Sunday 22 November 2015

Death in the Pillory; John Waller, Seven Dials, 1732

When in the pillory a malefactor was completely at the mercy of the mob. Some escaped unscathed; when Daniel Defoe was pilloried for satirising the Government he was pelted with flower petals rather than dead cats and rats and rotten vegetables, and Richard Parsons, pilloried for his part in the Cock Lane Ghost fraud, watched in astonishment as the London mob took up a collection for him. John Waller was not so lucky, a boisterous crowd catcalled and jeered as he was beaten to death on the pillory in 1732 by Edward Dalton, the brother of the man he had sent to the scaffold.

An unknown victim takes a dead cat from a restive crowd
John Waller was a career informer who was not especially careful about whether the information he was laying before the courts (in hopes of a reward) was accurate or not. A narrative of his life, published shortly after his death, states that he was the son of the Halifax executioner who left Yorkshire for a life of roving the country. In 1728 he laid evidence against two men who he accused of robbing him on the highway from Islington but both men were acquitted. In early 1730 the highway robber James Dalton was convicted of robbing Waller at gunpoint somewhere between the Tottenham Court Road and Bloomsbury. Dalton vociferously protested his innocence but Waller was supposedly paid £80 for his evidence. In May Waller was giving evidence again, this time against John Wells and Charles Ditcher who had supposedly assaulted him upon the highway and stolen his coat. The newspapers reported that a further two people were in Newgate accused of picking Waller’s pocket.  Waller wasn’t averse to a bit of highway robbery himself, he robbed one John Edglin and then, in an act of breathtaking audacity, using a false name, accused Edglin of robbing him. The Magistrates were already growing suspicious of Waller’s all too frequent appearances before them and he eventually he found himself under arrest and charged with perjury in the Edglin case. He was convicted in June 1732 and as part of his sentence was sent to the pillory at Seven Dials.
Seven Dials in the 1740's
A fellow prisoner, William Belt, was charged with overseeing the execution.  According to Cartwright Richardson, a witness at the later trial, he had barely got Waller into the pillory before Richard Griffiths and Edward Dalton, the younger brother of James Dalton who had been executed on Waller’s perjured testimony two years earlier,  “and a Chimney Sweeper laid hold of Waller, and stripped him as naked as he was born, except his Feet, for they pulled his Stockings over his Shoes and so left them; then they beat him with Collyflower-stalks, and threw him down upon the Pillory-board. The Chimney-Sweeper put something into his Mouth, and Griffith ramm'd it down his Throat with a Collyflower-stalk. Dalton and Griffith jumpt and stampt upon his naked Body and Head, and kick'd him and beat him with Artichoke and Collyflower-Stalks, as he lay on the Pillory-Board. They continued beating, kicking, and stamping upon him in this manner, for above 1/4 of an Hour, and then the Mob threw down the Pillory, and all that were upon it. Waller then lay naked on the Ground. Dalton got upon him, and stamping on his Privy Parts, he gave a dismal Groan, and I believe it was his last; for after that I never heard him groan nor speak, nor saw him stir.”

John Waller in an illustration from the Newgate Calendar

Belt, Griffith and Dalton were all tried for murder at the Old Bailey. Mr King the Coroner told the court about the horrific state of Waller’s corpse “I viewed the deceased the next Day, and I never saw such a Spectacle. I can't pretend to distinguish particularly in what Part he was bruised most, for he was bruised all over: I could scarce perceive any Part of his Body free. His Head was beat quite flat, no Features could be seen in his Face, and some Body had cut him quite down the Back with a sharp Instrument.”

John Waller’s mother was present at Seven Dials to see her son killed. His mangled body was taken to her where she sat in a coach watching.  Cartwright Richardson described to the court how Dalton and Griffiths reacted when they saw her; “they cryed out here's the old Bitch his Mother, Damn her, let's kill her too. So they went to the Coach-door, huzzaing and swearing that they had stood true to the Stuff. Damn him, says Dalton, we have sent his Soul half way to Hell, and now we'll have his Body to sell to the Surgeons for Money to pay the Devil for his thorow Passage.”  She told the court what happened next “I laid my Son's Head in my Lap. .... My son had neither Eyes, nor Ears, nor Nose to be seen; they had squeezed his Head flat. Griffith pull'd open the Coach-door, and struck me, pull'd my Son's Head out of my Lap, and his Brains fell into my Hand.”

William Belt was acquitted of the murder of John Waller, Richard Griffiths and Edward Dalton were convicted and were hung at Tyburn in September 1732. 

Monday 16 November 2015

The Greek Necropolis, West Norwood Cemetery and Crematorium

In 1842, just 5 years after West Norwood Cemetery opened,  London’s wealthy Greek expatriate community of merchants and ship owners leased a plot of land from the cemetery company at a cost of £300 in which to create an Orthodox enclave.  Fenced off from the rest of the cemetery, the Greek Necropolis contains more grade II listed architectural gems than any equivalent sized plot in any other London cemetery;  19 tombs and mausolea and the mortuary chapel dedicated to St Stephen.

Two of the most magnificent mausolea were built by the Ralli family from Chios, who had settled in England from 1815 onwards and flourished as grain and textile merchants.  The Doric temple was commissioned by Eustratios Ralli (1800-1884),  who was one of the original committee that acquired the land for the Greek cemetery.  As Patriarch of the Greeks in London he also laid the first stone of the new Cathedral of Saint Sophia in Moscow Place, Bayswater in 1877.  His older brother John Peter commissioned his mausoleum from the architect GE Street who produced a design based on the barrel topped tombs at Xanthos in Turkey. In 1872 a third brother, Stephen Ralli, built the large mortuary chapel.
Other prominent mausolea belong to the Vagliano brothers, also grain merchants, one of whom, Panaghis, left a colossal fortune of over £3 million when he died, equivalent to well over a billion in todays terms. There is also the family tomb of Maria Zambuco, a model to the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, the Caridia family tomb (Aristides the father was an India merchant, his son an Olympic silver medal winning tennis player) and, a descendent of the “Greek Emperors of Byzantium”,  Princess Eugenie Paleologus.   
The Mausoleum of Eustratios Ralli
The mausoleum of John Peter Ralli with Stephen Ralli's mortuary chapel in the background
A detail from one of the many fine tombs

A solitary coffin inside one of the vaults

Friday 13 November 2015

She had eyes and chose me; Lucy Renaud Gallup (1847-1883), West Norwood Cemetery

She died young and had beautiful eyes; that is obvious from the photograph of her probably taken when she was in her mid twenties, shortly after her marriage in 1870 to Henry Clay Gallup. Henry must have loved the portrait as he had it reproduced on porcelain and set on her grave; a very novel practice in the 1880’s. 130 years later the ceramic plaque is still in excellent condition and Lucy Renaud’s lovely eyes continue to regard us rather hauntingly as we pass by her tomb. 

Lucy was born in 10 June 1847 in to Peter Thomas Renaud and his wife Mary Frances.  Peter Renaud was third clerk to the Duchy of Lancaster and the family lived at 15 South Street (now Terrace), Thurloe Square, SW7, just south of the Victoria and Albert Museum on the Cromwell Road.  Lucy was baptised at St Luke’s in Chelsea and, four days after her twenty third birthday, was also married there to the 35 year old American Henry Clay Gallup. Henry had been born in Stonington, Connecticut in 1834, to an old New England family, their ancestors having moved there in the 1630’s. Henry worked as a travelling agent selling patent medicines for the New York firm of Jeremiah Curtis & Sons. He was eventually made a partner and sent to London to set up a European branch of the business to be called the Anglo American Drug Company. By 1871 we know he had premises at 493 Oxford Street because he was a witness in a court case; a young man called Phillip Cann was indicted at Bow Street Police Court for fraudulently endorsing a cheque for £16. Cann worked for the Globe newspaper as an advertising canvasser and regularly took adverts from Henry Gallup. In April he called at Henry’s premises and requested payment for the latest advertisements placed in the Globe. Henry wrote a cheque for £16 to the Globe’s proprietor William Thomas Madge which Cann then fraudulently endorsed and cashed.  The Illustrated Police News called Henry a “toilet manufacturer”, and we know his products included Fragrant Florilene, a liquid tooth cleaner, and Mexican Hair Renewer.  The business was obviously doing well because by the following year he was a director of the Cedar Creek Gold Mines and Water Company and his address was listed as 54 Guildford Street, Russell Square.

In 1881 Lucy and Henry were living at 39 Marine Parade,  Brighton with their six year old son, Henry Junior.  In the census returns for that year Henry lists himself as a retired merchant.  Less than two years later Lucy was dead at the age of just 35. Henry must have been devastated. He only lasted another couple of years himself, dying in 1885 at his home, Preston House, The Avenue, Upper Norwood, leaving an estate valued at £131,947 14s 9d to his 11 year old orphaned son.

The classical statue that tops the memorial is generally supposed to be a portrait of Lucy Gallup

Friday 6 November 2015

Cock Lane Humbug; the Ballad of Scratching Fanny - Mrs Frances Kent (1735-1760), St John's crypt, Clerkenwell

The burial register of St John's, Clerkenwell identfying Frances Kent as the Cock Lane Ghost

It would have been a strange scene; 1am on the night of the first of February 1762 in the vaults of St John’s Clerkenwell, a group of unlikely ghost hunting gentlemen led by that stalwart champion of common sense, Dr Johnson, hold out guttering candles and push forward one William Kent, gesticulating for him to address himself to an unmarked coffin. The coffin had been placed in the vaults almost a year earlier by Kent himself, and held the remains of his common law wife Frances. William had no doubt only come on this midnight jaunt to the vaults with the greatest reluctance but he had to try and clear himself of the accusation of murdering his dead wife. Who had accused him? Why, Frances herself, who had apparently returned from the dead in the guise of Scratching Fanny, a ghost who manifested herself solely in the presence of a young girl, Elizabeth Parsons and at her father’s house on Cock Lane, by the sound of fingernails scrabbling, scraping and knocking on wood. The father had devised a method of communicating with the ghost and thereby discovered that Frances had been murdered, poisoned, by her husband. Scratching Fanny became a public sensation and William Kent found his character blackened as a wife killer with seemingly no way to prove his innocence. There were sceptics however who were not convinced of the ghost’s veracity and to silence the doubters Scratching Fanny announced, by her system of knocks, that she would manifest herself in her own coffin on the first night of February, the anniversary of her death, and publicly condemn her murdering husband. And this was why Dr Johnson and his colleagues were down in the crypt of St John’s at one in the morning telling a trembling William Kent to stand in front of his wife’s coffin and call out her name clearly. William did what was asked, several times but to everyone’s relief, there was no response, no sign whatsoever of afterlife, from the cold and dusty coffin. Someone suggested opening the casket but the idea was quickly dismissed, William Kent was clearly innocent and the ghost of Scratching Fanny almost certainly a fraud.   

The ghost’s failure to appear did not stop the rumours, it merely rechanneled them. Newspapers and gossip mongers speculated that the reason Frances Kent did not manifest herself on the first of February was because someone had removed her corpse from the coffin! On 25 February William Kent in company with the undertaker who had buried Frances and the Parish Clerk and Sexton, made their way back into the vaults at St John’s, but during the day this time. In practical terms it does not matter what time you visit a church crypt, it is always going to be dark. This time the coffin had to be opened, unscrewed by the undertaker, to expose the “very awful shocking sight” of Frances Kent’s decomposing corpse. This episode dealt the final blow to the story and by July five people went on trial at the Guild Hall charged with conspiracy to take the life of William Kent by accusing him of the murder of Frances Lynes by giving her poison. At the trial the whole story was exposed.

It had begun with the marriage of William Kent and Elizabeth Lynes in Norfolk in 1756 or 1757. The marriage was short-lived because Elizabeth died in child birth, followed shortly by the baby. The distraught widower sought consolation in the arms of his wife’s younger sister Frances but did the honourable thing by proposing marriage. The church proved to be an obstacle to their union as canon law forbade a marriage to the sister of a deceased wife if she had borne a living child, which Elizabeth had. William moved to London where Frances eventually joined him and the couple lived as man and wife, hoping that no one would discover the deception. The couple had problems with their landlord to whom William had lent £20; he discovered their illicit relationship and refused to pay back the loan, assuming that William would rather lose his money than risk exposure. He was wrong; William had him arrested. Whilst looking for new lodgings he met the parish clerk of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, Richard Parsons, a man who liked a drink and whose finances were a little messy. Parsons offered lodgings to the young couple in his house in Cock lane where he lived with his wife and two daughters the eldest of which, a “little artful girl about eleven years of age” was called Elizabeth. 

The Kent’s initially got on well with the Parsons; William failing to learn from previous experience loaned his new landlord Richard Parsons 12 guineas. Strange phenomenon began to occur at Cock Lane, one night a local landlord was terrified by an apparition in white ascending the stairs of the house and while William was away in the country the now pregnant Frances took Elizabeth Parsons into her bed for company and then suffered a night of ominous knockings and scratchings which kept her awake until daylight. When William came home the couple moved to other accommodation but Frances became ill and was diagnosed with smallpox. Shortly before she died on 2 February 1760 she made a will leaving the bulk of her estate to William Kent. The Lynes family were furious and in Doctors Commons challenged the terms of Frances’ will, which had left half a crown to each of her siblings and the rest of her not inconsiderable estate to William. While the legal battle still raged William remarried, no doubt further fuelling the family’s animosity.

"English Incredulity", a contemporary satire on the Cock Lane ghost

Richard Parsons meanwhile had failed to repay William Kent’s 12 guineas and in January 1762 he found himself in court, sued for the balance of the loan by his former tenant. At Cock Lane the supernatural noises which seemed to follow Elizabeth Parsons around coincidentally started up again at around the same time. Richard Parsons called in John Moore,the rector of St Bartholomew-the-Great in West Smithfield, for advice on the apparent haunting. The two men came to the conclusion that the noises were made by the ghost of Frances Kent and devised a system of interrogating it, one knock for yes, two knocks for no. Questioning the restless spirit soon revealed that she still walked the earth because she had not died, as everyone thought, of the smallpox, but of arsenic poisoning and that the toxin had been deliberately administered by her ‘husband’ William Kent. The story of the ghost spread like wildfire helped in large part by the London press which picked up on it very early and then followed every thrilling development for the next six months. The house in Cock Lane was soon besieged by interested spectators and Richard Parsons quickly became alert to the commercial possibilities of the haunting, charging admission to anyone who wanted a consultation with the spirit. The haunting became a cause célèbre, society visitors to Cock Lane included Horace Walpole and Prince Edward, Duke of York and Albany. Many of those who attended the séances were not convinced by the performance. Elizabeth Parsons generally remained tucked up in bed, often with her younger sister, and a female relative of the family, Mary Frazer, would run around the room crying “Fanny, Fanny why don't you come? Do come, pray Fanny, come; dear Fanny, come!” Eventually there would be a scratching or knocking sound from the bed, noises which often stopped if Elizabeth was instructed to put her hands outside the bed covers.

The ghost, details from Hogarth's
"Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism"
Some of the sceptics prevailed on Samuel Fludyer, the Lord Mayor of London, to conduct an investigation. The Mayor appointed a panel which included Bishop John Douglas, Stephen Aldrich rector of St Johns, Clerkenwell, John Moore who was still a believer in the ghost and Samuel Johnson amongst others. The Cock Lane ghost committee began its investigations on February first by attending a séance and then taking part in the vigil in the crypt at St James, waiting for Frances Kent to make an appearance. The investigation continued on and off for most of February with the committee growing increasingly sceptical as the ghostly noises always stopped whenever they attended a séance. By the 21 February Elizabeth was being warned that if the noises did not start up again she and her father would be taken to Newgate Gaol; that same day the scratchings started but the maids in attendance told the investigators that they had seen Elizabeth secret a piece of wood about her person before she went to bed. A search soon revealed the ‘ghost’, a small wooden paddle with Elizabeth used to knock on the bedframe and scratch on the wall. John Moore finally realised that he had been taken in a by a hoax and published a retraction of his previous support but it was not enough to stop him being charged with conspiracy along with Richard Parsons and his wife, Mary Frazer and Richard James a tradesman. All five were tried at the Guildhall on 10 July 1762 on a charge brought by William Kent “for a conspiracy to take away his life by charging him with the murder of Frances Lynes by giving her poison whereof she died". The trial went on all day, the jury did not retire until almost 11.00pm but it took them only 15 minutes of deliberations to find all five accused guilty. Sentencing did not take place until February 1763 by which time the relatively wealthy John Moore and Richard James had agreed to pay William Kent £588 in damages; they were released on their promise to pay. The two women received gaol sentences in Bridewell, Mrs Parsons 1 year and Mary Frazer 6 months. Richard Parons was given two years and further ordered to be set in the pillory at the end of Cock Lane three times in the following month. The triple dose of the pillory terrified Parsons more than the prospect of another two years in gaol, London crowds routinely abused pilloried criminals, sometimes with horrific savagery. In the event on all three appearances the crowd took pity on him and rather than pelting him with cabbage stalks and dung passed around the hat and took up a collection.  

Scratching Fanny in the pillory, detail from  Hogarth's "The Times"

Monday 2 November 2015

The Edmonton Brick Maker and the Coiners of Haringey; George Blackwell (1859-1911), Tottenham Cemetery

George Blackwell's headstone in Tottenham Cemetery; he had no known equine connections

The horse is probably a red herring (perhaps he was a betting man);   George Blackwell was a brick maker, married to Jane, the beloved wife who put up his headstone and with whom he had at least six children. Although born in Southall he seems to have spent most of his adult life in Edmonton and Haringey. He was probably reasonably successful – as well as owning his own home at 49 Vernon Road, by 1905 he also owned number 37 Vernon Road and 121 Compton Road, both properties rented out as rooms to lodgers. Jane Blackwell had help managing her lodging houses, Mary Ann Gardiner who also lived on Vernon Road, at number 31, cleaned and collected rent for her as she was presumably quite busy enough looking after her numerous offspring. We know these sparse details from the lives of the Blackwell’s because on 6 February 1905 two of their lodgers appeared at the Old Bailey accused of coining and counterfeiting.    

In November 1904 Elizabeth Willis (née Gray), 33 years old and her 20 year old brother William rented two rooms, the front parlour and the kitchen, at Compton Road,  from Jane Blackwell. A month later she moved them to two upstairs rooms at Vernon Road for a rent of six shillings a week. On 4 January 1905 William Gray was in Fore Street, Edmonton, buying cigarettes at at least two tobacconists.  From Gambrill’s he bought 2 penny’s worth of Navy Cut tobacco, offering a dirty shilling as payment. At Jones’ he bought a penny packet of Woodbines, again offering a dirty shilling in payment and getting his 11 pence change. Mrs Jones waited until he had gone to bite the shilling but once she had she raced out of the shop and caught up with Gray and his sister 300 yards down the road.  "Give me back my 11d, you can keep the fags,” she told the young man. Instead of returning her coppers Gray tried to pay her off with a two shilling piece.  At this point Mr Jones arrived from the shop, grabbed Gray and started yelling for the police. PC John Dunford left Jones holding Gray and grabbed Willis. Both were taken first to Edmonton Police Station where they were searched and then to Stoke Newington station where they were charged the search having revealed one counterfeit shilling wrapped in tissue paper on Gray and three on Willis. A search of their rooms at 37 Vernon Road revealed a further 31 counterfeit shillings as well as materials for making the coins.

A week later, 11 January, 41 year old Henry Brown was arrested at his lodgings in Newton Road, Tottenham and charged with coining. He claimed to barely know Elizabeth Willis “I met this woman in the street, went home with her, and slept with her occasionally. The last time was just before she was locked up; I read about it in the 'Tottenham Herald'.” At the trial various witnesses placed Brown regularly in the company of Willis and Gray at both Compton Street and Vernon Street. Residents of the lodging houses talked about ‘white stuff’ appearing in the privies after they had been used by Gray and by Brown, plaster of Paris dust from the moulds used to cast the fake coins. Brown continued to maintain his innocence, he told the court "I have been very intimate with Lizzie Gray; I visited her several times at her house. On no occasion of visiting her have I seen any counterfeit coins, or the making of them." William Gray backed his story, saying that Brown knew nothing of the counterfeiting operation and taking all the blame on himself. Whether he was nobly but misguidedly trying to save his friend or whether he was intimated by Brown we will never know. Elizabeth Willis pleaded guilty to passing false coins, she was given 12 months hard labour. Her brother was given 18 months. Brown, who had challenged all the witnesses while the others had kept silent, was not believed by the jury or the judge – he was pronounced guilty by one and given a four year sentence by the other. Quite rightly as it turned out.
From the Chelmsford Chronicle 10th January 1908
Brown must have earned some remission of his four year sentence because less than 3 years later he was back at the Old Bailey on the same charge. The police had raided a house in Grange Road, Plaistow and found false florins, a saucepan full of molten metal  on the fire hob, and plaster of Paris moulds. 36 year old Alfred Stevens and one Martha Louisa Brown were arrested at the scene of the crime. While the police were searching the premises an unsuspecting Henry Brown sauntered in and found himself under arrest again. Stevens excuse that he was only on the premises to tune a piano was not believed and as he had previous form was given a six year sentence. Henry and Martha, presumably his wife, were both sentenced to four years. The police said that the prisoners were “the most scientific makers of moulds for coining in the Metropolis.”