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Harrison Barber—Horse Slaughterers

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  • #31
    Jack in Action

    Crack - crack – crack - he goes on his knees - he is whipped on his feet - he falls over on his side - he never gets up again. Crack – crack - Oh! very well - whip away till you are black in the face - the poor animal's time is up - his slavery is over - he will never drag wain more. The mob comes up, as usual, through the cllinks of the stones, or else drops down from the sky; but there it is, talking, shouting, giving advice, loosening the traces, dragging away the wagon shafts from poor old Dobbin, whose glazing eye, and short, heaving breath, shows that his heart is broken. The whip - that universal horse medicine, is applied to head, withers, and flank; but it won't do; Dobbin merely lifts his head, as he would say, let me die in peace, winces under the lash, and lays himself down again.

    The knacker is sent for. Dobbin cannot be permitted to die in peace - a dead horse and a killed horse are two different things in the cat's-meat market - the knacker's cart arrives in double quick - the mob admires the cart, the royal arms, and the inscription, “Knacker to her Majesty." The royal knacker - a swell knacker in cords and tops, with a bit of butcher's apron, just as big as a bishop's - merely to distinguish his profession - pole-axe in hand, descends from his vehicle; the delighted mob closes in, eager to witness the scientific operation. The pole-axe is driven at one blow through the frontal bone of the expiring animal ;a willow wand, finger thick, is pushed into the hole, and twisted about in the brain pan with great dexterity ; the animal is fearfully convulsed, writhing in the most intense agony - the mob is quite in raptures at every kick of one brute and twist of the other - fainter and fainter become the death struggles of Dobbin - another turn or two, as a finisher - he is dead.

    Now a chain is fastened to the dead horse's neck, and made fast at the other end to a windlass, with rack and pinion fixed between the shafts of the knacker's vehicle; this is tilted up, and Dobbin slowly ascends, amid the facetious remarks and jocose sallies of the gratified spectators. “Sassengers," exclaims one fellow (a laugh); "Real Epping," shouts another (laughter); “ Polonies," shrieks a third (much laughter); “Small Germans," “Leg of beef," “Kidney puddins," and a profusion of other allusions to the probable esculent qualities of the respected deceased.

    A few extempore fights, got up by rival pot-boys, diversify the entertainment; the royal knacker disappears, the mob “maketh itself air, into which it vanisheth," and you walk off, greatly pleased with the extreme sensibility and innate dislike of anything like cruelty, which so eminently distinguishes the true-born cockney.

    From Bentley's Miscellany, 1844.

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    • #32
      The firm of Harrison, Barber was the brainchild of John Harrison, the immediate successor to Jack Atcheler at Belle Isle.

      The Slaughter-houses &c., Act. (Metropolis) of 1874 had prohibited the establishment of any new horse-slaughtering businesses in the London area, leaving the seven existing firms with an effective monopoly in the trade in the capital.

      Harrison's idea was to roll these seven businesses up into one entity. To achieve this he entered into contracts to buy the six other firms, including Barber's of Whitechapel, and agreed to transfer his own business, the largest, into the new company. Payment for these businesses was partly in cash and partly in Harrison, Barber shares.

      Harrison, Barber was launched in January, 1886 with a share capital of £130,000.00.

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      • #33
        Not so 'igh and mighty.

        In his photo Jack Atcheler looks every inch the eminent Victorian. There's something Gladstonian about the square jaw and the steady eye, but press reports of his activities paint a somewhat different picture.

        This example is from 1848, 4 years after the great man's dignity had been affronted by cries of "Sassengers", "Polonies", "Small Germans" and "Kidney Puddings" from the irreverent London crowd.

        Interesting to Consumers of Sausages

        At the Clerkenwell Police Office, on Thursday week, Mordecai Andrews, a countryman, was charged by a city policeman under the following circumstances :- At an early hour in the morning the prisoner was observed near Smithfield with a horse and cart, the latter containing two dead cows and a horse, and the most offensive effluvium proceeded from them. The policeman, suspecting they were meant for sausage meat, followed the prisoner until he arrived at the premises of Mr. Lansdowne, a sausage merchant of Sharpe's Alley, Cow Cross, where he backed the cart in, but Mr. Lansdowne told the party it was a mistake, and the carcases were not meant for him. The officer, knowing the dead carcases were not fit for human diet, questioned the prisoner, who hesitated, and gave such an unsatisfactory account of his possession of the animals, that he took him and the animals to the nearest station-house.

        Mr. John Atcheler, on being sworn, said that he was horse-slaughterer to Her Majesty and the Royal Family, and he resided in Sharpe's Square, Cow Cross, Smithfield. (A laugh.) He had no knowledge of the prisoner, and was satisfied in his own mind that the carcases were consigned to his establishment, which was well watered and kept as sweet as any lady's drawing-room. (Laughter.) His neighbour, Mr. Lansdowne, was a respectable man, and did not make the common sausages, but only those that were fit for the West End of the town. ( Much laughter. ) He meant the real German sausages, which were of the very best meat, mixed with a bit of "tommy'.

        Mr. Mould (the clerk) : Do you mean Tommy the Cat?

        Mr. Atcheler: Oh! no; a little bit of bull beef, which makes them more stiff, and more palatable - what Lord Brougham likes. (Laughter.)

        The witness added that how the prisoner could have been intrusted with the care of a horse and cart and such goods was to him a puzzle, for he was as green as a leek.

        Mr. Josiah Knight, veterinary surgeon, of St. Andrews Hill, Doctors Commons, deposed that the animals were not fit for human food. They had died from disease and had undergone medical treatment.

        Mr. Tyrwhitt: I can only say that the parties on whose premises such carcases are found are liable to indictment.

        Mr. Atcheler: I can only say, your worship, that if they boils 'em in my coppers, we are always obliged to put a little bull in it to make it sound and good, and stiff, too, for the canines. (Laughter.)

        Mr Tyrwhitt said he must discharge the prisoner, but it was a matter of great importance at this period, when disease was caused through nauseous smells, and vapours, and such proceedings ought to be carefully watched.

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        • #34
          I think Jack Atcheler may have taken his own advice and included a quantity of 'tommy' as a stiffener in his diet.

          He married three times. On the last occasion, when Jack was aged 68, his bride was Victoria Chancellor, the 21-year-old daughter of a funeral carriage maker. (See next post)

          The pole-axe eventually fell on Jack, aged 75, in 1867. He lies buried in Highgate cemetery where his memorial in the form of a horse is a minor tourist attraction.

          I'm awaiting a copy of his will to see if that provides any clues as to how his business passed on to John Harrison. His contemporary in Whitechapel, William Monk, bequeathed his business to his assistant William Barber. That may sound a little generous but the premises were leasehold, so all Barber was really left was the goodwill and fixtures and fittings of the business. And that was contingent upon his providing a horse, carriage and driver for Monk's daughter whenever she required them.

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          • #35
            Victoria Atcheler, nee Chancellor

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            • #36
              I think I've seen that horse memorial at Highgate.

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              • #37
                Ed,

                You may also have seen the monument to Tom Sayers, the bareknuckle boxer.

                Atcheler was his patron and apparently he often stayed at Atcheler's slaughter yard and was happy to muck in a with bit of slaughtering when required. Whenever they parted company Atcheler would say, 'Look after the cat's meat.'

                Gary

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                • #38
                  Tom Sayers Memorial

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                  • #39
                    Yes I remember that as well - but it was about 20 years ago.

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                    • #40
                      As the saying goes, 'if you look after the we cat's meat, the dog's will look after themselves'.

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                      • #41
                        Originally posted by Edward Stow View Post
                        As the saying goes, 'if you look after the we cat's meat, the dog's will look after themselves'.
                        That's a new one on me - is it the Lechmere family motto, perchance?

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                        • #42
                          Ed,

                          On the subject of the Lechmeres, is there anything you can share with us regarding their horse flesh business?

                          In particular, do you know if they had any dealings with HB?

                          Gary

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                          • #43
                            They were involved in that trade up to 1943 - when Charles Lechmere's son abd grandson died in the Bethnal Green Tube disaster the business passed to a great grandson who switched to fruit and veg.
                            I think post war there were increasingly too few horses for the slaughtering business to thrive and pet food became processed .
                            One surviving great grandson used to wheel the market barrow to Broadway Market - where they traded from - in the early mornings pre war.
                            They used to buy big sides of meat - virtually a whole carcass and boil it down in their back garden in big metal cauldrons.
                            The slaughter yard apparently was under the railway arches that cut across Cambridge Heath Road, near Bethnal Green Park.

                            I have no idea if they bought from Harrison Barber. Was it still going by then. The only particular details are have are immediately prewar.

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                            • #44
                              The Lechmere motto is Christus pelicano from the rather gorey pelican vulning myth.

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                              • #45
                                Originally posted by Edward Stow View Post
                                The Lechmere motto is Christus pelicano from the rather gorey pelican vulning myth.
                                Duh! I knew that. You told me when I went on the walk in aid of the Stairway to Heaven.

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