Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Streets of Old Lambeth: Waterloo Station

A visitor to London, having explored Rotherhithe, in the Borough of Southwark, can travel by London Overground and the Jubilee Line to Waterloo Station, which is in the adjacent Borough of Lambeth. Waterloo (formally named after the bridge, rather than directly after the battle) was one of London's earliest major rail terminuses, after Euston and Paddington. It was opened by the London and South-Western Railway Company in 1848, replacing an earlier temporary station at Nine Elms, near Battersea, and connecting London to Weymouth, Southampton, Salisbury, and Portsmouth.

Waterloo Bridge Station in 1848 (image is in the Public Domain).

Waterloo Station today. Photo: Bjorn Christian Torrissen (licensed under CCA).

The LSWR network in 1922. Image: Afterbrunel (Public Domain).


It was a significant departure and arrival point for soldiers and sailors of both the First and Second World Wars. In the aftermath of the Second World War, it became the busiest station complex in Europe, and is depicted in John Schlesingers (1961) film, "Terminus", supposedly a "fly on the wall" documentary, although it is known that some of the scenes were set up, and that some of the people who appear in it were actors: it is, nonetheless, a poignant evocation of the last years of the Age of Steam.

The suffragettes, Emmeline, Christabel, and Sylvia Pankhurst, at Waterloo Station in 1911 (Emmeline was embarking on a lecture tour of Canada and the USA).  Photo: Imperial War Museum Q81490 (non-commercial license).

Troops at Waterloo Station in 1914 (image is in the Public Domain).

Crowd gathered at Waterloo Station to welcome Charlie Chaplin in 1921. Photo: Photoplay (image is in the Public Domain).

Waterloo Station in 1940, with troops arriving, and evacuees departing. Photo: US Defense Department (image is in the Public Domain).


One of the station's most unusual roles was as the embarkation point for the London Necropolis Railway Company, established in the wake of the Burials Act (1851), prohibiting the burial of the dead within central London (the overcrowding of city cemeteries and crypts had become a scandalous problem, and a serious health-hazard, in the first half of the Nineteenth Century). The railway carried coffins and mourners to Brookwood Cemetery, twenty-three miles away in Surrey. The company's London station was badly damaged by German bombing in 1941, and the railway of the dead never re-opened.

The London Necropolis Railway. Image: Iridescent (licensed under GNU).

The former entrance to the London Necropolis Station, built in 1902. Photo: Wikimedia Commons (licensed under GNU).

A one-way coffin ticket (image is in the Public Domain).

The bombed station in 1941. Photo: Southern Railway Photographic Unit (image is in the Public Domain).


Leaving via the Victory Arch, opened in 1922 to commemorate the station's role in the First World War, we can walk down towards the Thames to begin our exploration of the Borough of Lambeth.


Waterloo Station's Victory Arch. Photo: Prioryman (licensed under CCA).


Mark Patton is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books can be purchased from Amazon.


Friday, 6 October 2017

The Story of London in 50 Novels: 2 - "The Emperor's Babe," by Bernardine Evaristo

The Roman province of Britannia was governed from Londinium throughout the Second and Third Centuries AD, and, wherever foundations are dug within the city, evidence of its prosperity are to be found. The Greek writer, Strabo, lists Britain's exports as including grain, cattle, gold, silver, iron, hides, slaves, and hunting dogs: to which list must certainly be added lead from Flintshire, used in plumbing systems across the Empire. All of these are likely to have passed through the port of London, with wine, olive oil, dates, figs, and luxury tableware flowing in the other direction.

A free market in goods and services extended from Wales in the west to Syria in the east, and from Northumbria in the north to Egypt in the south. London's cosmopolitan population attracted some of the Empire's finest craftsmen: mosaicists; mural artists; glass-blowers; and stone-masons.

Mosaic from Roman London, Museum of London. Photo: Udimu (licensed under GNU).


The defensive wall around the city of London was not built until around 200 AD, and probably had as much to do with policing and surveillance in the capital as with defence from external threats, which did not loom on the horizon for some decades afterwards. Such policing and surveillance were important, because the city served as a base, not only for the province's Governor and Procurator (finance minister), but sometimes even for the Emperor. Hadrian was here in 122 AD, and Septimius Severus from 208 to 211 AD: both were concerned primarily with consolidation and conquest in the north of Britain, but, in their presence, much of the business of the governance of Empire is likely to have been centred on Londinium.


London in c 200 AD. Image: Udimu (licensed under GNU).

Section of Londinium's defensive wall, Tower Hill. Photo: Nessy-Pic (licensed under CCA).

Head from a bronze statue of the Emperor Hadrian, found in the Thames, Museum of London. Photo: FollowingHadrian (licensed under CCA).




Bernardine Evaristo's novel, The Emperor's Babe, set in 211 AD, is a novel in verse, tells the story of Zuleika, a woman of Sudanese parentage brought up in London, and married off at an early age to a much older man of senatorial rank (she is a fictional character, but people of African and Asian heritage were certainly present in Roman Britain, and most of them were probably not slaves; we even know some of their names). Zuleika's husband, Felix, has political and business interests in Rome itself, and is often absent, and, when a chance encounter brings her to the attention of Emperor Septimius Severus, she enters into a dangerous liaison.


Septimius Severus, who reigned as Emperor from 193 AD, and died at York in 211 AD, Glyptothek Munich, Inv. 357. Photo: Bibi Saint-Pol (image is in the Public Domain). 


"One minute it's hopscotch in bare feet,
next, you're four foot up in a sedan in case
your pink stocking get dirty. No one
prepared me for marriage. Me and Alba
were the wild girls of Londinium,
sought to discover the secrets
of its hidden hearts, still too young
to withhold more than we revealed,
to join this merry cast of actors ...
 ... Some nights we'd go to the river,
sit on the beach, look out towards
the marshy islands of Southwark,
and beyond to the jungle that was Britannia,
teeming with spirits and untamed humans.
We'd try to imagine the world beyond the city,
that country a lifetime away that Mum
called home and Dad called prison;
the city of Roma which everyone
went on about as if it were so bloody mirabilis ... 
 ... The white stucco villas of Cheapside
are usually out of bounds to scallywags
like me and Alba. Guards shoo us away.
(She has not been invited). Today
they bow as if I were the emperor's wife,
when my horse-drawn carriage, if you please,
arrives at a villa with its own latrina.
And enough rooms to fill the Forum."

Limestone sarcophagus and lead coffin excavated at Spitalfields, and containing the skeleton of a young woman. Its discovery in 1999 inspired Bernardine Evaristo when she was working as poet in residence at the Museum of London. Photo: www.mikepeel.net (licensed under CCA).


The narration hop-scotches elegantly, and often hilariously, between the Londinium of Zuleika's era, and the London of our own, as one critic has suggested, "like an episode of  Sex and the City written by Ovid."

Mark Patton is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books can be purchased from Amazon.


Sunday, 1 October 2017

The Year in Medieval Art: October

In some respects, the autumnal months of the Medieval year merge together: the harrowing and ploughing of fields; the sowing of seeds for vegetables; the harvesting and treading of grapes; continue from September into October. The agricultural cycle always depended on the weather: a crop could not be harvested until it had ripened, but needed to be gathered in before it was ruined by rain, frost or pests. In some regions, there were new crops to be harvested in October, including apples and pears.

October, from Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, 1412-40, Musee Conde (image is in the Public Domain). The building in the background is the Medieval Chateau du Louvre.

October, from the Grimani Breviary, by Gerard Horenbout, 1510-19, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Venice (image is in the Public Domain).

Calendar page for October, from the Hours of Joanna of Castile, c 1500. British Library Add.Ms 35313 (image is in the Public Domain).

The grape harvest in October, by Maestro Venceslau, late 14th/early 15th Century (image is in the Public Domain).

The apple harvest, from the Tacuinum Sanitatis, Naitonalbibliothek, Vienna (image is in the Public Domain).


October was often the month in which the more specialised and technical aspects of crop-processing took place. In wine producing areas, the grapes had to be pressed; the barrels sealed and stored for fermentation; the previous year's vintage assessed; wines blended and laid down to mature. In more northerly climates, grain had to be made into ale, and apples into cider.

The "Mystic Wine-Press," making an explicit link between crop-processing and the blood-sacrifice of Christ, from La Bible Moralisee, Provence, 1485-93.

A monastic cellarer assessing the vintage, from Li Livres do Sante, France, late 13th Century (image is in the Public Domain). 

A cooper sealing a barrel, from the Officium Beatae Mariae, Boulogne, 1385 (image is in the Public Domain).

A monastic brewer (image is in the Public Domain).


Herds of cattle, sheep, and goats, that had been grazed in upland pastures over the summer, were now brought back down into the valleys, the herdsmen bringing with them the new cheese, to be matured in cellars and caves.


"The Return of the Herd," by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (image is in the Public Domain).

The assessment of cattle, from the Da Costa Hours, by Simon Bening, c 1515, Morgan Library, New York (image is in the Public Domain). A farmer might slaughter a cow or bull in October, to provide a feast for his workers, and also to lay down reserves of salt-beef for the winter.


As the labours of the harvest drew to a close, the rhythms of the religious calendar began, once again, to assert themselves. The term "Allhallowtide" seems to have been used for the first time in 1471, but as far back as the early Eleventh Century, Abbot Odile, of the wealthy and powerful Benedictine house of Cluny (which had dependencies all across Europe), had set aside the end of October as a time of prayers for the dead: a reminder to everyone of the brevity of life; and a preparation for the penitence of Advent to come.


"The Triumph of Death," Church of Santa Maria Annunciata, Bienno, Italy. Photo: Luca Gianelli (CC-BY-SA 3.0).

Danse Macabre, by Berns Notke (1435-1509), Tallinn, Art Museum of Estonia 1255 (image is in the Public Domain).

Danse Macabre, by Vincent of Kastau, 1471, Church of Saint Mary, Beram, Croatia. Photo: Toffel (licensed under GNU).


Mark Patton is a published author of historical fiction and non-fiction, whose books may be purchased from Amazon.