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Extraordinary Sudden Death in Canterbury – 4 October 1866

Kentish ChronicleSaturday 13 October 1866

On Saturday evening, Mr. T. T. Delastux, held an inquest at the Crown and Sceptre public house, St. Peter’s on the body of Susannah Stroud, a young woman 22 years of age, the wife of hawker, who died very suddenly in that house on Thursday, under what were at first deemed rather suspicious circumstances. A jury having been empanelled, the following evidence was given :-

George Stroud deposed :

I am a licensed hawker, residing in the city of Canterbury. The deceased was my wife, and aged 22 years. We came to Canterbury on Thursday from Ashford. She was taken ill on Thursday evening, but I did not seek any medical advice This inquiry is at my earnest solicitation. I got her up stairs between six and seven o’clock, but she did not exhibit any symptoms of intoxication. She undressed and went to bed, and in about two hours she got up again, and appeared quite well, She left me in the street, and went home and in about an hour I saw her again. She was then noisy. She retired to rest between eleven and twelve and I did the same. She was then quiet. I was inclined to read, but the deceased begged me not to do so and that I would put out the light, which I did. she then began to scream. I believe she was at that time suffering from delirium tremens, and she was afterwards put into bed by myself and three or four others. Yesterday morning I left the deceased in bed asleep, and went to Ashford. A medical man attended her, and left between two and three o’clock, having been with her about three hours. I left yesterday morning little after nine o’clock. I received instructions from the medical man, and acted up to them.

Robert Tilley deposed :

I am a lay clerk of Canterbury Cathedral. I was at the Crown and Sceptre on Thursday evening, and saw the deceased there at about eleven o’clock at night. I was sitting in the smoking room with others, and in consequence of a statement by the landlady, I and two others ran up stairs and obtained a light from the landlord. I saw the deceased standing on the landing place in her night dress. She was screaming fearfully,She was taken into the bedroom, and sometime afterwards she was forced into bed. She appeared mad, and on my asking her husband if such conduct frequently occurred, he replied, “I often have this job.” I went to Mr. Andrews, the surgeon, and he came. I believe her extraordinary conduct was produced by drink. The door of the bedroom was closed, but was afterwards opened her husband.

Alfred Benjamin Andrews. surgeon deposed :

I was sent for on Thursday evening, at about half-past eleven, to attend to the deceased, and found her lying on a bed, making a great noise, and several persons holding her down. She became very violent, which I believe was produced by delirium tremens. I treated her for that complaint, administering proper medicines, to wit, tincture of opium, which was for the purpose of inducing sleep. I remained with her for some hours, and then went home and fetched some more, which I gave her husband with cautious directions as to use. I said “if I am wanted, I can come directly, as I shall only lie on the sofa.” As I was not fetched I left my house about half-past six, but could not get into the Crown and Sceptre, the house being closed. I saw her between nine and ten, and found she was dying, and her husband had left. I applied a mustard plaster, and in about an hour afterwards, on my going into the bedroom of the deceased, I found her dead. The deceased did not speak to me from about four o’clock.

Henry Ebenezer-Hutchiugs, surgeon, deposed :

I have this day made a post-mortem examination of the deceased. I opened her head, and found the brain very much congested, which I have no doubt was produced by drink. I opened her chest, and found the posterior lobes of the lungs in a very congested condition, and the liver that of drunkard of some standing. Her stomach was empty but full of gas. I opened her stomach, which had no smell of opium, but of spirits; and drink produced delirium. The plan adopted towards the deceased by Mr. Andrews was the same as I should have recommended. Death was produced by exhaustion, previous drunkenness, and excitement, which is a natural death. The heart was empty. This shows that the vital organs were in a bad condition.

The Jury then returned a verdict of “Natural death,” and the proceedings closed.

The Crown & Sceptre

IMG_6676The Crown & Sceptre was situated at 21 St Peter’s Street, and is now the Indoor Market.

It seems the landlord at the time was one George Rye, working for the Flint Brewery,which was situated just the other side of the Westgate Towers in St Dunstan’s Street.

Apparently The Prussian Hermits(?!) are reported to have met here every Wednesday at 8 o’clock during the year of 1837.

Please visit Paul Skelton’s excellent website where he is extending the great works of Edward Wilmott in documenting the past pubs of Canterbury.

Dave and Ally’s wedding

IMG_6312It was an absolute privilege for me to be part of Mr & Mrs Cole-Biroth’s union.

As a long time friend, Dave asked me to record events on my camera.

I arranged to meet with him and Ally, his bride to be, a couple of weeks before the event – at least she would know what was happening where and when! Even though it was the first time I had met her, I was immediately struck by her warmth and friendliness, and how they both so complimented each other.

Dave and Ally decided on a small, family only, wedding on the Saturday. As the only ‘outsider’, I could not have wished for a better welcome. Previously Dave and Ally had two families to be proud of; now they have one big shared family to be proud of.

Sunday’s reception for friends and wider family at the Horsebridge in Whitstable was indeed a celebration!

After a beautiful and personally crafted blessing on the beach at Whitstable by the Reverend Canon Peter Hapgood-Strickland (another old friend), we proceeded to enjoy an afternoon and evening of music, memories and flowing beer. Faces old, new, and some deliberately misleading shared the fun.

This is what happened.

Take me to the pictures of the wedding!

Take me to the pictures of the blessing and reception!


In the interests of timely publication, these photos are straight from the camera, with no post processing, cropping, correction, and include some experiments (with varying degrees of success) and multiple shots of the same scene (in the hope that in at least one, everyone will have their eyes open and nostrils free from digital interference). Full res copies are available from myself or Ally.

Size matters

I recently bought a new flat pack wardrobe from Argos.

I actually love putting these things together, probably because I never really had enough Meccano as a child. So when I get a flat pack something , it is a bit like Christmas, e.g. rip the box apart, toss the instructions to one side etc.

However, such was the complexity and specific nature of some of the parts, I found it necessary to actually consult the instructions during the course of assemble, because Argos had thoughtfully printed a ruler to easily check varying screw lengths.

And so it was that my battle with the instructions started. Firstly, none of the screws seemed to bear any resemblance to their supposed measurement, and secondly, this goodly printed rule bore no resemblance to any unit I have heard of before or since.

It was as if the author of the instructions had carefully thought about the layout, and kindly thought about including the ruler, and then printed everything at 66% size!

In fairness to Argos, this was easily circumvented by using my own ruler (bottom on the pic), and overall the wardrobe was good quality and value for price.

But I am still keeping the printed rule should Mrs W question the length of 15cm

Where were you when the Titanic sank?

Well, I wasn't even a twinkle in my father's eye, but hopefully we were both twinkles in my grandfather's eye. And we know pretty well where he was!  

Francis St George Wise was born in 1875, the son of a West Country doctor. Shunning the medical profession, at the age of 16 he was a cadet in the Navy on HMS Conway, eventually earning his Master Mariner (Captain) certificate.   Much of his training and early career was under sail, but the steamship was making hefty inroads into merchant shipping. Many of these small merchant steamers became the Cinderellas of international trade, circumnavigating the globe to deliver valuable goods across the continents.   SS Indravelli

And so it was in 1912 he was working for the Indra Line, based in Liverpool. His particular charge in April 1912 was the SS Indravelli, a modest 400 ft, 15  year old steam cargo vessel, with a maximum speed of a mere 11 knots.  

On 10th April 1912, the Indravelli broke moorings at New York at 6.45pm to set sail to Gibraltar. It was 9.31pm when she had been guided out by the pilot, and faced the open sea under full steam. The weather over the next few days was reported as clear and fine, sea was smooth until 13th April, when it was recorded as moderate. Progress was only slowed by nearly 3 and a half hours of stopped engines over a couple of days 'for eng. purposes'.   SS Indravelli log Her log shows her heading east at the same latitude until 23rd April, when she changed course toward the south.   Allowing for time correction, her position was taken at 12 noon each day. On 14th April, this was deduced by dead reckoning, but there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of this.   Simple interpolation gives her position at 40.19N 56.75W at midnight (30 minutes after Titanic struck the iceberg). This is a reasonable assumption given the stability of the weather, and no incidents recorded in the log. Titanic was sinking at 41.46N 50.14W, putting my grandfather and his ship 311 nautical miles away.  

Unfortunately, I can find no record of his aged workhorse being retrofitted with wireless telegraphy, so despite the best efforts of the wireless officers on the Titanic, he would have been deaf to their appeals. Even if he had heard them, sadly with a maximum speed of 11 knots (but an average of 8.2) he could have done little to help.   Map showing SS Indravelli and RMS Titanic

Maybe if the pilot had expedited the departure, or 'eng. purposes' hadn't delayed progress.

But 'what ifs' and 'maybes' are just that.   So near, yet so far.  


Bethnal Green Tube Disaster

Bethnal Green entrance in wartime

Bethnal Green entrance in wartime

On March 3rd 1943, the worst civilian disaster of WWII took place as people sought safety from an air raid.


The Bethnal Green tube station was part of the Central Line extension east of Liverpool Street, which commenced in 1936. With the outbreak of war, work ceased on the extension, leaving Bethnal Green almost complete, but without track. The depth of the station made it ideal as an air raid shelter; it could accommodate some 7,000 people.  Locals preferred the relative comfort of the station rather than the cramped and dingy Andersen or Morrison shelters at home.


At 8.17pm, the air raid warning sounded.


Air raid warnings were part of everyday life and a well practice routine. Things had been a bit quieter lately, but retaliation was expected after Berlin had been bombed 2 nights previously. As the siren sounded, three buses unloaded their passengers and a cinema evacuated their customers so they could take safe shelter.


Bethnal Green stairs (4 March 1943)

Bethnal Green stairs (4 March 1943)

Although crowded, everything was in order until a woman carrying a baby tripped and fell as she went down the steps to the platform The man behind her tripped over her, and the domino effect took over, compounded by the fact that permanent stair rails were yet to be fitted.

At 8.27pm, further panic ensued at the top of the stairs as unfamiliar heavy explosions were heard, and people pushed into the shelter unaware of the horror in front of the. The unfamiliar explosions were an anti-aircraft unit testing an experimental rocket weapon in nearby Victoria Park.


About 300 were crushed into the stairway measuring about 15 x 11 feet. When they were pulled out 27 men, 84 women and 62 children had been crushed to death, with a further 60 surviving but requiring hospital treatment.

When their bodies were recovered, Kenny had the impression of a hobnail boot on his face. George senior had been carrying Maureen and he was found with his arms outstretched, where he had tried to throw Maureen clear of the mass of people.

Maureen was pulled out alive and was taken to hospital, where my great grandmother stayed with her. She intended to bring her up if she pulled through. Unfortunately Maureen died about 5 hours later. She died with a tear in her eye.

Lorraine Smith

Tragically, no air raid took place that night, the disaster was a direct result of the panic induced by the new weapon being tested. Lack of proper hand rails, lack of supervision and light (due to the blackout) also played their part.
Little mention was made of this in the press at the time to maintain morale – even the results of the Government enquiry were delayed until after the war.

We were just told to lay out the bodies and then load them on to lorries. One or two near the bottom were still alive. But most of the faces, they were all purple and mauve.

Jimmy Hunt (aged 15 at the time)

This is necessarily a brief outline of 2 minutes in time that had a devastating impact on the local community.
Much of this information has been gleaned from the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust, which aims keep the memories of the heroes and victims of this awful night alive.


Please pay them a visit for further information, including first hand accounts, and make sure those that died are never forgotten.

Canterbury from the Bell Harry Tower

St Georges

St Georges from Bell Harry Tower

I have recently rediscovered some photos I took from the Bell Harry Tower in the early eighties.


At the time, I worked with a colleague who was a bellringer at the cathedral, and he kindly arranged for a couple of us to go up to the top of the Bell Harry Tower armed with our cameras. I think it must have been about 1982 or 3, but I am sure if you tried nowadays, the Health and Safety Police would have a fit! I seem to remember that the journey to the top was hard work, but the sights, both internally and externally, worth every single step.


The early eighties saw a continuation of development started in the immediate post war years. Many ‘slums’ had been demolished to make way for newer housing and of course, the Ring Road, and new housing estates built on the outskirts of the City. Finally money was available to fill the remaining gaps left by enemy action in the City, especially the St Georges and Whitefriars areas, this time with an eye to the future.

So these photos provide a snapshot in time – pedestrianisation not quite complete, an empty field waiting for Sainsbury’s, and when the main A28 ran through Northgate!


There are 16 in total that I have salvaged. Please bear in mind they were taken with a relatively unsophisticated camera by a relatively unsophisticated photographer. Time hasn’t been particularly kind to the photos either, but I have managed to correct the fading and pull out most of the detail. You can click on the pic or find them here.



Britain's first telephone directory

On 15th January 1880, The Telephone Company Limited published the first telephone directory in Britain.

1880 London Telephone Directory

1880 London Telephone Directory (© BBC)

This first 6 page issue contained the grand total of all 250 (ish) subscribers who were connected to the embryonic telephone network, spread over 11 small exchanges in central London.

In 1880, all calls were connected via the operator – we had to wait until 1912 until the first automatic exchange was installed in Epsom as a trial. This, and the fact that there were so few subscribers, rendered telephone numbers unimportant, so the first directory contained only names and addresses. Callers would simply pick up the phone and ask the operator for connection to their chosen subscriber.

Initially, boys were resposible for operating the system, but they were replaced fairly quickly by women in pursuit of better reliability!

The first edition actually contained Alexander Graham Bell, the man credited with the invention of the telephone, with the first entry being that of John Adam & Co, 11 Pudding Lane in the City of London.

Visitors from Thanet

ParakeetsSeems these two little parakeets fancied a day out in Herne Bay.

I understand they are quite common in parts of Thanet, but these two risked life and limb in crossing the River Wantsum onto the mainland for a day out, heading straight to the best birdie bar in the business at Wiseworld Towers.

Although I attempted to alert various friends and relatives to my discovery, they were as one convinced I had overdone it at lunch time, although I did try to point out that if that was the case, pink elephants would have been order of the day.

Akinator – the web genius

I found this little genie completely by accident, but he is so impressive!
Basically, you think of a character and Akinator will ask you a few questions and read your thoughts and hopefully tell you who it is!
I tried him on Will Hay, Murray Walker, Patrick Moore and Ted Heath, all of which he got right. The only two he struggled with were Carol Kirkwood and Sian Williams, but he got there eventually. Maybe he doesn’t watch BBC.

Anyway, give Akinator a go – he will amaze you!

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Latest pics in the gallery