Friday, January 4, 2008

Victorian Lives: John Lovell, Gypsy and Tinker of Frying Pan Alley, London

From The Times, 5 January 1843:

"Death of an Old Gypsy. – Last week John Lovell, aged 80 years, expired at his residence in Fryingpan-alley, Clerkenwell. The deceased was well known in the metropolis for the last 50 years as a Gypsy and travelling tinker; and in more recent years, being afflicted with apoplexy, he lost the use of his left side, and paraded the streets in the vicinity of Lincoln’s-inn, calling out, “Poor old man! – pots and kettles to mend.” His appearance was most deplorable, and he received sums of money from charitable persons daily, supposing him to be in great distress. After his decease a sum of money amounting to 700l. was found in various parts of his room, which he had hoarded up, amongst which were several pounds’ worth of farthings.

"On Sunday last he was respectably buried in Clerkenwell burying ground by some relatives. The deceased had a large family of children; one of his sons was executed at the age of 17 years, at the Old Bailey, with John Henley, the captain of the celebrated West-end fair gangmen, Hampstead, for desperate highway robberies at that fair; two others of his sons were transported, for robberies, for their natural lives. The deceased, some years ago, resided at Paddington, and was the associate of the Lees and Coopers, gangs notorious for horse-stealing. Lee, who was at that period termed the King of the Gypsies, being convicted of horse-stealing, suffered execution. The deceased, when a young man, was a noted prize-fighter."

Shown at top: Frying Pan Alley, which was part of a notorious East End slum district in the nineteenth century, c. 1900. It was once home to a number of braziers and ironmongers who hung frying pans outside their premises as a way of advertising their businesses . . . hence its colorful name.

Shown at bottom: Detail of Charles Booth's 1898 Poverty Map of London. Frying Pan Alley runs between Middlesex Street and Bell Lane, to the right of and slightly below the "e" in "Bishopsgate" on the map.


"An Exploration into 'Jack Ketch's Warren,'" in James Greenwood, The Wilds of London (1874) (at Lee Jackson's Victorian Dictionary website)

Charles Booth Online Archive (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Henry Mayhew, "Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles in Metal," in London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1 (1851)


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