21 and 22, Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1

From Square Haunting (2020), by Francesca Wade:

“The Muslim reformer Sir Syed Ahmed Khan is commemorated today by a blue plaque at number 21…

…Helena Normanton, the first woman to practise as a barrister in England, lived at 22 Mecklenburgh Square from 1920 to 1928. In 1918, she applied to the Middle Temple, but was refused; within a few hours of the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in December 1919, she reapplied, marching to the Temple from Mecklenburgh Square to claim her rightful place. She campaigned for reform to divorce laws, wrote detective novels and was the first married woman in Britain to be issued a passport under her maiden name. Though her personal papers were all destroyed, a biography, written by Judith Bourne, was recently published.”

https://www.stmarys.ac.uk/staff-directory/judith-bourne

Power, con gusto

From Square Haunting (2020), by Francesca Wade:

“…Throughout her eighteen years in Mecklenburgh Square, (Eileen) Power balanced her desire to live untrammelled by social expectations with a wider commitment that the same privilege be extended to people of all races, nations and classes. And the strength of her ideals was not unnoticed by those around her, who looked to her as a role model. Judith de Márffy-Mantuano was a student at the LSE from 1926 to 1929, having arrived alone from Hungary and looked up the school in the telephone book; her parents, though extremely wealthy, had given her no allowance for her studies, considering them a waste of time, so Power (her tutor) took her in when she couldn’t afford a flat of her own. ‘At her house in 20 Mecklenburgh Square,’ Judith wrote later, ‘I began to make out – like a skyline breaking through a lifting fog – the shape of another world … It was a world in which men and women did not belong to classes, but were individuals, and succeeded each according to his merit. Eileen Power herself exemplified for me the possibilities open to women.’…

…At the LSE, women students and lecturers were not segregated, but worked alongside their male counterparts as equals; Power took her place in a modern, metropolitan university established on egalitarian principles, and joined a ready-made circle of progressive thinkers eager to include her in their plans. Power entered London social life with gusto, frequenting restaurants and jazz clubs, attending clandestine political confabulations in hotel basements and rallies in the parks. Her regular ‘kitchen dances’ at 2o Mecklenburgh Square were attended by economists, politicians and novelists, including Virginia Woolf, who recalled sharing a packet of chocolate creams there with the civil servant Humbert Wolfe…

…Number 20 Mecklenburgh Square was arranged on very different lines. Power shared its two floors casually with friends – Marion Beard stayed until 1937, while Power’s sister Rhoda joined the pair in 1929. Power set up a desk by the window, where neighbours often saw her working late at night, and decorated her quarters lavishly with the ornaments she’d bought in China and knick-knacks found in Parisian ‘curiosity shops’. Her bookshelves reflected her eclectic tastes – J. H. Clapham recalled that she had ‘scores of books of poetry to one Principles of Economics’ – and each room was decked with fresh flowers and throws in Jacobean patterns. ‘I never realised before how one’s material surroundings could affect one’s spirits,’ she wrote, ‘and what a difference to one’s state of mind could be made by a merrily served meal.’

Merrily served, for Power was reluctant to curtail her new-found freedom by taking on the burden of domestic chores. When she took 20 Mecklenburgh Square in January 1922, she ‘snatched back’ Jessie, the ‘admired and much-loved’ woman who had kept house for Eileen and Karin Costello when they shared a flat in Victoria while Power was a student at the LSE. Jessie, wrote Power, ‘looked after me like a mother’; she was devastated when Jessie died, after a short illness, in August 1923. ‘We had been friends for 15 years,’ she told (George) Coulton. ‘I cannot imagine what I shall do without her. She was the old type of family servant & a real friend.’ At this point Power hired Mrs Saville, by all accounts an extremely devoted housekeeper, who remained with her at Mecklenburgh Square for the rest of Power’s life. Mrs Saville catered Power’s dinner parties, which were renowned for exquisite food and choice wines. (Power herself once refused to host a friend on the grounds that ‘I’ve lent my housekeeper to my next-door neighbour for a dinner party that night & if I cooked I should poison you’.) It’s poignant that these women became mother-figures to Power, who had lost her own mother at such a formative age; it’s also interesting that, despite the evident imbalance of power, she considered them genuine friends, an integral part of the supportive community of women she gathered around her in her home. Power was conscious that their work enabled hers, and was certainly grateful for it…

…When Power’s friend Karin Costello became engaged to Virginia Woolf’s brother Adrian Stephen in 1914, Power wrote to Margery (Spring Rice) to complain that she considered ‘all those Bloomsberries as unsatisfactory folk w. whom to have permanent relationships’. She eventually came round to Adrian – and dined with his sister on at least two occasions – but Power was always determined to define herself in opposition to what she thought of as stereotypical ‘Bloomsbury’. Likewise, (Harry) Tawney’s wife, Jeanette (the sister of William Beveridge), insisted that on moving to Mecklenburgh Square they had ‘hankered after the geographical Bloomsbury, not the mental attitude; Tawney, more bluntly, called the Bloomsbury set ‘a mental disease’. These judgements were, at least in part, made for rhetorical effect – Leonard Woolf collaborated with Tawney on a petition for miners’ rights after the General Strike of 1926, when Mecklenburgh Square became an unofficial distribution ground of the Labour strike paper The British Worker, while the Tawneys knew that the Hogarth Press had demonstrated a commitment to working-class and socialist writing. But Power was never interested in artistic bohemianism for its own sake; she was impatient with philosophical posturing or self-indulgent introspection of the sort the Bloomsbury Group’s famous Memoir Club went in for, and preferred her gatherings to centre on action, not aesthetics. The activities of her Bloomsbury group were focused on concrete solutions to social injustice; here, discussions ranged from nationalism to nationalisation, with occasional excursions into Freudian psychoanalysis, modern painting and the novels of D. H. Lawrence.

Tawney rented four different houses in Mecklenburgh Square over the decades, but during the time Power knew him he was living at number 44, the former home of H. D. and Dorothy L. Sayers.

In contrast to Power’s elegant decoration, Tawney’s tables were invisible beneath piles of books, tobacco residue and old cheese sandwiches, while he worked hunched over his desk or supine on his window seat, wrapped in his moth-eaten sergeant’s tunic from the First World War. To his chaotic study – once described by an Observer interviewer as ‘a compost-heap’ – came a regular trail of visitors, from LSE students to miners, Cabinet ministers to cotton workers, all hounded on entry by Jeanette’s band of lame dogs and Harry’s rival troupe of cats. This was a time when close relationships existed between political leaders, journalists, theorists and writers, when gatherings in kitchens and drawing rooms could hope to change society as effectively as debates in the House of Commons. Power and Tawney were determined to make Mecklenburgh Square a place where their students could join them for open discussions of urgent economic questions, putting their studies into action…

…Mecklenburgh Square remained a place of professional decorum, where Power worked and hosted friends in her public persona: her relationship was conducted in Postan’s flat at 6C Willow Road in Hampstead (the next street to Christchurch Place, where H. D. and Aldington had lived in the first years of their marriage) and in what Postan called a ‘funk-hole’ in the Cotswolds, rented for clandestine weekend getaways. But at the end of 1937, they decided to eliminate all need for secrecy. On I December, when Power was forty-eight and Postan thirty-nine, they very quietly married at the St Pancras Registry Office, with two friends and Power’s sisters in attendance, before returning together to 20 Mecklenburgh Square…”

Rathbone Place, London W1

From a Draft Chapter 31 of the Survey of London:

“…When begun in 1716, Rathbone Place was the first speculative street development anywhere in Marylebone, anticipating by a few years the grander building programmes to the west on the Cavendish–Harley (now Howard de Walden) estate. It owed its origins to earlier developments across Oxford Street in Soho, of which it was, in essence, a northwards extension, continuing the line of Charles (now Soho) Street out of Soho Square…

The crossroads at the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road is an historic junction, where four parishes met…

Continuing the line of present-day Soho Street, Rathbone Place ran north-east of Oxford Street between the houses of Thomas Rathbone, to the west, and his son, Dr John Rathbone, to the east. Two brick houses with 20ft frontages were built on the west side of the new street in 1716, and in the following year Richard Townsend, a blacksmith, took a building lease of 120ft frontage on the east side, at the south end, where over the next six years he built Nos 1–5. A plaque, reset on the bank at 52 Oxford Street that replaced 1–2 Rathbone Place in 1864 when the road was widened at this end, is inscribed ‘RATHBONES PLACE IN OXFORD STREET 1718’…”

The former Burton’s Headquarters and Shop, 118-132 New Oxford Street, London WC1

From the Historic England entry:

“HISTORICAL NOTE: this store and offices was the flagship of an organisation founded in 1914 which became the largest men’s clothing organisation in the world, offering quality clothes at the cheapest possible prices. Burton was also a pioneer in the field of industrial welfare in an exploitative industry.

c1929-30. By Harry Wilson. For Montague Burton. Stone faced steel frame. EXTERIOR: 7 storeys on a corner site. 7 bays to main Oxford Street facade, recessed canted angles 1 bay each,

Right hand return to Bainbridge Street

left hand return to Tottenham Court Road 3 bays, right hand return 2 bays. Ground floor shop altered late C20. Mezzanine 1st floor with margin glazed, tripartite metal framed windows in plain rectangular recesses.

Main facade with Greek detailing to 6 Corinthian pilasters rising from 1st to 3rd floor to support an entablature with projecting cornice surmounted by antefixae. Within this frame, metal framed tripartite windows with spandrel panels to 2nd and 3rd floors. Outer bays with narrow, vertically set windows to 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors. Attic storey has short, horizontally set windows above which a stepped parapet with shaped, architraved, horizontally set window surmounted by a winged cartouche. Tottenham Court Road facade similar. Recessed angles with distyle-in-antis fluted columns, otherwise similar with stepped back parapets. Right hand return, plain recessed openings on 4 floors, tripartite to left bay, paired to recessed left bay.

INTERIOR: not inspected.”

Radiant House, Mortimer Street, London W1

From Wikipedia:

“Radiant House is an architecturally notable building in Mortimer Street, in the City of Westminster, London. It is a grade II listed building.

The building was commissioned by Ernest Eugene Pither to honour the memory of Sophia Elizabeth Pither, née Bézier, and it was completed in January 1915. The building was designed by Francis Léon Pither, although a plaque on the building shows “F. M. Elgood, FRIBA” as the architect.”

From the Historic England entry:

“Commercial premises. Dated 1915. White faience with turquoise glazed brick. Free classical manner. 5 storeys, 3 main bays. Canted bay windows to ground floor separated by Ionic ‘Jacobean’ pilaster strips. Dentil cornice above ground floor. Continuous arcaded round-headed windows to first floor, with semi-Gothic Corinthian columns between. Outer bays to second and third floors with round headed architraved windows. Central 2 storey bay window rising through second and third floors, mullions and transoms, 2 and-3-lights, continuous Doric loggia at fourth floor level. Modillion cornice and decorative frieze above third floor; subsidiary cornice to loggia. Iron balustrade to loggia.”

219 Oxford Street, London W1

From a Draft Chapter 19 of the Survey of London:

“…Occupying the eastern angle with Hills Place, No. 219 is a small stone-clad building of 1950–1 containing shops and offices, with wrap- around corner windows in strips. Replacing a café previously on this site, it was designed by Ronald Ward & Partners as a small speculation for Jack Salmon, who transformed his interest into Oxford Street Properties Ltd. It is a listed building, no doubt by virtue of the three charming relief panels commemorating Festival of Britain year at the Oxford Street ends of the upper-storey windows…”

From the Historic England entry:

“This mixed retail and office building of 1951-2 is situated on the corner of Oxford Street and Hills Terrace.

As built, No. 219 Oxford Street comprised a ground-floor shop, with a showroom and three floors of offices above. The building was designed by Ronald Ward and Partners in 1950 for the landlord Jack Salmon, who took the second-floor suite for himself. The scheme was revised in February 1951, but was not built until after August 1951 (explaining the plaques celebrating the Festival of Britain – an event which was held in the summer of that year), and appears not to have been completed until 1952, as evidenced by the dated tile near the door to the upper floors. Despite the delay in its construction the building was among the very earliest post-war commercial buildings to be put up in the capital.

MATERIALS: the building is steel-framed and clad in pre-cast stone panels, with metal-framed windows.

PLAN: the building has five storeys and a basement. At each floor there is a single corner room (now opened through into No. 215-217 Oxford Street on all but the first floor). A stair to the south (now used as a fire escape) runs the full height of the building, giving access to each of the rooms. There is a small WC on each half-landing. 

EXTERIOR: the Oxford Street elevation turns with a curved corner into the Hills Terrace elevation, and continuous bands of metal-framed windows to the upper four floors wrap around the two elevations. The ground floor acts as a fully-glazed corner shop window (this arrangement replacing the original shop front), with a fascia recess above. The original entrance is on Hills Terrace; there is a recessed, glazed, hardwood, door with a yellow ochre tiled surround, which includes a tile with the date of the building and name of the architects.

The east side of the Oxford Street elevation has three cast stone reliefs, one at the end of each band of fenestration to the upper three floors. The reliefs depict subjects relating to the Festival of Britain, and are by David Trussler. The second-floor relief depicts the Dome of Discovery and the Skylon, along with nautical instruments and emblems; the third-floor relief reproduces the Festival logo, designed by Abram Games;

and the fourth-floor relief depicts the Festival Hall and Shot Tower, along with musical instruments.

INTERIOR: the staircase is open with curvilinear metal balustrading and hand rail, with a terrazzo floor. At each level the corner room has been fitted-out for its modern function. The interior of the building, with the exception of the staircase, is not of special interest.”

https://www.encyclopedia.com/literature-and-arts/art-and-architecture/architecture/festival-britain

“What a pleasant life could be had in this world by a handsome, sensible old lady of good fortune, blessed with a sound constitution and a firm will”*

From the Reading 1900-1950 blog:

Review of *Cold Comfort Farm (1932), by Stella Gibbons.

…Young Flora is determined to sort this miserable lot out. She schemes and plots with admirable understanding of their natures and succeeds in persuading Amos to buy a Ford van and travel round England – and finally America – preaching hell-fire to the masses; Judith she despatches to a psychiatrist she knows in London who deflects Judith’s obsessive tendencies onto old churches in Europe; Seth she introduces to an American film studio mogul who instantly signs him up for romantic roles in Hollywood; Elfine she takes up to London for a modern haircut and some suitable clothes so that, thus groomed, she may marry Richard Hawk-Monitor up at the Hall. She even introduces Meriam to the idea of birth control!

And finally, her greatest challenge – Aunt Ada Doom. Skilfully Flora lures Ada from her room with promises of world travel and expensive hotels. The last we see of Aunt Ada is just before she is whisked away in a light aircraft taking her to Paris. She is dressed in a black leather flying suit and is filled with enthusiasm for her coming adventure.

Reuben inherits the farm, proposes to Flora, is gently refused and Flora sends for her urban cousin Charles to come and collect her in his light aircraft, the Speed Cop 11. Flora and Charles realise they are in love and all ends happily…”

“Cold Comfort Farm is a 1995 British comedy film directed by John Schlesinger and produced by the BBC and Thames Television, an adaptation of Stella Gibbons’ 1932 book of the same name.” (Wikipedia)

Hotel Westminster, 13 Rue de la Paix, Paris 75002

From Warwickhotels.com:

“Originally built in 1807 on the famed Rue de la Paix in Paris, the Hotel Westminster has witnessed extraordinary historic events in the centre of Paris, all the while retaining its authenticity and originality.

Named in honor of the Duke of Westminster and his patronage to the hotel during the 19th century, the Westminster is decorated with his coat of arms ever so discretely. His visits have set the tone of welcoming royalty ever since.

In 1877, the hotel began further construction under the direction of architect A. Gautier. Even today, the hotel has retained its original Haussmanian façade and bears his signature.

In the 1920s, the hotel was decorated in an impressive assembly of antique clocks that graced the rooms and suites.”

Helen, owner and creator of the blog London meets Paris, posted on 03/12/2019:

“…feet away from Place Vendôme and the Palais Garnier, Paris’ majestic Opéra House. Rue de la Paix is home to some of the finest designer shops in Paris, right next door is Cartier, opposite is Tiffany’s and of course many others such as Breitling, Alfred Dunhill and Bulgari. Rue de la Paix leads on to what is surely Paris’ most beautiful square, Place Vendôme where the newly renovated iconic Ritz Hotel is situated.

The Place Vendôme was built around 1681-1699 by order of the French King, Louis XIV and designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart.
The original Vendôme Column was destroyed during the French Revolution. Place Vendôme has such a regal feel not least because there are even more super-lux couture designers here, but the buildings are the epitome of French neo classical style which adds to the understated glamour of this beautiful square. Then there’s the historic green Vendôme Column in the centre erected again in 1806 commissioned by Napoléon to celebrate the victory of the Battle of Austerlitz and modelled on Trajan’s column in Rome. The column is complete with the statue of Napoleon.

The hotel with its striking black and gold awning and dramatic all-glass entrance is full of timeless Parisian charm…

Off reception is the entrance to the gorgeous richly decorated wood-panelled Dukes Bar which leads through to the One Michelin starred Le Céladon restaurant…

There are 102 rooms in all at the Hotel Westminster, all very different…whether it’s a Standard Room or a Suite, all are equipped with the same facilities, rich fabrics and marble bathrooms.

…I was so impressed I had to immediately phone my husband who couldn’t join me on this trip to let him know all about not just my Suite but the hotel too which he couldn’t even remember staying in…I had a list full of things to do in Paris sticking to the Opéra neighbourhood…

Later that evening, I came back to the most generous surprise. The hotel provided half a bottle of champagne on ice, half a bottle of Merlot wine and some delicious macarons, I was truly amazed by the hotel’s generosity.

Champagne is my favourite tipple so I enjoyed a couple of glasses while getting ready for dinner…Wrapping myself in the warm fluffy bathrobe was just what I needed.

Breakfast is sumptuous at the Hotel Westminster served at Le Céladon…Everything is mostly self-service…

The Hotel Westminster is a super-classy…hotel in one of Paris’ most sought after and extravagant locations. Given its glamorous surroundings…it’s also extremely reasonably priced. The hotel is within walking distance to many of the 1st and 2nd arrondissements’ famous sights – The Palais Garnier,

Café de la Paix, the Tuileries Gardens, the covered passages of the Grands Boulevards, the Louvre Museum, Place Colette and the Palais Royal including the Jardin du Palais Royal.

I’m so grateful to the Hotel Westminster for inviting me to stay…

My stay was part of a collaboration with the Hotel Westminster. My upgrade to a Suite, champagne, macarons, wine and dinner at Le Céladon were complimentary…”

Nine Tailors Make a Man

From Wikipedia:

“The Nine Tailors is a 1934 mystery novel by the British writer Dorothy L. Sayers, her ninth featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. The story is set in the Lincolnshire Fens, and revolves around a group of bell-ringers at the local parish church. The book has been described as Sayers’ finest literary achievement

The Nine Tailors of the book’s title are taken from the old saying “Nine Tailors Make a Man”, which Sayers quotes at the end of the novel. As explained by John Shand in his 1936 Spectator article The Bellringers’ Art, “‘Nine Tailors’ means the nine strokes which at the beginning of the toll for the dead announce to the villagers that a man is dead. A woman’s death is announced with ‘Six Tailors’. Hence the old saying … which might otherwise be construed as a slander on a worthy profession”.”

From: Thirty-Two Years of Local Self-Government 1855-1887 (1888), by Rowley W. C. Richardson:

“In this book I have endeavoured to describe Surbiton as it was before the passing of the Improvement Act in June 1855; to give a record of the work which has since been done, and to represent the condition of the district in June last. The results of the important step which was taken in establishing independent existence in 1855 are thus traced up to the completion of the thirty-two years of self-government…

…The practice of tolling the bell to announce the death of a parishioner is maintained at Christ Church–the knell for a man being three times three; for a boy, twice three; for a woman, three times two; and for a girl, twice two.

The expression, ” Nine tailors make a man, ,” is supposed to have originated from the number of strokes given in ringing the death-knell. The following appears on this subject in “Folk Etymology,” by the Rev. A. Smythe Palmer:

” ‘Tailors, nine make a man,’ said to be a corruption of ‘Nine tailers (itself corrupted from ‘tellers’) make it a man;’ i.e. nine counting strokes at the end of a knell proclaim the death of a male adult. An old homily for Trinity Sunday declares that at the death of a man three bells were to be rung as his knell, and two bells for a woman (Hampson, ‘Med. vi Kalend, 294’). It is observable that Taylor, the Water Poet, has a version of the phrase conformable to this, speaking of ‘the slander that three taylers are one man’ (‘Works,’ 1630, iii. 73).”

In Brewer’s ” Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” it is stated that ” an orphan lad, in 1742, applied to a fashionable London tailor for alms. There were nine journeymen in the establishment, each of whom contributed something to set the little orphan boy up with a fruit-barrow. The little merchant in time became rich, and adopted for his motto, ‘Nine tailors make a man.’ “

“dew-dabblers, pretentious socialists & frothy Fabians”

https://mainlynorfolk.info/shirley.collins/songs/rollinginthedew.html

Main image: “In 1959 the School began work on the refurbishment of the St Clement’s Press building overlooking Clare Market, now known as the St Clement’s building. As part of the work the School commissioned the artist Harry Warren Wilson to design engraved glass doors for the main entrance and a decorative panel for the corner of Portugal Street and Clare Market.” (LSE blog)

From Square Haunting (2020), by Francesca Wade:

“…As was the case for Jane Harrison, it was a woman-led initiative that gave (Eileen) Power her break as a historian. Power was invited to join the London School of Economics as a Shaw Research Student, on a generous fellowship established in 1904 by Charlotte Payne Townshend Shaw, a prominent feminist and the wife of George Bernard Shaw. When her scholarship was awarded to a man for the fifth consecutive year, Charlotte stipulated that it should henceforth be reserved for women only, and given specifically to support research into women’s lives, in the hope that the monographs produced by fellows would form a much-needed canon of women’s history.

“Bas Relief
1933
By ES Frith
It has been suggested the reliefs above depict various shades of thought.” (LSE)

It was an exciting time and place for Power to launch her research career. Since its foundation by the Fabian socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb, George Bernard Shaw and Graham Wallas, the London School of Economics had stood at the centre of London’s left-wing activities. In 1894, a lawyer and Fabian Society donor named Henry Hunt Hutchinson had committed suicide and appointed Sidney Webb his executor, specifying that a legacy of £20,000 was to go towards advancing the socialist cause, which the Fabians considered the only viable response to pervasive inequality in Britain. To this end, the Webbs decided to found a school in London, inspired by Paris’s École Libre des Sciences Politiques, where students of economics would be supported in their research by professors and activists wholly dedicated to social reform, with an emphasis on vocational training and on the application of economic theory to practical problems. Co-educational from its inception, by 1904 the LSE had over fourteen hundred students, many studying for the new degrees of B.Sc. (Econ) and D.Sc. (Econ), the country’s first university degrees devoted to the social sciences. Classes held in the day were repeated in the evenings for working students, many sent by railway companies, insurance offices and the civil service. In the narrow side streets between Kingsway and High Holborn, their tall buildings stained with London smog, the school bustled round the clock with learning and discussion. Nearby, the Webbs – Beatrice towering over Sidney – worked on their anti-Poor Law campaign from the Fabian Society office in Clement’s Inn Passage,

“Inscription on the former St Clement Danes Parish House:
‘To the honor and glory of God, this memorial stone of St Clement Danes & Clare Market Parish House, erected upon the site presented by the Hon. W.F.D. Smith MP entirely by voluntary subscriptions from parishioners & friends, was laid by Lady Esther Smith on July 2nd 1897.’ The St Clement Danes Church referred to is the one in the middle of the Strand to the east of Aldwych. Clare Market used to be a food, mainly meat market. The site is now occupied by buildings of the London School of Economics.”
(London Remembers)

while next door was the headquarters of the Women’s Social and Political Union, packed with determined women at work making placards, typing pamphlets and occasionally hiding from the police.

At the LSE – though the idea was surely conceived during her time in a Cambridge women’s college – Eileen Power began her study of medieval nunneries, which would become her first full-length published book. In the early years of the twentieth century, the fight for equal suffrage had sparked a growing interest in women’s and working-class history. Frustrated at their political disenfranchisement, women looked to the past for models and alternatives, eager to establish a historical framework from which to agitate for change. Many turned to historians such as Jane Harrison, whose work offered fertile proof that women’s subordination was carefully constructed over time, and not based on any ‘natural’ order…

…When Eileen Power joined the LSE as a student, she was scathing about its social life, finding the school full of ‘dew-dabblers, pretentious socialists & frothy Fabians & unconscionably earnest young people generally!’ But when she returned as a lecturer in the autumn of 1921, she joined a faculty full of radicals, whose company and collaboration would be integral to many of her future projects. In 1919, William Beveridge had taken over as director, and the LSE had undergone a swift expansion, transforming from a cramped and casual evening institution to a leading modern university at the forefront of developments in sociology. A generous yet egotistical character utterly devoted to his work, Beveridge quintupled the school’s annual income, securing lucrative grants from the government, the Rockefeller Foundation and the business world. His schemes for advancement were unpredictable, directed by his enthusiasms and sped on by his fundraising verve: at one point a rumour arose that cages of chimps were going to be installed at the school so that students could study their mating habits.

Side entrance to Cowdray House.
“As part of the central LSE campus, Cowdray House was built in 1903 by Architect Horace Field and is Edwardian in style and is Grade II Listed.” (Russell Cawberry)

In 1921, the university was a building site: classes took place in converted army huts approached by leapfrogging over puddles, while lecturers fought to be heard above the noise of drills. That year, the school enrolled almost three thousand students from more than thirty countries, while the Senior Common Room buzzed with discussion of the rapidly changing political climate. In the 192os and 1930s, the LSE was the epicentre for what Beatrice Webb described as a ‘circle of rebellious spirits and idealist intellectuals’, many of whom invested their hopes for social reform in the fledgling Labour Party. Established in 1900 out of the trade union movement, the party briefly took power in 1924 as a minority government under Ramsay McDonald, but collapsed after nine months and did not return to government until 1929, being ousted again in 1931. Through the interwar years, LSE economists and historians were hard at work establishing a democratic platform on which socialism could be brought to Britain, focused on confronting the practical issues of policy that hampered Labour during its stints in power over the decades; their programmes for an overhaul of the economic system would form the basis of the post-1945 Labour administration. Members of the economics department, including Lionel Robins and Friedrich Hayek, regularly traded blows with Cambridge’s John Maynard Keynes over market reform, while Charles Webster – who lived at 38 Mecklenburgh Square – arrived straight from the Foreign Office to become Stevenson Chair of International History. The Polish-born anthropologist Bronistaw Malinowski (who lived on Guilford Street) worked alongside the future prime minister Clement Attlee, who had begun his career as Beatrice Webb’s secretary. At the centre of most of the Common Room’s controversies was the Marxist political scientist Harold Laski, whose outspoken lectures led one Conservative MP to denounce the LSE publicly as a ‘hotbed of communist teaching’, forcing Beveridge to ban the school’s Marx Society from meeting on LSE premises and to placate business-world investors anxious about the ends to which their money was being put.

“In March 1921 the School Secretary Jessy Mair took advice on the process and possible design from Emery Walker (1851-1933) an engraver, typographer and photographer with connections to the School through both Sidney Webb and G Bernard Shaw. Walker advised that the £76 10s required to enroll a coat of arms might be too expensive for a small institution like LSE but in April he designed a monogram composed of the initial letters of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The committee decided to adopt a coat of arms using “the figure of some animal which would be emblematic of the work of the School. It was agreed “that a beaver would be very suitable”. The design was produced by Arnold Plant – President of the Student’s Union in 1922-1923 and later Professor of Commerce. Plant was an excellent draughtsman. Edwin Cannan, Professor of Political Economy suggested “Rerum cognoscere causas” – to know the causes of things, taken from Book 2 of Virgil’s Georgics. The full quotation is
“Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas”.”
(LSE blog)

But its staff’s intimate involvement in politics, both British and international, proved the LSE’s greatest strength. On Monday after-noons, staff and students would convene for ‘grand seminars’ where issues of the day were discussed without hierarchy and with a sense of urgent practical purpose. As soon as she arrived, Power was delighted by the intellectual stimulus of conversations in the Common Room, at clubs and cafes in Soho and Fitzrovia, during lively country weekends at Passfield Corner in Hampshire with the Webbs and their guests, or over long dinners in Mecklenburgh Square. Just as she had hoped, the LSE offered a way of life utterly different from the one she had led in Cambridge. While Girton had given Power a friendly community to which she always felt loyal, she had often chafed at being cooped up there, and when she accepted the LSE job she admitted to Margery that she was ‘tired of community life’, which had begun to constrain her. Just like Jane Harrison, she was painfully aware that the women’s colleges (particularly Girton, which stood well outside the town centre) remained separate and subordinate within the wider university: she felt the same ambivalence Harriet Vane outlines in Gaudy Night, glad that the women dons can support each other in dedication to their work yet frustrated at their apparent unworldliness and lack of a public voice. Like Harrison, Power felt an overwhelming urge to strike out from Cambridge as her interests became more political and she began to envisage a wider audience for her writing. And arriving in London gave her a taste of the freedom she wanted…

“32 Lincoln’s Inn Fields (formerly Her Majesty’s Land Registry Building) is an Edwardian Grade II listed building on the National Heritage List for England, and an academic facility of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), located on the south side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields in Central London. The Land Registrar Charles Brickdale based the design of the building on Blickling Hall in Norfolk.” (Wikipedia)

… ‘I like people to be all different kinds, Power wrote to her friend Helen Cam in 1938, explaining why she had chosen not to apply for a job back in Cambridge; her letter gives a joyful snapshot of London life. ‘I like dining with H. G. Wells one night, & a friend from the Foreign Office another, and a publisher a third & a professor a fourth; and I like seeing all the people who pass through London and putting some of them up in my prophet’s chamber.’…”


King James Bible 2 Kings 4:10
“Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.”