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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 …

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Men Behaving Badly at the Bloomer Ball

London nightlife on Wednesday the 29th of October 1851 did not glitter quite as brightly as it did during the Season, when the great and the good graced the capital.  While the Queen had repaired to Windsor Castle, and other members of high society to their country houses, the pleasures of the metropolis were the preserve of more ordinary folk.  …

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A Star Shining over the Sea, or, The Moving Story of Greta Williams

If you read our earlier piece on Charles Henry Kelly, you will remember that he escaped an incident at sea after warnings of a supernatural nature.  He had been about to cross the Channel on board the SS Hilda, but decided not to at the eleventh hour, for reasons known really only to himself.  Strangely, there is a tradition that the …

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Anonymous Letters from an Artist’s Model

One day in the summer of 1875 a postman approached 21 Wilton Crescent, a tall thin property in London’s Belgravia.  Among the contents of his postbag was a well-sealed package marked for the attention of a Thomas Thornycroft. With an exasperated sigh Thornycroft took the package from the postman.  He then perused the accompanying note, in which the Superintendent of …

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Nikolai Astrup in London, or, A Norwegian Painter Dreaming of Home

Nikolai Astrup is not a name we hear very often.  And yet the Norwegian artist, who died in 1928, produced a body of work that makes him of more than passing interest.  His paintings and woodcuts of the mountains and fields of his native land are imbued with an idiosyncratic vision and an unusual intensity of feeling.  Among the artists …

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The Cradle and the Coffin, or, The Sadness of Elizabeth Brewer

If you read my recent account of the crimes of Elizabeth Brewer, who stole boots from little children, you will remember that I promised that the name would come up again shortly.  Well, it is about to.  For the story I am now going to tell also concerns an Elizabeth Brewer.  However, the two Elizabeths are not the same.  Whereas …