Part 2: home

Slum clearance and housing. Royalty opens the new flats. Magdalen Club starts up. Pearly King dies 1930. Basil Jellicoe dies 1935.

Parents Ellen and Joseph live with four other families in one house. Sister Nelly attends a Hopscotch nursery in Euston Gardens and is crowned May Queen. Age 3, George moves to a newly built St Mary’s flat when he is three . They have a bathroom - it’s like ‘Buckingham Palace’. George learns to ask for coins from the charabanc groups, about to go on ‘beanos' outside pubs. His aunt is famous for taking men on in fights, for beer money at local pub, the Anchor.

An old photo of a family with three small boy and mum outside.
An old photo of two small boys in a slum.
An old photo of balcony of flats festooned with flags.


  • An old bright poster for boxing at Chalton Ring. Clubs

    Community was kept alive through organised clubs The Magdalen club hosts dances with undergraduates mingling with local youth. The ‘Jellicoe’ is busy with clubs - Grandfathers', Grandmothers’ and the Youth Clubs. One of the most famous, the ‘Mums club’ the Tuesday night local amateur theatre is ‘always sold out’. George is filmed in the audience with mum.

  • An old bright poster for boxing at Chalton Ring. Mums club

    When the club went on outings it was an event. ‘The Club prepares for this day through the year, with weekly savings, and the profits from 4 nights’ hilarious pantomine production... Hindhead has been the scene of the invasion...electrified by... strangely dressed people ...strayed from a pageant or circus...a small hat with bobbing flower... pantaloons... - Housing Happenings report

  • An old bright poster for boxing at Chalton Ring. Theatre

    Theatrical and society figures including J.B. Priestly, John Betjeman, Gladys Cooper, the Prince of Wales and H.G Wells supported St Pancras Housing and visited Somers Town. Left wing Unity Theatre opened in 1936, attracting luminaries such as Paul Robeson, and later Bob Hoskins and Warren Mitchell. Later youth go to watch skiffle bands play at and star spot. Edith Neville sets up the St Pancras People’s Theatre, later bombed. Theatre groups and dance clubs, such as Doris Perkins, teach many youth to dance, such as Mimi Romily, who goes on to act and sing.

  • An old bright poster for boxing at Chalton Ring. Fighting

    A popular entertainment was boxing, and the Chalton ring in Chalton street was a good night out. Here Stanley Rothwell, ‘Britain’s perfect man’ is taking on ‘Sailor Read, A Fierce Tearaway fighter who will tackle any man. Sailors don’t care’. Doulos the Turk’s uncle was the original Terrible Turk. Billy Wood, who ‘Twice Defeated Norman the Butcher’ gets to face the ‘Tough Australian Boy’ Samson Croft in this match. The Chalton Ring, in a former billiard hall at the back of 66–68 Chalton Street, was demolished.

  • A black jacket with pearl buttons that reads ‘Pearly King of St Pancras’. Pearlies

    Henry Croft, the first Pearly King, was not from the East End, as is commonly supposed - but in Somers Town, where he was born and lived.

    A well-known local character, Henry was said to be the first who covered his clothes with mother of pearl buttons, after a music hall entertainer of the time.

    Pearlies reflect a tradition of mutual aid and self-help in working class communities, raising money for causes to this day. Henry, a diminutive streetsweeper at 5 foot, he managed to raise by his death £5000 for charity, in pennies and farthings, a huge sum.

    At his funeral, in 1930, Seymour (Eversholt) street was at a standstill as a long procession of 400 Pearly Kings and Queens passed by, on donkeys, ponies and carriages, as a Pathe newsreel shows.

    Watch The Passing Of The King Of The Pearly King's