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 more than 125 years, there are are still many Pearly Kings and Queens who carry on Henry Croft’s charitable aims and once a year they gather in central London to celebrate the Autumn harvest…