The Salvation Army worked in the poor areas of Kilburn. They recognised the value of music in promoting the gospel so they recruited and trained people to form bands. Popular tunes were adapted so that ‘Way down upon the Swanee River’ became ‘Joy, freedom, peace and ceaseless blessing’! They used a mission hall in Pembroke Road (later called Granville Road), before they opened a barracks in nearby Percy Road in 1889. Today this area is called South Kilburn and there has been substantial redevelopment so many of the Victorian streets have been demolished.
|Kilburn Salvation Army Mission Hall, 1894|
In January 1886, Richard Hillier and Arthur Artis from Kilburn were convicted at the Old Bailey on a charge of;
Unlawfully taking Lucy Ada Hibberd, aged 16 years and two months, and Amelia Brodie, aged 17, out of the custody of their parents, and carnally knowing them.
The Kilburn scandal featured in many papers and reporters repeatedly drew attention to the fact the men had attended services at the local Salvation Army hall with headlines such as:
Abduction by Salvation Army Men.
But the case was not as simple as the court ruling and headlines would have us believe. Richard and Arthur were 22 year old labourers living at 123 Herries Street, off Kilburn Lane. We could find little information about the men before 1886.
Hillier had been in court on at least two occasions for theft; in 1883 when he was sentenced to three months in prison for stealing boots and in 1884 when he served two months for stealing a belt valued at 6 ½ d. We could find little about Arthur Artis who was the London-born son of a bricklayer and builder who moved to the capital from Suffolk.
Lucy Hibberd and Amelia Brodie had known each other for years as school friends and neighbours. Their families lived in Peel Street, one of a network of narrow streets fringed by small terrace houses, south of Kilburn Lane and close to Herries Street. Lucy’s father George was a carpenter and Amelia’s dad, Henry Brodie, worked as a cutler, making or selling cutlery.
The court was told that Lucy and Amelia had met Richard and Arthur in May 1885 at the Salvation Army Hall in Pembroke Road, where Richard played the big drum in the band for a while. This was just a round the corner from Peel Street. All four of the young people attended services but they became increasingly disruptive and were regularly ejected. It seems that they only used the Hall as a convenient means of meeting one another, as they had paired off and were ‘walking out’: Lucy with Arthur and Amelia with Richard.
|Kilburn Salvation Army Band at a later date, the bass drum player is on the right|
Arthur gave a rather different version of events. He said the girls had first attracted his (and other men’s) attention by beckoning to them from their window and saying their parents were out. This was probably Lucy’s house as her father said Amelia spent a great deal of time there. According to Arthur, the girls next ‘divested themselves of their clothing’ and exposed themselves to the audience in the street below.
So - not only was the Salvation Army link a very tenuous one, but far from being abducted, the girls appear to have been more than willing participants. As George Hibberd said, his daughter often refused to tell him anything about her social life or lied about what was happening. On 14 October 1885, Lucy told both Richard and Arthur she had no intention of going home that evening. Arthur said he tried to dissuade her - she was being very foolish – but when Amelia arrived, she agreed to accompany Lucy and the two men to a coffeehouse in Golborne Road, Notting Hill. The owner Edward Holkam rented the couples a room for the night, clearly without asking too many questions. The court was told that it was ‘a matter for future consideration’ as to whether the police would take action against Holkam, presumably for running a disorderly house. The next morning George Hibberd and Henry Brodie went to the police to report their daughters missing. But the girls both came home, Lucy bought back by her brother.
For a few weeks George kept his daughter a virtual prisoner in the house as he didn’t want her associating with either Artis or Hillier. Matters came to a head on 5th November. It was the habit for neighbourhoods to put on a procession on Bonfire Night, with decorated floats touring the streets and collecting money for charity. Hampstead’s parade was well known, and for some reason, George allowed Lucy to go. He must have known who she’d go with. Sure enough, Lucy and Amelia met Arthur and Richard and together they climbed the hill to Hampstead. The bonfire procession was delayed and it was around 11pm before the couples arrived back in Kilburn. Lucy said she was too scared to go home, so Arthur solved the problem by renting another room for them to share. The following day he asked Lucy to marry him and they spent the night above a coffeehouse in Praed Street, Paddington.
The next morning Arthur took a room in Frederick Street near Kings Cross, for himself and his ‘wife’ under the names of Mr and Mrs Williams. Richard and Amelia took a room a short walk away, at 60 Tonbridge Street, also under an assumed name of Mr and Mrs Wilson. On 13 November Arthur told Lucy he had no more money and she should go home. Richard and Amelia’s liaison lasted slightly longer, until the 16th, when her father, accompanied by a policeman, arrived at Tonbridge Street to take Amelia back to Kilburn.
As both girls were under 18 and their fathers told the police no one had been given permission to take their daughters away, warrants were issued for the arrest of Richard Hillier and Arthur Artis on a charge of abduction. They were taken into custody on 20 November in the Market Place, part of Canterbury Road which led from Kilburn Bridge on the High Road towards Kilburn Lane.
When they were arrested Artis was silent. Hillier said, All right and then, They asked us to take them and finally, It’s false, when the charge was told to him. The men appeared at Marylebone Police Court.
Meantime the Salvation Army wrote to the newspapers to disassociate themselves from the case:
As the treasurer and the secretary of a congregation of poor people who are likely to be blamed in connection with the Kilburn abduction case, it is necessary for us to correct the impression that either of the defendants were members of the Salvation Army at the time when they began to have improper conversation with these girls.
But the headlines persisted. The Northern Echo, under ‘The Abduction by Salvationists’ described Arthur Artis and Richard Hillier as two rough-looking young men at their Old Bailey trial.
The men asserted in the strongest manner that the girls asked them to take them away and they alleged they were both above eighteen. The Recorder (the court official) said that was no answer to the charge and recommended the prisoners to plead guilty, which they did.
The jury had no option but to find Artis and Hillier guilty but added a plea for mercy, because the jurors; ‘believed the girls to have been as bad as the prisoners’.
Artis and Hillier were sentenced to three months hard labour apiece. In Victorian prisons this meant harsh punishment, such as the Treadmill where men were forced to walk for most of the day. Or the Screw, which meant turning a handle where the warders could increase the resistance – hence their nickname of screws.
The girls were not charged and appeared as witnesses in the Police Court. There was some discussion about what all parties had thought to be the legal age to leave home without permission, but at no point did either Lucy or Amelia say they’d been coerced or duped by Arthur and Richard to run away with them.
What happened to Richard, Arthur, Lucy and Amelia?
It’s often impossible to trace people through official documents, when they aren’t famous or have distinctive names. This is the case with Richard Hillier, the reliable trail stops with his Old Bailey sentence. We fared better with Arthur Artis. After coming out of prison, he worked as a house painter and got married in 1888. He stayed in the Kilburn neighbourhood, moving to another house in Herries Street (number 104) by 1891, with his wife Ellen and two young sons. The family (now with four children) was at 223 Kilburn Lane in 1901. Arthur died the following year, aged 38. His widow remarried, ironically, a coffeehouse keeper in Southwark.
And the girls? Both got married. Lucy’s husband was stonemason William Banks. The 1901 census shows them at 80 Glengall Road in Kilburn, with two young daughters. By 1911, Lucy’s home was 66 Northern Road, Aylesbury. There were now five children and William was absent on census night.
Amelia’s husband was George William Dean, a soldier who she married in 1888. Three years later, the census shows her living with her parents in Kilburn at 128 Carlton Road, along with her 1 year old daughter, also called Amelia. At the time George was at Aldershot Barracks. By 1911 they were living at 100 Holly Lane in Willesden with five of their six children; their seventeen year old daughter was born in India, so Amelia had seen quite a bit of the world as a soldier’s wife. By 1911 George was a carman. He died in 1926.
This story gives an interesting insight to life in the poor parts of Kilburn and shows how the press turned a case of two misguided couples running away together into a sensational story involving abduction.