsgate Institute. On Saturday 14 November she is hosting a one-day course exploring London’s changing character and identity as a tourist destination.

      To find out more, click here.


      TfL launches new interactive collision map showing ‘safety history’ of London …

      The map is designed to improve safety awareness and shows collision history around the capital dating back to 2005

      London collision map

      Transport for London has this week launched it’s ‘London Collision Map’, an interactive way for road users to see historic data on incidents around the capital.

      The data, collected together by the police and TfL, dates back to 2005 and is according to TfL, is aiding “TfL’s commitment to improve transparency for customers and stakeholders.”

      Chris Boardman explains why cyclists ride two abreast in new safety video

      The launch of the collision map comes as the Mayor of London and TfL publish Annual Safety Report for the last 12 months, which they say shows the number of killed or seriously injured fell to it’s lowest ever point.

      Despite that, a number of protest ‘die-ins’ have been held around London this year already, with eight cyclists having been killed on London roads in 2015, and 13 the year before.

      Watch: Hovding Airbag

      TfL says it already uses collision data to make road safety improvements, with a proposed £4bn Road Modernisation Plan, including safer junctions and new segregated and partially-segregated cycle lanes, as well as road safety and cycle training across London’s boroughs.

      “Safety continues to improve on London’s roads, but we are not complacent,” said Deputy Mayor for Transport, Isabel Dedring.

      “It is a top priority and that’s why the Mayor set a new target to bring down the number of people killed or seriously injured even further.

      “This map is part and parcel of our drive to improve road safety awareness and complements ongoing work to overhaul and improve London’s key roads and junctions.”

      You can view the new beta version of the collision map by visiting the following link.