Sunday, 23 July 2017

Jenny Piano

The mark of Jenny Piano in 1853.
For those new to this blog it follows the lives of the inhabitants of two streets in Victorian Cardiff. Charlotte Street is now under the Marriott hotel by Cardiff central library and Whitmore Lane is now Custom House Street- turn right out of Cardiff central train station (where the Golden Cross pub still stands).

Jenny Piano was the nickname of Jane Roberts, a prostitute who worked in Cardiff and Merthyr, during the 1850's and 1860's. She's one of those characters that hasn't made it into my book 'Notorious' in full but her life story is typical of the Victorian sex-workers that spent most of their working lives on Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane. The background to these streets can be found here.
She does appear briefly in the book as she's present when a Charlotte Street legend, Mrs Barnes of the notorious Cornish Arms dies:
1853 June 1 Mrs Barnes dies. She’s ran the Cornish Arms for twenty years and now old age catches her at the age of 62. Jenny Piano is at her bedside in her fading days, she’s been one of her girls for a couple of years after coming down from the China slum. The Cornish Arms has to pass to someone as Mr Barnes is 84 years old and blind. He’s soon in the workhouse and he doesn’t last long in there all on his own.  
Jenny's own story starts in the China slum of Merthyr. China was already a well established area for brothels by the 1850's, a sink hole of iniquity. On the 1851 census she is a 'dress-maker' and living with her 14 year old sister Sarah, and a boatman. One of the oft-ignored aspects of history of the Glamorganshire Canal, which ran direct from China to Whitmore Lane, was the habit of the boatmen to also be pimps, or bullies.

Jenny had already been working China for two years, in 1848 she takes a mark for five shillings:

She got off this charge but was caught again in 1850 stealing handkerchiefs with her bully Oliver. He got seven years transportation but Jenny was lucky and only got a month.
It didn't put her off stealing from clients however as in August she was back in court:
Jenny moved to Charlotte Street after 1851 and was working in the Cornish Arms when she was picked up drunk and incapable by the gas works at the end of Whitmore Lane in March 1853. She was there when her madam Mrs Barnes died in June 1853. Jenny then moved to another brothel in September when she charged a fellow prostitute with stealing her shawl from a chair.
She continued to work on Charlotte Street, keeping her nose clean until she was picked up for robbing a watch from a mark in August 1857.

Then it starts getting confusing as another prostitute, five years younger and also called Jane Roberts, nickname 'Kitty', started to work on the Lane too. It could be either of these two Jane's that was picked up for fighting with fellow prostitutes both in January 1858 and August 1858, I've got a feeling it was the younger Jane.
In October 1858 Jenny Piano was definitely running the brothel next door to the Ship Hotel at the canal end of Charlotte Street where she assisted in stripping a client of his watch and cash:
Jane Shoreland and the men were released but poor Jenny got nine months for her part in the robbery, the first two days of each month in solitary confinement too.
Luckily for me as a researcher while Jenny is in gaol for this the other Jane Roberts got sent down for four years for a Charlotte Street brothel theft herself so she's out of the picture!
Jenny Piano didn't get reformed by her stay in gaol and in July 1860 she's up for another robbery again with John Maloney, who was one of the men involved in the 1858 robbery and her bully:
1861 sees Jenny running a brothel at 16 Whitmore Lane, three doors down from Mary the Cripple's Crown Inn.

Jenny's brothel next to the Ship Hotel marked in blue, 16 Whitmore Lane marked in yellow, GRO
Jenny has a bully, William Williams, living with them. He's another boatman from Merthyr and William was probably present at the death of Mrs Prothero in 1857, she was the oldest brothel keeper in Cardiff, who'd been keeping girls on Whitmore Lane since the 1830's.
Her girls, Hannah Davies and Ann Moore, were experienced prostitutes. Hannah had been working on Charlotte Street and the Lane since 1853 and like Jenny was from Merthyr:
1855 October 13th CMG p.5.
Ann Moore had been working on Charlotte Street since 1854 and was very active as these two reports from 1856 show:

1856 February 2nd Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian, p.6.

1856 November 15th CMG p.8.
In fact Ann Moore had only been out of gaol for a fortnight when the census was taken as she'd been send down for a month on the 22nd March 1861:
1861 March 2nd CMG p.8.
Jenny Piano's brothel, with three women and a bully, was typical of the ones on Whitmore Lane at this time.
And guess who is living next door to Jane Roberts' brothel at 15 Whitmore Lane? John Maloney. He's running a lodging house and has a two year old 'daughter' listed with him called Elizabeth Davies, he's either romantically linked with Hannah Davies or is just looking after her child.
Jenny Piano was put into the brothel at 31 Charlotte Street by Irish Meg in January 1863- see my previous blog post about 31 Charlotte Street. 16 Whitmore Lane was at this time being run by another prostitute Jane Sheppard.
1863 January 31t CMG p.6.

A little while later she marries John Maloney in March 1863. There's not much information on this part of her life and Jane dies at the start of 1870 aged 36 and in 1871 John Maloney is living in 15 Charlotte Street with a new girl Ellen.
What we can infer from the records that are left is that Jenny was an experienced working girl and generally sober- it's these women that generally run the brothels on Charlotte Street and The Lane. Her main crime is of theft from her customers, which was a part of the job, and she was quite good at this having avoided a long transportation sentence through her fifteen years of active work.
Why was Jane Roberts called Jenny Piano? There is the obvious need to differentiate herself from the other Jane 'Kitty' Roberts and perhaps she could play the piano well in the beerhouses of Charlotte Street. Perhaps she had gapped or rotten teeth that looked like piano keys? We'll never know.


1848 November 11th Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian p.3.
1849 January 5th The Principality p.5.
1850 February 23rd CMG p.3.
1850 August 17th CMG p.3.
Census: HO107/2459 p.51.
1853 March 19th CMG p.4.
1853 June Cardiff 11a 160 Mrs Barnes Death
1853 September 10th CMG p.3.
1853 October 22nd CMG  p.3.
1857 August 29th CMG p.8.
1858 January 9th CMG p.6.
1858 January 16th CMG p.8.
1858 August 28th CMG p.6.
1858 August 28th Monmouthshire Merlin p.2.
1858 October 9th CMG p.4. & p.5.
1858 October 16th CMG p.6.
1858 October 23rd Cardiff Times p.3.
1860 July 14th CMG p.6.
1861 Census 9/4033 F89 p.63
1870 Mar Cardiff 11a177 Death.

Hannah Davies:
1853 July 30th CMG p.3.
1854 January 28th CMG p.4.
1857 April 11th CMG p.8.
1857 July 18th CMG p.6.
1858 March 27th CMG p.8.
1858 December 25th CMG p.5.
1860 October 6th CMG p.6.
Ann Moore:
1854 February 18th p.4.
1854 June 9th CMG p.3.
1854 November 3rd CMG p.4.
1856 November 15th CMG p.8.
1858 March 6th CMG p.6.
1858 April 10th Monmouthshire Merlin p.8.
1859 February 2nd CMG p.6.
1859 September 24th CMG p.6.
1859 October 8th CMG p.6.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Mary The Cripple: Victorian Badass

Mary The Cripple: Victorian Badass

A Monstrous Family: 1843 December 2nd
[Note: I know the word 'cripple' is now an offensive term, it is used here in a historical context and it is how Mary was widely known in her community by her peers.]
These blogposts are part of a series exploring offshoots from a book 'Notorious: Charlotte Street and 'The Lane' about two criminal streets in Victorian Cardiff.

To me Mary The Cripple is an absolute unsung legend of Welsh history. Mary's disability was probably one she had since birth, possibly poliomyelitis, and it meant she had withered legs and could not walk. She's described as either crawling on the floor or using a wheelchair or carriage to get around. Despite being a disabled woman living in the early Victorian period she managed to carve out for herself a forty year career as the head of a small criminal empire first in Newport and then in Cardiff. Her first arrest is recorded in 1835 when she got sent down for keeping a brothel and she was still procuring girls in Cardiff in 1876, 41 years later.

Mary was not alone of course. She was the central figure of a large family. I know she is the central figure as the other members of the family are often described in relation to her. Her husband John Yarwood is 'The Adonis of the Celebrated Mary the Cripple' or 'husband of the more notorious Mary the Cripple', her daughter Elizabeth is 'Bets the Cripple', her daughter Ann 'The Young Cripple'.
Mary the Cripple was born into the life in 1808. Her mother Ann Hughes kept a brothel in Newport where her sister Catherine, aka 'Long Kit' or 'Katty' worked in the 1830's. Mary's given name was Mary Hughes but the name that later struck fear into many was her married surname of Yarwood. 'The Yarwoods' became an entity, a tangible thing. If you were in law enforcement or up to no good in Newport in the 1830's-1850's or Cardiff from 1854 onward you would know the name.
1862 December 20th Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian p.3.
Our story begins in 1834 as Mary and John Yarwood are both imprisoned for 12 months for keeping a brothel, though Mary was kindly let off the 'hard labour' part of the sentence. She was just 27, he was 24.
The Yarwoods lived in Friar's Fields in Newport, a really shitty slum that was rife with poverty and crime. The only winners in Friar's Fields were the landowners, who got good rents from the densely populated houses, and criminals. Mary the Cripple survived off three main income sources: fencing stolen goods, brothel keeping and running a beerhouse called The Three Jolly Boatmen.
Mary soon became notorious in the press. To them she was a 'disgusting creature', 'a crippled and depraved wretch'. She gave birth in the police station cells in 1839:
1839 March 9th Monmouthshire Merlin p.3.
Mary was no shrinking violet. In 1840 Mrs Mary Walford, herself from a thieving family, went to see Mary the Cripple after she had 'lent' her some items. Mary was not forthcoming with the goods and she set her sister Long Kit onto her like a guard dog. At court Mrs Walford describes:

"I axed Mary the Cripple for the bedstead wot I lent her, when she blows me up like fun, and calls her great sister Katty to wop me. So I ups with a stone, and shies 'in at Mary's big head, for I was in a boiling passion. With that out flew Katty, and pitched into me quite a rum 'in. First she pitches into me with a rig'lar knock-me-down, and down I goes.  Well, sur, after I had been wopped about just as if I warn't a woman, the strapping big hussy stops a bit, and then Mary the Cripple sings out "Go it Katty, a good 'in, and I'll pay costs!" Well, her sister wopped me till I was almost blind."

A year later and John Yarwood is passing off stolen iron to the Walfords and gets another year in gaol. In 1842 Mary and her sister Long Kit are arrested for encouraging two sailors to fight outside their brothel in front of a crowd. When her sailor was losing the fight Mary the Cripple was overheard shouting "Damn your eyes, Kate, hit him over the head with the candlestick!' When Mary was called up to court she had a solicitor with her, a very rare occurrence for the poor in this time. He first tried to get her off the charge as it said she was 'standing' at her door but that didn't wash. This is how they describe her court experience:
1842 October 8th Monmouthshire Merlin p.3.
Mary the Cripple, the 'blue-eyed hag' was obviously doing well for herself to be able to pay a £3 12 shilling fine straight away, roughly that was three months rent for a house. After she paid up Mary verbally abused the courts, police and the lawyers as she slinked off.
Mary didn't like the courts or the press and they didn't like her in return. Their efforts to 'drive this horrid pest from the town' failed considerably.
At the end of 1843 under the headline 'A Monstrous Family' Mary, her husband, her sister and her daughter Elizabeth Yarwood were all in court for stealing and receiving a stolen snuff box. Mary the Cripple was allowed bail- as she was pregnant at the time and they didn't want her giving birth in the cells for a second time! Her sister got three months for her part in the theft but Mary and John got off the charge.
In 1844 Mary the Cripple tried to get her competitors in the receiving stolen goods game, the Walfords, put away for theft. She got a boy to steal some iron and tell the police the Walfords had put him up to it, unfortunately it was found out Mary had coached the boy and the Walfords were released. The police then tried to charge the Yarwoods again for keeping a disorderly house but they shook off the charge and were released.
Mary kept making money. When she was called to court in August 1844 this time she arrived in her carriage with her entourage:

1844 August 31st Monmouthshire Merlin p.3.
Mary and John Yarwood eventually got round to marrying in late 1845 but the love with John could not last. in the summer of 1846 John raided another beerhouse in Newport with a small gang and also stole metal from a factory. As the police were about to dig up the stolen metal John Yarwood scarpered, went missing and the police couldn't find him. The press put this down to Mary's 'acumen and long experience.' John was missing for over a week until he was found cowering inside a house and arrested.
In the cells he pretended to be insane. Mary the Cripple hired doctors and solicitors to go and see the 'patient' but the ruse didn't work. John got 14 years transportation for burglary and was on his way to Millbank prison in London 8 days later and then to Van Diemen's Land on the cutely named ship 'Pestonjee Bomanjee'.
Mary's daughter Ann Yarwood, known as 'Little Cripple', started to get into trouble that same year. At 12 years old she was in court on a trivial charge:
1846 July 11th Monmouthshire Merlin
While John was pretending to be mad in gaol Mary took over the running of the beerhouse, she was called to court for allowing drinking there on a Sunday morning. One of the witnesses was particularly pissed off with Mary as she found her husband drinking in there with 'other married man and girls of ill-fame'. Mary got a fine and continued running the family business, receiving stolen goods, robbing and assaulting men at her brothel and keeping the beerhouse open all hours.
Her eldest daughter Elizabeth Yarwood aka 'Bets the Cripple' helped her out although the mother-daughter relationship could be strained at times. In May 1847 Mary charged her own daughter with breaking her furniture after a drunken tantrum. Bets the Cripple tried to hang herself in the police station cell but her mother didn't appear to charge her in the morning. Elizabeth was working hard as a prostitute all through this time:
1847 July 24
Mary the Cripple's brothel continued to bring home the honey. In March 1848 a ship's master was robbed of twenty sovereigns there and though he tried to follow the girl out he was blocked by two heavies. The money was never recovered. Twenty sovereigns was a massive sum, worth about £15,000 in wages today, and that was in one night. The money would have been shared out according to roughly agreed cuts between Mary as the brothel owner, the woman who stole it and the bullies in the house.
Mary was soon rich enough from these thefts, the majority of which weren't reported, to buy her own properties. This meant however that she was now a property owner and so she had to pay her poor rates to fund the sick and the destitute of the parish. Mary clearly believed that charity began at home because in 1848 Mary had refused to pay the Poor Rate Collector. When he had tried to collect the money Mary was so threatening and abusive that he had written 'Unrecoverable' next to her name in the book.

In 1848 Ann Yarwood, by now 15 years old, was also prostituting herself at her mothers house. In July, dressed in her 'tawdry finery' and heavily made-up, she was proving as formidable as her mother:
1848 July 22 Monmouthshire Merlin
In December Ann was arrested for stealing five sovereigns from a ship's captain. Her mother called her solicitor down and Ann was released.
In November 1848 Mary was caught red handed receiving money from one of her brothel bullies. She was denied bail and got a twelve month sentence in gaol, to hooting and shouts of approval at the court. Her bully Jacob Smith who stole it got a ten year transportation sentence. It was up to her sister Catherine and her daughter Ann to keep things running now.
The family kept things going well for Mary. In March 1849 two men who had gone to Mary's brothel on Saturday emerged Sunday morning minus the bread they had bought for their families, some of their clothes and all of their money. Ann Yarwood and her aunt Catherine aka 'Long Kit' were with Manchester Moll in August 1849 drinking at the British Queen beerhouse. They noticed that the barmaid, who had been tasked with washing some of Mary the Cripple's pawned goods, had the audacity to wear one of the dresses herself. They went up to her and demanded it back. When she refused they knocked her into a ditch and ripped the dress off her body, taking her money while they were at it. They got one month in gaol for the assault.

Mary's oldest sons had also joined the fray in the summer of 1850. Thomas and John stole a load of toys from Newport fair and were both imprisoned for two weeks and whipped. Thomas was 14 and John was 13.
Ann Yarwood continued thieving from shops and her clients through 1850, getting various periods in gaol. While Ann was in gaol in the summer she gave birth to a son Henry. He died and was buried on Christmas Eve just a few days after Ann was released.
Meanwhile Mary was out of gaol and managed to net £45 from a dupe in her brothel in October 1850. This brothel theft is the first time that her 10 year old daughter Catherine Yarwood was involved in a recorded crime, though what she did was unclear. The police raided Mary and shut down her beerhouse but the victim wouldn't appear to prosecute, he was either ashamed or threatened, so Mary the Cripple and the Yarwoods pocketed the equivalent of over £30,000 and opened back up.
Around 1851 Mary Yarwood got together with William 'Bill' Thomas, a heavy from Southampton. They would stay together for decades. Times were good for Mary and the Yarwoods. Excess was the order of the day. On census night 1851 both John, aged 14, and Ann Yarwood, aged 18, were sleeping it off in the Police Station. Ann Yarwood was arrested for being drunk and disorderly in August 1851 and was so pissed she was taken to the station on a stretcher. She leapt out of it halfway there and dislocated her leg.

Men kept coming to Mary's brothel and losing their money and possessions which were then sold on. Her daughters continued working the streets and getting drunk and leary in public.
In the early 1850's a change was in the wind for the Yarwoods. Elizabeth and Ann Yarwood had been going to Cardiff to work now and again, robbing sailors and drunks there in the quickly expanding port. They were attracted to Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane, dens of vice and thievery much like their home patch of Friar's Fields.

In the Spring of 1854, perhaps because they were getting too infamous in Newport, all of the Yarwoods decamped en masse from Friar's Fields and moved into Charlotte Street in Cardiff. Bill Thomas and Mary the Cripple took over the running of The Noah's Ark. The Noah's Ark was a successful brothel, beerhouse and fencing business for stolen goods. Mary had probably been trading with it for years already. It had entrances on Charlotte Street for the beerhouse and Whitmore Lane for the brothel. The owner Tommy Thomas, his step-mother was one of the oldest brothel keepers in Cardiff, had moved on.
Cardiff 1851 'Farmer's Arms' marked in Yellow, Cardiff Central Station is bottom left.
A vacancy for vice had arisen and Mary and the Yarwoods filled it full with their expertise. In their new home town of Cardiff Mary the Cripple's family committed countless sins over the next fifty years as Ann, Thomas, Catherine and Abraham Yarwood grew into adults.
1855 April 7th Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian
The Yarwoods renamed The Noah's Ark 'The Farmer's Arms' but it was no wholesome country pub. This next part of Mary the Cripple's story, when she becomes 'Queen of the Cardiff brothel keepers' is picked up in Notorious: Charlotte Street and 'The Lane'.

The book 'Notorious: Charlotte Street and 'The Lane' is out at some point. More about the project can be found here.

There is an article on Mary the Cripple, but I haven't gotten hold of it yet:
 “'Mary the Cripple': the Yarwood family's life of crime and vice in Victorian South Wales” Gwent Local History 111 (2012): 18. T.Jukes"
There is also information about the Walford family online here:
The Walfords: The Worst Fences in Newport

Brothel prosecution: Monmouthshire Merlin 1834 July 5th p.3.
Mrs Mary Walford: MM 1840 March 14th p.3.
Monstrous family and theft: MM 1843 December 2nd p.3.
Iron theft: MM 1844 April 27th p.3.

Receiving money: MM 1848 November 3rd p.5.
Hare and Hounds: MM 1849 February 17th p.2.
Robbery of two men MM 1849 March 17th p.3.
Mary sentenced: MM 1849 March 30th p.5.
Assault by Ann and Catherine: MM 1849 August 11th p.3. and June 16th p.2.
Thomas and John Yarwood: MM 1850 June 1st p.4.
Ann Yarwood gaoled: MM 1850 August 10th p.4.
£45 theft: MM 1850 November 2nd p.3.
William Henry Yarwood buried Dec 24th 1850 St Woolos, Newport.
Catherine drunk: MM 1852 April 2 p.4.
Brothel Robbery: MM 1853 February 4th p.4.
In Cardiff: Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian 1862 November 15th p.6.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Utter Dastards: Ultra-Violence in Victorian Cardiff

John Gleeson censured by the press for wife beating, November 10th 1855.

This post contains descriptions of domestic violence.

My book 'Notorious' is about the lives of the inhabitants of two streets in Cardiff renowned for drinking, prostitution and semi-organised crime.
Before writing Notorious I hoped to find some 'interesting' characters and I have found them in abundance. More than half of them are women and their stories are central and influential in this microhistory of a criminal society.
Knowing that Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane was a 'rough' area I was also prepared for some violence. What I wasn't prepared for was the scope and depth of the violence against women.
When it comes to the life stories of the 19 females in my book, 17 of them were assaulted by men, mainly their partners and official or unofficial husbands, many of whom were also their bullies (pimps). The only women not reported to have suffered violence are two brothel keepers, one with an elderly husband twenty years older than herself who soon went blind and the other without use of her legs since birth.
Of course it's upsetting that these women were on the receiving end of so much domestic violence. What is equally hard to accept is that in the majority of cases brought to the courts the women would not prosecute their men. Often they were released, or the police charged them if they had witnessed the attack (there was no public prosecutor in those days- so someone had to charge or there was no crime). Even more hard to accept is how these women would stay with their abusive partners for years, in some cases decades, afterwards.
This is what delineates 'real' history from the popular fictional histories on TV. Ripper Street and Peaky Blinders spring to mind as they are also set in a criminal context. Violence in historical TV dramas is often portrayed through our own viewpoint of good/bad, justified/abhorrent. Violence towards females rarely rears its head, if it does it's what the 'bad guys' do. The women are strong enough to ward it off before it happens, or be unforgiving if it does. People behave how we hoped they would behave rather than as they did because the script writers censure and moralise their actions so they are palatable to a modern audience. We cannot allow our male leads to hit women and we cannot allow our female leads to be hit either.
The 19 female lead characters in Notorious do not come up to this fictitious level of moral fortitude and nor do the 15 males in the book, as 12 of these also use violence against females.
John Gleeson, the 'Dastard' of the title, was a lodging house keeper and a long term wife beater. He assaulted Ellen throughout 1855, then again in 1858. His wife never appeared to give evidence against him and he was always released. He must have done it more frequently than reported as in 1858 his wife Ellen says she would not press the charge as he had 'not offended for twelve months' and she would 'forgive him till the next time.' They stay together until he dies in 1869.

In contrast to John's wife beating there is William Bennett, aka 'Driver', a boatman and a bully (pimp), who used violence as part of his job. A chronic beater of women, he assaulted the 67 year old brothel keeper Mary Prothero with a thick stick in 1845. Brothels needed bullies and in a lot of ways the more violent they were the better. Driver, despite his lack of self-control, was not banished from her house as in 1849 he is still sat lounging in her brothel. There he almost breaks the leg of Prothero's 15 year old granddaughter in anger and then breaks her mother's nose after she remonstrates with him.
Alfred Burrows, another boatman and bully, beat up a prostitute that he fancied in 1846 because she 'called him names' and refused his advances.

Daniel Ryan, a boatman, thief and a bully punched a woman with her baby in her arms at the end of Whitmore Lane in 1856. He beat his partner Honora Donovan in 1860 and 1861, both times she refused to charge him. When he beat her in January 1862 with a poker, she did charge him and he got one month in prison. 
1861 October 25th
They got back together in February as soon as he got out of gaol and within a month he attacked Honora again. Honora did not just take it this time, she retaliated by throwing boiling water in his face.
His brother John Ryan was even worse, punching and kicking his partner Susan Davies, aka 'Swansea Sue' in the eye in a Whitmore Lane brothel in 1851 then committing this sickening attack on her two years later, his own rationale for the attack is a rare recording of this bullies mindset:

He committed a horrific attack on his next long term partner Margaret Sullivan aka 'Irish Meg' while she was in bed with their young child in 1855.
When Meg went downstairs he punched and kicked her some more then, saying 'I might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb,' he slammed a jug into her face. John Ryan assaulted yet another partner, Ann Green, in 1863. She fought back with a 2lb weight.
I know it says 'John Bryan' in the report but it is the same John Ryan.

The rest of the men in Notorious - Harry Kickup, Davey Rees, Lewis Leyshon, Jack Matthews, Ned Llewellyn, Billy Shortlegs and Mouse all beat working women or their partners/wives, in some cases repeatedly. Of the men in the book only a policeman, the Superintendent of Cardiff police and a one-legged man are not recorded as committing violence against women.

Mary 'Polly' Allen and Daniel 'Swansea Dan' Davies meet in 1852 when she turns to prostitution aged 14 and he is an established 18 year old bully on Whitmore Lane. Swansea Dan beats her in 1861 and she does leave him for a while, but by 1864 they are back together and Dan attacks her again:

Mrs George, beerhouse and brothel keeper is assaulted by her husband in 1858:

Ann Anthony, a strong, tall woman, is assaulted by her partner in 1846, then by a bully in 1847:
Ann Anthony does sometimes give as good as she gets however, like here with a client:
Ann Yarwood, daughter of a criminal family and brothel runner, has a long term relationship with Davey Rees, the bully at her parents beerhouse and brothel The Crown. This horrific attack occurred one night in 1863. It's taken from the various newspaper sources and this is how it appears in the book:

June 16 Ann Yarwood is living at The Crown Beerhouse with Davey Rees. Even though it’s run by her mother Mary she still has to pay her way. She gives her two shillings sixpence a week for a room and extra for coal and candles. It’s the early hours of the morning when she gets back to The Crown after a night of working. She says hello to the men and girls still gathered in the bar downstairs. Her sister Catherine is working it and she asks her to carry some liquor up to some men in the upstairs rooms. She gives the men their whisky and they thank her with a small cheer. Then she goes to her room where Davey Rees, a permanent fixture at the Crown as its chief bully, is in the room asleep. She checks on her one year old daughter Mary who’s fast asleep and starts to get ready for bed. She gives Davey a tap as she comes up to him.

Davey gets up, still half drunk and angry with her that she’s been out this long and woken him up. He picks up a poker he keeps nearby. The whole house soon hear the screams as the first two blows hit her right arm as she tries to shield her face. When her arm goes down he keeps hitting, the metal bar crunching into her shoulder, hitting one side of her head then the other, half ripping off her ear. As the metal bar rips open her face and forehead down to the bone she slumps and loses consciousness. Blood flies up in a spray along the wall. He only stops when through his red rage he hears the door banging and a voice shouting. Catherine kicks through the door and sees her sister lying in an expanding pool of blood with Davey standing there holding a screaming child. She runs downstairs and finds PC Pepper on the street. Davey’s gone by the time they get back and go upstairs. Ann is conscious now and she tells Pepper that Davey did it and he sees the blood stained poker in the room.  The coppers catch a bloodstained Davey a little while after in Whitmore Lane and he admits in the cell he gave her a little clip with a poker. The court send him down for 12 months hard labour.

If this was written as 'TV history' her mother, a powerful brothel keeper, would 'save' her daughter, or her two brothers, both strong violent men themselves, would 'sort out' Davey to protect their sister, or she would retaliate herself- Ann Yarwood could dish out violence when she wanted to- but none of this happens because this is not fiction.
What really happens after this attack is two weeks later Ann Yarwood goes to prison herself for brothel keeping (for keeping 31 Charlotte Street- see my other post on this house). After that she stays with Davey for a long time, in fact they marry in 1879 after 17 years together.

This all makes for uncomfortable reading. All of the men are bad men, most are career criminals after all, and violence was an everyday occurrence. 
As for the women if this was made into a TV drama would it be acceptable to the audience to have Ann Yarwood, as a very strong female lead, badly beaten up with a poker and then continuing to live with Davey Rees? No, of course not, a plotline would develop where this wrong is righted. 

The history in Notorious doesn't make good fiction. Injustice exists largely unchallenged, society often crushes these women and their stories are too often happy never after. 

I would not dream of leaving this part of their lives out of the book however. My firm view is that domestic violence should be laid bare, then as now. Period (and contemporary) dramas should always strive to portray and uncover issues like the hidden barbarity that is domestic violence and violence against women in general. Too often it is ignored and when it is portrayed it is invariably 'solved' in the way we would like to solve it ourselves. Reality, then and now, tells us different.

The women in Notorious are often strong, powerful and independent women but they're often victims of violence as well. This part of Welsh history needs to be told as it was. It is our duty to retell their stories, warts and all, however unpalatable it is to us. These women would have laughed, drank, danced and dreamed together but their lives were often brutal, uncompromising and often incomprehensible to us. We can't airbrush over the experiences of these women and turn them all into Long Susans or Roses.


John Gleeson:
1855 April 11 Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian p.2.
1855 Nov 10 CMG p.8.
1859 January 1st CMG p.8. and 1859 January 1st Cardiff Times p.4.
William Bennett:
1845 April 19th The Cambrian p.3.
1849 June 9th CMG p.4.
Alfred Burrows:
1846 October 10th CMG p.3.
1865 September 22nd CMG p.8.
Daniel Ryan:
1856 September 20th Monmouthshire Merlin p.2
1860 February 18th MM p.8.
1861 October 25th CT p.6.
1862 January 24th CT p.6.
1862 March 21st CT p.6.
John Ryan:
1851 December 6th CMG p.3.
1855 June 9th CMG p.5.
1863 August 28th CMG p.7.
Elizabeth George:
1858 June 19th MM p.3.
Ann Yarwood:
1863 June 19th CT p.7.
Marriage 13 September 1879, St David's Cardiff.
Polly Allen:
1864 August 19th CT p.7.

This article in this form is copyright Anthony Rhys, 2017. All article screenshots are from the National Library of Wales online newspapers or images taken from British Library Microfiche.
The book 'Notorious: Charlotte Street and the Lane' is out some time some where soonish.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Four Tattooed Cardiff Prostitutes of the 1850's

Tattoos of Ann Owens, 1853.
Four of the prostitutes who worked on Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane were definitely tattooed. I've found this out from prison and transportation records when the women received long sentences.

The tattoos relate to four prostitutes, Three were transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1850 and 1851 and one served very long prison sentences in 1853 and 1856. What they reveal is that they were not tattooed with pictures and images but with the people that they regarded as important in their lives.
This blog contains offshoots from my research into Charlotte Street and Whitmore Lane in Cardiff, two very bad streets for my book 'Notorious'. See my earlier blog posts for an overview.

Maria 'Merry' Meyrick.

Maria Meyrick was a Cardiff girl who started her life of prostitution in the Friar's Fields slum of Newport. Her transportation description gives her tattoos as follows:

Maria Meyrick's convict description from the Anna Maria, 1851
She has six sets of initials, three on the lower right arm and three on the lower left arm.

Initial tattoos are extremely common from this time and it seems most who were tattooed first had their initials done, I suspect this was done among the sailing community for identification of their body if found drowned.

Maria's tattoos can be divided into family on the right and partners on the left.

Right Arm:
JC: Unknown
MM: Maria Meyrick
DM: Her mother Dianne Meyrick

So my interpretation is Maria Meyrick, flanked by her mother Dianne and an unknown JC. Maria was in contact with her mother until she was transported. The JC may be another relation or a lover but I can't find any evidence if that is so.

Left Arm:
GJ: This is George Jenkins, a boyfriend from Friar's Fields- see below.
RW: I don't know this one.
AD: This is Alec the Devil, aka Alexander Thomas- see below.

Of course you would have to ask Maria Meyrick for definite if these deductions are correct, but they fit the people that she was hanging around with in the years leading up to her transportation sentence. Here's the backing up evidence:
GJ is definitely George Jenkins. Why so definite? well, for a start there's documentary evidence that they were a couple in Newport:
George Jenkins assaulted Maria Meyrick very badly and was sentenced to fifteen years penal servitude for it in August 1845. By December he was on his way to Australia and he died there ten years later. If Maria Meyrick regretted having his initials tattooed on her arm, George Jenkins probably did as well, on his right arm he had his own initials, and on his left arm he had MM.

Maria Meyrick left Newport in late 1845, she had been assaulted by George's sister before the trial and was also being assaulted by the Yarwoods, a big gangster family in Newport. This is where her other two tattoos were done.

RW: I've not been able to find any likely candidates for RW. 

AD: Alexander Thomas was with Maria Meyrick on the night of the 1847 murder in Whitmore Lane. His nickname was Alec the Devil, and I think she was in a relationship with him. He was transported for fifteen years for his main part in the murder (he kicked a middle aged man to death by rupturing his groin and bowels). Maria got 18 months in Cardiff Gaol, which is possibly where she got the tattoo.

Maria herself was sentenced to 7 years transportation in December 1850 for another brothel robbery. She travelled on the Anna Maria to Van Diemen's Land in October 1851.

Mary Ann Powhill

Mary Ann was transported with Merry Meyrick on the Anna Maria in October 1851. She was another Whitmore Lane prostitute. Interestingly her sister had been transported over ten years earlier in 1839 for a prostitute theft from Whitmore Lane as well.
Mary Ann's tattoos are thus:

She has MP LA inside her lower left arm and TW MAP on the upper right arm.
One arm is easy to interpret- The LA is for Lemuel Anderson, a bully of Whitmore Lane who started his criminal career stealing ducks in 1848.
They were in fact arrested together in 1851 when they hit a man over the head with a poker while he slept in a brothel next to The Noah's Ark in Charlotte Street- they netted over £15 so they hot footed it to Newport to spend the money- one of the gang was so drunk when they arrested her they couldn't bring her back to Cardiff until she sobered up the next day.

After this robbery Mary Ann Powhill got seven years along with Lemuel Anderson, though Lemuel stayed in this country as it seems only women were needed in the new world.

I've also got Lemuel's tattoos from his conviction records- and he had MA.POWELL LEM ANDERSON tattooed on himself too with a heart on the right arm and LA MAP on his left arm.
Mary Ann Powell's other initials- TW MAP on her right arm are intriguing. I can't find any likely partner reference for TW. There is a Mary Powell on the 1841 census as a servant to Thomas Wedlake, a coal merchant and councillor in her home town of Newport- though her age is a bit out. I can't find any reference to Mary's mother and father Andrew on the census so perhaps this was her father figure? He died in 1843 and perhaps then she turned to prostitution? It seems tenuous.

Bridget Kelly, Alias Sancta Maria, Sandy Maria & Saucy Maria.

We've already met Bridget Kelly above, she was part of the Whitmore Lane murder in 1847 and got an 18 month sentence along with Maria Meyrick. When she stole seven pairs of stockings from a street hawker in 1849 she was sentenced to be transported for seven years. She went to Van Diemen's Land on the Aurora which left on April 22 1851.

Bridget Kelly Aurora ship listing April 1851
I don't have the original document for her tattoos but she was described like this:
On her right arm is JB. It's not hard to work out who this is as the 1841 census shows:

Bridget Kelly was a prostitute in the notorious Friar's Fields area of Newport from 1839-1844 and James Bevan is living with her, officially a 'sawyer' but probably her bully. On the same day that she's arrested for a brothel robbery James Bevan is having fisty cuffs:

James Bevan doesn't seem to have been much of a criminal though and Bridget went to live in Cardiff and seems to have left him behind.

Ann Owens, Alias 'Little Punch'.

Ann Owens started her life of prostitution and theft in Swansea when she was aged just 12. She went to prison for long sentences twice, once in 1853 and again in 1857. This is lucky (for us) as it allows us to see how her tattoos changed over that three year period.

Ann Owen's description from Swansea Gaol, April 8th 1853.
In 1853 she has JL and JAMES LOYN on her right arm. This is James Loynes/Lyons/Lion, grandson of the brothel owner Mrs Prothero where Ann Owens worked in the 1850's. James Loynes worked there as a bully and they courted a little while in early 1851. They enjoyed beating up the neighbours.

James Loynes didn't return the favour, his only tattoo is his own initials!
James Loynes description from Cardiff Gaol, 1851
Ann's relationship with James Loynes didn't last long as he was going out with another girl from the brothel a few months later in September 1851 when he was imprisoned for life for killing a sailor in his step-fathers pub 'The Noah's Ark'. He also had a child with this other women who was born and died when he was in prison.
On Ann's left arm is CO, very probably her sister Catherine Owens, also a prostitute who worked in the same brothel as Ann.
1852 May 15th
The MK initial is a bit more awkward to research but I think it's either Michael Keefe or Michael Kelly, both itinerant Irish labourers around at the time (Bridget Kelly above had a brother called Michael).

Ann Owens was released from Brixton on license on March 10th 1856. By August of the same year she had re-offended. Ann had gone to the notorious China area of Merthyr Tydfil and committed a brothel theft there. She got a ten year sentence this time so her tattoos were described again: 

Ann Owen's description from Swansea Gaol, 24th March 1857

Considering James Loynes had had a child with another woman it seems that Ann has tried to get rid of James Loyn from her body as the transcriber writes 'James Lloyd' instead of 'Loyn' and the JL has now turned into an EE- for Edward Evans that she has in full on the left arm. Edward Evans was a boatman in Merthyr Tydfil who, funnily enough, was in court on the same day that Ann got her ten year sentence. He had stolen some mutton with a group of boatmen and got a year in Swansea Gaol. Boatmen were often also bullies, the canal led from China down to Whitmore Lane and the boatmen mixed in the beerhouses and brothels at either end. In the five months that she was free in Merthyr Ann must have had a relationship with him.

Edward Evans Oct 18th 1856
John Cody, tattooed on Ann's right arm, is not hard to find, he committed a brothel robbery in July 1856 and got a year in prison for it. It is another case of a bully for a boyfriend for Ann.
The 'Angelina' tattoo is the most poignant of them all. Ann Owen gave birth to Angelina Owens in Millbank prison in 1853. Little Angelina went with her to Brixton prison where she died aged one years old. Angelina had secondary syphilis, little surprising since her 20 year old mother had already been a prostitute for eight years. The death is recorded by the head nurse at Brixton prison Mary Smith.

This very small three women case study shows that the prostitutes recorded the names of the people that were important to them on their bodies. In the case of Ann Owens and Angelina her tattoo was probably the only thing she had to remember her by, I don't think she would have attended the burial and was probably not present at her death either.


Maria Meyrick:
For the basics of the 1847 Whitmore Lane murder see CMG 1848 March 4th, p.2.
Maria Meyrick's transportation sentence see CMG 1850 Nov 23rd, p.2.
Her mother Dianne intimidating witnesses: CMG 1847 Dec 18th, p.3.
Maria and George Jenkins' sister: CMG 1845 July 5th, p.3.
Maria and George Jenkins assault: MM 1845 Aug 9th, p.4.
Mary Ann Powhill/Powell:
Robbery: MM 1850 May 30 p.4.
Convict Records: Anna Maria Oct 31 1851.

Bridget Kelly:
Convict Records are online with the wonderful Female Convicts Research Centre.
James Bevan: MM 1844 April 20th p.3.

Ann Owens:
Ann and James Loynes: CMG 1851 Feb 22nd p.3.
Catherine Owen: CMG 1852 May 15th p.4.
John Cody MM 1856 July 12 p.6.
Edward Evans: CMG 1856 Oct 18th p.6.