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

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


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


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


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' 


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


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


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:


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


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'


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!


'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
George Hart Leonard v Margaret Pitt PSCBO/1/10 March 20th 1851
Thomas Morgan v Edward Llewellyn PSCBO/1/10 July 31st 1851
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
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
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
Henry Pitten v John Hickey PSCBO/1/12 April 18th 1853
Eliza Withers PSCBO/1/25 September 3rd 1859
Thomas Darlow PSCBO/1/31 April 2nd 1861
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 I can't trace, apart from a probable son, William Cheguin who died aged 3 weeks in 1842. 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.

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.


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.
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.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

The Golden Cross: Last Pub Standing

1849 map, Golden Cross, or Shield & Newcastle Tavern, marked with yellow arrow
1892 The view towards The Golden Cross in the same direction as the yellow arrow on the map above. Note the golden crosses in the upstairs windows.
I get shivers when I drink in The Golden Cross.
Why? Because I've spent two years writing 'Notorious: Charlotte Street and the Lane' and The Golden Cross is the only survivor from that time, the only building left standing where the people I've written about drank, sang, laughed, stole and lost their tempers. The Golden Cross is all that remains of these heady years. 
Gone from Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane are The Cornish Arms, The Navigators, The Lame Chicken, The Noah's Ark, The Flying Eagle, The Dinas Arms, The King's Head, The Farmer's Arms, The Crown, The Britannia Inn, The Pembrokeshire Arms, The Newport & Pembroke, The Albion, The Somerset House, The Gloucester House, The Ship Inn, The Six Bells, The Caledonian, The Irishman's Glory, The Welsh Harp, The Sailor's Return, The Jolly Sailor, The Seven Stars, The Red Lion, The Excavators Arms, The Wild Wave, The Ocean Wave, The Golden Swan, The Three Crowns, The Castle Inn, The Globe Inn, The Custom House Hotel, The Ship & Pilot, The Ship Afloat, The New York Tavern, The New London, The Hibernian, The Great Eastern, The Green Fields of Erin, The Amber Bar, The Richards Arms and The Coal Hole. These people were thirsty back then...

People have been drinking beer on this site since at least 1846, that's 171 years of constant drinking! The pub's been called The Golden Cross since 1860 (wikipedia, and everyone else says it was 1863 but this date is wrong). It was rebuilt in 1904 so technically it's not the same Golden Cross but hey, we can't be too picky. In the same way the interior of the Custom House at the other end of Whitmore Lane was gutted in the 1980's and only the facade remains. 

This post will tell the early history of The Golden Cross. It's part of a series on two notorious streets in Cardiff, more can be found here.
The photo above of the 'Whitmore Lane Crossing' dates from a time when Charlotte Street and the old housing on Whitmore Lane had already been demolished a decade earlier. The crowded street scene, with it's sailors, police and local women still harks back to those times though. When this photo was taken Whitmore Lane had been renamed 'Custom House Street' twenty years earlier in an effort to whitewash it's iniquitous history.

Technically The Golden Cross was on Bute Street, but it is often referred to as part of Whitmore Lane. The longer half of it's frontage was along Whitmore Lane and the front door was on the corner of Whitmore Lane and Bute Street.

The Shield & Newcastle

The history starts in November 1846 with the pub called 'The Shield and Newcastle'. It was run by John Platt and his wife Ann. As it was on a street notorious for brothels and prostitution it's hardly surprising that Mr & Mrs Platt would get on the wrong side of some of the sex-workers there. In November 1846 John got a mouth full of curses from the experienced Mary Freeman. In June 1847 Ann Platt has a run in with Rachel Holiday. Rachel Holiday was a prostitute, her two sisters were also prostitutes, and she was going out with Harry Kickup, a thug from Cornwall who features heavily in my 'Notorious' book. After Rachel had been drinking she started to smash the glasses and then hit Ann Platt over the head with a jug:
Not the first, or the last, blood to be spilt in the pub.
The next month in July 1847 John Platt was getting assaulted by one of my Notorious women Kesiah Jones. Kesiah came out of gaol in the morning then went to his pub:

The location given here of the pub on Lewis Street must be incorrect as elsewhere Mary Griffith is recorded as working for John Platt at the Shields and Newcastle.
In September 1847 a milkman parked his cart too close to the windows of the Shields. Ann went out first to try to tip his milk cart over, the milkman shoved her back so John came out he beat him up. Meanwhile the donkey ran off:
On Boxing Day 1847, which was also a Sunday, John Platt was in trouble for being open. A mixture of soldiers, locals and 'girls of the town' including 'Plymouth Eliza' and Ann Perkins (who went on to run a brothel) were drinking in the Shields, which was the usual clientele on Whitmore Lane.
Ann Platt died in the summer of 1849, when the pub was called 'Newcastle Tavern' and John moved to Lewis Street to run a pub there- where he is by the 1851 census.

The Castle Inn

The pub then passed into the hands of Daniel Francis. Daniel lived at 40 Charlotte Street, which was spitting distance from The Shields and Newcastle, there he had run The Jolly Sailor beerhouse from 1842 until 1852.
In 1852 Daniel had dropped 'The Shields' part of the name and the pub was called 'New Castle Tavern'. This name further evolved into the 'Castle Inn' by 1855. It seems to have been a quiet place, supplying spirits to Whitmore Lane and staying out of trouble, until a man almost burnt to death there in 1856:
In February 1859 John Thomas had bought The Castle Inn. He was already the owner of The Griffin Inn on St Mary Street and a theatre in town.
The Castle Inn was the nearest place for the inhabitants of Whitmore Lane to buy spirits. There's a reference in March 1859 to two of Harry Kickup's prostitutes, Ellen Myers and Ann White, going to 'Thomas' gin shop' inbetween drinking at the beerhouses. They picked up a man at the gin shop and then beat the shit out of him afterwards.
Then in July 1859 The Castle Inn was undergoing a re-fit when a horrible accident occurred:
The fact that you could die from a broken leg goes to show the tough conditions at the time!

The Golden Cross

That death came at the same time as the death of The Castle Inn. The Golden Cross was born by March 1860 when John Thomas had the licence officially transferred from Daniel Francis into his name:
We are also fortunate to have a plan of the bar at The Golden Cross, probably the result of this fatal 1859 refit. It is housed in the Glamorgan Archives and was produced for a unused redevelopment of the pub planned in 1899. This is the only floor plan extant of any pub on Whitmore Lane or Charlotte Street:

The top right door is still the way into The Golden Cross today. Note the spiral staircase in the middle of the pub leading to the second floor living quarters. Also there are no ladies toilets. These weren't installed until 1943! (I assume they used the one marked behind the bar next to the outside area). Daniel Francis wouldn't have had to walk far to work either when he owned it as 40 Charlotte Street is top left of the plan.
John Thomas is running The Golden Cross but not living there as the 1861 census shows a bar manager Catherine Bevan and a servant Margaret Crowley or Crowline living there:
Although John Thomas is there when a man tries to pay for beer with fake money:
Catherine Bevan and John Thomas were probably behind the bar when the notorious prostitute Irish Meg went there for a drink in 1861 soon after she'd made a mint in a brothel robbery:
Margaret Crowley was still working there in 1863 with fellow barmaid Emily Price when the notorious thief Stephen Anderson, alias 'Mouse', popped in to The Golden Cross for a drink in 1863, it cost him four years of his life.
My favourite incident is also from 1863 when Billy Shortlegs, a Whitmore Lane bully and boatman who had lost his lower limbs, kicked off in The Golden Cross big style:
An important aspect of The Golden Cross was that it was a licensed public house. That meant it could sell spirits as well as beer- the majority of the 15 or so beerhouses on Whitmore Lane and Charlotte Street at this time were restricted to beer. These two prostitutes enjoy a glass of gin in 1864 then steal one of the glasses....
Selling spirits brought in the customers but it also came with a problem- licensed houses had to be behaved or their licenses would be revoked by the council (the beerhouses didn't have the same problem as they were regulated by Customs & Excise- who weren't fussy about morals). So although The Golden Cross has it's fair share of drunken fights and thefts it is highly unlikely it would have been a brothel in the 1860's as is claimed by some. It would have soon lost it's license and anyhow there were already about 10 brothels open at any given time at the other end of Whitmore Lane and on Charlotte Street.
Theft of items from The Golden Cross was a constant problem with so much poverty around. Stealing and pawning a glass could get you enough cash for a bed for the night. On a cold January day in 1864 three glasses got a young lad a bed for two months in gaol, then two years at reformatory school:

Harry Kickup was drinking in The Golden Cross, where his ex-wife had assaulted the landlady 17 years previously, in 1864. This time he was the victim of violence:
Thomas Yarwood, son of Mary the Cripple, was drinking in The Golden Cross in December 1864 and he claimed he was assaulted by PC Evans when he went out:
The problem with this claim is that Thomas Yarwood and Jack Matthews were both notorious brothel keepers and PC Evans was the policeman responsible for prosecuting the brothels.
The location of The Golden Cross at the intersection of Whitmore Lane, full of brothels, and Bute Street, full of sailors, meant that it was a good place for the working girls to take their marks for drinks, though they would then go on to a brothel. Here Emma Fry and Mary Ann Lee entertain at the end of 1863:
In 1868 the police were called to throw out John Daley, a local rough, who was making trouble (transcription below):
"At 12 Saturday night last found prisoner in the Golden Cross very drunk and riotous and threatening to split our heads- he refused to go out- we were requested by the barmaid and he refused to go we put him out and he struck Lewis (another PC) on the arm with a pewter cup- at the Police Station he kicked me in the privates. 30 shillings and costs or 21 days hard labour."
In 1869 it all got too much for one policeman. With a sick wife and child at home he had to have some shut eye supported by The Golden Cross:
There are plenty more incidents recorded for the years following 1869 - mainly assaults involving sailors, labourers and 'ladies of the pave' and petty thefts but I'll leave those for another time.

The Golden Cross is now a grade II listed building and it's survival is one of those happy accidents of history- it's fancy exterior and interior tiling being it's main saving grace. Nothing survives around it and like Whitmore Lane this end of Bute Street was renamed 'Hayes Bridge Road' and completely demolished in the late 1900's to whitewash the previous connotations of supposed sin.
The Golden Cross is now an island amidst a sea of traffic, glass and concrete and work has started on building Wales' tallest building just across the road from it on the other side of Whitmore Lane. But still, this fine, friendly pub remains- a stones throw from the city centre with some excellent internal and external features together with wet beer and good company and I would heartily recommend a visit.

So when I sit in the corner of The Golden Cross I know I am drinking where Harry Kickup, Irish Meg, Mouse, Thomas Yarwood, Billy Shortlegs and most probably all the other people I'm writing about once drank and it makes me happy that it's still there.


1849 O'Rourke's Map is copyright Cardiff Libraries.
Photograph is 1892 by William Booth. National Library of Wales ID7202/DF000948
GRO PSCBO/1 C.P. Phillips v Mary Freeman 30th November 1846.
GRO PSCBO/1/3 Ann Platt v Rachel Holyday 14th June 1847.
Kesiah Jones: Monmouthshire Merlin 1847 July 31st.
Milkman: Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian 1847 September 18th p.2.
Boxing Day: GRO PSCBO/1/5 J.B. Stockdale vs John Platt 3rd January 1848.

Castle Inn
Name evolving: See Trade Directories for 1849, 1852, 1855
Harry Kickup's girls: see PSCBO/1/23 Henry Tonkin Warren 18th March 1859.
Sewerage: MM April 26 1856 p.3.
Lodger burning: CMG April 5th 1856 p.5.
Police drinking: CMG September 19th 1857 p.7.
License: CMG 1859 February 26th 1859 p.4.
Man death: CMG 1859 July 30th p.5.

Golden Cross
License: CMG March 10th 1860 p.6.
Census 1861 RG9/4033 F60 p3 Cardiff St Mary.
Women's Toilets: Plans are at Glamorgan Archives BC/S/1/34541
2 rebuilds were proposed in 1899 and 1901: Glamorgan Archives BC/S/1/13888 (1899) BC/S/1/14650 (1901) but were never realised.
Irish Meg: CMG April 20th 1861 p.6.
Bad Coin: 1861 Cardiff Times December 13th p.6.
Stephen Anderson MM October 31st 1863 p.2.
William Charles CMG September 18th 1863 p.7.
Girls stealing glass: Cardiff News March 4th 1864 p.3. Theft was a problem- a spoon stolen in 1863 (CMG November 20th p.8.) Three tankards also in the same year (Cardiff Times May 1st p.5.)
Reformatory school: 1864 CMG January 8th p.7.
Henry Warren: Cardiff New April 1st 1864 p.4.
Yarwood: CMG December 16th 1864 p.3.
Emma Fry CT January 1st 1864 p.6.
John Daley: PSCBO/1/50 John Daley 31st August 1868.
Policeman sleeping: Cardiff Times November 6th 1869 p.8.

The PSCBO/1 references are from the Glamorgan Record Office.
Newspaper images from the wonderful Welsh Newspapers Online. 

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Black Ribbon: Death on the Canal

The canal in blue down the side of Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane. The Custom House bridge is middle-left.
This blogpost is part of a series looking at offshoot themes from my book 'Notorious' that recounts the lives people living on Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane in Cardiff from 1841-1870. It contains mature content. The introduction to the notorious streets can be found here.

The black ribbon, the Glamorganshire Canal, wound it's way down through the Taff valley from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff docks.
Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane were bounded to the west and north by the canal and it had a large influence on the society that lived there, employment only being a small part. It is no coincidence that the other two main areas of prostitution and vice in South Wales, China in Merthyr and Friar's Fields in Newport were also both within close proximity to canals. When historians write about canals, such as in the two volume 'Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canal' by Rawson and Wright, they neglect to mention the dark influences the canal had on the societies that lived alongside it.


The authorities were well aware of one nefarious use the canal had among the prostitutes and bullies of Charlotte Street and the Lane. In 1842 a ships captain was found dead in the canal missing his money. He'd last been seen the night before leaving the Somerset Arms which had entrances on Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane. Despite an inquest his killers were never found. In 1846 the coroner had this to say about how the canal was used to murder:
John Thomas had come to Cardiff from Treforest to enjoy the Whitsun holiday in 1860 but met his wet end in the canal after drinking with the 'bad characters in Whitmore Lane:

Of course foul play could never be proved.

The Black Ribbon had two other social uses that its makers never intended, suicide and the dumping of babies and foetuses.


It was the sheer proximity of the canal that lent itself as a suicide spot. This close to the sea it was deep and very few people could swim. In April 1850 John Gleeson, who ran a lodging house on Whitmore Lane, lost it shortly after the birth of his only son:

Suicide was of course a crime at this time- hence the five shilling and costs fine (about a weeks rent).
In June 1854 the prostitute Ann Moore alias 'Carrots' (who was working with Jenny Piano in 1861) attempted a suicidal escape attempt, after being arrested for fighting with another Whitmore Lane prostitute:
In 1855 Naomi Oram, a prostitute working out of Mary Prothero's brothel on Whitmore Lane also lost it one Sunday morning in July. She had very probably been up all Saturday night drinking and had not yet gone to bed when she was rescued by an umbrella:
She was taken back to Prothero's brothel and continued to work the streets for another five years.
In March 1857 Annie McNelly age 22 was assaulted by a brothel keeper and his wife and another working girl called Bella King on Christiana Street. At one point the man slammed her head in a door and she ran off and into the canal. She died. The man William Roberts was charged with her assault and got three months in gaol, the women were freed.
In June 1857 Ellen Griffiths, another prostitute from Whitmore Lane, threw herself into the canal and is saved, rather poetically by one of the town missionaries:

Hannah Phillips, who was brought up since she was an infant on Charlotte Street and lived at her parents lodging house at number 39 (the canal end of Charlotte Street), decided the same thing in the summer of 1861:
The magistrate, ever tuned to the difficulties of being poor, blames her life on her 'love of dress':
Hannah Phillip's case is interesting as she is evidence of a 'fallen women' who was literally brought up in the environs of brothels and prostitution for most of her life.
In 1862 Elizabeth Williams, who'd been working Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane for the last five years, also felt distressed enough to jump into the canal:
In April 1866 the Superintendent of police Stockdale was fed up of prostitutes trying, and succeeding, in drowning themselves in the canal:

In 1867 'a woman named Grey' tried to commit suicide by the Hayes bridge (the next one up from the Custom House). She is probably Mary Grey.
Again in 1867 Sergeant Price saw Elizabeth Long running towards the canal. He ran after her and caught her 'by the hair' just as she was in the act of jumping in.
In 1868 Margaret Mahoney, a Whitmore Lane prostitute also wanted to end her life:
Old age had a depressing effect on some, like William Griffiths, a usually friendly and sociable razor grinder from Charlotte Street who walked up to the nearest bridge and jumped off in the summer of 1869:
In 1871 Catherine Martin, a 24 year old Irish prostitute living at 17 Charlotte Street who had been working there for over ten years, attempted suicide while drunk:
This was the third time she had attempted suicide by jumping into the canal.
The last suicide attempt takes us full circle in a way. John Gleeson attempted suicide in 1850- he opens this section of the blog. Almost 30 years later in May of 1879 his daughter Mary Ann Gleeson, who had been working as a prostitute, jumped in at exactly the same spot.
The lock hospital mentioned was for venereal disease. The way they say her 'illness was very manifest' means that she was probably in the last stages of syphilis- her body was being eaten away by sores and infection and she was using a crutch to walk.

Infanticide & Concealment of Birth

I have found only one reference, in 1842, to a baby's body being discovered in the privies (outside toilets) of Whitmore Lane. Considering the huge number of brothels and prostitutes on Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane there must have been a high rate of unwanted pregnancies, still born and aborted babies.
Many of the working women worked right up to the birth of their children, for example Sarah Nips was with a client the day before she gave birth in 1852 and Ann Arnott was working in Mrs George's Dinas Arms brothel until two weeks before she gave birth in 1868. We have recorded the still-born birth of a child of Jane Allen, a Whitmore Lane prostitute, who gave birth in Mrs Donovan's brothel at 24 Whitmore Lane in 1856. The baby was put into a box and placed under the bed while the midwife attended to the mother. If the police had not turned up after hearing the rumours I wonder where that box would have ended up, perhaps the midwife would have buried it, what is certain is that many unwanted babies, still born or not ended up in the Glamorganshire Canal.
This report from 1855 shows how grisly the practice could be:
In January 1857 another baby was found. It had lived and it's umbilical cord has been torn rather than cut, showing the desperation of the birth:
In February of the next year two boys found the body of a baby girl:
In January 1868 another murdered child was found in the canal by Whitmore Lane:

Another dead baby was found five months later in June wrapped in calico hidden between the canal bridge wall and the fence of a timber merchant at the end of Whitmore Lane:

This report, also from 1868 and around the corner in Bute Street, shows how so many mothers and children came to be in this desperate situation:
This servant called in the police, but often these babies were born in dark, secret places to poor and desperate women. Who knows how many ended up in the canal. I'm not saying that they all came from the women and brothels of Charlotte Street and the Lane, we'll never know their stories, but it is likely that many did.


Falling into the canal was not always intentional, it was in fact a frequent occurrence. We begin with a 16 year old boatman man falling off a barge while partying with friends and some lady guests by Whitmore Lane. They took his body to Caroline/Catherine Mouls' brothel on Whitmore Lane. 
In the same vein another man falls into the canal drunk from Whitmore Lane in April 1850:
This obscene 'tit-bit' masquerading as humour appeared in the editorial section on Glamorganshire in the Monmouthshire Merlin in 1850:

You don't have to be a historian to understand that these children were missed, no matter how poor or inconsequential their parents were. I'm sure Bridget Kirby's widowed father, who was a labourer lodging at Whitmore Lane, missed his five year old daughter after she went to play on the Thursday and was found lifeless in the canal on a Saturday morning in 1855.
Elizabeth George, the landlady of the Dinas Arms on Charlotte Street, almost lost her son George to the canal shortly after moving to Cardiff in May 1858. The brothel keeper and prostitute Susan Stanton wasn't so lucky. Her four year old son, a grandson of Mary the Cripple, fell from a narrowboat into the canal on an April afternoon in 1859 and was only found when his dead body resurfaced many hours later.
This boy from Charlotte Street had a lucky escape from death in 1868:
The reports are in the hundreds. I'll end with this article from 1907.

I've always been interested in the Glamorganshire Canal, having lived alongside it's path at one point, and have been dismayed at the destruction of it over the years. Very little remains of it today, most disappearing under the A470. I never realised how much blood and pain had soaked into it's clay lined channel over the years.

Captain death inquest: 1842 October 8th Cardiff Merthyr Guardian p.3.
Coroner's report: 1846 January 3rd CMG p.2.
Merthyr Man's death: 1864 May 20th Cardiff News p.2.
John Gleeson suicide: 1850 April 20th CMG p.4. & Monmouthshire Merlin p.2.
Ann Moore: 1854 June 9th CMG p.3.
Naomi Oram suicide: 1855 July 7th CMG p.5.
Annie McNelly: CMG 1857 March 14th p.8.
Ellen Griffiths: 1857 June 27th CMG p.5.
Hannah Phillips: 1861 July 19th Cardiff Times p.8. 1861 July 20th CMG p.6.
Hannah Phillips Census 1861 St Marys Cardiff RG9/4033 F85 p55.
Hannah Phillips: See also 1859 July 9th CT p.3.
Elizabeth Williams: 1862 Sept 13th MM p.6. Earlier see 1857 July 4th CMG p.6.
Grey: CT 1867 July 13th p.6. for Mary Grey see CMG 1865 March 31st p.6.
Elizabeth Long see PSCBO/1/49 30th July.
Margaret Mahoney: 1868 February 1st Cardiff Times p.5.
William Griffiths: 1869 July 10th CMG p.5.
Kate Martin: 1871 October 25th Western Mail p.3. 3rd time Oct 28 CMG p.5.
Kate Martin: There's a long list of previous convictions e.g. 1862 July 25th CT p.6.
Mary Driscoll: 1855 November 10th CMG p.3.
1855 July 28th CMG p.8.
1857 Jan 17th CMG p.8.
1858 Feb 27th CMG p.5.
1868 January 25th Cardiff Times p.3.
1868 June 27th Cardiff Times p.5.
Something like a Bull: 1850 August 17th MM p.3.

Margaret Griffiths: 1858 July 31st CMG p.6. Taken in for 'obstructing the pavement' 1854 June 23rd CMG p.3.
George George: 1858 May 15th p.5.
Bridget Kirby: 1855 July 14th CMG p.8. 1855 burial in St Mary's burial records p.279
John Thomas: 1860 June 9th Cardiff Times p.5.
John Jones: 1868 April 25 Cardiff Times p.5.
Last article Evening Express October 5th 1907 p.3.

Map is from the Glamorgan Archives, the newspaper reports are either from the excellent Welsh Newspapers Online site from the National Library of Wales or from microfiche at the Cathays Library in Cardiff.

The book 'Notorious' is almost completed, I'm just adding some final evidence from birth, marriage and death certificates that I need to order, and painting the portraits of the characters within it.
This post in its current form is copyright Anthony Rhys 2017.