A treasure trove of early ‘tin-type’ photographs recently discovered in a decrepit, long-abandoned London warehouse shed a different light on Victorian London nightlife near the turn of the last century.
While the Victorians have gained a well deserved reputation for being a ribald bunch, it has been widely believed that the most satyrical activities were generally indulged in under a veil of secrecy and furtiveness. But as the collection of long hidden images show, this was far from always the case.
The collection of nearly two hundred images, believed to have been taken somewhere between 1879 and 1895, portray a view of an ‘alternative’ scene previously thought unthinkable given the staid and rigid social mores of the era.
These photographs, when combined with snippets of information and details from the era, reveal several previously unknown trends. Scholars have long puzzled over cryptic references to ‘rhythmic rhymes’ as a form of entertainment generally frowned upon by the polite society of the time. The photographs suggest this was very similar to today’s ‘rap’ music. Thanks to notes scrawled on the back of many of the photos, we now know this and other forms of ‘alternative entertainment’ were often performed at illegal ‘romps‘, typically in illicit and unlicensed music halls in the Metropolitan London area. Experimentation with many types of illegal narcotics was also a major part of the ‘romp‘ scene.