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William Herring, or, Charles Dickens and the Medical Man of Quickset Row

Readers of this blog with a keen eye for all things Dickensian will recall that the great writer’s ailing pet raven, Grip, was treated and quite possibly killed by a local veterinarian.  He fed the wretched bird quantities of castor oil, which may well have hastened its end.  However, we should not for that reason overlook the veterinarian, because he …

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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 …

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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 …

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Moonlight on the Stairs, or, A North London Story

You may recall meeting Richard Rowe in two of our recent posts, namely Lighting up the Lives of Londoners and Castles in the Air.  Rowe was the Methodist minister who worked amongst the poor of London in the later years of the nineteenth century, and who left us an affectionate portrait of Hoppety Bob, a man he clearly admired. Elsewhere …

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Frederick Harwood, or, The Surrey Cricketer and the Hot Air Balloon

Whit Monday in 1854, which was June the 5th, was unseasonably cool and breezy, but not enough to stop thousands of holidaying Londoners flocking to the Surrey Zoological Gardens.  For an entrance fee of one shilling, or four pounds in today’s money, they could visit the famous menagerie, which was home to ten lions, three elephants, two tigers, two giraffes …

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A Riotous Affair, or, A Christmas Story from the Chelsea Workhouse 

The master of the workhouse in Chapter Two of Oliver Twist is one of the most unforgettable characters in nineteenth-century literature.  From the moment he is introduced to us, serving gruel from the copper in his cook’s uniform, he does not stand a chance.  He is fat and healthy, where the inmates he reigns over are starving and scrawny.  His …

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Shoes and Ships, or, The Story of Marcus Worley

If you have read any of my previous posts on the boys of the Shoeblack Society—Peter Carpenter and Robert Watts and George Roby—you will be aware of the inspirational role of Martin Ware in the lives of these young Londoners.  He was a barrister by profession, but he was a philanthropist by nature, and his concern for children whose fortunes he …

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The Poor Little Dear, or, The Sad Story of Sarah Gough 

On the morning of Saturday the 25th of May 1860 a small parcel sent from London arrived by train at Windsor railway terminus addressed to “The Mother Superior, House of Mercy, Clewer near Windsor”.  A Great Western Railway porter set off to the neighbouring area known as Clewer New Town, and on arriving in Hatch Lane he handed the box to the House of Mercy …

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Cornelius Ahern, or, The Not-So-Artful Dodger

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 …

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A Case of Criminal Neglect, or, The Sad Death of John Sellers

One Sunday in the early years of the reign of Queen Victoria two men were making their way along one of the less salubrious streets near Smithfield.  Their identities are a complete mystery, which is a shame, as what they discovered there was remarkable, and what they did was little short of heroic.  Classics examples of overlooked Londoners they may …