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A Young Father, or, Shocking Immorality in the Pentonville Road

On Wednesday the 23rd of March 1870 regular visitors to the Thames Police Court in Arbour Street in Stepney witnessed the sadly common sight of a young woman bringing a summons for support against the father of her illegitimate child.  Like Mr Franklin Lushington, the attending magistrate, they no doubt sat back waiting for the usual story of seduction and betrayal, …

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The Whistling Oyster of Vinegar Yard

Behind the Theatre Royal in the Covent Garden area of London there was once a narrow court called Vinegar Yard.  All that remains of it now is a passage entered through an arched gateway.  But there was a time when you could walk through Vinegar Yard from Drury Lane to what was then Bridges Street or Brydges Street.  And it …

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A Phoenix at Eventide, or, The Story of William Henry Monk

This is the story of William Henry Monk.  He was a professor of music, and, if perhaps his name is not familiar to you, a melody he composed in a moment of inspiration most certainly will be.  But it is also the story of his daughter Florence—full name Florence Emily Caroline Monk—who unwittingly provided that inspiration.  But you are warned …

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John Willis of Seven Dials, or, The Stuff of London Legend

If you read our recent post on Grip, the raven much beloved of Charles Dickens, you will remember that it was removed from the writer’s home on its demise in March 1841 in a covered basket, and was returned stuffed, in a rather fine glass-fronted “rustic” case.  In other words, it had been taken to a taxidermist.  Sadly, we have …

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Cochrane’s Calculator, or, The Story of Edward Leyden

If you read my earlier post on the work of the National Philanthropic Association, you will know that it was a charitable institution founded in 1842 by Charles Cochrane.  The principal object of the enterprise was to keep the streets of London clean, but it went on to run a soup kitchen in Leicester Square, and a refuge, the Mount …

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A Short Fuse, or, Robert Milnes Newton and the London Fireworks Brigade

On the 8th of November 1886, which was a Monday,  a raggle-taggle mob of youthful defendants found themselves in the dock at the police court in Great Marlborough Street, just off Oxford Street.  The magistrate presiding over the proceedings was Robert Milnes Newton.  You may well recognise the name from the infamous trial of February 1865, when Oscar Wilde had …

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Haunted by Sadness, or, Is 50 Berkeley Square London’s most Ghost-Ridden House?

50 Berkeley Square would appear to be an unlikely location for the most haunted house in London.  This elegant Mayfair townhouse on the west side of the square certainly does not look from the outside as if it would be troubled by disturbed spirits.  Its reputation is probably connected to the popularity of haunted house stories in nineteenth century newspapers—for …

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The Witch of Moorgate

In 1821 Mary Calder, an elderly widow, inhabited a house in New Court, just off Moor Lane. Renting out the first and second floors, she kept the ground floor or parlour floor for her own use, and supplemented her income by taking in washing.  Her lodgers on the first floor were a Mrs Walcot and her attractive and lively young …

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The Haunted Houses of Stamford Street

Mid-nineteenth century London, just south of the river in Southwark.  As darkness falls, a crowd gathers hoping to see the ghostly apparition that haunts an unoccupied run-down building on the south side of Stamford Street, near the junction with Blackfriars Road.  Through the broken windows can be seen the shape of a woman, sometimes even of two, flitting through the …

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The Hound of Fish Street Hill

You may recall a recent post of mine concerning a missionary and his dog.  Well, here is another little story in which the protagonist is once again a dog of quite extraordinary character.  The source of the story is the quaint collection of anecdotes put together by Edward Jesse, for whom see the same earlier post.  Although he had many …