Monday, 1 July 2019

The Life of Honest Carrie Gilmore.

Carrie Gilmore has been written about before by a couple of Welsh authors and she's mentioned in a few online articles. Unfortunately none of the authors have made any effort to find out who she really was. Hopefully this will rectify that. It is rare to have such a detailed life story of a woman who lived on the wrong side of 'normal' society.

This slightly blurred photograph is 28 year old Carrie Gilmore in 1906. This is the first time this photograph has been linked to her life story.

Carrie, or Caroline Evans as she was baptised, was born in 1878 to a Welsh speaking working class Llanelli family. Her mother Ann had sixteen children and her father worked in a respected position at the South Wales Tin Works. Her childhood seems to have been happy and her mother says Carrie was 'bright and intelligent' and a good scholar. She followed the traditional path of leaving school by the age of 13 and working as a domestic servant. Though she probably also helped her mother out at home looking after her siblings David, Sage, Rees, Ellen, Ethel, Sidney, Gwilym and Frederick who were all younger than she was. 

How Carrie met Patrick 'Patsy' Gilmore is unknown but it must have been on the streets of Llanelli where they both lived. Patsy's mother loved her son and she had nothing bad to say about him. Patsy's father was a hawker but Patsy was an apprentice plasterer in Llanelli. 

In July 1896 Patsy signed up to the Carmarthenshire Militia and a few months later he went out on a drinking spree with friends to the coast near Llanelli. Patsy and his mates met two other young men and at the end of the night the two groups squeezed into a cab on the way back home. The larger group, Patsy among them, kicked the shit out of the other two men, stole their money and watches and left them for dead at the side of the road. The incident was put down to drunken high jinks and Patsy and the rest were acquitted. 

Carrie and Patsy married at the end of 1898 and lived at home with her mother for almost a year. Carrie's mother said it was the happiest time of her life and that Carrie was an admirable housekeeper. They moved to Maesteg briefly and then to Merthyr to a 'very nice house' in Adam and Eve Court. Her mother said you would never see a happier pair and Patsy was the best of husbands. The house was small but as it was just the two of them it was fine and Patsy worked in Merthyr as a plasterer.

Carrie and Patsy were not settled long in Merthyr when Britain went to war with the Boers in South Africa. With Patsy being a militia man he was called up and left Merthyr in December 1899, a little over a year after marrying Carrie. 

This is Patsy Gilmore attired in his army clothes.
Carrie did not cope well in the strange town of Merthyr on her own. Whether it was loneliness, stress, boredom or bad influences from others she "went wrong" and turned to drink. Carrie was convicted four times for drunkenness and the court had very little sympathy for her. 
Husband at the Front, wife in the police court.
Patsy, thousands of miles away, had already fought in the Battle of Driefontein and been wounded in the foot. When Patsy returned from South Africa ten months later in October 1900 the tide could not be turned. Carrie continued to drink and Patsy's mother said "she was very nearly the ruination of his life". They only lasted a few more months in Merthyr before moving back to Carrie's family home in Llanelli in 1901. The couple soon split up and Patsy returned to Merthyr for a while before moving to Neath where he lived with another woman. 

Carrie didn't stay in the family home. Presumably her heavy drinking strained family life and by 1902 she was in Swansea being cautioned for begging on the streets. She lodged in Tontine Street with an old school friend from Llanelly for a short while and the 'small and slight' figure of Carrie was a regular sight in the pubs of the town. 

Carrie then ended up in Barry, a few miles to the west of Cardiff. She stayed at the lodging house of Mrs Mary Ann Fury in Cadoxton near the docks. Here she met a German seaman called Frederick Dreher. Fred was very fond of Carrie and she married him bigamously at Barry Registry Office in October 1903. Carrie Gilmore was now Fanny Dreher. 

All was not well however as Carrie was still drinking heavily. The sailor told his landlady "I would do anything for her, if she would only keep from the drink." When Fred went to work at sea Carrie would return to Cardiff to drink and sleep in lodging houses or rough on the streets. Fred "was afraid to leave her half-pay because I knew she would only spend it with other men." The lodging keeper would not have her in her house when she was on her own either because when she was in drink she was 'one of the worse I have seen.'

This is where one interesting aspect of Carrie's personality comes out. While she was drinking with men she would sometimes rob them- but Carrie seemed too honest to be any good at being a thief. Once she came back to Mrs Fury's lodging house with two large gashes on her arm saying a man had stabbed her. Carrie had robbed the sailor and then told him to his face afterwards that she had done so! (The actual phrase Mrs Fury used to describe the man was a racist term which I won't repeat, safe to say racist terminology was in frequent use amongst the white population of Welsh seaports.)

So when her husband Fred was at sea Carrie would go to Cardiff, where one of her sisters lived and possibly offered occasional support. Then when Fred returned to port he would go and fetch Carrie back down to Barry and live quietly with her, trying to reform her away from the drink. Her landlady said 'whisky was her favourite drink and I have seen her swallow a tumbler full of raw whisky many times.' 

At one point Carrie managed to stay sober for about three months while Fred stayed with her in Barry. He then foolishly bought a little whisky, which 'set her off again.' I think this drawing from a photograph is of Carrie when she was with Fred. 
Fred cared for Carrie very much and seems to have tried very hard to help her with her alcohol addiction. He said he would have taken her to his home in Germany but he was afraid she would break out and disgrace him before his family. 

Carrie and Fred eventually drifted apart. Carrie had meanwhile picked up at least 20 convictions in the Barry Police Court for drunkenness and obscene language, though interestingly not for theft. 

Carrie flitted between Barry and Cardiff in a world of drink and petty violence as this incident in 1904 attests. One of her attackers here was Annie Courtney alias Pidell, a notorious prostitute who also flitted between Barry and Cardiff. 
A year later Carrie was sentenced to three months hard labour at Cardiff for being a disorderly prostitute. When she was released she picked up more convictions for drunkennes, assaulting the police and soliciting. In the summer of 1906 she met up with a man hawking strawberries. After he sold them off they went on a drinking bout together, which ended with a quarrel. 

Carrie was in Cardiff by September 1906 and had hooked up with Elijah Priest. Elijah was a fifty year old 'rag dealer' who had a chequered history to say the least. He had been a 'horse dealer' in Newport, a pimp in Pontypridd and a drunk in Tredegar amongst other things. This is Elijah. He may have also been the strawberry hawker mentioned earlier. 
Carrie was only 28 by this time and lodged with Elijah at Little Frederick Street in Cardiff. One night she met a German sailor in the streets. Perhaps she had picked up some German from her time with Fred and she persuaded him to go home with her. Elijah asked the sailor for some drink but he refused and when they realised he had no money they both threw him out, minus his gold Geneva watch, which the sailor later realised was missing. 

Meanwhile the chimney of their house caught fire and brought a curious policeman to the house. Carrie's honesty was to be her undoing again. Carrie and Elijah were both drunk and arguing. Elijah, seeing the policeman, shouted at Carrie "This is your fault!" and Carrie, so drunk as not to be thinking, shouted back "What about the gold watch I stole from the German on Monday night and you went to Newport yesterday to pawn?" and that was that. Carrie and Elijah got six months in Cardiff gaol. 

Carrie was released in April 1907 and drifted to Mary Ann Street in Cardiff. Mary Ann Street was a poor area full of lodging houses. Carrie lodged with a Mrs Bryan and a Mrs Martin and these wonderful photographs, dated to the 1890's show what the street was like.

Here Carrie was well known and well liked. The residents described her as a 'short, good looking little piece', a 'little short woman of generous disposition,' 'as good as gold' 'not a girl for fighting and quarelling and very good hearted'. It was said if she had tuppence anybody was welcome to share it. 

One of the places Carrie went when she didn't have the sixpence to lodge at Mary Ann Street for the night was near the ice house. You can see it marked on this map as the 'Cold Stores'. 

Another place was on the opposite side of the timber pond marked on the map, a piece of waste land that included an overgrown railway siding. Here the homeless would drink and sleep rough out of the way of residential homes and off the policeman's beat, though they would often check on who was there in the early hours of the morning. 

Carrie may have been addicted to drink and often homeless but she was tidy and took good care of her appearance. A few days after being released from her latest six week stay in Cardiff gaol she went back to Mary Ann Street where she felt part of the community. On Monday 26th August 1907 she slept out near the ice house but went back to 12 Mary Ann Street early in the morning to Mrs Martin. She'd known Mrs Martin for the last eight months and affectionally called her 'Mamma'. Following a windfall she had bought herself some new clothes. She spent the summer's day inside Mrs Martin's lodging house and in the garden out back.

By the evening she had brushed her hair, plaited it, put on a white blouse, new pinafore and a new shawl. She said 'Mamma, don't I look nice in them?' then left the house and headed into town, chatting to two friends Polly Fear and Rachel Evans a couple of hours later and ending up in the Palace Music Hall. 

Carrie did not return to Mary Ann Street that night. She got drinking with some sailors and ended the night taking one of them to her rough sleeping spot. The man was mentally ill and stabbed Carrie to death. 

The events of the early hours of Wednesday morning can be read about here. I don't really want to recount the details as that is what everyone else writing about her has focused on. 

Carrie, a kind, flawed and loved woman, was buried on the Saturday afternoon in an elm coffin inscribed with her birth and death date. Her first husband Patsy was there but riding in the funeral carraige with the coffin was two of her brothers and one sister together with a 'lady friend' who may well have been Mrs Martin from the lodging house. The majority of the fairly large crowd of mourners were women from her adopted community in Mary Ann Street who, the newspaper tells us, 'from their demeanour, must have been on terms of affection with the unfortunate woman'. 

Placed on the coffin was a cross of white maple wood, a floral cross 'by which the relatives typified their sorrow and their hope' and a lovely floral wreath, the offering of the 'female friend'. She is very probably buried in the Church of England section of Cathay's Cemetary. 

References avaliable.
Carrie Gilmore and Elijah Prieset photographs are courtesy of Glamorgan Archives. Newspaper articles are courtesy of Welsh Newspapers Online, Photographs of Mary Ann Street are courtesy National Museum of Wales and date to the 1890's. 

Friday, 7 June 2019

The Short Life of Dolly Kelly

This is Dorothy Kelly, known to her friends as Dolly. She is 23 in this photograph. It is in the same style as small passport sized photographs that were popular in the Edwardian era. Note the lovely heart dangling from a choker. 

We start Dolly's story at the very start of the 20th century when she's 18. She was working as a waitress in The Philharmonic Restaurant on St Mary Street, Cardiff. 

Dorothy worked there alongside 9 other young waitresses and barmaids and a male cook and porter. 
The Philharmonic was, and still is, a large public house on one of Cardiff's main streets. It served food, held boxing matches, ping pong competitions, luncheons and also had a shooting range. The staff would have lived either in the top rooms seen in this 1890 photo, or probably rooms on the opposite side at the back. 
Copyright Cardiff Public Libraries.
We don't know if Dolly enjoyed or hated her job. It must have been something of an adventure living in the centre of a bustling Cardiff with a host of young women of the same age. 

Dorothy's life took her away from waiting on customers. Four years later, for reasons we will never know, she had 6 convictions to her name, was a 'well-known character' and was trashing her mother's house. 

After breaking one of her mother's chairs on a policeman Dotty picked up her seventh conviction.

Two months after this Dolly was working in a brothel on Cowbridge Road in Cardiff and using an alias of 'Mrs Munro' as she 'rented a room' from a Mr and Mrs Cheen.

Brothels in Edwardian Cardiff that were away from the dock area were often 'pop ups'. Someone would rent a house, take in some women, and when the neighbours complained or the police got suspicious it would shut down and move somewhere else. Dolly seemed to work here with another girl called Dotty Evans. 
When Dolly became ill she went to Cardiff infirmary for a few weeks to recover. On her return to the brothel Dolly found that not only had the owners been jailed for brothel keeping but the woman they had left in charge- Dotty- had also got herself jailed. 
Dolly blagged a neighbour who let her into the empty house. She found the keys on the kitchen table and another young prostitute called Rose Saunders joined her. They lived there for a fortnight until bailiffs came knocking about rent arrears and took some of the furniture to pay for it.
Dolly and Rose soon left in a cab and took a train to London Paddington. With her was a large trunk that she had stolen from the brothel. It contained the Gibby's possessions and when Dolly got to London she seemed to forget about it and it stayed gathering dust in a cloak room at the station. 
In January the next year the trunk and then Dorothy were tracked down and she was taken back to Cardiff by the police. The photograph at the start of this article was taken and the newspapers reported the strange headline 'Story of a Trunk'
Story of a Trunk, Remarkable charge at Cardiff, Case against Paddington Girl Breaks Down.
The Gibby's didn't get much sympathy in the court. Their brothel had been robbed while they were in prison for keeping it in the first place and Dorothy was set free. 

Not all of Dolly's court appearances appear in the newspapers. By the early 1900's they had stopped reporting every court case, choosing only to cherry pick the most interesting, so we don't know the full history of what Dolly was being arrested for. What is clear is that to her contemporaries she was notorious.

Proof of this comes in a paternity court case held a month after the trunk incident. A young woman called Isabelle was suing a young man called Sam claiming he was the father of their child (they had had sex in a cave in Penarth and on Llandaff Fields). As the young man's solicitor tried to fling as much mud as possible at Isabelle, one of his questions to her was 
'Were some of your friends woman of ill-fame? Dorothy Kelly?' 
In court Dolly's very reputation was used as a slander.  

Dolly Kelly returned to London in the months after her court case. She didn't live to see out the end of the year.
Written in the margin of the police photographic register of 1906 is the horrible note:
'Found drowned at foreshore of River Thames at Lambeth on 22nd November 1906.'

I ordered her death certificate, which is listed under 'Dolly Kelly' but it did not give much more information. 

There was an inquest on the 26th November but I have found no reports of this in the newspapers. Her address is given as unknown and she is of 'no occupation'. The only other piece of information on the certificate is the exact location that Dolly's body was found- Nelson's Wharf, Lambeth. 

I think her body was either identified by someone with only a fleeting acquaintance with her, someone who only knew her as 'Dolly Kelly', or she had something on her body that identified her name, like a letter from her mother. 

The Lambeth police must have spread the name around other police departments to find out who she was and of course the Cardiff police were well aware of Dolly's existence. 

Her drowning could be an accident, a suicide or a murder. The only thing we are certain of is the sad ending of a young woman.

As a postscript Dotty Evans, the young woman who had shared the brothel with Dolly, attempted suicide in the Canton Police Station in July of the same year. She had been arrested for being very drunk and disorderly and assaulting a policeman. In the cells she tied a garter around her neck and fell unconscious. She was only revived 20 minutes after she was discovered and in court the next day said 'Yes, I'll do it again if I get the chance, I am tired of my life.'

Dolly's Prisoner Details can be found at Glamorgan Record Office DCONC/3/2/1
Newpaper images are from Welsh Newspapers Online from National Library of Wales.
Image of Philharmonic Restaurant is copyright Cardiff Libraries. 

Monday, 8 April 2019

The Origin of 'Tiger Bay' in Cardiff.

Following on from my blog post that uncovered the reason why the red light district of Merthyr Tydfil was nicknamed 'China' (found here) in the 1840's I thought I'd do a post on 'Tiger Bay' in Cardiff. 

Although I'm not claiming to have uncovered anything particularly original I think the 'Tiger' part of the Tiger Bay name has been obscured over the years and I'll like to speak up on behalf of the Tigers.  

My main area of expertise is the first 'red-light' area of Cardiff on Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane, which was active from the 1830's until the 1870's. Bute Street took over this mantle from the 1870's onwards and this street was at the centre of Tiger Bay. See this description from 1870: 
The 'debased women' referred to were sex workers and Bute Street, where the sailors would invariably walk along when they got to Cardiff, was where the women would look for trade. 

London's Tiger Bay

There's a few dodgy explanations of the origin of Cardiff's 'Tiger Bay' floating round on the internet including references to dangerous tides and waves that looked like tigers. None of these have any evidence behind them and thankfully the Wikipedia article on Cardiff's Tiger Bay explains the origin of the name:

'The name "Tiger Bay" was applied in popular literature and slang (especially that of sailors) to any dock or seaside neighbourhood which shared a similar notoriety for danger.'

This is the origin of the term and if we go to London in the 1860's we find that 'Tiger Bay' was used as another name for Bluegate Fields, a slum area that existed just north of the old east London docks. It's the place where Dorian Gray goes to smoke opium in the famous novel and was part of St George's-in-the-East parish. 
This description from 1865 deserves to be read in full: 

This portion of thief-London, which has lately been made somewhat prominent by newspaper allusions and descriptive articles respecting a few of its inhabitants, is generally associated in the public mind with dangerous ruffianism and unscrupulous crime. This is, in a sense, true enough; but he who goes to Tiger Bay in the expectation of meeting with roaring, riotous vice, or in fear of sudden and desperate robbery, would altogether mistake the place. It is true that the unsuspecting wayfarer going through some of these dark alleys might be suddenly pounced upon by a couple of ruffians and be robbed and half stifled, but it is not this sort of crime which gives its name to Tiger Bay. 
The tigers are, for the most part, quiet in their lairs; slinking, watchful, crouching, cruel beasts, who wait there, sharpening their claws, and looking with hungry eyes for the prey that their treacherous she-cats bring down. Jack (the sailor) is their prey chiefly; they half live on him, and he knows it, and so upon these shallows, where he is lured to his destruction, he has bestowed the name of Tiger Bay; for to him the tiger, - as a land animal, to cope with which he is unequal, is more expressive than the shark who meets him on a more congenial element, and therefore, - "Tiger Bay."
The dwelling-place of the ruffian and the thief- Tiger Bay is not named after these, but takes its name from the brothels and those who keep them - the harpies and harlots who deal with drugged liquor, and the slinking bullies who come, like foul beasts, about the prey.

The man who wrote this spent time in the area (he even tried to get out of his head in one of the opium dens there) so he knew the community first hand.

So the 'treacherous she-cats' or the Tigers of London's Tiger Bay were the sex workers who, occasionally, robbed unwary sailors. 

Cardiff's Tiger Bay

Back to Cardiff. As the dock traffic increased and more and more sailors came to the town throughout the 1860's and 1870's, the area around Bute Street served their thirst for drink and women. It became even more prominent when the brothels of Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane were bought up or shut down by 1869. There were many drinking houses, brothels and prostitutes active on and around Bute Street. Here's a letter to the Western Mail in 1878:

The sailors, many of whom would have been familiar with London docks, brought the 'Tiger Bay' slang name with them to this part of Wales to describe exactly the same thing as in London. 

As far as I can make out 'Tiger Bay' was first used to describe Cardiff's docks in the 1880's. The first reference I can find in Welsh Newspapers online from the National Library of Wales is a tongue in cheek letter from 1882 in which the writer, who is clearly living in Cardiff, signs himself off as:

"John Snob, Captain, Salvation Army.
The Barracks, Tiger Bay."

But it takes another three years to 1885 to find a proper use of the phrase in an article entitled "The New Criminal Law at Cardiff" which describes how the Head Constable of Cardiff had evicted all the sex workers from the brothels. Here the newspaper has to explain the phrase "Tiger Bay" to its readers:

'The houses formerly occupied by the girls are spread over a number of streets running off Bute Road (Bute Street), the district being locally known as "Tiger Bay." The "bay" is not a nice place to look at, and its inhabitants are not the most refined people on the face of the earth. They consist principally of dock labourers, members of the seafaring community, boarding-house keepers, and females of uncertain virtue. Squalor reigns everywhere, rows are frequent, and on the whole it may be said that the "bay" is a very desirable place- to live out of it.'

So begins the use of 'Tiger Bay'. After 1885 "Tiger Bay" is used to describe the area around Bute Street, usually when the article is about crime. 

An article on a murder in 1887 re-enforces the idea that Tiger Bay was a name given by the sailors. The 'rough locality, known amongst seafaring men as "Tiger Bay"':

Because the press love a good nickname 'Tiger Bay' was used with increasing frequency: 
This from 1886:
And this from 1888 at the height of the Ripper craze in London: 

The 1890's saw a marked increase in references to Tiger Bay, especially when the articles were about drunkenness, prostitution and crime, and also especially crime committed by black and ethnic minorities, such as this 'zulu' case: 

The 'Tiger Bay' name stuck, although I doubt in the beginning whether the locals used it to describe where they lived- they would more likely use Butetown or Cardiff Docks. It was more of an derogatory 'outsider' term to be savoured by newspaper readers sat in their suburbs.

Now, and rightly so, Tiger Bay is synonymous with it's multi-cultural history but the original Tigers of Cardiff's Tiger Bay were the Victorian sex-workers who earned their living in the streets around Bute Street and the name is derived from a previous use in London's East End.   

This post is dedicated to Neil Sinclair who recently passed away. His contribution to the history of Tiger Bay is immense. See his 2013 book The Tiger Bay Story for more information about this unique place and community. 


'Women Tearing each others hair' and 'A By Street by Night' are from an article on the Salvation Army in Tiger Bay from Evening Express October 13th 1893 p.3.
Wikipedia entry for Tiger Bay. Here.
Bluegate Fields wikipedia page is here.
Tiger Bay 1865 description from The Pauper, The Thief and the Convict by Thomas Archer from the wonderful Victorian London website link here. A description of a visit to the London Tiger Bay can be found here.
1882 description of area off Radcliffe Highway link here.
Bute Street Nuisance Western Mail 1878 August 13th p.4.
1882 John Snob letter is in Western Mail 8th December 1882. p.4.
1885 first description Cardiff Times November 7th 1885. Interestingly a counter was included in an editorial of the same week, it reads thus:

'In connection with the subject, I may mention that I have had some more letters as to the character of Tiger Bay. I presume they are from sensitive residents, and for their satisfaction I have great pleasure in saying to them that there is really no need for them to be under a misapprehension as to the general belief of the respectability of many of the inhabitants of the district. It is hardly the Belgravia (a posh area of London) of Cardiff perhaps, but neither is it all bad. Everybody is quite aware of this, and there is no need for the respectable part of the inhabitants to think that they have been classed with the disreputable.' South Wales Daily News 6th November 1885 p.2.
Rough Locality South Wales Echo 18th August 1887 p.2.
Peeps Behind the Scenes: Western Mail 15th May 1886 p.4.
Jack: South Wales Daily News 8th October 1888.
Zulu: Weekly Mail 3rd April 1897 p.2.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The True Origin of the 'China' nickname for Merthyr's Prostitute District.

China in Merthyr Tydfil was the most notorious area of prostitution and criminality in Victorian Wales.
The problem is no-one knows why it was nicknamed 'China'. As this blog is about my love of dodgy districts in Victorian Wales I'm very pleased to have finally solved this mystery.
Pontystorehouse in yellow, China in red.
Most recently Joe England's excellent new book 'Merthyr: The Crucible of Modern Wales', says:
'Where the name China came from is unknown but it probably came from an imaginative journalist who saw the district as mysterious and dangerous. From the early 1840's Britain was involved in 'Opium Wars' with China.' 
Keith Strange says as the Victorians became aware of the real country's 'strange culture and customs' they named another 'alien' society, namely Merthyr's underworld, after the same thing.

All the historians who have written about China, better scholars than I, have no idea how the name started.

I can reveal, I believe for the first time in over 180 years, that China in Merthyr was not named due a vague imagined link to a 'mysterious' and 'strange' culture but something more local and specific.

It was named after the exploits of a 55 year old God-fearing tee-totalling zealous missionary Wesleyan called Walter Watkins, commonly known as 'Father Watkins.'

Here's how I know:

'China' was, pre-1843, known as 'The Cellars', 'The Cellary', or Pontystorehouse. This was it's official name until the 1890's and it appears on the census as 'The Cellars'.
This area was already notorious as a sex-work and brothel area since the 1820's and it was where prostitutes and their bullies (pimps) congregated. Thus in January 1841 reports like this appeared in the newspapers:
Pontystorehouse was technically on the other side of the river to The Cellars but they were both old areas dating from the 1790's when the Glamorganshire canal terminated nearby. Warehouses and houses sprung up around this canal head giving it the name Pontystorehouse which translates as 'Bridge of the Warehouse'. (It's worth noting here that the opposite end of the Glamorganshire Canal in Cardiff was where Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane were located.)

On the 11th June 1842 this report appeared in the newspaper, relating the case of Mary Davies, alias 'Mary Strap':
It exhorted the religious community to cleanse the 'vast storehouse of evil' in Pontystorehouse (nice play on words!)

Now the Wesleyans were already holding Tea Parties in Merthyr Tydfil, as this report from January 1843 shows:

And lo and behold less than a year later in April 1843 we read that they had turned their attentions to the Cellars:

Cleaning the Augean Stables was one of the 12 tasks of Hercules as the stables were so massively full of cow shit. Again they are referring to how society saw the Cellars.

So at the start of April 1843 the Wesleyans set about 'cleaning' the Pontstorehouse Cellars  by holding religious meetings there. They're not named in this article- but, as you will soon see, I'm pretty sure I know who their leader was.

A month later the newspaper was congratulating them on their success, they had rescued one of the 'nymphs' (prostitutes) from the Cellars. Well, they had encouraged her to go back home anyway.

Five months after this and for the first time ever The Cellars and Pontstorehouse are referred to as 'China' in an important article on the bully Benjamin Richards alias 'Benny Blackstone' and some of his cronies, including Edward 'Ned' Hudson:

This article goes all out calling Blackstone 'Emperor of China' but then using the old term 'Pontstorehouse Cellars' to clarify where it was talking about. Something must have happened before October 1843 that influenced the name change to China.

We have to then wait until February 1845 to hear the name China again in a report about Edward 'Ned' Hudson running a foot race and this is where it all nicely clicks into place:

The reporter here obviously knows his stuff. So what happened? A Father Watkins- who happened to be a massive advocate of temperance (i.e. not drinking) went into the Cellars and preached to the prostitutes and bullies every Sunday morning. Now it just happens that Father Watkins also ran the Canton Tea Shop on High Street in Merthyr, and presumably part of this efforts involved exhorting the prostitutes and bullies to drink Chinese tea instead- and this at a time when tea was a big novelty and not the widely used drink it is today.

Hence the preacher who ran the Canton Tea Shop was the cause of the name 'Little China', or more correctly 'China Fach' - the majority of The Cellars being Welsh speaking at this time. After 1845 the name China is used frequently, as is 'The Celestial City' and references to the Emperor and Empress of China.

I'm pretty confident that Father Watkins was the main man among the Wesleyans who went to China to preach in April 1843- though the 1845 article does not give dates it is written less than two years after the 'preaching' event.

If you doubt this explanation here is some more information on Father Watkins and his zeal for  temperance movements, the bible generally and mission work:
Firstly the dates all match up. In July 1843 at a meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Merthyr Father Watkins 'declared that his love to the bible society reached to his head and his pocket, and he laid on the table the sum of five guineas as his subscription.' (a large amount of cash at the time!)
In August 1843- four months after 'The Wesleyans' were in the Cellars preaching and two months before the first known use of the name 'China' his Canton Tea Rooms were obviously established as they were advertised in the newspaper:

The article explaining Father Watkins' reason for going into the Cellars mentions drunkenness and Father Watkins hated alcohol with a vengeance. In December 1843 Father Watkins was elected the chair of the Merthyr Teetotallers where at a meeting of a thousand people he 'in his usual style (which meant he'd been doing this before) fired at once against the demon intemperance':
So was Father Watkins a Wesleyan? Well in December 1845 at the death of a well known Wesleyan minster Walter Watkins testified that he had known him for forty years. In 1851 Walter presented a watch at a Wesleyan friends party and, by the by, that report gives the names of Walter Watkins and then Father Watkins in the same report- so it's definitely the same man. 
Father Watkins kept up his anti drink crusade all of his life. In April 1846 Mr Walter Watkins presided at the Merthyr Temperance meeting and was described as 'that veteran teetotaller'.
In August 1848 he chaired lectures by a famous teetotaller and was described as 'that staunch teetotaller.'
He even tried to convert the great ironmaster Sir John Josiah Guest:

1849 he was again supporting the British and Foreign Bible Society, he was part of the Early Closing Association (i.e. the closing of pubs!) and he was taking contributions for the Temperance Conference for Wales at Swansea.

You get the idea, this guy was hardcore anti-drink and pro-missionary work- exactly what he was doing at The Cellars.

He sold his grocery business in 1850 but kept the Canton Tea Warehouse and continued his involvement in all of his religious and temperance societies, for example at a meeting of the London Missionary Society he 'opened the proceedings in a speech replete with a zeal for missions.' 
Father Watkins died aged 66 on the 22nd December 1854.

So - I can confirm here once and for all that the worst area for prostitution and vice in Wales is named after Father Watkins- a sincere man with a 'hatred of drunkenness' whose speeches were full of 'fiery and riotous declamation'.

Father Watkins obviously liked tea very much, it was his occupation and his drink of choice, so his association with temperance and The Canton Tea Rooms gave The Cellars the nickname 'China Fach' after the Spring of 1843 when he brought his fiery missionary zeal to the prostitutes and bullies. The community obviously remembered him well.
This report about 'Lovely Mary Ann' in 1846 shows the 'China Fach' name beginning to embed in the consciousness of the locals:

I'm sure the connotations with China as a mysterious and 'otherly' land helped the name to stick but let's all raise a teacup to remember Father Watkins. I'm really pleased I have uncovered his story and put a mystery to rest. 


Merthyr: The Crucible of Modern Wales, Parthain, 2017.
Keith Strange 'In Search of the Celestial Empire Llafur Vol3 No1 1980
THE 'CONQUERING OF CHINA': CRIME IN AN INDUSTRIAL COMMUNITY, 1842-64 David Jones and Alan Bainbridge in Llafur Vol2 No 4 1979.
Age is from death in 1854, the Census 1851 Merthyr Tydfil HO107/2458 f.553 p.12 puts him younger.
William Row report: Glamorgan Monmouth and Brecon Gazette and Merthyr Guardian January 1841, I have unfortunately not recorded the exact date...
Mary Davies: Monmouthshire Merlin 11 June 1842 p.3.
1841 sentencing The Cambrian 10 July 1841 p.4. and for release from custody HO13 Home Office: Correspondence and Warrants Piece 78 p.238
Augean Stables: CMBGMG 29 April 1853 p.2.
Benjamin Richards: CMBGMG 21 October 1843 p.3.
Explanation report MM 22 February 1845 p.3.
History of Tea
Bible Society report The Cambrian 15 July 1843 p.2.
Canton Tea advert GMBGMG 12 August 1843 p.2.
Merthyr Teetotallers MM 30 December 1843 p.3.
Death of Rev John Davies The Cambrian 26 December 1845 p.3. Watch presentation CMGGMBG 29 March 1851 p.3.
Veteran Teetollar MM 18 April 1846 p.3.
Staunch Teetotaller CMGGMBG 26 August 1848 p.3.
Guest: Merthyr Telegraph 26 January 1856 p.2.
Bible Meeting The Principality 30 March 1849 p.8. Early Closing Association The Principality 29 June 1849 p.5. Temperance Conference The Principality 20 July 1849 p.1. Warm manner CMGGMBG 31 July 1852 p.3.
Selling Canton Tea Warehouse The Principality 21 June 1850 p.4. Missions The Welshman 17 October 1851 p.3.
Death in The Welshman 1 December 1854 p.3. Obituary CMGGMBG 1 December 1854 p.3.
Mary Ann Morgans The Welshman 3 July 1846 p.3.

Monday, 6 August 2018

The Twelve Day Death of Eliza Lewis

This one is perhaps one of the darkest stories I have come across in my research and it involved two Charlotte Street women.

First we have to go back to 1863 when a house was found ablaze in the morning:
The arsonist was found to be a girl called Elizabeth Tregall and she was brought before the court on the Saturday:
Elizabeth would spend the next two nights in a cell at the police station on St Mary Street. She was back in court on the Monday:
So they let her off an arson charge but she got three months hard labour for vagrancy, probably in  Cardiff Gaol. 
However the original Police Court records of this case paint a different picture. Elizabeth Tregall only looked 15 years old because she was emaciated and malnourished. She was actually in her early twenties. PC Surcombe states:
"She has no employment, she said her husband was at sea" 
Also Sergeant Glass states:
"I have known prisoner 5 or 6 months. She is married but her husband has left her and she has been on the town . She has no home and nowhere to sleep. I see her wonder round the streets every night."(This description means she was homeless rather than working as a prostitute)

While in Cardiff Gaol Eliza would have met Adeliade Paine, Annie Yarwood and Mary Murphy, all experienced brothel keepers from Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane who were also there at this time. Also there was Sue Walker, in for smashing the windows of her old brothel on Charlotte Street and Catherine Mitchell, a prostitute in for stopping men and using foul language.  
So if Elizabeth wasn't familiar with prostitution in Cardiff before gaol she certainly would have known all about it by the time she left. 
Cut to a year later and an Elizabeth Lewis (bear with me on the name) is up for soliciting on Bute Street:
"Three sailors were coming up. Prisoner caught hold of one between the legs and behaved in a very disorderly way."
Then next year our Elizabeth resurfaces as Eliza on Charlotte Street in April 1865:
It reads:
"At 12:30 on Sat night saw prisoner drunk in Charlotte St. She was hollering and shouting- she is a prostitute. 7 days Hard Labour"
So Eliza was back in gaol. She was picked up again the next month:

"Last night at one o'clock saw defendant in Nelson Street drunk and behaving in a very riotous manner using obscene language. She is a prostitute. Cautioned."

Things then came to a dramatic conclusion in February 1866 and is evidence of the name change:
The other newspaper report gives more information but not the alias:
See my other blog post on the Glamorganshire Canal for more background on how common this was. This lock on the junction canal still exists today.

The body they had pulled from the canal was badly decomposed and so Elizabeth Lewis/Tregall was pronounced dead at the inquest and a death certificate was issued for her. She was hurriedly buried at Cathays Cemetary. 

The thing is the body wasn't Eliza. For twelve days Eliza Lewis was walking dead and buried on the streets of Cardiff.

Ten days later the lock gates on the junction canal were not shutting properly. The workman overseeing the lock used his grappling hooks to remove the blockage. He pulled up the mutilated corpse of a baby girl. The sixth month old was wearing clothes from Cardiff Workhouse:
This led to enquiries being made at the workhouse and soon enough the mistake was realised.

The woman's body wasn't Eliza but Mary Wheelan who had taken her daughter Catherine out of the workhouse on Sunday to go to chapel. Mary had possibly slit her baby's throat before she hugged her daughter and jumped into the canal. I think the doctor is sparing the dead mother here in his sudden change of mind about the cut- is it not doubtful that two huge lock gates could make a clean cut from ear to ear of a six month old baby?

Mary Wheelan herself had probably worked as a prostitute on Charlotte Street as she was assaulted there by a bully in June 1865, two months before she gave birth to Catherine in the workhouse. 

Of course it is possible she fell in by accident, the Junction Canal ran under Bute Street, but it seems probable this was a suicide.

Why she committed suicide and murdered her child we will never know but post-natal depression, desperation and despair must have lain at the root of the cause.

Interestingly it seems that the deaths of Mary and Catherine were not registered officially, even though Eliza's incorrect death was. The Burial Register at Cathays was also not altered so the grave is still named as Elizabeth Lewis, there is no indication her daughters body was buried with her. Surely this is the result of some highly insensitive bureaucratic oversight after the inquest. 

As for Eliza Lewis being dead did not stop her:
That is from the July after she was recorded as dead in February.

In November of the same year Eliza was stripping clothes lines along Bute Street:
Eliza was sentenced to a year in gaol for this offence. 

There the trail goes cold for Eliza. I can't be sure when she died or if she remarried as the name Elizabeth Lewis is so common, she certainly did not carry on as Elizabeth Tregall. 

Fire: Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian 29th May 1863 p.8.
Saturday Court and Monday court are the same reference.
Police Court is Glamorgan Record Office PSCBO/1/39 Elizabeth Tregall 23rd May 1863. The other women in Cardiff gaol are also from this record in May and June 1863. I can find no record of any Tregall living in Cardiff in this time, or any marriage between a Tregall and an Elizabeth either, though it is highly likely they are from Cornwall.
Catching hold of sailors is PSCBO/1/42 Elizabeth Lewis 4th June 1864
Prostitution charges PSCBO/1/44 Eliza Lewis 24th April and 17th May 1865.
Inquest on Eliza Lewis MM 10 February 1866 p.8. and Cardiff Times 9 February 1866 p.5. Death Certificate is March quarter 1866 Cardiff 11a 164. Cathays Cemetary plot K929.
Mary Wheelan inquest Cardiff Times 23 February 1866 p.5. Her daughter is Catherine Wheelan see birth Cardiff Sept Quart 11a 259.
Mary Wheelan on Charlotte Street is Cardiff Times 9 June 1865 p.7. and PSCBO/1/45 Thomas Davies 7th June 1865. Strangely Thomas Davies alias Clark was sentenced to a year imprisonment at the New Year Assizes in 1866 for theft of meat from Bute Street- he could be the bully that Eliza Tregall was supposedly bereaving when it was thought she had committed suicide.
Eliza tea can theft: CT 20 July 1866 p.8.
Eliza clothes theft: CT 2 November 1866 p.6. and trial CT 12 January 1867 p.8

Friday, 2 February 2018

Cross Dressing in Victorian Cardiff: Usurping the Masculine Prerogative

I love this. I can picture Ann Williams, pissed after an all night bender on Whitmore Lane, being stopped by the bemused copper at 9 o'clock Sunday morning as she strides towards him dressed as a sailor. Her reply to his question of 'why?' is also class, she wants what any sailor on shore wants, more booze.

This blog post looks at one of the subversive ways in which the 'working girls' of Victorian Cardiff had fun. It's another offshoot subject from my book on two very notorious Cardiff streets, the introduction to which can be found here

Looking at the end of this newspaper article, from February 1855, it's quite sad that a bunch of rich, entitled, middle-aged men would consider a 'good-looking girl of light fame' dressing up as a sailor as a threat to their 'masculine prerogative'. 
Ann Williams was obviously just having fun but she got two weeks in gaol for it. Ann, 28 years old when this happened, had probably been drinking throughout the night at the brothel she ran with her 'husband' Ned Llewellyn. They'd been together for at least 8 years and I bet she'd borrowed some clothes from a customer at the brothel. 

Ann's antics were unusual but not unique. 
In May of 1855 Sarah Ann Hopkins was dressed as a sailor on Bute Street at 11 o'clock at night:
She had a large number of people around her, was identified as a prostitute and was charged for obstructing the footway, which was a convenient charge often levelled at prostitutes who were hanging about on the street. Neither the newspaper or court record gives any explanation as to why, it was probably just for fun. 
On Bonfire Night in 1856 Caroline Williams appeared in court dressed in men's clothes after being apprehended the night before on the dock road. 
She didn't fancy staying at the Workhouse and was out within a few weeks and back working. She was working in Mary the Cripple's brothel two years later and by 1861 she'd been arrested 20 times. By 1863 this had increased to 35 arrests. Caroline had a daughter in the workhouse in 1869 but the poor thing only lasted a few weeks of life. 
In December of the same year 17 year old Ann Amos was picked up in the evening dressed as a sailor:
Here the newspaper interprets her dressing as a sailor to avoid being arrested for soliciting, implying that many others had. Perhaps this was the case, I suppose the women could walk away when they saw a copper and surprise the sailor up close. Ann may have been sent to Newport but she came back to Cardiff and was living in a brothel on Peel Street by 1861. 

On the 24th May 1858 19 year old Whitmore Lane girl Elizabeth Ford (the newspaper name is wrong) was found on the Canton Road at night in men's clothes too. 
Because she was a prostitute, or 'femme galante', the magistrates thought she was up to no good. She was arrested for 'intention of committing a felony' and got her seven days prison for 'Indecent Behaviour'.
When she says she did it for fun I believe her. Elizabeth had been a prostitute on Whitmore Lane since she was 17, having been turned out by her father and wicked step-mother aged 16. By 1860 fun loving Liz Ford had lost an eye, probably in an assault by a customer or a bully, and she was still a working girl three years later in 1863. She is probably the same Elizabeth Ford 'a woman of bad character' who was arrested for being drunk and improper in 1872 when she would have been 32.
In 1860 Ellen Hall was standing at the doorway of the brothel at 25 Whitmore Lane making a great noise and dressed in men's clothes. No reason is given in the court records.
Ellen Thomas went one better in December 1861 when she stole a soldiers clothes, presumably while he was asleep in a brothel, and went on the parade on Bute Street early in the morning:

Men had the same issue too it seems. When an Italian sailor was found on Bute Street in 1853 wearing 'a blue cotton frock, red plaid shawl, a victorina and velvet bonnet with flowers in it' he was told that might be okay in Italy but 'in this country people were not allowed to play off such pranks.' He was dealt with lightly as he was a foreigner and fined ten shillings. 

I know that some women dressed as men to pass themselves off for work, such as Susan Brunin of Newport who was arrested in Cardiff for being drunk in August 1853. She was arrested while walking with a girl and found to be a woman dressed as a sailor. She'd come off the ship Eliza and had signed articles (a contract) to go on her next voyage too. I've found no evidence of other women, or men, continually cross dressing as a lifestyle from 1840-1860. 

The girls from Whitmore Lane and Charlotte Street, being social outsiders, were probably well aware of the subversive, trouble making nature of the act and the law enforcers punished them for it. Also, as in the words of the great Cyndi Lauper, they probably just wanted to have fun (but of course they got punished for that too).


The PSCBO/1/ references are the Petty Sessional Records (otherwise known as the Police Courts) held at Glamorgan Record Office.
Ann Williams: Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian 1855 February 9th p.4.
Sarah Hopkins: CMG 1855 May 19th p.3. Possibly living on Whitmore Lane see CMG 1852 December 18th p.4. There is a Sarah Hopkins running a brothel at 5 Whitmore Lane on the 1851 census but she would be 40 years old at the time of wearing the sailors clothes, I think the newspaper would have commented on this. 

Caroline Williams: Male dress see Monmouthshire Merlin 1856 November 8th p.5. Out and working CMG 1856 November 29th p.8. Drunk and disorderly CMG 1856 December 6th p.8. Working at the Farmer's Arms CMG August 28th p.6. Veteran Offender Cardiff Mercury 1861 July 6th p.3. 35 convictions CMG 1863 December 4th p.7. Daughter baptised July 4th Cardiff St John n.3. Death Sept quarter Cardiff 11a 133. The report 'Frail Daughter of Eve' gives an insight into her life when she appeared 'without her head covered' with a load of sailors, she swore at the arresting policeman then hit him over the head in the police station as he read the charge CMG 1859 May 21st p.6.

Ann Amos CMG 1856 December 13th p.8. also PSCBO/1/18 Ann Amos 10th December. There's not many references to Ann Amos but there is one PSCBO/1/23 Ann Amos 25th May 1859 and brothel at 40 Peel Street 1861 census Cardiff St Mary RG9/4036 F.20 p.32. 

Elizabeth Ford: Newspaper see CMG 1858 May 29th p.8. For her proper name and the time of day see  PSCBO/1/20 Elizabeth Ford 25th May 1858 and also PSCBO/1/21 Elizabeth Ford 26th May 1858. For Whitmore Lane brothel theft in same year see MM 1858 September 11th p.3. where she got gaoled for nine months at the assizes see MM 1858 December 11th p.8. For early life see CMG 1856 February 16th p.8. Also see Cardiff Times 1859 September 17th p.4. MM 1856 May 24th p.5. For lost eye see MM 1860 March 24th p.8. For last brothel reference CT 1864 October 28th p.8. and last reference CMG 1872 February 17th p.6.  For baptism at St John and St Mary's Cardiff on October 29th 1839 no.1185.
Ellen Hall CMG 18 August 1860 p.6. and little more info at PSCBO/1/29 Ellen Hall 14th August 1860.
Ellen Thomas CT 6 December 1861 p.7. and PSCBO/1/35 2nd December
Susan Brunin MM 1855 August 18th p.4. CMG 1855 August 18th p.6. She is Sarah Bruton in the court records PSCBO/1/16 Sarah Bruton 16th August 1855. 
David Walgoria CMG 1853 November 26th p.4.

All images are courtesy of the wonderful Welsh Newspapers Online site which can be found here