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Tragical Events At The Town of Ramsgate (1846) – by Roger Fullilove

Tragical Events At The Town of Ramsgate (1846) – by Roger Fullilove

Wapping writer, Roger Fillilove invites you to enjoy a chapter from his new book, called “A Clan Full-of-love” - to be published in 2013:

Jonathon Fullilove, the son of a fishmonger from Croydon in Surrey, married Miss Emmaline Abbott of St Leonard’s Shoreditch at St. Mary’s church in Lambeth on the 11th February 1846. He was then aged 25 and she just 20. At that time both were living in Vauxhall Street, South London. Jonathan was a compositor by trade and employed at ‘The Queen’s Printing Office’, a position of some trust since this firm had responsibility for all of parliament’s vast print needs. However, Emmaline died the same year she and Jonathon were married and in truly tragic circumstances.

It would seem that Emmaline, as might any new bride be, was very much in love with her husband, but he did not respond in kind, indeed by any measure he treated her appallingly. Young Emmaline, whose father had been a banker, lavished gifts of furniture on her newly-wed husband, something that would have been of significant expense in those days and which no doubt depleted her hard-earned savings considerably. Jonathon’s response to all this heartfelt attention was both swift and brutal. Even before they had been married for four months, a time when one would have thought that naught but romance should have engulfed them both, this poor excuse for a man began to habitually beat his wife black and blue, to deny her even the bare necessities of life and to openly fraternise with other women. Indeed he sold all the furniture his wife had gifted him and even pawned her clothes. All of this bizarre behaviour seems to have been caused by Jonathon’s passion to finance what at best was one mistress or, if one reads the press reports more critically, an entire string of harlots and whores! As might have been expected, all of these dreadful antics drove the young Emmaline to utter heartbreak and despair, and within just a few months she looked for, and found, her own way out.

image western timesOn the evening of Sunday the 17th May, 1846 Emmaline made a small pile out of her cloak, shawl and bonnet and, after leaving a heartfelt note addressed to her mother, Sarah Abbott, threw herself off London Bridge into the Thames. She was apparently knocked out cold by the fall, perhaps by hitting her head on one of the bridge supports, and was of course duly drowned. Her body was carried by the river downstream to Wapping Old Stairs, where it was washed up at low tide on an ugly beach beside Oliver’s Wharf. A coroner’s court was set up for the evening of the following Saturday in the upstairs rooms of ‘The Town of Ramsgate’ public house in Wapping High Street. The young woman’s husband attended that inquest hearing, although he might have wished he hadn’t since both Mr Baker, the coroner and the entire jury roundly castigated him for the foul and brutal treatment he had handed out to his young and loving wife, actions which they unanimously agreed had been the direct cause of her suicide.

This tragedy was widely reported at the time and no doubt Jonathon became instantly infamous throughout the country for his appalling ‘treason’ against his young, love-struck wife and for no greater prize than a whore! Headlines such as ‘Heartless Wretch’ screamed out across the breakfast table of readers as far afield as Yorkshire and Yeovil, Bristol and Bath, and Leeds and Leamington Spa. No doubt all were equally disgusted by the what they read, and likely as not Jonathon was highly despised from far north of the Scottish borders all the way to Penzance and Dover, and rightly so. In all probability they would have all agreed with the jury that his fate should have been to languish in Australia or prison for a decade or more, rather than to continue to waltz the streets of Croydon as a free man. No doubt her majesty found this horrid episode fitting cause to dismiss this scumbag from her service, albeit no proof of this has yet come to light, but neither is he again cited as holding that trustworthy post, so perhaps in the end the Queen’s justice was indeed dispensed, albeit, most would say, not nearly enough! This same piece appeared virtually word for words in newspapers up and down the land, sometimes with an added footnote that read – “At the request of the jury Fullilove received a long and severe lecture from the coroner”. Too right, but a hangman’s noose may have been more fitting.

Emmaline’s suicide note: The Western Times, Exeter, Saturday 30th May 1846

“My dear mother – It is with sorrow that I write in this strain, but my troubles are greater than I can bear. My heart is broken; I cannot survive it. I would have borne with poverty, were it misfortune that caused it; but to know that my hard earnings are torn from me to keep a prostitute, is more than I can bear; but let him know that my last dying curse was, that he may rot, and die a despised wretch as he is, and his jade – she that persuades, and has succeeded in their wild schemes, and made me their victim. They may now revel in their unholiness, and I shall be no barrier between them. Judgment will someday overtake them. They have played their cards well, and schemed to be rid of me successfully.”

If there is any long memories abroad in Wapping that can add to this woeful tale please sent info to roger.fullilove@blueyonder.co.uk.

Image of Roger FulliloveAbout the author – Roger Fullilove

Roger Fullilove first stumbled across the Old Steps at Wapping in the late 1960s when he worked as a night shifter in the City:

“We used to head for Wapping High Street for a couple of beers before work and sit by the steps watch the old Thames ebb and flow”, says Roger.

“Latterly the almighty TfL has linked Wapping and my now home Crystal Palace by Overground. Both are unique and much loved albeit for very different reasons….”

To find out more Roger Fullilove and his work, please visit www.blues-hammer.com