Regrets and fears: A rural figure of fun and the emergence of Chicago …

Butt of Elizabethan jokes

The colliers, or charcoal burners, of Croydon, formed a favourite object for the jests and gibes of our satirists and comic dramatists in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Grimme, the collier of Croydon, figures in Robert Edwards' Damon and Pythias, first acted in 1566, and a later comedy is entitled Grim the Collier of Croydon: or the Devil and his Dame (1662).

In Queen Elizabeth's time indeed the inhabitants were for the most part smiths and charcoal burners who gathered their wood in the forests round and about, remains of which at Norwood, Addington, Carshalton and Baddington have survived to our own day. Their trade flourished as late as circa 1780, London being their chief market. In Collier's Waterlane, leading from the London road to Thornton heath station, stands an old fashioned tenement bearing on the Parchment-road front, the date 1590, latterly a farm house which, together with its land, is about to be taken for building purpsoses. Known as Collier's water farm it forms, we believe, the last memorial of the charcoal burners.

It is the traditional home of Franics Grimes, the collier, who is said to have come off victorious in a dispute with Archbishop Grindal, who had taken umbrage at the clouds of smoke that at times invaded the precincts of his palace, by the parish church. A wooden cross, now decayed, inscribed In Memorium (sic) Francis Grimes, Collier, stands in an orchard behind the house. "Colliers field" appears in the plan attached to Mr JC Anderson's interesting book, published two years ago, upon the award of the commissioners to enclose the Croydon commons.

Cities that spring to life

The Lancet of 14 May contains the first part of a lecture on the concentration of popultion in great cities recently delivered at University College London by GV Poore. It notes that only half a century ago the urban population of the USA was 8.5% while today is it is 29%.

The American city he notes "creates itself with appalling suddenness" and it is probable that Chicago, with 1,200,000 inhabitants, having doubled its population in the last 10 years sets the record.

He notes however, that London has more than doubled its population in the last half century: that Cardiff has risen from 80,000 to 130,000 in the last 10 years; that Barrow-in-Furness, West Ham and Croydon are all instances of towns that have sprung into existence within the memory of many people now living.

One of the consequences of the concentration of population in towns is deterioration in health.

The disease rate and the death rate are both higher in urban than in country districts. For every 100 deaths in country districts three are 120 in towns.