On the Twelfth Day of Christmas: A Grim Almanac of Georgian London
Residents of Georgian London suffered some fairly horrible fates, but – if the Old Bailey records are anything to go by – December was the goriest month of them all. Here, in a Christmas special, are the twelve darkest December events from The Grim Almanac of Georgian London. On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
- A human hand – the rest of thirteen-year-old apprentice Ann Nailor went into a hole in Holborn, where various body parts were later discovered by horrified locals. The woman who had transported the body parts, Sarah Metyard, then went for a drink in a nearby public house – causing the landlord to declare that there was ‘a stink in the house’.
- A finger. Maria Phipoe murdered a visitor who cut off her finger during a heated row. Unfortunately for her, the court chose to believe that Maria had chopped it off herself as part of an elaborate (and unsuccessful) defence against a charge of murder.
- A deadly assault with a broomstick. The death of ten-year-old Mary Hobbs is one of December’s saddest cases.
- A beard. Four were glued onto the anatomised skeletons of a gang of Jewish home invaders who briefly terrorised King’s Road in Chelsea.
- Some oysters. Sadly, they never reached their intended recipients, as all four had been murdered during the buyer’s absence. This was the beginning of a rash of vicious serial killings – the youngest victim was just fourteen weeks old.
- A bouquet of artificial flowers. Inside lurked a knife, which the London Monster, tried in December 1790, liked to thrust into the faces of innocent women. His ‘shivering sort of voice’ and ‘indecent, inhuman and abusive’ conversation, topped with an elaborate powdered wig, made him a figure that, once seen, could never be forgotten.
- An envelope filled with human skin. This truly disgusting present was made to Beadle Christopher Best by a woman he rescued from appalling conditions: so vile, in fact, that the skin was covered with black and white mould.
- Three ‘huzzahs’. Sadly, this proved the final straw when the case of the huzzahing highwaymen came to court, as the judge, declaring that the men were ‘wild beasts’ whose cheering was ‘flagitious’, sentenced them to death.
- A week in Bridewell. This incarceration finally got the better of ill-treated apprentice William Ringrose, whose toes were visibly rotting by the time he was released. He died shortly afterwards.
- A toddler’s shoe. The mystery of how little George Evans, the shoe’s owner, came to be in the New River’s reservoir began on Christmas Eve.
- A knife in the eye. ‘Why should you be so malicious as to hurt a fellow creature that way?’ the thrower was asked. ‘Serves him right’, was the response.
- A suspicious-looking coffin. Inside, the curate of Ealing church found a sight so horrible I leave it to readers of the book to discover….
A Grim Almanac of Georgian London by Graham Jackson & Cate Ludlow
£14.99 Paperback Original, 978-0-7524-6170-0