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At Samuel Pepys’ Library

September 1, 2015
by the gentle author

I paid a visit to Pepys’ Library in Cambridge recently as research for my Cries of London book

You cross the bridge over the River Cam in Cambridge – the one from which the city takes it name – and there is Magdalene College, with a magnificent border of dahlias at this time of year but otherwise not significantly different from when Pepys was an undergraduate there.

Samuel Pepys bequeathed his library of more than three thousand books to his college, where they were installed upon the death of his nephew and heir in 1724 and where they are preserved today. Pepys had them all bound, catalogued according to his own system and stored in order of size in twelve cases manufactured to his design in the workshops at Chatham dockyard. This library can be seen as a natural complement to Pepys’ personal writing – gathering together essential cultural texts and images of the physical world, just as his journal recorded salient detail of his experience of daily life.

Although one volume of Pepys’ diary is open on display in a glass case, revealing the meticulous shorthand he used to write his journal, the rest are not conspicuous within the library. I felt foolish, once I had searched the shelves for the other volumes in vain, so I had no choice but to ask the librarian where they were since I could not visit Pepys’ Library without casting my eyes upon the most famous diaries of all time.

Magnanimously, the librarian led me to one of the cases and directed me to look at the second run of books, set behind those at the front of the shelf. There, at the back, were five modest volumes labelled simply ‘Journal’ and each numbered with a Roman numeral on the spine. It was breathtaking that these works were placed there with such discretion and bound modestly. In setting up his legacy and including the diaries, Pepys must have known that it was only a matter of time before someone read them. Yet it was only in the early nineteenth century that these journals were transcribed, using his shorthand manual in the collection, and the phenomenon of ‘Pepys Diary’ as we know it came into existence.

The earliest collection of Cries of London I have found is that belonging to Samuel Pepys and they are also kept in his library. Driven by his acquisitive nature and infinite curiosity about life, Pepys amassed more than ten thousand engravings and eighteen hundred printed ballads, including several sets of Cries. Alongside those published in his own day, Pepys included those of a generation before, which are among the earliest surviving examples – a significant juxtaposition suggesting he recognised the value of these prints as documents of social history.

In two large albums entitled ‘London & Westminster,’ Pepys arranged his architectural and historical prints of these locations, including a section labelled ‘Cryes consisting of Several Setts thereof, Antient & Moderne: with the differ Stiles us’d therein by the Cryers.’ In these folios, three series of Cries were pasted on successive pages, placing them there as an integral element of the identity of the city as much as the lofty monuments of brick and stone.

Ordered in chronological sequence of their publication, these three series illustrate the evolution of the form of the Cries during the seventeenth century, from a single sheet to a chapbook to a set of individual prints. The earliest set in Pepys’ collection, believed to date from the beginning of the seventeenth century, is described thus ‘A very antient Sett thereof, in Wood, with the Words then used by the Cryers.’

Twenty-four alternating male and female Criers inhabit niches in four storeys of arcades, displaying wares to indicate their identity like medieval saints parading upon an altarpiece. Suggesting a procession through time, they are introduced by the Cryer at daybreak and interrupted by the Bellman and the Watchman, just as the Criers each had their own place within the rhythm of the passing hours.

This is followed on the next page with a set of thirty-two engravings, believed to date from around 1640, described by Pepys as “A later Sett, in Wood – with the Words also then in use.” By comparison with the woodcuts representing stereotypical figures of Criers, these have more self-possession – though close examination reveals that the same models recur, posing in a variety of guises as different street vendors. Yet in spite of these enacted tableaux, there exists a convincing presence of personalities among these Criers – glancing around in circumspection or meeting our gaze with phlegmatic stoicism.

These two anonymous sets from the early and mid-seventeenth century pasted across double spreads are followed by pages of individual prints by Marcellus Laroon. On a more ambitious scale than had been attempted before, they permitted sophisticated use of composition and greater detail in costume by granting each subject their own sheet, thereby elevating the status of the prints as worthy of separate frames.

Laroon was employed as a costume painter in the studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller, who painted Samuel Pepys’ portrait in 1689 which perhaps has drapery by Laroon. Certainly, Pepys acquired drawings by Laroon of the Lord Mayor’s Show and other subjects which were collected into his albums alongside the engravings of Laroon’s Cries from 1687, that were ‘moderne’ for Pepys to the degree that he could caption eighteen of them with the names of the subjects.

Thus, turning the large folio pages of  ’London & Westminster’ invites comparison – and allowed Samuel Pepys to contrast those ‘antient’ prints from his parents’ generation with those of his youth and adulthood, contemplating the hawkers that populated the streets of the city before he was born, distinguishing the differences in their clothing and wares, and wondering at how London had changed in his time.

Pepys’ Library, Magdalen College, Cambridge

‘A very antient Sett thereof, in Wood, with the Words then used by the Cryers’

“A later Sett, in Wood – with the Words also then in use”

Drawn by Marcellus Laroon and published by Pierce Tempest, 16987

Accompanying my book of Cries of London published on 12th November, Bishopsgate Institute is staging a festival around the culture and politics of markets and street trading, and Spitalfields Music is opening its Winter Festival with a concert of Cries of London by Fretwork on 4th December at Shoreditch Church.

I still need a couple more investors for the book and you can learn more here

Who Can Help Me Publish An Illustrated History Of The Cries Of London ?

At Sandwich

August 31, 2015
by the gentle author

I spent my week away from Spitalfields Life working on the Cries of London book but – before summer ends – I decided to take advantage of the sunny weather yesterday with a trip to Sandwich

“There’s always something going on in Sandwich,” I was reliably informed by the guide who welcomed me to an old stone church, and the evidence was all around us in this ancient borough which has acquired so many layers of history over the last thousand years.

If you prefer your architecture irregular in form and mellow with age, this is your place – for Sandwich is one of England’s least-altered medieval towns. Yet the appeal lies not in how it has been preserved but in how it has changed, since every building has been melded over time to suit the evolving needs of its occupants, and the charismatic blend of timber with stonework and stonework with brickwork is sublime.

As I wandered through the quiet streets, I thought about the paradoxical nature of the guide’s comment since Sandwich unquestionably defines the notion of ‘sleepy town,’ even if that afternoon there was a concert in the grounds of the Lutyens house by the river and a fete at the quay. Yet in a more profound sense this has been a location of ceaseless activity since Roman times.

Contrary to popular opinion, ‘Sandwich’ means ‘a settlement built on the sand.’ First recorded in the seventh century, a thriving port and fishing industry grew up here on a sandbank in the days when the river was wider than it is today and the sea came right up to the town. A defensive wall with gates was built around this wealthy trading post and storm tides sometimes surrounded Sandwich, isolating it from the land. One of the pre-eminent ‘Cinque Ports,’ the fleet here offered nautical military service to the Crown in return for trading without taxation. Thus merchants from Venice brought their goods direct to Sandwich and even the King came to buy exotic luxury imports.

“You can easily get lost in Sandwich,” I was cautioned unexpectedly by the attendant at the Museum as I bought my copy of the Civic guide to study the history. It was an unlikely observation that the attendant uttered, since Sandwich is a tiny place, but let me confirm that you can quickly lose your sense of direction, strolling in the maze of small streets and lanes with names like Holy Ghost Alley, Three Kings Yard and Love Lane. An afternoon can fly away once you begin to study the glorious detail and rich idiosyncrasy of eight hundred years of vernacular architecture that is manifest to behold in Sandwich.

If your imagination is set on fire by winding streets of crooked old houses and ancient worn churches paved with medieval tiles and roofed with spectacular wooden vaults, then Sandwich is the destination for you. You really can lose yourself in it and there is always something going on.

St Peter’s Church

The King’s Lodging

Demon of 1592 on the corner of the Kings Arms

St Mary’s Church

St Mary’s Church

Tower of St Mary’s Church

Mermaid at the corner of Delf St

January 1601

The Delf stream was channelled to bring freshwater to Sandwich in the thirteenth century

Horse Pond Sluice

St Clement’s Church has an eleventh  century Norman tower

In St Clement’s Church

Fisher Gate with the old Customs House on the right

Fourteenth century Fisher Gate

You may like to read about my previous trips beyond Spitalfields at this time of year

At Herne Bay, 2014

A Walk from Shoeburyness to Chalkwell, 2013

A Walk Along the Ridgeway, 2012

At Walton on the Naze, 2011

At Canvey Island, 2010

At Broadstairs, 2009

A Tour Of The Cabbies’ Shelters

August 30, 2015
by the gentle author

(Celebrating the sixth anniversary of Spitalfields Life with a week of favourite posts from the last twelve months, before recommencing with new stories on 31st August)

Created between 1875 and 1914, sixty of these structures were built by the Cabmen’s Shelter Fund established by the Earl of Shaftesbury to enable cabbies to get a meal without leaving their cabs unattended and were no larger than a horse and cart so they might stand upon the public highway.

Today, only thirteen remain but all are grade II listed and, on my strange pilgrimage around London, I found them welcoming homely refuges where a cup of tea can be had for just 50p.

Thurloe Place, SW7

Embankment Place, Wc2

Wellington Place, NW8

Chelsea Embankment, SW3

Grosvenor Gardens, SW1

St Georges Sq, SW1

Kensington Park Rd, W11

Temple Place, WC2

Warwick Ave, W9

Russell Sq, WC1

Kensington Rd, W8

Pont St, SW1

Hanover Sq, W1

The shelter attendant at Wellington Place has special spoon-bending powers

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The Pumps of Old London

Spitalfields Photographed In Kodachrome

August 29, 2015
by the gentle author

(Celebrating the sixth anniversary of Spitalfields Life with a week of favourite posts from the last twelve months, before recommencing with new stories on 31st August)

Photographer Philip Marriage rediscovered these colourful images recently, taken on 11th July 1984

Brushfield St

Crispin St

Widegate St

White’s Row

Artillery Passage

Brushfield St

Artillery Passage

Brushfield St

Fashion St

Widegate St

Artillery Passage

Gun St

Brushfield St

Gun St

Brushfield St

Parliament Court

Leyden St

Fort St

Commercial St

Brushfield St

Photographs copyright © Philip Marriage

You may also like to take a look at

Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields

Photographs of Time Passing in Spitalfields

Graham Kennedy, The Directions Man

August 28, 2015
by the gentle author

(Celebrating the sixth anniversary of Spitalfields Life with a week of favourite posts from the last twelve months, before recommencing with new stories on 31st August)

“People often ask me what the ‘i’ stands for,” admitted Graham Kennedy proudly, “and I tell them it is the internationally recognised symbol for Information.” Everyone who goes through Liverpool St Station regularly will recognise Graham, he is the eager Directions Man who stands at the Bishopsgate entrance in all weathers, performing a public service by pointing out the way to visitors, those who are lost and anyone who needs guidance to find Spitalfields, Brick Lane and other local destinations.

“I approach people who are looking around and politely ask where they are looking for and are they ok,” he explained to me, “You’ve got to be able to read people and understand their body language, because you can’t just go up to anybody and ask if they need directions.”

When I first noticed Graham, I thought he might be employed by the railway station or the bus company or the tourist board, but then I quickly realised that his was a self-appointed role and I grew curious to know how and why he got there. So I asked the man who spends his days giving directions to others to explain his route to this particular point in his life, standing outside Liverpool St Station.

“I’d from Romford but I was born in the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel and I grew up in Dagenham, the car manufacturing city. I ended up in this situation after getting divorced eight months ago after being married for twelve years and having two daughters.

Me and my wife started fighting after she began to drink and became someone I didn’t even know. I ended up feeling like a bad person and my children became scared of me and I didn’t like that. I didn’t like myself. So I decided to leave and, for six weeks, I stayed on friends’ settees until I outstayed my welcome.

I got divorced from my wife and I signed the council house over to her, and applied to Dagenham & Barking to get rehoused. I’d been in a council house since I was eighteen years old until the age of thirty-nine and never missed paying my rent. They gave me an interview and, after a thirty minute chat, they said, ‘You’ll get your a decision in ten minutes.’ They said they couldn’t help me because I’d chosen to leave and made myself homeless. They gave me a list of homeless shelters and I was shocked. If I’d lied and said she threw me out, they’d have given me a council home. That was when I realised that it doesn’t always benefit you to be honest.

My parents have been divorced for twenty years. My mother lives in Dagenham and my father has just been put in prison for six years at seventy-three years old after being caught delivering a packet of cocaine. But I’ve always been working, I had a job ever since I left school at fifteen years old and I was an electrician for twenty-two years. It’s impossible for me to find a job now because my ex-wide sold all my tools. I did contract work for Tower Hamlets, Westminster and City of London Councils. That’s why I came up to London once I became homeless, because I know my way around the city.

I started living on the street and I got a fireman’s key from a hardware shop so I could sleep in stairwells, to keep safe and warm and charge my phone. But then I became part of a circle of people that I was taking heroin and crack cocaine with, which I’d never done before in my life. I was on heroin for six to seven months until I got myself medicated, and that went on for three months. I’m no longer on medication, so now I am clean.

I started giving directions four months ago. I didn’t want to beg and I’ve always thought about what people need, and I’m keen to be useful and of service to others. It’s quite legal as long as I don’t ask for money. So, once I have given directions, I say, ‘Excuse me, would consider buying me a tea or coffee?’ There are three things that will happen. They’ll say, ‘No,’ or they’ll give me their spare change, or they’ll buy me a tea or coffee. I’ve learnt that being helpful is a lot more appreciated than just hanging around asking for money.

On Sunday, I stand outside Aldgate East but mostly I am here at Liverpool St. Thursday is the biggest day, it’s been like that for a while. People work until Thursday then go for a night out to relax, and then they get through Friday and rest at the weekend. From four until eight, you will find me at Aldgate East then I go to Liverpool St until midnight, and afterwards I go to Shoreditch and wander around and give directions until six in the morning.

I meet people of all nationalities and walks of life. I’ve had people give me their number and say, ‘Call me if you need help or money,’ but I never call them, I don’t know why. After a year and a half sleeping on the street and in stairwells, I met a Christian and I gained a friend. For the last seven weeks, I’ve been living with him on Brick Lane and repairing his flat and mending all his appliances.

I’ve learnt that you don’t need to have money, you can find anything you want in the city if you know where to look. If you know what time to go round to the back of Tesco in Commercial St, you can find as much food as you want being thrown out.

In the next couple of months, I’ll start looking for a job and get my own place and start seeing my children on a regular basis. I talk to them on the phone but it’s not the same thing.”

Graham Kennedy

You might also like to read about

Jason Cornelius John, Street Musician

Matt Walters, Human Statue

Mr Gil, Street Preacher

Gary Aspey, Wheel Truer