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  • The Elusive 'Horse Coroner'

    Rather than clog up Steve (Elamarna)'s interesting Buck's Row thread over on Casebook with more knacker stuff, I thought I'd post the results of my ongoing efforts to identify the 1888 Whitechapel 'Horse Coroner' over here.

    In theory an Inspector of Houses for Slaughtering Horses should have been present at Barber's Yard while Tomkins, Mumford and Britten were at work on the night Polly Nichols' was killed. His job was to oversee the killing of the animals and to carry out a form of autopsy on them, looking particularly for communicable diseases such as glanders and farcy.

    The Islington Inspectors regularly appear in the local press, but for some reason their Whitechapel equivalents seem to have been considered less newsworthy. I'm sure our man's name is on record somewhere, but I've drawn a blank so far.

    Was he at the yard that night? If so, why did his name not crop up at Nichols' inquest?

    The Islington Inspector in 1888 was a Scotsman named Gavin Herron. In April, 1890 the following letter from him was read to the to the Islington Vestry, who were empowered to appoint and remunerate their local 'Horse Coroner':


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    The reading of the letter was followed by a report from the General Purposes Committee containing criticism of Herron's performance including an anonymous accusation that he was frequently not present at the yard in person when horses were killed, filling out his reports retrospectively using Harrison, Barber's records.

    Somehow, Herron seems to have escaped being given the sack and the vestry recommended that the Committee look into the possibility of increasing his remuneration.

    Edit: It seems that Herron was in fact subsequently removed from his post and replaced by an unqualified person.

    Comment


    • What's the difference between a slaughter house and a knackers yard Gary?
      Attached Files
      Thanks for your time,
      dusty miller

      Comment


      • Originally posted by Dusty Miller View Post
        What's the difference between a slaughter house and a knackers yard Gary?
        A slaughterhouse was used to produce food for human consumption. Knackers yards mainly processed horse flesh, which was turned into pet food. The terms often get muddled up, but in law there was a distinction. Knackers also handled diseased animals of other species - and oddities: the occasional elephant or camel for instance.

        HB had a monopoly on the knacker trade in London, although to regulate the supply horseflesh was brought in from the provinces.

        This was the tally for (what would become) their Islington yards in 1877/8:

        Horses Alive: 3,861
        Horses Dead: 6,157
        Cows Dead: 50
        Bulls Dead: 8
        Heifers Dead: 2
        Sterks Dead: 3
        Mules Dead: 3
        Donkeys Alive: 10
        Donkeys Dead: 43
        Camel Dead: 1
        Elephant: 1

        Total 10, 139.

        Comment


        • Originally posted by Dusty Miller View Post
          What's the difference between a slaughter house and a knackers yard Gary?
          Incidentally, Dusty, I believe this case was brought by HB, who hired a private detective to spy on the activities of John Barber at Marsh Gate.

          Comment


          • I had a look at the newspapers and horse flesh seemed to be a popular subject in the Islington Gazette, but not too much talked about elsewhere.
            Thanks for your time,
            dusty miller

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Dusty Miller View Post
              I had a look at the newspapers and horse flesh seemed to be a popular subject in the Islington Gazette, but not too much talked about elsewhere.
              Yes, the yards in Belle Isle, Islington were the centre of the trade in London. John Harrison took over the largest of them and eventually his son merged all the London yards into HB. Belle Isle was notorious for its 'noxious' trades: as well as knackers yards it was home to manure makers, varnish makers, brick and tile works etc. For most of the nineteenth century it's horrors were regularly reported on in the local (Islington/Clerkenwell) press. Even Charles Dickens wrote about it. The previous owner of Harrison's yard was a larger-than-life character called Jack Atcheler, who was something of a minor celebrity.

              Belle Isle was where the Tomkins family lived (Henry was born there) until Henry's father, William, was caught stealing from John Harrison. Then, after a spell in prison, William moved his family to the outskirts of Manchester. They remained there for 15 years or so before returning to London in 1887/8.

              William died in Whitechapel in April, '88, followed by Ellis (Henry's nephew) in October, '88 and Henry himself in February, 1891. By 1893, what remained of the family had returned to Manchester.

              Comment


              • I need to get off my bum and pay a visit to the Tower Hamlets archives to see whether they hold any Vestry minutes that might identify the incumbent 'Horse Coroner' in 1888.

                Comment


                • Researching further, I find that Gavin Herron does seem to have been removed from office. A scathing letter by a James Herron, printed in The Islington Gazette of 22/4/1890, lays the blame at the door of the General Purposes Committee and behind them anonymous informants in the knacker trade.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                    Rather than clog up Steve (Elarma)'s interesting Buck's Row thread over on Casebook with more knacker stuff, I thought I'd post the results of my ongoing efforts to identify the 1888 Whitechapel 'Horse Coroner' over here.

                    In theory an Inspector of Houses for Slaughtering Horses should have been present at Barber's Yard while Tomkins, Mumford and Britten were at work on the night Polly Nichols' was killed. His job was to oversee the killing of the animals and to carry out a form of autopsy on them, looking particularly for communicable diseases such as glanders and farcy.

                    The Islington Inspectors regularly appear in the local press, but for some reason their Whitechapel equivalents seem to have been considered less newsworthy. I'm sure our man's name is on record somewhere, but I've drawn a blank so far.

                    Was he at the yard that night? If so, why did his name not crop up at Nichols' inquest?

                    The Islington Inspector in 1888 was a Scotsman named Gavin Herron. In April, 1890 the following letter from him was read to the to the Islington Vestry, who were empowered to appoint and remunerate their local 'Horse Coroner':


                    [ATTACH]17936[/ATTACH]

                    The reading of the letter was followed by a report from the General Purposes Committee containing criticism of Herron's performance including an anonymous accusation that he was frequently not present at the yard in person when horses were killed, filling out his reports retrospectively using Harrison, Barber's records.

                    Somehow, Herron seems to have escaped being given the sack and the vestry recommended that the Committee look into the possibility of increasing his remuneration.

                    Edit: It seems that Herron was in fact subsequently removed from his post and replaced by an unqualified person.
                    Very interesting Gary.

                    Steve

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by Steve Blomer View Post
                      Very interesting Gary.

                      Steve
                      Thanks, Steve.

                      I'm looking forward to your analysis of the knackers' activities on the night of Polly's murder.

                      When I read the several versions of Tomkins's inquest testimony and the Echo interview with Mumford, I'm left with the feeling that we're not being told the whole truth. The reasons may be innocent - but may be not.

                      Comment


                      • Herron seems to have had financial difficulties in the 1890s. However, he married in 1901, had children, and died in 1911.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by Robert Linford View Post
                          Herron seems to have had financial difficulties in the 1890s. However, he married in 1901, had children, and died in 1911.
                          Thanks, Rob.

                          And it seems he was a freemason...

                          I wonder why his face didn't fit? Was he a bit too efficient - officious?

                          The previous incumbent (over decades), Caleb Hunt, seems to have had a very cosy relationship with John Harrison in particular.

                          Comment


                          • Hi Gary


                            He was only there for about 4 years. The Islington Gazette Nov 9th 1886 reports that he only just squeezed in. On a show of hands, Edward Booth won. Then the third place candidate was eliminated and Booth won the second round. But because it was so close, they then had a third round which Herron won.


                            Booth may have felt a bit aggrieved...

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Robert Linford View Post
                              Hi Gary


                              He was only there for about 4 years. The Islington Gazette Nov 9th 1886 reports that he only just squeezed in. On a show of hands, Edward Booth won. Then the third place candidate was eliminated and Booth won the second round. But because it was so close, they then had a third round which Herron won.


                              Booth may have felt a bit aggrieved...
                              When Herron was being hauled over coals in 1890 there was a comment by one vestrymen that appeared to be an accusation (albeit tongue-in-cheek) of bribery against another who had switched from pro- to anti- Herron.

                              Comment


                              • Well, the figures were pretty close. If I understand correctly, the first two rounds were show of hands, and then a 'poll' was held. I assume that meant secret voting, which is the best way anyway. There's less point in bribing someone if you can't see whether they've secretly double-crossed you.

                                Comment

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