Victorian & Edwardian 'AD' (6)
Presented By
Ex PC 799'A' /164477 Leonard Bentley
  Home Page | Victorian & Edwardian 'AD' (6) | General 'A' Pictures (7) | MEMORY LANE  

Following the huge success of Len Bentley's escorted tour of AD's ground over 100 years ago the 6th page of those bygone eras are presented for you here.


If you missed the excellent escorted tour please click here to start your journey back in time

Westminster Recruiting Sergeants

Westminster Recruiting Sergeants.

I have known this photograph  for a long time, the book in which I first saw it described the scene as 'soldiers waiting on a Westminster street corner' and went on to speculate that they may have been in London for a special occasion.

I thought at first that the tower in the background was Westminster Abbey, but I couldn't quite fit the street corner into the area surrounding the Abbey. In fact the tower is that of St. Margaret's Church, the soldiers are recruiting sergeants and they are standing on the corner of King Street junction with Great George street outside The Mitre and Dove Public House waiting for opening time.

Whenever I looked at the photograph of the long dead soldiers I wished that I could find out who they were, little did I know until later that this photograph, taken in 1877 was fully documented and had been taken to illustrate a series of articles which were one of the first attempts at photo journalism.

In 1877 Aldophe Smith and John Thomson joined forces to produce a partwork which was published bi-weekly, the thirty seven parts could then be bound into a book.

This method of publication was common in the 19th century and  had been used by Dickens for several of his novels. The finished publication was entitled  ' Victorian London Street Life', each part or chapter contained
a photograph and a written article to accompany it.

Thomson took the photographs and Smith wrote the articles. They included stories about a convicts home run by an ex Metropolitan Police Officer, a Temperance sweep and Italian street musicians.

The recruiting Sergeants were a common sight in Westminster until 1909 when other less direct methods of recruitment were implemented. Although most of the recruitment was for infantry regiments, the recruiting sergeants were invariably cavalrymen; it probably had something to do with the attractive uniform.

The soldiers in the photograph are from left to right:- Sergeant
McGilney of the 6th Dragoons (Enniskillens), Sergeant Minett of the 14th
Hussars, Sergeant Bilton of the Royal engineers, Sergeant Badcock of the
2nd Dragoons ( Scots Greys), Sergeant Titswell of the 5th Dragoon Guards
and the senior recruiting Sergeant circa 1877, Sergeant Ison of the 6th Dragoon Guards ( Carabineers ).

The bearded Police Officer standing behind the group is PC Cox who was stationed at King Street Police Station, the Divisional station of 'A' Division before Cannon Row was built. The shoe blacks on the corner were probably boys from the ragged school in Old Pye street. The ragged schools encouraged boys into shoe black brigades which had been started in the early 1850s in an attempt to give boys gainful employment.

 Each area of central London had its own brigade and its members wore different coloured jackets, these boys would be wearing red jackets. Unfortunately the boys names were not recorded.


Outside The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

This  photograph (Right)) is from a postcard which has not been used and is therefore difficult to date, but it is most likely late Edwardian prior to 1909. The recruiting Sergeant is still a cavalryman a generation or more after the
Sergeants in the first photograph, but he is standing outside The National
Gallery alongside a Police Officer from Bow Street. I do not know which public house was in use at this time, The Mitre and Dove had been demolished together with all of King Street in 1898 

Trafalgar Square

This image is taken from a postcard dated 1904 and shows a recruiting sergeant
accosting a potential recruit on Trafalgar Square. Looking down on the scene
is the statue of General Gordon which stood at this location from 1888 until
1953 when it was moved to Victoria Embankment Gardens outside the MOD building.
Another statue of General Gordon in which he was shown riding a camel was
sited in St. Martins Place where the Nurse Edith Cavell statue now stands.
The statue was there for a few months in 1902 before being transported to