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Story Of London

London Ladies

London Ladies
Posted on Jun 11, 2002 – 01:34 PM by Bill McCann

Notes and anecdotes about the ladies of London who have not made it into the major history books.


Madam Cresswell
In the 1660s a celebrated procuress who operated in the neighbourood of St Paul’s was one madame Cresswell. She was many times a prisoner in Bridewell a “house of correction for idle, vagrant, loose and disorderly persons, and ‘night walkers’, who are there set to hard labour, but receive clothes and diet“. She died in that institution and when her will was read it was found that she desired to have a sermon preached at her funeral, for which the preacher was to have the not inconsiderable sum of £10. However, there was a condition, the preacher was to say nothing but what was well of her. Her notoriety was so great that there was considerable difficulty in finding a preacher to do this. However, one was eventually found who agreed to undertake the task. After a sermon on the general subject of morality he concluded by saying:By the will of the deceased, it is expected that I should mention her, and say nothing but what was well of her. All that I shall say of her, therefore, is this: She was born well, she lived well and she died well; for she was born with the name of Cresswell, she lived in Clerkenwell and she died in Bridewell.The bequest was duly paid over.Mrs. Abigail Vaughan

Abigail Vaughan who was buried in the churchyard of St Martin Outwich in the medieval period, left 4s. a year to buy faggots with which to burn heretics. When the church was demolished in 1874 her remains were removed, with others from the churchyard, to Ilford Cemetery.

Mrs Mary Yates

Mary, wife of Joseph Yates, died at the age of 128 on August 2nd 1776. She was born in Shifnal in Shropshire. When London was being rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666 she walked, at the age of 18, the 130 miles or so to seek a husband and her fortune in the new city. In her ninety second year she married her third husband and was described as still “hearty and strong” at the age of 120.

Margaret SullivanJeremiah Grace and Margaret Sullivan were convicted, in 1788, of colouring copper coins to make them look like silver. Both were condemned to death and sentenced to be hanged at Newgate. Grace was hanged first and then Sullivan was brought out. She was dressed in black andattended by a priest of the Roman persuasion. As soon as she came to the stake she was placed on a stool, which after some time was taken from under her, and after being strangled, the faggots were placed around her, and being set fire to, she was consumed to ashes.This was the last occasion in England that hanging was followed by burning.Mrs FitzherbertOn April 19, 1782, died Mrs. Fitzherbert, relict of the late Rev. Mr. F. of Northamptonshire. On the Wednesday evening before her death, this lady went to Drury-lane Theatre in company with some friends, to see the Beggar’s Opera. On Mr. Bannister’s making his appearance in the character of Polly, the whole audience were thrown into an uproar of laughter; unfortunately the actor’s whimsical appearance had a fatal effect on Mrs. Fitzherbert. She could not suppress the laugh that seized her on the first view of this enormous representation; and before the second act was over, she was obliged to leave the theatre. Mrs F. not being able to banish the figure from her memory, was thrown into hysterics, which continued without intermission until Friday morning, when she expired.