Esoteric London

No. 51: Britton Street, EC1

Posted in Markets, Wildlife by esotericlondon on May 10, 2010

_SHI5173v2 © Roger.Dean RGB copy

Britton Street, London, EC1. Photo © Roger Dean 2010

The Sydney Morning Herald – July 8th, 1869:

And now for the Bird Fair. It owes its origin – curious as the statement may sound – to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The expatriated French weavers brought their love of birds and flowers over to England with them, and handed the gentle tastes down to their descendants in Bethnal Green and Spitalfields – descendants who, in spite of their French names, now look upon French silk-weavers as foreign foes. Those dingy red and drab brick houses, with top storeys of dirty weather-board, and latticed oblongs that look like half a dozen casements run into one – the differentiating feature of the architecture of the weavers’ quarter – often contain most drearily bare rooms, but a bird-cage and a flower pot pretty generally form two items of the scanty furniture; and any traveller on the Great Eastern Railway must have noticed the numerous pigeon “dormers” planted on the black roofs, between the bristling chimney-pots, of the ineffably  gloomy mass of grimy brick through which the railway arches straddle into the terminus. In a colony of bird-fanciers, bird sellers have naturally established themselves, and hence bird-shops are almost as common in Club Row and its purlieus as they are in Great St. Andrew-street. (It is strange to hear rural chirpings and twitterings, and full bursts of song, in two of the most squalid districts of London, Bethnal Green and Seven Dials). In the streets which hold these East-end bird-shops, plebeian bird fanciers from all parts of London have got into the habit of assembling on Sunday morning – to make fresh purchases, to compare their pets, to get up singing matches between them, and to witness the finish of pigeon matches.

They begin to muster – men, hobbydehoys [sic], boys and mere children – about half-past 10; “high change” is at 12; and by a little after 1 the great gathering has melted away like a muddy snowball – the bird-fanciers still left to loaf about being chiefly cruel young scamps that are torturing the sparrows, etc., in which they have invested their few coppers.

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  1. […] For more birds see post No. 51 , No. 102 and No. 474. […]


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