100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Lusitania

Lusitania heading

On the 100th anniversary of the loss of the Lusitania on May 7th this year, I thought our readers would be interested to hear about the resources they can consult at Guildhall Library if they wish to know more about the sad and contentious loss of this passenger ship.

This is the story as it appeared in ‘Lloyd’s List’ (part of the Lloyd’s Marine Collection at the Library) with some complementary material from the rest of the Lloyd’s Collection, the ‘Times’ and the ‘Illustrated London News’.

The story begins before the Lusitania sailed from New York for Liverpool…

‘Times’ Monday 3rd May 1915

A report from New York headed “Alarmist Telegrams” recorded that most of the ‘leading passengers’ aboard the Lusitania had received a telegram warning them to cancel their trip and not to sail because the Lusitania would be torpedoed. The report also states that these passengers were stopped as they tried to board the ship by mysterious characters with German accents warning them of the danger ahead.

‘Lloyd’s List’ Friday May 7th 1915

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A poignant advertisement appeared for the Lusitania’s next voyage leaving Liverpool for New York on Saturday 15th May, a voyage she was never to make.

‘Lloyd’s List’ Saturday May 8th 1915

The Lusitania is listed in the section headed ‘War’ as follows

LUSITANIA
._ Land’s End Wireless Station, May 7 2.20pm._Distress call made by steamer Lusitania at 2.13pm as follows: Come at once, big list, position 10 miles south Kinsale.
______Valentia Wireless Station, May 7 2.30pm._Steamer Lusitania in distress 10 miles south of Kinsale at 2.15p.m.
______Brow Head Wireless Station, May 7 3.20p.m._Wireless reports steamer Lusitania 10 miles south old head of Kinsale sending out distress signals 2.15 p.m. , asking for assistance, come at once. Weather fine, sea calm.
______Queenstown, May 7, 2.58 p.m._Reported that steamer Lusitania sank at 2.33 p.m. south-west of Kinsale

The wireless operators on board the Lusitania were Robert Leith and his Junior David McCormick but they are not named in the ‘Lloyd’s List’ report.

The same issue had a brief report on the Cunard Liner headed “’Lusitania’ Sunk by Submarine.” The report stated that she had been torpedoed and the fate of her 1250 passengers and 600 crew (numbers stated not exact) were at present unknown and that rescue attempts were being made. It was thought that Lusitania could outrun any danger from the U-boats and the report highlighted that Lusitania had broken the speed record for a steamer across the Atlantic in 1914; but on her last voyage one of her engine rooms had been shut down so her speed was reduced.

‘Times’ Saturday May 8th 1915

This editorial reflects shock at the manner of the loss of the Lusitania whilst the details of the incident were still vague and the comments reflect the rhetoric of the time. The Kaiser, the German Government and the German people are accused of “wholesale murder and nothing else” and the incident is compared with the slaughter of French and Belgian citizens at Louvain and Dinant and speaks of retribution to come. Arguments over justification for the attack, whether armaments were being carried, if she was struck by one torpedo or two, began then and still continue.

‘Lloyd’s List’ Monday May 10th 1915
The War: Destruction of the ‘Lusitania’: Vessel Struck by Two Torpedoes: Heavy Death Roll

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The report indicated that after being struck by two torpedoes Lusitania sank in 15 to 25 minutes. The estimated loss of life was 2160 although only 45 were known to have died at that time. It speaks of the attempts by the local fishing community to save survivors and retrieve bodies. The Secretary of the Admiralty denied that the Lusitania was armed in the face of statements being made from the German side.

‘Lloyd’s List’ Tuesday May 11th 1915

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This issue announced that the Board of Trade, with the concurrence of the Admiralty, had ordered an inquiry into the circumstances attending the loss of the Lusitania.

In the same edition a “German Message to America” appeared, arguing that the German people were being starved, the Lusitania had been armed and that British vessels had been ramming German submarines. It stated:

“The German government in spite of its heartfelt sympathy for the loss of American lives cannot but regret that Americans felt more inclined to trust English promises rather than pay attention to the warnings from the German side.”

‘Illustrated London News’ Saturday 15th May 1915

This publication covered the loss of the vessel in detail with dramatic illustrations of passengers clinging to the wreckage and this disturbing image of the sinking vessel.

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The Lloyd’s Marine Collection at Guildhall Library also includes the original ‘Lloyd’s War Loss Book’ for the First World War and part of the entry for the Lusitania can be seen below:

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We also hold the original typed sheets from the ‘Lloyd’s Record of War Losses’ for the First World War and the sheet for the Lusitania is shown below:

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The Lloyd’s Collection includes 15 research folders on vessels of note which includes a small collection of cuttings and articles on the Lusitania.

Content of the research folder includes discussion of the aftermath, theories about the second explosion and documents covering the various salvage operations eg:- ‘How I found the Lusitania: My exciting Search for the sunken liner three hundred feet below a stormy sea’ by Captain Henry Russell of the ‘Orphir’(extract from ‘Glasgow Evening News’ Nov 16th 1935) and, Hubert Collier’s ‘What Really Sank the Lusitania?’ From Lloyd’s Log, May 1975.

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The research folder offers some documents relating to salvage work in the 1960s.  Three copy letters from Sub-Agent Seamas O’Neill to Lloyd’s Intelligence dated June 23rd 1967, July 12th 1967 and July 18th 1967 refer to John Light (leader of the diving team), the salvage operation, some filming by Granada TV and the movements of salvage vessel ‘Doonie Braes’.

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A copy of the Lusitania Inquiry, some published books on the loss and more recent articles eg:- Simon Wills in the May 2015 ‘Family Tree’ magazine, are also held at the Library, see the library catalogue http://capitadiscovery.co.uk/cityoflondon/

Lists of passengers and crew can be found online at http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/ and http://www.geni.com/projects/RMS-Lusitania/14738

You are welcome to visit Guildhall Library to research the Lusitania and other vessels and stories in the collection. Most items can be ordered from our stores and brought to your table in about fifteen minutes. You can discover more about our resources on the maritime page on our website https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/collections/Pages/Maritime-history.aspx

Written by: Jeanie Smith – Assistant Librarian and Keeper of the Lloyd’s Marine Collection
Photographs by: Elisabeth Dew – Library Assistant

DIY in the Victorian Garden with Shirley Hibberd

James Shirley Hibberd was born in Stepney in 1825 and was the son of a sea captain. He began his career as a bookseller but was writing articles on horticulture long before it became his profession and became expert in the cultivation of fruit, flowers and vegetables.

Following his marriage in 1850, Hibberd moved to Pentonville where he gradually changed from making his living by bookselling to horticultural journalism. In 1858 he became the first editor of Floral World, managing that gardening paper until 1875, after which he began to work on popular gardening manuals and on creating a series of specialist gardens. Running out of space in his North London gardens, he moved to Muswell Hill where he created still more specialist gardens.

His experiments and investigations led to his being consulted by individuals and interest groups for advice; he became a Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and a judge at the Guildhall Flower Show.

Hibberd the horticultural expert had a reputation for picking fights with his peers but he was also a good communicator, particularly for the amateur gardener. His practical experience and advice and his enthusiasm for many types of gardening are demonstrated in these publications held at Guildhall Library:

The Floral World and Garden Guide edited by James Shirley Hibberd (1871).

Floral1An item from the Library of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners at Guildhall Library, shelf mark GC 2.3.

This guide was a monthly publication aimed at amateur gardeners of moderate means. Hibberd reported on the progress of his garden projects in each issue, thus helping gardeners find practical solutions to their own gardening problems.

Anne Wilkinson in her article ‘The Preternatural Gardener: The Life of James Shirley Hibberd (1825-90)’ points out that at the time The Floral World began, amateur gardeners were still considered a minority interest. Contemporary periodicals like The Gardeners’ Chronicle and The Cottage Gardener were aimed at those who employed professional gardeners, or at the head gardeners and nurserymen who worked for them. Hibberd saw the advantage of writing for people who took a ‘DIY’ approach to gardening. He also wanted to spread ideas and to share expertise and experience between professional and amateur gardeners.

Many of the articles in Floral World were by florists and nurserymen, people who could offer sound advice, and much of the writing was done by Hibberd himself. In his ‘Garden Guide for June’ Hibberd’s horticultural notes reviewed several RHS and other exhibitions which had taken place during May. He discussed the previous month’s weather (cold north-easterly winds) and its effect on the fruit crops. There were also sections for notes on new books and new plants as well as answers to readers’ questions just as in today’s gardening magazines.

Floral 2In his article Victorian Gardening Magazines, Desmond Ray states that the coloured plates for Floral World were provided by Benjamin Fawcett of Yorkshire and he suggests that they were subsequently used in Hibberd’s books, e.g. New and Rare Beautiful-leaved Plants (1870) and The Ivy (1872).

Benjamin Fawcett (1808 -1893) was one of the most able and gifted English nineteenth century woodblock colour printers. He had a long association with natural history writer and ornithologist Francis Orpen Morris, the printing of Morris’ works being done by Fawcett and the engraving by Alexander Francis Lydon (1836-1917). Most of the joint works of Fawcett and Lydon were published by Groombridge of London, also the publisher of the three works highlighted here which were written or edited by Hibberd.

The Ivy, a Monograph; Comprising the History, Uses, Characteristics, and Affinities of the Plant, and a Descriptive List of all the Garden Ivies in Cultivation (1872).

An item from the Library of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners at Guildhall Library, shelf mark GC 2.3.

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This volume has a superb richly decorated Victorian binding with gold blocking, two colour plates and numerous wood-engravings throughout the text. It describes the history of ivy and the folklore associated with it, giving scientific descriptions of all known varieties as well as offering several ‘ivy’related quotations from Virgil, Shakespeare, Keats and Tennyson.

Hibberd personally collected over 200 varieties of ivy and in spite of the breadth of his horticultural interests they were a particular passion for him.

Floral4

The Fern Garden or Fern Culture Made Easy (1869).  

Floral5An item from the Library of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners at Guildhall Library, shelf mark: GC 1.1

Like many Victorians, Hibberd was a pteridomaniac (fern enthusiast). In the preface to his fern book we see a waspish side of his character whilst warming to his care for enlightening the beginner…

“Beginners in Fern culture are very much perplexed by the abundance of books on the subject, and their general unfitness to afford the aid a beginner requires. Almost everybody has written a book on ferns, it having become the fashion to consider a knowledge of the subject rather a disqualification than otherwise… we have plenty of good books on the subject, but for the most part they are technical and elaborate, and shoot over the heads of beginners.” (From Hibberd’s Preface)

Floral6The volume covers the identification and care of ferns, fern collecting and how to build a fernery etc.

I am endeared to Hibberd by a lovely story about his next door neighbour building a large structure which cast part of his garden into shade during the afternoons. Instead of having an un-neighbourly argument he converted his greenhouse into a fern house to work with the decrease in light levels!

Hibberd died on the 16th November 1890 and was buried Abney Park Cemetery, fittingly now a site of importance for nature conservation.

Written by: Jeanie Smith – Assistant Librarian and Keeper of the Lloyd’s Marine Collection
Photographs by: Elisabeth Dew – Library Assistant

References (All available at Guildhall Library)

Browne, Janet. ‘Hibberd, (James) Shirley (1825-1890)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, OUP, 2004; online edition, May 2009. wwwoxforddnb.com/view/article/13193 accessed 9th April 2015.

Hibberd, Shirley. The Fern Garden or Fern Culture Made Easy. London: Groombridge and Sons, 1869.

Hibberd, Shirley (ed). The Floral World and Garden Guide. London: Groombridge and Sons, 1871.

Hibberd, Shirley. The Ivy, a Monograph; comprising the History, Uses, Characteristics, and Affinities of the Plant, and a Descriptive List of all the Garden Ivies in Cultivation. London: Groombridge and Sons, 1872.

Massingham, Betty. A Century of Gardeners. London: Faber & Faber, 1982.

Ray, Desmond. ‘Victorian Gardening Magazines’. Garden History 5.3 (Winter, 1977): 47-66. www.jstor.org/stable/1586573 accessed: 04/01/2014

Wilkinson, Anne. ‘The Preternatural Gardener: The Life of James Shirley Hibberd (1825-90)’ Garden History 26.2 (Winter, 1998): 153-175.

Gardeners’ World – the 17th Century Way

Gard1This is ‘Kalendarium Hortense: or, The Gard’ner’s Almanac: Directing What he is to Do Monthly Throughout the Year and What Fruits and Flowers are in Prime’ of 1691 by John Evelyn (1620-1706) of ‘Diary’ fame.  This volume forms part of the Library of the Worshipful Company of Gardeners.

As we prepare to greet the Spring and perhaps tune in to ‘Gardeners’ World’ when it returns to our screens this week, it is good to be reminded that month by month advice on what to do in the garden has been around for a very long time.

The ‘Kalendarium Hortense’ offers practical advice for the 17th century gardener and in doing so offers us insights into horticulture in that period. It is one of the earliest gardening calendars, and gives advice on work in the kitchen and flower garden as well as listing each month’s ‘prime’ flowers and vegetables.

For example in March, Evelyn offers plenty of advice about what to grow and to do in the garden. He tells us that March is “the chiefest and best time for raising on the Hot-bed Melons, Cucumbers, Gourds, &c. which about the sixth, eighth, or tenth day will be ready for the Seeds; and eight days after prick them forth at distances, according to the Method &c.”

‘Flowers in Prime, and yet lasting’ in March are noted by Evelyn and include anemones, spring cyclamen, winter aconite, white and black hellebore, violets, hyacinth zeboin and the Persian iris.

Gard2He also lists ‘Fruits in prime or yet lasting’ an important list at a time of year where food is less abundant and for March, the mouth-watering list includes apples ‘Golden Ducket’ (Doucet), ‘pepins’, ‘Lones Pearmain’, ‘Winter Pearmain’ and ‘John-apple’.

As you may imagine, advice on the growing of fruit features throughout the year and the volume concludes with “a catalogue of such excellent fruit trees as may direct gentlemen to the choice of that which is good, and store sufficient for a moderate plantation: species and curiosities being otherwise boundless, and without end.”  Anyone who has visited the National Fruit Collection at Faversham in autumn will know that is true!

Evelyn offers guidance on work “To be done in the orchard and olitory garden.” The ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ defines ‘Olitory’ as “of or relating to culinary herbs or kitchen vegetables, or a kitchen garden” and the earliest quoted use of the word is listed as being by J. Evelyn, in 1664, in ‘Kalendarium Hortense’. This gardeners’ almanac was originally an appendix to Evelyn’s ‘Sylva’ which was published in 1664. In ‘Sylva’ he encouraged landowners and growers to plant trees to replace those lost during the English Civil Wars.

Evelyn began to create his garden at Sayes Court, Deptford in 1652 having inherited the property from his father. This was the beginning of a lifelong interest in botany which led to his publishing several books on the subject. It is important to note that 17th century published advice for gardeners was usually meant for the professional horticulturalist, paid to develop and care for the gardens of gentlemen or the aristocracy not for the amateur gardener.

The Company’s collection of over 500 volumes remains at Guildhall Library as does the Company’s archive. This is by no means a closed collection and new acquisitions are added by the Company each year. You are welcome to visit the library to enjoy this collection and find gardening tips; you will just need to bring along proof of your name and address.

So as we look forward to hearing Monty’s reassuring tones and helpful advice once again, we can also recall Evelyn’s words in his dedication (to Abraham Cowley esq.) in ‘Kalendarium Hortense’

“You gather the first Roses of the Spring, and Apples of Autumn And …you vie Happiness in a thousand easie and sweet Diversions.”

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian
Guildhall Library

Cesar Picton, by Howard Benge

I recently started at Guildhall Library and part of the induction is getting to know the extensive collection. A lifetime’s work, perhaps, but you have to start somewhere.

CPThrowing in certain keywords on the online catalogue, I stumbled across this, the Kingston-upon-Thames Archaeological Society report on Picton House.

I wrote an article a few years ago about Cesar Picton, who the house is named after. I have pasted it below.

 

Cesar Picton

Every town has its stories and tales of people, myths and legends. When I arrived in Kingston upon Thames 8 years ago, I was told many of these stories. Some were very bold, some horrific and some just ridiculous. For me, the story of one person stood out from the rest. When he was six years old, Cesar Picton was brought to Kingston from Senegal, became a servant in the household of an aristocratic family and ended up a wealthy gentleman.

What we know about Cesar is found through documents in the local records and archives. In 1761 he was brought from Africa by Captain Parr an officer of the British army who had been working in Senegal. In a meeting with Sir John Philipps, Captain Parr gave Cesar to the Philipps family as a gift. It was mentioned in Sir John’s journal that he was given Cesar along with “a parakeet and a foreign duck.” Early on Cesar had been taken from his home, his family, if he had one, and was treated as a commodity.

He lived with the Philipps family in Kingston at Norbiton Place, a large mansion-house on the outskirts of the town. From the records kept in the parish church, we know that he was baptised on 6th December 1761. We don’t know if he was brought up a Christian in Senegal. It was most likely that he was brought up a Muslim, as most of the population of Senegal was at that time.

Nothing is known about him from those early years in Senegal. Who was he, did he have a family, and was he rich or poor? Senegal was a major slave trade departure point in the 18th century. Maybe Captain Parr just bought him in a slave market. We do not even know his birth name. He was named after Picton Castle, the Philips family home in Wales. I wonder what upheaval he suffered being taken from Senegal to Britain by boat and then put in an incredibly wealthy household. I doubt he even spoke English at that time.

Cesar was brought up as a servant. It was not unusual to have black servants in wealthy households, but from letters it looks like the Philipps family were abolitionists. They were against the slave trade and supported overseas missions. Cesar was educated by the family, became very religious and hard-working. He was close to Lady Philipps and mixed with the family on equal terms, often entertaining visitors with them. When Lady Philips died in 1788 Cesar was left £100 in her will. This was a considerable amount and it gave him independence.

In his early 30s Cesar’s life completely changed. He set himself up in business, becoming a coal merchant in Kingston. Much of his money had to be spent in the outlay of the business, such as rent on the premises he worked from and £10 to the Kingston Corporation so he could trade. This was a hefty sum.

At first he rented a house on the high street, but was so successful in business he was able to buy it. This was a fashionable residence with moulded ceilings and an ornate staircase. It was named Picton House after his death and is still on the High Street with a plaque on the front to commemorate his life.

As his business grew, he bought more property and was left additional wealth when other members of the Philipps family died. Eventually, he lived the life of a gentleman, renting a cottage on a country estate in Tolworth. After that he bought a large property in Thames Ditton for £4000. Cesar Picton was doing very well in the world of business and society.

Towards the end of his life, he wrote and re-wrote his will. That still survives today and tells us a little more about his life. He left two watches, gold chains, rings, brooches and a tortoiseshell tea-chest. He died in 1836 at the age of 81. He lived a long life, indicating good health, but was obviously a large man. At his funeral a four-wheeled trolley was needed to carry him into the church with planks and rollers to lower him into the vault.

Cesar’s wish was to be buried in the parish church in Kingston, but there was no pomp or ceremony about his funeral. By his request he was buried in a plain and simple way.

We can see the footprints of Cesar. Picton House is on the High Street. His house in Thames Ditton still survives and is still one of the largest properties there. We have the records and documents of his life, the business transactions, tax payments, and the parish records. The spot where he was buried in the church is marked with a plaque that simply says “CP 1836.”

CP 1836

Many locals know about Cesar Picton from talks, books and leaflets. Ann-Marie Olufuwa runs the local group MeWe who celebrate African and Afro-Caribbean culture though drama and music. I asked about her thoughts on Cesar Picton. She said, “His is a very positive story for a black man in Britain during the years of the slave trade. In many ways he was one of my fore bearers. I am black with African roots and trying to achieve something in Kingston. I’m looking forward to re-telling his story in the future.”

What I want to know is more about the man. What was he like, what did he take pleasure in? Being black, did he suffer any minority issues in Kingston, or were people welcoming towards him? I often wonder if, in his adult life, he had any memories of his first 5 years in Senegal. Did he ever think about his natural family, what his life was like there, or would have been like if he was not brought to Britain? If he did, did he ever tell anyone? There are some things the records can never show us.

Howard Benge, Events and Development Manager @Guildhall Library

Celebrity Cooks

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To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the death of Mrs Beeton, Guildhall Library is currently staging the exhibition Celebrity Cooks: Mrs Beeton and her Contemporaries. As the owners of the largest collection of cookery books in a public library in the UK, we were delighted to be able to tell the story of this extraordinary woman with some of the fascinating items from our collection.

Mrs Beeton was born in 1836 in Milk Street, a couple of minutes from Guildhall Library. At the age of 20 she married Samuel Beeton and immediately became involved in his publishing business, spending four years compiling the information that would make up the Book of Household Management, published in 1861. She died soon after its publication, in 1865 at the age of 28.

In the time since her death her remarkable book has never been out of print, and the name ‘Mrs Beeton’ has become a household name. Many people are unaware that she died at such a young age: her book continued to be re-edited and published with no reference to her death, giving the impression she was still alive and working on various revisions.

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This exhibition traces her lasting impact on the world of cooking, including her influence on today’s ‘celebrity cooks.’ We also look at her place in the world of nineteenth-century cooking and two of her contemporaries, Eliza Acton and Alexis Soyer (who were, arguably, better cooks than Mrs Beeton herself, who was really a journalist!).

We also have an exciting accompanying events programme, which will cover different aspects of food history, including the lost world of the Georgian Chocolate House and the history of the English Cookbook, as well as an ‘edible exhibition’, where visitors will have the opportunity to taste sweet dishes through the ages (14 April, 6 – 8pm, £5 per person). While you’re visiting look out for our range of Mrs Beeton merchandise (including a chef duck!).

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Want to find out more? Our exhibition is free and open until 17 April. Don’t forget, you can learn more about our food and wine collections any time, without appointment or membership!

 

Murther, Murther! Murder?

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If you sometimes wonder about present day newspaper coverage of crimes before they go to trial, things could be worse.

This account (1641) of a supposed poisoning of a man by his wife and their landlady offers evidence, persuasion of guilt and straight to the judgement on the first page and all apparently before the woman had gone to trial!

The account reads like a ‘fire and brimstone’ sermon lamenting that ‘a daughter of Jerusalem hath committed an abomination’. We are told that one Anne Hamton of the Parish of Saint Margaret’s, Westminster spent all of her husband’s money in riotous living and when her good (and a little dull) husband begs her to leave off drinking and spending, she plots to poison him on the advice of the wicked landlady Margaret Harwood. He begs her ‘oh wife, wife, take counsell by me thy hitherto loving husband, forsake that company which hate not thy body, but soule, do not drink healths to thine own confusion, nor with so greedy an appetite swallow thine own destruction’ (p3). The poor man comes to a painful end but the evil deed of the women is soon discovered.

This may be a cautionary tale rather than a factual account. Court proceedings were not written down until the 1670s and it wasn’t until the 1750s that (nearly) every case was recorded.

Guildhall Library holds many of these short accounts of criminal activity which were printed and sold as a private enterprise and had nothing to do with the formal legal system. Some offer confessions or speeches purported to come from criminals about to be executed, sometimes ‘from the ladder’ just before they were hung.

One of my colleagues has suggested that this woodcut illustration is far older than the 1641 publication. The clothing depicted suggests an earlier date. Perhaps the workshop which did the printing owned the woodcut illustration and as it was to hand made use of it.

‘Murther, Murther!’ can be ordered at the library using reference A 1.2 no1 in 12.
This and other ‘accounts’ can be found on the library catalogue and you are welcome to visit to read them – just bring along proof of your name and address.

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian

The Monster Globe

???????????????????????????????Introduction

The idea for the ‘Great’ or ‘Monster’ Globe was conceived by MP, Charing Cross map maker, & Geographer to the Queen, James Wyld (1812–1887).

Wyld originally intended the Globe to be displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, but problems around the lighting and size of the exhibit and Wyld’s desire to use it as an opportunity to promote his mapmaking business, ended in his having to develop his idea as a separate scheme. The concept had been in his mind for some time but the announcement of The Great Exhibition convinced him to bring his idea to fruition.

James Wyld entered Parliament in 1847. As the Liberal MP for Bodmin he “rapidly acquired a reputation for independence and outspokenness, particularly in the discussion on the Public Libraries Bill when he roundly accused the agricultural interests of opposing public libraries because they feared that libraries might divert the poor from drinking and so decrease the nation’s malt consumption” (Hyde, 119).

Wyld seems to have been a contentious figure whose activities often ended in disputes, the ‘Globe’ venture being no exception, with legal wrangles ensuing with architects, builders, residents and creditors.

The plan is put into action

Wyld acquired a ten year lease on ‘garden’ land in Leicester Square for £3,000, (around £286,600.00 in 2014 values). In spite of local opposition, Wyld began to build the largest model of the Globe ever attempted. The original design was made by Edward Welch but this was later scaled down and substantially altered by H R Abraham. Welch’s design was thought unaffordable and perhaps unachievable.

The building which housed the Globe was 90 feet across, and the Globe within was 60 feet 4 inches in diameter. It was built over a statue of George I which stood in the square and by the time the statue was dug up again, some ten years later, it had suffered a great deal of damage. The Globe was lit by daylight from the centre of the dome and by gas at night, the latter being problematic for the Hyde Park site.

When news of the intended project emerged, there was enthusiasm as well as some incredulity and amusement. Punch suggested that before building commenced, a party of huntsmen should be hired to exterminate all the cats living in the square, they also suggested that neighbouring housetops could be used for a display of the solar system and that visiting foreigners could be accommodated inside the Globe with lodgings corresponding to their relevant countries. In fact some of this was not so very far beyond Wyld’s own ambitions!

Construction of the Globe began in early March 1851. Hyde records an eyewitness (unnamed) reporting that “Amongst the great ribs of the growing structure a number of gas jets flared brilliantly, and made the struggling grass and shrubs greener than ever before. A few men were mysteriously moving amongst the ribs which looked like the skeleton of some enormous fish lying stranded” (Hyde, 120).

ILN Wyld 22 March 1851“Mr Wyld’s Large Model of the Earth.” Illustrated London News (22 March 1851): 234.

Plaster modelling on the inside of these ribs depicted the earth’s surface. This ‘concave’ view enabled the visitor to see all the physical features of the world when viewed from a series of staircases and platforms.

The visitor experience/public reception

ILN Wyld 29 March 1851 (2)

The public flocked to the Monster Globe when it opened on 2nd June 1851. Hours of opening were 10am to 10pm on every day except Sunday and the entrance fee was one shilling. The large circular building had four entrances on the four sides of Leicester Square. Upon entering visitors found themselves in a circular passageway filled with Wyld’s maps, atlases, and celestial globes.

The convex side of the Globe was painted blue with silver stars and much of the interior design was by the theatrical scenery designer William Roxby Beverley. The interior was navigated by stairs and galleries; the world surrounding the amazed visitor who could see the oceans, the snow topped mountains and erupting red topped volcanoes (cotton wool was used to suggest the smoke).

Wyld’s giant ‘Model of the Earth’ was a great success and the attraction was so successful that in 1852 Wyld tried to get an Act of Parliament to authorize him to retain the building in Leicester Square but failed.

After the Great Exhibition

Wyld tried a series of strategies to increase visitor numbers, especially after the Great Exhibition closed. It was promoted as an educational experience and descriptive lectures were given throughout each day. In 1853 Wyld and the Globe were the subject of a scandal involving a display of fake gold in his Australian gold fields diorama, which may or may not have been ‘engineered’ to increase public interest in the attraction. Wyld created several new displays for the Globe including a model of the Crimea during the war (1853-1856) showing the position of the troops, day by day. It was his most successful exhibit and thousands visited to follow the War’s progress.

Wyld’s struggle to renew the lease on the land at Leicester Square finally failed and in 1861 the Monster Globe was taken down and sold for scrap. Legal wrangles followed the closure when Wyld failed to restore the gardens as promised.

Reports, keepsakes and guides on the Great Globe at Guildhall Library

The Library holds guides, journal articles and keepsakes on the Great Globe including:

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Notes to Accompany Mr Wyld’s Model of the Earth. Leicester Square. 1851 which was written by Wyld to promote the attraction (and his map business) and dedicated to HRH Prince Albert. The dedication celebrates past discoveries and the support for geographical research offered by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The ‘Notes’ are full of descriptions of countries, continents and oceans to accompany the exhibition as well as detail on the purpose and construction of the Great Globe itself.

Wyle Notes 4This charming illustration below is from The Little Folks Laughing Library “The Model of the Earth” 1851 by F W N Bayley.

Bayley - The Little Folks Laughing Library Model of the Earth (1851) (1c)

Having admired the alligator on his visit to Egypt, Jack exclaims:

“One enormous alligator

Kept me, I think, rather later;

For I thought he’d swallow me, bones and all,

And then I couldn’t have come at all!”

Frederick William Naylor Bayley (1808–1852) was the first editor of the Illustrated London News but also wrote verse for newspapers, popular song lyrics and fiction. He was nick-named ‘Alphabet’ and sometimes ‘Omnibus’ Bayley.   The volume is written in verse and dedicated to James Wyld Esq. MP

“For we’re told that a man uncommonly WYLD

Has built up a Globe there for every child”

Find out more

There were reports on the Great Globe which you can search online or read in hard copy at Guildhall Library. Our collections include contemporary periodicals including The Illustrated London News and The Builder as well as numerous guides to London published to co-incide with the Great Exhibition e.g. The British Metropolis in 1851: a Classified Guide to London: so arranged as to Show, in Separate Chapters, Every Object in London Interesting to Special Tastes and Occupations. London : Arthur Hall, Virtue 1851.

Jeanie Smith
Assistant Librarian

References

Bayley, F. W. N. (Frederic William Naylor) The Model of the Earth 2nd ed. London : Published for the author by Darton and Co, 1851.

Hyde, Ralph. “Mr Wyld’s Monster Globe.” History Today 20.2 (February 1970): 118-123.

“Mr Wyld’s Large Model of the Earth.” Illustrated London News (22 March 1851): 234.

“Mr Wyld’s Globe in Leicester Square” Illustrated London News (29 March 1851): 247-248.
“Mr Wyld’s Model of the Earth.” Illustrated London News (7 June 1851): 512.
Timbs, John. Curiosities of London: Exhibiting the Most Rare and Remarkable Objects of Interest in the Metropolis; with nearly Sixty Years’ Personal Recollections. London : J. S. Virtue & Co, 1867.

[Wyld]. Notes to Accompany Mr Wyld’s Model of the Earth. Leicester Square. 1851.