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Could These Be Alice Mackenzie's Relatives ?

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  • Thanks for those, Kattrup

    I’ve found quite a lot of stuff about Ashe on Google. One book I’ve ordered is said to contain a lot of biographical material. For obvious reasons, it’s Ashe’s time in Peterborough that I’m particularly interested in.

    He lodged in a couple of rooms in Worcester Street, Pimlico for the last 8 years or so of his life, paying his landlord William Goold 16/- a week for the privilege.

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    • In one of the poems in Dryope - Leprosy - published in 1859 when he was living in the Peterborough Minster Close, Ashe says I walked tonight in ancient walks (through what was obviously the gardens of the Minster Precincts) and goes on to say:


      74D14DF6-3A83-4D5A-A9F4-D7630946224A.jpeg













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      • This is a fascinating aerial video of Peterborough (mainly the Cathedral area) from 1947. The open space in front of the magnificent West Front of the Cathedral/Minster, the small area of grass crossed by paths and with a few houses etc surrounding it, was what was called the Minster Close. I’ve yet to establish exactly where the Pitts family lived - the exact building(s) - during their 40+ years residence in the Precincts, or for that matter exactly where Thomas Ashe lived in the Close, but given his ‘tastes’ and the fact that he took Alice’s sister with him when he was granted the curacy of ‘Whittlebury cum Silverstone’, there’s little doubt in my mind that he knew the ‘prepossessing’ Alice.

        https://www.peterboroughimages.co.uk...ial-tour-1947/

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        • Looks like Jack London was an Ashe fan:
          You do not have permission to view this gallery.
          This gallery has 1 photos.

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          • Jack London uses another Ashe quote further on in the book:

            “Life scarce can tread majestically
            Foul court and fever-stricken alley.”

            Did Ashe have personal experience of foul courts and fever-stricken alleys?

            Comment


            • Gary Barnett has just kindly sent the message below:
              .................................................. .................................................. .

              I’ve just discovered a couple of interesting press reports concerning Alice McKenzie which I haven’t seen before. Would it be possible to add the transcripts below to the Alice McKenzie Relatives thread?

              On the 13th August, 1889, the Peterborough Express carried this report, which provides some interesting new (to me) information about the Pitts family:


              “THE RECENT WHITECHAPEL MURDER

              THE VICTIM A PETERBOROUGH WOMAN AFTER ALL

              “ALICE MACKENZIE” IDENTIFIED

              It will be remembered that at the time of the latest Whitechapel murder, some four weeks since, the minds of Peterborough people were much exercised as to the identity of the victim Alice Mackenzie, it having been elicited at the inquest that she described herself as coming from Peterborough and being the daughter of a postman. The Peterborough postmaster was appealed to, but could find no record of any postman of that name; neither could the police throw any light on the matter. The local papers had their own theories as to the woman’s identity, one being of opinion that she was a tramp who had passed through the city early in the year and was brought before the borough bench on a charge of begging. It now appears that Mackenzie was not the woman’s maiden name, and not the name by which she was known in the city.

              It is confidently stated on good authority that Alice Mackenzie was none other than Alice Pitts, whose father was a rural postman journeying between Peterborough, Castor and Ailesworth, also holding the position of night watchman in the Minster-yard. This was perhaps 35 years or so ago, and when the watchmen were superseded by the constabulary Mr Pitts, who was widely respected, was employed in sweeping the Minster-yard, being also in receipt of a pension from the Post Office. For many years the family lived in a little house close to the Minster-yard, and even after Pitts’ death his wife, who died two years ago, continued to live there until the house was required for other purposes. Mrs Pitts, it is stated, used to earn her living by fur trimming, at which she was an adept. The family were well-known in the city. A brother was apprenticed to a watchmaker and Alice herself, the youngest of three daughters, went into domestic service, at one time being with Mrs Strickland, who kept a little refreshment house near the parish church. It was not so very long since that Alice left Peterborough to marry Mackenzie, who was supposed to be a grocer. After that, until her sad end by the knife of the mysterious and fiendish murderer, known as “Jack the Ripper”, she was lost sight of.

              It may be remembered that Alice appeared as a witness in an important case at the Sessions, her evidence breaking down the prosecution, and establishing the innocence of a young fellow accused of a serious offence. She is described as having had in her early days auburn hair, good complexion and a rather pretty face. Pitts the father was a well-known figure in his postman days. He used to drive a black donkey, which brayed with no uncertain sound, and “Old Pitts’ donkey blowing its horn” was a standing joke among the post office officials when the equipage was driven up to the office doors.”


              A week later, in the edition of 20th August, the Express printed this:


              “THE WHITECHAPEL MURDER - A near relative of Alice Pitts has called at our office and made a statement contradicting the rumour that she is identical with Alice McKenzie, as reported in our issue of Tuesday last. The rumour has caused the family much pain, and is, he says, quite without foundation and due to vindictive feeling. We are, of course, willing to insert this statement and give it publicity in our columns on his behalf.”

              Comment




              • The Peterborough Express stuff is really quite useful, I’m not sure why we didn’t find it when we were looking into Alice’s background a few years back. Perhaps it’s only recently been digitised?

                The headline in the Express’s Second Edition column of 18th July, 1889 read:


                “ANOTHER WHITECHAPEL MURDER

                A PETERBOROUGH WOMAN THE UNFORTUNATE VICTIM”


                The word ‘unfortunate’ can’t have been chosen without consideration of its usage as a euphemism for ‘prostitute’. After a paragraph describing the discovery of the body, the victim’s wounds and her circumstances, a second paragraph followed:


                “THE INQUEST

                The inquest was held last evening, when John McCormack with whom deceased had been living, identified Alice Mackenzie, who a few years ago resided at Peterborough and who will probably be known to some of the residents of Boongate and it’s vicinity. The victim is about 44 years of age, and is 5ft 4ins in height. She is of fair complexion, with dark brown hair. One of her teeth had evidently been knocked out lately, and she was very shabbily dressed. She has lost the top part of her thumb. The inquest was adjourned.”


                Boongate was a street/area to the northeast of Peterborough cathedral with something of a disreputable reputation*, the location of common lodging houses and the haunt of prostitutes and their customers. So a day into Alice’s inquest, and the Express had not only latched onto where Wynne Baxter was heading - to the conclusion that Alice was operating as an ‘unfortunate’ when she was attacked - but they also assumed that she had been an ‘unfortunate’ while living in her native Peterborough. Little wonder, then, that the Pitts family refused to accept the identification of the Whitechapel victim as their missing sister. *The cutting below is from the Express of 17th September, 1889.

                And the red herring (as it most likely was) of the much younger, apparently Scottish, tramp named Alice McKenzie who had appeared before the local bench a few months previously must have further muddied the waters. It doesn’t surprise me that the Pitts refused to accept that Castle Alley Alice was theirs. In December, 1884, Alice’s 74-year-old mother, Martha, was one of 20 ‘poor persons’ awarded a prize under the terms of Bishop White’s Charity for ‘exactly and distinctly repeat[ing] the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed and the Ten Commandments without missing or changing one word’. The prize amounted to 10 shillings for each successful candidate, the equivalent of several weeks’ ‘doss’ in a Spitalfields lodging house. The Pitts family were resident in the Peterborough Minster Precincts for over 4 decades - presumably under Diocesan patronage. Their perceived ‘respectability’ would have been of enormous value to them - a flimsy barrier between the family and extreme poverty of the type that their errant (?) daughter experienced in the East End abyss. By 1889, both of Alice’s parents were deceased, but two of her siblings were still living in Peterborough: her brother, John, aged 51, a watch jobber; and her sister, Martha, by then Mrs Varney, the wife of Eli, a carpenter. Martha’s and Eli’s social position is indicated by the fact that they had a 16-year-old domestic servant in their household in 1891. John’s is a little less certain, he was boarding at an inn when the census was taken.

                All three of the main Peterborough papers in existence in 1889 carried denials by the Pitts family of any connection to Alice McKenzie.


                Advertiser:

                ‘A connection of the Pitts family, still residing in Peterborough, wishes us to state that the murdered woman had no connection with the family of the Peterborough postman of that name, but our readers can form their own conclusions upon the facts above related.’

                17th August, 1889


                Standard:

                ‘Nothing has been heard of her [Alice Pitts] for some time, but a relative informs us that he believes she died seven or eight years ago. At any rate he distinctly denies that there is any resemblance between her and Alice Mackenzie.’

                17th August, 1889


                Express:

                ‘A near relative of Alice Pitts has called at our office and made a statement contradicting the rumour that she is identical with Alice McKenzie, as reported in our issue of Tuesday last. The rumour has caused the family much pain, and is, he says, quite without foundation and due to vindictive feeling. We are, of course, willing to insert this statement and give it publicity in our columns on his behalf.’

                20th August, 1889


                As far as I can see, the Standard is the only one of the three that mentions Leicester, saying that Alice ‘left Peterborough some years ago to marry someone in Leicester.’

                There weren’t too many Alices born in Peterborough in the mid-1840s. Fewer still (just one I would hazard a guess) whose father was a postman, and there was nothing in the vague physical description of Alice McKenzie that was at odds with what little we know of Alice Pitts. And the Pitts sister had gone missing, so her family had no idea where she ended up. The suggestion that she had died ‘seven or eight years ago’ is interesting. What the Pitts didn’t have access to are prison and workhouse records that plot the name change from Kensey to McKenzie and provide evidence that Alice ‘McKenzie’s’ husband was a deceased carpenter named Joseph. Perhaps they were unaware who the ‘someone’ she had married in Leicester was.


                The tramp being supposedly Scottish and in her twenties, and the suggestion that AM had been a frequenter of Boongate were perhaps discrepancies the Pitts clung onto to support their denials. In their heart of hearts, though, they couldn’t have been sure the victim wasn’t their sister. Indeed, they may have believed she was but refused to acknowledge it publicly.

                Attached Files

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                • Thanks, Gary.

                  Any luck tracing the important trial she apparently appeared in?

                  "It may be remembered that Alice appeared as a witness in an important case at the Sessions, her evidence breaking down the prosecution, and establishing the innocence of a young fellow accused of a serious offence."

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Kattrup View Post
                    Thanks, Gary.

                    Any luck tracing the important trial she apparently appeared in?

                    "It may be remembered that Alice appeared as a witness in an important case at the Sessions, her evidence breaking down the prosecution, and establishing the innocence of a young fellow accused of a serious offence."
                    Not so far, Kattrup. It is quite intriguing isn’t it?

                    What a shame the Express didn’t provide a bit more info about the case. By early 1861, aged 15/16, Alice had left Peterborough and was living in the household of a master brazier in Leicester as a domestic servant. It’s not clear whether she ever returned to her home town.

                    I’m wondering what ‘Sessions’ were being referred to. The local Petty Sessions or Quarter Sessions somewhere? I’ve tried googling combinations of Alice/Pitts/Sessions/Peterborough, but to no avail so far. I’ll keep looking as and when I have the time to do so.





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                    • Another red herring was the suggestion that the tramp and/or the Whitechapel victim might have been related to a Scottish-born draper named John Mackenzie who was resident in Peterborough for a number of years. He had died there in 1881, his only daughter, Elizabeth, moved from Peterborough to Liverpool shortly after she married in 1878. In 1889, she too issued a denial of any knowledge of a relationship between her family and Alice McKenzie. It appeared in the Advertiser on August 3rd.

                      ‘Mrs. Elizabeth Egan, 5, Spencer-street, Everton, Liverpool, writes to us: “In your edition of the 20th July I noticed that the unfortunate woman Alice Mackenzie, lately murdered in London, is supposed to have belonged to Peterborough, and my father’s name is mentioned in connection with the affair. As the only child of the late Mr. John Mackenzie, Trinity-street, formerly South-place [Peterborough], I wish to state that as far as my knowledge goes she was in no way connected with the family.”’

                      I wonder if this Liverpool connection might have given rise to the claim in one report that Alice’s father had been a postman in Liverpool? It certainly seems a lot of effort went into attempting to establish Alice’s Peterborough connections once McCormack’s reference to the city had been publicised.






                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post

                        Not so far, Kattrup. It is quite intriguing isn’t it?

                        What a shame the Express didn’t provide a bit more info about the case. By early 1861, aged 15/16, Alice had left Peterborough and was living in the household of a master brazier in Leicester as a domestic servant. It’s not clear whether she ever returned to her home town.

                        I’m wondering what ‘Sessions’ were being referred to. The local Petty Sessions or Quarter Sessions somewhere? I’ve tried googling combinations of Alice/Pitts/Sessions/Peterborough, but to no avail so far. I’ll keep looking as and when I have the time to do so.
                        I had a quick look at the British Newspaper Archive, but none of the Peterborough newspapers is included before 1872 (though there is the Northampton Mercury for the 1850s and 1860s). Looking at the British Library catalogue, it seems the only one going back as far as the late 1850s would be the Advertiser.

                        I suppose if it was a serious case it's more likely to have been the Quarter Sessions, but tricky to find without more information, as the local newspapers aren't digitised.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by Chris Phillips View Post

                          I had a quick look at the British Newspaper Archive, but none of the Peterborough newspapers is included before 1872 (though there is the Northampton Mercury for the 1850s and 1860s). Looking at the British Library catalogue, it seems the only one going back as far as the late 1850s would be the Advertiser.

                          I suppose if it was a serious case it's more likely to have been the Quarter Sessions, but tricky to find without more information, as the local newspapers aren't digitised.
                          Thanks, Chris.

                          The BNA are apparently planning to digitise earlier editions of the Advertiser - from 1861 - but I’m not sure when.

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