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Harrison Barber—Horse Slaughterers

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  • It seems John Atcheler must had set up his business in Belle Isle by at least 1848. That was the first year he was granted a license to knacker in Islington. Had he by that early date got wind of the potential removal of the Smithfield livestock market to Islington? Or of the intended clearance of Sharp’s Alley to make way for the Metropolitan Railway? Or was it that he simply needed more space or wanted to move part of his operations somewhere beyond the reach of the City of London Corporation? He didn’t move out of Sharp’s Alley until 1852 and the Metropolitan Cattle Market didn’t open in Copenhagen Fields until 1855.

    1848, you may remember, was the year in which a ‘green’ carman accidentally delivered a load of diseased meat that was consigned to Atcheler to the sausage maker next door. Atcheler vehemently denied that there was any connection between his business and his neighbour’s, although in court he displayed a certain familiarity with the process of sausage making.
    Attached Files


    • I came across this advert some time ago but obviously didn’t read it thoroughly because I’ve only just spotted that it appears to give an approximate date (early 1900) for the discontinuation of the use of the poleaxe in HB’s yards.

      Attached Files


      • Originally posted by Chris Phillips View Post
        Someone very kindly contacted the site to give us a piece of oral history that I'm sure people will find interesting, as follows:

        Back in the 1970's I worked for some 15 months for Harrison Barber (pet food producers. The company was, at that time, owned by a larger company called Zwananberg.
        The depot was in Markfield Road Tottenham North London.and also had a licensed slaughter house specifically for horses. These carcases were exported to the continent.
        The pet food site employed approx 15/20 men. Among them was an 'old boy' who swept up, did general cleaning and made the tea.
        During my time there he celebrated 50 years with the company which would indicate that he started work for them in the early 20's.
        At that time he worked at the companies Whitechapel depot. I recall him saying that they used to slaughter police and cavalry horses and he would drive three horses bridled together, sit on the middle one and gallop the string down the High Street, much to the consternation of the local police.

        The Ripper connection is a bit tenuous, but as a teenager he worked with men who were interviewed by the police investigating the murders.
        This [when he was a teenager] would have only been just over 30 years since those terrible events.
        I do not recall him providing any other detail but it is worth recording as a connection to the murders.
        As I mentioned previously, there was certainly one slaughterman who had worked for HB in 1888 and was still with them in 1921 - Fred Ling.

        I hope this is legible.
        Attached Files


        • Fred Ling was living in Barnsley Street, Bethnal Green in 1921 and working for Harrison and Barber in Winthrop Street. Interestingly, his youngest daughter, May, was a cap machinist who worked at Schneiders in Durward Street.

          When Fred married in 1888, he was a slaughterman and his address was 14, Coventry Street, next door or next door but one to the Tomkins brothers and their families.

          This is my grandfather’s (last) employer in 1921.
          Attached Files


          • I wonder if Tomkins, Mumford and Britton were the only HB employees whom the police interviewed. You’d have thought they would have at least spoken to Alf Barber to find out who was at the yard that night.

            The (Charles) Jeremiah Slowe case provides an interesting example of an HB man being enticed away from the Winthrop Street yard by a mate, and Tomkins admitted that people did call in occasionally. Who might they have been? Other slaughterman who weren’t working that night seems most likely. The odd cop skiving off his beat for a cuppa or something stronger. Or maybe a homeless person looking for some warmth and refreshment. How the knackers would respond to that might depend on whether the homeless person could offer anything in return.


            • I hope FMP provide free access to the 1921 census before too long. This is just too tempting:

              Attached Files


              • I just spotted that for £19.99 I could get unlimited access to the 1921 census.

                Happy days!


                • This image from the Imperial War Museum’s collection shows a WWI army veterinary officer holding a humane cattle/horse killer as he approaches an injured horse.

                  Attached Files


                  • By 1921, Alfred Barber was living at 240, Roman Road, Forest Gate and describing himself as a horse slaughterer working for HB at their ‘Eastern District (London)’. So he was presumably managing both the Winthrop Street Yard and the one in Sugar House Lane.

                    I’m off now to put together a few facts and figures about HB’s 1921 workforce. I slipped Alf Barber’s info in prematurely because I was keen to bag the 1000th post on this thread.


                    • Harrison, Barber Employees, 1921 (Whitechapel)

                      Alfred Barber: Horse slaughterer (Manager). Age 67.

                      Frederick Henry Ling: Horse slaughterer (Foreman?). Age 52.

                      Henry Arthur Barnett: Horse slaughterer (Out of work). Age 20.

                      Charles Lambert: Slaughterman. Age 32.

                      Alfred Laver: Horse slaughterman. Age 30.

                      William Smith: Slaughter man. Age 61.

                      Harry Griggs: Horse keeper. Age 46.

                      Frederick William John Bull: Carman & Labourer. Age 21.

                      Laurie Hampton: Carman. Age 53.

                      John Foley: Labourer. Age 23.

                      George Rawlings: Handy Man. Age 67.

                      Albert Elby: Book keeper. Age 20.

                      Of the four men who were old enough in 1921 to have worked at the Winthrop Street yard in 1888, only Alfred Barber and Fred Ling look certain to have been. The other two, William Smith and Laurie Hampton were elsewhere.

                      Barber I have included in Whitechapel in 1921 because he was seemingly the manager of HB’s ‘Eastern District’, which would have consisted of the Whitechapel, Stratford and Custom House yards/depots. However, he was then living in Forest Gate, very close to Stratford, and judging by the number of employees working at Stratford (20+) it was a larger operation than that in Whitechapel, so that may well have been where he spent more of his time.

                      Fred Ling, then, seems to be the most likely source for the anecdotes told to Chris’s contact’s colleague in the 1920s. Although he wasn’t, as far as we know, one of the slaughtermen interviewed by the police in connection with the Nichols case, he was almost certainly employed at the Winthrop Street yard in 1888 and he was Henry Tomkins’s near neighbour. Perhaps his involvement in events was somewhat exaggerated in the telling or misunderstood by the hearer.

                      As for who the old boy working at Zwanenberg in the 1970s was, he might have been one of the younger employees working in Winthrop Street in 1921 - Fred Bull, perhaps, or John Foley.


                      • HB London employees (1921) by role:

                        Slaughterman 30

                        Slaughterman Cattle 1

                        Butcher 1

                        Skin Dresser 1

                        Horseman 1

                        Horse Keeper 1

                        Stableman 1

                        Carman 12

                        Labourer 3

                        Engineer 1

                        Boiler Engineer 1

                        Electrical Engineer 1

                        Engineer’s Labourer 1

                        Stoker 1

                        Wheelwright 2

                        Secretary 1

                        Accountant 1

                        Clerk 3

                        Book Keeper 3

                        Typist 1

                        Mill Hand 2

                        Oil Man 1

                        Bone Crusher 1

                        Chaff Cutter 1

                        Handy Man 1

                        Office Lad 1

                        Errand Boy 1

                        Watchman 1

                        Total 76. Depending on how you search for this data you get different results. Harrison Barber, Harrison & Barber etc. I may have to finesse this.

                        The yards/depots included are:

                        Islington 2
                        Whitechapel 1
                        Stratford 1
                        Custom House 1
                        Canning Town 1
                        Wandsworth 1
                        Greenwich 1
                        Croydon 1

                        The former yards in Brandon Road, Islington, Tabard Street, Borough and the one in Blackfriars (can’t remember the street off the top of my head) don’t get a mention, so they had presumably been closed by 1921.


                        • HB’s depots from the 1920 Post Office Directory.

                          Presumably Alf Barber managed:

                          Custom House,
                          Canning Town,

                          and they comprised the ‘Eastern District’

                          Prior to 1899, a local knacker named Palmer had been their agent in Romford but from 1899 onwards Alfred Barber is shown as the owner of their small yard in Romford market place.

                          Attached Files


                          • The provincial ‘depot’ that most interests me is the one in Earith, Huntingdonshire. it’s not shown here, I believe they acquired it in the 1920s.


                            • Originally posted by Gary Barnett View Post
                              The two on the right look to me like they've been brushed with Greenwood's 'sanguinary hearth broom'.

                              I've posted this link before but it's a particular favourite so I'll do so again:

                              Very nice input on this thread, Gary.

                              This report by Greenwood is particularly good (shame about that cricket ball thing, though)​


                              • Originally posted by Jose Oranto View Post

                                Very nice input on this thread, Gary.

                                This report by Greenwood is particularly good (shame about that cricket ball thing, though)​
                                Yes, when I was considering the upbringing of Henry Tomkins and his older brother,Thomas, in Belle Isle that was an image that lodged itself in my mind. That and one of local kids tormenting the broken down horses that were led through the gate into the knackers yard.

                                Then, off they went to Manchester at the height of the ‘scuttling’ epidemic. After a decade or so there, they returned to London, no doubt with thick Mancunian accents and feeling outsiders once more.

                                It seems they were in Manchester on 9th November, 1887, but had relocated to Whitechapel by April, 1888. Henry died in February, 1891, so his sojourn in Whitechapel matched the timeline of the Whitechapel Murders almost exactly.