How to be a Victorian

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I really enjoyed Ruth’s latest book. You can now read my review for the BBC History Magazine on the HistoryExtra.com website.

Whose house is this? A capital FAMILY MANSION, 1854

Springwell and Northside, Clapham Common

In theory there is a lot of time to write when you’re on maternity leave but I’m an archival historian and… well… babies and archives just don’t mix. So it was a blessing when Thomas Walker at Historic Newspapers sent … Continue reading

The houses of Crystal Palace Park – new pamphlet for charity


The lovely Melvyn Harrison and people at the Crystal Palace Foundation have long kept a watchful eye over the heritage and development of Crystal Palace Park. Recently they asked if they could reproduce my London Journal research article on the … Continue reading

The origins of fire insurance (& ‘lusty able body’d firemen’)

The Great Fire of London, 1666 by Jan Griffier, the Elder

The Great Fire of London (1666) destroyed more than 13,000 houses and displaced about 100,000 people but it took a couple of decades for its embers to spark the first blaze of the fire insurance business. Nicholas Barbon was probably the first … Continue reading

A woman’s business. Part 2: To honour thy husband’s debts

The majority of women who married in late eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain did not get to live out the idealized role of the Angel in the House from Coventry Patmore’s 1854 poem. Women of the working class were of … Continue reading

A woman’s business. Part 1: To marry or not to marry

Contrary to popular stereotype, women could and did run businesses in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain. True, it was somewhat easier for single or widowed women to flex their dainty entrepreneurial ambitions than married women. However, marriage was surprisingly, given … Continue reading

Ship shape: property ownership of the floating variety

I thought I would turn my attention to a different type of property for this blog post. I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that home ownership was not the common form of property ownership in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. … Continue reading

‘What to do with the Crystal Palace?’

What better time to appreciate second chances than at the the beginning of a new year. The Crystal Palace [a name of fairy tale splendour, if ever I heard one] sparkled as the stage for Britain’s Great Exhibition of 1851 but … Continue reading

Flu wars & sweet memories

Between Christmas, flu and the children’s school holidays, I haven’t had any time for blogging. My next installment is coming soon… in the meantime, I leave you with my latest review article for the BBC History Magazine (January 2011):  

When Santa got stuck up the chimney

It’s my son’s nativity play this week and this has put me in a festive mood. He’s been practicing  songs about Santa, bags of toys and chimneys and this got me thinking. Why do I say ‘Father Christmas’ but so … Continue reading

The wicked & the wretched: Property & the pawnbroker

Property and pawnbrokers shops are intertwined in the Victorian imagination. The exchange is usually an unhappy one, the proprietor being wicked and the customer wretched. In Sketches by Boz Charles Dickens takes us inside just such an establishment on London’s … Continue reading

Carriages & coverture: Women, property and the law 1790-1860

Dividend Day at the Bank of England by George Elgar Hicks (1859) Across history, women have found themselves vulnerable as economic beings. Their position in relation to ownership of property between 1790-1860 was a often a difficult and dangerous one. … Continue reading

House tales: The brothers Letts

  Following on from my earlier post ‘A brief history of park villa estates’, I’ve been devoting a number of blog posts to a park villa I previously had the pleasure of living in on the Crystal Palace Park Estate. … Continue reading


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