Sunday, 11 September 2016

Vagrant monkeys, stewed cat and the heart of a dog - from the casebook of the Solomon of Marlborough Street; Sir George Farrant (1770-1844) Kensal Green Cemetery


DEATHS - Dec 15 (1844) In Upper Brook St Grosvenor sq aged 76 Sir George Farrant of Northsted House, Chelsfield, Kent a Justice of the Peace for that county and a deputy Lieutenant of Middlesex. He was the eldest son of George Binstead esq afterwards Farrant by the daughter and sole heiress of Godfrey Lee Farrant esq principal Registrar of the Court of Admiralty. He was called to the bar at the Inner Temple Nov 25 1825 he practised as a special pleader and went the Western circuit. He was unmarried.
 Gentleman’s Magazine January 1845

The Portland stone Farrant mausoleum in Kensal Green is a grade II listed Egyptian revival tomb built in 1844 by the architects J. Bedford of 256 Oxford Street. According to English Heritage it has “battered sides with cavetto cornice. On the west side is a pylon-shaped doorcase (door blocked) with winged disc and the cornice on this side has stylised hieroglyphs and a stylised head. On the south side is a pylon-shaped inscription panel flanked by inverted torches. It is surrounded by stone railings in matching idiom.”

Sir George Farrant was the hard working magistrate at Marlborough Street Police Court. We know relatively little about his private life, his obituaries in the newspapers are all extremely brief, quite ironically given that in his professional role his name featured regularly in the press.   Marlborough Street, along with Bow Street, were probably the busiest courts in the country and Sir George’s cases were frequently noteworthy enough to make the papers. He was a painstaking magistrate who seemed determined to get to the bottom of every matter brought before him, no matter how trivial. His patient questioning often drew unexpectedly piquant details from the accused, plaintiffs or witnesses and court reporters gathered at his sessions knowing that he was capable of transmuting the most unpromising case into journalistic gold dust. Police magistrates dealt with the full gamut of human misbehaviour from basest criminality, greed, and lust to stupidity, recklessness and folly, the perpetrators coming from all sections of society from the highest echelons of the aristocracy to the lowest reaches of the urban poor.  Sometimes the crimes committed were so outrageous that the newspapers, despite reporting the case, refused to say what the actual offence was; in 1825 the Sussex Advertiser reported that “Sir George Farrant and Mr. Connant were occupied for a considerable portion of the day in the investigation of a case which involved, perhaps, as much of human depravity as can well be imagined, and considerably more than can venture to pollute our columns by detailing in full........” The paper went on to recount how John Grossell Muirhead, Esq., said to be brother-in-law to the Duke of Atholl, “a very venerable and genteel-looking man, apparently about 65,” approached a sixteen year old boy outside a print shop, inveigled him into a nearby coffee shop where he plied him with cider and biscuits before showing him a book containing “a number of prints of the most indecent and shocking nature, and ....after exposing, many of these prints to him, the prisoner took hold of his hand — (Here the witness described what we cannot.)”

Sir George as painted by Henry Wyatt in 1831
Sir George often managed to turn even his more mundane cases, such as bigamy ((“a young fellow, apparently scarcely out of his apprenticeship, was brought before Sir George Farrant, charged with intermarrying with Elizabeth Fry, a pretty woman, who in every sense of the word may be said to have made a very bad choice,” North Devon Journal October 1827) or assault into something slightly out of the ordinary;  The Stamford Mercury of Friday 24 June 1825 reported that “The Right Hon. the Earl of Harborough, and John Bailey, Esq., appeared before Sir George Farrant, the Sitting Magistrate, upon a warrant, charged with grossly assaulting Richard Addison, a watchman, on his duty.—Addison deposed, that on Sunday morning, between the hours of one and two, he observed two gentlemen whom he did not know coming down Bond-street, hallooing and calling out "Hip, hip," in a very boisterous manner. He desired them to be quiet, as by the noise they were making they were disturbing the inhabitants, when Lord Harborough desired him to mind his own business.” The two intoxicated gents then ran and the watch set off in pursuit. They caught up with them outside a coffee-room where “Lord Harborough and Mr. Bailey instantly, called out a rescue, on which the coffee-room was filled with gentlemen, and a fight took place betwixt them and the watchmen; during this time witness was dragged to the back of the house by Lord Harborough and Mr. Bailey, and his Lordship and some gentleman called out for the poker, which having got, be began to beat him severely with it over his head, and Mr. Bailey began to strike him with his clenched fists between his eyes.”  

After dealing with the errant aristocracy Sir George had to turn his attention to the vagrants and vagabonds at the other end of London’s social spectrum. The Morning Advertiser reported in December 1826 on the case of “Eleanor Webster, the blind beggar-woman of Saville-passage, who... was yesterday again brought before the sitting Magistrate at this Office (Marlborough Street)  charged as a vagrant upon the same grounds as before, namely, standing in Saville-passage with her hand extended an attitude of supplication for charity. It appeared that Mr. Wield, a solicitor, who resides in the passage, and near whose door the old woman takes her station, has been much annoyed by her presence there.” Mr Wield apparently began to regret his action in complaining about the blind beggar woman and asked Sir George not to send her to the house of correction. Sir George acquiesced, warning her that “if again she should ever brought to this Office upon a similar charge, she might make her mind upon severe punishment, whoever the sitting Magistrate might be.”  He then let her go.

A detail from the mausoleum
Members of the public often applied to the magistrates for advice. The triviality of some of some of these applications for advice clearly irritated the magistrate, as seen in a story in the Cork Constitution in August 1828 “On Saturday a Scotch Member Parliament applied to Sir George Farrant for advice how he should act with his landlady who had agreed for a specific weekly sum to cook his dinners, but in his bill furnished him with a separate account for coals. Remonstrating with his hostess, she said that dinners could not be cooked without coal, and that unless he paid the money she should keep his trunks. The Magistrate said he could nothing in the matter, and the Member of Parliament departed, declaring that in future, he would get his dinners ready cooked.” At other times he could be much more sympathetic as reported by the London Evening Standard in a heart-warming story in October 1827:

This Day, a young man, a native of Africa, dressed in blue livery, whose buttons were ornamented with a crest, applied to Sir George Farrant for advice, under the following circumstances : — He stated he was a native of Africa, but had been in his infancy transplanted from his native land to the West Indies, where he was sold; he had subsequently been purchased by a military gentleman who, a few months since, arrived in England, and was at present residing near Queen-square. He attended him in the capacity of a servant, but of late his master kept him without a sufficiency of victuals, and a few days since he asked for some money, when his master asked him how he dared to ask for any, for he had purchased him, and he, therefore, continued to be his slave. Sir G. Farrant. — There are no slaves in this country; you must go to Queen-square office, and make your complaint. Applicant — Thank you, sir; me is no slave then, sir; master is wrong. When the poor fellow left the office apparently overjoyed with his information.

Marlborough Street Police court as it looked in 1847, shortly after Sir George's death 
In June 1832 The Morning Post recorded the shocking story of two young ladies brought up in front of Sir George by the Watchmen for wearing Gentleman’s trousers beneath their voluminous Victorian skirts. The magistrate showed the wisdom of Solomon in making his final judgement in this outlandish case:

MARLBOROPGH-STREET. Two fashionably-dressed females were charged under the following curious circumstances:—A watchman deposed, that between mid 11 o’clock Wednesday night they were parading and down Regent-street, annoying every female they met, by carrying a portion of their dresses under their arms, and displaying each a pair of gentlemen’s trowsers. He desired them to behave more properly. This they refused to do, and he, in consequence, took them into custody. Sir George Farrant. What have they done with the trowsers? —Watchman. They have them on.
Sir George. Were they ladies’ or gentlemen’s trowsers? —The Females said, they were gentlemen’s trowsers.
Sir George. Then shew them. —The Females, with deep suffusion on their faces, here lifted up the lower part of their garments, and displayed each a very pretty ankle, surmounted a pair of gentlemen’s trowsers.
Sir George. What! had you been to Masquerade? — They replied in the negative, saying, that they had only put them on for a lark.
Sir George. Come, go home, and take off the trowsers; for no person will like to enter the lists with any Females who wear the breeches. The Females then thanked the Magistrate, and walked out the Office with the trowsers on.

Sir George found himself intervening in the relationship between man and animal more frequently than magistrates have to do today. In February 1829 the Spectator reported  how a “miserable looking foreign lad and his monkey” were brought up before Sir George by one Webb, the Inspector of Nuisances, accused of begging in St James. Soft hearted Sir George speculated that perhaps the boy did not realise he was committing an offense to which Webb, the Inspector of Nuisances, responded that he certainly did realise because he was an old hand at it. Sir George changed tack, wondering what would happen to the monkey if he committed the boy, “It is no use to send him to the house of correction, you must get an act of Parliament to authorise these animals to be sent to the Zoological Garden!” This line of exculpation was thwarted by Cheddle, a Constable of the Mendicity Society who chimed in that “Oh, your worship, the Zoological Society are very happy in accepting them."
"What!  Have they had any presents of this description sent them before?" Sir George asked.
“Yes,” said Cheddle, “they have had several monkeys and a porcupine sent them from Hatton-garden, by the Magistrates: and the Society has expressed their thanks for the present. After the porcupine was sent there, one of our men saw an Italian begging for upwards of five weeks."
"Then I suppose you intended making the Zoological gardens a house of correction for monkeys?" Sir George commented sardonically.
"It is the intention to send all there in future,” said Cheddle smugly. Sir George turned back to Webb and demanded to know if he was certain that the boy was begging for money. Webb admitted that he had not seen him actually receive any alms at which Sir George said, triumphantly, “Aye, the Zoological gentlemen will not get the monkey this time then." He told the miserable looking foreign lad that he was free to go but warned him not to get caught begging again.

A detail from Sir George's mausoleum

Sir George’s most bizarre cases often involved animals. In September 1827 the Morning Advertiser reported that as soon as he took his seat the previous morning Sir George had been handed a letter from one of the Overseers of the Poor for the Parish of St James. The letter explained that the Governor of a farmhouse in Islington where the parish were accustomed to lodge such paupers as required country air or for whom they did not have accommodation in the parish, had been forced to turn out three male paupers for conducting themselves in “a violent and riotous manner, smashing all that came in their way, threatening the lives of the other paupers, and of the officers and servants of the place, and had actually killed a favourite cat.” The Parish Overseer suspected that the three men would show up at Marlborough Street to complain of their treatment and wanted Sir George to be in full possession of the facts before they appeared. “Scarcely bad the Magistrate finished the perusal of this letter, when in marched to the office the three worthies alluded to, and sure enough to make a grievous complaint against the governor; but, on their announcing themselves and their business, they were surprised find that the Magistrate was already in possession of their history.”  The three men denied all the charges against them and alleged that the conflict with the governor had arisen when they had demanded food “as they were without a hit to eat, so that they were often driven to the utmost extremity; one instance of which, they were compelled Thursday night last to kill one of the farm house cats and eat it for their suppers; as a proof of which, one of them held up to the Magistrate the rope with which they hung the cat, while second displayed the blade, and the third a thigh-bone the poor animal which they said they had picked. Sir George Farrant asked them if they had eaten the cat alive, or in raw or dressed state They said; they first hung it with the rope produced, and then boiled it in a pipkin; after which they made their supper off it. Sir George asked if they were sure it was a cat, for he could scarcely believe it—perhaps it was a rabbit which they thought proper to call a cat? They assured his worship it was not rabbit—it was nothing else but one of the governor’s cats. They had nothing given to them since, but were turned out of the house without any reason, except eating this cat to allay their hunger. The Magistrate said, it as a strange business, and ordered the paupers to be taken for the present into the town workhouse; and that the governor of the farm house should attend to explain their marvellous account of this cat transaction.”

Zoophagy featured in another case heard the same month by Sir George, though this time it was a dog on the menu. John Enright was brought up before Sir George for assaulting a 70 year old widow called Mrs Alsop of 77 Davies Street, Berkeley Square. The Windsor and Eton Express takes up the story: “Mrs. Alsop said, that on Monday morning her little spaniel had a bone on the step of the door, over which the wife of the prisoner passed, when the animal snapped at her foot. In the afternoon, the prisoner came to the house in a violent rage, and demanded to see the owner, when witness went to the door with the spaniel under her Arm; she told him, if his wife had sustained any harm, she would send a doctor to her, or pay for medical advice; but the prisoner, without a reply, seized the dog from her, tore the back of her hand in doing so and raised his arms above his head, dashed the spaniel on the stones, and then jumped upon it till he killed it. He then left the house. She came to the office afterwards to know what she should do.” It was while the distraught Mrs Alsop was at Marlborough Street seeking advice on what to do about the murder of her little spaniel that the story took a really bizarre turn. John Enright returned to 77 Davies Street and demanded that the servants handed him over the carcase of the dog. The intimidated domestics did this and then Enright “drew a knife from his pocket, ripped up the belly of the dog, and cut out the heart, which he took away with him... Sir George asked the prisoner what was his motive for killing the dog. “For fear it should he mad,” said the fellow. Sir George told him that would be no preservation to his wife, as, supposing it to be so, the mischief was done. The dog was proved to be a harmless one, and the lady had offered to pay a doctor; therefore he had nothing to fear. “But for what did you again to cut out the heart of the dog ?" asked Sir George. Enright — To give, it to my wife. Sir George.— To give it to your wife! What did »he do with it ? Enright.— She ate it. I cooked it for her. Sir George.—Ate it! Did she know what she was eating? Enright.—No, she did not. I gave it for fear of her going mad. Sir George said he had never heard anything so brutally superstitious and ordered the prisoner find good bail for the assault, and told Mrs. Alsop he hoped she would prosecute him for his brutality.”



And finally, a scene from the Jeremy Kyle Show, reported in the Morning Advertiser of 6 June 1826: MARLBOROUGH-STREET.—Yesterday a meager half animated looking shoemaker, named Thomas Evans, was brought from the watch-house of St. Ann’s Parish, Soho, in company with a smart comely married woman, named Mulhern, before Sir George Farrant, the former charged with occupying the place of Mrs. Mulhern’s husband, in the affections and bed of that lady on Sunday night, and the latter charged with over hospitality in giving part of her bed to the shoemaker, the exclusion of her lawful husband. The husband Mr. Mulhern, who is gentleman’s servant, and a very fine looking young man, being sworn, stated, that he and his wife have lodged for some time past with their only child, at a house in Compton-street, Soho, where Mr. Thomas Evans, translator, “or mender of old shoes, also unfortunately happens to be a sojourner. There was no particular intimacy or acquaintance between the parties, nor did he, the husband, even suspect Mr. Evans. About two o’clock yesterday morning witness returned home, after being engaged as usual all the previous day with his master’s family, and to his astonishment and horror, entering his apartment, where his wife was in bed, he found Mr. Thomas Evans fast locked in her arms. He was unwilling to disturb their repose abruptly, or, at all events, until had some other witness to the fact of his wife’s incontinence. He therefore went out and quietly brought a neighbouring watchman, to whom he exhibited unequivocal proof of Mrs. Mulhern’s frailty, and Mr. Evans’s nocturnal gallantries. He then gave both the violators of his bed into the watchman’s custody, and had them conveyed to the watch-house, there to pass, in separate cells, the remainder of the night. The watchman said that he could fully confirm Mr. Mulhern’s complaint of his wife’s infidelity, at least far as appearances go; and moreover he said, that a more impudent woman, after detection in such a situation, never could have existed at any period in the world. Mr. Thomas Evans, who, either from the effects of love or of mending shoes, or of fright, seemed scarcely able to keep his legs in a perpendicular position under him was asked by the Magistrate, what explanation he could give for hiss very immoral and improper intrusion into the complainant's bed ? Mr. Evans said, the fact was, that Mrs. Mnlhern had for some time past made love to him, in such a bewitching and seductive way, that on Sunday night, when she gave him a direct invitation to her bed, no man could resist Mrs. Mulhern’s winning ways, and that was all he had to say. Mrs. Mulhern said, on her own part, that she thought she had a right to dispose of herself and her bed as she thought proper, without any busybody troubling themselves about her; and as for Mr. Mulhern, she had very Little of his society: she supposed he amused himself elsewhere; he gave her very little support. Mulhern, the husband, said that nothing could equal the falsehood and Ingratitude of his wife; as to not supporting her, he declared that he has always given her the greater part of his earnings for the support of herself and his child. Sir George Farrant said that it was a grievous thing for the young man to tied to such woman, but a Magistrate had no power to interfere. He would, however, advise the husband to advertise the woman’s conduct, so as to prevent her getting credit on his account. The parties were then discharged. Several respectable persons attended, who spoke in the highest terms of the husband’s character.