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!)

And lo and behold less than a year later in April 1843 we read:
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.

Six months after this article 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 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. He gives the previous name of Pontystorehouse and even points out that the area was divided even further by the name of 'The Cellars' and 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 at the start of 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! After they drank tea together the minister left, then returned in five minutes and promptly died. 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 kept involved 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 think 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. 


References:

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

Often I find stories of such dark tragedy in the course of research that I feel they have to be told. This one is perhaps one of the most bizarre I have come across and 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 (i.e. prostituting). She has no home and nowhere to sleep. I see her wonder round the streets every night."
While in Cardiff Gaol Eliza would have undoubtedly 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, assuming that she spoke to her fellow inmates she certainly would have known 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.

The thing is the body wasn't her and so for twelve days Eliza Lewis was walking dead on the streets of Cardiff.  I don't know how she felt about this, I assume someone told her she was dead but she probably didn't give a shit, there are no reports to say that she objected.

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.

It wasn't Eliza after all 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 desperation, despair and depression 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. Surely this is the result of some 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. 

References
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.
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).

References:

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

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Kiss My Bloody Arse: Swearing in Victorian Cardiff

I'm writing a creative history of the lives of prostitutes, brothel keepers, pimps, thieves and sailors who were congregated together as a community in Cardiff for over a generation.
My book is littered with swear words but after a conversation about swearing in Victorian times on twitter with Jonathan Green (@MisterSlang and an expert on historical swearing) and Helen Rogers (@helenrogers19c and writing a creative history about prison boys at Yarmouth) I wondered what was the historical evidence for this.

Firstly the people in my book MUST have sworn. I know you should never assume things in history but come on, you've got the roughest streets in Cardiff full of the roughest career criminals mixed in with boat loads of sailors and copious amounts of alcohol and opium.
The question is what language did they use?
The newspapers, one of my main sources of information, did not always publish swear words. You get a lot of this:
They mainly describe it as violent language, bad language, disgusting language or obscene language.

But Jonathan Green made a good point in saying that the policemen who heard this may have had different notions of bad language to us, so perhaps a 'bloody' or a 'damn' would be disgusting or obscene to them.
I was finding some sort of grading of severity in the newspaper reports though. If you read between the lines when it's just 'bad language':
That's maybe different to when a policeman says:
Or 'most obscene':

Luckily Glamorgan Archives have the original Petty Sessions books (PSCBO/1 series)- they record witness statements so they are a little more instructive on the issue of swearing. Unfortunately the police, who were the ones charging the prostitutes, pimps and thieves on my streets, often report using the 'she used disgusting language' format without repeating the words. Sometimes early on they gave some detail for example in December 1852 when a policeman arrests the prostitute Eleanor Hughes he says: 'She made use of bad language. Called me Bugger' or in September 1851 'she said go to hell you bloody bugger quite loud.' 
Luckily however this changed in the 1860's and the court transcriber Mr Rees was kind enough to write down a LOAD of the swear words that the police reported.

So here goes:

'Violent Language'

This is pretty simple and involves threats against the body or person, such as:
'The prisoner said he would send a bloody injection down my throat' January 6 1848
'Unless she came out she would rip her guts open' May 20 1852
'You bloody thing, I'll blow your brains out' (says man with brace of pistols) Aug 7 1852
'He said he would have my brains about my feet and have my bloody guts out' said the Notorious Jack Matthews to his ex-landlady October 10 1852.
'She said she would have his liver out' Feb 24 1853

Bugger

Pretty normal in heated arguments, often written as b___r as opposed to bloody which was b___y. This was also repeated (with the blanks) in newspaper reports.
'You b___r' July 7 1851
'strike the bugger' October 13 1851
'Baker halload out to Jenkins Strike the Bugger' June 7 1852
'You are the b___r that took the tobacco from me' July 29 1852

Bloody

Again, like bugger, pretty standard fare:
'There's the b__y theif, kill the b___r' March 20 1851
'push that bloody lamp away from me' brothel owner to a policeman July 31 1851

Whore

There must have been a lot of suspected whores in Cardiff as this is is used a lot. Over a three month period in 1852 we have:
'I called you a whore's son' May 27 
'I heard him call her a whore' June 1 
'He said come here you bloody whore'  June 1 
'There goes Vachell's (the mayors) whore' June 7 
'Bloody whore' July 12
'He called me a whore' July 22

Most of these insults were not directed at prostitutes, though they could be, for instance when Hannah Goodwin was attacked and called a 'bloody whore' in December 1850 and when Jane Williams was called the same in July 1851. One neighbourly argument in October 1852 had this nice snippet in it:
'I did not say that she was a Whore and go to Whitmore Lane' 

Bitch

Not as prevalent as whore but still frequently used:
Defendant called me a lousy Irish b____' May 27 1852
'He called her a bitch' June 1 1852
'Some person said, you damned bitch' Sept 16 1852
'She said to her sister to look at me standing in my door the stinking Bitch' October 5 1852
'call your black bitch of a sister in' February 17 1853

Of course some liked to make use of as many words as possible in a sentence:
'He said you damn bloody curmudgeon bitch, I'll kick your brains out' April 6 1848

Shit

There's not a lot of shit to be honest, just one so far:
'Defendant called me a bloody shit' April 18 1853

Slut

There's not a lot of sluts either. Here Hannah Thomas says she 'did not strike her, I called her a nasty dirty slut' in an argument with Eliza Withers on Adelaide Street in September 1859:

Prick

Only one prick so far, a man saying 'across my bloody prick you bugger' in April 1861. 

Fuck

Finally, after many thousands of police court pages, Mr Rees the court transcriber in 1860 actually gave me evidence of fuck being used. Barbara Jenkins, a notorious prostitute, was on Whitmore Lane telling passers-by 'to go fuck themselves'. I thought I'd never find evidence of this word, but it's there and this proves it was in use as part of the 'most filthy language' often described.
I've found lots more fucks all from prostitutes, two on Whitmore Lane, one on Charlotte Street.
The Whitmore Lane prostitute Ellen Cochlin in September 1861 telling a policeman:
 'Come on you bloody fuck.'
Mary McCarthy on Bute Street in October 1861 telling a customer:
'I don't care whether you come home and fuck me or not'
and Frances Rogers aged 39 and 'a notorious brothel keeper' arguing with some other women on Whitmore Lane in 1862:
'called ____ a bloody fucking cow'
Ellen Hall in May 1862 said:
'she fucked about with black men and had black bastards'
Margaret Jones, a Whitmore Lane lady, was on Charlotte Street arguing with some other girls in June the same year. She called them:
'bloody fucking cow' & would fight 'any of the buggers'.
In March 1863 Jane Lewis on Bute Street said to the policeman who was going to arrest her:
'You bloody fucking bugger'
Ann Harris in October 1863:
'Bloody fucking cows and buggers'
Kate Barry in November 1863:
'She was telling women to go and fuck their mothers'

Cunt

Quite possibly the worse word. After almost giving up on the court transcriber or the police repeating this word in an official sphere I hit gold. On the 6th January PC Cambridge reported on the arrest of Mary Lewis the night before:
'Saw prisoner on Bute Road- some sailors passed. She used most disgusting language. She told sailors to kiss her cunt'
What's interesting to me is that the word is not used as an insult but as an invitation to the act.

Disgusting Language: Bad to the Bone

On August 26 1852 two prostitutes were up for using disgusting language. Mary Davies and Margaret Sully, who lodged on Whitmore Lane, were:

'On the pavement of Bute Street stopping sailors. Sully was making use of the most filthy language to the sailors. After I took Sully into custody Davies then made use of disgusting language as loud as she could holloa after me. I saw Sully place her hand on a sailor's privates and make use of disgusting language.'

In the same vein in October Martha Jones was stopping several parties on Bute Street and:
'taking hold of them in an indecent manner' 
I don't think they were asking them round for a cup of tea. It's unfortunate that it does not repeat the actual words used but it gives some context to the phrase 'disgusting'.
I'm sure 'bloody, bugger, bitch and whore' were thought of as disgusting but I think there was more to it, for example when the police brought in the prostitute Elizabeth Williams:
'she said she would be damned if I should go any further. She used disgusting language.'

In September 1852 Emma Hiscocks (who the year before was in the brothel at 31 Charlotte Street) was told to move on by a copper at the end of Charlotte Street:
"She began abusing us and made use of the most indecent language. She rose up her clothes behind and said kiss my b___y  arse."
Here we have some of the language, but I don't think it's all of it. Unfortunately the police don't seem to have liked repeating anything too rude or obscene in court.
The prostitute Eleanor Hughes ended a bad week in March 1853 by being thrown out of a pub:
'When outside she pulled up her clothes and made use of bad language in the streets'
In a similar vein Ellen Fry, who had been in Cardiff for six weeks from Bridgwater, was described in the newspaper and the Petty Sessions records as using 'very filthy and disgusting language' on Bute Street. When the policeman took her to task for it she:
'she pulled up her clothes and whipped her backside to me.'
Matilda Brown went one better in 1863. When told to move on by the policeman she:
'She said she would when she pulled off her drawers- she pulled them off and told me to kiss her arse'
A sexual use of bugger is recorded in March 1863. The prostitute Jemima Daley tells the arresting copper:
'I asked her to go home. She said she would see me buggered first.'
So if people are using bloody, bugger, bitch, whore, slut and threatening to rip each other's guts out in their disputes it it possible that in the 'dens of iniquity' of Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane this, and much stronger language with a high sexual element was being used.

But also we do have to be wary of modernising these attitudes, In the policeman's witness statement for the arrest of Margaret Young in January 1860 the policeman says 'she used very obscene language' and unusually quantifies this by saying 'The words she used were 'bloody- bugger'' so this was this policeman's sense of obscene.
The experienced PC Samuel Sheppard had this to say about Swansea Sue on Whitmore Lane in July 1854:
'She was making use of the most filthy and beastly language I ever heard.'
I just wish he'd told us what it was!

References:

'Ellen Griffiths' Cardiff Times November 12th 1859 p.6.
'Bad language' Monmouthshire Merlin February 14th 1857 p.5.
'Disgustingly vulgar' Cardiff Merthyr Guardian August 8th 1849 p.1.
Ann Daniel CMG April 22nd 1848 p.4.
Police v Eleanor Hughes PSCBO/1/12 December 30th 1852
Police v Mary Freeman PSCBO/1/12 September 1st 1851
Threats of Violence
Joseph Thackerell v John Matthews PSCBO/1/5 January 6th 1848
Daniel Edwards v Sarah Vivian PSCBO/1/11 May 22nd 1852
Bridget O'Hagan v Michael Flanagan PSCBO/1/11 August 7th 1852
Mary Ann Beck v John Matthews PSCBO/1/12 October 10th 1852
Fanny Beard v James Price PSCBO/1/12 February 24th 1853
Bloody
George Hart Leonard v Margaret Pitt PSCBO/1/10 March 20th 1851
Thomas Morgan v Edward Llewellyn PSCBO/1/10 July 31st 1851
Bugger
Richard Aubrey v William Scornfield PSCBO/1/10 July 7th 1851
John Kyte v William Morgan PSCBO/1/10 October 13th 1851
John Thomas v Anthony Jenkins PSCBO/1/11 June 7th 1852
Edward Dwyer PC v Stephen Anderson PSCBO/1/11 August 7th 1852
Whore
Eliza Reardon v William Pugh GRO PSCBO/1/11 May 27th 1852
John Walsh v Ellen Regan GRO PSCBO/1/11 June 1st 1852
John Willey v Daniel Clayton GRO PSCBO/1/11 June 1st 1852
John Thomas v Anthony Jenkins GRO PSCBO/1/11 June 7th 1852
John Kyte v John Griffiths GRO PSCBO/1/11 July 12 1852
Ann Jones v Richard Probin GRO PSCBO/1/11 July 22 1852
Hannah Goodwin v Robert Hockwell GRO PSCBO/1/9 December 12th 1850
Jane Williams v Thomas Hopkins GRO PSCBO/1/9 July 17th 1851
Ann Andrews v Mary Elliot PSCBO/1/12 October 5th 1852
Bitch
Eliza Reardon v William Pugh PSCBO/1/11 May 27th 1852
George Daunton v George Richards PSCBO/1/11 June 1st 1852
Sarah Jones v John Beynon & John Joshua PSCBO/1/12 September 16th 1852
Ann Andrews v Mary Elliot PSCBO/1/12 October 5th 1852
Letitia Roberts v David Roberts PSCBO/1/12 February 17th 1853
Mary Hitchin v Phillip Taylor PSCBO/1/7 April 6th 1848
Shit
Henry Pitten v John Hickey PSCBO/1/12 April 18th 1853
Slut
Eliza Withers PSCBO/1/25 September 3rd 1859
Prick
Thomas Darlow PSCBO/1/31 April 2nd 1861
Fuck
Barbara Jenkins PSCBO/1/29 October 22nd 1860.
Ellen Cochlin PSCBO/1/33 20th September 1861.
Mary McCarthy PSCBO/1/31 2nd October 1861.
Frances Rogers PSCBO/1/34 30th April 1862.
Ellen Hall PSCBO/1/36 5th May 1862.
Margaret Jones PSCBO/1/36 24th June 1861.
Jane Lewis PSCBO/1/39 16th March 1863.
Ann Harris PSCBO/1/41 8th October 1863.
Bad to the Bone
Police v Mary Davies and Margaret Sully August 26 1852 GRO PSCBO/1/12 for her lodging on Whitmore Lane see PSCBO/1/12 September 27th 1851 Police v Margaret Sully.
Police v Martha Jones PSCBO/1/12 October 4th 1852
Police v Elizabeth WIlliams PSCBO/1/12 February 7th 1853
Police v Emma Hiscocks PSCBO/1/12 September 20th 1852
Martha Brown PSCBO/1/39 22nd April 1863
Jemima Daley PSCBO/1/39 March 25th 1863
Margaret Young PSCBO/1/27 10th January 1860

Friday, 3 November 2017

The Quiet Brothel: Mary Ann Wright

Mrs Wright's brothel in Red, Custom House in Blue, Golden Cross in Yellow

I'm attracted to 'hidden histories', the stories of marginalised, outcast and disenfranchised people in the past. My book Notorious covers the life stories of thirty such people who made a living from prostitution, theft and violence in 19th century Cardiff. Their stories are definitely hidden as there's nothing written about them. It's been difficult to resurrect the lives of these people from the fragmented sources that remain but it's been possible with determination and the help of digitisation (thanks National Library of Wales) and good archives (thanks Cardiff libraries and Glamorgan Archives).
One history that remains hidden is the brothel of Mary Ann Wright. The other established brothels from this time have a wealth of newspaper and court records written about both the brothel owners and the prostitutes that worked in them. See my post on 31 Charlotte Street as a case in point.
Despite running for at least 24 years on Whitmore Lane Mary's brothel is quiet, very quiet. After two years of searching this is all I have on Mary Ann Wright.

Mary Ann Wright, together with Mrs Prothero, Mrs Barnes and Mrs Mouls, was one of the earliest brothel keepers that I know of on Whitmore Lane. The first we hear of her is in 1837 when Superintendent Stockdale was ordered to prosecute a 'Hannah Wright- Widow' for keeping a Disorderly House.
I don't know if he succeeded as the newspapers have recorded nothing. If it did then she didn't get a long sentence anyhow as her brothel on Whitmore Lane appears on the 1841 census:
Mary Wright is already 50, lodging house keeper is a euphemism for brothel keeper and the census writer has written 'single woman' for each of the women living there, again, another euphemism for prostitute. 
Mary has six girls: Catherine Davies, Mary Morgan, Ann Evans, Fanny Bancha, Mary William and Ann Cheguin.  
Mary Morgan was possibly arrested just before this census in March 1841:
Mary Williams was arrested for being a 'common and disorderly prostitute' in August 1842 and was described as 'an old offender' when she was arrested for drunk and disorderly in November 1844. 
Ann Cheguin soon after this census was taken conceived a son. He died on the 20th March 1842 of 'convulsions' aged three weeks, although she had moved to the slum court of Stanley Street by then. Similarly Catherine Davies and Fanny Bancha I haven't been able to trace further and Ann Evans is too common a name to say if any report on her is the same one.
There is one enigmatic record of an 'Ann Wright v Geo Davies PC' on the 10th February 1845 entry of Superintendent Stockdale's log book- but no information is given apart from the names- but I know George Davies, PC6 was on the Custom House Beat at this time- of which the main part was Whitmore Lane. What Ann was charging the constable with we will never know. It seems inrelated to the charge against The Tennis Court landlord.

Mary Ann Wright herself is not mentioned until 1848 when there are two incidents. First off in June 1848 the boatman Thomas Miles breaks a door and assaults Mrs Wright. 
June 16th 1848
Then two months later Mary Wright is called to give evidence when the bully Henry Wood was charged with assaulting a sailor on Whitmore Lane:
September 2nd 1848
In 1851 Mary A Wright, now aged 77, is again listed on the census running a brothel at 47 Whitmore Lane, this end of the street was near to the Custom House where the sailors got paid off (probable location marked on red in map at start of blog).
She is listed with Mary Ann Howells, Mary Ann Jones, Ann Williams and Ann Atkins.
Mary Ann Jones is very probably 'Cockatoo' who was already an experienced prostitute from Newport who worked there from 1843 to the start of 1847 and got arrested with Mary the Cripple's daughter for a theft. She'd moved to Whitmore Lane by August 1847 where she was grossly misconducting herself! 
Ann Atkins, another of Mrs Wright's women from the 1851 census is given a week for being drunk and disorderly on Whitmore Lane in November of the same year. A year later she was involved in a brothel theft, possibly at Mrs Wright's brothel, but not necessarily as the women moved houses very often:
Mary Ann Howell in 1853 was assaulting a beerhouse landlord on Charlotte Street and the fourth woman listed, Ann Williams, is problematic as there were at least two with the same name working Whitmore Lane at the time, this report from July 1851 is probably her though:
July 12th 1851
Mrs Wright isn't mentioned again in the records until the summer of 1855 when Ellen Jones, described as 'powerful looking' beats a navvy on Whitmore Lane then breaks Mrs Wright's windows. The breaking of windows was common by prostitutes when they felt wronged:
June 30th 1855
Then there's another blank of five years until Mrs Mary Ann Wright dies from heart disease and bronchitis on the 15th February 1860 after running her brothel for two decades (I like to think she passed away in the night after her last St Valentine's Day). She was aged 80, a phenomenal age at the time.
The informant of the death was yet another Mary Ann- Mary Ann Thomas. This Mary Ann was described as 'good-looking' in the newspaper reports of her arrest a few months after the death of her madam. Interestingly Mary Ann Thomas only appears in the police records in the months after the death of Mrs Wright. She's arrested for drunk and disorderly charges in May, July, August and October 1860 and also in March 1861.
May 12th 1860
Mrs Mary Ann Wright was buried February 17th at St Johns aged 80.

And that's it. Apart from three references, the two in 1848 and the one in 1855 this is all I can find that reference Mrs Wright. Obviously there are quite a few references to the girls who were working in her brothel, especially the 1851 batch, but that doesn't mean they were working for Mrs Wright when they were arrested in the years before or after 1851. 
Compare this to Mrs Prothero's brothel, active around the same time from 1836-1856, which has many, many mentions in the newspapers.

Why was it so quiet? I suspect three possible reasons.

One: Mary kept a tight ship. She seems to have employed 'careful' women to work there who didn't get into a lot of trouble, Mary Ann Jones, Fanny Bancha and Ann Cheguin being examples. Believe me there were plenty of loud, heavy drinking women who weren't afraid to steal from their marks and fight back when required.
Two: She died in the same month that saw the first round of crackdowns on the brothels in 1860. I suspect no matter how careful she was she would have come under the radar of the police and private individuals who began systematically prosecuting the brothels of Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane from February 1860 onwards.
Three: There seems to have been no beerhouse linked financially or physically to her brothel. Drink, especially late at night, brought trouble and the joint beerhouse/brothels and brothels supplied by beerhouses were much more rowdy places.

Mary Ann Wright was careful enough to avoid trouble and so avoid attention from the law. It can't have been an easy task and she must have negotiated her every day life with skill, resilience and forethought.

Reference

1837 Glamorgan Record Office PSCBO/82
1841 Census: HO107/1425/3 F27 p.48
1851 Census: HO107/2455 F269 p.26
Mary Morgan: Monmouthshire Merlin March 20th 1841 p.3.
Mary Williams: CMG  August 6th 1842 p.3.
William Cheguin, Burial no169 St Johns March 22nd 1842. Cardiff Registrar Death cert No.355
DCONC/8/1 Superintendent Stockdale's Log Book February 10th 1845.
MM November 2nd 1844 p.2.
Mary Ann Jones CMG August 28th 1847 p.3.
Ann Williams: CMG July 12th 1851 p.3.
CMG April 17th 1852 p.4.
CMG May 8th 1852 p.4.
Thomas Miles: The Principality June 16th 1848 p.5.
Henry Wood: Cardiff Merthyr Guardian September 2nd 1848 p.3.
Ann Atkins: CMG September 11th 1852 p.4.
Mary Ann Howell: CMG August 13th 1853 p.3.
Ellen Jones: CMG June 30th 1855 p.8. and Petty Sessions Glamorgan Archives PSCBO/1/16 June 26th 1855
Mary Ann Thomas Cardiff Times May 12th 1869 p.8.
Burial St John's Cardiff 17th February 1860 N.396.