Found In A Ghastly Shape

I took up the challenge to trace the previously elusive Dr Richard Lloyd Pinching; a rather sinister presence who figures in the embroidered rants of Lorina Bulwer.

Pinching was a surgeon from Northern Ireland who practiced in Walthamstow for over twenty years, surviving scandal (it came to light that he had sent a series of explicit letters, grooming a 13 year old child from Walthamstow Orphans’ Asylum) and notoriety (he tried to persuade a dying, wealthy  patient to change his will), until suddenly de-camping to San Francisco, aged 60, with Lorina’s sister Anna Maria Young.  Where he re-invented himself and Anna Maria, as a presitigous doctor and his wife. Dr Pinching’s actual wife remained in London, living into the 1880s.

Pinching’s obituary sheds more light on his life (and gruesome death):

“BURNED TO DEATH

SAD DEATH OF DR RICHARD L PINCHING

While Visiting Friends at Cherry Creek, Nevada, He Perishes In Their Burning House

Dr Richard L. Pinching, a prominent physician and surgeon of this city, was burned to death last Friday night, at Cherry Creek, White Pine county, Nev., where he had been spending a two months’ vacation with the family of John Wearne, a well-known mill-owner of that section. The fatal accident occurred in the early morning.

At an early hour, Mr Wearne smelt strong fumes of smoke, and rising from his bed at once went to Dr Pinching’s room, from where the smoke seemed to be coming. He quickly opened the un-locked door, only to see the room blazing with flames, and Dr. Pinching burning to death in their midst.

Abandoned home at Cherry Creek, Nevada. Credit: The Utahraptor at Wikimedia Commons
Abandoned home at Cherry Creek, Nevada. Credit: The Utahraptor at Wikimedia Commons

The open door increased the draft, and the flames soon spread throughout the building. Mr Wearne gave the alarm, and he and his family had only a few moments to save their lives.They rushed from the burning building in their night-clothes. No aid could be obtained, as the nearest town was Wells, 200 miles away. The flames had so increased that the entire building and outhouses were soon in flames, and the family could do nothing but stand to one side and see the place perish.

When the fire had died away the smouldering ruins were searched for the body of the dead physician. They were found in a ghastly shape, and the kind friends collected them and gave them burial last Sunday in the little churchyard near Cherry Creek.

Mrs. Pinching, widow of the deceased, did not hear of the death of her husband until Monday night, when a friend of Mrs Wearne, to whom the latter had written about the accident, told Mrs. Pinching. It is needless to say that the lady was terribly overcome by the shock, and it was a long time before she could realize the situation. To a CHRONICLE reporter last night she told the sorrowful tale. She said her husband had gone to Cherry Creek for his health at the wish of Mrs Wearne. He wrote to her, telling her how much his health had been improved by the brisk mountain air, and Friday last, the fatal day, she received a letter from him saying he would return home in October.

Mrs.Pinching telegraphed to Wells, Nev., Monday night, to learn the details of the accident, and sat up all night waiting for the answer, which did not come until yesterday afternoon.

The late physician was born in the north of Ireland, and when a young man began to study medicine there. He graduated from the leading London medical colleges and was a prominent member of the Royal College of Surgeons, England, and of the Dublin Lying-in Hospital. He came to California twenty years ago, and has resided in this city at 1516 California street, for some time.

Dr Pinching was 80 years old, and leaves a large circle of relatives and friends who mourn his loss.”

 

[San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday August 15th, 1888].

 

John Wearne was a Cornishman, son of a prosperous miller in St Gluvius, Cornwall, 1839. Wearne seems to have been active in raising British capital to finance mining operations in Nevada; starting at Treasure City and later moving to Cherry Creek:

“Early in the summer of 1869, a Treasure City resident by the name of Wearne began collecting an assortment of fine ore from the mines of the White Pine District to show capitalists and ‘scientific men’ in Europe, and to exhibit in the leading museums of the United States and abroad. His primary aim was to obtain financial support and technical skill for the construction of an elaborate smelting works in Swansea. By the winter of 1870, European capitalists were displaying far more enthusiasm for Nevada mines, than Americans…”

[‘Treasure Hill: Portrait of a Silver Mining Camp’ by William Turrentine Jackson, p.16 University  of Nevada Press, 1963, page 166].

I managed to track Wearne down by finding his gravestone listed here.

And also found Wearne here, via Google Books:

“Angus B McDonald arrived at Cherry Creek in the late ’70s or early ’80s and was at first employed by John Wearne, who was operating a saw-mill. When the Cherry Creek crash came Mr Wearne was unable to pay Mr McDonald considerable back wages… so I believe that Mr McDonald agreed to take over the saw mill  and to pay Wearne the difference. …”

[Nevada In The Making,  From The Nevada State Historical Society Papers vol. IV 1923-1924, pp. 255-474. p.424]

From this we can see John Wearne’s fluctuating fortunes. By 1888, the year Dr Pinching burned down his Cherry Creek home, Wearne had been compelled to rebuild his life from scratch at least once, already.

We glimpse the precarious lives of English and Northern Irish ex-pats in the boom and bust world of mining, half a world away from home. Both Cherry Creek and Treasure City are now ghost towns. No doubt Pinching went where the money was. From the fact Anna Maria wasn’t even directly informed of his death makes me wonder whether he ever truly intended to return to San Francisco. It’s likely Wearne had no idea about ‘The Alleged Walthamstow Scandal’ years before and was as taken in by Dr Pinching’s reinvention of himself, as the residents of San Francisco appear to have been.  Pinching appears to have vanished to Australia, then New Zealand, a few years earlier – only to reappear in San Francisco.

And finally, what became of Anna Maria? Her obit – and Dr Pinching’s – were found by fellow knitting genealogist, Melissa, who came to my aid with the Ancestry worldwide stuff. Without Melissa’s work, Pinching and Anna Maria would have appeared to fall off the edge of the world when they left London in 1870. Indeed, in some ways, they did. Who could have predicted the member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and graduate of Dublin’s prestigious Lying-In Hospital, pillar of the community in prosperous Walthamstow, would end up burning to death in Cherry Creek, Nevada?

In the embroidered letters, Lorina believed she was an only child and her sisters, Anna Maria and Amelia, were imposters. At one point, she wrote she was the Bulwers’ “ONLY DAUGHTER”.

Anna Maria had two suitors, a young lawyer and George Young.  In one sampler, Lorina mentions Anna Maria’s children:

“MRS ANNA MARIA YOUNG OF WALTHAMSTOW / ESSEX THE GROVE
WALTHAMSTOW SHE AGREED FIRST WITH / FREDERICK DANBY
PALMER LAWYER GT YARMOUTH BEFORE / SHE MARRIED THE
FELLOW GEORGE YOUNG OF WALTHAMSTOW / ESSEX FOR A
VOYAGE IN LOYDS SHIP FOR HER HUSBAND GEORGE YOUNG / SHE
HAD FIVE CHILDREN WITH HER THREE AND TWO OF / HER HUSBANDS
CHILDREN BY HIS FIRST OR FORMER WIFE / SHE IS NOT RELATED TO
THE BULWERS NOT THE LEAST RELATIONSHIP / SHE IS AN IMPOSTOR
FORGER DEFRAUDER ”

[Norfolk Transcript, 1901].

(‘LOYD’S SHIP’ will be a confused reference to Lloyds of London, no doubt, not Richard Lloyd Pinching).

‘Her three’ children? Anna Maria was only recorded as having Herbert, born 1862, with her on the passage to America. No trace can be found of the child, Walter, born 1861, from her marriage to George Young. Her stepchildren were also left behind.

Lorina was preoccupied by the paranoid idea that members of her family were changelings, or simulacra.   In the Leeds Lorina, she speaks of Anna Maria as a kind of hollow woman: “MAKING AND ALTERING SHAPES THE SKELETONS INSIDES/COMPLETELY EATEN AWAY”.

Yet maybe it was understandable that no-one was quite who they seemed and that identities shifted. Anna Maria is a chimera in the samplers; never real. Now we know the story, we can understand Lorina’s use of the surname ‘Young’ was very pointed. Anna Maria was to spend decades of her life as ‘Mrs Pinching’ when legally, she was indeed “Mrs Young”. Lorina knew it was artifice.

1860 Fashion Plate. Via Wikicommons.

And maybe this finds expression in this extraordinary description of Anna Maria:

“MRS YOUNG WORE A FALSE NOSE FALSE / TEETH FALSE HAIR ENAMELLED HANDS FALSE FEET / OR STUMP LEGS E. BULWER ESQ – MUST HAVE SEEN THROUGH / THE ART OF BASTARD MONGREL FALSE NOSE CHEST EXPANDER / EARS AN HEMAPHRODITE OR EUNICH”

[Norfolk Transcript, 1901].

 Pinching had verified Lorina was “a properly shaped female”; Anna Maria’s shape was not ‘proper’ and something about her was not even female, according to Lorina. Anna Maria was not who she said she was. There is an essential truth underlying Lorina’s rant. The shape of people; and their ability to not be what they seem, is Lorina’s preoccupation. And maybe now we know more of the story, this makes more sense.

Lorina believed her mother, Ann Bulwer nee Turner, was the real Queen Victoria, and that she had been switched with an imposter; doomed to live out the life of a grocer’s wife in Great Yarmouth, whilst the ‘fake’ Queen took her place:

“I AM PRINCESS VICTORIA’S DAUGHTER LORINA BULWER WAS TAKEN / TO THE ROYAL NUSERY QUEEN VICTORIAS IN HER INFANCY I PASSING AS MISS LORINA BULWER / AND LIVING WITH MR & MRS W J BULWER GROCER BECCLES / SUFFOLK HIS WIFE ANNCY NANCY TICKLE MY FANCY / WHO SENT ME THE SO CALLED MISS LORINA BULWER TO / A BELGIAN SCHOOL AT BECCLES SUFFOLK WHO SENT / ME ALL MY FRENCH BOOKS E BULWER ESQ WAS TOLD / MY GENUINE NAME HE SHOULD HAVE TOLD ME I WOULD HAVE FOUND MY WAY TO THE ENGLISH GOVERNMENT”

[Norfolk Transcript]

Her older brother Edgar (“E.BULWER ESQ”) knew “the truth” so had her committed to the asylum. It is possible Lorina’s  mother genuinely had this delusion, and Lorina grew up believing it. She also believed her sisters were somehow not real, although never seemed to doubt Edgar’s solidity.

From Illustrated Police News, January 7th 1882

This idea of people being simulacra is stronger in the Leeds Lorina. Speaking of a fellow inmate, Lorina says: “SHE IS A COPY OF REUBEN MARSHALL SHE/IS ALSO A COPY OF Mr SAMUEL GUNTON BUTCHER”. One ‘fake’ woman is described as: “A MONGREL SOW DRESSED IN SATIN“.

Speaking of herself in the third person, Lorina says she ” HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE/FELLOW YOUNGS THE AMERICAN BARNHAM SHOWMAN AND/HIS WIFE ANNA MARIA YOUNG ALIAS PINCHING”

[Leeds Transcript, 1904]

Lorina smelt the snake-oil salesman and even knowing Pinching was from Northern Ireland, felt he was somehow ‘American’ (he was naturalised within a couple of years of emigrating).

One sampler ends with the cryptic:

“I MISS LORINA BULWER HAVE A / JEW TIE THROUGH DR PINCHING OF WALTHAMSTOW / ESSEX MOSES & SON MINORIES LONDON KNOWS”

[Norfolk Transcript]

As we know there was no blood tie, or even one by marriage, between Pinching and the Bulwers, we have to wonder about the nature of the connection between Pinching and Lorina.  We can’t know why Lorina would have submitted to or been made to submit to, an examination by keen gynaecologist, Richard L. Pinching. It implies she was staying with Anna Maria in Walthamstow at some point before 1870 and that she met and knew Pinching and seems to have felt there was some tangible “tie” between them. She had been here before – with Anna Maria’s former beau, Frederick Palmer.

Moses & Son were successful and fashionable tailors in The Minories, London.  Lorina was probably linking them randomly; it is possible in her earlier incarnation as a milliner, she had some dealings with them and, in her paranoia, associated them with her arch-enemies.

(Politically Correct Lorina was not. The embroideries touch on all kinds of prejudices common to late nineteenth century England; anti-semitism, and also suspicion of socialism,  republicanism, the French and “tramps”. The Leeds Lorina mentions “A CONNECTIVE TRIBE UNION”. We seem to be looking some kind of paranoid personality disorder. At one point, Lorina decided she had inherited and was the rightful owner of, two people’s houses (one, a local doctor her sister had rejected as a suitor years before, the other a workhouse dignatory’s) and that she threatened to leave the asylum and would “RETURN TO MY HOUSE IN/AUDLEY STREET AND REMOVE MY FURNITURE TO F. PALMER/Esq HOUSE SOUTH QUAY” [Leeds Lorina]. Annexing of other people’s spaces seems to be characteristic of the powerlessness she must have felt; a sort of helpless flailing. Part of Lorina may have known the Palmers would be horrified by her turning up on their doorstep with all her goods and chattels, fresh from the asylum.

Lorina frequently characterised her enemies as belonging to some kind of socialist cabal, or else they were “hermaphrodites” or “eunuchs”; as if she was erasing/denying gender.

We have only to think of the anti-semitic hysteria in London, surrounding the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888 – the year of Pinching’s death in Nevada – to remember how prevalent anti-semitism was, at this time and indeed Lorina herself references the Ripper in two of the samplers, deciding he must be a man called Taylor, an old acquaintance/relation.

Lorina’s hatred for Anna Maria may have had its roots in sexual jealousy. In the earlier sampler, she mentioned Anna Maria rejecting a proposal from Great Yarmouth man, Frederick Palmer. In the later sampler, she claims Palmer left Lorina his house in his will. Maybe years earlier, in the 1850s, Lorina had had her eye on Palmer, only for him to propose to her sister? Speculation, but interesting as it might shed light on her thoughts about Pinching, who ‘examined’ her, pronounced her to be ‘properly shaped’ and then eloped with her sister.

“THE REASON Dr PALMER LEFT I MISS/LORINA BULWER HIS HOUSE AND THE WHOLE OF HIS/PROPERTY REAL AND PERSONAL FOR MISS LORINA BULWER/ENTIRELY FREE OF INTRIQUE [sic] TO DO AS I LIKE IN THE HOUSE/NOTHING TO DO WITH Mrs ANNA MARIA YOUNG ALIAS/PINCHING SHE IS AS Dr F. PALMER SAID A THOROUGH/WICKED WOMAN…”

[Leeds Transcript]

On one hand, she insisted she was an only daughter and no relation to this imposter,  Anna Maria. On the other hand, she felt Anna Maria’s relationship with Pinching gave her “ties” to forbidden knowledge; or power. Anna Maria’s obit, dated close to the time Lorina was admitted to Great Yarmouth’s workhouse asylum, mentions other Pinching children as does the Leeds Lorina:

“THE/DOINGS OF HIS NOTORIOUS SISTER Mrs YOUNG HER TWO/SONS AND ONE DAUGHTER Mrs McAFIE CROSSLEY AND PETO/Mrs ANNA MARIA YOUNG USING THE NAME OF MRS PINCHING”

[Transcript]

(Crossley and Peto appear to have been Workhouse officials, unconnected with Anna Maria).

Several years into Lorina’s time at the asylum, and half a world away, Anna Maria died:

“PINCHING – In this city May 20, Anna Maria, widow of the late Dr R.L.Pinching,and beloved mother of Mrs W.A.McAfee, and Arthur and Herbert Pinching, a native of Beckels, [sic] England, aged 60 years, 11 months and 25 days.

Friends are respectfully invited to attend the funeral services to-morrow (Saturday), at 10 o’clock, at her late residence, 1524 California street. Interment private, Masonic Cemetery.”

[San Francisco Chronicle, 21 May 1897]

Lorina died in the workhouse, of influenza in 1917,  aged 79.

If she was indeed admitted, round about 1894, she’d have spent 23 years in there. In the 1901 and 1904 embroidered letters, she was keeping her old life alive; recounting names, places and people that “I, Miss Lorina Bulwer” had once known; maybe in an attempt to pin down her own shifting identity or counteract that hollowness she detected in other people.  Her bete noirs, the Pinchings, were by then long gone.

Her story has taken us through England, Ireland and America, and home again. From a workhouse asylum, to White Pine County; worlds apart but now equally, unpopulated ghost-towns, held together by the frayed threads of one woman’s life. Lorina wrote of the inherent artifice of the people around her, focus of her paranoia : “MAKING AND ALTERING SHAPES THE SKELETONS INSIDES/COMPLETELY EATEN AWAY” – their identities so erased not even the skeleton remains.   Yet the marks she made with yarn on fabric, have lasted and have given us a privileged insight into that most nineteenth century of people, “the madwoman in the attic” and what lay beyond the flashy, fashionable lives of Dr Pinching, Anna Maria, and the cast of characters who come alive in Lorina’s letters “from Hell”.

Punch, August 1856. Via WIkicommons.

 

Thanks to: Melissa, who found the non UK info.

Thackray Medical Museum, Leeds, who kindly allowed me to see the ‘Leeds Lorina’ and accidentally ended up giving me a guided tour of the old Leeds Workhouse! And gave me a transcript of the Leeds Lorina.

Norfolk Museum Service – all there who helped me with transcripts, etc.

 

 

 

 

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