London Town

I have a facsimile of one of the classic volumes from the great age of children's literature, when artists of real stature and skill used their talents to decorate the pages of books intended for the young.

This is the frontispiece.

"London Town" was the work of Ellen Houghton and Thomas Crane.
She specialized in children's books; Thomas Crane was the elder brother of Walter Crane, the famous painter, designer, writer and socialist.
It is an educational picture-book with a poem, or perhaps more accurately a rhyme, about each picture.
The book sets out to take its young readers on a pictorial tour through all the sights of our capital city, giving information as it goes.

This is a picture of a Yeoman Warder (inaccurately called a Beefeater in the verse) inside the walls of the Tower of London.

With more than 50 full-colour illustrations, this is a bright and lively Victorian romp through London, and gives a romantic view of the most popular attractions of the day.
It includes the very early underground, with a steam train at Portland Road Station, and children enjoying fresh milk being sold straight from the cow in St. James's Park.

This is one of the many Arcades.
You will have noticed that all the children in the book are comfortably off and well-dressed...

There is a picture of the British Museum, with nannies outside holding chubby babies.
On the railings is a notice saying "Babes in Arms are not Admitted"!

Another shows the Elephant giving rides at the Zoo. He was one of the wonders of the day.

Here we have the Punch and Judy man with his little dog Toby, and a crowd of little children ready for the show.
I have sat on the warm salt-smelling pebbles on Brighton beach as a child, watching just such a performance.

Next is a picture of a Muffin man (in the nursery rhyme, he lived in Drury Lane.)
When I was a little girl the Muffin man would come round the Brighton streets with his tray on his head, ringing his bell to advertise his wares.
Sadly, my mother never bought any.
They were hot, and smelled really good.

This dear little book was first published in 1883, and the facsimile edition is from Bracken Books, 1985.
It is excellently printed.
I found it in the shop at the Museum of of London.

A view of the Tower of London in Victorian days, with the sailing-ships and barges carrying goods up and down the river.
How things have changed!

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