Friday 20 December 2013

Herbert William Allingham, Kensal Green

The interesting detail on Herbert William Allingham’s memorial is the figure of his German wife, Fraülein Alexandrina Von der Osten,  reclining on a large cushion, clutching a bunch of lilies in her right arm, a loyal lap dog laying on her left, apparently on her death bed. She died in January 1904 after being an invalid for several years. Her husband died barely ten months later in November, committing suicide in a hotel room in Marseille at the age of 42.

Allingham was a talented surgeon and teacher who trained at St George’s Hospital (long before it moved to Tooting, when it was still at Hyde Park), went on to work at St Marks and the Great Northern Hospitals before returning to St George’s as Elected Assistant Surgeon. He was also Surgeon to the Household of King Edward VII and Surgeon in Ordinary to the Prince of Wales (later King George V).  As well as practicing and teaching he wrote several well regarded books and articles on surgical procedures. In its obituary the British Medical Journal said that “he had, in an exceptional degree, the qualities most important for a successful operator. He was always perfectly cool, quick to decide, and extraordinarily quick to carry out.” In 1903 he was operating on a ‘puzzling rectal condition’ when he gashed open his thumb. The mysteriousness rectal condition soon explained itself when the patient developed the unmistakable symptoms of syphilis. Much to Allingham’s disgust he developed the same symptoms a few days later.

When his beloved wife died early the following year Allingham’s grief gradually froze  into apparently incurable depression. In November, heartbroken and syphilitic the doctor set off on a long holiday to Egypt in a forlorn attempt to cheer himself up. In Marseille he succumbed to despair after an evening of enforced jollity dining with friends at the Hotel du Louvre. Alone he returned to his room to compose a letter of apology to the hotel manager for any inconvenience caused by using his establishment as a place to die before injecting himself with a fatal overdose of morphine. His body was found next morning by the hotel staff.


Wednesday 18 December 2013

Kensal Green Cemetery

Kensal Green and gasometers

The tomb of William Holland in the foreground

Thea Canonero Altieri

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Ardath de Sales Stean, Hampstead Cemetery

The epitaph on Ardath de Sales Stean's grade II listed monument says, very simply, "in ever loving memory, beloved by all who knew her, died at sea." A short notice in the Daily Mail of 24 August 1928 gives a few more details.

Notices in other papers add very few other details - she was from Seattle and was travelling to England to see her sister who was appearing in a new review according to one American newspaper. Quite possibly none of these details are accurate, not even even her name,  Ardath de Sales has the definite ring of a stage name. We know that she was an American dancer and had worked on Broadway before coming to England in 1926/27 appearing in 'Mercenary Mary' at the Hippodrome and in cabaret at the Park Lane Hotel; there are two studio portraits of her taken by theatrical photographer Sasha (the Scot Alexander Stewart active between 1924 and 1940) in stage costume. A gossip magazine reports her as appearing at the Chez Victor dance club and Ciro's nightclub but whether in a professional or personal capacity is not clear. She died mysteriously aboard the SS Homeric on the passage to England following an emergency operation and was buried at Hampstead Cemetery where person or person's unknown thought enough of her to commission her unusual monument.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Caroline Crachami, the Sicilian Fairy, Hunterian Museum

Caroline Crachami, the Sicilian Fairy, Hunterian Museum by O.F.E.
The skeleton of Caroline Crachami, the Sicilian Fairy, in the Hunterian Museum,
John Hunter’s apprentice, William Clift, took over the role of curator for the collection when the great surgeon died. He was responsible for acquiring the skeleton of Caroline Crachami, otherwise known as the Sicilian Dwarf or the Sicilian Fairy. In the Donations Books he scrupulously kept to record his acquisitions for the museum on Monday 7June 1824 he numbered her entry as 1217 and carefully noted “The body of Miss, or Mademoiselle, Crachami, the Sicilain dwarf, who died on Friday last, 4 June. 22½ inches high, weighing, by guess, between five and six pounds. Aged near nine years; born at Palermo (said to be born the day after the Battle of Waterloo, consequently the 19 June 1815-making her, if true, nine years wanting 15 days)”.  The body was presented, with almost indecent haste it has to be said (died on Friday, a specimen by Monday) by John Hunter’s brother in law, the surgeon Sir Everard Home. 
Little is known for certain about poor Caroline Crachami. Her parents were Italian, her father Lewis Fogel Crachami a musician. The couple already had three children, all of them normal, when Caroline was born weighing one pound and only seven inches long. Her deformity was immediately put down to a prepartum shock sustained by the mother when the Crachami’s were attached to the Duke of Wellington’s baggage column in Flanders. She had woken terrified when a monkey, hiding in her tent from a squall, sank his incisors into her hand; darkness, thunder, lightning, pain  and  primate combining to provide a shock sufficient to deform a foetus. Caroline was delicate and difficult to rear according to her family but she successfully avoided succumbing to infant mortality and eventually accompanied her family to Ireland where her father had obtained a position in the orchestra of the Theatre Royal, Dublin. In 1823 Caroline had become seriously ill, possibly with consumption. A physician consulted by the family, Dr Gilligan, had advised that the Irish climate was not conducive to her recovery and offered to take her to England or the continent at his own expense. He requested permission from the Crachami’s to exhibit their daughter in the interests of scientific enquiry of course, not with the intention of making any money. Dr Gilligan arrived in London with Caroline in May 1824 and immediately placed her on exhibition at Duke Street, St James. She was an instant success and received up to 200 paying visitors a day, newspapers printed notices about her appearances and she was even presented at court. But her career was very short, in less than a month she was dead. Fogel Crachami learned of his daughters death from the pages of the Cork Inquirer and immediately set off to London. At Duke Street Fogel found that Dr Gilligan had already fled owing his landlord £25. His daughters possessions, apart from her bed and a suit of clothes made for her presentation at court, had also disappeared. Fogel was told that Dr Gilligan had boasted that members of the College of Surgeons had offered £500 for Caroline’s corpse if she died “for the purposes of dissection and the use of the College to put amongst their collection of extraordinary instances of the whims and freaks of nature.”

Fogel applied to a Magistrate for assistance who advised him to approach the parish authorities to see if an inquest had been requested. When he failed to learn anything from the parish he took himself around the hospitals and schools of anatomy and at Joshua Brooke’s school in Great Marlborough Street he discovered that Dr Gilligan had offered his daughters body for dissection for a hundred guineas. The offer had been refused. Fogel carried on his search until chance brought him to Sir Everard Home’s house in Sackville Street. A servant announcing the Sicilian told the eminent surgeonhim that he had a visitor come about the dwarf child and not realising that Fogel was the father Sir Everard said “Oh, you have come from Gilligan about the dwarf. The surgeons have not yet held a meeting therefore I can’t say what sum will be voted to him.” Dr Gilligan had called on Sir Everard a few days earlier desperate to relieve himself of Caroline’s corpse and offering to sell it for a relatively small sum. Sir Everard refused to purchase but said that if he presented it to the College’s museum the Surgeons might vote him a sum of money. With no other alternative Dr Gilligan abandoned the corpse to Sir Everard and said he would be back in a few days to find out if there was any money for him. Fogel begged to see his daughters body. Sir Everard wrote him out a permit for the museum and telling him to present it to William Clift sent him on his way with a £10 note. By the time Fogel arrived at the museum Clift had already completely dissected Caroline  and there was nothing for the grieving father to see except the stripped skeleton. It must have been a very difficult interview. 
Caroline is still on show at the Hunterian Museum along with a death mask, a ‘very unlike’ portrait, her shoes, the clothes she was wearing when she died and a tiny ring. She is now considered to have suffered from  Seckel syndrome, a form of microcephalic primordial dwarfism. Recent investigations of her skeletal remains suggest that she may have closer to 3 years old than the 9 that were claimed for her at the time of her death.

The Waddington Quintuplets, Hunterian Museum

The Waddington Quintuplets, Hunterian Museum by O.F.E.
 The quintuplets were born in 1789 in Lower Darwin near Blackburn in Lancashire. They were born prematurely to a 21 year old woman attended by a Dr Hull. Two of the children were born alive, one was stillborn and two were ‘macerated’ according to Dr Norma Ford Walker of the Department of Zoology in Toronto, by which I assume she means crushed (the two of the left certainly look like they have been crushed). The two live births survived only a very short time. The birth of quintuplets was an unheard of rarity in 1789 (when Dr Walker wrote a paper on the quintuplets in 1950 there had still only been 53 authenticated cases of them, ever…) and Dr Hull despatched the bodies of the foetuses to Dr Hunter in London. He was not allowed to send the placenta; the parents of the children were prepared, presumably for a consideration, to allow the babies themselves to become anatomical specimens. But they drew the line at the placenta which had to be disposed of according to local custom. Dr Walker’s paper “Determination of the Zygosity of the Waddington Quintuplets born in 1789” concludes that the 5 children were monozygotes i.e. all produced from one ovum.  You can read a copy here:


Friday 29 November 2013

Alexander Joseph Dourof, 'last of the sword swallowers', Camberwell Old Cemetery

It must have been hard times and a fickle public’s dwindling interest in sword swallowing that drove this former performer in the Russian Royal Circus to the unglamorous business of selling shag piles and Axminsters to south east Londoners.  This proud man who as well as performing for the Tsar had been a Cavalry Officer in the British army would surely be disheartened to know that in anywhere with an SE postcode his name is now almost synonymous with carpet selling and that his principal legacy is Dourof’s Carpet Warehouse on Rushey Green in Catford.

Alexander Joseph Dourof was born into a well known family of circus performers in Russia in 1881. The Dourofs were animal trainers and Alexander was reputedly one of the first people to succeed in training a bear without breaking its back. Alexander and his extended family were performers in the Russian Royal Circus but fled the country in the wake of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. When they arrived in the UK Alexander and his wife Sophia Elsa entertained the troops fighting out the last months of the First World War. Alexander was forced to go one step further and join the military himself where he became a horse trainer in the Light Cavalry. After the war the family worked first at a circus in Wales and then travelled the rest of the country before putting down roots in Peckham where he seems to have largely given up performing and settled down as a carpet salesman. In 1943, at the age of 62, he came out of retirement to take part in a carnival scene in the James Mason film “The Man in Grey” where he could be seen swallowing a sword in the background. Unfortunately for reasons unknown the scene, the only film record ever made of Alexander in performance, was excised from the video and DVD versions and now seems to be lost forever. Apparently there is a plaque at Guy’s Hospital commemorating Alexander’s help during the development of the stomach pump, presumably swallowing rubber tubes rather than swords. He died in 1949 and was buried at Camberwell Old Cemetery.       

Alexander was married to Sophia Elsa, who was born in Russia in 1888 and was buried with her husband when she died in 1967. She too was a circus performer, a tight rope walker, and when the family came to England she worked with Alexander and their two eldest children (who were acrobats). Later she must have dedicated her life to her large family – the couple had ten children.   


Almost all the details about Alexander Dourof's life come from

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Rowland & Mary Eliza Stephenson, All Hallows, Tottenham

The tomb of Rowland Stephenson of Downhills House lies in the churchyard of All Hallow’s Church Tottenham.  Stephenson (1737? – 1807) was a wealthy banker originally from Westmorland in Cumbria. He was a founder member of the Lombard Street banking firm of Stephenson, Remington & Co. He was also MP for Carlisle between 1787 and 1790 though not a very active one; his only recorded votes in the house were with the opposition over the Regency and he never spoke on any matter. He did not stand for re-election at the end of his term. Buried with him is the wife of his great-nephew and namesake Rowland Stephenson, Mary Eliza Stephenson (1786 – 1820) of Marshalls in Essex. It is hard to see quite why Mary, who married Rowland Junior the same year Rowland Senior died, is buried here perhaps because the Stephenson’s were an exceptionally close family, Rowland Junior and Mary were cousins and Mary’s father was not only Rowland’s uncle and father-in-law but also a business partner in Stephenson, Remington & Co.  

Rowland Junior was born aboard ship in 1782 when his parents were fleeing America. His father had been a merchant in Florida but was forced to leave when the Spanish captured the colony from the British during the American war of Independence.  He became a partner in Rowland Seniors banking firm on his return to England. Rowland Junior joined them when he finished his education at Eton and became a fully-fledged partner in 1822. In the early years of his career he married his cousin Mary who was small and delicate and came from a musical family. Her father was an expert on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and a collector of Cremona violins.  Mary was also a musician and Hester Lynch Piozzi (better known as Dr Johnson’s Mrs Thrale), wrote in a letter that she “carries the applause away from many a fair dilletente (pianoforte) player”. The composer Ferdinand Ries dedicated to her his “A Russian Sailors Song.” She continued with her musical interests into her marriage to Rowland; in 1817 she became a private pupil of Sir George Smart, a close friend of the family and one of England’s most famous musicians, conductor of the London Philharmonic and lecturer at the Royal College of Music. Later her son Edward was apprenticed to Sir George.   When her husband bought Marshalls, a ‘pretty villa’ with 300 acres near Romford in Essex in 1816 the couple enjoyed a few tranquil years of happiness with their large family of 8 children. They entertained every Sunday, inviting their friends to parties and musical soirees in the Essex countryside. During the week Rowland rode to work in Lombard Street from Romford and returned each night to his family. Mary was esteemed by the Romford locals (although her husband was apparently not so popular) but the banking business was flourishing, the family were healthy and the couple were happy. Then in 1820, at the age of 34, Mary unexpectedly died, probably in childbirth.  Rowland buried her with his great uncle in All Hallows churchyard and probably intended to join her there himself despite his growing list of connections with west Essex.

He had bought himself the manor lordship of Cockermouth in Dagenham, the How Hatch estate in Braintree, a mill house in Romford and various other local properties as well as purchasing manors and houses as far away as Dover. Property was only one of Rowland’s extravagances however. He had previously tried to follow his follow his great uncles footsteps by getting himself elected as MP for Carlisle in 1816 but the effort failed through lack of funds. After Mary’s death he threw himself back into politics but this time money seemed to be no object and there followed a series of costly by election challenges across the country – West Looe in February 1822, Newport in March 1823, Carlisle again in 1825 and, in the 1826 general election, Leominster where he came in third in a borough that made a double return (i.e. elected two MP’s). One of the successful candidates ran the lottery and Rowland mounted a legal challenge arguing that as a government contractor he was disqualified from standing. The challenge was successful, eventually, and Rowland became an MP on 19 February 1827. After getting himself elected he turned his attentions to assisting his brother-in-law win the Sudbury by election in 1828. Having gone to such efforts to gain himself a parliamentary seat Rowland then seems to have taken relatively little interest in his new position, making no speeches in the house and voting only on three or four occasions Perhaps his mind was on other matters.
In December 1828 he was living in an apartment at St Bartholomew’s hospital where he held the honorary position of treasurer. On the 27 December his partners at the bank discovered that his assistant, John Henry Lloyd, had made large unsecured advances and the bank was forced to suspend payments. On hearing the news Rowland immediately left his apartment and sought out Lloyd and the two men then fled together to the West Country. In Clovelly and Bristol they had themselves smuggled out of the country on fishing smacks but initially only as far as Wales. From Milford Haven they took passage on a ship to Savannah in Georgia. It was believed, incorrectly, that they had fled with £200,000 in exchequer bills and the Lord Mayor of London issued a writ for their arrest. Rumours abounded and were reported with great relish by the newspapers, Rowland had been £30,000 overdrawn at his bank for years they said, he kept six women and three country estates, he had private boxes in all the London theatres, gambled regularly and excessively and so on. By 4 January Remington’s had declared itself bankrupt and an indictment was issued at the Old Bailey on the 16, as a prelude to outlawry proceedings in King’s Bench, charging Rowland with embezzlement. By the 29 January an auctioneer was instructed to sell off Rowland’s assets to satisfy his creditors. It took the auctioneer, Shuttleworths, almost 6 months to get rid of Rowlands many assets the Essex estates, a mansion and its contents in Dover, a box at Drury Lane theatre, paintings, antiques, and the contents of David Garrick’s villa at Hampton, Middlesex, which he had purchased in 1823 all went under the hammer. In January 1830 he was declared formally bankrupt and stripped of his position as an MP as a result.
Meanwhile Rowland and Lloyd, travelling incognito as Smith and Larkin, arrived in New York on the 27 February 1829. There disguise proved inadequate to protect them from the law and they were almost immediately arrested and placed in debtors prison whist awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings. These took place relatively quickly but failed because the courts judged that as neither Rowland nor Stephenson were convicts they could not be sent back to England under duress. On March 26 they were released. Lloyd tried to protect his boss by assuming full responsibility for the transactions that had brought the bank down but given Rowlands alacrity in fleeing London and then England as soon as his subordinates crimes came to light no one really believed that the banker had no idea what was going on. He was not left destitute however, his family stepped in to assist him financially, supporting him in America and looking after his children in England. His eldest son, just 21 when this his father was disgraced, almost immediately sailed from England to see him and, whilst he was visiting, purchased for him a 170 acre estate on the Delaware River in Bensalem in Pennsylvania for $15,000. Rowland took up residence there in October 1829 and lived on the property until his death in July 1856. He never remarried. His obituary in the Bucks. County Intelligencer described him as ‘formerly a banker in England’, long since settled in Bristol, where ‘he was universally esteemed for his benevolence and kindness to the poor and distressed’. He was buried in the churchyard of St. James’s Episcopal Church in Bensalem, 3500 miles away from poor Mary in All Hallows Tottenham who has only her husband’s embittered great uncle  for company, a man who must have felt his great nephew’s disgrace keenly and probably has not a single good word to say about him.  
Rowland Stephenson in Parliament:

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Agnes Forsyth, 4 years old, Abney Park

Agnes Forsyth, the daughter of James Forsyth the sculptor, died at the age of 4 in 1864. She lived with her mother Eliza and her father at 8 Edward Street, Marylebone. James was the son of a mason and was born in Kelso, Scotland in 1827. He came to England with brother William in the early 1850’s to work at Wells in Somerset carving the organ case and choir stall in the cathedral. He became a successful sculptor working on churches and cathedrals all over England. By the early 1860’s he was living at Marylebone with his young family. He must have found some comfort for his grief at the death of his young daughter creating this monument for her at Abney Park Cemetery. Three years later Eliza also died. She does not appear to have been buried with Agnes.

By 1871 James had remarried. His second marriage, to Annie, lasted until his death in 1910 and produced 9 children.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Philipson Mausoleum, Golders Green Crematorium

This is an extraordinary building; a latticed wall encircles a central domed structure, originally designed, like the Pantheon, to be open to the sky. The intention was for the space between the outer and inner walls to be planted with roses. Inside, two alabaster cinerary urns stand on a pedestal opposite the doorway. In front of this, in the centre of the floor, is an ‘inverted dome’ to catch the rainwater (no longer needed now that the dome is glazed) and, round the wall a walkway and bench.
Sir Edwin Lutyens
Grade II (England and Wales)
Year Built

The Philipson Mausoleum (one of only two in the garden of rest at Golders Green Crematorium) was built by Ralph Hilton Philipson (1862-1928) for himself and his wife, Florence (1876-1914). Clearly viewable through the door their ashes stand side by side on a pedestal inside the mausoleum, contained in two rose coloured alabaster urns which seem to be wrapped in Clingfilm.

Ralph Philipson was born in Newcastle and was the eldest son of a coal magnate. He was educated at Eton and Oxford and trained as a barrister at Lincoln’s Inn but I could find no evidence that he ever practiced. He was a sportsman, an amateur cricketer (though not of the same calibre as his younger brother Hylton who was England’s second wicket keeper during the 1891/2 and 1894/5 Australian test tours) and tennis player and he was a lover and patron of the arts. He married Florence Woodward, a Californian heiress, in New York 1908 after meeting her the previous year aboard a ship, presumably travelling between Europe and the States.

After a honeymoon in Canada the couple returned to London where Ralph had been living in Mayfair in the parish of St George, Hanover Square. They later moved north of Oxford Street and close to Regents Park, to 74 Portland Place where Ralph took out a 21 year lease on an apartment (and where he later spent £5000 on wood paneling for four of the rooms, an enormous sum then). There were no children. The marriage lasted only 6 years because in January 1914, at the age of 36, Florence died. Ralph must have been grief stricken – even for a wealthy man the mausoleum he commissioned is ostentatious and his shock at losing his relatively young wife must have influenced the decision to build not only a lasting memorial but a place where he would eventually join her. Edwin Luytens was already a well known architect when Ralph asked him to design the mausoleum; his services would not have come cheap.

In 1922 Ralph married again, to Maya Stuart King, the widow of Baron Knoop, a Russian textile millionaire and collector of musical instruments (he owned 4 Stradivari’s). Maya was of Hungarian descent and had a romantic and artistic temperament. She ran away from home at the age of 18 to search for her godmother, a German princess and met Baron Knoop when she was playing the violin in the salons of Vienna. The Baron was considerably older than her and very possessive but young women wear out old men quickly and he died in 1918 leaving her comfortably off as long as she did not remarry (old men’s jealousy lasts longer than life it seems – Maya had a very special friendship with the writer Algernon Blackwood which might have stoked the Baron’s distrust). Maya was 47 and Ralph 61 when they married. When in London they lived at Portland Place but Ralph bought Encombe House in Sandgate, Kent and this is where they seem to have spent most of their time. He employed the architect Basil Ionides to completely remodel the house as an Italian renaissance cum art deco villa. In December 1928 Ralph contracted a severe case of food poisoning and died. He had apparently left instructions for his body to be cremated and his ashes placed with his first wife’s in the Mausoleum in at Golders Green.

Maya lived on until 1945 and Derek St Clair-Stannard gives an account of her at Encombe in her later years:

“Once Encombe nestled beneath the wooded escarpment of Shorncliffe in, but not of, Sandgate. I used to go there most days of the school holidays - I was only 10 or 11. I was welcome as a "playmate" to Mrs Philipson’s adopted girls, Betty and Barbara. We called her "Winky". She never got over her husband’s death and wore widow’s weeds for the rest of her life. She organised Easter egg hunts, games of tennis and rounders. She let us use the little thatched changing-rooms on the Esplanade from which we went bathing and maybe searching rock pools for crabs at low tide. We enjoyed a never-ending round of amusements.”

I can’t find out what happened to Maya after she died, she certainly did not join Ralph and Florence in a Golders Green ménage à trois. If she missed Ralph enough to remain in widows weeds for the rest of her life it must have hurt her to place Ralph’s urn next to Florence’s in the mausoleum.

Friday 25 October 2013

PC 403 William Frederick Tyler, Abney Park

Sacred to the memory Of William Frederick Tyler Aged 31 years Police Constable 403 of the N Division Metropolitan Police Force Who was killed at Tottenham While bravely doing his duty On the 23rd January 1909 - grave inscription

PC Tyler was shot by Latvian Anarchists during a bungled wages heist on J. Schnurmann’s Rubber factory in Chestnut Road, Tottenham. A 10 year old boy, Ralph Joscelyne , also died in the failed robbery. The pair were buried on the same day, Friday 29 January 1909, within yards of each other at Abney Park Cemetery. 3000 Police officers lined the route of the funeral procession along with several hundred thousand members of the public.

Jacob Lepidus and Paul Hefeld were Latvian immigrants and revolutionary anarchists who decided to carry out an armed robbery on the rubber factory where Hefeld had previously worked. Perhaps Hefeld was either particularly unobservant or dangerously reckless because the factory was across the road from Tottenham Police Station. When the owner arrived at the factory from the bank at 10.30am with £80 to pay his workers in a bag carried by one of his clerks. Lepidus and Hefeld snatched the money bag as soon as the clerk stepped from the bosses car but were immediately involved in a tussle with the clerk, the chauffeur and a passer-by. Several shots were fired but no one was injured. The two robbers dropped their loot and fled. The shots had alerted the police over the road and the constabulary were soon in hot pursuit, some on foot including Tyler, two others, in a car. The police on foot were almost immediately fired on – they returned fire after borrowing a pistol from another passer-by (gun control in 1909 England was as almost as lax as in current day USA). As well as the police a crowd of people also joined in the pursuit of the armed Latvians. The crowd included 10 year old Ralph Joscelyne who had been out with the local baker on his rounds. One of the bullets fired by the Latvians hit him in the chest and he later died in hospital.

Tyler caught up with the criminals on Tottenham Marshes opposite a domestic rubbish incinerator known as the Dust Destructor. He called for them to hand themselves in but Hefeld’s response was to shoot him in the head. The robbers fled on to Banbury Reservoir where they traded shots with a group of men out duck hunting. After catching their breath behind a haystack and holding off the pursuing crowd with continuous gunshots they hijacked a tram on Chingford Road. The police stopped a tram going in the opposite direction and, forcing the driver to reverse, started a tram chase both parties exchanging shots all the while. Another police officer commandeered a pony drawn cart to join the pursuit. Meanwhile the tram conductor lied to the two Latvians telling them that there was a police station around the corner. They ordered the tram to stop and then stole a horse drawn milk cart which was so slow that they stopped the first horse and van that overtook them and hijacked that at gun point. The van was abandoned a mile or two later on when the two men tried to cross the river Ching. Hefeld was too exhausted to climb the fence on the far side of the river and seeing the crowd catching up with him shot himself in the head. Lepidus ran on for a short distance and then took shelter in a lean to at the back of a farm where he was surrounded by the armed crowd. Two police officers entered the lean two and opened fire on Lepidus. When they laid hands on him he was already “in the throes of death” though the coroner later ruled that the death had been 'felo de se' – suicide. Hefeld survived the bullet in his head but only for three weeks and not long enough to stand trial. The whole incident became known as The Tottenham Outrage.

For more information:
PC Tyler's funeral procession making its way to Abney Park Cemetery 

William Mulready (1786-1863), Kensal Green

William Mulready was born in Ennis in Ireland on April 1st 1786. His family moved to Dublin shortly after he was born and when he six to London where he was to live for the rest of his life. His father was a leather breeches maker and the family lived in Compton Street in Soho. His aristic talent was noticed at an early age by the painter John Varley and sculptor Thomas Banks. At the age of 14 he was admitted to the Royal Academy School where he became the pupil of William John Varley. The close relationship between master and pupil was cemented when Mulready fell in love with and then married Varley’s sister Elizabeth in 1802, she was 18 at the time but Mulready was even younger, a mere lad of 16. The couple had four children, four sons, in rapid succession between 1805 and 1807 and then the marriage fell spectacularly apart. The couple separated, Mulready making vague accusations of ‘bad conduct’ but never providing any details and Elizabeth insinuating that he was completely to blame for the failure of the marriage because his cruelty, his pederasty and his adultery.

After the failure of his marriage Mulready began a long term relationship with a married woman called Elizabeth Leckie. Not much is known about either Mrs Leckie or Mulready’s relationship with her mainly because he was understandably secretive about the “irregularities of his private life”. Mrs Leckie’s husband James seems to have disappeared from the scene very early on, shortly after the birth of a daughter Mary who eventually took the name Mary Mulready Leckie. Mrs Leckie kept a lodging house in Kensington and Mulready seems to have been a frequent visitor. Mulready’s unusual family set up may have been the subject of his picture “The Child Sitter” which shows an artist drawing a young girl watched by two young boys and what appears to be the girls mother. A writer for Art dealers Ncolas Bagshawe identifies the artist in the picture as Mulready himself, the young girl as Mary Leckie, the two boys as two of Mulready’s sons by Elizabeth Varley, the lady in the cap as Mrs Leckie and the probable location of the scene as Leckies lodging house.
Mulready’s "six-poster Lombard Renaissance" monument is made of artificial stone and was designed by Godfrey Sykes who was one of the artists responsible for the decoration of the Victoria and Albert museum. The monument, which features prominently on the Central Avenue of Kensal Green Cemetery, was exhibited at the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle, where it won a prize. Mulrerady reclines, in life size effigy, on plush upholstery protected from the elements by a canopy. The base of the monument has incised representations of some of Mulready’s better known paintings as well as palettes and paint brushes and other symbols of the life of an artist.  

Isaac Watts Abney Park Cemetery

Isaac Watts (1674 to 1748) is actually buried in the non conformist Bunhill Fields but his statue presides over Abney Park Cemetery which was partly built on land belonging to Abney House, the home of Sir Thomas Abney. Watts attended the Dissenting Academy in Stoke Newington and then after a short break away to live and work in London, he returned to live there for the rest of his life, first in the house of the Hartopp family in Church Street where he worked as a tutor and then at Abney House to keep Sir Thomas’ widow company when her husband died. Although well thought of as a logician it is as a hymn writer that he is mainly remembered. His talent for versifying appeared at an early age. When apprehended in the heinous sin of keeping his eyes open during prayers he explained his actions with a hastily improvised couplet, compounding his original offence with the far worse felony of frivolity:

“A little mouse for want of stairs
Ran up a rope to say his prayers.”

His stern but fond father was having no mice as excuses for such atrocious behaviour and no versifying to compound the matter and did what any decent god fearing person would do, he thrashed him, energetically. Isaac’s response to the slaps kicks and buffets of his pater was:

“Oh father, father pity take
And I will no more verses make.”

Whether his father let him off or not history does not record but the incident was not the end of Isaacs obsession with the rhyming stuff. He is credited with 750 hymns (including ‘When I surveyed the Wondrous Cross’ as well as reams of admonitory verse for children and young people. One of his most famous is ‘Against mischief and idleness’:

How doth the little busy Bee
Improve each shining Hour,
And gather Honey all the day
From every opening Flower!

How skilfully she builds her Cell!
How neat she spreads the Wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

The celebrated mathematician and paedophile Charles Dodgson (often known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll) deftly subverted Watt’s original with an even more famous parody in ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!

Thursday 24 October 2013

William & Betsy Bligh, St Mary's-at-Lambeth

In May 1790 the Royalty Theatre in Goodman’s Fields put on an evening’s entertainment, ‘The Calamities of Captain Bligh’ which, after a few sea shanties and a hornpipe or two, begged the audiences to suspend disbelief in the shaky scenery and wooden acting as it told the story of William Bligh’s epic 6,701 km voyage with a handful of loyal crew members in an open boat to Timor from the middle of the Pacific where they had been set adrift by the mutinous crew of the Bounty.

The story was certainly topical – Bligh had only returned to London from the South Seas two months before. His calamities had not ended, or even begun, with the mutiny on the Bounty. He was a man who saw more than his fair share of trouble. A Cornishman by birth Bligh went to sea at the age of 16 as an able seaman. In 1776, at the age of 22, he was personally selected by Captain Cook to accompany him as sailing master on the Resolution on Cooks third and final voyage and was present when Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii. He suffered the mutiny on the Bounty and faced what seemed like certain death when cast adrift in an open boat only to find himself court martialled when against all the odds he survived and returned to London. He faced a second mutiny at Spithead in 1797 when the crew rebelled over issues of pay and service in the navy. No sooner was this mutiny over than the crew mutinied again on the Nore. The crew called Bligh ‘that Bounty bastard’. In 1805 Bligh was appointed Governor of New South Wales. He didn’t get on well with some of the wealthier and more influential colonists and almost inevitably there was another mutiny, the Rum Rebellion. 400 soldiers of the New South Wales Corps marched into Sydney to arrest Bligh who fled to Hobart leaving a rebel Government in control. He had to face two further court martials in what remained of his career (he was acquitted both times). He died in Bond Street in December 1817.

The Bligh monument in St Mary's at Lambeth churchyard is made of Coade Stone and is in remarkably good condition. It is a fine chest tomb topped by a stone breadfruit. The dedication on this side is to Elizabeth Bligh, William Bligh's wife.

Elizabeth Betham was described as “a cultured and accomplished lady.” She met Bligh shortly after his return from Cooks fatal last voyage and it seems there was a strong mutual attraction between them. Her father was Collector of Customs and Water Bailiff at Douglas on the Isle of Man and they were married on the island  in the Parish Church of Onchan on the 4th February 1781. Betsy is probably the reason Bligh was given command of the Bounty. Her uncle, Duncan Campbell, employed Bligh on his merchant fleet when the end of the Napoleonic wars led to his being laid off from the Royal Navy. It was probably Campbell who introduced Bligh to Sir Joseph Banks who secured the job of commander on the Bounty’s breadfruit expedition to the Pacific. It was also probably due to Betsy that there were so many crew members from the Isle of Man on the Bounty; these included Peter Heywood who Bligh believed to be one of the instigators of the mutiny and Fletcher Christian.

Life as a naval man’s wife must have been hard and lonely with your husband away at sea for up to two years at a time. Bligh was home enough to father six girls and a pair of boy twins who died within 24 hours of being born. Bligh doesn’t seem to have been ashore when any of his children were born. As well as being physically absent for long periods when he was at home Bligh was often preoccupied with his own problems, fighting to preserve his reputation at his various court martials and looking for employment. After the Australian debacle, where his tenure as Governor of New South Wales was cut short by yet another mutiny, Bligh’s active career was more or less over. Betsy survived barely another two years, dying on April 15th 1812, some say as a result of her health breaking down under the strain of Bligh’s calamitous career. Others, including John Toohey,  author of ‘Bligh’s Portable Nightmare’, say that she died of tertiary syphilis presumably contracted from her husband who probably picked it up in Tahiti where the disease was rampant.

Rothschild Mausoleum, West Ham Jewish Cemetery

The young Ferdinand Rothschild
Ferdinand James Anselm Freiherr von Rothschild was born in Paris in 1839 of the Viennese branch of the Rothschild family. His father was Baron Anselm von Rothschild and his mother Charlotte von Rothschild (née Rothschild). Ferdinand was devoted to his mother and was inconsolable when she died in 1859. He had always envied the relaxed and cultivated lifestyle of his English cousins so following the death of his mother he left Vienna to study at Cambridge and eventually became a naturalised British citizen. In 1865 he unquestioningly took up the family tradition of endogamy by marrying his cousin Evelina, the daughter of Baron Lionel de Rothschild and his cousin Charlotte Rothschild (née Rothschild) of the Neapolitan branch of the family. It would usually be assumed that this would have been a dynastic alliance but Ferdinand truly loved Evelina. The couple took a long honeymoon travelling in Europe and within a few weeks of their return Evelina discovered, to Ferdinand’s great joy, that she was pregnant. Eight months later, at the age of 26, she was dead. Following a railway accident she had gone into premature labour, giving birth to a stillborn child and then herself dying. Ferdinand never got over his grief. He commissioned an elaborate mausoleum where her name, Eva, is endlessly repeated as a decorative motif in English and Hebrew letters. He also endowed a hospital for sick children in Southwark in her name. When his father died in 1874 he liquidated his £2 million share in the family bank, gave up business and bought a rundown estate in Buckinghamshire from the Duke of Marlborough. On the estate he built a stately home where he lived for the rest of his life with his unmarried younger sister Alice. At first he devoted himself to collecting art, amassing an important collection which he later left to the British museum, and to compulsive socialising. Later he became the Liberal MP for Aylesbury. He never remarried and despite his famous hospitality he often dined on cold toast and water while his guests were being served lavish meals. Shortly before he died he wrote to his cousin Lord Roseberry “I am a lonely, suffering and occasionally a very miserable individual despite the gilded and marble rooms in which I live.” When he died in 1898 he was finally reunited with his young wife and was interred by her side in the mausoleum.

Baron Rothschild in his later years, photographed at Waddesdon Manor

The local Quaker philanthropist Samuel Gurney sold farmland in Forest Gate in 1855 to create the two West Ham cemeteries. The Jewish cemetery was established in 1865 by the New Synagogue then at Great St Helens Street, EC3. They were later joined by the Great Synagogue at Dukes Place, the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in England (established 1690). The cemetery is no longer in use and is closed to the public following a number of desecrations which included the toppling of headstones and the daubing of swastikas. In the worst attack, in 2005, the doors of the Rothschild Mausoleum were battered in and kicked off their hinges.

Mary Wollstonecraft, Old St Pancras Churchyard

Radical William Godwin erected this memorial to his famous wife shortly after her death. It became a favourite place to meet for the poet Shelley and the feminists daughter Mary (who was, of course, later to write 'Frankenstein.'): "Shelley and the two girls enjoyed long afternoon walks around London in the radiant June weather and their favourite rendezvous was Mary Wollstonecroft's grave in Old St Pancras Church Yard. Mary, Jane and Shelley sat on the grave and talked for hours. We do not know what they talked of: could it have been other than the rights of women, free love, atheism, political and social tyranny, the community of radical spirits? How far Shelley, sensing the abnormally close relationship between Mary and her father, felt that he had discovered another paternal tyranny that required liberation, we cannot tell either, though it is is hinted at in one of his letters. He presented a copy of Queen Mab to her with a facetious joke on the fly leaf, but she wrote secretly in it: 'I am thine, exclusively thine. I have pledged myself to thee and sacred is the gift.'" (Richard Holmes 'Shelley - The Pursuit.")

William Godwin died almost forty years after his wife but was buried with her and has his entry carved on the opposite face of the memorial. A third face is dedicated to Godwin's second wife Mary Jane Clairmont. All very modern for the 18th century but Godwin's was a radical household. The post mortem menage a trois were later forcibly split up when William and Mary were disinterred and reburied on the south coast by their grandson Percy. He wanted to grant his mother's wish that she be buried with her parents but didn't want to bury her in grimy Kings Cross. Instead he removed William and Mary's remains (but leaving Mary Jane Clairmont where she was) to a new Shelley tomb at the church of St Peters in Bournemouth.

Sir John Soanes monument can be seen in the background.

....dogged faithful Hobhouse.....Kensal Green Cemetery

I came across the grave of John Cam Hobhouse at Kensal Green by accident. The name leapt out at me because of a long standing interest in Byron:
" what turned out to be his final term at Cambridge, Byron made his most intimate male friendships, with John Cam Hobhouse, Scrope Davies and Charles Skinner Matthews, a group of young men on his own intellectual level who shared and indeed helped to perfect his sense of humour, the propensity to laughter which was Byron's saving grace....John Cam Hobhouse was the son of Benjamin Hobhouse, a Liberal Whig MP created baronet in 1812. He was initially suspicious of Byron's affectations disliking the way he went swanning around Cambridge wearing 'a white hat, and a grey coat' while riding 'a grey horse.' But he warmed to Byron on discovering that he wrote poetry. Hobhouse himself had literary aspirations. The friendship between the volatile and charismatic Byron and the dogged faithful Hobhouse flourished through the years, surviving tiffs, domestic tragedies, political differences, so that Hobhouse, after Byron's death, could truthfully assert: 'I know more of B. than anyone else & much more than I should wish any body else to know.'" (Fiona MacCarthy "Byron: Life & Legend.")

Hobhouse travelled with Byron in Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey, was his best man at his spectacularly imprudent marriage (Byron regretted marrying the moment the ceremony ended) and consoled him after his separation. When they weren’t together the two corresponded continually but of course only Byron’s letters are of interest to anyone now. Byron died forty five years before Hobhouse who went on to have a long political career as a radical Whig the highlights of which were a spell in Newgate for writing a seditious pamphlet (Byron, all sympathy, wrote a poem: “Why were you put in Lob's pond/My boy, HOBBY O?/For telling folks to pull the House/By the ears into the Lobby O!”....not one of the poets greatest efforts) and inventing the phrase “His Majesty’s (loyal) opposition.” He wrote a few works of his own, an account of a trip around Albania and a set of posthumously published memoirs. Ironically he perpetrated one of the greatest acts of literary vandalism ever when, concerned for his friends reputation, he burned Byron’s memoirs after his death.