Esoteric London

No. 477: Portsmouth Street, WC2

Posted in Pubs, Shops by esotericlondon on December 27, 2011

The Old Curiosity Shop, Portsmouth Street, London, WC2. Photo © Roger Dean 2011

The Wilds of London – James Greenwood, 1874:

If the spectacle revealed [in the Globe and Pigeons pub, Tiger Bay in the East End of London] was not enchanting, it was at least highly curious. It was like being “behind the scenes ” at a theatre during the pantomime season. A barn-like, long, narrow building with whitewashed walls, on which in flaming colours were a series of hideous pictures illustrative of the domestic habits and customs of the Chinese. There was a big fire-grate in the place, with a broad mantelpiece, on which reposed short pipes and splints, and a quart pot with beer in it, and with one of her naked arms resting lovingly against the pot, and a foot on the fender, stood the most magnificent female it was ever my lot to behold. Her hair was economized in its ornamentation of her fair head by a coronet of green leaves anti pearls, and her maiden blushes were modestly screened from public gaze by a substantial coating of some ruddy pigment; her bodice was low, as were not her skirts, and she wore scarlet shoes with brass heels.

[The Old Curiosity Shop on Portsmouth Street in Holborn, dates from 1567, and claims to be the inspiration for the shop in the novel of the same name by Dickens although there seems to be no evidence to support this. It is currently a shoe store. R.D.]