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  • Ham & Petersham Through Time by Paul Howard Lang

    Ferry to Twickenham - The ferry crossing gave access to the nearby Ham House and had existed at this spot from the late seventeenth century. (Ham & Petersham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Ham and Petersham have such a large concentration of historically significant houses that I felt they needed to be better known. This was one of the leading factors that encouraged me to research these areas. There are relatively few books on these parishes compared to other parts of the London borough of Richmond upon Thames.

    Ham House being a National Trust property has a high profile and is well known, but to a certain degree some of the other houses in the vicinity have been overshadowed and their importance, I think, needs to be highlighted.

    Star & Garter Hotel - Stands at the north-east extremity of Petersham, on the boundary with Richmond. (Ham & Petersham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Some extremely distinguished persons resided in both Ham and Petersham, for example Captain George Vancouver (1757-1798) the famous navigator, lived in Petersham at Glen Cottage in River Lane and he was buried in St Peter’s churchyard not that far away from where he lived. Vancouver died tragically young at the age of forty so it is remarkable that he achieved so much in such a relatively short span of time. The house that he lived in ‘The Glen’ dates to the 1670s, so is far older than appearances would indicate. It is very likely that Vancouver wrote his seminal work at this house ‘Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific and Round the World’.

    Another famous name linked to Petersham was that of Charles Dickens who resided at Elm Lodge, and periodically took his friends for various celebrations to the Star and Garter Hotel. No doubt he would have gone for long recreational walks around Petersham, which would have been far more rural at that time than it is now.

    Montrose House, Petersham Road - Named after Caroline Maria, Dowager Duchess of Montrose who resided here from 1836 until her death in 1847, the property actually dates back to the late seventeenth century. (Ham & Petersham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    Lord John Russell, the Prime Minister from 1846-52 and from 1865-66, lived at Pembroke Lodge in Petersham and died at the lodge on the 28th May 1878.

    As regards to Ham, the writer Miss Hesba Stretton, who contributed stories to Dickens’ ‘Household Words’ and to ‘All the Year Round’, lived at the Little House on Ham Common from 1891 until her death in 1911.

    As to more contemporary persons of note, Tommy Steele, the well-known pop star of the late 1950s and early 1960s lived at Montrose House. Many people associate this house with Tommy Steele, but there have been other distinguished residents before his occupancy. The Dowager Duchess of Montrose lived here from 1836-1847, the house being named after her.

    I have also included some rare photographs of the gravestones and memorial slabs of famous dignitaries buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s church. These include the Berry sisters, Agnes and Mary, who were friends with Horace Walpole and another notable person is Theodora Jane Cowper, the cousin of the famous poet William Cowper (1731-1800).

    Hornby & Clarke's Milking Sheds, River Lane. (Ham & Petersham Through Time, Amberley Publishing)

    The book also portrays an unusual plaque in St Andrew’s Church in Ham of the Australian explorer Edward Boradaile (1845-1874) who it is believed perished of starvation whilst trying to reach Port Essington in the Northern Territories. A mountain in Australia was subsequently named after him.

    Some rare photographs never published before are shown in the book, in particular, the view of the back of the cottages in the Petersham Road taken in the 1950s. Also the schoolhouses in Ham Street which date to the 1840s and to my knowledge have not been researched before.

    The book also contains photographs highlighting Petersham’s agricultural past, notably, Walnut Gathering, Petersham with Richmond Bridge in the Distance and Haymaking in Petersham, 1890. There are two nostalgic photographs of Hornby and Clarke’s dairy, one depicting the milking sheds along River Lane, which no longer exist and another showing some of the employees with milking stools and containers. Hornby and Clarke’s dairy was in business from 1870 until 1935 and they grazed their herd on Petersham Meadows.

    I hope this book will show that despite the inevitable changes that the 21st century has brought to Ham and Petersham, both have, fortunately, retained something of their former rural identities and that many of the important houses have survived and have important histories to divulge.

    Paul Howard Lang's new book Ham & Petersham Through Time is available for purchase now.

  • East London Buses: 1970s-1980s by Malcolm Batten

    The first North Weald Bus Rally was held on 31 May 1981. Among the exhibits was London Transport RML2760, whish was already a celebrity vehicle on account of being the final Routemaster. Alongside is the unique rear-engined FRM1, which was built in 1966. (East London Buses: 1970s-1980s, Amberley Publishing)

    For transport enthusiasts and historians, anniversaries are always important occasions, and 2018 is no exception. For railway enthusiasts 2018 marks fifty years since the end of main line steam on British Railways with the “15 Guinea Special” on 11 August 1968. Many of the heritage railways will be commemorating this in various ways. Already the Mid-Hants Railway have held a gala for which they brought in another LMS ‘Black Five’ 4-6-0 to work with their resident example and recreate this last BR train, which featured a pair of the type.

    The other locomotive that featured on that August day, Britannia No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell has been working some main line trips prior to the expiry of its boiler certificate in March. On Thursday 22 February it ran over its original stamping ground from London to Norwich. Unfortunately it suffered lubrication problems on the outward journey and the return trip was diesel hauled. This had been the last steam locomotive to receive a general overhaul before BR stopped overhauling steam, and was saved for preservation on withdrawal.

    Also from 13 July 1985, London Country took route 313, Potters Bar-Chingford. Seen in Chingford on 11 July 1986, AN323 is a former Strathclyde Leyland Atlantean with Alexander bodywork. (East London Buses: 1970s-1980s, Amberley Publishing)

     

     

    At the Epping Ongar railway, where I am a volunteer, we will be marking the end of BR steam with a photographic exhibition ‘Barry and after – 50 years since the end of mainline steam’ in our Penny Salon gallery at Ongar throughout August. This will feature the locomotives that were sent to Woodhams scrapyard at Barry, but were not cut up and survived to become the mainstay of the present heritage railways.

    For bus enthusiasts, 2018 marks 60 years since the introduction of the Leyland Atlantean, the first rear engine double deck type to enter production. This will be commemorated at the South Eastern Bus Festival at Detling Showground, near Maidstone on 7 April. Early Atlanteans are well represented in preservation – the first production examples from the two first operators, Wallasey and Glasgow both survive. Local company Maidstone & District were an early convert, taking Leyland Atlanteans from 1959 when they replaced the Hastings trolleybuses. Indeed they bought no front engine half cab double-deckers after 1956, unlike neighbours East Kent, who did not buy any rear engine double-deckers until 1969.

    At first the advantage of the rear engine design was in the increased passenger capacity it offered over the front engine half-cab bus. But from 1966, when one-person operation of double-deckers was legalised they had the advantage of being suitable for such work, with the passengers boarding alongside the driver. By this time other models, such as the Daimler Fleetline and Bristol VR had entered the market.

    Since 1969, some London Routemasters had carried overall advertising liveries. RM1255 is seen on route 8 at Old Ford on 30 March 1975 and is promoting an employment agency. (East London Buses: 1970s-1980s, Amberley Publishing)

    Meanwhile London Transport had been introducing production models of the Routemaster, a traditional front-engine half-cab design, although mechanically superior to the Atlantean. They did buy batches of Leyland Atlanteans and Daimler Fleetlines for comparison trials in 1965-6. They also built a solitary rear-engined Routemaster FRM1. But this did not enter volume production, and eventually London Transport chose Fleetlines to succeed Routemasters in the 1970s.

    This brings us to the third significant anniversary – that of the Transport Act 1968. This brought in the National Bus Company, merging the state owned bus companies run by the Transport Holding Company with the formerly private owned BET group. It also created Passenger Transport  Executives to merge the local authority bus fleets in major conurbations – Greater Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands and  Tyneside. As a consequence of this, London Transport lost its country area green buses and Green Line express services to a new NBC fleet, London Country Bus Services from January 1970. The Act also introduced as bus grant scheme, whereby grants were available for the purchase of new vehicles to modernise fleets. As this did not include half-cab vehicles not suited for one-person operation, production of these traditional vehicles came to an end in 1969.

    Malcolm Batten's new book East London Buses: 1970s-1980s is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Hayes by Louise Wyatt

    Yeading Meadows, Yeading Nature Reserve - also known as The Greenway to many locals. (Image courtesy of Dudley Miles under Creative Commons 2.0, Secret Hayes, Amberley Publishing)

    I’m very grateful to my editor Becky Cousins for the opportunity in the first place, as Secret Hayes is my first traditionally published book. And many thanks to the publishing team for such a fabulous series to write for (I’m on my second book for the series, Secret Chepstow) and for such a professional job for turning my Word document into something so pleasurable. I tried not to dwell on the facts more commonly known – such as George Orwell being a teacher there in the 1930’s – but searched for facts such as finding out just who those fanciful tombs in the local Norman church belonged to.

    I had always imagined myself a fiction writer so delving into the historical non-fiction world was a tad scary, but boy did I enjoy it! I have always been fascinated by uncovering unknown facts, be it at home, holiday or just out and about. Hence why I began my blog after breaking my ankle in 2012, about places I had visited and things I had found out. When I was mobile again, I began blogging about walks I had been on and buildings – sometimes ruinous and sometimes not – that I had stumbled upon. Discovering a pile of rubble in some woods that just so happened to be the remains of an important strategic castle in the twelfth century really fired me up!

    Sketch of Hayes parish in 1874 by Thomas Mills. (Secret Hayes, Amberley Publishing)

    I had to start with what I knew plenty about – the town I grew up in. Now a busy suburb of London, cut up on all sides by Heathrow, the M4, M40 and so on, I knew it wasn’t always so. When I was growing up, we had such good times – fields to play in, shops nearby but also able to retreat to a quiet place. It was during writing Secret Hayes that I found out just how important those ‘fields to play in’ were; now classified nature reserves with SSSI status they are more than just fields. It is an important snapshot of what was and what is still thriving, to show how the eco-system can survive in such a densely populated area and giving the local people a fabulous piece of breathing space.

    Despite all the housing developments, old and new, there are still pockets of history all around. I had always known there were ‘old buildings’ a bus ride away, but only by researching this book have I been led to understand Hayes has a central conservation area, listed buildings and award-winning open green areas that are remnants of an ancient forest and old farms; amazingly, a couple of farms are still in living memory of residents – development has been quite hard and fast when looking at things via a timeline.

    Comparing ‘then’ and ‘now’ photographs was mind-boggling during research, especially when you know the area well. How the pub that had ‘always just been behind the traffic lights’ was actually the oldest in Hayes, a main coaching inn back in the day and opposite a village-green type pond. All long gone, apart from the pub. Also discovering via research that the area where you grew up probably had higher crime statistics on a one-to-one ratio than modern day was bit of an eye-opener too; the isolation, the difficulty in connecting to main routes, as it seems even the Romans bypassed the little corner of Hayes we know as Yeading. Discovering newspaper articles of the day about dastardly deeds in an area you know was very engrossing!

    The 1086 entry for Hayes, noting 108 households and fifty-nine geld (taxable) units, including meadow, woodland and pasture worth £30. (Professor John Palmer and George slater on opendomesday.org.uk, Secret Hayes, Amberley Publishing)

    I was extremely fortunate to get my hands on an original book entitled History of Hayes by Thomas Mills, written in 1874. The author signed the inner cover and the book was dedicated to a family member, Sir Charles Mills, who happened to be Lord of Hillingdon at the time. I found it extremely difficult to make the connection between them and time – as well as my word count – was running out! I had noticed whilst researching credible sources I had found online that they constantly had this book in their bibliographies and when I Googled it, there was the only copy available on Amazon. A tad expensive but I just had to have it. Not only did it help give me a fabulous insight to the Hayes of the late 1800’s, it was very special holding a book of that age in my hands. In fact, I was almost too scared to hold it and it is now safely tucked away. Thomas Mills’ detailed sketches and beautiful descriptive language as eye-witness accounts transported me to a Hayes that was the village it always had been, up until the early 1900’s.

    Hayes will probably go on to be continually developed but I’m hoping my book will enable people to realise that beneath their feet is history; that buildings exist in Hayes that have been there when the area was an idyllic backwater – although I do use the term idyllic loosely. Many people were poor, they had farms to work, miles to tread to the nearest market town (in this case, Uxbridge) and Yeading in particular appears to have been a hard place to live, with its farms, then brickfields and isolation. But the area is still remembered fondly by many and if one cares to look closely, pockets of the meadow, woodland and pasture that were mentioned so long ago in the Domesday Book are still there.

    Louise Wyatt's new book Secret Hayes is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Greenwich by David C. Ramzan Book Signing

    Author of Secret Greenwich with James Rose of the Plume of Feathers Greenwich.

    A Sign of the Times - Secret Greenwich book signing at the Plume of Feathers Greenwich

    On 5th November I carried out a book signing of my publication Secret Greenwich at the Plume of Feathers, Greenwich, a 17th century public house that features in the book. The licensee’s, Sue Rose and her son James, publicised the book signing during the previous week, placing leaflets and posters throughout the bars. On my arrival in the afternoon I was pleasantly surprised to find the Plume, as the public house is referred to locally, extremely busy. Although I must admit they were not all there specifically for my book signing, as the Plume serves an excellent selection of home cooked cuisine. Also many arriving during the afternoon after a stroll in the park or along the river path then heading for the historic hostelry for a light lunch or a splendid Sunday roast.

    Whitefield’s Mount, reputedly the burial place of Cornish Rebels, and the last army of Celts to march upon London.

    I settled myself into a cosy corner of the bar where I put out a display of books and posters on the table, then handed out ‘Did You Know’ fact sheets containing brief but fascinating historical points of interest about Greenwich, a sample of narrative from within the book. Soon after setting up I had my pen out signing copies of Secret Greenwich, the first books sold to invited friends and acquaintances, shortly followed by many locals coming over to my table throughout the evening to buy a copy. Recalling times gone by and how the landscape of Greenwich has changed, new modern structures gradually surrounded many of the town’s historic and celebrated buildings.

    The Plume of Feathers, Greenwich’s earliest existing public house.

    Two of my friends, retiring to Cornwall a few years ago, travelled up from the West Country for the book signing, although they were also spending a long weekend with their son and daughter who both still live locally, the expatriate couple revisiting the place where they first met, the Plume of Feathers. After reminiscing about their first encounter which led to a long happy marriage, our conversation turned to an historic link between Cornwall and Greenwich, an account featuring in my book. Of the time when Cornish rebels marched upon London in 1497 to come up against the awaiting forces of Henry VII, after which an estimated two-thousand Celts were killed at the Battle of Deptford Bridge, their corpses rumoured to have been buried under Whitefield’s Mount on nearby Blackheath.

    The Plume of Feathers, situated to the east of the Meridian Line on the one time main highway through Greenwich, a countryside style pub in a suburban setting, was an ideal location for my book signing. The atmospheric hostelry is frequented not only by many long-standing local residents, but also by others recently moving to Greenwich and Blackheath, along with visitors and tourists who come across the Plume while exploring the quiet secluded back roads away from the busy town centre. Many of those at the book signing, although aware of the royal riverside town’s distinguished history, were unaware of many secret places, tales and buildings from Greenwich’s past, and hopefully those at the book signing who were kind enough to purchase a copy will discover more fascinating facts and interesting anecdotes contained within the pages of Secret Greenwich.

    David C. Ramzan's book Secret Greenwich is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Whitechapel by Louis Berk and Rachel Kolsky

    Mile End mural at No. 31 Mile End Road, E1. (Courtesy of artist Mychael Barratt, commissioned by T. V. Edwards, Secret Whitechapel, Amberley Publishing)

    Revealing the secrets of four centuries of history in Whitechapel

    In 2016 Amberley published our first joint collaboration, Whitechapel in 50 Buildings which has proven to be a very popular title. At the time we were also asked by Amberley to create a similar title for their ‘Secret’ series of books and Secret Whitechapel is the result.

    Whitechapel in 50 Buildings celebrated buildings that proclaimed from the exterior their age, history or purpose. Secret Whitechapel encourages readers to look up and down, discovering stories not immediately evident to the passer-by.

    Edward VIIth statue on Whitechapel Waste with the Royal London Hospital in the background (Secret Whitechapel, Amberley Publishing)

    The story of Whitechapel is not always emblazoned on walls but there are often other clues to its fascinating past – they just need interpreting. When passing the Royal London Hospital, you might notice the distinctively shaped windows of the top floor. What do they mean? You can pass by a shopfront on Whitechapel Road without knowing it contained a peep show connected to one of the most moving human stories in English history. Within this book, doors, windows, pavements and even drainpipes – among other items – all have a hidden story to tell.

    ‘Light is my glory’: The ornate but largely unnoticed bas relief on the former Captain Montefiore secondary school, a typical Victorian building created by the School Board of London. (Secret Whitechapel, Amberley Publishing)

     

     

    Whitechapel continues to captivate people from all over the Britain – indeed the world. Many have passed through on their journeys, either living or working there. Within this small area, you discover a microcosm of London’s social history and those who strove for change including the Dancing Academy on New Street that hosted missionary meetings that led to an international philanthropic movement. One of the most popular songs of the twentieth century was created in a modest recording studio on Osborn Street and shopfronts and ghost signs are reminders of both past businesses and those now in fourth-generation family ownership.

    The surprisingly rural feel of the workers cottages in Belle Vue Place between Whitechapel and Mile End. (Secret Whitechapel, Amberley Publishing)

    It would be impossible to reveal all the secrets within Whitechapel in one single volume. Indeed, as we wrote this book we continued to discover more wonderful stories that for reasons of space we had to omit. If we had to sum up this collection of special places, we chose to concentrate on the minutiae and truly hidden meanings in buildings and locations. There is a vicarious delight in knowing you are following in the footsteps of famous men and women in history, or finding spaces that, even in Whitechapel, are so ‘off the beaten track’ they appear almost rural.

    There is no doubt that Whitechapel is going through an important transition as the thirst for space pushes outwards from the nearby City of London. Central Whitechapel is likely to go through dramatic changes during the rest of this decade as Crossrail arrives and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets commences its vision for a new twenty first century civic centre for its borough. There may yet be time to savour some of the back roads and surprisingly tranquil spaces shown in this book and we hope it will both inform and fulfil its role as a guide to secrets in the area.

    Louis Berk & Rachel Kolsky's book Secret Whitechapel is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Greenwich by David Ramzan

    The Enderby's of Greenwich Marsh

    Whaler Samuel Enderby by William John Huggins (1781-1845), after engraver C. Rosenberg. (Author collection)

    Having produced several books for Amberley Publishing over a period of many years, a majority concentrating on the history and heritage of my place of birth Greenwich, in Southeast London, I was asked to compose a blog for the Amberley website. Not sure of what type of subject to write about, I took a look through other posted blogs, all of which made fascinating reading, describing how to photograph models, a writer’s passion for public parks and another documenting the history of Brunel’s steamship the Great Western, an account which gave me an idea for my own blog.

    The Great Western was the sister ship of the Great Eastern, constructed opposite Greenwich on the north shore of the River Thames at Millwall. It was the largest steamship ever built up to that time. The vessel later became the first to successfully lay telegraph cable, which was made at the subsea cable works in Greenwich, from Britain to America. However my interest is not in the ‘Great Babe’, the name Brunel affectionately gave his ship, but at the works at Enderby Wharf Greenwich where the subsea telegraph cable was fabricated and manufactured. The site, developed commercially by a family of whalers, sealers and Atlantic explorers, was acquired by Samuel Enderby II in the early 1800s. His sons, Samuel, Charles and George, expanded their business interests through the manufacturing of rope and canvas to supply the family’s fleet of whalers operating in the subantarctic and Antarctic, several berthed on the Thames off Greenwich Marsh. At its peak the company owned or leased sixty-eight ships, one of which, the Amelia, sailed west around Cape Horn in 1789 to become the first whaler to carry out whaling in the Southern Ocean. The Enderby’s built a house on the river’s edge during the mid 19th century, which had an unusual octagonal room with a glass ceiling and a large bay window giving a panoramic eastwards view of vessels sailing up and down the Thames.

    Enderby House, centre right, from Enderby Wharf, with the cable winding gear to the right of the image, prior to demolition of the site buildings to the rear. (Author collection)

    Although commercial whaling is now a subject of intense ethical and moral debate, between the early 17th and mid-20th century, the hunting of whales for their oil, meat and bone was a respected and highly profitable industry. The Enderby’s became London’s largest whaling company, funding several pioneering expeditions into the Southern Ocean which led to the discovery of the Bellany Islands and the establishment of the Enderby Settlement at Port Ross in the north-east of the Auckland Islands. At one time only whalers and sealers ventured as far south as Antarctica, only the men of those ships ever having set foot on its vast and desolate ice sheets, and no one had ever seen the Antarctic mainland up until as late as 1820.

    So well noted were the Enderby’s that the company and one of its whalers, the Samuel Enderby, feature in the novel Moby Dick, written by American author Herman Melville. The whaler Amelia is also mentioned in a chapter of the contemporary publication The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brian, set during the Napoleonic Wars, where the ship is taken as a prize by the American ship USS Norfolk.

    The Enderby family originated from Bermondsey, South London, trading in leather tanning, and were supporters of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. Their patronage of Cromwell and funding of his new model army earned them huge favour with the Parliamentarians, resulting in the family being granted forfeited lands in Ireland, which the Enderby’s later sold to finance an oil trading business with Russia and in founding their whaling and sealing enterprises. After many years of successful trading, the money invested in the unproductive Enderby Settlement in the South Atlantic eventually brought about the company’s financial ruin, and the family business was liquidated in 1854.

    Painting of Enderby House and Enderby Wharf mid 1800s by David C Ramzan. (Author collection)

    The site at Greenwich, along with Enderby House, was sold on to submarine cable makers Glass, Elliott & Co, supplying telegraph communication cables laid down below various stretches of water in the North Sea and Mediterranean. Glass, Elliott & Co later merged with the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company, to become known as Telcon, the manufacturers of that first transatlantic telegraph cable successfully laid by the Great Eastern.

    Enderby House, which retained the name of the whaling family, continued to be used as company offices up until the early 2000s, when much of Greenwich Marsh came under redevelopment and regeneration. The northern stretch of the site, including the Grade II listed Enderby House and Enderby Wharf, then owned by Alcatel-Lucent, was sold off to developers. While negotiations continued over the redevelopment of the works and wharf, where a proposed cruise liner terminal and hotel were planned to be built, Enderby House, where Major General Gordon, son of Elizabeth Gordon, nee Enderby, daughter of Samuel Enderby junior, was entertained the day before leaving for the Sudan, soon fell into a state of disrepair. Local campaigners fighting to save the celebrated property, which has important links to the historic industries and technological innovations associated with Greenwich Marsh, made various proposals to ensure the iconic house has a sustainable and productive future, initiatives which include use as a visitor centre, museum, cafe and bar. As large areas of Greenwich Marsh, now known as Greenwich Peninsular, come under redevelopment and regeneration, apartments, offices and hotels replacing industrial buildings and wharfs of the industrialised landscape, very few original properties have survived from a period of advancements in technological manufacturing and engineering during the late 18th to late 20th century. Enderby House, one of the most important historic structures still standing, although in a perilous condition, alongside Enderby Wharf, are the only surviving reminder of the important role Greenwich Marsh played in not only the development of global telecommunications but also in the early years of Britain’s whaling industry.

    Artistic impression of Enderby House during the mid 1800s. (Author collection)

    Incidentally, in 2010, the bones of a huge North Atlantic right whale were uncovered in the mud off the Greenwich foreshore, believed to have either beached itself or having been caught and brought to shore from the Thames estuary. The remains we said to be the size of the white whale as described in Moby Dick, its bones dating to the early 19th century, a period when half of the Britain’s whalers gathered on the Thames off Greenwich, including many Enderby company ships.

    David Ramzan's new book Secret Greenwich is available for purchase now.

  • Secret Loughton by Michael Foley

    An old view of the High Road showing the original ornate fountain that was destroyed in a road accident. (Secret Loughton, Amberley Publishing)

    The Loughton Poisoner

    The nineteenth century was a time of rapid development in the use of drugs to treat illness. Unfortunately not all of the new discoveries were well tested or were even abused for profit. I came across a shocking example while writing Secret Loughton.

    Between October 1877 and March 1878 there were thirteen infant deaths in the Loughton area, as well as sixteen other non-fatal illnesses in young infants, due to skin disease or poisoning. This attracted the attention of The Medical Officer of Health.

    At the Epping Petty Sessions May 1878 Henry George King, wholesale chemist of Kingsland Road London was charged with the unlawful killing of Elizabeth Sears in February 1877. He was charged with unlawfully and fraudulently selling Violet Powders with arsenic which was used on the bodies of those of tender years to endanger their health. It was claimed that the powder contained between 28 and 51 % of arsenic which was cheaper than the starch that the powder also contained. King was told to stop selling the powder by the treasury but did not reply until visited by Sargent Roots from Scotland Yard.

    John Nottage a grocer of Loughton had bought a gross of the powders from King for one shilling and nine pence and had thought that it was the purest of powders for use in the nursery. Nottage sold the powders for one penny a packet. He had also sold the powders from other sources in the past with no complaints. When a Mr Deacon complained about the powder he stopped selling them and contacted Mr King. He asked for a warranty as to the powder’s safety and King took some of the packets for testing. Nottage heard no more until someone from the treasury arrived and took all the rest of the powders.

    Emma Grout a grocer of Baldwins Hill Loughton had known King as a chemist for some years; she bought three dozen packets of the powder from him. Mr Bell, the inspectors of nuisances, called on Mrs Grout after complaints from Mrs Martin, Mrs Scars and Mrs Mead. She wrote to King who again took some of the packets for testing.

    Another old view of the High Road with houses on the right where shops now line the street. (Secret Loughton, Amberley Publishing)

    Sarah Mead of Benjamin’s Mead Loughton had a child in January 1877 named William. She had bought the Violet powder at Grout’s shop which had King’s Name and address on it. She used it until March with no ill effects. She then purchased some more which made the child very red and sore where it was used. This then turned into blisters. She called Doctor Fowler and stopped using the powder and the child got better. She then gave the remaining powder to Mr Bell.

    Isabella Martin of Ash Green Loughton had a baby on 21 November 1877. She bought some Violet Powder from Grouts shop and after using it for nine days the baby died. Where she had applied the powder there were a number of black blisters, again Mr Bell took the powder away. Hannah Reid also of Ash Green had been Mrs Martin’s midwife and said that the baby had been healthy when born.

    Elizabeth Sears of Baldwin’s Hill Loughton had one child early in 1877. She used King’s Powder from Grouts and the baby died after a week. She had another baby in February 1878 and bought more of the powder and the second child died at a week old. The baby had been healthy at birth but had died in agony.

    The defendant King said that he was well known in Loughton and that his mother in law lived next door to one of the witnesses. He very much regretted that the powder may have been the cause of the deaths and said that he would have stopped selling it if he had known. The case was adjourned on a number of occasions and during the various hearings expert witnesses were called. Leadenhall Street examined some of King’s Violet Powders and found 25% of the powder consisted of arsenic.

    An old view of Church Hill, which runs between the High Road and the Goldings Hill. (Secret Loughton, Amberley Publishing)

    It seemed that arsenic was sold for ten shillings a ton which was much cheaper than the starch normally used in the powders. Doctor Du Pre from Westminster Hospital also examined the powders and found that some contained up to 51% of arsenic. It was also said that it was very easy to see the difference between arsenic and the normal starch used in the powder. It was also evident from press reports that the adulterated Violet Powder was on sale all over London, not just in Loughton. Some of this was due to King but not all. There were also cases of adulterated powder being sold in Manchester where two chemists were fined but in this case it was Sulphate of lime not arsenic that was used.

    King claimed during the trial that he bought the powder to make the Violet Powders from other chemists and that once he knew that they may be dangerous he tried to stop the sale of them. The trial was moved from Epping Assizes to Essex Assizes and eventually to the Old Bailey and King was placed on bail of £200. The trial eventually ended with King being found not guilty as it was found that the inclusion of arsenic was accidental.

    There were reports of further deaths due to adulterated Violet Powder as late as 1881. This was again due though to Sulphate of lime rather than arsenic. It does seem though that the problems caused by this practice may have caused isolated cases of harm and even death of infants in other areas. In Loughton however the effects were immense with so many cases of death and illness. The publicity over the Loughton cases did however alert other mothers who had lost children to the effects of the powder in other parts of London.

    Michael Foley's new book Secret Loughton is available for purchase now.

  • Death Diary - A Year of London Murder, Execution, Terrorism and Treason by Gary Powell

    Death Diary 3 Witnesses give evidence at the coroner's inquest into the death of William Terriss. (Lloyds Weekly Newspaper, 26 Dec 1897, Death Diary, Amberley Publishing)

    Murder is a fascinating subject; one only has to look at the popularity of the crime genre in both literature and television. All elements of the crime, be it human or scientific, are placed under a microscope by the crime writer for the reader or viewers benefit including: motive, DNA, fingerprints, entomology, ballistics, post mortems, conspiracy theories, bent cops, the list is endless. But murder is real one must never forget the genuine victim, the grieving relatives, friends and associates and of course the offender and the anguish their family will inevitably suffer. As a former detective I have seen how such violence can tear people apart, destroy communities but at the same time bring people together in a common cause as we have recently witnessed in the United Kingdom’s major cities.  As English poet W.H. Auden reminds us:

    Murder is unique in that it abolishes the party it injures,

    So that society must take the place of the victim,

    And on his behalf demand atonement or grant forgiveness;

    It is the one crime in which society has a direct interest.

    (The Dyer’s Hand and Other Essays, 1962)

    Death Diary examines over four hundred crimes of murder, terrorism and treason covering a period of some four hundred years. The structure – as the title would suggest – is set in the format of a diary with each day of the year (including a leap year) presenting a specific case or cases in British criminal history. Some of the crimes are high-profile but many have been taken from the pages of British history for the first time and can be among the most disturbing. Often the motive for committing such unimaginably cruel crimes is plain greed alongside: jealousy, hatred, racism, religion and mental suffering. Social conditions can feature as motive – too many children to support and in some cases too many wives. Mental illness often features with many of these violent acts committed by soldiers returning from the First World War and other conflicts during that period in our history. Unable to deal with the horrors they had seen or tasks they had been asked to perform or just simply being unable to cope being back on ‘Civvy Street’ with the responsibilities they never had to face within the disciplined environment they had left behind.

    Death Diary 2 'The Black Museum' showing the murder weapons used by retired Head teacher Rev Selby - 8 Oct 1871. (Illustrated Police News, 1890, Death Diary, Amberley Publishing)

    Death Diary also asks questions about how we deal with victims of murder in our ‘self-self’ society and those left behind who in many cases have to rebuild their lives. We often hear on our news bulletins or read in our newspapers of a murderer or terrorist’s human rights being breached– the same murderer or terrorist who failed to show any such compassion towards his victim. Having dealt with many family members of both victim and offender I feel we are – as a society – still indifferent to the enormous pressures people face from the initial identification process through to a judicial system that bends over backwards to protect the rights of a defendant above those of a victim and demonstrates little empathy for the traumatic journey on which they have embarked. The question of re-introducing of capital punishment often surfaces in this country particularly after a horrible crime has been committed such as the murder of a child or a police or prison officer. This strong feeling of seeing justice being administered could be deflected if a sentence of life imprisonment meant life; it is very difficult trying to explain to a bereaved parent that the killer of their child has received a lesser term of imprisonment than an offender who had robbed a bank.

    Statistically, the number of murders in London is at one of its lowest levels since the 1960’s. Even though London’s population has significantly increased and become more diverse, this city is still one of the safest and most tolerant in the world; in many cases our perception of crime is far greater than the crime rate itself. As you read the sometimes harrowing stories which are presented in short, sharp daily bursts, I would just ask that you remember the victims of these crimes, those of future crimes and their families and friends who will bear a sentence far greater than that of the killer.

    9781445665023

    Gary Powell's book Death Diary - A Year of London Murder, Execution, Terrorism and Treason is available for purchase now.

  • East End Jewish Cemeteries by Louis Berk

    East End Jewish Cemeteries 001 Cover _P2M1320-Edit_s (East End Jewish Cemeteries, Amberley Publishing)

    An Oasis in Whitechapel

     

    I am a secondary school teacher, and since 2004, I have worked at a school in Brady Street, in the heart of Whitechapel. I did not realise until I was looking out of a second story window one day that my school adjoins one of the oldest Jewish Cemeteries in the UK.

    Brady Street cemetery was founded in 1761, and closed almost 100 years later in 1858 when the grounds became full-up.

    Having no connection to the cemetery, I thought it unlikely I would ever see inside. Then, one day, as I was in school, I heard the sounds of activity as groundsmen were carrying out maintenance, and they kindly allowed me to take a look around.

     

     

    East End Jewish Cemeteries 006 Late Summer 02 L1025403-Edit_s (East End Jewish Cemeteries, Amberley Publishing)

    The Idea

    Once inside the walls it was as though I had been transported to a forest, as I was surrounded by trees, shrubs and at one point, an inquisitive fox that trotted past me down a path. An idea formed in my mind: it would be wonderful to capture this hidden oasis in photographs, as a record of an interesting environment, and to make it visible to others.

    I was fortunate that when I approached the owners of the cemetery, The United Synagogue of Great Britain, they readily agreed to my request. They even made it possible for me to have access to the cemetery whenever I wanted.

     

     

     

    East End Jewish Cemeteries 003a_DoublePage P0Q0930-Edit (East End Jewish Cemeteries, Amberley Publishing)

    Early Mornings and Late Evenings

    Undertaking a long-term project right next door to where I worked allowed me to photograph very early in the morning. During the winter months, this was before and during dawn, and also at sunset.

    In the summer it allowed me to capture the sometimes delicate early morning sunlight before the day became bleached out with too much sun.

     

     

     

     

    East End Jewish Cemeteries 055 Winter 18 Scan-120211-0007_s (East End Jewish Cemeteries, Amberley Publishing)

    Waiting for snow

    I began the project in July 2011, with the objective of recording a year in the life of the cemetery. By the same time in 2012, I had a lot of material to work with, but I was missing one important element: snow. The winters at the start of this decade were surprisingly mild, and I had to wait until 2013 for a reasonable covering.

    This was no real hardship, as I enjoyed my time alone in the quiet solitude of the cemetery, and continued to visit and take photographs. I also chose to work mainly with medium format film cameras. This requires considerably more concentration than working with digital cameras. It is a slow and careful process. This entirely matched the ambience of my surroundings.

     

     

    East End Jewish Cemeteries 102 Alderney Road 06 10 Scan-120908-0005-Edit_s (East End Jewish Cemeteries, Amberley Publishing)

    Alderney Road

    At the end of the second year I showed my work to the owners, who asked me if I would also photograph in Alderney Road Cemetery, in nearby Stepney Green. This is an even older cemetery than Brady Street, established in 1696, very close to the time that Jews began to settle in the UK.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    East End Jewish Cemeteries 002 Frontpiece _1040603-Edit_s (East End Jewish Cemeteries, Amberley Publishing)

    East End Jewish Cemeteries: Brady Street and Alderney Road

    In 2016, I approached Amberley Books with a number of ideas for titles, and they were immediately enthusiastic about a book containing my photographs of Brady Street and Alderney Road.

    The book contains 96 pages, mostly filled with photographs, and also an introduction to the cemetery by the recognised authority on its history, Rachel Kolsky, who is an award winning London Blue Badge guide and author.

    9781445662909

    Louis Berk's new book East End Jewish Cemeteries is available for purchase now.

  • A look at "Jack the Ripper" Newspaper Reports by Tony Woolway

    Whilst researching my book Cardiff in the Headlines, I came across many references to the unsolved and gruesome “Jack the Ripper” murders, and the fear that the perpetrator of the horrific crimes in the Whitechapel District of London in 1888 had planned to visit or had been spotted in the town.

    No doubt there have been serial killers before, and after, but the killings were so abominable and shocking in their intensity that newspaper coverage was at a level unprecedented.

    In Cardiff, where victim Mary Kelly lived for some time before heading to London, there was also what some believed sightings of “Jack the Ripper” that spread panic to City and populations further afield.

    Ripper letter Western Mail Oct 11On October 11, 1888, what was described as “a brutal missive” purporting to be written by “Jack the Ripper” and bearing a London postmark, a letter was received at the Cardiff offices of the Western Mail. The writer threatens to visit Cardiff the following Friday in what was described as written in a diabolical style characteristic of these communications.

    The letter addressed to the editor, Western Mail, said:

    Dear Old Boss, - What do you think of my little games here – ha! Ha! Next Saturday I am going to give the St Mary St girls a turn. I shall be fairly on their track, you bet. Keep this back until I have done some work. Ha! Ha! Shall down Friday.

    Yours

    JACK THE RIPPER

    (Trade mark)

    In Roath, a district of Cardiff, some excitement was created in a hairdresser's shop by a stranger, carrying a black bag and declaring that he could easily “cut a woman's throat without any blood getting upon his clothes”. The man had suddenly left the shop, and a rumour gained ground that he was “Jack the Ripper.”

    PICTURE SHOWS: JACK THE RIPPER.     COPYRIGHT: NO NAME.  DATE: 2, APRIL, 1988.It wasn't only in Cardiff that the threat of a visit by “Jack the Ripper” was causing some considerable concern. Another letter signed in his name was received by a Llanelli woman, in which it stated that he planned to “do a murder in William Street on Monday or Saturday” that week. In the left-hand corner was roughly drawn, with the words, “This heart of a woman.”

    On a Swansea barque Picton Castle, dock labourers at Middlesbrough made a discovery believed to have been the work of “Jack the Ripper.”

    Arriving in the Tees from London a woman's hand was found plus a bag, the contents of which emitted a putrid odour. It was found to contain human remains in the state of advanced decomposition.

    The Western Mail, October 9 1888 reported a story of a man, Alfred Pearson, who was charged at Brierly Hill with stopping a man and his sweetheart in a dark lane and threatening them with a long knife and proclaiming himself as “Jack the Ripper.” The lady was driven into hysterics, and Pearson bound over to keep the peace. At Goven, Glasgow on the same day, a man who described himself as “Jack the Ripper the second” was fined three guineas for knocking over a married woman and brandishing a knife.

    In Yeovil, in January 1889, it was reported that a local “atrocious murder” was the work of “Jack the Ripper,” and that he was on some “murderous tour.”

    PICTURE SHOWS: JACK THE RIPPER.     COPYRIGHT: NO NAME.  DATE: 2, APRIL, 1988.All over world sightings or copycats littered the press. On December 5 1888 it was reported, again in the Western Mail, of the sensational discovery of an American “Jack the Ripper.” who hides in dark corners and darts out at women with a knife and muttering threats, whilst, in Brussels, a newspaper reported it had received postcards, letters, even telegrams, all signed “Jack the Ripper,” and announcing the writer's intention of visiting the city to murder women in a manner similar to his London prototype.

    In Corunna, Spain, the disappearance of two girls was attributed to “The Ripper” who it was thought had recently reached the town and had been “prowling about the place after dark.”  Young women and girls no longer went out at night, and even had their doors barricaded, to keep out the “mysterious assassin.” It was also reported that the “Whitechapel ruffian” had written one of his customary cold-blooded epistles to the authorities, telling them that he means to disembowel several “ladies” before he leaves Corunna.

    February 9, 1889, brought more reports, which this time, “Jack the Ripper” was in Jamaica. Fearful stories of crimes and mutilations similar to that of Whitechapel which the Western Mail noted that, in the reporter's mind unquestionably indicates that “Jack the Ripper” had gone from England to Jamaica committing a series of “diabolical and mysterious murders.”

    A woman had been found early in the morning lying by the roadside, her throat cut from ear to ear, her cheeks, nose and forehead slashed in a manner that would indicate it to be the work of a master butcher. The body mutilated exactly as had been done in London cases and the first of three and on the body by the blade of a small penknife was a card the bore the inscription, JACK THE RIPPER, fourteen more, then quit.

    The above was just the tip of the iceberg. Whilst the reports can be easily written off as the work of a copycat killer or just a mad frenzy whipped by a new and sensationalist media. There's no doubting that the unsolved Whitechapel murders were a template for the reporting that was to following in the wake of these unspeakable crimes.

    9781445648880

    Tony Woolway's book Cardiff in the Headlines is available for purchase now.

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