Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

Over the Academy’s history it has undergone many changes. From moving to its current location in 1905 to the introduction of the first stage management course, the re-opening of the re-furbished Gower/Malet Street site and the appointment, for the first time, of a Director of the Academy the history of RADA has been rich and varied.

In 1904 Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, the leading actor manager of the day, famous for his spectacular Shakespeare productions, established an Academy of Dramatic Art at His Majesty’s Theatre in the Haymarket and the following year the Academy moved to 62 Gower Street. Fees of six guineas a term were doubled the following year, except for the children of actors, who only paid half. A managing Council was established on which Tree was joined, among others, by Sir Johnston Forbes Robertson, Sir Arthur Wing Pinero and Sir James Barrie. Within a few years they were augmented by other major figures, including W.S. Gilbert, Irene Vanbrugh and, perhaps most significantly, George Bernard Shaw.

In 1912 Shaw donated the royalties from Pygmalion to RADA, allowing the Academy eventually to benefit substantially from the success of My Fair Lady. Shaw gave occasional lectures to the students, including one called ‘Elementary Economics for Actors’. Pre-First World War graduates included Athene Seyler, Robert Atkins and Cedric Hardwicke. During this period Beerbohm Tree took some forty Academy graduates into his company at His Majesty’s.

In 1920 the Academy was granted its Royal Charter and a year later a new theatre was built in Malet Street, backing on to the Gower Street premises. This was opened by the Prince of Wales. In 1923 John Gielgud, who would eventually become President and first Honorary Fellow of RADA, studied for a year at the Academy, playing 17 parts, including two Hamlets.

In 1924 the Academy received its first government subsidy in the form of a Treasury Grant of £500. In 1927 the two Georgian houses which make up the Gower Street site were replaced with a single new building and George Bernard Shaw donated £5,000 towards the cost. This was opened in 1931 by the Duchess of York. During World War Two, the Academy’s theatre was demolished during an air-raid. Public performances shifted to the City Literary Institute and students also toured with shows to the troops.

In 1950 George Bernard Shaw died and left one third of all his royalties to RADA. In 1954 the new Vanbrugh Theatre was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. During the late 50s and 60s the growth of the LEA grant systems ushered in the ‘new wave’ of actors including Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay, Glenda Jackson, John Hurt, Michael Williams and Anthony Hopkins. Also in the 60s a Stage Management course was introduced and the Vanbrugh Theatre Club and Specialist Technical Courses were established.

In 1972 Richard Attenborough becomes Chairman and in 77 the ‘Tree’ evenings, named in honour of RADA’s founder, were introduced with leading agents and casting directors invited to presentations by final year students in the Vanbrugh.

During this period another ‘new wave’ of actors emerges at the Academy. These included Jonathan Pryce, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Anton Lesser, Kenneth Branagh and Fiona Shaw. In 1999 HRH, The Princess of Wales, visited the Academy as President of the Council to install her predecessor, Sir John Gielgud, as RADA’s first Honorary Fellow.

The Academy invested the capital accrued from the Shaw bequest in the freehold of 18 Chenies Street, with the help of donations from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and British Telecommunications. In 1996 RADA received a £22.7m grant from the Arts Council National Lottery Board towards redeveloping the Academy’s headquarters. This included a complete re-build of the Vanbrugh Theatre and Malet Street premises. The Council established a committee to raise the necessary ‘matching’ partnership funding of £8m over four years.

In1997 the rebuilding of the Gower/Malet Street premises commenced and the Academy extended its portfolio of Short Courses for British actors and special courses for American and Japanese students in London. It was in 2000 that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II re-opened the Academy’s new and refurbished Gower Street/Malet Street building. RADA later became (with the London Contemporary Dance School) one of the two Founding Affiliates of Britain’s first higher education Conservatiore for Dance and Drama. RADA courses are validated by King’s College, London.

Lord Attenborough became President of RADA and the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance join the Conservatoire. In 2004 RADA celebrated its Centenary. LAMDA, National Centre for Circus Arts and Central School of Ballet join the Conservatoire for Dance & Drama.

RADA began to host premieres. In 2006 they hosted the UK premiere of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer that starred RADA graduate Ben Whishaw at the Curzon Mayfair. In 2009 it was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that starred RADA graduates Alan Rickman and Timothy Spall at the Mayfair. Nowadays the theatre moonlights as a part-time arts cinema. In 2011 the Academy’s first cinema screen officially opened based in the Jerwood Vanbrugh Theatre and presented recent releases, re-mastered classics, Q&A events, live broadcasts and much, much more.



Thomas Wakley (1795-1862)

Founding editor of the Lancet

Thomas Wakley was the founding editor of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, a member of parliament, a coroner and a strong voice for social reform. Today he is largely forgotten but featured as a Victorian ‘do-gooder’ in the BBC programme by Ian Hislop.

Thomas was the youngest of 11 children born to a farmer in Membury, Devon. The house, Land Farm, is still a family home and retains some features from the 18th century including the 3 seater WC placed over a running stream in the garden. The main source of information about him comes largely from a biography written in 1897 by Samuel Squire Spriggs. It has recently come to light from the study of East India company lists that he had a remarkable 17 month journey to Calcutta with the royal navy as an 11 year old boy. He did not discuss this as an adult but it is tempting to speculate that the hardship and cruelty observed on that voyage had a profound effect on his character.

Wakley chose to study medicine and was apprenticed initially to a druggist in Taunton, then to his brother in law Richard Phelps who was a surgeon apothecary in Beaminster and finally to a surgeon called William Coulson. In 1815 he moved to London and enrolled at the united hospitals of Guys and St.Thomas’s and qualified as a surgeon in 1817. He set up a practice in Regent Street and married Miss Goodchild, whose father was a merchant and a governor of St.Thomas’s hospital. He looked set for an uneventful moderately prosperous life but he had a combative personality and a zeal for reform.

The young Wakley was tall, well built and athletic. He enjoyed boxing, billiards and regularly walked from Devon to London. He was a clean living young man with a slightly puritanical bent who was unafraid to speak his mind. Consequently contemporary impressions of him varied depending on whether the author shared his views. He was variously described as a provincial with an accent to match or: – ‘a zealous advocate of the working classes’ and an ‘honest denouncer of invidious distinctions betwixt rich and poor’

In August 1820 he was seriously assaulted and his house and medical practice in Argyle Street was set on fire and destroyed. It is suggested that he was targeted by supporters of the Cato Street gang. In the wake of the arson attack there was a legal battle with the insurance company who accused him of setting fire to his own house. The Wakleys led a nomadic existence eventually settling down in the unfashionable Norfolk Street much to the distress of the genteel Mrs Wakley. He decided to give up clinical practice and to seek, via journalism, change in the way medicine was organised and taught.

Most medical journals in the 18th and early 19th centuries were short lived with the exception of the New England Journal of Medicine founded in the USA in 1812. It is hinted at in an unfinished biography of Wakley by Mary Bostetter that Wakley met the editor, Walter Channing, in 1823 when he was visiting London with his young pregnant wife who was dying of tuberculosis.

The Lancet was started in 1823 with William Cobbett (journalist), William Lawrence, James Wardrop and a libel lawyer as associates. The name lancet refers to the surgical instrument use to lance boils but also describes a church window and from the start the journal set out to tackle corruption in Medicine. Important Lancet campaigns included reform of the royal College of Surgeons and other Royal Colleges, exposure of mishaps at London teaching hospitals, campaigns to ensure the proper supply of bodies for dissection, the establishment of a medical register and the publication of the text of lectures given by hospital staff. The latter activity caused great annoyance as staff could earn substantial fees from attendance at lectures. The journal had initially had a gossip column, theatre reviews and chess problems but these were soon dropped. Wakley campaigned against those he regarded as quacks including the English Homeopathic association. His journal publicised and deplored the adulteration of food, the serious failings of the poor law and problems with the coroner’s courts. The reporting of advances in clinical practice came much later in the journal’s history. However, Wackley’s writing obviously struck a chord. He soon found a ready paying readership and the circulation quickly reached 8000.

It is not surprising that a man of such conviction and passion would want to stand for parliament. The Finsbury parliamentary constituency was created after the reform act of 1832 and had a population of 300,000 of whom only 5% were eligible to vote. Wakley became one of Finsbury’s 2 members of parliament on his 3rd attempt in 1835 and never lost his seat. He hated the Tories and despised the Whigs and sat as an independent radical. He made more than 900 contributions to debates speaking against the poor laws, police bills, newspaper tax and the Lord’s Day observance society. He spoke in favour of condemned chartists and against the deportation of the Tolpuddle martyrs. He was described as having : ‘plain, simple blunt downright style…allied to shrewdness and common sense’ He stood down due to illness in 1851 so was not in parliament to see the Medical Act 1858 passed which introduced compulsory registration of medical practitioners for which he had campaigned.

In addition to his roles in parliament and the Lancet Wakley was also the coroner for West Middlesex from 1839 until his death in 1862. He fulfilled his role without fear or favour and campaigned against flogging as a punishment in the British Army. He presided over the inquest of Private James White who died in 1846 1 month after receiving 150 lashes with the cat of nine tails whist serving in the 7th Hussars. The jury was persuaded by the one medical witness (chosen by Wakley) that the flogging had been instrumental in the private’s death. It took until 1881 for flogging to be finally abolished in military prisons.

Wakley was also a churchwarden, an early member of the council of the British medical association (not the same as the modern BMA), was involved in the Royal Medical Benevolent Society, was a director of a private cemetery company and a supporter of the British Swimming society (founded 1841)

Wakley was unwell in 1862 and had been advised by his physician to relax in a mild climate. He chose to visit Madeira and despite his illness threatened to investigate malpractice in the local wine trade. He had a fall whist beaching a small boat, had a pulmonary haemorrhage and died.

Today the journal he founded is one of the most respected medical journals in the world.

Principal Sources

www.thelancet.com Vol 379 May 19 2012 Thomas Wakley: a biographical sketch by David Sharp & http://www.wikipeadia.com




Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753)

Was a physician by trade, he was also a collector of objects from around the world.

He was born in Killyleagh, Ireland in relatively modest circumstances. Inspired by a childhood interest in natural history, he studied medicine in London and France. In 1689, Sloane set up a successful medical practice at his home in No. 3 Bloomsbury Place. He had a number of wealthy and aristocratic patients, among them Queen Anne and Kings George I and II.

While he was Physician to King George 1 Sloane travelled as the physician to the Duke of Albemarle to the Caribbean, initially on a trip funded by the King to find some Spanish gold. He collected some 800 species of plants and other live specimens to bring back to London. An account of his travels was published in 1707 and 1725.

On this trip he visited Madeira, Barbados, Dominica, Guadalupe, Montserrat, Nieves and finally settled in Jamaica. Whilst in Jamaica he travelled the island collecting flora and fauna and during one of these trips he tried the local cocoa and water drink, which he found nauseating. He set about trying to find a recipe that would make this more palatable.

After trying many variations, he finally decided on mixing it with milk and sugar and so began the British love affair with Milk Chocolate. He developed the recipe and this was manufactured and sold by Nicholas Sanders. Then William White of Greek Street Soho sold it in his White’s Chocolate House.

Sir Hans Sloane also brought back the first sample of Theobroma Cocoa, which is still on show in the Sloane Herbarium in the Natural History Museum in London.

An innovative doctor, Sloane promoted inoculation against smallpox, the use of quinine (a treatment for malaria) and the health-giving properties of drinking chocolate mixed with milk.

He absorbed complete collections made by others, among them William Charlton (Courten) (1642–1702) and James Petiver (d.1718). He also received objects from friends and patients. As a result his collection outgrew the house at No. 3 Bloomsbury Place and he purchased No. 4 as well.

Sloane’s house was visited by numerous people, among them was the composer Handel who is said to have outraged his host by placing a buttered muffin on one of his rare books.

He became President of the College of Physicians in 1719 and in 1727 succeeded Sir Isaac Newton as President of the Royal Society.

In 1742 he moved with his collections to a manor house in Chelsea which included the Apothecaries’ Garden (now the Chelsea Physic Garden).

His time there is still commemorated by such place names as Sloane Square and Hans Crescent.

Sloane died at the age of 93 in 1753 and was buried at Chelsea Old Church. By then, his collection amounted to more than 71,000 objects. Chiefly natural history specimens, the collection also included:

  • 23,000 coins and medals
  • 50,000 books, prints and manuscripts
  • a herbarium (a collection of dried plants)
  • 1,125 ‘things relating to the customs of ancient times

In his will, Sloane bequeathed the whole collection to King George II for the nation in return for payment of £20,000 to his heirs. Parliament accepted the gift and on 7 June 1753 an Act of Parliament establishing the British Museum received the royal assent. Sloane’s collection became the foundation of the British Museum.

As time went on the Museum re-organized its collections and acquired further objects, Sloane’s collection was dispersed among different departments and eventually also to the Natural History Museum in 1881 and to the British Library in 1973. This dispersal has hindered the study and understanding of ‘Sloane’s Treasures’, their sources, and their historical relationships with each other. A recent 2012 project called Sloane’s Treasures will begin to address these problems.

SJGB JAN. 2018


Cardinal’s Wharf

Is a row of 18th century terraced houses juxtaposed by 20th century architecture. Standing out amongst the three buildings is the tallest – No. 49 Bankside – a three-storey cream building with red door. If you get close enough, you’ll find a cream, ceramic plaque linking it to a very important Englishman – Sir Christopher Wren. The plaque claims: ‘Here lived Sir Christopher Wren during the building of St Paul’s Cathedral. Here also, in 1502, Catherine Infanta of Castile and Aragon, afterwards first queen of Henry VIII, took shelter on her first landing in London.’

Wrong! Wren was tasked with rebuilding a lot of the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666 and is believed to have based himself at Bankside… but at a building a few doors down from No.49, which has long been demolished. It turns out No.49, pink door, was actually built in 1710 – the same year St Paul’s Cathedral was completed, so that already debunks the theory Wren was based there during the decades it took to build his masterpiece. A writer Gillian Tindall believes the plaque stood on the actual house that Wren did live in, but a few houses west – situated where a modern block of flats stands today behind the Founders Arms pub. Her theory suggests Major Malcolm Munthe, who owned the property in 1945, retrieved the plaque when the original Wren building was demolished and placed it on No.49 to protect it from demolition. While the act may have led many to confuse fact and fiction, the plaque’s incorrect placing has managed to save the house from destruction. Bankside was heavily bombed during World War II, before there was mass demolition and redevelopment in the 1960s and 1970s, so the continued existence of these three houses in Cardinal’s Wharf is a remarkable thing. Situated next to the 1940s-built Tate Modern (formerly Bankside Power Station) and the modern reconstruction of The Globe theatre (opened 1997), Cardinal’s Wharf is a striking contrast to the modernity around it. The house used to stand a lot closer to the Thames, until the Greater London Council revised the waterline back in the 1970s, creating a larger pedestrianised area we see today. No.49 remains the oldest house on Bankside today.

It is believed the name Cardinal’s Wharf comes from the Cardinal Wolsey (1473-1530), who was the Bishop of Winchester in 1529 and would have stayed at the nearby Winchester Palace when in London. While the house wasn’t lived in by the great Wren; the occupiers of No. 49 and the adjacent buildings ran the ferry boats across the river and were lightermen and watermen who then moved into the coal trade. The Sell’s family who lived in the house for a number of generations, and who built a very successful coal trading business, finally merged with other coal trading companies to form the Charrington, Sells, Dale & Co. business which generally traded under the name of Charrington (a name that will be very familiar to anyone who can remember when there was still domestic coal distribution in the 1960s and 1970s). It then served as an office, a boarding house, a squat during the 1970s and a private home once again. One previous resident was the late Hollywood actress Anna Lee, (How Green Was My Valley, Fort Apache), and her film director husband Robert Stevenson (director of classic Disney films Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks), who lived there in the 1930s before being drawn to the bright lights of Tinseltown. The house and railings outside were Grade II listed in 1950.

Prior to being built in the early 18th century, the site was home to the Cardinal’s Hat pub – which was also reported to be a brothel – and mentioned by the diarist Samuel Pepys. Until the Civil War, Bankside was London’s Soho of the day, known for its entertainment and dens of iniquity. It’s highly likely a certain William Shakespeare may have popped in to the Cardinal’s Hat for an ale in between performances at The Rose or the original Globe, which stood around the junction of Park Street and Porter Street, on the east side of Southwark Bridge. He actually referenced the pub in Henry VI Part II. Shakespeare’s contemporary and founder of Dulwich College, the Elizabethan actor Edward Alleyn was also recorded to have dined at the pub. Today, the name of the pub lives on in Cardinal Cap Alley (the street sign on the west side of No.49), an alley which actually dates back to around 1360.

Next door, the red brick No.51 Bankside, yellow door dates back to 1712 and has long ties to Southwark. It was named the Provost’s Lodging in the 20th century. This is because Southwark Cathedral chapter was headed by a provost rather than a dean. The future Bishop of Salisbury, George Reindorp living there after the war-damaged No.50 and No.51 were purchased from Bankside power station in 1957 (who had owned them for 20 years) and knocked together making 5 bedrooms. Due to its location, Bankside was not an appealing place to live in the 1960s and 1970s due to the constant humming noise from the power station. There were rats in the cellars and Sir Peregrine Worsthorne recalls catching a disease from the rodents while living at No 49. He was editor of the Daily Telegraph

Harold Frankham, who was provost in 1972, had squatters and buskers as neighbours who he got moved on. But by the 1980s the location was so tranquil that provost David Edwards would leave his weekly column for the Church Times in a milk bottle on the doorstep to be picked up overnight.  The late Dean of Southwark, Rev. Colin Slee, lived at the property in the early 21st century until his death and was said to be the only dean to have a view from his home of the ‘wrong’ cathedral.

No.52, green door, was a residence for the Cathedral’s director of music and he got buskers moved on by influence of the church.. No. 51, yellow, was put up for sale for £6million by Savills in 2011. Meanwhile, on the east side of No.49 and two doors down stood the house of Elizabethan theatre entrepreneur Philip Henslowe (1550-1616), who built The Rose Theatre in 1587 – the first playhouse in Bankside – a three-minute walk away in Park Street. In the early 1800s, Henslowe’s house was home to the senior chaplain of St Saviour’s Church (now Southwark Cathedral, which only received cathedral status in 1905). Today the site of Henslowe’s house is the entrance to the Globe exhibition. Henslowe is buried in Southwark Cathedral.


The Sugar Loaf Pub

is a 19th century Inn. Some say that the name was inspired by the rounded corner thought to resemble a sugarloaf but it is more likely that the name reflects the large number of sugar boilers that were originally located close to the wharves on the Thames.

Refined sugar, a compound completely unnecessary for human health but craved by almost everyone, has had a large impact on world history.

Sugar cane is a tropical plant and there is evidence of cultivation in New Guinea as early as 8000 BC. Knowledge of sugar cane cultivation and the production of a crude form of sugar spread throughout South East Asia and India; by the 6th century AD the knowledge had spread to Persia where Arab traders would bring knowledge of the new crop to Europe. The Moors cultivated sugar in the Canaries, Spain, Portugal and particularly the island of Madeira in the 9th century. However, the techniques to process sugar to a crystalline form suitable for transporting long distances were unknown at this time, so there was no export market to Northern Europe at this time unlike spices which were lighter with better keeping properties.

Mediaeval diet for English peasants largely consisted of bread, potage (a form of oat porridge) supplemented by vegetables and pulses and occasional meat. Sweet foods were naturally occurring fruits and honey. Englishmen first encountered sugar on the crusades and referred to it as sweet salt. . There are reports of Henry 111 using sugar in 1264. It was available in Britain in 1319 but cost two shillings a pound (£50) expensive enough to be kept under lock and key in special caddies. Nevertheless the cultivation of sugar cane spread through newly acquired colonies. Columbus introduced sugarcane to the new world in 1483 and the Dutch brought sugarcane from the new world to the West Indies after 1625. The British captured the West Indies from the Spanish in 1650 and by the early 18th century sugarcane was being commercially grown from Barbados to the Virgin Islands.

Sugarcane is a tropical plant. It requires heat and lots of water to grow and without good husbandry soil rapidly becomes exhausted. Harvesting and processing the crop was very hard work, initially carried out by indentured labour, prisoners and Native American slaves. Native Americans were killed in large numbers by imported diseases such as smallpox. Labour was then provided by African slaves until slavery was finally abolished in 1807. The Royal Africa Company, given the royal seal of approval by Charles 2nd after the restoration, was responsible for the sale of 90,000 slaves during this period. In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht deprived Spain of its grip on slavery and handed this trophy to Britain. Over the next century Britain bought, sold and transported more than 2.5 million men women and children to its plantations in 11,000 ships. Raw Cane is heavy and bulky and had to be processed locally on each plantation. By 1725 Britain owned 120 refineries in the West Indies generating enormous wealth. Prohibitive taxation ensured that the final stages of refining took place in England. By 1750 sugar was the most valuable commodity in European trade with 90% of Europe’s sugar coming from the West Indies.

A dark raw sugar or muscovado, produced on the plantations by initial boilings of the fresh cane juice, was shipped in hogsheads to Europe on what was the third leg of the Triangular Trade.

The raw sugar was refined by a series of boiling and filtering processes. Anyone who has made caramel or homemade sweets will appreciate that sugar is a difficult substance to work with. In order to produce crystals the solution needs to be supersaturated and carefully heated. Too little heat and there is no crystallisation, too much and the sugar will burn and change formulation.

Sugarloaves were made by skilled workers in numerous small sugar houses mostly situated in East London.

When the muscovado, at the final boiling, was considered ready for granulation it was poured into a large number of inverted conical moulds. These were usually made of either brown earthenware or sheet iron with an internal treatment of slip or paint respectively, and each stood in its own collecting pot. Over the next few days most of the dark syrup and non crystalline matter drained through a small hole in the bottom of the mould into the collecting pot. To improve the whiteness of the sugar repeated applications of either a solution of white clay or of loaf sugar dissolved in warm water was applied to the broad end of the loaf. This slowly drained through the loaf readily uniting with any remaining molasses or other colouring matter and removing it to the collecting pot. The loaves were then tapped out of the moulds, dried in a stove room that would have contained hundreds of loaves, trimmed to their final shape and wrapped, usually, in blue paper to enhance their whiteness.

The moulds, and so the sugarloaves, varied in size considerably: the larger the loaf the lower the grade of sugar. The grade determined the price, though loaves were sold by weight and the sugar refiner was taxed on the weight of sugar sold. When a new batch of raw sugar was refined the best sugar came from the first boiling. After that, the waste and trimmings from the first boiling were returned to the beginning of the process and mixed with further raw sugar for the second boiling, and, as this was repeated to the end of the batch, subsequent boilings reduced slightly in quality. The finest of the loaves, maybe 5 inches (13 cm) diameter and 5 inches (13 cm) high, were extremely expensive owing to the prolonged repeating of the whitening process, as were the somewhat larger double refined loaves from the first few boilings. Lower grades of sugar were more difficult to crystallize and so larger moulds were used, usually 10–14 inches (25–36 cm) in diameter and up to about 30 inches (76 cm) high, with loaves weighing up to 35 pounds (16 kg).

Households bought their white sugar in tall, conical loaves, from which pieces were broken off with special iron sugar-cutters (sugar nips). Shaped something like very large heavy pliers with sharp blades attached to the cutting sides, these cutters had to be strong and tough. Up till late Victorian times household sugar remained very little changed and sugar loaves were still common and continued so until well into the twentieth century.

For most of the 18th and early 19th century the sugar houses were run by German immigrants who brought their traditional skills with them. The Germans had originally been fleeing religious persecution and settled in large numbers in the East End. The German Lutheran church in Alie Street is one of the rare surviving buildings associated with of this group of migrants.

The profits from the import of sugar helped Britain to industrialise and the inventions of the industrial revolution also transformed the production of sugar. Steam engines were used to power the mills on the plantations in the West Indies. In 1813 British chemist Edward Howard introduced the use of a closed vessel heated by steam and operating under a vacuum. The water boiled at a lower temperature because of the vacuum using less fuel and reducing the risk of caramelisation. By the mid 19th century the use of centrifuges made the use of sugar loaf moulds unnecessary.

Principal Sources

www.wikipaedia.com, ://theconversation.com/a_history_of_sugar_…..http, 

Books :- The Time Traveller’s Guide to Mediaeval England by Ian Mortimer & Bloody Foreigners by Robert Winder



Xmas at the Mountjoys

Recent excavations at London Wall have unearthed some pages from a short play dating to the time when Shakespeare was a lodger at Christopher and Mary Mountjoy’s house in Mugwell (now Monkwell) Square. Christopher was a wig-maker and hatter. The time is a few days before Christmas. The text throws much light on the bard’s creative process.

Xmas at the Mountjoys

Scene I

Will: Soft, what light through yonder window breaks, Mary, is it the moon?

Mary: Give it a rest, Will. It’s the sun, or heaven’s fiery orb if you like. It’s 11 of the clock and it’s time to arise. Somebody called to hie you to the Rose Theatre. Herbage…Garbage ….it sounded like.

Will: Burbage. But you were right second time.

Mary: Anyway I have prepared your breakfast just ‘as you like it’. A Black Pudding Posset.

Will: Perhaps not. I have a thumping headache – a session with Ben Jonson at ye Old Mitre Tavern, yestereve.

Mary: Ben (lovely man) – ex-forces? He could drink you under the table, I’ll wager.

Will: I don’t remember the table (or the floor for that matter)…..What did Master Burbage want?

Mary: He wants an Xmas panto from you to expunge the memory of your last one, Timon of Athens. A tale about a miserable old hermit – what were you thinking, and why Athens?

Will: The Great Pox had depleted the actors’ ranks, so a hermit seemed a good idea.

Mary: If you are short of players, I’d avoid Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves for your panto. But why not let women tread the boards? Ah that reminds me, your actor friend – odd name – beginning with a Y – chased by the constables from a bawdy house, disguised as woman – he’s decided to become one – a woman that is. Y… something.

Will: A lass? Poor Yorick.

Mary: That’s her.

Will: I’ll put her down, I am short of a Merry Wife of Windsor and a Shrew for that matter – (set in Padua, methinks!).

Mary: Padua, Athens – why all these foreign climes?

Will: The locations are at the behest of my Patron.

Mary: The Earl of Southampton – a fine gentleman.

Will: He owns EasyGalleons – low cost boat trips to the sun. December/January is a prime time for booking holidays. There’s a special promotion and I have been asked to push Athens – ‘Catch the Elgin marbles in situ, while there is still time’. By the way if you pay a 5 ducket supplement you don’t have to row the full 3000 miles. Interested?

Mary: Mmmmm…… That play set in the forest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Which forest did you choose, Dean, Sherwood or perhaps the New Forest? Remind me.

Will: Athens

Mary: Oh yes that craggy outcrop – famous for its forests. The Sahara may have some leafy bowers. Why not set Macbeth there? ‘Sandy’ is a common Scottish name. I don’t know about a foreign holiday, though. I was thinking of Margate in September.

Will: Margate? September – Summer’s lease has all too short a date. Have you thought of Verona? There are 2 for 1 deals even if you aren’t two gentlemen, although, I understand, that does help.

Mary: Perhaps May then – Hayling Island?

Will: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May. Anyway ‘Hayling’ the clue’s in the name. Stones the size of phoenix eggs I hear. ‘The rain it raineth every day’ – it’s the town’s motto.

Mary: Have you ever ventured to these exotic places yourself, Will? Ben Jonson (lovely man) says that you gave Bohemia a coast in one of your plays and he avers that it is landlocked.

Will: Ah ‘tis true, EasyGalleons were verily flummoxed trying to dock there..

Mary: What play have you next? Shall we take a turn around Moor Lane to clear your head? This room smells a bit like the Rose theatre on a hot day.

Will: Ah the Rose by any other name …

Mary: Would smell of sweat. Let’s hither to Moor Lane, Will. It’s the past Turkey throttling day, so they have scraped away the worst of heavy slops.

Will: Moor? Moor? That’s a thought. Perhaps a play starting in Venice but moves to Cyprus in Act 2. A perfect two centre holiday.. …… Desmond the Moor?……. a bit of a temper…. a lovers’ tiff.

Mary: Will, you are in a reverie and you have both hands around my neck!

Will: Pardon gentle Mary. I was a little carried away.

Mary: Let’s go back, that Posset will have congealed nicely. Oops, watch where you throw up, I have just planted that geranium.

Scene II

Christopher Mountjoy returns with the two younger children, Troilus and Cressida, in tow.

T and C: Hail, Master Shakespeare

Will: What lessons did you learn today at the Most Reverend Prior Weston’s school for waifs? Besides Double Latin and Triple Greek of course 

T and C: Verily the goodly Prior taught us the history of the number zero. Did you not know that the Ancient Greeks had no such number for all their learning. 

Will: What you learnt today sounds like ‘much ado about nothing’!

Christopher: Mary tells me you have been trying to sell her a break in foreign

climes. With what coin would I pay? Have you seen the bill for the children’s sports equipment? Slings and arrows – they cost an outrageous fortune. No – Torbay or not Torbay possibly Swanage …that is the question.

Will: I thought the wig business would be booming.

Christopher: But what about you walking around with the most famous bald pate in London? Will, I couldn’t persuade you to wear one of my wigs? It’s not good for business, you living here with that shiny dome.

Will: Will a wig stay on in a sea breeze? Will there be jests?

Christopher: Try this one, it’s for my more timid customers – The Shylocks.

Will: I am not sure. Toupee or not Toupee. Is that the answer?

Christopher: Oh by the way here’s a letter from your wife Ann….. quite a long one.

Will: She hath a way with words. I will read it during the longueurs in Kit Marlowe’s new play. ‘Dido, Queen of Carthage’. (Methinks Kit has the Tunisian travel market in his sights.)

Christopher: I also have a message from Burbage. He says Ben Jonson (lovely man!) has offered his play Bartholomew Fair (nice and local) for the panto. So could you do something for Twelfth night instead?

Will: Yes. I have it half written. Semi-serious, but lots of humour.

The Mountjoys: Verily, that would be perfect.

Will: Characters including a Malvolio and a Sir Toby Belch

The Mountjoys: Awesome, forsooth.

Will: Set in Illyria.

Christopher and Mary: Oh Will…….no!

Will: Once more unto the beach, dear friends!

T and C: Where’s Illyria?

Will: There will be a ship wreck, but it will be ‘All’s well that ends on the swell’.

Omnes: (mostly groaning) Merry Xmas everyone.

submitted by Kevin Kiernan

Old Flo

The much travelled Henry Moore sculpture of a draped woman, is back on public display in east London having survived vandalism, the demolition of her original setting, a custody battle in the courts and attempts by a council to raise cash by auctioning her off.

May I introduce you to “Old Flo” she weighs in at 1.6  tonnes and is worth £20 million.  Moore initially donated the sculpture to Tower Hamlets borough in 1962, but has been cavorting at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for the past 20 years.  However in October 2017 she moved here into Cabot Square.

The statue is now sited on private land – though still accessible to the public – as you can see its sited among the towers of Canary Wharf, of course it wasn’t originally intended to be here in the Commercial district of Canary Wharf …. The artist really wanted to bring  enjoyment into the heart of a council estate.

Recently the current Mayor of Tower Hamlets – John Biggs said he was delighted to have “Old Flo back as its important to the borough’s history and heritage

Biggs’s predecessor as mayor, Lutfur Rahman –was forced from office after being found guilty of electoral fraud – was determined to sell the sculpture through a Christie’s auction for an estimated £20m.

He insisted the council could not afford to pay for its security and insurance, and needed the money to help plug a yawning budget deficit. One of Biggs’s first decisions was to cancel the sale.

By then, Old Flo had been on holiday among the green fields of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park for many years, moved there for safe keeping in the late 1990s, after her original home in the Stifford  housing estate, Stepney, was demolished.

Moore made the towering sculpture in 1957, partly drawing on his memories of the bundled figures taking shelter in the London Blitz.

Other versions of the sculpture are scattered across the world, including Israel and Australia, but in 1962 the artist, a socialist and keenly interested in the siting of public art, sold the 1.6 tonnes of bronze to the London county council at cost price, £7,000, as the centrepiece of the new estate.

The announcement of the sale in 2012 provoked outrage, with protests from thousands of local residents, backed by art experts including Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate at the time.

The Museum of London offered to give the sculpture space and protection, the Art Fund charity took up the case, and Bromley council claimed ownership through the tangled waves of successive local government reorganisation in London.

In 2015 the high court ruled that it did indeed belong to Tower Hamlets, but by then regime change had happened and the threatened sale was off.

Old Flo’s return was slightly delayed by Storm Brian, when gale force gusts forced the postponement of the installation. It was craned into place on Tuesday night, and will remain at Cabot Square in Canary Wharf, whose owners have promised a comprehensive programme of public events to celebrate its arrival, for at least five years.

Sourced the guardian

Limehouse Link Tunnel

Is a 1.1-mile long tunnel on the A1203, which links the northern approach of Tower Bridge with a point just north of Canary Wharf. Built between 1989 and 1993 at a cost of £293 million was – as of June 2011- the most expensive road scheme in Britain per mile, working out at £50,500 per foot at 2011 prices. It is the second largest non-estuarial road tunnel in the UK, after the Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey.

During the early 1980s, it was clear that the existing road infrastructure serving the Isle of Dogs development zone had no spare capacity, and the Limehouse Link formed the western part of improvements proposed by the LDDC. In order to build this tunnel it was necessary to relocate 556 households.

Planning started in 1986; the designers were the Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners. Anthony Meats and Rooney O’Carroll Architects carried out the design of the tunnel approaches and portal buildings as part of an overall consultancy on the LDDC highway infrastructure programme.

Construction began in November 1989 and the tunnel project was officially opened in May 1993. At the time it was the second biggest engineering project in Europe after the Channel Tunnel. Balfour Beatty and Amec formed a joint venture to build the tunnel the project involved 5 million hours over 193 weeks.

The tunnel is actually twin parallel tunnels built by the cut and cover method, with the tunnels under waterways built bottom-up behind temporary cofferdam walls. The western portal of the tunnel is at the eastern end of The Highway (A1203), just east of its junction with Butcher Row. The Highway runs along the line of the Rotherhithe Tunnel for a short distance; the northern portal of that tunnel lies just north of the Link tunnel entrance. Heading east, the tunnel passes under the north side of Limehouse Basin, turns southeast to pass underneath Limekiln Dock and Dundee Wharf close to the embankment walls of the Thames before turning northeast under Westferry Road.

The eastern portal to the tunnel, emerging onto the A1261 Aspen Way, is just north of the Canary Wharf development, near West India Quay DLR station. Through the Blackwell area, the eastern extremity of Aspen Way includes a flyover crossing of a roundabout close to the line of the twin tunnels of the Blackwell Tunnel. The tunnel has a 30mph speed limit, enforced by Speed Curb speed cameras above the carriageway at the tunnel entrances, exits and inside the tunnel.

The Limehouse Link tunnel is notable for including slip roads to and from Westferry Road towards the eastern end of the twin tunnels. Complex ground conditions and the need to avoid several key existing structures including other tunnels and a river basin increased costs. New Radio Public Address and Loudspeaker Public Address public safety systems were installed in early 2008.

The tunnel structures feature substantial works of public art.

  • The western portal has Zadok Ben-David’s circle of silhouettes, Restless Dream.
  • The eastern portal has an untitled abstract by Nigel Hall.
  • The eastern services building (Westferry Road) has artwork commissioned from leading UK artist and sculptor Michael Kenny (1941–1999), a relief work in Kilkenny limestone called On Strange And Distant Islands




Lord William Russell

published by; after Edward Cooper; Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt,print,circa 1683

He was the third son of the 5th Earl of Bedford, later created Duke of Bedford and Lady Anne Carr. After the death of his elder brother Francis he gained the courtesy title of Baron Russell and was thus referred to as Lord Russell. He was brought up by a non-conformist abhorring Catholicism.

At the Restoration in 1660, when Charles 11 took the throne, Russell was elected as MP for Tavistock, a seat traditionally held by a member of his family. For many years, Russell appears not to have been active in public affairs and is not recorded as speaking until 1674. In 1669, at age 30, he married the widowed, wealthy Lady Vaughan and thus became connected with the Earl of Shaftesbury, who had married his wife’s cousin. They had a close and affectionate marriage although their courtship lasted some time as he was aware of the financial disparity between them. They had a son and two daughters.

It was not until the formation of the country party (the forerunner of the Whig party), which opposed the policies of the CABAL (the inner group of advisers to the king) and Charles 11’s Franco-Catholic policies, that Russell began to take an active part in affairs. With a passionate zeal against Roman Catholicism, and an intense love of political liberty, he opposed persecution of Protestant Dissenters. Becoming active in Parliament in 1674, Russell moved an address to the king for the removal from royal councils and impeachment of the Lord Treasurer Earl of Danby and supported proceedings against Buckingham.

Basically the enmity of the country party towards James, Duke of York and Lord Danby and the party’s desire for a dissolution and the disbanding of the army, were greater than the party’s enmity towards Louis X1V of France. The French king therefore found it easy to form a temporary alliance with Russell, and the opposition leaders. They sought to cripple the king’s power of hurting France and to compel him to seek Louis’s friendship; that friendship, however, was to be given only on the condition that Louis support their goals. Russell entered into close communication with the French.

Anti-French, warmongering alarms which culminated in the “discovery” in 1678 of the first “conspirators” of an alleged Popish Plot to treacherously murder Charles and accelerate the accession of his Roman Catholic brother, appear to have affected Russell more than his otherwise sober character would have led people to expect!. Russell threw himself into the small party which looked to the Duke of Monmouth to take the throne, an (illegitimate but recognised) son of Charles, as the representative of Protestant interests, a political blunder.

Undaunted on the 4 November 1678, Russell moved an address to the King to exclude his brother James (at the time the Duke of York) “from his person and councils”, including removal from the line of succession. Following elections in 1679 Charles 11, a shrewd political operator, had in April Russell becoming a member of the new Privy Council Ministry. Only six days after this, Russell moved for a committee to draw up a more subdued bill “to secure religion and property [in case of] a popish successor”

In January 1680, Russell, along with others, tendered his resignation, which was received by King Charles “with all my heart.” Russell in the House of Lords would continue his crusade against James Duke of York and the Succession, speaking in numerous Parliaments proposing an Exclusion Bill.

In October 1682, he attended a meeting at which what might be construed as treason was talked. There they met Richard Rumbold, the owner of Rye House, Hoddesdon. This was followed by the unsuccessful Rye House Plot, a plan to ambush Charles II and his brother James near Rye House, on their way back to London from the Newmarket races. However Charles returned early owing to a fire and the plot was disclosed to the government. Unlike several co-conspirators, Russell refused to escape to Holland. He was accused of promising his assistance to raise an insurrection and bring about the death of the king. He was sent on 26 June 1683 to the Tower where he prepared himself for his death. He was tried and convicted of treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, afterwards commuted by Charles II to death by beheading.

By the standards of the time he received a relatively fair trial – Lord Chief Justice Francis Pemberton in his summing up seemed to lean towards an acquittal, thereby offending the King who dismissed him soon afterwards. No defence counsel was permitted in a treason trial, but in a rare concession to the defence, Lady Russell was allowed to act as her husband’s secretary. Even George Jeffreys leading for the prosecution, conducted the trial in a sober and dignified manner quite different from his normal bullying style, and, while stressing the strength of the evidence, reminded the jury that no innocent man should have his life taken away.

After the verdict Russell’s wife and friends made desperate efforts to save him, making pleas for mercy to the King, the Duke of York, and the French Ambassador, who informed the King that in his own master’s view this was a suitable case for mercy. Charles was however implacable, saying “if I do not take his life he will shortly take mine.” Lady Russell obtained a private interview and went on her knees to the King, but to no avail: Charles, who had been rightly praised for the clemency he showed after his Restoration, no longer believed in showing mercy to real or supposed enemies.

Russell was executed by Jack Ketch in Lincolns Inn Fields on 21 July 1683. The executioner, Jack Ketch, was so inept that he took four axe blows to separate the head from the body. After the first failed blow his victim looked up and said “You dog, did I give you 10 guineas to use me so inhumanely”. Ketch later wrote a letter of apology. Lord William Russell was brought into a friend’s house after the beheading to have his head sown back on before being carried off for burial in Buckinghamshire.

Russell was lauded as a martyr by the Whigs, who claimed that he was put to death in retaliation for his efforts to exclude James from succession to the crown. Russell resigned himself rapidly to accept his fate with dignity still stating his innocence, but disappointed in the justice he had received, as laid out in his last letter before his death. Russell was later pardoned as having committed no part in a directly treasonous plot, casting the evidence as hearsay. This was after William and Mary had come to the throne. The pardon remains as an official document.

Back in 2007 the plaque was vandalised (possibly stolen) and was subsequently replaced with this very basic one. The cement setting suggests the previous one was bigger, possibly much older and more attractive.




Newgate Prison

The name is a misnomer, arising from the mistaken belief that the mediaeval gatehouse which served as a jail in the reign of Henry IInd was a later addition to the four Roman city gates. Early 20th century archaeological excavations revealed that Newgate had Roman origins and probably lined up with Watling Street.

The first prison at Newgate was built in 1188 on the orders of Henry 11. It was significantly enlarged in 1236, and the executors of Lord Mayor Dick Whittington were granted a license to renovate the prison in 1422. The prison was destroyed in the Great Fire in 1666, and was rebuilt in 1672, extending into new buildings on the south side of the street. This building fell into disrepair. Parliament granted £50,000 towards the cost and the City of London provided a piece of ground to enlarge the site of the prison and to build a new sessions house. The work was begun in 1770 to the designs of George Dance the Younger. The new prison was almost finished when it was stormed by a mob during the Gordon Riots in June 1780. The building was gutted by fire, and the walls badly damaged. The cost of repairs was estimated at £30,000. Dance’s new prison was finally completed in 1782.

The new prison was constructed to an “architecture terrible” design intended to discourage law-breaking. “Reinforced walls almost without windows, a deliberate inelegance, and overt symbolism such as carved chains over entrances were all designed to instill terror in those who saw it”. The building was laid out around a central courtyard, and was divided into two sections: a “Common” area for poor prisoners and a “State area” for those able to afford more comfortable accommodation. Each section was further sub-divided to accommodate felons and debtors.

Many mediaeval punishments did not involve prison at all. Fines, humiliation, mutilation and the payment of blood money to victims were all more common ways of dealing with misdemeanours. As society became more complex prisons served to prevent people absconding and were usually meant to be used for relatively short periods of time and to act as discouragement to others. The warehousing of humans was and is an expensive business.

According to medieval statute, the prison was to be managed by two annually elected Sheriffs, who in turn sublet the administration of the prison to private “gaolers”, or “Keepers”, for a price. These Keepers in turn were permitted to exact payments directly from the inmates, making the position one of the most profitable in London. Inevitably, the system offered incentives for the Keepers to financially exploit the prisoners, charging them for everything from candles, fuel, food, the removal of shackles and even discharge from prison if found innocent. On entering Newgate most prisoners were put in the condemned cell and then rapidly sorted into masters and commoners. Masters were those who could afford better accommodation. Not only was payment demanded by the jailers but also by the steward (the longest serving prisoner). The newest arrival (the constable) was responsible for sweeping floors and keeping the place clean. Those who could not afford to pay were stripped, beaten, chained and kept in the darkest filthiest cells.

The water supply was inadequate, the ventilation almost non-existent and the stench appalling. There were frequent outbreaks of gaol fever, a virulent form of typhus, which not only killed more inmates then executions but during1750 was responsible for 43deaths including two judges, the Lord Mayor and several jurors. Judges still process to court carrying a posy of flowers as it was believed that disease was spread by foul smells. Dr Hale’s ventilating machine, a sort of small windmill on the roof, was installed after this event.

Over the centuries, Newgate was used for a number of purposes including imprisoning people awaiting execution, although it was not always secure. The famous thief Jack Sheppard escaped from the prison twice before he went to the gallows at Tyburn in 1724.

Prisoners for execution at Tyburn made their painful journey from Newgate on a Monday morning usually on the back of a cart and sometimes sitting on their own coffins. The journey could take up to two hours with a stop at St Sepulchre without Newgate for a blessing followed by a pause for a last drink of ale (one for the road) at the Angel Tavern in St Giles. In 1783 the site of London’s gallows was moved from Tyburn to Newgate, by this time London’s main prison. Public executions were held outside the prison on a specially built platform in Newgate St and continued to draw large crowds. The condemned were kept in narrow sombre cells separated from Newgate Street by a thick wall and receiving only a dim light from the inner courtyard. Until the 20th century, future British executioners were trained at Newgate. Michael Barrett was the last man to be hanged in public outside Newgate Prison (and the last person to be publicly executed in Great Britain) on 26May 1868.

In total 1,169 people were executed at the prison. Public executions at Newgate were witnessed by enormous crowds and every window overlooking the scene was filled with people, many of whom paid extremely high prices for their places.

In 1840 two young writers, Charles Dickens and William Thackeray attended the hanging of the Swiss valet Francois Courvoisier who had been sentenced to death for the murder of his master Lord William Russell. The event had a profound effect on both writers. Six years after the event Dickens wrote in the Daily News ‘I did not see one token in the immense crowd of any one emotion suitable to the occasion ;nothing but ribaldry, levity, drunkenness and flaunting vice’ Thackeray wrote afterwards ‘I have been abetting an act of frightful wickedness and violence…I pray that it may soon be out of the power of any man in England to witness such a hideous and degrading sight’

For executions inside Newgate prisoners were led from the condemned cell through ‘Dead Man’s Walk’ – the last few steps from the court to the gallows. The prisoner had to go through five archways and each was made narrower than the one before it until the prisoner had to squeeze through the last. The walk leads to an open area known as ‘The Birdcage’ where the convict would catch his last ever glimpse of the sky before walking to the scaffold.

It was also possible to visit the prison by obtaining a permit from the Lord Mayor or a sheriff.

During the early 19th century the prison attracted the attention of the social reformer Elizabeth Fry. She was particularly concerned at the conditions in which female prisoners (and their children) were held. After she presented evidence to the House of Commons improvements were made. In 1858, the interior was rebuilt with individual cells.

The prison closed in 1902, and was demolished in 1904. The Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey after the street on which it stands) now stands upon its site. A door from the prison is preserved in the Museum of London. The original door from a prison cell used to house St Oliver Plunkett in 1681 is on display at St Peter’s in Drogheda, Ireland. The original iron gate leading to the gallows was used for decades in an alleyway in Buffalo, New York, USA and is currently housed in that city at Canisius College.

The prison appears in many novels and by writers such as Dickens, Chaucer, Defoe, Cornwell, Gay, MacDonald Fraser.

Famous prisoners at Newgate include:

Giacomo Casanova – Venetian Libertine, imprisoned for alleged bigamy

Daniel Defoe – author of Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders (whose protagonist is born and imprisoned in Newgate Prison). In prison for seditious libel.

Lord George Gordon – UK politician whom the Gordon Riots are named after

Ben Jonson – playwright and poet, imprisoned for the 22 September 1598 killing of his fellow actor Gabriel Spenser in a duel. Freed by pleading benefit of clergy.

William Kidd – the infamous pirate and privateer – known as Captain Kidd – was taken to Execution Dock, Wapping and hanged in 1701.

Catherine Murphy, an English counterfeiter who became the last woman to be officially executed by burning in England and Great Britain in 1789.

Titus Oates – anti-Catholic conspirator

William Penn the younger – the Quaker who founded the state of Pennsylvania

Jack Sheppard – thief, escapee

Mary Wade – Youngest female, (11), convict transported to Australia

John Walter Sr. – Founder of The Times, for libel on the Duke of York

Catherine Wilson – nurse and suspected serial killer. Last woman hanged publicly in London