Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Divine Light at number 465b.

The Hornsey Road was the Devil's Road, but there are many ways to God here. Anglicans at St Mark's and Emmanuel, Baptists just behind the Plough, Spiritualists, Muslims in Leslie Compton's old pub,  There were even Methodists once.

The quietest way is through a low brick building with water-bottles-turned-terrariums around the front door at number 465b.

 This is the 'Johrei' centre and Johrei is a Japanese religion founded in 1920 and keen on organic farming - from which the terrariums. The ground floor looks like offices and the upper floor looks like this:

I went there on Wednesday with small person. There were three or four women inside, none of them Japanese, two of whom offered me 'healing'. I said yes because how else could I write about it? She held her hands near me and we talked. There was no attempt to sell me any thing or any belief. It was rather nice. 

Small person ran about playing with keys - children are welcome everywhere but on the altar. 

'JOHREI is the name given to the channelling of a spiritual energy or Divine Light to purify one’s spiritual body and awaken our divine nature. In Japanese, Johrei means “purification of the spirit”. Its main purpose is to awaken the soul to the power of the Divine Light, which can change self-centred lives into God-centred ones. Johrei is an action which brings about spiritual fulfilment and true happiness on Earth.'

What you make of that will depend on what you make of that sort of thing and whatever that is nothing I write should change your mind.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Albemarle Mansions Part Three: Outrages

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By @ronniecruwys of
This is the last of the Albermarle Mansions stories and it might be the best. Here goes:

'Stated by the police to be considered in Ireland a very daring and dangerous criminal, George Green (34) whose address was given as Albemarle Mansions, Holloway, was convicted with Herman Rowland Panzer* (39), of the same address, of the theft of a duplicating machine from an office at Isleworth, at Brentford today. 

The police said that Green had been convicted for causing assemblies, for being responsible for outrages, for escaping from Cork prison, and for shooting at an inspector for which he had had 20 strokes of the cat. 

In this country he had been convicted for robbing a bank and for being concerned in the stealing of firearms and 10,275 rounds of ammunition. He was, added the police, a very daring gunman who did not hesitate to shoot to avoid arrest. 

Green and Panzer were sentenced to six months' imprisonment on the present charge.'

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By @ronniecruwys of

This piece appeared  word for word in the 3 April 1929 editions of the Derby Daily Telegraph, the Gloucestershire Echo, Hull Daily Mail, the Hartlepool Mail, and the Nottingham Evening Post. On 4 April the Western Daily Press picked it up. None of the London papers covered it. There are no follow-up pieces.  Here goes:

'Duplicating machines' are early photocopiers. They're not the kind of thing you'd steal if you were just a thief because they're heavy and anyway, what would you do with one? That's the first hint that we're not dealing with a standard criminal, but with someone who might have wanted to distribute pamphlets or leaflets.

'Causing assemblies' could refer to trade union activity, or to any other form of activism. The link to Ireland means that I.R.A. is the most likely answer.

In 1923 dozens of I.R.A. veterans had escaped from Cork city gaol with the men who facing death going first and the rest waiting their turn according to the length of their sentence. It's one hell of a story  (see here).** I can't find any mention of a George Green that fits the bill in the online prison archives, but if this were a proper research project rather than what it is I'd wouldn't have given up there.

The Cork prison escape story seems to have been reported only in a short piece in the Western Daily Press.*** Perhaps Irish news didn't sell. Perhaps the Government of the day wasn't keen on the story being covered (but would they have had that much influence on the press? Perhaps the prison authorities in Ireland managed to keep the story quiet?

* A 'Herman Roland [not Rowland] Panzer' was living in 7 Parkhurst Road, Islington 1911 as a 'disengaged' clerk. This thread suggests strongly that he also went by the name of Armyn Roland Panser and married bigamously under both names.
**You can go on a team-building 'Jail Break' adventure at the gaol building. The people who came up with that idea are now working on 'Potato famine: the cook book'. 
*** That's all that turns up if you search for 'Cork City Gaol' and 1923 in

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Leslie Compton at the Hanley Arms

There is a photograph of Leslie Compton serving a pint to Tom Whittaker, the Arsenal manager, from behind the bar at the Hanley Arms..

This proves that Leslie Compton was indeed the landlord of the Hanley Arms.

I've spent a lot of time trying to prove that Leslie Compton was the landlord of the Hanley Arms.

Possibly too much time.

I was going to show you the picture, but the Press Association would have charged me £40 per year. Um. It's here (Daily Mail link).

It is very Hornsey Road that it should be Leslie and not Denis. Leslie played 273 times for Arsenal and scored 5,000 runs for Middlesex and still got overshadowed by his younger brother.

Here's Neville Cardus on Denis, via the Telegraph obituary page:

"Never have I been so deeply touched on a cricket ground as I was in this heavenly summer of 1947 when I went to Lord's to see a pale-faced crowd, existing on rations, the rocket-bomb still in the ears of most folks - and see this worn, dowdy crowd raptly watching Compton.

The strain of long years of anxiety and affliction passed from all heads and shoulders at the sight of Compton in full sail, sending the ball here, there, and everywhere, each stroke a flick of delight, a propulsion of happy, sane, healthy life. There were no rations in an innings by Compton,

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Albemarle Mansions Part Two: Bessie Butt

@RonnieCruwys has started adding colour to the Albemarle Mansions and that means I can tell you about Bessie Butt.

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'Music Hall Divorce: Principal 'Boy's' Farewell Letter to Her Husband:

Mr Alfred Earl Sydney Davis, a music hall agent and author, obtained a divorce in Sir Samuel Evans' Court from his wife (who is known on the stage as Bessie Butt, and who stated to be earning £600 a year) on the gound of her miscondunt with Mr. David Pool, also a music hall artiste. The case was not defended, and the jury fixed the damages at £250 against the correspondent, a sum agreed upon between the parties. Married in 1901, the parties lived happily together till February last, when Mr Davis received a letter from his wife from Glasgow, where she was performing the principal boy's part in 'Aladdin' saying that she had left him for ever. Mrs Davis was afterwards discovered living at Albemarle Mansions, Holloway, with correspondent, whom she had met in 1903, when staying with her husband in rooms in Kennington Park Road.' - 25 June 1910, Dundee Courier

'Dave Poole, the ventriloquist and Bessie Butt, the male impersonator, were quietly married at Liverpool March 18.' - 4 April 1911, Variety

She could have done better. Ventriloquist. Pah. 

Bessie Butt (fl. early 20th century), English dancer, actress and singer, as principal boy in Aladdin, pantomime, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Christmas 1909 (photo: Langfier, Glasgow, 1909) ‘Born in London within the sound of Bow Bells [the traditional description of a Cockney], Miss Bessie Butt commenced her stage career at a very early age by playing the child part in [Minnie Palmer's popular vehicle] My Sweetheart. While still in her early ‘teens she toured through many European countries in company with her brothers - the Reed Family - and made quite a big reputation as a transformation dancer, being billed as “Baby Butt.” An unfortunate illness kept her from the stage for a long period, and her next appearance was under the management of Mr. John Tiller, who looked upon her as one of the most promising of his young recruits. ‘Having ambitions, Miss Butt decided on doing a single turn on the halls, and at once sprang into popularity wherever she appeared. The late Walter Summers saw her, and recommended her so highly to Mr Robert Arthur that she was engaged by him as second girl for the Kennington theatre pantomime of Red Riding Hood, and there she made her first great success in [singing] “Ma blushing Rosie.” The late Clement Scott [dramatist and theatre critic, 1841-1904] was so taken with this number that he went several times to hear it. Miss butt’s next appearance was [on tour] under the management of Mr. George Edwardes as Susan in The Toreador [originated by Violet Lloyd, Gaiety, London, 17 June 1901], and this was followed by Sophie in A Country Girl [originated by Ethel Irving, Daly’s, London, 18 January 1902] and Thisbe in The Orchid [originated by Gabrielle Ray, Gaiety, London, 26 October 1903]. After this she was for twelve months at the London Coliseum, where she created several parts, notably the Black Pearl in Mr. Leslie Stuart’s song specially written for Mr. Eugene Stratton, and produced at the Coliseum in 1905. She also appeared as a wonderfully life-like doll in Mr. Will Bishop’s [ballet] My Gollywog. This was in 1906. ‘A pantomime engagement as Cinderella at Cheltenham was followed by a return to the halls under the managements of Mr. Oswald Stoll, the late Mr. G.A. Payne, and others; and then Miss Butt was seen and secured by Mr. Lester Collingwood to play the title roole in his pantomime of Cinderella at the Alexandra, Birmingham, in 1907. The success was phenomenal, as the run of the pantomime was a record for the country. On that occasion also Miss Butt won the “Owl” cake and diamond ring in a local beauty competition. This year Miss Butt has discarded skirts and gone in for principal boy, and as Dandini at the Royal County Theatre, Kingston, she is undoubtedly the hit of a most successful [Cinderella] pantomime [; other members of the cast were Dorothy Grassdorf, Hilda Vining and Laurie Wylie]. During her short career she has introduced many popular songs, of which probably the most successful have been “Scarecrow,” “Amelia Snow,” “Cherries are blooming,” “Peggy, the pride of the Mill,” and “Sunshine Soo,” her latest effusion, which is likely to eclipse in popularity all the others. Gifted with youth, beauty, a sweetly clear and distinct voice, a genius for dancing, and unlimited vivacity, there is no knowing to what heights this clever lady may aspire.’ (The Era, London, Saturday, 30 January 1909, p.13c)

Bessie Butt (photo: White, Bradford, circa 1908)
As principal boy in Aladdin, pantomime, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Christmas 1909.
There's more here.

Albemarle Mansions Part One: Six Pairs of Silk Tights

@RonnieCruwys of is drawing the Holloway Road. I hope to drag her eastwards someday soon. In the meantime, here's a preview of her Albermarle mansions (near Manor Gardens) and the first of four stories from local papers.

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This one's an advert from the 8 October 1898 'The Era'.

'Wanted, to Sell, Six Pairs of Silk Tights, Two Auburn Wigs and Two Sets of Band Books. 16 Albemarle-mansions, Holloway Road, N.

The Era was the 'Actor's Bible' and 'Band Book' means sheet music. Pantomime dame fallen on hard times? 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

On looking up at Bathhurst Mansions and finding Orson Welles

Bathhurst Mansions on 458 Holloway Road is an uncommonly pretty building. The ground floor's been turned into drab tat, but look up and (thanks to @RonnieCruwys of there's all this: 

There's also a story about Irish theatre, queer history and Orson Welles. Here goes:

Hilton Edwards was born in Bathhurst Mansions on 2 February 1903. He'd grow up to direct Welles in his first and last role on stage and (with Micheál Mac Liammóir born Alfred Willmore in Kilburn - see his one-man 'Wilde' here) to live something damn close to an openly gay life in Ireland, 

From  THE TRINITY NEWS (a Dublin University Weekly)  March 10, 1960
CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT -- Gaiety Theatre
Few men of the present day theatre have sought so consistently to throw off the shackles of conventional drama as Hilton Edwards and Orson Welles have done. The combination of their talents promised an exciting evening's theatre--a promise which was richly fulfilled. In Chimes at Midnight, each part of Shakespeare's Henry IV has been cut to about a third of its length, and the two have then been skilfully welded into a coherent narrative by the introducton of a spoken commentary taken from Holinshed's Chronicles.
In the original, Falstaff's part in the action is almost incidental, but in this adaptation it is his relationship with young Hal, and the latter's relationship with his father, which are the main themes. The martial and political events of Shakespeare's two plays are very lightly passed over in this adaptation; Hotspur, for example, is given no time to develop as a character. A great deal of expendable Shakespearian material has been cut; the aim is to give a stirring impression of swift-moving events. The one weakness in the play lies in the ending, where Prince Hal's contemptuous  dismissal of Falstaff seems to point too narrow a moral. Kingly duty, for all its sanctity, seems to be a hollow thing when pitted against Falstaff's lovable vitality. It is true that the defect is present in Shakespeare's original, but it was intensified in the adaptation by the fact that the martial and patriotic aspects of the story received so little emphasis.
With this malleable material at his disposal, Hilton Edwards had ample scope for the demonstration of his fluid conception of the drama. The stage, which had several levels was left bare, although occasional use was made of representational pieces of scenery which served merely to suggest the setting. An army in progress was represented by a roll of drums and a man in armour carrying a banner. The deliberate avoidance of naturalistic effect had the result of vividly stimulating the imagination of the audience, and of imparting an extraordinary pace and panache to the production.
The acting varies from the mediocre to the brilliant. Orson Welles fills the stage with his immense bulk and his hugely whiskered face, and the theatre with his resonant vice and powerful dramatic presence. he captured the boastfulness, the mock hyprocrisy, the lovableness and the cowardice of the Fat Knight. yet there seemed to be something lacking. Perhaps the actor was tired after after the afternoon matinee, but Welles failed to put across the immense vigor of Falstaff. This lethargy extended even to his verse-speaking; his throwaway technique was engaging, but one quickly felt a lack of variation.
Keith Baxter as young Hal gave a performance of great dash and energy which was slightly marred by a lack of smoothness in his diction Reginald Jarman was superb as the King; he gave just the right impression of tortured strength, and he spoke the verse with noble authority. In smaller roles Patrick Bedford was a lively Poins, and Shirley Cameron conveyed admirably the earthy pathos in the character of Doll Tearsheet.
This is a memorable production, in which one partcular moment and one scene stand out. The moment is the sudden, shattering pathos which Welles brings to Falstaff's simple statement to Doll: "I'm old," and the scene, that in which whcih we see the dying King, alone and helpless, with only his crown beside him, in the huge emptiness of the stage.
B. R. R. A.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Bridging the gap to 1914

There were people standing outside the W. Plumb butcher's shop the other week, the first queue it's seen for years, maybe decades.

This was why:

14 young actors from the Brit School (the Adele & Amy Winehouse one) were playing the Plumb family in 1914, with the boys eager to go to war and the girls saying goodbye.

Here they are:

It worked. The space is atmospheric/spooky enough that everything feels distanced from the world outside, and the actors used their youth to be vulnerable and lost, then somehow switched it off (how, I have no idea) to act the adult parts. There was a girl with a very beautiful voice, a boy who turned first into Henry V and then into a butcher and another boy who went from child to corpse to meat. 

More things like this would be good.