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‘Globetrotting’ from London to Brighton

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If you’re not a football fan, the build up to the England vs Italy final at Euro 2020 is probably a tiresome time.

We can offer some alternative foot and ball distraction with this curious postcard from 1903. It depicts a young American woman, Mademoiselle Florence, who walked from London to Brighton on top of a large ball.

Postcard, 1903

According to the Brighton Herald newspaper, Florence’s journey began on 18 June at Westminster Clock Tower in London. Her journey was unsurprisingly fraught with problems. Heavy rain at the start forced her to pause at Westminster Bridge as the ball became too slippery to control. Later in the journey, a large ‘van’ (probably a covered wagon at that time) hit the ball, leaving Florence with a sprained ankle.

Article from the Brighton Herald newspaper, 20 June 1903

But in spite of these difficulties, the exhausted Florence appears to have completed the journey in just three days. She was probably buoyed in part by the large crowds that gathered to cheer her on, as can be seen in this postcard.

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The photograph is probably the one mentioned in the Herald article. Taken in Horley by the Brighton Palace Pier American Art Rapid Photography company, it shows a serious (or perhaps strained) Florence on top of her globe. On the right of the photograph is the distinctive figure of veteran entertainer James Doughty, who ran a popular dog show on the West Pier.

Florence’s ‘globetrotting’ achievement may have been lost behind the more familiar cycle rides and veteran car rallies that follow the London to Brighton route. But it’s a reminder that wonderful things can be achieved with a ball that don’t require kicking it.

Although I do think it will be a cracking final on Sunday.

Kevin Bacon, Digital Manager