The History Girls: Worldly Goods, by Laurie Graham

Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nichols

So what’s in your coat pocket? And are you, like me, also hauling around a shoulder bag that feels like it’s full of rocks? When a person is found murdered there can be few things more eloquent than the possessions found on them. This was especially true of the women killed by Saucy Jack in Whitechapel in 1888. They all lodged in doss houses and whatever they possessed in the world they either pawned for a bit of cash to tide them over or carried with them at all times.

I’ll begin with Mary Ann ‘Polly’ Nichols, officially the first of the Ripper’s victims. I believe there’s a strong case for making Martha Tabram his first victim but as I’ve been unable to find a police record of her possessions I’ll say no more about her in this post.  It was a late August night when Polly Nichols was killed, thundery and not particularly cool. Nevertheless she was wearing an…

Source: The History Girls: Worldly Goods, by Laurie Graham

Cabbie’s Curios: Victorian Relief

No change in my internet connection!

View from the Mirror

Cliffords Inn

Just off of Fleet Street,tucked between Chancery Lane and St Dunstan in the West church runs a little alley named ‘Clifford’s Inn Passage’.

Northern entrance to Clifford's Inn Passage Northern entrance to Clifford’s Inn Passage

Now overlooked by streams of commuters this quiet thoroughfare once held a greater purpose in that it formed the main entrance to Clifford’s Inn of Chancery, one of several institutions which, until the 17th century, provided a centre for training barristers.

Clifford's Inn hall picture in September 1934, shortly before its demolition (image: London Illustrated News) Clifford’s Inn hall pictured in September 1934, shortly before its demolition (image: London Illustrated News)

By the 19th century the lane leading to this forgotten relic had morphed into a dark and claustrophobic little haunt… exactly the sort of place where a Londoner, having made merry in the surrounding multitude of taverns and gin palaces, would drunkenly stagger for a pee.

'Sunday in London'... debauched London in 1834 by George Cruickshank ‘Sunday in London’… the debauched capital in 1834 by George Cruickshank

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Billy & Charley’s Shadwell Shams | Spitalfields Life

This is the most magical tale I have ever read about mudlarks in Victorian London and proves that it is possible to fool a lot of people a great deal of the time!

Originally posted on Spitalfields Life.

William Smith & Charles Eaton – better known as Billy & Charley – were a couple of Thames mudlarks who sold artefacts they claimed to have found in the Thames in Shadwell and elsewhere. Yet this threadbare veil of fiction concealed the astonishing resourcefulness and creativity that these two illiterate East Enders demonstrated in designing and casting tens of thousands of cod-medieval trinkets – eventually referred to as “Shadwell Shams” – which had the nineteenth century archaeological establishment running around in circles of confusion and misdirection for decades.

“They were intelligent but without knowledge,” explained collector Philip Mernick, outlining the central mystery of Billy & Charley, “someone told them ‘If you can make these, you can get money for them.’ Yet someone must also have given them the designs, because I find it hard to believe…

Read more: Billy & Charley’s Shadwell Shams | Spitalfields Life.