Henry Croft

Raindrops on rose stem


A day’s unending dreary drizzle dripping from damp, dingy, clouds over Downton provided ample material for Pearly Kings and Queens to refresh their outfits.

Wikipedia tells us:


“The practice of wearing clothes decorated with so-called pearl, actually mother-of-pearl buttons, originated in the 19th century.[1] It is first associated with Henry Croft, an orphan street sweeper who collected money for charity. At the time, London costermongers (street traders) were in the habit of wearing trousers decorated at the seams with pearl buttons that had been found by market traders. Croft adapted this to create a pearly suit to draw attention to himself and aid his fund-raising activities.[2][3] In 1911 an organised pearly society was formed in Finchley, north London.[1]

Croft died in January 1930, and his funeral was attended by 400 followers from all over London,[1] receiving national media coverage.[4] In 1934 a memorial to him was unveiled in St Pancras Cemetery, and in a speech to mark the occasion he was said to have raised Β£5,000 for those suffering in London’s hospitals.[5] The statue was later moved to the crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields, Westminster. The inscription reads:

In memory of Henry Croft who died January 1st 1930 aged 68 years. The original Pearly King

The pearlies are now divided into several active groups. Croft’s founding organisation is called the Original London Pearly Kings and Queens Association. It was reformed in 1975[1][2] and holds the majority of the original pearly titles which are City of LondonWestminster, Victoria, Hackney, Tower HamletsShoreditchIslington, Dalston and Hoxton. Other groups have also been established over the years. The oldest is the Pearly Guild, which began in 1902.[1][6] Modern additions include the London Pearly Kings and Queens Society, which started in 2001 following a disagreement,[1][3] and the Pearly Kings and Queens Guild.[7] Despite the rivalries, each group is associated with a church in central London and is committed to raising money for London-based charities.[1] A parade of real-life Pearly Kings and Queens was featured at the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony.

This evening we dined on succulent slow-roasted duck breasts in plum sauce on Jackie’s splendid savoury rice. I drank Cimarosa Reserva Privada cabernet sauvignon 2015.

Published by derrickjknight

I am an octogenarian enjoying rambling physically and photographing what I see, and rambling in my head as memories are triggered. I also ramble through a lifetime's photographs. In these later years much rambling is done in a car.

55 thoughts on “Henry Croft

  1. Ooh, thanks for this! Whilst watching ‘My Story’ (a programme for children on CBeebies πŸ€”) with Max, this pearly stuff came up, but somehow, I managed to miss the brief description about how it all started. I had forgotten to Google it, but your post reminded me of the show. Another fab post highlighting some of London’s history. 😊

  2. Derrick, this page is so full of pretty photos, as well as the pearly charitous man, Henry Croft. It makes me happy to know that a humble man set his mind and heart to help people and managed to collect 5000 pounds.
    Thanks for your sharing and lessons today. πŸ™‚

      1. It was a very special post! The raindrops seemed to glisten even on a gloomy day. Perfect captures with the blue, green and branches with fairy droplets, being my favorite today.
        The pearly church groups details added to the story, Derrick.

  3. In 2005, I was in London to watch the Lord Mayors parade; the last time I’d seen one was 1949; I tried to recall how it had changed;but couldn’t.

    Along came a group, about half a dozen Pearlies, dressed in their finery, and of course singing. Naturally I couldn’t resist singing along for a few seconds, with some Cockneys, and the song they were singing?

    “Who do yer fink you are foolin Mr ‘itler;
    If yer fink ol’ Englans dun!”

    Somehow though, I fink I was der only Cockney there, who actually sang this ditty during the war,
    Wish I could find the photo. 😦
    Fings ‘aven’t change much guvner πŸ™„ 🐻

    1. Don’t think you could have sung that particular song, as it was written for the Dads Army show in 1969! Maybe something similar? See below.

      The Dad’s Army Theme tune was penned by Jimmy Perry and Derek Taverner in 1969. The feel of the tune and the sentiment in the lyrics are so ‘right’ that many believe they are listening to a real war-time song. Bud Flanagan sang the lyrics, it was his last song recorded before he died.

      1. I too was thinking that, as I read Lord Beari’s post, but I can’t trust my recall these days. And the Jimmy Perry lyric is “Oo do yer think you’re KIDDIN’, Mr ‘itler… “

      2. Wrong, we did sing it. Next thing you’ll try to tell me is that My old mans a dustman was some other blokes song, again rubbish we sang this way back in the war years.
        It was a folk ditty and somebody was smart enough to cash in on it.
        If you care I’ll give you the original words to the my old mans a dustman song too!

      3. Fortunately or unfortunately I’ve been stuck with a memory that drives people nuts. Here are the words to the original folk song/ditty “My Ol Mans a dustman”

        You will of course excuse the language. The words are not the same as those that some parasite claimed when he copyrighted the song, in I don’t know what year; and don’t want to know.

        These are the real words, that we sang during WWII in London!

        My ol’ mans a dus’man,
        he wears a dus’mans ‘at.
        He killed 5 fousan Germans.
        Now wot you fink of that?

        One lay ‘ere’
        One lay dere,
        One lay round da corner.
        One poor soul,
        Wiv a bullet up ‘is ‘ole’
        Cryin’ owt fer water.

        Water, Water
        Water came at last’
        I don’t want your water,
        So stick it up your
        Arsole Brown to tea
        and bring ‘is family,

        If he don’t come’
        I’ll tiggle ‘is bum
        Wiv a stick of celery

        Change a few words claim it as you song and Copyright it, and the monies all yours!
        And that’s what some blokes did in 67.

        Please don’t doubt me.

        I sang ‘Who do yer fink you are foolin mister hitler, if yer fink ol Englands done!

      4. I’ve just checked out the source of your information, Wikipedia! I noticed that the smart alecs who “wrote” this song changed the word foolin’ to kidding!
        Amazing what some will do for a quick quid and “fame”
        I got my information by actually being there, in London, during WWII and actually singing this song/ditty .NOT Wikipedia!

  4. I’d never heard [or should that be “‘eard”?Β :-)] of Henry Croft, nor known that the Pearly Kings were such a late development.

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