So this is how the story goes. In 1826 a London merchant decides to buy some cloth from a weaver in Hawick, a town in the Scottish borders famous for its cloth production. Very happy with his order, he decides to get some more but – crucially – misreads the weaver’s dashed handwriting. Instead of ‘twill’ this Londoner reads ‘tweed’, and assumes this new cloth must take after the River Tweed which runs fast and clear through the textile areas of lower Scotland. ‘Tweed’ and not ’twill’ has been the term used ever since.
When the Uniform penny post rocked up in 1840, it completely revolutionised the way in which people communicated. Sending letters and cards, such as those celebrating Valentine’s Day, became easier and cheaper and as a result a thriving business developed in central London.
Ever since watching The King and I (1956 version) at a very impressionable age, I have been rather fond of dancing (and crinolines – but that’s another story). My grandmothers and I spent many happy hours marvelling at the clothes, hairstyles and make-up of the participants in the World Championships broadcast on television.
This is the skeleton of a girl who was 14 years old when she died. She had blue eyes. She was born in north Africa, and lived in London for at least four years before her death and burial, on what is now Lant Street in Southwark. In her short life, she had suffered from rickets and gum disease, but she was healthy enough to grow to 5′ 3” by the time she died. We don’t know her name or exactly what she looked like – but that’s understandable, given that she lived in the Roman city of Londinium, over 1500 years ago.
Ground-breaking scientific research at the Museum of London has, for the first time ever, created a detailed “picture” of the inhabitants of Roman London. Using evidence “written” in their teeth, bones, DNA and burial, we’ve uncovered the extraordinary diversity of these ancient Londoners.
This weekend the Museum of London will be celebrating another children’s Takeover event, organised in partnership with the Kids in Museums charity. This national event offers children and young people brilliant opportunities to get actively involved in organisations, take on museum roles and have their thoughts and opinions heard by cultural organisations across the country.
Young people using iPads to create their soundscapes.
At the start of this year, the legendary club Plastic People shut its doors on Curtain Road in Shoreditch for good. It came among an ongoing wave of club and venue closures, and it was one of the smaller venues in London – fitting just 200 dancers – but it provoked a huge wave of nostalgia. This wasn’t just a sense of loss though: notable in all the tributes that were paid to the venue were an enormous sense of pride in the values of the club and how it represented all that is best about London and its people.
Christina Broom captured thousands of images of London at the start of the 20th century. This summer, in celebration of the first major exhibition of works by Christina Broomat the Museum of London Docklands, we invited you to follow in her footsteps with a competition to use Instagram to create images of some of the locations Broom photographed. The winners are in!
Kibbo Kift Leader John Hargrave addresses the Althing (annual camp), 1923
Who were the Kibbo Kift?
Were they the pacifist and feminist version of the Boy Scouts? Were they banker-bashing radicals or performance artists? Were they, as some accused, secretly fascists, communists, or connected to the Ku Klux Klan? Now, for the first time in decades, this extraordinary and visionary social movement of the 1920s and 30s is back in the London spotlight.
Journalists at The Pageant of Women’s Trades and Professions, 27 April 1909 (detail)
My ideal job would give me licence to stare at people all day. Maybe I should have become a photographer, but while I get the depth of field thing (I think), I never really felt totally at one with a camera. Instead I have become the next best thing for a people-starer: a dress historian. My profession (no sniggering at the back!) provides me with a legitimate reason – or so I am telling myself – for gazing at others and for dissecting their appearance. I’m not too bothered whether someone is fashionably dressed or looks – or pretends to look – as if they don’t particularly care about their clothes. And when I say dissect I don’t mean judge. Whether the clothes are beautiful, ugly, boring or unremarkable (in my eyes or by general consent) is neither here nor there. I want to know why that particular person chose to wear that particular thing in combination with the other things they’ve put on. (Naturally my curiosity extends to accessories, jewellery, hair and make-up as well.)
On Thursday 8 October we welcomed guests to the private view of The Crime Museum Uncovered. The evening was opened by author and journalist Tony Parsons with speeches given by Sharon Ament, Director of The Museum of London, Clive Bannister, Chairman of The Museum of London and Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Metropolitan Police Commissioner and Helen Bailey, COO of MOPAC.
3,000 year-old wolf skull from Shepperton in Surrey
While the most ferocious animal you’re likely to find within the M25 nowadays is probably an urban fox or a territorial chihuahua, London was once home to an abundance of enormous creatures – from wolves to hippos and rhinos to mammoths. The Museum of London has a selection of ancient animal remains from all around the capital.
A man with an electric trolley carrying tobacco, 1925
London’s Docklands have gone through huge change in the last 70 years – from being one of England’s primary ports, to falling into disuse as cargo ships outgrew the Thames. It has seen vast industries come and go – the same warehouse that once stored tonnes of tobacco is now a dance floor, and what was once a 900 year-old fish market now hosts film premieres.
Pair of domestic sugar loaf cutters used to break up sugar at home
The 1700s were a shameful time in London’s history. Although slavery was something that happened far away, on American cotton farms and West Indian sugar plantations, England had many critical, if slightly murkier, parts to play. From MPs owning Caribbean plantations to a newly-discovered British appetite for sugar, England was implicit in human slavery. This uncomfortable past touched much of British life, and was hidden in a great many everyday objects and institutions.