Sunday 27 November 2016

Remembering the dead at St Brides, Fleet Street

Samuel Langby remembered in the church wall at St Bride's, Fleet Street. Perhaps the stone mason was pissed when he carved this; not only did he give Samuel an extra L in his first name, he also couldn't remember whether he 'decefed' in September or December.  

I don’t recall ever having seen this before – a grave inscription carved into the exterior wall of the church rather than on a headstone. There are just two at St Brides, one dated 1686, the other 1702, both inscribed shortly after Sir Christopher Wren’s church was completed in 1672. Perhaps the church authorities discouraged others from following the example set by the relatives of Samuell Langby after Nicholas Halgan buried his wife Margery here in 1702 and chose to remember his daughter Margaret, buried five years previously, as well as his spouse. Paying a mason to chisel a short inscription into the church wall would have been much cheaper than paying for a headstone and I’m sure the practice would have caught on if churches had allowed it.  Both inscriptions date from around the start of the graveyard memorial boom. Before the 17th century monuments and memorials for the dead were reserved only for the rich and powerful but in the late 1600’s marking burial place with something more durable than a simple wooden cross caught on amongst the middle classes. Carved and inscribed gravestones became a common sight in church yards for the first time. 

Margery and Margaret, the Halgan ladies immortalised. The capital M&B to the side of the inscription are probably graffiti.

St Brides, Fleet Street

Monday 21 November 2016

How to Rise in Society, the Housemaid's Tale; Stephen Lancaster Lucena (1805-1876) and Anne Maria Lucena (1834-1908), Lavender Hill Cemetery, Enfield

This is not a well known memorial, perhaps because it is off the beaten track in the otherwise uninteresting late Victorian cemetery at Lavender Hill in Enfield. It is not listed and I had never heard of it until I came across it in Richard Barnes excellent book on sculpture in London cemeteries ‘The Art of Memory’ (with some striking photographs of it by Stiffleaf). Incredibly Hugh Meller fails to mention the memorial at all in his 200 word dismissal of Lavender Hill in ‘London Cemeteries’ despite mentioning 3 other, markedly inferior, tombs including Henrich Faulenbach’s which is barely 50 yards away. Its situation in the cemetery is so prominent that it is almost impossible not to see it; the only possible explanation for Meller’s omission is that at the time of his visit it must have been completely overgrown by holly and ivy. The memorial shows Stephen Lancaster Lucena’s second family in a sentimental grouping with the two children Stephen and Annie Elizabeth being read to by their mother Anne Marie, quite probably from the bible or some other religious book as the little girl is clearly praying. Even the dog seems attentive to the word of God. The domestic group was originally watched over by a pair of guardian angels but only one is now in situ, the other, toppled from its base, now lies headless and wingless behind the monument, the head is completely missing but the broken wings are tucked into a niche on the main memorial for want of any better place to put them.  The piety of the sculptured group conceals a series of late Victorian and early Edwardian scandals; both of the children were conceived outside of wedlock, their mother a household servant in their father’s house and in later life the praying little girl, Annie Elizabeth, went through a spectacularly messy divorce from an army major which resulted in the murder of her mother and the suicide of her ex husband.

Stephen Lancaster Lucena was born in London in 1805. His father, João Carlos Lucena, was a Portuguese born marrano, a new Christian, born into a family that may have continued being secretly Jewish since the 16th century.  If so their religion did not survive the family move from Portugal in 1761 to the then British colonies in North America, initially at Rhode Island where his father was granted a patent for the production of Castile soap.  The family eventually settled in Savanah where he married Joanna Lavien, the daughter of a prominent Jewish West India merchant. Joanna’s father left her extensive estates in South Carolina and Georgia in his will but these were confiscated when John Charles, as he was now known, remained loyal to the British crown in the American revolution. By the 1790’s John Charles was in London where he became the Portuguese Consul. In 1791 he married again, in Hampstead, to Mary Ann Lancaster (he had become a practising Anglican whilst in America) with whom he had four children.  He died in 1813 was buried at St Pancras Old Church.  He died a wealthy man, leaving an estate worth over £100,000.

Stephen Lancaster Lucena became a solicitor and in 1829, at the age of 24 married Susan Kite at Shifnal in Shropshire. They set up home in Enfield and had three children, William, Clara and Charles. Something was clearly not right in the marriage and by 1841 they were separated; Stephen was living alone in Enfield and Susan was a resident of Marine Parade in Dover with the three children. There was at least one temporary breach in what otherwise became a lifelong separation between the couple; in the 1851 census Stephen and Susan are declared as living under the same roof, back in Enfield, but interestingly none of the children are declared. They were probably in Shropshire with their grandparents as that is where they show up in the census of 1861. By that time the 56 year old Stephen was living at Rose Cottage in Enfield with just the company of a cook, the 64 year old Hannah Benn from Cranford near Uxbridge and a housemaid, Hannah’s unmarried 27 year old daughter Anne Maria. Hannah must have turned a blind eye to the romance that blossomed between the aging solicitor and her daughter, despite the age gap of 30 years and the fact that her employer was still very much married to his estranged wife. In 1865 Anne Maria gave birth to a son who was registered by both parents as Stephen Lancaster Lucena Benn and baptised at St Mary’s, Bryanston Square, just off the Marylebone Road, on 25 October. On the 1871 census Stephen was living at 42 Windmill Hill, Enfield, with the 5 year old Stephen declared as his son and Anne Maria as his housekeeper! The census does not mention the baby Anne Maria had given birth to the previous year, Annie Elizabeth Lucena born on 10 September 1870 and baptised at St Pancras Old Church on 7 June 1871.  Susan, the estranged wife was living as a lodger with a family called Boud in Penge according to the census but by October that year she was dead. Stephen seemingly did not rush to grasp the opportunity to regularise Anne Maria’s ambiguous position as housekeeper and mother to his two youngest children; the couple eventually did marry but not until 1874.  Two years later Stephen himself was dead and Anne Maria commissioned the splendid memorial at Enfield showing his loving family being watched over by guardian angels in hr husband’s absence. We don’t know how much the memorial cost but it would have taken a sizeable chunk from Stephen’s estate which Anne Maria swore was worth less than £4000 when she registered probate. Two years later she was forced to re-swear the vale of the estate at less than £8000 but even then she was almost certainly considerably under declaring her dead husband’s assets.

Anne Maria as depicted on the memorial
Anne Maria must have been a lively character. In 1879 the 21 year old Henry Hill Banyard paid for a marriage license to allow him to marry the 45 year old (and very wealthy) widow. The marriage never took place. Anne Maria consoled herself with property speculation; in November 1882 she bought the freehold of two plots on Kensington Road looking towards Kensington Palace.  In 1883-4 Holland and Hannen builders constructed an ornate mansion, Chenesiton House, with library, billiard room, morning and drawing rooms and a six stall stable, to the design of architect J.J. Stevenson (now the 5 star Milestone Hotel). In 1891, the year her 21 year old daughter Annie Elizabeth married the 24 year old soldier Henry George Coates Phillips, Anne Maria was living in some style at her luxurious new home with a staff of 7 live in servants including a butler. These were giddy heights to have reached for the girl from Cranford who had started life as a housemaid until she had the luck to be seduced by a solicitor more than twice her age. If she felt any hubris it was her son in law, Major Phillips, who was to prove her nemesis.  Her daughter’s marriage was not a happy one.  The young Welsh Guard had been made a Captain the year before the wedding and was often away from home on duty, serving in Malta and then in South Africa where he was present at the relief of Ladysmith in 1900. Whilst in South Africa, when not fighting he whiled away the time by conducting liaisons with local married women, eventually getting himself named as co-respondent in a divorce case at Witwatersrand Court where it was proved that he had paid the lady in question sums varying between £5 and £10 to entice her into “committing misconduct” with him to the eternal chagrin of her husband. These stories made their way back to England and the Major would have received a frosty reception from his wife when he finally made it home from the battle grounds of Natal.

Chenesiton House in Kensington Court, Anne Maria's palatial mansion

Annie Elizabeth and Major Phillips divorced in 1906; the case was widely reported in the newspapers.  According to the Dundee Evening News of 26 July 1906 “there was an aristocratic case in the London Divorce Court yesterday. The Court was crowded, and there was an impressive array of counsel. Barristers wandered in, too, from the duller courts to join in the throng of the curious. The petitioner, Mrs Phillips, said to be of independent means and living at Kensington, asked for a divorce from her husband, Major Henry George Coates Phillips, because of his alleged misconduct and cruelty.” The paper admiringly described Annie Elizabeth as “a tall, dark, handsome woman, with finely cut features, wearing a large black hat and costume, and a white fancy blouse with a bunch of roses.” In her divorce suit Annie Elizabeth alleged that her husband had been unfaithful with two women (apparently his South African infidelity was not mentioned) and in his counter suit the Major claimed that his wife had misbehaved herself with a Mr Eric Gordon. The first business of the court was to deal with the withdrawals of the allegations of adultery by both parties; instead the case revolved around two incidents which showed the Major’s cruel and unusual behaviour. The first incident took place in December 1904; the Major had knocked his wife down when they returned to their house from a ball leaving her with a bloodied head. As a result of this and other incidents she had taken out an injunction against him and he was ordered to keep half a mile away from her. The other incident took place in August 1905 when Annie Elizabeth had been staying with a friend, Daisy Ouchterlony, in Hampshire. The Major had broken into the house in the early hours of the morning, cut the communication cables so that the servants could not be summoned for help, and then made his way to the bedroom where his wife was sleeping. He woke her up and threatened her with a revolver, forcing her to sign a letter withdrawing the divorce petition. The Judge granted Annie Elizabeth a decree nisi but divorce was not to be the end of her troubles with her husband.

On 31 December 1906 the Major was bound over to be of good behaviour for 12 months at the Hampshire assizes in Winchester after being found guilty of attempting to commit suicide the previous day by suffocating himself with coal gas. He had broken into Annie Elizabeth’s house at Velmead in Church Crookham and tried to kill himself there. Exactly a year later the marital problems of Anne Maria’s daughter and the Major came to tragic climax on New Years Eve 1907. Annie Elizabeth and her mother were both at home at Velmead celebrating with Annie’s good friend Daisy Ouchterlony. The Tamworth Herald of Saturday 11 January 1908 described what happened next:
“A little before o'clock midnight she [Daisy Ouchterlony] and Mrs. Phillips went out to the steps of the front door see what the weather was like. Just as they were standing there, Mrs. Phillips's dog ran down the steps barking at something in the darkness. [Daisy] thereupon went to the bottom of the steps to see what the dog was barking at, leaving Mrs. Phillips standing at the top of the steps. In a second or so someone knocked [her] down. She became dazed with the fall, and when she came to herself she found she was lying on the ground at the foot the steps. At that moment she heard several shots in the hall. She got up and rushed into the house, and the first thing she saw was Mrs. Phillips running past the door leading into the kitchen. Then she saw Mrs. Lucena, Mrs. Phillips's mother, on the floor, and also Major Phillips and Mr. Smith, Mrs. Phillips's solicitor. Mr. Smith was calling to some one to bring a rope, so she rushed to the stables for assistance. Then she went back to the house, there were several people in the hall then. Mrs. Lucena was sitting in chair, and her face was being bathed. The Major was roped, and several people were watching him.”

At the inquest into her ex husband’s death Annie Elizabeth described hearing her friend ‘scramble’ in the darkness when she went to see what was causing the dog to bark. She had an electric torch and in its faltering beam she saw the Major emerge out of the darkness and spring up the stairs where he “caught hold her arm, dragging her into the hall. Holding a revolver to her head, he said, ‘This is your last chance, Liz.’ She said, ‘Do let me live; don't kill me.’ Just then the butler came in. The Major pointed the revolver at him and ‘You come a step nearer and I will shoot you dead.’” Annie Elizabeth tried to wrestle the gun from him but the retired soldier was too strong. Anne Maria then came into the hall from the library to see what all the commotion was about. Seeing his mother in law the Major let go of his wife and grabbed hold of her. “You have been the cause of all this,” he told Anne Maria, dragging her towards the drawing room. The terrified 74 year old pleaded for her life but the Major raised his revolver to her cheek and fired at point blank range.  He then shot another member of the party in the groin and tried to shoot his wife as she went over to their terrified 13 year old daughter Bertha Corysande, who had caught her dress on the banisters as she tried to flee the carnage. As she wrestled with the trapped dress Annie Elizabeth heard another shot and looked up to see her husband sink to the ground. He had shot himself in the head. Taking no chances members of the household staff tied him with rope from the stables. He wasn’t unbound until a doctor had certified him dead. Giving evidence at the inquest the doctor told the court that the Major had expanding bullets in his gun and that he was sure that he had died almost instantaneously. It took Anne Maria four days to die, no doubt in considerable agony. “The jury, after a deliberation lasting 55 minutes, found that Major Phillips committed suicide by shooting himself with a revolver, and they further considered that he was morbidly insane through his long brooding over the divorce proceedings and his long separation from his wife and child.”

A few days later Annie Elizabeth had to go over the traumatic events again at the inquest into her mother’s death. She told the court that the Major had previously “attempted to murder her mother. They were all living in London at the time at South Kensington. Early one morning—about 3 o'clock—her mother came into her room with him. Her face was blackened, and she stated that he had tried to kill her. She said that he had gone into her room and hit her over the head when she was asleep with a sand bag. He afterwards fell down by the side of the bed (her mother told her), and said, ‘I do not know what is wrong, and why I have done this.’ A specialist was consulted about this time, and he…. said the major was subject to homicidal mania. Major Phillips hated her mother. Her mother gave him £5,000 to go into Lloyd's, and she never had a penny back. She guaranteed him another £5,000. Mr. Gardiner: ‘Therefore she was his benefactress and not his enemy?’ Yes. The witness, continuing, said he was always saying he wished her mother dead before went to South Africa and after.” The verdict of the jury was that the Major had feloniously and with malice aforethought murdered Anne Maria. The funeral took place a few days later in Enfield, the vault was reopened and Anne Maria joined her husband and son (Stephen junior had died in 1900 at the age of 34). Annie Elizabeth never married and died in 1959 in Essex, at the age of 88.  

Sunday 13 November 2016

By touch ethereal in a moment slain - William Bacon (1753-1787) St Mary-at-Lambeth

The weather record of the Gentleman’s Magazine states that the evening of 12 July 1787 was dark and cloudy with thunder. Unlike the abundance of turf destroying summer chafers that month (“rooks should have great merit with the farmer, as they prevent these pernicious insects becoming numerous”), a rain storm on the 10th which “beat down wheat in many places”, the bloom of lime trees hanging in fine fragment tassels noted on the 19th, the fineness of the cherries and wood strawberries and the first flights of young partridges, the storm of the 12th merits not a single footnote to the weather watcher who compiled July’s statistics, despite being ferocious enough for lightning to have killed at least two people in London.
A well known memorial in the porch of St Mary-at-Lambeth (now the Garden Museum) commemorates William Bacon of the Salt Office:

To the memory of
William Bacon
of the Salt Office London, Gent
Who was killed by thunder and lightning
at his window July 12 1787
Aged 34 years
By touch ethereal in a moment slain
He felt the power of death but not the pain
Swift as the lightning glanced his spirit flew
And bade the rough tempestuous world adieu
Short was his passage to that peaceful shore
Where storms annoy and dangers threat no more

The Archbiships Palace at Lambeth (by J.M.W Turner) quite possibly showing the very dwelling in which William Bacon met his unfortunate fate
There are many Bacons in the Parish of St Mary’s and when the 20 year old William Bacon married Miss Cooper of Norfolk in February 1773 the ceremony probably took place in the church. We know very little about the life of William Bacon but we know a great deal about his death. The Gentleman’s Magazine reported it in detail:

He was killed at his house near the Archbishop's palace Lambeth, at about a quarter before six in the evening by a flash of lightning. At the beginning of the storm he was drinking tea with his wife; the back windows of the one pair of stairs to the South having been open all day he went up for the purpose of shutting them and in the action of lifting up his right arm received the stroke, which tore his coat eight inches in length and four in breadth, whence it entered his right side nearly opposite his heart went through his body and out of the left hip and down his left leg to his buckle, which melted and tore the upper leather of his shoe from the sole. His dog being at that foot was also struck dead after which the lightning penetrated the wainscot and floor of the one pair of stairs and made its way into the front parlour North where it tore the wainscot in a singular manner and went off with an explosion louder than any piece of ordnance. Another account says that he owed his death to a gun being laid across the window placed there to prevent thieves from breaking into the house which on this occasion operated as a conductor for the lightning for at the instant that he was shutting the window he received the electrical fire from the barrel of the gun which he accidentally touched and was immediately struck dead. The violence of the stroke was such that it tore out his intestines and made his body a most shocking spectacle.
Gentleman's Magazine 1787

The Norfolk Chronicle provided some additional, lurid details about the ghastly incident on Saturday 21 July:

The unfortunate Mr. Bacon, who was killed by lightning Lambeth last, owes his death to a gun being laid across the window, placed there to prevent thieves from breaking into the house which on this occasion operated as a conductor for the lightning; for at the instant that he was shutting the window he received the electrical fire from the barrel of the gun, which he accidentally touched, and was immediately struck dead. The violence of the stroke was such that it tore out his intestines, and made his body a most shocking spectacle; he was first discovered by a little girl in the house, who was so terrified as to be unable to explain the cause of her alarm to Mrs. Bacon, who went into the room herself and, in consequence of seeing this dreadful sight, has been at times in fits ever since, and great doubts are entertained whether she will ever recover.

Ball lightning possibly looking for a new bonnet to consume

As well as reporting on the death of William Bacon the Chelmsford Chronicle of Friday 20 July reported on another London household which had its own close call with a wayward electrical discharge:

During the progress of the storm, it was observed, that the lightning struck the earth frequently, and the clouds then made a prodigious discharge. The storm of thunder and lightning which proved so fatal to Mr. Bacon, of Lambeth, on Thursday last, damaged also the houses of Mr. Wood, watchmaker, and Mrs. Ash of Windmill-street, Tottenham Court Road, in a remarkable manner. At Mr. Wood's house the lightning melted the bell wire, and burned the wainscot near it in every room, entirely consumed a new bonnet of Mrs. Wood's just brought home, and lying on the table in the parlour, threw down the plates, one of which it scorched, from the shelves in the kitchen below, tore the plaster from the wall, killed a sparrow that was hopping about in the garden behind the house, and went off through the bell-hole near the door with an explosion like a gun. Although Mr. and Mrs. Wood were surrounded with fire, neither they nor their servants received material injury during this tremendous scene.

The Chelmsford Chronicle also reveals that William Bacon was not the only fatality on the 12th of July:

Mr. Lazenby of Clement's-Inn Passage, tallow chandler, who was standing at his own door on Thursday last, during the thunder and lightning, was in an instant struck and fell into strong convulsions and although every assistance and means of relief was tried, he continued in a state of lunacy, attended with severe strong convulsion fits till yesterday morning, when he expired in all the dreadful agonies of madness.

Sunday 6 November 2016

Dead Man Walking, the Great Explorer's Last Journey; David Livingstone (1813-1873) Westminster Abbey

Livingstone's original gravestone in Westminster Abbey

Livingstone's last epic journey began in early May 1873 at Chief Chitambo's village at Ilala southeast of Lake Bangweulu in Zambia. He endured a trek of over 1400 miles on foot to the Tanzanian coast, arriving at Zanzibar on the 16th February 1874 and from there travelled onto England in relative comfort, his ship docking in London in early April. It had been a journey fraught with danger and difficulties, his African companions were often ill and only walked with difficulty. Within a few days of setting out two of the women died. There were more deaths to come. When the expedition crossed the Luapala river a lion appeared and seized one of the donkeys, dragging it off into the bush never to be seen again. A few days later one of the bearers carelessly picked up a gun after he had been smoking and accidentally discharged it, shooting another bearer in the leg. Later, the exhausted party approached the village of Chawendi where the chief's son was drunk and fired an arrow at them, setting off a pitched battle between Livingstone's men and the villagers which saw casualties on both sides and the village put to the torch. They passed lake Tanganyika and met up with a friendly Arab trading party who gave them news of a relief expedition looking for Livingstone, commanded by Lt Verney Lovett Cameron RN. The two parties finally met on the 20th October. Cameron wanted to carry on into the interior but Livingstone's party was determined to carry on to the coast. Cameron detailed two of his men, Dr Dillon and Lt Murphy to accompany  Livingstone and the two parties went their separate ways. On the 18th November Dr Dillon, ill and unable to deal with the rigours of the journey, shot himself. He was buried and the party moved on and eventually managed to reach the African coast close to Zanzibar.

A sick Livingstone being carried on a litter shortly before his death. After he died and his body had been dried and smoked after the removal of several pounds of internal organs, he would have been a considerably lighter burden for his men.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about this incredible journey was that Livingstone was dead at the time he made it, having passed away on the 1st May 1873, several days before the epic trek began. He had been ill for some time and when his expedition reached Ilala Livingstone had famously died whilst praying. The men responsible for Livingstone's last journey were Abdullah Susi and James Chuma. A young Susi had joined Livingstone's 1863 Zambezi expedition as a woodcutter and then accompanied his master to Bombay where he had been enrolled at school. As an 11 year old Chuma, along with many others from his village, had been captured by Portuguese slave traders and manacled for the journey to the coast to be sold. Luckily the convoy met Livingstone who negotiated with the Portuguese for the release of the slaves. Chuma became one of Livingstone's men, and like Susi was sent to Bombay to be educated. After the explorer's death the two men resolved to take Livingstone's body back to his people after his death. They constructed an open topped hut and removed the heart and internal organs from the corpse and buried them three feet beneath the floor of the hut. They then covered Livingstone's corpse in salt and left it to dry for two weeks in the sun before wrapping it in tar coated canvas and layers of bark. It was then carried during the journey detailed above and surrendered to the British authorities in Zanzibar. Susi and Chuma were paid off by the authorities and dismissed and Jacob Wainwright, Livingstone's rather angelic looking personal servant, chosen to accompany the missionary's corpse back to England.  Wainwright's  good looks and demure manner belied a histrionic streak in his nature and a fondness for alcohol and women that would eventually embarrass his sponsors in England. 

Jacob Wainwright with Livingstone's coffin on board ship, dreaming of his master perhaps, or of booze and loose women? 
Livingstone's body was received in state when it arrived at Southampton in April 1874, the reception included an artillery suite. A special train then transported his revered remains to London where they were received by representatives of the Royal Geographical Society. May God forgive them but the geographers clearly entertained some doubts about whether Susi and Chuma's home made mummy really was Livingstone. A committee was convened and an autopsy carried out by Sir William Fergusson in the presence of several senior members of the society and Livingstone's father-in-law. Opening the coffin they found Livingstone reduced to a four foot long parcel packed in sawdust and wrapped in a horse blanket. The legs had been removed and tucked inside the torso. The body was identified as Livingstone’s on the basis of an old and distinctive fracture visible in the bones of the arms; Livingstone had broken his upper arm when attacked by a lion and had been treated in London by Sir William. The relieved committee allowed the body to lie in state for two days in their Savile Row offices. The £500 bill for the funeral in Westminster Abbey was picked up by the Government though the simple memorial stone was paid for by a well wisher. At the funeral Jacob Wainwright laid a palm leaf on the coffin and had, it was rumoured, to be prevented from throwing himself into the open grave. He consoled himself after the ceremony with good, strong English ale. 


Abdullah Susi and James Chuma did not accompany Livingstone's corpse back to England but did follow on shortly afterwards. They stayed with the Reverend Horace Waller, who was editing Livingstone's 'Last Journals', at the Rectory in Leytonstone where Waller was the vicar. The photo below was taken at Newstead Abbey and shows Tom and Agnes Livingstone, son and daughter of the explorer, Susi on the left and Chuma on the right and Waller seated on the ground.  

The fact that Livingstone was able to make this journey dead raises serious questions about the role of his African companions during the journeys he made when he was alive. The image of the intrepid white explorer striking out into the heart of the dark continent at the head of a column of black bearers and servants is certainly completely inaccurate. The Africans on these expeditions protected their employees, looked after them during their frequent bouts of sickness, negotiated with local tribes, scouted out routes, arranged supplies and generally kept the nominal head of the expedition alive and well. A dead explorer was probably a lot less work for them to travel with than a living one and probably only marginally less useful. For anyone interested Donald Simpson's book “Dark Companions” is a fascinating introduction to the subject.