Friday, 17 March 2017

The Ghost of Stanley Street.

Strange goings on in Northampton.

    Do you believe in the supernatural? Would you believe it if I showed you a picture of a ghost?

    This is a true story and one that is difficult to write. Not only because I know those involved, but also I'm presenting myself to ridicule by those of my readers who utterly disbelieve in anything which could be seen as supernatural.

    Our story begins in 2014, but is embedded in the year 1906, I have changed the names of those involved in 2014 and purposely omitted the street number as others now live there.

    We begin with Emily. She rented the house in Stanley Street in 2014 aged just 21; her first foot hold in independence - new house, new life. She was soon joined by her friend Wendy and things looked great. She had a good job, was fending for herself and  had the odd weekend on the town.

    Soon she noticed strange things happening in this house, doors banging (the wind?), an oppressive atmosphere, a bit unusual but nothing that couldn't be explained.

Stanley Street.
Now we must focus on the loft.

    Stanley Street is a Victorian terrace, they all look the same in and out with a front on the street and a small walled garden to the rear. When you enter the house by the front door you see a small passage with the stairs in front of you. Going up the stairs you reach a landing with a bathroom door straight ahead, and as you turn left there are two bedroom doors along another short passage. As we progress along the passage the last door is the main bedroom.  Looking up to the ceiling we find the loft hatch, this is a small opening which can only be reached with a step ladder (which neither Emily or Wendy had - there wasn't one in the house).

    Please bear with me - this is important. The loft hatch is locked by a bolt that is pushed into a hole in the wood. It takes a person to climb up and throw the bolt to gain access. Noises were heard soon after the girls moved in, and the loft hatch was seen open on several occasions. However it took ten weeks for Emily and Wendy to investigate.

    On that fateful night Wendy climbed onto Emily's shoulders to take photographs by holding a phone camera at arms length and pressing the button. These photos were taken without a flash and looked just black! Not to be thwarted, Emily climbed onto Wendy's shoulders and after a struggle gained access to the loft.

    With the aid of a small torch Emily looked around. She saw a normal loft with a layer of insulation and the inside of a slate roof. She did notice some toys thrown into a corner, her memory is of some metal and fabric items and an "old style" toy pram. At this point her bravery failed and she climbed back down into the house. There was nothing else to be seen at all.

    After a while thoughts drifted back to the photographs of the loft, loading them up onto a PC gave the opportunity to lighten the black pictures. Most remained grainy and grey, but one photograph gave them a huge fright. This photo was taken of the back of the loft and appears to show a grainy image of a woman with her head at a ghastly angle as if the neck was broken or throat severed.

A grainy ghostly image emerged.
    This prompted Emily and Wendy to make a ouija board out of cardboard and enlist the help of two friends Bob and Jake. So, suitably fortified with wine they began. Soon a name was given, this was Hugh or Hughie.

    After several sessions on the ouija board spanning several weeks Hugh became a malignant presence, the atmosphere became oppressive. He would only make contact when Emily joined in (which really annoyed Wendy), ironically Emily was the most sceptical of the group and harboured thoughts they were just trying to scare her. Hugh said he was there to protect Emily, but his aura was pure evil.

    Before we turn to the events of 1906 one more event has to be mentioned.

    One Saturday night Emily and Wendy decided to "hit the town" and off they went to have fun. On returning to Stanley Street Emily went up stairs to her bed room. The loft hatch was open again, and a stuffed rabbit that had been among the toys in the loft was lying at her door. I must stress Emily was the only person with a key to the property at all times, Wendy was very much a guest and did not mind this set up.

    1906, the tragedy of Annie Brown.

    The following is taken from the Derby Daily Telegraph Thursday 25th January 1906.

    "A single woman named Annie Brown (aged 30), lodging at Stanley Street, Northampton, was discovered sitting on a garden wall with her throat cut at three o'clock on Wednesday morning.

    She was taken to the hospital, where she died, and at the inquest on Wednesday night a strange letter written by the deceased to her sweetheart was read, it ran;

    'I have the most extraordinary presentiment all through the night, which mother will tell you about, that I have to die tomorrow, and, if so, dearest, know that I die loving you, dearest, and reproach myself for all the unkind returns I have made for your kindness.
    I was only last night contemplating whether we could not be friends apart, and in the meantime I would retrieve all. My wickedness rises up and overpowers me, but God came to me in the night. I therefore know now that there is One, Frank. Do believe in Him and give up swearing.

    I know your good nature, but that will never take you to Heaven. Dearest, if we never meet on Earth again I pray we may meet in Heaven, With fondest love from your loving and affectionate Annie."

    Annie worked as a photographic canvasser, the inquest brought a verdict of "suicide whilst of unsound mind."

    It does make you wonder if "God" would want someone to commit suicide, perhaps it could have been this ominous "Hughie", we will never know, but the spirits of Stanley Street remain, Emily will never return to that blighted spot.

The only modification has been a lighting of the original photo.

Monday, 14 November 2016

The Nemesis of Neglect

There floats a phantom.....

     In the latter part of the nineteenth century the east end had become a rookery of crime and disease. An image springs to mind even today when we think of those times, The Nemesis of Neglect, a gothic image that still make the blood run cold.

    London 29th September 1888, the city is gripped by the autumn of terror, an unknown fiend stalks the night murdering fallen women with seeming invulnerability.

    Up to this point he has murdered and mutilated  Mary "Polly" Nichols and "Dark" Annie Chapman; he has been blamed for the murders of Emma Smith and Martha Tabram (many believe she was the first victim).

    On the 27th September the infamous "Dear Boss" letter was received giving the mysterious assassin his spine chilling nick name Jack the Ripper.

Dear Boss..........
    It was on the 18th September that the genesis of the Nemesis of Neglect was born, in a letter to The Times written by Rev. Lord Sidney Godolphin Osbourne (S.G.O "At Last" page 11.) he states "whatever the theories to account for them (the murders), whether or no the perpetrators may yet be discovered, they have been the means of affording a warning it would be at our extreme peril to neglect". 

    He goes on to describe those unfortunates as "creatures begotten and reared in an atmosphere of Godless brutality, a species of human sewage......such sewage ever on the increase and in it's increase forever developing fresh depths of degradation."
Sidney Godolphin Osbourne
    He goes on to sermonise about the level of degradation found in the east end and remonstrates with Christian societies who raise thousands of pounds to "propagate the Gospel in foreign parts". 
    He believed the problem couldn't be solved by educational and religious societies preaching piety, the problem is hereditary, so the poor must be given a better place to live. To leave them in such squalor, to neglect these people, is a recipe for disaster.

    "Just so long as the dwellings of this race continue in their present condition, their whole surroundings a sort of warren of foul alleys garnished with the flaring lamps of gin shops and offering to all sorts of lodgers, for all conceivable purpose, every possible accommodation to further brutalise, we shall still go on, affecting astonishment that in such a state of things we have outbreaks from time to time of the horrors of the present day." (Quoted in Punch 29.9.88)
    It would seem this letter had a profound effect on Mr John Tenniel, Mr Tenniel was an illustrator and cartoonist, in 1861 he began working as chief cartoonist for Punch, or the London Charivari. He was most famous for his illustrations of Alice in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871).
John Tenniel

    Already having an eye for the grotesque S.G.O's letter stuck a chord, the imagination of Mr Tenniel began to visualise a wraith like creature, nothing tangible, just that gnawing fear of unseen peril haunting the alleys and courts of the dreadful east end.

    In the following week, leading up to the publication date on 29th September, the Nemesis of Neglect was born. This deeply disturbing image seared the perception of a supernatural killer prowling the foggy streets of Whitechapel into our minds for ever more.
    Under the heading "Nemesis of Neglect" S.G.O's letter was partly quoted (above), following this there was this poem written by John Tenniel

THERE is no light along those winding ways
Other than lurid gleams like marsh-fires fleeting;
Thither the sunniest of summer days
Sends scare one golden shaft of gladsome greeting.
June noonday has no power upon its gloom
More than the murky fog-flare of December;
A Stygian darkness seems its settled doom;
Life, like a flickering ember,
There smoulders dimly on in deathly wise,
Like sleep-dulled glitter in a serpent's eyes.

Yet as that sullen sinister cold gleam
At sight of prey to a fierce flame shall quicken,
So the dull life that lurks in this dread scene.
By the sharp goad of greed or hatred stricken,
Flares into hideous force and fierceness foul,
Swift as the snake to spring and strong to capture.
Here the sole joys are those of the man-ghoul.
Thirst-thrill and ravin-rapture.
Held DANTE'S Circles such a dwelling-place?
Did primal sludge e'er harbour such a race?

It is not Hades, nor that world of slime
Where dragons tare and man-shaped monsters fought.
Civilisation's festering heart of crime
Is here, and here some loathly glimpse is caught
Of its barbaric beating, pulsing through
Fair limbs and flaunting garb wherewith 'tis hidden.
Mere human sewage? True, O Sage! most true!
Society's kitchen-midden!
But hither crowd the ills which are our bane:
And thence in viler shape creep forth again.

Whence? Foulness filters here from honest homes
And thievish dens, town-rookery, rural village.
Vice to be nursed to violence hither comes,
Nurture unnatural, abhorrent tillage!
What sin soever amidst luxury springs,
Here amidst poverty finds full fruition.
There is no name for the unsexed foul things
Plunged to their last perdition
In this dark Malebolge, ours--which yet
We build, and populate, and then--forget!

It will not be forgotten; it will find
A voice, like the volcano, and will scatter
Such hideous wreck among us, deaf and blind,
As all our sheltering shams shall rend and shatter.
The den is dark, secluded, it may yield
To Belial a haunt, to Mammon profit;
But we shall reap the tillage of that field
In harvest meet for Tophet.
Slum-farming knaves suck shameful wealth from sin,
But a dread Nemesis abides therein.

Dank roofs, dark entries, closely-clustered walls,
Murder-inviting nooks, death-reeking gutters,
A boding voice from your foul chaos calls,
When will men heed the warning that it utters?
There floats a phantom on the slum's foul air,
Shaping, to eyes which have the gift of seeing,
Into the Spectre of that loathly lair.
Face it--for vain is fleeing!
Red-handed, ruthless, furtive, unerect,
'Tis murderous Crime--the Nemesis of Neglect!

    The following page showed the Nemesis in its full page splendour with the last six lines of the poem repeated, two days later Jack the Ripper would perform his double event, murdering Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes in one night. The terror would carry on long after his final victim, Mary Jane Kelly, was butchered on 9th November, even now when Jack's name is mentioned the Nemesis of Neglect is not far behind.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Oi, that's my house!! Bushranger Wargaming in 28mm.

Oi, that's my house!! Bushrangers raid a homestead.

Young Fanny stands guard.
    With rumours flying about an imminent raid by the notorious Flynn brothers gang, young Fanny Grainger is keeping an observant eye on the surrounding countryside.

    Over near the convict station Papa Grainger is soliciting the help of Inspector Corner of VDL police and Mr Jeffries acting commander of the local militia (as Mr Trumpton has an in-growing toe nail).

    Hark!! What is this outrage, young Fanny has fired a warning shot, the dastardly bushrangers are attacking, run away!!

    As the Flynn brothers ransack the house other members of the gang put up a stout resistance to the on coming militia and red coats.

With bullets whistling by our heroes press on.
Soldier down, a (un)lucky shot strikes Private Perkins.

Even Inspector Corner is not spared the fusillade.

    As the attack is pressed home and two of the Flynn gang are wounded, young Fanny helps to keep the convicts covered to prevent runaways.

The Flynn gang make a sharp exit.

    The baddies are driven off but to what cost, one red coat and two militia men are dead and three wounded, two of the bushrangers are also wounded and the house has been thoroughly robbed, can anyone bring these men to justice!!!

Life returns to normal, but for how long............

The convicts lives go on as usual.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Turner Street Horror

The Turner Street Horror

     31 Turner Street is situated on the corner with Varden Street. In 1896 it was an umbrella case manufacturers run by Mr Jacob Myers. Saturday 4th April 1896 started off like any other Saturday in the Myers/Levy household. Mr Myers had gone to the local Synagogue whilst his stepfather Mr John Goodman Levy had stayed at home. The only other person in the house was Mrs Annie Sarah Gale, Mr Levy's housemaid.
31,Turner St
    Mr Levy (aged 75) was on the ground floor, he was "crippled" in both hands and he was also quite deaf. Mrs Gale was, that morning, making the beds on the 3rd floor of the building and so neither of them saw or heard a man breaking into the back of the house.
    The intruder first made for the bedrooms in order to ransack them. Here he found Mrs Gale, who, judging by the smashed hand she received from the intruders hammer and the amount of blood splatter around the room, put up quite a resistance. Mrs Gale was beaten unconscious and then her throat was cut. The burglar searched the rooms for any valuables collecting a small hoard, he then knocked a hole in the ceiling finally gaining entrance to the roof. Here he stashed his ill gotten gains before reentering the building in search of more.

    Old Mr Levy probably didn't hear or see the burglar until it was too late, he tried to escape to the WC but he was too slow. The hammer split his skull then his throat was also cut with such ferocity his head was almost severed. The burglar stripped the body of several gold rings, a heavy gold watch and chain adding them to his booty on the roof.
    Who discovered the crime is open to debate, a young boy looking over the fence and catching a glimpse of Mr Levy's body then raising the alarm is one story. The other is Mrs Martha Lawton (Mr Levy's Cousin) went to the house to keep a lunch invitation, when she got no answer to her knocking she realised something was wrong and sought help. A ladder was found and a Mr Schafer looked over the wall, he caught sight of the burglar and called out to him. The burglar ducked out of view.

    It wasn't long before PC Atkinson gained entry to the premises, finding Mr Levy's body he went back to the street, a crowd was gathering, he sought help from Mr John Mocock (manager of the East London Observer) and another man. Soon PC Richardson was at the scene also, but not knowing how many assailants were in the house they started a careful search.
    As they cleared each floor they saw the awful mess the ransacking burglar had caused. Finally they reached the room in which the body of Mrs Gale lay, there was blood everywhere, including the ceiling. It was here the constables noticed the hole in the roof. Outside a huge crowd had gathered, some press reports say up to one thousand. Several in the crowd including PC Bacchus saw the burglar on the roof and brought the attention of the constables to this fact.

    Seeing he was trapped the burglar threw himself off the roof plummeting some 40 feet, he hoped to land within the crowd and therefore escape serious injury, he failed. A small girl was hit on the back, the burglar mostly hit the pavement breaking his arm, fracturing his leg and suffering a severe blow to the head resulting in concussion. Both were taken to the Royal London Hospital, the gold fell from his pockets and was retrieved. Meanwhile the investigation was getting underway under the supervision of Superintendent Mulvaney of H Division, Chief Inspector Drew and Chief Detective Inspector White. The heavily Blood stained hammer, knife and a chisel were found on the roof and in the fatal bedroom.
A large crowd gathered outside.

    The divisional surgeons soon finished their work and the bodies were removed. Wednesday the 8th April was to be the date of the inquest headed by Mr Wynne E. Baxter at the Coroners Court on Commercial Road. Police soon discovered the identity of the murderer, William Seaman, a violent ex-convict out on license with a very long charge sheet.
William Seaman

    In 1870 he was sentenced to 7 years for burglary, in 1876 he was sentenced to 14 years for violence and in March 1888 he was sentenced to 7 years for wounding with intent, he went into a chemists and asked for a hammer, when the chemist handed it over Seaman promptly hit him on the head with it! All of these offences were committed in Whitechapel, as you can imagine, the trial didn't last long. Seaman tried to say he was provoked by Mr Levy who allegedly owed him 70l, it didn't convince anyone, guilty, death.

    On Tuesday 9th June 1896 William Seaman was led out of his Newgate cell with two other capitally convicted felons. All three were trussed, hooded and launched into eternity by Mr James Billington assisted by Mr Wilkinson. The next day serial killer Amelia Dyer met the same fate at the hands of Mr Billington in Reading. The Life and Crimes of Amelia Dyer

Monday, 21 March 2016


                           MUTINY AT DELORAINE



    The convict system in Australia fell into two types, assignment and probation, assignment was introduced in December 1804 and lasted until 1st July 1840. In basic terms the assignment system consisted of free labour for the free settlers, if as a convict you got a decent employer your time wouldn't be too bad, but if you got a bad one any complaint or even defending yourself against aggression could lead to an extension of your sentence, it was tantamount to slavery. The date when it was abolished coincided with the end of transportation to New South Wales and so when the probation system was introduced in 1839 it was Van Diemen's Land (VDL) that would be the focus of that experiment.
    The probation system meant every able (and not so able) bodied convict now worked for the government. These convicts built roads, bridges, buildings (sometimes corruptly hired out to build private homes, pubs and shops), it was usually the worst type of convict who ended up doing these public works. If they worked hard and proved to be of good character they could finally get a ticket of leave which meant they could even command a wage! Again the spectre of slavery dogged the probation system as it had assignment.
Probation station plan.

    Probation stations sprung up all over VDL as the road gangs made their progress out from Hobart towards Launceston and then over towards Burnie. They were seen in Darlington, Jericho, New Town, Fingal, Mersey and Westbury to name but a very few, there were as many as 85, but the one we will focus on was situated in Deloraine.
    Built in 1843 the Deloraine probation station was a poorly ventilated place that leaked when it rained. When Charles Joseph La Trobe (government administrator of VDL) during his tour of probation stations visited in 1846 he was less than impressed and his report published in 1847 was damning. Local newspapers frequently complained of the riotous behaviour and law breaking among the convicts, but when in October 1845 a large part of the convicts' food ration was stolen even the convicts had had enough.
Manacles in the Deloraine Folk Museum

    The theft of the food was reported to the overseer, the convicts even had suspicions as to where it had gone, but the overseer refused to do anything about it. Already half starved, tired and angry the convicts decided to go on strike and they would carry on striking until they received sufficient food. Their reward for this disobedience was an extension to their sentences and a cut in their rations, they would now only receive half.
    As you can imagine the sense of injustice and smouldering resentment would have made the atmosphere a thick one indeed, rebellion was in the air.

8th October 1845.


  On Friday twenty-one men were sentenced by the visiting magistrate at Deloraine, for mutiny, to various terms of imprisonment, in the whole amounting to twenty-two years addition to their original sentences.

  This, being deemed by these gentlemen as derogatory to their happiness, they immediately knocked down a cow that was grazing quietly near the station, with their stone hammers, and being rather in a hurry, they cut some beef-steaks off one side, leaving the unfortunate beast to be relieved of the flesh on the opposite side when she was dead, as after that barbarous treatment she remained alive for some hours.

  The district constable on the station was most active in giving assurance to the inhabitants of the township that they should not storm the place, as he should remain there to protect them, kindly leaving the gang of outlaws to range the district as they might please, which they availed themselves of without loss of time, having visited a poor man residing at Dunorlan, about seven miles from the station, on Saturday.

  Soldiers from Westbury were sent to the station, where they arrived in time to hear that the gang had returned to the neighbourhood of the station, robbing the settlers on the Shoulder-of mutton Plain ; in the interim they had been joined by four others from the Mersey station, making the whole twenty-five.

  On Sunday, when the inhabitants were in hopes, on the arrival of the military, that an active pursuit would take place, an order came to the military, ordering them to return to Westbury, where there is no doubt the public, more particularly the settlers exposed to the mercies of this gang of pests, will be highly delighted to hear the military reached in safety, and that both the police and visiting magistrate were, and are still, in perfect safety.

  At Dunorlan they stripped the place of everything that could be moved, taking liberties with the man's wife, and would have proceeded to the greatest lengths had it not been for the conduct of a man servant, who, in defending his master, was nearly murdered by being struck with their stone hammers. From this place they took two muskets, and from the other places they collected eleven.

  Of course the Inhabitants are in rhapsodies at the thought that within a space of little more than twenty miles there are nearly 1,000 convicts, with a police of about fifteen, including magistrates, overseers, &o., &c.

11th October 1845


  Sergeant Nicol and a party of the Launceston police, apprehended three men on the morning of the 6th Instant; three other constables, belonging to the Launceston police, apprehended three men on Tuesday morning, near Reibey's Ford bridge; constable Merchant apprehended three men at Carrick on the evening of the 5th instant; Mr. Kirkham and servants apprehended nine men.

  The greatest praise is due to Mr. Kirkham for his management of this capture. One man surrendered to the overseer of Dr. Richardson; being nineteen out of the twenty-one who absconded from Deloraine. The other two have since been taken.

11th October 1845

The Bolters from Deloraine Probation Station.

  We are happy to inform our readers that the whole of the party (twenty five in number,) who absconded from the Deloraine Station have been apprehended through the united exertions of a detatchment of the 96th Regiment, and the constables, who went in pursuit ; information has been received of several daring outrages committed by them in the neighbourhood.

  A number of the absconders, went in a party to the farm of Mr. Charles Robinson, 'Shoulder of Mutton,' Westbury and committed an extensive robbery; they helped themselves to a quantity of clothes, five pounds in gold, and three stand of' fire-arms.

  On Monday nine of the men attacked Mr. Kirkham's premises, near Mr. Dry's farm; but here they met with an unwelcome reception, for a brave fellow in Mr. Kirkham's employ, loaded his piece with small shot, and going out to them ordered them to stand ; he fired, and one of the villains was grazed slightly on the ear, this alarmed the remainder, and they every one forthwith surrendered, and were marched off to Deloraine guarded by soldiers.

  Another party went to the residence of Daniel Griffin at Dunorlan, 4 miles above Deloraine, and very much frightened the inmates, with a quantity of stone hammers they carried with them ; here they helped themselves to a number of eggs, and such other eatables as they could lay their hands on.

  Near to the same place, some other parties had met with a bullock which belonged to a drove that was coming to town, but being lamed, had laid down near the road : the fiends literally cut off one of the thighs of the poor beast while alive, and then made off, it was afterwards shot by the District Constable.

  It was generally reported on Sunday, that Deloraine was to be taken by storm the same night, and the inhabitants were obliged to arm, and watch for the attack, but the timely interference of the military and constables, which is beyond all praise, prevented the intended outrage.

  All the men have been removed to Deloraine, and remanded by the magistrates for further examination. Two of the delinquents have offered to turn approvers, and give full information of the prisoners movements.

    And so ended the Deloraine mutiny, at the trial the judge agreed there had been "some ground of excuse", twenty one were tried, twelve were found guilty and sentenced to death. Nothing now remains of Deloraine probation station, however, before the site was made into a car park an archaeological excavation uncovered various items including nails, clay pipes, pottery and bricks marked with the broad arrow, these can be seen in the excellent Deloraine folk museum.

There are various convict built buildings and a bridge (the stone piers are the only original part) in the town, there are also the remains of cells under 38 Emu Bay Road, sadly they are not open to the public.

Above three photos, the holding cell under Emu Bay Road.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The Real Doctor Syn.

The smuggling parson of Cornwall.

A nest of smugglers.

    Talland church lies slightly east of the quaint Cornish fishing town of Polperro, it is a beautiful bay with golden sands and spectacular views, once there was a village at Talland, but it is no more, now all that can be seen is Talland church, high upon the headland with a commanding view.
Talland Bay.
    The churchyard is on two levels, the one nearest the church is much lower than the far end, tomb stones flank the path as you approach the church door and once inside the visitor is confronted with another stone which reads; ROBERT MARK late of Polperro, who unfortunately was shot at sea on the 24th day of January in the year of our Lord God 1802, in the 40th year of his age.
    Robert Mark's sword was presented to the Polperro Heritage Museum of Smuggling and Fishing several years ago by the British Museum and is now on display in a glass case, an 80 year old descendant of Robert Mark was there to see the sword returned home.
Entrance to Talland church.

    Talland bay was an obvious choice for contraband landings in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, quiet, secluded and perfect for landing the necessities such as salt for fish curing and the items that make life worth living but only the well off could afford such as brandy, tea, coffee, tobacco, playing cards and lace.     This secluded bay was so good for the smugglers that the last known time it was used was on 17th September 1979, a six million pound haul of cannabis resin was seized, this was Operation Cyril which not only netted the drugs but in raids across North London it also led to thirteen arrests and the capture of the converted trawler "Guiding Lights".
"Guiding Lights" trawler.

Only spirits are laid here to rest...

    The Reverend Richard Dodge was the vicar of Talland church from 1713 to 1746, he is buried in the higher end of the churchyard, his inscription reads; Here lieth the body of the Rev Richard Dodge, late of Talland, vicar, who departed this life the 13th day of January 1746, in the 93rd year of his age".
    The reverend Dodge soon got a reputation as a magician, according to local legend he could raise the dead at will and he was proficient in the ancient art of Rune lore, not something commonly taught to vicars I would imagine!! At night it was said the Reverend was seen to drive devils from the churchyard and with the aid of his horse whip he would chase the evil spirits down Bridals Lane and thus into the sea.

    Such stories would keep prying eyes away, men dressed as devils and ghosts would keep curious God fearing people behind tightly fastened doors and windows, of course the only spirits around were being carried in casks.
    Bridals Lane is a sunken path that begins on the beach and (after a murderously steep climb) comes out at  Killigarth Manor, then it leads the walker on to Polperro, it is a very dark and creepy place to be, ghost stories abound, the most famous is called Tencreek's Grey Lady who walks the paths in the area especially Bridals Lane, no one knows who she was but I bet this as with many other coastal legends began as smugglers tales.
Bridals Lane, with a slightly ghostly figure on the left.
A Victorian postcard.


    Richard Dodge was not the only questionable vicar at Talland, in 1812 a new vicar of decent Gentlemanly habits appeared, his name was the Reverend Thomas Whitmore.
    He told the locals he had amassed a fortune and wished to settle down in a quiet parish, he was a very kind and hospitable man but people began to have doubts about him when his bank drafts were dishonoured at Zephaniah Job's bank in Polperro, soon those who had lent him money were knocking on his door and one night he disappeared......along with all the silver plate and valuables he could carry.
     In 1814 a Polperro man was staying in Gloucester for a short time when he saw a well-known forger and conman called Robert Peacock executed on the city gallows, at once he recognized the man as the Reverend Thomas Whitmore!
    When the news of this imposter reached Talland the new vicar Nicholas Kendall had to re-marry seven couples and re-baptise eight babies.

    I have yet to find any proof that Russell Thorndike knew of the Rev Richard Dodge when he created Doctor Syn in 1915, he probably didn't, this also goes for Daphne Du Maurier's Reverend Francis Davey from her classic Jamaica Inn novel, it's quite gratifying to know there was a real life smuggler parson who outwitted the authorities, for unlike Doctor Syn Richard Dodge was never caught.........................
    The song "Night Creatures (Dr Syn Phantom of the Marsh)" by Gladstone is available on downlaod here; Tales from the Jago.

Monday, 10 March 2014



The Convict Ship Success - Grimshaw painting

    The Success was built in Mawlamyine, Burma in 1840 (not 1790 as the advertising made out!), she was a merchant vessel weighing in at 621 tons. After trading around the Indian subcontinent for a couple of years she was sold off to new owners in London, she was refitted to take human cargo and was first employed taking free emigrants to Australia, three voyages were made by the Success, the last one was in 1849, many of the emigrants on this last trip were survivors of the Great Famine.       After being employed out of Sydney for a while the Success was sent to Melbourne, on 31st May 1852 the crew mutinied and disappeared into the Victoria gold fields as this was the height of the gold rush.

    The Success was then sold to the Victoria government, it's new role was a prison hulk along with three other ships, these hulks were mainly filled with some of the most desperate men in the convict system, many were from the now closed penal colony of Norfolk Island and known for their mutinous and violent ways, but it was hardly surprising that they reacted in a brutal way when they were treated in a very inhumane manner, far worse than other colonies such as Macquarie Harbour, Botany Bay and Port Arthur.
    One of the worst Commandants' was John Price, he was a very brutal disciplinarian who would not spare a man from a flogging or a hanging, his first duty as Commandant was to oversee the execution of 12 inmates found guilty of leading a revolt three months previously, he was nicknamed "The Demon". 
Postcard pic - the Convict Ship Success

    Naturally the convicts hated him and soon they would get their revenge, unrest in the hulks had been simmering for a while so a Royal Navy warship was placed amongst the hulks armed with "double-shotted" guns so any revolt would be stopped by sending the ship and it's manacled men to the bottom of the sea.
    The convicts on board the hulks had to work, this mainly consisted of being rowed to the shore to work in the quarry at Williamstown, on 26th March 1857 as part of his duties as Inspector General of Penal Establishments in Victoria John Price also found himself in the quarry at Williamstown, with a small body of guards he swaggered into the middle of hundreds of convicts, many of them remembered this tyrant and still bore the scars where their flesh had been stripped off their backs by the floggings that Price ordered for the slightest misdemeanor.
    As the convicts started to gather around menacingly the guards started to back away, Price stood his ground, rocks started to fly and the guards ran away, Price too started to run but a rock hit him in the back and down he went.
    The convicts gathered around him and in a flurry of striking fists, hammers and bars Price was battered to death, a nasty end for a cruel man, 15 men were tried for murder and 7 were hanged, the others went back to the hulks, I suppose they thought the Success was aptly named that day.
    Soon the Success's days as a hulk came to an end and she was converted in to a stores ship and anchored in Port Phillip Bay at the mouth of the Yarra River and there she stayed for 36 years.
Postcard pic - the Convict Ship Success

    She would have probably rotted away there and have been lost but for a group of entrepreneurs who bought her and fitted her out as a convict ship museum complete with wax dummies of convicts, a whole host of torture devices and also the body armour of Ned Kelly who had been hanged in Melbourne Gaol in 1880. 
Postcard pic - the British Convict Ship Success - oldest ship afloat
    In 1890 the Success was exhibited in Hobart and she was a huge success with thousands coming to see the horrors therein and to hear terrible tales told by ex-convict and bushranger Harry Power, with this promising start under their belts they next took the Success to Sydney, however, the "stain" of the convict era was more acutely felt here and the ship soon was making a loss so one night in 1891 the Success was scuttled in Kerosene Bay and she was left a sunken relic.
    However this was not to be the end of the story, one year later the Success was sold, refloated, refitted and again used as a convict museum, this time with torture devices that were never used in the Georgian or Victorian convict systems such as the Iron Maiden!
    This time the Success toured the world, after a tour of Australia she was off to England and eventually to America.
still from film - the Convict Ship Success
 She was even featured in a film starring Fatty Arbuckle in 1915 before returning to a commercial vessel in 1917, during one of her voyages she struck ice and was holed, refloated again in 1918 the Success was once more a convict museum ship but by the 1940's the Success's great age was taking it's toll, she became unprofitable and was sent to Lake Eerie to be dismantled, on 4th July 1946 the Success was destroyed by a fire allegedly started by vandals, so ended the career of an extraordinary ship.
Convict Ship Success - oldest ship afloat

Ships: Convict Ship Success - launched at M0ulmein

Tall ships: Convict Ship Success - 1790