Monday 9 November 2009



It seems to be the month of 'traditional' Victorian subjects on this blog ... first Jack the Ripper, then fog ... only because I had an interesting email from a reader whose ancestor died in a terrible fog of 1873. A quote from a newspaper which my correspondent uncovered:-

On Friday afternoon, the deputy coroner for Middlesex, held an inquiry at the Spotted Dog Tavern, High Street, Poplar, respecting the deaths of Robert Bryant 52, Thomas Ford 53, James Price 63, William Everett 38, Henry Carol 20 , Fitzroy Waters 17 and Thomas Cleman 44, all of whom perished through falling into the waters of the West India Docks during the intense fog of Tuesday evening last. . . . The jury returned a verdict of accidental death and requested the coroner to write to the Company urging them to have iron stands erected so that in the event of fogs occurring ropes or chains could be at once attached to avoid a recurrence of such a melancholy catastrophe . . . The following accidental deaths are reported to have taken place during the fog: - On Wednesday night Catherine Brookes 50 walked into the Regents Canal and was drowned. Tuesday William Farinth 28 fell off a boat into the Regents Canal at Limehouse. Patrick Reardon 38 fell into the London Docks. Bartholomew Donovan 57 dock labourer found drowned on Wednesday. Edward Fisher a cooper in the London Docks fell into the dock on Wednesday night 10th December. A dock constable was found in Millwall Docks. Joseph Reynolds fell off his barge while parking on the Thames and drowned.”

Eastern Post 20 December 1873

Punch was happy to weigh in on the topic:-


FIRST. - Should the fog be very dense, withdraw half the Police from the thoroughfares. Remember their lives are valuable to the community at large.
Secondly. - Let none of the Street Lamps be lighted, until the usual time (if then); they are of very little use, and the shops must have more blaze than usual. Never do for yourself what you can get some one else to do for you.
Thirdly. - In the neighbourhood of St. Paul's and the Banks, where the traffic, like the Fog, is at its thickest, let care be taken to secure the absence of all light and all Police. Surely everyone who is out on such a day ought to be old enough and wise enough to take care of himself. As to omnibuses, waggons, carts, cabs and carriages, they ought all to have lamps, and, when they haven't lights, they have lungs, and can ward off danger by continuous shouting.
Fourthly. - No extra Gas must be used at Railway stations, and great care should be taken that all the carriages may be left without the usual lamps. When the Fog has entirely cleared off, the Lamps may be lighted, and the Police may resume their duties.

Punch, December 20, 1873

It seems 1873 was a particularly bad year - see here for a brief mention - and it's always worth remembering that Victorian fog wasn't just 'atmosphere' in the theatrical sense; it made London dangerous for Londoners - sometimes fatal.


  1. Interesting. I'd have been a goner, that's for certain, as I have asthma and that is very sensitive to carbon dioxise (the M6 is particularly bad). The smog must have been bad if even the cattle were suffocating.

  2. Must learn to spell check - dioxide.

  3. A link to an illustration from British history online of the Spotted Dog Tavern in Poplar where the inquest was held!