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The Bishopsgate Blog provides an added insight into all of our activities, Library, Courses, Events and Schools and Community Learning. Our regular blogs will feature speakers from our Cultural Events, photographs, documents, letters, posters and ephemera from the Library, up-to-date news and information on courses and first-hand accounts of our Schools and Community workshops.

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Courses Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information on our courses
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Schools and Community First hand accounts of our archive learning workshops

Schools and Community

Our inspired Schools and Community Learning programme delivers a range of workshops and projects using the unique and fascinating collections found within our world-renowned Bishopsgate Library. Our workshops are suitable for learners of all ages and are used by wide variety of audiences from primary school pupils to pensioners.

Our regular blogs will demonstrate how our Schools and Community Learning programme encourages discovery and enquiry amongst our wide-ranging participants.


Culture and arts, heritage and history, ideas and independent thought all come together in our exciting events programmes. You can enjoy talks, walks, discussions and debates, or one of the many concerts that take place throughout the year.

Our regular blogs will give an added insight and perspective into our dynamic programme with content from speakers at our events.


Situated in a Grade II* listed building, Bishopsgate Library’s beautiful reading room is a peaceful place to study that is open to all; a calm oasis amid the bustle of Spitalfields and the City. In our dedicated Researchers’ Area, you can consult our renowned printed and archival collections on London, labour, freethought and Humanism, co-operation, or protesting and campaigning.

Our regular blogs will provide a new way for you to engage with the library collections and services, new acquisitions, activities and future developments.


Our comprehensive range of short courses offer you the opportunity to discover, discuss and be inspired in a welcoming environment. Our courses are conveniently designed to take place throughout the day, including lunchtimes, after work and at weekends. We have five course strands, Arts and Culture, Words and Ideas, Languages, Performing Arts and Body & Exercise to choose from.

Our regular blogs will provide up-to-date news and information.

Bishopsgate Blog
Discover | Enquire | Debate

Finding London in the Fragrant Past

by Courses on 02 / 11 / 2012

Just down the road from Bishopsgate Institute is a branch of Boots the Chemist with a perfume section at the front. In fact, chemists and department stores often put their most fragrant products by the near nearest the main street. Why is that?

Bishopsgate Institute tutor Caryle Webb-Ingall tells us that back in 1900, London was a city of horses. There were 11,000 horse-powered cabs, thousands of horse-drawn buses requiring 12 horses a day as well as countless carts, drays and other equine industry making deliveries around the ever-growing city. Over half a million horses worked in early-twentieth century London which meant an unfeasible amount of horse manure gathering on the streets. The average horse produces between fifteen to thirty-five pounds of manure a day; presumably this goes from ponies to drays, producing an organic and fragrant pollution.

London’s newly opening department stores were aware of this, in fact everyone with a sense of smell would have been aware of this, so their sweetest smelling section, the perfume counter, was placed at the front to provide olfactory relief for their customers. And once in, perhaps they would take an interest in some charming Bakelite figurines?

Apocryphal or not this is one of the many insights into late nineteenth century London our tutor Caryle provides in our afternoon London after Dickens course. Caryle promises that students will “start noticing the streets around them more - they might look up above the old shop fronts or look more closely at the meaning of street names or make some links through a television programme or book.”

As well as horse poop, other topics covered on the course include other modes of transport, the London County Council, police and crime, markets and shops, the East End, Victorian ways of death, London’s Docks, civil unrest and much more. Come and learn about the era that was fertiliser to our own.

London after Dickens begins on Tuesday 6 November at Bishopsgate Institute at 2.30pm. It runs for 6 weeks. Please see our website for more details.


I thoguht finding this would be so arduous but it's a breeze!
You have more uusefl info than the British had colonies pre-WWII.

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