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Harrison Barber—Horse Slaughterers

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  • Belle Isle, 1950

    This is an aerial photo of the whole of Belle Isle in 1950.

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    • Belle Isle, 1950

      The corner containing the Fortune of War, HB's office and yard.

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      • Help Required

        In a leaflet put out by Islington council it's mentioned that in 'The First of May' Charles Dickens described a journey along Maiden Lane to Copenhagen House.

        I can't find 'The First of May' anywhere.

        Any suggestions?

        This illustration from the leaflet seems to show Belle Isle at an early stage in its history:

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        • Dear Boz


          I think it's in one of your sketches :


          http://www.victorianlondon.org/books/boz-120.htm

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          • Originally posted by Robert Linford View Post
            Dear Boz


            I think it's in one of your sketches :


            http://www.victorianlondon.org/books/boz-120.htm
            That's the one! Thanks, Robert. (I told you that bird poop would bring good luck.)

            From the description, it is Belle Isle he is talking about.

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            • But it's supposed to be good luck for me, not you. By rights, you should have had the poop.

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              • Originally posted by Robert Linford View Post
                But it's supposed to be good luck for me, not you. By rights, you should have had the poop.
                But you were lucky - lucky you didn't choose a roast beef sandwich on 'poop karma day'.

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                • That's shrewd. That's very shrewd.

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                  • Belle Isle - May Day(ish), 1836

                    Upon the morning of the second of the merry month of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six, we went out for a stroll, with a kind of forlorn hope of seeing something or other which might induce us to believe that it was really spring, and not Christmas. After wandering as far as Copenhagen House, without meeting anything calculated to dispel our impression that there was a mistake in the almanacks, we turned back down Maidenlane, with the intention of passing through the extensive colony lying between it and Battle-bridge, which is inhabited by proprietors of donkey-carts, boilers of horse-flesh, makers of tiles, and sifters of cinders; through which colony we should have passed, without stoppage or interruption, if a little crowd gathered round a shed had not attracted our attention, and induced us to pause.

                    When we say a ‘shed,’ we do not mean the conservatory sort of building, which, according to the old song, Love tenanted when he was a young man, but a wooden house with windows stuffed with rags and paper, and a small yard at the side, with one dust-cart, two baskets, a few shovels, and little heaps of cinders, and fragments of china and tiles, scattered about it. Before this inviting spot we paused; and the longer we looked, the more we wondered what exciting circumstance it could be, that induced the foremost members of the crowd to flatten their noses against the parlour window, in the vain hope of catching a glimpse of what was going on inside. After staring vacantly about us for some minutes, we appealed, touching the cause of this assemblage, to a gentleman in a suit of tarpaulin, who was smoking his pipe on our right hand; but as the only answer we obtained was a playful inquiry whether our mother had disposed of her mangle, we determined to await the issue in silence.

                    Judge of our virtuous indignation, when the street-door of the shed opened, and a party emerged therefrom, clad in the costume and emulating the appearance, of May-day sweeps!

                    The first person who appeared was ‘my lord,’ habited in a blue coat and bright buttons, with gilt paper tacked over the seams, yellow knee-breeches, pink cotton stockings, and shoes; a cocked hat, ornamented with shreds of various-coloured paper, on his head, a bouquet the size of a prize cauliflower in his button-hole, a long Belcher handkerchief in his right hand, and a thin cane in his left. A murmur of applause ran through the crowd (which was chiefly composed of his lordship’s personal friends), when this graceful figure made his appearance, which swelled into a burst of applause as his fair partner in the dance bounded forth to join him. Her ladyship was attired in pink crape over bed-furniture, with a low body and short sleeves. The symmetry of her ankles was partially concealed by a very perceptible pair of frilled trousers; and the inconvenience which might have resulted from the circumstance of her white satin shoes being a few sizes too large, was obviated by their being firmly attached to her legs with strong tape sandals.

                    Her head was ornamented with a profusion of artificial flowers; and in her hand she bore a large brass ladle, wherein to receive what she figuratively denominated ‘the tin.’ The other characters were a young gentleman in girl’s clothes and a widow’s cap; two clowns who walked upon their hands in the mud, to the immeasurable delight of all the spectators; a man with a drum; another man with a flageolet; a dirty woman in a large shawl, with a box under her arm for the money,—and last, though not least, the ‘green,’ animated by no less a personage than our identical friend in the tarpaulin suit.

                    The man hammered away at the drum, the flageolet squeaked, the shovels rattled, the ‘green’ rolled about, pitching first on one side and then on the other; my lady threw her right foot over her left ankle, and her left foot over her right ankle, alternately; my lord ran a few paces forward, and butted at the ‘green,’ and then a few paces backward upon the toes of the crowd, and then went to the right, and then to the left, and then dodged my lady round the ‘green;’ and finally drew her arm through his, and called upon the boys to shout, which they did lustily—for this was the dancing.

                    We passed the same group, accidentally, in the evening. We never saw a ‘green’ so drunk, a lord so quarrelsome (no: not even in the house of peers after dinner), a pair of clowns so melancholy, a lady so muddy, or a party so miserable.

                    How has May-day decayed!


                    From Sketches by Boz by Charles Dickens.

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                    • Of the 185 people recorded as living in Belle Isle on the 1841 census, not one was a chimney sweep.

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                      • May

                        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=F5TjtiYGbZc

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                        • Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                          'I've lorst me spotted cow, mister.'

                          'I fink (wink) I saw 'er down in yonder Pleasant Grove. Come, luv, and I'll show you where...'

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                          • Belle Islanders celebrating May Day, 1836

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                            • On the 11th May, 1861, the "Pleasant Grove Reparation Committee" (more about them later) published a balance sheet, seemingly for 1860/61, in the Islington Gazette.

                              Their subscribers included the celebrity knacker Jack Atcheler, who had stumped up a generous £3. towards the upkeep of Belle Isle's premier thoroughfare, and a number of other prominent Belle Islanders.

                              The committee's expenditure for the period included several payments to individuals for 'odd work', including one named Tomkins and another named Carvel. Tomkins received 10s 6d and Carvel £13 26s 1 1/2d.

                              At the time, William Tomkins and his family were living in Pleasant Grove (recently renamed at the suggestion of the committee) with his father-in-law, Enoch Carvel, and his wife's uncle, William Carvel.

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                              • There are a couple of small genealogical mysteries in connection with the Tomkins family: one of purely hippological* interest, the other possibly - just possibly - of significance to 'the case'.

                                The first concerns Sarah Carvel's (Henry's mother) eldest child, Jane/Sarah Jane, who was apparently born in 1857, a year or so before her mother and William Tomkins married.

                                On the 1861 and 1871 censuses Jane's surname was given as Tomkins and she was shown as the daughter of William Tomkins. And in 1896, on the certificate of her second marriage, to William Barton, her father was shown as William Tomkins, deceased.

                                However, on the certificate of her first marriage, to Cornelius Crook, in 1877, while William Tomkins was still alive, she was shown as Sarah Jane Carvell and her father's name and occupation had appeared as William Carvel, bricklayer - which was the name and occupation of her maternal uncle. Strange, but probably of no significance beyond its comparison to the second mystery.


                                The second mystery concerns Frederick Tomkins/Green, who was the son of Robert Tomkins's (Henry's younger brother) wife, Alice Green.

                                Frederick was born on the 26th of Jan., 1889 in Hollinwood, Lancashire. On his birth certificate his father's name had been omitted and his Christian name was that of a maternal uncle. When he married Sarah Larkin in 1908 (as Frederick Green) the spaces for his father's name and occupation were again left blank. However, on the 1891 census, he was shown as Frederick Tomkins, the son of Robert Tomkins.

                                It would be interesting to know if Robert was indeed Fred's biological father. If he was, Robert may not have moved to Whitechapel with his father and brothers in early 1888, and therefore may not have been the youngest of the three men involved in the 'scuttling' incident in Osborne Street on the 3rd of April of that year.

                                *Relating to the genealogy of horse slaughterers - you heard it here first.

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