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Millbank Prison in the 1820s
This is a letter from my house…
Dear New Family,
I know that you are interested in me. I can feel it, and it is good to be desired again. I have been neglected for such a long time.
On the face of it, I am just another vertical slice of a Victorian terraced house. But come on, look closer. I was built in the late 1840s. I have seen it all. You know, the Millbank prison was just down the road. Every person sentenced to transportation was sent here first, and then to Australia. Several thousands of persons convicted of petty crimes, such as stealing an egg because they were hungry, walked here before leaving. You can still see the buttress on the embankment. I remember their fears and also their hopes of building a new life. Some were so young!
I am crumbling. The ceiling of the study is about to collapse, and the gutter on the roof is leaking. You see, they have never been changed, and are full of old memories of the sad faces leaving London.
I was rented by the room at the time. The turnover was high. Musicians, road sweepers, office workers, engineers and dress makers all lived here. Pimlico was becoming fashionable, and Millbank in those days was industrial with a Coconut Fibre factory, the Imperial Flour Mills and the Cement Works. I was stuck between the two, and loving the energy.
You know, I have seen lots of Chelsea men going to the house at the end of the street for some illicit entertainment. They looked happy and passably drunk.
The infamous prison eventually closed down in the 1890s and was replaced by the Tate Britain. You will love it. I can’t recommend highly enough the Turner collection. You could go there every week-end.
In 1928, all of Millbank and a good part of Pimlico were flooded. You had to be resilient to survive this. I was. All of Pimlico was. But you don’t need to worry. The Thames barriers will protect you now. You will be safe here.
I survived World War II. Some houses on this street were bombed. I wasn’t. Have a look at Atterbury Street, and you will see the scars on the walls. I was one of the lucky ones. I am a survivor.
I can see that you have two daughters. They are going to the same school than the family who moved in after the war. Both did very well and went to Oxbridge. What are you waiting for? I am exactly what you need. I am sure that their Dad will renovate me. He seems to like me too.
The last owner had two dogs and two cats. They were clearly passionate about their pets. As you have seen, I just have a small patio. I am still angry about having to accommodate so many animals, it is so unfair on them in central London. I think that you can smell it. Don’t worry, it will all go away. When one of the cats died, the owner stuffed it to keep the other cat company.
I know that, when you are talking about me, you are calling me the Stuffed Cat’s house. I don’t really mind. I am making my way into your heart and you know it.
What is the price of your own piece of London anyway? Welcome home!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London