The sad delusion of a literary genius at Lambeth



Thomas Phillip Jones was a  unfortunate young man. Having served his apprenticeship he became a carpenter and in the 1860s he was employed to work on the new Foreign Office building in Downing Street. This had been designed by the renowned Victorian architect George Gilbert Scott and was completed in 1868. Scott (who famously created the Albert Memorial and the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras) designed hundreds of properties including several workhouses, Reading Gaol and a number of lunatic asylums. These last examples (at Clifton in York, Wells in Somerset and Shelton in Shropshire) seem particular apt given the reason Jones found himself in the newspapers in 1867.

Jones was a ‘steady mechanic’ and a regular member of the Rev. Dr Waddy’s congregation at Lambeth Chapel, where he was well respected and liked. Then, at some point in the mid ’60s, he had an accident at work. A heavy object fell and struck him on the head, and it seems it badly affected his brain.

According to the newspaper report of Jones’ appearance (in April 1867) at Lambeth Police Court, in the months after the incident ‘he [had] shown a slight aberration of intellect and laboured under the belief that he was the author of a great many literary works of a high standard’. Sadly, this ‘delusion’ was compounded by his need to share his belief with others and he repeatedly called upon the Reverend Waddy and others, asking them to read his various ‘works’ and help get them published.

This had already reached the stage where it had gone well beyond what might be considered ‘reasonable’ behaviour, before Thomas took it upon himself to call on the minster at one in the morning. Having caused a disturbance outside the reverend’s home in Chester Place, he was, with some difficultly, restrained and locked up and the prison surgeon called for so that his mental health could be enquired into.

At Lambeth Police Court Thomas’ case was heard before the Hon. G. C. Norton. Jones’ parents came up from the country – and were most ‘respectable people’ the papers reported – to ask if the justice would be so good as to release their son into their care. Mr Norton gladly agreed to their request and the young man left London for the better air and calm of the countryside. If he had been less well blessed in his family he may have found himself in an asylum not unlike those designed by Scott himself.

[from The Morning Post, Friday, April 05, 1867]

It is my brother Simon’s birthday today – he was born 98 years after the date of this newspaper report, or exactly 150 years ago (you do the maths). The subject matter of today  blog has, please be assured, no other link to my sibling, Happy birthday!

From ‘knowledge’ to waste paper, there’s some profit to be had in between


The publishers of the Penny Cyclopæedia presumably believed they were contributing to public knowledge and entertainment at the same time. From their premises in Ludgate Street and their warehouse in Lambeth they printed and distributed a journal that was sold all over the UK and as far as America. The Penny Cyclopæedia for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (to give it its full title) was published and sold between 1828 and 1843 by George Long and Charles Knight, the publication extended to 27 volumes and 3 supplements in 15 years.*

The owners stored copies intended for distribution at the Lambeth site and in December 1840 they had large quantities of issues 1 and 16 in particular on the shelves. This amounted to something like 30,000 reams of paper. The business had so  much because they were holding issues against some news from their ‘agent’ in the USA (what that news was I’m afraid is not made clear).

Meanwhile London also had a lucrative market in waste paper. This was sold to shops to wrap goods in. We still do this today of course, and while modern health & safety laws don’t allow it, some of us might even remember when fish and chips was sold in yesterday’s newspapers. Among the businesses that profited from this trade, were those belonging to William Pegg in Blackfriars, and Phillip Hathaway, a stationer in the City. Both men bought waste paper (in the form of copies of the Penny Cyclopæedia  a man named Thomas Denny who worked at the Lambeth warehouse.

On the 29th of December 1840 Denny and William Kingate (a former warehouseman and porter at the site) were formally charged at Union Hall Police Court with stealing ‘upwards of a ton weight’ of the encyclopaedia and ‘selling it as wastepaper’.

It was a lengthy hearing, with several witnesses, and I imagine it would have been of some interest to the readership of the Morning Post and other papers, because they would have heard of the Penny CyclopæediaIt transpired that Kingate had been sacked from the publishing firm but had stayed in touch with his former colleague. They had conspired to rob their employers and profit from the huge reserves of paper stored at Lambeth.

The pair were remanded for more witnesses to come forward but eventually they stood trial at Old Bailey in January 1841. There we find out more about the trade in waste paper as one witness, an employee of Pegg’s in Blackfriars, told the court that Denny had come in offering to sell them paper. Denny had been in before and the man deposed that:

he came to us on the 5th of December, about half-past five or six o’clock in the evening with another man, and brought with him some paper as he was in the habit of bringing—he brought some of the Penny Cyclopaedia—I do not know whether there was any other sort—I believe there was some of the Bible—he brought then 4cwt. 2qrs. 14lbs. —I weighed it—it was in the state that these bundles are—(looking at them)—I cannot distinguish which of these bundles it was—it was in this state in quires—it has not even been stitched for the purpose of being sold—we gave him 28s. per cwt., and that lot on the 5th of December came to 6l. 9s. 6d’

Old Bailey, THOMAS DENNY, WILLIAM KINGATE, Theft > stealing from master, 1st February 1841.

So there was money to be made in waste paper, as £6 9s 6d equates to about £285 today. Kingate and Denny had been carrying on this racket for several weeks it seems as one of Pegg’s younger employees recognised them both as regular suppliers. We might ask whether they paid too much attention to where the stock was coming from or why it came without an official docket from the company, but perhaps that was how the trade operated.

The two warehousemen were convicted by the Old Bailey jury and Kingate suffered severely for their conspiracy, as the senior partner and ‘brains’ behind the operation. Denny (aged 30) was sent to prison for 6 months, while Kingate was transported to Australia for 7 years.

                      [from The Morning Post, Monday, December 31, 1840]

*the company also produced the Penny Magazine which also ran until 1845 when its sales (initially very encouraging) dried up.

Of oysters and late night drinking in Vinegar Yard



In 1827 the Metropolitan Police were yet to be created. Sir Robert Peel (Home Secretary from 1822 to April 1827) was not in post but would soon take up the reins again in January 1828. The lack of an ‘official’ police however should not be taken to mean that the capital lacked policing before 1829. There were officers attached to each of the Police Offices (the courts that are the subject of this blog) and many patrolling the river Thames and its quaysides. The Bow Street runners had operated day patrols since the late 1700s and and watchmen continued a tradition started in the medieval period, of walking their beats at night.

So all told London had around 450 ‘police officers’ and 4,500 watchmen employed and answerable to the various watch committees, magistracy, and the government. The capital was then very far from being ‘unpoliced’ when Peel guided his important ‘reform’ through  Parliament.

The officers attached to the Police (or ‘Public’) offices like Bow Street, Marlborough Street, Lambeth or Thames, worked on the instructions of the police magistrates. They investigated crimes (or at least followed up leads); they served warrants and summons; searched properties for stolen goods; and watched premises where infringements of bylaws or other offences were suspected.

Interestingly while they were paid a small salary it appears that their superiors (including Peel) believed they were best motivated by financial incentives. Officers such as David Herring at Bow Street were able to earn bonuses on top of their salary for executing particular tasks or rewards from grateful victims of theft for the return of their goods; they could also earn money for displaying ‘zeal’. This might mean a reward of up to £500 for recovering property, or simply an extra shilling for working overtime on patrol (i.e working after dark).

Herring appears in 10 trials at the Old Bailey as an investigating or arresting officer and may well have profited from his work. According to Leon Radzinowicz (the founding father of the history of crime)  the practice of financial rewards among police officers was widespread and persisted long after Peel’s creation of the Met in 1829.*

I wonder if Herring was after some extra money before Christmas in 1827. At half past midnight he and a fellow officer from Bow Street entered an oyster shop in Vinegar Yard run by Mr Pearkes. He went upstairs and found a gentleman sitting at a bench with a pint pot in front of him. After greeting him with a friendly ‘How are you, Sir?’ Herring picked up the pot and sniffed at it before setting it down. The pot was empty and Herring and officer Price left the building without any explanation.

The gentleman was clearly annoyed and as he left the oyster shop he presented Pearkes with his card bearing his name: Mr Ellar. Ellar told Pearkes what had occurred and said he had been insulted by the officers’ behaviour.

Herring ran a respectable establishment and so he summoned Herring (as the conductor – or leader – of the patrol) to the Bow Street office. He alleged there that Herring had behaved improperly. Mr Pearkes told the justice (Mr Halls) that often served respectable persons last at night when they had been attending the theatres, sometimes men alone, sometime they brought their wives and children. He ‘never suffered improper characters to come there’.

He told Mr Halls that Mr Ellar had been drinking  pint of ale but that he had obtained from a local publican and was not selling beer himself (as he did not have a license to do so). The justice however sided with the officer and with the law. Herring and been sent out to keep an eye on the unlicensed sale of liquor in any form and while this was hardly a serious offence it was breach of the regulations. As the magistrates told the oyster shop keeper:

‘It was a very great hardship upon publicans, who were obliged to take out and pay for licenses, and were compelled to close at a given hour, that others who were not subjected to the same restraints, were making a profit upon the commodities at all hours’.

He and his fellow magistrates were ‘determined to punish, as far as the law allowed, all persons who disposed of excisable liquors on their premises without a license’

Herring would have earned some extra money and perhaps well knew that Pearkes bent the rules for his wealthy clientele. The charge was brought against the police officer but Mr Halls saw no merit in it; the only way he would countenance a charge was if Mr Ellar (as the injured person) appeared to prosecute Herring.

Since he hadn’t the case was dismissed.

[from The Morning Post, Friday, December 21, 1827]

Mr Pearkes’ oyster shop was well known to Londoners. Situated near Drury Lane (and illustrated above) it was the subject of a funny article (recounted later in 1880) when an oyster appeared to whistle

* Radzinowicz, L; ‘Trading in Police Services: An Aspect of the Early Police in 19th Century England’, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 102/1 (November 1953)

Do you know the muffin man (and is he annoying you)?

Do you know the muffin man?
The muffin man, the muffin man.
Do you know the muffin man
Who lives in Drury Lane?

Are you familiar with this old nursery rhyme? It was probably first written down in the early 1800s but it reminds of us of a time when many people bought their food and household goods and services from street vendors or door-to-door salesmen.


These were men and women like the ‘muffin man’ in the illustration above (from Punch in 1890). They attracted the attention of the householders by ‘crying’ their goods in songs and making a noise (by, for example, ringing a bell). I remember the ‘rag and bone’ man’s bell in Finchley in the 1970s, and we still have ice cream vans with their familiar tunes.

It was vital for the tradesmen to be able to advertise their wares because they how else would you know they were there? There were plenty of advertisements in the 1800s (just look at any photograph of a street scene and you will see the buildings and buses literally covered in promotional material) but there was no television or radio to promote yourself on.

Increasingly it seems however that street sellers were coming into conflict with the very people they wanted to sell too, because not everyone appreciated the disturbance they caused. The police, who had tried to regulate the streets since the 1830s, often chose to turn a blind eye unless local residents complained. In December 1879 some householders in Lambeth did complain, and the problem reached the Police Courts.

Mrs Hart, and other residents of Brunswick Terrace in Camberwell Road, south London appeared before the magistrate at Lambeth to lodge a complaint against a muffin man and other tradesmen for disturbing their peace. Mrs Hart’s daughter was ‘very seriously ill’ she told the justice, ‘and the noises on Sundays as well as on other days from muffin bells were most annoying and unpleasant’.

Sunday had become a ‘day of torment and misery instead of rest’, she said and added that whenever she remonstrated with the man he ignored her, and went off laughing and ringing his bells without any consideration for her or her daughter.

Thomas Pitten, who lived in Peckham, came into to add his voice in support. He said the muffin man was bad but so were ‘the vendors of coal and other articles, whose noises were terrible’. His wife was also sick and he had complained to the salesmen but to no avail.

The justice, Mr Ellison, turned to the muffin man (who was not named in the report) and told him he was guilty, under the terms of the Police Act, of making a disturbance. He said that on this occasion he would be lenient and simply charge him the cost of the summons but that the noise and nuisance must cease herewith; if he was to come before him again he would ‘heavily fined’.

I’m not sure what the muffin man could do about that except to take his business elsewhere. Most likely if he did desist then his trade would suffer and the other residents would lose the convenience of a delivery service unless they booked him. Complaints such as this probably helped move the retail trade away from this sort of business and into the more fixed premises we recognise in our high streets today. Is this a good thing?

Personally I’d quite like a warm muffin right now, without having to find my nearest bakery or supermarket.

[from The Standard, Friday, December 19, 1879]

The perils of marrying in haste


Mr. and Mrs Chabot had not long been married when they appeared at the Lambeth Police Court in December 1847. The appearance was a memorable one, although perhaps less so for the couple concerned.

Young Mr. Chabot seems to have been a delicate fellow. He had for some time been imprisoned in Bedlam (Bethlem Hospital for the insane) placed there by his relatives and ‘friends’ suffering from a ‘mental affliction’.

He was released, fully cured, declaring his desire to take a wife. His parents advised him to place his property in a trust fund: for the joint benefit of himself and his wife, and well as for the interest of their children, if they had any’. This may simply have been sound advice but I suspect it had a lot to do with his parents’ misgivings about his mental state.

He quickly found and married a respectable woman named Georgina. It was from here, however, that the problems started.

Georgina Chabot was later described by the court reporter, in full Dickensian style, as ‘a dumpy little woman, whose face was so bedaubed with paint [make up] as to make her quite conspicuous’. On honeymoon the couple rowed constantly, with the husband coming off ‘second best’.

The ‘disagreements’ reached such a serious state that Chabot thought it necessary to come to court to seek protection from his wife’s violence. This was probably more common than historians have so far discovered. Domestic abuse (usually carried out by men) was widespread in the Victorian period but few men would admit to being beaten by their spouses; in a patriarchal society to confess to be unable to control one’s wife would be acutely embarrassing.

On the 6 December, just two months after the fateful marriage, Mr. Chabot returned home from collecting rents and sent the money upstairs to his wife.

Georgian was unhappy with the amount he had brought home and even unhappier that she seemed to have spent an unnecessarily long time at one female tenant’s home.

In a jealous rage she ‘jumped out of bed, rushed down like a fury, and made a vicious attack on her lord and master. She flung a cup and saucer and a flat iron at his head, and after using the poker, managed to cut his head open with the bellows’.

In court at Lambeth the young man was cross-examined by his wife’s legal representative but held to his story. Georgina’s sister said he had started it by punching his wife and denied she had used excessive force. The magistrate must have taken one look at the man and then at Georgina and decided that it was fairly unlikely that the frail youth could have hit anyone.

He fined Georgian £3 (or 20 days imprisonment) and demanded she post 2 months’ bail against her future behaviour or he would remand her. The money was paid and the couple discharged; we can only wonder at their later ‘pillow talk’.

[from The Morning Post, Wednesday, December 15, 1847]

A case of mistaken identity leads to a heavy fine


Smithfield in 1852 (from Thomas Miller, Picturesque Sketches of London Past and Present, 1852

A drover (a man who brought cattle and sheep into market such as Smithfield) was summoned before the magistrate at Lambeth Police Court by a gentleman named Robert Percival.

Mr. Percival told the court that one evening in early December the drover (William Martin) whom he had never met before, came up to him in the street and started to berate and abuse him. Using the ‘most scurrilous language, [he] charged him with robbing him of a horse, and out his fist in his face several times’.

Percival explained that at the time he had been carrying an injury and had his arm in a sling as he had been thrown from his ‘gig’ [a small cart drawn by a single horse] some days before. If had not been so disabled he would ‘punished the defendant as he deserved for his scandalous and unmanly attack’.

Martin admitted his error, and said he had mistaken Percival for someone else entirely and begged his pardon. Whether his apology was accepted or not is not state din the report but the magistrate fined the drover 30s and expenses or threatened him with 30 days in gaol.

[from The Morning Post, Saturday, December 07, 1850]

An extraordinary fare dodger at Lambeth

Theodore Hook was a cigar merchant and someone that had involved himself closely in the recent attempt by Morgan Howard to win the parliamentary seat of Lambeth.* But he was also a quite extraordinary fellow if the account of his appearance at the Lambeth Police Court in December 1880 is anything to go by.

During the election campaign Hook had behaved in such a disorderly manner in the Elephant and Castle pub that the landlord had called the police. This had led Hook to court but the solicitor representing the South London Licensed Victuallers; Protection Association declined to prosecute further. But the magistrate had remanded Hook because other claims were being made about him and he wanted these investigated.

PC 423P (no name given) revealed that Hook was in the habit of taking cabs but refusing to pay the fares. No fewer than 7 cabbies came forward to testify against him and it became apparent that Hook had ‘dodged’ fares amounting to over £8 (or around £400 in today’s money).

V0013739 The Hospital of Bethlem [Bedlam], St. George's Fields, Lambe

Bethlem (‘Bedlam’) Hospital in the 19th century

But there was more. Hook had also been charged with ‘wandering in the streets without any visible means of existence, or being under proper control’, the constable told the Lambeth court.

Hook’s brother now came forward to explain that his sibling had recently been in Bedlam (London’s notorious ‘lunatic asylum’). The magistrate said surely the family should take him in and care for him but the other Mt Hook said ‘it was quite beyond their power to do anything’.

Other witnesses now testified. One gentleman said he thought the prisoner’s cigar business was in ruins, another that he had seen Hook at Dulwich ‘building up stones’ to make a statue of the Queen. He added that Hook told him he ‘had been authorized to go over to Russia to put the Emperor Alexander in order’. This would have been Tsar Alexander II who was assassinated in 1881 (not by Hook it has to be said). He was also said to have walked into the sea ‘in a most daring manner’.

When this was put to Hook he denied being insane but admitted he could be ‘at times a little strange’. Mr. Chance the magistrate thought it quite evident that Hook was not fit to be ‘at large’ and felt that his friends and family were responsible for looking after him. Since, however, it seemed they were not prepared to do so he would order Hook to find two people that would post bail for him to the value of £20. No one came forward and so the unhappy man was remanded in custody once again.

[from The Standard, Monday, December 06, 1880]

* Howard (a barrister and judge) failed on this occasion but did subsequently enter Parliament as a Conservative MOP for Dulwich in 1885. He served just 2 years before resigning his seat and moving to Cornwall where he was appointed as a judge on the County Court Circuit.