Friday, 21 December 2018

The Anna Karenina of Kilburn; Basil Edwin Lawrence (1853-1929) Golders Green Crematorium


We don’t know where 32 year old barrister Basil Edwin Lawrence and his wife Mary were planning to go on the morning of 24 March 1886 but we do know that they must have left their house at 13 Woodchurch Road, NW6 at about 9.40am and walked down Priory Road towards Belsize Road or West End Lane towards Kilburn High Road. They were heading towards Kilburn & Maida Vale Station (now Kilburn High Road), a 10 minute walk away from their suburban villa and very convenient for getting Basil to his chambers on Chancery Lane. At almost exactly the same time 25 year old Julia Marks, who lived at 18 Birchington Road, just 3 or 4 minutes walk away from the station was also leaving her house to catch a train, though she had no intention of travelling anywhere.
Julia Marks had passed the morning uneventfully, having breakfast with her husband Charles at home, chatting about her plans for the day (she told that she was going to Willesden to see about the character of some servants she was thinking of employing), arranging to meet later at her mothers and seeing him off to his office at 8.30. Half an hour later she asked her housemaid Maggie Robinson to help her put up a curtain hook in the drawing room. At 9.30 she was giving her new cook,  Ellen Steinhans, instructions on what to prepare for her and the children’s lunches and what to do for the rest of the day. Neither her husband nor her domestics noticed anything out of the ordinary in her demeanour or had any inkling of what she was about to do.
After putting on her coat and hat Julia Marks walked to Kilburn Station and onto the platform. She did not buy a ticket. She wanted to catch a train, the 9.57 from Broad Street, but wasn’t going to travel. Frederick Carter, a porter at the station, noticed her as he crossed the line to meet the incoming train from Broad Street. She walked down the slope at the end of the platform, just where it passes under the Priory Road Bridge, and knelt down by the side of the tracks. Basil and Mary Lawrence had also arrived at the station by this time and were standing on the opposite platform, waiting to catch a train into London. Frederick Carter couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing, he thought Julia might have stumbled. Basil Lawrence on the other hand was very clear about what Julia was doing. He saw her kneel by the tracks and gently place her head, as though she were laying it on a pillow, on the cold steel rail of the track. Hoping Mary hadn’t noticed he shooed her into the waiting room, deliberately putting himself into his wife’s line of vision, so that she couldn’t see what was about to happen. He could not bring himself to turn around as he listened with horror to the sound of the incoming locomotive pulling into the station. The train driver, an ashen faced John Colver, climbed down from the engine and told Frederick Carter the porter that he had run over a woman. Carter fetched the station master who had been watching it all from further along the platform. He said that the engine guard had caught the woman’s head and dragged her body along, under the platform. When the station staff finally managed to pull her out she was still alive but she died shortly thereafter. Her head and face did not seem badly injured but her right arm and hand had been crushed by the train wheel.  The police and medical aid were both summoned and both arrived at the same time, in the shape of Inspector Edward Ettridge of the S division of the Metropolitan Police and Dr Muller of Oxford Road. They supervised the transfer of the body to the ticket office and whilst Dr Muller examined the body Inspector Ettridge looked through her black leather purse and found some form of identity. Before lunchtime her husband had been called from his office by the police and told that his wife was dead.
 
An inquest was held on the following Friday, at the Priory Tavern, not much more than a hundred yards away from the site of the accident. The coroner was Danford Thomas, who later chaired the inquests into the murders of William Whiteley and Dora Crippen.  Charles Simeon Marks, “who was sworn on the Old Testament and with his bead covered” said the Kilburn Times, was the first witness. He told the inquest about breakfasting with his wife for the last time two days before and insisted “ he had no reason to think that she had placed herself in a position of danger, and had never heard that she had expressed herself as being likely to do away with herself.” No one it seemed had the least notion as to way Julia Marks had killed herself or chosen to do away with herself in the manner of Anna Karenina. The book certainly had no influence, unless Julia read Russian; the book had been published in 1878 but the first English translation didn’t appear until 1889. Her doctor, Dr P Kirkpatrick Picard of Abbey Road, told the coroner that Julia Marks had been his patient for four years. He had been asked to make a home call to see her in mid February but had found nothing wrong with her other than her being anaemic and slightly forgetful. He insisted that there was no sign of melancholia when she saw her, just the opposite in fact, she took a bright view of things. Under questioning from the coroner he conceded that anaemics “there was an altered condition of the blood, which often affected the brain, and might produce a confusion of mind in which the patient might momentarily do something without knowing at all what she was about.” He further speculated that “it was possible, in her condition, that she might have become fascinated by the approaching train...”  The verdict of the inquest jury was “hat deceased did die from the mortal effect of injuries received by being run over by a passing train at Kilburn Station, and that the said death was occasioned by deceased placing herself in front of the said train, at the time being of unsound mind and suffering from anaemia.”
We don’t know what effect witnessing the death of Julia marks had on Basil Edwin Lawrence. We know that it didn’t put him off the railways. In later life he followed his father into the position of director on the Nottingham and Grantham Railway and Canal Company. He is best known today for writing a “History of the Laws affecting the Property of Married Women in England”, an essay which won the Yorke Prize when he was at Cambridge and which was published in an expanded version in 1884. He was born at 46 Chalcot Villas in Hampstead in 1853. His father was Edwin Henry Lawrence, the great nephew of the Regency portrait painter Sir Thomas Lawrence, a successful stockbroker and collector and patron of the arts. Basil studied at Trinity College Cambridge, married Mary Lyndon at St Paul’s church in Hampstead in 1873 and became a practicing barrister, specialising in what is probably the most mundane branch of the legal profession, conveyancing. Mary and Basil had three children, Dorothy, Arthur and Bryan. He died at Cookham, Berkshire in December 1929, just two months after Mary, who had died in October. He left an estate valued at £64.882 and amongst his bequests were £5 for each year of service to John Chastell his chauffeur and John Pleasants his gardener and £3 for each year of service to Lily Fletcher, parlour maid  and Frederick White, gardener. Basil and Mary were both cremated at Golders Green and the rather beautiful urn which holds both their ashes stands in a niche in the columbarium.
 
The City of London School stands by the side of the Thames, close to St Pauls and next to the Unilever building. In the entrance hall is a statue of a boy cricketer by Joseph Durham called ‘Waiting for his innings.’ In the will of Edwin Henry Lawrence, Basil’s father, is a paragraph which reads “I bequeath to the National Gallery the Marble Statue by Joseph Durham A.R.A. of a Cricketer "waiting for his inning" being a life sized Statue done by him of my son Basil Edwin Lawrence and I request that this inscription may be incised on the edge or rim of the Statue "Basil Edwin Lawrence Trinity College, Cambridge M.A. L.L.D. presented by his Father Edwin H. Lawrence F.S.A." and I request that my son will obtain and add a plain Granite or Marble Stand for the said Statue."  For reasons unknown the statue of Basil as a 12 year old never made it to the National Gallery but was granted  a home by the City of London School.

Friday, 14 December 2018

The Undertaking; Life Studies from the Dismal Trade - Thomas Lynch (Vintage £9.99)



The figure most often and most conspicuously missing from the insurance charts and demographics is the one I call THE BIG ONE, which refers to the number of people out of every one hundred born who will die. Over the long haul, THE BIG ONE hovers right around ... well – dead nuts on 100. If this were on the charts, they would call it ‘Death expectancy’ and no one would buy futures of any kind. But it is a useful number and has its lessons. Maybe you will want to figure out what to do with your life. Maybe it will make you feel a certain kinship with the rest of us. Maybe it will make you hysterical. Whatever the implications of a 100 per cent death expectancy, calculate how big a town this is and why it produces for me steady, if sometimes unpredictable, labour.
“Every year I bury one hundred and fifty of my townspeople,” says Thomas Lynch at the start of his collection of essays, The Undertaking, “another dozen or two I take to the crematory to be burned. I sell caskets, burial vaults, and urns for the ashes. I have a side line in headstones and monuments. I do flowers on commission.”  Lynch runs the family owned funeral business Lynch & Sons in the small town of Milford, Michigan. In his black homburg, white shirt, black bow tie, black three piece suit and wire frame glasses he looks like an undertaker who has just wandered in from the 19th Century. He sometimes writes like it too – but please note that isn’t a criticism. When he isn’t undertaking Lynch is also a poet, an “internationally unknown” one he claims here, but that isn’t quite true. He has published, internationally, at least four books of poetry, a volume of short stories and three collections of essays. As a poet he is reasonably well known, as a funeral director, he has to be a megastar. There aren’t many famous funerary professionals that is true, and he perhaps isn’t as celebrated as Caitlin Doughty, but this book, originally published in 1997, sold well in the States and made him a recognised name with that part of the general public blessed with morbid inclinations.
When, in the essay pithily entitled ‘Crapper’ (after Thomas Crapper, supposed inventor of the flush toilet)  Lynch draws parallels between the changes in attitudes towards the disposal of excrement and of the dead since Victorian times, noting our modern aversion to any of the ‘sights and sounds and odors that remind us of the corruptibility of the flesh’, he sounds like a potential recruit for Doughty’s Order of the Good Death.  But the old fashioned Catholic Midwesterner and the breezy Californian are poles apart. The fear of death, he says, “is something anyone in their right mind has. It is healthy. It keeps us from playing in the traffic. I say it’s a thing we should pass on to the kids.” His essentially conservative moral stance sometimes draws the ire of the more liberally inclined of his compatriots. In a fascinating essay Lynch discusses  Jack Kevorkian, a fellow resident of Michigan and pro euthanasia campaigner dubbed Dr Death by the media, who invented a device, the Thanatron, to enable the terminally ill to kill themselves and who personally assisted at the death of 130 people. Kevorkian was a hugely controversial figure and Lynch draws a very different picture of him to the one presented in the 2010 TV film ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ which starred Al Pacino.  He also compares euthanasia to abortion in terms of the moral complexities involved, a view that infuriates his critics.
The Undertaking is beautifully written, decidedly literary, absorbing and often very funny. Recommended.     

Friday, 7 December 2018

They Say Animals Don't Worry - PDSA Pet Cemetery, Ilford



The wanderer near Ilford in Essex may be pardoned if, on looking over the hedge of a suburban lane, he should imagine for a moment that be has strayed into the land of the Lilliputians. The field he sees before him is obviously a cemetery, but the graves, with one or two exceptions, are abnormally small. On further examination he will discover that they are the graves of animals; and this the pets' cemetery maintained by the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals, wherein are buried upwards of a thousand animals, from a budgerigar to a racehorse. In his first surprise, he may wonder if he has not stumbled upon the English counter part of the Happier Hunting Ground. Is there here, perhaps, the same background that engaged Mr. Evelyn Waugh's satirical pen? The white dove, symbolizing the animal's soul, liberated at the moment of committal? The anniversary card of remembrance which announces: "Your little Arthur is thinking of you in heaven to-day and wagging his tail"? The ordered surroundings, the air of serenity, and a closer inspection should dispel such extravagant notions. This is an English field; Essex is remote from California.
The Times 09 May 1955

I first came across the PDSA cemetery in Ilford after my dog, a cocker spaniel, had impaled himself on a tree branch in the park. Cocker spaniels were originally working dogs used by hunters to raise game, usually birds. They are now so inbred that they are little more than jet propelled olfactory organs; in the park mine glues his nose to the ground and sets off at full pelt as soon as he picks up an interesting scent trail. Squirrels produce one of his favourite spoors. When squirrel meets tree the spoor abruptly changes direction by 90 degrees, switching instantly from horizontal to vertical. This sudden shift of spoor direction happens too quickly for a short-sighted cocker spaniel, travelling at velocity, to apply the brakes. Therefore spaniel skull and tree trunk often come into violent contact, with, I have to say, no discernible ill effects on the dog that I have noticed. Just once has he caused himself any real damage, when pelting helter skelter through the undergrowth he managed to find a broken branch sharp enough to skewer himself on. He emerged from the scrub with a couple of inches of wood protruding from the front of his chest. When I pulled it gently five more inches of sharp and bloody stake emerged. The vet suggested he was admitted to hospital for checks (after discovering we had insurance) and sent us off to the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals hospital on Woodford Bridge Road in Ilford. The pet cemetery is behind the hospital car park, you can’t miss it as you unload your wounded or sick animal out of your vehicle. At least there isn’t far to go if the treatment doesn’t work. 
  
Ilford Pet Cemetery featured in the Illustrated London News of August 6, 1955
The best known pet cemetery in London is, of course, the one in Hyde Park which contains the bodies of about 300 animals, mainly cats and dogs. More interesting is the one in Ilford on the London/Essex borders set up by the PDSA in the 1920’s on the floodplain of the River Roding, surrounded by playing fields and huddled beneath towering electricity pylons a stones throw away from the roaring traffic of the A406. At least 3000 animals are buried here, mostly canine and feline but also pigeons, budgies, horses, rabbits and a monkey called Ginner who, according to the correspondent from the Times quoted above, “distinguished himself during the war by warning his deaf master of the approach of flying bombs.” There are Dinky’s and Binkies, Dustys and Rustys, Gingers, Trixies and Scruffys,  at least two Niggers (more of this later), a Timoshenko, a Joffre, and a cat called Hitler whose headstone I searched for in vain (but which does exist because I’ve seen a photo). There are 12 winners of the Dickin Medal for animal gallantry buried here including an apparently fearless carrier pigeon called Mary of Exeter.

Trixie the Scotch terrier with Mr Tibb the cat in the background
In 1928 the People Dispensary for Sick Animals (formed in 1917 in Whitechapel by Maria Dickin) acquired land on St Swithin’s farm on the outskirts of Ilford to build an animal hospital and create paddocks for ailing horses saved from the East End. It was also decided to set aside a smallish plot at the top end of the field behind the newly built hospital to serve as a pet cemetery. In the 1930’s the charity also effectively set up a crematorium when it acquired an incinerator which it used to dispose of unwanted animal carcases. Much loved pets on the other hand were laid to rest in the cemetery for a relatively modest fee which included a standard wooden headboard. The cemetery gradually grew in size and many owners put up marble headstones or other memorials to replace the plain wooden boards. At he outbreak of the Second World War the charity found itself unexpectedly faced with a crisis when  many panicked pet owners could not let their animals face an uncertain future of bombing raids, rationing or possible invasion by the Nazis. Hundreds of thousands took the difficult decision that it was better for their pets to die than to fall into the hands of the Hun (luckily the government’s hastily created evacuation plans saved anyone having to make the same tough decision about their children).  In what became known as the September Holocaust orderly queues formed outside veterinary surgeries and animal charities as pet owners waited patiently to have their animals humanely destroyed. When vets ran out of chloroform and other lethal agents, some pet owners resorted to finishing off their animals themselves with spade and mattock and everywhere the corpses were piled high and no on knew what to do with them. It was estimated that in London alone between 400,000 and 750,000 animals were destroyed in the first week of the war. Many pet owners that had resisted their first impulses to have their animals killed found themselves succumbing to a second wave of hysteria which swept the country a few weeks later. Some charities resisted, Battersea dogs home saved 140,000 cats and dogs from the holocaust but others felt they had no choice but to collaborate. In 1945 a PDSA looked back at those weeks of unprecedented collective madness and explained the part the charity had played;

The day before war was declared, we received information that all destructors in London were working to full capacity. Several corporations, animal societies and veterinary surgeons were therefore unable to cope with the burial of these poor animals, and the offer by the P.D.S.A. of the use of a meadow in the grounds of our sanatorium was accepted. Then our real difficulties began, for, as far as can be estimated, we buried half a million animals. This necessitated finding transport, procuring 40 tons of lime, and extra labour. Again people rushed to have their animals destroyed and again we had to open our grounds for the receipt of their bodies, this time receiving a further quarter of a million animals. Our Technical Officers, called upon to perform the unhappy duty of destroying such a vast number of animals will never forget the tragedy of those days.
Whilst the PDSA cemetery contains the remains of 3000 much loved pets the numerous hummocks and humps in an otherwise empty field on the northern boundary of the cemetery, fenced off with wire netting and half hidden by scraggy trees and shrubs, hide the mass graves of almost three quarter of a million animals. It is quite astonishing; so much for keeping calm and carrying on. Perhaps the English aren’t as stoical as we like to imagine ourselves. Having your dog put down just because German tanks had rolled into Poland seems a slight overreaction but then so does packing off your small children to be housed and cared for by complete strangers. People were obviously steeling themselves for what they expected to be a horrific war.   

A plain marble slab inscribed ‘Peter the Home Office Cat’ marks the grave of Peter, the Home Office cat. Resident cats have been used to control the rodent population of Government Offices since time immemorial, all in an unofficial capacity. In 1929 officialdom finally acknowledged the key role these felines played in government by awarding an allowance of 1d per day for the upkeep of a black tom cat called Peter who prowled the corridors of the Home Office on Whitehall. Peter’s mousing performance had been under par for some time because civil servants had been spoiling him by feeding him titbits. The crown employers were prohibited from treating him and he was put on a rigorous penny a day diet to get him back in trim for mouse catching. Peters performance obviously improved as he stayed in tenure until 1946. At that year’s performance appraisal it was noted that he was no longer efficient, probably as a result of his advancing years. Rather ruthlessly the department had him put down on 14 November 1946 (what’s wrong with retirement!) and replaced him with a two month old kitten, also called Peter. Peter the second’s tenure was brief. On the night of 27 June 1947 the adolescent Peter II abandoned his duties in the office and slunk off for a night on the tiles. At 3.15am he was strolling across Whitehall towards the cenotaph when he was struck by a car. He was also out down. Peter III, also known as Peter the Great, was appointed Home Office cat on 27 August 1947. He became something of a national celebrity and made regular appearances in newspaper and magazine features. Peter III’s performance was generally beyond reproach, as well as controlling mice he also took on additional duties killing pigeons if any were foolish enough to stray onto Government premises. In the great Home Office tradition he was put down on 09 March 1964 and buried in the Ilford pet cemetery at a well attended funeral. A well known photo shows Moggie, the PDSA cat, paying his last respects to Peter’s coffin before the funeral.  



I got very excited when I started researching Nigger the RAF war dog. He was a male black Labrador, mascot of 617 Squadron who belonged to Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the famous leader of the Dam Busters raid on German dams using Barnes Wallace’s bouncing bomb. Nigger managed to get himself knocked over and killed on the night of the raid, unbeknown to his master who used his name as the code word to notify mission control of the breach of the Möhne Dam. Nigger was portrayed in the 1955 film about the raid and his name used freely in the dialogue. Of course in these PC attuned times where pejorative racial epithets dating from the miserable days of slavery and slave trading are no longer considered appropriate names for household pets, having a character named Nigger in a film creates all sorts of difficulties. Some broadcasters in the UK, Channel 4 for example, have reacted by putting out a warning before reruns of the film, letting viewers know that they may hear language more appropriate to ‘Love and Hip Hop in Atlanta’ than to a 1950’s British film about our glorious exploits during the war. ITV dealt with the matter by deleting all references to the animal’s name. In the states the film was dubbed to change the dog’s name to Trigger. Inability to decide what to do about Nigger’s unfortunate moniker finally scuppered a planned remake of the film to be scripted by Stephen Fry and directed by Peter Jackson. After all this I also discovered that PDSA Nigger is not the Dam Busters dog, who is actually buried at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire. The Ilford war dog is likely to have been another black Labrador who served with the No. 1 Dog Platoon, 277th Field Park Company, of the Royal Engineers as a mine hunter in Normandy following the D Day invasion of France.         


The most famous animal buried at Ilford is probably Able Seacat Simon of HMS Amethyst, the only cat to win the Dickin Medal for valour. According to the BBC Simon “suffered severe shrapnel wounds when HMS Amethyst came under fire in a 101-day siege known as the Yangtze Incident in which 17 marines were among the dead. He received a hero's welcome when the ship returned to dock in Plymouth on 1 November 1949. Simon died in quarantine three weeks later and was buried with full military honours at the PDSA Animal Cemetery in Ilford, Essex.”  The Torbay Express and South Devon Echo of Thursday 01 December 1949 carries a short account of the funeral, which does not seem to have been carried out with ‘full military honours’;

Simon Of The Amethyst Is Buried. Simon the Amethyst Cat, was buried at the P.D.S.A, Cemetery, Ilford (Essex), to-day. The only people present were Mrs. Grace Macrow, superintendent of the cemetery and two grave-diggers. The coffin was covered with the Union Jack. Flowers sent by the public were placed on the grave and temporary headstone was erected. There will be ceremony in a few weeks time.


Mary of Exeter was a carrier pigeon belonging to Cecil ‘Charlie’ Brewer, a boot maker from West Street in Exeter who enrolled his prize bird in the National Pigeon Service at the start of the war. Mary was dropped several times behind enemy lines in France to collect top secret messages which she always delivered without fail back to Exeter despite being wounded three times and once going missing in action for 10 days. She was injured in an attack by a German war hawk stationed in the Pas-de-Calais, was shot and lost the tip of her wing as a result, and was finally put out of action by a piece of shrapnel. A blue plaque marks the site of her former roost in Exeter.



Another memorial marks the burial place of Bruce Forsyth’s dog Rusty. In his autobiography Sir Bruce recalls trusty Rusty who lived with him and his first wife in their touring caravan and became part of his stage act at the London Palladium. “Rusty was a truly lovely fellow who performed all sorts of fantastic tricks," says Sir Bruce, “his favourite was to flip a biscuit off his nose and catch it in his mouth." Sadly Rusty became ill and lost the ability to use his back legs “We had no idea what caused this sudden disability. We called the vet, who explained that Rusty was suffering from suppressed distemper. 'He will never again have the use of his back legs', we were told. It was awful to witness - almost overnight he had become this pathetic, helpless animal. The only way I could take him outside for at least some limited exercise was to grab hold of his tail and lift his back legs up, allowing him to walk on his front legs with his back end sort of gliding along. This didn't hurt him at all and he loved to be outside, but people in the street gave me filthy looks. This went on for some weeks, with pressure growing from various vets we visited to have him put down. Penny refused to give up hope. One day Rusty knocked over his bowl of water. 'Oh, Rusty, you bad dog!' I exclaimed. 'Look what you've done! Come here!' Then, very gradually, Rusty rose on all four legs and walked towards me. We could not believe it."

As for my cocker, he survived his impalement in the park, after spending a couple of days in the hospital and running up a medical bill of £1100, he was released home as good as new. There was no necessity for me to shell out for a plot in the cemetery. Maybe next time.  




Friday, 30 November 2018

The Ninon Michaelis Memorial, Kensal Green Cemetery


The Michaelis memorial was the first monument that really caught my eye in Kensal Green Cemetery on my first ever visit, and therefore the first one that I ever photographed. The reason for so many firsts is that it is the first substantial monument you reach walking along Centre Avenue from the main gate on Harrow Road. The figure of a grieving woman with the naked and rather sensual shoulders is executed with great skill and is clearly not the work of your average stonemason. I took a couple of photos of the memorial that day but despite passing it countless times since, and often stopping to look at it, I’ve never tried to get a better shot. Nor did I bother trying to find out who the memorial belonged to.

Henry Alfred Pegram at work in his studio
on a bust of Sir Cecil Rhodes
When I was at Golders Green crematorium the other week I left the shelter of the covered arcades and went out into the rain to look again at Henry Alfred Pegram’s striking bronze statue Into the Silent Land.  It is definitely worth getting wet for. Pegram was born in London in 1862 and studied at the West London School of Art. He became a Royal Academician in 1922 and died at his home in Hampstead in 1937. He was a professional sculptor who produced numerous public statues; his work can be found all over the UK and as far afield as Cape Town (statue of Cecil Rhodes) and Shanghai (Sir Robert Hart). As Into the Silent Land clearly shows, he was particularly good with the female form; his nudes are often unashamedly erotic.  The Crematorium was presented with the statue in 1937 by the Royal Society of Arts, presumably at Pegram’s suggestion, to commemorate his cremation that year.


It was only when I was researching Golders Green that I discovered that the Michaelis memorial was also by Pegram.  According to Historic England “the monument was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1901 before being placed on the plot on 10 August 1903. Notes in the ledger of the General Cemetery Company state that 'Maximilian Michaelis paid £320 for the plot; the monument was a figure memorial 12 feet high; and...weighed five to six tons'.” Sir Max Michaelis was a German born, possibly Jewish, financier and diamond magnate with extensive business interests in South Africa. The 34 year old business man married 22 year old Ninon Rydon at St Georges Hanover Square  in October 1886. She died less than 10 years later at the age of 31 of pneumonia and alcoholism whilst her husband was in South Africa. There were no children. Sir Max later remarried and had two daughters and a son with his second wife Lilian Elizabeth, (née Michaels)  who outlived him by almost a  half-a-century.  Sir Max was a dedicated collector and patron of the arts; he purchased the Lane collection in 1914 and left it to the South African nation where it is now known as the Michaelis Collection and is on permanent display at the Old Town House in Cape Town. 






Friday, 23 November 2018

A unusual morning out: Golders Green Crematorium, Hoop Lane, NW11

Into The Silent Land (1910) by Henry Alfred Pegram, presented to Golders Green Crematorium in 1936

At the end of October I had planned a day out in Finchley taking photos in the two big cemeteries up there. The weather forecast had been promising wall to wall sunshine for most of the week and then with less than 24 hours notice the meteorologists changed their minds and said that the morning would be overcast with intermittent bouts of heavy precipitation (rain to you and me).  I love cemeteries but I hate trying to photograph anything in the rain. I decided I needed something to do inside until the sun was scheduled to reappear in the early afternoon. Golders Green Crematorium is a 30 minute walk away from the St Marylebone Cemetery in Finchley and I had wanted to visit the columbaria there for some time. When I checked access arrangements they seemed pretty casual – turn up at the crematorium office and ask to see them, no advance appointment required. It seemed worth a try.
The crematorium was designed by Sir Ernest George and Alfred Yates in Lombardic style and built in stages between 1902 and 1939. It was the first crematorium opened in London and more than 350,000 cremations have taken place here
That morning was as overcast and rainy as the forecasters had promised as I trudged my way up the hill from the tube station to the crematorium. I took a few pictures under the portico (dodging the funeral parties – there were at least three cremations that morning) and then presented myself at the office to ask if there was any chance of seeing the columbarium. The receptionist looked a little dubious and checked with her colleague, “Doesn’t Eric have appointments this morning?” The colleague shrugged noncommittally so Eric was called on his mobile. He did have appointments, with some gentlemen from Oxford University who wanted to visit the remains of a Georgian nationalist kept in the columbarium. He could fit me in later I was told, if I didn’t mind coming back at midday. I passed an hour or so in Golders Green Jewish Cemetery which handily lies just across Hoop Lane from the Crematorium. Jewish cemeteries are a bit dull, particularly under persistent drizzle, and I wandered the endless rows of plain gravestones (the Ashkenazi half of the cemetery has vertical headstones, the Sephardi half, flat ledgers) trying unsuccessfully to find something interesting to photograph. At 11.45 I crossed the road back to the crematorium and waited a few minutes in the office until Eric came to collect me.       


I may be guilty of stereotyping but I expected a crematorium employee to be at the very least lugubrious, quite likely sombre and perhaps even positively funereal. Eric Willis turned out to be a breezy, energetic 70 year old with a noticeable Lancastrian accent and apparently boundless enthusiasm for his place of employment. He does dress in black, but that is his only concession to his profession.He presented me with a card which described him as being in the Maintenance Department of the crematorium and as a historian; his ostensible day job is keeping the fabric of the building in working order but he seems to spend much of his time operating as a de facto tour guide. As I was to discover his tours are conducted with almost apostolic fervour;  he is determined to convince you that every grisly rumour you have heard about cremation is untrue. If his plumbing is as good as his guiding, he is an excellent all rounder. He started his tour by sounding me out about what my interest in the crematorium was. I was only expecting to see the columbarium but didn’t mind starting the tour by being ushered into one of the wood panelled chapels where Eric showed me the cross, crescent moon and star of David altar pieces that are kept stowed behind a curtain to be used according to the religious affiliations of the deceased. He pointed out the rollers discretely hidden by the table top on which the coffin is placed during the service. Much to my surprise he opened the door of the chapel to take me into the back and show me the other half of the table, cut off from the chapel by a curtain hanging across a hatch. At the appropriate moment of the service the electric rollers are set into motion and the coffin glides smoothly through the curtain and into the back.  
Memorial plaque of Charles Montagu Doughty, author of Travels in Arabia Deserta

“There are the doors to the original ovens,” Eric said, nodding at what looked like a wood panelled wall, before taking me round the corner and adding “the new ovens are here.” This I was not expecting, to be so casually allowed into the business end of the crematorium. All three furnaces were in operation and a coffin stood on a gurney patiently waiting for one to be vacated. Eric who carries a thick folder of diagrams, print outs, and press cuttings with him at all times, opened it to show me an illustration of the inner workings of a cremation furnace and explain how the oven is preheated to 850 degrees centigrade before the coffin is slipped in. He fishes in his trouser pocket and produces a small photo album which he flips open to show a snap shot of a coffin bursting into flames the moment it enters the furnace. He shows me more photos of the cremation process, coffin burnt away to reveal the dark outline of the occupant, occupant reduced to black skeleton, black skeleton reduced to cremains - calcined bone fragments and not much else. Eric put his photo album back into his pocket and glanced at the waiting coffin. “Chipboard,” he said knowledgably, the giveaway he told me was that there were no coffin handles, chipboard not being strong enough to support the weight of a human body on screwed handles. We walked around to the other side of the furnaces where Eric glanced in at a small porthole. “That ones nearly done,” he said, inviting me to take a peek. It took a second or two to realise that I was looking at a blackened skeleton engulfed in flames. The head was pointing towards me so that I was looking at the top of the skull, beyond which I could see the rib cage. It felt quite natural to be looking, not remotely ghoulish. There was something quite comforting about it, almost cosy and for the first time ever I began to feel that perhaps cremation isn’t such a bad way to dispose of our mortal remains. I stood chatting to Eric for a few more minutes before he took another glance into the porthole. “Oh, the skull’s gone,” he said, making way for me to have a look. He showed me where the calcined bone falls through the grilled floor of the furnace into a metal container. Once the cremation process is finished and the furnace cooled any remaining bones are carefully swept into the container as well.

The 'new' Columbarium 

To produce the fine white ash that most of us think of as the end product of the cremation process the calcined bone has to be ground into powder. This is done in a cremulator, a machine that looks like an old fashioned heavy duty spin dryer, the type that opens from the top rather than the side. Inside the perforated drum are a couple of dozen extremely heavy stainless steel balls (heavy enough to break your toe if you were clumsy enough to drop one on it). The bone is added to the drum and the machine churns bone and steel together for ten minutes or so, reducing it to a powder as white and fine as sifted flour. From there the ash is transferred to a labelled plastic container and shelved while it waits to be collected by the funeral director, who will bring along the urn chosen by the family as the final receptacle. Eric suddenly remembered there was a step in the process before the cremulator. There is one other element to a cremation, other than bone, that won’t burn, metal. This is usually coffin nails but occasionally there is something else metallic actually inside the body being burnt, generally knee or hip replacements. These are removed from the bone remains with a powerful magnet; Eric pulled it out of its guard and waved it around like a light sabre. He then showed me a dusty box of artificial knee joints and other bits and pieces that had been recently removed from various cremains, including the metal skeleton of a teddy bear.
The West columbarium

There was something very reassuring about Eric’s tour behind the scenes. I was impressed by the crematoriums openness; there were no dirty secrets here, not in a place where they were willing to let total strangers wander in and see the whole process at work. And Eric does excellent public relations for the cremation business, it is no wonder that his bosses allow him to down tools and show anyone interested around. From the crematorium Eric showed me around the columbaria. Golders Green has three; the west columbarium is a three storey Romanesque tower completed in 1902 whose most visited occupant is Bram Stoker and there is an east and new columbarium. Eric is happy to show you around all three and introduce you to some of its more famous remains which include Sigmund Freud and Anna Pavlova. As we stood chatting outside I asked him how long he had worked for the crematorium. About twenty years he told. He had originally come to London in 1968 from his hometown of B……,(now I can’t actually remember where in Lancashire Eric is from, somewhere beginning with B, but apart from Manchester and Lancaster, everywhere in Lancashire begins with B so that isn’t much help, Bury, Bolton, Burnley, Blackburn, Blackpool, Bacup, one of those) accompanying his wife whose brother who was a private detective and wanted her to work as his secretary to her. Eric was a plumber and had no trouble finding work but when he was made redundant in the late nineties he fancied a change and took a job in maintenance at the crematorium. His boss was responsible for the guided tours at that point but when he went off sick Eric found himself expected, at very short notice, to take over. It was sink or swim but Eric found himself taking to it like a duck to water. He should have retired years ago but he loves job and he loves the crematorium so much that he can’t bring himself to give it up. He is very proud of what he does “google me”, he said, “I have friends all round the world because of this job.” Google him, it’s true, he does. He showed me press clippings from German newspapers, emails from people who came once and still stay in touch with him years later, print outs of blogs and visitor reviews that all have nothing but praise for him. At one point we were discussing the Philipson Mausoleum which stands in the crematorium grounds. He flicked through his folder to a print out of a web article. The wording looked familiar but I still had to read a whole paragraph to realise they were mine. “I wrote that!” I told him. He wasn’t as excited as I was, in fact he didn’t seem at all impressed by the coincidence. Still, I couldn’t hold it against him. He have me the best morning out I’ve had for years. Thank you Eric.    

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori; Shrouds of the Somme by Rob Heard, Queen Elizabeth Park, Stratford, 8-18 November, 2018

 
When I went to see the ‘Shrouds of the Somme’ at the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford on a wet and blustery November afternoon I expected to have the place to myself. Surely no one else would abandon the warmth and bright lights of consumer paradise Westfield Stratford City and brave rain and sleet to venture out into the fast fading light at the start of a Saturday evening? I was wrong. There were a lot of people there, well wrapped up in overcoats and anoraks, hoods pulled up over their heads, umbrellas facing into the keen wind, and mobiles in hand to record the experience as they inched their way around the 72, 396 diminutive shrouded figures laid out on the lawn in front of the ArcelorMittal Orbit. From loudspeakers a voice intoned the names of the dead in alphabetical order, giving their rank and sometimes their age; when I arrived they had just started on the names beginning with B and when I left 40 minutes later they still hadn’t got past the Cs. The 12 inch figures, representing the missing British and Commonwealth dead from the Battle of the Somme, those whose bodies were never recovered or identified and who are listed on the Thiepval Memorial in Picardy, were laid out in neat, evenly spaced rows by members of the Royal Anglican Regiment and volunteers last week. They will remain there until the 18th November when the soldiers will patiently gather them up again to be sold at £35 each in aid of charity.
 
The man responsible for Shrouds of the Somme is Somerset artist Rob Heard. In December 2013 Rob started a project called 19240 by producing 500 prototype 12 inch figures, wrapped and bound in a hand stitched calico shroud. The plan was to eventually produce 19,240 of them, one for each of the commonwealth soldiers who died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. With his 500 prototypes Rob was able to attract enough funding to complete the project which was exhibited, to mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Somme, at Northernhay Gardens in Exeter from 1st July 2016. No one was expecting the strength of the public reaction to the installation; over 60,000 people came to see it, many laid flowers, some prayed and others cried. When one of the visitors talked to Rob about his great uncle, who had been of the dead from the first day of the battle but whose body had never been recovered, he planted the idea that eventually produced the Shrouds of the Somme. Rob produced all the figures himself; “It was very important that one person created these figures, that it didn’t become a factory line,” he said, “that person just happened to be me. One day I wasn’t making them and the next I was, and once I had started I couldn’t stop.” 
 
The Lost Lives exhibition is also on show at the Queen Elizabeth Park (see photo above). It commemorates the fallen of the First World War with one shrouded figure for each of the 1561 days of the war alongside a small plaque which records the actual number of dead that day. As with the shrouds installation the public add items to the exhibition including crosses giving the name and other details of a dead soldier stuck into the ground on the plaque giving the date of their death.


The hundredth anniversary of the Armistice seems to have struck some collective chord, at least in the UK, and quite possibly elsewhere. In Paris sixty world leaders gathered together to be lectured by President Macron for 20 minutes on the lessons they should learn from the First World War. Unlike me and everyone else at the Shrouds of the Somme President Trump felt unable to defy the elements and struggle through the rain for a planned visit to the Aisne-Marne American Military cemetery though to be fair we hadn’t had our spirits sapped by having to listen to a speech by President Macron. The experience seems to have finally opened a rift between the two leaders who previously seemed to be doing their best to be supportive of each other. As usual whenever he is caught out doing anything faintly embarrassing Trump’s reaction was to compound the offense on Twitter, telling the French they were having to learn to speak German before the US intervened in both world wars to save them.  





Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Death on the Highway, 1914 - the Melesi Mausoleum, St Pancras & Islington Cemetery


Never completely trust anything you read on the internet, however unimpeachable the source might seem. The Mausolea & Monuments Trust website told me that this Mausoleum had been built by Gaetano Melesi in 1913 after his wife Letizia had been run over by a taxicab in “the first motor accident”. Other sources informed me that the accident had happened in Holborn. Unusually Gaetano decided that his wife’s funerary monument should memorialise the manner in which she had died. The artist responsible for the marble relief on the panel to the left of the door seems to have not had even a basic grasp of narrative sequence as it shows Letizia already prostrate on the floor behind her dropped handbag with the taxi that has presumably just knocked her down still approaching from the rear, its helmeted and goggled driver, open mouthed and hunched over the steering wheel,  waving his left  arm frantically in a futile attempt to ward off an accident that has already happened. A benign angel hovers over the scene waiting to accompany Letizia to heaven. We see her ascent to paradise in the panel on the right side of the door where Gaetano kneels in prayer in front  of a representation of the mausoleum itself (which must mean, that if you look at the right hand panel on the representation of the Mausoleum, you will see replicated in miniature, the same panel, with Gaetano kneeling in front of the mausoleum, in which the right hand panel will replicate, even more minutely, Gaetano kneeling in front of the mausoleum in which the right hand panel….. and so on, ad infinitum, in an infinite regression).     

The ur-motor accident should have been noteworthy enough to make the newspapers I thought. A quick search of an online archive soon dispelled the notion that there was anything original about Letizia Melesi’s accident. Road traffic accidents involving pedestrians were, as we shall see, a relatively common occurrence from the early years of the twentieth century. The first pedestrian killed in the UK by a petrol driven motor vehicle was 44 year old Bridget Driscoll, who was knocked down visiting the Crystal Palace in Sydenham in August 1896. Although there was some dispute concerning the speed at which the car which killed Bridget was travelling, the engine had been modified to stop it exceeding a top speed of 8mph. The driver claimed to have been travelling at half that. Just a few weeks before this first fatal accident the law had been changed allowing cars to travel at a maximum 14mph; previously the upper speed limit had been 4 mph in the country and 2mph in urban areas. The new speed limit ushered in the age of motorised carnage that we live in today.

The only fatal accident in Holborn in 1913 involving a pedestrian and a taxi that I could find in the newspapers occurred on Monday 14 July. According to the Pall Mall Gazette  ‘William Edward Minty, thirty-six, a taxi cab driver, of Camden-street, Islington, was charged at Bow-street with the manslaughter of an elderly woman named Fanny Braider, a barrister’s laundress, living at Theobalds -road, Holborn.’  The cab had been driven into a hand cart being pushed along the road by Alfred Waring, a porter of White Cross Place, Finsbury. Waring was sent flying and the handcart was knocked onto the pavement where it fell on Fanny Braider. According to Waring immediately before the collision Minty had been driving with his “head hanging over the steering wheel, as though he were asleep.” The cab driver took Waring and Fanny Braider to the London Homeopathic Hospital but the elderly woman later died of her injuries. My searches revealed no trace of an accident involving anyone called Melesi in 1913, or even 1914, which is actually the year, according to the inscription on the mausoleum, that Letizia died. The only reference I found to Letizia in the newspapers was a notice of her marriage to Gaetano in the Cork Examiner of Thursday 02 May 1901;

Melesi – Sessarego  April 27th, at St. Colman’s Cathedral, Queenstown, by the Rev M' Higgins, PP Castletownroche, Gaetano Melesi, of Ballabio, Lecco, Italy, to Letizia (Lettie), third daughter of Joseph  Sessarego,  Queenstown.

An article in the Winter 2013 edition of Mausolus (the Mausolea & Monuments Trust’s magazine) gives more accurate details of the mausoleum than the Trust’s main website. We learn for example that it was actually built in 1922, that Letizia died on 11 January 1914 and it makes no claim to her fatal accident being the first motor related death. While there are no contemporary accounts of Letizia’s accident the article gives a family version from Angela King, passed down from Helena Sessarego who was Letizia’s sister and Angela’s grandmother. Angela says the two sisters were very close and that Helena was the matchmaker responsible for Letizia’s marriage to Gaetano.  “A few days before Letizia's death they visited a fortune teller,” Angela writes, “the woman refused to tell Letizia's fortune and insisted on refunding her fee. Both my great aunt and my grandmother had thought this very amusing. Later that week, they both went to confession. As they came out of church, Letizia said goodbye to Helena, turned and fell and was run over by the taxi. My mother said Letizia had a magnificent funeral with black horses wearing white plumes and a black carriage with a mass of wreaths on top. I think looking at the mausoleum it was believed that she went straight to heaven. She appears to be borne aloft by angels. As she'd just been to confession she would be in a state of grace and free from sin.”

Depictions of motor accidents are unusual enough to have earned the Melesi Mausoleum Grade II listed status but fatal accidents involving pedestrians were already sickeningly common in 1914. On Saturday 24 October the Uxbridge and West Drayton Gazette opened an account of an accident on Bath Road; “the ugly dangers of motor traffic were again experienced near Colnbrook on Sunday afternoon. About 4.30 a gentleman and lady were walking on the side of the road near the 18th mile stone, where there is no footpath, when two motor cars came along behind them, and the hindermost, in attempting to pass the other, ran into the gentleman. The mudguard of the car appears to have twisted him round suddenly and his head was evidently struck violently by a portion of the car, whereby a gash of three inches was made across the forehead and a depressed fracture of the frontal bone. Fortunately, Silas Birch, of Pleasant Place, Langley, was near by and able to render first aid.”  The fortunate intervention of Silas Birch seems not to have been of any long term benefit to the the injured gentleman; he was taken to the King Edward VII Hospital in Windsor where he “passed away early on Tuesday morning”.  

It was the young and the elderly that seemed to have most trouble dealing with the dangers posed by the new fangled motor car as it roared around the streets of London at 10mph. As in Letizia’s case, taxis were often the culprit. On 06 February,  52 year old Emma Ellen Sayers, wife of Captain Robert Sayers of 91 Palewell Park, East Sheen, was killed changing omnibuses on Hammersmith Broadway when struck down by a passing lorry.  Ten days later 5 year old Richard Berry was knocked down and killed by a taxi cab as he crossed Tottenham High Road.  8 year old John Thomas Kempton of 16 Mardale Street, Shepherds Bush was killed on the afternoon of Saturday 28 March, by a car travelling at 9 or 10 miles an hour on Goldhawk Road as he raced across the street to spend a halfpenny his mother had given him to buy sweets.  On 09 April 9 year old Charles Thomas Deade of 3 Bennett Street, Chiswick was run over by a van belonging to Steinway Pianos in front of the Police Station on Chiswick High Road. According to witnesses the van ‘passed right over his head’.  A month later an unknown woman of around 70 was knocked down by a taxi cab on Chiswick Road fracturing her skull and later died of her injuries. 48 year old Martha Baker of 10 Woodlawn Road, Fulham, was knocked down by a taxicab on 10 September  at 11.15 at night in King Street Hammersmith. She was taken to hospital and treated for scalp injuries before being discharged home where she died the following Tuesday.  On 20 October 14 year old butchers boy Leonard Pryke was knocked off his bicycle and under the wheels of a LGO omnibus on the London Road, Norbury, by a car driven by an unnamed lady. He was taken to Croydon General Hospital  where he was found to have sustained a fractured left humerus, bruised chest, fractured ribs on the left side, and concussion of the brain. He died soon after five o'clock the same day.

The most unlikely accident of 1914 happened on 29 June on Holborn Viaduct. 23 year old Doris Emily Hawkes was hurrying across the viaduct when she found her way obstructed by a large crowd of concerned onlookers which had gathered around a small boy who had just been knocked down by a car. The boy’s injuries were thankfully not fatal. Doris quite naturally paused at the edge of the crowd to see what was happening and perhaps failed to notice that she was standing in the roadway.  As she craned to see over the heads in front of her she would not have been aware that Dr Langdon Brown of Welbeck Street was being driven at a reckless speed of 12 miles per hour by his chauffeur along the viaduct on his way to his job as a consultant in St Bartholomew’s Hospital. The chauffeur may well have been distracted by the sight of the crowd but he certainly did not see Doris;  surely he would not have run her over if he had? After driving over the hapless girl Dr Langdon Brown ordered his chauffeur to stop and put her in the back seat. They were already on their way to hospital after all. For some reason he refused to accept responsibility for the small boy mown down earlier by another vehicle Alas urgent medical attention failed to save her life and Doris died of her injuries the same day.    

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Madness in their Methodism; Robert Tilling (1737-1760) Bunhill Fields

Execution day at Tyburn - the Idle Apprentice by Hogarth

Researching the history of Bunhill Fields I came across an intriguing account of the funeral of 23 year old coachman Robert Tilling in the Oxford Journal of Saturday 03 May 1760. Executed criminals were not normally peacefully laid to rest in burial grounds or churchyards; they generally ended up in the hands of the anatomists of the Royal College of Surgeons.  And why was there a crowd of 20,000 in attendance? Striking too was the fact that the obsequies were conducted by no less a luminary than the reverend George Whitefield ,  who along with John Wesley, was one of the founders of Methodism and a hugely popular preacher at the time;  

Wednesday Evening, between Five and Six, the Body of Robert Tilling, the Coachman, who was executed on Monday last, for robbing his Master, was conveyed in a Hearse, attended by one Mourning Coach, to Tindall's Burying Ground in Bunhill Fields, and there interred. The Rev. Mr. Whitefield attended the Corpse, and made a long Oration upon the Occasion, amidst the greatest Concourse of People there ever was assembled in that Place; it is thought more than 20,000. The Corpse had been previously exposed in Mr. Whitefield's Tabernacle near the Burying Ground.

The cross eyed Mr Whitefield preaching to the converted

Robert Tilling had been a coachman in the employ of Mr Samuel Lloyd, a silk merchant of Devonshire Square on the outskirts of Spitalfields. Mr Lloyd was a very successful business man and a prominent Methodist, a friend and supporter of John Wesley. He was known for his good nature and patient disposition. His father Thomas had been a Spitalfields silk weaver with a huge family of 20 children. Samuel was the brightest and in 1724 he was apprenticed to a Mr Bullock, a mercer at the Wheatsheaf on Ludgate Hill. He became an extremely competent shopman and, according to a correspondent in the Lady’s Magazine, writing after his death, ‘a sharp little beau.’ Some young ladies ‘from the court end of town’ took it into their heads to ‘go and plague Lloyd’, the dapper shopkeeper with the impeccable manners.  The young man rushed to hand them out of their carriage when they arrived at Ludgate Hill and accompany them into the shop where the young ladies demanded to see the latest silks.  The Lady’s Magazine correspondent from Derby takes up the story: 
  
The newest and richest silks were requested with the greatest avidity and opened with agility and dispatch, some wanted novelty, others taste, these too tawdry, those too dull ,so that having filled his counters with the greatest variety that any house in town could produce to no end but his own fatigue and sweat, he said one rich piece had remained in petro, brought from the Fields just before they came in, the first that had been wove of the pattern.  On producing it they all owned it exceeding pretty and although it was several pounds a yard desired a shilling worth of it. He replied -Ladies you shall be welcome to that quantity I beg the favour of the shilling, which being given him, he laid it on the fagg end and with his scissors cut off a round bit the exact size, put the same up in two or three papers, presented it very courteously and conducted them into their vehicles politely with thanks for the honour done him. All the while he never changed countenance though doubtless not a little chagrined.

The following day the same ladies returned and bought £300 pounds worth of the silks they had professed to despise the day before, all the while marvelling at Mr Lloyd’s patience. Maybe this sort of teasing from his female customers put him off the fair sex. He never married. Consequently he was alone on the night of 18 February 1760 when the following disturbing events unfolded:

Tuesday Morning, between Four and Five, Mr. Lloyd, a Merchant in Devonsltire-Square, Bistopsgate-Street, thinking he heard some Body in his Room, on turning himself about saw a Man by his Bedside with a Dark Lantborn and a Pistol cocked, which he presented to Mr. Lloyd’s Head, demanding his Money. Mr. Lloyd desired he would give him Leave to reach his Breeches, and he would give it to him.  But the Villain told him it was not that he wanted, but the Keys of his Scrutore, which Mr. Lloyd gave him. He then told Mr. Lloyd, that if he moved while he was gone down Stairs, there was another in the Room that would dispatch him. When the Villain had taken the Money out of the Scrutore, he went Stairs again Mr. Lloyd, delivered the Keys, and then said, Sir, take Notice, that I have only taken your Money out of the Scrutore ; your Plate, Watch, or anything else I have not meddled with; as to the little Money in your Pocket I scorn to take; and then made the best of his Way.  (Oxford Journal 23 February 1760)

The thieves had taken Mr Lloyd’s iron escritoire key, a thirty-six shilling piece of gold, a moidore (a Portuguese coin, a corruption of moeda d'ouro, which literally means gold coin) and ten guineas. Mr Lloyd suspected an inside job and was convinced one of his manservants were involved, either one of the two footmen or his coachman. Within a few days he found proof of the involvement of his the latter, as explained by the Derby Mercury of Friday 29 February 1760;

Monday Evening last Robert Tilling, Servant to Mr. Lloyd, of Devonshire-Square, (who was robbed on the 18th Instant, as mentioned in our last) was taken up and sent to Wood-street Compter, on Suspicion of being concerned in the said Robbery. On his Examination before the Lord-Mayor, it appeared, that a printed Shop Bill, belonging to a Chymist and Druggist near Norton-Folgate, had been found in Mr. Lloyd's. Counting-House after the Robbery was com mitted,, and Mr Lloyd imagining that the Person who was in his Chamber was disguised by Sticking- Plaister being put on his Face, and that it was one of his Servants, went to the Person who kept the Shop, and desired to know whether any Li very- Servant, had lately bought Black Sticking-Plaister there; he was answered in the Affirmative, and that not having a Twelve penny Paper, he bought two Sixpenny ones ; and the Shopkeeper being desired to come to , Mr. Lloyd's the next Day, on his coming,  his Coachman and two Footmen were called, when the Coachman was fixed on by the Shopkeeper.



Things were not looking good for Robert Tilling. Wood Street Compter was a small prison just off Cheapside. From here Robert was taken to be examined by the Lord Mayor, Sir Thomas Chitty,  who ordered him to be detained at Newgate. Further suspicions fell on the hapless coachman’s head when there were further accusations of robbery, this time highway robbery at Blackheath on Saturday 12 January where it was said he had robbed Thomas Haywood and George Greenwood.  According to Thomas Haywood the two men had been riding in his post chaise when Tilling, mounted on a chestnut mare and without any neckerchief across his face to disguise himself,  had demanded they stand and deliver. He had told them “No trifling gentlemen, for I am in distress, having a wife and several children” and held out a long pistol towards them. They were alarmed to see the highwayman’s arm tremble and were worried that the pistol might go off simply because of the thief’s nerves. Haywood’s horse would not quieten down and seemed in danger of bolting. Still they managed to hand over 11 guineas and their watches before Tilling rode away. According to the Leeds Intelligencer of 11 March he confessed to the robbing of the two gentleman but denied robbing the mailcoach, a crime which had been added to the growing list of accusations against him. He told Sir Thomas Chitty:

The trowsers in which he robbed his Master, he bought on Tower -hill, and the dark-lanthorn in Fenchurch. street. The pistol he made use of in ail the robberies he committed was his Master's, but he said that it was never charged. He denied robbing the mail, and said that robbery of his Master was the last action which he intended to commit. He declared he had no accomplices. He said he broke open Mr. Lloyd's desk, and took out the money, before he went into his bedchamber; and that there was a bank vote of  £100, which he left there, as he knew not how to negotiate it.

The case was heard by Sir William Moreton, the Recorder of London in April. Tilling had confessed to his crimes but Sir William ordered his execution. Tilling was very repentant, as the Ordinary of Newgate, Stephen Roe, acknowledged in his traditional account of the last days of the doomed man.  He wrote out a confession addressed to the Ordinary which began:

Sir, I Wose born in the parish of Ashton Keynes in the county of Wilts of honest parents who acording to their abiliteys gave me a tolabral eadecation and wose corfull to instruct me in my duty towards god and my neighbour I wose brougth up a member of the church of England which from my youth I wose corfull to atend to and payd my constant worship there till within these few years I went in and out amongst the of people called methadis but wose neever joynd to any one of their sociatey should the queastion be askd why I atended those peoples praching I answer because I believd they prachd the peure gospel of Jesus Christ.... 

Highway robbery
It was not Methodism which was his downfall however, that can be laid at the door of love. He told the Ordinary that “what tempted him to so horrid a crime as he was charged with, for that as he had good wages in wealthy families, where plenty surrounded him, it was to me very amazing what could seduce him to think of such a course of wickedness. He readily answered, that it was done in order to gain the consent of a beloved woman to marry him; that he courted her, but she would not hear of him without a better foundation than that of a servant.”  To convince the girl, who was the same age as him, to marry him he lied that he had a fortune of £60 put away in savings from his ten years in service. He took up robbery as the method of supplying real money to replace the pure invention of this fortune, so desperate was he to marry the girl. He also confessed an additional crime, committed the previous December in Islington, where he had held up a man with a pistol and robbed him of £2 and some shillings. He told the Ordinary that the horse and pistol used in the robberies both belonged to his master. He begged the Ordinary to allow unrestricted visits by the girl he had planned to marry and to request a visit from Charles Wesley. Both requests were refused; he seemed to most upset by not being allowed an interview with the Methodist, perhaps he hoped Wesley would intercede on his behalf with his master? He remained unforgiven until the end.

28 April was set as the day of the execution. Tilling was to die in the company of three other men, William Beckwith condemned for stealing goods in the dwelling house of Mr John Moore and John Guest and Thomas Smith who had burgled a silversmith’s in Fleet Street.  On the morning of the execution Tilling received a visit just before 6am from 3 gentlemen, presumably fellow Methodists, one of whom were much distressed by his plight. At 7am the Ordinary found the four condemned men knelt in prayer together – he made them rise and join him in the Chapel where they joined in with prayers and the communion. Tilling had hopes of a reprieve and the Ordinary remarks that this affected his composure on the day of the execution. The other three men seemed perfectly at ease with their fates but Tilling had “less composure, calmness, patience and resignation, than was observable in the three other prisoners.” At the end of the service the prisoners had their irons knocked off and were instead bound with rope before being put into the carts that would take them to Tyburn.  On the scaffold Tilling turned toward the crowd and addressed them; “Beloved friends! O! now look and learn by one who has forgot his God. Temptations prevailed over me; I have fallen by my iniquities, and transgressed the law of my Maker. But thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift! O! that you would attend to one who is now within a hand's breadth of death.” He then spoke for twenty minutes, exhorting the crowd to put their faith in Jesus Christ and reminding his ‘fellow sufferers’, the other four prisoners, that “you are going out of a world of sorrow and sin, out of a howling wilderness, full of pits and snares; here is nothing but trouble here.” When at last he fell silent, the respectful hangman withdrew the carts and the four condemned twisted and writhed at the end of the rope in their final agonies, dancing the Tyburn jig as these were irreverently called.  

The end you already know. Apparently forgiven by his Methodist brethren Tilling’s body was retrieved and taken to George Whitefield’s tabernacle in Moorfields.  Did Samuel Lloyd suffer a twinge of conscience when he saw so many of his fellow co-religionists turn out for his coachman’s funeral. 20,000 people! He must have been astonished, perfectly well aware that he would be lucky  to gather even a hundredth of that number for his own funeral.