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The Histories III – Park Crescent

The Histories III – Park Crescent

Listen to the episode here.

The Catholic Church is one of the oldest institutions in existence, with ties to places and people all over the World. Whilst studying, Father Patrick Gorham was afforded the opportunity to attend courses in Rome, and there he met Julian Sykes, a fellow student of Divinity.

During their year in Rome, they became fast friends. Patrick was a quick study when it came to the tomes of philosophy they had to read, whereas Julian’s talent lay with languages. He was far more at home with Italian and Latin, and the two students worked together throughout the year.

On returning to their respective homes, and both becoming parish priests, they kept in touch regularly. It was in this way that Father Gorham had a contact in London, a fact that enabled him to investigate the details behind the attack on George Germain.

Father Gorham continued to visit George Germain in hospital up until the end of the year. He questioned George about his employer, James Dickenson, and became convinced that this so-called gentleman had taken advantage of George’s good nature. After learning that the Dickenson’s a lived previously in London, he reached out to his friend Julien in London.

On 3rd October, 1909, Father Gorham writes:

Dear Julien.

It has been too long since my last letter, and much has happened to me since. I hope life for you has been less exciting! For with such excitement comes anxiety.

I have been ministering to a convalescing parishioner who was attacked in his home. He was, at the time, in the service of one James Dickenson, who I am now convinced was involved in some nefarious activities. It seems that after the attack, Mr and Mrs Dickenson up and left, which further adds to my suspicions. I am bound by my own curiosity to seek the answers to this puzzle, for the sake of my poor friend George as well who has been used hard by these people.

I know you like a mystery as much as I, so wonder if you could find out what you can from your ‘neck of the woods’. All I know is that the Dickensens lived in London for about a year before decamping to Quincey.

Quite a challenge!

Please let me know if you can help me with this little problem.

Always your friend,

Patrick.

It seems that Patrick knew his friend well, as it was only three weeks later that he received a response:

Dear Patrick.

What an intriguing letter you sent me. Of course, you knew how this would excite that part of me that yearns to be in a Sherlock Holmes mystery.

Thank the Dear Lord for my mother. As I have often mentioned she is a society gossip, and I am the apple of her eye since she can drop into any conversation that her son, the Priest, may have a view on this or that dubious tit-bit. Now it was my turn to use her special skills, and I asked her to find out about the Dickensen family, and the time they spent in London.

I swear it took her less than a day, God bless her. They had leased a property on Portland Place off a man named Horatio Gibbons, who is the grand-nephew of Isabella Bainbridge who is the Grande-dame of my mother’s social circle.

It is but a small world!

I was able to arrange a meeting with Mr Gibbons, who confirmed that the Dickensens moved in to his property on June 2nd, 1908. They had pleaded with him to forgo a previous interest in the place as they were desperate to reside near to a group of colleagues that they hoped to spend a lot of time with. And this was on Park Crescent.

The Crescent is a semi-circle of rather handsome houses at the north end of Portland Place. I sauntered past them to see if I could discern from any name plate or other affectation who the aforementioned group of colleagues might be. But there was no clue.

Luckily, the inner semi-circle of the crescent is a well kept garden, and this offered me a prime position from which to view the comings and goings of the whole place.

And luckily again, no one seems to question the presence of a dog-collared priest, even if he is noticeably loitering about the place.

Most of the houses showed the usual traffic of a well-to-do family household. Gentlemen of on their way to the city. Servants cleaning the frontage, and receiving deliveries. Nannies walking young children in the fresh air. The women of those houses only seemed to emerge when their plumage was at its height. I half-expected my own mother to turn up on one of their doorsteps.

My attention was drawn to the one house on the crescent where none of this activity happened. People came and went, but at strange hours of the day. Respectable looking men, and the occasional woman, would turn up at the door, and ring to be let inside. The door was always answered by a well-dressed young man in his twenties. I soon realised that the same group of people arrived and left at regular times throughout the week, and by my investigations second week I was able to recognise repeat visitors.

I ended up chatting with the Nanny from the house next door. She had noticed me in the garden every day, and wondered at what I was doing. I told her the truth, since I had no reason to lie, and she was more than happy to fill in a few details for me.

She told me that her lady had little good to say about the goings on of her neighbour. The house was owned by a Mrs Collette Bowyer, who was thought to have family in Manchester. This alone was apparently enough to cast a long social shadow on the lady.

However, it was generally thought by the local community, that Mrs Bowyer held regular meetings where such things as spiritualism, table rapping and mediumship were discussed as serious subjects. And it was suspected that the young man who assisted her, one Arnold Dewar, was far too close to the much older lady.

I am going to carry on with my investigation, as there is much about this gathering place that intrigues me. Give my regards to George in his recovery, and do not hesitate to let me know if he recalls any other useful information about his former employer.

Always in friendship,

Julien.

And indeed, when sharing his letter with the recuperating George, Patrick was excited to learn that the name Collette Bowyer was familiar to him.

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