SHOPPING IN VICTORIAN LONDON

The Victorian age was a period of development and prosperity. Under Victoria’s sovereignty, London became one of the wealthiest and most successful cities in the entire world. As the population of England rose quickly, there was an upsurge in food, meaning many more shops were required. Because it was difficult to keep food fresh, shopping became part of the daily routine. Big supermarkets did not exist then, resulting in people acquiring commodities from numerous shops.

In those days, many of the goods were hidden away from customers. They were stored behind the counters, on shelves, in drawers and in storerooms. This was to stop thieves and shoplifters. Shops would normally open early and close late at night. Shopkeepers who were viewed as well-thought-of and skilled.

Bakers operated intensely long days. Charles Booth’s investigation in 1903 found eighty to one hundred hours per week was not uncommon. The bakers of that era suffered from poor health and a reduced life span. In 1862, a parliamentary report labelled their premises were labelled as being covered in flour dust and cobwebs. Loaves, a staple food of the working-class diet, were often contaminated with a chemical compound called alum, chalk or even potatoes to increase the whiteness and the size of the bread.

The nature of shopping altered noticeably in the Victorian era. As revenues and living standards rose across Britain. A new generation of businessmen geared up the retail industry to meet the ever-increasing need. In the early 19th century, most people purchased their goods daily from local shops such as grocers, butchers and haberdashers. Those who were not so affluent relied on the services of travelling salesmen for simple goods such as needles and cotton.

A well-known London street directory from 1890 catalogues the following shops on one street: grocer, confectioner, pub, tobacconist, dairyman, and cheesemonger. Shop workers would serve customers directly. The idea of people serving themselves was unheard of. Many products such as flour and butter needed to be weighed and bagged before being sold. Goods were also purchased ‘on tab’ and paid for each month.

Street vendors of food and drink continued to be a frequent sight in London until the end of the Victorian era, and for a good reason. If they served as a kind of outdoor café for the poorest of the poor, they served a substantial portion of London’s population. As late as 1889, Booth estimated that 30 per cent of Londoners lived in poverty.

The labouring classes would have taken most of their meals in the streets. The primitive and overcrowded conditions under which so many city dwellers were forced to live during the Victorian era meant that, for most, there was no facility available for cooking meals. Street food was varied, cheap and tasty, if not nutritious and full of dangerous additives or fouled by human or animal excrement.

The vendors sold fried fish, hot eels, pickled whelks, pig’s trotters, pea soup, hot green peas, penny pies, baked potatoes, cakes, muffins and crumpets, and Chelsea buns. Drinks would have included tea, coffee, ginger beer, lemonade, hot wine, cow’s milk, asses’ milk and occasionally water. In addition, you may have found ‘sherbet’ and other coloured beverages that had no specific name but were introduced to the public as cooling drinks.

MY BOOKS WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, AND HAVE YOU GRIPPED THROUGHOUT.

Take a look:  Books by Paul Asling

FACTS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT LONDON’S UNDERGROUND TUBE NETWORK

For a start, most of the London underground network is NOT underground!

Photo by George Morina on Pexels.com

The entire London Underground network is around two hundred and forty-nine miles long, but only about forty-five per cent of those miles are underground. The London Tube was the first underground railway network in the world. 

The Metropolitan Railway, as it was then branded then, began running between Paddington and Farringdon Street, on January 10, 1863. Around Thirty thousand passengers travelled on The Metropolitan Railway on its first day of business. On October 09, 2015, London Underground recorded its busiest day on record with 4.735 million passengers travelling on the rail service that day.

Since then, the Underground network came into being in 1863, it has grown to two hundred and seventy stations and eleven lines spreading deep into the London suburbs, and beyond. At peak times, there are over five hundred and forty-three trains speeding around the Capital.

Originally, the Tube was planned so that illiterate people could navigate it. Have you ever seen how some Tube stations are coloured/some tiles contrast? The designs were initially fashioned to help travellers recognise the station they had reached without the benefit of the white and blue signs customers were used to seeing daily.

It’s a known fact many Tube stations were used as air-raid shelters during the Second World War, but the Central Line was transformed into a fighter aircraft plant that stretched for over two miles, even having its own railway arrangement within.

The Tube may have protected many people in World War II, but it was not without its catastrophes. The worst death toll on the Tube happened at Bethnal Green tube station in 1943 when one hundred and seventy people died in a crush. A previous tragedy happened in 1940 when forty-one people were killed when a huge bomb burst a water main, causing those shielding in the Balham Tube Station to drown.

In World War II, Winston Churchill had his own top-secret station. Down Street was a functioning station between 1907 and 1932. And was transformed into a bomb-proof shelter. Originally on what was to become the Piccadilly Line, the station was between Dover Street (now Green Park) and Hyde Park Corner Tube stations.

When the war ended, the deep level shelter at Clapham South boarded four hundred and ninety-two immigrants from the West Indies who had arrived aboard the HMT Empire Windrush. When they landed, the Colonial Office didn’t have sufficient housing for them all, so they sheltered them in the shelter at Clapham South Station.

Each Tube train journeys an average of 115,500 miles a year or 4.6 times around the world. Every year, around 1.3 billion trips are made on the London Underground. The busiest station is Waterloo, which sees around 100.3 million travellers per year.

It is estimated that half a million mice live within the tunnels, but they’re not alone. The mosquitoes that live on the Tube are of an unusual and rather more malicious species than their above-ground relatives. Called Culex pipiens molestus, they’re known for their ravenous appetites.

For those who seek a story of crime, love, or history. MY BOOKS WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, AND HAVE YOU GRIPPED THROUGHOUT.

Take a look at my books:  Books by Paul Asling

MADAME RACHEL OF WHITECHAPEL

Madame Rachel was a London con artist and criminal during the late 19th century. Wealthy women paid shocking amounts of money for her outrageous products.

Born into a Jewish acting family in London about 1814, her cousin was the musician Henry Russell. She was wed to a chemist, Jacob Moses, in 1844. He abandoned her in 1846 and later died when he drowned when the Royal Charter sank in 1859. 

Many people assume the Victorians were straight-laced, sexually suppressed people preoccupied with manners and elegance. Though a typecast founded in truth, lots of Victorians didn’t play by the rules. Some of the British who lived in the 19th century was the maddest of all. In 1863, Madame Rachel opened a shop in Bond Street, London, with the words ‘Beautiful for Ever’ adorned above the doorway. Using her shop as a front, she blackmailed many prominent and well-off members of London’s elite through the 1860s. Amongst her embellished and dishonest claims, she offered her clients around sixty formulations.

People have always considered different ways to fight off old age. In the Victorian age, women who were unhappy with their looks turned to Madame Rachel and her Arabian Preparations. But Madame Rachel’s makeup was nothing more than fiction.

Rachel complimented her pay by trading in second-hand clothes. It was also said she worked as a procuress for a brothel proprietor. She fell ill and her beautiful dark hair fell out. She was frantic to save her locks and saw many doctors hoping to find something that would reinstate her hair to its previous lustre. Finally, one tonic worked, and she set up a business selling restoratives. Regrettably, she had no standing in the field, so she decided the best way to establish herself and gain a respectable reputation.

She was born Sarah Rachel Russell. Madame Rachel began her working life as a cook and fortune teller. But she soon hit on a plan. It was a scheme that would get her out of Whitechapel in the East End of London and put her in an upmarket home in Blackheath. She took advantage of the women of London, assuring everlasting beauty with mind-blowing makeup.

Madame Rachel’s products were made of useless ingredients like fuller’s earth and chemicals like hydrochloric acid. Even so, women herded to her beauty salon in Mayfair, anyway. Fuller’s earth is a clay material that can decolourise fluids without the use of severe chemical usage. Contemporary uses of fuller’s earth involve absorbents for grease, oil, and cat litter.

Rachel’s reputation came from her outrageous claims. For instance, she told people she was much older than she really was, hoodwinking people into believing her goods were responsible for her young appearance. She was so convincing with her claims that she counselled Queen Victoria on cosmetics. As a result, wealthy women paid shocking amounts of money for her outrageous products. One such product she peddled was ‘rock water dew’ from the Sahara Desert. Basically, it was bran mixed with water. Rachel’s most popular care was ‘enamelling,’ a procedure in which she poured white gloop into wrinkly cracks and then whacked on plenty of powder and rouge. And the cost? Over £2,000 in today’s money.

One lady realised she was being deceived, there wasn’t much Rachel could do about it. Back in the Victorian age, makeup was a no-no, suitable only for prostitutes and actresses. If a woman’s spouse found out she was wearing make-up, it was grounds for divorce. Therefore, besides cheating her clients, Rachel also blackmailed them. Sometimes she would take money from creepy perverts to observe her customers bathing in the rear of her premises.

However, all decent cons must come to an end. When a well-off widow with nothing to lose took Madam Rachel to court. The fake businesswoman ended up in prison for ten years. You’d think she would have learned her lesson, but when she was released, she was detained again for deception. But this time, she died behind bars on 12th October 1880, aged 66.

Rachel’s daughter, Helene Crossmond-Turner, was an opera singer who overcame the disgrace related to ‘Madame Rachel’ and sang successfully in England, America and Italy.

For those who seek a story of crime, love, or history. MY BOOKS WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, AND HAVE YOU GRIPPED THROUGHOUT.

Take a look at my books: https://paulaslingauthor.com/

GIVING BIRTH IN VICTORIAN LONDON

Infant and child mortality was very high during the Victorian age. According to a report of the Medical Officer of Health for the City of London in 1849, twelve years after Queen Victoria’s reign began, the death rate for children under 5 years of age was around 33% in some areas in London.

So, if you think giving birth and pregnancy is tough, imagine being a Victorian expectant woman–wondering if either your pregnancy or your baby’s birth will kill you or not.

When people married in the mid-nineteenth century, they assumed children would follow quickly and frequently. The usual sense was kids just came, and there was absolutely nothing to be done about it. Ladies were encouraged to see parenthood as both vocation and duty. Marriage and pregnancy were considered a woman’s only proper occupation, and birth control information was forbidden in the nineteenth century. The typical working-class wife was either expectant or breastfeeding from her wedding day to menopause. Females who married in their early twenties could presume to bear children continuously in their early to middle forties. Families were large, with an average of six to eight children, but averages can be misleading. Families with many more children were common.

Far fewer children were born in the upper classes, showing some educated people knew how to avoid pregnancy. Premarital pregnancy was infrequent among the upper classes. This was usually because girls were always chaperoned everywhere they went. Lots of working-class females became pregnant outside of matrimony. But because of social humiliation and the absence of money to bring the child up, many concealed their pregnancy. Occasionally the family banished the girl from the household, but the couple was frequently forced into marrying if her lover was working-class. During the nineteenth century, many newborn babies were smothered or strangled. If they discovered the mother, she would be incriminated with murder and tried by an all-male jury and a male judge.

In those days, childbirth was painful and dangerous. The one pain respite obtainable was opium, which was regularly on sale as a sleeping drug known as laudanum. Most babies then were born at home, with the help of family and friends. Some womenfolk practised as midwives, though they had no formal training. Doctors were asked only to attend if the births were protracted, and it was feared the mother might die.

The problem with doctors’ interventions brought risks. There were instruments for childbirth, but no anaesthetics or understanding of antisepsis, which meant that the danger of infection from medical intervention was grave. This meant doctors were sources of infection, transmitting infection from their previous patients. Hospitals were places of last resort, used only by the very poor. The death rates in hospitals were extremely high.

The chief dangers in childbirth were prolonged birth, extreme bleeding, and infection. Prolonged deliveries often followed when labour began with infants in the breech or transverse a position. Frantic attempts would be made to turn the babies but were rarely successful. Another common problem was a narrow or deformed pelvis caused by childhood rickets, a disease especially widespread in poorer women.

In life-threatening cases, where it became clear after days in labour, a doctor would usually attempt to use instruments to get the child out or crush the child and remove it. At this stage, the baby would often already be dead, and the mother would also die, either from shock or from infection. Excessive bleeding was another common problem, and there was almost nothing a midwife or doctor could do to stop a post-birth haemorrhage, and many women bled to death. Infection was another menace in childbirth. Women are vulnerable to infection during and immediately after delivery, and fever was common and much-feared in the nineteenth century.

Women tackled every birth with fear, and many women regularly primed themselves for death. Using pain relief increased near the end of the century when Queen Victoria legendarily pioneered chloroform and assisted to promote the practice, but various doctors still combatted its use.

Near the end of the nineteenth century, there was a mounting sense that women’s lives may be saved if babies could be delivered under medical observation in hospitals. Using anaesthetic became popular – however, it received a religious backlash. Many clergy members argued ‘that this human intervention in the miracle of birth was a sin against the will of God. If God had wished labour to be painless, he would have created it so.’

Possibly the most ludicrous aspect of being a pregnant woman in the Victorian period was pre-natal advice. It is said that pregnant women during the 1900s were told there was a link between pre-natal nourishment the temperament of the baby: one strange one being they were told to avoid sour foods such as pickles because these types of foods might give the baby a ‘sour disposition.’

For those who seek a story of crime, love, or history. MY BOOKS WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, AND HAVE YOU GRIPPED THROUGHOUT.

Take a look at my books – paulaslingauthor.com

THE STUNNING LEADENHALL MARKET LONDON

Leadenhall Market is a stunning market in the heart of London that has a rich heritage and stunning architecture dating back to the 14th century.

Leadenhall Market started life as a forum in Roman London and there’s been a market on the site since the 14th century. The market actually dates back to 1321. Leadenhall Market has endured changes in use, rebuilding, the blitz and even the Great Fire of London. Originally a meat and game market, it is now home to many boutiques, restaurants, cafes and wine bars.

The present Grade II listed Market building dates back to 1881 and was designed by Horace Jones. Its wrought iron and glass construction superseded the stone market previously created by Lord Mayor of London, Dick Whittington in the 15th century.

Leadenhall Market stands in the middle of Roman Londinium. Underneath its arches and cobblestones lie the remains of the forum and basilica. The first forum at Leadenhall dates from around 70AD, but was rebuilt in 100 AD and was then the largest Basilica Forum north of the Alps, occupying an area larger than that of Trafalgar Square. Its Basilica, which was the most significant public building in a Roman town, was the largest outside Italy. 

The remnants of a pier from the south arcade of the Basilica survive as a conserved ancient monument in the basement of number ninety Gracechurch Street. The pier was revealed when the new market was built between 1880-82.

In 1803, digs in the Leadenhall Street discovered a stunning sample of Roman mosaic artwork, nine and a half feet 6 below the street level. The theme of the mosaic was Bacchus, the god of wine, agriculture, and fertility. Woefully, some mosaics had already been smashed to build a sewer, but what remains now inhabits in the British Museum.

In 1408, the former Mayor Dick Whittington attained the lease of the building, and then the site in 1411. He then gifted it to the City of London. The City of London Corporation has been managing it ever since.

John Croxton designed the original Leadenhall Market in 1440 and was finished in 1449. He extended the original hall into a big rectangular quadrangle, two stories high. The construction comprising battlements and turrets hints that the market could have been fortified, maybe as protection in the event of a shortage of food or some kind of social disturbance.

Beforehand, the market was set up in the streets next to the building. After completion, all trade occurred inside the new arcade. It was decided in 1488 that leather could only be sold from Leadenhall Market.

In the 19th century, the hide and meat market with its disruptive and teeming stalls were unsuitable. Sir Horace Jones was instructed to design a suitable arcade for the poultry market. Jones also designed Smithfield Market, Tower Bridge and Billingsgate Market. His plans replaced the previous stone structure with wrought iron and glass. This is the building that stands today and in 1972 it was given Grade II listed status.

In the 19th century, ‘Old Tom’ was a celebrated character in the Leadenhall market. He was a gander from Belgium who came to England by chance, because of his attraction to one of the female members of his flock. It’s noted that in two days, thirty-four thousand geese were slaughtered in the Market, but Old Tom somehow survived. He became a favourite in the market, even being fed at the inns in the area. After his death in 1835, he was buried on site.

The market has been featured in the Harry Potter series. It was the location of the outside shots of Diagon Alley, the cobblestoned shopping centre of the wizarding world where Hogwarts students stocked up on school supplies like wands and spell books.

London Crime Fiction Books by Paul:

MY NOVELS WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, AND HAVE YOU GRIPPED THROUGHOUT.

The Carters’: Wars in West London

Family is everything to the Carters’. Alf Carter runs his criminal empire with the help of his two sons Kenny and Billy. But when family is everything, the ties that bind might be the deadliest of all. When Billy Carter should feel everything is before him, including the love of his life it’s taken away when terrifying gangland violence threatens his life.

Bagley’s Lane: Blood On The Streets

After three brutal murders in quick succession. DI Luca Rossi’s catapulted into a world that threatens him and his family’s way of life. With sheer squirm-in-your-seat moments throughout. Bagley’s Lane is a mesmerising, old-fashioned brutal story of loss, obsession and survival.

Love You Till I Die

Billy Pearce is a well-respected heavyweight boxer from London. After his one and only love is taken, his life is thrown into the menace and treachery of London’s criminal underworld. Love You Till I Die is a novel about loyalty and reliability about people that love and care for each other but who, when push comes to shove, will do whatever to protect their own.

WAS I EVER LOVED

The London Street Child

Clinging to this meaningless life
Between living and half living
Why must I suffer?

It never goes away.
Lines on my face
Depicting to the world
My worthless life.

Shadows getting darker
Winos clinging to the shadows
Fighting voices in my head that say
I’ll never get away.

Fatigued of life
Eyes glued to the pavement
Unrelenting rain
Snaking down my neck.

Averted gazes
Hours of alienation
Praying for someone to stay
Or even smile.

Feeling like the worst person in the world
Memories from the past
Flash through my head.

I ask myself
Where did I go wrong?
Was I ever loved?

London Crime Fiction Books by Paul:

MY NOVELS WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, AND HAVE YOU GRIPPED THROUGHOUT.

The Carters’: Wars in West London

Family is everything to the Carters’. Alf Carter runs his criminal empire with the help of his two sons Kenny and Billy. But when family is everything the ties that bind might be the deadliest of all. When Billy Carter should feel everything is before him, including the love of his life it’s taken away, when terrifying gangland violence threatens his life.

Bagley’s Lane: Blood On The Streets

After three brutal murders in quick succession. DI Luca Rossi’s catapulted into a world that threatens him and his family’s way of life. With sheer squirm-in-your-seat moments throughout. Bagley’s Lane is a mesmerising, old-fashioned brutal story of loss, obsession and survival.

Love You Till I Die

Billy Pearce is a well-respected heavyweight boxer from London. After his one and only love is taken, his life is thrown into the menace and treachery of London’s criminal underworld. Love You Till I Die is a novel about loyalty and reliability about people that love and care for each other but who, when push comes to shove, will do whatever to protect their own.

THE LIGHT OVERPOWERED THE DARKNESS (St Pauls Cathedral)

Dressed in a collar of smoke
The unsleeping structure
Is a building of contradiction
Vulnerable, yet still imposing.

Blown apart
by a quarter-tonne bomb
Built-up again
To be a remembrance
Of soldiers who died.

Only whispers of its scars
The shrine once upturned
Now bathed in candlelight again.

In the abandonment of grief
They now sing hymns of
Survival and hope.

Where do shadows hide
When no light is cast?
When morning comes
May the light overpower
The darkness.

London Crime Fiction Books by Paul:

MY NOVELS WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, AND HAVE YOU GRIPPED THROUGHOUT.

The Carters’: Wars in West London

Family is everything to the Carters’. Alf Carter runs his criminal empire with the help of his two sons Kenny and Billy. But when family is everything the ties that bind might be the deadliest of all. When Billy Carter should feel everything is before him, including the love of his life it’s taken away, when terrifying gangland violence threatens his life.

Bagley’s Lane: Blood On The Streets

After three brutal murders in quick succession. DI Luca Rossi’s catapulted into a world that threatens him and his family’s way of life. With sheer squirm-in-your-seat moments throughout. Bagley’s Lane is a mesmerising, old-fashioned brutal story of loss, obsession and survival.

Love You Till I Die

Billy Pearce is a well-respected heavyweight boxer from London. After his one and only love is taken, his life is thrown into the menace and treachery of London’s criminal underworld. Love You Till I Die is a novel about loyalty and reliability about people that love and care for each other but who, when push comes to shove, will do whatever to protect their own.

HAVE WE LOST OUR CITY

Meres of cloudy light casting
An unearthly glow into dark corners
Silent streets deserted
As if London has been evacuated
Only a few ragged souls remain.

A city of coffee shops whose pungent aromas
Mingle with crime, death and debauchery
Each building hiding thieves.

A city rife with disease
People overpowered with the coercion
Of human deprivation
Walking the thin line
Between ignorance and deceit.
Have we lost our City?

London Crime Fiction Books by Paul:

MY NOVELS WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH, CRY, AND HAVE YOU GRIPPED THROUGHOUT.

The Carters’: Wars in West London

Family is everything to the Carters’. Alf Carter runs his criminal empire with the help of his two sons Kenny and Billy. But when family is everything the ties that bind might be the deadliest of all. When Billy Carter should feel everything is before him, including the love of his life it’s taken away when terrifying gangland violence threatens his life.

Bagley’s Lane: Blood On The Streets

After three brutal murders in quick succession. DI Luca Rossi’s catapulted into a world that threatens him and his family’s way of life. With sheer squirm-in-your-seat moments throughout. Bagley’s Lane is a mesmerising, old-fashioned brutal story of loss, obsession and survival.

Love You Till I Die

Billy Pearce is a well-respected heavyweight boxer from London. After his one and only love is taken, his life is thrown into the menace and treachery of London’s criminal underworld. Love You Till I Die is a novel about loyalty and reliability about people that love and care for each other but who, when push comes to shove, will do whatever to protect their own.

WHEN THE BRUISES SHOW

Screaming into my pillow
I pray my broken heart stops
Is this how it ends?

Your promise on our wedding day
The one didn’t keep
You promised you would cherish me
Until we both grew old.

From the first punch
To the erosion of our marriage
Its sick form ascended to
The detriment of all
Betraying hearts and lives.

Some seek what they grew up with
Even if destructive.
I would love to say
Part of me still cherishes you
But it would be a lie.

Trapped without hope
Sick with dread,
Eyes full of fear
I listen in the blackness
Broken winged and never found.

Every bruise you’ve given me
Has become a shield
I’ll wait until tomorrow
when a new day begins.

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