Thursday, 26 November 2020

Toast Of The Town; Thomas King (1694-1737) St Paul's churchyard, Covent Garden

The parish register of births, marriages and deaths of St Paul’s in Covent Garden records the burial of one ‘Thomas King, from Hampstead’ on the 11th of October 1737. The newspapers recorded his passing in a short notice of just a couple of sentences; 

Derby Mercury 13 October 1737
With admirable alacrity an anonymous satirical design for his monument was on sale at sixpence in the print shops of St Martins Lane and Long Acre little more than a week after his funeral. The proposed memorial featured a statue of Tom dressed in an unbuttoned frock coat, reclining on an upturned punch bowl, his left arm propped up on the punch ladle. At his feet with arms upraised kneels the grieving figure of Black Betty, one of the coffee shops better known serving wenches. On the base of the memorial a panel shows a typical night scene in Covent Garden; in front of St Paul’s church two men fence, one with a sword and one with a staff, a woman tries to hold back the swordsman and in the back ground the night watch approach at a trot, presumably to arrest the two brawlers. Prints of this sort are always crammed with telling details. Figures of a drunken rake and a weeping whore stand either side of the main memorial. Behind it a stone pyramid carries the epitaph  "To ye Memory of their kind father T:K[in]g his loving Daughters D[ougla]s & Molly St[uar]t & Betty C[areless] Erect ye Monument", garlanded with lighted candles, smoking pipes and tobacco leaves. A banner at the top of the memorial reads ’coffee, tea and chocolate’ and a coat of arms shows Bacchus and a naked Venus and Cupid holding a shield with three cats surmounted by a cock mating with a hen bearing the motto ‘To Kiss & Scratch’. The print contained three columns of verse dedicated to the passing of the coffee shop proprietor and includes the lines:

….real grief declares, Tom’s Gone
For thee all bawds, all pimps lament
From every Bagnio sighs are sent
No form no outward show they seek
Their very looks their sorrows speak


In his 1866 survey of the ‘Club Life of London’ John Timbs notes that King’s was “one of the old night-houses of Covent Garden Market: ‘it was a rude shed immediately beneath the portico of St. Paul's Church, and was one "well known to all gentlemen to whom beds are unknown." Fielding in one of his Prologues says: "What rake is ignorant of King's Coffee-house?"’… It is in the background of Hogarth's print of Morning, where the prim maiden lady, walking to church, is soured with seeing two fuddled beaux from King's Coffee-house caressing two frail women. At the door there is a drunken row, in which swords and cudgels are the weapons. Tom ran his coffee house with his wife, the infamous Moll whose anonymous biography, a 25-page pamphlet called the “Life and Character of Moll King”, is the main source of information on the couple. In The First Bohemians Vic Gattrell says:

In its time, the Kings’ was the best known of all the dives in Covent Garden, a pick-up place though not technically a brothel.  The only bed available was Tom and Moll's own bed in the loft, and when they went to sleep they pulled up the ladder. Couples who met there went to bagnios to conclude their business. Yet it was the Kings' enterprise that by the 1740s helped shift the location of upmarket sexual commerce from Drury Lane to the Piazza.”

According to the Life Tom King went to school at Eton and being expelled for some serious but unnamed misdemeanour became a waiter in a Covent Garden bawdy-house where he met Moll. She was the daughter of a St Giles’ cobbler whose mother peddled fruit and vegetables in the market. Moll started her working life as a barrow girl for her mother who had “several sweethearts before she was 14 years old.” Her inevitable seduction by a young gentleman led to sharing her favours with other young blades and eventually to a stint as a street walker in the company of the famous Sally Salisbury. When she met Tom in the 1720’s the couple contracted a Fleet Street Marriage (without benefit of clergy) and set up their market shed to sell coffee, tea and chocolate. The bill of fare at the Kings was less important than its role as a nocturnal assignation place for rakes and whores. It also attracted artistic clients including Hogarth;

According to J.T. Smith, a ‘large and spirited drawing in red chalk by Captain Laroon exhibiting the inside of Moll King’s’ hung in Horace Walpole’s house at Strawberry Hill (now lost), Smith also reported that he had been told by Benjamin West, Reynolds’s successor as the Academy’s president, who had it in turn from Hogarth’s friend Francis Hayman, that one night while Hogarth and Hayman were drinking at the King’, Hogarth noticed ‘two ladies whose dispute bespake a warm contest’ – women of he town, of course, “and, at last, one of them, who had taken a mouthful of wine or gin, squirted it in the other’s fae, which so delighted the artist, that he exclaimed “Frank, mind the b----‘s mouth!”’, Hogarth at once sketched the disagreement in his notebook and in 1735 resurrected it as an element in the Rake’s orgy in the Rose tavern.  (Gattrell p103.)  

Following Tom’s death in 1737 Moll successfully ran a series of bawdy houses despite the continual attentions of the authorities to her business and her person. When she retired she married a Mr Hoff and built three houses at Haverstock Hill. She died in 1747. 


Sunday, 22 November 2020

A place of worship for the 'very destitute and degraded' people of Barkingside; Holy Trinity churchyard, Mossford Green


The first burial in the churchyard in the present register took place in 1840. By an unfortunate oversight, the earlier burials seem to have been mostly in the part of the churchyard near the road, and thus, as the pariah increases, the finer and more ornamental tombs have had to be placed at the back of the church. Could the position have been reversed, and the finest tombs placed near the road, the appearance of the church from the Vicarage and from the road would have been more pleasing, for some of these tombs are among the prettiest works of art in the parish, which is not perhaps saying much for the aesthetic taste of local builders. The parish church was built at a bad period -1840- and its style is a somewhat corrupt kind of Norman. There is a striking difference between this building and the real Norman - take for instance St. Bartholomew the Great at Smithfield.  After all it has a simple effect, and after London smoke, visitors from town admire its cleanly cream colour and simple decoration, Perhaps, as the Twentieth Century advances. and the true principle, of "art as the hand maid of religion," become more fully realised, it will be made more worthy of its position. Internally, also, it lacks architectural beauty.

Essex Guardian - Saturday 11 April 1903

Holy Trinity, Barkingside is the sort of building Pevsner inevitably had something disparaging to say about. If I could find my copy of the ‘Buildings of England – Essex’ I would tell you what it was but I seem to have mislaid it somewhere. The anonymous author of the 1903 Essex Guardian series ‘Where Ilford Goes on Sunday’ (to church of course, where else?) reckoned that the parish “has such an interesting history that the trouble is not how a find sufficient material, but how to confine the facts at our disposal into the limited space one article. Barkingside Parish Church, or Holy Trinity, Barkingside, to give it its full title, is a fine old edifice, standing in the middle of the parish. It was built nearly sixty years ago, and has a seating accommodation for about four hundred people. The outer walls of the edifice are almost hidden from view by the mass of ivy which has clung around it.” The ivy has gone and the ‘fine old edifice’ of 60 years is now 180 and has had a couple of facelifts. One added a chancel in 1898 and the vestries were added sometime last century. The churchyard was the only burial ground in the parish until 1923 when a new cemetery was opened next door to serve the growing community. I came here looking for the grave of the rather intriguing Reverend Wladislav Somerville Lach-Szyrma who was vicar of Holy Trinity from 1890 until his death in 1915 but despite the small size of the churchyard and the large size of his grave stone I was completely unable to locate it. I required a second visit and the help of the current vicar to finally track it down – but that is a story for another day.  

Thanks to the residents of Ilford who had written to the church commissioners in 1838, requesting that a new church be built for the ‘very destitute and degraded’ people of Barkingside, Edward Blore’s yellow brick ‘corrupt kind of Norman’ church was built in 1839-40 replacing an earlier church or chapel that was marked on maps as Mosfoot Parish Church. The oldest headstone in the churchyard carries the date 1790. Barkingside was a very rural parish, quite outside the ambit of the capital, for most of the 19th century; in 1876 James Thorne said the village was “merely a gathering of a few small houses along a crossroad, and a few others by a scrubby green; the inhabitants are chiefly engaged in agriculture.” He only noticed its existence because 3 years earlier Dr Barnado had been given the lease of Mossford Lodge as a wedding present and had opened his first home for girls there. The growth of the Barnado’s estate of children’s homes seems to have acted as a catalyst for more general growth in the area. In 1903 Barkingside Station, which is now on the Central Line, was opened by the Great Eastern railway. Memorials to the dead children of Barnado’s and to victims of railway accidents are both features of the churchyard.  

BARKINGSIDE. The Church and Unbaptized Children — Some unpleasantness was caused in Barkingside a few days since by the refusal of the Vicar (Rev. N. Perkins) to bury the unbaptised child of James Vince. The child was eleven months old. Through the intervention of friend of Vince’s, the Rev. W. Stepney, of Ilford, undertook to officiate, and he conducted a funeral service in the Methodist Free Church, and completed the service at the graveside.

Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 27 September 1889

When the Reverend Perkins wasn’t refusing to bury unbaptised children his illiterate sexton was getting himself into trouble for burying still born babies without a proper death certificate after accepting a scribbled note on a scrap of paper from an unlicensed midwife as sufficient authority to carry out the interment:

A WARNING TO SEXTONS. - In consequence of some irregularities in the burial of a child at Barkingside, an inquest was held at the Maypole Inn, Barkingside, on Wednesday before Mr. C. C. Lewis, upon the body of a child named Cross, aged five days, son of Thomas Cross, a labourer. The father stated that his wife was delivered of twins on the 5th inst. (Monday), and was attended by Mrs. Staff (midwife). One of the children died on the following day, and the deceased died on Saturday. The body of the former was delivered to F. Linsell (the Sexton at Barkingside Churchyard) by the witness on Wednesday evening, and by him buried. Linsell asked witness for a certificate, and he gave him the piece of paper produced. This had written on it, "Baby died 5th August, 1889. Mrs. Staff." Julia Staff stated that the deceased was seized with a fit and died in a short time. Mr. W. J. Beer, surgeon, said the general appearances indicated death from convulsions. The Jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence. The Sexton (Linsell) attended before the Coroner, and expressed his regret for what had taken place respecting the burial of the first child, saying he was new to the duties, but he would take care that such a thing did not occur again. He quite understood that it was a stillborn child, and, being unable to read, he did not know what the purport of the paper handed to him was. The Coroner pointed out to Linsell the requirements of the Act in regard to the burial of stillborn children.

Barking, East Ham & Ilford Advertiser, Upton Park and Dagenham Gazette - Saturday 17 August 1889

There is a newer memorial in Barkingside Cemetery next door which at least carries the names of all of the deceased children:

In the Parish Churchyard, Barkingside, a monument was unveiled to the memory of 320 children of Dr. Barnardo's Village Homes interred there.

Essex Chronicle 1910

ILFORD MAN MUTILATED BY A TRAIN AT WEELEY. A fatal accident occurred to Mr. Thomas Fountain, of Barkingside, llford, at Weeley, on the Tendring Hundred branch of the Great Eastern Railway, on Monday evening. The unfortunate gentleman, who, with his partner, Mr. R. Roberts, of Barkingside, was constantly travelling on the line at this period of the year to purchase root crops, was hurriedly making his way to the station in order to catch the last train which was due. The deceased attempted to walk over the level crossing, in spite of his companion's dissuasions, to reach the up platform, although had he gone on the footbridge it would have been more expeditious. Mr. Roberts, who was some little distance behind, did not see what occurred, and thought his partner was safely on the train. Being unable find him, he called to Mr Rowan, the station master, who, on looking behind the train, saw the body of Mr. Fountain in a terribly mutilated condition, it having been carried a distance of several yards. The body was removed to the outhouse of the Railway Tavern, and about £10 were found in the pockets of the clothing. Mr. Fountain leaves a widow and family, he was about 55 years age. The inquest was held the Railway Hotel, Weeley, on Wednesday, by Mr. J. Harrison, coroner. Mr John Fountain, of White's Farm, Ilford, identified the deceased as his brother. He was dealer and farmer, and was a little near sighted, but was not deaf. Samuel Crowe driver of the train, stated that he did not feel the engine strike anything, and was not aware of the accident until he was informed at, St. Botolph's station. Police-Constable Skipper produced the property found on the deceased, which included £6 in gold coins. The jury returned a verdict of  Accidental death, but added a recommendation that the bridge should be moved to the other end of the station. The Foreman said that not one person in twenty went over the bridge. He himself had only used it once.  A Juror is said to have seen children crawl underneath goods trains. The Coroner said would forward the recommendation to the proper quarter.

Chelmsford Chronicle - Friday 04 December 1896

On Saturday afternoon Mr. Thomas Fountain, of Barkingside, who was accidentally killed on the railway at Weeley, was buried in the parish churchyard, Barkingside. There was a large attendance of the inhabitants; and the ceremony was conducted by the Rev. W. S. Lach-Szyrma (vicar), who gave appropriate address.

Barking, East Ham & Ilford Advertiser, Upton Park and Dagenham Gazette - Saturday 12 December 1896

Friday, 13 November 2020

Rhubarb & Arsenic, a cautionary tale; The unfortunate end of the Hickman family of Kensal New Town (St Lukes, Chelsea)

Thomas Hickman, who was thirty-three years of age, was originally a glass-worker, but for the last seven years he had been a constable of the metropolitan police, D division, which force he quitted about three months since, and since then has supported himself by carting home washed linen for laundresses, who abound in that locality [Kensal New Town]. On Sunday last they prepared a piece of baked mutton for dinner, with the addition of a rhubarb pie, to which they all sat down about two o'clock, and, as is the custom with many families of the poorer classes, they partook first of the rhubarb pie before the meat.

Morning Post - Friday 04 June 1847

In the late 1830’s London’s urban sprawl arrived at the open fields of North Kensington, on the far side of the Grand Union Canal and to the east of the new cemetery at Kensal Green. Middle Row in what was grandly called Kensal New Town was a new street of jerry-built cottages and laundries with West Row and East Rows to either side, Southern Row to the south and Kensal Road to the north. A set of two room cottages given the glorified name of Penton Villas was, in 1847, the home of the Hickman family. The 33-year-old patriarch was Thomas, a former policeman who now made his living by delivering laundry. He was married to Harriet and they had 6 children, 12-year-old Thomas, James who was 10, Harriet, 6, 4-year-old Mary Ann, John, 3, and 16-month-old Henry. At the end of May Harriet’s unmarried sister Caroline Bonamay, having just lost her situation as a live-in servant and with, for the moment, nowhere else to go, came to live with the family temporarily. 

The burial register of St Lukes showing the entries for the Hickmans on 04 June 1847

On Sunday 30 May the two sisters prepared a traditional Sunday lunch for the family of baked mutton and rhubarb pudding. Caroline took it upon herself to light the fire and not having any kindling, she rummaged through the kitchen cupboard and found a nearly empty bag of flour. As there was a second, much fuller bag of flour in the cupboard, she emptied the contents of the first bag into the second, noticing as she did so that the flour from the first was much whiter and finer. She meant to mention this to her sister but as she busied herself using the now empty flour bag to get the fire going, she forgot all about it. The dinner was duly prepared and at lunchtime the family sat down at the table to consume it, pudding first, as was apparently the habit of the lower classes.  The rhubarb pudding was demolished in short order but the mutton was never touched because as soon as the last of the pudding had been eaten the family started to feel unwell. Thomas Hickman went out into the yard and over to the railings surrounding the house of his neighbour Ann Sullivan.  Mrs Sullivan assumed that he had come to deliver the slice of rhubarb pudding he had promised her children earlier that day but instead Thomas begged for her help as he said the family had been taken ill. She went round to the Hickman’s cottage where she found them all in a very bad way indeed. She wasted no time in running to fetch Mr Abercrombie a local surgeon who came back to the house with her and immediately suspected poisoning on being told that the whole family had felt unwell after eating the pudding.

Mr Abercrombie quizzed the family about who had had access to the flour before the pudding was made and the pudding itself before it was boiled. No one but the family he was told. The question about the flour jogged Caroline’s memory and she finally mentioned that she had put something into the pudding supposing it to be flour. When she added that she had taken it out of the kitchen cupboard Harriet turned to her husband and said “Hickman, it must be some of the white powders you keep about in the house.” Her husband replied “Oh, then it is Nitrate of Silver”. Mr Abercrombie thought not, nitrate of silver is highly corrosive and was not likely to the substance responsible for the poisoning. “Then it must be the white arsenic,” Thomas said, adding that he thought it had been thrown away years ago. Mr Abercrombie briefly considered using a stomach pump to treat the family but decided that his apparatus was likely to become clogged and ineffective with lumps of half-digested rhubarb and pastry. He settled for a simple emetic; Thomas insisted on the children being treated first and himself last. Despite Abercrombie’s best efforts one of the boys died in the afternoon and Thomas and four of the other children all died within a short space of time just after midnight. Only Harriet and Caroline and 12-year-old Thomas survived.

Cottages in East Row, Kensal New Town similar to the Hickman's in Middle Row

THE POISONINGS AT KENSAL NEW TOWN additional particulars. The intense interest excited throughout the neighbour- hood of Kensal New Town, Kensal-green, &c, by the above unfortunate and melancholy occurrence, appears not to have in the slightest degree diminished, large numbers of persons having, from early yesterday morning, congregated in the front of the Penton Vilas, until late last evening, anxiously inquiring as to the state of the survivors, and discussing the circumstances connected with the tragical affair. The wretched state of the survivors of the family, pressed down by the effects of the poison they had swallowed, the loss of so many members, and of their natural protectors, induced the medical gentlemen attending them, to make a strong representation to the parochial authorities of St. Luke, Chelsea, on their behalf, which we are happy to say, was most warmly responded to by the parish officers, who immediately despatched Mr. Bush, the relieving-officer, who visited the cottage on Monday evening, and gave directions for their having everything that their destitute and weakened state required. No case has for a long time occurred in which the sympathy of the benevolent is more called forth than in the present, where six out of nine members of a family have been removed by the hand of death, and the remaining three, who have been reduced almost to death's- door, have no funds out of which to inter their deceased relatives, who must consequently be buried by the parish. Yesterday morning, in accordance with a warrant issued on the previous day, by Mr. Wakley, the Coroner for the western division of Middlesex, a post mortem examination of the bodies of Thomas Hickman, the father, and James Bonamey Hickman, the second son, was performed by Mr. Brown, the surgeon, of Kensal-green, assisted by, and in the presence of, Mr. Abercrombie, the surgeon who was first called in, Dr. Chowne, lecturer on medical jurisprudence at Charing-cross Hospital, Dr. Robert Barnes, of Notting- hill, a medical friend of Mr. Abercrombie, and Mr. Brown's assistant. The operation was performed in the front room of the cottage (which consists of only two rooms) in which all the six dead bodies were lying.

Morning Post - Wednesday 02 June 1847

Thomas Wakley the Middlesex Coroner (and founding editor of The Lancet) opened his inquiry at the Portobello Arms on Tuesday 01 June. After swearing in the jury he told them that “the affair was such an awful one, that it would require a few days for consideration, in order that a proper and cool inquiry might be made into the matter.” He ordered further post mortems to be carried out on the rest of the family and told the jury that they would be going to see the bodies that morning and once that had been done the inquest would be adjourned for a week. According to the Morning Post the jury “then proceeded to the cottage to view the bodies. The sight was a peculiarly distressing one. They were all lying in the front room, the father on a stump bedstead, the second son was lying on a deal table under the window, and the rest in other parts of the room. The Jury appeared much affected at the sight of a father and five children, all cut off within 22 hours.” The following day Mr Abercrombie carried out the additional post mortems requested by Coroner Wakley and on Friday June 4 the five deceased members of the Hickman family were all buried at St Lukes in Chelsea:

The funeral of the five children and their father, Thomas Hickman, took place yesterday morning, in the burial-ground of Chelsea New Church. Mrs. Hickman's mother, Mrs. Hickman's two sisters, including the unfortunate Caroline Bonamy, and one or two friends, followed the remains to the grave

London Evening Standard - Saturday 05 June 1847

Mr Wakley’s inquest was reconvened the following week and came to the following conclusion:

The Coroner examined the witnesses as to the terms on which Mr. and Mrs. Hickman lived, and with a view to ascertain whether at any time threats had been used by any member of the family. Having satisfied himself on these points, he went carefully through the evidence, expressing his conviction that the death of Hickman and hii family had been caused by the arsenic which had thoughtlessly been left about, but that Mrs. Hickman and Caroline Bo- namy were totally ignorant of its nature when they mixed it up with the flour of which the pudding was composed. The Jury unhesitatingly returned a verdict to that effect.

Morning Post - Thursday 10 June 1847