three sausages but no umbrella

In 1852, Dr John Newman publicly charged Father Hyacinth Achilli with the grossest acts of profligacy. Achilli retaliated by accusing Newman of libel.


“There is a piquant peculiarity in this case; both plaintiff and defendant are apostates from their original faith. Father Achilli was a Roman Catholic priest and now is a Protestant, while Dr Newman is one of that chosen band, who after halting a while at Puseyism, took refuge in the bosom of the Catholic Church. The trial has been a perfect bonne bouche for lovers of prurient detail as the evidence of witnesses to Father Achilli’s profligacy lasted three whole days.


The first Italian witness was Elena Giustini. “Dr Achilli deflowered me in the sacristy” she said. Asked if there were any presents, she replied “He gave me a silk handkerchief, which was older than himself. And three sausages. He also promised an umbrella but it never materialised

Sausage Queen

Four Italian and three English women claimed to have been debauched in Achilli’s sacristy. Remarkably, he still won his libel case though Newman’s fine was a token £100.00.

Fast forward to 1990, when Thomas Tyler, the Vicar of Henfield, was in the news for conducting an affair with the wife of one of his church wardens. He reputedly guided the woman’s hand under his cassock, placed it on his erect penis and said “You see what an exciting girl you are” which began a ten year romp in the vicarage and in the back of Tyler’s Ford Cortina.


But when he took a new mistress, 32 year old Barbara Edwards, the spurned woman broke her story to the Bishop of Winchester. Tyler then found himself in front of a consistory court charged with conduct unbecoming to a clerk in holy orders. The colour of his pubic hair, the location of a pimple, the circumcised state of his penis and the general age and bagginess of his underwear were all discussed in front of a judge. The difficulty of the pimple was never resolved. Both Mr and Mrs Tyler insisted his underwear was always tight and white.


The vicar was found guilty then and also at a subsequent appeal. He still had many supporters who sympathised with his case. Not so Stephen Edwards, husband of the second mistress. He punched poor Tom in his much discussed private parts and narrowly avoided prosecution for assault.

Published in: on August 16, 2010 at 7:58 am  Comments (42)  
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two kippers and a bottle of gin

If I were a real nurse and if the Gimcrack were a real hospital, I would have liked Marion Wrottesley as a patient….

“At the age of seven Marion was shipped off to England, but her education at a girls’ school in the Cotswolds was swiftly terminated when an aunt heard another pupil say “Pardon”. She was transferred to the more exclusive Felixstowe Ladies’ College, where she learnt to dance and play the piano.


Back in Shanghai in 1940, aged only 17, she married Sean Rainey, an Irishman then serving as a private in the Seaforth Highlanders. This was partly a strategic move to get out of China: the Raineys duly moved to Bangalore. Here two children were born, and young Mrs Rainey served briefly as recruiting officer for the Black Watch while learning about “the sins of gin” and how to mix dry martinis.


Such skills made her welcome when she arrived as a young divorced woman in austere post-war London and fell in with upper-class rebels such as the Labour minister’s daughter Lydia Noel-Burton, who always carried on her person two kippers and a bottle of gin.

Gin and Tonic Cupcakes

In 1949 Marion met an Old Harrovian, Dick Wrottesley, in the Bag of Nails nightclub. The heir to Lord Wrottesley reputedly locked her in the lavatory until she had agreed to marry him.

In spite of blissful summers at Wrottesley, near Wolverhampton, where the family had lived for 900 years, and the birth of their son Mark, the marriage broke down quickly. Dick Wrottesley had already told his wife: “I only married you for your tarty qualities.”


In the early 1960s Marion returned penniless to “Swinging London” where, in 1964, her son Michael would open the fashionable outfitters Hung on You in Chelsea Green. At the reception following Michael Rainey’s marriage to Jane Ormsby-Gore, Marion was assured by the bride’s father, Lord Harlech, that his own family was “full of pisspots”. On learning that Brian Jones and Keith Richards were also present, she declared: “I must find myself a Rolling Stone.”


During this era Marion also formed a close bond with her playboy stepson Richard Wrottesley, who first hit the headlines in 1966 when his Bentley was found upside down in the snow outside the Palace Hotel at St Moritz. At his regency-style flat in St James’s Street, young “Wrotters” introduced his stepmother to his less respectable friends, such as the East End gangsters Ronald and Reginald Kray.

Reggie Kray with Shirley Bassey

For the remainder of her life, Marion Wrottesley lived mainly in bedsitters in Chelsea, Kensington, Earl’s Court and further afield. Though a gifted story-teller she never gave in to pressure to write her memoirs. Instead she flourished on National Assistance (her card was crudely marked “Alcoholism”) and became a character in London pubs where she began the day with Fernet Branca or Carlsberg Special.

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 8:52 am  Comments (42)  
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corset friday 13.08.2010

Published in: on August 13, 2010 at 7:55 am  Comments (41)  
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drunkards to the left, dancing parsons to the right


I found this strange list of the offences of naughty clerics and scandalous priests here

Alston, Edward, Parson of Pentìoe in Essex hath attempted the chastity of some women, and hath used very unchaste demeanours towards other women, snatching a handkerchief from one, and thrusting it into his breeches, and forcing her hand after it, and putting his yard into her hand, pulling up the coates of another, and thrusting his hand into the placket of another.

Dale, Curthbert, Rector of Kettleburrough, Suffolk, “ is a common swearer and curser, &c, hath read the Book of sports on the Lords day. And seeing a stranger in the Church put on his hat in sermon time, he openly then called him a saucy unmannerly clown, and the next Lords day took occasion in his Sermon again to speak of him being then absent, and to call him a saucy Goose, idiot, a wigeon, a cuckoo, and is a common Ale-house and Tavern haunter, and hath been often drunk, and frequently in his Pulpit, upbraideth his Parishioners, calling them Knaves, Devils, Rascals, Rogues, and Villains.

Gordon, John, Rector of Ockley, Sussex, “a common haunter of Ale-houses and Taverns, sitting and tippling there, night after night, and hath spent the whole Sabbath there, so that no Service nor Sermon was in his Church.

Hannington, Henry, Vicar of Hougham, Kent, a common and notorious drunkard, and oft, lying dead drunk in highways, and hath continued so for the space of twenty years and upwards, and useth to sing in his cups in the alehouse bawdy songs, and administered the Sacrament when drunk. And when he read the Book of Sports on the Lords day, there was Beer laid on in his Barn, and dancing and drinking there that day, and to give them the more time for it, he dismissed the Congregation with a few prayers, and left off preaching in the afternoon.

Shepard, Robert, of Hepworth, Suffolk, “a common drunkard, and frequenter of Taverns and Alehouses, lying and continuing drunk in the said houses diverse nights, sometimes twice or thrice a week, and is greatly suspected of incontinency, having had diverse maid-servants depart from his house great with child. And in his catechising and preaching, calls his parishioners black-mouthed hell-hounds, Firebrands of Hell, Bawling dogs and Church-Rollers.

Wells, John, Parson of Shimplyn, Suffolk, ” for that he is a common Alehouse haunter and common drunkard, and in his drunkenness hath lain abroad in the fields, lost his hat, fallen into ditches, and so bemired himself, that he hath been faine to be washed, and hath attempted the chastity of diverse women, and sold his Calves for kisses with them, and having locked himself up in a chamber in an inn with a lewd woman, after a long time the door was broken open upon him, upon his refusal to unlock it, and he was found in a very suspicious manner upon a bed with her.

image by Paul Avril

Published in: on August 11, 2010 at 8:11 am  Comments (40)  
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occupation: enviable

Nubar Gulbenkian (1896-1972) was an eccentric British/Turkish oil magnate.

Gulbenkian’s long beard, monocle and the orchid in his buttonhole which was replaced daily led to him becoming noted for a fairly eccentric life, with a number of stories building up around his name. Indeed his character was summed up by an associate who claimed that “Nubar is so tough that every day he tires out three stockbrokers, three horses and three women“. He was a regular face on the international playboy scene.

A known gourmet, he was quoted as saying that ‘the best number for a dinner party is two – myself and a damn good head waiter.’ Other stories attached to his name include giving his position in life on a market research form as ‘enviable’.

When his mother died in 1952, he and his wife wore black for the next 12 months and refrained from eating in public places. He even had his dark bronze car, the bonnet of which was modelled on the Parthenon, painted black, and its upholstery changed to a more sombre colour. More on his cars here

Naturally his Rolls-Royces were as flamboyant as he was. The first, christened Pantechnicon, was built in 1947 and looked like the unfortunate progeny of a liaison between a Rolls and a Wehrmacht Panzer tank, with its faired-in wheels and front grille.

His next, built in 1952, was a four-door cabriolet that was also used by the Queen on a visit to Nigeria. He replaced it with another Hooper Sedanca Deville with full, sage-green, lizard-skin trim – and that included the steering wheel and grab handles modelled to look like lizards’ tails. In 1987 it starred as Uncle Monty’s car in the cult film Withnail and I.


The most dramatic of the Gulbenkian Rolls-Royces was the car built in 1956, again by Hooper, and fitted with a transparent Perspex hardtop strangely reminiscent of FAB1 from Thunderbirds. Gulbenkian planned to use the car only on the Côte d’Azur, so inside the hardtop was an electrically operated sun shade that, along with the air-conditioning, kept the interior at a reasonable temperature. Among its many luxuries were electric windows, a stereo radio and even a television set – quite something in 1956. He sometimes used it, posing along the Monte Carlo coastal roads, but by the 1980s it had fallen into disuse and languished in the basement of his club, where customers would sit in it as they enjoyed their drinks.


In 1965, he had a special taxi constructed to his own design. Several personalities have taken to taxis in the name of anonymity – the Duke of Edinburgh still does – but there was nothing low-key about this one. The front panels were more or less standard Austin FX4 (the old-style taxi that you still see today) but from the windscreen back it was designed like a miniature limousine with definite Victorian hansom cab overtones.

The driver’s compartment was open to the elements and carriage lights were fitted either side, just in front of the rear doors. The whole rear compartment was styled along the lines of a horse-drawn brougham, with real wickerwork panels. It had a Lalique bonnet mascot and gold-plated door handles.

Gulbenkian liked the cab’s tight turning circle when he was being driven around London. “It turns on a sixpence,” he once boasted. “Whatever that is.”

“Ten Shillings and Sixpence” found here

Published in: on August 10, 2010 at 8:12 am  Comments (45)  
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all but the disgusting dinner

When Verdi’s Aida was first performed, not everyone in the audience was enthralled….


Dear Signor Verdi,

On the second of this month, attracted by the sensation which your opera Aida was making, I went to Parma. I admired the scenery, listened with great pleasure to the excellent singers, and took pains to let nothing escape me. After the performance was over, I asked myself whether I was satisfied. The answer was “No.”


I returned to Reggio, and on the way back in the railroad carriage, I listened to the verdicts of my fellow travelers. Nearly all of them agreed that Aida was a work of the highest rank.

Thereupon I conceived a desire to hear it again, and on the 4th returned to Parma. I made the most desperate effort to obtain a reserved seat, and there was such a crowd that I was obliged to throw away five lire to see the performance in comfort.

I arrived at this decision: it is an opera in which there is absolutely nothing which causes any enthusiasm or excitement, and without the pomp of the spectacle, the public would not stand it to the end. When it has filled the house two or three times, it will be banished to the dust of the archives.

Now, my dear Signor Verdi, you can imagine my regret at having spent on two occasions 32 lire for these two performances. Add to this the aggravating circumstance that I am dependent on my family, and you will understand that this money troubles my rest like a terrible spectre. Therefore I address myself frankly so that you may send me the amount.


Here is the account:

Railroad: One way 2.60 lire

Railroad: Return trip 3.30 lire

Theater 8.00 lire

Detestable dinner at the station 2.00 lire


=15.90 lire Multiplied by 2= 31.80 lire

In the hope that you will extricate me from this embarrassment, I salute you from the bottom of my heart


Verdi’s reply, addressed to his publisher Ricordi May, 1872

As you may readily imagine, in order to save this scion of his family from the spectres that pursue him, I shall gladly pay the little bill he sends me. Be so kind, therefore, as to have one of your agents send the sum of 27 lire, 80 centesimi to this Signor Bertani. True, that isn’t the whole sum he demands, but for me to pay his dinner too would be wearing the joke a bit thin. He could perfectly well have eaten at home. Naturally, he must send you a receipt, as well as a written declaration that he promises never to hear another one of my new operas, so that he won’t expose himself again to the danger of being pursued by spectres, and that he may spare me further travel expenses!

Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 5:56 am  Comments (53)  
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corset friday 6/8/2010

all photos taken by syncopated eyeball

Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 8:00 am  Comments (36)  
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Time to straighten the record

On October 29, 1934, Elliott White Springs wrote a letter to Time, politely correcting some inaccuracies in a story they had printed about him.


“I found your report [TIME, Sept. 24] interesting. I am sure you want to keep your files accurate and suggest that they be changed slightly.

When I wish to dress up around the mills and wear a coat it is not of 1917 vintage, as you report, but was made in 1921. The straw-woven shoes are now no more, as at least a dozen old friends read your report and have supplied me with new pairs. The $20,000,000 with which I am credited is entirely a myth but since your article appeared I have received wires and letters from acquaintances of years gone by requesting immediate loans. I believe I am also safe in stating that I have been given the opportunity to finance at least half of the new inventions which have patents now pending.


To offset that, however, my social popularity has increased as much as if I had learned to play the piano, gotten rid of halitosis, used Lifebuoy, or spoken to the waiter in French. . . .

Upon my recent visit to the marts of trade and the fleshpots of Egypt, your assurances as to my financial stability caused such interest that I feel my days as a wallflower are over.

The fact that my wife read the article also and spent several days shopping upon the strength of it will have to be charged to the debit side.

Every tailor in the country now feels it is time for me to buy a new coat and I think it only fair that when I do so they should give TIME a commission on the business.”

On Monday October 8, 1934, they printed an article about Diamond Jim Brady and his collection of precious gems.

Besides such curios as a diamond-tipped cane, he owned 30 complete sets of jeweled cuff links, studs, tie pins, fobs, watch chains, etc. A railroad man, he enjoyed blazoning the fact by wearing what became one of his most famed diamond arrangements— the Transportation Set.

image from here. click to enlarge

Most amusing to today’s public was a design of a Pullman car which Mr. Brady liked to pin on his underwear. Almost two inches long were his freight and passenger car cuff links. A bicycle-shaped stud was reminiscent of the goldplated, diamond-studded bicycle he gave to Lillian Russell, who kept it in a plush case when she was not riding it.


But according to another letter to the editor penned by Lillian Russell’s daughter, Dorothy Russell Solomon de Castiglione Einstein O’Reilly Calvit, this fact was disputed.

My mother, Lillian Russell, was not even acquainted with Mr. Brady during the bicycle era. As for the vehicle itself, it had a goldplated handlebar with mother-of-pearl grips, no diamonds. The pedals were also goldplated. The bicycle was a gift from the Columbia Bicycle manufacturers in appreciation of the vast amount of publicity they derived from her using their product and because she had purchased so many of them, one for each member of the family. . . .

To Dorothy Russell Solomon de Castiglione Einstein O’Reilly Calvit, who won fame of her own by upsetting the will of her stepfather, the late Alexander Pollock Moore (TIME, May 4, 1931), thanks for a description of her mother’s bicycle. Confronted with it, Author Morell sticks to his story.


Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 8:03 am  Comments (36)  
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an awfully seeley dinner

We’ve been talking about classic old restaurants quite a lot lately at the Gimcrack. Here’s yet another New York institution from a bygone era.

In 1903, Cornelius Billing celebrated the completion of his $200,000 stable by holding a horseback dinner at Sherry’s. Thirty livery stable nags were coaxed one by one into the freight elevator and taken up to the grand ballroom on the fourth floor, where the host and his guests mounted them and dined off tables fastened to the animals’ withers. They drank champagne through rubber tubes connected to saddle bags hanging on the horses’ flanks.


Earlier, Sherry’s had been the scene of “The Awful Seeley Dinner” which scandalised New York and for a time tarnished the restaurant’s reputation. According to one source, hootchy-kootchy dancer, Little Egypt, was served naked in a pie. Rachel Shteir maintains she wore at least a semblance of clothing but it was something gauzy and diaphanous.

This raucous bachelor party for P T Barnum’s nephew, Herbert Seeley, was broken up in the wee hours of the morning by crusading policeman, Captain Chapman. The Seeleys brought him to trial before a police board for “conduct unbecoming to an officer of the law”. The trial of course was a media circus full of descriptions of what Little Egypt, whose real name was Annabel Whitford,  did or did not wear.

Annabelle Whitford 1894-1895

You can read more about her at this interesting site relating the history of sex in cinema. Did you know the first silent stag film was made in 1915? A Free Ride depicted a wealthy man having sex with two female hitchhikers by the side of the road.

And then there was Annette Kellerman…..

Australian-born swimming and diving champ Annette Kellermann (billed as “the Diving Venus”) had already gained attention for advocating the scandalous-at-the-time one-piece bathing suit. She caused a further stir when she was seen naked with her flowing hair under a waterfall – she was the first major female star to appear nude on screen.

Annette Kellerman being arrested for indecent exposure

At least she didn’t pop out of a pie…..

Published in: on August 3, 2010 at 7:58 am  Comments (33)  
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the oiling of a stiff key

What is it with men of the cloth and scandalous women? I’ve lost count of the number of rectors I’ve written about at the Gimcrack. Here’s another one from a village in Stiffkey, Norfolk.


Harold Francis Davidson, sometimes known as the “Prostitutes’ Padre“, was a Church of England priest who was defrocked in 1932 for his allegedly licentious lifestyle.

from:That Thin Line Productions

During the First World War he served as a Royal Navy chaplain. When he returned, his wife, Molly, whom he had married in October 1906 after a six-year engagement, was pregnant by another man. There was some pressure on him to leave her, but he refused, claiming marriage vows were for life.

In November 1930, Davidson was late back from London for the annual Remembrance Day service. Major Philip Hamond, who had disliked Davidson since he refused to allow him to be churchwarden in 1919 and had had several further altercations with him since, was ‘incandescent with rage’ and accused Davidson of doing it as an insult to the war dead. A complaint was made to Henry Dashwood, solicitor to the Church of England and adviser to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.

Dashwood then began investigating Davidson’s activities in London. He hired the Arrows Detective Agency to follow the rector and report his activities in London. The private detectives uncovered little; of the 40 girls they interviewed only one would say anything against him and then only when drunk (she recanted when sober).

from: Married to the Sea

His defence was that his work in London had been authorised by his bishop, and that only one had actually given evidence of immorality, she having been paid by the prosecution. He admitted to trying to help up to 1,000 girls with advice and sometimes money. The rector’s family including his daughter Patricia gave evidence that some of the girls had visited the family at Stiffkey and that neither she nor her mother had objected. The hearing lasted 26 days and attracted enormous crowds.

On 8 July Davidson was convicted on all charges. After he had exhausted his appeals, he was defrocked at Norwich Cathedral. Davidson then went to Blackpool to live off his notoriety. He would appear either in a barrel or being apparently roasted in an oven while a figure dressed as a devil prodded him with a pitchfork.


For the summer season in 1937 Davidson worked at Thompsons’ Amusement Park in Skegness, where he was billed as “A modern Daniel in a lion’s den”. He would enter a cage with a lion called Freddie and a lioness called Toto, and talk for about ten minutes about the injustice he felt had been meted out to him. On 28 July, he was moving through his act when he accidentally tripped on the tail of the lioness. Perceiving this as an attack, Freddie attacked and mauled him. Renee Somer, the 16-year-old lion attendant entered the cage and fought the lion back using a 3 ft whip and an iron bar.


Davidson was taken to Skegness Cottage Hospital with a neck injury and broken collar-bone and lacerations on his upper body. The lion had mauled him at the neck leaving a gash behind his left ear. The injury was not severe; the lion was old, toothless and sedated. He was recovering from his injuries and it was arranged that he should be taken back to London when his employer, a Captain Rye, sent private doctors to treat him. They diagnosed an advanced case of diabetes without testing him for the disease. They ordered insulin and supervised the injection themselves. The rector sank into a coma and died the next morning. Davidson’s widow refused to wear black and arrived for his funeral dressed in white. She wanted it to be a celebration of his amazing life.