From Clarence's Diary - Sun Dec 15th 1889 - The Pyramids

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Excerpts from Clarence Bicknell's diary "Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890" - No.9pyramids cb

The morning was so fine that we decided to start for the pyramids. So with plenty of luncheon including a bottle of good Egyptian wine, 10 oranges for 1 piastre , of great weight and delicious flavour, we started in a carriage at 8.20, a long and cold drive, the air clear but the wind from the north blowing fiercely. Part of the road runs along of the Nile where boats were discharging load of sugar and cane, and many camels were being loaded. There was a large concourse of people near the village of Gizeh (Giza, Ed.), Sunday being the market day or fair there. There the road runs straight under an avenue of Lebbek  trees at the foot of the pyramid plateau, and winds up to a small house close to the great pyramid. There we were at once beset by the Arabs (Bedouins ) who have the right to conduct visitors up to the top of the great pyramid, and whose services you are bound to accept.  A fee of 2/- each has to be paid to the sheik and ‘backshish’ to the men, and then nobody is content. We at once began the scramble, so often before discuted, for the whole casing of polished stone except a few at the very base having been long ago pulled down for building the 4 surfaces, now consist of great blocks of nummulitic  limestone from 1-4 feet high, arranged in steps.

Of course it would be easy enough to go up quietly, and I cannot conceive anyone being giddy on such broad steps, but the arabs seize both one’s hands, and a third pretends to push behind, and so they drag one up and hardly allow one time to rest. We however insisted on stopping several times. The climb did not seem to me very long and soon we were on the flat platform, 30 feet lower than the tomb was when completed. We stayed there a long time, but we were greatly worried by the men wanting us to buy things, talking incessantly about their ‘backshish’ &c. A boy came up too with a water bottle and leager for to wash your mouth out &c. &c. Going down jumping from one stone crusoe to another is scary enough. I worried my man by stopping to collect nummulites: arrived at the entrance to the interior, we decided to see that too, but at the bottom of the downward passage A. & D. declined to go on so B. and C. with 2 men each holding candles went on alone. At the beginning of the grand gallery there is a rads piece and the whole ascent is very slippery, as the little steps cut in the polished stone floors are so slight. In he Kings’ Chamber with its solitary red granite sarcophagus we lighted magnesium wire and remained a little while and then returned easily but very hot and dusty. We then paid the sheik 4/- each and 4/- backshish for the men – and finally the man who said he was the sheik but turned out to be the 2nd fiddle wanted something also. We had a tiptop lunch in the shade on the steps of the house, and then set off for an excursion in the neighbourhood, for all round the 3 larger pyramids are multitudinous small pyramids and their tombs.

The Sphinx was at first disappointing but gradually one recognised its colossal size and its strange beauty, which by degrees fascinates one – and there it has been, this great stone creature half beast half human looking out at the sunrise for who shall say how many thousand years. Close by is a temple of massive red granite & alabaster floor. We sat a long time and sketched a little, and then walked about the 2nd Pyramid of Capluen, then I stecked with a pleasant and intelligent Arab up one of the great ruined causeways and crawled into several pariled tombs, with the cartouche of Khufu on them, and saw the well wherein in which the summary was deposited and many inscripteries.

A Helix was abundant out on the sand and one alive little plant here and there, now in seed. We saw before leaving the two untouched casing stones of the pyramid in situ, wonderful in the masonry. They knew how to build in those days. We were home by dark.

Notes from the editor...

   The image here is the relevant page from Bicknell's diary, with his field sketch of the pyramids. On a desktop computer screen the diary page (180x230mm) will be about life size.

   Although the Piastre was replaced by the pound in 1834, it continued to be used as the word for a cent or a penny i.e. 100 piastres to the £.

  Albizia lebbeck is a species of Albizia, native to Indomalaya, New Guinea and Northern Australia and widely cultivated and naturalised in other tropical and subtropical regions. English names for it include lebbeck, lebbek tree, flea tree, frywood, koko and woman's tongues tree. The latter name is a play on the sound the seeds make as they rattle inside the pods. Being one of the most widespread and common species of Albizia worldwide, it is often simply called "siris" though this name may refer to any locally common member of the genus. It is a tree growing to a height of 18–30 m tall with a trunk 50 cm to 1 m in diameter. The leaves are bipinnate, 7.5–15 cm long, with one to four pairs of pinnae, each pinna with 6–18 leaflets. The flowers are white, with numerous 2.5–3.8 cm long stamens, and very fragrant. The fruit is a pod 15–30 cm long and 2.5-5.0 cm broad, containing six to twelve seeds.

  A nummulite is a large lenticular fossil, characterized by its numerous coils, subdivided by septa into chambers. They are the shells of the fossil and present-day marine protozoan Nummulites, a type of foraminiferan. Nummulites commonly vary in diameter from 1.3 cm (0.5 inches) to 5 cm (2 inches) and are common in Eocene to Miocene marine rocks, particularly around southwest Asia and the Mediterranean (e.g. Eocene limestones from Egypt). Fossils up to 6 inches wide are found in the Middle Eocene rocks of Turkey.2 They are valuable as index fossils.The ancient Egyptians used nummulite shells as coins and the pyramids were constructed using limestone that contained nummulites. It is not surprising then that the name "Nummulites" is a diminutive form of the Latin nummulus meaning "little coin", a reference to their shape.


From Clarence's Diary - Sat Dec 14th 1889 - The Tombs of the Khalifs

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Excerpts from Clarence Bicknell's diary "Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890" - No.8

Off in a carriage at 8.20 with a horrible wind and dust to Heliopolis : nothing remains but one granite obelisk, of the once famed City of the Sun God, whence came the priests of On: but very beautiful  it is standing up alone in the middle of the fields, near the village of Matareeyeh: we made out much of the inscription by the help of the guidebook and at any rate if I learn nothing more let me remember that the builder of it was Rah Neperska of the 12th Dynasty date about 2433 BC or 3000 BC and his royal name is    Osirtasen 1st and the 2 cartouches of these are…   and …    

We did not care to go and see the Virgins here, but instead visited the Ostrich Farm by a quarter of an hour’s donkey ride over the desert. The first thing my donkey did was to tumble down so of course I was pitched over his head – so I said bad donkey to the boy and jumped up on another. It was very interesting. There were 500 birds some 6 years old, some 5, some 4 and some just born. In some of the pairs the male birds were sitting on the eggs in the sand, and we frightened them up. At least the keep did tho’ he was afraid to go very near as the beast looked very savage and opened its mouth wide at him. And it was a beautiful sight to see the bird spread out his great black wings and settle down again over his large pile of eggs and one little one just out of the shell. Their hens lay eggs in the laying season every other day, and when there are about thirty they sit on them and as far as I understand, but many must be hatched artificially. The farm belongs to a French company, and pays well.

david roberts tomb of the khalifsWe drove home to lunch at 12h30, but at 1.30 our dear donkeys were ready, the strong one of yesterday for me, and off we rode through the town and out the other side and then through myriads of tombs till we reached the open desert and saw before us the strange and lovely sight  the ‘tombs of the Khalifs’ with mosques and their minarets and cupolas all dotted about over the yellow sand. The beauty of this sight fairly took away our breath: we wanted to stop and sketch every moment. We first entered the tomb of Sultan Berkook (died 1398) falling into series: then that of Railbec and several others which I cannot attempt to denote. Then we rode about the desert among the miracles of architectural beauty and dismounted and sketched and finally climbed up to the top of the rubbish hills where are the old windmills, from whence one gazes over the whole city at one’s feet with countless minarets, the broad Nile, the pyramids and the desert beyond and on the other side the desert again with all the tombs and the red and yellow cliffs of the Mojattam hills. These palisades and lines of the desert and the desert hills are indescribably lovely: all pale yellow and pink. I have never seen anything approaching this scene. Below us in the town was a fair with roundabouts, acrobats &c., flags and carpets, and music and a tremendous crowd of people. We rode back in the dusk among the excited people and the lighted streets, a strange sight indeed: every hour it seemed more extraordinary.


Notes from the editor...

Heliopolis was one of the oldest cities of ancient Egypt, the capital of the 13th Lower Egyptian nome. It is now found at the north-east edge of Cairo. The ancient Egyptian cult center Junu, named "On" in the Hebrew bible, was renamed Heliopolis by the Greeks in recognition of the fact that the sun god Ra (Helios in Greek) presided there. Junu is mentioned in the Pyramid Text as the "House of Ra" (Wikipedia).

The image on the right is “One of the Tombs of the Caliphs, Cairo” c.1849 by Clarence Bicknell’s brother-in-law David Roberts R.A. Later excerpts from Clarence's diary will be illustrated with his drawings from the same pages.

From Clarence's Diary - Fri Dec 13th 1889 - Old Cairo

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.7

Friday Dec 13th 1889 in Old Cairo

We really began a thorough sight seeing. At 9 with a dragoman we all started on donkeys, such strong good little donkeys! But mine set off galloping I couldn’t stop him, my stirrup broke and I thought every moment I would be pitched over his head or tumble off, but I clung on like grim death and survived!

We all 5 rode about the citadel, but there was a wind and sort of sand and desert storm and we could hardly see anything. We visited the splendid new mosque of Mohamed Ali with its multitudinous hanging lamps and gorgeous carpets: but most beautiful in the great courtyard and fountains of oriental alabaster. The man at the entrance put large slippers over our boots and then keeping our hats on, in we went. After that, remounting the donkeys we went to the glorious old mosque of Sultan Hassan with its wrought brass doors and lovely fountains. Then to various bazaars where we bought slippers, rosaries, scents etc. It is immense fun donkey riding in Cairo: howling dervishes 1893the beasts are so well-behaved and obedient, and in the compression and throng of the narrowest streets among people, carts, horses and camels one has absolutely no difficulties: they are beautifully kept and have lovely embroidered and most comfortable saddles. We paid 2/- a piece for the whole morning. Our dragoman was a splendid fellow, very pleasant and has the reputation at the hotel for honesty and experience, and he remembers well my brother (see notes below *** - Ed.) who made the pilgrimage to Mecca about 20 years ago.

After lunch we took a carriage and drove first to see the performance of the “howling dervishes” (see the image alongside from the Illustrated London News dated 1893 “English People Cairo Visiting Howling Dervishes - Mosque Mohammed Ali Tezel - Ed.) and then we went to Old Cairo, a very picturesque and interesting town. Then we saw the ancient mosque of Amer with an immense court and a solitary palm of great height near the fountain (see drawing by Clarence in yesterday's posting - Ed.).

Then we saw the Coptic village and church, very dirty and dark. I watched English and French and some of the young Copts who were there, and saw the children at school learning Arabic and French. We saw the people making all sorts of clay water bottles of pretty shapes: Beggars abounds everywhere and the Copts are almost worse than the others. We crossed the Nile in a ferry and visited the Nilometer on the island of Rhoda and ate delicious oranges in the garden: but the wind was furious and the air filled with a blinding dust, so that we saw little else but the great broad Nile, ½ mile across I should think, with numberless picturesque boats on the shore, and the forests of palm trees towards the desert, just visible in the thick mist.

The dust in the road is awful, and though there are Lebluek and Sycamore trees, and ‘Gagia’s and others on is very little sheltered. We passed enormous rubbish heaps mountain high everywhere and then returned into the most wonderful; streets of old houses and mosques without end. Then Giacomo and I, as it rained and now dark, which it does very suddenly, went for a 1½ hours! Stroll in the streets, where the lamps were being lighted in front of the crowded shops and we peered into the barbers and arab caffèes and all sorts of strange places. After dinner we bought photos. Sundance mats, stuffed lizards, Nile electric fish, fly flaps etc. The streets are always full of life and colour; figures lie or sit on the pavements or huddled up under doorways: wild looking arabs in “white” black sundancers, many of them once slaves are everywhere, young men in a gorgeous array of embroidery pass by every moment, and one is never weary. The photos are a model of cheapness, 4½ francs per dozen.

Notes from the editor...

A dragoman was an interpreter, translator, and official guide between Turkish, Arabic, and Persian-speaking countries and polities of the Middle East and European embassies, consulates, vice-consulates and trading posts. A dragoman had to have a knowledge of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and European languages. (Wikipedia)

The great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha or Alabaster Mosque is a mosque situated in the Citadel of Cairo in Egypt and commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha between 1830 and 1848. (Wikipedia)

The Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan is a massive Mamluk era mosque and madrassa located near the Citadel in Cairo. Its construction began 757 AH/1356 CE with work ending three years later "without even a single day of idleness". (Wikipedia)

*** Herman Bicknell, Elhanan’s 3rd child, (1830-1875), an FRAS, British surgeon, orientalist, and linguist, became a distinguished oriental scholar and traveller. He was the first Englishman to make the pilgrimage to Mecca totally undisguised. He was a passionate mountaineer who made more than one ascent of Vesuvius during an eruption, and survived a serious accident on the Matterhorn, later to make one of the early ascents of that mountain. “All the European travelers who made the Pilgrimage to Mecca, from De Varthema to Hurgronje, had dressed in native costume and concealed their original nationality. The first European to enter the Holy City without disguising himself in any way was an English Muslim named Herman Bicknell. Unfortunately, although Bicknell must have had some intriguing encounters, dressed as he was in trousers and boiled shirt, until he put off his English identity with the assumption of the Ihram, he has left no account of his Hajj. But he is important in any survey of Western visitors to Mecca, for he marks a turning point in the relations of the West with the world of Islam. He is representative of the increasing number of Europeans who embraced Islam in the latter half of the 19th century—and embraced it sincerely.” (from The Lure Of Mecca by Paul Lunde )The Mosque of Amr ibn al-As, also called the Mosque of Amr, was originally built in 641–642 AD, as the center of the newly founded capital of Egypt, Fustat (now Cairo) (Wikipedia).

Coptic Cairo is a part of Old Cairo which encompasses the Babylon Fortress, the Coptic Museum, the Hanging Church, the Greek Church of St. George and many other Coptic churches and historical sites. (Wikipedia).

Rhoda Island or Rawdah Island, is an island located on the Nile in central Cairo. The El-Manial District, and the Al-Manyal Palace Museum and gardens, are located on the island. The island has one of the oldest Islamic buildings in Egypt, the Nilometer on its southern tip. (Wikipedia)

In Greek mythology, Gaia was the primordial Earth-Goddess from whom all life sprang. A Gagia or Gaia tree is not specifically referenced in sources.

From Clarence's Diary - Thurs Dec 12th 1889 - Alexandria to Cairo

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.6

Thursday Dec 12th 1889alexandria cb

I was up on Thursday Dec 12th at 6 o’clock, just light, and soon the land became visible, and presently we ere near the outlying flour mills and other buildings and the palaces and minarets of the East became visible.

By about 7 we had entered the grand harbour full of ships and were soon alongside the quay and rejoiced in the first sight of the groups of men in lovely colours of skin and clothing. Oh! How different to anything seen before and how much more beautiful than anything imagined.

On the quay was the Governor of Alexandria with the Russian Consul to receive the Grand Duke and Duchess – but we were chiefly interested in Cook’s galley for which came on board a magnificent tall Egyptian with a host of his porters in scarlet dress. We put ourselves under their protection. Bade some hurried farewells and with the Miss Cookites were soon in carriages, about 4 of them, and all omnibuses also crammed en route for the station. Cook  gets all thru’ the Douane without any examination or trouble, by bribery I suppose, but from the boat to the station all is done for one for 5/- a head. At the station confusion indescribable, but finally we get all luggage registered and at 9.20 are off 2nd class in the English crowded train: but we were the only 2nd class passengers: we were very glad of this as lots of the natives came in from one station to another and we saw and learnt much. The 2nd carriages were like Swiss ones.

Pen and ink sketch, embedded in the diary text, by Bicknell alongside

At ¼ to 1 we were at Cairo. The journey was one continuous wonder and surprise. The mud villages of Fellaheen , the groups and sometimes great groves of palm trees, very tall and looking quite different to our Bordighera ones, i.e. looking at home and much more beautiful and healthy. The multitude of people everywhere, working in the fields, going along with strings of camels, or on donkeys, squatting about on the ground, watering the crops for use. And everywhere in the flat country, buffaloes, cows, sheep, donkeys and piggeries, while the air is full of wild birds, rooks and hawks and quantities of little ones, and some of them so beautiful. The Delta is perfectly flat with here and there the mud villages and occasionally a fine town such as Santah . An Egyptian who came in there and sat by me at once offered us all white sugar crystals, which we ate, and presently we exchanged cigarettes. The I took my first lesson in Arabic and asked the name for a cow, horse, buffalo, camel, the numerals, the dates, the pigeons, the oranges &c. &c. He was so pleasant and we all laughed heartily. The me, and especially the young ones are so graceful, erect and dignified and so polite. Cotton fields everywhere but nearly all gathered, wheat, broad beans and lots of crops coming up. Many of the fields still muddy from the Nile inundation. 2 men stand holding a long flexible cane at each end with bucket below  which they let down into the canals and then swing it up into the little conduits flowing down the fields so nothing more miserable and poor can be imagined than the Fellaheen villages, but nothing more picturesque. The camels are delightful. Many of the women in the country, and there at work are not covered but in the stations and towns they are all so, dressed in black and dark blue, with a queer brass thing down the forehead to hold up the little black piece of crepe which covers up the rest of the face. They are extremely handsome and so are the men; the boys beautiful. We see Nubians, black Sudanese, Arabs, Egyptians, Greeks, Turks and who knows what beside.

At Cairo, before reaching which we saw the pyramids in the distance and the long lines of the reddish yellow hills of the desert, we left the Hotel Royale oncontres and were soon at a delicious lunch with dates, bananas and large mandarin oranges a cup of café turc to finish up with. Then we all went into the town, down wonderful streets and into strange dark bazaars with carpets stretched across high up between the houses almost touching the sky. What a crowd of foot passengers, donkeys, carts and carriages, an occasional camel, water carriers, cuels of sorry description, bundles of sugar cane, crates of pomegranates, queer nuts and vegetables and eatables. Mud on dust in the narrow uneven streets. Every imaginable colour of costume among the men. Rough looking street arabs, tall polished elegant old Egyptians. The scene like a kaleidoscope and all an ever changing picture of form an colour. Then the houses, the latticed windows, the minarets and doors of the mosques, the queer stalls with cross legged vendors, the piles of carpets, the black courtyards but lit up by lacups and coloured stuffs. In some parts there are little scarlet and white flags across the streets and thousands as there is a festival going on. In the broad streets every now and then comes a S… i.e. a beautiful and bouncey fellow with short white linen trousers and bare legs, a nicely gold embroidered jacket and a red fez holding up a long stick and crying out, and he rushes down the street calling to people to get out of the way before his master’s carriage. Some grandees appear to have 2 of these elegant and picturesque servants.

We walked till we could walk no more and then we went home, dined out and in the evening sticked out to buy photos. We all 4 feel the effects of the sea so much. The earth seems to be rolling as in an earthquake. We saw Shepherd’s celebrated hotel, but are so thankful we are not there as it seems all English and is so grand and so expensive. There is no wine under 6/- a bottle and pension without that and extras is 16/- or 17/-   a day! Ours is only 10/- and wine at 2/6 or 4/- dear enough. On the table are the earthenware bottles of filtered Nile water, very cool: but you should up and see the Nile before you drink it, as it is all of a muddy yellow colour, with refuse and vegetable matter floating down it, and such mud in its banks.


Notes from the editor...

If “Cook” could get them through customs with such ease, it is likely that the traveller was John Mason Cook, the only son of Thomas Cook and the managing director of Thomas Cook & Son, travel company, at that time.

Fellah (plural Fellaheen or Fellahin) is a peasant, farmer or agricultural laborer in the Middle East and North Africa. The word derives from the Arabic word for ploughman or tiller. A fellahin could be seen wearing a simple cotton robe called galabieh. The word Galabieh originated around 1715–25 and derived from the Egyptian Arabic word gallabīyah. (Wikipedia)

Shepheard's Hotel was the leading hotel in Cairo and one of the most celebrated hotels in the world from the middle of the 19th century until it was burned down in 1952. A modern hotel called the Shepheard Hotel was built nearby in 1957. (Wikipedia).  £1 or 20/- is worth £90-£110 in 2014 using the retail price index inflation but     £430-£637 using average earning or per capita GDP. Using £500 as today’s value of £1 then gives that bottle of wine at index gives the bottle of wine at £150 and the room rate £425 a night.

From Clarence's Diary - Wed Dec 11th 1889 - Cricket at sea

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.5on board the hydraspes

Wed 11 December 1889, 3 pm

Calm and sunny. Cricket matches going on furiously, but every few minutes the string balls, made by the sailors, go into the sea and someone or other is fined 6d. Our ship will be off Alex. at 4am and at 7 we shall get into harbour. All today we are in open sea: the very gulls have deserted us.

At night the moon rose of a fiery orange colour; and the sea became like a lake. There was a great deal of singing on board, but with the exception of a very good but quite constrained tenor voice, the English exhibition was of the lowest nigger type, and all the going Britishers soon took to howling and bawling in the most rowdy way, disgusting us and making us feel ashamed of our countrymen. The the captain ordered up all the sailors and they stood in a circle on the main deck and sang but very badly raucous songs and choruses, the inevitable Santa Lucia and Ai Caroli! among them. I had much talk with my charming and cultured Italian friend whose name is Com. Carlo Restagni, Dollore in Cellere, secretary to the minister for instruction and Commandato al Ministero degli Affari Estere. It seems that the Italian authorities in Egypt did not want him back, but there has been something wrong going on and Signor Crispi  said “go out at once” – no-one expected his approval, so he could pounce down upon them unexpectedly, before they could hide their misdeeds. Signor Restagni has promised me a letter to one of her dependants in Athens and if he is in Cairo on our return will be glad to see me.

We went to bed by 11. At 4 am our ship was off Alexandria and had to anchor for the night.

Notes from the editor...

The image is a pen and ink drawing from the diary which is transcribed here. The date on the drawing is the date of the diary entry I've given here. This must be the deck where the cricket match took place. The last words of the printed text above are those at the top of the image, in Clarence's hand-writing. Luckily I find it quite easy to read, so I can transcribe onto the computer without too much strain.

Cricket! Well, he was an Englishman by origin! But then when it comes to the singing, Clarence is ashamed of his countrymen fgor their howling and bawling. He much prefered the company of his "charming and cultured Italian friend". This indicates that he thinks of himself as Italian by adoption.

More daily... well that's the intention.

From Clarence's Diary - Tues Dec 10th 1889 - Brindisi to Alexandria by sea

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.4tsar nicholas II 1898

Tuesday Dec 10th 1889 - Brindisi to Alexandria by sea. A world leader, the future Tsar, is on board and Bicknell pays him scant attention.

So far so good. Delightful weather. Calm sea. The coast always in sight . First yesterday morning he snow clad Albanian mountains, then Corfu, Cephalonia and Zante . Today we have passed Greece since now off Crete. The Ballaarat passed us last night and is now a long way ahead. We have slowed down in order not to reach Alexandria too soon for we cannot enter the difficult harbour until 7 on Thursday morning. We have about 100 1st class passengers, about 20 2nd . The Tzar’s 3rd son with a large suite are on board, charming looking people. A very agreeable Roman is my best friend; he knows so much about Egypt and lands we look on. The officers of the ship are all very pleasant; the doctor looks about 15 but is 28. All the sailors are astonished at the calm weather, so unusual: the last voyage a fortnight ago was bad enough they say. Squalls are so frequent, coming down between these islands . We some high wind and rain for about an hour last night, but then it calmed down again and we slept very well. I am in a cabin with a Mr. Stead going to Australia and am very comfortable. A top berth seems to me very attractive. My only complaint is the quantity of food: coffee in bed at 7. A huge English breakfast at 9 and a big lunch at 1, tea at 4 and awfully long dinner at 6.30 always ending with curry of some kind. An old college acquaintance, Mr Kinglake is on board. There are 3 English gents, alone, going to do Egypt and Syria. Many are only bound for Cairo. The barometer is going down.

Notes from the editor...

Grand Duke George was indeed the 3rd son of the Tsar. It is most likely that George's elder brother Nicholas, the future Tsar, was on the boat also, maybe travelling incognito in the shadow of his younger brother. Note that, on arrival at Alexandria, Bicknell was disinterested in the VIP travellers and reception committee (see his diary for December 12th). "Nicholas II (Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov) (1868-1918) was the last Emperor of Russia, Grand Duke of Finland, and titular King of Poland. On 1 March 1881, following the assassination of his grandfather, Tsar Alexander II, Nicholas became Tsesarevich and his father became Tsar Alexander III. In 1890, Nicholas, along with his younger brother Grand Duke George, and their cousin, Prince George of Greece set out on a world tour, although, Grand Duke George fell ill and was sent home partway through the trip.  George died suddenly a few months later, on 9 August 1899, at the age of 28. Nicholas visited Egypt, India, Singapore and Bangkok receiving honours as a distinguished guest in each. In April 1891, while travelling through the city of Otsu, Japan, Nicholas was the victim of an assassination attempt. The incident cut his trip short, yet he was present at the ceremonies in Vladivostok commemorating the beginning of work on the Trans-Siberian Railway. In 1893, Nicholas travelled to London on behalf of his parents to be present at the wedding of his cousin, George, Duke of York, to Mary of Teck. Queen Victoria was struck by the similar appearance of the two cousins, and the appearances confused some at the wedding. Nicholas II ruled from 1 November 1894 until his forced abdication on 15 March 1917.  He and 16 of his family and household were executed by Bolsheviks in the night of 17 July 1918." (Source: Wikipedia). Clarence Bicknell died on the same day. 

R.A.Kinglake competed for Cambridge in the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race of 1864, which means he could have been a contemporary of Clarence Bicknell (21-22 years old in 1864).

From Clarence's Diary - Sun Dec 8th 1889 - Brindisi

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.3brindisi port 1875

Sunday Dec 8th 1889

A fine morning: Brindisi is much warmer than Bordighera: a milder moister air. C & D walked about in part of the queer town with its low flat oriental-looking houses. A busy market going on. The little urchins are trying to talk English, and tourists everywhere. A fine Australian Lloyd boat had come in during the night. Presently our P&O “Hydaspes ” from Venice arrived and later the P&O Ballaarat for Australia, the finest ship of all. The place was very lively. D delighted with all the big ships. After lunch we paid our hotel bills and went on board: A and B had excellent cabins. C in the 2nd class was well off. D the worst on the main deck near the sheep and far away from the saloon. We all walked about again: the old walls and fort are grand and there are some interesting old bits and churches here and there. The wind got up towards the evening but it was full moon and lovely. A big dinner at 7 o’clock, all engloish and Americans about 80 in number and not all yet arrived and all bound for Alexandria. How can we all get in in Egypt? How will Cairo and Luxor and the Nile boats accommodate us all? And for 2 months the P&O boats have been crowded similarly and the other companies have likewise taken large numbers . All promises well for the next days – but when shall I be able to write again? Oh when?

Notes from the editor...

The image shows the arrival of the P&O Indian Mail service at Brindisi in 1875 from a contemporary print.

Norddeutscher Lloyd (sometimes called the Bremen Line) had opened their new Imperial mail line to Australia via Brindisi on July 14, 1886, with the steamer "Salier". The Suez Canal had opened in 1869.

The Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O Line) was founded in 1836 and connected through the Mediterranean to India 4 years later. The steamers left London every Saturday for India and fortnightly for Australia and China. Hydaspes (built 1872, 2,984 tons) is listed by P&O as sold in 1898 to F.Gore in Shanghai. The sailing which Bicknell recounts might have been its last outbound trip, or the new owner had leased it back to P&O. Ballaarat was built in 1882, 4,752 tons, sold and scrapped in 1904. It would have arrived from London via Gibraltar.

During the winter of 1889-1890, almost 11,000 tourists visited Cairo, “of whom 1300 went up the Nile” (Hunter, F Robert , "Tourism and Empire: The Thomas Cook & Son Enterprise on the Nile, 1868-1914."

From Clarence's Diary - Thurs Dec 5th 1889 - in Ancona

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Excerpts from Clarence's diary, no.2

Thurs. Dec 5th, 1889

Ancona is a picturesque town partly built on steep hills close to the sea and partly at their base: with a fine harbour, and a great many colliers discharging coal, and little fishing boats landing soles, mackerel, shrimps, cuttlefish, a kind of white lobster and many small crabs and various sea creatures. There are some broad new streets with fine houses & poor shops, a great many narrow ones, a curious cathedral with beautiful Italian gothic porch crowning one of the heights, and a white marble arch built by Trojan on the old mole.

ancona harbour and trojan arch 1890C and D spent the morning exploring the town but it was very cold, windy and rainy. B nursed A who had naturally suffered from the land journey. In the afternoon B C and D went up to the cathedral and spent a couple of hours seeing the chief sights of the place. There is a squat campanile some way from the Duomo; and from the headland a fine view of the bay and port of the town. If A were not lying down I doubt she would have drawn in perspective the porch of the Duomo, one of the most graceful I have ever seen. The lions, the 2 columns of the roof of the porch are of read marble. The slender columns on either side of the doorway white and red alternately. The façade faced with white marble.

We dined in grand style in one of the ladies’ rooms, but by 9 o’clock were all in bed, congratulating ourselves on not having gone to hear Rigoletto at the Politeama . Our hotel, the Albergo de la Pace, is an old-fashioned house with large and lofty rooms, very comfortably furnished and close to the sea.

(The image is of Ancona and the Arches of Trajan, Italy. Scene from 1890)

From Clarence's Diary - Wed Dec 4th 1889 - depart Bordighera

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Clarence Bicknell: Italy and by steamer up the Nile River, 1889-1890

Over Christmas and into January, I propose to post, every few days, excerpts from Clarence Bicknell's “Notes of a Tour in Italy, Egypt &c. 1889-1890” in a hand-written notebook illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings and water-colours from the Bicknell family collection (in my possession). This is the first time this diary has been transcribed or see in public.

thomas cook travel guideQUOTE

Wed. Dec 4th

Our party is composed of A, B, C & D.

A is an artist and able-bodied sea-woman, prepared to nurse the other 3 landlubbers if necessary, on the water. B is her sister provided with all the requisites for nursing A C and D on land. C & D are proprietors in Italy, travelling for the benefit of their health under the care of he aforementioned A & B. Lastly C is myself who wrote this diary.

On Wed. Dec. 4th 1889 they all started from Bordighera at midday, an international crowd having gathered at the station platform to see them off. How they travelled to Genoa in the sunshine, & thence to Bologna by night in the snow, & thence to Ancona in the early morning in the rain need not be related in detail. They went 2nd class, had the carriages nearly always to themselves & reached Ancona at 8 a.m on Dec. 5th.


More soon!

This transcript © 2014 Marcus Bicknell.
Reproduction is not authorised without written permission.

NEWS - Clarence Bicknell & Émile Cartailhac - archaeologists and the best of friends

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Two new documents are published on today bothmile Cartailhac Musum de Toulouse on Clarence Bicknell (1842-1918) and the eminent French archaeologist Émile Cartailhac (1845-1921) the French prehistorian and cave-art expert (portrait, right).

In 2007 Pierre Machu, then Conservateur de Patrimoine, Direction des Musées de France, Inspection Générale des Musées in Paris, wrote an article for "Antiquités Nationales" on Bicknell and Cartailhac. This paper highlights 63 sheets of rubbings and squeezes by Bicknell of rock engravings held in the Musée d'Archéologie Nationale in St-Germain-en-Laye, a collection which had not been analysed before Machu. It becomes apparent from letters between Bicknell and Cartailhac, who had become friends more than just colleagues, that these 63 rubbings had been made by Bicknell for Cartailhac "to order". The paper draws expertly on documents provided to Pierre Machu from the Bicknell family collection (especially the Casa Fontanalba visitors' book) and the work notebooks written by Bicknell and kept at Genoa University. Pierre Machu having given his accord, we publish the complete paper here with thanks and respect.

Pierre Machu also informed us of letters between Bicknell and Cartailhac from this same period which he had located in two museums; he subsequently transcribed all the letters he had found and made them available to us to share with you. Alongside the exchange of views about the rock engravings are comments from both men on travel arrangements, weather, health, death, the First World War and even a person who both greatly disliked. In November 2014 I compiled the Machu transcripts together with my comments on the people mentioned in the letter, and you can download it here. I think these are among the documents which reveal the most about Clarence Bicknell, the man. I have also logged all the dates given in the letters in a chronology of Bicknell's life (more detailed then the one on this website) which will support Valerie Browne Lester who is currently researching a new biography of Clarence Bicknell to be published in advance of the 2018 centenary celebrations.

Article in "Antiquités Nationales" (tome 38, 2007) on Bicknell and Cartailhac by Pierre Machu.

Letters between Bicknell and Cartailhac transcribed by Pierre Machu.


NEWS - Clarence's 1911 letter to Ferguson in Ceylon

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

ferguson letter 1911 p1In italiano - en francais

Our continuing research into Clarence Bicknell has led us to the archives of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. Among the many letters of John Ferguson there is one from Clarence Bicknell in 1911.

Marcus has recently purchased a scan of the letter and has transcribed it for the benefit of other researchers. You can download a copy of the transcript and notes here. Among the interesting events referred to by Clarence are a) the nervous breakdown suffered by his nephew Edward Berry, that pillar of British society in Bordighera, b) the death of Clarence’s brother Percy and c) the need for Clarence therefore to offer accommodation to Percy’s daughter Nora who worked for Berry.

Clarence writes "A brother  has lately died and I think I shall have to take one of his daughters for a good part of the time to live with me, as she is a cashier at the English Bank, which my nephew Berry, on account of a nervous breakdown , has given up." The brother was Marcus's great grandfather Percy Bicknell; we did not know that his daughter Nora worked for Edward Berry's British Bank in Bordighera.

Look out for news from Graham Avery soon; he has uncovered several hundred letters from Clarence Bicknell to Emile Burnat in Geneva.

Download the complete transcript and notes

La nostra continua ricerca di Clarence Bicknell ci ha portato agli archivi dell'Istituto di Studi del Commonwealth, Università di Londra. Tra le tante lettere di John Ferguson ce n'è uno da Clarence Bicknell nel 1911. Marcus ha recentemente acquistato una copia della lettera e ha trascritto per il beneficio di altri ricercatori. È possibile scaricare una copia della trascrizione e note qui. Tra gli eventi interessanti a cui si riferisce Clarence sono a) l'esaurimento nervoso subito da suo nipote Edward Berry, che pilastro della società britannica a Bordighera, b) la morte di suo fratello Percy e c) la necessità di Clarence quindi di offrire un alloggio a Nora , la figlia di Percy, ha lavorato per Berry.
Clarence scrive "Un fratello è morto e ultimamente penso che dovrò prendere una delle sue figlie per una buona parte del tempo a vivere con me, come lei è un cassiere presso la Banca inglese, che mio nipote Berry, a causa della un esaurimento nervoso, ha rinunciato. "Il fratello era di Marcus bisnonno Percy Bicknell; Non sapevamo che la sua figlia Nora ha lavorato per British Bank di Edward Berry a Bordighera.
Guardare fuori per le notizie da Graham Avery presto; egli ha scoperto diverse centinaia di lettere di Clarence Bicknell a Emile Burnat a Ginevra.


Notre recherche sur Clarence Bicknell nous a conduit aux archives de l'Institut d'études du Commonwealth, Université de Londres. Parmi les nombreuses lettres de John Ferguson, en voice une envoyée par Clarence Bicknell en 1911. Marcus Bicknell a récemment acheté une copie de la lettre et l'a transcrite pour le bénéfice d'autres chercheurs. Vous pouvez télécharger une copie de la transcription et note ici. Parmi les événements intéressants visés par Clarence sont a) la dépression nerveuse subie par son neveu Edward Berry, ce pilier de la société britannique à Bordighera, b) la mort de son frère Percy et c) la nécessité de Clarence donc pour offrir un hébergement à Nora , la fille de Percy, qui a travaillé pour Berry.
Clarence écrit: «Un frère a récemment décédé et je pense que je vais devoir prendre une de ses filles pour une bonne partie du temps à vivre avec moi, car elle est une caissière à la Banque britannique, que mon neveu Berry, en raison de une dépression nerveuse, a abandonné." Le frère était Percy Bicknell, le grand-père de Marcus; nous n'avons pas su auparavant que sa fille Nora a travaillé pour la banque d'Edward Berry, ce qui rend cette lettre d'autant plus intéressante.

Attention aux prochaines nouvelles de notre collaborateur Graham Avery; il a découvert à Genève 650 lettres écrites par Clarence Bicknell à Emile Burnat.

NEWS - Sentier Bicknell: un chemin retrouvé

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Nice Matin sentier 24Jul2014Je vois dans le Nice Matin du 27 Juillet qu'un groupe de bénévoles a dégagé le Sentier Bicknell. Bon travail! Et je remercie Nathalie Magnardi au Musée des Merveilles pour avoir aidé à coordonner les efforts et les leaders du groupe Paul Servel, Alain Simon et Philippe Strebbler. Je vous aurais écrit moi-même mais je n'ai pas vos adresses.


Vous aimeriez lire l'agenda (carnet de jour) que Margaret Berry  a écrit dans lequel elle décrit Clarence en train de quitter la Casa Fontanalba au levé du soleil et monter dans les montagne, sur ce même sentier, puis Margaret et son mari Edward qui suivent un peu plus tard. L'original en anglais est à   Peut-être l'un des bénévoles aimerait le traduire en bon français et je pourrais le publier dans son tour au site web.

NEWS - Clarence and the earthquake of 1887

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Helen Blanc-Francard writes...

The construction of all the pleasure palaces and the growth of urban development along the French and Italian riviera were all the more astonishing and risky because it had been known for centuries that the Southern Alpine region was sitting on an active  earthquake zone -  indeed one of the most active seismic areas in Western Europe countries.

In the morning of  the 23rd February 1887 and ten years after arriving in Bordighera, Clarence too was reminded that, just below the surface of the ground, one of the great uncontrollable  forces of nature was just lying dormant.  A force that could change his world for ever:  devastate the landscapes he knew so well, cover and melt the rocks he was studying, scatter his archives, in short, destroy his life's work.,83.html   Here's a scan of a newspaper article
earthquake riviera 1887Many people fled the coast (Louis Pasteur among them).  Where was Clarence, what was he doing at that time, how did he react?

(Even today the ground regularly shakes. On the 8th of April this year the latest earthquake measured 5.2 magnitude on the Richter scale -,845684.php)

Note from Marcus: in my chronology of Clarence's life, on this web site, 1887 carries the remark "Severe earthquake in Italy; Clarence helps poorer residents in and around Bordighera." I do not immediately have a source for Clarence's response, or more details, but I will post anything I find. I did find this interesting photo though, showing the extent of the damage in places, which is titled "Searching the rubble in Diano Marina, about 30 miles further east of the epicentre than Bordighera, after the Riviera earthquake of 1887 (from the Illustrated London News)"


NEWS - Clarence at the 1907 Esperanto meeting in Cambridge

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

My cousin Valerie Lester, who joined us in the last two months in Bordighera, Tende, Nice, Castellaras, London Walworth and Stoke-upon-Tern Shropshire, is also getting in to the research groove in her home near Boston. Her email of yesterday is greatly enlightening;

"Hi Marcus, I just got hold of a book called The Life of Zamenhof, which is about the creator of Esperanto. 1907-lingva-komitatoThere are only two photos in it, but one of them seems to contain our man. Can you find him? The book is quite interesting, and I’ll bring it to England in Jan. so that you can read it. It’s short. Love, Valerie"

Yes, indeed. And here's that photo. Clarence is in the second row from the back, fourth from the right, wearing a pale waistcoat. He has had a haircut and his beard has been trimmed. Very smart. Zamenhof is sitting in the first row of chairs, sixth from the left. The event was the Lingva Komitato (the Language Committee of the Esperanto movement) held in Cambridge, England, in 1907.

This image is the only evidence of any visit by Clarence back to the UK since he had settled in Bordighera about 30 years earlier. Well done Valerie and thank you.

NEWS - Clarence's world

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .

Helen Blanc-Francard, committee member and garden expert (photo, below right) has been with us at meetings in Bordighera, Tende, Castellaras and Paris in the last two months. I reproduce here the evocative outpouring I got from her by email last night.

A brief moment then of time travel and musing about the changing face of Bordighera and the people Clarence may have met whilst living there ... 

For Clarence leaving behind the grey dampness of England it is easy to imagine how delightful he must have found the unspoiled beauty of the coastal town of Bordighera when he first set eyes on it in 1877. 

The luminosity of cloudless skies, the sound of the lapping Mediterranean and the soft citrus-scented air would have been enchanting. The rocky shoreline with its rustling palms, lush, semi-tropical trees and indigenous vegetation would have offered him a tantalising opportunity for further study.

However, along with the spiritual upheaval he was about to experience, his arrival coincided the start of a technological and cultural revolution when many social and economical factors combined to create an environment which was ripe for invention and experimentation. The physical world around him was about  to change and would never stop in his lifetime.  helen training a falcon

He would have watched as glittering new promenades, planted with trees and flowering shrubs, swiftly spread along the sea front with their attendant restaurants, shops, galleries and cafés. Behind them new villas, magnificent white-fronted mansions, splendid and luxurious hotels topped with cupolas and ornate carvings, adorned with balconies and intricate ironwork were built along what would later develop into long shady streets and avenues.  

With the constructions came wealth: royalty, statesmen, businessmen and newly rich industrialists.  Every year as the winter season began in northern and eastern Europe the rich visitors arrived by boat and train with their staff and retinues accompanying them. Well-to-do families came with their children, nannies and governesses to set up residence. They would have been impressed by the showy new buildings, many built in the neo-classical style, and excited at the prospect of meeting friends and attending concerts, dances and social events. Their arrival on the scene certainly added an extra gloss of glamour to what was becoming a most fashionable destination.  

Artists, such as Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Matisse and Signac, with radical new styles of painting that broke earlier conventions, were eager to discover this newly accessible destination. They travelled down with the aspiration of capturing on canvas the vibrant intensity of the light and the vitality of local life that contrasted so poignantly with the languor and sophistication of the visitors. Arriving initially for the restorative health benefits that the southern climate provided, the troubled Van Gogh from Holland, the melancholy Edvard Munch from Norway and the fiercely driven German artist Lovis Corinth found themselves impelled to paint. The Italian impressionist painter Pompeo Mariani eventually chose to live in Bordighera.

Writers, poets, philosophers, world famous scientists, creative innovators came to the coast to rest, to meet generous benefactors, to recover from illness or to find a place for peaceful reflection. Some arrived simply to join in the social scene and to enjoy the conviviality and nightlife of this now lively resort.  (To be further researched!)  

There was the lure of a comfortable and often hedonistic lifestyle on offer in lavishly furnished residences equipped with all the latest technological inventions - electricity, lifts and modern plumbing. An efficient postal service and the development of telephone and radio networks ensured communication with the rest of the world. The railways, roads and first motorised vehicles meant that travel was faster and easier than it had ever been before.   

It really was a bright new world of optimism and confidence:  in less than twenty five years the Bordighera Clarence had first discovered was completely transformed.  Early photographs record its extraordinary transition from a remote coastal village to a cosmopolitan and prosperous sea site resort.   (Archived data to be added)

For several months of the year however Clarence  turned his back on what he might well have considered this theatrical 'mise en scène' and travelled over fifty kilometers up steep valleys and difficult terrain to a remote Alpine site.  There he enjoyed an existance of singular integrity that was spartan, physically demanding, rich in intellectual stimulation and that privileged rigour, generosity, kindness and human communication.

A lifestyle and a quest that seems to have provided him with great personal fulfillment. 

When he returned to Bordighera, apart from some notable locals we know he met, one wonders if he came into contact with any of the famous visitors who came to stay during the winter season?

Presented by Richard E. Grant, here is a Youtube extract from a BBC TV programme to enjoy about some of the artists associated with La Côte d’Azur :  A History in Pictures

In the course of my research I noted that, James Henry Bennet, (creator of Menton as a therapeutic centre) "a reçu dans sa propriété le tout Riviera: R.L. Stevenson, Thomas Carlysle, Hare, Moggridge, Andrews, John Green, Hanbury, Thuret et Alphonse Karr" -

The Mairie of Bordighera has put together a list of the notable people associated with the town  -

NEWS - Clarence's pressed flowers and his legacy

Écrit par Marcus Bicknell le .


Helen Blanc-Francard writes...
    I found this 2011 document on the web the other day concerning a study of herbaria: I've just re-read it and find it very interesting on several counts.
    Firstly, it puts CB's plant hunting work into a historical context by cataloging the data left by the surprisingly large number of trained botanists and passionate amateurs who over the centuries, often without the benefit of collaboration, assiduously studied and recorded the extraordinarily diverse Alpes Maritime region.  (CB does get a brief mention but I reckon that he passed below the radar screen of this particular study because the main body of his work is conserved outside France).
    Secondly, whilst acknowledging that the individual contributions are important for scientific study by bearing witness to the world's rapidly degenerating environmental conditions and for their potential in the development of future landscape conservation practices, it also flags up the fact that many of the now fragile and dispersed herbarium specimens (dried flowers) are themselves at risk of being lost for posterity in a cash-strapped France where governmental institutions are unable to provide funding for the construction of special storage facilities nor for engaging skilled technicians and conservation staff.
    As part of Europe's heritage of hardy, independent and passionate explorers, all the more reason then to ensure that CB is positioned firmly on the map for his contribution to botanical (and of course archaeological) knowledge. As a man concerned about communication, one could even hope that all his efforts, his records, illustrations and precious specimens, will be accessible for conservation focussed research and for greater public awareness of this pressing issue. This would really be a fitting legacy for a man of conviction. 
Helen Blanc-Francard is a journalist, researcher, writer and garden expert living near Paris.
She was elected to the committee of the Clarence Bicknell Association in May 2014.

 See also the June 2014 report from Graham Avery on Clarence Bicknell's pressed flowersin the Oxford University Herbarium   here

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