Royal Africa Company Founded by Charles II January 10th 1663

Map of the Guinea Coast and Colonial territories
‘Negroland and Guinea with the European Settlements, Explaining what belongs to England, Holland, Denmark, etc’. By H. Moll Geographer (Printed and sold by T. Bowles next ye Chapter House in St. Pauls Church yard, & I. Bowles at ye Black Horse in Cornhill, 1729, orig. published in 1727) Source Wikicommons.

The Royal Africa Company was set up with a monopoly on trade with the west coast of Africa in:

“redwood, elephants’ teeth, negroes, slaves, hides, wax, guinea grains, or other commodities of those countries”

On January 10th. 1663 King Charles II affirmed the new charter for the Company that, above all else, was responsible for British continuing involvement in slavery. Shareholders included his nephew, Prince Rupert, Samuel Pepys, and much of the British Establishment, Aristocracy, and City Merchants. Its headquarters were in Cornhill, not far from the East India Company’s HQ. The company was closed in 1752.

Gold from the Gold Coast was used to make coins, which became known as ‘guineas’. They were originally made from one quarter of an ounce of gold. Below is a sketch of a two guinea coin from the reign of Charles II. Note the elephant at the bottom of the coin.

The guinea was original worth 1 pound but fluctuated with the price of Gold. Pepys records it at 24 or 25 shillings. It was eventually phased out, but it became a posh way of expressing value. Ordinary goods would be priced in pounds, but expensive ones in Guineas. By then valued at 21 shillings. (£1 pound 5 pence). Wikipedia suggests it was used for ‘prices of land, horses, art, bespoke tailoring, furniture, white goods and other “luxury” items’. I remember going shopping with my parents in London and wondering at the fur coats being priced in Guineas. It died out, as a practice, in the 70s.

Sketch of a two guinea coin from the reign of Charles II showing an elephant below the image of the King, referencing Africa and the use of an elephant on the Royal Africa Company of which Charles was the patron
Sketch of a two guinea coin from the reign of Charles II showing an elephant below the image of the King.

There are many sites giving a history of slavery, and the British involvement with it, which I encourage everyone to investigate. But, here, I would just like to point out, how involved the British Royal Family was in the trade. Also, to note that the British education system has emphasised the role of Britain in the abolition of slavery, rather than our involvement in setting it up and continuing it. This has begun to change, and a new generation of school children in London can visit the excellent London: Sugar & Slavery Gallery at the Museum of London in Docklands.

University College, London has undertaken a profound project where they took the records of compensation payments to:

The slaves? No, not to them but to the slave owners! UCL have created a resource where you can click on the streets of London and other areas, to find out the holders of slaves in that street. The compensation of £20m pounds is probably around £16billion in modern terms, and it makes me believe that the least we can do is to fund projects to correct the educational and life disadvantages of people and countries impacted by slavery to the tune of £16 billion.

I have just looked for the closest slave owner in my area of the East End of London, and it is about 500 yards away from me. Here are the abridged details from the database. It is very simple to use. Have a go by following the link below.

Solomon Nunes Flamengo of Kingston, living at Mutton Lane in Hackney when he wrote his will in 1778. Merchant. Estate probated in Jamaica in 1779. Slave-ownership at probate: 6 of whom 2 were listed as male and 4 as female. 4 were listed as boys, girls or children. Total value of estate at probate: £21356.26 Jamaican currency of which £332.5 currency was the value of enslaved people.

Presumably, the value of his compensation was £332.5. Solomon was Jewish, which is unusual for the records, by far the majority being Christian. I chose Solomon to show simply because he was the closest to my house.

Please do have a look at the UCL website:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/

Britain began regulating the Slave trade in the late 18th Century, abolished the Slave Trade in 1807. Slavery, with the compensation to slave owners in 1833, was abolished but they replaced slavery with apprenticeship – in effect bound labour. This was ended in 1838.For more details look at https://www.parliament.uk/

Finally, I have been updating, revising and republishing many posts which you might enjoy reading before Christmas and the New Year seem too far in the past!

A Radical Twelfth Night January 6th

‘Drawing for Twelfth Cake’ at St. Annes Hill
’12th Night Cruikshank, Isaac, 1756-1811 printmaker. Published Janr. 10, 1807 by Thomas Tegg, 111 Cheapside’

I used the print above, two years ago for my post on New’s Day (in fact this is an update of it) and I use it in lectures on Christmas and Jane Austen. But I have always presented it in the context of explaining Twelfth Night Cake and the game that was played on Twelfth Night, which is, satirically, illustrated here.

Rushing to get the post done, I didn’t examine it in detail but assumed the papers they were reading, gave them satirical occupations to pretend to be, which would be funny to the contemporary audience in 1807. This year, I noted the title mentioned St Anne’s Hill, and thought I ought to at least try to find out what that referred to. And I then went down a deep and very enjoyable research rabbit hole.

But, more of that, later. Let’s begin with the more trivial aspect of the Print above from 2022 January 6th post, edited a little.

Yesterday was Twelfth Night for the modern Church of England, but today is Twelfth Night for the Catholic Church and in England in former times. It is also Epiphany or Three Kings Day and because of calendrical differences, Christmas Eve for the Orthodox Church. In Ireland, it is Nollaig na mBan: Women’s Little Christmas; when Women get to rest and let men do the work.

It used to be the big party night, featuring the famous Twelfth Night Cake and theatrical entertainments; mumming and wassailing. The cake transmuted into our present Christmas Cake. This, I regret because I have had a lifetime when a very heavy Christmas Dinner is followed both by Christmas Pudding and, then, the Christmas Cake is brought out. No one, in their right mind, wants a slice of heavy Christmas Cake at that time. Many of my American friends disparage fruit cake, but they are mistaken. Good Christmas Cake is something to be thoroughly enjoyed, but on the days following Christmas Day.

I gave a recipe for the Twelfth Night Cake in another post, (here it is) but the important point is that it had a bean and a pea in it. The one who got the bean was selected thereby as King for night and the pea the Queen. Cards/papers were then given to all the participants detailing a role they were to play for the rest of the night, with an introductory speech, or rhyme The King and Queen led the way and for the rest of the evening the party members adopted the persona; an aristocrat, a soldier, a cook, a parson, a dairy maid etc. The French do something similar with their Galette des Rois. The bean is called the feve, and may be replaced by a porcelain model.

In the illustration above, you will see the participants, pulling their role cards out of their hat. In the game, the women’s cards were drawn from a ‘reticule’ (bag) and the men’s from a hat. In the illustration above, the hat seems to be a revolutionary sans culotte’s cap. (and I have only just realised, while doing a third proofread of this article, that all the people in the Print are men.)

Here is an example of a Twelfth Night gathering, attending William Snooke were:

‘Mr and Mrs William Clifford and their seven children (and maid), John Fox Snr. and Sally Twining, Mr and Mrs William Fox, and William Weale. To feed this crowd took “Ham, Greens, 3 fowls roasted, Soup, Leg of Mutton, potatoes, Boiled rump of beef (large)” Desert included pudding, mince pies and a forequarter of home lamb. For supper, the assembled party consumed tarts, stuffed beef, mince pies, cold mutton, oysters, cold sliced beef, cold lamb, apple pies and pears.

6th January 1775, William Snooke’s Diary taken from this Pinterest post

St Anne’s Hill

Now, let’s go down that rabbit hole and look a little deeper.

The caption mentions St Anne’s Hill. I believe this refers to St Anne’s Hill, near Chertsey (SW of London on the River Thames) where the grand house was owed by Charles James Fox, the leader of the Whigs, a persistent opponent of King George III. He was a supporter of the American and French Revolutions, which explains the red bonnet used to pull out the cards in the illustration.

I am, as I write, researching this and am now struck with the fact that Fox died in Sept. 1806, but the print is dated Jan. 1807. But if I am right about St Anne’s Hill, the central character is Fox who, just before he died, saw his Foreign Slave Trade Bill of 1806 began the dismantling of this pernicious trade in the British Empire. He was Foreign Minister and assumed a couple of civil chats with the French would end the long-standing war, but he soon discovered that Napoleon was not to be trusted in negotiations and the war went on for another 9 or so years.

Charles James Fox was a mercurial figure with many radical views. He was also a notorious gambler and loved the high life. One of his many lovers was Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. He married, Elizabeth Armistead, an ex-mistress of the Prince of Wales, and it was in her house that they lived in at St Anne’s Hill. I am pleased to report that she is credited with calming his life-style time, and he spent more time at St Anne’s where they would ‘read, garden, explore the countryside and entertain friends’ (Wikipedia).

Cruikshank’s illustration is, of course, not designed to document quaint Twelfth Night customs but is a political satire and I have now just discovered the British Museum version of this print, and. It is dated to 1799 which makes much more sense!

At the back right of the print is a notice which says:

‘Rules to be observed at this Meeting
1. That the Cake be decorated with appropriate insignia
2 That the tickets be deposited in a Bonnet Rouge and drawn in Rotation
3 That the Old Fashioned Game of King and Queen be exploded & Catch as Catch can Substituted in its stead.’

The bonnet rouge is defined by the Collins Dictionary as a ‘redcap worn by ardent supporters of the French Revolution’ or ‘an extremist or revolutionary’. The last point relates to Fox’s opposition to the King, and the expression Catch as Catch Can refers to a free form of wrestling without rules.

The characters in the scene (all men) are all political figures, mostly associated with the opposition to the very right-wing Government of William Pitt. During the war with France, the opposition was led by a supporter of the French Revolution, a position that, many on what we would now call the left of the political spectrum, agreed with. But, for those on the right, which included Pitt’s government, this was tantamount to treason. Pitt suspended many civil liberties in ‘Pitt’s Reign of Terror’; arrested and indeed executed leading members of those demanding political change. The Government even suspended Habeas Corpus to make it easier to arrest their opponents,

Fox is seen drawing a 12th Night Game ticket which is marked ‘Perpetual Dictator’. To his right is Frances Burdett, a radical politician, who supported universal male suffrage, equal electoral districts, vote by ballot, and annual parliaments. Note that this is well before these aims became the core of the Chartists campaign for electoral reform. (for other figures, look at the British Museum notes on the print. )

Burdett is shown holding a ticket saying ‘Keeper of the Prison in Cold Bath Fields’. This is a satirical reference to a serious political crisis. The Cold Baths Fields was the site of a medical spring in Clerkenwell, London, where a prison was situated where radicals were imprisoned. They were held in poor conditions despite the recent rebuilding under the aegis of the prison reformer, John Howard. Burdett exposed it in the House of Commons and began a campaign against the magistrates involved in the arrests.

One of the prisoners was Edward Despard who had associations with the London Corresponding Society, the United Irishmen and United Britons. Despard was married to Catherine, the daughter of a free black woman from Jamaica, and it was she who, with Burdett, led the campaign against these arrests without trial. The attorney general spoke about her letter in this demeaning manner:

‘it was a well-written letter, and the fair sex would pardon him, if he said it was a little beyond their style in general’

He did not comment on her colour. She described the imprisonment of her husband as being :

“in a dark cell, not seven feet square, without fire, or candle, chair, table, knife, fork, a glazed window, or even a book”

Despard was freed in 1802, went to Ireland, and back to London, where he was arrested again and accused of a being the alleged ringleader of a plot to assassinate the King. There was little real evidence. Horatio Nelson was a character witness, and appealed to the King for clemency. It was given, but only in so far as Despard was not disembowelled but ‘only ‘Hanged and Drawn’ at Horsemonger Lane Gaol (1803) – the last time someone was drawn through the streets at the tail of a horse before execution for treason. These are his last words:

Fellow Citizens, I come here, as you see, after having served my Country faithfully, honourably and usefully, for thirty years and upwards, to suffer death upon a scaffold for a crime which I protest I am not guilty. I solemnly declare that I am no more guilty of it than any of you who may be now hearing me. But though His Majesty’s Ministers know as well as I do that I am not guilty, yet they avail themselves of a legal pretext to destroy a man, because he has been a friend to truth, to liberty, and to justice

(a considerable huzzah from the crowd)

because he has been a friend to the poor and to the oppressed. But, Citizens, I hope and trust, notwithstanding my fate, and the fate of those who no doubt will soon follow me, that the principles of freedom, of humanity, and of justice, will finally triumph over falsehood, tyranny and delusion, and every principle inimical to the interests of the human race.

(a warning from the Sheriff)

I have little more to add, except to wish you all health, happiness and freedom, which I have endeavoured, as far as was in my power, to procure for you, and for mankind in general.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Despard

After his death, his family denied that Catherine was his wife but merely his ‘house-keeper.’ I assume, without knowing, this might have been because they wanted the inheritance rather than, or perhaps, as well as naked prejudice.

Francis Burdett married into the fabulously rich banking family the Coutts, and their daughter was the famous Angela Burdett Coutts who was a philanthropist who collaborated extensively with Charles Dickens.

@Phew! What a ride – this is what I love about my job, you find things out that link disparate parts of your knowledge, creating an ever-interwining web of history.

I have republished my post of the Chinese New Year which you can see here:

The Lord of Misrule & London, December 30th

black and white illustration of John Stow memorial in St Andrew's Church
John Stow memorial in St Andrew’s Church

The Roman festival of Saturnalia, held between 17th and 23rd of December, included reversing rules so that slaves, ruled and masters served. In the medieval period, the disorder of Christmas was continued with the election of Lords of Misrule, Masters of the Revels, and Boy Bishops.

John Stows, London’s first great historian, wrote of the Lord of Misrule in London:

Now for sports and pastimes yearly used.

First, in the feast of Christmas, there was in the king’s house, wheresoever he was lodged, a lord of misrule, or master of merry disports, and the like had ye in the house of every nobleman of honour or good worship, were he spiritual or temporal. Amongst the which the mayor of London, and either of the sheriffs, had their several lords of misrule, ever contending, without quarrel or offence, who should make the rarest pastimes to delight the beholders. These lords beginning their rule on Alhollon eve, continued the same till the morrow after the Feast of the Purification, commonly called Candlemas day. In all which space there were fine and subtle disguisings, masks, and mummeries, with playing at cards for counters, nails, and points, in every house, more for pastime than for gain.

Against the feast of Christmas every man’s house, as also the parish churches, were decked with holm, ivy, bays, and whatsoever the season of the year afforded to be green. The conduits and standards in the streets were likewise garnished; amongst the which I read, in the year 1444, that by tempest of thunder and lightning, on the 1st of February, at night, Powle’s steeple was fired, but with great labour quenched; and towards the morning of Candlemas day, at the Leaden hall in Cornhill, a standard of tree being set up in midst of the pavement, fast in the ground, nailed full of holm and ivy, for disport of Christmas to the people, was torn up, and cast down by the malignant spirit (as was thought), and the stones of the pavement all about were cast in the streets, and into divers houses, so that the people were sore aghast of the great tempests.’

John Stow, author of the ‘Survey of London‘ first published in 1598. Available at the wonderful Project Gutenberg: ‘https://www.gutenberg.org/files/42959/42959-h/42959-h.htm’

Cover page of The Survey of London by John Stow from Project Gutenberg

You might also like to see the following posts, which include information about John Stow and London’s customs:

Stage Coach Travel Misery December 22nd

As the Sun enters the House of Capricorn remember the poor Coachman travelling all day everyday in all weathers. Washington Irving in his ‘Old Christmas’ (Originally ‘The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon’ pub. 1819) describes him with a broad red face, a broad body widened by drinking beer; swathed with any numbers of layers of coats trying to keep the cold out. He has many worries on his mind as he has a coach full not only of people who need looking after but also a lot of parcels and commissions that need to be carried out in the many stops along the way. He is delivering parcels, turkeys, geese, presents, children, you name it he is responsible for its safe delivery.

Feel sorry for the people crowded inside the carriage but even sorrier for those sitting on the roof. They have umbrellas in a vain attempt to keep dry, but the umbrella will be poking you in your ear, and the run off from the canopy of the umbrella might trickle down your necks. Inside you are next to a large man who is not very salubrius looking nor too worried about pressing his thighs against you.

John Keats blamed his consumption on a stage-coach journey from London to Hampstead on a cold day in February.

Capricorn: ‘The man born under Capricorn shall be iracundious and a fornicator; a liar, and always labouring.

….The woman shall be honest and fearful, and have children of three men, she will do many pilgrimages in her youth and after have great wit.’ From Kalendar of Shepheards 1604 quoted in ‘The Perpetual Almanac of Folklore by Charles Kightly’.

Sam Syntax Cries of London 1820s from the Gentle-author. Hot Plum Pudding Seller.

Feast Day Of Lucius – First Christian King Of Britain? December 3rd

King Lucius York Minster Window

The Venerable Bede tells us that King Lucius converted to Christianity in around 180AD. He says that the King asked Pope Eleutherius to send teachers to instruct him. The Venerable Bede (died 735 AD) got this from the Liber Pontificalis of c 590. There is also a tradition that St Peter’s Cornhill in London was set up by King Lucius, and that St Peter’s is the oldest Church in London.

13th Pope

What to make of this? Bede is considered to be a reliable historian and got his information, in this case, from the Vatican. But the tradition has been written off as a legend. Indeed, there are questions to be answered, but there is, arguably, more to it than a legend but, unfortunately, not enough to make it an established fact.

Not the least of the questions to ask is: ‘What does it mean to be called the King of Britain in the middle of the Roman occupation?’

As to the early origin of St Peters, archaeologists have written off the tradition as St Peter’s is built over the Roman Forum and so how can it have been the site of a Christian Church?

St. Peter’s seen from Cornhill in a rarely seen view as there is normally a building in the way. (Author’s copyright)

But the balance of possibilities, arguably, changed in the 1980s, when archaeologists led by Gustav Milne showed that the Basilica of the Forum was pulled down in about 300AD. So from being practically an impossibility, there is now a possibility that this became the site of a Roman Church. We know London sent at least one Bishop to Constantine the Great’s Council of Arles in 314AD, so a Christian community in London must have predated this time. And a site, here, at the prestigious centre of the Capital at Londinium, is plausible.

In AD306, Constantine was acclaimed Emperor on the death of his Father, Constantius Chlorus whose wife was Helena, a Christian. He and his mother were in York when his father died. He was recognised as Caesar, (but not Augustus) by Emperor Galerius a ruled the province for a while before moving to Trier, then Rome, where he accepted the Christian God’s help in becoming the ruler of Rome. This might give a context for the demolition of the Basilica and its replacement by a Church. There is no archaeological evidence for it other than the demolition of the Basilica and the legends.

Where does that leave King Lucius? There are well attested Christian traditions that Britain was an early convert to Christianity. (The following quotes are from my book ‘In Their Own Words – A Literary Companion To The Origins Of London‘ D A Horizons, 2009 by Kevin Flude and available here.)

In Their Own Words – A Literary Companion To The Origins Of London‘ D A Horizons, 2009

So, an early date for an active Christian community is likely. A Church, replacing the Basilica, is plausible, particularly, after Constantine the Great probably passed through London on his way to seize the Roman Empire. But such an early date as the late 2nd Century? And could anyone, claim to be the ‘King of Britain’ at this date? We do know that King Togidubnus was called Great King of Britain in a Roman Temple inscription in Chichester in the First Century.

Altar Dedication, Chichester

To Neptune and Minerva, for the welfare of the Divine House by the authority of Tiberius Claudius Togidubnus, Great King of Britain, the Guild of Smiths and those therein gave this Temple from their resources, Pudens, son of Pudentinus, presenting the site.

https://romaninscriptionsofbritain.org/inscriptions/91

Togidubnos seems to have been placed in control of a large part of Southern England, centred around Chichester, after the invasion of 43AD. He is thought to have been the successor to Verica, who was exiled and called on the Romans to restore his throne. Tactitus says that he remained loyal until late in the 1st Century. So he presumably held the line for the Romans against the Boudiccan revolt in 60AD. The Romans had used Verica’s fall as their excuse for invasion, and so an honorific of Great King to him and his successors makes sense. It is assumed that after Togidubnos’s death after 80AD, the title lapsed. But it might have stayed with the family as an empty honour? Furthermore, we know that Britain had a lot of Kings and Queens before the Roman period, and, as the Romans, never conquered the whole of Britain, there were British Kings all the way through the period of Roman control, at least beyond Hadrian’s Wall.

So, it is possible there was someone in Britain who had, or made, a claim to be ‘King’ whether ‘a’ or ‘the’ or merely descended from one, we don’t know. And that that someone, perhaps converted to Christianity, possibly in the time of Pope Eleutherius.

It has been suggested that Lucius of Britain was confused with Lucius of Edessa, but this is not very convincing.

The link to London and St Peters, need not be a contemporary one, it might be two traditions that are linked together at a later period. But, of course, there is a faint possibility that the Basilica shrine room, above which St Peter’s is built, was converted for Christian use at the earlier time necessary to make sense of the King Lucius story.

King Lucius may not be a proper saint, but he has a feast day because of his connections to Chur in Switzerland, which saw him enter the Roman Martyrology. David Knight proposes that the tradition of the martyrdom of Lucius in Chur comes from the transplanting of rebellious Brigantes to the Raetia frontier in the 2nd Century AD, bringing with them the story of Lucius and that, possibly, at the end of the King’s life he travelled to join the exiles in Switzerland where he met his unknown end. If true, this would base the story of Lucius in the North rather than London.

For further reading, see ‘King Lucius of Britain by David J Knight.

John Stow in the 16th Century records the tradition, which comes with a list of early British Bishops of London, which are recorded in Jocelin of Furness ‘Book of British Bishops’. This book is discussed by Helen Birkett ‘Plausible Fictions: John Stow, Jocelin of Furness and the Book of British Bishops’. In Downham C (ed) /Medieval Furness: Texts and Contexts/, Stamford: Paul Watkins, 2013.

Her analysis concludes that the book is a ’12th-century confection in support of moving the archbishopric from Canterbury ‘back’ to London.’ (This information was included in a comment to the original post by John Clark, Emeritus Curator of the Museum of London.)

To sum up. We can’t bring King Lucius out of legend, nor link him with St Peters Cornhill, but the site of St Peters is a plausible, though unproven, location for a Roman Church from the 4th Century onwards.

First Published on December 3rd, 2022. Revised in December, 2023.

How to Take Eels in Winter, Eel Pies and Islands 28th November

 Photo by Natalia Gusakova on Unsplash
Photo by Natalia Gusakova on Unsplash

Gervase Markham in his ‘The English Husbandman’ of 1635 provides instructions on how:

To take Eels in Winter, Make a long bottle or tube of Hay, wrapped about Willow boughs, and having guts or garbage in the middles. Which being soaked in the deep water by the river side, after two or three days the eels will be in it and you may tread them out with your feet.

And here is a fascinating article on Eel fishing.

Eel traps at Bray, on the River Thames (Henry Taught 1885)

Aristotle, Freud and the Deep Sargasso Sea

Eels have been eaten for thousands of years, but no one knew where they came from or how they reproduced. Aristotle thought they spontaneously emerged from the mud. Sigmund Freud dissected hundreds of Eels, hoping to find male sex organs. It was only last year, on 19th October 2022 that an article in the science journal Nature entitled ‘First direct evidence of adult European eels migrating to their breeding place in the Sargasso Sea’ was published, proving beyond doubt that the theory that Eels go to the sea near Bermuda to spawn was, incredibly, true.

Eel Pie Island

Eel Pie Island . Ordnance Survey In 1871 to 1882 map series (OS, 1st series at 1:10560: Surrey (Wikipedia)

Eel Pie island is on the Thames, near Twickenham, famous for its Eels, was home to an iconic music venue that hosted most of the great English Bands of the 50s. 60s, and 70s. The roll call of bands here is awesome. The Stones, Cream, Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, you name it, they were here:

David Bowie, Jeff Beck, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree, Buddy Guy, Geno Washington, Long John Baldry, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Ten Years After, Chicken Shack, and one of my all-time favourite bands. the Savoy Brown Blues Band. The Nice, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Joe Cocker, and the Who. And many more!

Here is a recipe for Baked Eel pie from Richmond, near the famous Eel Pie Island.

Jellied Eels and the East End

By JanesDaddy (Ensglish User) - English Wikipedia - [1], CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1663124
By JanesDaddy (Ensglish User) – English Wikipedia – [1], CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1663124

Jellied Eels have been a staple of East End diets since the 18th Century. They were to be found in many stalls dotted around the East End, from vendors venturing into pubs and in Pie and Mash shops. Tubby Isaacs is perhaps, the most famous and jellied eels are still sold in a diminishing number of places in the East End.

My mum loved them. It took me until I was over 60 before I could bring myself to try them and have not wanted to repeat, what for me, was a revolting experience. On the River Lee Navigation is another piece of Eel history which is the excellent Fish and Eel Pub at Dobbs Weir.

Pie and Mash Shop. Established 1862, closed down 2021. Broadway Market, Hackney (photo, copyright the author)

This was first published as part of another post in 2022, and revised and republished on 28th November 2023

Jimi Hendrix in London on his 81st Birthday November 27th 2023

Jimi Hendrix in Montague Place

To my mind, THE genius of the electric guitar, and a great songwriter.

Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle on 27th November 1942. He was spotted by ex-Animals Chas Chandler (bassist) when performing in small cafés In New York as Jimmy James. Chandler suggested he came to England. On the flight, they decided to change his name to Jimi. He arrived on September 24, 1966.

“It’s a different kind of atmosphere here. People are more mild-mannered. I like all the little streets and the boutiques. It’s like a kind of fairyland”

https://www.independent.co.uk Jimi Hendrix’s London.

On his first day in London, he met Kathy Etchingham, and she found them a flat on the upper floors of 23 Brook Street, which is now part of Handel&Hendrix in London. Now, a small museum to the two musical giants who lived next door to each other (if they were time travellers). For the English middle class, it’s comforting to know that Jimi bought the furnishings of the flat from their favourite, the nearby John Lewis Department store. He got his look from Carnaby Street and Portobello Road Market.

London wasn’t an arbitrary choice for a young American Bluesman. The wave of British Bands that came to international prominence in 1964, was based on the almost forgotten (by the mainstream media) Black American Blues legends such as Woody Guthrie and Ledbelly. Bands like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and the Animals loved this music, and began their careers playing cover versions in Clubs in London. (For more on the British Blues Revival, look here🙂

Hendrix’s younger brother, Leon, spoke about the importance of London to Hendrix

“He loved England ‘cos it was like Seattle. It was like home. It was the same climate, y’know? And this is where all the music was. This is where all of his friends were – Eric Clapton, The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, everybody…”

He concluded: “After people played, they all went and jammed together. Like, when Jimi played a concert that was only the warm-up… After the concert, he was out and about lookin’ for somebody to play with and somebody’s studio to jam at. They’d just be jammin’ all night ’til, like, seven or eight in the morning. It was awesome.”

Reported in Mouth Magazine 2018 and quoted in https://faroutmagazine.co.uk

Chas Chandler was interested in managing bands, and thought Hey Joe, which he heard Hendrix play, could be a hit single. Hey Joe got to no 6, in Jan 1967) in the UK Top Ten, but failed to make an impression in the US.

Here is a YouTube film of Hendrix playing ‘Hey Joe’.

The Independent website above gives a good guide to Hendrix in London. An excellent documentary on Hendrix was recently aired on BBC Sounds, Everything but the Guitar. To finish off, just look at the bill on at the Saville Theatre.

One month in 60s London!

For details of Hendix Gigs look at the Set list Web site, which shows he performed at the Saville Theatre in Jan,May and June 1967 on his First European Tour, and again in Aug and Oct on his 2nd European Tour.

I have also revised my post on Stir Up Sunday!, which you might like to see.

First published on Nov 27th 2022, as part of Stir Up Sunday! And revised onto its own page on the same day, 2023.

Elsyng Palace, Enfield Society Excavations

Elsynge Palace

I was interested in this site because it was one of the many palaces owned by Henry VIII, and it began as a moated manor house before a transition into a small red brick courtyarded Palace, as seen above. Henry had, if my memory serves me well, approximately 57 Palaces and Manor Houses. 16 in the London area and 11 along the River Thames

But what I really liked when I visited the website was the charm of this lovely video by the Enfield Archaeology Society. Now those who know the wonderful TV Sitcom called the ‘Detectorists’ starring Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook, Diana Rigg and others, will recognise the styling of the amateur archaeologists – all looking like rumpled would be Indiana Jones’s! Very English.

https://www.enfarchsoc.org/elsyng/

The good news is that the show is having an extended Christmas Special outing this year.

I have revised and republished the following Almanac of the Past posts.

St Cecilia’s Day, Henry Wood and the BBC Proms, 17th November

St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, Musician’s Chapel, St Cecilia window. 17 August 2022, Andy Scott

Today, I’m publishing the stories of two Saints with London connections.

The first is for November 23rd, and I have extensively rewritten it. It is all about St Clements of Oranges and Lemons fame.

The second is from November 17th and is about St Cecilia and the London Proms, which you will find below:

St. Cecilia

St Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians.  She was martyred in Rome in the Second or Third Century AD. The story goes that she was married to a non-believer, and during her marriage ceremony she sang to God in her heart (hence her affiliation with musicians). She then told her husband, that she was a professed Virgin, and that if he violated her, he would be punished. She said she was being protected by an Angel of the Lord who was watching over her. Valerian, her husband, asked to see the Angel. So Cecilia told him to go to the Third Milestone along the Appian Way, where he would be baptised by Pope Urban 1 and would then see the Angel. He followed her advice, was converted and he and his wife were, later on, martyred.

The Church in Rome, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, is said to be built on the site of her house, and has 5th Century origins. My friend, Derek Gadd, recently visited and let me use these photographs:

St Cecilia in London

There is a window dedicated to her in the Holy Sepulchre Church-without-Newgate, In London, opposite the site of the infamous Newgate Prison.  Henry Wood, one of our most famous conductors and the founder of the Promenade Concerts, played organ here when he was 14. In 1944, his ashes were placed beneath the window dedicated to St Cecilia and, later, the Church became the National Musician’s Church.

The memorial to Henry Wood at St Sepulchre is engraved:

This window is dedicated to the memory of
Sir Henry Wood, C.H.,
Founder and for fifty years Conductor of
THE PROMENADE CONCERTS
1895-1944.
He opened the door to a new world
Of sense and feeling to millions of
his fellows. He gave life to Music
and he brought Music to the People.
His ashes rest beneath.

The Concerts are now called the BBC Proms and continue an 18th and 19th Century tradition of, originally, outdoor concerts, and then indoor promenade concerts. At the end of the 19th Century, the inexpensive Promenade Concerts were put on to help broaden the interest in classical music. Henry Wood was the sole conductor.

Wikipedia reports :

Czech conductor Jiří Bělohlávek described the Proms as “the world’s largest and most democratic musical festival”.

The Eight-week Festival is held at the Royal Albert Hall. It moved here during World War 2 after the original venue, the Queen’s Hall, was destroyed in the Blitz in May 1941.

Martinmas – Festival of Winter’s Beginning November 11th

Statue of St Martin at Ligugé

So, this is All Saints Day, Old style, also known as St Martin’s Day, one of the most important Christian festivals of the medieval world.

Father Francis Weiser in the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs suggests this was the Thanksgiving of Medieval Europe:

It was a holiday in Germany, France, Holland, England and in Central Europe. People first went to Mass and observed the rest of the day with games, dances, parades, and a festive dinner, the main feature of the meal being the traditional roast goose (Martin’s goose). With the goose dinner, they drank “Saint Martin’s wine,” which was the first lot of wine made from the grapes of the recent harvest. Martinmas was the festival commemorating filled barns and stocked larders.

It was celebrated with Bonfires in Germany, and with St Martins Beef and Mumming plays in England, but, following the Reformation, its place in the Calendar has been taken by Bonfire Day and Halloween.

St. Martin of Tours (died AD397) was a soldier in the Roman Army who would not fight because of his Christian beliefs. When he met a beggar, he cut his cloak in half and shared his cloak. He rose in the hierarchy of the Gallic Church and became Bishop of Tours. He is one of the few early saints not to be martyred and is the saint of soldiers, beggars and the oppressed. Furthermore, he stands for holding beliefs steadfastly s and helping those in need. According to legend, his barge on the River Loire was accompanied by flowers and birds.

Early 20th Century Image of Trafalgar Sq. St Martin’s is in the top right-hand corner.

There are two famous Churches dedicated to St Martin in Central London with possible early origins. St Martin’s in the Fields, near Trafalgar Square, has been the site of excavations where finds show a very early settlement there, with early sarcophagi. It is the one place where a convincing case can be made for continuity between the Roman and the Anglo-Saxon period. It is possible, that the Church was founded soon after St Martin’s death (397AD). A settlement grew up near it, and this expanded to become Lundenwic, the successor settlement to Londinium.

Old Print of London c1540 showing St Pauls, with St Martin's by the wall to the left of the photo
Old Print of London c1540 showing St Pauls, with St Martin’s by the wall to the left of the photo

The other St Martins is St Martins Within, just inside the Roman Gate at Ludgate. Many early churches are found at or indeed above Gates and this one also has legendary links to burial places for King Lud, and for King Cadwallo, or Cadwallon ap Cadfan, one of the last British Kings to have any chance of recovering Britain from the Anglo-Saxons. Geoffrey of Monmouth says that Cadwallo was buried here in a statue of a Bronze Horseman, and thereby to protect London as a ‘Palladium’ (see for more about Palladiums of London. It has been suggested by John Clark, Emeritus Curator at the Museum of London, that Geoffrey of Monmouth might have used the discovery of a Roman Equestrian Statue as an inspiration for the story.

St Martin was also the saint of Travellers, and this might explain the location of the Church near the gate. Although there is nothing but legendary ‘evidence’, it would make sense for an early church to be built near Ludgate, which is the Gate that leads to St Pauls which was founded in 604AD. Although the City might have been mostly empty, the presence of St Pauls means that Ludgate was most likely still in use or at least restored around this period. It also leads, via Fleet Street and Whitehall, almost directly to the other St Martin.

St Martin’s Day was also the time of year when lime plaster was renewed because lime needs to be kept moist when renewed. It takes three to four days to form the calcite crystals that make it waterproof.

(Originally, posted 11 Nov 2021, revised, Nov 2022, and 10 Nov 2023)