costermongers harvest festival

freelondon costermongers harvest festival.jpg

Cosstermongers Harvest Festival. City of London. Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HH. 

The practice of wearing clothes decorated with mother-of-pearl buttons originated in the 19th century. Henry Croft, an orphan street sweeper, collected money for charity. To draw attention to himself he made a pearly suit, amplifying the tradition that London street traders decorated the seams of their trousers with pearl buttons that they had found on the pavement. 

The first organised pearly society was formed in Finchley in 1911. Croft died in 1930, his funeral being attended by 400 followers. A statue to Croft was erected in 1934 at St.Pancras Cemetery; it was later moved to the crypt of St.Martin's in the Fields, Westminster. The inscription records Croft as 'the original Pearly King'.

Croft's founding organisation is called the Original London Pearly Kings and Queens Association. Other similar groups of Pearly Kings and Queens have sprung up. Each autumn the Pearly Kings and Queens celebrate harvest with a festival at the church of St. Mary le Bow. There are performances in the Guildhall Yard including Morris Dancers, musicians and drummers. Dignitaries are transported by barrow in a procession from Guildhall to the St. Mary le Bow. 

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