The Tale of Sir Lancelot

Elizabeth Dean was hanged outside Newgate Prison in 1863 for the murder of infants. When the floor of the gallows dropped & the rope went taught, a cheer erupted from the large crowd which had gathered to watch the grisly spectacle.

It had transpired that Dean placed notices in a number of newspapers, using different names, offering discreet adoption and fostering services for illegitimate and otherwise unwanted babies. Her services required a fee and the mothers would hope that their children would be rehoused or adopted. This practice was known as baby farming.

Until her arrest by Sgt Richard Relf of the Metropolitan Police, the disturbing Elizabeth Dean took the fees but then murdered the babies passed into her “care.” Except one.

During her questioning, Dean confessed details of the surviving child although she could give the police no name connected with him. Police records show that she claimed the baby was brought under her care by a ‘proper lady, all dressed in white’ who paid Dean using ‘four old looking golden coins’.

Dean told Sergeant Relf that the white lady said one thing to her before she disappeared into the night:

“This one is not yours, he is in your care for a brief moment. His time will come. Take these coins, they are as much as you deserve.”

Dean mentioned that for some unknown reason she wasn’t able to bring herself to smother this child whilst he was with her, although she had killed two others during the same time.

Her story quickly became somewhat unbelievable as she insisted that when she returned to the golden coins, which she had kept in her jewellery box, they had turned into tin.

The child was passed to the Beadle for the Parish of St Pancras. The Beadle named all of his foundlings Smith but the boys he named alphabetically after the Knights of the Round Table. The last had been Lamorak, the next would be Lionel, this one became Lancelot.

Lancelot went into the London Foundling Hospital at Guildford Street until his 4th birthday, when he was placed into the infants ward of the Union Workhouse at Cleveland Street, Fitzrovia.

The boy was a different looking creature, shy of others and excited when presented with a pencil and a scrap of paper. The workhouse notes describe him as having the characteristics of a child who had been burned, whose skin looked red and blistered but yet he seemed to feel no pain when touched. He drew picture after picture of strange symbols, archaic buildings and kept writing the word ‘Abchurch’ in increasingly frustrated scrawlings.

Whilst in the workhouse, young Lance was taken under the wing of an older boy, whose name (in an uncanny coincidence) was Arthur King.  Arthur had two treasured possessions, which he kept very close. The first was a small mirror housed in a metal frame that he would talk to when he thought nobody was looking, the second was a small and very battered book containing hand coloured engravings of knights in armour, including one of Sir Lancelot du Lac fighting a dragon.

Arthur knew some of the stories of King Arthur & his Knights of the Round Table & he used to tell these to Lance who was enthralled by the Chivalric Code of the Knights and vowed only to fight for just causes, to be virtuous & to say his prayers at bedtime.

February 1869 saw a number of epidemics breaking out across the City. It was decided that Fitzrovia Workhouse would become the Central London Sick Asylum and, as such, the inmates would be moved to other orphanages and workhouses. Arthur was to be moved to Bethnal Green Workhouse and Lance was told he was going to an orphanage in Whitechapel.

The day before they parted, Arthur handed Lance presents. A wooden hobby horse, made from the offcuts of the workhouse coffin wood, and a wooden sword and shield. Lance took the gifts eagerly and didn’t notice the battered bucket Arthur had picked up from near his feet. The bucket had two holes, perfect as a helm for any knight of the round table.

“Use these weapons and this armour well Sir Knight” said Arthur, lowering the helm onto Lance’s head “and remember always fight only if the cause is just.”

“So shall it be my King” came Lance’s muffled reply.

Four weeks later, Lance stood cold and alone in a dark corridor of Mrs. Prendergast’s Home for Wayward Children. His trusty bucket helm was pushed onto his head and his left hand gripped the handle of his shield and trusty steed.

He lowered his gaze to look at the wooden floor and noticed a strange symbol carved into the wood beginning to glow a faint pink. Unbeknown to Lance, the front of his shield was glowing with the very same occult sigil.

Since his arrival in this evil place, Lance had encountered the hulking Orderlies, of course. Those uncouth, gibface* knaves were as vazey* as anyone he’d ever encountered but they would have to wait, as he had a greater cause to fight. One truly worthy of a Knight of King Arthur.

“I will rid these draughty corridors and dank rooms of this foul daemonic creature. He will feel the wrath of my blade!” he exclaimed holding his wooden sword in the air.

Lance’s eyes narrowed as he saw an eerie green glimmer reflecting on the wall where the corridor took a sharp turn to the right. The head of his hobby horse began to shake.

“Easy Beric, easy boy,” he whispered.

Lance pushed the wooden sword into his belt and pulled the bucket down a little further. His hand darted towards the mop he had propped against the wall, tucking it under his arm in a single swift motion, pointy end to the front, mop end behind.

As the tall, gaunt figure came into view around the bend ahead, Lance screamed “CRY HAVOC AND LET SLIP THE DOGS OF WAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRR!!!” and launched himself forward.

Had Lance noticed the broken fragment of mirror in the frame as he ran past it, he might have seen a bright eye staring out. The eye was fixed on the tall, dreadful figure ahead of the small boy, and its owner felt sure that a look of fear creeped onto the gaunt and evil face as the boy hurtled towards it, mop levelled, hobby horse bucking wildly and the symbol on his shield glowing ever brighter …