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The Poor Brothers: Part Two

If you read last week’s article you will remember how the philanthropic Martin Ware took a poor young Londoner by the name of Edward Connor under his wing.  Edward was an Irish Catholic, and Ware, a teacher at the Brunswick Street Ragged School, and a man of stern Christian principles, exercised forbearance as well as compassion in his dealings with …

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The Poor Brothers: Part One

If you have read my occasional pieces on the boys of the Shoeblack Society, of which the most recent can be found here, then the name of Martin Ware will be familiar to you.  Ware, a barrister by profession, devoted himself to the welfare of those who were growing up on the very margins of society.  Fired by his strong …

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What’s That Under the Sofa? or, The Maid and her Lover

On Monday the 27th of May 1872 James Fisher began the nightly ritual of checking that his house at 90 Sandringham Road in Hackney Downs was securely locked.  At quarter past eleven he entered the breakfast parlour, where only a few hours before the family had eaten supper, and heard what appeared to be a low snore.  He tutted in …

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The Quality of Light, or, The Art of Karl Heffner

If you read our article on Nikolai Astrup, which can be found here, you will remember that the Norwegian painter came to London early in 1908 on a sort of creative sabbatical.  Among the works he noted in the capital’s galleries were paintings in the Victoria and Albert Museum by Karl Heffner, a name one does not now hear that …

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The Strange Story of Walter Stephen Thompson: Part Three

If you have been following the story of the attempted poisoning of the Reverend Chichester Reade by his servant, Walter Stephen Thompson, who was only fourteen years old, you will remember that suspicion fell on a bottle of tartarised antimony.  The boy, it was alleged, had mixed several ounces of the powerful emetic in a bottle of his master’s brandy. …

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The Strange Story of Walter Stephen Thompson: Part Two

In last week’s post we saw how a tense relationship between a north London clergyman, Chichester Reade, and a young servant, Walter Stephen Thompson, took a dangerous turn for the worse.  Thompson, harbouring some sort of grudge against his master, had made threatening noises about killing him with his own pistol.  In the event, though, it was not a bullet …

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The Strange Story of Walter Stephen Thompson: Part One

On Wednesday the 6th of March 1872, at an early hour, a man in his mid thirties, respectably dressed, walked into the railway station at Tottenham in north London with a young boy trailing behind him.  He bought a third-class ticket, which he handed to the boy.  He then waited with his companion for the train from Bishopsgate, the London …

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The Modern Jack Sheppard, or, A Most Determined Young Ruffian

After eighty-eight days at sea the convict ship Lord Raglan sailed into port at Fremantle in Western Australia.  The crew and the guards and the accompanying wives and children looked forward to the freedom of life on land after what had been an exhausting journey.  Then the crew would return to England, while the guards, who were mostly military veterans, would remain …

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The Story of Walk On Jenkins and Slogger Ward

If you read my recent piece on butcher’s boys you will remember the name of Alfred Rosling Bennett, an electrical engineer who published reminiscences of the London he remembered as a child in the 1850s and 1860s.  Bennett was a man of many parts.  As well as making important advances in his chosen field, with a number of impressive patents …

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Staring Death in the Face, or, The Atrocious Attack on William Day

If you read our article on the wolf that escaped from the menagerie in the Strand—the menagerie on the upper floors of Exeter Change—then you will certainly have felt sorry for William Day.  He was the trunk-maker living next door to Exeter Change, and it was his premises the fugitive wolf entered through a skylight on a stormy morning in …