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  • Toffs in Spitalfields

    An interesting 1885 Old Bailey trial.

    This makes Mr. Astrakhan decidedly downmarket.

    http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/brows...rset#highlight
    allisvanityandvexationofspirit

  • #2
    Thanks for that, Stephen.

    A good illustration of the fate that would inevitably befall these toffs on the very rare occasions when they ventured into that district with their finery improperly concealed. If this sort of thing could happen in mid-afternoon in company and carriage, just imagine what would happen in the small hours of the morning, in darkness, if the toff was alone in that district with his finery on display!

    Christmas wishes to all,

    Ben

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Stephen Thomas View Post
      An interesting 1885 Old Bailey trial.

      This makes Mr. Astrakhan decidedly downmarket.

      http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/brows...rset#highlight
      Thanks for this Stephen-the same thing happened in Holland Park Avenue a couple of years back to Lisa Minelli as she was driven by Taxi from Heathrow Airport to Central London!
      Norma

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Ben View Post
        Thanks for that, Stephen.

        A good illustration of the fate that would inevitably befall these toffs on the very rare occasions when they ventured into that district with their finery improperly concealed. If this sort of thing could happen in mid-afternoon in company and carriage, just imagine what would happen in the small hours of the morning, in darkness, if the toff was alone in that district with his finery on display!

        Christmas wishes to all,

        Ben
        Ben,
        I doubt it was that rare.If you are interested I will post some photos I took a couple of years back of the lavish 1734 interiors of one of the Huguenot mansions that line Fournier Street which runs alongside Hawksmoor"s C18th Christchurch .It is lined with Flemmish Silk tapestries and goldleaf chandeliers that have been hanging untouched for close on three hundred years and is truly palatial from start to finish.The famous architect of Christchurch,Wren"s pupil ,Nicholas Hawksmoor"s house is right next door.The point being that such luxury has existed alongside dire poverty--Dorset Street is directly opposite Brushfield Street[next to what was Dorset Street]-as a continuation of it through to Bishopsgate----and it still exists alongside the relative poverty of the Brick Lane side---certainly right through the 19th and 20th centuries.
        So there would have been "toffs" returning to their lodgings everyday by coach and horse and no doubt some days on foot.I doubt very much that every time they set foot outside their front doors they were "dressed down". Christchurch is one of the most elegant churches in London and has attracted an up market congregation throughout its existence.
        Best
        Norma

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Nats,

          I think that Ben's point is more about the time of day at which this happened. I'm with Ben on this - like he said, if this sort of thing could happen to a passing toff (being driven along in a coach!!) on a Thursday evening in Summer, then consider how much more risky it would have been for a well-attired man walking - alone! - in the small hours of a Winter's night. Not to mention the idea of such a man following a prostitute into a narrow court off Dorset Street, when the practice of "clipping" unwary customers was already well-known at that time.
          Kind regards, Sam Flynn

          "Suche Nullen" (Nietzsche, Götzendämmerung, 1888)

          Comment


          • #6
            True Sam.But the area was visited by such "toffs" just to meet up with prostitutes.Some its true were "catered for" in little rooms above the theatre given over to the purpose such as those in Wiltons Music Hall reserved specially for the "toffs".The area around Wilton"s was just as sleazy---near Cable Street/Leman Street and the "toffs" apparently arrived in their droves!But they sought the girls high and low from various accounts.
            Norma

            Comment


            • #7
              That's true, Natalie, but Wilton's heyday was before the 1880s. I think it's certainly arguable that the area had slid even further downhill since the mid 19th C. There's plenty of evidence, though, that the area itself saw a lot of well dressed folk prior to that time (cf. some of the London Monster's attacks), and I agree that they wouldn't have completely disappeared from the area. But I still agree with Sam and Ben that the toffs who sported around alone, down alleyways and back streets, in the small hours of the morning, were few and far between and liable to fall into all sorts of trouble.
              best,

              claire

              Comment


              • #8
                I doubt it was that rare
                It was rare, Natalie.

                Most emphatically so.

                Let us please be under no illusions about this one. As Gareth correctly discerned (and elaborated very well upon), my point was not that toffs were never physically present in the district, but rather that they were very unlikely to advertise their presence and wealth by rubbing shoulders with the poverty-striken in an area known for its "vicious, semi-criminal" element. Stephen provided a good illustration of what did occur when they ventured into the wrong district, and that was in daylight at 5.00pm in the afternoon. If a crime of that nature could occur when the toff had a carriage and company amid the 5pm masses, just think how that same toff would fare in the small hours of a winter night unaccompanied.

                I doubt very much that every time they set foot outside their front doors they were "dressed down".
                The locality under scruntiny was popularly alluded to as one of the worst slums in London, and any "toff" living nearby would have been well aware of this. He would not have ventured out into that district in the small hours, in that knowledge, blinged up to the hilt, unless he was many gherkins short of a sarnie. I think too much can be made of the notion that toffs went there just for the prostitutes. Prostitution ran rampant throughout London, and there were more concentrated prozzie hot spots than Whitechapel and Spitalfields.

                Best regards,
                Ben
                Last edited by Ben; 12-26-2008, 01:20 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Sir Christopher Frayling was one of the speakers at The Jack the Ripper/ Docklands Museum of London talks last Summer, Ben.He has done in depth research on it and told us that Whitechapel was actually THE hotspot for the toffs to cavort with prostitutes and that it was a lesser known fact they came in droves to do so.He spoke at some length about the scandal of some numbers of them arriving in their finery-top hats and all etc and sitting flamboyantly in the front rows,choosing the chorus girl they wanted and then going to rooms upstairs ,specially allocated for the purpose.He emphasised the way the East End was "used" as a brothel in this way-and not just the music halls, by such regular "visitors" and that it was one of those lesser known uses it had for these Hurrah Henrys!There were others there who come on casebook who can verify what I am saying here Ben.
                  Last edited by Natalie Severn; 12-26-2008, 02:01 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by claire View Post
                    That's true, Natalie, but Wilton's heyday was before the 1880s. I think it's certainly arguable that the area had slid even further downhill since the mid 19th C. There's plenty of evidence, though, that the area itself saw a lot of well dressed folk prior to that time (cf. some of the London Monster's attacks), and I agree that they wouldn't have completely disappeared from the area. But I still agree with Sam and Ben that the toffs who sported around alone, down alleyways and back streets, in the small hours of the morning, were few and far between and liable to fall into all sorts of trouble.
                    Hi Claire,
                    Sir Christopher Frayling had researched this in depth and the year he was talking about was 1888 and was quite specific to the murders of Jack the Ripper.He also pointed out that this was why numbers of people at the time thought the Ripper was a toff, and the next step was ofcourse that certain toffs started to get named like the Duke of Clarence----who in fact made several "recorded" visits at least to Toynbee Hall from 1885 through to 1889/90.Not that I think Clarence was the ripper or anything-just that he did know the East End-he had actually visited it etc.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Would it getting too far off the point to suggest that even if a better off fellow wouldn't necessarily have dressed down like one of the boys, he'd want to be a bit more discreet about displaying his wealth if he was on his way to carve somebody up?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Ben View Post
                        If a crime of that nature could occur when the toff had a carriage and company amid the 5pm masses, just think how that same toff would fare in the small hours of a winter night unaccompanied.

                        <snip>

                        The locality under scruntiny was popularly alluded to as one of the worst slums in London, and any "toff" living nearby would have been well aware of this. He would not have ventured out into that district in the small hours, in that knowledge, blinged up to the hilt, unless he was many gherkins short of a sarnie.
                        I see what you're saying, Ben. And I agree that any well to do living close to the locality would surely, or at least probably would have been aware of its reputation, therefore careful to keep valuables hidden if venturing that way unless either clueless (you put it delightfully, a new one on me. In my part of Georgia we say not enough butter in their grits) or Brahms. But what about other 'toffs' who didn't live nearby, naively perhaps, thinking what fun to go to lower areas to score, in the way that Norma is explaining? I can quite easily picture higher class men, maybe more so a couple or few younger men together, unaware of the risk of wandering around parts they're not familiar with 'for a hoot' with their airs on show, which even if their valuables weren't on show their airs would surely have been a dead giveaway. Equally, unsuspecting tourists. To explain why I can easily picture something of that sort, I grew up (long, long ago) in one of the low, bad parts of Portsmouth, where it wasn't unusual for posh young Naval Officers to wander out of their state rooms thinking we girls would be more easily swayed by them than the regular skate. And many girls were, by the posh accent and thoughts that a flash of money, maybe a future would surely happen next. As many a mugging would happen as well.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Natalie Severn View Post
                          Sir Christopher Frayling...
                          ...a most erudite man, for whom I have the utmost respect, Nats, but an art historian, first and foremost. This is not to second-guess what he may have found in his - doubtless rigorous - research, but a "red light district" is one thing, a haunt of slummers and mawkish and/or sincere middle-class philanthropists quite another. It is the latter category that Whitechapel/Spitalfields seems to have fallen into.

                          I've no doubt that toffs patronised places like Wilton's in order to pick up a bit of chorus-line skirt, but that's a world - no, a universe - apart from cruising for the halitotic, superannuated wrecks that roamed the streets of Spitalfields at 1 or 2 in the morning.
                          Kind regards, Sam Flynn

                          "Suche Nullen" (Nietzsche, Götzendämmerung, 1888)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            He has done in depth research on it and told us that Whitechapel was actually THE hotspot for the toffs to cavort with prostitutes and that it was a lesser known fact they came in droves to do so
                            So have I, Norma, or else I wouldn't be contributing to this thread, and I've arrived at a very different conclusion. There were higher concentrations of prostitutes elsewhere in the East End, and the notion that Whitechapel was regarded as the toff mecca in the East End is simply not supported by the evidence. There was simply no need to flock to Whitechapel in droves purely to secure prostitutes because there were so many elsewhere, especially in the better-heeled areas where the chances of getting your incautiously displayed gold watch and chain pinched (followed by a thump for your troubles) was markedly reduced.

                            There's no doubt that outsiders visited the East End, but that's quite different to skulking in one of the very worst criminal hotspots alone in the small hours, dressed up like a swaggering peacock, let alone becoming familiar with the place in the process. It's like walking into Harlem with an "I Hate ******s" sign. I don't agree that the suspicions towards toffs had anything to do with any appreciable number of them flocking to the East End. It is more likely that the influence of Jekyl and Hyde, and Sherlock Holmes weighed on public conscious, then and now. It is simply more titilating for some to believe that a dastardly rogue in top hat and tails was responsible for the murders, rather than an impoverished non-entity who didn't draw attention to himself.

                            Best regards,
                            Ben
                            Last edited by Ben; 12-26-2008, 05:31 AM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Hi Lyn,

                              But what about other 'toffs' who didn't live nearby, naively perhaps, thinking what fun to go to lower areas to score, in the way that Norma is explaining?
                              I think he would have learned the hard way; derobed to an extent and most probably divested of any shiny items he may have had on display. They'd have to be pretty seriously naive though, since the nature of the district was referred to so often in the newspapers, particularly at the time of the murders. It would be quite surprising for anyone to be "unaware" of the risks, especially if they were habitual Telegraph readers!

                              Best regards,
                              Ben

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