London through and through: Pearly Kings and Queens – Where do they come from and where are they today?

by Jo 29. September 2014 09:16

By Richard Slater, photographer and author of People In London

The Pearly tradition started among the costermongers –  the original barrow-boys – of London’s fruit and vegetable markets. An orphan called Henry Croft who worked as a sweeper in the markets adopted a fashion among the costermongers and took it to new extremes. The flash boys sewed smoke pearl buttons down the seams of their bell-bottom trousers and on their jackets, waistcoats and caps. Henry used the same smoke pearl buttons but he didn’t limit himself to the seams. He smothered his clothes in them.

But not because he wanted to show off. Henry had also noticed a very attractive characteristic among the costermongers. They looked after anyone in their community who was ill or fell on hard times. And Henry wanted to raise money to do good too. He thought that people would notice him if he wore a suit that was covered in smoke pearl buttons and that they’d be more likely to open their wallets and purses. And he was right. Soon he became well known for his charity work.

Henry’s friends among the costermongers decided to follow his example and raise money for charity in the same way. Before long, there were twenty-eight Pearly families. It was all very territorial. Each London borough had a family and there was one for Westminster and one for the City too.

The tradition of the smoke pearl buttons lives on today. Twenty-first century Pearly Kings and Queens may not be pushing barrows round Covent Garden but they do still spend a huge amount of time raising money for good causes. You see them doing this all over London.

But if you want to see a large group of Pearlies together, go to St. Paul’s Church in Covent Garden on the second Sunday of October (12th October this year). They gather from all over London for the Harvest Festival service in the church, which is also known as the Actors’ Church because of its long association with the theatre community.

Pearly Kings and Queens have a long and close association with the church and with Covent Garden too. The portico at the rear of the church features in the first act of Shaw’s Pygmalion (and therefore also of My Fair Lady). Anyone who’s seen Pygmalion or My Fair Lady will know that Pearly Kings and Queens appear in the market scenes.

Stanfords announces line-up for Stanfords Travel Writers Festival

by eal-admin 16. September 2014 12:37


Stanfords is delighted to announce that Kate Adie, Simon Armitage, Ned Boulting, Frank Gardner, Tristram Hunt, Griff Rhys Jones, Tim Moore, Richard Parks, Simon Reeve, Chris Stewart and Levison Wood will headline a superb array of talented authors at the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival 2015.

The festival will be held in a purpose built auditorium at the Destinations Show 2015, and will be a unique opportunity for visitors to meet well known explorers, adventurers, food writers, poets, TV presenters, journalists, politicians, and comedians.

Alongside the auditorium there will be a ‘Signings At Stanfords’ shop where visitors will be able to purchase copies of the author’s books and have them personally signed and dedicated.  The signing area will be complimented by the Stanfords Shop selling guidebooks, travel literature and accessories.

Stanfords Managing Director, Tony Maher, said: “We are delighted to present such a prodigious array of authors at the first ever Stanfords Travel Writers Festival.  I would especially like to thank Jo James for her energy and input, publishers for their show of support, and Clarion Events for their continued help in making this dream become a reality. The programme line-up ensures that the festival will be a huge draw for travel connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike and will further underline Stanfords’ position as the market leader in the retail of travel books, maps and related product”.

Jo James, who is working with Stanfords to develop the programme and look after authors during the event said: “I’m delighted by the amazing response and support from publishers, and of course our experts and speakers. The Writers Festival will be the big attraction for visitors at Destinations 2015, promising a jam-packed programme of travel writing talent”.

Sam North, Show Director, Destinations Show, said: “The line-up for the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival is truly fantastic and will provide show visitors with a unique insight in to the authors stories, experiences and expertise. We are incredibly proud to be hosting the Festival at Destinations, the UK’s number one consumer travel event and look forward to welcoming the authors to the show”.

Further announcements will be made on the Destinations Show Website. The current line-up of speakers at the Stanfords Travel Writers Festival is available to view at

Entrance to the Travel Writers Festival is included in the ticket price for Destinations.


About Stanfords

Edward Stanford Limited was founded in 1853 and located at Charing Cross Road in London. In 1901 the Company moved to its current flagship location in Long Acre, Covent Garden.

Famed throughout the World as a publisher of maps, Stanfords expanded into retail following the move to Covent Garden. To this day Stanfords stocks the largest range of maps in the World, as well as travel guides, a large selection of globes and furniture, and other travel related product. It has a further shop in Bristol, a website and a specialist Business Mapping Service based in Manchester. Edward Stanford Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of Edward Stanford Group Limited.


Read more about Stanfords at  


About Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show

The Times presents Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show, Olympia London, is the UK’s biggest and longest running consumer travel exhibition, due to celebrate its 21st year in 2015. Organised by Clarion Events and with over 300 exhibitors and more than 37,000 visitors attending, the show is the perfect place for those passionate about travel to indulge themselves, be inspired and book their next holiday. The show’s sister-event, held in Manchester each January, is the North’s biggest travel show and will be held for the 4th year in 2015 at EventCity.


Stanfords Travel Writers Festival – Essential Information:

Taking place within Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show

Dates: 29th January – 1st February 2015

Venue: Olympia Grand, Olympia London Hammersmith Road, London, W14 8UX

Open times: 10.00am – 5.30pm every day


Ticket price: Entry is included in the ticket price for the Destinations Show

-      Advance Adult Ticket: £11

-      On-the-door Adult Ticket: £13

-      Children under 12 go free when accompanied by an adult ticket-holder

Festival information:

Festival line-up:

Destinations Show website:

Stanfords website:




Claim your complimentary ticket to The Destinations Show!

by Jo 7. January 2014 16:58

Discover your next adventure at The Times presents Destinations: The Holiday & Travel Show, taking place from 6– 9 February 2014 at Earls Court, London.

Stanfords is delighted to be the official bookseller at the show again this year! 

With tourist boards from across the globe showcasing their beautiful countries and giving you specialist advice about where and when to travel, the Destinations Show offers you a unique chance to come face to face with the travel experts. The vast array of journeys available will be sure to ignite your curiosity of countries you’ve yet to explore and help you discover the hidden corners of ones that you’re familiar with.  Plus, with hundreds of special offers available you’ll be sure to save money on your next journey, wherever that might be.

To claim your complimentary ticket to The Destinations Show*, simply visit and quote SCB by 9pm on Wednesday 5th February.More...


In London

Books Are My Bag!

by Jo 19. September 2013 09:41


Books are my bagThis September the Booksellers Association is asking you to show your love of books by declaring ‘Books Are My Bag’!

As an independent bookseller, Stanfords is delighted to join in the celebrations and we will be selling the bags in our Long Acre and Bristol stores in the run up to Christmas.

The campaign has some well known book lovers supporting it including Sebastian Faulks, Bill Nigby, Mariella Frostrup, Joan Collins, Jamie Oliver, Chris O’Dowd and Dawn O’Porter.

We love books here at Stanfords so in celebration of the Books Are My Bag campaign, some of our staff have chosen their favourite books to share with you.More...

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In London | Life at Stanfords

Forts, Ships and Industrial wasteland.

by Jo 2. September 2013 10:32

Gregor Swiderek spends the day exploring Tilbury Fort in Kent.

Water Gate Tilbury foryThe British weather finally got better so it was time to stretch my legs. But I have to admit I got bored of doing the same walks every year. Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common, river Thames towards Kew, Richmond, Kingston or Hampton, Hampstead Heath, I have walked in those areas so many times. At the same time I didn't want to venture too far from London and still wanted to see something interesting. So I started browsing the Ordnance Survey Explorer maps covering Greater London as well as using Google maps to find some exciting destination for my next walk. It was then that I spotted a fascinating shape in Tilbury, just east of London. After a quick investigation I found out that it is Tilbury Fort and a couple of more minutes later I was sure that I really wanted to visit it.

tilbury fortA few day later we (I mean me and my equally geeky girlfriend) started our little adventure by taking a train from London Bridge to Gravesend in Kent. A quick look at the map of the area revealed that we might have chosen the wrong side of the river to start our walk. But don't you worry, it was all well planned. We decided to use the passenger ferry linking Gravesend with Tilbury as it is a cheap, quick and fun way of travel. The boat, euphemistically called a “ferry”, was a rather ancient looking vessel called Duchess M and it was built in 1956. Crossing the Thames takes just a few minutes and offers great views of Gravesend and Tilbury as well as of the huge cargo ships frequently passing here.More...

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Expert Travel Advice | In London

London Street Art

by Jo 16. July 2013 09:00

Maggie Murphy takes a wander around London's East End finding many examples of London's vibrant street art scene along the way.

London has always been a global city full of creativity and culture. This is evident in its museums as well as its streets.  Famous street artists from all over the world have been coming to London for years to show their unique point of view and engage the public. The greatest part about these pieces is that there is no queue or ticket to see them! The best area to go for street art, in my opinion, is the East End. Between Shoreditch and Spitalfields you will encounter some of the most amazing street art in the world….

1. London-based artist INSA’s colorful geometric patterns stands in contrast to a portrait done by protégées artist Alexander Faro aka Vhils in Shoredich. Vhils actually uses a drill to remove bits of the wall he is working on.
2. Stik, once homeless on the streets of London, is now one of the city’s most celebrated artists.More...

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In London

Make the Most out of London

by Jo 15. July 2013 16:41

As part of our London theme this month we are delighted to have a piece of art by Elke Marquart in our Covent Garden store window. Entitled 'Where on earth am i going?' the piece is made from a 10 year old London A - Z map. The A- Z was cut along the grid, clued up and woven into a tapestry like map.

The piece was shortlisted by the Royal Academy for the Summer Exhibition 2013. Call by and have a look!

If you are interested in buying this piece please email and we will put you in contact with the artist.


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In London | Life at Stanfords

Travel Photography Live! Ticket offer…

by Jo 14. July 2013 12:04


We are delighted to have a special discount for Stanfords customers to Travel Photography Live! Simply quote STAN10 at the online checkout and you’ll save 10% off the ticket prices for this exciting event. To book tickets please visit:

Chris WestonRenowned wildlife photographer Andy Rouse will appear at London’s Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) on 17th July 2013, starting this year’s Travel Photography Live! festival of photography in style.

Some of the world’s leading travel, landscape, adventure, people and wildlife photographers – including Colin Prior, Steve Bloom, Chris Weston, Jim Marks, Martin Hartley and Nick Danziger – will be speaking at the Society during this highly interactive, informative and hugely entertaining event, which takes place on the evenings of 17th and 24th July 2013, and all day over the weekend of 27th and 28th July 2013 (when there will also be a photography advice centre, with experts from Fujifilm and Practical Photography magazine providing invaluable assistance).

The festival is set against the backdrop of the magnificent, free-to view, Travel Photographer of the Year exhibition, featuring the latest winning images from the TPOTY awards together with fascinating historic images from the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) archive, which runs for the public from 12th July to 18th August 2013.

Festival tickets cost £25 for each evening event, £40 for both evenings, £75 for Saturday or Sunday, £130 for a Saturday/Sunday two-day ticket and £150 for a Festival Pass covering all four dates. Prices are reduced to £17.50, £30, £55, £95 and £110 respectively for members of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), registered students, current or former Travel Photographer of the Year entrants and anyone aged 65 or over. More...


In London

The London Marathon

by Jo 19. April 2013 14:47

Marathon runnersWith the London marathon approaching on Sunday, Molly Loeffler takes a look at the history of this great British sporting event.

The idea for the London Marathon was born in 1978 in a pub next to Richmond Park. Ex-Olympians John Disley and the late Chris Brasher were in the Dysart Arms listening to people talking about the New York Marathon. After hearing about the amazing atmosphere and experience their fellow runners had at the New York Marathon, Disley and Brasher decided to enter the 1979 race.

The ex-Olympians were astounded by the marathon. They loved how the entire city was involved with the course going by major New York attractions and thousands of cheering spectators lining the streets. Once they returned to London, Brasher wrote an article entitled ‘The World’s Most Human Race’ for The Observer and discussed how he believed the New York Marathon brought people together in a family sort of way. At the end of the article, he questioned whether London could ever host such an event.More...

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In London

Covent Garden - Top Attractions

by Jo 17. April 2013 17:33

Our intern Molly Loeffler shares her favourite things to do in the bustling area surrounding our flagship store in Covent Garden.

apple market

From shopping to eating to enjoying a show, our local neighborhood of Covent Garden is a vibrant area with so much to do.

The Markets

One of the main draws to Covent Garden is the markets. Surrounding the main piazza, the markets are open everyday and sell just about anything you would ever need! The Apple Market is about 40 stalls in the famous Inigo Jones designed market and is open everyday specialising in antiques on Mondays and arts and crafts from Tuesday to Sunday. The East Colonnade Market is on the eastern part of the main piazza and sells a variety of things from hand-made soap, confectionery, and even has a magician’s stall. The third main market of Covent Garden is the Jubilee Market. During weekdays, the market is open from 9:30-6:00pm. On Mondays the market specializes in antiques, and Tuesday-Friday it is a general market selling everything from household goods to handmade clothing. During the weekends the market is open from 9-6pm and specializes in arts and crafts.More...

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In London

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