Monday, 3 August 2015

The Illuminated Public Indicator Company

THE ILLUMINATED PUBLIC INDICATOR

The desideratum of a general public indicator, or pillar directory, calculated to afford a correct guide to the ever-moving masses of the metropolis, was practically realised on Thursday night by the establishment at Hyde Park-corner, Piccadilly, of an elegantly illuminated column or pharos in the centre of the thoroughfare, called by the enterprising company who have projected it, a general public indicator, the first of a series of similar district columns or obelisks, of sexagonal form, and which the author of the design, Mr T. A. Pouteau, of Belgrave House, Hampstead, has obtained permission to erect in the leading thoroughfares. These columns will form not only a highly elegant and ornamental, but a practically useful feature in all the central routes of the metropolis. The one at Hyde Park is some twenty-seven feet high by seventeen feet six inches round, and forms a refuge for pedestrians in the centre of that dangerous debouchement of vehicles from the Park. The column is richly gilt, by Mr Dickenson, of Cumberland-market, Regent's Park. Plate glass is let in down the entire shaft, which at night is illuminated down the centre, displaying on all sides advertisements and other transparencies of public information, which will go to pay the cost of the construction. The tout ensemble is surmounted with a very handsomely and richly ornamented lantern light, containing a much larger amount of gas-burners than any at present in operation. The primary and public uses of the indicator will be that in each locality where erected there will be found within them a post-office, and upon them instructions on the following points, viz. :—Indication of the nearest branch post-office—fire-engine station—fire escape—police station—alms box for poor—measured distances and cabriolet fares—all the squares, bridges, and public buildings, and all such parochial and public information as maybe generally useful.

Caledonian Mercury 27 June 1859


HYDE PARK CORNER.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

Sir,—Exactly opposite to Apsley-house a Small circular harbour of refuge for pedestrians has lately boon constructed in the middle of the street, into which they may scud when overpressed by stress of omnibuses and hack cabs, I do not know by whose authority this has been done, nor does it much matter; it has been well done, and the little haven is a great protection and comfort to everybody, especially to old people, cripples, and children.
    It would, perhaps, be more exact if I were to say that it would have been a great protection to such helpless ones had not some idiot (I use the mildest term applicable to this case) bethought him of establishing in its centre a gaudy glass column, obscenely splendid by day with gilding and the lowest class of advertisements, and by night a pillar of fire, such as of old led the chosen people through the desert, and such as will now frighten any decent cab horse out of its wits.
   Strong recommendations to hurry to the Casino and to Cremorne are thereupon intermingled with the manifestoes of anti-bilious pill-makers and with the mysterious suggestions of the Silent Friend, the place of honour on the western front being conceded to the questionable merits of Dr. Kahn's Venereal Museum. On the top of this frightful edifice are denoted by letters the four points of the compass; underneath is a small clock, superfluous from the fact that a much larger one (that over the Hyde Park Lodge) is in sight within 50 yards ; then we have the days of the week and month, then the various trashy advertisements to which I have alluded.
    Below are given the hackney carriage fares; the names and times of the omnibuses which ply along Piccadilly ; the addresses of the various parochial dignitaries, and of the police offices and stations. In short, the column is evidently intended to supply to bystanders much of the information usually found in a local almanac and to be a source of revenue to somebody through its advertising powers.
    Many of these details are given in very small print, and only the upper portion of the pillar—the advertising portion—is lighted up at night. The inevitable consequence is that the entire apace
intended for the protection of the old, the infirm, and the young, while crossing Piccadilly, is permanently occupied by persons consulting the hackney coach fares—looking for the day of the week or month, seeking the address of the beadle or the tax-gatherer, or pondering whether they had better have their families' likenesses taken at Messrs. Chisle'em's studio for a shilling a-head—take them to dance at Cremorne—hear Dr. Kahn's full. flavoured lecture—dose them with anti-bilious pills, or blow them out with Revalenta Arabica.
    Pedestrians, instead of being benefited by the arrangement, are thus forced far out of their reckoning into the chaos of Piccadilly to escape the crowd which the idiot who put up this ignoble contrivance has succeeded in establishing there and unless the higher powers of the parish or of the
State will at once interfere many days cannot possibly elapse before some deplorable accident is occasioned by it.
    I respectfully seek to know who directed this trumpery affair to be put up, who conceived and executed it, and on what pecuniary terms it has been erected?
    I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

    A BELGRAVIAN.

The Times 27 June 1859


THE ILLUMINATED PUBLIC INDICATOR COMPANY
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES. 

Sir,—Since I had the honour of addressing you on the subject of the astounding advertising post
erected opposite Apsley-house, a printed circular has been placed in my hands, signed by a person named Ponsonby, who styles himself "Manager of the Illuminated Public Indicator Company," and dated from their offices, 17., Southampton-street, Strand.
    This gentleman announces that his principals, have made arrangements with the authorities of the city of London, and also with the leading metropolitan parishes for the erection of indicators similar to that which has attracted so much animadversion in Piccadilly, in the principal thoroughfares of London.
   He states that they will afford instructions to the public on the following points:

"Indication of the nearest branch post office — fire-engine station — fire escape  — police station —alms-box for poor — measured distances and cabriolet fares — all the squares, bridges, and public buildings (?) — and all such parochial and public information as may be generally useful."

   Mr. Ponsonby then goes on to expatiate on the elegance and utility of these tawdry erections for advertising. For  a very small sum (24s. per pane for four weeks) he undertakes to advertise anything and everything, from ginger beer to commissions in the cavalry, day and night, in all the most
prominent positions about the metropolis.
    Now, Sir, if the proprietors of the Illuminated Public Indicator choose to hire houses in any of
our streets, there can be no objection to their advertising whatever they please in the windows of those houses, and charging what they please for such advertisements; but it is surely intolerable that they should be permitted to collect crowds in the precise places where crowds are exposed to most danger when so collected—as at the crossing in Piccadilly— simply with the view of making a profit at  the risk and at the expense of the public.
    The information which they propose to impart is merely put forward as a peg on which to hang their money speculations ; I don't deny that it may be very useful information ; but the middle of a dangerously crowded thoroughfare is decidedly not the proper spot in which to impart it ; any more than it is to acquaint the lieges with the geography of Northern Italy, or the state of the poll at the Oxford election.
   I do hone, Sir, that you will use all your influence to extinguish these abominable illuminated indicators as soon as may be.

Your obedient servant,
June 28. A BELGRAVIAN

The Times 29 June 1859
THE ILLUMINATED PUBLIC INDICATOR
During the ensuing week, TWO INDICATORS will be placed respectively - ONE at CORNHILL and ONE at WHITEHALL - For particulars and information, apply at the offices. 11, Southampton-street, Strand, W.C. THOMAS T. PONSONBY, Manager

Daily News 1 July 1859

The good people to the out of Temple-bar have displayed greater spirit as respects the so-called Public Indicators than their western fellow-townsmen. The other day preparations were made for erecting one of these monstrosities. at Exchange-buildings but the workmen employed were compelled to desist from their operations. The  company were then served with notices by the parish of St. Michael, Cornhill, with threats of an appeal to the Court of Chancery, if the notices were not found sufficient. They have not, however, ventured to push matters to extremity, and the pavement has boon restored to its original state. It seems a pity that the inhabitants at the western extremity of London will not employ similar moans to got rid of the deformity opposite Apsley-house. Of course, we are not recommending a breach of the peace, but simply that lawful and proper means should be
taken to compel the parochial authorities to rescind their contract with the company, if a contract exists, or, at any rate, to recall the licence under which this public nuisance has been erected. Surely the roads and streetways of the metropolis an encumbered enough in all conscience without any endeavour gratuitously to diminish the space, already far too narrow, set aside for the public accommodation! There really is no reason why by night as well as by day we should have one of Mr. ALBERT SMITH'S China plates, or an image of the Talking Fish standing upon its tail and holding a dialogue with a mariner, kept continually before our eyes. The inhabitants of London do not want at all hours between sunset and sunrise to be asked "if they have bought six Eureka shirts," or, "Do they bruise their oats yet?" Will any one seriously pretend that the announcements made on these Indicators are of any use or moment to the public? The whole process is just that of illuminated billsticking for the profit of the bill-stickers—nothing more.

The Times 15 December 1859


ILLUMINATED PUBLIC INDICATOR - Notice is hereby given that unless the PUBLIC INDICATOR which has been removed from the Borough-road be TAKEN AWAY on or before the 31st July inst. and the expense to which the hereafter mentioned Vestry has been put be duly paid, the said indicator will be SOLD to pay the expenses incurred.
By Order of the Vestry of the Parish of St. George-the-Martyr, Southwark

The Times 10 July 1861


Friday, 31 July 2015

Who was Jack the Ripper?

In light of the furore surrounding a Jack the Ripper museum in the East End - largely because it originally claimed to be a 'women's history museum' - I thought I would dedicated a blog post to the vexing question of 'Who was Jack the Ripper?' Bear with me, because this gets rather complicated.

Nobody knows. Just some sick fuck with a knife.

Seriously.



Friday, 26 June 2015

Prostitution and Places of Amusement

(To the Editor of the Daily News,)--

Sir,—I have read with pleasure your leading article discussing the action of the Middlesex magistrates in the recent licensing cases. But, Sir, it seems to me that the comae they have adopted deserves more sweeping condemnation than is conveyed by mere doubts as to its prospect of success. The crusade against places of amusement has now been going on for some time, and it is therefore fair to look at its results, and these must be pronounced eminently unsatisfactory.
    Some time ago, Cremorne Gardens were closed, and the consequence was that the Argyll Rooms, the Criterion, and the Aquarium were crowded with the undesirable characters who had previously congregated there. Last year the Argyll Rooms lost their licence and we were promised order and quiet in the Haymarket and its approaches. This promise has not been fulfilled, and the revelry and not shift a few hundred yards eastward and re-appear in a worse form in Covent-garden, where Evan's Supper Rooms have become so notorious that a licence is now refused them, and other places of amusement have with difficulty obtained a renewal of their own.
    Nor is this all. The foyers and approaches to the theatres are far lees select than they were, and our streets at night are such that few would think of letting a lady walk home after the theatre. In this respect we are certainly put to shame by Paris, the city over whose dissipation we sigh so sadly. There, at least, one can at all times safely escort ladies through the principal streets, and it would be no exaggeration to say that during a month's residence in Paris such annoyances would not be experienced as in a single stroll at night (sometimes even in the day) down a leading thoroughfare at the West-end.
   Nov, Sir, my point is this. The attempted remedies of the magistrates are all in the wrong direction, and aim at an impossible mode of effecting a cure, instead of going deeper into the matter, which requires the application of a surer and more efficient preventive. As was pointed out by a lady in your columns in commenting on a recent police case, assaults and outrages upon women should be visited with the utmost rigour. At present, unfortunately, the penalty for seduction and the damages in an affiliation cane are so trifling that the principal offender gets off almost scot free, white the weaker party is at once classed in a category to which pity or assistance is too seldom extended, and hunted and harried from places of resort, where at least they required to be sought, to force themselves upon us, where from long prescription we possessed a fancied immunity. Like "Poor Jo," the memorable outcast in "Blank House," they're allus a movin' on," but it would be well if the magistrates realised this " chivvin' of 'em up and down," not only acts most injuriously to other places of amusement to which they naturally betake themselves, but renders our streets anything but pleasant to pedestrians. Apologies for the length of my letter, I enclose my card, and remain yours faithfully,
A BARRISTER.--Oct. 18.

Sir,—I shall be very grateful if you. could allow me space in your valuable columns to answer "A Barrister's" letter in your:issue of this morning. I also read with great interest and much sympathy your article upon the action of the Middlesex magistrates in the recent licensing cases; and I think, that before "A Barrister" pronounces what he call a "crusade against places of amusement "—what I should call a crusade against ill-conducted places of amusement—eminently unsatisfactory, he should adduce some evidence to prove that this crusade has had no moralising effect upon the proprietors of places of amusement generally, who are the only people it could , tend directly to moralise. It is obvious that bad men and women will not cease to exist, nor become suddenly good when a licence is refused to what has been till then their habitual place of resort. But I think it is reasonable to suppose that other managers will by this line of action be led to use a little more surveillance over the conduct, not the character, of the people they admit ; and that thus by degrees we women may gain some places of amusement to which we can go unprotected by men. This never can be the case till managers gain the moral courage, not to refuse admittance to the poor down trodden woman of the streets (to whom I for one think they have no right to refuse admittance whilst they pay their entrance money and behave properly), but to eject those men who insult women and otherwise misconduct themselves. I know that this is not done now, because it is apt to cause a little disturbance, which is liable to be reported in the morning papers next day, and thus to bring the place of amusement into disrepute. But it is the only way in which it ever can he made possible for respectable women to go in numbers to any public place, and until respectable women can do so I really do not see how any place of amusement intended for men and women can be called respectable. I cannot help regretting, that "A Barrister," with some of whose opinions I so heartily concur, should object to a crusade which might almost be entitled a, crusade to wrest places of amusement from the disreputable and hand them over to the respectable, and which notoriously goes hand in hand with societies for opening Coffee Music Hails and playgrounds for the girls of the poorer classes. For these last no thought has been taken till lately. And whilst in the teeth of opposition and , derision some of us, women are saving up our odd ha-pence —we women have so little money—to buy for poor girls pianos and battledores and skipping ropes, and are trying to secure rooms in which they can make use of them without losing their characters in men's eyes, we do feel it a little hard to be told we are joining in a crusade against amusement. It is, however, our wish, and I should think " A Barrister's" also, to convince those who invest their money in order to gain tenfold by leading others into temptation, that the investment is an insecure one, liable at any moment to be stopped by the strong hand of the law. Otherwise we may see becoming common among us such elegant establishments as are to be found in Paris, where, as " A Barrister" truly says, men may "at all times safely escort ladies through the principal streets "—that is to say, where a man can walk about without let or hindrance, but where, as he must surely be aware, no lady alone would take five steps at night without being insulted. And, though it may not be necessary for ladies to walk alone at night, there are large numbers of women who have to do so ; and if any one would wish to know the results for them in Paris let such ask to see S. Lazare.—I remain, yours faithfully,
A. E N. BEWICKE.-25, Hereford-square, S.W., October 21

correspondence in Daily News 21-22 October 1879

Monday, 15 June 2015

Naked Slum Dancing

More on dubious slum dancing ...

‘There are dances at some of these lodging-houses, especially on Sunday evenings, at which a fiddler ordinarily attends. One penny is charged for each dance to each person. The dancing is continued till late at night. These dances are often scenes of great evil. Boys entice girls to dance with them, and afterwards to sleep with them. One missionary knocked in the middle of the day at the door of one of the rooms of these lodging-houses. A voice from within directed him to enter, when he saw two young men and two young women dancing together, all in a state of entire nudity, a fiddler playing to them in another part of the room, while they dance. He immediately insisted on the women’s dressing themselves, and he retired; and while he did so, the men escaped.’

London City Mission Magazine, 1845 p.176

Music and Dancing

On a private dance in the Field Lane (Irish) slums ...

In Red Lion-court and Blue-court, there is the most public and wanton desecration of the Sabbath. Two Missionaries recently visited Blue-court on the Sabbath evening, and found a large room in one house crowded with persons, who had been admitted at a charge of one penny each person. and who were assembled for music and dancing. About 100 yards from this spot, the door of another room stood open in Red Lion-court, and as they approached they heard the sounds of music and dancing here also. The Missionaries entered and found the company composed of young men and women of various ages, many of the latter not more than sixteen years of age. The females sat on forms around the room, while the men stood, leaving a space in the centre for the dance. At one end sat the fiddler, in full employ, and the dance proceeded. As soon as the fiddler rested, they approached the woman to whom the room belongs (who immediately recognised one of the Missionaries) and addressed her on the open violation of the Sabbath, which she both permitted and encouraged in her house. For a time silence prevailed, and the attention of the company was arrested. The blame was thrown by the woman upon her son, who was the fiddler. He excused himself by saying that he was out of work, and had no other way of getting his living. While he was speaking a general movement took place, the men attempted to crush the Missionaries against the wall. Some shouted, “Put them out;” others, “We are not of your religion;” and others called to the fiddler, “Play up, play up”, which was done. Many of them followed the Missionaries shouting and yelling after them into the street. About sixty persons were present in this one room.

London City Mission Magazine, January 1842, p.56