Secret London
Murder Ballads

I'd been living in London for about seven years when a family emergency in 1994 meant I had to move back to Devon for a while. One disaster followed another for a few years after that - a death in the family, redundancy, problems with my eyes - and it was not until 2003 that I managed to move back to London full-time.

Every foot of London pavement, I began to realise, concealed a long- forgotten story

I did so with a whole new appreciation of the capital and everything it had to offer. My years in exile - and, yes, that's exactly how I thought of it - had left me determined to make up for lost time, so I started going to the theatre every week, seeing a few of those gallery shows I'd always meant to get to and educating myself on London's history.
That last element was prompted by reading Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell, a magnificent graphic novel using the Ripper killings to examine London's dark and convoluted past. The novel led me back to Peter Ackroyd and Ian Sinclair - two of Moore's key sources - and, the more I learned, the more fascinated I became. Every square foot of London pavement, I realised, concealed a long-forgotten story, and I had only to step outside my front door to see the people in those stories materialising all around me.
This simultaneous experience of past and present is a gift London gives all its inhabitants and, if you'd care to stroll with me for a while on the pages that follow, you can share it too.

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Added in Dec 2014: All change at Cross Bones.

The past few months have brought some big changes to Redcross Way, with the Cross Bones gates remounted in a new position and planning permission granted for a new public garden there. Read all about it here.
   That page also contains all PlanetSlade’s latest letters. Here’s a few highlights:

From Andy Hulme (aka the Invisible Gardener): “When I was living in Northampton I met Alan Moore. His proposal for the sport Great Britain should add to the Olympics: hallucinating. We’re unbeatable.”

From Sue Rands: “I really want to know where the remains of the Crossbones Girl were laid to rest after the BBC had finished the programme about her.”

From Jeffrey Bloomfield: “The best film ever turned out on the story of the West Port Murders was based on the Robert Louis Stevenson story The Body Snatchers. I recommend it highly.”

From Sarah Carter: “Edith Thompson was hanged in 1923 for murdering her husband – even though her lover did it. Her execution went wrong and the hangman later committed suicide.”

From Joe Turner: “The overall bone industry by 1850 was in the thousands of tons and barges were regularly carting them around the country.”

From Rebecca Shearer: “I just found a big stack of hell notes next to my daughter in a new house. Is this bad luck?”

From Fred “Butch” Burns: “In my ongoing pursuit of the Hillbilly arts [I’ve found] there are Polly songs and Molly songs. Polly gets murdered and Molly breaks hearts.”

From Michael M: “What stuck me were the parallels between the Weekly Dispach approach – whereby anyone could simply grab a shovel and follow the crowd – and the current Hidden Cash style.”

     For all these delights, and a special table celebrating the completion of PlanetSlade’s five-year alliterative headlines project, just click here.