Sunday, 5 July 2020

Debonair Detective Drew

This the story of a famous detective who lived in West Hampstead and some of his unusual cases.

The press called him ‘Debonair’ Drew as he was the best-dressed and most elegant detective in Scotland Yard. The underworld called him ‘Tricky’ Drew because they both admired and feared him due to his detection skills and the many disguises he adopted. Unfortunately, there are no good photos of him and this one is from a newspaper in 1908 where he is escorting a witness to court.


Edward Drew started his career at Vine Street on 21 November 1881 and had served 27 years in the Metropolitan Police when he retired in October 1908 aged 49. His pension record shows that he was born on 19 March 1859, in Bow East London. He was 5ft 11, with grey hair and hazel eyes. He received an annual pension of £224 (worth about £24,000 today). His father Timothy Drew was born in Ireland in 1815 and became a Metropolitan police constable who left the service in 1861.

By 1891 Edward Drew now a Detective Sergeant, was based at the Islington Police Station in Upper Street. Ten years later he was an Inspector in Marylebone living at 24 Nottingham Street. In 1906 Drew was promoted to Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard.

Drew, who should not be confused with DI Walter Dew, the man who arrested Dr Crippen in 1910, was involved in several high-profile cases.

The Marquess of Anglesey’s Jewels
Henry Paget was an eccentric young man. When his father died, he became the 5th Marquess of Anglesey and inherited an income of £110,000 a year (today worth an astonishing £12M), from the family’s large estates spread around the country.

Henry loved to spend money and he was obsessed with jewellery. He spent millions on fancy dress, strutted the streets with pink poodles and adapted his five luxury cars so perfume would billow from their exhausts. He wore make-up to perfect his pale complexion while adorning himself with glittering jewels. He was known as ‘Toppy’ or the ‘Dancing Marquess’ from his habit of performing ‘sinuous, sexy, snake-like dances’ at his elaborate parties.


On 20 January 1898 he married his cousin the beautiful Lily Chetwynd. He was 22 and she was 21. On their honeymoon in Paris when Lily stopped to admire the window display of jewels in Van Cleef and Arpels, he bought the whole display. He insisted that she wore them to the races and at night she had to undress and cover her naked body with emeralds and diamonds. As an innocent young woman from a very sheltered background, she found the whole experience humiliating. She left him after six weeks and sued for an annulment as he was impotent, and the marriage was not consummated.

Lily Chetwynd

In September 1901 Lord Anglesey met a young waiter called Julien Gault in a Paris restaurant and offered him a job as a junior valet. He travelled to London with the other servants and they stayed at the Walsingham House Hotel in Piccadilly. On the evening of the 10 September Henry Paget went to the Lyceum Theatre to see the London opening of a play called ‘Sherlock Holmes’. This was written by and starred the American actor William Gillette and had already been a great success in his home country.


While the Marquess was at the theatre, Gault met a French prostitute in Piccadilly who asked him if he wanted to come back to her room. He said he couldn’t because his master would be returning later that night. He told her he was a valet for a fabulously rich Lord and she suggested that he should steal his jewels. She gave him her pink card which said, ‘Mathilde, 23 Halsey Street Lennox Gardens.’ The following night he took the jewels from their boxes and spent the night with Mathilde. The next morning, she talked to a ‘receiver’ who gave Gault £100 in gold wrapped in a handkerchief for the jewels.

When it was discovered that the jewels worth between £30,000 and £40,000 were missing (today equivalent to about £3.3M to £4.4M), Detective Inspector Drew was put in charge of the case. A chambermaid at the hotel said she saw Gault remove something from his master’s bedroom and one of the jewellery boxes was found in Gault’s room. There was a rumour that Lord Anglesey asked Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for help to recover his property. Supposedly, he agreed to assist Inspector Drew in this real-life case and discovered the identity of the London ‘fence’. But we have found no evidence for this taking place. Apparently, Lord Anglesey asked Drew if he could follow him while he conducted some of his enquires.

Drew issued a warrant for Gault and he was arrested on 12 September in Dover as he was about to board the Ostend boat. He was wearing a false moustache which Mathilde had given him and £94 10s was found in a body belt around his waist. He admitted he had taken the jewels and given them to the woman at Halsey Street. Drew found that a Frenchwoman matching the description of Mathilde had been staying there with a man, but they had both disappeared abroad, taking the jewels with them. Hot on their trail, Drew travelled to France, but they alluded him and were never caught.

In November 1901, at the Old Bailey Gault pleaded guilty to the theft. He said through an interpreter, that this was his first offence and he hoped Lord Anglesey would forgive him. Because of the high value of the jewellery, he was sentenced to five years imprisonment. After his release Gault returned to France where he committed a murder during a burglary and was guillotined in 1911.

In 1902 a man in Paris offered to sell the Marquess one of the stolen jewels, the fabulous Paget Pearl worth £12,000 for £1,500. But he insisted on meeting the Marquess before he would hand it over. Inspector Drew suggested that the Marquess should send his secretary disguised as the Marquess, and a meeting was arranged in a Paris café on 27 July. When the man was satisfied, he left the café and returned with two other men and the pearl. Drew and the French police pounced and arrested them all. Drew was able to recover most of the missing jewellery which was returned to the Marquess. Although the Inspector was happy with this outcome, he was extremely frustrated because it proved impossible to get the French authorities to extradite the men. They were released because possession of stolen goods was not a crime in France.

Just two years later in 1904, Paget despite his huge income, was declared bankrupt with debts of £544,000, equivalent to £60M today. He died in Monte Carlo from TB on 14 March 1905 and the title passed to a cousin. Henry’s letters, diaries and papers were set alight and destroyed by the family. There is still debate about his sexuality.

The Conduit Street Raid
Messrs Knight, Frank and Rutley were auctioneers at 9 Conduit Street. Several jewellers deposited their goods in the company’s safe prior to an auction the following day. But when staff arrived on the morning of 16 October 1903, they found the safe had been opened and £5,000 worth of jewels stolen (worth about £550,000 today). Inspector Drew and his team found the thieves had left fingerprints on the glass skylight in the roof. When these were analysed at Scotland Yard, they were found to match those of a carman named Henry Elliot. The Inspector set up surveillance of Elliot and his gang. After shadowing them for several days, Drew and his officers disguised as milkmen, raided 250 Goswell Road in Clerkenwell early on a Sunday morning and arrested Elliot in bed. Then they arrested John Skegs, Robert Gray and Alfred Smith at other addresses in Clerkenwell.

The four men in court, 1903

At the trial there was insufficient evidence against Skegs and Gray and they were released. Elliot and Smith were sentenced to 12 months with hard labour. This was one of the earliest cases that made use of fingerprint identification.

Indecent Books and Images

In May 1908 Drew was the chief witness for the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Lotteries and Indecent Advertisements. He was the head of a team of police officers who pursued the dealers of indecent pictures and publications. In 1932 it became the ‘Clubs and Vice Unit’ based in Soho, and later Scotland Yard’s Vice Squad, a name that lasted until 2010.

Drew told the MPs that most of the dealers and publishers were based in Paris and posted the indecent material to England. He gave examples where members of his team, using assumed names, wrote to the dealers to try to catch them when they sent books and photos. They also raided shops in Charing Cross, Soho, and other parts of London, seizing large quantities of indecent material.

Drew described the activities of the notorious Charles Carrington, a publisher based in Paris for many years until the police and the Foreign Office persuaded the French authorities to expel him in 1907. However, Carrington moved to Brussels and continued publishing. He returned to France and by 1920 was reportedly blind from syphilis. His last few years were spent in poverty as his mistress stole his valuable collection of erotic books, and he died in a mental institution in Ivry-sur-Seine, south of Paris, in October 1921.

After his retirement in October 1908 Chief Inspector Edward Drew decided to set up a private detective agency. But he also played a role in creating the British Secret Service.

Secret Service Bureau
On 26 August 1909, a meeting was held at Scotland Yard in the office of Sir Edward Henry, who was the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police from 1903 to 1918, to set up the Secret Service Bureau (SSB). Sir Henry recommended Edward Drew, late Chief Inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department, as a suitable private detective, under cover of whose name the SSB could operate. Drew explained that he proposed setting up in business and had the option of leasing space at 64 Victoria Street. He asked for £500 pa for the office accommodation and the use of his name. It was agreed that the bureau should start operations as soon as possession of 64 Victoria Street was obtained in early October. The War Office representative was Captain Vernon Kell, who retired from the South Staffordshire Regiment. The Admiralty chose Admiral Mansfield Cummings who was in charge of the Southampton Boom Defence.

SSB was the forerunner of MI5 and MI6. Kell and Cummings first met on 4 October 1909 and shared a room until the end of the year. But there was friction between the men. They were known as ‘Kelly’ and ‘Cunningham’ in the office (not very good cover names). Initially appointed for separate military and naval intelligence they found their work overlapped, so on 21 October they agreed a division between themselves, with Kell taking all the home-based work both military and naval, and Cummings all the foreign work. This division was formally agreed on 9 May 1910.

The site of Drew’s office opposite the Army and Navy Stores, proved difficult for private meetings and at the end of 1909 Cummings took a flat at Ashley Mansions in Vauxhall Bridge Road and conducted his MI6 work there. Kell continued to use Victoria Street until the lease expired on 21 February 1911 when he moved to 3 Paper Buildings Temple. MI5 moved from here on 28 Sept 1912 to Watergate House, York Buildings, Adelphi.

Edward Drew, confidential inquiry agency, was shown at 64 Victoria Street from 1909 to 1923.

The other Inspector Drew
It is said that ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’, but it is unlikely that Inspector Drew was happy about what happened in November 1921. A smartly dressed man walked into the Brownie Restaurant at 54 Victoria Street (only a few doors away from Drew’s inquiry agency), and told the cashier, Maud Kavanagh, that he was Detective Inspector Drew of Scotland Yard. He said he was looking for a man who was passing forged £1 notes and asked to see the bank notes in her till. Mrs Kavanagh was suspicious, she did not let him take any of the notes and telephoned the police telling them the man was coming back the next day. The following day Detective Sergeant Martin and DC Mcdouall waited outside the restaurant until the man returned. When they said they did not recognise him as Inspector Drew he suddenly pulled out a revolver and fired two shots. Luckily, he missed, and the two detectives managed to overpower and arrest him. At the Old Bailey Percival Lane was sentenced to twenty months with hard labour. The two detectives were awarded the King’s Police Medal for Gallantry.

Private life
Drew had remained a bachelor until 1904 when on 17 April at the Marylebone parish church he married Eleanor Maud Wood a 40-year old widow, he was 43.

She was born as Eleanor Maud Pooles in Penge, the daughter of a tea buyer. By 1894 she was living at 31 Fairfax Road in West Hampstead. On 2 October 1897 Eleanor married her first husband Welsh solicitor Edward Thomas Rice Wood in Paddington. He was the clerk to Rhayader council in Radnorshire Wales. By 1901 they had moved from No.31 to 14 Fairfax Road where Edward suddenly died of natural causes on 16 May 1901. He left £11,004 to Eleanor (today worth about £1.2M).

In August 1903 Inspector Edward Drew was on holiday at the Queen’s Hotel in Margate where he met Eleanor Wood. She was fascinated by the stories the famous detective told the guests. After their holiday, they continued to see each other and decided to get married in April the following year. Edward moved to Eleanor’s home in 14 Fairfax Road. From 1907 to 1922 they were living nearby at 16 Alexandra Road. All their West Hampstead homes have since been demolished and replaced by modern houses.

When Edward Drew retired from his practice as a confidential inquiry agent in 1924 the couple moved to Brighton. When he died from heart trouble on 8 Dec 1927 at 40 Harrington Road on the edge of Brighton, he was a wealthy man and left £25,573 (today worth about £1.5M). Eleanor stayed in the Brighton area and she died on 8 January 1952 at the Methuen Manor Nursing Home, leaving £1,440 (worth about £40,000 today), to her son Edward Hamilton Wood from her first marriage.

Because of his fame as a detective Drew did well financially as a private detective. But the work would have been mainly family disputes and divorce cases and was unlikely to have had the excitement of his work for the Met. Drew was known for his discretion and he did not write his memoires unlike many of his ex-Scotland Yard colleagues. But he did write an account of what he called his greatest case ‘The Marquess of Anglesey Jewels’, which appeared in the first issue of The Detective Magazine in November 1924.


Monday, 22 June 2020

When Christ came to court: the Mrs Meurig Morris case

This is the most detailed account ever published of an unusual story about Spiritualism, which has local connections to West Hampstead and Hampstead.

Louisa Ann Meurig Morris (Getty)

On Sunday evening 11 January 1931, the audience at the Fortune Theatre waited in anticipation of something special. They had come to see a young woman trance medium, Mrs Meurig Morris. Also on the stage was Lady Jean Conan Doyle and her 22-year old son Denis. Her husband, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, had died six months earlier, and had spent the last years of his life speaking and writing to promote Spiritualism. Lady Doyle said they were there to show their support for Spiritualism and a collection would be made at the end for a memorial to Sir Arthur. After the audience had sung hymns, the producer and playwright Laurence Cowen spoke about how he met Mrs Morris at his local Kenton Spiritualist church in 1929. He said he had gone as a lifetime agnostic but after hearing her speak he had become a committed spiritualist.

Fortune Theatre today

Cowen decided that he would make the Fortune Theatre in Russell Street Covent Garden, which had been built for him in 1924, available for her Sunday sermons. This was the first of a regular series when people would hear the voice of her control ‘Power’ speak through her. Then he introduced Louisa Ann Meurig Morris, an attractive young woman, who spoke with a soft soprano voice. Sitting on a chair, she passed her hands several times around her head and soon went into a trance. Then she stood up and grasping the collar of her velvet dress with both hands, began speaking in the powerful bass voice of ‘Power’. Louisa gave a 45-minute sermon about Christianity and how the spirit continues after death. Male speakers of the time frequently held the lapels of their suits.

Laurence Cowen and Mrs Louisa Morris (Getty)

Charles Sutton, a journalist with the Daily Mail, was in the audience, he was very impressed by Mrs Meurig Morris and wrote a positive article saying, ‘she has leapt into fame as one of the leading trance mediums in the world’. The resulting publicity drew huge crowds for the second sermon on Sunday 18 January when they began queuing for three hours until they filled the surrounding streets. The police had to be called as the crowd rushed the theatre doors and smashed a window. About 500 people took all the seats leaving another 1,000 to go home disappointed. Laurence Cowen, while exaggerating the numbers to 10,000, later said ‘For the first time in the history of Spiritualism as much public notice was given to ‘Power’ as if he had been Charlie Chaplin’. He also noted that there were many more men than women, the reverse of attendance at normal spiritualist church meetings.

Capitalizing on the enormous interest, Cowen arranged for Louisa to make a talking film with Movietone News on 20 January at their studio in Berners Street.

You can see the three minute film here:

There is also another part of the film where Cowen speaks, but the end is missing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12Bo6U8oI9E

There are several reports which say that during the recording of the film a thick rope holding a microphone snapped and it crashed onto the stage, swinging within an inch of Mrs Morris’s face. But as you can see in the film, she went on delivering Power’s address as if nothing had happened. Talking pictures were still very new and people did not realise that it was an overhead light, not the microphone, which fell. The Movietone production manager said the supporting rope had burned through from the heat of the powerful light.

Cowen also arranged to make a gramophone record with Columbia on 20 March at their studios in Petty France. It was released in August 1931 as, ‘A Trance Address delivered by Mrs Louisa Meurig Morris’. This was played at meetings in some spiritual churches.

Charles Sutton met Louisa at Cowen’s flat in Harrow and suggested that a test should be made of her ability as a trance medium. They agreed, and the editor of the Daily Mail chose a text from the Bible which was sealed in an envelope. This was opened and read out on stage by Sutton at the Fortune, when Mrs Morris was in a trance at the third meeting on 25 January. The sentence was from Proverbs: ‘Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety’. With her eyes shut, Louisa began speaking in the voice of ‘Power’ and she delivered a continuous 40-minute sermon.

When the session was finished Sutton was not impressed, and this time he wrote a negative article which was published the next day in the Daily Mail. He said, ‘I have discovered one thing definitely about Mrs Meurig Morris the young trance medium whose sermons at the Fortune Theatre have attracted much attention. Her sub-conscious mind is crammed with Spiritualist jargon, which she can trot out and hang on any peg which may be given to her as a text or a subject for a sermon. Last night she peached a sermon in a trance. She launched straight away into one of her scientific-philosophical-theological messages, and whenever she dragged in the words ‘counsel’ or ‘counsellors’ they were not material to her sermon, for other words could have been used’. The Daily Mail ran street posters saying, ‘Trance Medium Found Out’.

Outraged, Cowen and Louisa sued the Daily Mail, part of Associated Newspapers, for libel. To pay for the lawyers Sunday collections were made at the theatre for the ‘Meurig Morris Defence Fund’. The trial at the High Court began a year later on the 6 April 1932 and it attracted a great deal of interest. It was unusual, as this was a case where the spiritualist was the plaintiff rather than the defendant which had happened on many occasions. The newspaper defendants pleaded they were justified, and it was fair comment made in the public interest.

At one point as Louisa was giving evidence, she grew pale and staring straight ahead she said, ‘The Christ, – a vision of Christ came’. The judge adjourned the case for ten minutes. When it restarted various witnesses including the scientist Sir Oliver Lodge and Lady Conan Doyle, were called to support Louisa’s case as a genuine trance medium. The opposition called witnesses who said they had overheard Cowen coaching Louisa when she practiced her ‘Power’ and ‘Little Sunshine’ voices and that she was not in a trance. At this point, Laura began to cry and said, ‘It is so dreadful to say these sort of things against me’ and she had to be helped from court.

The jury were played the gramophone record and taken in a coach to the Movietone studios to watch the film.

Louisa’s husband William Meurig Morris was said to be too ill to attend court. More importantly, Laurence Cowen did not give evidence, much to the defense counsel’s annoyance, who said Cowen had exploited Louisa for financial gain.

During the Judge’s summing up, he happened to point to Mrs. Morris with an outstretched hand. She slowly rose and apparently in trance, said in the deep voice of ‘Power’, ‘Harken to my voice, Brother Judge.’ Obviously astonished, Justice McCardie ordered her to be removed from the court. When she was approached the same deep voice said: ‘Do not touch her till I have left the body.’ The Judge ordered a 15-minute adjournment while friends helped Louisa into an adjoining room.

After hearing evidence for 11 days, the jury found in favour of the defendants Associated Newspapers Ltd, but also said no allegations of fraud or dishonesty against Mrs Morris had been proved. Cowen and Louisa appealed against the verdict, but the Court of Appeal dismissed their case on 17 June 1932. They took it to the House of Lords who also turned down their appeal the following February.

The publicity from the trial and the fact she was found not guilty of fraud, meant Louisa was in high demand as ‘the Joan of Arc of Spiritualism’, and she continued giving sermons as ‘Power’ for several years.

The background
Louisa Ann Baylis was born on 17 November 1899, the daughter of a market garden worker in Evesham Worcestershire. (In interviews she said he was a manager of a market garden). She was brought up in a devote Wesleyan family with eight children, and attended the local school until she was 14.

William Meurig Jones Morris was born in 1876 in Denbighshire North Wales. He married Elizabeth and had a daughter, Dorothy born in 1898 in Newport Pagnell. When his wife died, Dorothy was brought up by a relative in Shrewsbury.

In 1916 William was working as an assistant at Boots Chemists in Bridge Street Evesham when he met Louisa who was working at the Woolpack Inn. He was a widower and 25 years older than 17-year old Louisa. They moved to Birmingham where Louisa was living with her elder sister, and were married in 1918 in Kings Norton, a suburb of Birmingham. Their daughter Audrey was born in 1922 in Harwarden Flintshire and she lived with an aunt.

In 1922 William and Louisa moved to Newton Abbot in South Devon where they rented rooms in Powderham Road for about five years. From 1923 to 1926 William worked as an assistant at Stow and Pursers, a chemist shop in Queen Street. Mrs Kate Lavis, a neighbour, who had recently lost her daughter, took Laura to the local spiritualist group. After the sixth visit, Louisa was overcome and began speaking in the voice of a six-year old child who she called ‘Little Sunshine’.

William and Louisa organised seances, where people held hands in a darkened room, at their house and elsewhere in Newton Abbot with a medium called Mr Evans from Plymouth until he was exposed as a fraud in August 1925. The couple moved to Chard the following year and Louisa began travelling around the south west of England giving sermons at spiritual churches. She said she used her married name of Mrs Meurig Morris to distinguish herself from another medium called Louisa Morris who was already working in spiritualist churches.

In 1929 during the depression, William and Louisa Morris came to London living in poverty in one room as he was unemployed. They survived on her fees of between five to 10 shillings for each spiritualist meeting until he got a job in October. By 1930 they were living in 19 Archibald Road Tufnell Park. In 1932 they were with Laurence Cowen at 68 Anson Road in Islington.

Louisa gave Sunday sermons at the Fortune from January 1931 until 26 February 1933 when Cowen sold the theatre. From 22 October 1933 the services transferred to the Aeolian Hall in Bond Street. During the summers she and Laurence toured cities throughout the country. At the height of her popularity she spoke to 4,000 people in Bristol.


Number 6 Ellerdale Road Hampstead, (Marianne Colloms, 2020)

Then in 1934 Cowen obtained possession of a large house called ‘Hampstead Towers’ 6 Ellerdale Road, which had been built for himself by the architect Richard Norman Shaw between 1874-76. (Today this is the Institute of St Marcellina, a residence for foreign students).
Mrs Morris and Cowen went on a tour of South Africa, Egypt, and Palestine. They sailed on the 1 June and returned on the 2 September 1935.

In 1936 William and Louisa Morris were with Cowen at Flat 1 Compayne Mansions, 36 Compayne Gardens, on the corner with Fairhazel Gardens in West Hampstead. Also living there was Kate Lavis, Louisa’s friend from Newton Abbot and Sir Pomeroy Holland-Pryor, a retired Army officer and committed spiritualist who often chaired Louisa’s sermons.

From 1937 to 1938 the group had moved locally to 69 Priory Road, near the corner with Woodchurch Road. The 1939 register shows that Laurence Cowen and William Morris were at 94 Greenhill, a block of flats on Heath Street Hampstead, while Louisa and Sir Pomeroy Holland-Pryor were back at 6 Ellerdale Road. It looks as though William and Louisa split up about this time and we lose track of William who died in Wandsworth in July 1950.

Laurence Cowen died on 7 October 1942 in the Hampstead General Hospital and he left £4,000 to a solicitor. He was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Willesden. He had been born in 1865 in Newcastle. He married the actress and novelist Baroness Eugenie Helene Alexandra Gingold in 1896 in Marylebone. She died in December 1926. As a teenager, Laurence with the help of Israel Zangwill, began a career as a journalist. He stood as liberal candidate for Harrow and in Coventry, and from 1907 to 1911 was the lessee of the Pavilion Theatre. The plays he wrote were produced here and at other theatres. He opened the Fortune in November 1924.

Using electoral registers and old phone books, we have managed to trace Louisa Morris who was still at the house in Ellerdale Road, and from 1945 to 1948 her daughter Audrey, who had been brought up by relatives, was with her. Louisa ran it as a hotel and stayed there until 1955, perhaps when a 21-year lease ran out. The following year she moved to 9 York House, in York Place, near Kensington Palace. In 1962 she moved to 24 Peel Street in Kensington where she lived until her death on 4 November 1991.

Unfortunately, we do not know when Louisa stopped preaching or how she got her money. But it is clear that from her poor beginning, she lived in a fashionable area of London and died a rich woman leaving £128,287, worth about £272,000 today.

Interest in Louisa as a trance medium continued in the spiritualist world, and her story was given wider coverage when on 17 July 1979 BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme called,
‘Libel: When Christ came to court, Mrs Meurig Morris v The Daily Mail’.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Frederick Simms and the Welbeck Works Kilburn

Today in Kimberley Road, near Paddington Old Cemetery, there is a large modern block of flats called Kimberley Court. This covers the site of the Welbeck Works which were built here in 1904 by a remarkable man called Frederick Richard Simms. Born in 1863 in Hamburg and educated in Germany and London, his grandfather was a merchant from Manchester who established a trading company in Hamburg to supply the Newfoundland fishing fleet. 

Fred went into business making suspension cars and in 1889, while supervising the assembly of an overhead cableway at Bremen he met Gottlieb Daimler the car manufacturer. Fred negotiated the British patent rights for Daimler engines and in 1890 set up Simms & Co, consulting engineers, which introduced Daimler engines into Britain. The work was carried out by the Daimler Motor Syndicate, which Simms founded in 1893 and then sold to the financier H. J. Lawson in 1895. This laid the foundations for the British motor industry, with the Daimler works at Coventry Motor Mills. 

Simms kept his own business affairs distinct from those of Lawson and between 1898 and 1900 he ran the Motor Carriage Supply Company Ltd. In 1900 Simms started making cars at the Simms Manufacturing Company Ltd, 55a Southwark Park Road in Bermondsey. 
 
1912 OS Map showing the Simms Welbeck Works

On 3 May 1904 he leased land from Lawrence and Aitkin, cardboard manufacturers in Kimberley Road and built the Welbeck Works. The factory provided Simms with a base from which to run several companies. 
 
1904 advert

He produced cars and commercial vehicles there from 1904 to about 1909, as well as engines for other manufacturers. The factory later produced magnetos, but Simms left Kimberley Road in 1920 and set up a new factory in East Finchley. There seems to have been a disastrous fire that year at the Kilburn works, but we have not been able to find a report of this in the newspapers. 
 
1935 OS Map showing the site now occupied by the Grosvenor Carriage Co.

The Grosvenor Carriage Co. had been making car bodies in Kimberley Road since 1910. When Simms left, they expanded and took over the Welbeck Works. The firm had a reputation for high-quality coachwork on leading makes of car, including Rolls-Royce. By 1920 they had joined up with Shaw & Kilburn, the main dealer for Vauxhall cars in London. About 1956 Grosvenor moved to Luton. In 1959 Hoopers, another famous car body firm, took over the site on the opposite side of Kimberley Road. They made Peter Sellers a custom-built body for his Mini-Cooper as shown in the picture, and they left Kilburn in 1995. 

Peter Sellers in Hoopers, Kimberley Road, 1963


Simms experimented with military applications, mounting a Maxim machine gun on a De Dion quadricycle to produce the Simms Motor Scout. 
Fred Simms on his Motor Scout, 1898

In 1899 he invented what was probably the first armoured vehicle which he called The Motor War Car, but this was never manufactured in large numbers. 
 
The Motor War Car outside Crystal Palace London, April 1902

Simms’s principal legacy to the automotive world was in the field of components, especially magnetos which are small electrical generators. The Simms Magneto Company Ltd was established in Kilburn in 1907, after he had obtained UK manufacturing rights from Robert Bosch, the German electrical engineer, but small production runs could not compete with foreign products and this side of the business closed in 1913. 

The same year Simms started yet another business, Simms Motor Units Ltd, initially as a sales and repair organization for motor components, especially dynamos and magnetos. Manufacture was initially undertaken by others on behalf of the firm, an important source in WWI being the Simms Magneto Company Ltd of New Jersey, established by Simms in 1910. The English workforce grew from twelve in 1913 to more than 300 by early 1919 and a subsidiary, the Standard Insulator Company Ltd, was established in 1915. 

To build on his wartime success, Simms established Simms Motor Units (1920) Ltd in extensive premises at Oak Lane East Finchley, a large house with grounds, which had briefly been a piano factory. The slump of 1920–21 in the engineering industry, brought about the cessation of manufacture until the factory was reopened in 1926. Later the East Finchley premises were taken over by Lucas CAV in 1968 and closed in 1991. The six-acre site is now a housing estate. 

Part of Simms Motors returned to Kilburn in 1948 when a London service branch was opened at No.254 Kilburn High Road. This closed in 1965, and today it is the entrance to the new Park Place apartments which overlook the Grange Park. 

Simms Personal Life 
His personal life has not been discussed in any of the major sources about Simms. His parents had German citizenship and Fred became a naturalised British citizen on 18 August 1896 when he was living at 44 Mayflower Road in Clapham Rise. 
 
Fred Simms, 1903

In 1903 while on a holiday to the Tyrol where he had a hunting lodge, he met a young Austrian woman called Lucie Sophie Wilhelmina Beate Greiff. He asked her to come to England and soon after, they were married at St George’s Hanover Square on 28 April 1903. Following a honeymoon in the Italian Lakes they lived in London at 6 Charles Street near Berkeley Square. But it was an unhappy marriage and Fred suggested Lucie should return to her parents in Austria. He went there in October and for a few weeks they resumed their relationship, but on 15 October 1903, Fred returned to England refusing to take Lucie with him. 

Not knowing his home address, Lucie wrote to him at the Welbeck Works on 1 January 1904, saying she had been staying in a London hotel for three weeks and wanted to see him. He replied by letter on 6 January saying they were completely unsuitable, and because of the scene which she and her mother caused by threatening him with solicitors, he had suffered anxiety and heart problems. He offered to give her £200 a year, she refused and started legal proceedings through Lewis and Lewis, the top firm of London solicitors. This was filed on 8 January and a decree nisi was issued by the judge on 16 May 1904. Fred was ordered to restore conjugal rights and pay £500 per year (today worth about £54,000). Lewis and Lewis hired private detectives to follow him during 1907 and 1908 but they found insufficient evidence to force the divorce through. 

Then in April 1908 Fred wrote to Lucie saying he was fed up being watched and suggested that the solicitors should make enquires about him at the Tudor Hotel in Oxford Street. Lucie went to court again in June 1908 and said Fred had committed adultery at the hotel on the night of the 14-15 April with an unnamed woman. This was the common way of obtaining evidence for a divorce at the time and Fred did not appear in court to contest it. Lucie, described in the press as a pretty young woman wearing a brown dress and an enormous hat, was granted a decree nisi on 14 October 1908. 

On 19 November 1910 Fred married Mabel Louise Worsley from Blackpool, the daughter of a cotton merchant, at St Dionis in Palmers Green Fulham. This was a happier marriage and they had two daughters. Mabel died in July 1940. Fred died on 22 April 1944 at Dunbarty Stoke Poges, but he lived at Storth Oaks Chislehurst. He left £90,221 (worth about £4M today). 

Simms was an inventor with over 60 patents. There are claims that he coined the words ‘petrol’ and ‘motor car’ but it seems likely the words were already in use. Simms liked setting up projects and in October 1895 he organized the first British Motor Show in the Agricultural Show Ground at Tunbridge Wells, which was called the ‘Horseless Carriage Exhibition’. He founded the Automobile Club in 1897 which became the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) in 1902 and that year he established the trade body, the Society of Motor Manufactures and Trades (SMMT). 

About 2005 the large block of flats called Kimberley Court and another modern development called Hoopers Yard, were built on the sites of the Simms factory and the Hooper Works in Kilburn. 
 
Kimberley Court 2005 (Dick Weindling)

Today, nothing remains of Simms’ time in Kilburn, but as we have shown, he was a remarkably inventive and successful businessman.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

The man with many names

On 21 January 1908, a messenger arrived at Cox and Co. the army bank at 16 Charing Cross. He presented a typewritten bill of exchange for £300 from the account of Captain EH Brassey of The Lifeguards, payable to Mr AF Cox. The money was put in an envelope addressed to AF Cox at 87 Shaftesbury Avenue and the messenger boy delivered it to that address. 
Cox an Co, army bank Charing Cross, c1918
On 27 January this happened again. But the sum at the top of the bill was for £700 while the body of the bill said £300. In accordance with custom, the bank paid the lower amount and wrote to Captain Brassey about the discrepancy. He was away on leave and did not receive the letter until a few days later. On 1 February, a messenger again came to the bank, this time with a bill for £1,000. Knowing the Captain was away, the bank did not pay. The following day Brassey returned and told the bank the bills were forgeries.

The police were informed, and Detective Inspector Benjamin Allen of ‘A’ Division arrived at Cox and Co. just as a messenger was presenting yet another bill for £400. DI Allen instructed the bank to put a blank piece of headed paper in the envelope and the messenger boy was told to take it to 87 Shaftesbury Avenue. This turned out to be a shop where letters could be sent and collected for a small fee. The shop keeper James Squires said all the letters were collected by a man he knew as Philip Beresford, who said he was a friend of Mr Cox, or forwarded to an office at Cecil House in Shaftesbury Avenue.

Philip Beresford, described as a 34-year old engineer of Victoria Villas, 43 Victoria Road Kilburn, appeared in Bow Street court on Saturday 8 February 1908, charged with forging four bills of exchange in the name of Captain Brassey. His solicitor was Arthur Newton, who three years later acted for Dr Crippen in the spectacular murder case. Philip’s father must have paid to hire Newton who ran one of the top legal firms in London.
Arthur Newton, by 'Spy', 1893
DI Allen said Beresford used several aliases, and had been identified as a man calling himself ‘Templeton’, who had opened bank accounts in Bloomsbury and Windsor and cashed the bills. Allen had followed the messenger boy from the bank to 87 Shaftesbury Avenue (near the Chinatown area) and waited until Beresford collected the letter addressed to AF Cox. Allen followed the man through the back streets into Bedfordbury near Covent Garden, and said ‘Mr Beresford?’ The man turned around and said ‘Yes’. Allen identified himself as a police officer and arrested him on suspicion of forgery. When he was searched at Cannon Row police station, the blank sheet of headed notepaper from the bank, a driver’s license and business cards in the name of Philip Beresford, were found in his pocket.

He asked to write a statement which said: ‘I know nothing whatever about any forgeries. I have known a man called Arthur Cox for some years, and about three weeks ago I met him in a bar just off Charing Cross. He told me Captain Brassey owed him a lot of money and if I would help him to get it he would ‘go halves’ with me. I sent letters to the bank and received replies at Shaftesbury Avenue. I got half the money, and like a fool I asked no questions. I met him at Edgware Road station today and I was on my way to meet him at Waterloo station when I was arrested.’ Because DI Allen had been following Beresford, he knew this was untrue.

In his Kilburn lodgings the police found a Cook’s ticket in the name of ‘Appleton’ dated 27 January for Paris and enquires with the French police found that some of the bills had been cashed in an account he had opened there.
Edgar Hugh Brassey (IWM)

Captain Edgar Hugh Brassey, who lived at 1 St James Place Westminster, gave evidence in court. He said he employed the man he knew as Captain Stutfield as his chauffeur from December 1905 to April 1907. Stutfield was paid by cheque and had an account with the same Cox and Co. bank where the bills had been presented. Brassey said did not know a man called AF Cox nor had he signed any bills of exchange. A handwriting expert gave evidence that the bills were written by Beresford/Stutfield. At the Old Bailey on 31 March 1908, Beresford pleaded guilty to forgery and uttering (cashing the forgery) and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment in Wormwood Scrubs.

We have discovered that Philip Beresford was really Philip Lowry Stutfield, who was born in March 1873, the eldest of twelve children of Frederic Stutfield, a very respectable and wealthy City wine merchant who lived at 121 King Henry’s Road in Hampstead. Philip had received a good education and studied for the Indian Civil Service, but he suffered from TB. He enlisted in the 5th Lancers in 1892 and transferred to the 2nd Royal Berkshire regiment the following year. Having received a legacy, he quickly spent the money, and in December 1899 he enlisted as a trooper, serving in South Africa from 13 March 1900 to 10 April 1901 during the Boer War. He was wounded by a shell splinter in his spine, invalided home and discharged on 11 June 1901. He clearly liked the army, because he joined the Yeomanry, a mounted volunteer force, on 28 December 1901. He received his commission and was promoted to Captain for bravery in the field.

In July 1896 he had married Lilian Parnell in Plymouth and their daughter Dorothy was born in Stoke Damerel Devon on 14 August 1897. After the Boer War, the couple separated but did not get divorced. Lilian died in Bournemouth in 1952.

Soon after leaving Lilian, Philip married Annie Lilian Mary White on 15 January 1902 in Farnborough Surrey, while he was at the Aldershot camp serving in the Imperial Yeomanry. They had several children; his son Francis was born in Folkstone on 19 January 1903 and Katherine was born in Kingston in 1905. On 26 July 1904 he was found guilty of bigamy at the Old Bailey and sentenced to six months imprisonment. Presumably, Lilian had reported that he was still married to her. He was released in January 1905 and began working as a chauffeur.

After serving his 12-month sentence for forgery he was released about April 1909. At some point, he and Annie sailed to Australia under an assumed name. Perhaps his father paid for the trip as a way of getting rid of the embarrassment Philip had caused?

Once in New South Wales he became Francis Anthony Stutfield. After WWI began, he joined the Australian Army on 10 January 1916 when he was nearly 43 years old. Stationed at the Victoria Barracks in Melbourne, Philip served as a sergeant in the Camel Corps. He did not see overseas service and was discharged as medically unfit on 17 May 1917. At the time Annie was living at ‘Koyoo’ Bottle and Glass Road, Vaucluse, an eastern suburb of Sydney.

Philip became a fruit farmer in Mittagong, south of Sydney. In 1926 he got into financial trouble and sold a pearl necklace, which belonged to a credit union, at the Randwick racecourse, near Sydney. He was found guilty, fined £2 and ordered to pay back £45. Despite his criminal record he became a JP in Gosford City NSW. He died aged 77 in Mittagong on 13 September 1950. Annie died in South Granville NSW in July 1958. They were survived by their children Robert and Evelyn who were born in Australia.
43 Victoria Road today (Google Street View)

It proved difficult to trace Philip Lowry Stutfield because of all his aliases, and we have not discovered why he was living in Kilburn in 1908.