For The Friendless: Reverend Thomas Jackson And The Whitechapel Mission

In the East End of London, the Whitechapel Mission tirelessly provides the invaluable service that has been its purpose since its earliest incarnation as the Working Lads’ Institute and Home. With the aim of offering shelter, food and rehabilitation to young men who often had few options but petty crime, the Institute gave them an opportunity to prove themselves to be diligent and constructive members of society by encouraging them to aid the city’s most unfortunate dwellers. As a reward for their service, they would leave with glowing references and the full endorsement of the Institute.

The Working Lads’ Institute and Home was founded by the merchant and philanthropist, Henry Hill, in 1876, with the original premises at The Mount, Whitechapel Road. In 1885, the Institute was moved to a new building with an address at 285 Whitechapel Road, which even had a library, swimming baths and a gymnasium. Lads were also allowed to put on musical shows and plays, to which members of the public were invited to attend.

Several years later, the Institute would become associated with Jack the Ripper case when the inquests for the murders, of Polly Nichols and Annie Chapman were held there. Following the inquest into the murder of Frances Coles (not thought to be a Ripper victim) was conducted there in 1891, it was reported that the governor of the Institute was so annoyed by the large and noisy crowds who turned up to hear the gruesome details, that he ordered the coroner, Wynne Baxter, to find an alternative site. Continue reading

So Far And Beyond: The Style Of Til Brugman

Mathilda Maria Petronella Brugman, known as ‘Til,’ was born on 16th September 1888 in Amsterdam, the eldest of nine children. The Brugman family were strict Roman Catholics and their first-born daughter’s assertiveness and sexuality would become a source of domestic conflict. At the age of 11, Brugman was sent to a Catholic girl’s boarding school, having already shown an aptitude for languages, encouraged by her mother. In 1911, Brugman found her own apartment in Amsterdam, taking a job as translator.

Always acknowledging that she was attracted to her own sex, Brugman fell in love with the opera singer Sienna Masthoff in 1917, and the couple moved to The Hague, where Brugman worked as a foreign languages tutor. At the same time, Brugman started to write poetry, inspired by her friendship with the avant-garde painter Piet Mondrian.

By 1917, Modrian had become affiliated with the recently formed collective of artists and architects, known as De Stijl. Founded by the designer and painter Theo van Doesburg, the group considered that art should be stripped down to the bare essentials, favouring simple bold lines and mainly black and white colour schemes. Others associated with the movement included the Hungarian painter, Vilmos Huszár and architect and furniture designer, Gerrit Thomas Rietveld. Additionally, a journal of the same name was produced in order to publicise De Stijl’s abstract notions and concepts, with the first edition proclaiming, ‘There is an old and a new awareness of art. The former focuses on the individual. The new focus on the universal.’ Continue reading

Fighting Forms: The Expressions Of Franz Marc

The son of Wilhelm Marc, a successful landscape painter and Professor at the Munich Akademie der Bildenden Künste, and his devout Calvinist wife Sophie, Franz Marc was born in Munich on 8th February 1880. Unsurprisingly, given his background, the younger Marc was fascinated by art from an early age and had seemingly inherited his father’s formidable talent.  Though he had hoped to study theology and become a minister, in accordance with his mother’s wishes, instead Marc chose to read philosophy at university. However, after a year of compulsory military service, a rethinking of his future options, led him to turn his attention back to his first love – art. At the age of 20, he entered the Akademie der Bildenden Künste and his tutors included the renowned illustrator, Wilhelm von Diez, who was to have a profound influence upon Marc’s own work.

In 1903, Marc spent several months in Paris, where he encountered some of the greatest names in Impressionism, but it was the Post-Impressionists, such as Gauguin and van Gogh, who truly seized his imagination. Returning to Munich in late 1903, Marc found his own studio in Schwabing, a bohemian part of the city. It was there that he met the art dealer, Annette von Eckardt, and the two quickly started an affair, despite her being married with two children and nine years his senior. In fact, von Eckardt and her husband, a respected professor of Sanskrit and Indology, acted as Marc’s patrons; but her volatile relationship with the fledgling artist lasted only two years, during which time Marc suffered from bouts of depression and his creativity was adversely affected.

Shortly after the end of his involvement with von Eckardt, Marc befriended two female painters who were both connected to the Women’s Academy of Munich Artist’s Association, Marie Schnür, a 36 year-old teacher there, and her pupil Maria Franck. Attracted to both women, in May 1906, Marc persuaded Marie and Maria to go with him to Kochel am See in Upper Bavaria, to spend the summer painting. Not only did they paint, they also engaged in a ménage à trois, with Marc capturing both his lovers on canvas as they sat gazing at the municipality’s glorious scenery. Continue reading

Duci Non Trahi: The Sinking Of HMS Duchess

At the bottom of the cold and murky North Channel, off the Mull of Kintyre, lies HMS Duchess, a once splendid D-class destroyer, now nothing more than a desolate wreck that belies her former glory, as well as her proud motto, Duci non trahi’ meaning To be led but not dragged.’ As she descended into the unforgiving depths, all but 23 of her 160 crew members met their deaths, with those who had managed to escape the sinking ship quickly succumbing to the icy waters.

Built by Palmers in Jarrow, a company that collapsed soon after, HMS Duchess was commissioned in January 1933, and originally allocated to the British Mediterranean Fleet, which played an essential role in protecting the links between Britain to the rest of the Empire. In 1935, HMS Duchess had been deployed to China, joining the 8th Destroyer Flotilla before being sent to the Red Sea in response to the Abyssinian Crisis. From September 1937, HMS Duchess remained stationed in Hong Kong.

Shortly before Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, she was reinstated as part of the Mediterranean Fleet and orders were given for her immediate to return to British waters with ‘the greatest possible speed.’ Crossings seas, stopping at Singapore, Colombo and Aden, and passing though the Suez Canal, HMS Duchess finally arrived in Malta where, along with her sister ships, HMS Duncan, HMS Dainty, HMS Delight, she was instructed to sail to the River Clyde, escorting the First World War veteran battleship, HMS Barham. Continue reading