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  • London Fairy Roadrunner August 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    London Fairy Roadrunner

    This is a fabulous and often overlooked ‘fairy’ sighting. The inverted commas on ‘fairy’ because it is difficult to know quite what to make of this. The story appeared in the third volume of Thomas Crofton Croker’s Fairy Legends of Ireland, only it comes from London or the outskirts of that city, c. 1800. First some […]

    Immortal Meals #34: Picnic Under the Vicar’s Oak July 29, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    Immortal Meals #34: Picnic Under the Vicar's Oak

    Norwood was a rural area to the south of London that was sucked into the metropolis in the mid, late nineteenth century. If you want to go and imagine where the nightingale once sang and where Surrey farmers shot rabbits, head off for the mean streets around Crystal Palace, sit down and weep. ‘This is the […]

    Beggar for a Day June 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Beggar for a Day

    Beach has long been curious about the begging life and was fascinated to run across this article from 1889 about how difficult it was to make money in London by holding out your hand. A clearly middle class man took a bet with his friends, after dinner, and presumably after taking port, that he could […]

    Immortal Meals #33: Fairy Feast 1912 June 11, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Immortal Meals #33: Fairy Feast 1912

    Oh to have been there… Walter Yeeling Evans Wentz was an American eccentric and mystic who from 1908 to 1911 studied British, Irish and Breton fairies. Readers may have come across his curious The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, brought out in November 1911, the single most bizarre book every published by Oxford University Press […]

    Big Ben Superstitions April 10, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Big Ben Superstitions

    Big Ben the great bell that rings out from Westminster is a central part of British identity: not least because its chimes have, for many years, sounded on national radio and television programs. It would hardly be surprising then that there are superstitions about Big Ben, but what is surprising is that these seem not […]

    Radio Before Radio February 18, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Radio Before Radio

    Many moons ago Beach ran an article on telephony, the use of telephones as a kind of primitive music radio. Essentially telephone owners would subscribe to a ‘channel’ and would then phone into said channel to listen to shows: those of us old enough to remember the speaking clock or telephone weather forecasts were listening to […]

    The Ring Dodge February 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Ring Dodge

    This trick is so well known that Beach has seen versions of it on crass TV shows. Still here is the ring dodge in all its pristine glory from 1894. At the London Guildhall, on Monday, Ann Francis was charged with attempting to obtain money by false pretences. Detective Evans, of the Great Eastern Railway […]

    Cockney Wandering Jew January 27, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Cockney Wandering Jew

    Beach has recently been interesting himself with sightings of the Wandering Jew in modern times. A friend of this blog Filip Graliński has been himself looking and has found a remarkable Polish record relating to sightings of the Wandering Jew from just before the First World War. Beach, stung by his failure to find anything […]

    Richard Cosway Meets the Wandering Jew January 22, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Richard Cosway Meets the Wandering Jew

    This story appears in Cyrus Redding’s Fifty Years in the third volume (1858). Redding is describing a Mr. Beckford, an immensely rich Englishman in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century with whom he was personally acquainted. The following story is not from Beckford but from a friend of Beckford which means, of course, we are […]

    Victorian Criminal Slang January 8, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Criminal Slang

    Beach has been enjoying Pickpockets, Beggars and Ratcatchers by Kellow Chesney on London’s underworld in the teeming, dirty and unmatchable nineteenth century: the illustrations are great too. One of the joys about entering this world is the lively slang used by the underclass. The following come from Pickpockets but also from one of the most […]

    The Crowd Swindle January 3, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Crowd Swindle

    The originality of Victorian criminals is often breath-taking. Here is a particularly fine dodge and something that would have made a quite excellent Sherlock Holmes short story. A remarkable case of attempting to extort money is reported from New York. Some years ago, it may be remembered, a Mr Rosenbaum, in London, was annoyed in […]

    London Prostitutes, c. 1660 January 2, 2017

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    London Prostitutes, c. 1660

    The Wandring Whore was a mysterious late seventeenth-century English dialogue between a number of ladies of the night, which was published in five numbers 1660-1661. It is titillating stuff and, after some back and forth between these bawds, each edition included a list of London prostitutes. Of course the publisher did not approve. God forbid! […]

    Burning Bluecoat Memoirs December 14, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Burning Bluecoat Memoirs

    Exam grading and sadness at leaving a much loved job continues. In this melancholic frame here is some more missing manuscripts. These stories are often, as the distance of a more than a century, quite amusing. But there is no question that, at the time, they must have been horrifically painful for those involved. A […]

    Victorian Urban Legend: the Expensive Manuscript December 12, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legend: the Expensive Manuscript

    Beach now has a couple of difficult days as he leaves his old university and says goodbye to a particularly fine cohort of students. Here is some more manuscript nonsense to keep him and you distracted. Is this urban legend? Probably but pleasing. A celebrated authoress wrote a drama, which she committed to the manager […]

    Child Murder in a London Church? December 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Child Murder in a London Church?

    This is an extraordinary story about child murder in a London church. In fact, the real story here – thinking of this site’s interest in urban legend and rumour – is the power of a freak event involving bodies to whip a working class area into a frenzy, but we’ll get to that…. In August […]

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