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The Gray’s Inn Road Fire, or, The Case Against Constable Carter

If you read last week’s article on the fire at 98 Gray’s Inn Road, which broke out early on the morning of the 7th of October 1871, you will remember the brave actions of Joseph Andrew Ford, a fireman, and George Carter, a police constable with the E or Holborn Division.  They rescued six residents of the house, perched on …

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The Gray’s Inn Road Fire, or, The Case For Constable Carter

If you read my article on Frederick Furnivall—it can be accessed here—you will remember the wood engraving of ballast heavers that appeared on the cover of The Cottager and Artisan in October 1863.  The depiction of four sturdy labourers, conveying a wholesome respect for honest toil, is quite simply magnificent.  Standing in front of a bust of their benefactor, the …

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A House in Wandsworth, or, The Life and Death of Henry Stowe Bell

There is a gravestone in the Wandsworth Cemetery that is all too easily overlooked.  The inscription is a simple record of essential details.  The name is Henry Stowe Bell.  The date of death is the 13th of March 1894.  Other than the letters “A. R. S. M” and “F. C. S.” there are no biographical details.  Other than a conventional …

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A Golden Age, or, Alfred Rosling Bennett and the Long Boiler Locomotive

On Monday the 9th of January 1860 Lord Macaulay was buried in Westminster Abbey.  Macaulay is remembered principally as a leading nineteenth-century historian whose writings have won him both admirers and detractors.  He was also a Whig politician, and in this capacity he certainly made his mark.  His health had been in decline for many years, and on the 28th …

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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 1895, when Oscar Wilde had …

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William Turner & Son, or, The Barber of Maiden Lane

We at London Overlooked see it as our raison d’être to search the shadowy corners of the city’s history for the lesser known.  And of all the causes of undeserved obscurity, none can be more poignant than the brilliance of one’s own child.  Which is why we have chosen to write about Turner.  Not about Joseph Mallord William Turner, the painter, …

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The Layton Affair: Part Two

If you read the first part of this story, which we published here last week, you will remember that in January 1848 an unpleasant incident occurred at the Whitechapel workhouse involving a woman by the name of Margaret Layton.  Margaret, who was of African heritage, had come to England from Saint Helena, where she had once been enslaved.  She had …

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The Layton Affair: Part One

If you read my recent two-part article on the trial of the six navvies in January 1848—they were driven by extreme hunger to steal a loaf of bread in Marylebone—you will remember that Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper made some trenchant points about the case.  In particular Lloyd’s argued that the problem of crime was exacerbated by the failure of the …

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Beware Poisonous Mushrooms, or, A Grave Warning from Mitcham

On Monday the 10th of October 1808 William Atwood headed off early to Mitcham Common to forage for mushrooms.  William worked as a wood block cutter for one of the many calico printers along the River Wandle, and he lived with his wife Elizabeth and their four young daughters just outside the village of Mitcham, which is now in the …

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Voice of my Heart, or, The Story of Frederick Nicholls Crouch

If you read my piece on the composer Henry Rowley Bishop, you will remember that his most famous melody started life as a song in the opera Clari, or, The Maid of Milan.  That song is the lovely “Home, Sweet Home”.  The opera was given its first London performance in 1823 at Covent Garden, and it enjoyed great popularity and …