|Tattoos of Ann Owens, 1853.|
Four of the prostitutes who worked on Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane were definitely tattooed. I've found this out from prison and transportation records when the women received long sentences.
Three were transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1850 and 1851 and one served very long prison sentences in 1853 and 1856. What they reveal is that they were not tattooed with pictures but with the people they regarded as important in their lives.
This blog contains offshoots from my research into Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane in Cardiff, two very bad streets for my book 'Notorious'. See my earlier blog posts for an overview.
Maria 'Merry' Meyrick.
Maria Meyrick was a Cardiff girl who started her life of prostitution in the Friar's Fields slum of Newport. Her transportation description gives her tattoos as follows:
|Maria Meyrick's convict description from the Anna Maria, 1851|
Mary Ann Powhill
Bridget Kelly, Alias Sancta Maria, Sandy Maria & Saucy Maria.
Ann Owens, Alias 'Little Punch'.
|Ann Owen's description from Swansea Gaol, April 8th 1853.|
James Loynes didn't return the favour, his only tattoo is his own initials!
|James Loynes description from Cardiff Gaol, 1851|
Ann's relationship with James Loynes didn't last long as he was going out with another girl from the brothel a few months later when he was imprisoned for life for killing a sailor in his step-fathers pub.On Ann's left arm is CO, very probably her sister Catherine Owens, also a prostitute who worked in the same brothel as Ann.
|1852 May 15th|
The MK initial is a bit more awkward to research but I think it's either Michael Keefe or Michael Kelly, both itinerant Irish labourers around at the time (Bridget Kelly above had a brother called Michael).
Ann Owens was released from Brixton on license on March 10th 1856. By August of the same year she had re-offended. Ann had gone to the notorious China area of Merthyr Tydfil and committed a brothel theft there. She got a ten year sentence this time so her tattoos were described again:
|Ann Owen's description from Swansea Gaol, 24th March 1857|
Considering James Loynes had a child with another woman it seems that Ann has tried to get rid of James Loyn from her body as the transcriber writes 'James Lloyd' instead of 'Loyn' and the JL has now turned into an EE- for Edward Evans that she has in full on the left arm. Edward Evans was a boatman in Merthyr Tydfil who, funnily enough, was in court on the same day that Ann got her ten year sentence. He had stolen some mutton with a group of boatmen and got a year in Swansea Gaol. Boatmen were often also bullies, the canal led from China down to Whitmore Lane and the boatmen mixed in the beerhouses and brothels at either end. In the five months that she was free in Merthyr Ann must have had a relationship with him.
|Edward Evans Oct 18th 1856|
The 'Angelina' tattoo is the most poignant of them all. Ann Owen gave birth to Angelina Owens in Millbank prison in 1853. Little Angelina went with her to Brixton prison where she died aged one years old. Angelina had secondary syphilis, little surprising since her 20 year old mother had already been a prostitute for eight years. The death is recorded by the head nurse at Brixton prison Mary Smith.
This very small three women case study shows that the prostitutes recorded the names of the people that were important to them on their bodies. In the case of Ann Owens and Angelina her tattoo was probably the only thing she had to remember her by, I don't think she would have attended the burial and was probably not present at her death either.
Since writing this blog I've read the great book 'Convict Tattooes' by Simon Barnard (Text Publishing Australia, 2016). With the convicts that he studied he came to the same conclusion- 90% of his tattooed women had initials or names as their tattooes. Though I'd disagree with the scholar he quotes as saying that initials on prostitutes were often of their clients, and ones on men were often of prostitutes they frequented. As this article proves it was much more nuanced than that- the men and women were partners and lovers not just clients.
For the basics of the 1847 Whitmore Lane murder see CMG 1848 March 4th, p.2.
Maria Meyrick's transportation sentence see CMG 1850 Nov 23rd, p.2.
Her mother Dianne intimidating witnesses: CMG 1847 Dec 18th, p.3.
Maria and George Jenkins' sister: CMG 1845 July 5th, p.3.
Maria and George Jenkins assault: MM 1845 Aug 9th, p.4.
Mary Ann Powhill/Powell:
Robbery: MM 1850 May 30 p.4.
Convict Records: Anna Maria Oct 31 1851.
Convict Records are online with the wonderful Female Convicts Research Centre.
James Bevan: MM 1844 April 20th p.3.
Ann and James Loynes: CMG 1851 Feb 22nd p.3.
Catherine Owen: CMG 1852 May 15th p.4.
John Cody MM 1856 July 12 p.6.
Edward Evans: CMG 1856 Oct 18th p.6.