Kings Cross Station

Built on the site of the London Smallpox Hospital,(now the Whittington), in a district formerly known as Battle Bridge! It was called King’s Cross to commemorate the monument to George 1V which stood at the crossroads near the site from 1830 to 1845.

The station, designed by Lewis Cubitt, was built in 1851-2 as the London Terminus for the Great Northern Railway and to accommodate the East Coast Main Line and was when it opened the biggest station in England. It replaced a temporary station next to Maiden Lane (now York Way)) that had been quickly constructed with the line’s arrival in London in 1850. The Midland Railway used it as well until St Pancras Station opened in 1868. The terminus was the fifth to be built in London and the second to be designed by Cubitt (Bricklayers Arms was finished in 1844). He set out to make a design that would “depend for its effect on the largeness of some of its features, its fitness for its purpose, and the characteristic expression of that purpose”. He achieved this with a straightforward functional building; twin train sheds, each 800 feet long and 105 feet wide, closed at the south end by a plain facade of London brick. In size, it was inspired by the 200 yards (180 m) long Moscow Riding Academy of 1825, The central tower, 112 feet high, holds a clock made by DENT for the Great Exhibition. Kings Cross was much admired when it opened and was said to wear a “magnificent appearance”-so much so that Edmund Denison, the Chairman of Great Northern, had to answer charges of extravagance from some shareholders. “It is” Denison riposted” the cheapest building for what it contains and will contain; that can be pointed out in London”.

Cubitt added the Great Northern Hotel in 1854, placing it to the west of the station on a curved site.

Towards the end of the 19th century Kings Cross was handling about 250 trains daily. It came under ownership of the London and North Eastern Railway as part of the Big Four grouping in 1923, who introduced famous services such as the Flying Scotsman and locomotives such as Mallard. The station complex was redeveloped in the 1970s, simplifying the layout and providing electric suburban services, and it became a major terminus for the high-speed InterCity 125. As of 2017, long-distance trains from King’s Cross are run by Virgin Trains East Coast to Edinburgh and Glasgow via York and Newcastle. The other long-distance operators include Hull Trains and Grand Central. In addition, Great Northern runs surburban commuter trains in and around north London.

In the late 20th century, the area around the station became known for its seedy and downmarket character, and was used as a backdrop for several films as a result. There was major redevelopment in the 21st century, including restoration of the original roof, and the station became well known for its association with the Harry Potter books and films, particularly the fictional Platform 9 ¾.

Steve Welsh

St Pancras Gasholders

The St Pancras gasholders have been listed, resited and repurposed. No 12 is now a park and the gasholder triplet has been converted into luxury apartments. They were ordered in 1860 and built gradually over the next seven years. Their closeness and the ‘triplet’ effect is merely a device to save space on a very limited site. One of the holders had not been in use since bomb damage in World War II and the visible framework is purely decorative. As early as 1862 they had drawn comments from locals – in particular a Mr. John Butler of 13 Spanns Buildings Agar Town, saying that ‘he would like to know to whom he is to look for compensation for the injury done to his house by the erection of those frightful things opposite’. He was followed by a Sam Sawyer, grocer and Chandler of 10 Spanns Buildings, who said ‘his business has been injured by the erection of the new gasholders. Spanns Buildings would soon be under the railway lines.

Gasholders were once common sights in towns and villages across the country but with the advent of North Sea Gas and more sophisticated pipe networks the need to store locally produced coal gas no longer existed and by the late 20th century these icons of the industrial revolution were disappearing at a rapid rate.

It had been known from the 17th century that if coal was heated in the absence of air a flammable gas was produced. The Soho manufactory in Birmingham was an early pioneering enterprise in the Industrial revolution. William Murdoch had joined Boulton and Watt, at the Soho manufactory in 1777, and in 1792 he built a retort to heat coal and produced gas that illuminated his home and office in Redruth. The system, however, lacked a storage method. James Watt Junior adapted a Lavoisier gazomètre for this purpose. A gasometer was incorporated into the first small gasworks built for the Soho manufactory in 1798.

Lavoisier had isolated oxygen in Paris and had designed a simple storage device consisting of a bladder contained in a wooden tub with a spring loaded diaphragm in the base to expand and contract with the volume of gas and a counterweight at the top. Joseph Priestly and Thomas Beddoes were also closely involved in the early history of isolating gases and as with so many inventions of the time a use in medical treatment was tried. A pneumatic institution was founded in Bristol giving patients treatment with oxygen but also nitrous oxide (discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy) and carbon dioxide. James Watt’s daughter had died of tuberculosis and when his son became unwell he took him to the Pneumatic Institution in Bristol for pioneering treatment. Watt helped to design many of their devices for delivering and storing gases for patients.

The potential uses of coal gas were realised early in the 19th century. The first public street lighting with gas was demonstrated in Pall Mall on January 28, 1807, by Frederick Albert Winser. In 1812, Parliament granted a charter to the London and Westminster Gas. Light and Coke Company, and the first gas company in the world came into being. Less than two years later, on December 31, 1813, the New Westminster Bridge was lit by gas

As artificial lighting became more common, desire grew for it to become readily available to the public. This was in part because towns became much safer places to travel around after gas lamps were installed in the streets, reducing crime rates. Gas lighting in factories meant they could work continuously over 24 hours, resulting in increased production. Successful commercial production and supply needed a method to store the gas and equalise the pressure in the system.

A gas holder provided storage for the purified, metered gas. It acted as a buffer, removing the need for continuous gas production. The weight of the gas holder lift (cap) controlled the pressure of the gas in the mains, and provided back pressure for the gas-making plant.

A watered gas holder consisted of two parts: a deep tank of water that was used to provide a seal, and a vessel that rose above the water as the gas volume increased. The telescopic gas holder was first invented as early as 1824, the cup and dip (grip) seal was patented by Hutchinson in 1833

The benefits of the greatly increased storage the holders provided for local gas works were soon appreciated, and gas holders were built all around the country in great quantities from the middle of the century. The large gas holders at Kings Cross were built in the 1860s to provide gas storage for a large part of London.

The Regent’s canal provided an easy route into the area for large volumes of coal and the St Pancras gas works was opened by Sir William Congreve on 16th June 1823. The works was probably designed by Samuel Clegg. Once open and in business in 1824, ‘Pancras Station’ became the headquarters works of the Imperial Gaslight and Coke Company. It was said however that the works ‘reached their greatest perfection’ in the 1860s and 1870s under John Methven and his successor, John Clark. The area surrounding the works became less and less salubrious as time went on – to which the workplace pigsty must have contributed. Dust shoots, chemical works, and in time railways and their goods depot came to the area.

By 1860 the works had six retort houses and covered eleven acres it was claimed by the Imperial, to be the largest and the best gas works in the country – if not the world!

The original site was that portion south of Goods Way (once known as Wharf Road and ran only as far as what is now Camley Street) and north of Battle Bridge Road (once Suffolk Street). To the east of the works the railway was built and beyond that ran York Way. From here ran an entrance into the works along a road known as Congreve Street. A gas holder still stood on this site in the 1990s and has now been moved to form Gasholder Park.

Before the construction of Goods Way, from what is now Camley Street, the northern boundary was formed by the canal. A basin was built off the canal into the works and a large unloading pier was built across it. In due course a connection from the railway was made for rail borne coal deliveries. However, as each new rail extension into the area was planned so the Canal Company made an improved offer to the Gas Company to persuade them to retain coal cartage with them.

By the 1870s the railways had begun to make a strong encroachment on the site. Railways to the left come from St.Pancras Station and to the right from Kings Cross. North is the canal and the area of the Kings Cross Railway Goods Depot.

In due course, the biggest and most modern gas works in the world became old and cramped. Under demolition it was thought that there was ‘no room to swing a cat anywhere and the wonder is that so much gas was produced’. The old equipment, so modern in its day, continued to be used until the late 19th century. By 1904 the only modern equipment was the coal unloading cranes. Wet lime purification of gas continued here for longer than anywhere else – perhaps again because of the shortage of space.

The gasworks remained in use until the late 20th Century before being decommissioned in 2000.

In 2011, the frame of the large gasometer was painstakingly dismantled and refurbished by a specialist engineering firm in Yorkshire. In 2013 it returned to King’s Cross to be re-erected on the north side of Regent’s Canal overlooking Camley Street Natural Park and St Pancras Basin. Here it sits in new landscaping with paths leading down to the canal towpath.


  1. Http://
  4. The History of the Gasholder presentation by Dr Russell Thomas British Library 16/09/2014
  5. Grace’s Guide to Industrial History

Dilys Cowan

British Library

The British Library was created on 1 July 1973 as a result of the British Library Act 1972. Prior to this, the national library was part of the British Library, which provided the bulk of the holdings of the new library, alongside smaller organisation such as the National Central Library, the National Lending Library for Science and Technology and the British National Bibliography 

In 1974 functions previously exercised by the Office for Scientific and Technical Information were taken over; in 1982 the India Office Library and Records and the HMSO Binderies became British Library responsibilities. In 1983, the Library absorbed the National Sound Archive, which holds many sound and video recordings, with over a million discs and thousands of tapes.

The core of the Library’s historical collections is based on a series of donations and acquisitions from the 18th century, known as the “foundation collections”. These include the books and manuscripts of Sir Robert Cotton, Sir Hans Sloane, Robert Harley and the Kings Library  of King George III, as well as the Old Royal Library donated by King George II 

For many years its collections were dispersed in various buildings around central London, in places such as Bloomsbury (within the British Museum), Chancery Lane, Bayswater, and Holborn with an inter library lending centre at Boston Spa, Wetherby in West Yorkshire (situated on Thorp Arch Trading Estate) and the newspaper library at Colindale, north-west London.

Initial plans for the British Library required demolition of an integral part of Bloomsbury – a seven-acre swathe of streets immediately in front of the Museum, so that the Library could be situated directly opposite. After a long and hard-fought campaign led by Dr George Wagner, this decision was overturned and the library was instead constructed on a site at Euston Road next to St Pancras Railway Station.

From 1997 to 2009 the main collection was housed in this single new building and the collection of British and overseas newspapers were housed at Colindale. In July 2008 the Library announced that it would be moving low-use items to a new storage facility in Boston Spa in Yorkshire and that it planned to close the newspaper library at Colindale, ahead of a later move to a similar facility on the same site From January 2009 to April 2012 over 200 km of material was moved to the Additional Storage Building and is now delivered to British Library Reading Rooms in London on request by a daily shuttle service.

Construction work on the Newspaper Storage Building was completed in 2013 and the newspaper library at Colindale closed on 8 November 2013. The collection has now been split between the St Pancras and Boston Spa sites. The British Library Document Supply Service (BLDSS) and the Library’s Document Supply Collection are based on the same site in Boston Spa. Collections housed in Yorkshire, comprising low-use material and the newspaper and Document Supply collections, make up around 70% of the total material the library holds The Library previously had a book storage depot in Woolwich, south-east London, which is no longer in use.

The new library was designed especially for the purpose by the architect Colin St John Wilson who faced considerable criticism from Prince Charles. Facing Euston Road is a large piazza that includes pieces of public art, such as large sculptures by Eduardo Paolozzi (a bronze statue based on William Blake‘s study of Isaac Newton) and Antony Gormley. It is the largest public building constructed in the United Kingdom in the 20th century

In the middle of the building is a six-storey glass tower inspired by a similar structure in the Beinecke Library, containing the King’s Library with 65,000 printed volumes along with other pamphlets, manuscripts and maps collected by King George III between 1763 and 1820.

The building was Grade I listed on 1 August 2015

Dilys Cowan

Robert Falcon Scott

Scott was born on 6 June 1868, the third of six children and elder son of John Edward, a brewer and magistrate, and Hannah (née Cuming). John Scott’s prosperity came from the ownership of a small Plymouth brewery which he had inherited from his father so Scott’s early childhood years were spent in comfort. In accordance with the family’s tradition Scott and his younger brother Archie were predestined for careers in the armed services and Scott having passed his exams began his naval career in 1881, as a 13-year-old cadet.

In July 1883, Scott passed out of naval college and went to South Africa followed by the West Indies and in St Kitts he had his first encounter with Clements Markham, then Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society. He took a shine to Scott and would loom large in Scott’s later career. That career progressed smoothly until 1894 when Scott learned of a financial calamity that had overtaken his family. His father, John, had sold the brewery and invested the proceeds unwisely,lost all his capital and was now virtually bankrupt. Aged 63, and in poor health, he was forced to take a job as a brewery manager and move his family but three years later died of heart disease. His mother and her two unmarried daughters now relied entirely on the service pay of Scott and the salary of younger brother Archie, who had left the army for a higher-paid post in the colonial service But he died a year later of typhoid so the whole financial responsibility for the family rested on Scott.

Promotion, and the extra income this would bring, now became a matter of considerable concern to Scott. In the Royal Navy however, opportunities for career advancement were both limited and keenly sought after by ambitious officers. However in June 1899, while home on leave, he had a chance encounter in a London street with Clements Markham, who was now knighted and President of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), and learned for the first time of an impending Antarctic expedition with the Discovery, under the auspices of the RGS. It was the opportunity for an early command and a chance to distinguish himself! Scott volunteered to lead the expedition and Markham supported him.

The British National Antarctic Expedition, later known as the Discovery Expedition, was a joint enterprise of the RGS and the Royal Society. A long-cherished dream of Markham’s, it required all of his skills and cunning to bring the expedition to fruition, under naval command and largely staffed by naval personnel. Scott was given overall command,and was promoted to the rank of commander before Discovery sailed for the Antarctic on 6 August 1901.Edward VII, who showed a keen interest in the expedition, visited the day before the ship left British shores and during the visit appointed Scott a Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO), his personal gift.

Experience of Antarctic or Arctic waters was almost entirely lacking within the 50-strong party and there was very little special training in equipment or techniques before the ship set sail. Dogs were taken, as were skis, but the dogs succumbed to disease in the first season. Nevertheless, the dogs’ performance impressed Scott, and, despite moral qualms, he implemented the principle of slaughtering dogs for dog-food to increase their range. The expedition had both scientific and exploration objectives; the latter included a long journey south, in the direction of the South Pole. This march, undertaken by Scott, Ernest Shackleton and Edward Wilson took them to latitude about 530 miles from the pole. The second year showed improvements in technique and achievement, culminating in Scott’s western journey which led to the discovery of the Polar Plateau on which the South Pole is located. This has been described by one writer as “one of the great polar journeys”. At the end of the expedition it took the combined efforts of two relief ships and the use of explosives to free Discovery from the ice in 1904.

Discovery returned to Britain in September 1904. The expedition had caught the public imagination, and Scott became a popular hero. He was awarded a cluster of honours and medals, including many from overseas, and was promoted to the rank of captain. The King invited him to Balmoral and promoted him a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order. Scott’s next year was crowded. He was occupied with public receptions, lectures and the writing of the expedition record. In January 1906, he resumed his full-time naval career becoming a flag-captain.

Scott, who because of his Discovery fame had entered Edwardian society, first met Kathleen Bruce early in 1907 at a private luncheon party. She was a sculptress, socialite and cosmopolitan who had studied under Rodin. Her initial meeting with Scott was brief, but when they met again later that year, the mutual attraction was obvious. A stormy courtship followed; Scott was not her only suitor and his absences at sea did not assist his cause. However, Scott’s persistence was rewarded and on 2 September 1908, at the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace, the wedding took place. They had one child, Peter Markham Scott, born 14 September 1909, who was to found the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Shackleton had returned from the Antarctic having narrowly failed to reach the Pole, and this gave Scott the impetus to proceed with plans for his second Antarctic expedition. In December he was released on half-pay, to take up the full-time command of the British Antarctic Expedition 1910, to be known as the Terra Nova Expedition from its ship, Terra Nova.

It was the expressed hope of the RGS that this expedition would be “scientific primarily, with exploration and the Pole as secondary objects” but, unlike the Discovery Expedition, neither they nor the Royal Society were in charge this time. In his expedition prospectus, Scott stated that its main objective was “to reach the South Pole, and to secure for the British Empire the honour of this achievement”. Scott had, as Markham observed, been “bitten by the Pole mania”.

On 15 June 1910, Scott’s ship Terra Nova, an old converted whaler, set sail from Cardiff. Scott meanwhile was fundraising in Britain and joined the ship later in South Africa. Arriving in Melbourne in October, Scott received a telegram from Amundsen stating: “Beg leave to inform you “Fram” proceeding Antarctic Amundsen”, possibly indicating that Scott faced a race to the pole!

The expedition suffered a series of early misfortunes which hampered the first season’s work and impaired preparations for the main polar march. Deteriorating weather conditions and weak, unacclimatised ponies affected the initial depot-laying journey, so that the expedition’s main supply point was laid 35 miles (56 km) north of its planned location. Lawrence Oats, in charge of the ponies, advised Scott to kill ponies for food and advance the depot which Scott refused to do. Oates is reported as saying to Scott, “Sir, I’m afraid you’ll come to regret not taking my advice.” The ponies that had been chosen proved mostly of poor quality, and ill-suited to prolonged Antarctic work. Four ponies died during this journey either from the cold or because they slowed the team down and were shot.

On its return to base, the expedition learned of the presence of Amundsen, camped with his crew and a large contingent of dogs in the Bay of Whales, 200 miles (320 km) to their east Scott conceded that his ponies would not be able to start early enough in the season to compete with Amundsen’s cold-tolerant dog teams for the pole, and also acknowledged that the Norwegian’s base was closer to the pole by 60 miles. Oats was right the ponies were a mistake!

Scott outlined his plans for the southern journey to the entire shore party, leaving open who would form the final polar team, according to their performance during the polar travel. Eleven days before Scott’s teams set off towards the pole, Scott gave the dog driver precise written orders at Cape Evans dated 20 October 1911 to secure his speedy return from the pole using dogs. These orders were not complied with!

The march south began on 1 November 1911, a caravan of mixed transport groups (motors, dogs, horses), with loaded sledges, travelling at different rates, all designed to support a final group of four men who would make a dash for the Pole. The southbound party steadily reduced in size as successive support teams turned back. Scientific work continued as Scott’s party discovered plant fossils, proving Antarctica was once forested and joined to other continents. By 4 January 1912, the last two four-man groups had reached 87° 34′ S. Scott announced his decision: five men (Scott, Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oats and Edgar Evans) would go forward, the other three would return. The chosen group marched on, reaching the Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that Amundsen had preceded them by five weeks. Scott’s anguish is indicated in his diary: “The worst has happened”; “All the day dreams must go”; “Great God! This is an awful place”.

The deflated party began the 800-mile (1,300 km) return journey on 19 January. The party made good progress despite poor weather, and had completed the Polar Plateau stage of their journey, approximately 300 miles (500 km), by 7 February. In the following days, as the party made the 100-mile (160 km) descent of the Beardmore Glacier, the physical condition of Edgar Evans, which Scott had noted with concern as early as 23 January, declined sharply and two falls within 10 days caused his death.

Meanwhile, back at Cape Evans, the Terra Nova arrived at the beginning of February, but Scott’s orders for meeting him with the dogs did not take place. Scott reached the meeting point for the dog teams, three days ahead of schedule, noting in his diary for 27 February 1912 “We are naturally always discussing possibility of meeting dogs, where and when, etc. It is a critical position. We may find ourselves in safety at the next depot, but there is a horrid element of doubt.” By 10 March the temperature had dropped unexpectedly to below −40 °C (−40 °F), and it became evident the dog teams were not coming: “The dogs which would have been our salvation have evidently failed. Meares [the dog-driver] had a bad trip home I suppose. It’s a miserable jumble.”

With 400 miles (670 km) still to travel across the Ross Ice Shelf, Scott’s party’s prospects steadily worsened as, with deteriorating weather, a puzzling lack of fuel in the depots, hunger and exhaustion, they struggled northward. On 16th March, Oates, whose toes had become frostbitten, voluntarily left the tent and walked to his death. Scott wrote that Oates’ last words were “I am just going outside and may be some time”.

After walking 20 miles farther despite Scott’s toes now becoming frostbitten, the three remaining men made their final camp on 19 March, 11 miles (18 km) short of the next depot and 150 miles from their base camp. The next day a fierce blizzard prevented their making any progress. During the next nine days, as their supplies ran out, and with storms still raging outside the tent, Scott and his companions wrote their farewell letters. Scott gave up his diary after 23 March, save for a final entry on 29 March, with its concluding words: “Last entry-. for God’s sake look after our people”. He left letters to Wilson’s mother, Bowers’ mother, a string of notables, his own mother and his wife. He also wrote his “Message to the Public”, primarily a vindication of the expedition’s organisation and conduct in which the party’s failure is attributed to weather and other misfortunes, but ending on an inspirational note, with these words:

“We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last … Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for”.

Scott is presumed to have died on 29 March 1912 or possibly one day later. The positions of the bodies in the tent when it was discovered eight months later on 12th November 1912 suggested that Scott was the last of the three to die. Their records were retrieved! Their final camp became their tomb; a high cairn of snow was erected over it, topped by a roughly fashioned cross. A century of storms and snow have now covered the cairn and tent, which are now encased in the Ross Ice Shelf as it inches towards the Ross Sea.

The world was informed of the tragedy when Terra Nova reached New Zealand, on 10 February 1913. Within days, Scott became a national icon. A nationalistic spirit was aroused. A memorial service at St Paul’s was held on14 February. The expedition’s survivors were suitably honoured on their return, with polar medals and promotions for the naval personnel. In place of the knighthood that Scott must have received had he survived, Kathleen Scott was granted the rank and precedence of a widow of a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. In 1922, she married Edward Hilton Young, later Lord Kennet (rendering her Lady Kennet), and remained a doughty defender of Scott’s reputation until she died in 1947.

The response to Scott’s final plea on behalf of the dependents of the dead was enormous by the standards of the day. The Mansion House Scott Memorial Fund closed at £75,000 (2009 approximation £5.5 million). This was not equally distributed; Scott’s widow, son, mother and sisters received a total of £18,000 (£1.3 million). Wilson’s widow got £8,500 (£600,000) and Bowers’ mother £4,500 (£330,000). Edgar Evans’s widow, children, and mother received £1,500 (£109,000) between them.

In the dozen years following the disaster, more than 30 monuments and memorials were set up in Britain alone. These ranged from simple relics (e.g., Scott’s sledging flag in Exeter Cathedral) to the foundation of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge. Many more were established in other parts of the world, including a statue sculpted by Scott’s widow for his New Zealand base in Christchurch. However, in the closing decades of the 20th century, Scott became a figure of controversy, with questions raised about his competence and character. Commentators in the 21st century have regarded Scott more positively after assessing the temperature drop below −40 °C (−40 °F) in March 1912, and after re-discovering Scott’s written orders of October 1911, in which he had instructed the dog teams to meet and assist him on the return trip.

Steve Welsh


A perfectly preserved fruitcake taken to Antartica by team members in Captain Scott’s expedition 106 years ago has been found near the South Pole.  Baked by former Reading-based biscuit makers Huntley & Palmer, it was on a shelf in a remote hut at Cape Adare still wrapped in paper and inside a tin.   12/7/17

Floris Perfumers

Are one of the most famous British Family Perfumers, finely crafting fragrances for Men, for Women and for the home.

It all started in 1730 when Floris founder Juan Famenias Floris and his wife Elizabeth began selling perfume, combs and shaving products in the elegant quarter of London’s St James. The Floris shop they opened at 89 Jermyn Street remains the heart of the business and is still run by their descendants today.

1820- Floris received their first Royal Warrant as Smooth Pointed Comb Maker to HM The King George IV.  Skill fully made combs were a specialty of Floris at this time and greatly valued by the company’s elite clientele. While living abroad during 1818 Mary Shelley, author of ‘Frankenstein’ and wife of the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, wrote to her friend Thomas Love Peacock in London asking him to send her in his next parcel “two hairbrushes and a small toothbrush” from Floris.

1851- the year of the world famous Great Exhibition. The exhibition was held in Hyde Park just a short walk from Jermyn Street. Spanish Mahogany showcases purchased at the exhibition are still in place today. There is also a price list, also from 1851, which contains some 112 different fragrances “For the Handkerchief”.

1863- Florence Nightingale had returned from the Crimean War, where through her work she became known as ‘The Lady with the Lamp’, and was busy setting up a training school for nurses at St. Thomas’ Hospital in Waterloo. In their Jermyn Street shop they display this treasured letter written by Florence Nightingale in 1863 to “Mr Floris” (James) thanking him for his “beautiful sweet-smelling nosegays”.

In 1870 Mary Anne Floris married James R.D. Bodenham. In July 1871 the first of their children was born. Shortly after this they settled in West London at ‘dear old Ivy Lodge’ the family home where they would continue to live for a further 50 years. The couple went on to have 16 children who enjoyed an idyllic upbringing full of many happy memories. In 1878 James and Mary Anne took over the family business from Mary Anne’s brother Joseph.

1930- a receipted invoice dated December 1934 for fragrances purchased by Winston Churchill including Special No.127 and Stephanotis, both of which are still available in the Floris Classic Collection. During the 1950s Floris increasingly exported orders to the United States where the brand was gaining popularity. A receipt in our collection dated December 1959 shows a purchase of Rose Geranium made for Marilyn Monroe Miller while she stayed at Beverly Hills Hotel, California. Floris products continued to be made by hand on the shop premises at 89 Jermyn Street. To satisfy increasing demand the family set up a factory in Devon, which was officially opened by HRH Princess Diana in 1989. It is here that all Floris products continue to be made.

In 2010 Floris celebrated their 280th anniversary. Unveiling an exclusive new eau de parfum ‘280’, the fragrance was released on a strictly limited basis with only 280 bottles made using the finest oils and ingredients from around the world. The floral oriental creation was inspired by the family’s rich heritage in perfumery. 2012- As Floris entered the 21st century, the family opened the doors to its second shop at the prestigious location of 147 Ebury Street, Belgravia. The new boutique offers the full Floris range, together with a Bespoke Perfumery service for its distinguished clientele. To celebrate the opening, Floris created a new Eau de Parfum “Ebury Street”, a sheer oriental floral fragrance with fruity notes and twist of anise and pink peppercorn.

Judy G-B

Charles Townley

He was an antiquarian and collector and a trustee of the British Museum born on 1 October 1737 at Towneley Hall near Burnley in Lancashire, the eldest child of William and Cecilia Towneley.

He was Because the family were Catholic, there were limited educational opportunities available in England, and so, in 1747, he and his brother Ralph were sent to be taught at the English College at Douai in northern France.

In 1753, Townley moved to Paris where he was tutored by the Reverend John Turberville Needham.  He was introduced into Paris society by his father’s uncle, the Chevalier John Towneley.    In 1758, Townley came of age and took control of the lands that he had inherited from his father. He was a good landlord, improving his estates, and enjoying the life of a country gentleman. He was also involved in the construction of the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

In 1767, Townley embarked upon the Grand Tour.

Whilst in Rome, he began to collect antiquities, particularly marbles. Initially he made some bad purchases, but he learnt through his experience and became a more discerning collector.

In 1771, Townley visited Italy again – Rome, Naples – Southern Italy and Sicily. Amongst the additions made to his collections on this visit was a marble bust thought to be of the nymph Clytie as well as a number of sculptures that he acquired through dealers such as Jenkins and Thomas Byres and also the painter / dealer Gavin Hamilton.

After returning to London, Townley continued to build his collections through Jenkins and Hamilton, especially with sculptures from Hamilton’s excavations. These included the marble Townley vase and the Townley Venus, which was controversially exported in two parts by Hamilton in order to avoid papal enquiry.

Townley spent another three months in Italy in 1777, mostly in Rome, buying from Hamilton, Jenkins and local dealers as before. After his return to London, Jenkins continued to send him antiquities, including a Roman marble copy of the bronze discus-thrower, Discobolus.

In 1778 Townley moved into 7 Park Street this had been specially designed for him by Samuel Wyatt to display his collections. Townley’s collection of marbles could rival any other in England and soon became a London visitor attraction. Townley welcomed visitors, either showing them round himself or, from about 1786, providing them with a catalogue of his collections. In 1783, Johan Zoffany painted Townley in his Park Street library amongst an imaginary arrangement of some of his sculptures, together with three colleagues: Charles Greville, Thomas Astle and  Pierre François Hugues, known as Baron d’Hancarville, who spent years sponging off Townley whilst he catalogued his marbles.

The 1780 Gordon Riots caused great panic amongst the Catholics in London. Fearing an attack on his house, Townley fled from Park Street. Some sources say that he took the Bust of Clytie to his carriage with him; others doubt whether this was physically possible. Townley was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and a member of the Society of Dilettanti in 1786 and a fellow of the Royal Society in 1791. He was elected a trustee of the British Museum in 1791 and was able to influence the design for the planned extension to the museum.

Despite the time that Townley devoted to study and his expertise in antiquities, his only printed work was a dissertation on a Roman helmet.
Townley never married. perhaps he was married to his collections. He was certainly a compulsive collector. According to a financial statement from 1779, he had spent about £11,600 on antiquities. The bust of Clytie was his favourite marble and Sir Henry Ellis recorded that “he used to call it his wife” When at his house in Park Street, he lived simply with few servants and no carriage; all available space was given over to housing his collections. But he was not parsimonious; he gave excellent Sunday dinners to his friends. He was also a talented artist and some of his sculptures are now known only from the drawings he made of them. Most of these drawings are now owned by the British Museum.

Townley died on 3 January 1805 at his house in Park Street in London and was buried in the family vault in St Peter’s Church, Burnley, on 17 January. He left his marbles in trust for his heir, providing that they build a gallery to display them, or otherwise, to the British Museum. In the end, all the marbles, with some terracottas and bronzes, were sold to the British Museum for £20,000. This was to become the core of the collection at the British Museum.


Hart’s Corner

On the 8th March 1945 at 11:30am one of the last V2 rockets to hit London landed at the corner of Charterhouse Street and Farringdon Rd, a part of Smithfield Market known as Hart’s corner. V2s were rockets which flew at 3,600mph, almost five times the speed of sound, loaded with a ton of explosives. They could not be seen or heard so any warnings were impossible. In all, 1,115 were to reach Britain, mainly around London and its suburbs as their range was about 215 miles and they were launched from Holland.

The Rocket penetrated to the railway tunnels which lie beneath this area and were originally used as sidings for the market. There was a huge explosion which was heard all over London and the market buildings then collapsed into the void below. A massive crater formed filled with the rubble of the devastated buildings. The market was very busy at this time with both market workers and those queuing for produce. Many of the victims of this V2 fell through the floor of the market into the railway below. In all 110 people were to die in this attack and many more were seriously injured. There were many women and children amongst the dead who had gone to the market to try and obtain one of a consignment of rabbits that had gone on sale.

Hart’s corner had been designed by Sir Horace Jones and originally was a general market for fruit and vegetables, then fish, and finally became part of the meat market. The original building was often known as the Japanese village due to the beauty of its lanterned roof and many shuttered windows. Jones had designed the general market with phoenix columns to support the roof, a new design from 1862 which allowed a bigger internal space to be constructed. The other feature was a large domed roof which allowed better natural light within the building.

Jones’s beautiful building was irretrievably damaged by the bomb. The surviving section of the Harts Corner was subsequently pulled down, and later the corner was rebuilt and Jones’ pavilion and entrance stairs were replaced with a modern concrete structure of modern, clean lines and uncluttered appearance. A further blight to the area was a fire in 1958 which destroyed the poultry market and the replacement building from 1963 disrupts the sense of continuity of the Victorian market buildings.

In recent years this part of Smithfield has suffered from planning blight. Several schemes have been proposed and either been rejected or withdrawn. It had proved difficult for developers to satisfy the requirements to preserve and provide sympathetic additions to the Victorian buildings and meet modern retail needs as well as providing a capital return on investment.

The latest plan is that this site will provide the new home for the Museum of London. The design competition has been won by Asif Khan and Stanford. Their plan is to have a large dome and the galleries to be underground using some of the Victorian railway tunnels and railway as exhibition space. It may even be possible to gaze at the long hidden river Fleet.

Dilys Cowan

Bonnie Prince Charlie

During his life he spent just 14 months on British soil, in 1745-6, and a brief clandestine return visit in 1750. The story of the Jacobites is often reduced to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the 1745 rebellion, with limited consideration of what Charles was actually fighting for. Behind that is the Stuart claim to the three kingdoms.

The Stuart dynasty had ruled Scotland since 1371. With the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England at the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the Stuarts expanded their kingdom. This was still the age of ‘divine right’ monarchy – the Stuarts believed they were answerable only to God. Charles, a firm believer in divine right monarchy, was executed at the end of the English Civil War. The Stuart line was restored with Charles II, who ruled until his death in 1685.

Charles II was succeeded by his younger brother, James VII of Scotland and II of England. James had secretly converted to Catholicism, as the revelation of his faith would jar with an increasingly Protestant Britain. The birth of a male heir raised the prospect of a continuing Catholic succession. His Protestant daughter Mary was no longer his heir.

A Dutch force led by Mary’s husband, William of Orange, was invited to England to restore Mary to her rightful place. The so-called Glorious Revolution, which installed William and Mary on the throne, resulted in James’s flight to exile in France.

James then tried to reclaim his throne, with what was effectively the first Jacobite rising in 1689. It led to violence in Ireland, where James’ (largely Catholic) supporters were finally beaten at the Battle of the Boyne and in Scotland where, despite a victory at Killiecrankie, military conflict proved inconclusive. The Scottish Parliament agreed to adopt William as their king in favour of James.

The Highlands, where the clan chiefs’ old oaths were to the Scottish Stuart line, had been the focal point of rising in Scotland. So the chiefs were ordered to swear fealty to their new king, William. All did this bar the MacDonalds, who missed an arbitrary deadline. Many were killed by a government force billeted with them, an act which appalled many and increased Jacobite support.

The Glencoe Massacre of 1692 is one of the most notorious episodes in Scottish history and the outcry over it alarmed King William. The commission of inquiry, perhaps unsurprisingly, found there was nothing in the king’s instructions to warrant the slaughter.

After being deposed in 1688, James VII and II went into exile for the rest of his days, along with his family, including the infant prince, James Francis Stuart. He was welcomed as a guest of his cousin, King Louis XIV at Saint Germain-en-Laye, which the French king had vacated to move into Versailles. From there, the Stuarts established a court in exile, receiving visitors, conducting international relations and dispensing honours. When James VII and II died in 1701, Louis recognised his son as James VIII and III, King of Scotland, England and Ireland.

This was not a title King William acknowledged. Further challenges to the British throne were mounted in 1708, 1715 and 1719. After the failure of the 1715 rising, the death of Louis XIV and the Treaty of Utrecht between Britain and France, James was obliged to leave France, settling in Rome in 1719. Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Maria Stuart was born in Rome the following year. Charles was raised as a king-in-waiting, successor to his father, James. He was installed by his father with the chivalric orders of both Scotland and England the Order of the Thistle and the Order of the Garter. James, who still believed himself to be the king, appointed Charles as his Prince Regent in 1743 and authorised him to act for his father in all things. He was resolved to reclaim the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland for his father.

The Jacobites, named after the latin for James – Jacobus – are often personified as a Scottish movement. The truth is rather more complex. There was Jacobite support and sympathy in England although, to Charles Stuart’s chagrin, that did not translate into significant military or overt political support in the 1745 rebellion. In addition, promised military aid from France and Sweden failed to materialise.

Nevertheless, the Jacobite army that took the field at Culloden near Inverness – the decisive battle of the ’45 – was not solely Highland. It also had Irish and French units. There was considerable opposition to the Jacobites within Scotland.

Bonnie Prince Charlie held court at Holyrood Palace for six weeks in 1745 but, just the length of the Royal Mile away, Edinburgh Castle remained a fortified government garrison throughout. Glasgow remained loyal to the Hanoverians, who were by now on the thrones of Scotland and England. This division is sometimes simplified to Highlanders and Lowlanders but there was strong Jacobite support in Aberdeen, Perth and Fife, and indeed some Highlanders fought on the government side.

It was also not a matter of Protestant v Catholic in Scotland – many of Charles’ most prominent Scottish supporters were actually Episcopalian. The Duke of Cumberland, who commanded the Hanoverian army at Culloden, was the third son of King George.

He is vilified in the popular historical memory for the brutal crackdowns across the Highlands after Culloden, when the traditional right to bear arms and the wearing of tartan and were suppressed as the British government resolved to wipe out the social, cultural and military infrastructure of clan society, which was perceived as a source of loyalty to the Stuarts. Some Lowlanders welcomed the Duke, and he was granted the freedom of both Glasgow and Edinburgh.

By now, Jacobitism was no longer a threat to the House of Hanover, more almost a gentleman’s club, still toasting the kings-over-the-water but, politically and militarily spent. By this time, after the brutality of the post-Culloden years, efforts were being made to assimilate or rehabilitate (depending on your point of view) the reputation of the Highlander into the emergent British imperial identity, with the revoking of the ban on tartan and the incorporation of the Highland regiments into the British Army. Charles died in 1788, and was almost instantaneously the subject of this romantic memorial tradition in English – it already existed in Gaelic – which grew with Burns, Scott and others.

He lived for another 42 years after the battle of Culloden of 1746 but was never able to muster support for any further attempts to claim the throne. Charles became increasingly frustrated and in time embittered by lack of support and betrayal, as he saw it, by his own father and his younger brother, Henry Benedict. With James’ blessing and support, Henry joined the Catholic Church. This was a grievous blow to Charles, who would wish to distance the Stuarts from the Catholic faith in order to generate support in England.

He even converted to Anglicanism during a clandestine visit to London in 1750. It is certain that he was in London in 1750, and that at this time he declared himself a protestant, under the idea that by so doing he would greatly improve his chance of obtaining the English crown. Evidence has also presented itself that he was in London in 1752 and 1754 to rouse the English Jacobites into action, but without success. Charles never spoke to his father again

James, the Old Pretender, was buried with full state honours in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 1766, the only king accorded this honour. Charles died in Rome on 31 January 1788, aged 68, of a stroke, leaving his younger brother, Henry, Cardinal York as the last male heir in the Stuart succession. Despite being in no position to prosecute the claim, he never renounced it

Charles was first buried in the Frascati Cathedral where his brother Henry was bishop. At Henry’s death in 1807, Charles’s remains (except his heart) were moved to the crypt of Saint Peter’s in the Vatican where they were laid to rest next to those of his brother and his father. His mother is also buried in Saint Peter’s Basilica. His heart remained in Frascati Cathedral, where it is contained in a small urn beneath the floor under a monument.

Steve Welsh

Telephone Box – Giltspur Street

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson first met at Bart’s in A Study in Scarlett.

This phone box is another tribute to the famous detectives and it is often bedecked with tributes to Sherlock Holmes.

In the last series of the BBC’s Sherlock, the hero fell to his apparent death from the roof of the hospital. Although the final scene revealed that trickery was afoot, it hasn’t stopped fans of the sleuth leaving personal messages here.

Although most of the notes are tongue-in-cheek, an informal shrine at this site is a wonderful idea, and very much in keeping with the long tradition of pretending Holmes is a real man, rather than a fiction.

This K2 kiosk was one of Britain’s first red Telephone Boxes. It was the winning design from a 1924 competition organised by The Royal Fine Art Commission to find a design for a national phone box.

Designed by British architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who was also famous for

  • Liverpool Cathedral
  • Charterhouse School Chapel, the biggest War Memorial in the UK
  • Waterloo Bridge
  • Battersea Power Station

The first K2 kiosks were installed in Kensington and Holborn in central London in 1926 and over the next nine years some 1,700 examples were installed mostly in London.

The design of the K2 features many influences of classical architecture.

It is constructed of cast-iron sections bolted together, standing on a concrete base.

It is a four-sided rectangular box with a domed roof formed by segmental pediments, with reeded mouldings.

The pediments carry a pierced Tudor crown for ventilation.

On three sides of the kiosk, are six rows of three small rectangular panes of glass; the equivalent back panel is blank.

There is reeded moulding around the window panel corresponding to the dimensions of the door opening, disguising that there is an opening on one side only.

The door is of teak, with a metal “cup” handle. For weatherproofing there is a drip cap above the door. The roof of the kiosk is domed,

Giles Gilbert Scott originally proposed that the K2 be painted silver, with a blue-green interior. However, the General Post Office chose red to make them easy to spot.

Just over 200 examples of the K2 remain on British streets and English Heritage has given Grade II listing status to these.

Despite a reduction in their numbers in recent years, the traditional British red telephone kiosk can still be seen in many places throughout the UK, and in current or former British colonies around the world such as  Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltar.

In 2006 the K2 telephone box was voted one of Britain’s top 10 design icons, which included

  • the Mini,
  • Supermarine Spitfire, 
  • Harry Beck’s London Tube Map
  • The World Wide Web,
  •  Concorde,
  • and the AEC Routemaster

Due to a cost of £35 14s 0d per kiosk, a limited the number of boxes were installed, in addition, the K2 was a large kiosk and so was not only expensive to produce, but costly to transport. The General Post Office looked again to Scott for a kiosk with the strengths of the K2, but a more cost-effective design that could be installed nationwide.

Of the eight kiosk types introduced by the General Post Office, the K2 was the fifth-most populous type introduced, but the second-most populous type in terms of surviving kiosks. The most popular is the K6, which has a different window configuration so that people walking by can see who is inside the box.

Although production of the traditional boxes ended with the advent of the KX series in 1985, many still stand in Britain.

One of the most interesting I found on my trip to Settle. Which is described as possibly the smallest Art Gallery in the World.

SJG-B July 2017

Curtain Theatre

Was an Elizabethan playhouse located in Curtain Close, just outside the City. It opened in 1577, and continued staging plays until 1624. The Curtain was built some 200 yards south of London’s first playhouse, The Theatre, which had opened a year before, in 1576. It was called the “Curtain” because it was located near a plot of land called Curtain Close, not because of the sort of front curtain associated with modern theatres, but of its proximity of the City walls, curtain or curtain wall referring to the part of city walls between two bastions

Little is known of the plays performed at the Curtain or of the playing companies that performed there. Henry Lanman appears to have been its proprietor, who is described as a “gentleman.” In 1585, Lanman made an agreement with the proprietor of the Theatre, James Burbage, to use the Curtain as a supplementary house, or “easer,” to the more prestigious older playhouse.

From 1597 to 1599, it became the premier venue of Shakespeare’s Company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, who had been forced to leave their former playing space at The Theatre after the latter closed in 1596. It was the venue of several of Shakespeare’s plays, including Romeo and Juliet and Henry V. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men also performed Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour here in 1598, with Shakespeare in the cast. Later that same year Jonson gained a certain notoriety by killing actor Gabriel Spencer in a duel in nearby Hoxton Fields. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men departed the Curtain when the Globe Theatre, which they built to replace the Theatre, was ready for use in 1599.

For seven years Henry Lanman (owner of the Curtain) had an agreement with James Burbage (owner of the Theatre) that all profit would be shared between them. This deal is how many believe Lanman was able to afford to open the Curtain, the rest is all very unclear.

The London theatres, including the Curtain, were closed for much of the period from September 1592 to April 1594 due to the bubonic plague.

As far as is known, Lanman ran the Curtain as a private concern for the first phase of its existence; He died in 1606 and it is assumed that the theatre had been re-arranged into a shareholder’s enterprise before his death at some point. Thomas Pope, one of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, owned a share in the Curtain and left it to his heirs in his last will and testament in 1603. King’s Men member John Underwood did the same in 1624. The fact that both of these shareholders belonged to Shakespeare’s company may indicate that the re-organization of the Curtain occurred when the Lord Chamberlain’s Men were acting there.

Burbage’s pooling agreement had run out in 1592. The Curtain had been in use from 1577 until at least 1624, after which its ultimate fate is obscure as there is no record of it after 1627. A plaque marks its site today, at 18 Hewett Street off Curtain Road.

  1. Leeds Barroll focuses in Shakespeare studies: An annual gathering of Research, Criticism and Reviews on the fact that Henry Lanman had offered the Curtain as an easer to James Burbage, proprietor of the Theatre. Thereby, he assumes that Lanman’s business, the Curtain, must have been doing as well as Burbage’s business, the Theatre, since both, Lanman and Burbage, had agreed on a pooling arrangement for seven years in 1585, to pool profits. Otherwise, it would be very unwise of Burbage to pool profits if he did better in the first place. Thus, the suggestion is given that both proprietors were doing equal business. Even though the Curtain was closed sometime after 1624 without any clear causes, the issue of financial problems cannot be addressed to that event without evidence.

Historical records have always pointed to the Curtain Theatre being close to modern-day Curtain Road in Shoreditch, east London. In 2011, archaeologists from MOLA were undertaking exploratory excavation for The Stage Shoreditch when they came across the remains of the Curtain Theatre.

In May 2016 MOLA unveiled their initial findings from the detailed excavation of The Curtain. Archaeologists can now show that the playhouse appears to be a rectangular building, measuring approximately 22m x30m, rather than being polygonal. Early findings from the excavation, of what is one of Shakespeare’s least historically documented playhouses, suggest that the structure, in places, reused the walls of earlier buildings, with the back section of the playhouse being a new addition. Walls survive up to 1.5 metres high in places, and archaeologists have been able to identify the courtyard, where theatre-goers stood, and the inner walls, which held the galleries where wealthier audience members would have sat.

They have found artefacts including a fragmentary ceramic bird whistle, dating from the late 16th century. Bird whistles were children’s toys but in this context may have been used for sound effects in theatrical performances. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, staged at the Curtain Theatre in the late 16th century, there are numerous references to bird song, such as “That birds would sing and think it were not night”.

Once the dig is complete, the remains of the Curtain will be preserved in-situ, and the artefacts uncovered and records taken during the excavation will then be studied in detail by our specialists. A display of the finds will sit alongside the theatre remains as part of a cultural and visitor centre at the heart of the Stage, a new £750m mixed-use development backed by Cain Hoy and designed by architects Perkins+ Will, including 33,000 sq ft of retail, over 200,000 sq ft of office space, and more than 400 homes. The development will also feature over an acre of vibrant public space including a performance area and a park.

To showcase what will hopefully be Hackney’s first scheduled ancient monument the site of The Curtain Theatre will be transformed into a captivating tourist attraction that will allow residents to lose themselves in Shakespearean history. Featuring the preserved remains of The Curtain Theatre and a purpose-built heritage centre, visitors will also be able to take a break at the sunken amphitheatre or even watch a performance. Under current plans visitors will have a chance to walk on a glass platform just above the theatre remains, view objects from the dig and watch augmented reality of scenes from Shakespeare plays.

The Curtain Theatre features in the 1998 film Shakespeare in Love.

Steve Welsh