The Saffron Hill Murder (6) — Fresh Witnesses

The adjourned hearing was resumed on the following Wednesday — 11th January 1865.  For reasons unexplained, Alexander Knox was now once more the presiding magistrate.  As Knox had not been present the previous week, Lewis began by repeating all he had said about the missing man and the absence of a murder weapon.  Knox admitted that the absence of a murder weapon was a genuine problem.  Lewis now went further by claiming that Serafino Pelizzioni had only arrived on the scene after the stabbings had already taken place.

A later artist’s impression — from Arthur Griffiths, “Mysteries of Police and Crime” (1898). 

The missing man, now named simply as Gregorio, had been heard to boast aloud about stabbing Englishmen before going into hiding.  This was the same Gregorio who had slapped the landlord Fred Shaw in the incident which sparked off the affray.  Lewis added that the charge of murder was in itself wrong — the normal charge arising from a drunken pub brawl would be one of manslaughter.  “Where was the evidence of malice prepense?  There was no evidence to show that the prisoner knew either of the parties who were stabbed before that night”.

Gregorio had been in hiding ever since.  Why — unless he were guilty?  Lewis also wished to put a few questions to Constable Elliott about the prisoner’s own wound to the head.  Knox interrupted to say that he wanted first to clarify the cause of death.  Was it certainly a knife-wound?  A post-mortem had been carried out and a surgeon from Bart’s testified that stab-wounds were obviously the cause: a blade must have penetrated several inches.

Knox asked if anything had been heard of a murder weapon.  Inspector Potter reiterated that a knife had been found near the spot with blood on it, but admitted he could not connect it with the prisoner.  Under questioning from both Knox and Lewis, Elliott confirmed that Pelizzioni had only been armed with a broom-handle and that he was indeed bleeding from a cut on the head — the result not of the affray itself, but of a blow from a policeman’s truncheon when he was arrested.

Lewis could then at last call upon his Italian witnesses.  Rocco Angelinetta — one of the “Italian gentlemen” already introduced — began by stating that Gregorio was one of his workmen.  He had lived at the workshop premises in St. John Street, but had disappeared without notice on Boxing Day, removing his things that night.  “He was shaven in the same manner as the prisoner, and I should say he was about the same stature”.  He had last seen him about 2 o’clock that day, wearing a round billycock hat and a dark blue coat.

Pietro Mazzuchi had seen Gregorio in the “Golden Anchor” that evening.  He looked very like the prisoner.  He had seen him leave without a hat, but then come back for it and collect it from the landlady.  Francisco Pongini had also been there.  He had seen Pelizzioni arrive “in a peaceable and quiet manner.  He did not knock anybody down going into the house”.

Illustration from Richard S. Lambert, “When Justice Faltered : A Study of Nine Peculiar Murder Trials” (1935).

Dominico Cetta, another picture-frame maker, had been in the nearby “Bordessa” public-house, just round the corner from the “Golden Anchor” at No. 12 Cross Street.  More formally known as the “Three Tuns”, it stood next door to Pietro Bordessa’s mirror factory.  Bordessa had become the nominal licensee some eighteen months earlier.  Known locally as “Bordessa’s” or simply the “Bordessa”, it was a house much favoured by the Italian workmen, although the staff appear to have been English.  Cetta testified that Gregorio very much resembled the prisoner, but then caused a real stir in the court-room.  Before disappearing, Gregorio had come to the “Bordessa” and given him a knife to look after.  Cetta, realising what it was, had simply abandoned the knife in the courtyard of the pub.  This was the second knife found on the morning after the stabbings and had soon been handed into the police.  It had not been produced at the inquest and Potter had conspicuously failed to mention it earlier. 

Angelo Faustino knew Pelizzioni and had seen him in the “Golden Anchor” before the fighting broke out.  He was dancing with a young woman in the dancing-room about a quarter past five, but had then left.  He also knew Gregorio.  He did not think that they looked particularly alike, but they were about the same size.  

Dominico Matteri stated that he had been with Pelizzioni that evening, not at the “Golden Anchor”, but at the “Bordessa”.  He was there when a message was brought to Pelizzioni that there was trouble at the “Golden Anchor”.

Gaspar Mossio, another frame-maker, knew Gregorio by sight — “he resembles the prisoner very much”.  Mossio had been in the “Golden Anchor” at the time of the fight, but not in the bagatelle-room.  He was there when Pelizzioni was arrested.  He had been drinking beer with him earlier, when Pelizzioni had told him he was going to have a dance and then go home.  He had been sober and perfectly peaceable.   

Giacomo Mantua, like Matteri, had been with Pelizzioni at the “Bordessa” when a message came through from the “Golden Anchor”.  Pelizzioni left immediately and Mantua followed on behind.  About ten minutes later he saw him again, now bloodied from the blow to the head.  He knew Gregorio and had seen him later near the “Bordessa” — “Gregorio made a statement to me, and made signs and raised three fingers”.  What Gregorio had actually said was ruled out as hearsay evidence — a rule far more strictly applied to the defence than to the prosecution throughout the proceedings.   

Gotardo Bercini was another of Angelinetta’s workmen.  He confirmed both the similarity between the two men and that Gregorio was in the “Golden Anchor” at the time of the stabbings. 

Lewis said that there was more to come, but he would reserve the rest of the defence for the trial itself.  Knox summed up in a reasonable way, but still felt that the eye-witness accounts of those in the bagatelle-room could not be ignored: “The evidence for the prosecution far outweighed the evidence for the defence, and if for no other reason than that he should send the prisoner to the Central Criminal Court for trial on the charge of wilful murder” (Quotations to this point all from the London Evening Standard, Thursday 12th January 1865, and from this point on from Standard of Tuesday 24th January).

A further hearing the following week simply held matters over until Rebbeck was fit enough to appear.  On Monday 23rd January, although still weak and unable to stand in the witness box, he managed to do so.  Knox was again the magistrate and once again Clerkenwell Police Court and its approaches were densely crowded.

Inside the court, confusion reigned.  Knox began unexpectedly by quizzing the prosecutor Thomas Wakeling.  Everyone had assumed that Wakeling was prosecuting on behalf of the Crown, but Knox now asked him on whose behalf he was actually appearing.  Wakeling admitted that he had been instructed by Frederick Shaw, landlord of the “Golden Anchor”.  When asked, Potter confirmed that he had not engaged Wakeling, nor had he any instructions to do so.  Knox then said to Wakeling, “l cannot allow you to go on with the case”.  After an icily polite but nonetheless heated exchange, he was adamant: “I cannot allow you to go on.  You are not instructed by the Crown, the police, or the complainant.  I saw you in communication with the police during the last examination, and, therefore, did not stop you.  I have since heard that you were not instructed by them … I cannot allow you to go on with the prosecution”.

So far as I am aware, no previous account of the case has mentioned this extraordinary turn of events.  Why had Wakeling gone unchallenged for so long?  Why had Potter not said anything earlier?  And why had Shaw had taken it upon himself to provide a prosecutor?  A suspicion begins to arise that this was not simply a matter of a pub brawl but of a personal feud.  It was a suspicion which was only to gain ground over the coming weeks.

Not only was Wakeling sidelined, but Lewis for the defence had not appeared.  The hearing was nominally on the additional charges of attempted murder relating to Rebbeck and Bannister — and Lewis had already made it clear that he had only been instructed to defend the murder charge.  He was sent for, but after a delay of ninety minutes Knox announced he could wait no longer and began to examine the new witnesses himself.

Rebbeck was heard for the first time: “I saw several Italians, about twelve or fourteen, coming into the bagatelle-room, Seraphino leading.  I had been in there and was coming away from the bar when I saw them.  I was returning with a pipe.  I saw one of the men knock down a woman.  It was not Seraphino that did that.  I then hallooed out ‘No row here’.  I was then at the door.  I then saw the prisoner Seraphino stab me in the right side.  I saw him pull the knife out of me (sensation).  It was very much covered with blood”.

Illustration from Richard S. Lambert, “When Justice Faltered : A Study of Nine Peculiar Murder Trials” (1935).  This is possibly a slightly later building on the same site.

Mr. Knox — “You are certain it was he?”

Witness — “Yes, I know it was him.  I have known him for the past five or six years”.

Rebbeck continued: “l then struck him with the broom-handle.  He made a run at me.  He made another hit and I stepped on one side.  I saw the knife in his hand a second time.  I put my hand to my side where I was stabbed.  This was all in the bagatelle-room”.

Asked if anything else had happened, Rebbeck answered, “Yes, I saw him on Harrington.  I heard an exclamation in the room; I turned my head and saw the prisoner and Harrington fall together.  I then went over with the broom-handle in my hand.  Someone took it away, but I do not know who.  I took hold of the prisoner by the collar and fell on my knees.  I went to pull him off.  I then lost my senses, I believe, for a little time.  I looked up and saw Mr. King and police-constable 425A [Fawell], and another constable with him.  I mean the prisoner by him”.

Asked if he knew why the fight had started, Rebbeck replied, “No, I came out of the bagatelle-room, and all I saw was that the prisoner was rushing into the room at the head of a number of Italians”.

Pelizzioni was allowed to respond at this point.  He said simply, “It is not true that I had a knife in my hand”.  Rebbeck was asked again: “Yes, I saw him with the knife in his hand twice”.  Pelizzioni repeated, “l am innocent; I had no knife”.  Knox turned to Rebbeck: “This is too serious a matter.  I must again ask you did you see the knife?” — “Yes.  I saw it twice, the second time when he ran at me”.  The Prisoner — “That is not true”.

John Liddle, the french-polisher, repeated his inquest evidence, now adding that “Rebbeck fell into my arms in the private bar, and said, ‘I am stabbed’.  I found his clothes were cut, and he said the prisoner had done it.  He was bleeding freely when I opened his waistcoat and saw the cut.  I took Rebbeck to the hospital”.

Constable Fawell also repeated his earlier evidence, but with more detail: “I was called in by Mr. Shaw, the landlord, who stated there was a row in the tap-room.  I went there and found a number of Italians fighting together, and breaking up the seats and chairs.  I got out as well as I could, and having met with another constable we returned to the tap-room.  As soon as we entered Rebbeck, who stood against the tap-room and in front of the door that leads into the bagatelle-room, said ‘I have been stabbed’.  The prisoner was then about opening the door, within hearing, being about a yard away … I have known Rebbeck for years.  I asked him by whom.  Rebbeck pointed to the prisoner, and said, ‘By that man’, who was then opening a door and going through.  The other constable and I then followed through into the bagatelle-room, where we found the prisoner held by Mr. King.  I took a broom-handle from someone, but I do not know whom”.  Fawell then produced the clothes Rebbeck had been wearing, covered in blood and badly cut about. 

Next called was the other victim, the young Charles Bannister, his arm still in a sling: “I was taking some refreshment at the bar, and was requested to step into the bagatelle-room as there was a disturbance at the bar.  I had hardly got in there before the door was opened, and the prisoner and a number of Italians rushed in.  I went to turn round to get away, and I was stabbed.  There were a few English chaps who pushed me forward, and I could not get back.  I was stabbed in the hand, and the knuckle of the little finger was cut off.  I do not know who stabbed me, but I have a witness who saw who did it”.

This was George Stanley, a painter and decorator, another of the company in the bagatelle-room: “I heard a disturbance in the taproom.  I said, ‘There is going to be mischief; keep the door shut’.  Mr. King opened the door, and I saw blood.  Seraphino rushed in.  He was the only Italian in the room.  Bannister was standing next to me, and the prisoner, who wanted to get out of the room, pushed against him, and he fell under the bagatelle-board.  I then saw that Bannister had blood on his hand.  I immediately struck Seraphino on the head with a stick, and he fell on the top of Harrington, and that is the way that the prisoner got on the top of the deceased”.

There are numerous confusing and contradictory points in all this, certainly in Rebbeck’s testimony, about the timing and geography of what happened when and where — none of which were ever fully resolved — but Pelizzioni declined to put questions in the absence of his lawyer.

Hill, the surgeon from the Royal Free, then gave medical evidence about the injuries to Rebbeck and Bannister, their treatment and gradual recovery.  Inspector Potter rounded off the evidence by examining Rebbeck’s clothes and the position of the cuts.

Knox then formally cautioned Pelizzioni in the time-honoured fashion: “he was not obliged to say anything in answer to the charge, but that if he did it might be used in evidence against him at the trial … The Prisoner, in a firm voice, said he should reserve his defence.  Mr. Knox then committed the prisoner to the Central Criminal Court for trial.  The prisoner, who appeared to feel his position acutely, was then removed”.

To be continued …  

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The Saffron Hill Murder (5) — A Number of Italian Gentlemen

A further court appearance had been scheduled for the Wednesday following Friday’s inquest.  A fresh magistrate was in charge, the regular Clerkenwell magistrate — John Henry Barker (1806-1876) — for whom Alexander Knox from Marlborough Street had simply been covering the previous week.  Barker had no doubt been spending Christmas at his family estate at Bakewell, where he lived when not in London.  He was a man who seemed to have built up a rather cosy relationship with the local police.  Wakeling the prosecutor and Guerini, the interpreter, were once more in attendance. This was simply to be a formality, to see what the situation with Rebbeck was.  Hill, the surgeon, reported that “Although out of danger and progressing satisfactorily, he was not yet able to leave the hospital to give evidence”.   

Details of a 1957 BBC radio dramatisation of the case, written by the well-known crime writer Anthony Berkeley, introduced by Francis Iles, and with songs by Anthony B. Cox — all three were pen-names of the same man, Anthony Berkeley Cox (1893-1971). © Radio Times

It should just have been a matter of a further remand, but things were different this time round. According to the London Evening Standard (Thursday 5th January, 1865), “the court and its approaches were densely crowded by Italians and others, who appeared to take great interest in the progress of the case”.  The reason for this was that “a number of Italian gentlemen” had decided to retain a lawyer to act for Pelizzioni.    

The gentlemen were not named, but subsequent references enable us to identify some of them with a fair degree of certainty.  Henry Negretti, as we already know, was the become the chief mover in Pelizzioni’s defence.  We shall hear much more of him.  Also involved was Rocco Angelinetta (1828-1897), a well-to-do looking-glass manufacturer, employing around fifteen Italians — carvers, gilders, and silverers — who lived at his premises in St. John Street.  At least three of his workmen had been in the pub on the fateful evening.  Angelinetta was actually half-English — he was born in Worcester to an Italian father (a barometer-maker) and an English mother.  His wife, Emma Plumb, was also English.

Pietro Bordessa, whom we have already met, was probably involved, as almost certainly was Giacomo Traini, who had married Hannah Worms in 1857 — he was a man known for his local charitable endeavours.   Definitely involved was Charles (Carlo) Galli, one of Negretti’s neighbours in Hatton Garden.  Like Angelinetta and Bordessa, he made looking-glasses, but also, like Negretti, barometers and thermometers.  It was a business founded by his father and at that time employing around ten hands.  Born in Italy some forty years earlier, the younger Galli was a naturalised English subject with an English wife.

Another name mentioned was that of a Mr. Gatti.  This might simply be an error for Galli, but it would actually be surprising if the best-known Italian in London (Swiss-Italian, strictly speaking), the celebrated Carlo Gatti (1817-1878) were not involved.  He was the man who introduced both chocolate and ice-cream to the masses — from stalls, from shops, from cafés — and was by now running the largest ice-importing business in the country (two of his ice-wells survive below the London Canal Museum).  He was also very well-known as a music-hall impresario.  He had begun his London career in precisely these streets and had both a café and a chocolate factory on Holborn Hill at the foot of Hatton Garden.  Impossible to think that he would not have known his neighbour Negretti.  He is also a direct ancestor of my wife’s best friend — so almost counts as family.

The lawyer the gentlemen retained was James Graham Lewis (1804-1873) of nearby Ely Place, father of two brilliant Victorian barristers — the society lawyer Sir George Henry Lewis (1833-1911), and the master chess-player Frederic Hyman Lewis (1834-1889), the latter of whom was also to become much involved in the case.  The elder Lewis was said to have had the manner of a genial sea-captain in court, rather than that of a dry solicitor.  His humanity and compassion were such that he became known as “The Poor Man’s Lawyer”.  The family were Jewish and he would have known what is was like to be an outsider.  It is widely thought that he was the model for the character of Jaggers in Great Expectations.

He swiftly set to work, announcing to the court that despite the inquest verdict he would soon demonstrate through new witnesses, and by cross-examination of the earlier ones, that Pelizzioni was innocent.  He did not think that the earlier witnesses had deliberately lied, but he did think they were much mistaken and had identified completely the wrong man.  There had been another man in the pub that night who looked uncommonly like Pelizzioni.  That man had disappeared on the night of the murder and had not been seen since.  He would produce that man’s master to say so (his master was Angelinetta).  And he had numerous other witnesses to prove that this other man was the real culprit.

Victorian Saffron Hill

It only later emerged that this is precisely what Saul Worms had told the police on the very night of the murder.  He had also named the other man and suggested the police start looking for him.

Lewis intended to begin by cross-examining the previous witnesses.  There was now a pause while Acting Inspector Baldock explained that “owing to some misapprehension the whole of the witnesses that were previously examined were not now present”.   Not to be deflected, Lewis responded that “he would take their depositions at they stood” and begin to examine his own witnesses.

At this point Barker intervened to state that he would now adjourn matters until Rebbeck could appear in person.  Lewis replied that that was all very well, but there had been a great deal of “inflammatory matter” in the press, his client had been vilified, and he hoped the public would now suspend judgement until his evidence was heard.  Barker responded that he had not seen or heard of anything inflammatory in the press — he can neither have read the newspapers nor spoken to anyone who had. 

Facing this sudden adjournment, Lewis said that he “would merely call the magistrate’s attention to one fact”: the prisoner had been arrested on the spot, but no knife capable of inflicting the wounds was found on him.  The house had been thoroughly searched and no murder weapon found.  As for the blood on the prisoner’s hand — it was his own: he had been cracked across the head in the mêlée.  He hoped the press would take notice of all this.  It was quite wrong that he was not to be allowed to continue, “as he had nearly a dozen witnesses in attendance to confirm his statement in every particular”.

Barker was adamant.  Pelizzioni, “who seemed to treat the matter with the greatest indifference”, was remanded for a further week and led away to the cells.  

Cynics, both then and with the benefit of hindsight, regarded this whole exercise, particularly the failure to have the earlier witnesses in court, as a deliberate attempt to shield them until they could get their stories straight before a more challenging examination.  But the counter-narrative was now in the public domain — and from this point on the prisoner began to be referred to by his correct name of Pelizzioni, rather than the Polioni of all the earlier accounts.

Harrington’s funeral took place on the following Sunday.  The entire neighbourhood turned out, no doubt his sister, my great-great-grandmother Ellen Harrington, and her extensive family among them — “The murdered man being a costermonger, there was an unusual turn-out of that useful class of street-tradesmen on the occasion.  First came the hearse, a double-bodied one, containing the coffin in the front compartment and the chief mourners in the second; two mourning coaches followed; and after them a long line of cabs, gigs, donkey-carts, pony-barrows, and a large goods-van, all crammed with male and female occupants, the great majority of the men smoking short pipes. This extraordinary funeral procession, which took from ten minutes to a quarter of an hour to pass any given point, came slowly down Saffron-hill about three o’clock in the afternoon.  The windows in that locality were filled with spectators, and a large crowd of persons in the humblest ranks of life followed the remains to the cemetery.  Although there was no display of feeling, still the affair partook more of a demonstration in the Italian quarter of London expressive of disgust at the foul manner in which Harrington had met his death at the hands of a foreigner than a desire on the part of those who followed to be present at solemn ceremony” (The Sun, Monday 9th January 1865).

To be continued …

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The Saffron Hill Murder (4) — The Inquest

Pelizzioni was brought before the local police court again on the Wednesday — two days after the stabbings.  This was a formality: proceedings were essentially on hold until news of Alfred Rebbeck came through.  Was the charge going to be one of single or double murder?

Clerkenwell News — Saturday 31st December 1864. © British Library Board.

Inspector Potter corrected something said on the previous day:  Michael Harrington had left a widow and six children, not five.  Mary Harrington, Irish like her husband and then in her late thirties, was present in court.  The magistrate dealt with her kindly — “I deeply sympathise with you in your terrible misfortune.  I am informed that you are a person of sober and industrious habits” — and said that she had only to apply to the Chief Clerk if she needed further assistance.  Elsewhere in the newspapers on this and on following days there were many notes of generous donations made to assist her from individuals across the whole spectrum of the community.

There had been further disturbances in the area and opinion was hardening.  Alongside its brief account of the hearing, the London Evening Standard launched into an uncompromising editorial.  Fighting with knives was cowardly and un-English — a view undiminished by time — I can recall my father (who went to the Italian school on Little Saffron Hill, by the way) saying exactly the same thing to me a hundred years later.  And as for Pelizzioni, minds were already made up: “Forthwith, he gets an Italian gang around him — and Saffron-hill, the most dilapidated and neglected part of London, is a perfect Calabria in that respect — returns to the house, knocks down and stuns a woman, rushes upstairs, and stabs three utterly inoffensive people, who had taken no part whatever in expelling him from the Golden Anchor.  There can be no question about it.  In ordinary cases of murder, involving issues of life and death, we naturally shrink from reviewing the circumstances before they have been solemnly proved in a court of law.  Here, however, the assassin was taken red handed; the deed was witnessed by half a score of eyes; the guilt of the ruffian is palpable, and nothing remains except for justice to deal with him as, we trust, it will deal, unflinchingly and unsparingly.  In England the Thugs of the Continent require to be taught a sharp lesson” (Thursday 29th December, 1864).     

A formal inquest into Harrington’s death was held at Bart’s Hospital on the following Friday before Serjeant William Payne (1799?-1872), long-experienced Coroner for the City of London.  Having been sworn in, the jury were invited to view the body.  Thomas Wakeling again led the prosecution and — once again — the prisoner had no legal representation.  This was queried by the Coroner, but the proceedings were allowed to continue.  Apart from the occasional interjection from members of the jury, the witnesses again went unchallenged.

It was essentially a matter of all the same witnesses saying all the same things they had said in the magistrate’s court three days earlier.  No point in repeating it all, but there had been time for reflection and there were some amplifications, some shifts of emphasis, little differences and anomalies here and there — some of which might better be labelled discrepancies.  The press reports also differ in some details, so precisely what was said remains a little uncertain. 

Fred Shaw, the landlord, now added that his wife had walked away from Pelizzioni when he spoke to her — a point which only became relevant later.  He also now quoted the Italian as saying he could “kill him”, rather than the more ambiguous “settle him” he had previously claimed.  And he now named the Italian who had hit him — one “Gregorri” — adding that “I was about to get over the bar to him, when I was pulled back”.

The first serious discrepancies were introduced by Richard Mellowship, the button-maker. Having previously said that, “The prisoner rushed into the room first, and several behind him, all Italians”, he now claimed that “Only the prisoner got into the room, others were knocked back”.  This was clearly a crucial point — the entire prosecution ultimately rested on Pelizzioni being the only Italian to enter the bagatelle-room.  It was also a radical change of story.  To further confuse matters, the witness also claimed to have seen the knife — the alleged murder weapon — at the “Golden Anchor” on the day following the stabbings.  As the evidence still to come was that no knife had been found there, it is difficult to know what to make of this — unless perhaps the police had been showing a knife around the neighbourhood looking for an identification.

John Liddle repeated his previous evidence, but added that the group in the bagatelle-room had been given some clear forewarning that “that the Italians were going to murder the English”.  He was then challenged by a juryman as to how certain he was of his identification of the murderer — “l might have seen the man before, but should not have known him.  I am positive he is the man who struck Harrington”. 

The policeman Richard Fawell reiterated that he had first seen Pelizzioni in the tap-room and witnessed him “rush into the bagatelle-room”, followed not by a group of Italians but by Rebbeck the potman, who had already been stabbed.  For this to make sense, this must have been before Harrington had been stabbed.  But everything happened very quickly, it was Boxing Day, and clearly a great deal of drink had been taken.  That said, there appears to be no plausible point in the narrative for the stabbing of the third man, Charles Bannister.  The most telling piece of evidence from Fawell was that he returned to the pub after having taken the prisoner to the police-station to search the premises for the murder-weapon — but could not find one anywhere.

Constable Elliott added to his previous testimony that they had to force open the door of the bagatelle-room and also said that when they arrested Pelizzioni he was armed — not with a knife — but with a broom-handle.  Sergeant Baldock noted in passing that the prisoner was quite capable of conversing freely in English.

Although two knives had been found in the vicinity and handed into the police, Inspector Potter chose to produce only one.  It was a clasp-knife with a single blade, smeared with blood, the point of which had recently been snapped off.  It had been found by a little boy in “The Ruins” — the rubble-strewn cleared space between the backs of the houses on the east side of Saffron Hill and the newly-made Farringdon Road.  Close to the “Golden Anchor”, but not quite “just outside” as one newspaper reported Potter as saying.  Charles Pearless, the young surgeon, was of the view that this knife could have inflicted the fatal wound, but probably not unless it still had its point on it.  And as for the blood, he could not tell just from looking at it whether it was human or animal.  There was very little in the way of forensics in 1864 — even fingerprint evidence was as yet unknown.

The Coroner summed up at considerable length, reviewing all the evidence.  It was only in hindsight that the flaws in the testimony began to appear.  He concluded by telling the jury that he did not see how they could do otherwise than to bring in a verdict of “wilful murder” against the prisoner.  There were no mitigating circumstances to reduce the charge to one of manslaughter.  The jury duly and swiftly obliged.  They then generously offered to donate their fees to Mary Harrington.

Things could not have been bleaker for Pelizzioni.  Although a full-scale trial had still to be scheduled, the inquest jury and the press had already found him guilty.  He was destined to hang.

To be continued …      

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The Saffron Hill Murder (3) – Before Mr Knox

A preliminary remand hearing took place on the day following the stabbings at Clerkenwell Police Court before Alexander Andrew Knox (1818-1891), an urbane and well-connected magistrate, also known as a writer and journalist.  The prosecutor was Thomas Wakeling (1824?-1868), a locally-born solicitor.  The surgeon from St. Bartholomew’s called to give evidence was Charles Durrant Pearless (1842-1874), just twenty-four years of age, only recently qualified and very recently appointed.

This was eye-witness evidence given less than twenty-four hours after the stabbings.  There had been little opportunity for the kind of collusion and the possible schooling of witnesses by the police which was later strongly suspected.  One point to note is that although a professional interpreter was present, in the form of Giovanni Guerini, originally from Milan but long resident in London, Pelizzioni or Polioni had no legal representation – it was a remand hearing, not a trial.  The police only had to produce sufficient evidence, which they plainly had, to justify taking matters further, but this meant that beyond an occasional request for elucidation from the bench, the evidence went wholly unchallenged.  A second point is that no Italians at all were called to testify.

The internal geography of the “Golden Anchor” is difficult to reconstruct.  At Pelizzioni’s second trial both a plan and a scale-model were produced to try to elucidate matters for the jury.  It was evidently a warren of a place: among other rooms there were a large bar-parlour with a long bar, a side compartment off the bar, and a tap-room (also known as the dancing-room), accessible from the bar-parlour by a hatch or half-door.  The bagatelle-room was at the back, with a window overlooking Saul Worms’ yard.  It was accessible both directly from an interconnecting door with the tap-room, and by a narrow passage with two steps up to a different door.  A cupboard in the corner of was apparently also accessible from steps leading down to the cellar.  The essential point is that no single witness was in a position to see more than a portion of what was happening at any given time.

London Evening Standard, Wednesday 28th December 1864.

London Evening Standard, Wednesday 28th December 1864. © British Library Board.

The London Evening Standard carried a detailed account of the hearing the following day, under the lurid headline “Frightful Murder and Outrage by Italians in Saffron Hill”.  I reproduce it almost in its entirety.

“Sarafini Polioni, an Italian, of about 33 years of age, was placed at the bar before Mr. Knox … charged with the wilful murder of Michael Harrington … He was also charged with feloniously cutting and wounding Alfred Ribbeck [i.e. Rebbeck] and George [i.e. Charles] Bannister … Inspector Potter, who has charge of the case, was present to watch the proceedings on the part of the police.  At the solicitation of the magistrate Mr. G. Guerine [i.e. Guerini] attended as interpreter.

Mr. Wakeling said the prisoner was an Italian, and lived close to the Golden Anchor public-house … He had grossly insulted the landlord, and was turned out of the house some time before.  On Monday night a lot of Italians got up a disturbance in the house.  The prisoner rushed up stairs, knocked a woman down, and stabbed the deceased.  He had previously stabbed two others, one of whom it was feared was at the point of death.  The deceased made a statement at the hospital as well as the other unfortunate man.  Those statements he proposed to submit as evidence.  The first was as follows: —

“Dec. 26.  My name is Michael Harrington, I was at the Golden Anchor public-house, Great Saffron-hill, about seven o’clock this evening.  I was stabbed in the belly.  The man with a moustache is the man that did it.  God forgive him.  I mean the man now present.  I am on my dying bed.  God forgive him.  I will not sign.  St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.  Witnesses, Thomas A. Potter, Inspector. Richard Fawell, Police-constable 425 A”.

“My name is Alfred Ribbeck … I am potman.  I am 22 years of age.  About seven o’clock this evening there was a disturbance … I went into the room to try to quell it.  An Italian was in the room; that man stabbed me.  I immediately struck him with a stick.  I afterwards gave that man into custody of Police-constable 425 A, Fawell.  This statement is true.  I know I am dying.  The man that stabbed me is now present.  That is the man.  (Signed) Alfred Ribbeck, His X mark. Witnesses, Thomas A. Potter, Inspector.  Richard Fawell, Police-constable 425 A.  Royal Free Hospital, Dec. 26″.

It was thought that the stab which killed the deceased was intended for the landlord of the house.  The following evidence was then taken, which was interpreted to the prisoner: —

Fred. Shaw. —  l am the landlord of the Golden Anchor … I saw the prisoner last evening.  He came about half-past five o’clock.  He was talking to my wife.  He came with five or six other Italians.  He said he could settle me.  He could settle any six Englishmen like me.  I did not speak to him.  He then left.  They did not all leave.  He had been drinking.  He returned in twenty minutes.  I did not see him return.  The other Italians struck me.  Soon after there was a row in the room.  I went out for a constable.  The constable came, and the next thing I saw was the prisoner being taken out by the police.  The constable, Fawell 425, went into the bagatelle-room.  I was pushed into the bar-parlour by some of the customers as the Italians threatened me.  I then saw the prisoner taken out.  I afterwards saw the deceased Harrington at the foot of the stairs leading into the bagatelle-room.  He was not able to speak, and his bowels were all protruding.  I got him into the bar-parlour.  I raised his shirt, and found he had got a serious cut.  He was then taken to the hospital.

Maria King. — … I was with my husband at the Golden Anchor …  I knew the deceased.  He was in the room; the bagatelle-room … with my husband and several others.  They were not playing.  The English people were taking refreshments by themselves.  I saw the prisoner.  I was going out of the bar to go home.  It might be from six o’clock to half-past, and the prisoner met me at the door of the bar and struck me full in the face with his fist and knocked me backwards.  There was then a rush into the bagatelle-room.  I was knocked down.

Mr. Knox. — You were knocked down, and the rush completed it?

Witness. — Yes.

How long did you stop on the ground? — I do not know.

By Mr. Wakeling. — l was stunned.  I saw the constable go into the room and bring out the prisoner.  I did not see the man that was struck.

Sunday Illustrated - 4 March 1923

A much later artist’s impression. From Sunday Illustrated, 4th March 1923. © British Library Board.

Richard Mellowship … — l am a button-maker …  I was in the bagatelle-room between six and seven.  I knew the deceased; he was there, and stood by the side of me.  The prisoner rushed into the room first, and several behind him, all Italians.  I saw the prisoner strike the deceased in the stomach, and the deceased fell to the ground … He had been stabbed and his bowels came out.  I did not see anything in his hand.  I mean the prisoner.  My wife said, “Oh, come away, you will be murdered”.  I then saw the blood.  My wife was near enough to the deceased to have got some blood from him which was on her shawl.  

By Mr. Knox. — l went out of the house, but I was obliged to run in again, as the house was surrounded by Italians calling “Garibaldi for ever!”  When the rush came the deceased had just finished singing a song, and the prisoner, without having a word with him, struck him, and he fell.

John Liddle. — …  I am a French polisher.  I was at the Golden Anchor … about six or seven, when the disturbance took place.  I knew the deceased Harrington.  He sat next to me.  I sang the first song and he sang the last.  It was in the bagatelle-room.  There were some 12 or 14 in the room.  There were no Italians in the room.  The deceased called upon me for a song.  I then gave “The Ship’s Carpenter”.  The deceased sang a song just after it.  The prisoner came in.  I saw him strike Mrs. King.  He met her at the door and struck her and knocked her down.  Then he rushed in and struck the deceased, who had just risen from the first seat near the fire-place.  He struck him on the stomach.  The deceased fell on the floor.  The deceased had not said a word before he was struck by the prisoner.  Two constables came who took prisoner into custody.  Several other Italians followed into the room.  I myself struck the prisoner with a stick.  The deceased said “I am stabbed” when he fell from the effects of the blow.  Whereupon I struck prisoner with a stick; another man struck him and he fell, and we held him till the police came.

Mr. W. King, … — l am the husband of Maria King.  I was at the Golden Anchor … about six or seven o’clock.  I was in the bagatelle-room.  There was a company of us there.  I saw the prisoner there.  I did not see him strike my wife.  I picked her up.  I went out and I found that somebody had struck my wife.  Harrington, the deceased, was there.  I saw the prisoner come into the room.  I was knocked down in the struggle.  I was knocked down behind the door.

Mr. Knox. — Did you see the prisoner and the others come into the room?

Witness. —Yes.  When I got up I saw the prisoner on the top of Harrington.  I laid hold of him and held him till he was given into charge.  I did not see any blood.

Were there any words passed before this took place? — No.

Richard Fawell, 425 A. —  On Monday night, between six and seven o’clock, I was passing down Saffron-hill, by the Golden Anchor, when my attention was called by Mr. Shaw to a disturbance in the house.  I went in.  I there saw the prisoner and several others in the tap-room breaking up one of the seats.  I went out and called 157 G.  We went in, and in going into the bagatelle-room I saw Alfred Ribbeck following the prisoner.  Ribbeck said “That man has stabbed me”.  We went into the room, and found the prisoner in custody of Mr. King.  Harrington was lying in a corner and I was told that he had been stabbed.  I said I would take the prisoner into custody for assaulting Ribbeck.  He became very violent when I told him that he was charged with stabbing Ribbeck.  He answered me something in Italian, which I do not understand.  The prisoner was conveyed to the police-station.  Afterwards I took him to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital.  I saw Harrington under the hands of the surgeon.  He was the same man who was pointed out to me as Michael Harrington in the bagatelle-room.

Mr. Knox. — Did you tell him in the bagatelle-room that you took him in charge for the assault upon Ribbeck?

Witness — No, I told him in the street.  He became very violent.

  1. Elliott, 137 G. — On Monday night there was a disturbance … I went in and found the prisoner in the custody of Mr. King.

Faithfull, 157 G. — … I was called to the Golden Anchor.  I saw Michael Harrington, whom I knew.  It was about half-past six or seven.  He was lying in the bar-parlour insensible …  I got a cab, took him to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, and delivered him to Mr. Peerless [i.e. Pearless], the surgeon.  I produce the trousers worn by the deceased, which I took off his body; the mark or cut there corresponds with the wound on deceased’s body.

Serjeant Baldock, 1 G. — On Monday night, at about a quarter to eight, the prisoner was brought to the Clerkenwell Police-court, by Constables Fawell and Elliott.  He was charged with stabbing a man.  I told him I should detain him at the station until I ascertained that the man was dead, and if dead he would be charged with murder.  I asked him if he understood English.  He answered “yes”.  I then examined his hands.  His right hand was covered with blood.  There was an old knife upon him, and it appeared not to have been opened for some time.  I pointed out blood on his hands, and he said, “I only protected myself”.  I afterwards told him he was charged with the wilful murder of Michael Harrington by stabbing him in the belly with a knife, and also cutting and wounding two other persons.  He said, “I never use knife”.

Mr. Thomas Potter, inspector G division, — … I conveyed the prisoner in a cab to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, accompanied by Serjeant Baldock and other constables.  I found the man recognised by the officers as Harrington in bed.  In consequence of what the doctor told me I said to Harrington, “Will you listen to me?”  He went off into a doze.  I then said “Can you hear what l am saying?”  He said, “Yes”.  I said “The doctor who is now present says that you have but a short time to live, and I want you to answer a few questions”.  He then said, “If I am to die, God have mercy on me”.  He repeated that several times.  I then asked him to look at several men near the bed.  He said, “Oh, let me be quiet”.  I then said, “’Where are you hurt?”  He said, “In the belly; for God’s sake untie my belly”.  I again asked him to look round the bed to see if he knew anyone.  He then looked round, and pointing to the prisoner said, “That’s the man done it; him with the black moustache.  I hope God will forgive him”.  I then said, “Will you take this pen and sign this statement?”  He said, “No; God bless him”.

Mr. Knox. — Did the prisoner make any statement to this?

Witness. — I showed the prisoner a note I had taken.  He said, “I don’t understand English”.

Mr John Peerless [i.e. Charles Durrant Pearless]. — On Monday, about seven, the deceased was brought to the hospital … He was in a state of great collapse, produced by shock and loss of blood.  I examined him.  I saw four feet of intestines protruding from a wound near the navel … I closed the wounds in the intestines, and returned them.  About nine o’clock the inspector came; at that time the deceased was conscious.  I told him he was dying.  He would not believe it.  At last I convinced him of it.  I asked him if he had got any statement to make.  He said “If I must die, God forgive me”.  I asked if he could point out the man who wounded him.  He replied to the effect that he did not wish to hang him, and hoped God would forgive him as he did.  He afterwards pointed out the prisoner as the man who had done it.  He refused to sign the paper tendered by the inspector.  The prisoner was then removed.

Mr. Knox. — When did the deceased die?

Witness. — About half past three.  I have no hesitation in saying that death was caused by the wound in the bowels.

Mr. Knox to Inspector Potter.  — Has the deceased any children?

Inspector Potter. He leaves a widow and five children totally unprovided for.  He was about 38 years of age, and was a costermonger.

Mr. Knox. Something must be done for her.  Before I leave the court I will give some directions about her.  In all probability the prisoner will have to be brought here on another charge.  I shall, therefore, remand him.  

The prisoner was then removed.

Mr. Knox directed £5 from the poor box to be placed in Inspector Potter’s hands for the use of deceased’s family.

In order to prevent the recurrence of stabbing outrages in Saffron-hill Inspector Potter has placed extra men in that district”.

There are various points to note in all of this.  First is that Harrington had plainly refused to sign the statement, which should effectively have precluded its use in evidence – and certainly have given everyone pause to think.

The small pen-knife found in Pelizzioni’s trouser pocket was plainly not the murder weapon, but no other knife had been found at the scene of the crime.  It later emerged that two abandoned knives had already been found in the vicinity and handed in to the police.  Both had been found at some distance from the “Golden Anchor”.

The crucial point about the evidence from both the Kings, Mellowship and Liddle is that on the day following the incident they clearly testified or accepted that a number of Italians – not just Pelizzioni – had rushed into the bagatelle-room.  The fact that both Liddle and Rebbeck were apparently armed with hefty sticks should also perhaps have been questioned further.

“Garibaldi for ever!” – Evviva Garibaldi! – a curious and picturesque detail.  If it has any meaning at all, it was perhaps a cry for justice.  Some of the Italians apparently followed the arresting officers all the way to the police-station declaring Pelizzioni’s innocence.  When given the chance, other witnesses had a rather different tale to tell – a counter-narrative was already circulating on the streets of Clerkenwell.  And the police knew it.  On that same night, while Harrington lay dying, a man had gone to the police-station not only to declare Pelizzioni’s innocence, but to name the real culprit and to suggest the police start looking for him.  That man was Saul Worms, the man from the cottage next door to the pub.  He was rudely dismissed and ignored.

It is difficult now to recapture the complete hero-worship felt in Victorian England for Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882), the Liberator of Italy.  On his triumphant visit to England earlier that year, he had been showered with honours and acclamation – “Garibaldi arrived in England on Sunday.  At the port [Southampton] where his coming was looked for all the town was astir in eager expectation to hail the man whom, of all others, posterity will name the hero of a most unheroic age … All England was present in spirit on Sunday … in spirit all England went out to meet the Ripon, bearing the martyr and confessor of European freedom to our happy shores; all England stood on tiptoe to catch sight of that battle-worn and weather-beaten face and figure; in spirit all England thronged the streets and gathered on the housetops to salute the actual living presence of ideal valour and virtue” (Penny Illustrated Paper, Saturday 9th April 1864).

The admiration was mutual.  In speech after speech Garibaldi paid tribute to English traditions of law, liberty and justice.  The cogent point here is that Garibaldi was a personal friend of Henry Negretti, the instrument-maker of Hatton Garden who was to take such a central role in Pelizzioni’s eventual acquittal.  Garibaldi had stayed with Negretti on a previous visit ten years earlier.  Negretti was there to greet him at Southampton.  They shared an unswerving faith in English justice – a faith which was about to be tested to the utmost.

To be continued …

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The Saffron Hill Murder (2) – Breaking News

Victorian Saffron Hill, looking south

Victorian Saffron Hill, looking south

London’s Saffron Hill lies on the borders of Holborn and Clerkenwell and runs northwards from Charterhouse Street – a narrow thoroughfare rising gently towards its crest before descending again towards Ray Street.  The more southerly and much the longer part of the street was called Great Saffron Hill to distinguish it from Little Saffron Hill (now called Herbal Hill), which referred to the downslope beyond the summit.  It was memorably the setting for Fagin’s den in Oliver Twist – “a dirtier or more wretched place he had never seen.  The street was … narrow and muddy, and the air … impregnated with filthy odours.  There were a good many small shops; but the only stock in trade appeared to be heaps of children”.  Peter Cunningham in his Handbook for London (1849) reported the area as so dangerous that when the clergy of St. Andrew’s Holborn visited it, they had to be accompanied by policemen in plain clothes.

The area was already becoming known as “Little Italy” from the increasing number of Italian immigrants settling there.  Although there were under 2,000 Italians in London at the time of the 1861 census, well over a third of them were living in this immediate vicinity.  By 1871 there were a thousand more.  These Italian arrivals were (and still are) almost invariably depicted as itinerant musicians, organ-grinders, and penny-ice vendors – but these were simply the most visible of them – in fact the majority were skilled or semi-skilled artisans working in wood, glass, plaster, mosaic, parquet, artificial-flower making (so popular in Victorian England) and other trades – “all stopping up tiny gaps in the London labour market”, as Professor Jerry White has it in his excellent London in the Nineteenth Century : ‘A Human Awful Wonder of God’  (2007).

The Italians were predominantly young men and there were occasional tensions as they caught the eye of the local young (and perhaps not so young) women.  Intermarriage was already not uncommon.  My first cousin (albeit at a few generational removes), Hannah Worms (1835-1923), grand-daughter of a refugee from the Judengasse In Frankfurt, had married Giacomo (James) Hippolito Traini (1826-1906) from Bergamo, an “artificial flowerist” of Cross Street (now St. Cross Street), off Saffron Hill, in a Church of England ceremony in March 1857.  The area was a melting pot.  One of the witnesses at the wedding was Pietro Bordessa (1826-1879), a well-known looking-glass maker, also of Cross Street, himself married to an Englishwoman and in a business partnership with an Englishman, George Eaton (1831?-1886), employing over thirty men.  Bordessa and his young English brother-in-law, as well as a number of his employees, all came to feature in the complicated murder mystery which had begun to unfold.

clerkenwell stanford 1862

Edward Stanford, 1862. ©

The “Golden Anchor”, evidently popular with English, Irish and Italians alike, stood at No. 59 Great Saffron Hill, towards the top of the rise on the eastern side, on the corner of Castle Street (now Saffron Street).  It had entrances on both streets.  Just east of there, the whole area had recently been gouged out and carved through to create the world’s first underground railway line – the London Metropolitan Railway opened in 1863 – still over-ground at this point and running north from Farringdon Station in parallel with the new Farringdon Road, still under construction.  This map from 1862 shows the cleared ground before the railway lines had been laid, with Farringdon Road labelled Victoria Street – a name not in the end adopted.  The freshly cleared ground behind the houses of Saffron Hill was known colloquially as “The Ruins” – an area which was to feature in the case.

The Ruins, Farringdon Road. © British History Online.

The Ruins, Farringdon Road. © British History Online.

Next door to the “Golden Anchor”, at No. 1. Castle Street, was a small cottage with a large yard behind it, backing on to the pub.  The tenant of both cottage and yard was my great-great-great-grandfather, Solomon Worms (1806?-1883), known as Sol or Saul.  At that time in his life, then in his late fifties, he was a dealer in second-hand building materials.  We might dress it up and call it architectural salvage nowadays, but the yard was essentially a junk-yard, piled high with timber at the time of the murder – no doubt much of it from the cleared houses of “The Ruins”.  I shall call him Saul in the following account – that is how he was referred to in the newspaper coverage of the time.  Both he and his yard also had parts to play in the unfolding saga.

"gouged out and carved through". © British History Online.

“gouged out and carved through”. © British History Online.

The newspapers had lost no time at all in picking up on the story of what had happened at the “Golden Anchor” on the Monday evening of Boxing Day, 1864.  By the following morning there were almost identical reports in the London Daily News, the Globe, the Shipping and Mercantile Gazette, the Morning Advertiser, and even the Banner of Ulster, all of which had gone to press before news had come through of Harrington’s death in the early hours of that Tuesday morning.  These were picked up on and repeated almost verbatim in newspapers all across the country over the coming days.  The reports can only have come directly from a police briefing.  Right from the outset an official narrative had been framed from which it later became almost impossible to escape.  There was no doubt at all in the mind of the police of the guilt of the young Italian, Serafino Polioni or Pelizzioni – and none of the earliest newspaper accounts contained even a hint of caution in naming him as the murderer.

A slightly more detailed report came later in the day from the London Evening Standard.  I reproduce it in full as it introduces many of the names which were to figure so largely in the newspapers in the coming weeks and months as the uphill battle began to overturn that original narrative.  The verdict had to all intents and purposes already been settled.  To the authorities it was an open-and-shut case.  Only the formalities remained to be gone through.



“Last night the neighbourhood of Saffron-hill was thrown into a state of great excitement by a report that a dreadful murder had been committed.  On the police proceeding to the spot they found that four men had been stabbed at the Golden Anchor public-house, corner of Castle-street, kept by Mr. Frederick Shaw.

London Evening Standard, Tuesday 27th December 1864.

London Evening Standard, Tuesday 27th December 1864. © British Library Board.

From inquiries that were made it appeared that on Saturday night some Italians were ejected from the house for making use of abusive language, and last night some of them entered the tap-room for the avowed purpose of having revenge.  Whilst there they abused some Englishmen, broke the seats, and were proceeding to further acts of violence, when Mr. Shaw went the door and called in Detective Fawell, 425 A, but before he got to the tap-room loud cries of murder were heard.  On Fawell going to the tap-room he found an Italian of the name of Sarsfini Polioni, picture-frame maker, struggling with some men.  At that moment Alfred Ribbeck [i.e. Rebbeck], the potman, said he had been stabbed by Polioni, and blood was flowing from his right side.  Fawell took the man into custody, and he then ascertained that the prisoner had stabbed three other men, named Michael Harrington, Charles Bannister, and William King.  

The man Ribbeck was found be so dangerously stabbed that he was at once conveyed to the Royal Free Hospital, Gray’s-inn-road.  Mr. J. D. Hill, the resident medical officer, said that the wound was so dangerous that the man was not expected to live, on which Inspector Potter, and Acting Inspector Baldvile [i.e. Baldock], 1 G, attended with the prisoner, and Ribbeck pointed him out as the person who had stabbed him.  The prisoner betrayed not the slightest contrition, and treated the matter with the greatest indifference.

Before the prisoner was removed from the Royal Free Hospital information was brought that the man Harrington was dying in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, and upon proceeding there it was found that he had been stabbed very badly in the stomach, and that his bowels protruded.  This unfortunate man also pointed out the prisoner as the man who had stabbed him, but although his dying deposition was taken, Harrington said that would not sign the paper, as he freely forgave the prisoner, and he hoped God would too.

Harrington has since expired.

The other two men stabbed by the prisoner were attended to at the Royal Free Hospital, but although their wounds were very deep they were not considered of such a dangerous nature as to detain them in the hospital”

London Evening Standard, Tuesday 27th December 1864.

Briefly to make some introductions: resident at the “Golden Anchor” were Frederick Shaw (1837?-1909), landlord.  Fred Shaw has sometimes been taken to be a rather distinguished Detective Chief-Inspector of that name who had retired in 1856.  This was not the case.  This was a much younger man of the same name, but until eighteen months or so before the present events he had been a police constable, based at Clerkenwell police station.  He may well have been the Chief-Inspector’s son – there is some evidence to suggest so – but whether this was so or not, the landlord of the “Golden Anchor” obviously knew, was friendly with, and was a former colleague of many of the local constabulary.  He had only become a publican on marrying Eliza Hannah Wells (1837-1921) in June 1863 – she and her father David Wells (1799?-1874) ran the “Golden Anchor” and she herself was the licensee until transferring the licence to Shaw in the October after their marriage.  They had a child, Frederick Wells Shaw, in early January 1864.

Just twenty-two years of age, the potman and general factotum at the public house was Alfred Rebbeck (1842-1897).  Alf Rebbeck was part and parcel of the furniture at the “Golden Anchor”, having been born and brought up there in the 1840s and 1850s, when his father was the licensee.  Badly wounded in the affray, he miraculously survived to become the most significant of all the witnesses.  Once the affair was all over, in February 1868, he married a woman who lived next door to the pub – Catherine Worms (1827-1889), my great-aunt, the eldest daughter of Saul Worms.

For the police: Richard Fawell (1831-1889), who arrested Polioni or Pelizzioni at the scene of the crime, seems to have worked in this immediate area throughout his career, before taking an early pension.  He was known locally, somewhat pejoratively, as “Flash Charley”.  He was in plain clothes on the evening of the stabbings and on his own account he just happened to be passing by at the time.  His superior, Inspector Thomas Ambrose Potter (1828?-1875), was to become one of the most controversial figures in the case.  He left the Metropolitan Police not long afterwards to become head of the London & South-Western Railway Police.  An active freemason, he died at Cannon Street Railway Station in 1875.  George Baldock (1826?-1898) was originally from Staffordshire, but knew the area well having served as a policeman there since at least 1851.  He reached the official rank of inspector before retiring in his fifties.

The other victims: Charles Bannister (1844-1912) was a young man of twenty, a stationer (later a jeweller), still living at home on Back Hill with his widowed mother.  His hand had been badly gashed and he lost the use of a finger when a surgeon was compelled to remove a knuckle.  William King of Leather Lane, was a bone-button manufacturer.  He was in the pub with his wife Maria King on the evening of the incident.  Both were to become key figures in the subsequent trials, but I have been quite unable to identify them further.  Initial reports that King had also been stabbed appear to have been either exaggerated or erroneous, as this appears not to have been referred to again.

The young medical officer John Daniel Hill (1837-1875), just twenty-seven, became one of the most respected surgeons in London before contracting erysipelas (St. Anthony’s Fire) after attending cases in the hospital in April 1875.  He died within a fortnight, leaving a widow and an infant son.

To be continued …

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The Saffron Hill Murder (1) – A Trial Recollected

Sir Henry Brackenbury (1837-1914)

Sir Henry Brackenbury (1837-1914)

“Not long afterwards I had a curious experience, and happily a rare one, in that in an English court of justice I saw an innocent man sentenced to death.  A relative of mine, who was a Middlesex magistrate, had got an order for us to see the prison of Newgate.  After going over the prison and seeing the condemned cells, the pinioning-room, the scaffold, and the “Bird-Cage Walk”, that narrow passage under whose uneven flags are buried in quicklime the bodies of the executed murderers, below their initials carved on the stone wall, we said that we had only to see a man sentenced to death to complete the dreadful tale.  The warder told us he thought we could do so if we went to the adjoining Old Bailey, where the Saffron Hill murder case was being tried.  We went there, sent in our cards, and were given seats on the bench.  The trial was near its end: we only heard one or two witnesses for the defence, the reply of the counsel for the prosecution, and the summing up of the judge.

The story of the case was shortly this.  There had been a row in a public-house between some Italians and some Englishmen.  The gas had been turned off, and when it was again lighted an Englishman was found stabbed to death.  The police arrested an Italian named Polioni or Pelizzoni … and it was his trial at which we were present.

The summing-up of the judge seemed to me eminently impartial, and he left the verdict entirely to the jury.  The jury retired, and the prisoner, a small frail man, was taken out of court.  During the absence of the jury darkness came on, and a few lights were lighted in the court.  Presently, after an interval that seemed endless, the jury returned, and the prisoner was brought back into the dock.  I believe there was not a soul in court who did not at that moment pray that the prisoner might be acquitted.  But, in answer to the question put to the jury, the foreman’s reply was “Guilty”.  The prisoner turned pale as death, tottered, and fell back into the arms of the two warders at his side.  Asked by the judge if he had anything to say why sentence should not be passed, he was completely unable to speak.  Then Baron Martin put on the black cap and passed sentence of death.

How often has that scene come back to my memory!  The dim light, the hush of expectation, the sigh that went through the audience as the jury pronounced the fateful verdict, the aspect of that wretched man, the judge’s voice, broken by emotion as he pronounced the awful sentence, which ended with the words, “And may God have mercy on your soul!”

We could not speak.  We left the court in silence, and in silence we drove home”.

Brice BookThus the poignant account of the distinguished Victorian army man – General Sir Henry Brackenbury (1837-1914) – “The Thinking Man’s Soldier” as he was dubbed in the title of a 2013 biography by Christopher Brice.  Sir Henry was recollecting an event which had taken place over forty years earlier.  The account appeared in his “Some Memories of My Spare Time”, published in 1909, but the trial he refers to had taken place long before, on 30th January 1865.  The Saffron Hill Murder – one of the most famous cases in British legal history – a case which dominated the newspapers for weeks on end from the morning after the murder itself, which had taken place on Boxing Day, Monday 26th December 1864, through to its final and dramatic conclusion in April 1865.  And it has been endlessly written about ever since.

The interval of time had no doubt clouded the general’s memory a little.  Not everyone was quite so sure of the judge’s impartiality.  And I can find no contemporary reference to the gas in the pub being turned off, but for all the fog of confusion which obscures exactly what happened that evening in the “Golden Anchor” on Saffron Hill, it might as well have been.  There is not a single fact in the case which has not been disputed.

Good Morning, 10th February 1944. © British Library Board

Good Morning, 10th February 1944. © British Library Board

There is confusion even as to what the name of the man found guilty actually was.  He was tried as Seraphini Polioni, but other probably more precise contemporary accounts give Serafino Pelizzioni, with any number of variants in the spelling of both elements of the name.  There is confusion over his appearance – “small and frail” in Sir Henry’s recollection, “ferocious looking” in other accounts.  Confusion as to whether he “tottered, and fell back into the arms of the two warders”, or whether he was actually brawling with them in rage.  Over his age – not wholly certain, but almost definitely in his early thirties.  Over his occupation – Sir Henry thought wrongly that he worked for the famous instrument-maker Henry Negretti (1818-1879) of Hatton Garden – a pardonable error in that it was Negretti who subsequently became the hero of the hour by saving Pelizzioni from the gallows.  Other accounts describe Pelizzioni as a silverer of mirrors, but he was in fact a frame-maker.  My great-great-great-grandfather knew him well.

There is less confusion over the victim: Michael Harrington (1823?-1864), known as Mike to family and friends, a costermonger in his early forties.  He did not in fact die until the early hours of the following morning, in Bart’s Hospital.  And he was Irish, not English: I know this because he was the brother (or possibly half-brother) of my great-great-grandmother, Ellen Harrington (1836?-1890).  He was born in Ireland, she in London a number of years later.

Although there are many other accounts of the case readily available, most of them tolerably accurate (even if prone to occasional error), I shall tell the story again over the coming weeks.  Mainly for entirely personal reasons: my family’s not inconsiderable part in assisting Negretti to save Pelizzioni has never really been highlighted (except by Negretti himself), but also because the case has very often been cast (certainly in more recent times) as a tribal incident – an example of intolerance and probable injustice towards immigrants.  Earlier accounts tend to concentrate much more solidly on the possibility of serious malfeasance by the police and the authorities.  But what appears to be a key element in the full understanding of the case – the apparently very personal relationship between Pelizzioni and Eliza Shaw, the landlady of the “Golden Anchor” has never really been examined.

To be continued.

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Jacob Abraham (1772?-1845)

Jacob Abraham, New Terrestrial Globe. 1813. © Daniel Crouch Rare Books

Jacob Abraham, New Terrestrial Globe. 1813. © Daniel Crouch Rare Books

A little quiet on the blog of late, but not for want of activity.  I’ve been working hard both on the online supplement to British Map Engravers and the planned supplementary volume on American Map Engravers.  I spotted this delightful little pocket globe the other day, posted (probably on Instagram) by Daniel Crouch Rare Books.  It’s by a maker (or more likely retailer) I’d not come across before — Jacob Abraham of Bath.   Not very much seemed to be known about him, so I got to work and he has now become the very latest addition to the online Supplement – posted there this morning and repeated here below to give you the flavour.  There now over 200 entries like it on the website, and several more will be added this month, so do make use of it.

ABRAHAM, Jacob (1772?-1845) — Exeter, Bath & Cheltenham

Optician, instrument-maker, globemaker, etc.  Produced New terrestrial globe 1813, apparently with Abraham’s label covering an earlier one by Nicholas Lane; Newton’s new and improved terrestrial pocket globe 1817 — with Abraham’s imprint pasted on beneath the title.  Also produced spectacles, telescopes, microscopes, barometers, orreries, etc.

01A87X1M; Trade card of J Abraham, optician and mathematical instrument maker, 1837.

Trade card of Jacob Abraham, optician and mathematical instrument maker, 1837. © Science Museum Group

Born in or about 1772, perhaps in London, where his mother died at the age of eighty in 1823.  He began in business in or about 1795, probably in Exeter: he is first recorded there, but by 1802 was migrating to Bath to coincide with the fashionable season each year.  In 1802 he was advertising “all sorts of spectacles, mounted in silver, tortoiseshell, or steel; prospect, reading, opera, and Claude-Lorraine glasses; linen-provers, telescopes, and microscopes; goglers to preserve the eyes from the dust or wind, chiefly used for riding; hergrometers [hygrometers] and thermometers; watch compasses, camera obscuras, preservers for young ladies’ and gentlemen’s eyes, particularly those who never used glasses before; concave and convex glasses for short-sighted persons”, etc., (Bath Chronicle, 25 Feb 1802).  By 1808 he was now sharing his time between Bath and Cheltenham.  In 1812, Abraham was one of the leading figures in the establishment of a Jewish cemetery in Bath.

Cheltenham Chronicle, 31st May 1838. © British Library Board.

Cheltenham Chronicle, 31st May 1838. © British Library Board.

The Bath Chronicle of 27 May 1813 related a curious story of the Exeter merchant Lazarus Cohen, Abraham’s brother-in-law, who had been captured by the French on a voyage to Guernsey two years earlier and imprisoned in France, but had now escaped and made his way safely home via Prague.  Abraham announced himself as Optician to the Duke of Gloucester, and to the Duke of Wellington, from at least 1818, and in 1828 the local press recorded a visit to Abraham by the former, with the purchase of several articles, and repeated visits by the latter, with “some very large purchases”, a few weeks later (Cheltenham Journal, 21 Jul 1828 & 1 Sep 1828).  A large portion of the stock was dispersed at auction in 1843, but his son Maurice Abraham (1808?-1872), who later emigrated to Australia, had taken over the business in Queen’s Circus, Cheltenham, by June 1845, probably with the assistance of his sister Sophia (1811?-1884).  The eldest son, Abraham Abraham (1799?-1863), had long been independently established and was a very well-known instrument-maker in Lord Street, Liverpool.  Jacob Abraham died at Cheltenham 20 Sep 1845 at the age of seventy-three.  A lengthy will, noting numerous property interests, survives in NA (PROB 11/2026/136), probate being granted 13 Nov 1845.  There is a trade-card in the Science Museum.  His widow, Hannah Cohen (1764?-1846), died at Cheltenham the following year, reportedly at the age of eighty-two.

Abraham’s various addresses in Exeter, Bath and Cheltenham, etc. are given in full on the Supplement.

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Leonard Potts


“Ben Sarto” [Frank Dubrez Fawcett]: The Oldest Profession. London: Modern Fiction, 1952.

Back in time to that more innocent world of the early 1950s and another neglected artist of British pulp fiction.  Someone about whom the reference books and online resources are seemingly entirely silent.  Highly recognisable in style — his work seen on the books of such luminaries of the genre as “Griff”, “Ben Sarto”, “Ace Capelli”, and “Jean-Paul Valois” (brand-names as much as pseudonyms).  lp monogramHis technique deliberately flat and strong, the women quizzical, a little doll-like, perhaps a dash of Betty Boop, with heart-shaped faces and a certain elongation and angularity of style, the men achingly square-jawed, clean-cut and tight-lipped.  Much of his work anonymous – and, if signed at all, merely with a tiny lower-case “lp” monogram tucked away in a corner and easily missed.  The work of Leonard Potts (1902-1978) — I believe known as Len to his intimates.

crooked coffins

“Griff”: Crooked Coffins. London: Modern Fiction, 1952.

Quite what Potts was doing in the years immediately either side of what was evidently a relatively brief incursion into the world of pulp fiction covers, I am not at all sure, although his early career in the 1920s and 1930s seems straightforward enough.

He was born in in Bradford, Yorkshire, on the 27th May 1902, the younger son of Charles Alexander Potts (1863-1934) and his wife Elizabeth Ann Calow (1866-1951), both Mancunians in origin, who had married at Hulme in 1890.  He was baptised at St. Philip, Girlington, on 29th June 1902, the family then living at No. 188 St. Leonard’s Road — a road of long incline down from Girlington towards the centre of Bradford and hence perhaps his name.  His father was a dyer in the cotton trade and later a trade union representative of some sort.  The family were back in Manchester, living in Moss Side at No. 19 Normanby Street, by 1911 and I assume it was there that Potts was schooled and grew up.

RealThing Almost Tatler 30 Jan 1929

The Real Thing — Almost. From The Tatler, 30th January 1929. © Illustrated London News Group. Image created courtesy of the British Library Board.

Where he trained as an artist, I know not.  The release of the 1921 census returns next year may well elucidate this, but my guess for the moment would be at a London art school, for London was where he made his career — although his connection with the painter George Holland (see below) might perhaps mean that they were contemporaries at Leicester College of Art.  By the early 1920s Potts was much employed as an illustrator on the popular magazines of the day, his work frequently encountered in The Detective Magazine between 1923 and 1925.  Work of the same period and a little later includes advertisements as well as illustration credits in The 1929 signaturePillar-Box; The Red Magazine; The Yellow Magazine; Chums; The Scout; The Boy’s Own Paper, and in particular Cassell’s Magazine.  Between 1928 and 1930, he was responsible for a whole sequence of full-page (and some double-page) coloured illustrations for The Tatler — his work at this stage already moving towards his later distinctive style, but rather more elaborate and still signed with his full name in a style almost florid.

Decoy Tatler 29 May 1929

The Decoy. From The Tatler, 29th May 1929. © Illustrated London News Group. Image created courtesy of the British Library Board.

In the years either side of 1930, he was living at No. 40 Bramerton Street in Chelsea, a road running south off the King’s Road.  By 1934 he had moved to No. 44 Redcliffe Road in West Brompton — the area where it merges with Chelsea and South Kensington.  He married Doris Blakey (1902-1977), herself I believe from Lancaster, at Kensington in 1938 and lived with her at Redcliffe Road.  The rather better-known and much more easily looked-up portrait and landscape painter George Herbert Buckingham Holland (1901-1987) and his wife Beryl Claridge (1906-1991) were also at this  address – the large studio windows, although probably not now in their original form, must have particularly appealed to these two contemporary if rather different artists, both from the provinces, both not long married, and possibly friends since college days.

44 Redcliffe Road

No. 44 Redcliffe Road

Leonard Potts may well have been the man of that name who saw war service in the Royal Artillery between 1940 and 1944, but I have been unable to verify this.  Post-war, he moved back to No. 40 Bramerton Street for a couple of years before settling at No. 1 Carlyle Studios, on the King’s Road.  This must have been where most of his work for the leading pulp-fiction publishers of the early 1950s was executed.

“Griff”: Shoot to Live. London: Modern Fiction, 1953.

“Griff”: Shoot to Live. London: Modern Fiction, 1953.

Most of that particular group of publishers — Ralph Stokes, Edwin Self, Modern Fiction, Comyns — disappeared in the wake of the obscenity trials of the mid-1950s, and quite what Potts made of the rest of his career remains a mystery.  If anyone knows, do please get in touch.  He and Doris remained at Carlyle Studios until 1960, before moving again to No. 7 Chelsea Manor Studios in Flood Street, just round the corner from Chelsea Town Hall.  The Chelsea Manor Studios were built in 1902 and are now billed as luxury apartments, but they still hosted an enclave of artists of various kinds in the early 1960s.

“Jean-Paul Valois” [Lisle Willis]: Confessions of Corinne. London: Edwin Self, ca. 1953.

“Jean-Paul Valois” [Lisle Willis]: Confessions of Corinne. London: Edwin Self, ca. 1953.

The Potts were still living there in 1966 when the young and hirsute photographer Michael Cooper (1941-1973) opened his photographic studio at No. 4 — a studio now famous for the legendary photo-shoots with both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.  Quite what the now elderly artist made of this rather different aspect of popular culture is difficult to imagine, although I imagine he could have produced pretty memorable album covers for Sergeant Pepper and Their Satanic Majesties himself, if only had he been asked.

No. 53 Mossbury Road

No. 53 Mossbury Road

The death of Doris Potts was registered in Chelsea in the early part of 1977, so I assume they were still living there at that time, but Potts himself died in Battersea the following year — on the 4th May 1978.  He was then living at No. 53 Mossbury Road, just off Lavender Hill, near Clapham Junction.  Just across the road from my bank as it happens, so easy enough to take this snap of it.  Probate on his modest estate of just over £3,000 was granted on the 1st June and there his story, to the somewhat limited extent to which I have been able to trace it, comes to an end.

“Hank Spencer”: Bad-Luck Cutie. Modern Fiction, 1953.

“Hank Spencer”: Bad-Luck Cutie. Modern Fiction, 1953.

If anyone remembers him at all, knows anything more, or has anything cogent to

“Ben Sarto” [Frank Dubrez Fawcett]: City of Sin. London: Modern Fiction, 1952.

“Ben Sarto” [Frank Dubrez Fawcett]: City of Sin. London: Modern Fiction, 1952.

add, then the floor is yours via the “Comment” option beneath the sharing buttons below.  I’d love to know a little more.

For more work by Leonard Potts, see the Pinterest board at Leonard Potts on Pinterest.

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Bound For Her Birthday

Thistle Fore-edge

44687BI’ve written about the bookseller Robert Bowes (1835-1919) before (you can read it all here on the blog for 26 December 2012).  An extraordinary life – born in rural poverty in Ayrshire, educated in the Cambridge bookshop of his uncles – the Alexander and Daniel Macmillan of publishing fame,  partnership in “Macmillan & Bowes”, an ascent to a matchless reputation as a scholar-bookseller, President of the ABA in 1914, and in the end an honorary degree from Cambridge University.

Bowes Headstones

© Mill Road Cemetery

All well and good, but little there to touch on his private life, although I did note that on 15th April 1868 he married Fanny Brimley (1831-1903), daughter of Augustine Brimley, a Cambridge provision merchant, alderman, and sometime mayor of Cambridge, and half-sister to George Brimley (1819-1857), appointed librarian to Trinity College in 1845. And that they had three children, including George Edmund Brimley Bowes (1874-1946) – himself to become ABA President in 1923. And I can add now that both Robert and Fanny Bowes are buried at Mill Road Cemetery, where their matching headstones still stand — here they are in photographs borrowed (for the second post in a row) from the excellent Mill Road Cemetery website.

Robert Bowes' bookplateBut knowing my weakness both for a nice binding and a book with a bloggable narrative, I was offered these two books last week by my friend and colleague Cooper Hay up in Glasgow (Cooper Hay Rare Books).  Picking up on a theme from my last post – books with a story attached, books belonging to a definable moment, books firmly located in time and place.

The books in themselves are of no great consequence, although pleasant and useful enough – standard editions of the poetical works of Milton and Scott, published in Macmillan’s “Globe Edition” format in 1877 and 1878 respectively. But not in the bindings one might ordinarily expect – for these were bound specially for Robert Bowes and for a special purpose – to give to his wife on her birthday in June 1883 (her fifty-second, as it happens). Presumably two of her favourite authors.

Inscription to Fanny BowesThe Milton volume has his inscription to her with his initials – recording her birthday date of the 5th of June (today as I post this piece – Happy Birthday, Fanny).  A later inscription below, “In Memory of F. B. 28 February 1903” – the date of Fanny Bowes’ death – records the passing on of the books, by, or more probably to, “E. M.” – possibly Emma Maclehose – a niece of hers and a grand-daughter of Alexander Macmillan. It has also had bound in (bound in, rather than pasted in) Robert Bowes rather handsome “Quod Vis Potes” (What you wish, You can do) bookplate.

Binding detailThe bindings themselves only reveal their quality slowly. The spines fairly conventional, but the boards showing more truly the delicious colour of the morocco and the razor-sharp quality of the finishing. And then we look inside – hand-painted paste-downs – tulips for Milton, thistles for Scott. And then the slow reveal of the fore-edge paintings – the tulip and thistle designs continued on under the gilt and only exposed by fanning the leaves. Secret, subtle, and superb.

Edges and EndsInfuriating not to know who executed these bindings, but there are no clues at all (as probably there shouldn’t be on a birthday-present).  Cooper is of the view that the bindings were probably done in-house by binders working for Macmillan.  I’m not at all sure of that – the more I look at them, the more I see top quality workmanship.  If bound in Cambridge, then John Bird Hawes of my last post would be a possibility – but there were other bookbinders in Cambridge and there would be no reason at all why Bowes, who had formerly worked in London, could not have commissioned them from a top London bindery.

Thistle pastedownsI suspect in fact that they are the work of a younger man than Hawes – the designs are so up to the minute – that period of evolution in fashion and taste slowly building towards the full flowering of art nouveau of the 1890s. But whoever made them, wherever they were fashioned, I had to agree with Cooper as we negotiated a price – neither of us had ever seen anything quite like them before.

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A Cambridge Binding — John Bird Hawes (1820-1885)


44462Even after all these years, I’m still astonished at how little valued and appreciated many old books are.  Here’s a case in point — a book I bought inexpensively on my travels last summer.  Just how inexpensively, you can gauge from the fact that it was listed on my last catalogue at a modest £40.  And just how little appreciated, you can gauge from the additional fact that no-one has bought it or even shown a flicker of interest (the same is, alas, true of most of the other books on the catalogue).

Well, we like a book with some context, we always say.  A book with a back-story.  A book with its own narrative — and this has plenty.  It’s a life of George Moore (1806-1876) by the indefatigable Samuel Smiles (1812-1904), author of that ultimate Victorian book, Self-Help (1859).  Moore was a typical Smiles hero, an entirely self-made man who made a fortune in the lace trade by sheer doggedness, energy and perseverance, and then became a magnificent philanthropist in the best of ways — quietly, behind the scenes, and for the most part anonymously.

hawesdetailI know and understand that the Smiles view of the universe has been out of fashion for over 100 years (although no real idea why).  I get that.  You may not care for the content — but look at the binding.  At first glance, a run-of-the-mill Victorian calf, but on closer inspection it’s much better than that.  It’s lost a little of its original lustre, it’s true, but a closer study reveals some first-rate work in the detail.  Good quality leather.  Pretty headbands.  And then there are the gorgeous marbled endpapers — a design known as “antique spot”, if I’m not mistaken — and all with matching edges.

hawesstampAnd — importantly — we know exactly who bound it, and when, and for whom — J. B. Hawes of Cambridge says the stamp.  A morning’s work was needed fully to identify him, but this is John Bird Hawes (1820-1885).  He was born in Birmingham on 17th July 1820, the son of John Hawes, a carpenter, and his wife Rosetta Bird (1796-1870), who had married in London the previous year.  Their sojourn in Birmingham must have been relatively brief, as they were back in London and living in Smith Street, St. Pancras, by 1823, when they baptised both John and his younger sister, Rosetta, at St. George Bloomsbury on 28th September of that year.

hawesendsWhere John Bird Hawes trained is not known, but he was presumably related to the slightly older Benjamin Hawes (1810-1895), active as a bookbinder in Cambridge from the 1830s.  The younger Hawes was himself in Cambridge from at least 1851.  He married Mary Maria Brown (1827-1898) there at St. Andrew’s on 24th March 1853 and the couple lived at various houses in Earl Street for the next thirty years.  From at least 1862 until the time of his death the bookbinding was carried out from retail premises at 30 Green Street.  By 1871, Hawes was employing six men, four girls and two boys.  He died towards the end of 1885 and was buried at Mill Road Cemetery, where the headstone still stands — here it is in a photograph borrowed from the Mill Road Cemetery website.  Probate on a reasonable estate of over £1,500 was granted to his widow on the following 8th January.  A brief notice in the magazine Book Lore appears to be his only obituary — “Mr. John Bird Hawes, the celebrated Cambridge binder, died 17th December, 1885, after a long illness.  His death will be regretted by many book-lovers, and especially by those who hail from Cambridge”.

© Mill Road Cemetery

© Mill Road Cemetery

Just as a postscript to that, the business in Green Street was taken over by George Frederick Stoakley (1835-1911), previously employed as a forwarder — presumably by Hawes.  And under Stoakley and his various sons, it survived for a great many years — a story for another time.

The narrative of this particular book doesn’t quite end with having identified the work of this highly skilled Cambridge binder.  The book is also inscribed.  Inscribed to a twelve-year-old boy called Desmond Beale-Browne — a boy who went on to become Brigadier-General Desmond John Edward Beale-Browne D.S.O., J.P., D.L. (1870-1953), Old Etonian and Cambridge man, much-medalled veteran of both the Boer War and the Great War, Deputy-Lieutenant of Sussex, etc.  mortoninscriptionInscribed to him as a prize for drawing by the headmaster of his prep school, another Old Etonian and Cambridge man in Arthur Henry Aylmer Morton (1835-1913), Fellow of King’s, clergyman, politician — and from 1872 to 1886 headmaster of Castleden Hall School at Farnborough.  Morton must have known Hawes since his Cambridge days and used to him to bind the school prize books. Not worth £40? – I beg to differ.

PS. The book is now sold — although I’m not sure I’ve ever had to work quite so hard to sell a £40 book before.


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