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A Copper and his Coat

The versatile Alfred Rosling Bennett, writing about his childhood in the 1850s and 1860s, told a good story about a South London police constable.  I say “versatile” because Rosling was an engineer by profession.  You may have encountered him already in other articles on the London Overlooked website on subjects as varied as a model locomotive in a shop window …

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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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Up Hill and Down Dale, or, The Story of James Heap

I would like to tell you the story of the remarkable James Heap, a schoolmaster who died in the autumn of 1876 at the age of eighty-four.  However, as Mr Heap lived in Yorkshire, and had no connection with the capital, or none that I can see, I think I need to start somewhere else.  After all, this is the …

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Death by Dentures, or, The Chiswick Mystery Part Two

If you read last week’s article, which can be accessed by following this link, you will recall that a certain Margaret Louise Bryden came down to London from her native Edinburgh in the 1880s, and lived, and indeed died, at 31 Linden Gardens in Chiswick.  She had been legally separated from her husband, Frank Bryden, and her only companion in …

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Death by Dentures, or, The Chiswick Mystery Part One

On a cold Saturday evening in January 1890 an inquest jury of fifteen men gathered in the George IV public house on Chiswick High Road.  Their purpose was to investigate the mysterious case of a woman found dead in her house on New Year’s Day.  The police favoured the theory that her death was a tragic accident caused by first …

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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 …