With fans, pistols, jewellery and a wonderful display of shoes, the Museum stresses that London’s manufacturing industries were thriving; it had more shops than any other European city (hence Napoleon’s ‘nation of shopkeepers’ jibe) and needed skilled immigrants. Workers in the same trades in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the continent formed associations and unions for better pay and conditions. In 1776 the wages of workmen in London were double those of their counterparts in Edinburgh.
Exhibits from this era include Anne Fanshawe’s dress (the embroidered hops, barley, anchors and bales represent Anne’s father’s trade as a brewer and a Merchant of the City of London), musical clocks, fine glassware, a dentist’s surgery (complete with tools, medicines, spectacles and teeth), a tailor’s workshop, the Blackett dolls’ house (with hand-painted wallpaper and a spit-roasting mechanism in the kitchen), and a wax diorama by Samuel Percy of Turk’s Coffee House in the Strand where folk were meeting to discuss ideas.
|Anne Fanshawe's dress|
|The Blackett's dolls' house|
Among items from this ‘new city’ are reminders of its foundations; portraits of Omai and Benelong; a Royal Standard barge banner; a pair of paintings by Henry Nelson O’Neal – Eastward Ho! (a colourful depiction of cheerful, smiling soldiers, kissing wives and babies as they board a ship in Gravesend leaving to fight in the ‘Indian Mutiny’, or first Indian War of Independence), and the companion work, Home Again as they return, many wounded.
|Eastward Ho! by Henry Nelson O'Neal|
|Home Again by Henry Nelson O'Neal|
You can stroll along the reconstructed Victorian Walk with a pawn broker’s, pub, bank, pharmacy, and tailor’s. The gentleman’s outfitters contain cloth, tweed, silks, suits, collars, coats, trousers and top-hats, with the paraphernalia to make them – scissors, tape measures, rulers, fashion plates, dressmaker’s dummies, buttons, and twists of material and thread. There is also a milliner’s, a barber’s, a tobacconist, a stationer’s (with cards, post cards and paper dolls), a grocer’s (with biscuit boxes, scales for measuring, and glass and earthenware jars), and a toyshop (with trains, dolls, puzzles, toy soldiers, marbles, and an ark with all the animals).
|The Victorian Walk, looking a lot like Diagon Alley|
I liked the Eight Day Regulator Clock from 1860, exhibited at the International Exhibition of 1862. It shows the time in GMT and has 24-hour dials for Sydney, Madras, New York, Canton, Calcutta, Paris, St Petersburg and Constantinople.