View Post

Caroline Crachami, or, The Sad Story of The Sicilian Dwarf

Had you been walking down New Bond Street in the year 1824, then at no. 23, which stood at the corner of Conduit Street, a sign inviting you to visit the “Naturorama” might have caught your eye.  And had you put your hand in your pocket, you would have gained access to an inner room with seventeen dioramas displaying model …

View Post

Horror in the Strand

If you have read our earlier post on Edward Cross, you will remember that he was the proprietor of a menagerie in Regency London.  The menagerie, which perched on the upper floors of Exeter Change in the Strand, had many remarkable features.  None, though, was more remarkable than its resident elephant. The elephant—Chuny or Chunee—had originally been imported from Kolkata, …

View Post

A Mysterious Death in Balham: Charles Bravo and the Housemaid

The place was Sussex.  The year was 1894.  Mary Ann Hills, née Keeber, a forty-two-year-old mother of two young children, Maud and Reginald, lay dying.  And, as her marriage had been spent in cemetery lodges, death had played a greater part in her life than in most.  Her husband had plied his trade as a cemetery superintendent, seeing almost daily …

View Post

The Not-So-Artful Dodger: Cornelius Ahern

On a chilly March evening in 1849 a young man aged nineteen was making his way along the Edgware Road in Marylebone.  He was small, and of medium build.  He had dark hair and an oval face with a fresh complexion.  His eyes were grey, and they were peering keenly through the dark.  His name was Cornelius Ahern, and he …

View Post

The German Siffleur, or, The Life and Times of Herr von Joel

In September 1832 a group of London friends decided to spend a few days in Margate.  They were variously gentlemen and tradesmen, all living in the Manchester Square area of Marylebone.  On a cloudy but mild Monday morning they went down to the steam packet wharf just below London Bridge in Lower Thames Street in time to catch the William …

View Post

The Adventure of the Light-Fingered Clerk

Although Mrs Jane Carolan had not wanted to take a lodger, at least it was some comfort to her that the young man occupying a room in her house at 16 Union Road in Clapham was respectable.  A solicitor’s clerk, he was always well-dressed, and he seemed intent on self-improvement, if the large number of library books he borrowed was …

View Post

A Marked Man, or, The Death of Samuel Carlton

The year is 1836, the last year of the reign of William IV, and the sunset of the Georgian era.  The month is March, and the day is the 3rd—a cold and cloudy Thursday.  The setting is the workhouse in Lambeth in Surrey, where one of the inmates has just died. Ordinarily the death of a workhouse pauper would pass without …

View Post

Distant Memories of Calcutta, or, The Strange Story of George Nyleve

On 12 July 1821 at the church of St Marylebone, just south of Regent’s Park, a George Evelyn married a Mary Jane Massy-Dawson. Evelyn was a remarkable man.  He had fought at Waterloo, receiving a severe wound during the defence of the Château d’Hougoumont, when a shot fired through a hole in an old gate hit his left arm.  He …

View Post

Topping, or, The Real Life of Charles Dickens’s Cockney Servant

One of Charles Dickens’s liveliest characters—a character drawn with unerring precision and a sharp ear for idiosyncrasies of language—never made it into his novels.  Instead, he occupies an honourable place in the great writer’s personal correspondence.  Unlike Bill Sykes, or Stephen Blackpool, or Sam Weller—more of Sam Weller later—he was real.  He was a servant, and his name was William …

View Post

Dirty, Dishonest and Badly Behaved: Sophia Jarvis, Victorian Maid

On Friday 19th December 1862 a small, emaciated, ragged young woman came to the gatehouse of the Mitcham Industrial School and asked to be admitted.  It was with some surprise that Mrs Charlotte Cuttress, the porter’s wife, heard that the girl was called Sophia Jarvis.  Sophia, a former pupil, had gone into service over a year ago with a very respectable …