Monday 11 July 2016

George Landmann - starting school in Greenwich and some 'well mounted' muggers

George starts school  - and sees  - well mounted gentlemen muggers.

In 1789 the Landmann family left their house at the back of the Royal Military Academy and moved to Greenwich - or, as George says, Blackheath.  This house was somewhere  in the area which is now Westgrove Lane, but which house is not clear..

George was sent to school 'of which the Rev. Dr. Egan was the master'.  James Egan had apparently taken over 'The Royal Park Academy' from his father in law, Dr. Bakewell. Egan was interested in methods of teaching languages and encouraged boys to speak either Latin or French only in school but to do so in a way that 'divests instruction of harshness'.  It should be noted that as an adult George Landmann spoke several languages fluently.

George says that the school was 'close to the new church, at the corner of King Street, and is now converted into tea gardens'  - somewhere near the park gate at the top end of King William Street. George's 'new church' being St.Mary's which stood on the site now taken by William IV's enormous statue.

Having moved to Greenwich and enrolled at school George then launches into a series of descriptions of  muggings on Blackheath - some of which he appears to have witnessed.

1.He describes walking one Sunday afternoon on Chesterfield Walk at a time when many people are having an after dinner stroll.  Suddenly everyone turns towards The Green Man - then at the top of Blackheath Hill. They point to a horseman speeding down the hill 'leading to the lime kilns' - exclaiming 'there .. there.. do you see him'. It turns out that the inhabitant of one of the big houses alongside the park had been sitting on his garden wall reading a book when a 'gentleman mounted on a handsome horse' came up to him in a friendly sort of way.  When he got close 'the gentleman' whipped out a pistol threatening 'with the unpleasant necessity of scattering his brains amongst the rose bushes'.  The victim handed over his valuable at once and the assailant galloped off.

2. A few moments later a 'post chaise with two gentlemen, a lady and a manservant' arrived to say they had been robbed 'near the Rising Sun, by four armed men on foot'.

3. A few days later Paul Sandby arrived on the Landmann's doorstep - Sandby is of course the famous artist who was drawing master at the Royal Military Academy.  He had with him his very distressed daughter and had brought her to the Landmann's house to enable her to recover quietly.  They had had their watches stolen by a robber by the corner of Greenwich Park - 'at one o'clock in the daytime'.

4. Then - Major and Lady Emily Macleod were crossing Woolwich Common 'along the deep ditch' - by which I assume George means the ha ha in Ha Ha Road. 'A well mounted highwayman commanded the driver to stop or have his brains blown out'. The muzzle of his pistol was thrust into Lady Emily's face.  The Major however picked up a bottle of Cologne  and pushed it into the robber's face 'declaring in a voice of thunder that he would instantly shoot him'.  The robber ran off!!

- George does comment however that although there were lots of robberies 'particularly on the Lower Road' that there were very few murders.

5. Major Patterson of the Artillery ' a very rough muscular man' found it necessary while at a review of troops on Blackheath to take himself to a quiet corner and remove one of his boots. The robber who found him was 'well dressed, also well mounted' - and having removed Major Patterson's valuables galloped to the other side of the field to mingle with the crowd, secure from detection.

6. Once a month cash was sent to the army at Woolwich,. for whatever. This could be two or three thousand pounds and came in a post chaise with a pay clerk. To cross Blackheath it was escorted by six artillery men plus a non-commissioned officer.  The officer took up the rear and the soldiers went on either side with fixed bayonets and loaded muskets.

Note - that the robbers always have very very posh horses. No doubt they could afford them.

1 comment:

prBull said...

interesting post