London in the Nineteenth Century Does the name Theodore Hooke ring any bells? Well, on the morning of Tuesday 22 November 1810 it did: 4,000 to be exact. That’s how many the 22-year-old prankster and mischievous Grub Street writer invited to the quiet home of the unsuspecting Mrs Tottenham in what became known as the ‘Great Berners Street Hoax’. Tottenham’s bells started ringing early, at 5am, when the first truck-load of coal arrived. Soon afterwards, ‘half a hundred’ pastry chefs lugging 2,500 raspberry tarts and ‘massive wedding cakes’ rolled in. Then came the piano-fortes ‘by dozens’; 40 fishmongers; ‘six stout men bearing an organ’; and an undertaker with a coffin made to measure. The bootmakers and surgeons arrived next, followed by an army of apothecaries and a legion of lawyers. From Marylebone to Bloomsbury, by breakfast, the streets spidering off Oxford Street were clogged with bewildered vendors each believing his services had been especially summoned. Fights broke out as the impatient entourages of the Lord Mayor, the governor of the Bank of England and the chairman of the East India Company bottlenecked in the carefully choreographed mayhem, as the pointless procession crushed its way inexorably towards nothing. This forgotten titbit,… Read full this story
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