It’s all kicking off in east London! In October last year Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe gained planning permission for a new museum dedicated to the history of women in the east end. Last week the awnings were whisked down and – ta-dah!! it’s actually a jack the ripper museum. No suffragettes, no match workers strike, no Dagenham equal pay strike, no inspirational sisters doing it for themselves. Just victims of crime. How disappointing, how insulting, what a whopping lie.
Exhibitions at the Museum of London are always beautifully designed, and Sherlock Holmes: the man who never lived and will never die is no different. You sneak in through a secret door embedded into a ‘bookcase’, and immediately enter the world of Holmes’ London. There are films of London from the 1880s, all swirling crowds of franticly rushing people, traffic jams and advertising. There is a huge array of photographs, maps and paintings of nineteenth century London. One feature bound to excite Holmes nerds is the maps with Holmes’ journeys in each of Conan Doyle’s novels traced out with coloured string, matched with high-speed films retracing his steps today.
I have an article out in the June issue of Family Tree Magazine, all about eighteenth century hospital records, specifically maternity records, and how to use them in genealogy research. It’s a great issue, with features on Victorian fatherhood, tracing your police ancestors, the bawdy courts, asylum handicrafts, the First World War, and more!
Last Wednesday I went on an incredible Gin Journey with a company called Shake, Rattle and Stir. For the princely sum of £50 we were taken on a chauffeur-driven tour of five fabulous and hard to find London bars, tasted 5 samples of artisanal gin, and drank five incredible gin cocktails, while learning all about the history and production of this wonderfully English spirit. Much of that knowledge has mysteriously faded away from mind… but I can tell you that gin is simply vodka flavoured with juniper (and other botanicals), and that a mere ten gin and tonics will be enough to prevent you getting malaria!
In honour of International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate one of the most inspirational women of the nineteenth century – Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.
On Wednesday 26th February I made my first visit to St Bart’s Pathology Museum. We were treated to a very interesting lecture by Dr Ellery Foutch on Victorian strongman Eugen Sandow (though I have to say excitement was running so high we all found it a little hard to concentrate) before the main event – a performance by the magnificent Sir Leopold Alexander, Lion of London and Mighty Moustache! I’ve seen him perform before, but how could anyone ever tire of such magnificence? Continue reading
On Friday night I laced up my corset, slathered on the eyeliner, and went to a Gothic ball at London’s Guildhall with my friends.
The highlight of the evening was the incredible Leopold Aleksander, Victorian Strongman. Nothing impresses the ladies more than a gentleman who can crumple up a frying pan with his bare hands while retaining the perfect moustache. There was also some fabulous ghost-story telling, and a brilliant music-hall band provided us with a great selection of Victorian ditties such as ‘ooohhh my popsy wopsy!’ A ‘Death drawing’ class also provided a grisly alternative to the usual ‘life-drawing’ classes.
At this time of year we can see and even smell the natural world decaying all around us and our thoughts turn naturally to death. We’re almost half way between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice, getting ready for ‘Samhain’, the Celtic festival that marks the start of winter, or ‘Halloween’, as most of us know it today. What could be more fitting than a visit to a cemetery? Continue reading
Squashed into a corner of postman’s park in the city of London is the rather forlorn ‘memorial to heroic self-sacrifice’. It consists of a wall of ceramic tiles, each one commemorating someone who gave their life to save others, hiding under a little roof like an upmarket bus shelter.
100 years ago, Jack the Ripper stalked the streets of Whitechapel, doing his grisly work. You can read all about it in real time on twitter.