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Images are exciting historical documents. They let us see something of what life was like in the past. Look at these images to build up a clearer picture of the lives of Black and Asian people in London.

Old East India House, 1648

Old East India House, 1648

Old East India House had a very elaborate front. The images and carvings clearly show how the East India Company was proud of its sea trading power.

May Fair in 1716

May Fair in 1716

This fair was a very popular event. It took place in the area of London still called Mayfair today.

We can see several children.  One of them can be seen in the bottom right of the picture, holding the hand of a Black servant in an elaborate turban.

There are also gentlemen wearing long, buttoned coats, three-cornered hats and swords. Men carried swords openly at this time to protect themselves. There is a man with a pike; jugglers, musicians, actors and a one-legged man, begging. 

St Giles’ In The Fields interior, 1734

St Giles' In The Fields interior, 1734

From this picture we can get a better view of the church interior where the preacher in St Giles' would have spoken to the congregation.

The pulpit in which he would have stood can be clearly seen.

The Lord Mayor’s Banquet, 1747

The Lord Mayor's Banquet, 1747

In this picture we can see a young Black man serving food and wine to the men sitting at the tables.

The Lord Mayor’s Banquet
Marco, a Lion at the Tower of London, 1749

From 1204 there was a zoo or menagerie at the Tower of London. Many exotic animals were kept there, including an elephant which arrived in 1255. The menagerie was a public attraction until 1832, when most of the animals were sent to Regent’s Park Zoo.

Collections of animals from other countries provide evidence of the journeys people made to Africa and Asia.

The Duke of Albemarle’s House, c.1750

The Duke of Albemarle's House, c.1750

Parish records show that 'Charles Muddiford, a Black of ye Duchess of Albemarle' was baptised on the 17 February 1689 at St Pancras Parish Church on Euston Road.

This picture is of the grand house of the Albemarle family and it is here that Charles would have worked.

Mr Greene’s Museum, 1788

Mr Greene's Museum, 1788

Museums started out as collections which had been put together by individuals. Mr Greene's museum shows a collection of items from all over the world. The cabinets contain items from Africa, the South Sea Islands and India. People would enjoy looking at these things out of curiosity because they would seem strange and different.

Military Procession Outside St James Palace in 1790.

Military Procession Outside St James Palace in 1790.

Many Black and Asian people served in the British military forces. Here we can see a group of musicians forming part of a procession outside St James Palace.

St Paul’s Cathedral, 1798

St Paul's Cathedral, 1798

In the very centre of this picture are men dressed in fine Eastern style clothing. They are with an important looking man who seems to be showing them around. The picture tells us they were probably special visitors, being given a guided tour of St Paul's.

Crowds Celebrate a Victory at Sea, Covent Garden.

Crowds Celebrate a Victory at  Sea, Covent Garden, c.1800

The crowds are celebrating one of Admiral Nelson’s victories. Nelson’s name appears on a large banner. On the right of the picture are some Asian men joining in the celebrations. They might be people who were working at the theatre. However, they are near a young man who is dressed like a sailor, so they could be Lascars.

A Family Picnic at “the Drinking Well” in Hyde Park, 1802

A Family Picnic at "the Drinking Well" in Hyde Park, 1802

The family have stopped for lunch by the well - probably a natural spring which has been turned into a drinking-place for visitors

The Black footman stands apart from the main group under the tree. He wears a uniform and stands to attention whilst the family enjoy themselves.

The Entrance to Hyde Park on a Sunday, 1804

The Entrance to Hyde Park on a Sunday, 1804

People from all social groups could enjoy going to the park. 

For the wealthy and fashionable, Hyde Park was the place to see and be seen: they could show off their status by the size of their carriage and the number of their horses and servants. For others, it was a lively place for a family outing

In the bottom left-hand corner, a couple are walking with a young boy, followed by a Black servant.

Docks c.1810

Docks c.1810

Two hundred years ago all travellers coming in to Britain would have arrived by ship. For Black and Asian people arriving as slaves, servants, tradesmen, soldiers and sailors, the docks would have been their first view of London.

View of New Bridge Street, Blackfriars, 1810

View of New Bridge Street, Blackfriars, 1810

This picture was made in 1810 at the time of the Napoleonic wars.

The Black man standing by the obelisk has only one leg. Many sailors lost legs when they were working on the gun decks of the warships. They could be hit by enemy cannon balls, or hurt by their own cannons. It seems likely that he was once in the Navy. Many sailors were reduced to begging or doing jobs like road sweeping.

Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Gazette after the Battle of Waterloo, Painted by Sir David Wilkie, 1822

Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Gazette after the Battle of Waterloo, Painted by Sir David Wilkie, 1822

The Royal Hospital Chelsea was a retreat for old and disabled soldiers from 1692.  The soldiers are shown getting news of Wellington's victory at Waterloo in 1815. They are mostly shown in their uniforms, representing a number of different regiments and ranks. 

Many Black men fought in the Napoleonic Wars, and one of the retired soldiers shown here is Black.  He is wearing an elaborate uniform-coat and has a ring in his ear.  He is thought to be a musician.

Ramo Samee performing at the Royal Coburg Theatre, 1822

Ramo Samee performing at the Royal Coburg Theatre, 1822

The Indian conjurer and juggler Ramo Samee, from East India, was wildly popular when he performed in London in 1822, as the packed house in this painting shows.  This performance at the Royal Coburg Theatre (now better known as the Old Vic), was a sell-out. The audience are able to see themselves in the giant mirror at the back of the stage.

His act involved juggling with various objects, including four hollow brass balls the size of oranges. He usually finished off with a demonstration of sword-swallowing. 

A View of the East-India House, 1833

A View of the East-India House, 1833

East India House in Leadenhall Street was the London headquarters of the East India Company.  The date of this drawing, 1833, was a  worrying time for the Company: their Charter from the government came up for renewal that year and they lost the monopoly of trade to the Far East.  This meant that other companies could now take a share of their profits.

In the foreground of the picture three men are talking, all of them clearly identified as Asian by their clothes and headgear. Another man, apparently in the middle of transporting a barrel on the horse-drawn cart behind him, has stopped and is overhearing their conversation.

The Piccadilly Nuisance, 1835

The Piccadilly Nuisance, 1835

This crowded street scene tells us that traffic problems have always been part of London life. The coach is blocking the way of other road users as passengers get on board.

On the left of the picture a Black man laughs at the scene.

Pablo Fanque Performing at Astley’s Circus on His Horse Beda, 1841

Pablo Fanque Performing at Astley's Circus on His Horse Beda, 1841

Pablo Fanque was born plain William Darby in 1796, the son of John Darby and Mary Stamps.  John Darby is recorded as having been a butler, and may well have come to England as a slave.

After William was orphaned as a child, he trained at Astley's Circus, where he learned trick riding, rope-walking and tumbling.  

Performers in the nineteenth century often took continental sounding names. William Darby decided to become Pablo Fanque. 

Fanque set up his own circus in 1841.

Sepoys of the Bombay, Madras and Bengal Presidencies; in the background a member of the Dromedary Corps, 1843

Sepoys of the Bombay, Madras and Bengal Presidencies; in the background a member of the Dromedary Corps, 1843

The Presidencies were the three districts of India which had been taken over by the East India Company.

This picture of the Sepoys (Indian soldiers employed by the British army) was printed in the Illustrated London News in 1843.  With the picture went a description of the Sepoys which praised their courage and faithfulness to the British, and mentioned that there were now 30,000 of them.

The three soldiers in the picture are all shown in different uniforms because each represents one of the three "presidencies".

A Preacher in St Giles, c.1850

A Preacher in St Giles, c.1850

The famous black writer Olaudah Equiano describes a preacher like this in his life-story, "The Interesting Narrative":

".exhorting the people with the greatest fervour and earnestness, and sweating as much as ever I did while in slavery."/p>

Equiano himself was a very religious man, and wrote that he had had thoughts about becoming a priest himself, but the Bishop of London "declined to ordain me".

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