Monthly Archives: December 2017

Judge not…

23 Forman Street, Nottingham

23 Forman Street, Nottingham

Photo:  Harriet Buckthorp

Diners at the Foreman Street, Nottingham, branch of Prezzo [https://www.prezzorestaurants.co.uk/restaurant/nottingham-foreman-street] are mostly unaware of the history of the site.

In the late nineteenth century 23 Foreman Street was a well-known brothel, distinguished as the scene of the demise of Sir Charles Henry Watkin Williams, a High Court judge who, according to a pointedly satirical memorial card, “departed this life suddenly at Mrs Salmands” on the evening of July 17th 1884 aged 55.

After dinner at the Judge’s Lodgings he had gone to visit a young lady called Nellie Banks at Mrs Salmands.  There is a factual account in Reynolds’s News, July 27th 1884.

The gangster ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser, in his compendium of criminality, Mad Frank’s Britain (Random House 2012), p 107, felicitously describes what happened:  “the old gentleman gave a sort of grunt and she thought he’d come, but he’d gone”.

By the time the police returned Sir Watkin Williams’ corpse to the Judge’s Lodgings too many people knew what had happened for the story to be concealed.

The borough coroner, Mr Arthur Brown, was clearly under considerable pressure to limit his inquiries, and he had to lean hard to make the inquest jury fulfil their oath to establish “when, where, how, and by what means” the judge had met his death.

It appeared that Sir Watkin suffered from aneurism of the aorta and, according to his doctor’s recommendation, he really should have been more careful.

Reynolds’s News and many other papers reported the affair with circumspection, under a headline “DISCREDITABLE DEATH OF A JUDGE”, in an article more than a column in length that invited readers to use their imaginations.

The memorial-card broadsheet was altogether more succinct:

…in eight feet deep of solid earth

Sir Watkin Williams lies.

He lost his breath,

which caused his death,

‘twixt Nellie Blankey’s thighs.

Nellie Banks was an enterprising young lady.  My friend Stewart tracked her down in the Boston Guardian dated August 2nd 1884 where her name is meticulously rendered in inverted commas:

She was the housekeeper of a farmer at Butterwick who, in the early part of this year, absconded with a large sum of money and with [the] young lady in question made a trip to Paris.  He was on his return to this country apprehended as a fraudulent bankrupt aboard an Inman Line steamer as he and “Nelly” were about to emigrate to America.

She is described as aged 22, pale and slender and about five feet high.  She would have thrived in an age of reality TV and social media.

Nothing much remains of Mrs Salmand’s premises, but the story gives an entertaining twist to dining at Prezzo.

Under Unter den Linden

Berlin U-bahn:  U55 shuttle

Berlin U-bahn: U55 shuttle

My first encounter with the Berlin U-bahn (the underground system, as opposed to the S-bahn overground lines) was the strange little U55 shuttle between Hautbahnhof and Brandenburger Tor.

Cavernous halls lead to an enormous two-platform station.  One of the two platforms is fenced off and unused.

Into the other trundles a two-car train which shuttles back and forth every few minutes.

It’s very useful, but the station is completely out of proportion with the train.

And it’s the exact opposite of the cramped and crowded Times Square-Grand Central shuttle in Manhattan.

The trains are actually modernised museum-pieces.

It was only when I walked down Unter den Linden, where the central reservation is a building site, that I realised a short but vital underground link is under construction.

By 2019 there will be a service between Hauptbahnhof and the transport hub at Alexanderplatz where the U5 underground line currently terminates:  http://www.projekt-u5.de/en.

The 1½-mile link will bring stations to the major tourist spots on Unter den Linden and Schloßplatz, and so take road traffic and some pedestrians out of the crowded tourist area.

Then they’ll no longer have to crane the U55 rolling stock in and out of the tunnel for overhaul like they do on the Waterloo & City Line in London.