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In this series, Bridget Clifford, Keeper of the Tower Armouries explores the changing face of the Tower of London as depicted overtime on picture postcards.  She also provides a fascinating commentary on the scribbles, marks and various messages written on the backs.  

Picture Postcards could be compared to social media messaging today. Throughout the later 19th and 20th centuries, they were easily available, cheap and delivered all over the country multiple times per day Not only do postcards give us an insight into how people lived, travelled and worked, but also when compared and analysed, they can provide an insightful records into our buildings and cities. 

The Tower of London was first photographed in 1852. The view captured in Mr Hilditch’s snap from Tower Hill looking East is still photographed by passers by thousands of times each day.  

Postcards of the Tower were produced all over the country and sold from countless outlets throughout London, including the combined Ticket Office and Refreshment Room opposite the West Gate in the Tower and a postcard stall near the Byward gate. However, Tower views were widely available elsewhere, as evidenced by postmarks far removed from London reflecting the widespread use of postcards beyond a reminder of a grand day out at the Tower.  

Postcards gallery

Date sent: 27.02.1900        

Sender: N/A 

RecipientMAndré Strohl, 27 bis Allées de Chartres, Bourdeaux, France 

Transcription: Ces effets de couleur n’existent pas, car il y a toujours du brouillard. 

However dire the weather when they visited, this anonymous French tourist certainly chose a charming picture postcard to voice their complaint. Tower Bridge rises majestically above the Thames amidst a selection of working river boats – steam tug, traditional rowed barge and fully rigged sailing ships in the distance.  However, the artist has not included sufficient detail to pinpoint exactly which side of the bridge is shown, having turned impressionist for the surrounding area. Or is the fog indeed blanketing the City, and the correspondent merely recording what they saw?

A painting of tower bridge and rowboat

Part of the charm of the card is its size. These smaller cards, known as court or correspondence cards were popular before the picture postcard craze erupted.  Hotels and clubs held stocks of them with accompanying envelopes for their guests’ convenience.  Initially, they did not qualify for the halfpenny Postcard Rate introduced in 1894, but following public complaints, a solution was arrived at. Like its larger picture postcard cousin, the address and stamp occupy one side, the message and picture the other. It wasn’t until 1902 that message and address moved in together. Despite its size, it manages to accommodate the cancellation stamp indicating it is going outside London, London postmark and Bordeaux arrival stamp.Postcard with a message in french and postage stamps

While the disgruntled sender preserves their anonymity, it is tempting to wonder if Mr André Strohl might have any connection to the French physiologist born in Poitiers in March 1887? As a 12-year-old had he moved to Bourdeaux and succumbed to the postcard album rage?

Postcards gallery

Date sent: 17.02. 1908         

Sender: N/A 

Recipient: Miss F Whittington, Newbridge, Nr Newport, I.o.W 

Transcription: Wet day in London. 


The colourist of this “RAPCO” postcard wasn’t to know the meteorological conditions surrounding this particular posting, but you can’t help feeling they overcompensated for a wet Monday.

A postcard with a view of the White Tower

The Regal Art Publishing Co were producing postcards by 1903, cashing in on the collecting craze. This familiar view of the Tower from Tower Hill has been closely cropped, removing many of the more precise dating aids.  The grimey walls of the White Tower are probably accurate, given London’s polluted atmosphere at the time, but that doesn’t explain its brick red north eastern clock tower.  The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula is similarly rendered.  Depending on the light, the stone changes from grey to a mellow cream, but even in a summer evening’s blush, not this brick red. Still postcard makers knew their market, and the label in the bottom right hand corner obviously satisfied their target audience.

A reverse of a Postcard

And the lucky recipient? Among the various Whittington families on the Isle of Wight, Miss F is probably eight- year- old Dorothy Fanny. One of Frank and Elizabeth Whittington’s 11 surviving children, she was the baby of the family at Merstone Manor Cottage in the 1901 census. By 1911 the family had moved to Fry’s Cottage and 3 of her older sisters moved out, their places taken by 3 younger siblings. Her parents were both islanders, her father working as a farm carter (‘Ag. Horses’ in official terms).

There is some confusion in the 1911 return relating to the number of children produced by the couple’s 26-year long union. Initially details were entered along Frank’s line, then correctly re-allocated to Elizabeth – as per printed instruction.

Frank recorded 12 live births, Elizabeth 13 (possibly corrected); both agreed they had 11 living children, 2 having died. Evangeline (23) remains at home – presumably to help out with the ever-expanding brood.  Sons Oliver Frank and Charles Hilton, farm labourers aged 20 and 15 respectively, also. Eleven- year- old Dorothy Fanny has been joined by Joy Constance and Elizabeth May (9 and 7), while the baby is now 3-year-old Raymond. Further sleuthing in the 1911 Census, reveals Miriam Lottie (22), Daisy (18) and Elsie (14) still on the island but in service. Who and where is the eleventh child?

Postcards gallery

Date sent: 9 FEB 1908   

Sender: N/A 

Recipient: Miss Mallon, 74 Jeffreys Road, Clapham, London. 

Transcription: F is still improving but still weak.  Expecting Dr tomorrow will give you his report of her in my next Kindent 

Love from F and Loo and myself mats. 

In 1908 private telephones were still the preserve of the wealthy, but the halfpenny rate for postcards coupled with the multiple deliveries per day made them the ideal way to keep in touch for ordinary folk. F’s medical update could be easily circulated, and family fears put to rest.  As is so often the case in these postcards it’s unlikely that we’ll ever know the final outcome – and “F” will forever remain in a convalescent limbo.  ‘Kindent’ is presumably a family term for this communication – unless anyone else can shed light on it? Meanwhile, will Miss Mallon’s Monday be brightened by the news – or is that a light pen stroke above the second ‘l’, and it’s good news for  Miss Malton?

A drawing of the White Tower

Cassell’s were a well-established London book publishing firm by this time, and this view of the newly denuded south front of the White Tower probably originated as one of a “special series of 13 reproductions in colour of drawings of the Tower of London by Mr H E Tidmarsh” featured in the June 1904 edition of Cassell’s Magazine. Its appearance as a Cassell’s Fine Art Belle Sauvage picture postcard is more subdued than the original or its magazine print, and it has been cleverly cropped to remove the artist’s signature. Its title “The White Tower” is weedily printed, lost among the newly planted trees bordering the southern walkway. The recipient could tell that it was indeed fine art as the belle sauvage in question, neatly folded into the logo, is artfully underdressed.  Not sufficiently to cause offence, but enough to make the point. Meanwhile, the stately bust of Edward VII looks on from the stamp, unperturbed.

A postcard with a massage and postage stamps on it

Postcards gallery

Definitely not the seasonal view we’ve come to expect.  Postcards as the social media of their day were just the job for last minute posts. Perhaps Ade could have been a bit more generous and sent wishes, but perhaps hoped a single one would speed the journey?

A view of the White Tower from across the river

The view of the Tower from the Thames showing the Wharf cannon, the south face of the White Tower and looking east towards Tower Hill has remained popular through the decades. [ Were it not for the people leaning on the barrier watching the river pass by, one could be forgiven for thinking it a night-time shot, rather than a very dark printing.]* The White Tower sitting centre stage appears unchanging, but sharp-eyed viewers will note the clock resident in its NE tower from 1854 -1913.  To the east stands the gabled Main Guard, while beyond the trees the Mazawattee Tea House roof looms over Tower Hill – both buildings fell victim to 2 World War bombing raids. Today’s Wharf shelters behind a higher embankment as the river level rises, while the artful cluster of boats in the foreground are no longer as much a feature of modern river life.

A postcard with address and date on the back

Postcards gallery

‘Physical force seems the only thing in which women have not demonstrated their equality to men, and while we are waiting for the evolution which is slowly taking place and bringing about that equality, we might just as well take time by the forelock and use science, otherwise ju-jitsu.’

So wrote Mrs Edith Garrud, West Country superwoman who introduced Far Eastern martial arts to the Women’s Social and Political Union (W.S.P.U) and thus created the ‘jujutsuffragettes’.

A woman preparing to fight a group of cowering policemen

A cartoon of Garrud standing up to police in Punch magazine.

Who was Edith Garrud?

1910 was the year that Mrs Edith Garrud really entered the public arena.  Votes for Women, the Women’s Social and Political Union’s newspaper, published her article ‘The World We Live In: Self Defence’ arguing that all women should learn the ancient Japanese martial art of ju-jitsu (also known as jujutsu and jiu-jitsu) on 4 March 1910. A bold statement at a time when women’s main defence against the world was the knee, elbow, parasol, umbrella or trusty hatpin.

Relying on:

“using the adversary’s strength … the leverage lies in twisting wrists, elbows or knee – joints the way they are not meant to go” it gave women a foothold in a man’s world.  Providing for any emergency it could counter every form of attack “In this art all are equal, little or big, heavy or light, strong or weak; it is science and agility that win the victory.  Is not this a forecast for the future?  Science, quickness, vitality and brains are surely equal to brute strength in politics as well as fights?”

Rousing words indeed and still pertinent today.

Edith Margaret Williams was born in Bath in 1872, spending the next sixteen years in Wales (later turned to her advantage in an encounter with Lloyd George) before returning to Bath in 1888. Edith took an active interest in “physical Culture” and joined William Garrud’s exercise classes when he came to Bath in 1892. This was a time when most women’s public engagement in sport was minimal.  A year later, 21-year-old Edith married William.

The Garruds moved to London, William finding employment as a university physical culture trainer, and started a family.

illustrations of figures engaged in combat

Page from The Sherlock Holmes School of Self-Defence: The manly art of Bartitsu as used against Professor Moriarty

In 1899 they attended Edward Barton-Wright’s show of “wrestling” at the Alhambra Theatre, Leicester Square, and subsequently enrolled in his Bartitsu Club at 67B Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho.  The magnificently moustachioed Barton-Wright had recently returned from a 3 year residence in Japan, and forsaking his previous life as an engineer, registered “Bartitsu as a limited company promoting self-defence in all forms.  The club’s instructors included Pierre Vigny, a Swiss national teaching savate (a form of French boxing) and his own self-defence system using either walking stick or umbrella, and two Japanese ju-jitsu instructors Yuki Tani and Sadakazu Uyenishi.  Demonstrations were an important part of publicity, while Uyenishi also wrestled on the music hall circuit as ‘Raku’.

Sadly Barton Wright’s enthusiasm was not matched by his talents as either promoter or business manager, and the club folded in 1902.  However, it had caught the imagination of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,  and was immortalised in The Adventure of the Empty House -– albeit misspelt as Baritsu.

Edith and William enrolled in Uyenishi’s dojo in Golden Square, Soho, and in 1907, Edith was sufficiently skilled to appear in the short film Ju-jutsu Downs the Footpads, successfully overcoming two ruffians.

When Uyenishi returned to Japan in 1908, the Garrud’s bought his dojo welcoming their elder daughter to the family business in 1911.  Edith ran the women and children’s sessions and also offered separate self-defence classes to members of the Women’s Freedom League and WSPU – both of whom were involved in an increasingly bitter struggle to secure voting rights for women.

The Garruds capitalised on the novelty value of a woman demonstrating martial arts performing in theatres and even at garden parties. William provided the narration while Edith demonstrated the efficacy of ju-jitsu, her custom-made red jacket contrasting with the traditional white kit of her fellows.  In May 1908 William was incapacitated by indigestion just before taking to the stage at the Women’s Exhibition at the Prince’s Skating Rink, Knightsbridge. Encouraged by Mrs Pankhurst, Edith took over providing both commentary and action.

Two years later, Edith led the athletes section of the Women’s Freedom League in George V’s Coronation Procession. In 1911, she choreographed the fight scene for Mr Cecil Armstrong’s play What Every Woman Ought to Know, a simple tale of husband and wife, Bill and Eliza Barrer.  Bill’s drunken, bullying behaviour is overcome by Eliza’s mastery of ju -jitsu, and he promises to reform. Helpfully Eliza explains to the audience that his leg is not broken by her jujutsu hold, merely “bent a bit”.  To satisfy increasing demand, Edith’s Suffragette classes moved to the Palladium Academy, a dance school in Argyll Street.

Three images of a fight sequence showing a woman disarming and throwing her husband

“What Every Woman Ought to Know” (1911)

The fight for woman’s suffrage

Meanwhile, the fight for woman’s suffrage was becoming more violent. In July 1909 Marion Wallace Dunlop staged the first suffragette hunger strike in protest at the authorities’ refusal to recognise her as a political prisoner. Three and a half days later she was released. As others adopted her tactic, “ordinary hospital treatment” or forcible feeding was authorised to save life. On Black Friday, 10 November 1910, police used truncheons against suffragette marchers – in the six-hour running battle three women received fatal injuries and 120 were arrested.

Action and official counteraction spiralled. Forcible feeding was a dangerous and painful process. It alienated public opinion and was in danger of becoming something of a Suffragette badge of honour. The Cat and Mouse Act of 1913 attempted to counter this — allowing the authorities to release hunger-striking suffragettes and on their recovery, re-arrest them.  In an effort to safeguard key WSPU leaders the “Bodyguard” a trained band of selected Suffragettes was formed with Edith as their official ju-jitsu teacher.

As well as jujutsu, Edith instructed the “Bodyguard” in the use of Indian Exercise Clubs. Intended to be swung to develop strength and coordination,  they were the Suffragette answer to the police truncheon, easily concealed under long skirts.  Newspaper “armour” wrapped round rib cages and arms gave added protection.

Edith was rarely at the forefront of the action – her role was too important to risk arrest — but she was active in planning. Training sessions had to change locations regularly to avoid detection, and Edith’s dojo was on occasion used as a refuge after militant action.

Following the outbreak of war in August 1914 Mrs Pankhurst suspended action and encouraged women to support the government at this time of crisis. Edith slipped back into the shadows resuming her role as wife, mother and active business partner.

In February 1918 The Representation of the People Act gave women “of property” over 30 the vote, but another decade passed before it was extended to all adults over the age of 21, regardless of gender.


If you like me are curious to know what happened next to the Garruds, read on. William, too old for active service, joined the Volunteer Civil Force becoming their official jujutsu instructor.  His book The Complete Jujitsan (1914) became the standard reference work, and he was a founder member of the British Ju-Jitsu Society.  Their oldest son Owen was killed in action in August 1918. They continued teaching self-defence until 1925, when they sold the Golden Square dojo – it was demolished in 1930. William died in 1960. Godfrey Winn of Woman magazine interviewed Edith for her 94th birthday in 1965.  Though less mobile, she remained determined in her opinions commenting she liked “a woman to look like a woman”.  Edith died in 1971.