Monday, 13 July 2015


The Royal Pavilion, Brighton.

Thomas Daniell was born in 1749 in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey. His father was the landlord of the Swann pub in Chertsey, a few miles from Kingston. He was born in the same year as Charles James Fox, the great Whig politician and adversary of William Pitt the Younger who lived in Chertsey in the latter part of his life.. However, I am sure the two never met, partly because of their differing backgrounds and also because their respective occupations were so very different. Thomas had an artistic talent. He spent his early career as an heraldic and coach painter. He became a member of the Royal Academy but found it hard to establish himself even though he exhibited over thirty works, paintings and illustrations at The Royal Academy between 1772 and 1784.
In 1785 he decided to try his luck in India. He got permission to travel to India from The East India Company. He took with him, as his assistant, his young sixteen year old nephew William Daniell. William Daniell had been born in 1769 and also resided in the Swan Inn in Chertsey, his father taking over the tenancy from Thomas’s father. The two left from Gravesend on the 7th April 1785 and they arrived in Calcutta in early 1786.Thomas kept a detailed journal of their time in India and it is through this journal that we can follow their tours and know exactly where they were on given dates.
Thomas immediately took an advertisement out in The Calcutta Chronicle. It stated his intention to publish a set of views of the city created by etching and aquatint.. He completed twelve plates. Selling prints from these plates provided Thomas and William with the money to set out and tour India.
In September 1788 the Daniells toured Northern India setting out by boat along the Ganges. They set off initially for Murshidababd and went on to Bhagalpur where they stayed for a while with Samuel Davis of the East India Company. They then went on to Kanpur and then overland to Delhi visiting Agra, Fatehpur, Sikri and Mathura. The following April they went to Srinager. Uttarkhand and on to Gharwal in the Himalayas. They sketched and painted temples, palaces, tombs and the scenery wherever they went. They held a lottery in Calcutta for their finished work. The fact the lottery raised enough money for their further exploits shows that their work was admired and its importance recognised. People were prepared to buy lottery tickets knowing they only had a small chance of obtaining one of the original pictures.  The Darnell’s must have held an exhibition of their work for all the people buying the lottery tickets to see the paintings. They used the funds to tour south.

By February 1792 the Daniells were back in Calcutta. On the 10th March 1792 the Daniells left Calcutta once more for Madras which they reached on the 29th March. They hired servants and then followed the route of the British Army the year before. The British had defeated Tipu Sultan. By January 1793 they were back in Madras.
A final tour took Thomas and William through Western India from Madras to Bombay. They eventually left India in May 1793 and arrived back in England in September 1794.

 William Daniell

Once back in England their main priority was to publish acquatint prints of their paintings of India. William worked extremely hard and worked for the next seven years from 6am in the morning to midnight perfecting his techniques. The Daniell’s great work, “Oriental  Scenery,” was eventually published between 1795 and 1805.They consisted of one hundred and forty four coloured acquatints and six uncoloured title pages. The cost of one set was £210. The publication was a success both financially and artistically. Thirty sets were sold to The East India Company and there was a further order of eighteen. Some of the acquatints were based on the drawings of James Wales showing the Caves of Ellora. Each plate was etched by the two Daniells, uncle and nephew.
Much of the buildings they painted in India were those of the Mughal Empire which was situated in northern and central India. The Mughal emperors brought together Persian, Indian and local designs. They were a Muslim nation who followed Islam. Muhammed was their profit and their lives were governed by the Quran.  Human,, animal and living things could not be represented in art or architecture. This had not been written in the Quran but the Muslim worlds contact through war and trade with the Christian world with its art and architecture considered western art forms idolatrous to the thinking of Muslims. With this clash of cultures Islam formed its rules against the portrayal of living things. The architecture, the Daniells painted, comprised of mostly holy places such as mosques and royal palaces, the great buildings of the Mughal Empire which reflected these beliefs. Their architecture encompassed intricate, geometrical design that intrinsically was not influenced by living nature. However it is easy to see leaf and plant forms in many examples of Muslim architecture. Whether this is accidental or intentional I am not sure. Architecture was put to practical uses and the needs of the people. It was influenced by the landscape and climate.  Intricately designed latticed stone screens created spaces and allowed air to flow through to cool the space. They wanted large spacious prayer halls in their mosques so that large groups of people could gather. The idea of domes to provide roofs over these large spaces was formed. Domes are also good for circulating air so helping to keep the space below cool. Minarets were constructed so that mullahs could send their prayers and their call to prayer out to the surrounding world. In the 18th century, nothing like this had been seen before. Architecture, whether western or eastern, modern or ancient always has a purpose.
One particular building the Daniell’s painted and has become the epitome of Persian and northern Indian architecture is the Taj Mahal. They were probably amongst the first western artists to draw and paint it. It was created by the Shah Jahan I the first half of the 17th century. This period marked the emergence of Persian architecture in India. The use of the double dome, recessed horse shoe shaped archways a perfect symmetry and balance between the different parts of the building and the setting within formal gardens. These features, portrayed in the Daniell’s paintings were to have an influence not imagined by the Mughals in India.

A painting by Thomas Daniell.

The Daniell’s hard work and efforts were a great achievement. They showed Indian architecture to the England of the 18th century. They played no small part in the west’s understanding of the east. However their work was also bastardised and misused. George IV as Prince Regent had a holiday home in Brighton. He was extravagant, indulgent and indifferent to the opinions of others. In 1787, the architect Henry Holland extended the original lodging house  the prince used, into a neoclassical building called the Marine Pavilion.George was a lover of French decorative art but also Chinoiserie, a style influenced by China. The captains of tea clippers often brought examples of furniture and pottery from china along with their cargo of tea. The style took off in 18th century England and George was a great advocate.  He employed Crace, the firm of interior decorators to furnish his marine pavilion with Chinoiserie. At about the same time George had the magnificent stables next to the pavilion, built in the Indian style of architecture and designed by William Porden. The stables dwarfed the Marine Pavilion. George turned his attention once more to pavilion. He wanted to build a new pavilion. He chose the architect John Nash who proposed an Indian style to match the stables complex. Nash was also influenced by Humphrey Repton who had ideas for a formal Indian garden. Of course the illustrated book of Indian Architecture, “Oriental Scenery,” by Thomas and William Daniell had been published at that time too. Nash plundered ideas from their book. He was provided with all the design ideas he needed.

The Taj Mahal by Thomas Daniell.

If you study the Royal Pavilion at Brighton today you can see how the Daniell’’s paintings influenced the design. Many of the features of the pavilion can be seen in the Taj Mahal. There are domes covering spacious areas beneath. A number of minarets are interspersed between the domes. The surfaces are covered by intricate geometric designs, some of them plant like. Latticed stone archways create shaded cool spaces along one side of the pavilion. Latticed balconies and symmetrically arched windows adorn the outside. However, the large spaces the domes surmount were used for profligate activities. In identical spaces in Indian mosques where prayers would be intoned, lavish, gluttonous feasts would be held, brandy and wine fuelled balls would take place and women lusted after by mysoginistic men. Where the call to prayer at the top of minarets was intoned the smoke from coal fires, warming the Royal Pavilion, poured out into the atmosphere. I may exaggerate a little but the contrast between the two purposes was stark. Although 18th century England might have been shown many cultural elements of the east, it is not sure they understood or empathised.

The rear of The Royal pavilion Brighton from the surrounding gardens originally designed by Humphrey Repton.

There are some dire consequences and dangerous resonances today of course caused by our still inability to understand and empathise with other cultures. You only need to tune into BBC Radio 4 or watch the news on television, every day. The fear caused is palpable.


Wednesday, 24 June 2015


Napoleon Bonaparte on the island of St Helena.
On the 18th June 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated at The Battle of Waterloo by Arthur Wellesley, The Duke of Wellington and the Prussian General Blucher, who arrived later in the day with a force of 30,000 troops, causing Napoleon to split his forces. The battle commenced at 11.20am and was finished by 8.30pm. A day later, on the 19th June, Napoleon abdicated and was taken into custody by the British and exiled to the remote island of St Helena, situated in the middle of the South Atlantic, thousands of miles from Europe and any sort of civilisation.

Two years later, in August of 1817 a young Royal Naval officer, called Captain Hall, arrived on St Helena on board HMS Lyra which was transporting Lord Amherst, the British Ambassador to China, back to the United Kingdom. Captain Hall made every attempt to gain an interview with Napoleon who was living in a house called Longwood high on the island. Eventually Napoleon did grant him an interview after much negotiation. At first negotiating through the Governor of St Helena, Sir Hudson Lowe, seemed somewhat futile. Lowe and Napoleon did not hit it off. Captain Blakeney, who was Napoleaons guard, proved a better approach. Blakeney and Napoleons physician, Dr D’elleara got some response, however, Napoleon was either too tired after a walk or about to do some task and a meeting always seemed inconvenient. Captain Hall got as far as visiting Marshal Bertrand and his wife Countess Bertrand in their house close by Napoleons residence. THall and Bertrand got along very well and Countess Bertrand sympathised with Captain Hall in his request to meet Napoleon. Marshall Bertrand himself made overtures to Napoleaon about the possibility of a meeting but Napoleon apparently ignored his friend’s suggestion. As an aside, Captain Hall mentioned to Dr D’elleeara that his father, Sir John Hall,  had visited and spent some time at Brienne, the French military academy, when Napoleon was there himself as a student. Dr D’elleraua immediately replied that Hall should have mentioned this before. Apparently, Napoleon had great respect for officers who had attended courses at Brienne. He himself had promoted many officers to his own staff from the Brienne academy. This news was relayed to Napoleon and Napoleon was all too pleased to then receive Captain Hall.  Captain Hall recorded his encounter in his journal. He reveals much about Napoleon as a man and a leader of men.

Longwood, Napoleon's house on St Helena.
On the 13th August Hall received a message. It first got to his two colleagues, Captain Harvey and Lieutenant Clifford  and he only heard later in the day, because the message had been sent to James Town the signaller presuming he would be there. Captain Hall , after visiting Marshal Bertrand had returned to the Governor’s residence and not to James Town. Hall immediately felt panic when he received the message.It had been sent at 1pm. He feared he would be late for the appointed time  for the meeting as he had received the message so late. He rushed to Longwood, Napoleon’s home on the island. The message had read:
“General Bonaparte wishes to see Captain Hall at two o’clock”.
Hall stated,
“I lost no time in obeying the invitation, but galloped over the hills as fast as I could, being prompted to use all speed lest Bonaparte should think that I had intentionally kept him waiting. 

On being ushered into the room, I observed Bonaparte standing before the fire. He was leaning his head on his hand, with his elbow resting on the mantle piece. He looked up and immediately advanced a pace towards me, returning my bow in a quick, careless manner. On my going close up to him he asked me in a hurried way “What is your name?” I answered “Hall”.
From this we can see that Napoleon was an intense quick witted individual.

Upon telling him my name he said, “Ah Hall, I knew your Father at Brienne. He was then learning French and reading Mathematics. He was very fond of Mathematics and liked to converse on the subject. He did not mix much with the young men at the college; he lived principally with the priests, apart from us.

I expressed some surprise at his recollecting any individual for so long a time, when his thoughts had been so much engaged with important affairs. “Oh it is not in the least extraordinary” said Bonaparte “because your Father was the first Englishman I ever saw, and I have recollected him on that account during all my life”. 
Napoleon was one of those individuals that can hold everything in their head. He is able to separate things so that he gives due importance to each.
Upon his asking me more particularly about my Father’s occupations, I told him that he was president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
This furnished him with a new topic, and he continued for some minutes cross questioning me about the nature of the Edinburgh Royal Society.
Hall had heard that Napoleon was interested in the sciences and new ideas of all types. His questioning proved to show that this was right.
He next asked how many children my Father had? I said, “Nine alive”. “Ah c’est beaucoup” said Bonaparte with an air of affected gravity accompanied by a formal sort of bow, as if he felt desirous of making up for the slighting manner in which he had just been treating my Father on the score of age.
His next question was, “Are you married?”, and on my stating that I was not, he asked in a quick impatient way, “Why don’t you marry?”.
He showed a close interest in Hall himself and his circumstances. Hall replied to Napoleon's enquiries about his married status that he didn’t have enough money to marry yet. Napoleon seemed to understand this situation and moved the discussion on.
Bonaparte now began questioning me about our late voyage of discovery, of which he had heard nothing from any of the gentlemen of the [HMS] Alceste who had preceded me. This was very fortunate for me, because the topic was quite new to him. It accordingly interested him highly. Bonaparte had been always supposed to have a strong taste for every thing oriental, and for whatever related to voyages of discovery in particular. 

 I can fully believe that this is correct, for he appeared deeply interested in by the account which I gave him of what we had seen, and he carried on his enquiries with a fervour and an anxiety to be informed which I have never seen in any other person.
He wanted to know all about Loochoo,an island group south west of Japan where Hall had visited on his voyages. He interrogated Hall about the people, money, arms, agriculture and religion. He studied intensely some sketches that that had been made of the people and customs. His questions were incisive and searching. He showed a deep interest.

Loochoo Islands off Japan.
It would be in the highest degree satisfactory to be able to give his questions in the order and in the very words they were put, but this is unfortunately not in my power. They were very numerous and sagacious, not thrown out at random, but ingeniously connected with one another, so as to make every thing assist in forming a clear comprehension of the subject. I felt that there was no escaping his scrutiny, and such was the rapidity and precision with which he apprehended the subject, that I felt at times as if he were as well or better informed upon it than I was myself, and that he was interrogating me with a view to discover my veracity and powers of description.

Napoleon was in high spirits while putting these questions and carried on his enquiry with so much cheerfulness, not to say familiarity that I was more than once thrown completely off my guard, and caught myself unconsciously addressing him with the freedom and confidence of an equal. When I checked myself upon these occasions and became more formal and respectful, he encouraged me to go on with so much real cheerfulness, that I soon felt myself quite at ease in his presence.”

Hall relaxed in his presence and felt that at times he was lured by Bonaparte’s effusiveness into being too familiar and overly animated and tried to check himself but easily returned to being familiar once more.It is known that Napoleon had a close relationship with his Imperial Guard. He inspired great loyalty. He also had a close relationship with his officers and it is easy to see how at the height of his powers he could be the supreme commander. He encouraged not just loyalty but love and affection .The interview with Captain Hall lasted about twenty minutes.

In those short twenty minutes we can see how Napoleon  formed a closeness with Hall.  Napoleon was not only adored by soldiers but also by the French people. He had an open personality ready to encompass everybody and everything.
Hall stated,
“ I have scarcely discovered a single topic on which Bonaparte did not put some questions. He spoke deliberately and distinctly and waited with the utmost patience and attention for answers.”

 Captain Hall was impressed by Bonaparte and through Halls words it makes us feel impressed by him too.
All the reports concerning the Duke of Wellington’s personality and his relationships with people show him to be arrogant, officious, misogynistic and demanding. Two more very different personalities as adversaries I cannot imagine. I know who I prefer.

Captain Hall’s journal:
The National Army Museum:

Friday, 5 June 2015


On my regular runs up to Wimbledon Common, I often go along North View which is situated on the south edge of the common. There are a number of tall elegant Victorian houses along this short stretch of road that borders one of the greens belonging to The Royal Wimbledon Golf Club. Beyond the smooth surface of the green is an area of thick woodland that stretches deep into the common itself. One of these houses has an English Heritage blue plaque located on the left of its fa├žade just above the front door. In the past I have stopped and read the information on this plaque. The blue roundel reads from the top; English Heritage, Josephine Butler, 1828 – 1906 Champion of Women’s Rights lived here 1890 – 1893.

Josephine Butler

I must admit I have never given it much thought. I have looked at it a few times but it has never taken my interest. The only thoughts that occurred to me were that she must have been an upper class ,”do gooder,” a sort of prototype early form of suffragette, one of the lesser known ones. A friend of mine was talking about walking on Wimbledon Common recently and mentioned the plaque to me. I said that I had seen it. Another friend mentioned it recently too. I began to think I must look into this woman’s life further.  After all, English Heritage, do not put up a plaque for just anybody. She didn’t live in Wimbledon for long, three years according to the plaque.

Josephine Butler was born in a village in Northumberland called Milfield, in 1828.Her father was John Grey, a local landowner and Whig politician.. He was a supporter of the abolition of slavery and he wanted an extension to the right to vote. He was cousin of Earl Grey who brought in the Parliamentary reform Act of 1832. Her father encouraged Josephine and her brothers and sisters to take an interest in local affairs and she grew up from an early age discussing politics. She became a committed Christian but her early life was marked only by herself and her sister enjoying the county social whirl of balls and parties.
In 1852 she married George Butler who was a lecturer at Durham University who became an Anglican minister. They moved to Oxford when he became the examiner of schools at Oxford University. She found herself in a male world. Most Oxford dons were unmarried. They looked down on women and didn’t think their views were worth listening to.  After a few years an incident happened which began to change things for Josephine. A don of Balliol College had got a local girl pregnant and abandoned her. In her desperation the girl had killed the baby. She was sent to jail. Josephine appealed to the Master of Balliol, Benjamin Jowett, to make the don, who had got the girl pregnant, to realise his crime. Jowett replied,
“It would only do harm to open in any way such a question as this. It is dangerous to arouse a waking lion.”
Josephine was appalled. When the girl was eventually released from prison Josephine and her husband gave the girl a job as their housekeeper.
In 1857 George Butler moved from Oxford to become the Vice principal of Cheltenham College. While at Cheltenham their daughter, Eva, died at the age of six, when she fell down some stairs. This incident affected her for the rest of her life. When her husband was offered the job as the principal of Liverpool College they were only too pleased to move. Cheltenham held such painful memories.
Josephine threw herself into charity work to help her overcome the grief of losing her daughter so tragically. She joined a Christian mission at Brownlow Hill Workhouse. Many of the women in Brownlow workhouse were prostitutes.  Josephine began to invite starving and sick prostitutes in to her own home. She persuaded local businessmen to provide money to set up a house as a woman’s refuge to help these prostitutes. The reasons for them becoming prostitutes was poverty and lack of food. Josephine set about starting a work training scheme to give the girls skills that they could use to gain employment. Also the refuge set up its own business, making envelopes. This created an income to cover the running costs of the hostel.
Brownlow Workhouse, Liverpool ( This is now the site of the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral )

At the same time as setting up the hostel she became involved in a campaign for better educational facilities for women. In 1867 the, North of England Council for Promoting the Higher education of Women, began with Josephine as its first president. The Council organised public lectures which developed into the University Extension Scheme. She also petitioned Cambridge University to admit women to its higher local exams which was achieved in 1869. This provided education for upper class women. In 1868 Josephine wrote a pamphlet entitled, “Education and employment of women.” She argued that poor women did not have the opportunities of the apprenticeship schemes that were set up for boys. She argued that lack of skills and poor employment prospects drove some women to prostitution. She also made it clear that women were not less intelligent than men but that they were equals. This was the first time Josephine stated her beliefs in the equality of the sexes and that they should be treated equally. The following year, 1869, she edited a magazine called “Woman’s Work and Woman’s Culture.” Contributors argued for women’s rights in a whole range of areas including education and property rights.
Josephine herself stated,
“I wish it were felt that women who are labouring especially for women are not one sided or selfish. We are human first; women secondarily. We care about the evils affecting women most of all because they react upon the whole of society and abstract from the common good. Women are not men’s rivals but their helpers. There can be no antagonism that is not injurious to both.”
In 1869 something else happened which was to set Josephine on a course that brought her to national significance. She returned home from a holiday in Europe to find a message waiting for her. 1869 was the year that the third Contagious Diseases Act was passed through Parliament and it increased the scope and power of the previous two acts. The first Contagious Diseases Act was passed in 1864. The terms of the act were to be followed and explored for three years to ascertain its effectiveness.
In the 1850’s the Crimean War had created a cause for concern over the health of the army. The major problem was syphilis which the military thought was caused and spread by prostitutes. A Royal Commission on health, was set up in 1857 to look at this question. To find out the extent of venereal disease in the army regiments were encouraged to carry out regular examinations of their men. Both army surgeons and the men themselves complained about the humiliation and degradation of this process so the practice was curtailed. Surgeon Perry of the Royal Artillery complained that he felt degraded having to examine soldiers in this way.

“I thought that I was placed in an utterly false position as a gentleman and as a medical man.”
 In 1864, to replace this earlier attempts at controlling and treating venereal diseases, the Contagious Diseases Act was first passed. This was set up for three years to assess the procedures set out in it. Magistrates had the power to order any prostitute to undergo an examination of their sexual organs by a doctor. All doctors were men of course. If they were found to be infected they would be forcibly detained in a special hospital for three months to undergo treatment. Refusal to do this was punishable by prison. To ascertain if somebody was a prostitute was the reporting of rumours about a woman to the police. All the police had to do was swear before a magistrate they had reason to believe somebody was a prostitute. It was up to the woman to prove she was not a prostitute which would have been virtually impossible. How does somebody prove they are not a prostitute?
The experiment was extended in 1866 when the second Contagious Diseases Act was passed. It included more clauses and increased the number of towns form the original eleven to be covered by the act. The towns chosen where this work was carried out were all military towns or strongly connected with the military; places such as Colchester and Portsmouth. In 1869, when a third, more permanent bill was drafted and passed through Parliament, there were calls from some quarters for it to be extended to cover the whole country.

An advertisement poster for a meeting at which Josephine Butler spoke.

This was when Josephine Butler got involved. In 1869, in Bristol, a group of libertarian activists met to discuss the Contagious Diseases Act and its adverse consequences on women in general. Amongst there number was Josephine Butler. Elizabeth Wolstenholme, who knew Josephine Butler through her work in education had contacted Josephine Butler about this. As a result of the meeting the National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act was set up. However, soon after the feminists decided to set up their own organisation, the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act. On New Years Day 1870 the Ladies National Association published their manifesto. It covered eight points. They brought attention to the unequal treatment by the Contagious Diseases Acts, of men and women and the degradation the act brought upon women.
The second of the points stated,
“ So far as women concerned, (the Acts) remove every guarantee of personal security which the law has established and held sacred, and put their reputation, their freedom and their persons absolutely in the power of the police.”
The fourth point explained,
“ It is unjust to punish the sex who are victims of a vice, and leave unpunished the sex who are the main cause both of the vice and its dreaded consequences.”
They also pointed out that the act threatened civil liberties by punishing an offence that was nowhere clearly defined.

The two associations carried out a vigorous publicity campaign against the acts. Josephine Butler proved to be a charismatic speaker and a prolific writer of pamphlets and she became the leading figure in the Ladies National Association. In April 1870 at the Newark by election, they conducted such an effective public campaign against Major General Sir Henry Storks he withdrew as a candidate. The government tried to get Storks into government again at a Colchester by election. Once again the repealers acted. They put up their own independent candidate. Eventually the Conservative candidate won and Storks had to wait until later in the year to finally achieve success at a further by-election. What emerged at the Colchester by election though was a violent and aggressive response to the campaign by Josephine Butler and her colleagues. Local pimps and brothel owners grouped together and attacked the hotel Butler was staying in. Eventually she was invited to stay at the home of a local working man.

During 1871 the Royal Commission took evidence from both the Repealers and the Regulationists. The Regulationists had only ever considered the Act from the point of view of did it reduce the prevalence of VD. The Repealers made them now consider also the question of principle, whether it was right to treat men and women unequally. This changed the tone of the debate and the regulationists found it harder to uphold their stance. In February 1872 the Home secretary introduced a repeal bill but it was really just a milder version of the original acts. Some were prepared to accept it but not Josephine Butler and her colleagues. There was going to be no quick victory to their campaign.

As a Christian, Josephine Butler refused to believe that men could not control their sexual urges. One of the arguments for the Regulationists was that men needed sexual gratification and prostitutes enabled them to fulfil their urges. Male immorality was treated as a trivial matter and the virtue of prostitutes did not count. As a libertarian Butler believed in the ,
” inviolability of the individual.”
The Regulationists on the other hand made their case using the accepted double standards of the Victorian era. One contemporary writer, W.E.H. Lecky wrote,
 “Herself the supreme type of vice, she is ultimately the most efficient guardian of virtue.”
Virtue meaning the virtue of respectable women. Men could satisfy their urges with prostitutes and so not defile their wives. These people actually thought that this was right. Another idea that was used was that abstinence from sex was actually harmful to men’s health.
The Repealers also attacked the medical profession. Many doctors thought that the acts were necessary to prevent venereal disease and any method that worked was the correct approach. Josephine Butler saw this attitude as a form of communism. The idea that if society benefitted as a whole then the acts were right went against her beliefs in the inviolability of the needs of the individual.

The portrait of Josephine Butler by the eminent Victorian artist G F Watts.

In 1874 the campaign carried out by Josephine Butler and her colleagues had a set back. A new Conservative Government under Disraeli got in. Many of the MP’s in Disraeli’s government were Regulationists. Josephine decided to take a break from Britain and campaign in Europe against state regulated prostitution there. France had one of the worst laws regulating prostitutes and Josephine Butler toured France gaining support against regulation.
When she returned to England she set up a new organisation called British, Continental and General federation for the Abolition of Government regulation of Vice. She also set about collecting evidence of abuse. She discovered some terrible cases of abuse by the special police set up to monitor prostitutes. Many of the cases involved innocent women who were not actually prostitutes, just suspected of being so. In one awful case in Chatham, a naval dockyard town, a young nineteen year old girl, Caroline Wyburgh, had been seen walking with her soldier boyfriend late at night. She was woken up in the middle of the night by a special police inspector. She argued and fought furiously when the policeman tried to detain her. She was put in a straightjacket before she could be examined and it was found that she was still a virgin.  One of the things the acts did was force women into prostitution. If a woman was brought before the courts because she was suspected of prostitution, her reputation would be ruined and there would be no possibility of her gaining other employment. Josephine Butler had noticed with her work in the Liverpool workhouses that many prostitutes drifted in and out of prostitution. They only resorted to it in dire circumstances. The acts forced more women into permanent employment as prostitutes. Josephine Butler collected numerous examples of evidence for the maltreatment of women because they were merely suspected of prostitution. As Josephine published her evidence in pamphlets and spoke about the injustices in speeches, the tide of public opinion began turn. Josephine Butler was still faced with violence and at some of her public speaking events she was still attacked and sometimes knocked to the ground. In 1879 the then conservative government agreed to set up a new select committee to look into the acts. In 1882 the committee published two reports,, one in favour of keeping the acts and one for repealing the acts. The repealers lobbied MP’s as hard as they could. In April 1883 the House of Commons passed a motion to repeal the acts. In 1886 the acts were finally repealed.

Another important element of her work was to stop the kidnapping of British girls who were then taken to brothels in Belgium. She collected evidence for these atrocities. She presented her evidence to the Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt. He took her seriously although the Belgium authorities were ready to sue her. A statement by Josephine Butler was published in the Belgium press and any attempts at a cover up evaporated. In December 1880 various Police des Moeurs, the Belgium equivalent of the British special police who monitored prostitution, were found guilty of aiding brothel keepers and eleven brothel keepers in Belgium were all prosecuted.
After the Belgium scandal Josephine Butler turned her attention to child abduction and prostitution in Britain. Two police inspectors made a statement describing the prostitution of young girls far worse in Britain than it had been in Belgium. Josephine Butler tried to get the age of consent raised from that of thirteen to sixteen. There were some powerful men involved in patronising this youthful prostitution trade and they tried to get any changes in the law blocked. Incredibly they argued that the raising of the age would put their sons at a disadvantage. After various ploys by powerful individuals to prevent any changes Josephine Butler showed the evidence she had gathered. On the 23rd May 1885, Benjamin Scott, the chairman of the London Committee went to see W T Stead the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette . He was famous for his lurid headlines and publishing sensational stories. He was also a devout Christian. As a character he was emotionally unstable and Josephine Butler and others were reticent about approaching him. However they felt desperate measures were called for. Stead certainly took up the cause with energy. On the 16th July 1885 he published a story called The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. Other editors were against Stead for publishing the story. However the public were incensed and thousands marched through the streets of London. On the 14th August that year the Criminal Law Amendment Bill was passed raising the age of consent to sixteen. W.T. Stead then set up a new organisation called the National Vigilance Association. Josephie Butler and many of her followers broke away from Stead. He wanted to go too far and intrude into people’s private lives. Josephine Butler had worked tirelessly for abuses against women and children to be stopped but personal privacy and what people consent to in their own private lives was something that should be left up to individual consciences she thought.

The house Josephine Butler lived in for three years on the edge of Wimbledon Common.

On the 26th August 2014 Professor Alexis Jay published a grim report on the sex abuse s that had occurred in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. Gangs of mainly Muslim youths had targeted vulnerable teenage girls as young as twelve years of age, kidnapped, forced them into prostitution, raped, abused and trafficked them. The report said that a conservative estimate was that 1400 girls had been abused in Rotherham and that thousands of others throughout the country had been abused too. Sex abuse scandals have been uncovered in Rochdale, Derby, Oxford, Bristol, Telford and Peterborough so far. This seems to suggest that child abuse and coercive prostitution has not changed since Josephine Butler’s day 150 years ago. The laws might be different but Josephine Butler in her day acknowledged that it took more than a change in the law it needed proactive action within communities including, education and police action. All these things were failing in Rotherham primarily because there was a culture of not wanting to be accused of racism when challenging an ethnic community such as the Muslim community. Since Professor Jays report the Muslim community has come out strongly in support of the report and are appalled by the behaviour of some of their young men who were creating careers out of this dire situation. The failures of society in Josephine Butler’s day can be mirrored nowadays. Laws do not need to be changed but attitudes do. In many ways she is an icon for modern times.

The Library of Women's Studies at the London School of Economics Library, just off The Aldwych, holds a number of collections related to Josephine Butler. These include the Records of the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene renamed the Josephine Butler Society i honour of its founder;Over 2,500 letters in the Josephine Butler Collection and the Josephine Butler Society Library consisting of books and pamphlets collected by the society. In 2005 The University of Durham honoured her by naming the Josephine Butler College after her.

Josephine Butler (1828-1906):Feminist, Christian and Libertarian  (Libertarian heritage No. 10) The Libertarian Alliance.

The Guardian, Wednesday 27 August  2014.  The Guardian Editorial “The Guardian View on the Rotherham child abuse scandal.”

The Josephine Butler Society (www,

Josephine Butler (From Wikipaedia. the free encyclopaedia)

Monday, 13 April 2015


The picture on the Fairport Convention album cover UNHALFBRICKING (1969)

The album cover to Fairport Convention’s second 1969 album UNHALFBRICKING shows a rather traditional, apparently timeless English scene. A middle aged couple, conservatively dressed, are standing before an English scene consisting of trees, lawn and a fine example of  a church  depicting  traditional English church architecture. A sense of  calm and continuity is created. Just after the recording of the album, Martin Lamble , the groups drummer,  died, at the age of nineteen. The band was travelling from a gig in a van, which crashed on the M1. Eric Hayes was the photographer who took the picture. Joe Boyd, the American record producer who produced Fairport Convention at the time, later said that the photograph for the cover was taken in early spring just before the crash. The title of the album, the second album they released in 1969, is apparently the result of a game the band often played while returning from concerts. Sandy Denny invented the word during a game called, Ghosts, a word creation game. The rules stated that you had to form non-existent words. However, within the context of the album cover it could have other meanings and explanations. The year of the album, 1969 was the year Harold Wilson,at the Labour Party Conference in Scarborough, made his, “White Heat,” speech about the vital importance of technology and science for the future prosperity and development of Britain, . Bob Dylan and friends had recorded  the Basement Tapes by 1967. Germaine Greer, published The Female Eunuch the year after in 1970. Charles Manson and his, “family,” committed terrible murders in California in 1969. The Vietnam War had been raging since 1955 and still had another six years to go. Jenny Lee, the Minister of State for Education under Harold Wilson enabled the Open University to be created opening up degree level study and the consequent work, social and economic opportunities to a strata of society that had never considered a University education before. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was promoting transcendental meditation. Sexual liberation was being practised. Social and personal experimentation were the driving forces of the time.

Mr and Mrs Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough  (1750)

The photograph on the front of the album has many Rennaissance influences. There are strong directional lines created within the picture leading the eye to various points. In the foreground the fence and wall take the eye from the upper left  of the picture, gently sloping away to a focal point low on the right of the picture. The, “half brick,” divide, created by the brick wall and the latticed fence on top of it, create a  barrier between the foreground and the background.  The tree just behind the wall, slightly off centre, compartmentalises the scene. It appears to separate the church from the rest of the picture. The spire of St Mary’s church in the background points heavenwards. The grid pattern, Renaissance artists experimented with grids and perspective lines to create and structure their paintings, produces the effect of showing us individual portraits of the band member. The central focal point of the picture is the slightly open gate between the foreground and the background. Is the gate opening or closing? The portrait of Edna and Neil Denny, Sandy Denny’s parents has a little of Thomas Gainsborough’s painting of Mr and Mrs Andrews about it. Gainsborough showed a wealthy landowning couple standing to one side of the painting showing off their estate in the same way as Edna and Neil reveal their garden to the observer.Even the arm and hand gestures are similar. Neil Denny, crooks his elbows as does Mr Andrews and Edna Denny's hands hold each other in a demure pose just as Mrs Andrews hands hold each other in her lap.

The same scene as the front cover fourty six years later.
(The address is 9B Arthur Road Wimbledon.)

This combination of using an art vocabulary from the past in a modern setting links with the music on the album. Reviewers have written that Unhalfbricking is an album which  links the past with the present in folk music. It is a combination of old folk music and its traditions with new ideas of rock music creating a new genre, folk rock. On different tracks Sandy Denny sings with the traditional folk singers tone and the group harmonise in a traditional folk manner. On other tracks she has a clear unaffected singing style more in common with a rock singer. This is most evident in the only track that is a traditional folk song on the entire album, “A sailors Life.” During the track, rock elements are introduced, two worlds come together.  Many of the tracks on the album are by Bob Dylan from his renowned, “Basement Tapes,” which were recorded up to 1967, such as Si Tu Dois Parter, which interestingly the members of Fairport Convention translated into French. Dylan’s original title was “If You Gotta Go Go now. “Whether this was an oblique support by the members of Fairport Convention for Britain joining the European Common Market which it did do in 1973, I am not sure. There is also, Percy’s Song, by Dylan, and on the recent publication of the album  two extra tracks, both either written or influenced by Dylan, Dear Landlord and Ballad of Easy Rider. The opening track, Genesis Hall, was written by Richard Thompson as was a Southern United States style song, Cajun Woman. Sandy Denny introduces her well known song, Who Knows Where The Time Goes, and also a song called, Autopsy. In many ways it is an experimental album trying out new ideas and using different influences. Listening to it you can understand where Fairport Convention were leading.

In 1969 feminism and sexual liberation were two of the great social forces of the time. Germaine Greer published The Female Eunuch in 1970. The pill was available. Having sex was prevalent outside marriage and women were being encouraged to not only have fun and enjoy sex but to take the lead too. Abortion was an option and there were shows of public nudity. This did not only happen at music festivals. I remember a news headline in a local paper with an companying picture of a naked woman streaking across Kingston Bridge. Women were going to university and getting an education. Men were encouraged to become, what was termed as, equal partners, house husbands, and take an equal share in looking after the children. I have changed my fair share of nappies!!!!!. Equality was being explored. The world seemed to be changing fast. The picture on the front cover of Unhalfbricking makes a powerful commentary about feminism and sexual liberation. Sandy Denny’s parents, Edna and Neil Denny at the front of the picture portray the past and conservatism with a small c. It is almost the same portrayal of the couple Thomas Gainsborough achieved in Mr and Mrs Andrews in 1748.  This is a view of relationships from the past. The wall, the half brick barrier behind Edna and Neil, separates them from their daughter Sandy and the members of Fairport Convention. The band all wear long hair, men and women both. They wear clothing influenced by India and the United States, jeans and caftans. Sandy Denny,is a female member of a group that is all male apart from herself. At the time of the picture she is travelling the country, playing at gigs with these men. She is living the liberated life.  I mentioned before, I wondered if the gate is being closed or is it being opened. It is open at the moment. Does this mean there is still a link between her parents ideals and beliefs and the new social revolution that is going on?

Sandy Denny died after falling down stairs and hitting her head.She was only 31 years old. Here is her grave in Putney Vale Cemetery, South London.

The church, St Mary’s Wimbledon, in the top right of the picture, isolated from the rest of the picture by the strong lines of the tree, is evocative of the established religion, the established order. To illustrate how little unchanging the world had been up to this point  we can consider the history of St Marys. The church is first recorded in 1086. There are remnants from each subsequent period within the fabric of the church. Some medieval oak beams have been found in the structure. The Georgians developed it further and then in the 1860’s Gilbert Scott was commissioned to redesign it and expand its size to take a further four hundred seats and he also  built the 196 foot spire. Within its structure are parts of all the historical periods of church architecture. Scott clad the outside of the church completely in flint so it looked like one complete entity. The population grew but basic beliefs  and attitudes about the world and society remained similar. However by 1969 Britain was actually becoming more and more multicultural. People such as the members of Fairport Convention were experimenting with new ideas of religion and culture. They were not sticking with the old beliefs caricatured by the church in the picture. They were looking at the world with new eyes which are reflected in the lyrics of their songs. The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was not only bringing transcendental meditation to the Beatles but many other young people of the time were trying out these new ideas of philosophy, spirituality and self-discovery. This idea of spirituality, self discovery and mind expansion, replacing the old ways of the established church, included drug taking. Sandy Denny was to be affected greatly by this. Drugs and alcohol probably contributed to the terrible accident which brought about her untimely death at the age of 31. In a way the church in this picture is a symbol of tradition and the past and is as strong a symbol of  what was changing and passing away as the pose made by Sandy Denny’s parents.

What  this picture also does, in its almost rural calm and sense of middle class peace and tranquillity,  is give the lie to what was going on in the world at the time. The Vietnam War had been raging for the previous fourteen years and still had another six years to go. The picture, with the members of the group in the distant, surrounded and almost swallowed up by their surroundings appear out of place and time. They don’t want to be there. It is not their world. Many in the folk world, the traditionalists, probably thought the same about them with regards to their new musical ideas that were emerging. Were Fairport Convention part of the old order in folk or were they the new? Dylan was castigated by the traditionalists for turning to the electric guitar rather than continuing with an acoustic sound. In contrast to this picture,of  middle class timeless  England there was another opposite image in the Wimbledon of the time. On a brick wall beside the railway line, as the train entered Wimbledon Station from the South, there was daubed the slogan, “America will be defeated by the Viet Cong.” How the graffiti artist knew that, many years before the end of the war, is difficult to discern. It was obviously a new way of looking at the war.

We come to the use of the prefix un. As with the word, unknowable, or unlikely and all the other words beginning with un, it creates the opposite meaning to the root word. Perhaps Sandy Denny in her use of the prefix, un, knew something about removing barriers such as the “halfbrick,” barrier in her parents garden. Perhaps the gate is being opened and not being closed. Perhaps the gate to the old style of folk music is still being left open and not being closed in this album.

Friday, 3 April 2015


Taken on a run along the Cornish coast at Holywell Bay

The words, “Just going for a run,” are the words I invariably say when I leave the house to indulge in my form of fitness exercise, which is running of course. I usually turn left out of my front door and along West Barnes Lane, through Crossway and then onto Grand Drive. My runs tend to vary from that point. I take different routes.  I am never sure what form the run will take. It is a little like stream of consciousness writing, a Jackson Pollock painting or Miles Davis improvising with his trumpet on a theme.  I have certain tools, feet, legs and a pair of lungs and of course I run on pavements but with those prerequisites anything can happen. The streets are my pallet.   When I was young, early twenties, I took the George Best viewpoint. Drink and fitness can go together for a few years at that age. I have never smoked, so that has never been a problem, but as far as drinking alcohol goes, I think regular running has made me moderate my drinking of beer and wine as I have got older.  Running enables me to feel that I do not want to drink alcohol or not much. I still have a great night out with a group of mates once in a while. Marilyn and I get mellow together drinking a bottle of wine on occasion too.

Approaching running from an improvisational point of view, I have found that over the years I have been to locations and seen places I would never have seen if I didn't get out and run. I have run through alleyways between houses, run along paths and bye ways via allotments, parks and on occasion, between the gravestones of cemeteries. At the pace I run I have time to take in my surroundings and enjoy them.

Running is a great way to explore your environment, whether in your local area or on holiday. Many years ago, Marilyn and I were staying in a YMCA quite near the UN building in New York. While I am on holiday I try to keep up my regular running regime. One morning I decided to tackle the paths and byeways of Central Park. My good ness the park was full of cyclists, skateboarders and rollerbladers. It was like being in the worst traffic hour ever but with everything moving fast. I survived.That was an experience. I have run along the cliffs north of Newquay in Cornwall and experienced the most amazing sea and coastal views in bright sunshine. It is awe inspiring seeing wild gorse and heathers along the cliff tops and circling gulls and diving cormorants over the sea. The fresh smell of the sea air and the clean cool breeze are wonderful.  Before kids Marilyn and I went camping in a two man tent, yes very cosy, in a quiet valley beneath the peaks of the Skafells. This was thirty years ago. I imagined I could run to the top of one of the fells that abutted our campsite. I started off early one morning. My legs began to feel heavy half way but there was no way I was going to stop. I forced myself on and upwards. I got to a point where will power didn’t come into it anymore. I had been going up this very steep incline for twenty minutes or more, and this is the only time this has ever happened to me, my legs stopped moving. I could not consciously make them move any more. I stopped. I had to sit while the sensation in my legs came back. I was determined to get to the top and I did. That was scary because my legs had actually stopped of their own accord even though I wanted them to continue. I tried the same run every day for a week. By the end of the week I could do it with a degree of comfort.

 I have a passion for local history.  I mostly run where I live. My favourite routes take me through South Wimbledon , through the John Innes conservation area. There are some famous places in South Wimbledon. Merton is connected with Admiral Lord Nelson who lived at Merton Hall. William Morris’s works, where his wallpapers were printed and his furniture was made by local craftsmen, was situated at Merton Abbey Mills. The only remaining parts of the medieval Merton Priory, the chapter house, is under Merantun Way . Merantun Way itself marks the Roman road, Staine Street which lead from the Roman London Bridge to Chichester Harbour on the south coast near Portsmouth. I especially love running on Wimbledon Common though. There are parts of the common, bits of woodland, up there that have never been developed by human touch, ever. The common is managed but in a way to continue its health, growth and continuance. There are two golf courses within its bounds, The Royal Wimbledon and London Scottish both begun in Victorian times. Parts of it have been used by the military over the centuries too. Charles II’s Tangier regiment was formed and trained on the common before going out to Tangiers in 1662. The Royal Flying Core had an airfield on the common before the RAF was formed. It was a military shooting rifle range in Victorian times and was used to train rifle regiments in the First World War. Highwaymen and duelists took advantage of the remoteness of the common during the 18th century. It is however the silver birch woods and the wild grasses and the wild birds that proliferate on the common that I love to look at and experience as I run. Running on the common puts me in touch with nature. As an aside, for you lovers of all things connected with Ancient Egypt, the Putney cemetery on the west side of the common contains a very important grave. Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922 is buried there I see blue and green plaques on buildings and have time to stop and read them. Robert Graves lived as a child near the Ridgeway in Wimbledon Village. A V Roe, the aircraft pioneer, worked in a shed at the back of his brother’s house at the bottom of the hill leading to Wandsworth High Street. The Putney debates of 1647, held after the English Civil War about religion and government, took place in St Mary the Virgin church next to the Putney side of the bridge going over the Thames. Buildings, gardens, trees, people and all manner of life is observable as I run. Running from your front door around the locality where you live is a great way to interact with and  learn about and enjoy where you live.

A selfie taken in Edinburgh running around Arthur's Seat.

On the down side, I have been sworn at from passing cars, been made fun of, had eggs thrown at me from the top of the multi storey car park in New Malden, tripped over and gashed my knees and elbows and even once, because I was distracted by a car without its headlights on in the dark, run into a lamppost and concussed myself. But the bad things are very rare and represent a negligible fraction of one percent of the running time have clocked up over the years.

There is an industry built up around running and sport in general. Who can blame the magazines, shops, gyms, clubs and TV programmes from trying to encourage people to take up sport and what seems to be highly important, buy their product? There is a benefit for the consumer if they are serious about the sport. It is running magazines that I have a particular issue with. I am sure my thoughts and concerns can be extrapolated to other magazine titles attached to other sports and events too. These magazines have nice glossy pictures of fit young men and women looking attractive. Many pages are used to advertise running shoes, clothes, computerised running devices to track speed, distance and heart rate, energy drinks and food.  The magazines are however, unnecessary. They are a shop window for various businesses and manufacturers to make money. Maybe it is controversial to say this but all the myriad of energy food products created and marketed for runners and participants of sports are not needed. The different running shoes made by different manufacturers are really unnecessary too. Most running shoes on the market are of a reasonably high standard. The only difference between them is their logo. The prices are all much the same. The articles in these magazines are of limited use too. How to get fit for a marathon. What shoes to wear? How to run. Keeping a running diary; and various other obvious themes.  The articles are worded in different ways and are given different angles to grab the interest. Different people write them or ghost write them so they always sound new and fresh. I have discovered that if you buy a monthly series of any one of these magazines over a year, they all end up saying the same sort of thing. You can actually learn the same stuff by just getting out there and running. But what you must realise about these magazines and what should stop you buying them is that year after year the same things are repeated.  You can only say so much about running. Everybody is an individual and we all have different body types. There is no information a magazine will provide that will really apply to you. There are the obvious things like staying hydrated and eating energy foods like pasta, but we all know that stuff anyway. You really do have to get out there and find what is good for you yourself.

My reasons now for running are not to get fit, or lose weight or necessarily run for charity these days, and although I think these things are worthy things my reasoning for running is about feeling good and exploring and enjoying my environment. I already have a high level of fitness so I am not aiming to achieve a particular level of fitness any more. I have discovered that being fit helps me think and provides me with the energy to do a multitude of things with enthusiasm and effort. I feel so much more active in every way being fit.  The feeling and sensation of running is one of the things that I like. There are those moments, when I have attained a comfortable rhythm in stride, arms swinging and breathing that creates almost a feeling of euphoria. That particular feeling doesn’t happen often but when it does I feel as though I could run forever. It is almost a floating sensation. I think I actually attain a level of karma. Mostly, however, running is a comfortable experience. I tend to run on the front of my foot. I have never adhered to the heal toe principle. I have consciously tried using the heel toe combination but it is an unnatural technique I think. I get a better pace, more spring in my step, a more natural flowing movement and a cushioned feeling from running on the front part of each foot. I have never suffered, ankle or tendon problems so I must have found a way of doing it right. The other feeling I get derives from the fitness I have achieved. It is good to feel fit. There is no doubt about that. I am 62 years old and I feel fit and well. My lungs work well. My weight is right for my height. I eat when I need to, generally what may be termed a balanced diet.  I probably drink too much coffee and tea, especially coffee. Coffee gives me a buzz. A drug, I know.

The way technology is going, one day we will be able to design our own running shoes based on the evidence collected on a personal application that monitors our running experiences. Imagine connecting your phone to a 3D printer and the printer making a bespoke pair of shoes for you? It will happen. Take my word for it.

I combine recycling with running too. Marilyn bought me a pair of baggy tracksuit trousers from a car boot sale for 50p. (I am NOT into tight fitting lycra you might be pleased to know.) I also wear inexpensive £2 tee shirts from my local supermarket.
Running is wonderful. It is good for you!!!!!

Monday, 23 February 2015

SHERLOCK HOLMES (The man who never lived and will never die.)

Entering the Museum of London to see the Sherlock Holmes exhibition.

The first exhibition in London about Sherlock Holmes for over sixty years is at the Museum of London. It began last year on the 17th October and is due to finish on the 12th April 2015, this year. Marilyn, Abi and myself went to see it on Saturday 22nd of February.

This exhibition has been inspired by the continued interest in Sherlock Holmes and what he represents. The recent BBC’s series, Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Dr Watson has given a modern twist to Conan Doyle’s original detective stories. However in recent years Hollywood has been fascinated by the exploits of the Victorian sleuth too. Robert Doherty in the modern day TV series, Elementary, set in New York and which relies on the concept of Sherlock Holmes, is one example. “Sherlock Holmes,” the 2009 film, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Jude Law as Watson and Robert Downey Junior as Sherlock was a smash hit at the box office worldwide. It was the 8th highest grossing film of 2009.

This exhibition covers not just the filmic and stage history of Sherlock Holmes. The London of Sherlock Holmes features in an inspirational way if not totally as a physical entity and includes the scientific and technological innovations of the time that Holmes employed in his search for answers. The city itself , its enormity, its mix of population, its extremes of poverty and wealth, its maze like structure, its smoke and dense fogs, its play on the dreams, real and imaginary, of the people of the time who were horrified almost equally by the fiction of Jekyll and Hyde and the reality of the Jack the Ripper murders. All this created a climate of possibilities in which Conan Doyle could set his great character to work.

 Benedict Cumberbatch playing Sherlock.

The origins of Holmes is also explored. Where did the concept of a super sleuth come from? A man who could use minute analysis in any situation to solve a mystery? Arthur Conan Doyle was a physician who had studied at the University of Edinburgh Medical School from 1876 to 1881. His tutor was a Dr Joseph Bell. Doyle worked for Bell as his assistant during this time. Dr Joseph Bell was renowned for his use of close observation. Bell had a theory that a person’s personality could be deduced from studying his face. Dr Bell, physically was tall and thin and had a hooked nose. Conan Doyle used Dr Bell not only for the appearance of Sherlock Holmes but also for his approach to forensic analysis.

The exhibition is advertised on a poster that shows a side view of Sherlock Holmes’s head wearing a deer stalker and smoking his pipe. It is an x-ray picture which reveals the brain inside his skull. The brain is diagrammatically drawn. It labels the functions of the various parts of the brain. This diagram is tailored to what we know about Sherlock Holmes. These brain diagrams really reveal the thoughts and ideas of the illustrator of the diagram rather than what the brain actually does. For instance you can find diagrams depicting the brain of a Labour party supporter let’s say or the brain of a Southampton football fan for instance. They are a joke nowadays.These brain diagrams can be taken to ridiculous lengths.The Victorians took this all much more seriously. Doctors believed in a system of understanding the brain called phrenology. This has been disproved nowadays. In The Hound of The Baskervilles Holmes's skull surprises Dr Mortimer who remarks,

 "I had hardly expected so dolichocephalic a skull or such  well marked supra orbital  development."

So for this exhibition we have the brain diagram of Sherlock Holmes. Some of the main areas show, reflectiveness and perceptiveness written large at the front of the brain. Traits such as domestic and aspiring come large at the back of the brain. Cautiousness and mirthfulness are written in small type, lost within the brains mass, amongst many other traits either written smaller or larger depending on the strength or weakness in the character of Sherlock Holmes. This has all been deduced analytically from the stories no doubt. 

The brain of Sherlock Holmes.

We entered the exhibition through a bookcase. A melodramatic way to enter. The lady at the entrance, directing people to the exhibition, suggested the best way to take a dramatic photograph. She has obviously has had a lot of experience at directing exhibition goers so. She opened the door in the bookcase ajar for us. Marilyn stood with her left arm raised and hand against the panel looking back at me. And so we entered the exhibition.

Marilyn entering the mysterious world of Sherlock Holmes!!!!

The first things that confront us are theatre and film posters for the likes of the TV series in which Jeremy Brett starred, and early film versions with Basil Rathbone, Arthur Wontner, John Barrymore and Ellie Norwood. The quintessential early Sherlock Holmes was played by William Gillette on stage primarily but he also starred in the first film of Sherlock Holmes. Gillettes physique, looks and manner became the publics, illustrators and dramatists personification of Sherlock Holmes. You immediately realise that Holmes is more than a character in a book devised by Conan Doyle. He has taken on a life of his own and is reinvented for each generation, hence the more recent adaptations I mentioned at the start of this article. We know that Conan Doyle attempted to kill off his character in a story, The Final Problem, published in The Strand Magazine in December 1893. Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes plunge to their deaths at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. However, with strong popular demand from both English and American readers, Conan Doyle had to bring his character back. In 1901, Eight years after, The Final Problem, Doyle wrote The Hound of The Baskervilles. To get round the fact that he had killed Holmes off Doyle set the story in a time before the Reichenbach episode. However there were calls for Sherlock Holmes to be reincarnated. Conan Doyle had to bring him back in real time. Miraculously Holmes Conan Doyle ,"arranged," that he had survived his fall into the Reichenbach Falls. He had not in fact fallen over with Moriarty but had overcome his opponent using a Japanese martial arts technique called bartitsu.     He was able to hide his tracks thereafter.

 The death of Sherlock Holmes illustrated by Sidney Paget, Paget was Holmes's most famous illustrator creating some the most iconic images of Sherlock Holmes.

There are few other characters that have this sort of power in literature and fiction. In recent years I can only think of Dr Who and perhaps James Bond and maybe characters like Superman and Frankenstein that have this life which is indestructible. They live beyond their authors and even the demands of readers and fans. They exist in themselves in our consciousness. Maybe you can think of others yourself.
Some Bartitsu moves and other accomplishments of Sherlock Holmes.

The next part of the exhibition displayed maps of London, both road and rail and many original Victorian and Edwardian photographs depicting the London of Sherlock Holmes. The great rail stations, of Waterloo, Paddington and Kings Cross, feature.  The Grand hotels such as, The Langham, The Savoy, The Cecil, The Hyde Park Hotel and The Russell, in Russell Square are portrayed. These were the locations of some of Holmes’s mysteries.

A railway map of London in the exhibition.

The development of technology that was happening at the time, the telephone, the typewriter and the proliferation of steam trains as well as horse drawn hackney cabs are all displayed, some as objects, the telephone and typewriter and some as old photographs, the stations, the trains and hackney cabs. These forms of transport and the millions of inhabitants filled the bustling streets and stations of the metropolis. The new technologies were things that helped Sherlock Holmes in solving his crimes.

 An interesting point is made that Conan Doyle was not a Londoner in the way perhaps Dickens was. When you read the Conan Doyle stories it becomes evident that although he lists places in London that Watson and Holmes pass on their way to some station or  grand hotel, a list of places and streets is all he relates. There are no detailed descriptions and sense of place. He doesn’t have a feel for London as such. A lot of his stories may start in a room at 221B Baker Street, which incidentally, Conan Doyle asserted that he never visited and never travelled along, then the stories move invariably to some rural location outside of London, mostly to places in the South of England which Conan Doyle did know well.

However, the exhibition shows us that Conan Doyle does use London in one particular way. The fog creates an atmosphere. The massive void between rich and poor is a source of tensions. London as a world centre with embassies and foreign dignitaries from all over the world create situations where individuals are compromised. He uses London in what it does to people. The crimes and mysteries in Conan Doyle’s stories are those of individual human beings and their tragedies are brought about in a place where literally millions of people are thrown together.

Theatrical make up for creating disguises.

Sherlock Holmes in his quest for enlightenment and understanding resorts to all sorts of strategies. He calms his mind by playing the violin and of course his violin is displayed He smokes a pipe. He experiments with cocaine and morphine. As a personality he shows many traits of the addict. His behaviour is erratic. He has mood swings. He doesn't eat for long periods of time. Starvation can create a heightening of the senses. Some say that they detect elements of what we term now as autism in his personality. He had few friends and acquaintances beyond Dr Watson and Mrs Hudson who more often than not suffer his behaviour. In his quest to find answers and to aid his observation he often dresses up in various guises as vagrants, old ladies, clergymen and in fact whatever guise might help him melt unnoticed into his surroundings, to watch and observe unnoticed. This strong bohemian free thinking aspect to Holmes is important to who he is and creates a sort of frisson which was and is appealing.

Smoking implements that Sherlock Holmes would use..

One display shows all the equipment needed to create a disguise, wigs, make up and costumes. All the requirements of a Victorian theatre dressing room. Holmes was a consummate actor in the stories being able to trick even those close to him. Another shows all the accoutrements of the smoker, pipes, tobacco, match boxes and various contemporary adverts for smoking. One display shows a hypodermic syringe and glass files that contained morphine for Holmes’s use.

Then there are the display cases with the iconic clothing associated with Sherlock Holmes; an evening dress for the theatre, a tweed cape and deerstalker for the moors and an elaborate dressing gown for sitting in front of the coal fire upstairs at 221B Baker Street. In one case is displayed Benedict Cumberbatch’s, Holmes, overcoat. It is displayed on a dummy. It  easy to imagine Benedict Cumberbatch himself filling the void inside that coat. Unfortunately, for his numerous fans, he is not filling the inner space created by the coat but he does appear on the many video loops alongside all the other incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, acting out their part on screens set around the exhibition.

Dominic Cumberbatch's coat in Sherlock.

Eventually, long after having entered by the bookcase and been mesmerised throughout by the master himself we arrive at the final denouement. There we are with Professor Moriarty and Sherlock Holmes, perched at the top of the Reichenbach Falls. We enter the final room and find we too have jumped into the boiling surging waters of that waterfall too.We are surrounded by a floor to wall screen showing the spray and tumbling water of a large waterfall. We are immersed in it and enveloped by it. Will we survive miraculously too just as Sherlock Holmes does? Were we able to use bartitsu, a form of Japanese judo, to throw off our opponent as Holmes threw Moriarty to his death and escape into apparent oblivion? Let us use Holmes methods to ascertain a conclusion. The process of deduction Sherlock Holmes used was called abductive reasoning which is logical inference. You observe, Marilyn, Abi and I were at the top of the Reichenbach Falls. I am here writing this. The hypothesis must be that we live.  Oh well, something like that. It is all based on the strongest inference amongst other inferences.

Right at the end we too were confronted by the Reichenbach Falls.

Here is Sherlock Holmes explaining it all himself in,” The Mystery of The Dancing Men,”

 "You see, my dear Watson" -- he propped his test-tube in the rack, and began to lecture with the air of a professor addressing his class --"it is not really difficult to construct a series of inferences, each dependent upon its predecessor and each simple in itself. If, after doing so, one simply knocks out all the central inferences and presents one's audience with the starting-point and the conclusion, one may produce a startling, though possibly a meretricious, effect.”

You see. It’s simple!!!!!

I suppose I could have used the dancing men code itself to explain what happened to us. Here is the alphabet. Try constructing your own messages.

Conan Doyle explained Sherlock Holmes missing years by telling us that he travelled in the Far East. He was probably sharpening up his bartitsu skills no doubt.
One of the main points that this exhibition reveals and perhaps helps us understand is Sherlock Holmes’s continuing appeal to every generation. He has an ability to be incredibly adaptable. He looks for the unexpected. He uses forensic analysis. He acts quickly. The problems in this world with ISIS, Russian brinkmanship and the Arab unrest would be fertile ground for Conan Doyle’s creative imagination and Sherlock Holmes’s talents. So I think what this exhibition shows us is that Sherlock Holmes, “the man who was never born, will never die.” 

On the upper floor of The Sherlock Holmes pub next to Charing Cross station there is a reconstruction of Sherlock Holmes study in 221B Baker Street. The descriptions of the room  in Conan Doyles stories and novels were used to recreate it.

Sherlock Holmes study at 221B Baker Street (The Sherlock Holmes pub)