Tuesday 29 May 2012

Dead Cats

Cat skins were rather prized by Victorian furriers. The following details are definitely not for the faint-hearted ...

An old woman named Elizabeth Rogerson was placed at the bar, with Elizabeth, her daughter and another female, named Margaret Dunn, for re-examination on the charge of having stolen and slaughtered an immense number of cats. From the evidence given on this and on the previous occasion, it appeared, that in consequence of almost daily complaints having been within the last five or six months made by ladies and others, who had in a most unaccountable manner been deprived of their feline animals, Inspector Evans, of the S Division, instructed Shayler, a constable, to keep a sharp look out for the prisoners (the persons supsected) and who dwelt at No.3, Weller's-place, Old St, Pancras-road. He did so, and a few nights ago saw the younger Rogerson and Dunn shoot from a sack into a cesspool in Red Lion-passage a number of cats; he secured the two prisoners in question, and on examining the cesspool found therein upwards of 50 cats of all sizes, the whole of them being divested of their skins; he next repaired to the prisoner's house, and on knocking at the door, it was opened by a man, who without much ceremony made his exit, leaving his hat behind. The constable, seeing the old woman come from the yard with an empty sack, took her in charge also, and ascertained that she had just before thrown down the water-closet eight cats terribly mutilated and which to all appearance had been skinned alive. He examined the apartments, the whole of the furniture in which consisted of an old deal table and two chairs, and found four French poodles tied up in different directions; they seemed in excellent condition, and were feeding upon the legs and shoulders of some cats placed in a dish before them; he also found a quantity of blood-stained shavings, and some sacks, together with a number of brass collars, eight or ten dead cats in a saucepan, and a quantity of their fat, which was, no doubt, intended for sale. Mr. J. Muggridge, a corn-dealer in Tottenham-court-road, identified one of the sacks produced as his property; and a lady named Newby, living in Mecklenburg-square, owned one of the collars, which she had affixed to the neck of a favourite cat lost by her some time ago. It further appeared that the elder prisoner was some time back charged at Union-hall, and that on searching her house, in Glasshouse-yard, Gravel-lane, Southwark, the carcass of upwards of 150 dogs and cats wre found in different parts of the premises. The old woman was committed by Mr. Hoskins for two months, and the others were discharged. The constable applied to know how he should act with regard to the furniture and the poodles left in the place. Ever since the capture of the prisoners, it had been deemed necessary, owning to the excitement caused in the neighbourhood, to keep an officer constantly in the house, for fear it should be pulled down by the mob. (Times, 5 April, 1839)

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