Unexploded shell – in a fish – 1948

Old British News

Dundee Courier – Wednesday 14 July 1948

The job of clearing Britain’s cities and towns of unexploded devices after the war has taken many years.  Indeed even today we see still hear of exploded bombs more than 70 years on.  There have been many, dangerous, weird and wonderful stories of the discovery of such devices –but this one from the 14th July 1948 has to be the strangest.

Mr. Maurice Barnett, former RAF bomb disposal officer, was yesterday back at his wartime job –but this time in an open space at the back of his salmon-curing firm in Frying Pan Alley, Bishopsgate.

Among the salmon sent from Billingsgate for curing yesterday was a 23 lb fish, in which were found to cannon shells.

“The men were in the yard trying to split the fish, but could hardly get the knife into it,” said Mr. Barnett.  “They were mystified until they got it open and found two 35 mm shells of British origin inside.

“I examined them and found that one had been exploded and the other was an unfired incendiary.

“I decided it would be safer for me to explode the shell before I gave it to the police, so I took it to an open space and fired it.

“The job only only took a few minutes and didn’t make much of a bang.”

Emily Cave (née: Windebank) 1892

Whilst doing more family research I sadly discovered that my great, great grandmother (Emily Cave (nee Windebank)) committed suicide in 1892 after drinking the contents of a bottle of Carbolic Acid. I found out about this after conducting routine research through the London newspapers.

London Evening Standard – Wednesday 14 September 1892:

Dr. G. Danford Thomas held an inquest yesterday at St. Pancras Coroner’s Court on the body of Emily Cave (née: Emily Alice Windebank, born 1865), 27, the wife of Walter Cave (Walter Frederick Cave: 1863-1904), a barman, lately residing at 17, Castle-road, Kentish-town.

According to the husband, he lived very happily with the deceased, who was very amiable. She had recently – especially since their last child was born – been “queer” in her head. She complained of pains in the head, and often said she “wished she was dead.”

On Saturday morning the Witness was fetched home, where he found his wife lying insensible on the floor. Upon a table was the empty bottle produced, labelled “Carbolic acid—poison,” and a purse containing half-a-sovereign. He learnt from his little boy that the latter saw his mother drink “something” from a bottle and then fall on the bed on the floor. Before she became insensible she handed the purse mentioned to her son saying, “If I don’t wake up any more, give this to your father.” The husband at once called in a neighbouring doctor. Witness had never heard his wife threaten to destroy herself. The son stated that his mother drank from the bottle itself and then fell down. She asked him if she did not wake any more to “give baby some sugar-tits,” and father the purse. Dr. T. Massi, 183, Kentish Town-road, said when he arrived the woman was dying from the effects of carbolic-acid poisoning, and she expired about an hour and a half afterwards from this cause.

The Mother of the deceased (Harriet Windebank (née: Monk) 1839-1899) said she was a good girl, and had a good husband, and Witness could not account for the mode of her death.—The Jury returned a verdict of “Suicide while of unsound mind.”

Walter Frederick Cave was born in March 1863, the son of Caroline (née: Pritchard born 1822) and Benjamin (died 1863). He married Emily Alice Windebank and they had three children together. He then married Isabella Florence Meyers in 1894 and they had four children together. He died in July 1904 in London, at the age of 41.

Television Starts – Where Will It End? 1936

the-era-wednesday-04-november-1936-header-pdf2nd November 1936 – regular television broadcasting commenced from make-do BBC studios at Alexander Palace in North London.  The corporation had already tackled the question of whether to employ the mechanical system invented by John Logie Baird or the fast progressing EMI electronic system.

By 1936 it became clear that Baird’s system was greatly inferior to that of EMI.  However the BBC did test both systems with a trial.

So on the 2nd of November 1936 regular broadcasting of the BBC television service (the first in the world) started with an audience of about 300.

Media reception to this new-fangled form of entertainment was, to say the least, mixed and predictions of it’s future, cautious.

This report from The Era – Wednesday 4th November 1936 is typical.

Television Starts
Where will it end?
“Era” special

Television for domestic purposes is like a home movie with sound.  In a typical Baird receiver the images are thrown on to a mirror about the size of a woman’s handkerchief.

They are brilliant miniatures, especially when a film is being used, and there is a slight suggestion of eye strain at this stage.  The images behave unexpectedly, as did the early films, but are surprisingly free from atmospheric interference, though the coil ignition systems of the passing cars are liable to throw a few flashes on the mirror.

Lord Selsdon, who, in presence and manner, to say nothing of experience, seems to cut out to be a television star, made the important announcement at the opening ceremony last Monday, that people who bought receiving sets now could be assured that there would be no radical change in receiving sets for at least two years, and after the affective range of the Alexandra Palace station was 20 miles, with local variations that might reach much further.

The price of the Baird television set, manufactured by Bush radio, on which we saw the demonstration, was 85 guineas.

There is a population of 10,000,000 within the area covered by the Alexandra Palace station, equal to, say, 2,500,000 families.  If only one family in one hundred purchases a set of some kind, there is obviously a considerable immediate market for the new attraction.

It will be a tremendous boon to such aspects of broadcast entertainment as “Music Hall”, travel interludes, the news bulletins and “In Town To-night” – simple, direct things –but it is unlikely, at first to affect the course of radio drama.

Its power, as a rival attraction to other entertainments, depends largely on the amount of money spent on it, and it would appear that the BBC has already pawned it’s shirt to provide the not very elaborate entertainment now been broadcast from the Alexandra Palace.

We are unable to see that television increases the menace of radio as a rival to existing forms of entertainment, though it may do something to arrest the decline in the entertainment appeal of radio.

Television calls for much fixation of attention that an hour at a time is likely to be the limit of the average man’s endurance.

On the whole, it seems to us that the entertainment professions should congratulate themselves on the birth of an entertainment from which they will be able to extract substantial fees, leaving posterity to decide whether television is to be a comprehensive umbrella for all forms of entertainment.

Ian Waugh
Old British News

The Lost Exeter Bank note – 1776

The Exeter Bank had been established in 1769 along with England’s first hotel, The Royal Clarence, destroyed by fire in 2016.

Mr. Short was in Oxford in July 1776 and placed this advertisement in the Oxford Journal on Saturday 6th July:

Oxford, 5th July. 1776.

LOST, last Night, – An Exeter Bank Note, signed Short, for 30l (shillings) and supposed to be dropped either in the Theatre, between that and Merton College, or in Merton Garden. – A handsome Reward will be given to any Person who brings the above Note to the lodge of Oriel College.


Diseased Meat – Birmingham 1882

Food safety, the manner it was manufactured, stored, prepared and sold was never out of the news. Despite crude guidelines and basic regulations enforced in law, purveyors of every range of food were endlessly reported with crimes and methods to turn the strongest stomachs.

The law finally caught up with a person called White, potted meat manufacturer, in the early 1880’s:

St James's Gazette - Thursday 28 December 1882

St James’s Gazette – Thursday 28 December 1882

“A potted-meat manufacturer, name White, was charged before the Magistrates at Aston, Birmingham, yesterday, with being in possession of meat unfit for food. On the 13th October an inspector seized upon the defendant’s premises a large quantity of pork-rind, which was bad. The defendant removed to another street, and the summons could not be served on him until lately, when there was discovered at his new premises a quantity of bad meat. The was sentenced to 6 months’ hard labour, without the option of a fine.”

Ian Waugh
Old British News

Fraudster John Salmon – Old Bailey 1894

A solicitors clerk working Bethnal Green is at the Old Bailey charged with deception, forgery, theft and embezzlement, 30th April 1894. Here’s the report from the London Evening Standard – Tuesday 01 May 1894.

London Evening Standard - Tuesday 01 May 1894“John Salmon, a 31, clerk, pleaded guilty to stealing three cheques, of the value of £448, and with forging the endorsements thereto.

Mr Geoghegan, who prosecuted, said in November the prisoner the Prisoner entered the service of Messrs Voss and Co., solicitors, Bethnal Green road, as a shorthand clerk, in the faith of a character which purported to come from Mr Reginald Davis, solicitor, Southend, but which Prisoner had written.

He represented to his employers that certain monies were owing to Mr Davis, a solicitor, on behalf of client named Hart, and cheques were drawn accordingly for £411, made payable to Mr Hart, of Liverpool, and handed to the Prisoner, who forged the endorsements, and opened an account with the National Bank of Australasia, where he cleared the cheques.

He then wrote an impertinent letter to him employers, informing them of what he had done, and stating that he was going to America with the proceeds. A warrant was obtained, which was placed in the hands of Detective Inspector Egan, of the City police, who eventually arrested the Prisoner in Dublin. At that time he had £326 in gold in his possession.

The Prisoner had been twice to Australia and once to India, and had been employed by a solitor in the East-End.

Whilst with Mr Voss the Prisoner made himself acquainted with his employers wealthiest clients, and got their addresses and where they kept their banking accounts, which information he kept in a diary, which was taken from him when arrested. These persons had evidently been sought out as easy prey for fraud and plunder. The Prisoner received 37 shillings and sixpence a week wages.

In extenuation, the Prisoner said he was driven to crime consequent on domestic trouble. He was sentenced to four years’ penal servitude”.

Ian Waugh
Old British News

Dubious John Shepherd, died aged 100 in 1830

Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties - Friday 04 June 1830The Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties – Friday 04 June 1830 reports the extraordinary story of a recently deceased 100 year old man with a long and dubious past.

“The veteran rogue.

On Friday the 21st ult., John Shepherd was interred in Ripponden churchyard.  The deceased was 100 years old; he was father to 15 children, grandfather to 55, great grandfather to 89, great great grandfather to four; she was a native of Rochdale, and obtained a settlement in the township of Spotland, from which in the course of his life he has received of relief, him money, to the amount of £250.

He has received from the Benevolent Society, held at the Angel Inn, Blackwater street, Rochdale, £135. 5s 3d in the weekly pay.  He residing at a distance from the society, the stewards could not easily prevent he is imposition, and it is known whether one time he was receiving six shillings per week from the society, two shillings per week from the overseers of Spotland, and was earning at the same time 15 shillings per week, with working; he has had three wives, and his younger son was born the very day he was 80 years of age.

His widow mortgaged a part of his funeral money, 10 years since, with Mrs. Sally Mills, of the Angel Inn, but in consequence of the old man living so much longer than she expected, the whole of the funeral money was claimed, and Mrs. Mills debt was disowned; however, the old woman at last acknowledged it, and in cant terms thanked Mrs. Mills for her former kindness, and even extorted a promise of future favours, for having been for once to acknowledge the truth.”

Ian Waugh
Old British News

Lamplighter assaulted in Whitechapel – 1869

Clerkenwell News - Wednesday 14 July 1869A lamplighter in Whitechapel, going about his business in the early hours of Wednesday the 14th of July 1869, was set upon and assaulted.  Various excuses were made when the case went to court as was reported in the Clerkenwell News:

“At Worship-street, yesterday, James Hart, 23, described as a gas fitter, residing in Goulston street, Whitechapel, was charged before Mr. Newton with assaulting James Lomell, a breaking his lighting stick.

Mr BG Abbott, solicitor, of Worship-street, defended the prisoner.

The prosecutor stated that he resided in Edward street, Bethnal-green road, and was a lamplighter in the employment of the Independent Gas Company.

About 3.15 on the previous morning he was in Goulston street, engaged in turning out of the gas lights, when the prisoner, who was standing talking to a young woman there, began making some remarks to which the witness replied that he had better mind his own business.  The prisoner walked up to him, and seizing hold of the stick with the light at the end, with which the witness turned out the gas, struck him with it on the forehead, then a below between the eyes with his fist, which knocked him against the wall and blackened his eyes.  He then broke the stick across his knees, and from the pieces into the road.  Police constable 166 H came up at the moment, and witness gave prisoner into custody.  The Constable gave evidence, stating that saw the blow given.

Mr. Abbott cross examined the constable very severely, and taxed him with having been drinking with the prosecutor that morning before the case was called on.  The constable deny this, but admitted being in a public house with the prosecutor was.  The defence was that the prosecutor was drunk and could not see to turn out the gas; that when the prisoner went to help him he abused him, and, saying that he would make the – “Jew swallow the stick” struck him with it.

They then enclosed, and the prosecutor, who fell against the wall, broke the stick in the struggle, and received the injury to the eye.  Witnesses were called in support of this, but Mr. Newton, characterising the defence has an aggravation of the offence, find the prisoner 60 shillings, for six weeks hard labour.

The money was paid”.

Ian Waugh
Old British News

Dangers of building the Princetown Railway – 1882

What became the amazing Princetown Railway over Dartmoor from Yelverton to Princetown was fraught with danger during it’s creation.

During it’s building phase there were news stories of danger caused by the weather or those constructing it.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Friday 29 December 1882 reported an event of a ‘riot’ by some navvies which cost the nose of a Police-Constable:

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Friday 29 December 1882“TAVISTOCK. A Prisoner Rescued.—On Wednesday morning, while Sergt. Richards, of Tavistock, was conveying a prisoner from Princetown to Tavistock Police-station several navvies made an attack upon him, seizing the conveyance and overpowering the police-sergeant and driver with clubs, &c. The mob rescued the prisoner, who was got away. Forty navvies afterwards made their way to Horrabridge to intercept any police who might be sent for. All the police in the district were summoned, and twelve of the warders the Convict Establishment, by the permission of the Governor, volunteered their services. Firearms were served out to them and to a large force of police. The riot arose out of an assault on Police-constable Vanstone, made on the previous evening on his apprehending escaped prisoner. Vanstone had his nose almost bitten off, and Richards was severely cut about the head and face”.

The Princetown Railway was one of England’s most spectacular lines and was opened in August 1883. It sadly closed 73 years later in March 1956.

Ian Waugh
Old British News

Valletta Stampede – 1823

The Times of Malta are reporting today the dreadful case of about 100 children who died during a stampede at a Valletta convent during carnival 192 years ago (here).

I have found two articles from 1823 describing the scene (click the images to read the article, then click again to open the image)):

Morning Advertiser - Saturday 29 March 1823

Morning Advertiser – Saturday 29 March 1823

Morning Chronicle - Saturday 29 March 1823

Morning Chronicle – Saturday 29 March 1823