A jilted lover causes alarm in a quiet Chelsea neighbourhood

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Cremorne Gardens, c. 1864

The path of true love doesn’t always run smoothly as we know but most people deal with rejection better than Louis Laroche.  Louis, a 23 year-old goldsmith was living in digs in fashionable Chelsea in 1876 and was courting a young lady named Miss Sinclair.

She lived in Camera Square and often entertained Laroche at her home. The couple seem to have had a tempestuous relationship with one neighbor testifying to hearing them quarrel loudly on many occasions.

On Wednesday 21 June 1876 this neighbour, Mr Sigismond Turner, overhead a loud exchange between the pair late in the evening.  The dispute seemed to revolve around Miss Sinclair’s alleged infidelity (as Laroche understood it at least). He accused her of going to Cremorne Gardens ‘with another man’. She ‘had deceived him’ he declared, and he was now intent on ‘doing away with himself’. HIs lover was refusing to marry him and poor Louis was at his wits end.

Cremorne Gradens was a popular entertainment spot in Victorian London. While it boasted music and dancing, places to eat and drink, it also had a reputation for prostitution and immorality. For some it was the place to be seen, for others it was a place to avoid. The fact that Miss Sinclair might have gone there without her beau to see another man probably spoke volumes as to her character in the eyes of the newspaper reading public in late Victorian London.

As he listened Sigismond was startled to hear talk of a pistol and a struggle over it. He thought he heard Miss Turner say that she would rather ‘he kill her than kill himself’ and then heard he demand he hand over the gun. Laroche refused, left the room and shortly afterwards a gunshot was heard.

This brought other neighbours out of their rooms and houses and Laroche, who was unhurt, was quickly apprehended and handed over to the nearest policeman. He was in possession of a six shot revolver, with only one live bullet in position. He was brought before Mr Arnold at Westminster Police court on a charge of attempted suicide.

However, he hadn’t been injured nor was there clear evidence that he’d intended to kill himself, or hurt anyone else for that matter. So as far as the magistrate was concerned the only offence he had clearly committed was to discharge a firearm in public.  Louis Laroche was bailed to appear at a later date, when Miss Sinclair would also be called to give her evidence in person. Bail was set at £50 and the unhappy lover released.

[from The Morning Post, Friday, June 23, 1876]

Household tension almost ends in the tragic loss of two young lives

Tensions within households that live close together can always end in angry confrontations, harsh words and sometimes violence. In a period which valued honour (however misplaced that concept was on occasion) more than perhaps we do today these tensions could escalate with tragic consequences. Mostly this meant that quarrels between  men of the elite or upper middling sorts ended in pistol duels at dawn in a quiet park or other open space. In this case a slight to someone’s ‘good name’ ended in a full jury trial at Old Bailey.

in June 1833 Sarah Parry was a servant at Highgate but was staying with her sister in Hammersmith when a young man came to their house. He was Charles Reynolds and Sarah had known him when he also worked for the same employer, a Mr Wetherell, a few months ago. Charles had left, and it would seem he left under a cloud.

He entered the kitchen where the two women were and brandished a pistol. He pulled two more guns from his coat and told Sarah and her sister Elizabeth that they “had injured his character to his parents”  and that they would  “suffer for it”.

Quite what the nature of that injury was is not made clear but it was serious enough for Charles to threaten both their lives and his own. He told the terrified women that he was going to kill them both and then take his own life. A bell rang outside the house and Elizabeth told him to be quiet as people were coming. He shot Sarah and must then have shot himself.

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St. George’s Hospital (c.1745)

The case came before the magistrate at Queen’s Square where the court was told that neither Charles nor Sarah could appear as they were both still recovering from wounds in St George’s hospital. Sarah was out of danger and able to ‘converse rationally’ although it was later revealed that she had lost the index finger of her left hand.

Reynolds was in a much worse state. He had tried to shoot himself in the head but the ball had glanced off and taken out his left eye. In despair he had tried jumping out of a window to finish himself off but only managed to bruise himself. In hospital he told his surgeon that he hoped “the wretch is dead” before adding: “You are trying to preserve me from one death, that I may suffer another.”

In that he was correct because the case eventually reached a jury who convicted him of wounding and attempted murder. The judge sentenced him to death but, at 19 years of age and a previous good character and in “the absence of malice or revengeful disposition” he was recommended to mercy.

[from The Morning Chronicle , Tuesday, July 2, 1833]