Raise a Glass to William Seelie

Raise a Glass to William Seelie

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Rob uncovers a sad story from a gravestone.

2014-05-27 09.25.18

One of the things that amazes me about London is how an ordinary thing that you might overlook can reveal a story. Yesterday I was walking through Christ Church Greyfriars Garden, near St Pauls and paused to look at the flowers. The path included an old gravestone, and I wondered if I could find out more about the person it belonged to. I ended up uncovering a very sad story.

The gravestone belonged to Mary Seelie who died in 1829 and her husband William who died the year after. I found the following in The London Star newspaper for October 25th 1830

A Melancholy Suicide.—An inquisition was yesterday afternoon taken at the Shakspeare Tavern, Great Marlborough-street, before Mr. Higgs, on view of the body of William Seelie, aged 53, the landlord of the above house. Mr. Joseph Seelie, a son of the deceased, stated that about twelve months ago he had the misfortune to lose his mother, which circumstance affected his father’s mind to such an extraordinary degree, that he frequently burst into tears and wished himself in Heaven with his dear departed wife. In consequence of his not coming down at his usual time, and his door being locked, a panel was broken in, when the deceased was seen hanging against the door on the inside, having suspended himself by tying his handkerchief and a towel together, which he threw over the door, and fastened one end to the lock on the other side.—Verdict of “ Temporary Insanity.”

It’s not clear how Mary died, but it obviously hit poor William very hard. Joseph took over as the landlord of the Shakespeare Tavern, and remained for another twenty years, though it must have been hard running a place with such unpleasant memories. The pub was rebuilt in 1927 as the Shakespeare’s Head, and its still one of Soho’s busiest pubs. Next time you are there raise a glass to William Seelie’s memory.

Our next Soho walk is Joanna’s Foodie History walk on May 31st




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