PREPOSTEROUS PRESENTS

On the 8th December 1994 the Islington Gazette covered the story of my discovery under the heading ‘Mystery under the floorboards’ with a sub heading of ‘Strange package poses questions’ and Daniel Faoro photographed the various items and  produced  a postcard for sale in the shop with the title of ‘Mystery 1886’. In 2006 Marion J Glazebrook bought a copy of the postcard and expressed interest in researching the story. She did this in impressive detail with the results being published in two parts in the Islington Archaeology and History Society’s Newsletters Winter 2006 and Spring 2007.

The Horton family were traced in the 1877 Post Office Directory where it was found that a Chas W. Horton who was a tobacconist worked and lived at 330, Upper Street and in the 1881 census he was listed with a wife Mary Ann and a maid servant. 330, Upper Street was next to The Fox Public House at Islington Green so at some time between 1881 and 1886 Mr. Horton and his wife had moved their business and place of residence from 330 to 262, Upper Street. Mr. Horton had taken over an established business at 330 so it was puzzling why he would want to move to the other end of Upper Street which has always been less sought after.

Research now moved to the London Metropolitan Archives at Hanwell where in the crumbling heavy leather ledgers an Admission 7801 was listed for Mary Ann Horton, aged 47, housewife of 262, Upper Street, Islington, N. on 31st July 1886. There was a Medical Certificate showing that Mary had been admitted suffering from severe mental illness. There was also a letter from a Dr. Russell Beardmore of 125, Upper Street stating that Mrs. Horton had been under his care at intervals for four years. It added that she suffered from nervous depression and that after being turned out of their house and business by the Board of Works in order to make some improvements in the road she made up her mind that it meant their ruin.

There had been plans to widen Upper Street since 1879 but getting the necessary permissions and acquiring the properties to make it possible took until the beginning of 1886. Mary had been unable to cope with the prospect of losing their home and livelihood and having to start all over again somewhere else and it would seem that shortly after moving to 262 in early 1886 she had gone missing and ended up at the Asylum in Hanwell. This explains why Mr. Horton was sent the original letter telling him where his wife was.

So this turned out to be a tragic episode in the life of a desperate women, rather than a story with sinister overtones. The significance of the hidden cut throat razor has not been explained but Mary was discharged from the Asylum in 1887 and returned to live at 262, and was known to have suicidal tendencies so it may have been hidden for her own safety.

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