2 Oct 2005. Not to be confused with Chelsea Pensioners, Londons Pearly tradition trace its origins back to Victorian times when it emerged as a fund-raising vehicle for the poor, at first in Somers Town, a bastion of the North London working class, but then spreading throughout the city. In 1862 Henry Croft, an orphaned sweeper and vermin catcher, befriended market traders called Coster Mongers, who decorated their clothes with pearl buttons to set themselves apart from the rest. Croft adopted the attire to attract attention and to help raise money for the orphanage. The idea caught on with friends and acquaintances until there was a Pearly family in every London borough. The organisation is still going strong and has about 40 families who fundraise for various charities and elect a Pearly King and Queen each year on the first Sunday of October. You can catch the annual gathering, with the families present in full buttoned attire, at the Harvest Festival Service at the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square. Free entry. Sun 15.00-16.00.
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Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival
St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 4JJ. The closest tube stations are Leicester Square and Charing Cross, tel. +44-2078398362, BoxOffice@smitf.co.uk.