King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
Stories of Strand-Aldwych

Introduction

Toward the end of 1831, London’s Metropolitan Police were alerted to a ghastly, wicked, and grisly series of crimes that had been committed in the East End at Nova Scotia Gardens (NSG). NSG contained ‘a colony of little cottages irregularly distributed over a small patch of ground.’[1] The cottages of the neighbourhood had been probably built as home-cum workshops for weavers, of whom there were some 15,000 in the area at the start of the 1900s.[2] This story re-tells the actions of three of its residents from No. 3 NSG, John Bishop, Thomas Williams (Thomas Head) and an associate James May – all of them known as ‘resurrection men’ and were in the autumn of 1831 charged with the murder of a vagrant child.

Through this story a darker side to Victorian London emerges, one in which violence, vice, and criminal behaviour takes centre stage. This was a world in which young children and adults could seemingly be picked off by anyone who chose to prey on their fellow man. How could the victims disappear unnoticed from the capital’s streets?

 

[1] Weekly Times London, Sunday 27 November 1831.

[2] Sarah Wise, The Italian Boy, (London: Vintage Digital, 2012) p. 8.

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