Saturday, 27 February 2016

Extract of Sunbeam and Beetle Wing, the Medical Miracles of Lionel Lockyer (1599?-1672), Southwark Cathedral

“In the north transept of Southwark Cathedral, close to the Harvard Chapel, are the monument and grave of Lionel Lockyer, a seventeenth century quack. The monument is perhaps the most prominent object in the transept, and includes as its principal feature a large semi-recumbent figure of the doctor. The face wears an expression of unctuous self-satisfaction, quite in keeping with what we know of Lockyer himself.”   
Hector A. Colwell M.B. Lond.

What little we can learn of the life of Lionel Lockyer we have to learn from his detractors, in particular to his principal rival in the field of patent medicine, the American alchemist George Starkey (or Eireneaus Philalethes as he was known in alchemistical circles). In 1664, goaded by Lockyers overwrought claims for his famous pills, Starkey wrote “A smart Scourge for a silly, sawcy Fool, an answer to letter at the end of a pamphlet of Lionell Lockyer.” Starkey clearly hoped his tract would demolish Lockyer’s reputation and fatally undermine his business but he was to be disappointed.  Not even death managed to do that; in 1824, 150 years after his death, James Granger reports that Lockyer’s Pills were still being sold by Newbury the bookseller in St Paul’s Churchyard.
A contemporary portrait
From Starkey we learn that before he took up medicine Lionel Lockyer had been a tailor and a butcher and that he had learned his medicine from a certain Molton of Hogg Lane. The first version of his pills, “a very common and churlish medicine” had been simply produced by dyeing some pills produced from a solution of the salt of antimony bright red with cochineal and vending them as ‘mercurialis vitae’. A more refined product, Pilulae Radiis Solis Extractae, one of the key ingredients of which was supposedly sun beams, made Lockyer a fortune. The vulgar had trouble with the Latin name so Lockyer, citing a biblical precedence simply named them after himself;  "Absolom because he had no son to succeed him, he erected a Pillar and called it after his own name (2 Sam. xviii, 18). And I have had sons, but They are not, and so I shall call the pill after my own name, Lockier's Pill."' The unsympathetic Starkey never mentions Lockyer’s loss of his children; at the time it was not perhaps a noteworthy event.

Lockyer had a genius for marketing. He supposedly printed upwards of 200,000 copies of his famous handbill advertising the miraculous qualities of his pilulae which were a medicine “of a solar nature, dispelling of those causes in our Bodies, which continued, would not only darken the Lustre, but extinguish the Light of Our Microcosmical Sun.” The price of this sovereign remedy was 4 shillings a box, the box stamped with the makers coat of arms and only available from some forty authorised dealers in town and country and which included “Mrs. Harfords at the Bible in Heart in Little Britain, Mr. Russel’s in Mugwel Street near Cripple Gate, Mr. Randal’s at the Three Pigeons, beyond St. Clements Church, in the Strand, Thomas Virgoes, cutler, upper end of New Fish Street and Mr. Brugis, printer, next door to Red Lyon Inn, in Newstreet near Fetter Lane.” As was generally the case this was another pill to cure all ills and even to be taken by those in full heath as a “preservative against all accidents as contagious aires, for which it stands Centinel in the body and not permitting any enemy of nature to enter.” Lockyer’s broadsheet also included case studies demonstrating the efficacy of his remedy "Mrs. Dixon suffered for two years at least with a griping, gnawing pain in the belly, and by the use of my Pills, and God's blessing upon it, was cured; For before she had taken of my Pills six times she had a live worm come from her by Siege, four yards long; the woman lives in Dead-man's Place in Southwark, near unto the Colledge Gate. Her age is about thirty-two years, the worm came from her the latter end of May, 1662. If any desire to see the worm I have it by me." He also relates the heart warming story of a young man who “told a friend of mine, that he had the POX, who gave him two boxes of pills, and in three weeks time he was perfectly cured, although he scarce went to bed sober all that time, and within three weeks time he married a wife, and both of them very well to this day."

Lockyer later added an appendix to his advertisement, a letter supposedly from a “Person of Quality” which discloses that on June 13, 1664 Lockyer calcined the powder for his pill before King Charles and the Court at Southampton House. It was this letter that drew the ire of George Starkey and drove him to compose the “smart Scourge” in which he poured scorn on Lockyer’s, or his correspondent’s, Latin “I will take notice first of your false Latine....for which I should take you to task as a rigid Paedogogue, and nake you untruss for the first fault, your Breech would be bloudy and too sore to sit on, if for all the lapses committed in that very short epistle you had (as you deserve) a several lash.”

Locker died in 1672 leaving a small fortune of £1900 in ready, the leases on four houses and a quarter share in a ship. As well as a lavish funeral and his ostentatious monument he left a sizeable amount towards charity. Even in death he could not resist one last chance to sell his pilulae and his epitaph is little more than an advertising opportunity;
Here Lockyer: lies interr'd enough: his name
Speakes one hath few competitors in fame:
A name soe Great, soe Generall't may scorne
Inscriptions whch doe vulgar tombs adorne.
A diminution 'tis to write in verse
His eulogies whch most mens mouths rehearse.
His virtues & his PILLS are soe well known
That envy can't confine them vnder stone.
But they'll surviue his dust and not expire
Till all things else at th'universall fire.
This verse is lost, his PILL Embalmes him safe

To future times without an Epitaph

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Felo de se Part 2, suicide by arsenic: William George Williams (1829-1866), West Norwood Cemetery

Guy's Hospital
In December 1866 Sarjeant Payne, the City of London and Southwark Coroner assembled a jury At Guys Hospital to deliberate on the cause of death of a 37 year old Welshman who had been picked up by a policeman in the Blackfriars Road in Southwark ‘reeling’ and pleading to be taken some where to lie down. Mr Donne, the house surgeon, told the inquest that the deceased had been admitted to the hospital at around 5am on Tuesday 4 December suffering from the effects of arsenic poisoning. He vomited copiously before he finally died at 8am, his stomach contents confirmed the presence of arsenic as did the post mortem. The deceased had told one of the nurses, Mary Ann Shore that he had been drinking for a week, had taken half an ounce of the poison and had spent £500 of someone else’s money.  The Ward Sister, Mary Jane Reeves produced a pocket book which had been found on the deceased. If it were his, which seemed beyond doubt, it named him as W.G. Williams and gave his address as Clifton Road, Newport, Monmouthshire. Inside was a suicide note which pleaded his wife’s innocence of the crime of stealing the money and begged for her to be taken care of. Sarjeant Payne was told that the Stewards Office of the hospital had written to Newport asking for someone to officially identify the body but had as yet received no response. The inquest was adjourned until the following Friday.  A full account of the proceedings on the Friday was given in The Brecon Reporter and South Wales General Advertiser of Saturday 15 December;

“An inquest was held at Guy’s Hospital, Friday evening, respecting the death of a man, named William George Williams, aged 37 years. The evidence showed that on Tuesday morning last a policeman was on duty near the Surrey Chapel, in Blackfriars-road, when the deceased reeled towards him, and asked that he might be taken to some place where he could lie down. He said that he had swallowed half an ounce of white arsenic, and did not feel well. He then gave the policeman a paper labelled “white arsenic,’’ and said that he had bought the poison at Newport, in Monmouthshire, four years ago. At that time he intended to poison rats, not himself. The constable led him to the hospital, and on the way the deceased told him how he had been guilty of spending a large sum of money which was not his own. If the poison had not a fatal effect he knew that a serious charge would be preferred against him, and against others who were more to blame than himself. He described himself as a clerk to a commercial house in Newport, Monmouthshire, and said that if he “got over” the poison the policeman would find out all about the money which he had wrongly taken. The amount was £5OO. At times he seemed exceedingly anxious that his life might be saved, and said that scarcely knew what was doing when he took the poison. He was admitted to the hospital, and died there in about three hours. Before his death he repeated much of what had said to the constable, and added that he had been drinking for a week before attempting suicide. He had about him a pocket-book, in which he had written as follows: “This pocket-book belongs to W. G. Williams, clerk, Clifton-road, Newport, Monmouthshire. My wife is quite innocent. I mean to die Monday. My wife had none of the money. Please take care of her. I die the day of the Reform Bill demonstration.” Whilst he was lying in the hospital it was ascertained that he had a sister residing in Chelsea, and she was sent for. At the inquest she stated that she had not seen her brother for 10 years previously, and for that time his family had entirely lost sight of him. A letter from his wife was read, in which she described herself as being utterly destitute, and ignorant of any place where she might obtain bread. She was sure her husband could not have spent all the money he had taken away with him. Alter deliberating for some time the jury returned verdict of felo de se. The coroner issued his warrant for the burial the body of the deceased by torchlight, and between the hours of nine and twelve at night. The hospital authorities stated that they intended that the interment should take place at Norwood. It appears that the metropolitan police have received intimation that the deceased was “wanted’’ for having embezzled large sums of money.”

The Surrey Chapel in Blackfriars Road, Southwark where the dying Williams approached a policeman for help  
The authorities wasted no time in carrying out the burial. The inquest took place on the Friday evening according to all the newspapers, and William G Williams was buried the same night. A market cart was used to transport the coffin to West Norwood, leaving Guy’s at 9.00pm. The Daily News of Saturday 8 December carried a full account of midnight interment:  

“For the first time within a quarter of a century, Norwood Cemetery was, on Friday, at midnight, the scene of the burial without Christian rites of the corpse of a felo-de se. The coroner's jury, which, last evening at 6 o'clock, found that the commercial clerk, William George Williams, had committed the crime of self-murder, imposed upon Mr Serjeant Payne the necessity of issuing his warrant for the burial of the body by torchlight between that time and midnight. The last verdict of felo de-se returned at Guy's Hospital was in the case a person who died there twenty years ago, and on that occasion the horrible form of driving a stake into the body was gone through. The ghastly ceremony was performed in the burial-ground adjacent to the hospital, and it is said to have been almost the last instance in which that obsolete barbarism was witnessed in London. Lest the tradition should be, by any misconception, carried out in the present case, the coroner expressly ordered that no stake should be used. About nine o'clock last night a common market cart, drawn by an old horse, emerged from the hospital gates. The end of a deal coffin hung over the tailboard, and the name Williams, written on it with a bit of chalk, showed that it contained the body of the suicide. In the course of an hour the cart, with its burden, was drawn up on the highway, alongside a hedge at Norwood. The night watchman at the cemetery was called, and informed of the business on hand. The functionaries at the cemetery were just going to bed, and were completely taken by surprise by the production of the warrant for an immediate burial so late at night. Mr Gardiner, the superintendent, sent messengers to the neighbouring public house, and was fortunate enough to find two gravediggers there. These men were promptly set to work to dig a grave at the south-east corner of the cemetery, beneath some lime trees. When the grave was deep enough, the cart, which had been left out on the high road, was driven into the grounds. Three men unceremoniously lifted the coffin from the cart, and, guided by the flickering light of lanterns, carried it to the roughly-made grave. The excavation was longer than the coffin, and, at either end, near the bottom, a candle was stuck into the earth, where, screened from the wind, which blew strongly and whistled through the trees, they cast a sickly light upon the yellow clay. The coffin was launched into its place by means of ropes. The earth was instantly shovelled down and stamped in, the lights were put out, and all was over.”

As with the William Vellens case, Dr Forbes Winslow DCL, FRCP Edin., MRCP, MRCS, MD, the ‘suicide’s friend’, availed himself of the pages of the Pall Mall Gazette to express his disgust. “Permit me again through your influential journal to enter my earnest protest against such barbarities. Can the act of suicide be considered as a crime in the legal definition of the term? Is it an offence that can be properly deemed cognizable by the civil magistrate? The attempt to cast obloquy and disgrace on the body of a suicide is a most indefensible and unphilosophical proceeding. The wretched man by his own act has placed himself beyond the vengeance of the law. He has anticipated its operation and made himself amenable to the highest tribunal, viz., that of his Creator. No human penal enactments, however stringent they may be, can affect him. By verdicts of felo de se the innocent relations of the suicide are disgraced and branded with infamy, and that too often on evidence of an ex pare nature. It is monstrously unjust, inhuman, and unnatural that the law should so punish the innocent family of a man who in a moment of frenzy terminates his miserable existence. It was clearly established before the alteration of the law respecting suicide that the fear of being buried in a cross road and having a stake driven through the body had no obvious effect in decreasing the number of suicides. When a man in a sound state of mind contemplates an outrage of the law, the fear of punishment has in a majority of cases a deterrent effect. But the unhappy person who is driven by feelings of despair or mental anguish to lay violent hands upon his own life is not amenable to such influences.”
Forbes Benignus Winslow, author of "The Anatomy of Suicide" 

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

You in tyme shalbe even duste as we are now; Percival and Agnes Smalpace (died 1568/1588), St Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield

“On the south wall opposite Sir Robert Chamberlayne's is a curious monument of brown marble coloured black. It was erected by their children to Percival Smalpace and his wife in the year 1588. Their heads, in the style of Queen Elizabeth's reign, project from square compartments in the upper part.

During the reign of Queen Mary the Priory buildings had for a short time been occupied by the Dominicans, and Percival Smalpace had perhaps heard the exhortations of monks in black cloaks and white tunics from a seat just below the place whence he has for three hundred years seemed to stretch forward his head in impartial attention to every kind of sermon; to loyalty, as in the year just past, of Her Majesty's happy Jubilee; to treason sometimes, as on February 5th, 1645, when £1 12s. 4d. was collected for the army of the Parliament; to charity of all kinds, often; to forcible exposition; to dullness and obscurity; to brevity; to prolixity; to words which, had no effect; and to words which sent men away better than they came, and which may have continued to bear the plentiful harvest of good seed through several generations.

The inscription, after a quotation from the Latin Bible (Ecclesiasticu's xiv, 12) and some other texts, states that Percival Smalpace, Esquire, died September 2, 1568, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and is buried hard by, and that Agnes his wife, and daughter of John Tewbold, Esquire, died September 3, 1588.  They had two children, Michael and Thomas, by whom this monument was erected. Two English lines are curiously mixed with the Latin........

Behowlde youreselves by us, suche once were we as you
And you in tyme shalbe even duste as we are now.”

Norman Moore MD, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Warden of the College of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and Assistant Physician to the Hospital,
“The Church of St Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield.” 1888

Percival Smalpace was a minor courtier, one of the clerks to the Board of Green Cloth, a board of officials named after the green baize cloth at which they worked. Their function was to audit the accounts of the Royal Household, made arrangements for Royal travel and to sit as a court judging offences committed within the precincts of the Royal palaces. The monument was originally on the south wall of the presbytery but was moved to a more prominent position in the quire in 1867. It was restored by a descendent Mr. Gilbert J. Smallpiece in 1897.  The image of the couple lying naked and dead etched onto the slate panel is unique.  

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Un Suicide à la Guillotine - Frenchman kills himself in New Cross 1876

I assumed that William Vellens, the unemployed carpenter who killed himself in his Whitefriars lodgings in 1866 with a homemade guillotine, would be a unique case in the annals of London suicides. But I was wrong – a decade later an unemployed Frenchman, Francois Chere, built a more elaborate and more efficient guillotine than Vellen’s, one truly deserving of the name with grooved planks as runners for the weighted blade. Unlike Vellen’s, Chere apparently succeeded in decapitating himself. The story made the sensationalist front page of The Illustrated Police News with one of the melodramatic line drawings the paper was famous for. In contrast to Vellens’ case, where the inquest jury’s verdict was felo de se on the basis that his ingenuity in constructing the machine that killed him proved that he was fundamentally compos mentis, Chere was found to be of unsound mind:  

SUICIDE BY A GUILLOTINE. An inquest has been held on the body of Francois Auguste Chere, aged thirty-eight, a French artisan, of New Cross Road, London, who committed suicide under the following circumstances —Mr John Wilson stated that the deceased had lodged with him twelve months, and was apparently independent when he took the apartments. He was very quiet and respectable, and spent the greater part of his time over some engineering models, in which he intended carrying out improvements.  Latterly he seemed to be pressed for money, and a fortnight ago told witness that he was artisan who had saved money for the purpose of going into business, that his wife was killed during the bombardment of Paris five years ago, that his money was nearly gone, and that when he was penniless he should quit the world. A few days ago he brought home two large planks of wood and a large double-handled knife, such as is used by tanners for scraping the hair off skins, but no notice was taken of it, witness thinking they were for cutting up into models. Nothing was seen of him next day, and on the following morning his door was burst open, when it was discovered that he had committed suicide by cutting off his head with a guillotine. The two planks had been used as uprights, at the top of which the knife bad been placed. Grooves had been cut in the inner sides of the planks for the knife to run down easily, and two heavy stones were bound to the upper part of the knife to give it weight, and by means of the pulley he had drawn up the knife and let It fall on his throat, the head being cut clean off. Confirmatory evidence having been given, the jury returned a verdict of suicide whilst of unsound mind.
A trawl through Google revealed a number of other suicides conducted with homemade guillotines; the phenomenon is more common than I realised. This form of suicide, which appears to be confined mainly to Northern Europe (England, France and Germany) and the United States, seems to have started in the mid 19th century and has continued up until today. The most recent English suicide by DIY guillotine was of 36 year builder Boyd Taylor of Northumberland who spent three months building a guillotine in his bedroom before he killed himself with it. The 19th century French instances seem to have frequently made the front page of the Gallic equivalents of the Illustrated Police News, with depictions far more lurid than anything a British publisher have dared to put out. It is tempting to show you an example but this is The London Dead and not Les Morts de Paris and I have to draw the line somewhere.      

Friday, 5 February 2016

Felo-de-se Part One: the man who guillotined himself, William Vellens (1814-1866) City of London Cemetery

The burial of William Vellens as depicted in "The Wilds of London" by James Greenwood

The Coroner for Southwark and the City of London, Sarjeant  William Payne, was an unexpectedly youthful man, just 34, who wore a gold ring on his right hand inscribed with the Latin tag ‘Reverentia Legum’, revere the law. In 1866, he presided over the inquiry into two unusual suicides both of which led to the by then controversial verdict of felo-de-se, self murder. Until 1823 this verdict routinely resulted in the punishment of the offender by driving a stake through his heart and the burial of his corpse at a crossroads. It also meant the forfeiture of the suicide’s property to the crown leaving any dependents destitute. In practice most suicides were judged to be ‘temporarily insane’ a ruling which left their property and their rights to a Christian burial intact and only the worst cases, usually involving the suicide of a murderer or other criminal, were deemed to merit the punishment meted out to John Williams, the supposed Ratcliffe Highway murderer who killed himself in Coldbath Fields prison whilst awaiting trial. His corpse was paraded around the scenes of his crimes in East London accompanied by a silent crowd of 10,000. After being whipped and dropped onto his knees into an open grave at the crossroads of Canon and Cable Street, a stake was hammered through his back with the maul he had used to kill his victims. “As the blood stained maul thudded on the stake,” one commentator noted “the silence of the crowd was at last broken and the air became hideous with shouts and execrations.” These quaint practices ended when the 1823 Burial of Suicide Act allowed felo-de-se’s to be buried in the unconsecrated parts of churchyards and cemeteries, albeit without any form of religious service and only between the hours of 9pm and midnight.

On Thursday 29 March 1866 Sarjeant Payne opened an inquest at the Sussex Hotel, Bouverie Street, EC4. The hotel also owned the premises next door in which the body of one William Vellens, had been found two days earlier clutching a razor and with his head ‘nearly severed.’  Vellens, sometimes also known as Vollance or Voliance, was according to some accounts a German and by others an Englishman from Newcastle but all accounts agree that he was by trade a carpenter. He had lately fallen on hard times and was virtually living in penury. He was generally regarded as man of ‘sullen and eccentric habits’.   It emerged at the inquest that he was married but he had been living alone in an annexe to the hotel for about two years prior to his death.  Witnesses told the coroner that Vellens was generally sober and had always paid his rent when in work. He suffered from asthma and became so short winded that he couldn’t work for more than 15 minutes at a time. Unable to work he pawned his tools and when he had no tools left he took to begging off friends and acquaintances. He fell behind in his rent for the tiny garret room he occupied which was barely big enough for a narrow bed, a small cupboard and a bench.  The arrears coupled with the deceased’s habit of going around the house firing a large horse pistol led to the landlady serving him notice to quit the premises. The other boarders became concerned about his state of mind; a month previous to his suicide they were already so suspicious that he might try to do away with himself that when they hadn’t seen or heard from him for a few hours they broke down his door. Vellens reacted by calling the constable and getting them arrested. This incident coupled with his possession of the horse pistol made the occupants of the house reluctant to intervene further when he again disappeared a few weeks later. Eventually a brave soul was dispatched upstairs to knock on Vellens’ door.  He found a note in the deceased’s handwriting saying "Saturday. Gone, and will not be in until the afternoon. Leave your address in the bar, please."  As this was Tuesday the constable was sent for and when he was unable to rouse Vellens by knocking he tried to kick the door open, which proved difficult to do as someone had nailed it shut from the inside. When they did finally get the door open this was the sight that greeted them:

The lifeless body of the man was lying on a form, face upwards, with one leg hanging down, the head being nearly severed, and the right hand clenching a razor.— The floor was covered with dry, clotted blood, from which it is supposed that the act was committed nearly a week since. The arrangements for effecting his own death must have taken the deceased some time accomplish. A modern bedstead and a form were the chief articles of furniture in the room, in which was a small cupboard. The door of the cupboard was found open, with the bedstead placed near it, the former being fixed alongside. Vellens had employed a hatchet used in his trade, in which he bored a hole, but finding the leverage not suited to his purpose, he made another higher up the handle. This he fixed to the bedpost by a screw, and a piece of strong rope was then procured, to which was attached a heavy stone. The rope was then thrown over the cupboard door, the end being fastened on the one side and the stone hanging over the other. He must then have placed himself on his back on the form, raised the hatchet, and put his head so as to meet it when it fell. In this position he cut the rope with the razor, and the stone falling on the hatchet, his death must have been instantaneous.  
Belfast Morning News - Friday 30 March 1866
Sarjeant Payne summed up for the jury by telling them that this was one of the most determined cases of suicide which had come under his notice. He remarked that “the deceased had followed the French idea, and made a guillotine on a small scale.” As it was obvious that he had committed suicide the only question for the jury was the state of the deceased’s mind at the time. According to the newspaper accounts the jury deliberated for only a short time before delivering their verdict that the act had been committed whilst the deceased was in a sound state of mind. Sarjeant Payne had no choice but to enter a verdict of felo-de-se and order a night burial of the body without a religious service. He also ordered the dismantling and destruction of the homemade guillotine. 
The verdict did not go pass without critical comment. A week later Dr Forbes Winslow, the eminent psychiatrist and author of the groundbreaking 1840 treatise “Anatomy of Suicide” wrote to the Pall Mall Gazette to express his repugnance at the finding of the Coroners court. He objected to the finding that the deceased was of sound mind simply because he had “exhibited great mechanical skill, self-possession, and ingenuity in the mode by which he destroyed himself” He went on to point out that “design, method, great cleverness of a mechanical kind, self-possession, and cunning are constantly observed among the insane afflicted with suicidal monomania.”  The Dublin Medical Press concurred with Dr Winslow and commented that the “verdict of felo-de-se, under any circumstances, is a poor and pitiful mode of wreaking vengeance upon the remains of a human being who has passed beyond the reach of the law, and the only result can to inflict pain upon the feelings of survivors, who perhaps are sorrowful enough at the loss of a relative, or, it may be, are already humiliated by the sins or the misfortunes which led to the melancholy event.”
James Greenwood, the pioneering investigative journalist
who accompanied Vellens to the City of London Cemetery

Forbes Winslow’s letter to the press had been published in the Pall Mall Gazette edited by Frederick Greenwood. In a shameless display of nepotism Frank had employed his younger brother James on the paper and the young investigative reporter had scored a big hit the previous year when Frederick commissioned him to spend the night in the Lambeth workhouse and write up the experience. Frederick published Winslow’s letter because the brothers were already interested in Vellens’ case. James had hastily arranged to accompany the suicide to his burial, which happened with almost unseemly haste on the day on the inquest. James noted that the razor Vellens had used to cut the rope which dropped the weighted axe onto his throat was still in his right hand when the undertaker put him into the plain box coffin. Vellens final resting place was the City of London Cemetery in Manor Park where the jury had determined that “he should be flung into a hole at night-time, with no more ceremony than attends the throwing a dead dog into a ditch.”  James was invited to ride down to the cemetery on the hearse;
This however, I declined. It is unpleasant enough in all conscience to make a business jaunt to a graveyard, but to ride thither on a hearse at night - seated on the black, shiny roof; and holding on by the stumps that on ordinary occasions support the funereal plumes, was not to be thought of; especially as the journey was to Ilford, a dismal country road in part and ten miles from London. So I elected to go in a vehicle of my own choosing. They took "it" up punctually at the time appointed - Mr. Beadle and two men of the staff of the contracting undertaker who undertook the job. The box they put "it" in was composed of half a dozen unplaned boards scantily smeared with a blackish pigment and roughly nailed together. It was scarcely of the ordinary coffin shape even, and being without plate or inscription might have been carted to a railway with other luggage without exciting particular attention.. ... A pair of stout horses were attached to the hearse, and whirled it over the stones at a spanking rate, so that my coachman had some trouble at times in keeping it in sight - especially as it was so very black-horses, carriage, and men-and the moonlight but fitful, skulking behind cloud-banks sometimes for as long as two minutes together. I don't know how Mr. Beadle (being, as before hinted, a somewhat nervous man) found it on the hearse roof; with the felon's body within two planks' breadth of him, hurrying along the dark road, with the wind whistling across the bleak flat country. I know that I found it anything but satisfactory, and was not at all sorry to hear my man say, "I can see the Rabbits, sir; the Rabbits is the house where all these black jobs puts up for a freshener, sir."

The famous gates to the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium on Aldersbrook Road, Manor Park
The funeral party put up at the Rabbits, the closest pub to the cemetery gates and apparently patronised by visitors to the cemetery as well as gravediggers and other employees of the cemetery company. The coffin containing Vellens was left unceremoniously outside in the rain while the coach driver, beadle and Greenwood stood at the bar and engaged in banter with a gravedigger in clay stained corduroy trousers. The gravedigger knew nothing about the night burial and took some persuading to return to work and get the Lodge Keeper to open the gates and allow the burial party to pass. Once inside the cemetery; a distance of more than a half mile from the entry, in the unconsecrated part, a hole was found. It was fortunate that at this time the moon struggled out of the clouds, otherwise there might have been some bungling, for, being but an amateur at felo-de-se burying, Mr. Beadle had forgotten all about the torches. Had it been pitch dark, with torrents of rain falling, the job would have to have been got through somehow. As it was, it was got through with neatness and despatch. The grave-digger was an old hand, and had his ropes about the box in a twinkling, and held one while the undertaker's men held the other. "Lower," said the grave-digger, and they lowered, and the box rested on the clay. Then the grave-digger threw a few shovelsful of earth on the box - enough to cover it - and replaced the planks over the hole, and we went away.
"Why didn't they cover him in entirely ?" I asked.
"What for? We couldn't spare a regular interment a grave all to himself; let alone one such as him," replied the grave- digger.
"But surely you won't put another body over his?"
"Surely we shall," answered the grave-digger. "Not a Christian, you know," he hastened to explain -"one of them sects what don't care about being buried in consecrated ground. Why, what's the odds? He's as good as they are now anyhow, if he wasn'efore."
And discussing kindred matters, the hearse bowled out of the cemetery, and once more we put up at the Rabbits, where the party invited the grave-digger to the social glass and the friendly pipe, and, the undertaker's men as well as the grave-digger being well versed in sepulchral lore, quite a jolly hour ensued, when, hey for London! with our noble work accomplished, and the law's majesty and dignity vindicated.
James Greenwood’s story “At the earthing of a felo-de-se” was later published in his book “The Wilds of London” (1874).