Pearly Kings and Queens are London's fabulous working-class royalty

Originally published at: Pearly Kings and Queens are London's fabulous working-class royalty | Boing Boing

1 Like


Cockneys are endangered. None were born between May 1941 - December 1961, and few have been born since.

On the night of 10 May 1941, the church was struck by several incendiary bombs. Though the tower was spared a direct hit, the flames from the body of the church were fanned into the tower, which acted like a furnace, destroying all of the internal floors and the frame, causing the bells to crash over 100 feet (30 m) to the ground, irrevocably damaging them.

The damaged bells were removed shortly after their destruction to Mears & Stainbank’s foundry in Whitechapel, but they remained in storage for more than 10 years. In 1956, as the restoration of the church began, attention turned to the restoration of the tower and the recasting of the bells. Much of the cost of restoring the tower and bells was met by the Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation and Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York City. A new ring of twelve was cast by Mears & Stainbank in 1956, partially reusing metal salvaged from the 1933 ring. However, due to the condition of the tower, which required repairs, the bells were not hung until late 1961.

The bells, often considered amongst the most famous in the world, have typically been used to define whether or not one is a true Londoner or Cockney; anyone born within their earshot is considered such. With the urbanisation of the City of London in the 20th and 21st centuries, the increasing population, noise pollution and the soundproofing measures installed in the belfry, the range of the Bow bells is significantly smaller than at its peak.

In 1851, the bells could be heard across north and east London, as far as Hackney Marshes, Stratford and Limehouse, with reports they could also be heard south of the Thames in Southwark. An acoustic study taken in 2012 shows this range has shrunk substantially, now confined to the eastern parts of the Square Mile and Shoreditch. With no maternity hospitals within this range and only limited residential properties, the chance of the birth of a true cockney is now very low


This feels a bit like a way to make the working class feel better about being oppressed. If I read that right (Brits correct me as needed, please) it feels a bit icky.

1 Like

I like this British royalty much better than the Buckingham Palace crowd.

1 Like

Not actually British myself, but lived here for seven years, two of that in London. I have never heard anyone talk about the Pearlies in relation to the monarchy. I think it’s more analogous to the kings and queens in Mardi Gras traditions. It’s a fun tradition with deep ties to community.

ETA: I used to attend St Martin in the Fields, and there were Pearlies associated with that church. I think for a while they had some coats on display in the crypt. We’d see them collecting in the autumn.


This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.