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Go Back   Casebook Forums > Ripper Discussions > Suspects > Fleming, Joseph

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  #1  
Old 01-30-2009, 11:54 PM
Fisherman Fisherman is offline
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Default Prosperous plasterer or pauper polisher?

Evening all!

Here´s one of todays longest posts. Please bear with me, though, since I believe I´m onto something quite interesting!

I have spent some time digging for Joseph Fleming on the net; being a Swede, I do not have access to the many British archives, and so I have to make do with netfishing.

My interest has mainly been to learn about reformatories and such, since the thread revealing information on Evans/Fleming at the Stone Asylum displays a number of oddities. I think the best way to find substantiation for some of the information offered on the thread, is to look for Fleming in the reformatory records. I have made some progress, but this thread is for something different, something I stumbled over and was amazed by.

Joseph Fleming has been traced censuswise, and there is an impressive amount of information about him. Chris Scott has posted this bit on the 1881 census:
”By the time of the 1881 census, Joseph had left home and was living in lodgings in 61 Crozier Terrace which was in Homerton, north east of Bethnal Green. By this time he is listed as following his father´s trade as a plasterer.”

Another piece of useful information provided by the same Chris Scott is this, an account of the Joseph Flemings born at the approximate time that he was supposed to have been born, in March 1859:

“1858
John Joseph Fleming 1858 Jul-Aug-Sep Weardale Durham
Joseph Fleming 1858 Oct-Nov-Dec Guisborough Yorkshire - North Riding

1859
Joseph Fleming 1859 Jan-Feb-Mar Stourbridge Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Worcestershire
Joseph Fleming 1859 Apr-May-Jun Bethnal Green Greater London, London, Middlesex
Joseph Fleming 1859 Jul-Aug-Sep Hunslet Yorkshire - West Riding
Joseph Fleming 1859 Jul-Aug-Sep Penrith Cumbria, Cumberland

1860
Frederick Joseph Fleming 1860 Jan-Feb-Mar Isle of Wight Hampshire, Isle of Wight
John Joseph Fleming 1860 Jul-Aug-Sep Lambeth Greater London, London, Surrey
Jonah Joseph Fleming 1860 Jan-Feb-Mar Westminster St Margaret Middlesex
Joseph Fleming 1860 Apr-May-Jun Wakefield Yorkshire - West Riding, West Yorkshire
Joseph Fleming 1860 Jul-Aug-Sep Lambeth Greater London, London, Surrey
Joseph Fleming 1860 Oct-Nov-Dec Manchester (1837-1924) Lancashire
Joseph Fleming 1860 Oct-Nov-Dec Stockbridge Hampshire, Wiltshire
Louis Joseph Fleming 1860 Jan-Feb-Mar Halifax Yorkshire - West Riding, West Yorkshire
William Joseph Fleming 1860 Jan-Feb-Mar Stafford Staffordshire”

The one we are interested in is of course the Bethnal Green Joe on the 1859 birth list. He is the boy who supposedly grows up to be the seemingly well-to-do plasterer of Crozier Terrace back in 1881.

What I stumbled over, and would like to direct your interest to, is a listing of the residents of Poplar Union Workhouse, apparently a part of the 1881 census, that is the very census in which we find Joe the plasterer. For in that listing, among the paupers, the mentally ill, the blind and the sick, I found Joseph Fleming. He is listed as an unmarried male, 21 years of age, an inmate of the workhouse with a birthplace described as Bethnal Green, Middlesex. I fail to see how this could be any other Joseph Fleming than the one we are looking for. He is not listed as a plasterer, though; his occupation is given as “French polisher”. A French polisher was working with wood, mahogany not least, polishing and varnishing it to give a shiny and durable surface. It was a common enough occupation back in the 1880´s.

I really don´t know what significance to read into all this, just as I don´t know if I´m the first to spot the entry – it seems incredible, since it is there on the Internet. The site is www.workhouses.org.uk and it offers loads of interesting information.

Finally, leaving you to ponder and pursue all of this, I cannot resist adding this snippet, from the Daily Telegraph of October 4, 1888:
“As showing the vigilance with which the police all over London are watching for any suspicious signs an incident which occurred at Charing-cross is worth mentioning. A constable noticed a man leaving a coffee-shop carrying a bundle which appeared to have bloodstains upon it, and the man had also stains upon his hands. He was promptly interrogated, but he explained that he was a French polisher, and that the stains on his hands and on the parcel resulted from his work. These explanations having been found accurate he was allowed to proceed on his way.”

So, friends, what have we got? Two Joseph Flemings from Bethnal Green? Or one, staying at Crozier terrace AND in Poplar workhouse? It is all very confusing, but I hope that we can mutually shed some light on it all.

All the best,
Fisherman
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  #2  
Old 01-31-2009, 12:08 AM
Ben Ben is offline
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A fascinating find, Fish, and very well sleuthed on your part.

I know there was a Joseph Fleming born in Bethnal Green (I think) who was listed as a "boot finisher", and who was undoubtedly a seperate entity from "Mad Joe", but I'm not sure whether this job title and that of a "French polisher" were interchangable. Certainly the Joe we're interested in was capable of job-diversity, as witness his apparent transition from plasterer to "costermonger" and thence to dock labourer. No reason why he couldn't have done a spot of French polishing on the side.

Best regards,
Ben
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  #3  
Old 01-31-2009, 12:17 AM
Fisherman Fisherman is offline
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But why is he listed as two different entries in the same census? It makes no sense at all.

Moreover, if the two Flemings were indeed two different people, there is one of them missing in the birth entries, implying that this one may have become a Joseph Fleming AFTER his birth. It invites all kinds of conspiracysmelling suggestions, does it not?

Maybe we should also keep in mind that the more credible guess is that the Poplar workhouse Fleming was added to the inquest early in the year 1881 - he would have turned 22 in March if he is our man - and I cannot see how he could not be...?

This is driving me up the walls. And the name of Joseph Fleming is becoming more and more suspicious the more you look into him!

The best,
Fisherman

Last edited by Fisherman : 01-31-2009 at 12:23 AM.
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  #4  
Old 01-31-2009, 12:37 AM
Fisherman Fisherman is offline
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One question that becomes very vital here is how the census was performed. It could reasonably not have been allowed to drag out for any longer time, since that would have made sure that many people were added more than once to the listings, since there would have been an ongoing migration at all times.
So, if the census was a quick affair - how did Joe manage to live in two places at the same time. And under apparently radically different circumstances too...?

Let´s hear it from the guys and girls who know how the census was established!

The best,
Fisherman

Last edited by Fisherman : 01-31-2009 at 12:39 AM.
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  #5  
Old 01-31-2009, 01:23 AM
m_w_r m_w_r is offline
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Hi all -

It's not unheard of for someone to appear twice in the same census, but in this case I would have to suggest that there were, in fact, two Joseph Flem(m)ings.

Here, for the sake of comparison is, plausibly, the other one:

1861: 31 Turville Street, Bethnal Green St Matthew
George Flemming, head, m, 40, shoemaker, b. Sheffield, Yorkshire
Sarah Flemming, wife, m, 41, b. Bethnal Green, Middlesex
George Flemming, son, u, 17, shoemaker, b. Bethnal Green, Middlesex
Charles Flemming, son, u, 14, wood chopper, b. Bethnal Green, Middlesex
Joseph Flemming, son, u, 3, b. Bethnal Green, Middlesex

1871: District Bethnal Green Workhouse School St Matthew
Joseph Flemming, inmate, 11, scholar, b. unknown
Sarah Flemming, inmate, 6, scholar, b. unknown

1881: Poplar Union Workhouse (= All Saints Poplar, district 42)
Joseph Fleming, inmate, u, 21, French polisher, b. Bethnal Green

Regards,

Mark
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Old 01-31-2009, 01:24 AM
Sam Flynn Sam Flynn is offline
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There were at least two Joseph Flem(m)ings born in Bethnal Green in the same year, it appears. One - "James Evans" - was the son of Henrietta Fleming and husband Richard Fleming, a plasterer. The other - Joseph Flemming, with two "Ms" - was the son of James Flemming, silk-weaver, and Eliza (also a silk-weaver). The latter Joseph appears in the 1871 Census as an inmate at the Bethnal Green Workhouse School, and I suspect it is he who ended up in the Poplar Workhouse as a french polisher in 1881. His lowly family trade, and his early "career" in a workhouse school, all point to the same conclusion.
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Last edited by Sam Flynn : 01-31-2009 at 01:26 AM. Reason: Mark - our posts crossed!
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Old 01-31-2009, 01:38 AM
Fisherman Fisherman is offline
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Thanks for that, Mark! This "alternative" Joseph, though, would have been born in 1858, and it seems there is no such birth registered for some reason. Also, he drops two years, travelling from 1861 to 1871. Of course, it may be just the one year depending on when the census and the workhouse school entries were made. Still, given the company of a Sarah Flemming, it seems that the girl may be reflecting her mother´s name, strengthening your case.

One thing that is dropped alongside that year or two, is of course one of the "m":s in "Flemming", but that may have a very simple explanation.

All in all a reasonable suggestion - but it would be nice to find the missing bits and pieces to wrap things up!

The best,
Fisherman

Last edited by Fisherman : 01-31-2009 at 01:48 AM.
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Old 01-31-2009, 01:40 AM
Fisherman Fisherman is offline
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Whoa, Sam - was that Joseph Flem(m)ing number two or three...?

The best,
Fisherman
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Old 01-31-2009, 01:49 AM
m_w_r m_w_r is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisherman View Post
All in all a reasonable suggestion - but it would be nice to find the missing bits and pieces to wrap things up!
Thanks, Fisherman.

I'm concerned that you're looking for perfection, though. The poor kid was in the workhouse school by 1871. I'm not sure where his parents were, and to be honest I haven't looked to find out, but it's quite plausible that there was no relative around to pinpoint the precise date of his birth. Whichever functionary provided the enumerator with the information would have been entirely comfortable in the knowledge that they had provided a reasonable ballpark estimate of Joseph's age. This isn't fraud, or deliberate misinformation intended to provoke the frustration of historians of the future: sad to say, within the workings of Victorian state institutions at census time, it's just the way life was.

You can take it or leave it, and Sam's nearly-matching suggestion of an "alternative" Joseph Flem(m)ing is at least as compelling as mine, but I'm sure that all these examples show the importance of a bit of leeway and lateral thinking in making sense of the censuses.

Regards,

Mark
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Old 01-31-2009, 01:53 AM
Sam Flynn Sam Flynn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fisherman View Post
Whoa, Sam - was that Joseph Flem(m)ing number two or three...?
Number two: born in 1859, same year as the one born into the plumbing family.
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