Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The lost pocket

Lucy Locket lost her pocket
Kitty Fisher found it
Not a penny was there in it
Only ribbon round it.

As a child that little rhyme always puzzled me, how could someone lose their pocket? I'm not sure who explained to me that the pocket was a little bag, but until the other week I didn't really understand – then I found these . . . pockets.

The smallest one is obviously a child's, it is hand stitched – do you think it might have been made in a school needlework lesson? The larger white cotton pocket is machine stitched and is made from very sturdy fabric and the black one is very carefully constructed from smooth cotton satin – I wonder who wore that under their coat or skirt?

Lucy Locket and Kitty Fisher. In nursery rhyme books they are sweet little girls in long dresses and neat white pinafores. Old rhymes are often based on real incidents, was there a Lucy Locket who lost her pocket? did a girl called Kitty Fisher find it and keep it?

The true story turns out to be highly inappropriate for young children! In the 1760s, Lucy Locket was a bar maid at The Cock pub in Fleet Street. She dumped one of her lovers after she'd spent most of his money; Catherine 'Kitty' Fisher, a celebrity courtesan 'picked him up', it didn't matter that he was pennyless, it was good enough that he was good looking!

Catherine Maria Fisher's portrait was painted by Nathaniel Hone, it's now in the National Portrait Gallery; and look, next to her is a kitty fisher! The window reflected in the goldfish bowl shows a crowd of people looking in watching her – the price of being a celebrity call-girl!

Catherine Maria ('Kitty') Fisher, by Nathaniel Hone, 1765 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London
© National Portrait Gallery, London

In 1766 Kitty Fisher married retired MP John Norris, but only four months later she caught smallpox and tragically died. She is buried in the Norris family crypt in the village church at Benenden in Kent.


  1. What a brilliant post! Obviously I'm doubly interested given my blog name! I only found out about the less savoury back-story AFTER I'd started my blog!!! ;o) Lucy xx

  2. What a story ,what a post!

  3. Fascinating history isn't it - I'll lend you "Cortesans" when we meet :)

  4. Wow, what an interesting post, it goes to show how we know these rhymes but not what they are about really!

  5. and I can send you a picture of her tomb to finish your story off if you like as I live very close to Benenden! It's a beautiful church with a wonderful millenium tapestry.

  6. What an interesting story. It makes you wonder what other hidden stories are out there in other nursery rhymes.Something to research on a rainy cold day.

  7. what a fascinating story - and such sweet little pockets

  8. I loved the alliteration and the rhythm of this one as a child too but like you was always puzzled and a little annoyed about the "pocket"! Great to know a bit more about the story behind it.

  9. Oooh, la, la. Very good detective work, Celia. I think that the basis for many childhood rhymes and stories might be pretty serious.

    It always makes me wonder if the rhymes started out just a bit differently, and got softened over the centuries.

    Best wishes to you all those able bodied studio assistants.

  10. I love the stories behind these things.Fascinating stuff.Lesley

  11. Oh what a wonderful story, thank you for enlightening me. I love those little sewn pockets.

  12. I knew about pockets but not all the rest... a fascinating bit of social history and beautifully told!

  13. neat story! like most fairy tales, nursery rhymes are often complex, condensed docu-dramas :)

  14. well that was just darn cool! love it

  15. great post, how many times have I read, sung, listened to that rhyme over the last couple of years. I always suspected the stories behind them were a lot less innocent than the nursery rhyme.

  16. Sadly, many of today's children are not familiar with the nursery rhymes that I grew up with. Perhaps the parents of this new generation were not taught the verses. I don't recall the rhyme in question, but when I asked my third-grade class about it, only one out of eighteen students knew it. I fear that idioms are also losing popularity and the history attached to them.

  17. great post... I once curated a temporary exhibition on the history of pockets... it was for Nintendo (they were releasing their first pocket gameboy) and the stuff I learnt was fascinating!

  18. Love your post! Isn't the hidden meaning of some of these nursery rhymes amazing - for example, "Ring Around A Rosy" and it's hidden reference to the "Black Plague" . . . There are so many things from childhood that one can pause to think about! Thankfully children don't do that, or we'd have a bunch of neurotic little ones about! Have a great day!

  19. I found out about the pockets from a friend of mine who goes to the medival reinactments. People couldn't afford fabric to put pockets in every articule of clothing they owned. So they made the one pocket that tied around their waist under the skirts. The skirts had a slit on the side to reach into the pocket. Your poem made some sense right away because of that. I love the rest of the story!

  20. Hi Lucy Locket Pocket - I thought you'd drop by!

    Hi Renilde, Lyn and Feltmaker - it is a good tale and that book sounds interesting.

    Hi Wendy - how fascinating! I'd love to see it.

    Hi Susan O - you could look here http://tinyurl.com/y0mh but most are not for the squeamish!

    Hi Chrissie - the pockets are very neat, they must be about 100 yrs old.

    Hi elizabethm - yes it was one of my favourites too.

    Hi Frances - today football chants reflect gossip and rumour - much the same I suspect.

    Hi Printed material and Poshyarns - you never know what story you'll uncover!

    Hi Gina - social history coming to life.

    Hi Petoskystone and Carrie - definitely a cool plot line fo a TV drama!

    Hi Damo - best leave the real meaning hidden until they're grown up.

    Hi Paulette - I suppose each with each generation some traditions fall by the wayside.

    Hi Dom - that exhibition sounds fascinating, I'd would have loved to have worked on that project.

    Hi The Selkie - I think the real stories would cause a lot of sleepless nights!

    Hi Patty - you must learn a lot from making historically accurate costumes! Not having sewn in pockets makes a lot of sense really.

    I loved reading all your comments

  21. So happy you pointed me at this Celia ... I was unaware of the wonderful Kitty Fisher painting :)


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