16/09/2017

THE VICTORIAN ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY...




This painting of Una and the Wood Nymphs by Caldesi and Montecchi, was photographed by W E Frost. He then submitted it to be displayed along with some 1009 other images created by fellow photographers at the Victoria and Albert museum (then known as the Kensington Museum) for an exhibition in 1858.

Such a method of reproducing great art was softer and truer than that achieved by the older method of engraving. It was soon to become a commercial success with many people buying prints of art works to show in their own homes.

However, some photographers preferred to go a step further, using real human models when recreating their own scenes from literature or history. For instance, the albumen print below, photographed by William Lake Price, shows Don Quixote in his Study ~ surrounded by all the requisite props to fully reconstruct a scene from the novel by Cervantes.




The new science of photography was thus exploited as an art form. But, it was also used as a method of recording industrialisation. 

In the image below Robert Howlett showed work on the SS Great Eastern (also known as The Leviathon) which was then the largest steam ship to have ever been constructed. Symbolising the Empire's greatness it was, nevertheless, a commercial failure. The ship was scrapped in 1888. 

Still, it is an astonishing print because it really does convey the scale of Victorian ambition in invention, and engineering design. And, as an added bonus, dwarfed below the ship itself, is the engineering 'giant' of the times ~ the top-hatted Isambard Kingdom Brunel.


  

Photography was also used as a record of place and travelling ~ another aspect of Victorian Empire. 

Below is the Rameseum of El-Kurneh, Thebes, as photographed by Francis Frith, which is a fine example of how the wet collodian negative process allowed for exquisite detail to be captured in shadow, light, and texture. This scene surely captures everything that entranced the Victorian public regarding the myths, the exotic romance, and the fallen grandeur of the East.


01/09/2017

THE PHOTOGRAPHIC PASSIONS OF MR LINLEY SAMBOURNE...



Edward Linley Sambourne first began his working life as an apprentice draughtsman in a marine engineering works in Greenwich. His artistic career was to blossom when his cartoons came to the attention of the editor of the satirical magazine, Punch ~ for which the cover shown above is a fine example of his style.

However, his talents did not end with illustration work. He also developed a passion for photography, growing rapidly as an art form in the second half of the nineteenth century. Very soon, one of the attic rooms in his home in Stafford Terrace was converted into a studio. A bathroom became his dark room, the walls of which were covered with many examples of his work ~ with images of his family, and also of the household staff who he asked to pose as models.

Below, you can see his coachman dressed as the Emperor Nero while plucking away on a fire screen lyre ~ a pose that later on became the basis of a political cartoon...




When he was commissioned to illustrate Charles Kingsley's story, The Water Babies, Linley Sambourne used his daughter Maude to pose for the character, Ellie. His son, Roy, became the model for Tom, Charles Kingsley's child chimney sweep.




Now and then Sambourne's wife, Marion, was also persuaded to model, though she was said to be more concerned with the running of her household than playing at such frivolities. And then there were occasions when she took the children off from home for seaside trips and holidays ~ when her husband was far 'too busy with work' to think of leaving London ~ when he used his freedom in the house to acquire professional models.




For his portraits of naked females, Sambourne was always careful to use the plainest, non-descript backdrops and to hide his models' identities ~ many of whom he lured away from the local Kensington Camera Club. But, in one somewhat provocative pose a girl is clearly sitting in Marion's favourite armchair, her face masked and, somewhat ironically, holding a puppet of Mr Punch.

Whether or not Marion ever saw that particular photograph, she was most certainly aware of her husband's racey activities, very often referring to 'Lil's secrets' when writing in her diaries.


Edward Linley Sambourne, looking a little bit guilty and glum! (1844-1910)







24/08/2017

THE VV WAS ONCE A MAID, AT THAT MR LINLEY SAMBOURNE'S HOUSE ...



The Virtual Victorian has been a little subdued of late during the long hot summer months. But, fizzing now with the efficacious cure of Dr Robert's Constitutional Powders, her spirits are rapidly rising ... and she has been persuaded to let you peek at this rather blurry photograph, in which, if you look closely enough, you may see the face of Essie Fox when she first began her Adventures in London ~ engaged at the time as a parlour maid in that racy Linley Sambourne's house, exposed for all the world to see on the front of the Telegraph Sunday Magazine.

More on Mr Linley Sambourne to come ...


08/08/2017

STATION JIM AND LONDON JACK...


This somewhat shabby canine gentleman is known as Station Jim. From 1894-1896 he collected funds that went towards charities for needy railway workers, or the orphans of those employees who were killed in the days of steam trains.

Based at Slough Station in Berkshire, on the Great Western Line from Paddington, Jim can be found on Platform 5 where his glass case has a collection slot ~ still raising funds from doggy heaven. 



This noble fellow is London Jack. He worked at Paddington Station from 1894-1900. 

Jack raised more than £450 during the course of his lifetime. Like Jim, he went on to collect even more when he was dead and his body then stuffed. Today, Jack can be seen on display at the National History Museum in Tring which contains many other examples of nineteenth century taxidermy.

03/08/2017

A WALK IN TOWER HAMLETS CEMETERY


Five minutes walk from Mile End Tube in Bow you will find Tower Hamlets Cemetery; a hidden gem of calm green space in the bustling heart of East London. Agreed, it is nowhere near as grand or as large as Highgate cemetery, but it's certainly worth a visit ~ to see a Victorian graveyard surrounded by natural wildnerness.

The first internment took place here in 1841. The last in 1966. Essentially, the graveyard was provided for the working class, but over the 27 acres of consecrated ground are many ornate monuments, with obelisks and angels dedicated to trade unionists and other champions of workers' rights,  as well as philanthropists, merchants, sailors, and shipbuilders from the nearby docks.



Some of the tombstones are listed with English Heritage. Sadly, too many of them are scarred with shrapnel after the cemetery was bombed during the second world war. But there is still great beauty to be seen in this eerie and inspiring place that found a place in the VV's heart and even went on to feature in The Somnambulist, which was her first Victorian gothic novel.


As the cemetery appears in scenes from The Somnambulist 



 The VV ~ Essie Fox ~ discussing The Somnambulist on Channel 4's Bookclub

30/07/2017

THE VICTORIAN GAME OF FOOTBALL ...

Woolwich Arsenal Football Team, 1895

The Virtual Victorian loves football, and with the season about to start again it seemed a good enough reason to look back through the mists of history, with many of our modern teams having had their origins in the early 1800s. 

At this time, a dribbling form of the sport (as opposed to the handling game developed at Rugby school) was played at institutions such as Eton, Shrewsbury and Charterhouse. But the rules of the game were varied (sometimes from one half to the other) and fixtures played by the 'old boys' at university, or in the army, often descended into chaos. 


A Corner Kick by Thomas Hemy. 1892
Sunderland v Aston Villa, the two most successful teams of the decade.


However, with a rapidly growing support base, it soon became a necessity to impart some Victorian discipline, which is why, in 1863, the newly formed Football Association drew up its rules and regulations ~ which also proposed using referees to offer protection against the all too frequent violent tackles. Broken bones were far from rare!


Goal! By Thomas Hemy. 1882


Teams were also encouraged to wear more than coloured caps or scarves to identity themselves. By 1872, at the first FA Cup final, The Wanderers donned what must have been a fetching combination of pale pink, cerise, and black. Meanwhile, the Royal Engineers were somewhat more subdued in a manly dark red and navy blue.



The Wanderers, originally known as Forest, in 1863


In truth, working class players at that time could ill afford to buy their kits. Many were fellow workers, such as the founding members of Arsenal FC, who were all employed at the Woolwich Arsenal Armament factory. 

There the team had been inspired by the arrival of two players who came from Nottingham Forest, and fifteen men then volunteered to pay sixpence each to from a club, playing on Plumstead Common and originally known as Dial Square, after one of the factory workshops. 

Soon after this they changing their name to The Woolwich Arsenal. The team colour was decided when the team at Nottingham Forest donated a set of bright red shirts ~ still Arsenal's colour to this day.


Arsenal FC - a  fine and dashing squad of men!

01/07/2017

THE HALL BY THE SEA ~ 'LORD' GEORGE SANGER'S MARGATE MENAGERIE ...


'Lord' George Sanger ~ portrait by Charles Spencelayh. 
Ramsgate Library.


Recently, while in Margate, the VV visited the Dreamland Funfair resort and learned that in Victorian times the site had been known as ‘The Hall by the Sea’ - being situated as it was just over the road from the beach.

The land on Marine Terrace had first been been acquired and used by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. When this station was moved away to a terminus further from the town the buildings were first rented out to a business called Spiers and Ponds, who planned to run the Hall by the Sea as a concert hall, restaurant, and dance venue. 

When they failed to make a go of things the land was sold to the Mayor of Margate, Alderman Thomas Dalby Reeve. Reeve's son, Arthur, then married Harriet Sanger, the daughter of 'Lord' George Sanger ~ a circus and show business entrepeneur who was always very smartly dressed.

'Lord' George soon had plans for the venue ~ along with the fields that came with it ~ and, in 1874, the Hall on the Sea had been reborn as a zoological gardens.





Born in Newbury in 1825, George belonged to a show business family, with a father who made his living by exhibiting ‘curiosities’ and performing himself in peep shows in town and country fairs.

The showman gene was in George’s blood and he soon set up his own small shows which consisted of animals he’d trained ~ canaries, redpolls, white mice, and hares ~ who walked tightropes or fired mini canons. He was soon to be in much demand and was hired for private parties, but his mastery over the animals also drew accusations of witchcraft.


 Ellen ~ George Sanger's wife


In time, along with two older brothers, William and John, he set up a travelling conjuring show, and while performing at London’s Stepney Green met up with Ellen Chapman, the Lion taming woman who performed as Madame Pauline de Vere, who he then went on to marry in Sheffield in 1850.


 


As most of the performing fairs took place in the finer summer months, it was around this time that George and his brothers decided to hire permanent venues for Winter Theatrical shows. They rented Enon Chapel, which had been a former Charnel House and hired in actors and actresses to put on elaborate pantomimes. However, the site was forced to close down when human remains were still found to be present in the area. 

Unperturbed, and still thinking to expand in the summer of 1851 the brothers performed in London’s Hyde Park, at the time of the Great Exhibition. Unfortunately bad weather meant that this project ended in failure too. One more stint at Stepney Green, during which they displayed a ‘Tame Oyster’, and the brothers decided to start up a circus and take it on tour around the country.

In addition to this expansion they paid £11,000 to buy Astley’s Ampitheatre, still putting on their London shows until, in 1893, the London County Council ordered this venue to be closed.

Splitting at this time from his brothers, George travelled down to the Kent coast where he’d already established the Hall by the Sea. In addition to this, in Ramsgate, he opened up a new hotel adjoining an ampitheatre which, after his retirement, became the Royal Palace Theatre.


 


That theatre has now been demolished, but we can still visit the Margate site where he kept his touring menagerie during the quieter winter months, also creating a magnificent tourist lure, as described in this 1903 handbill -

'this mammoth establishment is the largest and most handsomely decorated and fitted place of entertainment out of London, and has accommodation for thousands'.



Inside this gothic structure, with walls designed to look like those of a ruined medieval abbey, lived many kinds of animals, including deer and camels, birds, giraffes and elephants, lions, bears, baboons, and wolves.





One frequent and satisfied visitor was the Rev George John Wood, and details of his experiences, along with more history of the site is to be found within this article made available by the Margate Local History group.


The western wall and cages before restoration

Sadly, all that now remains of the original buildings are parts of the western boundary. However, these have been given a Grade II listed status in the hope of preserving what is left of the brick and stone castellated walls, along with the iron barred cages where some of the animals were shown.






Still under renovation is the adjoining ‘folly’ or Gardener’s Cottage ~ but the cages are on open view for all who visit the Dreamland funfair ground. And the scene is made more attractive due to the glorious new plantings of lavender, agapanthus, olives, and many other shrubs and trees.




The VV thinks that 'Lord' Sanger would be pleased to see this memorial ~ although she is sadder to recall that this Victorian entrepreneur died in tragic circumstances; when murdered with a hatchet by a disgruntled employee while spending his retirement years at his home of Park Farm in East Finchley.

He was buried in Margate beside his wife, and one day the VV hopes to find that grave and pay George her respects ~ but she also hopes to find and read the autobiography he wrote in those last few years before his death: Seventy Years a Showman.

What a dreamland he created!


28/06/2017

THE FEJEE MERMAID: A HIDEOUS SIGHT...

A Mermaid by J.W.Waterhouse


When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with mermaids. Hans Christian Anderson had a lot to answer for, as did John William Waterhouse who painted this romantic and sensual image.

But imagine how thrilled I would have been if I'd lived in New York in 1842 and chanced to see this advertisement for PT Barnum's American Museum - telling of its acquisition of some exotic Peruvian Mummies, a duck-billed platypus and, last but not least an object hailed as the Wondrous Fejee Mermaid...




Many children must have been horrified to witness the actual display: for Mr Barnum's glorious mermaid was nothing more fantastical than the mummified torso and head of a monkey sewn onto the tail of some great fish, the grotesque sight of which may well have caused many a sensitive Victorian soul to succumb to a fit of the vapours.




Nevertheless, the mermaid proved a most successful lure, until the museum and everything in it burned down in 1865, after which (despite imitations being displayed in freak shows around the world) the original Mermaid was thought to be lost, as were thousands of other exhibits ~ including a fragment of The True Cross which had been artfully displayed next to that other sacred object: the bed of one Robbie Burns!

Click onto this link to learn more about Barnum's American Museum.




05/06/2017

EATING WITH VICTORIA ~ A GREEDY QUEEN ...

GUEST POST BY ANNIE GRAY


Portrait of Victoria, 1875
By Heinrich Von Angeli 
Copyright HM QEII, 2017/Bridgeman Images


A Greedy Queen is my first book, but in some ways has been simmering away in my mind for a very long time. One of the various elements of my version of being a food historian (there’s no job description, and we all do different things), is that I work in costume. At one stage, I ran a highly successful team at Audley End House in Essex (English Heritage), cooking in front of the public, and using the dishes and techniques to explore the past and, before I managed to make everything all about the food, I also played Victoria herself, as well as various of her servants, at Osborne House and Kensington Palace.




Researching a character for public interpretation is a funny business. You have to inhabit the persona of someone enough for people to have conversations with you connected to the past, and sparked by your characterisation, but not so much that it’s scary (or that you seem like a weirdo).


 
Windsor Castle Kitchen, 1886.
By Frank Watkins
Copyright Gavin Graham Gallery, 2017/Bridgeman Images


Inevitably, you draw on elements of people’s lives that appeal to you, and with Victoria it was always the food. I kept coming back to the fact that before her marriage in 1840 she’d dieted herself down to 7 stone 2 (she was 5 ft 1), but by 1895 she had a 45 inch waist and was frankly enormous. Kensington Palace has gowns from various stages of her life on display, with mirrors behind them, so you can stand in front and compare yourself very directly to the shape of the person for whom they were made, and I’ve spent hours in quiet contemplation there.


Evening at Balmoral, 1854.
Painted by Carl Haag
Royal Collection Trust/copyright HM QEII 2017 RL22033


Inevitably, Victoria’s relationship with food was complicated and changed over time. I loved researching and writing the book, and there were genuine moments of absolute surprise – like the times when peahen featured in her supply ledgers, when I thought it’d gone out with the Tudors, or the sheer volume of food going into the palaces.



Illustration from a contemporary cookbook aimed at the upper and upper middle classes


I watched William IV die through the pages of his dining ledgers, and I saw Victoria recover after the birth of her children (chocolate sauce was involved). I also came to love Victorian food even more that I had done up to that point. So, for a taste of the Victorian high life, here’re a few of my favourites...


Brussels Biscuits or Rusks

Charles Francatelli, The Cook’s Guide (1861)


Ingredients required – One pound of flour, ten ounces of butter, half an ounce of German-yeast, four ounces of sugar, four whole eggs, and four yolks, a teaspoonful of salt, and a gill of cream. Mix the paste [in the manner described for Compiegne cake, excepting that this must be beaten] with the hand upon the slab until it presents an appearance of elasticity: the sponge should then be added, and after the whole has been well worked once more, the paste must be placed in long narrow tins [about 2 inches deep, and of about the same width, preparatory to placing the paste in the moulds: these should first be well uttered and floured inside (to prevent the paste from sticking), then the paste rolled out to their own lengths, and about one inch and a half thick, dropped into them] and set in a warm place to rise…when the paste has sufficiently risen, it must be gently turned out [on a baking sheet, previously spread with butter. Then] egged [all over with a soft paste brush,] and baked [of a bright, deep yellow colour. When done,] cut it up into slices [about a quarter of an inch thick] place them flat on a baking-sheet, and put them again in the oven to acquire a light-yellow colour on both sides.

These biscuits were beloved of Victoria as a teenager recovering from a serious illness in 1835. This recipe is from a book by Charles Elmé Francatelli, who was chief cook to her in 1840. He wrote several books, and this recipe appears in one aimed solidly at the middle classes. Interestingly it is not included in his high-end cookery book, which is in general more reflective of the kind of dishes which he would have been cooking at Windsor and Buckingham Palace.

I have halved the ingredients – it still makes quite a lot of biscuits, so by all means halve them again. You can buy ‘fresh’ yeast in blocks from the bakery counter at many supermarkets: it is the equivalent of the processed German-yeast mentioned here.

8oz (200g) plain flour
5oz (125g) unsalted butter
½ oz fresh yeast or ½ tsp of dried yeast
2oz (50g) caster sugar
1 whole large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp salt
5fl oz (125 ml) single cream.

Crumble the yeast into about 2tbsp of tepid water, and mix to dissolve. Put 2oz of the flour into a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and add the yeast mixture. Sprinkle with a little flour from round the edges. Leave for about 10mn, at which point the yeast should be bubbling through the flour. Mix, adding a little more water if necessary, and form it into a loose and rather sticky ball. Cover with a damp teatowl or clingfilm, and leave in a warm place to double or triple in size. This is your sponge.

Meanwhile, mix the other ingredients well. Knead them, and, when the sponge has risen, add this in and mix everything thoroughly. Knead again. Francatelli now uses long, thin moulds as a way of shaping the dough which will be rather sticky and hard to handle. If you don’t have any, you can use plastic food containers, mini loaf tins, or half a kitchen roll inner tube, lined with greaseproof paper or clingfilm – whatever comes to hand is fine – just be aware that this will dictate the size of your final biscuits. Butter and flour whatever you are using, and put the dough in, to about 2/3 the height of your mould. Leave, covered with clingfilm of a damp cloth, for a couple of hours until it has risen and quite probably overflowed. Heat the oven to 180°c (170°c fan). Turn the dough out fast onto a greased baking sheet and bake for about 15-20mn. You can egg wash the whole thing for extra authenticity if you have a soft enough brush not to tear the rather delicate dough. (You can also just cook them in loaf tins which is easier, but it depends what you have in your kitchen).

Leave to cool slightly, and cut your cakes into thin slices. Egg wash them if you can be bothered, and spread on a greased baking sheet. Rebake for 10-15mn until they are golden brown. Store in an airtight container and eat with everything you can think of (especially orange jelly and beef tea).





Pancake with marmalade

Alexis Soyer, The Modern Housewife (1849)


Put a quarter of a pound of sifted flour into a basin, with four eggs, mix them together very smoothly, then add half a pint of milk or cream, and a little grated nutmeg, put a piece of butter in your pan, (it requires but a very little), and when quite hot put in two tablespoonfuls of the mixture, let spread all over the pan, place it upon the fire, and when coloured upon the one side toss it over, then turn it upon your cloth; proceed thus til they are all done, then spread apricot or other marmalade all over, and roll them up neatly, lay them upon a baking sheet, sift sugar all over, glaze nicely with the salamander, and serve upon a napkin; the above may be served without the marmalade, being then the common pancake.’

Alexis Soyer was the leading chef of his day, and was one of London’s most flamboyant culinary figures. Like Francatelli, he published cookery books aimed at the upper, middle and lower classes, and he also put his ideas into action, going out to the Crimea to work out whether the food had anything to do with the appalling death rate in the Scutari field hospital (it did). He subsequently invented a military stove which remained in use well into the latter half of the twentieth century, and was lauded as a hero by The Times. This recipe is from his middle class Cook’s Guide, which is written as letters from an experienced hostess to her protégé. It’s refreshingly odd, but the recipes are brilliant. Victoria’s children recalled making pancakes at the Swiss Cottage when they were learning to cook there in the 1850s.

4oz (100g) flour
2 large eggs
10 fl oz (250ml) single cream or whole milk
Nutmeg
Butter
Jam or marmalade
Icing sugar (to finish) 

Mix the eggs and flour until there are no lumps, then whisk in the cream or milk, adding a little grated nutmeg. Melt the butter in a pan, and pour in two ladles-full of batter, spreading it out across the pan. Flip or toss the pancake when it is just cooked on the top, and cook the bottom until it is brown. To be properly Victorian, spread each pancake with a thin layer of jam or marmalade, roll it up, and put it on a baking sheet. When the sheet is full of pancakes, sprinkle with icing sugar and put them under a grill to brown the sugar. Serve on a doily, stacked neatly in a pyramid.






Windsor Sandwiches

Avis Crocombe, Unpublished ms. Cookbook, (c.1860-1910)


1/4lb tongue-1/4lb parmesan, 1 oz of butter and a little cayenne, pound all together and pass it through a sieve. Cut the bread to fancy and then put the preparation between. Dip them in butter and parmesan and fry them a light brown. 

One from my days at Audley End, this recipe is in a book kept by the cook there in 1881, Avis Crocombe. Avis was a trailblazer in her own way, one of a very small number of women cooking for the aristocracy. At the rank of earl of above, a woman cook was almost unheard of (Avis’s employer was a Baron, so rather lower down), and the preference of the titled was for men, preferably French men. That gender bias was also at work in the royal kitchens, where only around 15 of the 45 or so cooks were women. One of them, Jane Elgar, assistant to the confectionery, saw off five heads of department, all on £300 a year, while she remained on £40. However, she did manage to stay in post until her retirement, unlike Mary Timms, who died while still in service. Life in the kitchen was hard.

4oz (100g) tongue, chopped
4oz (100g) parmesan, grated
1oz (25g) butter
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
More butter, for frying
More grated parmesan, ditto
Good quality bread, thinly sliced

Cut the bread with a pastry cutter into fun shapes. Pound the tongue, parmesan, butter and cayenne in a mortar until it is pulverised (or use a blender, but the amounts are a bit small). Spread half the bread shapes with the paste, and press the other halves firmly on top. Melt the frying butter and dip the sandwiches in that, and then finely grated parmesan. Fry in yet more butter until crisp.

To drink, have a crack at either of the Queen’s favourite alcoholic tipples: claret mixed with whisky (I use Lochnagar and do 125ml wine and 25ml whisky), or whisky and soda. Seltzer water was widely regarded as a health drink, and whisky and soda, or whisky, soda and lemon squash, was therefore clearly an ideal way to start the day. One of Victoria’s granddaughters implored her mother, Victoria’s eldest daughter, to try it when she was thirsty…at 11am.



In the kitchen at Swiss Cottage at Osborne House 
Photograph by Andre Disderi
Royal Collection Trust copyright, HM QEII 2017: RCIN 2102589

SUTHERLAND MACDONALD, AND THE VICTORIAN ART OF TATTOOING ...


The National Maritime Museum Cornwall has a major new exhibition entitled: Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed. 

Running from now until January 2018, the exhibition illustrates how tattoos have been used to express individual and group identity across every social class. 

The exhibition includes work by the Victorian, Sutherland Macdonald, who is thought to have been exposed to the art while in the British Army. He was said to be a 'natural' who was adept in the use of Japanese hand tools ~ and Japanese tattoo styles definitely influenced his work. However, in 1894, he received a patent for his own electric tattooing machine, and he has also been credited with extending the popular shades of blues and greens, which are classics of the palates of almost all tattooists today.

Examples of his work are shown below. I only wish the photographs were in colour.


















For another VV post on Victorian tattoos, see:  Tattooed ~ by Royal Appointment