A Cup Of Tea, A BEX, And A Good Lie Down…

1979: Banned powders still on sale in Sydney

First published in the Sydney Morning Herald on September 5, 1979

Compound painkillers which were banned from sale from July 1 are still freely sold across the counter in Sydney.

Chemists as well as other retailers were found breaking the law yesterday.

First thing this morning, Bobbie Spillane reached for her Bex, as she has done every day for the last 40-odd years. And she hopes she’ll be doing for the next 40. “I don’t know what I’d do without them,”she said as she poured middies at an early-opening City hotel today. “If they’re thinking of putting them in prescription, I’d better stock up. “We call them the barmaid’s friend, you know.” Bobbie reckons she knocks back at least half a dozen of powders a day. And she sells around 30 to customers over the bar. “They’re not all women either,” she said. April 25, 1977.CREDIT:STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

The banned compounds have a mixture of two or more of the substances aspirin, paracetamol, salicylamide and caffeine.

In place of the compound analgesics, drug manufacturers are distributing for open sale single analgesics in similar packets.

But yesterday I bought compound analgesics at four of 14 city shops without difficulty.

At a cafe in George Street, Vincent’s powders made of aspirin, caffeine, citrate and salicylamide were in a plastic cup behind the counter. I was told I could buy only one sachet.

Another George Street cafe kept compound Vincent’s powders on view. Two assistants asked how many I would like.

Two of 10 pharmacies sold me compound analgesics.

A pharmacy in Liverpool Street displayed the new, single-analgesic Bex, but a white-coated man needed no prompting to offer for sale a box of compound-formula Bex. He said it was his last.

He collected the Bex from a back room and said he had been trying to “sell all the old stock” because of the new restrictions.

A Bex and a good lie down… two of the banned products.CREDIT:STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

When I asked for a packet of Bex powders at a George Street pharmacy the sales assistant said only the new formula Bex was in stock, but would I like some of the old kind of Vincent’s?

When I answered yes, the assistant spoke to a whitecoated man. This man asked how many powders I wanted, collected a box of 24 from a back room, handed them over surreptitiously and whispered the price.

Peter Kennedy, State Political Correspondent, was able to buy a four-sachet-pack of Vincent’s compound powders in Macquarie Street yesterday. He writes:

The regulations on compound analgesics were tightened because substantial evidence of a direct link between overuse of the analgesics and kidney failure.

Retailers who illegally sell them face a maximum penalty of an $800 fine or six months jail.

The executive Officer of the NSW Drug and Alcohol Authority, Mr Brian Stewart, said that retailers of the compound analgesics were clearly breaking the law.

“Ample warning has been given,” he said. “It means the retailers are liable to the stiff penalties and are acting contrary to the interests of public health.”

Bitter pills: a quick fix, and a long road to recovery

The silent generation – those who came before the baby boomers – were a stoic bunch who resisted taking drugs to treat even the worst ailments. Migraines, muscle pain and insomnia were treated through a cup of tea, a warm bath, a lie down or fresh air.

But with the 1960s, a new, medical element was added to that mix when a marketing phrase entered the vernacular: ”Have a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down.”

Bex, the analgesic made up of aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine, became an Australian icon. It was recommended to treat headaches, colds, flu, fevers, rheumatism, nerve pain and for ”calming down”.

Dissolving some Bex powder in a cup of tea became particularly common among housewives, widely available and sometimes taken up to three times a day.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that clinicians realised Bex and other similar formulations were responsible for kidney disease and addiction, and was carcinogenic. Phenacetin was pulled from the market by 1983.

But the damage had been done, says the director of the National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction at Adelaide’s Flinders University.

Professor Ann Roche says taking drugs for even mild illness or stress became a ”common Australian tradition” and has remained so.

Aggressive marketing from drug companies meant it was even common to pop an analgesic in children’s lunch boxes. ”Generally we don’t think twice about taking certain medications,” Professor Roche says.

‘We see it as fairly common and benign and something that has been used for decades and there is now this tradition of using drugs for pain relief, sleeping issues or anxiety.”

But this attitude has now extended to stronger, prescription drugs being commonly requested from doctors as a first line of treatment.

The 2013 Global Drug Survey found almost half of all respondents had used prescription drugs in the past year, with up to 10 per cent experiencing signs of dependency. Of 2700 prescription drug users, 12 per cent said they had shared them, while 12 per cent mixed them with alcohol to enhance the effects. People also reported using the drugs, particularly opiates, to induce positive emotional and behavioural states.

Opiates, such as oxycodone, continue to be prescribed for chronic pain, even though scientists have shown in recent years they may not be very effective for long-term use. While they are effective for cancer pain and short-term pain, many doctors and patients have failed to realise there are better first-line treatments.

Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Serepax and Valium, are being used for short-term stress and anxiety.

”But the big shift we’ve seen in the last few years is towards oxycodone and the other one is fentanyl, mistakenly seen as innocuous as it enters the blood through a skin patch,” Professor Roche says.

Not only are people using them but they are sharing drugs including sleeping pills and pain relievers with family and friends.

There is no ”typical” drug abuser, Professor Roche says, with varying groups trying to get hold of the drugs. Professionals are using them to cope with the stresses of life, while illicit drug users are turning to prescription drugs as cheaper, easier-to-obtain and perceived ”safer” options.

More people are surviving severe trauma, Professor Roche says, such as car accidents or disabilities, often requiring long-term medication and opening the potential for addiction. People are getting older and fatter and suffering from joint pain, she says, overwhelming doctors who sometimes prescribe drugs as a first-line treatment. ”Another contributing factor to growing use is shortened hospital stays thanks to keyhole surgery and other medical advances,” she says.

”This facilitates a faster discharge, where patients are often given quite a lot of pain medication with repeat scripts that people just keep filling even if they no longer really need them.”

A former prescription drug abuser, Charlotte*, would use anxiety drugs every day, taking up to 35 Valium mixed with 10 to 12 Xanax. They were sometimes mixed with heroin.

That kind of intake saw her overdose and come close to death three times. Because of her schizophrenia, she could tolerate higher doses of the drugs, combined with the fact she had built up a tolerance to prescriptions from the age of 14.

About 20 of her friends have died, either through prescription overdose or from illicit drugs combined with prescription medication. She is 23.

”I started on prescription drugs at about 13 and I guess they were my gateway drug into illicit substances,” she says. ”Xanax was my main problem, followed with Valium and Serapax and then I went on to heroin and ice.

”I used to get it from friends and then I started doctor shopping.”

At 17, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. And while her psychiatrist refused to prescribe benzodiazepines, Charlotte says it was much easier to use her diagnosis to get the drugs from general practitioners.

She went back to the same doctors again and again.

”My friends and I had a list and all the drug users would see the same people,” she says. ”And they knew we were abusing them. Unless they were really stupid, they knew.”

She has been clean for 14 months, but says weaning off the prescription drugs was harder than stopping heroin.

She went to a rehabilitation clinic in Thailand, taking three months to get off the pills.

”I have seen heaps of bad things from prescription drugs; I think they’re worse than heroin,” she says. ”You’d think meth and heroin would be the worst but the thing is every time my friends or I overdosed on heroin, its always because [it was] mixed with drugs like Xanax and Valium.”

While she acknowledges she was an extreme user, Charlotte says people in general are too often turning to prescription drugs for minor ailments. She would like to see Valium banned.

Alex Wodak was the director of the alcohol and drug service at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital until last July, a position he held for more than 30 years. He has seen first-hand the shift towards people seeking fast comfort.

”People work seven days a week and are always available because of computers and phones, working around the clock,” he says.

”Family life is sacrificed and I think we’re paying the price.

”We have to look at what kind of community we want and we need politicians to implement family-oriented policies.

”We are living in an era where a lot of people are seeking comfort and solace from chemicals; it is a trend that is very supported in our culture.”

Dr Wodak is now working in the area of drug reform. He believes tackling prescription drug abuse is achievable.

”If we stay calm and base policy on evidence I believe we can come out of this,” he says. ”What’s so difficult is the power of the pharmaceutical industry.

”But what we have seen in the cases of tobacco and increasingly with alcohol is that community resentment about a lack of action to fix the problem builds and sooner or later, they will vote for a politician willing to take a stand.”

*Not her real name.

Bex Powders

Bex Powders were a compound analgesic that comprised aspirin (420mg), phenacetin (420 mg) and caffeine (160mg), also known as APC. It was the first APC product marketed in Australia and the most popular. Bex Powders were produced from the 1920s in South Australia by Beckers Pty Ltd. [1] Beckers moved to Sydney in the 1960s and in 1964 was based at the corner of Campbell and Crown Streets, Sydney. [2] Bex Powders were commonly taken by dissolving the powder in water or a cup of tea. The packaging claimed a Bex would relieve ‘Headache, Neuralgia, Rheumatism, Sciatica, Lumbago…Influenza and Cold in early stages’. [3]

Cultural references

Bex were promoted particularly to women with the advertising slogan ‘Stressful day? What you need is a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down’. [4] The line has become part of the Australian vernacular and can be used to suggest that someone should relax and ease up. The Bex slogan was immortalised in 1965 when the Phillip Street Theatrestaged a long-running satirical review A Cup of Tea, a Bex and a Good Lie Down, written by John McKellar and starring Reg Livermore and Ruth Cracknell. Over forty years later, in September 2011, Kevin Rudd, addressing suggestions he might challenge the incumbent Prime Minister Julia Gillard, told journalists ‘I just think it would be a good thing if everyone seriously had a cup of tea and a Bex and a long lie down, OK?’ [5]

The problem with Bex

The recommended daily dose of caffeine is 250mg per day and yet Bex packaging advised taking at least two powders, containing 320mg of caffeine. It has been recorded that many women took up to 30-40 doses a day, sometimes washed down with Coca-Cola, adding to the caffeine intake and strengthening the addiction. A further complication was that many of these women were also prescribed Valium, another addictive substance.

In the 1960s Dr. Priscilla Kincaid-Smith discovered that Bex Powders were addictive and that the large doses of phenacetin consumed by habitual users caused kidney disease.

One woman, Norma O’Hara took Bex Powders sometimes twice a day every day for up to eight years from when she was 20. She used to work at Rosebery Wrigley’s factory and said ‘most of the girls took Bex… it was to keep you going. Working the machines, you thought you needed them.’ [6] O’Hara was subsequently diagnosed with kidney failure which was linked to compound analgesic abuse. It was common practice for factory managers to provide Bex Powders free of charge to their workers.

APC compounds were banned in 1977 and painkillers containing them were removed from the Australian market. Over time, this led to a dramatic decline in kidney disease. [7]

Reference

FEUD FACTS: The Real Story Of The Hatfields & McCoys

Hardly any person in America can hear the name “Hatfield” without thinking “McCoy.” This most infamous feud in American folklore happened right in the Tri-State’s back yard.

The 2012 release of the History channel’s “Hatfields & McCoys” miniseries, starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, has sparked a renewed interest in the saga. You can find in the pages of the Tri-State Visitors’ Guide several feud-related attractions, activities and festivals. But before you go exploring, here’s a tutorial on what really happened in the hills of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.

The feud between the Hatfields of West Virginia and the McCoys of Kentucky had its roots in the Civil War and continued through 1981. The feud was led by patriarchs William “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randolph McCoy. Here are some key events in the feud:

THE CIVIL WAR

Both William “Devil Anse” Hatfield and Randolph McCoy were Confederates and were both along in a raid that killed Union Gen. Bill France in the fall of 1863. That raid sparked into action the Kentucky homeguards, who were sent to take Devil Anse and his men. One of France’s men, Asa Harmon McCoy (Randall’s brother), came after Anse in revenge.

He camped out in a rock house near his home. Anse found out and sent his Uncle Jim Vance and Jim Wheeler Wilson, a fellow soldier, to confront McCoy.

It is believed that one of those men shot and killed Asa McCoy.

COURT ORDERS

A couple of court decisions helped to fuel the feud. In the late 1870s, Devil Anse Hatfield got into a land dispute with McCoy’s cousin Perry Cline. Anse won the land dispute and was granted Cline’s entire 5,000-acre plot of land. A few months after the verdict, Randolph McCoy stopped to visit Floyd Hatfield, a cousin of Devil Anse. While visiting, McCoy saw a hog that he said bore the McCoy marking on its ear. Hatfield denied the accusation and the two were hauled into court with Preacher Anderson Hatfield (a Baptist preacher and justice of the peace) to settle the suit.

Both Hatfields and McCoys served as jurors. Randolph’s nephew Bill Staton, also a brother-in-law of Ellison Hatfield, swore that Floyd Hatfield owned the hog.

Floyd won the case. On June 18, 1880, Staton was killed in a shootout with Paris and Sam McCoy, who were sent to prison for their crime.

Ellison Hatfield testified at that trial.

ROMEO AND JULIET

Two months after the killing of Staton, Devil Anse’s son, Johnse met Roseanna McCoy, the daughter of Randolph McCoy, at an 1880 Election Day event.

They became lovers, but Randolph did not approve.

When she went to be with Johnse in West Virginia, a posse of McCoys rode to the cabin, took Johnse prisoner and set out for the Pikeville jail. Roseanna told Devil Anse, who gathered his own crew to cut off the McCoys and rescue his son. After that, the couple remained apart. Roseanna would give birth to their daughter, Sarah Elizabeth McCoy, in the spring of 1881. The baby died of measles later that year. Johnse Hatfield, who would be married four times in his life, met Nancy McCoy (the daughter of Asa Harmon McCoy, who had been killed by the Hatfields) and they were married on May 14, 1881.

TROUBLE AT THE POLLS

On Aug. 5, 1882, it was Election Day and at the polls on Blackberry Creek, Ellison Hatfield got into a fight with Tolbert McCoy (Randolph’s son). Tolbert’s two younger brothers, Pharmer and Randolph Jr., jumped in the fight with knives, and Pharmer McCoy shot Ellison.

HATFIELDS BURN WITH REVENGE

Preacher Anse Hatfield ordered constables to take the McCoy brothers to the Pikeville jail to face charges. They stopped at Floyd McCoy’s house for food and decided to spend the night further up Blackberry Creek. Devil Anse Hatfield found out and the next morning arrived on the scene, and a posse of nearly 20 family and friends took charge of the McCoy boys. When Ellison died, Devil Anse crossed into Kentucky, tied the boys to paw paw trees and the group of men executed the boys who had killed Ellison.

GOVERNORS GET INVOLVED

Hoping to leave no witnesses, the Hatfields raided the McCoy cabin in the dark of morning on New Year’s Day 1888. A firefight ensued, killing Randolph McCoy’s daughter Alifair and son Calvin. The raiders burned Randolph’s cabin to the ground. Randolph, his wife Sarah and the remaining children escaped.

The murders of the McCoys caused Kentucky’s governor Simon Buckner to unleash special officer Frank Phillips and 38 men to arrest the nearly 20 men and put out a special reward which brought a slew of bounty hunters to come after the Hatfields. Phillips captured several of those men, and Phillips shot and killed Uncle Jim Vance on Jan. 10, 1888.

On Jan. 19, a large firefight between Phillips and his men and Devil Anse Hatfield and his men happened, since known as the Battle of Grapevine Creek. Although no one was killed in the fight, it prompted Devil Anse to order 25 new Winchester repeating rifles to prepare for future attacks.

The raids brought the ire of West Virginia Gov. E. Willis Wilson, and many thought there might be another Civil War break out along the Tug Fork between factions in the two states. Both states ordered their National Guard units to prepare to defend their borders.

West Virginia’s governor sued Kentucky for the unlawful arrest of nine prisoners and unsuccessfully appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court in April 1888. The court ruled the Hatfields would have to stand trial in Kentucky whether or not the original arrests by Phillips were legal. Elison Mounts was hanged on Feb. 18, 1890, for the shooting of Alifair and Calvin McCoy, and the rest were given life sentences for their roles in killing the three McCoy brothers.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About the Hatfields and McCoys

1. Hollywood has always loved the Hatfields and McCoys.
The Hatfields and McCoys saga has been reflected in various forms of entertainment, including books, songs and Hollywood films. Some of the most memorable portrayals of the feud include a 1952 Abbot and Costello feature; a Hatfield- and McCoy-themed episode of the animated series “Scooby-Doo”; and Warner Bros.’ 1950 “Merrie Melodies” cartoon “Hillbilly Hare,” in which Bugs Bunny finds himself ensnared in a dispute between the rival Martin and Coy families.

Frankie McCoy and Shirley Hatfield pose together in a photograph that appeared in Life magazine in May 1944. (Credit: Walter Sanders//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

2. The Hatfields and McCoys inspired a famous game show.
The conflict is believed to have been the primary inspiration for the popular game show “Family Feud,” which premiered in 1976. In 1979 members of both families appeared on the show during a special Hatfields and McCoys theme week to battle it out for the usual cash rewards—with one unique twist. Also included in the prize package was a pig, symbolizing the origins of the feud. (It was the rumored theft of a valuable pig by a Hatfield ancestor that had served as a catalyst for the eruption of hostilities more than 100 years earlier.) The Hatfields won the contest.

3. The formerly feuding families were featured in Life magazine in the 1940s.
In May 1944, an issue of Life magazine revisited the Hatfields and McCoys nearly 50 years after violence among them rocked the Tug Valley area between Kentucky and West Virginia. The article was meant to show how the two “famous families now live together in peace,” and interviewed a number of descendants about the rivalry and relations between the two families five decades after the conflict. Among the photographs was a shot of two young women, Shirley Hatfield and Frankie McCoy, working together in a local factory that produced military uniforms. It was meant to symbolize the unifying effect of America’s war efforts at the height of World War II.

4. The feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1888 several Hatfields were arrested and stood trial for the murder of two of Randall McCoy’s children. West Virginia sued for the men’s release, arguing that they had been illegally extradited across state lines. The Supreme Court eventually became involved in the case, known as Mahon v. Justice. In its 7-2 decision, the court ruled in favor of Kentucky, allowing for the trials and subsequent convictions of all the Hatfield men. Seven of them received life sentences, and one, Ellison “Cotton Top” Mounts, was executed for his crimes.

5. A rare medical condition may be partly to blame for the violence of the notorious clash of clans.
In a 2007 study, a team of doctors and geneticists who had studied dozens of McCoy descendants noted an unusually high rate of Von Hippel-Lindau disease, a rare, inherited condition that produces tumors of the eyes, ears, pancreas and adrenal glands as well as high blood pressure, a racing heartbeat and increased “fight or flight” stress hormones. The researchers also collected numerous oral histories from family members detailing the combative and often violent nature of the McCoy family dating back to the feud’s roots.

6. The Tug Valley witnessed another violent clash nearly 30 years after the Hatfields and McCoys feud.
On May 19, 1920, detectives working for the anti-union Baldwin-Felts Agency evicted the families of workers who had attempted to unionize the Stone Mountain Coal Company mines outside Matewan, West Virginia. After Sid Hatfield, the Matewan chief of police and a Hatfield descendant, intervened on the miners’ behalf, a violent clash broke out that left seven detectives and four locals dead. The Matewan Massacre became a rallying cry for union activists across the country, with Sid Hatfield garnering fame for his defense of the miners. A year later, however, Hatfield was assassinated, purportedly by Baldwin-Felts agents. The events surrounding the Matewan Massacre and Sid Hatfield’s murder were depicted in the acclaimed 1987 film “Matewan.”

7. There are thousands of Hatfield and McCoy descendants—but not all of them are real.
Sid Hatfield is just one of many notable Hatfield and McCoy descendants. Others include Henry D. Hatfield, nephew of family patriarch Devil Anse, who served as a senator and governor of West Virginia; 1930s jazz musician Clyde McCoy; and basketball coach Mike D’Antoni. There have even been fictional descendants, including Leonard “Bones” McCoy from the television and film series “Star Trek,” who was supposedly dozens of generations removed from his McCoy family roots.

Reference

Everything You Didn’t Want To Know About Using The Toilet In The Medieval Period

From archaic toilet paper to moats made of feces, using the bathroom in the Middle Ages was no picnic.

For those familiar with an outhouse, the medieval toilet is its massive stone-built predecessor. Relegated to the private alcoves of a fort, medieval toilets were nothing but openings that led into a latrine or castle moat below.

Designed mainly with function in mind, the medieval toilet was otherwise known as a garderobe or privy chamber and was often located on several floors of most castles and no bigger than the restroom of a modern-day coffee shop.

The exterior of a castle wall featuring a medieval toilet (left), and and an illustration of how the toilet emptied into the moat below (right).

The medieval toilet was a product of its time, before the advent of indoor plumbing refined the bathroom experience. How it came to be and meet its end, however, is worth a gander.

The History Of The Medieval Toilet

Despite the name, the Middle Ages were no mere intermediary between eras. This long and strenuous period in European history began with the fall of the Roman Empire in 467 A.D. and charged through the 14th-century Renaissance.

With the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe largely became feudal. Disbanded nations and a general scarcity of resources saw wealthy lords take power and war with one another from the lofty castles they built for themselves. 

Most average people were just lucky to eat and survive, but this time saw some luxuries were created as well, including the medieval toilet.

An exterior view of the privy, or “garderobe,” at Peveril Castle in Derbyshire, England.

Building castles was a lofty endeavor and could take up to 10 years, not to mention constructing them was rather expensive. At the tail-end of the Middle Ages, King Edward I nearly bankrupted the crown’s treasuries by using 100,000 pounds on his Walsh fortifications, with toilets being a major design priority.

There were a couple of different designs for these commodes. The waste shafts of some medieval toilets ran down the exterior of a fort into moats or rivers, while others were designed with internal castle channels that funneled waste into a courtyard or cesspit.

Other privy chambers, meanwhile, protruded out from the castle wall. Openings hung above open-air, allowing gravity to do the rest. Usually, a wooden bench separated the stone-carved hole from a user’s rear.

Building toilets within the palace walls, however, wasn’t just for convenience. Indeed, they also served as a hindrance to potential enemies.

By building toilets with shafts that emptied into courtyards or cesspits around the palace, invaders could be kept relatively at bay.

However, these shafts had to be built high enough off the ground that enemies couldn’t sneak in through the hole in the privy chamber. This is exactly what happened in 1203, when King Richard I’s French palace, Château Gaillard, was sieged.

Keiss Castle in Scotland was resourcefully built atop a cliff, allowing for waste to fall directly into the ocean.

Ideally, of course, waste would simply fall into a river where no one had to deal with it, and so some castle toilets were built jutting out over a steep cliff.

Without that luxury, there had to be someone tending to the excrement, removing it, or making sure it was properly mixed with the surrounding moat. In Tudor England, this job was known as a gong farmer, and these unfortunate souls had to work only at night so others couldn’t be put off by their grisly job. 

Though they were forced to live in isolated homes, they reportedly received decent pay per ton of excrement that they removed.

Why Garderobes Met Their End

A medieval toilet, or garderobe, was merely a hole that directed the user’s discharge into the moat below

The largest downside to the medieval toilet was the fact that there was almost no practical way to avoid the stench. It was unfortunately not always the case that medieval toilets were situated in privy chambers containing a window, in which case aromatization through herbs was relied on. 

Some garderobes were also made without privacy, with no doors or dividers

Additionally, washing a medieval toilet was burdensome. Those unfortunate enough to be tasked with the duty threw buckets of water down the toilet shaft or rerouted rain from the gutters. 

As for the waste being collected down below, local farmers would often amass this human fecal matter as fertilizer.

Meanwhile, medieval toilet paper consisted of a bunch of hay. This was rarely an issue when it came to clogging or cleanliness, though 12th-century monk Jocelin de Brakelond recounted that this once nearly caused a fire.

While it would take until the advent of indoor plumbing in the mid-1800s to standardize the marvelous innovation of toilets, the medieval toilet was certainly an ingenious — and necessary — step toward that historic invention.

Reference


Whitefriars; Greyfriars; Blackfriars, London, England

Whitefriars Crypt

Buried for centuries, this hidden cellar is all that remains of London’s medieval Whitefriars Monastery.

THE REMAINS OF THE 13TH-CENTURY Whitefriars Monastery are situated very close to a busy central London street, and yet so remarkably well hidden that you’d have to be aware of their existence in order to find them.

The first step is to find Magpie Alley, which is tucked away behind an imposing law firm on Fleet Street. At the end of the alley, there is a large flight of steps behind a heavy gate. Though this might suggest to some that the steps are off-limits, if you continue downwards you’ll find a glass wall, behind which is the crumbling Whitefriars Crypt, lit inside by an electric candle.

The Carmelite Order of the White Friars (named for their white cloaks) once owned a large stretch of land between Fleet Street and the river Thames. Like so many other orders in England, though, they did not survive Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, and were forced from their estate. The Great Hall of the Whitefriars Monastery became a theatre for child actors, while the crypt suffered a more ignominious fate, becoming a coal cellar.

Eventually buried underneath a couple of centuries of redevelopment, the crypt was unearthed in 1895 and restored in 1920. However, its present location is not the original. The crypt spent years underneath the offices of The News of the World, and when the journalists left the building was demolished and the crypt was at risk of being buried once more. To preserve it, a concrete platform was placed underneath the crypt, allowing it to be picked up and moved to its current site, where it was incorporated into the new building.

The remains of London’s white friars

It beggars modern belief just how much London – well, pretty much everywhere in Europe, I guess – was once dominated by the Church. Did you know there were more than one hundred parish churches within or just outside the boundaries of medieval London? No, neither did I; staggering, isn’t it?  Plus the great religious houses, of course. Many of these places have left their names and other memories behind, one way or another.  An obvious example is Blackfriars, on the western fringe of the City of London, named for the Dominican order that once had its London monastery on the east bank of the River Fleet.  On the opposite bank of the Fleet, nestling between it and the Headquarters of the Knights Templar, was the London home of the Carmelite White Friars.  Today, Whitefriars Street runs south from Fleet Street, becoming Carmelite Street just before it meets the Thames at Victoria Embankment. And you can find the only visible remains of London’s White Friars in the basement of an ugly, modern, office block nearby.  How it got there is part of this neighbourhood’s long and varied history.

The story begins, as they so often do, long ago and far away.  In or around the year 1150, at the time of the Crusades, a small group of Christian hermits (presumably, ex-hermits) came together to found a new religious order on Mount Carmel in Palestine – now in Israel.  The Carmelite order grew, and began to spread to Europe, before being forced to flee the Holy Land altogether when Acre fell to the Mamluk Army in 1291. A small group of Carmelites reached England in 1242.  Eventually some 40 Carmelite communities were established across Britain, where, because on formal occasions they wore white mantels over their brown habits, they became known as the White Friars.

White Friars, medieval Carmelite, London

The White Friars first built a small chapel in London in about 1253. It was just outside the western City boundary, south of Fleet Street, and was replaced with a larger building a century later. In time, the Carmelite priory expanded to occupy the land bounded by Fleet Street in the north and the Thames to the south, with Whitefriars Street (which used to be called Water Lane) and Temple Lane to the east and west. It’s almost impossible to imagine what today’s modern built-up area looked like in the 13th century, when the White Friars first arrived; presumably, it was semi-rural, and they were the first to seriously develop it – though it’s possible the Romans had something nearby. Old and New London (published in 1878 and quoted by British History Online) describes Whitefriars, somewhat idyllically, “with broad gardens, where the white friars might stroll, and with shady nooks where they might con their missals”.

You catch tantalising glimpses of Whitefriars in medieval London.  For example, John Brome, wealthy lawyer and one-time owner of Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire, was murdered in the church porch in 1468.  Modern Bouverie Street runs through where this large priory church once stood. West and north of this, bounded by Lombard Lane – reputedly a dwelling place of lewd women at the time of Edward III – was the friars’ cemetery. South of the church were the cloisters, chapter house, dormitories – and so on. There was an impressive library, an infirmary, a small dock area and, almost certainly, a mill too. Life might have gone on at Whitefriars for another 300 years, had it not been for Henry VIII.

White Friars crypt

In 1538, Whitefriars Friary was dissolved on the orders of the King. Who knows what happened to the friars? The lands were parcelled off, with a big chunk going to the Royal Physician, Sir William Butts (or Butte), who had treated Anne Boleyn for the sweating sickness. However, Butts died in 1547 and, for some reason, the friary area seems to have quickly fallen into disrepair and become used for cheap accommodation. It is said that the great steeple of the church had been toppled just seven years after the dissolution. In the absence of the White Friars, no one was really sure who was responsible for the area of their old friary. The new inhabitants rightly and successfully claimed it to be outside the jurisdiction of the City of London, and maintained the right of legal sanctuary previously held by the Friary.

So, White Friars, largely ungoverned and ungovernable, transformed into a sad, hard area, notorious for criminals, and the criminalised.  In the cant, or underworld jargon, of the time it became known as Alsatia, from Alsace, the disputed Rhineland territory between France and Germany which Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable describes as “everlastingly the seat of war and the refuge of the disaffected.” Alsatia must have seemed an appropriate nickname – and a pretty awful place.

Areas like this, called Liberties, not subject to the tight control of the City of London, were magnets for actors and all manner of ne’er do wells – Southwark, across London Bridge, was just such a place.  Thus White Friars also became a place for the theatre.  In 1608, the friars’ old hall was converted to a playhouse, the Whitefriars Theatre, for boy players, where plays were staged until 1613. Nearby, from 1629 to 1649, was the Salisbury Court Theatre, built close to the former London residence of the Bishops of Salisbury.  The theatre was closed during the Republic, but re-opened following the Restoration.  A frequent visitor at that time was the diarist Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), who seems to have sometimes also referred to it as ‘White Friars’.

“1661.—To White-fryars, and saw The Bondman acted; an excellent play, and well done; but above all that I ever saw, Betterton do the Bondman the best.”

Thomas Betterton (1635-1710) was a leading actor of the day.

In the 1670s, John Banister, a former violinist at the court of Charles II, held what are believed to have been some of the first public concerts in Europe at his house in White Friars, charging a shilling entrance fee (which seems a bit steep to me).

White Friars crypt was moved as part of an office redevelopment

Meanwhile, White Friars continued to enjoy – if that’s the right word – its reputation as Alsatia.  In 1688, the poet and playwright Thomas Shadwell published a satirical play, The Squire of Alsatia.  White Friars also featured in the novel Fortunes of Nigel by Sir Walter Scott, set in the first quarter of the 17th century.  Although obviously written much later (it was published in 1822), Scott evidently knew the lawless reputation of the place.  In 1697, some attempt was made by the authorities to control what they saw as the worst excesses of White Friars, but it seems to have continued being a desperate, anarchic, kind of place where those struggling to survive were condemned to a mean, squalid, existence. Not far away was Bridewell Prison – previously Bridewell Palace. Dickens mentions Whitefriars several times, including the intriguingly named Hanging Sword Alley, which still runs between Whitefriars Street and Salisbury Square today. It is thought to be named after a fencing school that once stood there – well-placed, given the likely need to defend yourself when venturing into Alsatia; it was previously known as Blood Bowl Alley – apparently Blood Bowl House was a place of ill-repute and features in a Hogarth engraving, where Tom Idle is betrayed by his whore. Why ‘Blood Bowl’, I wonder? – perhaps it used to belong to a physician.

Among the other heirs to the White Friars was a gas works, once a common sight in Britain’s cities, which presumably needed a large area to store coal, and a well-known glass-maker.  Whitefriars Glass had 17th century roots, but became a leading manufacturer of church glass in the 19th century, later diversifying into domestic and decorative ware, and then specialist glass products for industry.  Whitefriars Glass moved to a new factory in the 1920s and was bought by Caithness Glass in 1981.

Meanwhile, Whitefriars became caught up in the newspaper business. The Fleet Street area had an association with printing and publishing since the early 16th century. England’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, was established next to the open sewer of the River Fleet in 1702. In the 20th century, the area became synonymous with Britain’s national newspapers, most of which had offices on Fleet Street itself, or nearby. Associated Newspapers, owners of the Daily Mail, (Britain’s first popular daily newspaper, launched in 1896) and the London Evening News, had offices and printing works on Whitefriars Street and Carmelite Street. The News of the World and the Sun were based at 30 Bouverie Street. In 1986, Rupert Murdoch, owner of News International, began the general evacuation of the newspaper industry from Fleet Street by relocating his London operation to more efficient facilities at Wapping, in the East End.

Among the other heirs to the White Friars was a gas works, once a common sight in Britain’s cities, which presumably needed a large area to store coal, and a well-known glass-maker.  Whitefriars Glass had 17th century roots, but became a leading manufacturer of church glass in the 19th century, later diversifying into domestic and decorative ware, and then specialist glass products for industry.  Whitefriars Glass moved to a new factory in the 1920s and was bought by Caithness Glass in 1981.

Meanwhile, Whitefriars became caught up in the newspaper business.  The Fleet Street area had an association with printing and publishing since the early 16th century. England’s first daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, was established next to the open sewer of the River Fleet in 1702.  In the 20th century, the area became synonymous with Britain’s national newspapers, most of which had offices on Fleet Street itself, or nearby.  Associated Newspapers, owners of the Daily Mail, (Britain’s first popular daily newspaper, launched in 1896) and the London Evening News, had offices and printing works on Whitefriars Street and Carmelite Street. The News of the World and the Sun were based at 30 Bouverie Street. In 1986, Rupert Murdoch, owner of News International, began the general evacuation of the newspaper industry from Fleet Street by relocating his London operation to more efficient facilities at Wapping, in the East End.

White Friars crypt in Magpie Alley

But what about the remains of the White Friars? Well, in 1896, the then owner of 4 Britton’s Court off Whitefriars Street was having his premises inspected prior to selling them. The agent’s representative noticed a Gothic vaulted ceiling in the basement. Accumulated rubbish, including the remains of coal that had been stored there, was cleared away to reveal part of a late 14th century crypt. The experts concluded that this was a section of cellar from the Prior’s house. The top of the ceiling was a couple of feet below ground level, the room was 12 feet square and with a small doorway, which it is thought once led into the friary grounds. A few years later, the site was purchased by the News of the World, whose owners decided to restore the crypt in the 1920s. They would also allow members of the public to see it, by prior arrangement. In the redevelopment that followed the departure of News International in the 1980s, however, it was decided that this last visible reminder of the White Friars was in an inconvenient place. So it was surrounded by a steel cradle and lifted to a completely new position.

You will now find the last of White Friars Priory exhibited behind glass under an enormous modern office block, leased until 2021 to a law firm with the snappy name of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Find Magpie Alley, which runs between Bouverie Street and Whitefriars Street. It is not on every map. From the Bouverie Street side, there is a tiled display giving a brief insight into Fleet Street’s publishing history. You’ll see a flight of steps going down ahead – this is Ashentree Court – and at the bottom of the steps you will find all that’s left of London’s White Friars. According to the plan displayed in the window, it’s just about where the friars’ reredorter (latrine) would have been.

White friars, Magpie Alley, EC4

It is not possible to go in, but access might be possible via Open House London – or possibly even by contacting Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. Tell them you’d like to walk in the footsteps of the White Friars…

GREYFRIARS

In the early thirteenth century, Elias, Vicar-General during the lifetime of St. Francis of Assisi, dispatched nine Brothers to England. Four from nine of the Franciscan friars— Richard Ingworth, Richard of Devon, Henry de Trevizo, and Monacatus— made their way from Dover to London. Upon their arrival to the City, they had initially rented a house in Cornhill owned by John Travers, sheriff of London. Others steadily began joining the original four. Eventually, the Franciscans of Cornhill had to find new living quarters, as their numbers had grown too large for their small house. In the summer of 1225, the Franciscans settled in the parish of St. Nicholas in the Shambles. The new site, also known as the Greyfriars Christ Church, was close to Newgate in the ward of Farringdon Within, situated by the City wall, and located on land granted by John Iwyn, a citizen and wealthy mercer of London.

The friary seems to have enjoyed good relations with Londoners. During its early days, the monastery received many donations and anniversary payments from London’s wealthy citizenry. Construction of the church at Newgate cost a total of £200 and was built from funds mainly provided by William Joyner, the Lord Mayor in 1239. Forty-four prominent London citizens also contributed to the construction of the chapel, including Walter Potter, an alderman and sheriff in London in 1269 and 1272, who built the chapel’s chapter-house and donated all the brass furnishings for its kitchen; Henry le Gayles, mayor of the City in 1274, who contributed funds for the nave of the first church; and the Basings and Frowyks, two prominent London families, who supplied the funds for the church’s water supply.

Benefactors of the fourteenth century included nobility as well as the civic elite. When the church was rebuilt on a much larger scale, a century after the arrival of the first Franciscans, Queen Margaret bought the extended plots of land necessary for expansion and gave 100 marks to the construction of the new building. Other nobles who assisted in the building of the new church included John de Bretagne, the earl of Richmond, who donated £300, a gold chalice, and several carpets; Gilbert de Clare, the earl of Gloucester, who donated several wooden beams; Mary, countess of Pembroke, who donated £70; and Margaret, countess of Gloucester, who donated £26 to the building of the altar. The new stone church, which was consecrated in 1326 and completed in 1327, consisted of a minimum of eleven altars, glazed windows, and two chapels, one for St. Mary and the All Hallows and the other for St. Francis and the Apostles. Measuring 300 feet (91 meters) in length and 89 feet (27 meters) in width, it was the second largest in London after St. Paul’s.

From the time of the establishment of the Franciscan Order in England, in the thirteenth century, the friars were welcomed with generosity, especially in London. Testament to the Grey Friars’ growing popularity is the large number of London Franciscans that continued to join the order, reaching a peak of about ninety in the early fourteenth century. In fact, the building was enlarged even further in 1360 to accommodate the growing number of friars. There are several reasons for their popularity. The growing unpopularity of the Benedictines was one major reason, for the Benedictines were often seen as too wealthy, overly preoccupied with their luxurious surroundings, and disconnected from their religious duties. The friars’ observance to both personal and institutional poverty also seemed to impress a large portion of Londoners.

The influence of the Grey Friars continued to grow in the latter half of the fourteenth century. Several prominent citizens chose the Greyfriars Christ Church as their place of burial, including Queen Marguerita of France, the second wife of King Edward I, Queen Isabella, wife of King Edward II, Queen Eleanor of Provence, wife of King Henry III, and Queen Joan de la Tour of Scotland, daughter of King Edward II. It was essentially this association with the rich and powerful that became the downfall of the Grey Friars. For the majority of the fifteenth century, the Franciscans seemed to prioritize good relations with the nobility over their spiritual duties. They had even abandoned their grey-colored habits, only to return to them in 1502. Nevertheless, the friars had not yet lost all their credibility in London. In 1508, for example, the Mayor and Aldermen established that patrons of the Greyfriars Church were to pay yearly visits to the site on the Feast of St. Francis. In 1522, the friars began hosting yearly dinners for the high-ranking officials of the City.

The London Franciscans did not seem to face much trouble in the early years of the Reformation period. In the 1520s and 1530s, the officers of the Greyfriars Church largely supported the religious changes and aligned themselves with Crown policy and reform. In 1538, however, the monastery was quickly dissolved by Thomas Chapman, an agent of Thomas Cromwell. On November 12 of that year, all twenty-six members of the order signed Chapman’s Deed of Surrender, declaring that their grey habits and other rituals did not constitute “Christian living.” It is probable that the brothers signed the Surrender unwillingly. The dissolution of the monasteries had a massive impact on friaries and churches of this period, and the Greyfriars Christ Church in particular suffered heavy damage. Tombs disappeared, monuments were defaced, marble columns were sold, and golden altarpieces were stolen. The brothers were also forced to flee from the country.

In 1546, sections of the friary church were sold off to investors when the Crown granted that the building serve as the center of a new parish. Another section of the former friary was given over to the City of London to serve as a new secular orphanage and school (Christ’s Hospital) in 1552. After it was burned in the Great Fire of 1666, the church suffered major damage once again during the Blitz in World War II when, on 29 December 1940, a firebomb struck through the roof and into the nave of the church. Only the tower and four main walls remained, smoke-scarred and unstable. The church was never rebuilt even after sustaining a great amount of wartime damage. Today, rose garden beds sit alongside ten wooden towers where the original medieval pews once stood. The avenue of wooden towers, representative of the original thirteenth-century church towers, marks the locations of the former nave.

Fortean London: The Greyfriars Ghost Fight?

Fortean London is strolling through July in knee-length khaki shorts and a pith-helmet to point out some open spaces in the city haunted by spooky stories. Think of it as your guide to eating sandwiches with spectres or picnicking with phantoms.
Come with us first to Christchurch Tower on Newgate Street near St Paul’s Cathedral, which is the tower of a Wren church destroyed in the Blitz. The site of the church and graveyard was left as a garden after the war though some walls still remain. It often goes by the name of the friary that previously occupied the site: Greyfriars.
The Franciscan order of grey robed monks had a lot of influence before the dissolution of the monasteries and it’s this part of its history that lingers. Gentleman ghost writer Peter Underwood records, in his book ‘ Haunted London’, that a russet-robed monk haunted here, walking barefoot in the “early hours of misty autumn mornings”. The Franciscan’s wore russet-red robes on arrival in England before reverting to their traditional grey garb.
He is the only peaceful ghost here. Elizabeth Barton, the ‘holy maid of Kent’ was a nun who had started having prophetic visions in 1525. Her prophecy and enthusiastic Catholicism made her popular until she made the mistake of predicting the death of Henry VIII after he broke with Rome. Henry lived and Elizabeth was hanged at Tyburn for treason and buried at Greyfriars. Her ghost roams “wild and restless” around the remains of the graveyard.

The garden of Christ Church Greyfriars is a popular lunch spot. Many other churchyards are set to become public spaces
ALAMY

Pre-Henry VIII Greyfriars was a popular place for monarchs to rest, some with alleged sex lives more varied and hectic than Henry’s. Isabella of France is buried here holding the heart of her king, Edward II. She couldn’t get hold of much else of him as he was, apparently, an enthusiastic bisexual philander. Isabella, with her lover Roger Mortimer, staged a coup and the legend (or ‘old, old conspiracy theory’ as some legends are) tells of Isabella having Edward murdered by ordering a red hot poker to be shoved up one of the many places a red hot poker shouldn’t go, burning his “inner portions beyond the intestines”.
Homophobic hate-crime or act of passion? Her ghost haunts Greyfriars so perhaps you could ask her yourself. Richard Jones’s ‘Walking Haunted London’ reports that she clutches Edward’s ghost heart as she “flits amongst the trees and bushes”.
The ghost of Lady Alice (or Agnes) Hungerford also haunts Greyfriars. She only poisoned her husband before being hanged in 1523 and deposited in to Greyfriars graveyard. A watchman recognised her ghost one summer evening from her dignity and beauty but also her arrogant attitude. He was so scared he fled and gave up his job. “He had seen enough of the ghosts,” Underwood writes, “and he saw only one.”
But in ‘Walking Haunted London’ and JA Brook’s ‘Ghosts of London’ Alice and Isabella’s haughty, husband-slaughtering ghosts met within Greyfriars and a night watchman got ‘caught in the midst’ of their fight. He, according to Jones, fled and gave up his job ‘without pay’. Whether he the same apocryphal watchman that Underwood mentions or Greyfriars is not the place to loiter at night, Fortean London does not know as present. We merely recommend Greyfriars as a fine place to have lunch but maybe not a midnight snack.

Greyfriars

Undated photograph showing the interior of the church before its destruction in 1940 (image from
Undated photograph showing the interior of the church before its destruction in 1940 (image from The Citizens’ Memorial)

Christ Church was one of eight Wren churches that burned on one of the most ferocious nights of the Blitz, 29th December 1940.  Known as the “Second Great Fire of London”, large swathes of the City were destroyed by the Luftwaffe’s bombs – a larger area, in fact, than had been destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666.  As well as Christ Church Greyfriars and other churches, the medieval Great Hall of the Guildhall was gutted, and many of the City’s historic livery halls were also destroyed.  The publishing hub of Paternoster Row was obliterated, with the loss of millions of books. Famously, though, St Paul’s Cathedral was saved by the brave efforts of firefighters and provided the iconic photograph of St Pauls surrounded by smoke and ruins.

Firefighters in the smouldering ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars (image from The Citizens' Memorial)
Firefighters in the smouldering ruins of Christ Church Greyfriars (image from The Citizens’ Memorial)

Only one item is known to have been saved from Christ Church Greyfriars – an ornate wooden font cover which was bravely rescued by an unknown person as the church burned.  The font cover now resides at the nearby St Sepulchre-without-Newgate.  It is a beautiful thing – dating from the late 17th Century, the high quality carvings have stood the test of time well.

DSCN0167

The firebombing of Christ Church left the building a blackened, empty shell – but the walls and tower were still standing.  In order to restore its structural integrity, the tower was carefully rebuilt and the whole ruin was designated as a Grade I listed building in 1950.  However, this did not prevent the removal of the east wall of the church when King Edward Street was widened in the 1970s.  A low concrete barrier now marks where that wall once stood, but that part of Wren’s building is now lost.

A garden was laid out in the ruined nave of the church, with wooden frames for climbing roses installed where columns had once stood in the building.  The 18th Century vestry house, which perished in the 1940 fire, has been rebuilt and how houses a dental surgery. The tower was eventually converted into a private residence – surely one of London’s most unusual homes.

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So what does the future hold for Christ Church Greyfriars?  Whilst researching this post, I came across a campaign to reinstate the demolished east wall of the church and turn it into a memorial for Britain’s civilian victims of World War II.  As one of the few tangible reminders of the war’s destruction still visible in London, Christ Church seems like an ideal site for such a memorial and its proximity to St Paul’s would surely guarantee it a good number of visitors.

Proposed view of the restored eastern wall of Christ Church (image from the Citizens' Memorial)
Proposed view of the restored eastern wall of Christ Church (image from the Citizens’ Memorial)

Today, the garden at Christ Church Greyfriars is a popular spot for tourists and office workers alike to sit on pleasant days and enjoy lunch.  The initial mystery of the ruin is what must often draw people to the site; the attractive planting and the benches make it a place to stay and enjoy.  For me, along with the nearby Postman’s Park it was something of a haven during my first year living in London, when I often sought out peaceful spots amid the madness of the City.

Blackfriars

A historic religious and theatrical site located at the eastern end of Victoria Embankment, now dominated by a railway terminus and gyratory traffic system

The Black Friars (or Dominicans) were so called because they wore long black mantles over their white robes. In 1224 the friars established a priory on the east side of Shoe Lane and then moved across the River Fleet to what is now the east side of New Bridge Street in 1278. The Dominican order founded more than 50 priories but this was probably the most important and it was a venue for early parliamentary conclaves.

The order in England was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538. Unlike some other religious buildings, the priory did not survive to serve a different purpose. It had been reduced to a pile of rubble when the actor James Burbage acquired much of the site to build the Blackfriars Theatre in 1596. William Shakespeare was involved in the enterprise and in March 1613 he paid £140 for a property nearby, in what is now Ireland Yard. The building was the former priory gatehouse, to which he made improvements, according to a legal document of 1615. However, by that date he seems to have been spending much of his time back in Stratford, where he died the following year.

The Blackfriars Theatre closed in the Civil War and was demolished in 1655. Playhouse Yard marks its site.

Blackfriars Bridge was built in 1769, using funds generated from rents on the houses and shops of London Bridge. Structural problems caused by water scouring necessitated its replacement exactly a century later.

In 1864 the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company opened Blackfriars station on Ludgate Hill. The station moved to its present site by the river in 1886. Subsequent extensions and alterations progressively compounded its status as the ugliest railway terminus in London until its renovation in 2009-12, which introduced mainline platforms that stretch the full width of the Thames, an imposing, glass-fronted ticket hall at the corner of Queen Victoria Street and New Bridge Street and an additional entrance on the south side of the river.

Shwon in the photograph at the top of this article, Unilever House was built in 1930–2 on the site of DeKeyser’s Royal Hotel (1874), which had been taken over by Lever Brothers in 1921. Unilever is continuing to use the building as its British base although the company decided in March 2018 to simplify its structure into a single legal entity incorporated in the Netherlands and headquartered in Rotterdam.

Inside the Blackfriar

Across Queen Victoria Street from the station, the Blackfriar (or Black Friar) is the finest Arts and Crafts pub in London. It began its existence in 1875 as a fairly ordinary establishment, distinguished only by its wedge shape, but was remodelled in several stages during the early years of the 20th century by the architect Herbert Fuller-Clark and a group of artist-craftsmen, of whom the most significant was the sculptor Henry Poole.

There are delightful decorative touches outside the pub but it’s the interior that truly astounds, with monkish motifs, mosaics and copper reliefs abounding amidst the mirrors and multi-coloured marble.

East of Blackfriars station a bombed-out warehouse was converted into the Mermaid Theatre in the late 1950s but has primarily been used as a conference and events venue in recent years.

South of the river, One Blackfriars (detail shown above) is a 50-storey mixed-use development also known as the Vase. Its shape was apparently inspired by the (much more bulbous) Lansetti II vase created by Timo Sarpaneva, now in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as by the sculptures of Constantin Brâncuși and Henry Moore. The site was formerly occupied by the headquarters of Sainsbury’s, which relocated to Holborn Circus in 2000. 

Early on 18 June 1982 the body of Italian financier Roberto Calvi was found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge, his pockets stuffed with bricks and stones. Calvi, dubbed ‘God’s banker’ because of his ties to the Vatican’s bank, IOR, had been seeking help for his failing Banco Ambrosiano after escaping house arrest in Rome. Italian prosecutors charged five individuals with Calvi’s murder in 2005. All were subsequently acquitted.

Blackfriars, located in the southwest corner of central London, originated as a Dominican friary founded in the year 1278. The name Blackfriars comes from the color of the robes that the Dominicans wore.

When the Dominicans arrived in England in 1221, they established their first London monastery outside of the city walls in Holborn. However, in the year 1276, the Dominicans obtained land inside of the city walls and moved the location of their friary with the approval and patronage of Edward I. The Dominicans moved their friary to an area between the River Thames and Ludgate Hill, just bordering the River Fleet.

In order for the Dominicans to build their new establishment, several changes had to be made to the surrounding area. For one, Edward I had to approve the leveling of the Montfichet and Baynard Castles, as well as the demolishing and rebuilding of the city wall further west. According to Nick Holder, the movement and expansion of the friary required the purchase of several buildings from the neighboring parish of St. Andrew. The plot that the Dominican friary maintained consisted of roughly eight acres.

Holder has described Blackfriars as being “built in a typical medieval way.” The original friary was built on a deeply entrenched foundation, which consisted of mortar, ragstone, and chalk. The walls of the church were built of ragstone blocks, and had a width of approximately three feet, with Reigate stone for quoins, the external angles of a wall or building, and other architectural details.

The measurements of the church were 19.7 meters in width, and the floor plan consisted of seven to eight bays which were each about 15 feet wide. Other structures at Blackfriars included five chapels, which were built between the years 1436 and 1502. These chapels included a Lady chapel, a chapel of the Virgin, a Pardon chapel, a chapel of St. John the Baptist, and the chapel of St. Ann. Lastly, the grounds also included a central tower located over the nave and the choir.

During the time of the original friary, the grounds were used for several important government occasions, such as meetings of Parliament. One major historical event hosted by the Black Friars was the divorce hearing between Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon in 1529. In the year 1538, Henry VIII dissolved the friary, and the grounds and buildings were sold off. One notable buyer was James Burbage in 1596, who purchased the grounds for the creation of the Blackfriars theatre. Blackfriars burnt down in 1666, during the Great Fire of London. The building, however, was reconstructed, and still maintained today. Now, tourists can see the reconstructed version of the friary, as marked by a plaque outside of the location. Along with the reconstructed version of the friary, a piece of wall that may have been a part of the original construction can be seen on the grounds, maintaining a small part of the original history of the building.

– Sarah Burns

Blackfriars Map
This image displays a labeled map of the Ludgate Blackfriars, along with several other surrounding establishments
Blackfriars Layout
A layout of the original Ludgate Blackfriars, before the dissolution in 1538.

Reference

The 1969 Documentary That Tried to Humanize Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family

The idea was to show the royal family in their day-to-day lives. The results were mixed.

A well-groomed, staid British family sit around the breakfast table. Two young adult children and their middle-aged parents are dressed formally, without a hair out of place. In a high-pitched voice, the mother tells a funny story about her great-great grandmother, while everyone listens with their backs remarkably straight. 

But this is no ordinary English family. The storyteller is Queen Elizabeth II, and the subject of her tale is Queen Victoria. The scene was one part of a 105-minute color documentary named simply, “Royal Family,” that was broadcast across England on June 21, 1969. 

The concept behind the documentary was to soften and modernize the royal image. But members of the royal family, including the Queen, were reportedly dubious about the idea from the start. After its premiere, Buckingham Palace greatly limited the film’s circulation, at least in its entire form.

Lord Mountbatten’s Son-in-Law Suggests TV Special

Royal Family documentary, 1969
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip fly back from a visit to Yorkshire in an Andover of the Queen’s Flight, in a photo taken during the filming of the documentary ‘Royal Family.’ Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

It was Lord Brabourne, the son-in-law of the royal cousin Lord Mountbatten, who suggested using the medium of television to provide the Queen’s subjects a sense of her personality. By the 1960s, the times were rapidly changing, and the shy, dutiful Queen and her young family were seen as increasingly irrelevant. A TV special, Brabourne suggested, could also introduce British subjects to 21-year-old Prince Charles, ahead of his investiture as Prince of Wales.

At the urging of Palace press officer William Heseltine, who was convinced that offering a humanized view of the royal family would strengthen the monarchy, Prince Philip agreed. The Queen cautiously gave her consent, while other family members were decidedly not on board.

“I never liked the idea of ‘Royal Family,’ I thought it was a rotten idea,” Princess Anne later recalled, according to an account in the 2015 book, Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family. “The attention which had been brought upon one ever since one was a child, you just didn’t need any more.” 

But the Mountbatten camp won the day and filming began in 1968. Richard Cawston, the chief of the BBC Documentary unit, was put in charge of shooting the royals at work and play. For months, he shot 43 hours of unscripted material at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, on the royal yacht, the royal train, and even at the Queen’s beloved Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Understandably, the royal family had a difficult time adjusting to the presence of the crew in their personal space. Peter Conradi writes in his 2012 book, Great SurvivorsHow Monarchy Made it into the Twenty-First Century, that during a film day at Balmoral, Philip snapped at the crew, “Get away from the Queen with your bloody cameras!” 

Endearing—And Controversial—Scenes

Royal Family documentary, 1969
Christmas at Windsor Castle is shown here with Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip putting finishing touches to their Christmas tree, in a photo made during the filming of the documentary. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

While the documentary was meant to show the human side of the monarchy, its narration carried an official tone. The voice-over, read by English actor and broadcaster Michael Flanders, ruminated on the importance of the Crown to the country in florid terms like, “Monarchy does not lie in the power it gives to the sovereign, but in the power it denies to anyone else.”

The finished documentary claimed to show a year in the life of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth was featured tirelessly working and making small talk with world leaders like U.S. President Richard Nixon. During his state visit, she asked him, “World problems are so complex, aren’t they, now?” To which Nixon replied, “I was thinking how really much more complex they are than when we last met in 1957.”

There were also sweet scenes, like one where the Queen takes her youngest son, Edward, to a candy store, paying for his treats herself even though the monarch is technically never supposed to carry money. 

The royal family’s genuine sportiness was also highlighted—Prince Charles was shown waterskiing and fishing, Prince Philip flew an airplane and the Queen drove her own car surprisingly fast. 

But there were also strained moments, according to detractors. At one point Prince Philip describes an instance when King George VI the Queen Mother’s late husband, took out his rage with a pruning knife on a rhododendron bush, screaming curse words while hacking it to bits. “He had very odd habits,” Philip deadpanned. “’Sometimes I thought he was mad.”

Then there was when Queen Elizabeth jokes: “How do you keep a regally straight face when a footman tells you: “‘Your Majesty, your next audience is with a gorilla?… It was an official visitor, but he looked just like a gorilla.”

Millions Tuned in for 1969 Premiere

Cawston let Philip see a rough cut of the documentary before showing it to the Queen. “We were all a little bit nervous of showing it to the Queen because we had no idea what she would make of it,” the film’s editor Michael Bradsell told the Smithsonian channel in a 2017 special. “She was a little critical of the film in the sense she thought it was too long, but Dick Cawston, the director, persuaded her that two hours was not a minute too long.”

Royal Family documentary, 1969
Princess Margaret is shown with her two children, Viscount Linley and Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones at Windsor Castle, during filming of the documentary. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

The public was, in fact, intrigued—more than 30 million viewers in Britain alone viewed the premiere. It was said that during an intermission, toilets flushed all over London, causing a water shortage.

Less than a month later, on July 1, Prince Charles was invested at Caernarvon Castle in a carefully filmed spectacle organized by the photographer Lord Snowdon, Princess Margaret’s soon to be ex-husband. 

This double-whammy of royal TV was seen by some as a rousing success. “It redefined the nation’s view of the Queen,” Paul Moorhouse, former curator of the National Portrait Gallery, told Daily Telegraph in 2011. “The audience were amazed to be able to hear the Queen speaking spontaneously, and to see her in a domestic setting.”

Lifting the Veil on the Royal Family

The Royal Family
The royal family at Windsor, (from left) Prince Edward, the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II , Princess Anne, Prince Charles and Prince Andrew. Fox Photos/Getty Images

But to many, the royal family had opened Pandora’s box, lifting the veil and making them easy targets for criticism and intrusive paparazzi activity.

“They were criticized for being stuffy, and not letting anybody know what they were doing, and my brother-in-law helped do up a film, and now people say, ‘Ah, of course, the rot set in when the film was made,’”royal cousin Lady Pamela Hicks and daughter of Lord Mountbatten told an interviewer. “You can’t do right; it’s catch-22.”

“Royal Family” was shown only once more in full, in 1977. And in 2011, Buckingham Palace gave the National Portrait Gallery a 90-second clip of the breakfast scene during the Diamond Jubilee celebration. The palace allowed a few more brief clips to be included in the 2011 documentary “The Duke at 90.”

Reference

Crossbones Graveyard

If you venture down Redcross Way, a quiet backstreet in SE1 running parallel to the busy Borough High Street, you’ll undoubtedly come across a large vacant plot of land. This is Cross Bones Graveyard, an unconsecrated memorial to the thousands of prostitutes who lived, worked and died in this once lawless corner of London.

This is, at least, how it started out in the late medieval period. During this time, the local prostitutes were known as “Winchester Geese”. These prostitutes were not licensed by the City of London or Surrey authorities, but by the Bishop of Winchester who owned the surrounding lands, hence their namesake. The earliest known reference to the Graveyard was by John Stow in his Survey of London in 1598:

“I have heard ancient men of good credit report, that these single women were forbidden the rights of the Church, so long as they continued that sinful life, and were excluded from Christian burial, if they were not reconciled before their death. And therefore there was a plot of ground, called the single woman’s churchyard, appointed for them, far from the parish church.”
Over time, Cross Brones Graveyard started to accommodate other members of society who were also denied a Christian burial, including paupers and criminals. With Southwark’s long and sordid past as “the pleasure-garden of London”, with legalised bear-baiting, bull fighting and theatres, the graveyard filled up extremely quickly.

By the early 1850’s the graveyard was at bursting point, with one commentator writing that it was “completely overcharged with dead”. Due to health and safety concerns the graveyard was abandoned, and subsequent redevelopment plans (including one to turn it into a fairground!) were all fought off by local residents.In 1992, the Museum of London carried out an excavation on Cross Bones Graveyard, in collaboration with the ongoing construction of the Jubilee Line Extension. Out of the 148 graves they excavated, all dating from between 1800 to 1853, they found 66.2% of the bodies in the graveyard were aged 5 years or younger indicating a very high infant mortality rate (although the sampling strategy used may have overindexed this age group). It was also reported that the graveyard was extremely overcrowded, with bodies piled one on top of each other. In terms of the causes for death, these included common diseases of the time including smallpox, scurvy, rickets and tuberculosis.

Reference

The Southwark Stews And The Black Death

John of Gaddesden, an English doctor writing in the early 14th century, had some advice for women on how to protect themselves against venereal disease. Immediately after sex with any suspect man, he said, the woman should jump up and down, run backwards down the stairs and inhale some pepper to make herself sneeze. Next, she should tickle her vagina with a feather dipped in vinegar to flush infected sperm out of her body, then wash her genitals thoroughly in a concoction of roses and herbs boiled in vinegar. (45) 
It’s hard to imagine anyone actually following this advice – let alone one of the girls in Southwark’s stews. It would have puzzled the customer she’d just serviced for one thing, and running backwards downstairs sounds an excellent way to break your neck. Other doctors writing at about the same time as Gaddesden had equally eccentric remedies of their own, but at least everyone now recognised that diseases such as gonorrhoea were spread by sexual intercourse and that in itself was a big step forward. (46) 
In 1321, King Edward II founded the Lock Hospital in Southwark as a treatment centre for “lepers”, the name then used for anyone with an eruption of sores. It was located at what’s now the junction of Tabard Street and Great Dover Street, less than a mile from the stews of Bankside and this proximity meant it soon started to specialise in VD cases. “Lock Hospital” can still be found in slang dictionaries today as a generic term for any VD clinic. 
The filthy state of Southwark in those days ensured other disease was quick to spread there too. The Borough’s streets were still unpaved and there were no sewers. Residents who were out and about relieved their bladder (and bowels) in any quiet alleyway, while stay-at-homes emptied their brimming chamber pots at the nearest window. Once again, the informal street names coined by the locals give us a clue to what their lives were like. The area’s sex trade gave it place names like Codpiece Lane, Cuckold Court and Sluts’ Hole, while the sheer amount of filth in its streets christened Dirty Lane, Foul Lane and Pissing Lane. (47, 48) 
All this made Southwark an ideal breeding ground for the bubonic plague which hit London in 1348. “Historians estimate that the Black Death killed half the population of 14th century England,” Stephen Smith says in his 2004 book Underground London. “If anything, the devastation in London was even worse. The transmission of the disease was encouraged by the narrow, busy and filthy streets, crowded houses and noisome sanitary conditions. The toll among Londoners has been variously put at between 50,000 and 100,000.” (4) 
A year into the plague, Edward III urged London’s borough authorities to combat the infection by cleaning up their streets, but was told all the street cleaners were already dead. The more people died, the fewer were left to dispose of their remains and the faster the plague spread. “London burial grounds were soon full to overflowing and new ones were hastily dug,” Smith says. “The biggest was in Southwark, where some 200 corpses were interred every day.” One of these new grounds, opened just across the river from Southwark in East Smithfield, managed to stuff 2,400 bodies into its small plot by placing them five deep in long trenches rather than using individual graves. Measures like this were the only way to get each new wave of corpses buried before the next consignment arrived. One man who lived through the plague said the stews had been busier than ever in those years

Older bodies were dug up again with indecent despatch to make more space in the ground. All over London, disinterred bones were thrown into the graveyard’s charnel house. This was either a vault beneath the church itself or a small building on the grounds, where “clean” bones – those from which all the flesh had rotted away – could be consigned. In calmer times, these bones would be treated with great reverence, perhaps even prayed over by the priest, but when the pressure on graveyards hit these heights, speed was all that mattered. (49) 
“Burial arrangements could break down during epidemics,” writes Reading University’s Professor Ralph Houlbrooke. “The Black Death compelled urban communities in particular to find new burial space quickly.” There’s no evidence that Cross Bones itself was used for burials this early, but it may well have been a later outbreak of plague in London which forced St Saviour’s parish to requisition the site. (50) 
In 1349, Edward III suspended Parliament to let MPs escape London for the relative safety of the British countryside. Anyone else rich enough to flee the capital got out too. Southwark’s brothels seem to have remained open throughout the plague years, however, despite official warnings that casual copulation with multiple partners increased the risk of infection. Henry Knighton, a 14th century historian who lived through the Black Death, says the stews were actually busier than ever during the plague years. Many Londoners adopted an attitude of fatalistic abandon, thinking it was all but certain they’d catch the plague anyway, so why not do so in the arms of their favourite Bankside whore? At least that guaranteed you a little pleasure before you died. 
In the spring of 1350, the death toll in London started to abate at last and Edward turned his attention to the anarchy that now prevailed in Southwark. Many of the Bishop’s officials had fled during the plague years, leaving the Bankside brothels and their surrounding taverns more lawless than ever. Anyone committing a crime inside the city walls knew they had only to get across London Bridge to claim sanctuary and the welcome they now found there was warmer than ever. “Those who have committed manslaughter, robberies and diverse other felonies are privily departing into the town of Southwark, where they cannot be attached by the ministers of the City and there are openly received, ” said the King in an address to London’s people. “And so, for default of due punishment [they] are emboldened to commit more such felonies.” 
If those felonies had been limited to Southwark alone, Edward might have found them easier to bear. By now, though, Southwark’s thugs had grown so bold that gangs of 200 or more youths would periodically burst over the bridge into London, rob the passers-by there, loot the shops and then dash back across the river to safety. Only London had the men and resources needed to restore law and order in Southwark, but no-one who lived there was willing to call them in if it meant surrendering their borough’s treasured independence. The result was an uneasy stand-off. 
As far as London itself was concerned, the authorities concentrated on preventing prostitution within the city walls and on ensuring that the girls working designated areas like Cock Lane wore the proper clothing. This takes us back to the 1161 rules’ requirement that whores must clearly identify themselves by wearing some agreed garment. In 1351, the City of London passed an ordinance saying “lewd or common women” must wear a striped hood to identify themselves as such and refrain from beautifying their clothes with any fur trim or fancy lining. 
Any woman not of noble birth could be described as “common” in that sense and this sloppy wording made the ordinance such a wide one that it seemed to cover almost every female in the city. London’s proud womenfolk weren’t going to have men dictating what they could wear, so most simply ignored the ordinance and challenged any constable to arrest them if he dared. When Edward III put his own authority behind this law three years later, he was careful to specify it applied only to London’s “common whores”. The striped hoods and lack of decorative trim, his proclamation declared, would “set a deformed mark on foulness to make it appear more odious”. 
Some working girls continued to live inside the city walls but commuted to Cock Lane or the Liberty to earn their daily crust – perhaps finding somewhere to change on the way. But wasn’t long before they were banned from even lodging in the city and subject to very heavy penalties for doing so. A 1383 ordinance required whores caught in London to have their heads shaved and then be carted through the streets in a special wagon while minstrels played all around them to attract a crowd. The girl herself would have to wear that trademark hood as the cart carried her through town to the nearest prison, where she’d be placed in a pillory and publicly whipped. 
“The ineffectuality of all this punishment is evident in the ordinances themselves, which provide for repeated offences and increased penalties,” Burford says. Offenders caught a second time, for example, would serve ten days in jail on top of all the other penalties, while a third offence got you ten days’ prison and permanent expulsion from London. A girl in this final category would be taken to one of the city gates, where she’d be roughly thrown outside. If the authorities had been able to trace her origins to Bankside – as was often the case – she’d be escorted back there and warned to stay put. 
In 1393, these rules were tightened once again, saying no prostitute must “go about or lodge” in London or its suburbs, but “keep themselves in the places thereto assigned, that is to say, the stews on the other side of the Thames and in Cock Lane”. Offenders could face all the penalties detailed above and have their identifying hood confiscated too. Replacing this garment would presumably have been an expensive business, but the girl would be unable to resume her trade till she’d done so. 
We know there were at least two murders in the stews at around this time, because both are mentioned in the Bishop of Winchester’s court rolls for 1378. One was carried out by William Chepington of Northamptonshire, who killed a Scarborough man called John Drenge at The Cardinal’s Hat, one of the biggest brothels on Bankside. In the same year, a Flemish man was hanged for another murder in the stews. (51) 
Dutch people – then known as Flemings – had first come to Southwark as mercenaries in William the Conqueror’s army, but their relationship with the surrounding English population was sometimes thorny. Many Flemings were talented entrepreneurs and the stews they ran on Bankside operated with an efficiency and cleanliness that put their homegrown competitors to shame. We can judge their popularity by the fact that so many English whores chose to work under the Dutch name Petronella to indicate they were both fashionable and expert in their craft. 
The Dutch whorehouses may have been popular with punters, but their success did not go down well with English competitors. When Wat Tyler’s tax rebels arrived in Southwark in June 1381, one of their first targets was The Rose, a Dutch-operated whorehouse owned by William Walworth, the Lord Mayor of London. Until then, Tyler’s men had attacked only formal symbols of the King’s authority, such as prisons and the Inns of Court, so you have to wonder if it was Southwark’s resentful English brothel-keepers who suggested they burn The Rose. “It’s likely that the rebels destroyed the brothel not from outraged morality, but from hostility to the foreigners, specifically the Flemish,” says Derek Brewer in his 1978 book Chaucer and his World. Having sacked these premises, which stood near London Bridge, the rioters then went on a day-long rampage, killing as many as 160 Flemish people as they moved west through the Liberty. No doubt, a good number of Southwark folk joined in the mayhem just for a chance to kill their Flemish competitors or to eliminate a rival business. (52)

“[They] beheaded without judgement or trial all the Flemings they found,” one contemporary report tells us. “Mounds of corpses were to be seen in the streets and various spots were littered with the headless bodies of the slain. In this way, they passed the entire day, bent only on the massacre of the Flemings.” (53) 
A few months later, all the whorehouses destroyed were back in business again and the poll tax Tyler had objected to was sending out its demands for the year. That year’s returns from Southwark show seven men listed as stewholders in the Borough, all with addresses in the Bishop’s Liberty. “They evidently represent the proprietors of the Bankside stewhouses,” says Martha Carlin in her 1996 book Medieval Southwark. “All were married men, with both male and female servants; none had children aged 15 or older living at home.” (54) 
The seven stewholding couples listed, together with the tax assessed as due from each pair, are: 
StewholdersJoint assessmentWalter Shirborn & wife Christian  Six shillings & eightpenceRobert Power & wife Agnes Four shillingsYevan Wallchman & wife Isabella Four shillingsJohn David & wife Isabella Four shillings & eightpenceRobert [illegible] and wife Isabella Four shillings & sixpenceRichard Bailif & wife Margery Four shillings & sixpenceWilliam Brounes & wife Joan  [Figure missing]

The average tax payable per individual householder in Southwark that year was just one shilling, against an average of over five shillings for the stewholding couples above. That means the stewholders were being taxed at two-and-a-half times the rate of their neighbours and presumably that their earnings were that much higher too. But how much of that money actually found its way to the girls themselves? 
Of the 137 unmarried woman identified in the Southwark return, Carlin’s found a dozen who she believes worked as prostitutes. These were not the girls who worked in the Bankside stews, who’d be lumped in as “servants” with the families above, but freelance whores operating from the precinct of St Thomas’s Hospital and therefore outside the Liberty’s rule. “These women probably were independent or ‘private’ prostitutes, working from lodgings rather than from public brothels,” Carlin writes. “Their residence within the hospital precinct presumably shielded them from any interference by the officers.” 
Even among this relatively privileged group, only three of the twelve women paid assessments above the Southwark-wide average of one shilling and seven paid well under that. Their average assessment was only ninepence halfpenny – just over third of what even the poorest stewholder paid – and the richest girl of them all paid just one shilling and fourpence. Once again, it’s reasonable to assume that a much lower tax bill means a much lower income too. 
Whoever else was getting rich from the Bankside stews, then, it sure wasn’t the girls who worked there. The eminent men who owned brothels like The Cardinal’s Hat, the Boar’s Head and the rebuilt Rose did very nicely from renting them out to stewholders, some of whom were able to start building family dynasties on the trade. These families certainly weren’t in their landlords’ class, either for income or status, but they still managed to rake in a great deal more income than most other businesses in Southwark could provide. The girls’ whose sheer bloody resilience kept the whole trade going had to make do with its scraps. (55) 
Prostitution in Southwark was still officially licensed only in the Liberty’s designated Bankside area, but the seven whorehouses there couldn’t hope to satisfy total demand. At some point in the 1380s, local businessmen made a concerted effort to establish a new red light district in Southwark’s St Olave’s Parish, which lies west along the river from Bankside. The site they chose was not in the Liberty, but part of a manor still owned by the King himself, so opening unsanctioned brothels there was a risky business. Many Southwark folk joined in the mayhem just for a chance to kill their competitors

The men who owned the five new St Olave whorehouses included John Mokkyng, shown in the 1381 tax return as one of Southwark’s richest men and Robert Power, the Bankside stewholder mentioned above, who now hoped to make his own step up into the landlord class. We know this, because both men are named in a 1390 petition from the people of Southwark complaining the St Olave stews had turned their neighbourhood into a war zone and urging King Richard II to shut them down. There had always been violence and disorder on Bankside too but, with neither the 1161 rules nor the Bishop’s enforcers to keep a lid on things, St Olave’s became a hellhole. “The petitioners charged that the place had become notorious, a breeder of quarrels and homicides and a resort of thieves, to the peril of local residents,” Carlin writes. (56) 
The petitioners added that the new brothels’ customers included not only married men – who were hardly a novelty on Bankside either – but also “all manner of persons of religion, namely monks, canons, friars, parsons, vicars, priests”. Married women and female servants, they said, were being kidnapped, imprisoned at St Olaves and forced to work as whores there. The alternative was a slit throat. The King responded by demanding that all the landlords and stewholders responsible for the five new brothels appear before him and his court at Westminster on July 4, 1390. One of the landlords, John Brenchesle, who seems to have run his own St Olave stew personally, was sent to the Tower of London, as was John Osteler, his servant. Four others, all of whom were either stewholder tenant-managers or their staff, went to the Fleet Prison for ten days. (57) 
Efforts to police the stews at Southwark continued as the 15th Century got underway and it’s this period which gives us our earliest surviving records of real cases passing through the Liberty’s courts. Many of these involved the sort of minor offences which keep an English magistrates’ court busy today, like breaching the licensing laws, public drunkenness or fighting in the street. Other charges were far more serious, such as forcing a girl into whoredom against her will or officials developing selective blindness whenever a bribe was offered. The Bishop’s court convened every four to six weeks and kept its records on parchments called pipe rolls. Eight examples from the 15th Century have survived – all from the period 1446 to 1459 – and these show a steady tightening of the screw against corruption. By 1455, constables and bailiffs caught eating or drinking with the whores they policed faced a massive fine of £2.

Meanwhile, at the national level, three successive Kings – Henry IV, V and VI – each passed their own ordinances aimed at cleaning up the stews. First up to bat was Henry IV, who extended the Lord Mayor of London’s powers in 1406. For the first time, the City of London’s own police could now arrest criminals in Southwark – an area previously beyond their jurisdiction – and drag them back across the river to Newgate for trial. All this achieved was to stoke the good folk of Southwark’s customary resentment at interference from London. Any City constable brave enough to try and exercise his new powers in the Borough risked sparking a full-scale riot, as we can see from an incident that followed just a few years later.
This involved a Frenchman who murdered a Southwark widow in her own bed, then fled to St George Martyr’s church in Borough High Street to claim sanctuary. London’s authorities agreed not to arrest him on the condition that he leave England immediately and sent a constable to St George’s to escort him down to the south coast and make sure he caught the next boat out. But the outraged women of Southwark had other ideas. When the constable and his deputies came out of the church with their prisoner, they found a huge crowd waiting. “The women of that same parish where he had done the cursed deed came out with stones and canal dung,” one contemporary report tells us. “And they made an end of him in the High Street, notwithstanding the constable and the other men too. There was a great company of them and they had no mercy, no pity.” With the streets full of people like that, you can see why a lone constable might think twice before deciding to throw his weight about in Southwark. The new law was quietly shelved as a result. (58)
Henry V followed up with his own ordinance in 1417. He began by directing the Lord Mayor’s attention to “the many grievances and abominations, damages and disturbances, murders and larcenies” carried out by “lewd men and women of evil life” in the Bankside stews. Quite what the Mayor was supposed to do about it Henry didn’t say – beyond a peremptory command to sort it out.
The King’s own contribution was to ban London’s City aldermen and other respectable citizens from letting out any building they owned to tenants “charged or indicted of an evil and vicious life”. This was clearly aimed at the many churchmen, noblemen, City officials and wealthy merchants who happily rented out their property to known stewholders. There were only so many houses to be had in the Bankside’s licensed area, so anyone lucky enough to own a building there could command premium rents if he let it be turned into a brothel. Outside the licensed area – in Borough High Street, say – landlords could argue they were accepting more risk by taking an illegal stewholder on and insist the rent must be set higher to reflect this. Few other businesses in Southwark pulled in enough cash to match the rent stewholders could offer.
All this added up to a powerful financial incentive for landlords to accept stewholders as their tenants and that’s what the King’s ordinance was up against. It must have been simple enough to arrange your affairs to circumvent the new law – perhaps by renting your building out through a middleman – and like Henry IV’s measures before it, the ban had little effect in practice.Bankside jurors happily took cash to deliver whatever verdict the local gangsters required

It was Parliament’s turn to step in next and it decided to concentrate on a different problem. By the time Henry VI came to the throne in 1422, the Bankside stews were at the peak of their profitability and the money flooding in allowed many stewholders to buy themselves freehold property elsewhere in Southwark. Some used these additional properties to open inns or taverns which doubled as illegal brothels in Borough High Street, but that was only the beginning of the trouble their new riches brought. In order to serve on a 15th Century jury, you had to be a property-owner, which was taken as evidence you had a stake in society and so could be trusted to treat your responsibilities in court seriously. This gave the newly propertied stewholders a whole new opportunity for corruption. By hiring out their services to the highest bidder, stewholders on the jury could deliver whatever verdict their paymasters required.
The stews at this time were dominated by a handful of powerful families, creating a network of useful connections which every stewholder could draw on when he needed to fix a court case. The Gardiners, for example, were involved in running three of the Bankside’s 18 brothels: The Lion, The Hart’s Horn and The Boar’s Head. John Sandes’ name is found linked to both The Castle and The Unicorn, while jobbing managers like John Gray and Robert à Murray moved regularly from one establishment to the next. “The Gardiner family is so prominent that the conclusion is inevitable that they were a gang of brothleers, as also the brothers David and Robert à Murray,” Burford writes. “All seem to have been people of some substance and some of them seem to have been elected constables on occasion.”
Most the time, bent jurors were engaged to ensure a guilty man walked free, but sometimes it worked the other way round. Among the examples Carlin quotes is that of Henry Saunder, who had been taken to the Bishop’s court by a stewholder called Thomas Dyconson. Saunder asked that his case be transferred to the higher court of Chancery because the Bishop’s jury he faced was packed with stewholders who were determined to falsely condemn him. Another petitioner, Agnes Johnson, complained that she’d been falsely accused in the Bishop’s court. Her accuser, she said, was both rich and the court bailiff’s brother-in-law, which meant no juror would dare cross him and so ensured she’d never get a fair trail. A third prisoner dragged before the court described the jurors there as “bawds and watermen, the which regard neither God nor their conscience”. Only with these people in your corner, he complained, was there any hope of victory.
Parliament’s answer to this was to pass a 1433 law barring Southwark stewholders from serving on juries or accepting any other official post in the Borough. Three years later, MPs heard an urgent petition from a group of Southwark citizens complaining that illegal brothels were still operating along the length of Borough High Street. “Many women have been ravished and brought to evil living,” the petition said. “Neighbours and strangers are oft-time robbed and murdered.” Parliament responded by declaring once again that stewhouses must be restricted to the licensed area provided – but gave no clue as to how this might be achieved.
In 1460, Henry VI set up a commission of 20 respectable citizens from both Southwark and London to consider the Borough problem. Violence and thieving in Southwark had now reached such heights that its own people looked ready to accept some help from London at last. For their own part, the City authorities realised that shovelling wrongdoers across the river and hoping the Bishop’s courts could keep order there was no answer at all. Once, the fear of damnation had been enough to dampen some of the worst behaviour on Bankside, but now this ecclesiastical sanction was losing its power. “The impotence of the ministers and officers of the church was scarcely surprising,” Burford writes. “The corruption and sexual licence of that body had bred such scepticism and contempt that even the constant threats of Hell no longer deterred those who sought some little sexual pleasure in this world.”
Henry VI’s commission recommended that the City of London send men into Southwark to remove any prostitutes or stewholders found operating away from Bankside and if necessary imprison them. The King seemed sincere enough in his desire to clean up the Borough, but the War of the Roses deposed him just a few months after the commission’s report, so he had little chance to act.
The new King, Edward IV, took a more relaxed view of the stews – perhaps because his own sexual habits left him little room to criticise what went on in Southwark. The only significant measure he took to regulate them was a 1479 royal proclamation that all the licensed Bankside stews should clearly identify themselves by painting their riverside walls entirely white. Each house had its own symbol painted like a pub sign on the same wall and – as often as not – a couple of bare-breasted whores shouting from a riverside window to attract boat-bound customers. (59)
By the end of the 1400s, there was an unbroken line of 18 white-faced buildings like these lining the Thames’ south bank all the way from London Bridge to what’s now Tate Modern. Just five years later, every one of them was forcibly closed down in a 1505 crackdown launched by Henry VII. His action was prompted not by any desire to fight crime in Southwark, but by an unwelcome new guest which all the Bankside stews were now hosting. Syphilis had come to London.

Bankside’s 18 brothels & their ruling families

Court records from the 16thCentury give us an intriguing glimpse of how the Bankside brothels were then run. Stewholders were fined pretty regularly for one offence or another and the fact that so many of the family names involved pop up again and again shows the web of connections between them.
The list below shows the 18 legal Bankside brothels trading in 1500. Each stood in its own large grounds, stretching back as far as Maiden Lane on their southern boundaries. Burford estimates that they probably employed about 350 girls between them, or roughly a third of the 1,000-plus whores he believes were working Southwark at this time. The rest relied on the many illegal Borough whorehouses found in the High Street and beyond. (189)
Between them, the 18 licensed brothels formed an unbroken line along the river all the way from London Bridge to what’s now Tate Modern and that’s the east-west order I’ve given them here. (190)

The Castle: One of the two largest properties on Bankside (the other being The Unicorn). John Sandes’ name is found linked to both establishments, suggesting he may well have been the stewholders’ leader. He was also a member of the City’s Guild of Coopers.

The Gun: One of the six brothels never re-licensed after the 1505 closures. The others were The Swan, The Bull’s Head, The Rose, The Bell and The Cardinal’s Hat.

The Antelope: Managers included both David Arnold and John Gray, who’s linked at other times to The Castle and The Elephant.

The Swan: Another of the six brothels refused a new licence after the 1505 closures (see The Gun, above). Not to be confused with the Swan Theatre in nearby Paris Gardens, which opened in 1595.

The Bull’s Head: Like the other five brothels refused a new licence, The Bull’s Head probably re-opened anyway. From that point on, they had to operate outside the law, with all the risk that implies.

The Hart: Run by Margery Curson, who was fined £1 in 1500 for “living without a husband”. It was an offence for a single woman to run a stewhouse, but Margery went right on and did it anyway. She rented The Hart from the churchwardens of St Margaret’s Parish.

The Elephant: Managed at various times by Edward Wharton and Robert à Murray, whose name is also found linked to The Barge and The Antelope. Robert’s brother David was also involved in running the Bankside stews.

The Lion: At various times, both Richard Gardiner and Joan Gardiner are mentioned as running The Lion. On another occasion, Joan Gardiner’s said to be managing The Hart’s Horn.

The Hart’s Horn:Represented at a 1505 hearing by Margaret Toogood. She’s thought to be either the widow or the daughter of the Thomas Toogood pilloried for enticing women into prostitution in 1494.

The Bear: Re-opened for legal trade on August 29, 1506, under the management of Eleanor Kent.

The Rose: This is the brothel once owned by London Mayor William Walworth. By 1552, it was owned by Henry Polsted, who leased it to a manager called John Davison, who also ran The Unicorn at that time. (191)

The Barge: Re-opened for legal trade in June 1506, with Robert à Murray as its manager.

The Bell: Nothing known.

The Unicorn: The second of Bankside’s two biggest establishments and again managed by John Sandes. See The Castle.

The Boar’s Head: Run by first Agnes Gardiner and then by Annian Gardiner. Both were presumably related to the Gardiners who ran The Lion and The Hart’s Horn. A manager called William Aldersley spoke for The Boar’s Head at a 1505 hearing.

The Cross Keys:Managed in 1505 by Anna Ratclyffe.

The Fleur de Lys: Managed in 1505 by Joan Freeman and in 1664 by Robert Younger.

The Cardinal’s Hat:Mentioned by Shakespeare in Henry VI pt 1. Gloucester uses this infamous brothel’s name to taunt the Bishop of Winchester in Act I, Scene III. See main article for details.

Reference

The Tall, Dark, And Surprisingly Murder-Filled History of Chippendales

When the first Chippendales male revue opened in 1979, it was an instant hit. But the male strip show hid a dark secret: its founders were murderers who treated the business like an organized crime syndicate. 

How did Chippendales start? In the 1970s, Somen Banerjee owned a failed Los Angeles disco, and a nightclub promoter named Paul Snider suggested he begin the first all-male strip club for women. The original Chippendales dancers adopted their signature bow tie and cuffs at the suggestion of Snider’s girlfriend, Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten. The idea was a hit, and soon Banerjee began opening other locations and added a touring show.

But the Chippendales show was more than flirty fun. Only a year after opening, Snider murdered Stratten and killed himself, and Banerjee started hiring hitmen to take out his rivals and burn down other clubs. He even sent a hitman to New York City to kill the original Chippendales choreographer. Much like male strippers describing what really happens at bachelorette parties, the history of Chippendales has a dark side that you just don’t see portrayed in photos or movies like Magic Mike.

The Founder Of Chippendales Murdered The Choreographer

Photo: tina244 / Pixabay / Public Domai

Nick De Noia played a major role in the early success of Chippendales. De Noia, an award-winning choreographer, staged the original routines for the dance troupe. And in 1987, De Noia was found dead in his New York office, shot in the face.

The murderer was someone De Noia knew well—Somen Banerjee, the owner of the Chippendales nightclub. By the mid-80s, De Noia had moved to New York to open an east coast Chippendales location, and the two had a falling out. Banerjee later confessed that he hired a hitman to kill De Noia. The hitman, posing as a messenger, successfully carried out the murder-for-hire by coming into De Noia’s office in the middle of the day and shooting him in the face. But Banerjee didn’t get away with it. The U.S. Attorney filed charges, arguing that Banerjee ordered the hit “to enhance the business of Chippendales, or to gain revenge from persons who had caused injury to the business.”

The Cofounder Sexually Assaulted And Murdered His Girlfriend

Cofounder Paul Snider had the idea to turn Banerjee’s failing club, which featured female mud wrestling in addition to male dancers into an all-male strip show. He also discovered and later brutally murdered Dorothy Stratten, Playboy’s 1980 Playmate of the Year.

Snider and Stratten were married, but as her career took off, Snider couldn’t handle the competition. Just after Stratten broke up with Snider, he attacked his ex, sexually assaulted her, and shot her in the face. According to the police investigation, Snider also had sex with Dorothy’s dead body before shooting himself in the head.

Hugh Hefner had his own view about why Snider killed Stratten. “A very sick guy saw his meal ticket and his connection to power, whatever, slipping away. And it was that that made him kill her.”

Banerjee Tried To Burn Down Rival Clubs

Photo: C Jill Reed / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-2.

Somen Banerjee didn’t want any competition. In 1984, he hired an arsonist to burn down a rival club called the Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t his first brush with arson, however. In 1978, Banerjee paid someone to burn down another club called Moody’s.

Banerjee’s attempted arson, combined with hiring hitmen to take out his rivals and even his former partner, Nick de Noia, led the federal government to charge Banerjee under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), typically reserved for organized crime.

He Tried To Kill A Rival Male Dancer Group

Photo: USA Network

Somen Banerjee, one of the founders of Chippendales, refused to let anyone else capitalize on male dancers. He was willing to commit murder to make sure that Chippendales was the only male dance troupe in the world. When Banerjee learned of a rival group named Adonis, he contacted a hitman to kill the show’s leaders, including their choreographer.

The hit was supposed to happen in Blackpool, England, and Banerjee paid the hitman an advance of $8,000 to carry out the three murders. But before the hitman killed the men, he confessed to U.S. authorities and turned on Banerjee.

The Hitman Had Enough Cyanide To Poison Over Two Thousand People

Photo: R. de Salis.Rodolph / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0-migrate

When Banerjee hired hitmen to kill his rivals in the male strip troupe Adonis, he made sure the men would get the job done. One of the hitmen, Lynn Bressler, testified that he was taken to an expensive house in Los Angeles, where he was given a canvas bag marked with a skull and crossbones.

Inside, Bressler found a container of cyanide—it contained enough poison to kill 2,300 people. The hitman’s instructions were clear: he was to inject the poison into the men running Adonis, including Read Scot, a former Chippendale employee who Banerjee saw as a traitor.

One Of Banjeree’s Colleagues Narrowly Escaped A Hit

Banjeree also planned to murder his partner and former law student, Bruce Nahin. Nahin was supposed to be killed at the same time and in the same manner as De Noia, but his trip to New York City to visit De Noia was delayed because of a family illness. The charges leveled against Banjeree in court included the attempted hit on Nahin.

Banerjee Hung Himself In His Jail Cell

Photo: Michael P. Barbella / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4

In 1994, a federal prosecutor charged Somen Banerjee with racketeering, attempted arson, and the murder of his former partner, Nick De Noia. He was denied bail because according to witness testimony, Banerjee said he planned to hire a private pilot and pay them $25,000 to fly him to India without a passport, where he’d “get a new wife and kids.” He said he’d commit suicide if he were arrested again. After months in prison, Banerjee pled guilty to the charge and arranged a plea bargain with the federal court.

But Banerjee was never officially sentenced for his crimes, because hours before his sentencing hearing, he committed suicide in a Los Angeles jail cell. Banerjee hanged himself with his prison bed sheet and was found dead in his cell around 4 am the day of his sentencing hearing. He was expected to receive a sentence of 26 years in prison.

Stratten Designed The Chippendales Uniform

Photo: Frank Deanrdo / Flickr / CC BY 2

Dorothy Stratten’s brutal murder shook Hollywood. She was on her way to a major film career when her ex and Chippendales founder Paul Snider brutally murdered her. In Hugh Hefner’s press release after Dorothy Stratten’s murder, he wrote, “The death of Dorothy Stratten comes as a shock to us all… As Playboy’s Playmate of the Year with a film and a television career of increasing importance, her professional future was a bright one. But equally sad to us is the fact that her loss takes from us all a very special member of the Playboy family.”

Stratten played a major role in the success of Chippendales––she’s the one who designed the signature bow tie and cuffs still worn by Chippendales dancers today.

Even Bomb Threats Can’t Stop The Chippendales

Photo: Krieger167 / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4

The Chippendales dancers often go on tour, taking their moves on the road. But tours can get even wilder than regular shows. During one memorable Chippendales tour, a bomb threat was called into the theater where the dancers were performing. The theater was evacuated, and the Chippendales were escorted back to their tour bus.

But everything changed when the fans surrounded the bus, cheering on the male dancers. Rather than let down their admirers, the Chippendales climbed of the roof of the bus and started performing. Not even a bomb threat can stop the Chippendales dancers.

The Club Blatantly Violated Fire Department Codes

Photo: @cdharrison / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND

Banerjee severely violated overcrowding laws and had a number of citations from federal agencies. An inspector from the fire department said that Chippendales was the most extreme violator he had seen in years and that the owner severely endangered patrons with blocked exits. One night, the establishment, which could hold a maximum of 299 patrons, contained 435 people.

Another run-in with government regulations occurred when Chippendales was charged with sexual discrimination for not allowing male patrons into the club. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control revoked the establishment’s liquor license as a result.

Women Brought Scissors To Cut Off G-Strings

n the early years, Chippendale dancers assumed the club would quickly be shut down. The atmosphere was wild, and women in the audience sometimes showed up with scissors to cut the g-strings off of the male dancers.

Michael Rapp, an original cast member, said, “When we first started, we thought that we could have been closed down any day. We thought it would be a fad that wouldn’t last that long.” And because of that, Rapp added, “We were going to have as much fun as we could while we had it.”

Ben Stiller And Dev Patel Are In Talks To Make A Movie Called ‘Chippendales’

The history of Chippendales in the 1980s was so dark that a true crime movie based on the early years of the male strip club is currently in the works. According to Variety, Ben Stiller and Dev Patel are in talks to play two of the partners who founded Chippendales, Nick De Noia and Somen Banerjee.

Reference

Scopes “Monkey” Trial

Butler Act 

The theory of evolution, as presented by Charles Darwin and others, was a controversial concept in many quarters, even into the 20th century.

Concerted anti-evolutionist efforts in Tennessee succeeded when in 1925, the Tennessee House of Representatives was offered a bill by John W. Butler making teaching evolution a misdemeanor. The so-called Butler Act was passed six days later almost unanimously with no amendments.

When the ACLU received news of the bill’s passage, it immediately sent out a press release offering to challenge the Butler Act.

John Scopes 

What became known as the Scopes Monkey Trial began as a publicity stunt for the town of Dayton, Tennessee.

A local businessman met with the school superintendent and a lawyer to discuss using the ACLU offer to get newspapers to write about the town. The group asked if high school science teacher John Scopes would admit to teaching evolution for the purposes of prosecution.

Scopes wasn’t clear on whether he had precisely taught the subject, but was sure he’d used materials that included evolution. Scopes taught physics and math, and while he said he accepted evolution, he didn’t teach biology.

It was announced to newspapers the next day that Scopes had been charged with violating the Butler Act, and the town wired the ACLU to procure its services. The Tennessee press roundly criticized the town, accusing it of staging a trial for publicity.

Clarence Darrow, left, and William Jennings Bryan at the Scopes trial in 1925 (Associated Press)

William Jennings Bryan 

A preliminary hearing on May 9, 1925, officially held Scopes for trial by the grand jury, though released him and didn’t require him to post bond.

Three-time presidential nominee William Jennings Bryanvolunteered to present for the prosecution. The politician was already well-known as an anti-evolution activist, almost single-handedly creating the national controversy over the teaching of evolution and making his name inseparable from the issue.

Clarence Darrow 

Author H.G. Wells was approached early on to present the case for evolution, but he turned down the offer.

Clarence Darrow – a famous attorney who had recently acted for the defense in the notorious Leopold and Loeb murder trial – found out about the Scopes trial through journalist H.L. Mencken, who suggested Darrow should defend Scopes.

Darrow declined since he was preparing to retire, but news of Bryan’s involvement caused Darrow – who was also a leading member of the ACLU – to change his mind.

Darrow and Bryan already had a history of butting heads over evolution and the concept of taking the Bible literally, sparring in the press and public debates.

Darrow’s goal in getting involved was to debunk fundamentalist Christianity and raise awareness of a narrow, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. It was the only time in his career he offered to give free legal aid.

Bryan and Darrow set the tone by immediately attacking each other in the press. The ACLU attempted to remove Darrow from the case, fearing they would lose control, but none of these efforts worked.

Attorney Clarence Darrow consults with Judge Raulston about procedure in the Tennessee courts during the trial of John T. Scopes.
New York Daily News/Getty Images

William Jennings Bryan Arrives 

The grand jury met on May 9, 1925. In preparation, Scopes recruited and coached students to testify against him. Three of the seven students attending were called to testify, each showing a sketchy understanding of evolution. The case was pushed forward and a trial set for July 10.

Bryan arrived in Dayton three days before the trial, stepping off a train to the spectacle of half the town greeting him. He posed for photo opportunities and gave two public speeches, stating his intention to not only defend the anti-evolution law but to use the trial to debunk evolution entirely. 

Darrow, meanwhile, arrived into Dayton the day before the trial to little fanfare.

Scopes Monkey Trial Begins 

The trial day started with crowds pouring into the courthouse two hours before it was scheduled to begin, filling up the room and causing onlookers to spill into the hallways. There was applause when Bryan entered the court and further when he and Darrow shook hands.

The trial began – somewhat ironically – with a lengthy prayer. The first day saw the grand jury being reconvened and repeating testimony from Scopes’ students who had appeared in that trial and jury selection.

Outside the courthouse a circus-like atmosphere reigned, with barbecues, concessions and carnival games, though that died down as the trial was adjourned for the weekend, over which Bryan and Darrow sparred through the press and tensions mounted.

Clarence Darrow’s Speech 

It was to a packed courthouse on Monday that arguments began by the defense working to establish the scientific validity of evolution, while the prosecution focused on the Butler Act as an education standard for Tennessee citizens, citing precedents.

Darrow responded by laying out the case in an aggressive way, part of a strategy related to the defense planning to waive their closing argument and preventing Bryan’s own carefully prepared closing argument.

The statement Darrow made is considered an example of his best passionate public speaking. Darrow’s chief argument was that the Butler Act promoted one particular religious view and was therefore illegal. He spoke for over two hours.

Clarence Darrow’s Plan 

The trial itself began on Wednesday with opening statements. Witnesses followed, establishing that Scopes had taught evolution and zoologist Maynard M. Metcalf gave expert testimony about the science of evolution, a signal that Scopes himself would not take the stand during the trial.

Subsequent days saw prosecutors argue about the validity of using expert witnesses. This provided Bryan with the opportunity for an extended speech on the subject. Defense attorney Dudley Field Malone then countered with a speech of his own and received a thunderous standing ovation.

The next day, the judge ruled that any experts on the stands could be cross-examined. That night, Darrow quietly prepared to call Bryan as an expert witness on the Bible.

Darrow questions Bryan during the Scopes Trial (July 20, 1925)(Smithsonian)

William Jennings Bryan on the Stand 

Calling Bryan to the stand was a shock for the court. Darrow interrogated him on interpreting the Bible literally, which undercut his earlier sweeping religious speeches. It also cornered him into admitting that he didn’t know much about science since the Bible didn’t provide any answers.

When the judge ruled Bryan’s testimony be taken from the record, Darrow suggested that to save time his client should be found guilty. This prevented Bryan from making a closing statement.

The jury took nine minutes to pronounce Scopes guilty. He was fined $100.

After the Scopes Trial 

After the trial, Bryan immediately began to prepare his unused closing statement as a speech for his rallies. He never got to use that speech, since he died in his sleep in Dayton the following Sunday.

Scopes was offered a new teaching contract but chose to leave Dayton and study geology at the University of Chicago graduate school. He eventually became a petroleum engineer.

Intelligent Design 

Supporters of both sides claimed victory following the trial, but the Butler Act was upheld, and the anti-evolution movement continued.

Mississippi passed a similar law months later, and in 1925 Texasbanned the theory of evolution from high school textbooks. Twenty-two other states made similar efforts but were defeated.

The controversy over the teaching of science and evolution has continued into the 21st century. In 2005, the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District battled over the constitutionality of teaching “intelligent design” in Pennsylvania schools alongside evolution.

The court ruled against intelligent design – now largely discredited as a pseudoscience – as a legitimate topic suitable for education.

Reference

Recording Cher’s ‘Believe’

It was the best-selling single of 1998 and signalled a radical change of musical direction for Cher — complete with bizarre vocal processing. Yet, surprisingly, it was produced in a small studio in West London. Sue Sillitoe relates the astonishing tale of ‘Believe’.

Cher on a couch.

For most of last year, it looked as though Celine Dion’s track ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was going to be the best-selling single of 1998 — but this accolade was snatched from the Canadian Queen of AOR at the 11th hour by another female vocalist who not only launched a successful challenge for the title, but did so with a song that was massively different from anything she had ever done before.

For those of you who’ve been stuck on a radio-less desert island for the last two months, the single in question is Cher’s dance hit, ‘Believe’, which spent seven weeks at the top of the UK charts and — at the time of going to press — had already achieved sales of 1.5 million and rising. What’s less well-known is that it was produced by two London-based producers Mark Taylor and Brian Rawling, in their own studio.

Striking It Lucky

Together, Mark and Brian run Metro Productions, a production and publishing company which operates from Dreamhouse, a three-studio complex in Kingston, Surrey. According to Mark, despite the track’s mainstream commercial success, the story behind the creation of ‘Believe’ is a strange one. As released, the single incorporates the work of six different songwriters, two producers and executive producer Rob Dickins (the erstwhile chairman of Warner Brothers, who has now left the company for pastures new).

Mark, whose previous production credits include Gina G and Danni Minogue, says the fact that the single happened at all is down to a series of lucky breaks, which began when Metro’s songwriters were asked by Rob Dickins to submit a song for possible inclusion on Cher’s new album.

He explains: “Thanks to the work we had done with Gina and Danni for Warners, we had a good relationship with Rob, and that’s why we got the opportunity to work with Cher. Rob asked us to write a song and we came up with the song ‘Dov’é L’Amore’ [now a track on Cher’s new album, also entitled Believe]. Initially, he wanted Junior Vasquez to produce it, which we were delighted about, because it was quite a coup to have the song accepted in the first place.”

‘Dov’é L’Amore’ was duly sent over to Vasquez in New York, but when he sent back his version, it was rejected by Rob, who decided instead to give the production of the track to Taylor and Rawling as well.

“It was one of those scenarios where lucky breaks, chance and other people’s bad luck come into play,” says Mark. “We were only meant to do one song, but in the end we were responsible for the bulk of the Believe album — six tracks in total including ‘Believe’ itself. Vasquez did another and producer Todd Terry did three.”

The ‘Believe’ Balancing Act

The starting point for ‘Believe’ was a song by Brian Higgins, Matt Gray, Stuart McLennen and Tim Powell, which had been knocking around the Warner offices in demo form for months. “Everyone loved the chorus but not the rest of the song,” says Mark. “As we were already writing other songs for Cher, Rob asked us if we could sort it out. Two of our writers, Steve Torch and Paul Barry, got involved and eventually came up with a complete song that Rob and Cher were happy with.”

Mark says Torch and Barry were given a DAT with a programmed demo in a firmly eurobeat style, which they weren’t too keen on, so they sat down with guitars and began to rewrite it. In the end, they kept only the chorus, which went through some minor chord changes but basically remained intact. “The lyrics for the chorus were already there, but our guys added the lyrics, melody and chords for the verses and middle eight, then put the whole thing back together again. We sent it over to Rob Dickins and he highlighted a few changes. Then Cher heard it and she liked it straight away.”

Cher's 'Believe' single artwork.

Once the demo version was agreed, Mark and Brian took over for the actual production, working at Dreamhouse, which has Mackie consoles in every room. Mark says, “We knew the rough direction to take, because Rob had said he wanted to make a Cher dance record. The hard part was trying to make one that wouldn’t alienate Cher’s existing fans. We couldn’t afford to have anyone say ‘I hate this because it’s dance’ — then we would have turned off loads of people who are used to hearing Cher do rock ballads and MOR songs. I think we can safely say we succeeded in maintaining the balance, because kids on their own will buy a certain type of record, and adults on their own will buy another. The only way you can achieve sales of 1.5 million is to appeal to both camps. Getting that right was the most difficult part — and was the reason why I ended up doing the track twice!”

Mark got halfway through the first version before consigning it to the bin without having played it to anyone else. “It was just too hardcore dance — it wasn’t happening,” he says. “I scrapped it and started again, because I realised it needed a sound that was unusual, but not in a typical dance record sort of way. This was tricky, because dance music is very specific. To get what I was after I had to think about each sound very carefully, so that the sound itself was dance-based but not obviously so.

“It was really a question of finding, say, a kick drum that didn’t sound like a typical TR909 dance kick drum — and instead, using something that had the right sound but wasn’t so clichéd. I ended up using all kinds of sounds mixed together. The drums are all samples, but samples that have been mutated, EQ’d and compressed. The kick drums in particular were heavily compressed to give them a weird, pumping, smacky sound.”

Instrumentation

Mark believes one doesn’t need expensive technology in order to make a hit record, and adds that ‘Believe’ exemplifies this philosophy. “Don’t forget I was only using a Mackie desk, and the rest of the equipment involved was the sort of thing any Sound On Sound reader could aspire to. Having a really expensive piece of kit doesn’t mean you’ll make hit records. My view is that the end result is what matters — not how you get there.”

Co-producer Mark Taylor.

Co-producer Mark Taylor.With this attitude, it’s not so surprising that Mark used nothing fancier than Cubase VST on a Mac G3 to assemble the entire track, including the vocals (although these were initially recorded to Tascam DA88s — see later). The G3 contains a Korg 1212 I/O card, but in fact a stand-alone Soundscape converter unit provides the main audio interfacing with the rest of the Metro kit, particularly their DA88s (via TDIF).

“The sampler was an Akai S3000, and for other sounds we used several of our synths, including the Clavia Nord Rack, Oberheim Matrix 1000 — for the white-noise wind effect at the very beginning of the track — and the Moog Progidy for some sub-bass. A lot of the time I was just fiddling around to see what came out! The samples were a combination of sample CDs and ones I’ve collected myself over the years. As I’ve said, I wanted the samples to sound different, so that the track didn’t sound like any old dance hit. We did this by using the EQ in the Akai sampler, from our little ART Tube EQ and on the desk to really crunch things up, and compressing and squashing sounds to give them an unusual edge. The great thing about the S3000 is that you can put four different samples on each note in a keygroup — so for the kick drum, for example, I used four different kick samples from my own collection playing together. One was just a noise, one was a splat, one had all the bottom end and so on. By mixing everything together I was able to create something unique.”

Cher’s vocals were recorded onto three Tascam DA88s with a Neumann U67, at her suggestion, as she had just finished a recording with George Martin using that mic and was particularly pleased with the results. From the DA88, the vocals were loaded straight into Cubase VST on the Mac, and nearly everything else was then done on the computer’s hard disk.

Mark: “There’s also some guitar in the chorus, which we ran through a Sessionette amp miked with an AKG C414. Then we put it through a Zoom to add tremolo and severely EQ’d it to make it sound a bit odd. For the piano we used an Emu Vintage Keys sound which I really like. It’s based on a Yamaha CP80 electric piano which we slightly modified to make it cut through the track better. Then we compressed it quite hard to give it a definite ringing sound. We also added lots of delay using a Roland SDE330, which sounds really spacious and adds ambience without cluttering the track — although the really obvious delay on the vocal phrase ‘after love, after love’ at the very beginning wasn’t done using that — we just sampled that phrase and repeated it with the S3000’s internal filter on it, so that it fades in very dull and brightens up.”

Mark explains that the main synth pad remained the same throughout the recording of the track, and was the only element that survived from his first version. “It’s a very distinctive, core part of the record — the song hinges on it. I combined two sounds to get that — one from my old Roland Juno 106 and another from the Korg TR-Rack. There is something about the way the pad and melody work together that gives the whole track a sort of hanging feeling. When I started putting the song together for the second time, I had the pad running, and I rebuilt the drums to make the pad and the drums sound like they were driving everything along. Then I added the other instrumentation — the guitar and the piano.”

STOP PRESS! Historical Footnote

Cher’s ‘Believe’ (December 1998) was the first commercial recording to feature the audible side-effects of Antares Auto‑Tune software used as a deliberate creative effect. The (now) highly recognisable tonal mangling occurs when the pitch correction speed is set too fast for the audio that it is processing and it became one of the most over-used production effects of the following years.

In February 1999, when this Sound On Sound article was published, the producers of this recording were apparently so keen to maintain their ‘trade secret’ process that they were willing to attribute the effect to the (then) recently-released Digitech Talker vocoder pedal. As most people are now all‑too familiar with the ‘Cher effect’, as it has become known, we have maintained the article in its original form as an interesting historical footnote. Matt Bell

That Vocal Trick In Full

Everyone who hears ‘Believe’ immediately comments on the vocals, which are unusual, to say the least. Mark says that for him, this was the most nerve-racking part of the project, because he wasn’t sure what Cher would say when she heard what he’d done to her voice. For those who’ve been wondering, yes — it’s basically down to vocoding and filtering (for more on vocoders and the theory behind them, see the ‘Power Vocoding’ workshop in SOS January 1994).

Mark: “It all began with a Korg VC10, which is a very rare, very groovy-looking analogue vocoder from the ’70s, with a built-in synth, a little keyboard and a microphone stuck on top”, he enthuses. “You must mention this, because SOS readers will love it — and I know, because I’ve been reading the mag for years!

“Anyway, the Korg VC10 looks bizarre, but it’s great to use if you want to get vocoder effects up and running straight away. You just play the keyboard to provide a vocoder carrier signal, sing into the microphone to produce the modulator signal, and off you go. The only drawback is the synth — you can’t do anything to change the sound, so the effects you can produce are rather limited.

“I played around with the vocals and realised that the vocoder effect could work, but not with the Korg — the results just weren’t clear enough. So instead, I used a Digitech Talker — a reasonably new piece of kit that looks like an old guitar foot pedal, which I suspect is what it was originally designed for [see review in SOS April 1998]. You plug your mic straight into it, and it gives you a vocoder-like effect, but with clarity; it almost sounds like you’ve got the original voice coming out the other end. I used a tone from the Nord Rack as a carrier signal and sequenced the notes the Nord was playing from Cubase to follow Cher’s vocal melody. That gave the vocals that ‘stepped’ quality that you can hear prominently throughout the track — but only when I shifted the Nord’s notes back a bit. For some reason, if you track the vocal melody exactly, with the same notes and timing, you hardly get any audible vocoded effect. But I was messing about with the Nord melody sequence in Cubase and shifted all the notes back a fraction with respect to the vocal. Then you really started to hear it, although even then it was a bit hit-and-miss — I had to experiment with the timing of each of the notes in the Nord melody sequence to get the best effect. You couldn’t hear an effect on all the vocals by any means — and on others it made the words completely impossible to understand!

“In the end, we only used vocoded sections where they had the most striking effect and didn’t make the lyrics unintelligible. To do that, I had to keep the vocoded bits very short. So for example, when Cher sang ‘Do you believe in life after love?’, I think I only cut the processed vocals into the phrase on just the syllables ‘belie‑’ from ‘believe’ and ‘lo‑’ from ‘love’ — but that was enough to make the whole phrase sound really arresting. I made sure throughout that the last word of each vocal phrase was unprocessed, because again, I found it sounded too bubbly and hard to understand when it was vocoded.”

Mark spent time alone in the studio painstakingly processing Cher’s vocals in this way, and by the following morning, he was convinced he didn’t have the nerve to play her what he’d done. “It was a bit radical,” he laughs. “Basically, it was the destruction of her voice, so I was really nervous about playing it to her! In the end, I just thought it sounded so good, I had to at least let her hear it — so I hit Play. She was fantastic — she just said ‘it sounds great!’, so the effect stayed. I was amazed by her reaction, and so excited, because I knew it was good.”

Although the vocoder effect was Mark’s idea, the other obvious vocal effect in ‘Believe’ is the ‘telephoney’ quality of Cher’s vocal throughout. This idea came from the lady herself — she’d identified something similar on a Roachford record and asked Mark if he could reproduce it.

He explains, “Roachford uses a restricted bandwidth, and filters the vocals heavily so that the top and bottom ends are wound off and the whole vocal is slightly distorted. It took a while to work out exactly what it was that Cher liked about this particular Roachford song, but in the end we realised it was the ‘telephoney’ sound. I used the filter section on my Drawmer DS404 gate on the vocal before it went into the Talker to get that effect.”

Better ‘Believe’ It…

‘Believe’ took approximately 10 days to record. Once it was completed, Mark ran a monitor mix onto DAT and sent it to Rob Dickins for clearance. To Mark’s surprise, Rob was so pleased with the sound that the monitor mix basically became the final version, with only the most minor of tweaks. “The vocals were much too loud, because I was trying to clear the track,” he laughs. “But apart from that, it worked fine, and everyone was really happy with it. It just goes to show that you don’t need to spend days mixing in order to get a hit. With ‘Believe’, I was adjusting things as I went along and running everything live on the computer, which meant I could save just about everything, apart from the effects and EQ hooked up to the desk. All the level changes in the mix were already recorded in the sequencer, so the finished mix just kind of grew in an organic way as we worked on the track.”

The single was mastered at Townhouse, although very little was actually changed at this stage. “It was very straightforward,” says Mark. “Just the fades and the odd dB of cut and boost here and there — standard mastering stuff.”

Looking back, Mark says the most satisfying part of the project was getting to know Cher who spent six weeks at the studio working on the album. “The first day was incredibly nerve-racking,” he admits. “I thought she might think our setup was a bit small, and that she would turn out to be a bit ‘Hollywood’. But she was really great and easy to get on with. These days, artists like Cher are used to working with producers who have their own studios — and these are not necessarily big, just well equipped.”

With such a massive hit to their credit, it’s not surprising that the eight-man team at Metro is now in great demand. They are currently finishing a Gypsy Kings album (which was started after the group guested on the ‘Dov’é L’Amore’ track), and other high-profile projects are in the pipeline, such as the first single from Gary Barlow’s new solo album, and the next Tamperer release. Whether they will continue their relationship with Cher, however, remains to be seen.

“She’s said she wants to work with us again, but you know how record company politics can be,” says Mark. “I hope it does happen, because it was a great project and one we all thoroughly enjoyed. We certainly never expected the single to do so well — let alone seven weeks at number one. But when I listen to it now I can see why it worked. It’s a great song with a fantastic chorus, and the weird vocoder effect on the vocals makes it special.”

Reference

Recording Cher’s ‘Believe’: Mark Taylor & Brian Rawling, Sound On Sound, February 1999, by Sue Sillitoe https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/recording-cher-believe