The Things You Learn When Researching an Erotic Regency Romance Series

Not that! Get your mind out of the gutter!

Louisa Cornell

The game of chess was created in India during the Gupta dynasty in the 6th century. By the 10th century it had spread from Asia to the Middle East and Europe. Two incidents in 13th-century London, in which men of Essex resorted to violence resulting in death as an outcome of playing chess, caused alarm among government and Church officials. The Church came out against the game, but that did not stop chess from being played. The practice of playing chess for money became so widespread during the 13th century that Louis IX of France issued an ordinance against gambling in 1254. This ordinance turned out to be unenforceable and was ignored by commoners and courtly society alike, which continued to enjoy prohibited chess tournaments uninterrupted.

Early 19th century Chess Set


Napoleon played chess as a young man and throughout his life was believed to have used chess strategies in fighting the Peninsular Wars.

The second half of the 18th century saw the game of chess become increasingly popular in England. Coffee houses offered rooms as locations for chess lessons with famous players.

François-André Danican Philidor (1726 – 1795), a musician and composer by profession, was considered perhaps the top chess player in France. Fortunately for the growing chess popularity in Britain, he visited London several times from 1747–1754, in the 1770s, and finally even lived there after he fled from the French Revolution. In London, he tested his skills against the strongest British chess player, Sir Abraham Janssen, in 1747. They played at the Old Slaughter’s Coffee House, and Philidor won. This was the beginning of Philidor’s career as the most beloved chess master of Georgian England. In 1749 his Analysis of Chess was published in London, the first chess book to explain the openings, the middle game, and the general strategy of chess. In the 1770s, Philidor played chess and offered lessons at the Salopian Coffee House at Charing Cross and at Parsloe’s Coffee House in St. James Street.

In 1774, Philidor encouraged chess players to form the Chess Club at Parsloe’s. The club was exclusive and highly fashionable. Membership was limited to 100 players of rank, influence, and chess skills. Charles James Fox, the Marquis of Rockingham, Count Bruehl, Lord Harrowby, and General John Burgoyne were some of the first members. The club members convinced Philidor to be their teacher, and he obtained remuneration as a chess master every year for a regular season from February to June. Chess lessons at the club with Philidor cost 5 shillings (60 cents) each. Needless to say, ladies were not allowed.

The Chess Club at Parsloe’s became the heart of British chess and it attracted customers with spectacular events. Every year, Philidor amazed audiences by playing three blindfold chess games simultaneously. A report of one such event was published in The Morning Post:

“The celebrated Mr. Philidor, whose unrivalled excellence at the game of Chess has long been distinguished, invited the members of the Chess-club, and the amateurs in general of that arduous amusement, to be present on Saturday last at a spectacle of the most curious kind, as it was to display a very wonderful faculty of the human mind, which faculty, however, is perhaps exclusively at present his own. “

(The Morning Post, 28 May 1782)

Philidor’s death in 1792 was a heavy blow for the club which gradually declined in importance afterwards.

At the turn of the 19th century, the upper-middle class embraced chess. Verdoni, Philidor’s successor as London’s chess master, passed on his knowledge to several men of the newly emerging middle class that became crucial for the further development of chess in Britain.

One of these men was Jacob Henry Sarratt (born in France in 1772), originally a schoolmaster. In 1804 Sarratt was considered London’s strongest player, and he became the house professional at the Salopian at Charing Cross. Sarratt called himself Professor of Chess and taught chess at the price of a guinea per game.

On April 6, 1807, the London Chess club was formed at Tom’s Coffee House in Cornhill; Sarratt was one of its most active members. The club was mainly frequented by merchants and members of the Stock Exchange. Membership dues were 3 guineas per year, and one guinea per entrance.

On July 9, 1813, the Liverpool Mercury published the first newspaper chess column.
Additionally, the number of publications on chess rose. The emphasis was on practical learning:

1816 – An Easy Introduction to the Game of Chess: containing 100 examples of games and a Great Variety of Critical Situations and Conclusions

1817Oriental Chess by William Lewis (1787-1870) The first chess problems book printed in England

1817 – John Cazenove, the president of the London Chess Club, published “A selection of curious and entertaining games at chess: that have been actually played”

What about the ladies?

Ladies would play at home or at gatherings with neighbors or friends. A number of paintings from the era depict ladies doing just that. However, chess clubs did not admit women until the late 19th century.

The Winter’s Day Delineated by Maria Cosway (1759-1838)

There is an informative post on the advent of women in chess at the link below.

Were there women chess masters during the Regency era? Very likely so. The possibility is the premise for BOOK FOUR in the Regency erotic romance series – Sex, Lies, and Forbidden Desires. Read on to learn more!


The loss of Col’s damning journal pages is about to turn deadly;
The forfeit of Charlotte’s closely guarded secrets might destroy her;
Will their mutual quest for justice bring them together, or tear them apart?

By night, she’s a masked chess mistress who challenges and trounces all takers; by day, she’s the ethereal white-blonde beauty who volunteers at the children’s refuge in Seven Dials — Charlotte Smythe lives a luxurious double life of ease as the mysterious chess genius at Goodrum’s House of Pleasure..

After spending years as a gifted investigator extricating others from their peccadillos, dedicated Bow Street runner Archer Colwyn has landed in a suds of his own making. The light-hearted journal of sensual exploits he and his school chums kept while students at Cambridge has gone missing, and the secrets within his particular pages, if revealed, could set off deadly consequences.

The dangerous Captain El Goodrum, proprietress of the most infamous house of pleasure in London, holds the key to their retrieval. In exchange for her cooperation, she demands he run a gauntlet of secrets to deliver a master criminal to justice. His only path to the damning pages is the inscrutable chess mistress who not only resents his attempts to romance away his journal pages, but seems to relish his dread and panic at the prospect of the pages becoming public knowledge.

Charlotte craves the kind of refuge she provides to the orphans she rescues from London’s stews. The respite she seeks away from the world in her St. John’s Wood villa with her two house companions is all that keeps her sane, but sometimes, late at night, she needs something more, something even she cannot name.





Louisa Cornell

This post is a continuation of the previous post on body disposal in Regency England, For perspective one might want to read through Part One of this series again.

Burial Disposal

Murderers likely buried their victims during the Regency for some of the same reasons murderers bury their victims today. Some did so out of a need to always know where the body was. Some did so out of expediency. It might have been the quickest method to hand at the time. Some did so in order to prevent a body from ever being found. During the Regency there were advantages to burial, especially for those who lived in rural areas. Most people were buried in cemeteries during the Regency. However, it was not uncommon for bodies to be buried on family farms or estates. Poor families buried their dead where they could. A body discovered and dug up in a wooded area, a field or other lonely place might simply be reburied unless the person discovering it thought the body was there as a result of murder.

The degree to which burial destroyed evidence varied. England’s colder weather tended to preserve bodies in the ground save for in the summer months. A laborer, or one who did a great deal of manual labor, was more likely to choose burial as digging was an activity with which they were familiar and at which they were good. Bodies were buried in a variety of spots in the cities. A cemetery that contained open mass graves was the perfect place to dispose of a murder victim so long as those who worked in association with these graves didn’t check too carefully. As horrible as it may sound bodies were found buried beneath the floors of houses and businesses. They were buried in cellars as well. One must remember, especially in cities where people lived in close proximity the smell of a decaying body simply added to the regular stench.

Some things to remember about burying a murder victim during the Regency:

(1) There were no cadaver dogs during the Regency. However, one would be foolish to assume dogs could not find a body. As early as the 16th century dogs were used to track fugitives, enemies, and even runaway wives.

(2) Lime was used in cemeteries in mass graves to speed the decomposition process and to hide the odor. Some murderers in Regency England used lime for pretty much the same reason. However, there were no guarantees and lime took time to get the job done.

(3) Burial did destroy some evidence, but not all. And there were men who could examine the soil from a burial site and match it to the clothes and shoes worn by the murderer.

(4) Burial at a crossroads was less likely to attract attention to the grave. Suicides were not allowed to be buried in cemeteries until the Burial of Suicides Act of 1823.

(5) There were other chemicals available to murderers to aid in the destruction of a body. These were usually used by more educated murderers with the knowledge and the access, although people in trades where lye and other such chemicals were used also had access and understanding. Most of the time these chemicals were used in conjunction with burial as few people had somewhere to store a body long enough for it to be destroyed by chemicals.


A few case studies of burial of a body during the Regency era


1827 — In 1827 in Polstead, Suffolk Maria Martin was supposed to meet William Corder at a local landmark, the Red Barn, so the two might run off to Ipswich be married. Her family became concerned even after they received letters from her saying all was well. A year later, Maria’s stepmother finally persuaded local authorities that the dreams she’d been having of Maria’s murder had to be true. She’d dreamed off and on all year that Corder had murdered Maria and buried her in the Red Barn. Authorities dug up the floor of the barn and found Maria’s body, identified by some of the clothes she’d last been seen wearing. She’d been shot and buried so deeply no on suspected until her stepmother’s persistence paid off. Corder was tracked down in London, where he had actually married, and returned to Bury St. Edmunds for trial. Unfortunately, he’d kept the red neckerchief Maria was wearing when she went off to meet him. He’d removed it from her dead body before he’d buried her. He was tried and hanged in Bury St. Edmunds in 1828. If one goes to all the trouble of burying a victim one might want to bury all of the victim’s clothing with them.


1849 — This particular burial was part of a case sensationalized by the press and the murder ballad writers as The Bermondsey Horror. On 17 August, 1849 two men investigating a missing person, one Patrick O’Connor, went into the home of the missing man’s friends, Frederick and Maria Manning, where O’Connor was supposed to have had dinner on the last night he was seen alive. The couple were not at home, but in inspecting the premises, the investigators noticed a damp spot in the kitchen floor where it appeared flagstones and mortar had recently been replaced. They pulled up the flagstones, dug up the dirt beneath them, and came upon a man’s toe. Once they uncovered the entire body they discovered a middle-aged man, naked, face down, with his legs drawn up behind him and tied with a piece of clothesline. There was also a bloody dress in the grave. Lime had been tossed in over the body, and the face was partially decomposed, but they were able to identify the man by his false teeth. These investigators had learned a bit about investigating a murder as they left the body there and secured the scene. They searched the house and removed items that belonged to the victim. The next day the body was removed from the grave, washed, and the post-mortem was performed on the kitchen table. The victim had been shot and beaten about the head. The Mannings were tracked down, tried, and hanged together. (We will be looking at this case again in other lessons.) Burial of one’s victim in one’s own home can work, but not if one’s home was the last place the victim is rumored to have visited. And leaving one’s own clothing and the victim’s identifiable false teeth in the grave is likely not a good idea either.

Check Back for Part Three of this series soon !


So you’ve committed a murder in Regency England. Now what? You could just leave the body there and run. But if you really want a chance at escaping the hangman’s noose you might want to dispose of the body. Let’s look at some possibilities.



Louisa Cornell


Body disposal during the Regency era was just as varied and contained just as many problems for both the murderer and the person dedicated to solving the murder as it does today. The advantage for the person set to solve the murder during the Regency was the lack of a constant stream of television shows instructing a murderer on how to dispose of a body. The majority of murder victims during the Regency were found where the murder actually occurred with no attempt made to hide or otherwise manipulate the body to get rid of evidence. That does not mean, however, that some murderers during this era did not come up with some rather unique ways to dispose of a body.

Some things to know about Regency Era crime investigation

(1) Once a murder victim was discovered, no matter where the body might be, there was a good chance the body would be moved, covered, or otherwise tampered with before law enforcement and / or the coroner arrived. Wounds might be bound. Clothing might even be removed.

(2) Should the body be found at a place of business, there was little to no chance the business would close until the body was removed. Business was business and the added cache of a murder victim lying about brought in more customers. Regency era people were above all realists.

(3) Depending on where the body was found and how long it took for the coroner to arrive with instructions, the location might become a tourist attraction with some enterprising soul selling tickets to view the body. As a result, items could be stolen or sold from the body before anyone had the chance to collect them as evidence. And the crime scene would be destroyed as well. Yes, especially in large cities like London or Edinburgh this could happen in a matter of minutes.

(4) Should a body be found other than in the victim’s home there is the possibility the body might be carried home by friends and family. Often this meant the body was stripped, bathed, bound and redressed before the coroner and law enforcement arrived. This did not happen often, but it did happen. This was more likely to happen in rural locations.

(5) Often a body that was hidden in some way made things easier for the coroner and law enforcement. A body that was hidden was last touched by the murderer, not a cast of thousands.

(6) However hidden bodies presented an investigator with its own problems. There were no tests to ascertain time of death. Wounds were often obliterated by the process of disposal and decomposition. Identification was more difficult, but not impossible, although there were no such things as dental records per se.

Water Disposal

Water disposal of murder victims was quite common during the Regency era. In the modern age water disposal is used to destroy evidence and in the hope the body might never resurface. In the Regency era, the idea of water destroying evidence didn’t really come into play in the average murder. However, it would be foolish to assume there were not murderers smart enough to know that water might help.

The Thames was notorious for the number of bodies that showed up floating in its waters. Riverside and dockside murder victims were often discovered in the Thames. Unwanted babies often ended in the Thames as well. Most of these murder victims came under the jurisdiction of the Thames River Police (established 1798.) Their normal duties involved stopping thievery from ships and in the transfer of goods from ships to the docks. They covered a large area, and if a body was found in the river and it was closer to their offices and jurisdiction they would investigate. More about them when we discuss who investigates a murder.

Bodies were also disposed of in rivers outside of London, as well as lakes and ponds as well. If a body was found in a body of water, the investigator would be safe to assume the murder had taken place either in the body of water or nearby. Transporting a body a long distance away in order to dispose of it was not an easy thing to do. Whether by horse or some sort of carriage or cart, the idea of spending time with the body of someone one had killed held little appeal for a variety of reasons—superstitions, in most communities a stranger would be noticed, worse in most communities everyone knew everyone, unless a person knew to weigh a body down there was no guarantee the body would sink before the murderer risked being caught nearby.

Bodies might also be disposed of in a well or cistern. Of course, if the well or cistern were one in use by a family, a community, or a business a body would foul the water and might be discovered all the more quickly. Good for the investigator. Bad for the murderer. No fun for the people who used the well for water either.

Some things unique to water disposal during the Regency Era

(1) A murder victim pulled from a body of water might be considered a victim of accidental drowning. Even with obvious wounds, depending on the body of water, the coroner and coroner’s jury might decide a murder is simply a drowning.

(2) This would be more likely in a rural setting than in a larger city. By the Regency era most of the physicians who practiced in the cities and / or kept up with the latest medical treatises knew how to ascertain if a victim was dead before they went into the water. Even in a rural setting where there was a competent physician families might object to the test to discover if their loved one had drowned as it involved dissecting the body at least enough to remove the lungs and float them in water. If they floated the person was dead when they went into the water and likely ended up in the water after they were murdered. If they sank, they were full of water which indicated a person was alive when they went into the water. Then the coroner and coroner’s jury had only to decide if the drowning was an accident or murder.

(3) Water disposal could erase a great deal of evidence from a body. However, the method of putting the body into the water might provide evidence of its own. People seldom considered that weighing a body down with items from their home, their farm, or a location associated with them might lead the authorities back to them.

(4) Any detritus associated with a specific body of water found on a suspect’s person or in a suspect’s home might lead the authorities back to them.

(5) Very few anatomists were able to distinguish between possible murder wounds and wounds brought about by the predation of aquatic animals.

(6) Unless a body was found in clothes or wore items of jewelry that could be identified by friends and / or family some murder victims found in water might never be positively identified.

(7) The longer a body stayed in the water the more difficult it was to determine time of death, cause of death, and identity. During the Regency era this level of decomposition was of a much shorter time than today.

An interesting method of discovering a body in the water.

An ancient method for finding a body in the water, which was still in use well into the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was the use of quicksilver or mercury as we know it today. The quicksilver was inserted into a loaf of bread and floated as nearly as possible to where the body was supposed to have gone into the water. According to the superstition, the body would rise to meet the quicksilver. There is no scientific evidence to back this theory up. However, there are written records of the method being used.

The Gentleman’s Magazine, for April of 1767 contains a story about a search for the body of a child undertaken at Newbury in Berkshire where the one-year-old had fallen into the river Kennet and was drowned. The account states how the body was discovered by a very singular experiment—a two-penny loaf, with a quantity of quicksilver was put into the river and was set floating from the place where the child, it was supposed, had fallen. The loaf steered its course down the river before a great number of spectators. The loaf suddenly tacked about, and swam across the river, and gradually sank near the child, whereupon both the child and loaf were immediately brought up, with chained hooks ready for that purpose.


Louisa Cornell


The relationship between herding dogs and their masters is one of longest standing and in many ways the closest when it comes to dogs and humans during the Regency. Herding dogs were some of the hardest working dogs of the era, but they spent a great deal of time with their masters. It was not unusual for herding dogs to sleep with their masters, especially when they were out with their herds or flocks. The level of communication between herding dog and master was on a completely different level than that of a pet and master. This sort of relationship would certainly engender a level of mutual respect and affection between dog and master. There were, of course, exceptions. The life of a shepherd, a keeper of sheep and cattle, was a hard one. There were those who trained and used their dogs with tactics of fear and abuse. However, this did not always make for a willing and obedient dog. A master who appealed to a herding dog’s innate desire to please and instinct to herd was far more successful, and part of this sort of relationship had to involve love, loyalty, and affection between man and dog.

The artist Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) understood this relationship very well when he painted his famous work The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner.

The Old Shepherd’s Chief Mourner by Edwin Landseer.


Old English Sheepdogs

It is generally agreed that this breed, fairly closely to the way we know it, had its origins in the southwestern counties of England in the early 19th century. They were referred to as “drovers’ dogs” as they were used primarily to drive cattle and large breeds of sheep to market. Their tails were docked to show that they were working dogs. Companion dogs were taxed, working dogs were not.


Border Collies

Remember that the appearance of these dogs during the Regency would not match our vision of this breed today. Not to mention, a number of different sorts of dog fell under the label of sheep dog. The dog most like the sheep dogs of the Regency is the border collie.

Perhaps the earliest training manual for sheepdogs was written by William Ellis (ca. 1690-1759). Ellis was a farmer from Little Gaddesden in Hertfordshire, about 30 miles northwest of London. In 1732 he wrote The Practical Farmer or The Hertfordshire Husbandman. His book enjoyed popularity immediately upon publication. In this book, Ellis writes a description of the ideal sheepdog.

A Shepherd generally keeps a rough-coated Dog, partly, I suppose, for their being, as I said, better enabled by their fluffy warm Coat, to withstand the Violence of Frosts and cold Winds, or to become the more frightful to their Sheep, and for his closer Attendance on his Master, as he is somewhat slower than a smooth-coated one, therefore not so subject to hare and run the Sheep too fast; and is commonly the most sensible one of all others…One Thomas…has a has a brindle-colour’d, very shaggy-hair’d Dog, of the biggest Sort, so much at Command, as to lie down by a Fold all Night to guard the Sheep till next Morning; and for making haste on an emergent Occasion, when Sheep are pent in a narrow Place, will run over their Backs; and in several other Respects, makes himself an excellent Shepherd’s Dog…

Sheepdogs generally began their training at the age of 6 months. They were taught a number of basic and important commands, the first of which was “lie down.” This was an important command when dealing with sheep as a dog on its feet tended to intimidate and sometimes frighten sheep. Every shepherd had his own system of commands and signals that could be a series of whistles, short word commands or even hand signals.

Shepherd’s dogs were divided into three categories or types during this era: the Shepherd’s Dog or Colley; the English Sheep-Dog or Southern Sheep-Dog; and the Cur or Drover’s Dog, As you can see the “breed” names were a little ambiguous. These dogs tended to be bred by shepherds and sheep farmers. Their bloodlines were managed and tracked in hand-written records by each farmer. Dogs from one farmer might be loaned out to another for stud purposes. These dogs were bred for very distinct qualities.

Keen sight.

A keen sense of smell.





Athletically active.

Constant watchfulness.


Hardiness in all kinds of weather.

Devotion to duty.


The Shepherd’s Dog or Collie
The Cur
English Sheep Dog





Louisa Cornell

By the late 18th century, a new species of rat had invaded England. The brown or “Norway” rats were much larger and quite frankly more frightening than the common black rat indigenous to England. Catching and eliminating rats was considered the perfect job for the poorer citizens of England, especially those people born and bred in the poorer areas of larger cities like London, Manchester, and Edinburgh. After all, these were the people who spent their childhoods playing with rats in the floorboards of their meager homes.

The more successful rat-catchers used ferrets and dogs to catch rats. They were paid per rat and sending a dog into the sewers and less clean and accessible parts of homes and businesses was less work, for the rat-catcher at least. The dogs used for this task were mostly terrier-type dogs. Their prey drive, ferocity, small size and quickness made them perfectly suited for the task.

Some of the breeds used as ratters were:

Bull Terriers

Bedlington Terriers

Fox Terriers

Jack Russell Terriers

Rat Terriers

Black and Tan Terriers

Manchester Terriers

Yorkshire Terriers

Staffordshire Bull Terriers


Those who used and bred dogs for this purpose kept close track of their dogs’ pedigrees. They sought to bred in those traits best suited to ratters and the breed out unwanted qualities. Surprisingly, even those poorest and least educated breeders of rat-catching dogs took great pride in the breeding and pedigrees of their dogs. Having a dog related to some of the better-known ratters was a source of pride, not to mention a great selling point when seeking employment, especially in the more successful businesses and in the more exclusive homes in London.

How did dogs gain reputations as champion ratters? From the late 18th into the early 19th centuries word-of-mouth was a big part of spreading a dog’s fame. However, rat-catchers didn’t only breed dogs, they also bred rats. They bred rats for three purposes.

  1. Frankly, they bred them to encourage repeat customers or to persuade customers to avail themselves of the rat-catcher’s services. Yes, they bred rats to turn loose in businesses and houses to drum up business.
  2. They bred them to demonstrate their dogs’ prowess as rat catchers. They gave demonstrations and eventually, once other baiting sports were banned in 1835 by Parliament’s passing of the Cruelty to Animals Act, rat baiting contests took place in the facilities formerly used for cock-fighting, dog fighting and bear baiting. Thousands of rats were needed for these contests and ratters provided them.
  3. They bred rats for unique colors to sell them to the gentry and aristocrats as pets. Yes, even young Queen Victoria had pet rats, but people were keeping rats as pets long before she did. One of the most famous breeders of pet rats was also one of England’s most famous rat catchers. Jack Black styled himself as rat catcher to Queen Victoria. He was also written up in Henry Mayhew’s 1815 book London Labor and the London Poor. He dressed rather elegantly for a rat catcher in order to drum up business. He was the first recorded breeder of fancy rats and also provided rats for rat baiting contests.

Rat catching dogs made money for their owners both in catching and eliminating rats for customers and in participating in rat baiting contests which involved cash prizes for the winning dogs and, of course, wagering on the outcome of the contests.

These dogs were highly prized by their owners both for their ability to kill rats for customers and by 1835 for their ability in the rat baiting ring. I daresay their lot in life was better than that of turnspit dogs in spite of the very real danger of possible injury and even death when catching rats. These dogs were doing what they were born and bred to do.

One of the most celebrated ratters of his day was the 26-pound bull terrier, Billy, owned by Charles Dew.

The October 1822, edition of The Sporting Magazine provide us with descriptions of two rat pit matches with Billy.

Thursday night, Oct. 24, at a quarter before eight o’clock, the lovers of rat killing enjoyed a feast of delight in a prodigious raticide at the Cockpit, Westminster. The place was crowded. The famous dog Billy, of rat-killing notoriety, 26 lb. weight, was wagered, for 20 sovereigns, to kill 100 rats in 12 minutes. The rats were turned out loose at once in a 12-foot square, and the floor whitened, so that the rats might be visible to all. The set-to began, and Billy exerted himself to the utmost. At four minutes and three-quarters, as the hero’s head was covered with gore, he was removed from the pit, and his chaps being washed, he lapped some water to cool his throat. Again, he entered the arena, and in vain did the unfortunate victims labor to obtain security by climbing against the sides of the pit, or by crouching beneath the hero. By twos and threes, they were caught, and soon their mangled corpses proved the valor of the victor. Some of the flying enemy, more valiant than the rest, endeavored by seizing this Quinhus Flestrum of heroic dogs by the ears, to procure a respite, or to sell their life as dearly as possible; but his grand paw soon swept off the buzzers, and consigned them to their fate. At seven minutes and a quarter, or according to another watch, for there were two umpires and two watches, at seven minutes and seventeen seconds, the victor relinquished the glorious pursuit, for all his foes lay slaughtered on the ensanguined plain. Billy was then caressed and fondled by many; the dog is estimated by amateurs as a most dextrous animal; he is, unfortunately, what the French Monsieurs call borg-ne, that is, blind of an eye. This precious organ was lost to him some time since by the intrepidity of an inimical rat, which as he had not seized it in a proper place, turned round on its murderer, and deprived him by one bite of the privilege of seeing with two eyes in future. The dog BILLY, of rat-killing notoriety, on the evening of the 13th instant, again exhibited his surprising dexterity; he was wagered to kill one hundred rats within twelve minutes; but six minutes and 25 seconds only elapsed, when every rat lay stretched on the gory plain, without the least symptom of life appearing.’ Billy was decorated with a silver collar, and a number of ribband bows, and was led off amidst the applauses of the persons assembled.

Bill the Ratcatcher
Henry Alken


Billy’s best competition results are: (Yes, they kept meticulous records of this.)

Date              Rats killed         Time                                   Time per rat
1820–??-??        20               1 minute, 11 seconds                3.6 seconds
1822-09-03      100              8 minutes, 45 seconds             5.2 seconds
1822-10-24       100              7 minutes, 17 seconds             4.4 seconds
1822-11-13        100               6 minutes, 25 seconds            3.8 seconds
1823-04-22      100               5 minutes, 30 seconds            3.3 seconds
1823-08-05      120               8 minutes, 20 seconds            4.1 seconds

Billy’s career was crowned on 22 April 1823, when a world record was set with 100 rats killed in five and a half minutes. This record stood until 1862, when it was claimed by another ratter named “Jacko”. Billy continued in the rat pit until old age, reportedly with only one eye and two teeth remaining.