Pearly Queens and Pie & Mash, Roman Rd Market, East London

Pearly Queens and Pie & Mash, Roman Rd Market, East London

I snapped these three, rather dapper, young pearlies on Roman Road Market in Bow, East London, E3 last Saturday.

Pearly Kings and Queens (aka pearlies) are an organised charitable tradition of working class culture in London, and can be recognised by their distinctive clothes, which are covered in pearl buttons.

Pearly Queens and Pie & Mash, Roman Rd Market, East London

[Detail from the jackets. The really sharp-eyed might spot a badge for The Severed Limb, some good friends of mine who play excellent skiffle music]

The practice originated in the 19th century, and was first associated with Henry Croft, an orphan street sweeper who collected money for charity.

Pearly Queens and Pie & Mash, Roman Rd Market, East London

Croft noted that London costermongers (street traders) were in the habit of wearing trousers decorated at the seams with pearl buttons found by market traders, so took it a step further to create a pearly suit to draw attention to himself and his fund-raising activities.

Pearly Queens and Pie & Mash, Roman Rd Market, East London

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Croft’s death in January 1930:

[…his funeral was attended by 400 followers from all over London,[1] receiving national media coverage.[4] In 1934 a memorial was unveiled to him in St Pancras Cemetery and at a speech to mark the occasion he was said to have raised £5,000 for those suffering in London’s hospitals. The statue was later moved to the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster.

The inscription reads:
In memory of Henry Croft who died March 16th 1930 aged 68 years. The original Pearly King.]

Pearly Queens and Pie & Mash, Roman Rd Market, East London

Situated on the oldest known trade route in Britain, Roman Road is the road to Colchester famously taken by Boudicea on her way to kick Roman ass in London.

It hosts a street market every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday, and one of London’s last Pie & Mash shops can be found there.

Pearly Queens and Pie & Mash, Roman Rd Market, East London

G Kelly has been serving  Pie and Mash with parsley liquor, along with stewed and jellied eels in  for over 70 years, and is definitely worth a visit if you want to soak up a bit of real East End culture.

The last Pie and Mash shop in Brixton – J Young’s  on Coldharbour Lane closed in the mid 1990s. See photo feature here.

4 Comments on “Pearly Queens and Pie & Mash, Roman Rd Market, East London”

  1. I was born and bred in this amazing area but sadly the local council compulsory purchased many of the true east end family homes and gave them just a quarter of the true value forcing people to move to close by cheaper area of Essex.The new homes built on place of the perfectly fine old ones were given to non east end families so broke up communities and ended the east end and finished the Roman.We were never given the chance to say no.So sad.Only now do I know the history of my true roots.In the 70,80, &1990’s we were never taught anything about our local area.The only history all east end schools were told to teach us was about India they thought it would help with intergration.All it did was cause more problems.The east end has so much to be proud of.

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