London Poverty Maps for #FamilyHistory

If you’re researching London ancestors, this website is very interesting and useful for expanding your family story.

Charles Booth’s London

Charles James Booth (1840-1916) was an English philanthropist and social researcher. He is most renowned for his innovative work documenting working class life in London at the end of the 19th century. You might have seen the BBC2 series The Secret History of Our Streets which referred to the Charles Booth Poverty Maps throughout the series.
This link will take you to The Poverty Maps and they are fascinating.

The population is categorised from the lowest class (Vicious, semi-criminal) through Poor (18s to 21s a week for a moderate family) to the top of the scale Upper middle and Upper (Wealthy). Click on “Legend” on the left of the map to see the categories in more detail and to understand the colour coding of the streets and their associated poverty levels.

You can zoom in and out of the map and if you’re interested in particular streets then use the search box top left.

And not to mention the notebooks! You could spend weeks reading these fascinating documents.

Some of our London ancestors lived in the St-George-in-the-East, Watney Street, Commercial Road area of the East End which is categorised variously from “Lowest class. Vicious, Semi criminal” to “Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings”.

From about 1910 to 1940, Michael’s mother, Rose Murray, lived with her parents and sister in Planet Street in the centre of this zone. In the nineteenth century, Planet Street was known as Star Street and there was a pub of that name in the vicinity.

In 1898 when Charles Booth visited Star Street as part of his mapping exercise he categorised the street as “Very poor. Casual. Chronic want” so life in Star Street was tough.

Later on, life in Planet Street was still tough.

Rose used to tell this tale from the late 1920s:

I’d gone out dancing with some friends and we’d met some boys who walked us home. At the top of Planet Street, my friend Phoebe said to the boys, “Come and have a drink with us at home.”

One of these boys said, “What in Hammer and Chopper Street? No thanks. Good Night,” and off they went.

Despite it’s apparent reputation, Rose always had fond memories of the time she lived in Planet Street.

If you’ve ancestors who lived in London during the Victorian era, Charles Booth’s London is a gold mine of information.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

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How rare or common is your surname?

This has to be one of the most useful family history websites

More High Street shopping history






Who was the first woman to drive a London bus?

London bus

When I was writing Jam for Tea I recalled that the first woman to be blasted up into space was the Russian, Valentina Tereshkova.

Sometime later I found myself trying to remember the name of the first British woman to make that exciting journey into space. It was of course Helen Sharman who was born in 1963 just one month before Valentina Tereshkova made her historic flight.

Learning about Helen Sharman inspired me to find out about other British women trailblazers.

I’ve read the stories of some amazing women and found some Internet gems as well.

For example, this YouTube film clip is a fantastic record of the first woman to drive a London bus.

Her name was Jill Viner and she took her place behind the wheel in 1974.

Women were not allowed to drive London buses until the 1970s and the passing of the Sex Discrimination Act.

Jill Viner was working as a London bus conductress and immediately took advantage of the new opportunities offered by the change in the law and applied to qualify as a driver.

British Movietone News filmed Jill’s first day at work explaining that she’d wanted to be a bus driver since she was eight years old.

In the 1970s London Transport was short of over three thousand drivers to run a full service and it might be thought that Jill was kicking at an open door.

However the rampant sexism of the era was encapsulated in the Movietone commentary which was riddled with prejudice and stereotyping. In less than a minute the voiceover managed to include: “Well, it’s the end of all those jokes about women drivers. Like it or lump it…. We men have brought it on ourselves. Red-headed Jill…. says she’ll wear the trousers. But with a pretty girl like Jill at the wheel, who’s complaining?”

Despite Jill’s achievement in 1974 it looks as though Transport for London is still having to work hard to encourage women to work in transport.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

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Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova born #OnThisDay in 1937

Visiting London in the 1950s

Book of the Day

Following the sale of Leefdale’s Old Rectory, several villagers find themselves drastically affected by the actions of their new neighbours.

Sleepy, picturesque Leefdale soon becomes a place of bitter conflict which attracts the attention of a boorish political reporter and the national media who are in pursuit of a much bigger story.

By the end of the summer the lives of three women will be transformed irrevocably.

Leefdale #Kindle #KindleUnlimited

Visiting London in the 1950s


This film clip of a drive round London in the 1950s is a little gem. The film has been enhanced and stabilised and has a lovely piano accompaniment.

Apparently the route is:

Kensington High Street

Allen Street

Abingdon Street

Phillimore Gardens

Upper Phillimore Gardens

Kensington High Street

Argyll Road

Phillimore Gardens again.

In the 1950s my family went on a visit to London. We stayed for three nights in a B&B in South Kensington.

We did all the sights and had a day at London Zoo where we saw the famous Chimps Tea Party. Four chimpanzees were taken by their keepers to sit at a picnic table and drink tea and eat sandwiches, cakes and lollipops. The highlight, of course, was when one of the chimps drank straight out of the teapot. The chimps didn’t seem to mind being the source of so much public amusement and at least they weren’t wearing dresses which was what happened when you saw chimps at the circus.

We went to look at Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament which we recognised from the H.P. Sauce bottle.

HP sauce
image credit: By ChrisDC62 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons
We went to see the Tower of London and threw pennies to the mudlarks at the foot of Tower Bridge; admired lots of paintings in the National Gallery; fed the ducks in St. James’ Park and the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. We also paid our respects to the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey.

In the summer of 1965 we visited London again. This time to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. The excitement of London now that it was Swinging was even greater than before. We had a day ticket and caught the train from Peterborough railway station and were in the capital a couple of hours later.

Our dad decided that our education would benefit from an immersion in art and we spent much of the day in the National Gallery. The highlight of the visit was seeing the Leonardo Cartoon which had been purchased a couple of years earlier by the gallery after a well-publicised appeal for donations.

Leonardo cartoon
image credit: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Then after a brisk walk round St James’ Park and a Lyons Corner House for something to eat and we headed to South Kensington for the concert.

The programme for the concert was:

Neville Marriner directing the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in a Handel concerto. The premiere of Michael Tippett’s piano concerto conducted by the composer with John Ogden as soloist. After the interval Malcolm Sargent conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Singers in a performance of Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

At the time we loved The Planets and didn’t mind the Handel. However we hated the Tippett and couldn’t wait for it to finish. Listening to it again over fifty years later, I’ve enjoyed it!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

You can read more of my memories from the 1950s and 60s in Cabbage and Semolina and Jam for Tea available in ebook for Kindle and paperback.

C&S pink
Only 99p




How to wear your bowler 1960s style

bowler hat

I haven’t had a hat post for a few days and thought this one was worth a look.

And this stock film from Pinewood Studio of rush hour crowds crossing London Bridge is really good quality. No sign of Swinging London yet but a good shot of a police officer on a raised platform controlling the traffic so pedestrians can cross the road safely. (About 3.17). Good shots of footwear right at the end and overall a great impression of early 1960s working class fashion. If someone added a musical score, this film would make a mini City Symphony.

Thanks for visiting my blog today:

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Crazy Hats from the 1950s

Library for hats?

Sunday hat designing competition 1945

Book Promotion

Leefdale is busily preparing for the 2001 Magnificent Britain Gardening Competition.
Unfortunately, the sale of The Old Rectory and its exemplary gardens threatens the hopes of many of Leefdale’s residents. More details.

Leefdale by Michael Murray

Henry Wood was born #OnThisDay in 1869

Henry Wood

Sir Henry Joseph Wood

was an English conductor best known for his association with London’s annual series of promenade concerts known as The Proms.

Henry Wood conducted The Proms for nearly half a century, introducing hundreds of new works to British audiences.

After his death in 1944, the concerts were officially renamed in his honour as The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, although they continued to be generally referred to as The Proms.

In the summer of 1965 (when I was about fourteen) my dad decided we should go to The Proms at the Royal Albert Hall.

We had a day ticket and caught the train from Peterborough railway station on August 19th and were in the capital a couple of hours later. We did some tourist stuff and then after a Lyons Corner House for something to eat we headed to South Kensington for the concert.

We were overawed by the vastness of the Albert Hall and by the size of the audience, which was far greater than anything we’d experienced before.

The programme started with Neville Marriner directing the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in a Handel concerto while he played the violin. Impressive!

This was followed by the premiere of Michael Tippett’s piano concerto conducted by the composer himself. The soloist was John Ogden and the music was execrable.

After the interval Malcolm Sargent conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Singers in a performance of “The Planets”.

We’d been listening to this on a gramophone record for weeks and loved every minute.

Thanks very much, Sir Henry Wood, for a wonderful experience and a very Happy 149th Birthday.

This is the only clip I can find of Sir Henry actually conducting. It’s the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus performing Vaughan William’s Serenade to Music in 1938.

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

You might also like Don’t you think this is a beautiful music video?

and Book of the Day at




On This Day in 1939 the first Anderson Shelter was erected.

anderson shelter

In November 1938, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain placed Sir John Anderson in charge of Air Raid Precautions.

Anderson immediately commissioned the engineer, William Patterson, to design a small and cheap shelter that could be erected in people’s gardens.

The first ‘Anderson’ shelter was erected in a garden in Islington, London on 25 February 1939.

Between then and the outbreak of the war in September, around 1.5 million shelters were distributed to people living in areas expected to be bombed by the Luftwaffe.

During the war a further 2.1 million Anderson shelters were erected.

An estimated 50,000 lives were saved by use of the Anderson shelters although critics think there were better alternatives and only 27% of Londoners actually had their own shelter. 9% of the capital’s residents used public shelters and 4% went down the underground while the majority were either involved in night work or just stayed indoors.

anderson shelter
image credit: By Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

anderson shelter
image credit: By Press Agency photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Anderson shelters were uncomfortable especially in cold weather prompting the government to issue advice to improve the situation.

More information about Anderson shelters on the History for Kids website and on Anderson Bomb Shelters. 

Thanks for visiting my blog today.

You might also like Sweets came off ration #OnThisDay in 1953


Book of the Day at

The longest running British stage play opened in London #OnThisDay in 1952.


The Mousetrap is a murder mystery play by Agatha Christie.

The Mousetrap opened in London’s West End on 25th November 1952 and has been running continuously since then.

It’s the longest running West End show with over 26,000 performances.

Agatha Christie herself did not expect The Mousetrap to run for such a long time.

In her autobiography, Christie reports a conversation that she had with Peter Saunders, the theatre impresario and producer of the show. Saunders thought the show would run for about fourteen months. To which Christie replied, “It won’t run that long. Eight months perhaps. Yes, I think eight months.”

The original West End cast included Richard Attenborough as Detective Sergeant Trotter and his wife Sheila Sim as Mollie Ralston. They took a 10% profit-participation in the production, which was paid for out of their combined weekly salary.

The murderer’s identity is divulged near the end of the play in a twist ending. By tradition, at the end of each performance, audiences are asked not to reveal the identity of the killer to anyone outside the theatre, to ensure that the end of the play is not spoilt for future audiences.

We went to see the show years ago but I can’t remember what happened in the end, so I can’t tell you anyway!

Thanks for reading  my blog today.

You might also enjoy Stately Homes in Fiction and Films on  Cabbage and Semolina Blog.

Please check out my Book of the Day.

Hope you have a great day! 🙂

It’s National Tea Day!

cup of tea

April 21st is National Tea Day

and if you’re in London you can go to the official

National Tea Day

celebrations at Kensington Roof Garden.

I live miles away from London

but can offer two blogposts to celebrate the occasion.

You might like to know

How to make a cup of tea Victorian style.

And if you’re in literary mode you might like

5 Best Literary Tea Quotes.

The National Tea Day website recommends drinking four cups of tea per day.

I’ve only had one cup of tea this morning,

so time to put the kettle on!

Whether you’re a tea drinker or not, hope you have a great day.

Today’s book promo:

A Single To Filey

With such a baffling case to solve how can DCI Forward find time for “The Cherry Orchard”?

Follow this link to find out more and read a free sample:

Does London need a garden bridge?

garden bridge

I usually start the day with a cup of tea and a quick look through the BBC News website.

Today one story on my iPad was headed up: Garden  Bridge project “nearly collapsed”.

I don’t live in London so this plan for a new bridge to span the River Thames has passed me by.

The architect’s drawing accompanying the article on the BBC News site reminded me of those miniature gardens we used to make when we were kids. Did you do that? Take an old tray or a shoe box lid; line the tray with soil; pick some tiny flowers and grasses from the garden or wherever your favourite play space was; shove the flowers in the soil; add a bit of mirror or broken glass for a pond; include any little chairs from the doll’s house that fit the scene…… and then throw it all in the bin a couple of hours later when the flowers have wilted.

In other words, it’s not real.

The idea for this garden bridge seems preposterous and a complete waste of money. A sentiment echoed in officialdom: Scrap garden bridge to avoid wasting more public funds, report says and It looks like London won’t be getting a Garden Bridge after all.

The latest Garden Bridge Trust accounts make interesting reading.

Citing the accounts filed with Companies House in January, a spokesperson for the Garden Bridge Trust told the BBC that the Trust had been transparent about the Garden Bridge not being a going concern at the present time.

It seems that without a huge injection of taxpayer’s cash this project has no chance of survival.

I assume this cash is to be raised from Londoners, not from the whole of the country.

It’s many years since I lived and worked in London, or even visited the city, but surely London has enough bridges and could spend it’s spare cash on something more necessary.