I have caught strange glimpses of a walk through Finsbury out of the corner of my eye since reading Peter Ackroyd’s Biography of London. For him, its streets were an archetype: not ‘grand or imposing’, nor ‘squalid or desolate’, but instead seeming ‘to contain the grey soul of London, that slightly smoky and dingy quality which has hovered over the city for many hundreds of years’. Furthermore, he wrote of the fascination its streets held for Arthur Machen (1863-1947), a writer whose stories often combined a love for London with a deep fear of it, intermingled with a common theme […]
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The story of London Tweed
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.
Miss Levy’s Wedding Dress
This whole thing started a few years ago when a wedding dress came up at auction. Not being a wedding dress swooner I could nevertheless think of quite a few (entirely rational) reasons why the museum should acquire this particular example. For one thing it was made by Victor Stiebel, one of my favourite London couturiers. Secondly, we do not have enough of his creations (one never does) and they do not come up at auction very often. The dress also had an intriguing mystery inscription. We will get to that in a moment.
Looking after London’s ghosts…
When I first started working at the Museum of London’s Archaeological Archive I was told there was a ghost in our metal store. More Casper than Blair Witch, the ghost allegedly helped you find objects that had been ‘misplaced’. Sadly, I’ve never seen this ghost, but with 200,000 boxes containing millions of fragments of London’s history, I think it fair to say the ghosts of London’s past sit on our shelves.