Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Architecture of Drinking Fountains

A contemporary article complaining about the architecture and location of the metropolitan drinking fountain, often installed as a charitable bequest ... 




DRINKING FOUNTAINS.

The movement for supplying the people with a pure and refreshing draught of water must be received with unmixed approval. The philanthropic spirit which introduced drinking-fountains has spread, and the metropolis is now dotted with numerous little structures, from which all classes who need may allay their thirst, principally through the efforts of the "Association" that originated the movement here, aided and extended by benevolent individuals who, at their own cost, have added to the numbers scattered over the town. We are not sanguine enough to believe that it will do much for the repression of drunkenness, or that those who habitually indulge in stimulating drinks will fly the glaring dens of vice that choke up our public ways. Still it is an immense advantage for those "who labour and are heavy laden," not of necessity to be driven into the polluted atmosphere of the gin-palace and the public house to satisfy the cravings of nature, elbowed and jostled by the depraved and miserable beings who put an enemy into their months to steal away their brains, but may slake their parched throats with a liquid that neither destroys the body nor brings ruin to the purse. In this way we trust many will shun the plague-spots, and escape infection. The experiment was well worth trying, and only good can result from it ; but whilst we seek to raise the moral condition of those whom the drinking fountains are intended to benefit, it is worth while to consider whether the fountains at the same time may not be made, in the eye of taste, an ornament to the metropolis, instead of a blur. There is, perhaps, no class of objects open to so free and varied an expression in design, so completely under the control of the designer, so capable of adding a grace to our streets, and beautifying our thoroughfares, as fountains. Yet in those erected we vainly look for elegance of form or successful artistic adaptation. Some of them are elaborate enough, and no doubt rather costly structures, such as that recently opened in front of St. Mary-le-Strand, representing a miniature temple, with a little gilt figure of a boy at the top, reminding us of those ingenious devices which confectioners exhibit in their windows as the wonders of the sugar art. This temple seems to be a favourite with the fountain makers, for we observe the idea repeated in others of still more toy-like proportions.
      In several the utmost skill of the designer has never got beyond the general appearance of a monumental tablet, which, but for the feeble stream emitted from the centre might serve as appropriately to record the virtues of the dead within the sacred edifice as they do now the living honours of the donors against the churchyard-rails—witness that at St. Dunstan's upon which is set forth, in large obtrusive letters, the grandeur of a city knight, alderman of the ward—how he was Lord Mayor one year, and elected M.P. another —with the gaudily emblazoned arms at the top, to astonish the vagrant eye of the Fleet-street wanderer. We fear the grace of the gift is somewhat disparaged by this show of self-glorification. "Verily they have their reward." To do good by stealth is not the virtue suggested by the drinking-fountains. For the most part the donors seem to forget that the stream of benevolence never runs so sweetly as when flowing with modesty. In others, added to the meanness of the design, is the utter unfitness of the symbols employed in the way of ornament—fresh water running from salt sea-shells, or pouring from the mouths of marine monsters and heads of grotesque animals, such as we find at the waste-water spouts of medieval buildings: apart from the complete absurdity of streams flowing through animals, it does not accord with our notions of purity to drink from the mouths of beasts. The idea is simply disgusting, and should never be resorted to for fountains intended to supply water exclusively for drinking. As an example of the objectionable introduction of such ornaments, we may cite the fountains under the portico of the British Museum, which, in other respects, are extremely beautiful, formed of white marble," to which are appended elegant classical cups, "silvered o'er," that may well tempt the visitor to partake of the cooling draught. Yet in these the water flows from gasping mouths, and is given off from the protruded tongues of lions. In the wide range of nature, there are surely objects enough of beauty to supply emblems appropriate to the subject, and befitting the occasion—the graceful plants and flowers that that fringe our running streams, offer an endless variety for illustration and ornament. In less expensive structures simple rock-work might be adapted with advantage ; the water gushing from a crevice, as it is seen in the hill countries, forming natural basins in the stone. For more elaborate works, nymphs pouring the liquid current from elegantly formed vessels, or the great law-giver Moses, striking the rock, from which burst forth the living stream to slake the parched tongues of the children of Israel —the fittest and most suggestive, perhaps, of all for a fountain dedicated to the poor; but whatever class of subject is adopted, let us be rid of those puerile animal conceits that are scarcely less offensive to all delicacy of taste than the filthy sputterings of the notorious "mannikin" at Brussels.



      Another important consideration, which appears to have been entirely overlooked, is locality. We cannot think the skirts of hospitals and graveyards proper places for the erection of drinking fountains. The water flowing from the little Norman structure, the first drinking-fountain erected in London, by Mr. Samuel Gurney, within the rails of St. Sepulchre's, appears to come from the mouldering graves, by which it is closely backed; and the pump in St. Paul's Churchyard, to which has been added a drinking-cup, is similarly situated and equally objectionable; whilst the miserable contrivance at the railway termini of London Bridge, attached to gas-lamp, is in such close proximity to a repulsive structure, that the wonder is any degree of thirst can induce the passers-by to drink from such a source. Though it may not always be possible a in overcrowded neighbourhoods to surround the fountains with pure air, there can be little difficulty in placing them apart from offensive matters or offending associations. The enjoyment of a draught of water is increased by the brightness of the cup and its isolation from proximate impurities. The moral condition of the poor is not a little influenced by that which meets the eye. We desire them to drink, then let them do so under the most refreshing circumstances of sweetness and cleanliness, that they may be lured again and again to partake of the blessing that is offered them.
      The position of the fountain at the Oxford-street circus is better chosen, and offers an example for the placing of others in similar situations, where they might be erected under a covering that would afford shelter from the rain, as well as a place of refuge in the centre of thronged crossings. In our variable climate, shelter is so often needed, that it is surprising no attempt has been made to meet this deficiency. Light elegant structures, in ornamental iron, open at the sides, with a glass roof, would afford some protection from the weather, and be a boon to the public, who have so often to abide the peltings of the pitiless storm whilst waiting for a conveyance. In skilful hands, the combined requirements of a fountain, a place of refuge, and shelter, might be made a work of utility and beauty, and contribute to the adornment of the town. There is so little of ornamental attraction in London streets, that the opportunity of introducing and encouraging it should not be lost. Our public statues can scarcely be said to decorate our highways and squares, but are for the most part a disgrace and a laughing-stock. Unsightly indicators have got possession of our lamp-posts, advertising their supreme ugliness to the passers-by; and ungainly and tasteless structures greet us at every turn. We can understand that, in the early stage of the fountain movement, its promoters would be more solicitous to set the fountains going than regardful of architectural excellence or fitness of site. Now that the good work is in active operation, we would earnestly impress upon the estimable gentlemen forming the "Association for the Erection of Public Drinking-Fountains," the necessity of paying, in future, a little more attention to the choice of situation, propriety of ornament, and beauty of design.

The London Review, 1 December 1860

Monday, 12 January 2015

Grotto Passage Ragged School

A while back, I came across the Grotto Passage Ragged School while walking (now, sadly, converted into office space) in Marylebone. Today, I happened across an article about its work ...


A VISIT TO GROTTO PASSAGE RAGGED SCHOOL.

There is moral as well as military heroism. The undaunted African missionary, Livingstone, is the type of the one, and the noble Christian warrior, Havelock, fitly illustrates the other. Differently manifested as was their heroism, yet, as they were baptized into the same faith, they equally displayed that unblenching courage which springs from reliance on the purposes and help of the Most High. Nor are the founders of the Ragged School system less entitled to the appellation of heroes. For, solely constrained by love to the souls of perishing outcasts, they penetrated unguarded and alone into the crime-stained rookeries of the metropolis; where typhus or cholera decimated the population, and where the very air reeked of pestilence. From these moral wastes the Pharisee and the worldling shrank in utter disgust; and even the police only ventured into these wretched dens when the shadows of night fell thick, cutlass in hand. Yet it is to the moral courage thus displayed that the whole mighty movement must be ascribed ; and if 21,000 children and nigh 2,000 adults are now gathered in the Ragged Schools of London, the germ of this great work may be traced in the first Ragged School.
      True heroism is, however, never without its reward; and the history of Ragged Schools presents no exception to the rule. Not that the first workers have been decorated with Victoria crosses, or that their names have been blazoned abroad; but their fitter reward has been found in the knowledge that hundreds have been reformed who were once the pests of society; and by the spectacle presented by the seventy zealous Ragged School teachers, who were formerly scholars. It is thus seen that the gospel of Christ—the sole lever which has been employed to elevate the outcasts of London—is as potent now as it was found to be on the day of Pentecost. Reviewing then the Ragged School movement, we are led to perceive that the same Divine Teacher who, whilst He trod this earth, forsook the home of the rich or the noble to "preach to the poor," was the deviser of, as He has been the leader in, this great crusade against vice and misery.
      Amongst the earlier of the institutions for the reclamation of the depraved is the one of which we propose to give a pen-and-ink sketch. The Ragged School in Grotto Passage, High Street, Marylebone, was established in 1845. The district selected by the founders for their beneficent efforts is notoriously one of the most debased spots of London. The nest of courts midst which it is planted form an oblong square, so flanked by the residences of the aristocracy that a stone's-throw suffices to divide the homes of penury from the halls of luxury. In no part of London does the "great social evil," as it has been aptly termed, form it more prominent feature—the only distinction being that, whilst the reveller of the Haymarket flaunts in silk and satin, with brandied-eye and rouge-cheek, the wretched tenants of this place are too poor to disguise their vice, or too degraded to seek to hide their occupation, Jezebel-like, by paint. Night after night, and far into the Lord's-day morning, drunken men and dishevelled women are seen, under the influence of intoxication, raving and fighting like maniacs, or vainly seeking, with hoarse laugh and filthy song, to hide the misery of the heart. We recently visited the police court at the end of the passage, and found on Monday morning about 40 persons, for the most part chargeable with disorderly conduct, rather than with positive crime, awaiting the decision of the magistrate. Of these, 18 were loose females, and 7 lads, one only of whom had attended a Ragged School. Whilst we scanned the bloated countenance, bloodshot eye, and the haggard brow, which told that vice had done its hideous work of inducing age in extreme youth, never was there presented a more striking illustration of the sad tact, that, if we are anxious to efface all traces of physical beauty, an early indulgence in vice is the best course to adopt. Well then is it that a Ragged School is conducted in this moral waste, with the twofold object of rescuing the fallen, and of precluding youth from imbibing the poison vended gratis in the district.



      Although we purpose chiefly to describe the Refuge connected with this valuable Institution, a slight glance at the School department may be fitly introduced. In the day schools we found about 240 boys, girls, and infants assembled. Some of these are the children of thieves and fallen women ; others are the offspring of Irish Romanists; a most difficult class to manage, especially if an attempt be made to rule by fear rather than by love. But, seeing that on our entrance many a tiny infant hand was held out to greet us, we learnt by this simple freemasonry that, guided by loving teachers, they felt that every visitor must equally be a friend. Then how clean, how orderly, and respectful were they
sad how sweetly they sang of Him who on earth was, and in heaven is still, the children's friend! On a former visit, struck by the quiet demeanour of one girl, we inquired into her history, and found that she had been one of the most unruly that had ever attended the school. Not only was site disobedient to her teacher, but her great delight was to tease and quarrel with her schoolfellows; and expulsion seemed to be the only remedy; to prevent this she was, on one occasion, kept  back by the teacher when the school was dismissed, and prayed with alone. This softened the hard heart—tears fell like rain; and she, who had been the worst, became from that time the model girl of the school. So much for the omnipotence of love, when guided by faith.
      The night schools are attended by 60 elder boys and girls ; and the Sunday school, held thrice on the Lord's day, by 150 scholars. The evening Sunday school —the first and the best feature of the Ragged School movement—would doubtless attract a large attendance of "Roughs" were there more teachers. We regret to learn that many are excluded, night after night, simply because though "the harvest is plenteous, the labourers are few." Our Divine Master left but one message to his servants, "Occupy till I come." Surely then it is as positive an act of disobedience, as if any of the ten commandments were violated, for Christians to sit in a comfortable pew, and partake of gospel consolations, whilst perishing souls are crying out in vain, " Come over and help us!"
      Not many years after the boys' day and night schools were established, it was found that many attended, who if they had parents had far better been without such relatives; for, as the force of example is ever the most potent, so by their profligate habits they undid every lesson taught at school. Nor were these home-evils merely of a negative character; for many cases were discovered of fathers who did not hesitate to teach their sons to pilfer, that they might pass their days in idleness and their nights in the gin-palace. Again, many homeless or orphan lads attended, whose wan complexion and miserable attire did not require speech to tell of the destitution they endured. Others, too, had been imprisoned for petty theft; and friendless and characterless as they were, waged war with that society which had left them scarcely any alternative but either to thieve or starve. Many, alas! when the inquiry was made, "Have you any relations?" replied," None, as I knows of!"
     These painful cases - and private investigation revealed the sad fact that they only illustrated hundreds of similar cases - led the Committee to open a Boys' Refuge in January, 1849. It thus appears that this was the first Institution that copied the precedent set by the Ragged School Union, who opened a Boys' Refuge in Westminster in 1846. Since that period, about 280 lads have participated in its benefits; to the majority of whom it has not only afforded shelter, but become a true "place of repentance". One fact respecting those admitted deserves commendation and general imitation; namely, the readiness with which boys from other Ragged Schools have been admitted ; thereby manifesting that large-hearted, and truly catholic spirit which, not content with "looking on its own things," also " looks on things of others." For example, of the 26 lads who were admitted into this Refuge last year, no less than 21 were admitted on the recommendation of other Ragged Schools.
      The following cases will indicate the staple of the class who from the first have been received into this Refuge :-

No. 1.—Aged 17. Was born of parents in good circumstances, but who gave him over to the care of others at an early age. He began stealing at nine years old; was imprisoned in the north of England ; and on his discharge tramped to London. Ho soon became the associate of thieves, and entered upon a course of crime which must have ended in transportation, had he not entered this Refuge. He has been in prison nearly twenty times.
No. 2.—Aged 15. Both parents are dead. Exposed at an early age to the influence of bad companions, he began by stealing, and ended by gaining a livelihood by passing counterfeit coin. Has been imprisoned two or three times.
No. 3.—Leaving his home from ill-treatment, he got an honest livelihood for some time; but at length, yielding to temptation, he stole, and was imprisoned. He afterwards wandered about from place to place; being sometimes honestly employed, but oftener getting committed to prison for small offences.
No. 4.—Was left, at the death of his parents, without a friend in the world ; and got his living, and often his lodging, in the streets. He was found by a member of the Committee, at five in the morning, sitting on a doorstep, half-starved.
No. 5.—Father dead, and probably mother. He was deserted when three years old, and sent to the workhouse. Being turned out from thence, he obtained a precarious living by odd jobs. Was found half-starved in the streets by one of the Committee. He bad lived, like too many of his class, under arches, in mews, under carts, &c.

     It may be further intimated, as showing that this Institution includes the criminal as well as the destitute class, and hence that it presents the twofold aspect of being reformatory as well as preventive, that of the 280 lads admitted since the opening of the Refuge, no less than 100 had been imprisoned 297 times. Of the bulk of these, it is reported that they have either entered the royal navy, the merchant service, or emigrated, and that the majority are known to he thoroughly reclaimed.
     The time-tables suspended in the office show that the hours are not allowed to run on drearily, for it appears that four hours and a half are daily devoted to secular and religious instruction, and seven hours to industrial training. In addition to tailoring, and domestic work, the following branches of industry are carried on, namely, shoemaking, mat-making, hair and wool-picking, church-hassocks, which serve as hatboxes and Bible-holders; firewood, and carpenteries. Some of the boxes of the Shoe-black Brigade have also been made by the inmates. At our visit we found 23 boys employed in the two workshops. Of these, 16 were inmates of the Refuge; the remainder belonged to the day school, and, selected for their destitution, are formed into an industrial class, and receive dinner daily, as the reward of their industry. These lads we found busily employed as follows:-5 in mat-making; 8 in wood-chopping; 7 at hair-picking ; 1 in tailoring ; 1 at shoemaking; and 1 at carpentering.
     Very pleasant was it to hear the mat-makers and hair-pickers lightening their labours with a hearty strain. It forcibly recalled the noble weaver's song of Barry Cornwall:—
"Sing, brothers, sing and weave;
'Tis better to work than be idle;
'Tis better to sing than grieve.
There is not one, from Britain's king
To the peasant that delves the soil,
Who knows half the joys the seasons bring
Who hath not his share of toil"
As we personally knew several of the inmates whilst attending another Ragged School, we can testify to the wondrous change which has taken place in their habits, nay, in their very physiognomy. There were "Roughs" of dissolute life, to whom theft and imprisonment were normal states. Many a night, too, had these British Pariahs passed in the casual wards of workhouses, or under the dark arches of the Adelphi. Under the influence of this roving life, they had contracted a defiant or suspicious look, as if they fancied every man an enemy, and that every step was tracked by the police. But now, the lack-lustre eye had brightened into intelligence; their arms, whilst at work, worked with the precision of a steam-engine; and the frank, manly glance of most was an apt illustration of the words of a reclaimed Ragged scholar, " I can look any peeler in the face, now!" Yes, there is nothing like wisely directed love to tame the wild human soul ; at least, it dues not treat men as if they were demons, and then expect them to act like angels!
      That the inmates are not idlers in the great workshop of the world, an inspection of the work done last year fully proves. For, in addition to mending their own clothes, cooking their rations, and cleaning the Refuge, they made 53,209 bundles of firewood, and delivered them at the residence of purchasers. They also, by means of the 3 upright and the 3 smaller looms, which form so conspicuous an object in the upper workshop, made 284 large and small mate, most of which were sold. They also picked 8,445 lbs. of wool and hair last year; this being the first industrial test to which an applicant is submitted.
     A charge has been recently made against Reformatories, that the inmates are so unduly petted that many criminals enter them, not because they repent of past transgression, but simply because they wish for an easy life, with every want provided, and where they become the object of a morbid hero-worship. But it must not be forgotten that, from the unruly habits of this class, the heaviest item in the costly expenditure necessarily consists, not in food, but in management. It is this alone which causes the painful contrast between the wages of the honest labourer and that incurred by the inmates of many Reformatories. But one question ought to be considered before the question is decided; namely, What would these men cost were they allowed still to prey on the public, or were confined in prison ? But be the charge true or false, it assuredly does not apply to the Refuges affiliated to the Ragged School Union. For example, the total cost of the Refuge and Industrial class of this Institution is about £400 per annum. If, then, the cost of the industrial class, which amounts to £50 per annum, be deducted, it would seem that £22 covers the annual cost of each inmate, for food, rent, management, working materials, and outfits. Yet, even from this sum must be deducted their share of the united earnings. As, during last year, goods were said amounting to £81, we cannot, considering their superior aptitude and skill, reduce the share of the inmates below £65. Hence it follows that the total cost of the Refuge is £287 ; or, as there are 16 inmates, about £18 per head per annum. As few remain in the Refuge longer than one year, it thus appears that the trifling sum of £18 suffices for the reformation and enrolment among the working bees of society of each inmate. Viewed, then, merely from the economical stand-point, how encouraging the result; and what a contrast it presents to the expense which their career would have cost the country had they not been grasped by the strong hand of Christian kindness. The striking language of Inspector Pearce pourtrays what their fate must have been:- "I never see a boy at the bar of a police-court but I think, Well, you will cost the country £300 before we have done with you!"
      Nor has this Institution been without results. We think John Bull is too inclined to expect immediate results from any scheme of social amelioration, instead of asking, Is it right to try, or is the plan suggested adapted to the emergency? It is the very same principle which makes him so often a worshipper of success, rather than a venerator of the true and the good. Yet, still there has never been a work of faith—whether it be of John Howard, the prisoner's friend, or of George Muller, the orphan's father—which has not reaped a rich harvest even in this world. Nor has this Refuge been an exception to the rule that "in in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." Since the opening of this Institution, 262 boys have been permanently provided for; and none as sailors have been more successful in obtaining that graduate symbol of thorough seamanship, A.B., attached to their names, than these pour lads. Of the 262 reclaimed outcasts who have thus entered on the busy scenes of life during the past nine years, their employment may be thus specified :-
62 Destitute Boys have been sent to Australis.
44 Canada.
82 " " " the Royal Navy.
51 " " " Merchant Ships.
23 " " " various kinds of service at home.
[total] 262

     The gratitude and success of former inmates is attested by many letters; for we rejoice to find that the fatherly hand that rescued them is not withheld now that they are called to fight the battle of life in the broad world. Two brief specimens we have culled from the letter-book, - one from a party of emigrants, the other from a sailor:-

" On board the Troubadour off Plymouth.
" Before quitting our native land, allow us to return our sincere and united thanks for your kindness to us while in Grotto Passage School, for the good books and comfortable clothing you so kindly supplied us with. We feel it our duty to thank you for the same, and also to express our gratitude to all the kind friends which the Father of the fatherless and the Friend of the orphan raised for us in that school. We hope and trust that we shall by our good conduct always show the use and value of the instruction and kindness received there. We are very comfortable on board, in good health, and enjoying every comfort we wish for.
" SIGNED BY FOUR BOYS.".
" Portsmouth, H.M.S. Victory.

" It is with great pleasure that I now take up my pen to address your lordship [Lord Kinnaird]. I received your kind letter and books, and am very much obliged for such a kind letter. I have seen the admiral, and he sends me to school every day. He also told me that you sent a letter to him respecting me. They pass Sunday very different here to what I did at school — they curse and swear, instead of keeping the Lord's day holy. I am very much obliged to you for what you have done for me while I was about the streets. I find that the way of transgressors are [sic] hard, and by keeping God's commandments I prosper. I hope that the instruction I learned will do me good, not only in this world, but in the other and brighter world."

There are, however, few pictures true to nature which have not a back-ground of gloom; and this sketch would not be a correct photograph, were the shadows omitted. For, notwithstanding strenuous efforts have been made to liquidate debts formerly contracted, nearly £200 is unliquidated. We more especially regret this fact, because it not only forbids any experiment, but precludes an alteration in the premises which would prove very serviceable to the Institution. A front entrance is required in Paddington Street, and a house, whose back premises adjoin the Refuge, might he obtained for that purpose, did the funds permit. By this alteration the indefatigable master would be enabled to display the mats and other articles manufactured by the inmates, and so obtain a readier sale for the dead stock—visitors could enter the Institution without being annoyed by the wretched girls infesting the court; and the inmates would be preserved from the allurements to vice to which they are now exposed.
     Reviewing then the history and present aspect of the Grotto Passage Ragged School, we consider enough has been presented to indicate that it did not spring from the mere instinct of philanthropy. We could well desire that there were more benevolence in the world, seeing how greatly its aspect would be thereby improved. Yet, after all, that philanthropy which only thinks of man's body, and forgets that he has a soul, is ever subject to fits and starts, and can scarcely sustain the test of continuous labour, or bear the ingratitude of unworthy recipients of their bounty. But this institution, springing from a holier source, attests the truth that love to Christ is best shown by love to man, and that true love to man dictates that we feed the soul as well as the body. Hence, it has told many an outcast that, as time is but the vestibule of eternity, as they are now so must they be for ever. It is not strange then that many criminals, whom the bars of a gaol failed to intimidate, have been conquered by strong faith and Christian love. Fully then as this work for God has been rewarded in this world, it foreshadows the period when every faithful servant of Christ shall be crowned. For the words of the apostle are applicable to every missionary,  "What is our crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming?"

Ragged School Union Magazine, March 1858

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A Publican's Meetng

A PUBLICAN'S MEETING FOR "PUBLIC DISCUSSION."

ON Saturday last, it was announced by placards in the various public-houses in the Broadway, Westminster, that Mr. Rowbottom would lecture against tee-totalism in the Westminster Theatre on the following Monday, (Oct. 12,) that discussion would be allowed, and that the admittance would be free. I have since learnt that the theatre was engaged by a milkman, as was supposed by the proprietor for a masonic meeting; this milkman, however, was acting for a publican, named C—,, keeping a gin palace in the Broadway, so you may guess what the tee-totalers had to expect. The Theatre was crammed, the different tap-rooms in the neighbourhood being emptied for the purpose, and many of the audience being quite drunk. Mr. Rowbottom commenced, and during his lecture, he was several times interrupted, but the tee-totalers on the stage interfered with success, to obtain a fair hearing for him—what return they got for this, you will presently hear.

Mr. Rowbottom said, that it was asserted in `' Anti-Bacchus," that the only object of eating and drinking, was to nourish and strengthen the body, that alcoholic drinks, as wine, ale, and porter, contained no nutriment, [false : no such assertion made in " Anti-Bacchus;"] therefore such fluids were not capable of nourishing and strengthening the body. He denied this, for the greater portion of what we took into the body was water; three-fourths of potatoes consisted of water in a staid form, animal food the same, bread one-half, and fish a great deal more. The blood itself was principally formed of water. As to the alcohol contained in strong drinks, it was decomposed in the lungs, and went to strengthen and nourish the body [false.] Wine, &c., contained a great portion of solid matter, and in its best form! Fluids were capable of nourishing the body, and of being formed into solid matter. Mr. Rowbottom then went into a long rigmarole about strength, velocity, and momentum, and said, that the fluids of the body being put into more rapid motion by alcohol, of course, the individual had more strength! and therefore wine, ale, and porter, were strengthening! and he came to the comfortable conclusion, that he was right, and that the tee-totalers were wrong.

It was now suggested to the lecturer, that if there was to be a discussion, he ought to allow time for it, and it was now getting late. He agreed to conclude his lecture, and allow a quarter of an hour for a reply. The publican's mob, however, refused to hear any reply. Hissing, hooting, whistling, foul language, assailed every one who attempted to address them; they would not listen to their own lecturer, when he appealed to them to hear his opponents. Mr. C—, the publican, being roused by a word about traffickers in strong drink, made an amusing exhibition, by standing up in the boxes and holding out his hat, as if he required a few more fool's pence, from the poor drunkards assembled, and patted his immense corporation with astonishing self-complacency and laughable effect. After a quarter of an hour's battling with the mob, who were afraid to hear their lecturer's arguments overturned, his falsehoods exposed, and his sophisms demonstrated, some of the tee-totalers began to retire; a number of drunken fellows now got from the pit on to the stage, and one of them, a brewer's drayman, rolled about like a fish on dry land, or a pig in a kennel ; a scene of uproar and confusion, struggling and staggering, above which, rose the yells and screams of the drunkards, ensued, which beggars description. The tee-totalers, not wishing to take their chance of going to the station-house with these brutes, now retired, and the drunkards kept up their infernal saturnalia by a demolition of the benches, &c.

This was the public discussion promised! This is the way--the fair, open, honest way in which the publicans and their tools meet us ! There will be more tee-totalers made by last Monday's exhibition, than if it had been a tee-total meeting, for numbers of moderation men were disgusted by the gross conduct of the publicans party, and many more will be led to inquire into the subject. The damage done to the theatre, the proprietor expects C—, the publican to pay; and no doubt it was the strength afforded by his strong drink, that enabled his worthy followers to destroy the property they did.

Mr. Rowbottom promised a discussion on the following Friday, the admission to be by tickets, half to be taken by the tee-totalers and half by his party -- will he keep to this arrangement? nous verrons.

So much, Sir, for a public discussion under the auspices of publicans.

Oct. 13, 1840. H. FOSTER.


The Journal of the New British & Foreign Temperance Society, 31 October 1840

Monday, 24 November 2014

Gin Palaces

"What," asks my reader, "is that immense looking house, the front of which displays, in all its architectural magnificence, pillars of the Corinthian order? It has, also, a large illuminated clock, and a lamp, of gigantic proportions, suspected over the entrance!" This, gentle reader, is a gin-shop; or, in more classically elegant language, a Gin Palace! While the rich man is sipping his claret in one of the splendid apartments of his princely club, the poor man is enjoying his gin in a room, the fittings-up of which, cost several thousand pounds. Refinement has made such rapid progress in every direction, that the beggar who sweeps the crossing thinks it vulgar to be seen in a common tap-room; and so he oes to the gin-palace and gets drunk in style, at the expense of three-halfpence farthing. I will tell my readers how these things are managed; and how it is that the proprietors of Gin Palaces make their immense fortune in three or four years: - In some obscure part of town, upon an unoccupied piece of ground, several houses of the smallest kind are built. One of these, the retailer of gin purchases as soon as it is erected, fits it up as a small distillery, and there secretly manufactures an immense quantity of illicit spirit, which is conveyed by his agents into the gin palace. By defrauding his majesty of the duties, he is enabled to undersell others in the trade!

Some gin-sellers, however, are more honest. The purchase the raw spirit from the distiller, paying all the duties; then they adulterate it more than one half with the most poisonous materials. They do not cheat the King's revenue, they only destroy the King's subjects! The profit arises from the extent to which they can adulterate the raw spirit, or procure an illicit distillation, and from the immense quantity drunk by the lower orders! With the money thus obtained, a 'Palace' is opened, and the liquid poison, being sold in twenty times greater quantities than before, makes the villainous proprietor a noble fortune. These places cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands annually.

Kidd's London Directory, Vol. 3 (1836)

Monday, 17 November 2014

Sherlock at Museum of London

The Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London (runs until 12 April 2015) is a masterful and marvellous piece of work. Anyone with an enthusiasm for Holmes or his late-Victorian/Edwardian milieu, will absolutely relish the experience. I've been round twice now; I've taken my parents. I almost bought a deerstalker.

I joke about the deerstalker (though they are on sale in the shop, naturally). 

The exhibition is divided into four main sections. The first (entered through an amusingly concealed doorway) contains banks of screens, showing highlights of numberless TV and film adaptations, from a John Barrymore 1922 silent to the work of Robert Downey Jnr. (and seemingly every major UK character actor in between). There's also a lovely 1903 film reel of traffic and scenes in Edwardian London, taking up an entire wall.

The video walls are, perhaps, a prelude to the exhibition proper. For the next section considers the origins of Holmes from Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue to Conan Doyle's faltering start, which almost saw his great detective christened Sherrinford. There's also a chance to hear a 1927 interview with Conan Doyle, and note his Scottish accent; see a rare original of A Study in Scarlet as it appeared in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887 (only eleven copies survive) and see Holmes come to life in Paget's famous illustrations.

Sherinford Holmes in Conan Doyle's original MS (copyright Museum of London)
The next section explores Holmes' London, largely through maps, paintings and photographs. Video monitors show modern hi-speed dashes through routes taken in the stories. Nineteenth century maps, above the screens, place them in context. Small photographs of street scenes, on a wall nearby, are fascinating documents of the period (and include quite a few I have not seen before). The paintings are familiar from other exhibitions but gorgeous (Dollman's Les Miserables - showing a snowbound cab shelter, cabs and horses - is a real treat). Neat touches include a wall of random Edwardian postcards, showing Imperial London in all its grandeur (and a chance to read the messages on the back - including one in indecipherable shorthand).

(copyright Museum of London)
(copyright Museum of London)
Finally, you come to Sherlock himself - or, rather, the character and his world, broken down into material categories: clothing (from Edwardian evening wear to - gasp, ladies, contain yourselves - Benedict Cumberbatch's coat); technology (telephones, telegraphs, typewriters); detective equipment (police handcuffs, fingerprinting kits); and various everyday (and not so everyday) things that feature in the stories. Thus you can also see pipes and tobacco; a box of Victorian theatrical make-up (in honour of Sherlock as master of disguise); and guns and swordsticks (loved the swordsticks).

(copyright Museum of London)

(copyright Museum of London)
Throughout, there is a sense of perfect balance: between the demands of hardcore fans (several items in the exhibition are normally in the hands of private collectors and won't be seen again in a hurry) and the general public; between the broader 'world' of Sherlock Holmes, and the details of the character; and, not least, between the various competing TV/film adaptations and the original Victorian literary origins. There is not much at all of the present Benedict Cumberbatch version (I guess some people may find that surprising, but I was grateful for it); and I came away with two thoughts - that the Museum had really captured the essence of Sherlock; and that they'd had a whale of a time putting this together, an enthusiasm which will undoubtedly transfer to their visitors.

The curator hard at work (copyright Museum of London)