Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Something will turn up.....

This modern stone in York cemetery marks the site of a public grave which is of interest to anyone familiar with the writing of Charles Dickens. Alfred Dickens, younger brother of Charles, lived near York and it is possible Charles met Richard Chicken on a visit to see his brother. For a time Alfred Dickens and Richard Chicken worked in the same office so Charles must have heard many stories and anecdotes from and about this noted York eccentric.
The Chicken family lived in St. Mary’s Row, Bishophill, producing baby Chickens at regular intervals, and according to a neighbour, 'bathing them every Sunday morning in the yard in full view of everybody who wanted to look'. Despite this sanitary regime (or perhaps because of it) five of the little Chickens died of typhoid fever. 
Later, the family moved to Bilton Street in Layerthorpe and then Union Terrace. Despite his limited income as a clerk he continued to hatch Chickens at regular intervals and money was always tight. By now Chicken was known all over the city for his Micawberish way of life particularly his elaborate begging letters. 
He died in the workhouse and was buried in a Public Grave which cost 4s 6d with an additional charge of 4s 6d for the use of the cemetery hearse. An old school friend paid the 9 shillings owing.
Taking part in Taphophile Tragics


  1. Such a fascinating story. Poor Richard Chicken.

    Beneath Thy Feet

  2. So Dickens' Micawber was based on a real person! Why am I not surprised! Always felt that Dickens could not possibly write in detail such varied portraits without knowing at least some versions of his characters! A great, informative post!

  3. I am trying to say 'Alfred Dickens' and 'Richard Chicken' out loud three times and am failing!

  4. Wow --- interesting!

  5. Interesting post! I wonder when they decided it would be a good bit of marketing to add it. How recent is the marker?

  6. What a sad life! Very Dickensesque.

  7. Ahh ... what a way to go down in history. And an unfortunate family name to be saddled with. Death came way too early in previous centuries, and birth control pretty much unheard of.

    I wonder who placed the modern plaque in-situ?

  8. Thanks for such a great post, Deb, you know I love this stuff. History is thrilling.


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