Abandoned Communities ..... Palmer’s Village
We will now move on to the 1840s, the last decade before Palmer’s Village was removed. Information about the people who lived in the village and their way of life can be gained from a variety of sources, including the 1841 census, the list of properties appended to the Westminster Improvement Act of 1845, a statistical report produced by Rev Alfred Jones in 1846, and the records of the Old Bailey.

In the 1841 census Palmer’s Village was represented in three Enumeration Districts within the Registrar’s District of St Margaret’s.  They were Enumeration Districts 28, 29, and 30. The occupations of each man and some of the women are listed. The people living in Paradise Row, for example, included several labourers and servants, a wood sawyer, a hat trimmer, a brass worker, a coal dealer, a marble polisher, a charwoman, a laundress, a stableman, an errand boy, a plasterer, and a soldier. Residents of Fulmer’s Row included a scavenger, several carters, and a carman.

From other census data we learn that all 12 of Palmer’s almshouses were occupied.  In two of them, numbers 4 and 5, an older woman was living with a younger woman of the same surname, presumably her daughter. The former occupations of the six men were shoemaker, dyer, hairdresser, stonemason, butcher, and tailor. The schoolmaster at the time was Kelly Trevelyan, estimated age 25, and his wife Frances was living with him.

The 1841 census for Westminster can be seen on microfilm at the City of Westminster Archives Centre.

In 1846 Rev Alfred Jones compiled a statistical report intended to convey a picture of the social conditions prevalent in the parishes of St Margaret’s and St John’s. Some of the categories chosen by Jones, such as the number of children attending school or the number of houses and the number of individuals (which taken together give an indication of overcrowding) provide important evidence. Others reflect Jones’ personal moral attitudes, no doubt influenced by contemporary religious views. In Fugent’s Row, for example, Jones counted 14 houses, occupied by 28 families and 84 individuals. Of the 32 children just 4 attended an infant school and 1 a day school. The equivalent figures for Providence Row were 15 houses, 29 families, and 130 individuals, with 3 out of 43 children attending an infant school and 6 a day school.

When you look at the more morally loaded categories Palmer’s Village comes out very well compared with the part of St Margaret’s parish to the east, closer to the Houses of Parliament. In Paradise Row there were 7 shops open on the Sabbath and 1 gin and beer shop, and 3 unmarried couples, and in Fulmer’s Row there were 2 brothels and 6 prostitutes. By comparison St Ann’s Street, where the City of Westminster Archives Centre is now located, had 17 shops open on the Sabbath, 15 unmarried couples, 16 brothels, 46 prostitutes, 40 thieves and smashers, and 85 beggars.

As far as I know Alfred Jones’ report was not published. The manuscript can be seen at Lambeth Palace Library. The library is open to the public but operates an unusually strict admission procedure. If you go there remember to take proof of identity, two passport photographs, and a letter of introduction. The reference number for Alfred Jones’ report is MS1796.

Other information about Palmer’s Village can be gained from www.oldbaileyonline.org, that superb website that provides the Proceedings of the Old Bailey from 1674 to 1913. We can of course find out about the criminal justice system, for example learning with astonishment about the severity of punishments handed out in the early nineteenth century to those convicted of property offences. But in addition the records give us glimpses into such aspects of everyday life as the working practices of policemen, the role of pawnbrokers in society, medical assessment of injuries, occupations that no longer exist, the water supply to houses, the types of servants employed by more wealthy people, and the fact that in those days too alcohol might contribute to crimes of violence.

If you put Palmer’s Village into the search system of the Old Bailey website you get a surprising number of records in which a resident of the village is a victim, the accused, or a witness. I will focus on some of the records between 1835 and 1849. In 1835 Manuel Lopez, who lived at 3 Paradise Row, was found guilty of stealing 4 coats, 6 pairs of trousers, and 3 waistcoats from a house in St Giles in the Fields. Among the witnesses were employees of two pawnbrokers. One of them, James Watson, stated that he had given the defendant 30 shillings for a coat, a waistcoat, and a pair of trousers. The other stated that he had paid the defendant 12 shillings for a coat. Lopez, aged 36, was transported for seven years.

In May 1836 William Seymour was found guilty of theft after stealing several items valued at £10 from Richard and Ann Wyatt, who lived in Queen’s Row, Palmer’s Village. At the time of the theft Seymour, a jobbing bricklayer, had been working at the house of the Wyatts. Two of the witnesses were John Staton of Somerset Place and Amelia White of Queen’s Row, both of whom confirmed that they had seen the accused carrying a large bundle in one hand and a French tea caddy in the other. Seymour, aged 21, was transported for life.

In a case of forgery in 1839 George Rees went to a gunmaker John William Allen and produced a letter purporting to come from Francis Wynn of Fugent’s Row. Wynn was fond of shooting and often borrowed guns from Allen. On the basis of the letter Allen supplied three guns to Rees. Again, the evidence of a pawnbroker was important, William Henry Lumley stating that the guns had been pawned with him by the prisoner.

At a trial in 1846 important evidence was given by a policeman, Benjamin Byrne, who on the night of 26 February was on duty in Providence Row. At various times during the night he observed and spoke to Jane Wiggins, who was accused of stealing various items from the house of Mary Ann Harris. Some of his evidence related to interaction between Wiggins and George Wild, who lived at 2 Providence Row and was accused of feloniously receiving the goods. In the event Wild was found not guilty. Wiggins was found guilty, but following a recommendation for mercy received a sentence of only eighteen months imprisonment.

Jane Wiggins may have been imprisoned at the New Bridewell, opened in 1834. It lay  immediately south of Palmer’s Village and its walls would have loomed large over anyone living in the village.
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The New Bridewell, Westminster, under construction in 1833.

This image is used with the permission of the City of Westminster Archives Centre.