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London Through The Eyes Of Dickens In ‘The Victorian City’

In September 1777, Samuel Johnson declared to his friend James Boswell, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.”

Johnson was actually referring to his hectic social calendar, but still, he did have a point. The city he was discussing was on course to become the largest metropolis the world had ever seen. In 1800, London was home to one million residents. By 1911 that number had grown to a staggering seven million: a population far greater than Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Moscow combined at that time.

London during the 19th century was, in some respects, driving the rest of the world into modernity. It was where the world’s first police force and underground railway system emerged. Meanwhile, the inexorable forces of the industrial revolution, running parallel to Britain’s massive imperial expansion, made it the most powerful global trading center on the planet.

Most of us, when we think of this period of history, probably associate it on some level with the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens. It’s an association the historian Judith Flanders delves into with The Victorian City, first published in the U.K. in 2012: “Dickens would describe all of [London's] qualities as though no one had ever seen them before,” she writes. “And [afterwards] no one would be able to see them again except through his eyes.”

Flanders uses secondary historical sources alongside Dickens’s own impressions of the city to take us on a dazzling journey through an imperial city plagued by poverty and deeply divided by class.

She arranges the book’s chapters thematically rather than chronologically; similarities can be drawn here to Peter Ackroyd’s London: a biography which also maps out the history of the city through topics such as work, theatres, prisons, murders, slums, and the harrowing working conditions of the poor.

Nor is Flanders afraid to challenge received wisdom about Victorian London. For example, she refutes the stereotype that the city was rampant with prostitutes. In 1851 an official statistic put the number of working girls in London at 210,000. But Flanders says that during that era, the term “prostitute” could be given to any woman who had sexual relations outside of marriage. Dickens, like many men of the Victorian age, was prone to bouts of hypocrisy and snobbery when speaking about sexual mores, especially when it came to the less well off in London society.

And despite his sympathy for the poor, he still used words like “wild” and “voracious” to describe workhouse children who could barely keep themselves fed and alive. But this attitude — which Flanders reminds us of with frequent quotes from both Dickens’ novels and his large body of journalism — may have arisen from the man’s constant fear of destitution. He had narrowly escaped a life of poverty: Dickens’ father was locked in a London debtors’ prison, while he lived and worked alone as a young man. And he once admitted that if circumstances were different, he might have turned into a “little robber or [vagabond]” himself.

Flanders is clearly a historian with a strong moral conscience, who repeatedly looks to address issues of social justice. And there’s something else underlying her recreation of the streets of 19th century London: the great paradox of the British Empire, where inequality grew exponentially as industry increased and profits soared.

That said, I would have enjoyed a chapter or two analyzing how and why this poverty evolved with such extremity. Nevertheless, Flanders must be given credit for doing an astounding job of recreating every nook and cranny of London in this richly detailed compendium.

Shying away from academic pretension, Flanders tells the epic story of this biggest and boldest Victorian city in all its complexity, with verve, color and a straightforward approach to language that still manages to give a voice to ordinary Londoners — something Dickens would no doubt approve of.


J.P. O’Malley is a freelance journalist based in London who writes mainly on books. Follow him on Twitter: @johnpaulomallez

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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New Photos: Prince George Plays with Butterflies (and It’s Simply Adorable)

Looks like Prince George has made a new friend just in time for his first birthday!

The final two images in a three-part photo series to mark the little prince’s big day were released last night, and they’re just as adorable as we expected. The pics show the now one-year-old during a visit to the Sensational Butterflies exhibit at London’s National History Museum on July 2 with his parents Kate Middleton (in a green silk dress by Suzannah) and Prince William. The Duke and Duchess released a statement along with the photos to thank all of the well-wishers for their support over the last year. “We would like to take this opportunity on George’s first birthday to thank everyone over the last year, wherever we have met them, both at home and overseas, for their warm and generous good wishes to George and our family,” the Duke and Duchess said.

Prince George touches butterfly with Kate Middleton and Prince William

John Stillwell – WPA Pool/Getty

The adorable family outing is sure to be just one of many, and we can’t wait to follow along and see how our favorite little royal grows up. Happy First Birthday, Prince George!

Celebrate Prince George’s birthday with a look back at the 19 best photos from his first year! 

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Royal Docks education pack will reveal area’s rich history to children


Declan Collier, chief executive of London City Airport, speaking at the launch of the Royal Docks education pack Picture: Andrew Baker

Kay Atwal, Chief Reporter
Monday, July 21, 2014

3:59 PM

Schoolchildren across Newham will benefit from an education pack focusing on the history of the Royal Docks launched by London City Airport in partnership with the Museum of London Docklands.

The document is called Your Royal Docks and is designed as a teaching resource for Key Stage 2 children. Although it is already being used by some schools in Newham it was officially launched on Thursday on board the Sunborn London yacht, moored at Royal Victoria Dock next to ExCeL exhibition centre.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms, teachers, Newham councillors and school children were among those who attended the launch which included a short film about the Royal Docks.

Declan Collier, chief executive at London City Airport, said the education pack was created following consultation with head teachers in Newham where it will be distributed to over 60 schools. Of those, 15 are already using it.

Mr Collier said: “We know that this place is going places. Royal Docks is on the cusp of a new era of greatness.”

Former BBC journalist Mike Ramsden spoke about the history of the area, including the Tate Lyle sugar refinery, the docks and the creation of the ExCeL exhibition centre. He also talked about planned future developments for the area such as the Asian Business Port.

He said: “Our story has taken us from boats with cargoes of provisions, to yachts with cargoes of people. From the exchange of goods to the exchange of ideas. And at the centre of it all, London’s Royal Docks- the place where people will share ideas, now and in the future.”

Mary Wilson, a teacher from Drew Primary School in Silvertown, said: “I think it is fantastic because there is so much history in this area.

“It is looking forward and back at where we have come from. I think it is important, when we look at the opportunities there are for children, to see what their history is.”

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    London’s National Gallery explores sources and varieties of colour in the …

    In 2008 British artist Roger Hiorns flooded an abandoned basement flat in South London with a solution made of copper sulphate. There was so much of it that it came in two shipping containers. A month later, when he drained it, every inch was covered in blue copper sulphate crystals, some of them the size of a human palm.

    “You had to put wellies on to go in,” recalls Caroline Campbell, the National Gallery of London’s curator of pre-1500 Italian paintings. “It was in this disused council flat on Harper Road in southeast London; and from those grim surroundings you stepped into this immersive blue world,” she says. “It was one of the most moving experiences I’ve had.”

    This – and a lifetime of working with mediaeval and Renaissance paintings and a fascination with materials the artists worked with – was one of the inspirations that led Campbell to work with her colleague, director of collections and colour paint expert Ashok Roy. They have co-curated one of the gallery’s most unusual and fascinatingly educational shows of recent years: “Making Colour”.

    The exhibition, which runs until September 7 and took three years to plan, explores the very materials from which visual art is made.

    Each room is dedicated to a colour, starting with blue (including a sample of that mystically immersive Hiorns room) and moving through the colour wheel: green, orange/yellow, red and purple. Missing out black and white (“Which was agonising but we couldn’t include everything,” Campbell says) it ends with a room dedicated to gold and silver. These colours are famously hard to use in paintings: silver because it tarnishes so quickly to black, and gold because often it does not look nearly as authentic in a painting as a spot of judiciously applied yellow and ochre and gleaming lead white.

    The works are mostly from the gallery’s own collection but placed together in new colour-organised combinations they tell quite different stories: “For me that’s been the biggest surprise,” says Roy. “By putting paintings next to each other that have never seen each other before, you learn different things about them.”

    So, for example, in the red room, a 15th-century panel painting of Saints Jerome and John the Baptist by Masaccio – the former in a bright mineral vermilion paint made from mercury and very shiny; the latter in a pinker, more faded, robe made with organic ingredients in a “red lake” paint – is next to a painting by Degas of a woman having her red hair combed, painted when the artist was going blind, employing four kinds of red paint and giving an astonishingly saturated effect.

    There are borrowed objects too, including a paintbox once owned by English artist J.M.W. Turner, who loved to try out the latest paints, whether they were stable or not; a Della Robbia family terracotta angel from the 15th-century Italians with a yellow glaze that was so bright and stable that artists used to go round to the ceramic painters to beg some of the colour from them to use as paint. (It was called lead tin yellow, and is illustrated in a charming portrait of Thomas Gainsborough’s two young daughters in yellow dresses chasing a butterfly.)

    At the end of the exhibition, visitors are asked to take part in a research project by the University of Newcastle and the Wellcome Trust to study how people’s eyes distinguish between colours under different light conditions.

    You’d think that a painting and a really good laser print or book plate of that painting might look pretty similar, but you’d be wrong. In some light conditions, you might struggle to tell the difference. But in other lights (daylight, or fluorescence, or the South of France natural light it was painted in, or the candle-light a Renaissance painting was designed for), one version will look markedly paler, or more blue or orange, or duller than the other.

    It shows not only why an original is vastly different from a print or a book plate or a computer screen, but why the decisions of gallery curators about the artificial light they use for exhibiting their collection is so vital to your enjoyment of the paintings.

    thereview@scmp.com

    “Making Colour” , National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London, until September 7.

    Victoria Finlay is the author of A Brilliant History of Colour in Art , which will be published by the Getty Museum in the US in November.

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    Plague by CC Humphreys: London’s history is contagious

    Reviews | fiction

    Anyone inclined to disparagingly mutter “they don’t write ’em like that anymore� is clearly unfamiliar with the books of Salt Spring Island writer and actor C.C. Humphreys.

    Humphreys is a storyteller of the old school: his novels — whether you’re considering his adult historical adventures or his young adult fantasy novels — are tightly plotted page-turners, populated with richly developed characters, within well-researched locales and periods. His books are always a treat to read, immersive and thrilling, but with a depth and skill that elevates them well above pulp.

    Plague, Humphreys’ newest novel, is no exception.

    A succinct introduction sets the stage. The reader is situated in London in early 1665: Charles II is on the throne, but the memories of the English Civil War are still powerful, still divisive. Meanwhile, in the shadows of the city, the plague is building strength, a threat lurking behind the human actions in the early stages of the novel.

    In classic cop-crook buddy thriller style (think 48 Hours in the 17th century), we are introduced, in short order, to Captain Coke, a gentlemanly highwayman who has never fired his pistol in pursuit of his crimes, and Pitman (just Pitman, as he frequently stresses), a thief-taker, who makes the bulk of his living pursuing villains and collecting the rewards. As the novel opens, Coke arrives moments too late at the scene of what was to have been his robbery, and finds a brutal slaughter instead. Pitman, already in pursuit of Coke, assumes — naturally — that the highwayman is responsible. As the story spreads, via word of mouth and crudely printed — and mostly fictional — pamphlets, Coke becomes London’s public enemy No. 1.

    The reader, of course, knows that Coke is innocent of this particular crime, and it doesn’t really come as any surprise when the thief and the thief-taker team up to track down the real killer, in the process stumbling into a conspiracy that has its roots in religious fervour and the blood of the civil war, and may topple the monarchy once and for all.

    Plague is almost an embarrassment of riches, with incursions into the lowest of the London slums and onto the glamour of the stage, with scenes set in places as diverse as a squalid warehouse slum and the royal toilet. There are fights and chases, narrow escapes and brutal tortures, and, yes, there is even romance.

    Why, there’s even a character named Absolute, for all the longtime Humphreys readers out there, about whom I shall not utter another word.

    Don’t let the above, however, give you the impression that Plague is just entertainment, the literary equivalent of those summer blockbuster movies designed to give your brain a break and to be forgotten the moment the lights go up.

    No, Plague is much deeper, much more significant, and much darker, than that.

    Humphreys has set the story up well, with an implicit tension at its core: not only are Coke and Pitman on opposite sides of the legal divide, they’re on opposing sides politically and spiritually. “Captain� is not an honorific Coke adopted when he became a highwayman; rather, he became a highwayman after being a cavalier, a captain in the (defeated) royalist army of Charles I. Pitman, a member of a devout Christian sect, is a devoted Parliamentarian, more than a little uncomfortable still with the ascent of Charles II to the throne.

    If all of the above makes no sense to you, or tickles only vague memories of English history, be not afraid: by plunging the reader into his richly imagined London, anchored to these two main characters, Humphreys brings the history to life. It’s not a matter of remembering dates and lineages; understanding the world of Plague involves living within it, scraping the filth of the streets off your boots, feeling the ache of hunger, and the terror of the plague as it begins to sweep through the city.

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    Young actors make history come alive at Hempsted House

    In the middle of a bright Saturday afternoon at Sailfest – with a backdrop of the Thames River and Fort Griswold down at the end of City Pier – a cluster of young people brought a bit of New London’s past to this very contemporary event.

    The youths were dressed in period garb, and each stepped up and performed as historical figures in first-person monologues.

    Mikayla Brucoli, 12, of Waterford and Malaya Coleman, 12, of Groton portrayed abolitionist sisters Martha and Mary Hempstead, respectively. Coleman spoke about fighting against slavery and for women’s rights. Brucoli reflected Martha’s similar views – and her love of the arts.

    Ryder Singer-Johnson, 10, of New London and Niantic played Adam Jackson, who was born a slave. His father managed to free Adam’s mother but wasn’t able to do the same for Adam, who worked for Joshua Hempsted. As he got older, Adam did all the heavy work, with a couple of Joshua’s grandsons often helping out.

    Joan Miller, 18, of Montville explained to the assembled crowd how Stephen Hempstead was best-known here for his part in the Revolutionary War. Some people called him Fighting Stephen. When the New London native first moved to St. Louis, Roman Catholicism was the only established religion there, and the lack of regard for keeping the sabbath, she said as Stephen, “was simply scandalous.” People in that Missouri city even chose to celebrate Independence Day rather than keeping the sabbath, prompting Hempstead to bring the Presbyterian church there.

    These students are all part of a program that started in early May at the Hempsted Houses in New London. Connecticut Landmarks is working on a reinterpretation project at its property here, aiming to develop first-person performances based on real people who lived and worked in New London in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    Aileen Novick, Connecticut Landmarks project manager, says they want to change the way visitors experience history at the New London location. They have been trying to see how visitors react and which stories intrigue them the most.

    “It’s a way to bring history to life for visitors. It’s not just someone talking to you about the past but someone who supposedly lived then talking to you,” she says.

    And, in the case of Sailfest, it’s a way to reach people who might not know about the Hempsted history. (A side note: While the name was spelled Hempsted during diarist Joshua’s time, family members changed it to Hempstead later on.)

    The students in this program, funded through a state Department of Economic and Community Development placemaking grant, simply had to sign up to participate. They learned how to create first-person performances by teaching artist Tammy Denease, who is based in East Hartford. She knows all about historical portrayals, since she specializes in bringing to life “important yet ‘obscured’ women in history” like Bessie Coleman, who was the first internationally licensed pilot in the world, and Elizabeth Keckly, a former enslaved woman who worked at Lincoln’s White House.

    The students studied up on various historical figures, reading about them in books and getting access to some first-person accounts via diary entries and letters. They discovered details about the Hempsted family and how members’ views about slavery changed radically over the course of a few generations.

    The youths all decided who they wanted to play, and the result is some of what theater people call non-traditional casting.

    “They picked characters who interested them, so we have two girls who are playing male characters,” Novick says. “They picked regardless of race. … We have an African-American girl who is playing Mary Hempstead, who is one of the abolitionist sisters, and a white young girl who is playing Adam Jackson, who was an enslaved man here.”

    Denease says, “The kids picked the characters they identified with most. They wrote their own elevator speech, if you will, telling who they were and what their role was on that property.”

    She taught the students how to get into character and helped guide their writing and performance.

    Some of the participants haven’t acted before, while some, like Miller, have. Miller has done roles ranging from Marian in “The Music Man” to Maggie Saunders in “Lend Me a Tenor” at Montville High School, but, with this, she got to create the piece.

    “I’ve always done a character who has been written out of a playwright’s imagination. … (Here, I’m) having to do research to figure out what that person might say and how they might speak and what kind of viewpoint they might have,” says Miller, who plans to major in English and music at Providence College.

    Learning about the history of the area has been an intriguing part of the program for the participants, but they’ve appreciated other aspects, too.

    “I love the acting experience, and I like meeting new people and making new friends,” Coleman says.

    Singer-Johnson says, “It’s fun, and you get to learn so much. You’re with different people. You’re learning about how they think, how they think their character should work, and you’re learning about the character from those people. … I really think they should keep on doing (the program).”

     

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    London’s history is contagious

    Reviews | fiction

    Anyone inclined to disparagingly mutter “they don’t write ’em like that anymore� is clearly unfamiliar with the books of Salt Spring Island writer and actor C.C. Humphreys.

    Humphreys is a storyteller of the old school: his novels — whether you’re considering his adult historical adventures or his young adult fantasy novels — are tightly plotted page-turners, populated with richly developed characters, within well-researched locales and periods. His books are always a treat to read, immersive and thrilling, but with a depth and skill that elevates them well above pulp.

    Plague, Humphreys’ newest novel, is no exception.

    A succinct introduction sets the stage. The reader is situated in London in early 1665: Charles II is on the throne, but the memories of the English Civil War are still powerful, still divisive. Meanwhile, in the shadows of the city, the plague is building strength, a threat lurking behind the human actions in the early stages of the novel.

    In classic cop-crook buddy thriller style (think 48 Hours in the 17th century), we are introduced, in short order, to Captain Coke, a gentlemanly highwayman who has never fired his pistol in pursuit of his crimes, and Pitman (just Pitman, as he frequently stresses), a thief-taker, who makes the bulk of his living pursuing villains and collecting the rewards. As the novel opens, Coke arrives moments too late at the scene of what was to have been his robbery, and finds a brutal slaughter instead. Pitman, already in pursuit of Coke, assumes — naturally — that the highwayman is responsible. As the story spreads, via word of mouth and crudely printed — and mostly fictional — pamphlets, Coke becomes London’s public enemy No. 1.

    The reader, of course, knows that Coke is innocent of this particular crime, and it doesn’t really come as any surprise when the thief and the thief-taker team up to track down the real killer, in the process stumbling into a conspiracy that has its roots in religious fervour and the blood of the civil war, and may topple the monarchy once and for all.

    Plague is almost an embarrassment of riches, with incursions into the lowest of the London slums and onto the glamour of the stage, with scenes set in places as diverse as a squalid warehouse slum and the royal toilet. There are fights and chases, narrow escapes and brutal tortures, and, yes, there is even romance.

    Why, there’s even a character named Absolute, for all the longtime Humphreys readers out there, about whom I shall not utter another word.

    Don’t let the above, however, give you the impression that Plague is just entertainment, the literary equivalent of those summer blockbuster movies designed to give your brain a break and to be forgotten the moment the lights go up.

    No, Plague is much deeper, much more significant, and much darker, than that.

    Humphreys has set the story up well, with an implicit tension at its core: not only are Coke and Pitman on opposite sides of the legal divide, they’re on opposing sides politically and spiritually. “Captain� is not an honorific Coke adopted when he became a highwayman; rather, he became a highwayman after being a cavalier, a captain in the (defeated) royalist army of Charles I. Pitman, a member of a devout Christian sect, is a devoted Parliamentarian, more than a little uncomfortable still with the ascent of Charles II to the throne.

    If all of the above makes no sense to you, or tickles only vague memories of English history, be not afraid: by plunging the reader into his richly imagined London, anchored to these two main characters, Humphreys brings the history to life. It’s not a matter of remembering dates and lineages; understanding the world of Plague involves living within it, scraping the filth of the streets off your boots, feeling the ache of hunger, and the terror of the plague as it begins to sweep through the city.

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    A Special Relationship: The Early History Of London And The US

    The special relationship between Britain and the United States has long been invoked by politicians on both sides of the Atlantic as a unifying symbol in fighting fascism (Churchill and FDR), strengthening economic ties (Reagan and Thatcher) and justifying questionable international interventions (we don’t think we need to name these two).

    Although the initial identity of the US as a nation with predominantly British ancestry explains the fundamental link between these English-speaking countries, the creation of the United States of America in 1776 by the Thirteen Colonies who declared independence from British rule reminds us that relations have not always been so amicable. Down the centuries, throughout various family feuds (the mother of all being the American Revolutionary War) and the shifting balance of power, the importance of London in the early history of the United States should not be underplayed. So let’s take a look at some of the Founding Fathers who walked London’s cobbled streets, and the Englishmen who left those streets behind to settle in America.

    Captain Smith sets sail

    The Yabsley Street Waste Disposal Centre just south of Blackwall DLR Station might seem like the furthest thing away from some of America’s earliest history, yet on this modern industrial site can be found the remains of the cobbled Blackwall Stairs where Captain John Smith last touched dry land before sailing across the Atlantic to found the Jamestown settlement. The expedition set sail on 20 December 1606 in three small ships, the Discovery, the Susan Constant and the Godspeed, which held a total of 104 pilgrims hoping for better lives.

    The recycling yard where it all began, via Google Street View.

    The recycling yard where it all began, via Google Street View.

     

    Only 44 people survived the brutal conditions of the first year but as more pilgrims reinforced their community, Jamestown grew to be an important trading centre for the Virginia Colony. On the treacherous voyage, Smith himself survived mutiny and the threat of death to be named one of the leaders of Jamestown before embarking on further explorations of the New World for the Virginia Company of London. Unfortunately the stairwell is currently inaccessible to the public. Saint Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church near the Old Bailey memorialises Smith’s infamous voyage with a beautiful stained-glass window, as his remains were interred in its grounds after his death in 1631. You can also find a statue of the pioneer beside St Mary-le-Bow church a little further east.

    Captain Jones and the Mayflower

    Across the docklands at Rotherhithe you’ll find a 16th century pub that backs directly onto the Thames. It was from The Shippe Inn that the Mayflower left her home dock in 1620 to Southampton, Dartmouth and Plymouth before sailing to the New World. It is believed that Captain Christopher Jones, who part-owned the vessel, moored the Mayflower at the public house (now suitably renamed The Mayflower) to avoid paying the official docking fees of the port authority.

    The Mayflower from the river, sporting British and US flags.

    The Mayflower from the river, sporting British and US flags.

    Captain Jones is thought to be the only Londoner out of the 65 passengers on board the Mayflower and was also a parishioner of the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Rotherhithe. He, like John Smith, was a commercial explorer who viewed the dangerous Atlantic crossing as a business venture rather than an act of faith or ideology, so he ultimately returned to London. He is buried in the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin, which is now marked by an impressive sculpture depicting Jones holding the symbolic infant of America in his arms.

    Pocahontas

    In March 1617, three years before the Mayflower set sail, the sudden death of Rebecca Rolfe in Gravesend foreshadowed one of the disturbing realities of the European settlers’ colonisation of North America. Rebecca Rolfe is more widely known by her native name Pocahontas, as she was the daughter of Chief Wahunsenacawh of the Powhatan tribe who ruled over much of modern-day Virginia. She had been captured in 1613 as a teenage girl by English forces in Tsenacommacah territory during Anglo-Indian hostilities. Pocahontas was initially held for a ransom but during her captivity she converted to Christianity, taking the name Rebecca and rejecting an opportunity to return to her tribe. A year later in April 1614 she married an English tobacco planter John Rolfe and gave birth to a son, Thomas, in January 1615. The young family, which is considered to be the first recorded North American interracial marriage, was already on-board a ship returning to the New World when Rebecca became ill from what is now believed to have been flu or smallpox. She died near Gravesend where she was buried in an unmarked grave. John Rolfe continued to the Virginia colony with his son but it is interesting to note that Thomas Rolfe later returned to London and was married in 1632 at St James Church in Clerkenwell.

    US by the Tower

    All Hallows by the Tower, by M@.

    All Hallows by the Tower, by M@.

    Further along the Thames, many American tourists come to Tower Hill to see the Tower of London and Tower Bridge but often pass by All Hallows by the Tower church without realising its historical links with America. Pennsylvanians may be interested to discover that the founder of their state, William Penn, was baptized at the church in 1644 and educated there during Oliver Cromwell’s rule as Lord Protector. The church boasts another claim to American fame as the sixth President of the United States John Quincy Adams married Louisa Johnson, the London-born daughter of a US merchant, at the church in 1797 while he was gaining diplomatic experience in Europe.

    Adams family in Mayfair

    In the same year as Adams’ marriage, his father John Adams became the second US President at the end of George Washington’s second term. Adams Snr was no stranger to London himself. He had been sent to Britain to reinstate diplomatic ties following America’s independence. In fact, if you look away from Saarinen’s modernist beast of the outgoing US Embassy, towards the Georgian terraces on the corner of Brook and Duke Streets, Mayfair, you will see 9 Grovesnor Square where John Adams lived between 1785 and 1788. The Georgian terrace is not open to the public because it is now the official office to another political leader: this time the former British PM Tony Blair.

    Franklin’s House

    One of Adams’ fellow Founding Fathers had also lived in London, but before US independence. The statesman and polymath Benjamin Franklin was sent to London by the Pennsylvania Assembly as a colonial agent to appeal to the British government about the increasing influence held by the descendants of William Penn. The mission was ultimately a failure. However, it was during his residency at 36 Craven Street from 1757 to 1762 and again from 1764 to 1775 that Franklin’s politics became radicalised through his involvement at Whitehall and the discussions in the coffee houses of Covent Garden. The Georgian terrace is the only surviving Franklin residency in the UK and is now a museum called Benjamin Franklin House, which is dedicated to educating visitors about Franklin’s scientific discoveries and his life in London.

    Benedict Arnold

    Benedict Arnold

    Image by kind permission of the vicar Canon Simon Butler and the PCC of Battersea Parish Church St Mary.

    While most of these iconic Americans are revered in their homeland, there is one individual who stands out more for his infamous treachery rather than his patriotism. After a failed plot in September 1780 to surrender to the British Army at the height of the American Revolutionary War, General Benedict Arnold deserted his post and switched allegiance to Britain. Not surprisingly, the US did not invite Arnold to return to his homeland after they won independence. He spent his later career as a brigadier general in the British Army, living out his last years from 1796 at 62 Gloucester Place in Marylebone, which still stands to this day. He is buried in the crypt of St Mary’s Battersea and is commemorated in one of their stained-glass windows rather amusingly as the ‘Sometime General in the army of George Washington’.

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    Roller derby: History is made as world’s top team Gotham Girls come to Leeds

    MORE than 1,000 fans watched roller derby history being made at Leeds’ Futsal Arena on Saturday.

    The world’s number one team, Gotham Girls All Stars, flew into Yorkshire from New York take on Europe’s top team, London Rollergirls’ London Brawling, for the first time.

    And history was made as Gotham took their 50th win in a row, displaying exactly why they have taken the top title in club play, the WFTDA Championships, for three years consecutively . The team beat London 294 points to 56, in front of a crowd of fans from across Europe, including Copenhagen, Geneva, Toulouse and Dublin.

    Yorkshire leagues were also well represented, with crowds of skaters cheering on the action from Wakey Wheeled Cats, Harrogate’s Spa Town Rollergirls and Sheffield Steel Rollergirls.

    And thousands more watched the game as it was streamed live online around the world.

    Leeds Roller Dolls’ A team, the Rebel Roses, played London’s second team, the Brawl Saints, before the headline game.

    The home side put up a tough fight, but were outplayed 296 points to 73.

    Rebel Roses skater Liz ‘Bruise Em Banshee’ Thomas was handed the Most Valuable Player award for her hard work on track.

    She told the YEP: “It was fantastic to be part of roller derby history. Playing the opener for London versus Gotham was immense.”

    Tickets for the game sold out in just four minutes, and the city’s own league, Leeds Roller Dolls, were partly responsible for making it happen.

    Roller derby is a highly competitive sport played on quad roller skates, and Leeds was the first league to form in Yorkshire in 2007.

    Leeds play their home games at the Futsal Arena, and queues started snaking their way around the building an hour and a half before the doors opened on Saturday. Huge cheers erupted as the Gotham skaters arrived at the venue, stopping to take pictures with fans and sign autographs.

    Leeds Roller Dolls skater Anna ‘Bird of Pain’ Ward said: “It was so amazing to see how many people in the UK really love this sport. The passion of the crowd and excitement of the players was like nothing I’ve felt before. What a privilege to be part of it.”

    You can next catch Leeds Roller Dolls in action at the Futsal Arena as part of the Northern Series tournament where they will take on Rainy City Roller Girls on Saturday, July 26. Tickets are already on sale on the Dolls’ website www.leedsrollerdolls.com.

    Pictures: Jason Ruffell

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