Eunice and Ron Shanahan have shared with readers of the Victorian Web this material from their website, Letters from the Past. Click on thumbnails for larger images (not all are linked to larger ones).

I was not able to find out any information about the writers of the letter, John and Mary Bing, nor of Joseph Allington of Yoxall — the addressee. The Stafford Local History Group (Bevan Penkridge, Hon. treasurer) can find no record of him in Yoxall, but they are still looking. However, the death of Dr. Blick (as mentioned by Mary Bing in this letter), was noted by a death notice — "...Dr. Blick thrown from his gig....dies on railway bridge..." — in The Times of London on Tuesday 21 August 1838:

"On Saturday evening last, in consequence of an accident, in the 55th year of his age, Dr. W. F. Blicke, of Marsh-street, Walthamstow, and on the half-pay of the staff-surgeons of the army."

Further information about this man was given to me by Mark Harris of London: according to W. Houghton, Walthamstow: Its Highways and Byways (Walthamstow Antiq Soc Occ Publicns no. 1, 1937, p.9,) Dr. Blicke was then the principal medical practitioner in Walthamstow. He was thrown from his gig and killed on the railway bridge shortly after it was opened. Dr Blick/Blicke is variously recorded as William Flamank Blick(e) and WIlliam Hamank Blick(e). According to the Army List, he was assistant surgeon to the 86th Regiment of Foot from May 1805, transferred to the 10th Regiment of Foot as surgeon in 1812, and went onto the half-pay list (i.e. left the army) in 1813.

How did they come to know of it so soon in Rotherhithe (Surrey),when it occurred at Walthamstow in Essex? Nick Hudd suggested that the speed of news travelling was probably because a man could walk from one place to the other in a few hours, even taking in The Times office on the way. It is about five miles, and about seven miles via London Bridge. A man on a horse would do it in a lot less than an hour.

Concerning the location of the yard in Rotherhithe, I was directed to this website by Jessica Sheetz-Nguyen. It is a brilliant map of the area which can be zoomed right into the area of St Mary's church, Rotherhithe. She advised, "I think it is located just off of Brunel's Thames Tunnel in close proximity to a Charity School and the Burial Ground. This view is based on Greenwood's 1827 map, and the 1894 Ordnance Survey Map VII 88. I doubled checked both maps against each other, and yes, there it is."

Les Butler of Rotherhithe kindly took the trouble to look up these people in his local parish records and give me information about John and Mary Bing, and their connection with the Charity School in Rotherhithe. This all relates to the paragraphs written by Mary Bing, where I wondered how the news could have reached them so quickly — this is the information as Les Butler gave it to me:

Walthamstow is now part of East London (north of the river), not a great distance from Rotherhithe. There was a fairly direct route to London Bridge, across then eastwards towards Rotherhithe — I'd say this could be ridden in around three hours at a comfortable pace and allowing for the bustle of the bridge area; though likely the regular mail could have delivered the news of William Blick within a day.

At this time Rotherhithe was still virtually an island, having two swing-bridges connecting it to the rest of Bermondsey/ Southwark. 95% of the industry in Rotherhithe was shipbuilding and breaking, and trades directly allied to this. It was (and still remains) a secular, almost independent part of Southwark. Up to this time (1838) it had been a wealthy area with much open space and garden meadows, the occupied areas being only along the riverfront. Booth's Poverty Map some years later shows a more densely populated area, people having been drawn to the tanning industry of neighbouring Bermondsey, and the new railway which had a major terminus in that area — this had attracted the construction workers who settled in both areas. By 1889 Bermondsey and Rotherhithe had many poor districts (more so in the former) - things have become better since.

Left: The charity school, Rotherhithe. Middle left: St. Mary's viewed from the steps of the school. Right middle: John Bing 1850 Right: St. Mary's 1824

From Mary Bing's letter: John and Mary Bing were, at that time, caretakers of the charity 'free' school opposite St. Mary's Church, Rotherhithe. They were employed by the Parish Guardians, who met in the church. They resided on the top floor of the school. The church was responsible for the well being of the school and the pupils (about 10), whose fees were paid by charitable donation. The school had a 'watch-house' attached for the security of the immediate area. It remains today as it was back then. The present occupiers are a private firm, with the 'watch-house' is now a tea-room. The church too is as it was. Both are in a conservation area.

Dr W. Blick was related to Edward Blick, who was vicar at St. Mary's Church at this time. Both are famous around here for having instituted several charitable institutions and schools in the area, especially the 'free' school. A block of community flats are named after Edward (Blick House), and there is a monument to W. Blick in the grounds of the church - I haven't read the inscription but I think it is where he was buried. The Blick memorial

I spoke today with the curator of the Rotherhithe Picture Library, which is just to the right of St. Mary's church. This establishment records the history of the Parish in pictures - drawings, engravings, watercolour, etc, and has thousands of images going back many hundreds of years. He told me that as caretaker of the school, Mr Bing would have been responsible for the grounds of the church also, and would include the burial grounds left of the school.

He would have been working these grounds — most likely doing a combination of gardening, clearing debris, general cleanliness, handyman — during regular school time. This would have been his main job, with residence in the school offered in return for its 'out of hours' security — the church owned the school. On the 1746 map the burial plot is termed "grounds", as per usual terminology, though it was (and still is) called locally "The Burial Yard" Today there are a few old grave stones, but it has been a children's playground/ garden for some years. Mary Bing would likely have been employed full-time as cook/cleaner at the school.

For further information about St Mary's Church Rotherhithe contact Les Butler, Parish of St. Mary's, Rotherhithe, London SE16 (previously Surrey), UK" or e-mail him directly. Les advised that his sources of information are basically his own local research at

Southwark Local History Library, Borough High Street, SE1
Rotherhithe Picture Library, St. Mary Church Street, SE16
St. Mary's Church Archives, St. Mary's Church, SE16

and the papers

St. Mary's Parish Board of Guardians Minute Books 1707-1890.
Churchwardens Accounts, St. Mary's, Rotherhithe.
Rotherhithe Poor Law Records to 1900.
Rotherhithe Vestry Minutes 19th Century.
Rotherhithe Workhouse Record to 1890
Various local newspaper articles of the period.

I am extremely grateful to Les for his taking the time and trouble to research this for me, to enable this information to be added to the web page. It certainly brings history to life, and without the 'interconnectedness' of the internet, I would not have known these records were available.

If you are able to add any information please e-mail me, I would like to hear from you.

Last modified

Last modified 25 October 2005