Celebrate the Pearly Kings and Queens Harvest Festival this September.
Wearing dark suits that are covered in hundreds of bright pearl buttons, the Pearly Kings and Queens of London are a charming and unforgettable sight. At this festival, which celebrates the bounty of the autumn harvest, they will be staging traditional entertainment at Guildhall before parading to St Mary-le-Bow church for a service of thanksgiving.
You can expect marching bands, donkeys and a host of colourful characters at this traditional event, which raises money for the Whitechapel Mission.
About The Pearly Kings and Queens
The Pearly Kings and Queens were founded in the 19th century by Henry Croft, an orphan who worked as a street sweeper in Somers Town, London.
Inspired by the Costermongers, a close-knit group of market traders who sewed buttons onto their garments in order to recognise one another, Henry decided that he wanted to help the needy in the same way that the Costermongers helped each other.
Knowing that he needed to stand out if he was to collect money for charity, Henry swept the street for pearl buttons and eventually gathered enough to cover his entire suit. He soon became so popular and successful as a charity collector that he could not cope with the demands for his help. He then asked the Costermongers for assistance, many of whom became the first Pearly Families.
Today, after 125 years, there are are still many Pearly Kings and Queens who carry on Henry Croft's charitable aims. The tradition often runs in the family: Croft's great-granddaughter is the Pearly Queen of Somers Town. You can also see a statue of Henry Croft in the crypt of the St Martin-in-the-Fields church.