Category Archives: London

Another view of Sir Josh

From “My Life in Two Hemispheres”  by Charles Gavan Duffy,  Chapter 19 (Book 3, Chapter 3). Sir Charles Gavan Duffy (1816-1903), was an Irish nationalist and politician in Victoria, Australia; ending up as State Premier. He was born on 12 April 1816 in Monaghan, Ireland, son of John Duffy, shopkeeper, and his wife Ann, daughter of Patrick Gavan of Latnamard. Reading and dreaming over his few books, he grew up during the struggle for Catholic emancipation and his nationalism was kindled by stories of [the Irish “rebellion”] in1798. He boasted that he was the ‘first Catholic emancipated in Ireland’ as most of his schooling was at the local Presbyterian academy.

” Sir Joshua Walmsley, a former mayor of Liverpool, who had become spokesman of a Parliamentary group of Reformers, resting on a political society outside, appears a good deal in the diary of this date, but as nothing came of his coquetting with the Irish party one specimen will suffice:—

“Excused myself for Sunday to Walmsley (he had invited me to meet a number of his political friends at dinner, but I was engaged to Richard Swift and a muster of our own men). As he wanted to talk we dined soon after tête-à-tête at Bellamy’s. All popular questions, he thought, including the Irish Land Question, ought to be postponed till an extension of the franchise was obtained; then, and then only, would everything be possible. I told him that nobody familiar with the condition of Ireland would consent to a fresh postponement of the Land Question on any pretence. He thought Cobden and Bright might be induced to lead the franchise movement if it became wide enough to promise a speedy success. I said I would be glad to see the franchise become the English question of the day, and it would get substantial Irish help. In Ireland the franchise had dwindled away till genuine popular representation had almost disappeared. We wanted an extension urgently, but the farmer wanted the right to live on his own land so much more that it was idle to speak of the questions together. He talked of Cobden with affection. He was a truly generous man, he said. His American investments had not turned out well, but he was always ready to put his hand in his pocket for a public purpose. A fund was raised to sustain Kossuth, and Cobden gave £50 a year, while many other conspicuous Liberals, including Bright, would not give a penny. I spoke, of Hazlitt, Cobbett, Leigh Hunt, Hone, and the martyrs and confessors of Radicalism, but modern Radicalism does not apparently keep a calendar. He knew more of Edward Whitty, Linton, and The Orchestra of the Leader, but his esteem is moderate for any one who does not regard an extension of the suffrage as a specific for human woes. I asked him about Roebuck. Roebuck, he said, was privateering, and could no longer be counted on by any popular section. He loved no party, and no party loved him. My own observation confirms this description. I had some talk with him lately in the Library, and he seemed embittered and disappointed beyond any one I had ever encountered; his face had an expression that was scarcely human. I compared it mentally to the aspect of an angry dog—venomous and dangerous. He used to be called the most conceited man in Parliament, but his unkempt hair, stooping figure, and flabby look give him the appearance of a ruin.”


National Building Society: A Link With Cobden And Bright.

This was from the Times in 1935, entitled:  ” A Link With Cobden And Bright: The  History Of The National Building Society. “ The National Building Society started as the National Permanent Mutual Benefit Building Society founded by two Liberal M.P’s, Sir Joshua Walmsley and Richard Cobden, in 1849. In 1944, the Abbey Road Building Society  and National Building Society merged to become The Abbey National, which it remained until 2004 when it was bought by Santander. At the time, Sir Josh and Richard Cobden were next-door neighbours in Westbourne Terrace. Both houses were slightly larger than the ” modest villa(s) ” they were promoting. Both houses were six storeys, with twenty rooms, and in 1851 the Walmsleys had a household staff of six.



The history of the National Building Society, which dates its beginning from a meeting at the London Tavern, Bishopsgate, in 1849, is related by Mr. George Elkington, F.R.T.B.A., chairman of the society, in “The National Building Society, 1849-1934,” just published (W. Heffer and Sons, Cambridge).

The original meeting decided to form a society for the purchase of land to enable members to qualify as voters by acquiring a plot of land of the annual value of £40. Among the founders were the leaders of the Anti-Corn Law agitation, Richard Cobden, John Bright, Joseph Hume, and Sir Joshua Walmsley.

In its early days the movement had many enemies. Mr. Elkington quotes from an article on the Reform Bill in a magazine published in 1852:-” You have only to walk to Stoke Newington, and at the back of the Coach and Horses Lane you will see the new-fledged free- holders all working like negroes to raise up a modern Utopia.”

The original political object of the movement soon passed, and the society is entitled to look upon itself as one of the pioneers of the great building society movement. The cost of building 80 years ago, when compared with the price of modem houses, seems incredible.

In a circular published in 1854, the directors of the society presented articles and plans descriptive of houses ” suited to the wants of a considerable number of members.” The first of these was a modest villa containing on the ground floor a front and back parlour, hall and kitchen, and on the upper storey a landing and three bedrooms. The cost of erection was estimated, ” in the near neighbourhood of London, at £160.” [ a modern day equivalent of £115,000] “The next design, somewhat more ambitious, was for a pair of houses with, for each house, a half-sunk basement containing two kitchens, a ground floor with hall, dining room, parlour, bathroom, and one bedroom, and an upper storey with three bedrooms and a dressing room. The estimated cost was £700 a pair. [ a modern day equivalent of £500,000]

The period since the War is described by Mr. Elkington as the years of swift expansion. The present time, he says, finds the building society movement with a remarkable history of swift expansion still actively progressing and discovering fresh opportunities of service int its wide field.

from The Times, January 18, 1935

The Sunday Bands 1856

Rotten Row c1900

Yesterday the public promenade in Hyde Park and Kensington-gardens assumed its ordinary appearance on a Sunday. There was no attempt at music by a private band, as on the previous Sunday, nor any disturbance whatever. The weather was remarkably fine, and great numbers of people, including a large proportion of the higher classes, thronged the walks along the Serpentine and in the gardens, but no circumstance occurred to interrupt the common enjoyment, and the excitement consequent on the withdrawal of the music may be said, in Hyde Park at least, to have passed away.

A band, organized by the society established for securing the performance of Sunday music in the parks, played in the Regent’s Park, on the stage erected for the performances of the band of the Second Life Guards on Sunday afternoons, prior to its suppression by the Government. It appears that, although the Government refused to countenance the performance of military bands in the parks on Sunday afternoons, intimation was given to Sir John Shelley, Sir Joshua Walmsley, and other supporters of the movement, that if the people chose to have private bands of their own in the Regent’s and Victoria Parks on Sunday afternoons they would not be interfered with.

During the week workmen had been employed, under the direction of Sir B. Hall, as Chief Commissioner of Public Works, and with the sanction of the Government, in re-erecting the stages, in order that military bands might play in Victoria Park on Wednesday and in the Regent’s Park on Friday afternoons, and we have authority for stating that Sir John Shelley took it upon himself the responsibility of directing that the ” People’s Band “ should avail themselves of the advantages of the stages already erected in both parks yesterday afternoon.

Shortly before 4 o’clock a well-appointed band of 30 performers, conducted by Mr. F. Pierce, mounted the stage, and commenced playing the March from the ” Stabat Mater,”  which was followed by the Polacca, Spanish (Godfrey);  Valse-” Fleuré die Marie” (Jullien);  Duetto-” I know a bank” (Bishop); “Pas Redoublé Nationale” (Tidswell);  Grand March (Hope); Valse-” Sylvan”  (Tinney);  Selection –” Lucia di Lammermoor “ (Donizetti);  Quadrille (D’Alhert); and Gallop-            ” Victory” (Anon). The performance concluded with a verse of  ” Partant pour Ia Syrie,” and ” God save the Queen.” Among the vast assembly were observed Sir John Shelley, Sir Joshua Walmsley, M.P.., Sir Henry Halford, M.P., and Mr. W. Williams, M.P. The greatest order prevailed throughout  the afternoon, and the moment tho band had concluded the people quietly dispersed.

the above text was from the Times, Monday June 2, 1856. p.7

National Sunday League 1867

The annual meeting of the National Sunday League was held last evening at St. Martin’s Hall, Sir Joshua Walmsley in the chair. [Sir Josh was seventy three at the time; and rather entertainingly St Martin’s Hall had been the venue for the First International three years earlier. It had a 500 seat lecture theatre, and a 3,000 seat main hall. It was on Long Acre, in Convent Garden.]

The chairman having briefly addressed the meeting congratulating it on the success which had attended the movement, the secretary read the report for the past twelve months, which stated that during the year the organization of the League was consolidated, and its internal arrangements considerably modified to meet the requirements of the members. Parliament would shortly be called upon to consider the laws which now denied to the masses rational freedom and recreation on Sunday. In the Spring on two Sundays, the Council invited Crystal Palace shareholders to spend social and recreative afternoons with them at the Crystal Palace, and on each occasion 600 were present. Discourses on Egypt, Pompeii, the extinct animals, &c., were delivered by various friends, and the resources of the Palace and grounds fully availed of for the purposes of instruction. Tho public notice taken of those Sunday meetings by the press was followed by a Sabbatarian memorial to the directors for the suppression of the practice, but their efforts had been defeated by the decisive resolution of tho Board.

The Sunday bands in the parks had proved as popular as hitherto. The Church Congresses at York and Rochester had given striking proofs that the more liberal-minded among the clergy were determined that puritanical views should not any longer sever the people from the Church. The Rev. Newman Hall, Mr.Samuel Morley, and others had expressed views considerably in advance for liberty and toleration of the policy hitherto experienced from the party to which they belonged. Ten Sunday evening meetings had been held at St. Martin’s Hall, which had been conducted by an association distinct from the League. Mr. Baxter, the chairman of the Lord’s Day’s Society, had instituted a prosecution against the lessee of St. Martin’s Hall for permitting that institution being used for popular Sunday services. Sir Thomas Henry had, however, left the trying of the question on its real issue to a superior court. The Press had spoken out fearlessly on the opening of museums and providing rational recreation for the people. It had been said that the League was in favour of Sunday trading. Such was not the case, but at the same time it was necessary that ” some must work that all may rest.” The primary object of the League was to open national museums and galleries, and the opportunity for action, which must come before long, would no doubt find a Council as ready as that which had acted during tho past twelvemonths. The chairman moved the adoption of the report, which was seconded by Sir John Bowring, and carried unanimously. Addresses were then delivered by Mr. Baxter Langley, and others, and the meeting terminated after a vote of thanks had been accorded to Sir Joshua Walmsley for his dignified conduct in the chair.

the above text was from the Times, Friday March 22, 1867. p.12.

The Parliamentary Reform Association – 1849

This was about a month after the Parliamentary and Financial Reform Association had been set up in 1849 by John Bright, Joseph Hume, Sir Joshua Walmsley, and George Wilson, amongst others, to campaign for parliamentary reform, and reduced government expenditure. The argument being put forward that an increased electorate would naturally vote for less, rather than more government spending.


Yesterday evening a meeting of the inhabitants of the borough of Finsbury was held in Sadler’s Wells Theatre, for the purpose of supporting the views and objects of the Metropolitan Parliamentary and Financial Reform Association, Sir Joshua Walmsley, M.P., in the chair. Before entering upon the business of the evening, letters from several gentlemen apologising for their unavoidable absence, were read. Amongst the names were those of Messr. C.J. Fox, E Miall, C. Lushington, T. Wakley, and T. Duncombe, who in his rote enclosed a check for £10.,to be applied to the purposes of the association.

The chairman in his address to the meeting referred to the great inequality in the present system of representation, both as regarded the numbers of people and the amount of property represented.  These evils could only be met by an extension of the suffrage to every adult male who paid anything towards the poor rates, by a more equal apportionment of the electoral districts, and also by the abolition  of the property qualification. In addition to these it was the conviction of the members of the association that the principle of voting by ballot, and  triennial Parliaments were essentially necessary to that which it was their object to attain –  a full, free, and fair representation of the people in Parliament.

Mr G. Thompson, M.P. proposed  the first resolution, as follows: ”  That the absence of a really representative House of Commons, the preponderance of class legislation, the unequal pressure of taxation, the general extravagance of the public expenditure, and the consequences of these evils, engendering discontent and threatening disorders fatal to the political and social prosperity of this empire render the combination of the middle and working classes for the attainment of the reform advocated by the Metropolitan Parliamentary and Financial Reform Association a matter of momentous importance to the State.”

Mr  Thompson, after stating that Mr. Wakley was so much indisposed as to be unable to attend without danger to his life, proceeded to call to the remembrance of the meeting all the reforms which had been carried since the great one of Catholic Emancipation, and advocated the system of peaceful agitation as a weapon which the higher powers had always been unable to cope with, and which was the only means by which they could at present attain their end. Mr.Thompson referred to the disturbances of the continent, and the fact that the English people had not followed the example set them of warring against their own Government, as a proof that they deserved the extension of the suffrage that they asked. They did not seen to sap the foundations of the throne, nor to do anything to disturb the most illustrious lady in the land (enthusiastic cheering which lasted some time), nor did they wish to disturb the House of Lords (a storm of yells and hisses) They sought simply a fair representation of the people, and that they would obtain whether the reform came sooner or later. (Great cheers.) Mr. Barney seconded this resolution, which was carried nem. con.; and others of a similar tendency were proposed and carried, several gentlemen addressing the meeting in support of them. The meeting, which was a very crowded one, the theatre being filled in every part, separated at a late hour, after a vote of thanks to the chairman.

The above text was from the Times Tuesday June 19, 1849. p.8

More Parliamentary Reform – 1850

The Parliamentary and Financial Reform Association was set up in May 1849 by John Bright, Joseph Hume, Sir Joshua Walmsley, and George Wilson, amongst others, to campaign for parliamentary reform, and reduced government expenditure. The argument being put forward that an increased electorate would naturally vote for less, rather than more government spending.

In the old days of coach travelling an unprofessional stranger intruded himself into the commercial room of a roadside inn. He was received with ready courtesy by the previous guests, and was invited to take part in the convivial mysteries of the evening. No questions were asked; the false brother remained undetected until the time for the bootjack and the flat-candlestick had arrived. On rising to take his leave for the night the stranger’s ears were assailed with cries from all sides of  ” Sir, the usual thing-the usual thing!”  It appeared that the custom of the house was that every guest should, before rising from table, favour the company with ” a toast, song, or sentiment,” and any one of the three would have been accepted as ” the usual thing.” Let us leave the pseudo-bagman to get out of the scrape as best he may, and turn to the proceedings of the Parliamentary Reform Association, which held its annual meeting yesterday at the London Tavern.

Now, the first thing that strikes the mind on reading through the addresses of the various orators, is what we will venture to call their customary dullness. They resemble each other, and all speeches on the same subject, delivered by the average run of platform orators, as closely as the ” Want Places “ of the maids of all work. They are the ” usual thing “.  An elderly gentleman with a turn for political excitement, or a young and aspiring politician who has an eye upon Finsbury for a future day, as a matter of course, endeavours to convince his fellow-countrymen that they constitute the most oppressed and ill-governed community on the surface of the globe. He exhorts them to union in the most pathetic terms, just as though serious endeavours were made to scatter amongst them the seeds of discord and jealousy.

He represents the upper and lower-let us rather say the richer and poorer classes, throughout the empire as in a natural position of antagonism. He attributes all moral virtues and all political principle to the struggling and the indigent; the more opulent are of course excluded from any share in these moral elevations of character. He shows the frightful injustice of excluding from. the political franchise any class of our fellow-subjects. He figures out a haughty aristocracy as battening. and fattening upon the vitals of the people.

Half-a-dozen instances are quoted of such application of the public money as may-be most likely to elicit from the meeting a few rounds of groans and hisses – and so, with the customary rhodomontade about ” freedom’s battle,” and the customary assurance that a violent change in the political constitution of the country would put an instant end to everything in the shape of jobbery or corruption, the orator of progress brings his address to a conclusion. Such a speech as this is ” the usual thing ;” and of such speeches was the business of yesterday’s meeting made up. There is, a difficulty in dealing with such a subject – a serious discussion would lead to nothing more profitable than an interchange of the driest platitudes.

The trade of political agitation has in this division of the empire seldom proved a profitable one to its professors. The opinions of the majority, the prejudices of the majority, the interests of the majority are in favour of a gradual development of our political institutions, and are diametrically opposed to any sudden and violent change. It required upwards of half-a-century of sharp struggle before the bulk of the community could be induced to pronounce in favour of out present representative system. Under this altered system changes of enormous importance have taken place. Religious disabilities have been removed; fiscal burdens have been repealed; the whole commercial system of the empire has been altered; reforms in the doctrine and practice of the laws have been extensively introduced. It would not be wise to draw from all these facts an inference against timely changes at a future day, but at least they furnish us with abundant reason for caution and circumspection.

The argument is no longer what it was before the passing of the Reform Act. In the main, the will of the English people is law. It may be obstructed fora time, it may be diverted from its object for a session, the personal views of a Minister or the prejudices of a class may, for a brief moment, interpose between the formation and accomplishment of the people’s wish, but, in the end, it is listened to and obeyed. A man of sober mind, now o’days, thinks it just as possible that we may go too fast as too slow –  and therefore it is he turns a deaf ear to the arithmetical blandishments of Sir Joshua Walmsley, to the pungent invective of Mr. Searle, and to the flowery periods of Mr. W. J. Fox. We look round us upon the most civilized countries of the earth, and find our own the solitary exception in the midst of civil turmoil and the din of arms. After all, there is something in this. If we turn to any of the tests by which the state of the country can be ascertained, we find it to be in an almost unexampled condition of peace and prosperity.

Sir Joshua Walmsley  and his friends say to us, ” Give up your present position. Take, upon our recommendation, the chances of an untried future. The violent influx of pure democracy into the political constitution of the various continental nations may indeed have caused the evils you describe, but in England the case is different. When we look to the analogies between the past, the present, and the future, we will warrant that in sober-minded England no mischief will- occur even from the most sadden and extensive changes  in our political institutions, to the change be made in the popular direction.”  With every respect for the sagacity of Sir Joshua Walmsley and his friends, we must object to the sufficiency of the assurances. A foolish politician may destroy the prosperity of a country – it would require the labour of a long series of statesmen to place it once more on a secure foundation. Would any one run such a risk for the attainment of an uncertain, probably of a visionary’ benefit?

The most fervent partisan of change must desire that it should be quietly brought about – that advantage should be taken of events – that the minds of the losers should be conciliated into something like patient acquiescence, not roused and exasperated into violent opposition.’ What would be the result of the adoption of such a scheme as that of the Parliamentary Reform Association? We leave the decision of the question to the judgment of any man who has been mixed up with the political combinations of the last half-century.

It may, after all, be an error in judgment to attribute any great importance to the labours of this new association. In a country such as ours, in which every person can speak or write his mind upon all political subjects, there must always be extreme parties in politics ready to call attention to their views. We may not approve of the objects of any one of these fanatics of opinion, but we recognize the use of them all. One of them may restrain us from action too precipitate, the other will prevent us from falling asleep by their eternal threats and murmurs.

It was but a short time back that the Liverpool Reform Association fell foul of the sums lavishly squandered on the officers in the two services. In the course of the discussion it came to light that ensigns and sea lieutenants were not, after all, such very prominent members of the            ” moneyed  circles” as had been originally supposed; but at least the discussion roused attention to many abuses in the administration of the services, which have either been reformed or modified. It is just the same case with the Parliamentary Reform Association.

We must make up our minds to live with such bodies on the one hand, and with agricultural and Protection meetings on the other. No doubt they will balance each other to the public advantage in the long run. Meanwhile, we cannot but congratulate ourselves upon the shape political agitation has assumed in England. No great harm can ever arise from this usual dry routine of time-honoured speeches and stereotyped resolutions.

the above text was from The Times, Tuesday, October 15, 1850 p.4

The Albion Aldersgate Street


This extensive establishment has long been famed for its good dinners, and its excellent wines. Here take place the majority of the banquets of the Corporation of London, the Sheriffs’ Inauguration Dinners, as well as those of Civic Companies and Committees, and such festivals, public and private, as are usually held at taverns of the highest class.

The farewell Dinners given by the East India Company to the Governors-General of India, usually take place at the Albion. “Here likewise (after dinner) the annual trade sales of the principal London publishers take place,” revivifying the olden printing and book glories of Aldersgate and Little Britain.

The cuisine of the Albion has long been celebrated for its recherche character. Among the traditions of the tavern it is told that a dinner was once given here, under the auspices of the gourmand Alderman Sir William Curtis, which cost the party between thirty and forty pounds apiece. It might well have cost twice as much, for amongst other acts of extravagance, they dispatched a special messenger to Westphalia to choose a ham. There is likewise told a bet as to the comparative merits of the Albion and York House (Bath) dinners, which was to have been formally decided by a dinner of unparalleled munificence, and nearly equal cost at each; but it became a drawn bet, the Albion beating in the first course, and the York House in the second. Still, these are reminiscences on which, we frankly own, no great reliance is to be placed.

Lord Southampton once gave a dinner at the Albion, at ten guineas a head; and the ordinary price for the best dinner at this house (including wine) is three guineas. [ According to The Art of Dining; or, gastronomy and gastronomers  by Abraham Hayward. pub. John Murray, London 1852].

From Club Life of London Vol. II, John Timbs, London, 1866