Thankyou Chris for todays lovely graphic ....
Well here it is Saturday again ,not feeling so good today ,but better than yesterday so thats good ,Last Monday saw us all going off to Warwick to say our goodbyes to dear John ,more about that another time ,Tuesday I was tired so just pottered ,as you do ! On Wednesday up early for my Taxi which took me to a Conferance Planning,policy and Strategy meeting Peterborough , then home again ,so that I could go to my club in the afternoon(the over sixties )where we were entertained by George and his wife Joy ,Pearl King and Queen of Southwark London ,(They actually live quite local now ) ,Perhaps you remember last year George got his wires crossed about the booking ,he came and sang to us and promised to return with his wife and wearing the suits ,well they did us proud all the lovely old songs for us to sing along to ,and the history of how the tradition began ,back in 1875 with a young fellow by there name of Henry Croft,and I found a picture of his statue on the internet ,and the account as George told it to us
The London tradition of the Pearly Kings and Queens began in 1875, by a small lad named Henry Croft.
Henry was born and raised in an orphanage in Charlton Street, Somers Town, London, and NW1. At the age of 13 he had to leave the orphanage and make his own way in life. His first job was as a Municipal Road Sweeper in the market of Somers Town. Henry worked hard in the market and soon made many friends; he was particularly drawn to the Costermongers who were a tough breed of market traders. He got to know more about their way of life, their generosity and their fashion of smoke pearl buttons sewn on the piped seams oftheir trousers, jackets, waistcoats and caps. This showed their status as they worked the market stalls from day to day. The Costermongers were caring and looked after each other if they were sick or in need.
Henry was so fascinated by this way of life and decided he would like to help those who were more unfortunate than himself, including the children back at the orphanage where he had spent his early life. He knew that in order to collect a lot of money he needed to draw attention to himself. So as Henry swept the market streets he started to collect all the pearl buttons he found that had fallen off of the clothes of people visiting the market, and when he had enough he started to sew them on his cap and then continued until his entire suit was filled, the very first smother suit.
Because Henry was an orphan he had no one to help him with his suit so he had to learn how to sew. It was this that started the tradition, which is still carried on by descendants of original Pearly Families, that the Kings do all the designs and sewing. Designs on suits tend to run in families but here are a few that you may see and recognise:
o Horseshoe = Luck
o Doves = Peace
o Heart = Charity
o Anchor = Hope
o Cross = Faith
o Wheel = Circle of Life
o Symbols of Playing Cards = Life is a gamble
o Flower Pots = Costermongers
o Donkey Carts = Costermongers
Henry Croft was in so much demand for his charity work, as many of London's hospitals, workhouses and orphanages needed help, that he turned to his friends the Costermongers and they did not let him down. Many of the Costermongers became the first Pearly Families. There were 28 families, one for each of the London boroughs, one for the City of Westminster, and one for the City of London.
Each outfit can hold many tens of thousands of buttons on it and can weigh as much as 30 kilograms or more. There are two types of suit - a Smother Suit and a Skeleton Suit, the former having very little cloth showing and totally covered in buttons, and the latter having far fewer buttons.
It is estimated that when he died in 1930 (aged 68); he had collected over £5000. The equivalent in today's values would be approximately £200,000.
His funeral was a spectacular affair, and was filmed by Pathe News. All of the Pearlies attended (roughly 400) and they followed the coffin to where Henry was buried. The charities that he had helped over the year all pulled together to help pay for a statue of Henry for his grave. Unfortunately in 1995 the statue was vandalised and no longer stands in the cemetery. It has been replaced with a headstone, inlaid with Henry's photograph, so it can be easily found by visitors.
The statue has now been fully restored and can be seen in the crypt at the church of St. Martins in the Field, Trafalgar Square.
The Pearly tradition has survived for over 125 years and hopefully it will continue for many more to come. We still have a few families who can be traced back to the original generation of Pearlies. Henry Croft's family still carries on the tradition with his Great-Granddaughter wearing the title of 'Somers Town'.
By John Arrowsmith ,Pearly King of Lathamstowe.
Carole Jolly, Pearly Queen of Crystal Palace, with the statue of Henry Croft,
The Crypt at St Martins in the Field.
George also told us that you have to be born into a family off Pearly's ,to be called a King or Queen when your turn comes ,and the off spring are Princes and Princess's .these titles were allowed by Queen Victoria ,who was so impressed by their good works ,Joy and Georges charity is a childrens hospital in London ,called Richard House ,along with the title they are also made Freemen of the city of London,so are entitled to walk their sheep over London Bridge ....with sword drawn !!!,They have recently had a Great Grandson ,who is fifth generation Pearly , I do hope you enjoyed todays entry ,and as ever ,lots of love from