December 6, 2007 at 3:15 pm (Medway, Rochester, Rochester Cathedral)

I was flicking through a copy of a 1936 book called 50 True Stories Stranger Than Fiction, a volume including stories with titles like ‘He Laughed At Death’, ‘Dope In Chinatown’ and ‘Lynch Law In The West‘, when I found this marvellous passage in a story by “Lord” George Sanger, the eccentric 19th Century circus entrepeneur entitled The Circus People Take Revenge.

He is describing an attack on a travelling show when it appeared in Bath, but extends his observations to take in a wider view: “I have, by the way, noticed that most cathedral cities – and in Britain I have visited them all – show remarkable contrasts in regard to their populations. At the top you have all that is best in the way of piety and learning, all that is enviable in the way of ease and dignity. At the bottom you will find dirt, degradation, misery and evil of the most appalling kinds. Why this should be I cannot say, but I have certainly observed it.

The flashing blue lights and streams of blood and urine on Rochester High Street on a Friday and Saturday night bear out his observations. Sanger was eventually murdered by an “insane employee” in East Finchley in 1911.



  1. NickP said,

    Purely by coincidence I am writing about Sanger these days. He lived in a farmhouse on East End Road, between East Finchley and Finchley Church End. It is now a street of 1950s houses. The employee in question eventually killed himself by placing his head on the railway track close to Alexandra Palace station. I don’t want to reveal too much as the research is for a book (due out next August) but one interesting fact is that Sanger kept his elephants in a pound in the farm grounds – now the site of part of the Hampstead Garden Suburb. When I tell locals that elephants once wandered around in the area they think I am talking about mammoths!

  2. hiddenmedway said,

    That’s brilliant! I presume that this chapter is taken from his “Seventy Years A Showman”, which I furthermore presume you already own. However if I am wrong I would be happy for you to have this book – it’s no great shakes, but if it proves useful I’d be happy to pass it on through our mutual friend.

  3. NickP said,

    No. The information came via searching through old copies of the Hendon and Finchley Times, police records at Kew and fillets of info passed to me by local historians. I do have some quotes from the book included in an old Pelican about the Victorian criminal underground.

  4. hiddenmedway said,

    I was presumtious with all that presuming… well the offer still stands.

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