No. 895: Chelsea Embankment, SW3
Chelsea Embankment Gardens, Chelsea Embankment, London, SW3. Photo © Roger Dean, 2013
The Times – April 11, 1855:
A young man in petticoats, who gave the name of Smith, but who, on being subsequently held to bail, described himself as Thomas Francis Druce, a brewer, of Chelsea, was charged with visiting the Holborn Casino in female costume.
The appearance of the defendant created no little amusement in court, for the delusion was almost perfect. He had been to the expense of providing himself with a wig of long black hair, dressed in the approved style of the period, and surmounted by the popular “roll,” or crescent curl, a fashionable bonnet being suspended in the rear. He was also supplied with rouge, and other articles of the toilet, and, although the effect of a night’s confinement in the cell, coupled with the returning beard of morn, had somewhat marred the feminine aspect of his face, as exhibited in court, it was stated that the defendant’s “make up” on the previous night was such as to defy detection.
It appeared, however, from the statement of Inspector Walsh, the chief officer on duty at the Casino, that it was the manner, rather than the appearance of the defendant that suggested a suspicion as to his being a real woman. Unlike the ladies who frequent the gay saloon in question, there was a certain coyness and awkward reserve about the defendant which made him, her, or it, an object of special remark; and when the inspector observed that it took no part in the dance, and scrupulously avoided the society of gentlemen, the experienced officer came to the conclusion at once that it was no woman. He accordingly adopted some pretext for addressing the defendant, and having after some difficulty – a circumstance in itself suspicious – elicited an answer in an ill-disguised masculine voice, he felt perfectly assured of the imposition, and consequently took him into custody.
The defendant pleaded “Guilty” to the soft impeachment, and said he had only done it for a lark.
[The bust in the photograph above is of Ralph Vaughan Williams. The work of Marcus Cornish it can be found in Chelsea Embankment Gardens which is sandwiched between the embankment itself and Cheyne Walk where the composer had his studio at number 13. He composed the Lark Ascending amongst other symphonies whilst living at the address.
The full article in The Times from which the above extract was taken can be read at www.victorianlondon.org. R.D.]