Joseph Hornsby Wright
Joseph Hornsby Wright, Esq. was born January 7, 1817 in the County of Kent, the first born of nine children to Elizabeth (nee Bacon) and Augustus Wright (a clerk in the Royal Arsenal). He is an alumni of the Merchants Taylor’s School (a private day school for boys ages 11-18), but by the age of 15, Joseph had signed an Article of Clerkship with Alexander Mitchell, Esq. of Westminster on May 18, 1832 for a period of 5 years. In 1840, his mother would pass away and the 1841 census shows Joseph, age 24, still living with his father and several siblings.
Ten years later, the 1851 Electoral Register shows Joseph Hornsby Wright residing at 2 Abbey Road (it wouldn’t officially become 3 Abbey Road until 1872). When he married Ann Oakes, the only daughter of the late Ann and the late Major Lawrence Oakes of the 89th regiment, on August 11, 1853, Joseph had already set up household. While living there over the next five years, they would have three children: Robert Augustus Arthur (1855), Arthur Hornsby (1856) and Edith Ann (1858). According to the 1861 census, there were six servants living in a house with the five family members – a housemaid, two under-housemaids, a nurse, a cook and a footman.
Joseph Hornsby Wright was more than a lawyer during his time living on Abbey Road. By 1871, with only his 12 year old daughter still lived at home and he had retired… “No profession – deriving income from land and government securities” according to that year’s census. That same year, he began writing books: Confessions of an Almsgiver (1871), Investigation in some of its Features (1872), Thoughts and Experiences of a Charity Organisationist (1878), Beggars and Imposters (1883) and Charity Organizations (1883). As one can tell by the titles of his books, Wright was a true believer in charitable giving, spending 15 years as an Honorary Secretary to the St. Marylebone Charity Organization Committee and he even joined an Emergency Committee to discuss the crisis in Ireland between landlords and tenants. Some of the organizations Joseph and Ann would donate to were: The Church of England Scripture Reader’s Association, North London College Hospital, London Society for Teaching the Blind, and The New Metropolitan Convalescent Asylum.
Unfortunately, the Wright’s second son, Arthur Hornsby, died of phthosis (tuberculosis) on December 14, 1872. He passed away 60 miles from home at 20 Holland Road in the sea town of Hove, Sussex County. It’s not known if he was a student at Hove or for his consumption diagnosis.
10 years later in 1882, things would get shaken up a bit more at 3 Abbey Road in a very strange turn of events that would shocked London and make headlines for months to come.
On Monday, December 11, 1882, two men attempted to deliver a package addressed to a Mrs. Green at 3 Abbey Road, St. John’s Wood. At that time, the Wright family had a 56 year old cook/domestic servant by the name of Mary Green living and working in the house. For reasons unknown, the two men were unsuccessful in delivering the box and returned it back to the shipping warehouse. The package was a wooden starch box that measured about 24” x 18” x 18”. The carrier, Carter, Paterson & Co. made an effort to return the box to the sender, but that proved to also be unsuccessful, so they returned it to the carrier’s central office in London where it remained for the next 5 weeks. That is until a really foul odor started emanating from the package.
On January 17, 1883, the manager ordered the box to be open. Inside were found the remains of a young girl. The coroner determined that the emaciated and seriously decomposed body was that of a 13-14 year old girl. The girl, though well taken care of was emaciated and had traces of morphine in her system. The coroner and doctors who examined her were unable to determine whether she had starved to death, been killed by ingesting morphine or a combination of both. The body resembled that of two missing teenage girls from West Ham that had vanished separately a year and 2 years earlier. Both of their parents were called in to examine the body, but both said it was not their daughter.
During an inquiry on February 13, 1883, into the cause of death of the little girl in the box, Mary Green, the Wright’s servant, was questioned and said, “I am an unmarried woman, and live at 3, Abbey-road, St. John’s-wood. I have lived there four years. I have heard of a box being found with a body in it, but I know nothing of it. I have never had a child, and know no one of my name in Abbey-road who has had one. I know no circumstances that would cause anyone to send the child to me.”
A year later in 1884, the body of another fair skinned, young girl of about 10 also with auburn hair was discovered this time wrapped and tied in towels in the garden of a house in Paddington. This young girl too had been starved for several days before her death and both their bodies had been tied up. None of the cases were ever solved.
Joseph Hornsby Wright died at 3 Abbey Road in 1885. His widow Ann and his daughter Edith Ann continued to live in the house until about 1889 when they moved to 20 Phillmore Gardens where Ann would live out her years until her death in 1892. Joseph and Ann’s son Arthur Hornsby Wright had died in 1872 at the age of 16. Their oldest son Robert Augustus Arthur Todd had left home to study law around 1879.