Friday, March 4, 2016

A Den of Serpents in Watford circa 1890?

When this card came up for sale on ebay I brought it because I was interested in the photographer, Fred Downer, of Watford. In particular it had a name so this could help me to date the card, and perhaps add to my knowledge of the photographer's work.

It looked a pretty straight-forward item to put online as the 1890 trade directory told me that William Arthur Stradling was a surgeon living in Station Road, Watford, and he was listed with his family in the 1891 census - but not the 1881 or 1901 censuses. All I need to do is check up on his date of death and I had got him recorded.

A quick check on FreeBMD told me he died in London in 1902 and I could have left it there - but it would only take a few minutes to check the British Newspaper Archive ... ...

What I found meant I wanted to find more - and I was hooked ...

The first thing I found was that Dr William Arthur Stradling had been living in accommodation in London and had died of an overdose of cocaine. A few weeks later there was an advert calling on all creditors to register their interests. The wording of such adverts is pretty routine  and the only bits that change are the name of the deceased, his former address, his address at the time of death (if different), and his occupation.

This one was different. He was formerly of Watford and his address at the time of death was High Holborn. However in between these two addresses were 13 other addresses - mostly hotels, and the others may have been boarding houses. What was going on?

I clearly needed to know more and the more I looked the more I found. For instance he had once allowed a highly poisonous rattlesnake to bite him - and his house at Watford must have been crawling with snakes of many different species....

No comments:

Post a Comment

This is the newsletter for the Genealogy in Hertfordshire Web site. Comments on this blog are moderated and may be transferred to the web site where appropriate. If you have a local or family history query you want answered you must use "Ask Chris" - See box in right hand column. Anonymous comments cannot be answered.