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Undesirable or Unlucky Maid? Lucy Constable and the Walworth Robbery

On the 24th of February 1856 an anguished cry for help echoed around Sutherland Square in Walworth, disturbing the peace of a Sunday evening, when the good folk of the neighbourhood were either at church or occupied with suitable sabbath activities.  Rushing from their houses they found a young maidservant bleeding profusely from her neck and hand and begging for …

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The Duchess’s Wolf, or, A Strange Story from the Strand

The morning of the 2nd of March in the year 1820—a Thursday just weeks into the reign of George IV—was a stormy one in London.  Between five and six o’clock in the morning the wind began to blow with great violence from the north west.  As darkness lifted the wind grew stronger, until it was gusting enough to inflict damage …

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On Thin Ice, or, The Pleasures and Perils of Winter in the Parks

Readers who enjoy their Dickens will remember Mr Pickwick sliding on the ice at Dingley Dell.  Hablot Knight Browne—“Phiz”—illustrated the scene in the 1837 edition of the novel, and, although his was only the first of many interpretations of this memorable episode, it has never really been surpassed.  Pickwick used to slide “on the gutters” when he was a boy, …

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Chocks Away, or, The Great Race of Eighteen Seventy-One

There is a remarkable picture in the issue of the Graphic published on the 8th of July 1871.  The scene is dominated by a flock of birds streaming up into the sky from a building of vast dimensions, which on closer inspection turns out to be the Crystal Palace in Sydenham.  The dwarfing of the distant structure by the birds …

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A Criminal Converted, or, The Story of Ned Wright

In February 1894 three disreputable young men from Whitechapel were put on trial at the Old Bailey.  They had been caught one night on the roof of the Abbey Mills Distillery in West Ham Lane in Stratford, busily stealing ten hundredweight of lead.  A police constable, who had climbed about thirty feet up on to the roof, confronted the thieves.  …

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A Constable Caught in his Cups, or, The Story of William Kitchen

There is an amusing story about a young London policeman that was a given a short paragraph in a couple of newspapers in 1872.  His name was William Kitchen, and he was in his early twenties.  He was a constable in C Division, which was charged with keeping the Queen’s Peace in and around St James’s. In fact to describe Kitchen …

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Warning Words to the Wise, or, The Strange Story of Charles Henry Kelly

In the year 1883 a large detached house on the north side of Wandsworth Common was occupied by the Kellys.  They were a family of four, and prosperous enough to have two domestic servants.  Charles Henry Kelly, originally from Salford in what was then Lancashire, was forty-nine years old.  His wife Eleanor, who came from Sheffield, was forty-one.  With them …

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The Mysterious Miss Muir: Actress and Model or Soldier and Thief?

Tuesday March the 5th 1889, and a fashionably dressed young man was to be found in the region of the Royal Victoria and Albert Docks treating some sailors to a drink in exchange for their inside knowledge about ships that would shortly be sailing to the antipodes.  With the information provided he looked for stewards on two separate vessels and offered …

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The Walworth Tragedy: Were the Bacons Guilty?

On Sunday the 28th of December 1856 Thomas Fuller Bacon and his wife Martha set out from their house at no. 4 Four Acre Street in Walworth to visit relatives in Mile End.  They were not Londoners, and had moved from Stamford in Lincolnshire only a few months before.  They arrived at the house of William and Harriet Payne—Harriet was Thomas’s …

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The Thieves’ Missionary, or, The Story of Thomas Lupton Jackson

On the evening of the 27th of July 1848—a Thursday—a remarkable meeting took place in one of the less hospitable corners of the capital.  The venue was in Darby Street in Whitechapel, in a house that by day served as a Ragged School for the local Irish population.  And those attending the meeting were just about as extraordinary a group …