In memory of Whitmore and Kathleen Scovell

Whitmore was the eldest son, and Kathleen the youngest daughter, of Henry Scovell and Anna Maria Whitmore. Henry was a Wharfinger (owned warehouses) in Southwark, London, but eventually settled in Ireland.

Whitmore and Kathleen’s uncle Sir George Scovell was an intelligence officer in the Napoleonic wars and became the Duke of Wellington’s leading code-breaker. He was later Lieutenant Governor of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Three of Whitmore and Kathleen’s brothers started military careers but died young.

Drawing of fire at Cotton's Wharf, London, in 1861Whitmore followed in his father’s footsteps as owner/manager of the Scovells’ warehouses at Cotton’s Wharf, Southwark, which stored valuable goods such as tea, silk, cotton and tar.

Henry Scovell also leased and managed warehouses at Custom House Docks, Dublin. In 1847 the queen approved Whitmore’s appointment as Dublin-based consul for the free Hansiatic city of Bremen (now in Germany). In 1852 he married widow Caroline Mary Taylor Heitland (nee Dance). They lived at the impressive nine bedroom Waddon Cottage, Croydon, set in large grounds with a “carriage sweep”.

On 22 June 1861 fire broke out in one of the Scovells’ warehouses. It’s thought the cause was spontaneous combustion among hemp. Workmen failed to close the sliding fireproof doors between the several warehouses. The “Tooley Street fire” raged for two days and was considered the most extensive blaze since the Great Fire of London. It is pictured here courtesy of Southwark Archives.

Many buildings and ships were destroyed. Among those killed was London Fire Brigade director James Braidwood and four men in a boat overwhelmed by “a great flood” of boiling fat.

Unlike Whitmore, Kathleen remained in Ireland with her parents. She attended society events, such as the St Patrick’s Day Ball of 1851 at Dublin Castle. She never married and set up home at Ryecroft, Bray, County Wicklow.

Kathleen and her brother were travelling to Ireland on the day of the train crash. They’d intended to arrive in Ireland the day before, but their mother asked them to break their journey at Chester due to Kathleen’s “delicate health”. Their brother, Rowland S Scovell, arrived in Abergele for the inquest. He identified Whitmore’s ring and keys and Kathleen’s diary, where the last entry was dated 18 August 1868, two days before the crash.

Sources include the Military Intelligence Museum and London Fire Brigade

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