King’s College London has employed some of the great and good from the academic world over its 188 years but there are many members of staff, academics, technicians, clerical and domestic, who are less well-known or not known at all.
A joint project between King’s College London Archives and University of the Third Age (U3A) sought to change that and the resulting database, Victorian Lives, is now available online: www.kingscollections.org/victorianlives.
The U3A volunteers researched, in great detail, the lives of almost 200 members of staff from the 19th century across different faculties. Some images and a further 600 names have been added with a minimal amount of information which will be supplemented over the next few months with research undertaken by Archives staff during the course of answering enquiries received from members of the public and academic researchers.
There are so many fascinating stories it is hard to pick highlights. They include Mrs Fawcett who taught in the Ladies Department and turned out to be none other than Millicent Garrett Fawcett, campaigner for women’s suffrage.
Then there was John Lockhart Morton who spent just one year as a lecturer in Agriculture at King’s while living a double life trading as a timber merchant in the City of London. In 1859 he attempted to pass forged bills of exchange but was caught, charged and jailed for four years. His case made newspaper headlines because of the amount of debt he accumulated – reported to be between £20,000 and £60,000.
At the other end of the scale, there were porters including two who worked in the dissecting room. Sadly very little is known about William Hill except that in 1831 he gave evidence at the trial of John Bishop, Thomas Williams and James May in the body snatching case known as the Italian Boy Murder. The three were found guilty and hanged for the murder of 14 year old Carlo Ferarai, after attempting to sell his fresh corpse to King’s College London for dissection.
Isaac Charlton took over as porter from William Hill and in 1841 applied for the position of House Steward at the Geological Society next door in Somerset House where he stayed until his retirement in 1891.