Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ben Franklin & Co

Well I said I'd be back on this one.
Sorry about the convex look, still haven't figured out how to correct that on my camera.
I have largely finished the main bricky part of the facade and am now down to the stuccoed ground floor, entrance basement and pavement ...
I said there must have been a buzz at No 36 with all these (and oh so many more) occupants and visitors and goings-on and I hope I am managing to convey that. It puts me in mind of the eighteenth century comedies I used to study. All periwigs, New Ideas and comings and goings.
Anyway, I have had to squeeze Dr Hewson in in the ground floor window though where exactly his anatomy school was situated within the building I'm not sure. He is looking a bit Hamlet-like with that skull.
And thereby lies the tale I promised to tell ...
During restoration work in the basement (which was formerly the garden), a pit was discovered which contained 1,200 pieces of human and animal bones, the detritis of the anatomy school.
Here's a couple of quotes referring to that gruesome find which get the imagination racing:
"Dr Hewson had a rich source of subjects at hand: the resurrection men could deliver bodies stolen from graveyards to the Thames wharf at the bottom of Craven Street, while there was a weekly public execution at the gallows on the other side of the garden wall ..."
"A significant find in the pit gave a direct link to Hewson's school was a portion of turtle spine and mercury. In an experiment conducted in 1770 at the Royal Society, Hewson showed the flow of mercury through a turtle to highlight the lymphatic system."
Mmmmm .... thinks .... can I fit a turtle in there somewhere?
Hewson, as I already said I think, was married to Polly, the daughter of the landlady. Their marriage was not a long one. Just four years. He died a victim of his profession. In 1774 he contracted blood poisoning after carrying out a dissection and died aged just 34.
Dr Franklin paints a vivid picture of the sad time in a letter to his wife:
"Our family here is in great Distress. Poor Mrs Hewson has lost her Husband, and Mrs Stevenson her Son-in-law. He died last Sunday Morning of a Fever which baffled the Skill of our best Physicians. He was an excellent young Man ... belov'd by all that knew him. She is left with two young Children, and a third soon expected. He was just established in a profitable growing Business, with the Prospects of bringing up his young Family advantageously."
Polly eventually moved with her children first to Paris then to Philadelphia to be close to Franklin after the end of the Revolutionary War.
Golly, this is a long post.
Sorry about that.
Will continue anon with the identities of other personages on the Craven Street scene.

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