Funny Stuff From Victorian London! So They Did Have A Sense Of Humor!
In these famous words by Noel Coward, London explains itself beautifully!
'I don't know what London's coming to,
the higher the building the lower the morals!'
This famous quote by the great writer Noel Coward could encompass the whole of London's History. Along with the weird and wonderful, there was much poverty and grime. The smell could knock you sideways on a good day, and kill you on a bad. But among all this were the men and women who could make you smile, exclaim with wonder and change the humdrum life into something magical.
This is the city where the inventors and scientists began their trade, little knowing that one day the whole World would be using their marvelous inventions. From electricity to Antibiotics. The World started here.
But before that happened we did have some pretty strange characters.
The Burlington Arcade London.
The Curious Case of the Flying Cats
Piccadilly in London is one of the most famous streets in the whole World. But just a short distance away lay a row of tiny shops from the Georgian period. They are hardly changed at all. In fact they were built in 1819.
These are in the Burlington Arcade. And apart from having the character of old London, they are here for, well, a rather strange reason! The arcade was built over a narrow alley that lay beside the rather grand sounding Burlington House. This is now the home of the Royal Academy but it started out as a private house.
Lord George Cavendish was the owner and resident at the time. He used to love sitting in his garden, but often complained of being constantly hit by on his head by apple cores, shells and old bottles!
Even more bizarre he was often bashed on the bonce by a flying cat! Of course the cat was dead, but at the time Lord Cavendish wasn't aware of that, only seeing the fir fly as it came at him over the wall!
After putting up with this for a few months he decided that he was fed up to the back teeth by cats flying, bottles crashing and so on, so decided to build a row of shops so that the thieves, beggars and ruffians could no longer bash him on the head.
You could say that when the shops were built there was no longer enough room to swing a cat! But of course I won't say it!
1904 London real footage of days gone by.
The Daily Grind
Taking A Stroll in Hyde Park.
The Strange Tale Of How Women Bought Men!
The second we mention the fact that women were buying men back as early as 1820, one thought comes to mind. I mean it would wouldn't it? We are all aware of men doing the same thing back then and of course these days too. But this isn't quite what it seems. Or maybe it is.
A rather strange tradition of women buying men existed in Victorian London. And as the saying goes,
'It was rather the thing to do'!
So, how did this come about? The story starts at the time of the developments of two main London features. Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
At this time Kensington Gardens was a private area used only by the Royals of the day and their helpers or courtiers.
On the other hand Hyde Park was open to everybody, so of course it soon turned into a den of iniquity.
Along with the ladies of the night plying their trade, there were robbers and thieves making the Gardens their dens.
So the local girls came up with a plan.
To go for their nightly stroll in Hyde park as they were won't to do back then, the girls, usually servants or maids decided that the best and most safe way was to hire, or buy a man.
And these men were the local soldiers!
They would pay the soldiers to escort them around the park, with the girls showing off their 'wares' to the their friends, and trying to outdo each other by choosing the best looking soldier as their beau!
He would of course have to wear full dress uniform, and polish himself up to the best that he could be!
A walk in the park would cost nine old penny's if you chose an artilleryman, a guardsman would set you back a pretty penny, or should I say, a shilling! The lowest was of course the Private, who only cost sixpence!
If only they would bring it back, how big would the queues be?!
A Walk In The Park A Cuddle And a Lark!
Edwardian London Silent Film
Now Known as Magpie Lane Oxford
Named after a Communal Water Butt.
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Grope What Lane?!
The modern world is where we always believe that anything goes. We can say what we will, do what we want and nothing ever shocks us.
In the same way we would believe that back in the middle ages and continuing up until the Victorian era things would be completely different.
With all the religious fervor around, and women knowing their place, the old days would of course be so much more reserved, and anything slightly titillating would have been looked on with shock, or even causing a lady to swoon!
Or as they said back then, 'she had a touch of the vapors!'
But it seems that once again we are wrong to assume this idea. In fact there were places and streets that were named after certain, well, more amorous deeds!
For example, during the reign of Charles II, Nell Gwyn was always referred to as the King's Whore, but actually back then it was seen as a sign of endearment, or nearly. There was not the stigma that the word has now.
And if you look at old street maps of London, you may be surprised to find a few rather strange names on the street corners.
Take Addle street, to a medieval person this would mean 'filthy spot'. You can take that any way you like!
And Fetter Lane, which actually still exists, in 1450 meant the street of the dirty beggars.
Here's one you may recognise, and yes good old London started it off! Shiteburn Lane just around the corner from Canon street was named, wait for it.....because of the number of cess pools around that area!
Did I hear you say, well I never? Well yes you did!
But the most famous, and I have to be really careful here......! Was a lane that ran North from an area called Cheapside.
It was called, Grope....t Street! Please add the three letters that are short for well, work it out will you?
It was of course the haunt of 'The ladies of the night'.
There were many street and alley names that we just wouldn't allow today. Some still stand, but others have been changed because according to local people, 'The postman doesn't believe it'!
It's a shame to think that by changing the names of the street, we are in fact losing some of our history. What we see today as rude, was merely the name of simple things back then, like the water butt and so on.
History is all around us, and each day we add to the extraordinary color and substance that was England's, or should I say, London's amazing people.
(c) copyright nell rose