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Peter Stokes, or, The Flying Pieman of Fetter Lane

If you read our recent piece on Joseph Freeman and Thomas Williams, who stole a silk handkerchief belonging to one Robert Campbell Mallett, and were transported for their pains, you will no doubt have come away with a vivid impression of the area of London in which the two pickpockets operated.  That area was Holborn.  As well as affording rich …

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Missing Mother, or, A Chapter in a Coffee House History

This is the story of a strange incident involving a coffee house that operated in the London of George the Third.  The story has two principal characters—not including the coffee house!—and the fact of the matter is that neither is known to us by name.  Well, one is known by his initials, but even they are a matter of dispute.  …

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Call Me Julius Caesar, or, The Fishmonger’s Story

If you look in the London directories for the early twentieth century, you will come across a fellow by the name of J C Moore.  He was a fishmonger, and he lived in South London, dying in 1935 at the age of fifty.  He lies buried in Streatham Cemetery—in the same resting place as Henry Budden of Lambeth, about whom we …

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Castles in the Air, or, The History of Raymond’s Folly

In what is really a footnote to my recent piece on magic lantern shows—for which click here—I wanted to add a bit more about Hoppety Bob.  But first a reminder.  Bob was the little tailor with the withered leg who was wonderfully kind to the poor neighbourhood children.  According to Richard Rowe, who wrote so touchingly about him, he lived …

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Keeping it in the Family: The Infamous and Bigamous John Blair Wills

Sometime in 1850 a nineteen-year-old medic called John Blair Wills fell in love at first sight with a beautiful girl he spotted on a London omnibus.  Following the girl home he asked her mother, who was very surprised, for her daughter’s hand in marriage.  He explained that he had good prospects and was of respectable stock: his late father had …

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The Man with at least Two Faces, or, The Strange Story of Arthur Wicks

Readers of my most recent post will recall Lottie Chettle, who worked in Louisa Gross’s barber’s shop in Chancery Lane in the late Victorian era.  She was born Charlotte Chettle in Huntingdonshire in 1873, but later lived in Swansea, and when she turned nineteen she came up to London, where she became entangled with a young man by the name of …

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Laughter in Court, or, A History of the Victorian Female Barber

On the 28th of February 1894 a case was brought before Court no. 9 of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice in the Strand.  The plaintiff, Charlotte “Lottie” Chettle, a young woman in her early twenties from Swansea, was bringing a claim against Arthur Wicks, a self-styled barrister, for breach of a promise of marriage.  She was …

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Lighting up the Lives of Londoners

If you read my recent post on Peter Carpenter, you will recall that our knowledge of him rests largely on the journal kept by his mentor, Martin Ware.  In studying the journal for the year 1856—which was when the young Londoner enrolled in the navy as an apprentice—I came across an intriguing entry that has subsequently sent me off on …

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Madame Elise Kreutzer and the Crowded Room

On the night of Thursday the 9th of May 1895 seventeen young women were working on the couture gowns to be sold in the establishment of Madame Elise Kreutzer at 4 Holles Street off Oxford Street.  The girls, who were certainly poorly paid, had been working long hours in cramped conditions on a day when the temperature reached 70 degrees.  Many …

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Arsenic Poisoning in Kensal New Town: The Hickman Family Tragedy

The 30th of May 1847.  A Sunday morning.  In Middle Row in Kensal New Town the Hickmans, an ordinary working-class London family, were going about their ordinary Sunday business.  The father of the family, Thomas Hickman, was in the back garden putting up his wife’s washing poles.  His wife Harriet and her younger sister Caroline Bonamey were indoors preparing Sunday …