Esoteric London

No. 560: Ravenscroft Street, E2

Posted in Food, Graffiti, Shops by esotericlondon on April 20, 2012

Ravenscroft Street, London, E2. Photo © Roger Dean 2012

Odd People in Odd Places or the Great Residuum – James Greenwood, 1883:

[…] a respectable pork butcher, whose business premises were in the neighbourhood of Leather Lane, Holborn, narrowly escaped serious damage, without in the least deserving it. The worthy tradesman had a large concern in the cheap sausage line of business. He had succeeded somehow in exactly hitting the taste of the inhabitants of the crowded locality, and the low price at which he supplied the savoury food caused his shop to overflow with customers. The demand was so great that the day was never long enough to prepare a supply, and from midnight until morning the gas was seen burning in his underground cellar, where was kept the chopping machine, the clattering of which was unceasing. It was too large a machine to be kept in motion by means of manual labour, and it was customary for the pork butcher to employ his horse for the purpose; but that animal falling sick, he was glad to borrow a horse for the purpose of any neighbour who would kindly lend him one. The only way by which bipeds and quadrupeds could descend from the back shop to the cellar was by the use of an inclined plane of planking, to which were nailed cross-pieces for the sake of firm foothold, and it was by this means the borrowed horse was lowered to the scene of its nocturnal labour.

But soon an ugly rumour got abroad. It was whispered that Blank, the butcher, used horseflesh in making his sausages. A dozen witnesses were ready to take oath, if necessary, that returning home late at night, and passing through the alley at the rear of Blank’s premises, they had seen a horse being smuggled in – a strange horse, and not in the least like Blank’s own. They had seen it blindfolded and dragged down to the cellar, where, without doubt, it was slaughtered, and its carcase disposed of in a way that was too obvious to be for a moment questioned. One witness had seen a grey horse being dragged to its doom, another a roan, a third a brown; but he whose testimony created the greatest amount of indignation and horror – though it would be difficult to tell why – was a man who was prepared to make solemn affidavit that, on the Wednesday night previous, he had spied a bony old jet-black horse, that had evidently seen long service in the funeral carriage line of business, being dragged to death, with a view to mincing its flesh to fill sausage skins. When it came to this the appalling whisper rapidly grew to an ominous growl, and it was privately planned that Blank’s place should be watched that night, and that an attacking force should be awaiting in readiness to inflict summary vengeance against the rascally sausage-maker if the heinous offence he was charged with could be proved against him.

The scheme was followed out. Two trusted conspirators were posted at a window overlooking Mr. Blank’s back premises, and about one in the morning they hurried to their friends with the intelligence that another horse had been consigned to the cellar for sacrifice. A white animal this time, and one to the skin of which they could swear in the event of their arriving too late to discover it whole and alive. An exasperated company of women and men, armed with bars and bludgeons, and thirsting for vengeance, hastened to the pork butcher’s premises, and storming the cellar door, burst in on the amazed sausage-makers, and on the old white horse, who, attached to the shaft of the chopping machine, was slowly performing the task it was hired for.

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