son of a lion tamer

Charles Peace was the son of a one legged lion tamer.


“Charlie taught himself to play tunes on a violin with one string, and at entertainments which he attended was described as “the modern Paganini” but his main occupation was burglary. After serving time in prison for breaking and entering he earned a living first as a picture framer and later as the proprietor of  an ‘eating-shop’ with his wife Hannah.

On 1876 he committed his first murder by shooting a policeman. A few months later he shot a neighbour with whom he had a long-running feud. A price of £100 was put on his head and a description circulated:


Charles Peace wanted for murder. He is thin and slightly built, five feet four inches or five feet high; grey (nearly white) hair, beard and whiskers. He lacks use of three fingers of left hand, walks with his legs rather wide apart, speaks somewhat peculiarly as though his tongue were too large for his mouth, and is a great boaster.

Peace had lost one of his fingers. He said that it had been shot off by a man with whom he had quarrelled, but it was believed to be more likely that he had himself shot it off accidentally in handling one of his revolvers. It was to conceal this obvious means of identification that Peace made himself the false arm which he was in the habit of wearing. This was of gutta percha, with a hole down the middle of it into which he passed his arm; at the end was a steel plate to which was fixed a hook; by means of this hook Peace could wield a fork and do other dexterous feats.


While on the run he met Susan Gray Adamson. With characteristic insistence Peace declared his passion for Susan by threatening to shoot her if she did not become his. Together they moved to London where he set up two houses, one to live in with his mistress while his wife and child moved into the adjoining one.

He described himself as a gentleman of means and tinkered with inventions,  patenting a machine which raised sunken vessels. At the same time he was carrying out successful burglaries on a regular basis. Just before his final capture Peace was engaged on other inventions, among them a smoke helmet for firemen, an improved brush for washing railway carriages, and a form of hydraulic tank.


Charles was caught trying to escape from police in 1878. During his murder trial he again attempted an escape, this time from the train that was bringing him to court.

He had been making excuses to leave the carriage whenever the train stopped. To obviate this nuisance the two warders had provided little bags which Peace could use when he wished and then throw out of the window. Just after the train passed Worksop, he asked for one of the bags. When the window was lowered to allow the bag to be thrown away, he took a flying leap through it. One of the warders caught him by the left foot, leaving him hanging from the carriage for two miles while struggling to escape. At last he succeeded in kicking off his left shoe, and dropped on to the line. The train ran on another mile until the warders were able to get it stopped. They immediately hurried back, and found their prisoner lying on the footway, apparently unconscious and bleeding from a severe wound in the scalp.


All this was to no avail as he recovered enough to be sentenced to death for the murder of his ex-neighbour. Charles had a last hearty breakfast of salty bacon and quarrelled with the preacher over his poor choice of bible readings as he led him to the gallows.


Published in: on April 14, 2010 at 8:24 am  Comments (41)  
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41 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. So the bacon did kill him…what an ass. Peace out.

  2. haha… oh yeah, Peace out alright.

  3. quite the crazy guy.

    • His defense lawyer tried that angle…..

  4. Deliciously told.

  5. proving once and for all that a one-stringed violin is a gateway instrument…

  6. Was his dad one legged before or after he got into lion taming??

  7. History lesson and Career Advice indeed. Duly noted – will not plan escape from moving train window, if do, must practice correct maneuver so as to not land on head.

  8. Women always go for the bad boys. Why is that? At least I agree with his last meal.

  9. One legged lion tamer, eh? Sounds like the perfect C.V. for our little outfit.

  10. The police certainly provided a vivid description.

    • Sound like someone you know Don?

  11. I’d be willing to bet that he wasn’t very good at picture framing.

    Matt Board

  12. What a shame – a genius of invention destroyed by his evil “other half.”

  13. Gosh, the old days were so much more interesting than I ever imagined.

  14. That’s crazy but that’s exactly how I proposed to my wife too…by threatening to shoot her. Pretty successful tactic I guess.

    • But she’s still with you right? Your charm must have won her over in the end 😉

      • indeed she is.

  15. You know, I wouldn’t have thought that taming a one-legged lion would be all that difficult.

    • He had very big teeth

  16. Oooh…I want that briefcase. It would be fun to take into all the Vegan places around here…

  17. I think I married his mothers daughter… it was the bandy legs and missing fingers that gave it away.

    • 😆 😀 😆

  18. He’s definitely an interesting character. There was a long running strip in one of the comis I read as a kid in the early 70s called the astounding adventures of Charlie Peace based on his life.

    There’s a pic here

    • we glorified Ned Kelly over here too

  19. damn…that’s a wicked looking prosthetic and that last image of a bacon bag…too funny!

  20. Hmmm… so that’s why my courting efforts never work. I haven’t done them while holding a woman at gunpoint.

    Oh, and you don’t check the bacon bag at the airport. That’s a carry-on.

  21. Criminals seemed so much more colorful back then. Only the “Hockey Player Whiskey Robber of Budapest” seems a match:

    • That is an amazing story Dan!

  22. An “eating-shop.” Wonder how that differs from a restaurant?

    • Have you seen Sweeney Todd?

  23. I can only imagine how I might have turned out if I was the daughter of a one legged lion tamer… That sort of weirdness could lead one to violence. Sorry it had to be that way. Who wants to visit the gallows?

  24. This is one of the most interesting, entertaining, and different blogs I have yet seen. Keep up the brilliant work.

  25. Old Charlie sure knew how to sweet talk a girl! He tried to conceal his identity with that contraption?

  26. Ahh story of my life

  27. What a scene to be dzngling from a train for who knows how long, trying to escape, only to land on your head and still get caught. Too funny!!!

  28. Very good Career Advice!

    • I thought so 😉

  29. Wow dude, that’s some weird shit.

  30. It’s a strange thing but even as a child in the sixties we’d be warned into behaving ourselves with the words: “Charlie Peace will come and get you!”

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