Nether Fustian Continuations and a Drink for Desperate Men
Too often, I underestimate human ingenuity. I had never imagined, for example, that a man would wreath himself in cow-guts full of gin. But here I must admit my shortcomings, as a rather marvellous 1829 article in the Bucks Gazette (British Newspaper Archive, account required) shows. "A Respectable Man" covers the trial of John Hench, accused of smuggling said liquor into Whitecross-street, one of London's debtors prisons. This excerpt gives the character of the piece:
Demetrius Rogers, principal turnkey of that prison, produced five-yard long pieces of beef bowels filled with gin; and by his evidence it appeared that he had extracted all these fine, great, spirituous sausages, from the nether fustian continuations of John Hench - within which continuations they had been curiously suspended by loops and nooses of tape and packthread. Demetrius the turnkey, added moreover, that he knew John Hench well enough, and that John Hench well knew the consequences of this spirituous speculation of his; he having been for a long time, and until very lately, an inmate of the prison himself.
The full article in all its glory, with my transcription, is here (PDF).
I confess, I have no curiosity for John Hench, despite his having invented the curly straw. And I care neither for his colonic cocktails*, nor his nether fustian continuations, a garment best left unimagined. No, my person of interest here is Demetrius Rogers**, the turnkey at Whitecross-street debtors prison. He is (probably) the brother-in-law of William Stretch, my 4th great grandfather, and also the most mis-transcribed person in my tree. I've asked about him before, in 19th Century Debtors Prison Records, London.
So what do I know about Demetrius? According to the 1841 census, he was an Irishman, born around 1780. I don't know how or when he came to London. He married Mary Crawley in 1810, and was the landlord of the Falcon Inn, on Portpool Lane, London, in 1811. He found himself in Marshalsea debtors prison for at least several weeks in 1812, possibly transferring to King's Bench. A busy couple of years! Demetrius must have left prison by 1819, as he and Mary were witnesses to the marriage of William Stretch and Elizabeth Crawley then.
By 1835 Demetrius was running the Peacock Inn on Whitecross Street (just opposite the Whitecross-street debtors prison), and must have owned it, or a nearby house, as he appears in the 1837 Poll Books. He is in the 1841 census there, with Mary (and one of William Stretch's daughters) but transferred the licence in 1842, which presumably marks his retirement. Rogers died in 1850, leaving a tidy sum to Mary, but that may be a tale saved for another question.
Three of William's descendants were named Demetrius, presumably in Rogers' honour, so he does seem to have been an important man to my family. His widow Mary lived with our family after Demetrius' death, until her own passing 20 years later.
I've known much of this for a while, but this prison guard role is new to me. It helps fill the gap between Marshalsea in 1812 and the Peacock in 1835. It shows that Rogers remained in the world of debtors prisons, but as poacher turned gamekeeper. This man seems to have had a story, and that makes me want to know more.
There doesn't appear to be much information available on Whitecross-street prison (Wiki), particularly not about staff. There are administrative records listed at the LMA, which I may have to delve into next time I get to London, but there's little online.
Is there anywhere else I can look for information on debtors prison turnkeys and other staff, particularly those who may have been on the other side of the bars for a while? Was such a transition commonplace?
*I propose a new "a-slice-of-lemon-won't-help" tag for this.
**There could, of course, be more than one Demetrius Rogers in London at that time. But not many. Records are sparse, but do not suggest a multitude of Demetriuses. Or Demetrii.