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  • 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 […]

    The Cuckold, the Painted Belly and the Lusty Merchant November 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    The Cuckold, the Painted Belly and the Lusty Merchant

    This is a weird sixteenth-century story/anecdote/joke about marital infidelity. It is also, frustratingly, only 95% complete. The punch line is missing. Beach has ‘translated’ the text into modern English. The original text though is in the screen capture below. Please email any serious mistakes. A cunning painter was living in London, and he had a […]

    19C London Fairies and Murder November 9, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    19C London Fairies and Murder

    Beach has long considered himself duty bound to investigate all references to fairies, however strange and however obscene, and there have been, for a while, two references to London fairies that have irritated him because he can’t track them down: or at least he can follow them only into unattractive cul-de-sacs. First, from Carol Silver’s […]

    Victorian Urban Legends: Thames Crocodiles October 25, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Victorian Urban Legends: Thames Crocodiles

    There have been a few cases of crocodiles being found in the Thames. In 1897 and 1933 crocodiles were retrieved from the river: alive in the first case (two feet), and dead in the second (five feet). Note that there are also several modern claims that crocodiles have been seen on the river. However, what […]

    Chinese in Roman London? October 2, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Chinese in Roman London?

    Chinese in Roman London? It is well known that the Roman empire was a cosmopolitan place, even a tedious, sorry backwater like Britannia. The combination of soldiers, slaves and solid economic infrastructure meant unprecedented movement of individuals. However, what about the history story of the week, the claim that two Chinese bodies have been dug […]

    Review: Spirits of an Industrial Age July 6, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Review: Spirits of an Industrial Age

    There are few pleasures greater in the second decade of the twenty-first century than picking up a self-published volume and finding that it is actually a good read. (For younger readers this simply did not happen thirty years ago). Enter from the left stage Spirits of an Industrial Age: Ghost Impersonation, Spring-heeled Jack and Victorian Society […]

    Lost Sounds #2: London Street Cries, c. 1700 May 28, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Lost Sounds #2: London Street Cries, c. 1700

    Beach offers the second in his series of lost sounds: the noises that were familiar to our ancestors but that have now for ever vanished and that we struggle to reconstruct. Last time, the Lancashire clog charge, this time the criers of early eighteenth-century London. The idea of London street criers, perhaps particularly from Victorian […]

    Early Modern Sentries and the Supernatural May 16, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Early Modern Sentries and the Supernatural

    Beach has previously examined the frequent paranormal experiences of sentries in the nineteenth century: with the help of Chris from Haunted Ohio Books. It has, long-time readers will remember, been suggested that lonely, potentially violent men asked to spend the night, attentive to every noise and movement, might easily conjure up ‘something’. Here are two […]

    Urban Legends: Saved by Thieves May 13, 2016

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Urban Legends: Saved by Thieves

    Another in our Victorian Urban Legends series. This looks like the ancestor (or more likely one of the many ancestors) of the modern Mafia Neighbours, story. You know the one, young married couple move into the neighbourhood, all their new furniture is stolen while they are on their honeymoon, but when they tell an elderly […]

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