Henry Croft – The Original Pearly King

Henry Croft, the original pearly king of London

An eyecatching memorial in the St Martin In The Fields Crypt is this statue in honour of Henry Croft. If you read the inscription on the base, it says The Original Pearly King.

The practice of wearing clothes decorated with pearl buttons originated in the 19th century. It is first associated with Henry Croft, an orphan street sweeper who collected money for charity. At the time, “Costermongers” (London Street traders) were in the habit of wearing pearl buttons along the seams of their trousers. Croft adapted this to create the ‘pearly suit’ to draw attention to himself and aid his fund-raising activities. In 1911 an organised pearly society was formed in Finchley, north London.

Croft died in 1930 and this memorial – initially placed in St Pancras Cemetery – was later moved to the crypt in St Martin In The Fields.

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