Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Bashing the Police

If you think of Victorian London as essentially a quiet, orderly, trouble-free place, you might want to think again. Here's two reports from the same day in 1871:-

MURDEROUS ASSAULT ON THE POLICE  —James Buckley and John Gilbert, apparently about 18 years of age, were charged with an assault upon the police. —James Adkins, 122 S, saw the two prisoners in Albany-street. about half-past four in the afternoon, pulling two girls about indecently. He cautioned them and told them to go away. They refused to do so, and Gilbert struck him in the face. The constable took him into custody, and was immediately attacked by both the prisoners and 20 or 30 "roughs," who quickly gathered round and attempted to assist the delinquents to escape. A lady who feared that the policeman would be murdered ran in search of another police-constable, and found Thomas Gore, 161 S, who went to the assistance of the last witness. After receiving very severe injuries he, however, was unable to secure the men until a third constable, 43 S reserve, and two powerful men—Mr. H. Tilley, a corn merchant, of Slough, and Mr. B. Collett, a pianoforte-maker, of Tottenham-court-road—rendered efficient service by keeping off the crowd and helping to overpower the prisoners. Mr. Tilley saw one of the prisoners wrest the truncheon from the hand of one of the constables, who were both covered with blood, and, stepping back, throw the staff at the officer with such force that it would probably have killed him had the prisoner not missed his aim. Some of the crowd having knocked off the policemen's helmets, beat their heads against the wall.—Mr. D'Eyncourt sentenced the prisoners each to be kept to hard labour for six months for assaulting Adkins, and for three months for the assault on Gore.

MURDEROUS ASSAULTS ON THE POLICE. — Robert Jones, 21, a labourer, was charged with being drunk and riotous and assaulting Charles Coverley, Reuben Stage, and Richard Warn, constables of the B division in the execution of their duty. The prisoner's conduct, which was of a violent and brutal nature, was aggravated by a mob of 500 people, who placed every impediment in the way of the officers, and sought to release the prisoner by the use of sticks and stones. Prisoner went into the Markham Arms, King's-road, Chelsea, and demanded a pot of ale, but being refused challenged all present to fight. He was ejected, when, standing on the pavement, he attacked all who passed him. Coverley, 128 B, remonstrated with him, when he struck him on the chest, knocked him down, and kicked him. He declared that he would be taken to the station dead rather than alive, used the most horrid language, kicked; in all directions, and when Stagg, 379 B, arrived he bit him through the arm. The mob closed round the constables, threw granite cubes, and used sticks freely, and the respectable civilians present were afraid to assist the police on that account. Warn, 46 B, then joined his brother constables, but was bitten and kicked, and it required seven or eight men to convey the prisoner to the station.
    Janes Groom was then charged with attempting to rescue and assaulting Coverley, 128 B.—It was clearly shown that while carrying the other prisoner this man struck and kicked Coverley, and begged of the violent crowd to prevent the prisoner being taken to the station-house.— Groom denied being the man, and the other prisoner pleaded drunkenness, and that he had been much knocked about.—Mr. Woolrych said that was the result of his own fiendish violence. The police must be protected from the attacks of such mad, drunken ruffians. He sentenced Jones to 16 weeks' hard labour for the three assaults and ordered Groom to pay a penalty of 30s , or one month.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, April 16 1871

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

London Smells

Two accounts of the stink of London in the 1850s/1860s:

Maiden-lane still reeks with all its inconceivable horrors of putrifying garbage. The traveller on the South-Western Railway, which always considerately stops its trains at the choicest nest of savours, can tell how - in Lambeth, seething under archiepiscopal nostrils - the laystall is succeeded by the knacker, who gives place to the glue-boiler, who is followed by some Gas Company - and how the varied bouquet is subtly penetrated and delicately diversified by the delicious fumes of ammonia, and rare titillating acids. Haggerstone boils its horses - Stepney volatilizes its human guano. Bow rejoices in chemicals. Paddington salutes us with mountains of vegetable decomposition - Bermondsey treats us to vats of mineral refuse. The Temple-gardens survey their choice "blue-jack"; whilst St. Paul's regales the devout with an undeniable tallow-melting concern at the Cathedral corner. White lead at Hackney is balanced by a delicious manufactory of corrosive sublimate at the opposite corner of the metropolis.
Morning Chronicle August 18 1852

By long resolution to live in bad smells we become as though we smelt not. We pass along as unconscious of the foulness of the air as we are of the roar of carriages in the street. A peculiarly loathsome whiff from some untrapped gully-hole may strike us, as the din of a ponderous railway van drawn by four horses at full trot may make us look round. But in an instant the sensations are lost, and the current of our thoughts flows on unrippled by smell or sound. Yet if we will but recall our absent minds to the scenes in which our bodies are present we shall speedily learn the reasons why our bodies suffer. The putrid stench of the gully-hole has not left the nostrils ere we may discover from the area of the house we are passing the distinctive odour of a  long-unemptied dustbin. Anon, we have the sour smell of decaying vegetable refuse—potato parings and lettuce stalks, and such like; then under the parapet, or in the gutter, we detect a decomposing cat. Next, all too late to save, comes the cat's-meat barrow, with contents in a state of very "high" flavour. Then, by the side of the lamppost is a little heap of dust composed of the sweepings of the shop opposite, containing the essence of the exhalations and exuviae of half-a-hundred people for a summer's day; next to it is a mound of semi-dried mud, the sweepings of the streets after the last rainfall, composed of equal parts of animal exprement and of granite grit, which keeps it just open enough to favour rapid fermentation. As if this were not enough, at regular intervals there come by the watercarts, deluging the streets a dozen times a day with the pure element, ingeniously applied so as, in a physical sense, to make crossing the way in thin boots an perilous to health as in November, and in a chemical sense, to make the foul mud, steaming on the hot stones in the blazing sunshine, as generative of malaria as a Mississippi swamp. At length, confused with the mingled variety of odours, our nasal analysis becomes intolerable, and we welcome the distracting thoughts which shall again render us insensible to its discoveries. Only when we pass beyond the regions of streets and enter upon the green expanse of the Parks, or reach the shade of country gardens and leafy lanes, does the change in the atmosphere again force itself on our notice—and by the delight with which we expand our chests to drink in the health of the air, may we measure the slow, yet surely fatal, influence of the poisonous gases we have left behind.

Daily News August 9 1861

Tooley Street Fire

One of the great, now largely forgotten, catastrophes of 19th century London was the Tooley Street fire of 1861, which engulfed the south bank of the river near London Bridge. The area was full of warehouses containing highly flammable contents. The resulting blaze could be seen from miles away, and resulted in the death of the fire bridge's chief, James Braidwood (whose funeral attracted thousands of mourners - he is buried in Abney Park Cemetery). Here is a great account of the aftermath:

Under the fallen floors of the warehouses and in the cellars underground was a vast quantity of combustible material. Casks of tallow yet remained to melt, while numberless bags of saltpetre and casks of oil and turpentine, with hundreds of tons of cheese, butter, sugar and bacon, were yet unconsumed. And still the people came in fresh thousands to view the sight. Dawn of Sunday found London-bridge still thronged with cabs, omnibuses, carts, waggons ,and vehicles of every description. Peripatetic vendors of ginger-beer, fruit and other cheap refreshments abounded, and were sold out half a dozen times over. Public-houses, in defiance of Acts of Parliament, kept open all night long, and did a roaring trade, and so, for that matter, did the pickpockets, who blended business with pleasure, and had a ready hand for anything remunerative in their particular line. But the fire, fortunately, had done its worst, though the flames continued to surge and roar with unabated fury for some time, the intensity of the fire at length visibly slackened. The efforts of the firemen were redoubled, and by four o'clock on Sunday morning all danger of its further extension seemed at an end. During the whole of Sunday thousands upon thousands of people flocked to see the ruins.
The scene of the calamity on Sunday presented all the appearance of an earthquake, rugged masses of brickwork and mounds of rubbish meeting the eye in all directions. In one direction might be seen a huge pile of cayenne pepper bags, sugar, ochineal, and hams; in another, mountains of half-consumed barrels of tallow, emitting a most noxious effluvium, and on turning round you confronted burning and smouldering barricades of jute, hemp, leather, cordage, sacks of potatoes, cheeses, sides of bacon, all intermingled in chaotic confusion. A great number of boats were busily occupied in scooping from off the water the large floating masses of tallow; one of the crews of these boats sold the amount thus obtained for 30l., another 18l. and so on, while that portion of the river-side population commonly called mudlarks were filling old sacks, saucepans, baskets, and other utensils, with the same materials. The value of the tallow shovelled up from the road and pathways in Tooley-street and taken away by the dust contractor is estimated to amount alone to several thousand pounds. The whole of Sunday and Monday was occupied in carting it away.

Reynolds's Newspaper, June 30th, 1861

It was also seen by marvellous diarist, Arthur Munby:

Between Epsom & Cheam, we saw from the train a great fire in the direction of London. A pyramid of red flame on the horizon, sending up a column of smoke that rose high in air & then spread, like that over Vesuvius. At Carshalton, where the villagers were gazing in crowds, as at all the stations, we heard that it was by London Bridge, at Cotton's wharf. At New Cross the reflection of the firelight on houses & walls began to be visible; & as we drove along the arched way into town, the whole of Bermondsey was in a blaze of light. Every head was thrust out of window, and the long black shadows of train and telegraph posts made the bright road look brighter.
   The fire was close to the station: dull brickred fumes & showers of sparks rose high between it and the river. The station yard, which was as light as day, was crammed with people: railings, lamp posts, every high spot, was alive with climbers. Against the dark sky southwards, the façade of S. Thomas's Hospital and the tower of S. Saviour's stood out white and brilliant; and both were fringed atop with lookers on.
   A few of the regular omnibuses had got, hut hardly, into the station: men were struggling for places on them, offering three & four times the fare for standing room on the roofs, to cross London Bridge.
   I achieved a box seat on one, and we moved off towards the Bridge, but with the greatest difficulty. The roadway was blocked up with omnibuses, whose passengers stood on the roofs in crowds; with cabs and hansoms, also loaded outside; with waggons pleasure vans & carts, brought out for the occasion and full of people; and amongst all these, struggling screaming & fighting for a view, was a dense illimitable crowd, which even surged in heaps, as it were, over the parapet of the bridge. From my perch I overlooked the whole scene: and what a scene! For near a quarter of a mile, the south bank of the Thames was on fire: a long line of what had been warehouses, their roofs and fronts all gone; and the tall ghastly sidewalls, white with heat, standing, or rather tottering, side by side in the midst of a mountainous desert of red & black ruin, which smouldered & steamed here, & there, sent up sheets of savage intolerable flame a hundred feet high. At intervals a dull thunder was heard through the roar of fire-an explosion of saltpetre in the vaults, which sent up a pulse of flame higher than before. Burning barges lined the shore; burning oil & tallow poured in cascades from the wharfs, and flowed out blazing on the river. A schooner was being cut from her moorings, just in time, as we came up. And all this glowing hell of destruction was backed by enormous volumes of lurid smoke, that rolled sullenly across the river and shut out all beyond. Just above the highest flames stood the full moon in a clear blue sky: hut except a pale tint in far off windows, not a gleam nor a shadow of hers could be seen. But the north bank, where she should have shone, was one fairylike panorama of agitating beauty. Every building from the Bridge to the Customhouse was in a glow of ruddiest light: every church tower and high roof shone against the dark, clear in outline, golden in colour: the monument was like a pillar of fire: and ever! window and roof and tower top and standing space on ground or above, every vessel that hugged the Middlesex shore for fear of being burnt, & every inch of room on London Bridge, was crowded with thousands upon thousands of excited faces, lit up by the heat. The river too, which shone like molten gold except where the deep black shadows were, was covered with little boats full of spectators, rowing up & down in the overwhelming light.
   So, through the trampling multitude, shouts and cries & roaring flame and ominous thunder, the air full of sparks and the night in a blaze of light, our omnibus moved slowly on, and in half an hour we gained the other end of the Bridge. All along King William St. and Cheapside the people were pouring in to see the fire, and eagerly questioning those who had seen it. And even far away in the dim streets where the houses were all in shade, every church tower that we passed reflected hack the light of the conflagration. Bow Church was ruddy bright: the dome of St. Paul's was a pale rose colour on its eastern side . . .
   No such fire has been known in London since the Fire of 1666: which, by the way, began at a spot exactly opposite this. Two millions, at least, of property destroyed: near eleven acres of ruin: many lives lost, among them the chief of the Fire Brigade. The fire was at his height two or three hours after I saw it: but it is still (Wednesday afternoon) burning furiously . . .
Arthur Munby, Diary, 22 June 1861

False Teeth

The plaintiff in this case is a surgeon-dentist in Sloane-street, Chelsea, and the defendant is connected with the theatrical profession. The action was brought to recover a sum claimed as the balance due for a set of artificial teeth supplied to the defendant.
    Mr. Digby Seymour and Mr. Houston Browne appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr. Pearce for the defendant.
    The plaintiff's case was that on two previous occasions he had made the defendant "machines" for his mouth, but had not been paid for them. On the 20th August, 1855, the defendant again applied to him for another "machine," and witness agreed to make him a set of teeth upon the condition that he should be paid for it. Witness was to charge what he pleased for the job, so long as he enabled the defendant to continue his profession of an elocutionist. Witness, after three weeks' attention to the defendant's mouth, extracting teeth, removing obstructions, and getting his mouth into a fit state to receive the teeth, made the set of tooth, and charged his usual price, 40 guineas. As was frequent when a person began to wear a set of artificial teeth, the defendant distorted the springs, and witness supplied a pair of new springs, the price of which was two guineas. About Christmas time defendant played Shylock at the Strand Theatre, and afterwards told witness that his voice had never been in a more satisfactory state than on that occasion. The defendant on that occasion wore the set of teeth supplied by the plaintiff. The defendant had paid 15l. on account, and the balance due was 29l. .2s.
    Evidence was given for the defence. The defendant asserted positively that the price agreed upon for the sot of teeth was 30 guineas. He also stated that the teeth did not suit him, that they hurt his mouth, interfered with his voice; and he could not eat with them. A deduction of 1l.. 5s. was also claimed for the old gold which the plaintiff had had handed to him in the shape of the frame of the old teeth. Evidence was also given that the sum of 30 guineas was a full price for a set of teeth, the usual price being 25 guineas.
    As to the old gold, evidence was given on both sides; on the one hand, that it was the custom of the dentists to retain the old gold ; and on the other hand that there was no such custom.
    The jury found a verdict for the plaintiff for 15l.
Daily News, June 17th 1857

Animal Cruelty

George Lawson and Robert Holloway, carmen in the employ of Mr. Charles Starkey, dust-contractor of Agar-town, St Pancras, appeared to answer a summons at the instance of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals which charged them with cruelly beating the horses intrusted to their care. From the evidence of William Love and George Seaman, two officers of the society, it appeared that the on 25th inst. they were on duty in the Aland-road, Kentish-town, when they saw the defendants driving a cart heavily laden with dust. On reaching a part of the road which is much broken up, the wheels of the cart sank nearly a foot in the ground, and one of the defendants, on the off side, with a short handled whip, flogged the horse most cruelly under the flanks and over the head, and when they flinched from the torture the other defendant, on the near side, beat them with a thick stick, the horses all the while struggling their utmost to drag the load, which they were unable to do, and which appeared still more to infuriate the defendants, who both beat them violently over the head and eyes. On examining the horses, which were old and worn out, the officers found them scored with weals under the flank, and other other parts of their bodies, and one of them had several places where the hair and skin had come off, apparently from recent blows, and which places were raw and bleeding. The magistrate said there was no doubt of the defendants guilty of the most cruel and wanton barbarity, and sentenced them to pay a fine of 20s. each, and costs, or a month’s imprisonment. Not being able to pay the fine, they were committed.

Morning Chronicle, March 2 1857

Monday, 19 September 2011

An Extraordinary Kind of Fish Sauce

BOW-STREET; Curious Charge. - A tall, gentlemanly-looking man, who described himself as Major Bond, of the 2d Life Guards, and wore moustaches, was brought before Mr. Henry, charged with stealing part of a meat pie from the larder of the Union Club, Trafalgar-square. It was proved that some of the domestics of the establishment, finding the accused in the kitchen area, helping himself to the contents of the larder, called to the lamp cleaner to give him into custody. This was done, and 521 A broutht him to the police station, where he produced a bottle of fish sauce, which he stated was his own invention, and for which he was endeavouring to get an order from the club. He stated that the pie was his own, and continued eating it, so that a very small portion of the stolen property remained f'or identification. From the manner of the accused, who seemed to treat the charge with perfect indiftereuce, and with little respect for the Court, his worship entertained some doubt as to the soundness of his mind. He appeared to ridicuie this notion, and stated that he was well known in London. He knew Sir Richard Mayne, and his predecessor, Colonel Rowan, who was betrothed to his (prisoner's) mother's sister, and would have married her, but she died, and he remained a bachelor for ever afterwards.    Mr. Henry: Where. do you reside?   Prisoner: At 20, Kensington-gore, and a lovely spot it is—garden behind, and the park in front; arid, oh, such a splendid views of the ladies in Rotten-row from the upper windows.    Mr. Henry: I do not see your name in the Army List, nor in the Directory as a resident in Kensington-gore.   The prisoner: But you'll find the name of Eaton there, I suppose, and I lodge with him. With respect to the army, you are mistaken, or there's a misprint.   Mr. Henry said he should remand him for a few days, in order to ascertain who were his friends, and whether he is perfectly sane.  The prisoner demanded the remainder of his pie, and £5 for the damage done to his coat by Thompson, the lamp cleaner at. the club, in taking him into custody. Shortly. before the close of the court, a gentleman, who stated that he was the prisoner's brother, had an interview with the magistrate. He stated that his brother was not in the army himself, although he had relations there, but was a clerk in the Bank of England, and had been on leave of absence for the last month, chiefly on account of his state of mind. The family were anxious to make some arrangements for his safe keeping, as there could be no doubt as to his insanity. One of the delusions under which he laboured was, that he had discovered an extraordinary kind of fish sauce. Mr. Henry said he had just been conveyed to the prison, where the medical officer would be directed to examine him, and of course would see that every attention should be paid him that his condition of mind might render desirable.

The Era, May 1853

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A Perilous Position for a Female

A PERILOUS POSITION FOR A FEMALE.--William Myerscroft, alias William Wilson, a respectabte-looking man about forty years of age, surrendered, in discharge of his recognizances, to answer, an indictment charging him with stealing a silk scarf, the property of Laurina Smyth. — Laurina Smyth, the prosecutrix, was called, and deposed that she was a dressmaker, and resided in Church street, Stoke Newington. She had given the name of Lucille Montague when before the committing magistrate, but her right name was Laurina Smyth. On the evening of the 6th of August she was returning from Charlotte street, Fitzroy square, to Stoke Newington. It was a very wet evening, and about nine o'clock, when passing down Holborn, she was accosted by the prisoner, who made some observation on the state of the weather. She paid no attention to him at first, but eventually she was prevailed upon to go into a coffee-shop or tavern for shelter, and whilst there the prisoner called for half a quartern of brandy. Witness took a glass of the brandy, and they remained in the coffee-room for about twenty minutes. She said that she was going to the Bank, to get a bus to take her home. The prisoner said he was going the same way, and offered to accompany her. A few moments after they left the coffee-room she became quite unconscious of everything, and did not recover her senses until towards the middle of the night, when she found herself in a house of ill-fame, in the neighbourhood of Hoxton, and the prisoner in the room with her. When she saw the position she was in, she requested the prisoner to leave the room, but he would not do so, and thereupon she called a female belonging to the house to come up to her, and feeling very ill she requested a glass of water. She then took off her bonnet and scarf, which she left on a chair in the room, and again requested the priaoner to leave, but he declined to do so. She then told the young woman that she wished the prisoner to leave the room. She told witness if she came down stairs she would soon get rid of him. She went down stairs and into the back parlour. The woman of the house then called out to the prisoner that she (prosecutrix) was gone off. The prisoner then came down, and being told that witness had run away, he ran out after her into the street. Prosecutrix went up stairs to the room as soon as he had gone, when she missed the scarf. Upon this she followed the prisoner and gave him in charge, and when the policeman had him in custody prisoner took the scarf from his hat and gave it to him. — Cox, N 60, corroborated the prosecutrix's evidence with reference to the finding the scarf in the prisoner's hat — Mr. Holloway, of 244, Strand, gave the prisoner a good character.— The jury tound the prisoner guilty, and he was sentenced to one month's hard labour.

Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, September 1st, 1850

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A Wild Boar, or possibly Furious

ACCIDENT. - On Thursday afternoon, a little boy, eight years of age, the son of a person named Bateman, of Holywell-lane, Shoreditch, was attacked and wounded by a boar kept on the premises of Mr. Little, the dust-contractor of Shoreditch parish. The boar had long had the exclusive range of the dust-heaps and grew to an enormous size. The boys in the neighbourhood were in the habit of teazing him; and on Thursday evening, the little boy in question being at play on the same dust-heap with the boar, the ferocious animal knocked him down, and inflicted a terrible wound in the child's thigh with his tusks. - The boar, as if conscious of the wrong he had committed, immediately retreated from the yard, and concealed himself on some other premises. But a number of men, armed with pickazes, shovels, &c. went in pursuit and the animal's place of retreat being discovered, a general attack upon him commenced, and terminated in his death. The child is recovering.

Morning Chronicle, Dec 30, 1826

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Gaslight Signs

Gaslights were often used to advertise places or products in the late Victorian metropolis (see example) ... but this is the first I've heard of them working as street signs. If you know more about this, I'd be fascinated to hear about it ...

The following report was presented by the surveyor to the Commissioners :— I beg to report that, in pursuance of your instructions, I have permitted Messrs. Powell, of the Whitefriars Glass Works to fix tablets bearing the names of streets in certain of the public lamps within the city of London.
    These tablets are formed of glass roughed upon one side, having the letters which compose the names of the streets impressed upon the with other side. The letters are filled up with black metallic colour, burnt in the general surface of the tablets, and the names of the streets are easily discernible at night when the lamps are lighted.
    The public lamps in which the tablets have been placed are situated at the S.W. end of Cornhill, the S.W. end of King-street and the N.E. end of Queen-street, Cheapside; the corners of Ludgate-hill, Fleet-street and Farringdon-street, and at the southern end of the Old Jewry.
    They appear to answer their purpose exceedingly well, and are, I think, likely to be very serviceable in directing strangers after day-light.
    There is a scarcely a street or public thoroughfare within the city of London which is not already provided with street tablets, and the public lamps, owing to the narrowness of the footpaths, are frequently so near to them, that they can be read after daylight, but there are many localities in which these tablets can be placed with advantage to the public lamps.
    It is not, I think, probable that tablets so placed will in this metropolis supersede entirely the ordinary street tablets, as the size of the letter, owing to the dimensions of the lamps, is very limited, but as their price is so very small, it becomes well worthy of consideration whether they might not be used extensively as adjuncts to the present tablets.
    ... The members expressed the opinion that the plan adopted by the surveyor would be very serviceable in directing the foreigners and other strangers with whom the metropolis will soon abound.

Times, March 19 1851

Dust Yards


(Before Mr. Serjeant ADAMS, Assistant-Judge, and a Bench of Magistrates.)


This indictment at common-law, it will be recollected, was brought before the Court at the lest sessions, but in consequence of an objection suggested by Mr. Ballantine to the jury, inasmuch as the panel had been summoned from the district of St. Luke's, it was postponed until the present sessions, after the objection had been submitted to the trial and decision of "two triers," who held it to be good. The case was therefore brought on yesterday, and concluded this evening.
    Mr. Parry, with whom was Mr. Metcalfe, conducted the case for the prosecution; and Mr. Ballantine and Mr. Prentis appeared for the defendant.
    Mr. PARRY stated, that the present indictment was at the instance of the authorities of the parish of St. Luke against the defendant, a dust-contractor, carrying on an extensive business also as a scavenger, with large "laystalls," in Hatfield-street, Goswell-street. That depot was the place of deposit for the sweepings of the public markets—Smithfield and Newgate markets—the sweeping of streets, and the refuse of breweries. This "laystall' was the nuisance complained of. The prosecutors were not actuated by any feelings of hostility towards the defendant, but they had been induced to institute the proceedings upon which the jury were about to enter solely from a sense of public duty, and in consequence of the great injury to life and property which was sustained in the parish as the results of the nuisance in question. All that was desired by the authorities was that the matter of healthiness or prejudice to health in reference to the place the existence of which was about to be the subject of inquiry should be impartially gone into. The solo object of the parish was to ascertain whether the alleged nuisance was of a pestilential character, as they themselves believed, or not. The jury would hear a mass of evidence, the whole of which would prove that a scavenger's yard was the most pernicious in its effects to health. Amongst the witnesses they would find several gentlemen of the most distinguished and scientific reputation, who had devoted the whole of their lives to the consideration of the "health of towns" and other populous localities, and from those persons the jury would learn the nature of the exhalations which emanated from those depositaries in which there was a large quantity of animal and vegetable matter necessarily in a process of decomposition. In addition to those men of science a vast number of the inhabitants of the immediate vicinity of the premises would be called. Not only had there been a depreciation in the value of the property in the neighbourhood, but there had been great destruction of health, both the results of the proximity of so Iarge a depositary of offensive and poisonous materials in a constant state of fermentation. The neighbourhood was very populous, and much crowded by a poor class of inhabitants, and all the efforts of the parochial authorities to promote the sanitary condition of the district, and the comforts of the residents, by an improved system of paving, cleansing, and draining, had proved ineffectual, and must continue to be so, so long as there was such a focus of fever and other diseases permitted to be maintained in its very centre. The abatement of the nuisance was the object of the prosecution, and not the injury or the inconvenience of the defendant, beyond what might be absolutely imperative with a view to the preservation of the public health. There was not the least intention on the part of the prosecution to impute that the defendant did not carry on his business in a proper manner and as a respectable scavenger. The first witness he should call would be
    Mr. John Gyles, who stated that he was the surveyor to the parish of St. Luke. He produced a plan of the defendant's premises, which consisted of two large areas, one on either side of Hatfield-street. In one of these the dry rubbish was deposited, and comprised the sweepings of cellars and houses; and in the other, which was denominated the "slop-yard" was discharged the "muck" and the " liquid" fifth which were collected from the streets and markets. In the former the dust heap was usually 10 or 14 feet high, and sometimes was raised even above the houses which were adjoining. Whenever that heap was moved, as was frequently the case when there was either an addition to or a diminution of the quantity, a considerable portion was blown about, and thus the inhabitants sustained extreme inconvenience and annoyance. There was also an intolerable effluvium arising from the decomposition of vegetable and animal matters which were deposited there, the more especially from the "slop yard," and, in his opinion, that effuvium was one cause of the fever and the other illnesses that prevailed in that neighbourhood, in which there had been constant disease. The particular places in the present case were places known as Dean's-court, Golden-lane, and Middle-row. The parish had recently put down new pavement, and had to a considerable extent improved the draining of the district. To such an extent was the air impregnated with the noxious vapoars that the paint in the surrounding neighbourhood — in Hatfield-street especially — was discoloured. In warm or in wet weather the locality around was covered with vapours, having the most offensive smells emitted front it, arising as they did from the exhalations of the whenever the filth was removed, either by additions or by diminutions. In his opinion, these yards were a great public nuisance.
    Mr. H. C. Harris, one of the parish surgeons, said that he well knew the promises of Mr. Gore which formed a place of deposit of scavengers' refuse collectings. He had constantly seen large quantities of decayed animal and vegetable matter, hops, potato peelings, cabbage leaves, portions of dead dogs and cats, all in a state of decomposition. The emanations from the yards necessarily vitiated the air, and were, of course, extremely prejudicial to the health of the inhabitants. He had frequently experienced the smells produced by carburetted and sulphuretted hydrogen gas in the neighbourhood. Both of those gases were, without disipute, decidedly prejudicial to health, and their influence would extend over an area of 400 feet. He had himself met with cases of fever at 200 feet distance from the spot of generation.
    Cross-examined.—He had no doubt found cases of fever in other parts of the parish, and beyond the supposed influence of the exhalations from these yards. The fevers which were usually prevalent in poor locality were of a low type. That class of fever had been of more prevalence of late years, but in this particular district he was of opinion that it was propagated by the emanations from the defendant's premises.
    Dr. S. Smith was then examined.— He stated that he was one of the Sanitary Commissioners, and that for the last 10 years he had more particularly devoted his studies and his professional attention to matters connected with the public health. He had examined the premises of the defendant in the month of May last, and had made a report of that examination, accompanied by his observations and opinions, to the parish authorities, who were the prosecutors in the present case. His opinion was, that where the atmospheric conditions were favourable to the devolopement of poison every inmate, young or old, of its immediate neighbourhood was in danger of being attacked by fever. This was the largest area of space covered with animal and vegetable matter that he ever saw, so far as his remembrance would carry his mind. The heaps were as high as the sleeping-rooms of the surrounding neighbourhood. The following report, which the witness has made to the Paving Board upon the subject, was then read and admitted as a part of his evidence:-
    "At the request of your board, conveyed to me through your secretary, I examined on Wednesday last, the 19th of May, a yard in Hatfield-street, at present in the possession of Mr. J. Gore. This yard is nearly an acre in extent, and is divided into two portions, both of which contain large accumulations of dirt and rubbish, consisting of the sweepings of the streets and roads and the content, of ash pits and dust bins. On examining this matter attentively, there is found to be mixed with almost every part of it a large quantity of vegetable and animal refuse. The whole of these materials are uncovered so that the atmosphere and the rain and sun have the free access to them. The yard in surrounded with houses of the poorer description, and is in the midst of a close and dense population. On one side, indeed, it is separated from a cluster of confined and dirty courts only by a double wall, the inner wall being about eight feet high, and the outer somewhat higher, to which are attached some wooden planks about four feet high. Onlooking towards the yard from one of these courts the heaps of rubbish in some places appeared to bo quite as high as the bedrooms of the houses, and in that part of the yard which is nearest to these houses there are two open stagnant gutters choked up with a semi-fluid filth, the odour from which was most offensive. From the description it is obvious that there is a large accumulation of vegetable and animal matter, with all the conditions favourable to decomposition, and that this decomposition is going on in close proximity to a population likely from their poverty and the confined and unventilated state of their dwellings to be most injuriously affected by the poison generated. Whenever the atmospheric conditions are favourable to the putrefaction, the process occurs ; the wind slowly waves the gaseous poisons produced in the direction of the houses, and every inhabitant of those houses, young and old, must be in danger of an attack of fever, or of some other painful and fatal malady.
    "It is only lately that public attention has been directed to the peculiar danger arising from these accumulations of filth ; but now that that danger is understood, it is the important duty of parochial authorities to do everything in their power to protect the inhabitants who are unable to protect themselves; of course with all due consideration for persons who, in the pursuit of a useful and indispensible business, have been allowed to place their deposits of filth in situations like the present, hitherto without warning or remonstrance, and in ignorance of the dangerous character of the nuisance they were creating. I am,  gentlemen, your most obedient servant, SOUTHWOOD SMITH.  -- To the Trustees of the Paving Board of the parish of St. Luke's."
    The viva voce examination was then resumed.— He had been for 20 years connected with the Fever Hospital, and had written on the subject of' fever, and had devoted a very large proportion of his professional attention to that question.
    Cross-examined.— He had seen two or three other places of a similar description—that of Dodd, of the Wharf-road, and that of Newman, of Bethnal-green. He regarded them as public nuisances, where existing in populous and crowded neighbourhoods. In the locality where the other yards he had seen were situated, there was not so crowded a population as there was in the district where the defendant's situated. In his opinion Smithfield market was a public nuisance.
    The learned JUDGE observed, that that was, he believed, the opinion of every one who was not a member of the corporation of the city of London. (Laughter.)
    Cross-examination resumed. — In his opinion there were too many of these dust heaps and laystalls in and about the metropolis. The business of a scavenger was, without doubt, necessary, and absolutely essential to the maintenance of the health of London, but nothing could he more clumsy than the arrangements which were generally adopted for the removal of the dust and refuse of the metropolis, as well as that throughout the country.
    Dr. J. Thompson, Dr. Lloyd, Dr. J. C. Powell, Mr. Chiswell, and Mr. J. T. Cooper, the professor of chymistry, in the Blackfriars-road, and several others were subsenuently examined, all of whom concurred in opinion as to the pre-judicial effects such premises do and must have upon the health of the locality.
    Upwards of 20 inhabitants of the neighbourhood were then examined, whose testimony went to show that there had been a considerable depreciation in the value of the property in the locale of the defendant's premises, in consequence of the defendant having established his business there. The noxious smells were at times intolerable, and in certain parts of the year the inhabitants were compelled to close their windows, not only to prevent the admission of the smell, but to keep out the dust. Several of the witnesses attributed the loss of members of their families to the exhalations.
   Mr. BALLANTINE now addressed the jury on behalf of the defendant, and contended in the outset that the occupation and business of a scavenger was most essential for the preservation of the public health ; and then said, as they had heard, that the defendant was a scavenger, and was admitted to carry on his business in a very proper manner. In answer to the case which had been presented to the jury in support of the present prosecution, he was prepared to place before them a series of evidence to prove that the emanations from these yards were most positively not prejudicial to health ; and he should call witnesses who would state that the illness which had been complained of by some of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood had arisen from other causes than from the effluvia ; which it was asserted exhaled from the heaps of dust and ashes ; and that there had not been more disease there than in other poor localities. The learned counsel in support of his argument that such yards were not prejudical to health, read a variety of extracts from the works of Dr. Watson, Mr. Thackeray (On the Health of Different Trades and Occupations), of the French physicians, MM. Pallissier and Penard, and also from a recent author in America of the name of Danglefield, and in conclusion, he submitted that the defendant was entitled to a verdict in his favour.
    A number of witnesses were then called, many of whom had been brought up to the business of scavengers or night-men. Some of these had been born and still resided in similar yards, and had never suffered from ill health ; whilst there were others who said that the atmosphere was productive of a good appetite ; their families all enjoyed very good health.
   Dr. W. A. Guy, the physician to King's College Hospital, had not only turned his attention and consideration to scavengers' yards, but had written many papers for the Statistical Society on the subject. His attention to this particular yard had been first directed in the month of October last. He made an examination of its contents on that occasion and in the last month, and the result of those examinations had been to induce him to arrive at the opinion that those contents and their exhalations were not iujurious to the public health. In addition to his visiting the place and walking over the yards, he had made ample inquiries of the inhabitants of the immediate neighbourhood as to the state of health that usually existed there, and he had then referred to the Registry-book at, and the result of those inquiries had proved to him that there was not a greater proportion of deaths or indisposition in the locality of the defendant's yards than in any other equally poor district. (The witness then entered into a lengthened scientific detail of his reasons for these opinions ; but as the jury by their verdict would appear not to have held those reasons to bo quite as valid as they did those of Dr. Southwood Smith and the other witnesses who had been examined in support of the contrary view of the subject, it is not deemed requisite to give his statement.)
    Dr.  J. Ryan corroborated the views taken by the preceding witness as to the absence of such a state of impurity in the air — the result of the decomposition progressing in the defendant's yards — as was calculated to endanger the health of the neighbouring residents.
    Mr. PARRY having replied in an extremely forcible speech,
    The learned JUDGE most minutely summed up the evidence, and then told the jury that this was one of the most important questions that could possibly come under their consideration. They had arrived at a new era, for the question of endeavouring to preserve the health of their fellow creatures had lately been made the subject of especial enactment. They would therefore give their best attention and consideration to the evidence which they had had, during the last two days, placed before them. It was the more important that they should do this because it was by no means improbable that the present would not be the last of this series of prosecutions.
   The jury retired, and after an absence of half an hour returned into court with a verdict of Guilty.
    Mr. PARRY thereupon said, that as it was not the wish of the parish to inconvenience the defendant more than could be avoided, he would not press for any thing more than that a sufficient amount of sureties should be given to ensure the early abatement of the nuisance. All the parish required or sought was that the nuisance, so far as their district was concerned, should be got rid of. After some considerable discussion,
    The learned JUDGE. said, that of course reasonable time must be afforded to the defendant to obtain in the first instance other premises ; and in the next, to remove the filth to such new site. He should therefore order him to enter into his recognizance for 80l. and find two sureties for 40l. each, as a guarantee that the abatement should take place before the 30th of March, on which day he must come up for judgment. If on that day the defendant could show that there had not been any fresh deposit made, and that he had made every reasonable effort to obtain other premises, but had not succeeded, or, if he had succeeded, then that he had not had time to remove the whole of what might perhaps be termed the "stock in trade," the Court might probably in that case extend the period when the total abatement should take place. Tho court, which for the two days had been crowded to excess, in a few minutes became comparatively empty, and the other "bail cases" were proceeded with, although it was nearly 7 o'clock.

Times, 1848

Grim Gothic Rubbish

WORSHIP STREET.—On Saturday, shortly after the magistrate (Mr. BROUGHTON) had taken his seat on the bench, a man who gave his name John Gardner, and said he lived at No. 6, Hertford-street, Haggerston, applied to the court to advise and assist him under the following circumstances:-
    He stated that about half-past 6 o'clock that morning, as he was passing a waste piece of ground (situated over the Kingsland-road Bridge, by the side of the Regent's Canal, in the possession of Mr. King) where rubbish is shot his attention was drawn to the spot by seeing a number of persons, who were raking over a large heap of rubbish that had just been shot. He went up to them, and was horror-stricken to find that it consisted of nearly six cart loads of pieces of coffins and human bones, some of which had the flesh still adhering to them. There was also a person's head with the hair on it, the face of which was so little decomposed that it might be identified. The coffins had very few of them been under ground, and some were almost new. The crowd, which consisted of the poor cottagers of the neighbourhood and their children, were busy in despoiling the coffins of the metal plates and handles to sell to the marine-store dealers, and the wood they were taking home for their fires. On making inquiry, he found that the rubbish had been brought there but a short time before by some carts in the employ of Mr. Gould, the dust contractor, of Shoreditch. The effluvium was dreadful, and the applicant fearing the consequences that might arise if its removal were neglected, instantly went to the police station in the district, and then came down to that court.
     The applicant's statement created the greatest sensation in court, and Mr. Broughton having sent for Holland, the warrant officer in whose district it was, Holland said the same statement had been made at the station, and he had no doubt but the police were now on the spot. After the lapse of about three hours Holland and the applicant returned to the office, accompanied by Inspector Tarleton, of the M division, and Waller, the beadle of Shoreditch, and the statements made by them fully corroborated the applicant's statement. Holland said that the whole place was in a state of the greatest excitement. On getting into the field he saw a great quantity of broken coffins and human bones strewed in all directions about the field. There were not then nearly so many as the applicant stated, but he had no doubt but that there had been, for several of Mr. King's men were then busy burying the stuff. The grossest indecencies were being practised, human bones in the state described by the applicant were being kicked about in all directions. He found a skull, the jaw of which had been tied up with a handkerchief, and which was stained with blood ; this was being kicked about. He then went round to the marine store shops in the neighbourhood, and found that above 20 lb. of metal plates and handles had been disposed of. He also found a quantity of coffin wood that had been removed to the poor people's houses about the place, and which had been broken up for fires. From appearances he should have thought the coffins and bodies had also been broken up with either pickaxes or spades. On returning to the spot he met Mr. King, the proprietor of the place, who received them most uncourteously, telling them in answer to their question that they might inquire of his boy what they wanted to know, but that he could not spare time to talk to them, as he had a hot dinner waiting for him. They went to the boy, who said the stuff had been brought there that morning, and that he had broken up some of the coffins, many of which were nearly whole. They requested him to accompany them and make his statement to the magistrate, which he refused to do without his master's sanction. Mr. King returning by this time, they asked his permission for him to do so, when he said the boy should not go unless he was summoned.
     Inspector Tarleton corroborated this statement, and added that he went to Mr. Gould's yard, and saw the two men who had carted the stuff, and they told him that it had been brought from a vault in Friday-street, which they had cleared out about 10 years previously. They said the carts had been engaged the night before, that when they were loaded they were brought to the yard, and that some of it had been buried in the Cambridge-road. They expressed the greatest willingness to came forward and give the fullest information.
    Waller, the beadle, said the authorities of the parish were determined, if they could, to prosecute the perpetrators of such a gross and inhuman outrage on public decency; he had himself seen a scalp with red hair on it, kicking about. He felt sure that many of the coffins were almost new ones. He had secured the plates of some, and would shortly be able to discover to whom they had belonged. The magistrate then ordered a summons to be granted for the lad in the employ of Mr. King, and the case was adjourned till Monday (this day) for further investigation.


WORSHIP STREET — Two men named John Roffey and Samuel Wright, carters in the service of Mr. John Gould, dust contractor for the district, appeared before Mr. BROUGHTON, to answer the charge of having unlawfully and indecently exposed certain portions of human dead bodies and also certain coffins or portions thereof, in and near a certain highway in the parish of Shoreditcb, on the 5th inst.
    Mr. Long, the senior churchwarden of Shoreditch, with several trustees and other authorities, attended on the part of that parish to watch the case ; and Mr. Grueber and Mr. Hobler appeared for Messrs Liddiard and John Mair, jun., churchwardens of St. Matthew, Friday-street, both of whom and several other gentlemen of that parish were likewise present, and manifested the warmest interest in the proceedings.
    The first witness called was John Roe, a labourer in the service of Mr. King, owner of the waste in question, who stated that between 6 and 7 o'clock on Saturday morning, while in his master's field, a cartload of stuff was brought there by the defendant Wright, who shot it amongst the other rubbish on the ground; and observing that it was entirely composed of broken coffins, plates, handles, and human bones, witness inquired whence it came, to which the defendant at first made no reply, but afterwards said that he had brought it from a vault which had not been cleared out for 50 years. The defendant then asked how much they allowed for such a load, and on being told that he would get nothing, appeared much dissatisfied and said if he had not understood that he would receive 4d. a-load, he would not have brought it there. Both defendants afterwards returned with two other loads, containing similar matter, which they also deposited in the same place.
    John Gardiner, a hawker, deposed to having seen a crowd of persons congregated over the deposit in question, in which he observed a human scalp with hair upon it, several bones with flesh adhering to them, and numerous fragments of coffins, some of them half lids and sides, and so sound that they could not have been more than two years under ground. The assembled crowd were busily engaged in carrying off the spoil, and amongst them he observed a boy with a bushel basket full of coffin furniture and a young man with a spring barrow completely laden with metal plates and coffin handles, which they were taking away for sale. He also saw a hair bed, not quite perfect, but which had evidently just come out of a coffin, and his feelings so revolted at the disgusting exhibition, that he immediatcly gave information to the police.
    Henry Longtnun, a lad in the service of Mr. King, next spoke as to the nature of the deposits brought to the field by the defendants, and said that he had himself secured a number of plates and handles, which he afterwards sold to a marine store dealer for 11½ d. He and another boy broke in half nearly a whole coffin, in which were bones and hair, the latter lying upon a sort of bed, and a quantity of other hair adhered to the outside of the coffin. There were greatquantities of bones among the refuse.
     When this witness had concluded his testimony, his master, Mr. King, addressed the magistrate, and complained of a misstatement which had obtained extensive currency, to the effect that he had discharged this lad in consequence of the information he had given to the police, but which was altogether incorrect, as he still remained in his service, and he had himself furnished every information in his power for the elucidation of the matter. He regretted extremely that such a transaction should have taken place on his premises, but it was done entirely without his cognizance and authority.
     Mr. BROUGHTON said that the statement complained of had certainly been publicly made in that court, but expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the explanation afforded by Mr. King, whose conduct throughout appeared wholly unimpeachable.
     A married woman, named Elizabeth Norris, also deposed to the loathsome character of the deposits, the effluvium arising from which was so overpowering that she with difficulty escaped fainting; and said that among the refuse that was kicked about she observed a thigh bone, with flesh upon it as broad as her hand and a foot is length, a spinal bone also with flesh attached to it, a silk handkerchief stained with blood, evidently used to tie up a person's jaw, and a woollen u.attress still bearing the impression of a human figure.
    Joseph Mortis, a gardener, gave similar evidence, and stated that the maaa which he saw wholly consisted of fragments of coffins, plates, and handles, and that there was no earth with them whatever. He also deposed to finding a perfect jawbone, with the teeth entire.
    Samuel Shearman, a marine-storedealer, proved having purchased 44 lb. of metal plates and handles, which had been brought in various lots to his shop, and afterwards taken away by the police and parish officers.
    Waller, the beadle, produced several plates, the inscriptions on two of which were perfectly legible, and bore the respective dates of 1818 and 1834. The witness added, that under the directions of the churchwardens of Shoreditch, all the human remains that could be collected had been since decently interred in consecrated ground.
    Holland, the watrant officer, produced several pieces of coffins, and stated that such fragments had been extensively dispersed about the neighbourhood, and that in five houses alone he found at least a cartload.
    On being called upon to answer the charge, the defendants severally said that they had been directed by the niece and sister of their master to proceed, at 3 o'clock on Saturday morning, to cart away some rubbish from the vault of the church in Friday-street, and in which they were assisted by the street-keeper,  gravedigger, and other persons. They were not aware of what the rubbish consisted, but afterwards
conveyed it by their foreman's orders to the field in which it was discovered.
    Mr. BROUGHTON here addressed the authorities of the city parish, and said, that as their names had been rather freely mentioned, he considered it but right that they should be allowed an opportunity for explanation.
    Mr. Grueber immediately rose and said, that the facts of the case were, that in consequence of the accidental sinking of the vicar's vault, during the construction of a new sewer, about 18 months since, such an intolerable effluvium had arisen from the displacement of the coffins as to cause the greatest annoyance to the parishioners. An order had therefore been issued by the vestry for the clearance of the vault, which the churchwardens had not only given strict injunctions to carry out with the utmost decorum and propriety, but had personally inspected the sifting of the refuse for nearly a week, and caused every bone that could be discovered to be reinterred in the vault. They had several witnesses in attendance to prove that their orders had been literally obeyed at the church, and that the bones which were afterwards found in the field must necessarily have been brought from some other place. The most positive directions bad also been given to Mr. Gould, who had been employed by other parishes on similar occasions, to provide a proper receptacle for the remains, which he had engaged to do, and the first intimation the churchwardens had received of his
non-compliance with their directions was conveyed to them through the public journals.
    Mr. Hobler addressed the bench to the same effect on behalf of Davis, the beadle, who had faithfully fulfilled his instructions, and submitted that if any outrage had been inflicted upon public decency the culpability rested alone with the contractor.
    Both the churchwardens also addressed the magistrate seriatim, and strongly urged the examination of Davis and other witnesses as to the above facts ; but Mr. BROUGHTON declined to receive their evidence, as he had no power to investigate the first part of the transaction, which had oecurred beyond his jurisdiction.
    Mr. Mair, the junior churchwarden of St. Matthew, then said that, as a demonstrative proof that the evidence had been greatly exaggerated, he held in his hand an extract from their parish register, which established that only 51 burials had taken place in that vault since 1809; and as 49 still remained, of which only one was composed of wood, it was perfectly manifest that such an immense mass of broken coffins could not have come from their vaults.
    Mr. BROUGHTON expressed himself of opinion that a most improper course had been adopted in employing a common dust contractor to fulfil such a duty, which ought to have been performed under the superintendence of the churchwardens, and with the direct sanction of the ordinary of the diocese, in ground selected by themselves. The whole transaction was a gross outrage on public decency, which had no parallel within his recollection, and as it was clearly an indictable offence, he should require the defendants to put in bail to answer the charge at the sessions, themselves io 30l. and two sureties in 25l., and leave it for the consideration of the parish authorities of Shoreditch to carry out the prosecution.
    The proceedings attracted the greatest interest, and the court was densely crowded during the investigation, which lasted several hours.

Times, 1846

Unlikely Traffic Accidents

MARYLEBONE OFFICE —Yesterday Joseph Jessopp, a carman in the employ of Mr. Dark, a dust contractor, was charged with improperly flogging his horse, which caused the animal to jump nearly through the carriage of Sir Archer Croft, of Acton, which happened to be passing at the time.
     It appeared from the evidence of Thomas Wise,the footman, that on Saturday last the carriage, containing Lady Croft and other females, was proceeding along Oxford-street, when on arriving near Gilbert-street, they came up with the prisoner, who was driving his master's dust cart, when, just as they were passing, the prisoner gave the horse so severe a lash with the whip that the animal sprang violently forward, thrusting his head completely through the window into the carriage, smashing the glass, the fragments of which severely lacerated Lady Croft's face, and caused the greatest alarm and confusion. The damage done amounted to 2l. 9s.
    A female named Blake, who happened to be passing, having given corroborative evidence, the prisoner, who said he could not help it, was fined for his misconduct, and ordered to make good the damage done; in default he was locked up.

Times, 1838

Victorian Childcare

I've seen quite a few of these grim cases ... what did you do, after all, if you had no-one to watch your kids?


Yesterday an inquisition was taken before Mr. Stirling in the Board-room of Middlesex Hospital, on view of the bodies of Ann and Sarah M'Grath, aged 4 and 5 years, who were burnt to death under the following lamentable circumstances.
    John Ainwrignt, a labourer, No. 19, Oxford-buildings, deposed, that he lived in the room on the second floor, under that in the occupation of the deceased children's father. About 12 o'clock on Thursday witness was in his own room, when he was alarmed by seeing flames burst into it from the room overhead. He rushed up stairs calling for assistance. The door of the room was padlocked. Witness broke it open, but no one could enter on account of the smoke and flames. Thcy obtained some water, with which they put the fire out. The children were then found huddled in each other's arms. They were quite black, and all their clothes were burnt off. Some persons took them away to the hospital. Witness found two pieces of wood in the window-seat. Everything was destroyed in the room.
    By the Jury.—The mother of the children is in prison, and has been away three months. The father is sometimes away from 4 o'clock in the morning till 7 at night.
    The Coroner ordered the father to be brought in. Mackintosh, the beadle, said that he heard from the neighbours that the father was attentive and kind to his children, and that whenever he could come home he did.
    The father stated that he left home that morning about 7 o'clock. He lit the fire, and then locked them in. The Coroner asked him if it were proper to Iock children of so tender an age in a room by themselves?
    The father said that he usually left the key with a woman, but who was out that day. He worked for Mr. Nicholls, the dust contractor, and was in all parts of the town. When he came home at night he heard them say their prayers and put them to bed. (here the poor fellow burst into tears and left the room.)
    Mr. W. T. C. Robinson, house-surgeon, said that the children were so severely burnt that it was impossible they could survive. One died the next morning at 5 o'clock, and the other at half-past 10.
    Verdict-- "Accidental death."

Saturday, 10 September 2011

There is a touch in her of the national manly character

A nice description of the bellicose nature of the Victorian dust-woman:-
"But though gross and animal to the last degree, and so unsexed that you doubt whether she even be a woman, yet there is a touch in her of the national manly character. When these women fight among themselves, which is pretty often, there is none of the scratching and hair-pulling which distinguishes the usual contests of the sex : they are manly even in their rage. They simply go to work exactly as men would do. The lookers-on form a ring, the principals have backers, and they set to work with closed fists, and fight as fairly as Tom Cribb would have done. In the last century, there were professional boxers of the female sex, who fought for money, just as the men do now ; but even these professionals do not appear to have conquered the female tendency to claw, as it was made a condition of each match, that the combatants should fight with money in their hands, which was forfeited to the opponent the moment it was dropped, thus providing against the use of the nails. But the modern dust-woman does not require this ingenious method of restraint, and she gives and takes with a gallantry and pluck, if we may use the term, which cannot be excelled by any member of the prize-ring. It is well to note even this spirit of fair play among them, for otherwise they form the lowest dregs, intellectually and morally, of the population.
You may, of course, also remember The Famous Stoke Newington Ass-Woman.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Walk the Lines - a brief review

Mark Mason was kind enough to send me a review copy of his new book Walk the Lines which documents his, erm, frankly quite ambitious* [you may prefer to think 'barmy'] attempt to walk the entire length of the London Underground, following the route of the trains, but staying above ground, using the public roads. I'm not a book reviewer, generally speaking, but I'll make an exception for anything quirky and London - and this admirably fulfils both criteria.

The book is, in fact, easy on descriptions of walking and big on London facts and trivia. It is not psychogeography in the tradition of Sinclair or Ackroyd (for which, personally, I was quite thankful) and instead is an engaging stroll/marathon through the metropolis, in the amiable company of the author. Despite the inevitable slog of walking such a distance (sorry, should have made a note of the mileage, but it's a bloody long way), Mason keeps the prose light and entertaining and you enjoy following him on his journey. The book also has the distinction of being (surely) one of the only texts to have pondered the sociological significance of Tottenham Hale Retail Park before it became the first victim of the recent riots (Victoria Line, of course).

The bit I found most engaging was the line I knew best - again, the Victoria - and you may have similar responses, according to how much you know the capital. Some of the best bits are interviews with Londoners who relate to mapping the city - the City of London planner, the taxi-driver, Bill Drummond (ok, you will need to read that one to know why he's relevant) - and I perhaps could have wished for a few more of these; and there is, inevitably, an element of repetition - the later walks seem to lack some of the detail of the earlier (or is that just because I'm not so familiar with the places?). Yet, I very much wanted to follow Mark through to the end, and didn't regret it.

In short, an enjoyable read for the London nerd. If you love London, I defy you not to finish it thinking 'hmm, I wish I had thought of that' and maybe even 'I wish I had done that'.

I don't think my feet could take it, mind.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Victorian Job Descriptions No.1

The first in what may or may not become an occasional series ... I imagine a Victorian job description ...


Your role in is to collect dust from residents of the parish, and convey it to a dust-yard for sifting and recycling. ‘Dust’ will principally contain a mixture of ash and cinders, but you will also be expected to remove any useless matter that has been placed in the dust-bin, including pieces of smashed crockery; bones; old rags; worn-out oil-cloth, bonnet-boxes, cocoa-nut matting; food scraps; broken glass; dead cats &c.

You will be filling 4-6 cart-loads of dust per day, with a minimim of a ton of dust per cart-load.

NB. You will not be required to remove night-soil from cess-pools, unless you choose to contract additional work as a night-soil man.

Line Manager
Your employer will be a dust-contractor, who owns the yard in which the dust is recycled, and has signed a contract with parish authorities to remove household waste.

You will be paid eight pence a cart-load, to be shared between yourself and a co-worker. You may choose to claim ‘sparrows’ (tips) from households, amounting to anything from 2d. to 6d. per house, or receive a modicum of beer. If the area is poor (known to your colleagues as a ‘dead piece’) or residents grudge your hard-earned gratuity, you may choose to withold your labour.

You may reasonably expect to earn a total of 20s.-25s. a week; a comparatively good wage for manual labour.

6-8 hours a day, during hours of daylight.

Householders will usually place their dust in dustbins: large, immobile, lidded brick or wooden bins, fixed against garden walls or in basement areas. In shops or properties without an area or garden, you will find assorted pails, buckets and containers, most likely stored in the cellar.

You may have heard radical hygienists recommend portable tin or zinc boxes, capable of only holding a week’s rubbish. These are not much in favour in London; you are unlikely to see one.

You will be supplied with a sturdy basket, a shovel and an open-topped high-walled cart.

You should provide your own clothing, including strong boots, knee-breeches, a smock-frock or jacket, and a fan-tail hat.


Physical skills: Bodily power and endurance.

Team Skills: You will be expected to co-operate with a co-worker in a ‘filler’ and ‘carrier’ team: one man filling the basket from the dustbin, the other taking the full basket to the cart.

Vocal Skills: Now that the traditional bell has been deemed a nuisance, you must master the street cry of ‘Dust-oy-ee! Dust-oy-ee!’ to alert householders of your approach.

No education, literacy or numeracy is required.

Considerable exposure to miasma and dirt; although the profession is reputedly remarkably healthy as a body of men.

Cinders and ashes may give your skin and clothing an unnatural grey pallor.

You may engage in ‘totting’ (searching for items of value before the dust reaches the dust-yard) but, please note, this may be considered larceny, if items have been lost rather than discarded.

‘Sparrows’/beer money (see above).

Friday, 2 September 2011


Cheap clothing produced by poverty-stricken labourers is not just a feature of globalisation ... hence this cartoon from 1849 ...