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Wensley Family Archive

Wensley FamilyAdministrative/biographical history: The archive comprises material pertaining to Frederick Porter Wensley (1865-1949) [FPW] and his family. FPW rose from humble origins in Somerset (his father was a cobbler) to become arguably the greatest British detective of his age. His early career was pursued substantially in the East End of London and the family lived for much of this period at 98 Dempsey Street (just off the Commercial Road) in Stepney – moving in 1913 to a new suburban development in Palmers Green.

The archive tells the story of FPW’s marriage to “Lollie” [Laura] Martin (1869-1943) and their three children Frederick Martin Wensley (1894-1916), “Edie” [Edith] Mercy Wensley - later Cory (1897-1974) and Harold William Wensley (1899-1918). That the collection has survived is largely due to Edie who, after the death of her brothers in the 'Great War',  took upon herself the task of keeping the memories of the family alive. Edie’s own story is then taken forward. The correspondence gives a remarkable insight into her social life, development, marriage to another detective 'Bert' [Herbert] Cory (1893-1946) and the upbringing of FPW’s only grandchild Harold Frederick Wensley Cory (1927-1997).

Scope and content/abstract:

The Wensley Family Archive (c 1890-1950) includes the following material:

1) Correspondence and related material. This is currently stored in numerous boxes and over a thousand items are listed. Some further material continues to come to light and may be offered to Bishopsgate Institute in due course. In the final file there is some material relating to the period after FPW’s death consisting of condolence letters and letters from former colleagues.

2) Other family papers. Specifically these contain: FPW’s diaries; plus those of his wife and daughter. There is also much material relating to Masonic Lodges and social events. There are three notebooks kept by FPW relating to his various arrests of criminals and the commendations he received for these. There are various other items relating to his professional career including two volumes of Hansard from 1928 – together with much family ephemera. There is, for example, an autograph book dating to the early 1920s which contains some curious drawings and watercolours and what appears to be a page containing the signatures of the Arsenal First Team c1936.

3) Newspaper cuttings. There are three separate files (the first two in large guardbook folios prepared by FPW) – the third in a lever arch file collated in 2007. The first two contain large amounts of material going back to the 1890s relating to many of the cases with which FPW was involved – in particular there is a large amount of space devoted to the Sidney Street Siege; the Trial of Stinie Morrison (both 1911) and the Thompson Bywaters case of 1921. The third file brings together press cuttings from the period 1911 to 1946 which largely relate to a series of items written by FPW for the Sunday press in the early 1930s.

4) Two unpublished typescripts. 1) Burnett, R.J. 1960? Wensley of Scotland Yard: The Life and Adventures of the 'Ace' Detective. It is of interest in that Burnett had access to both Edie Cory and certain former colleagues of FPW from Metropolitan Police Days. In this context item 57 in the collection is a note by Edie in three parts (typescript, manuscript and shorthand) of her earliest recollections which was almost certainly compiled at about this time to inform the writing of the biography. 2) Robinson, D J 2007. The Wensley Family at War, Work and Play (1890 to 1950). This book was written by Dr David J Robinson for family distribution and with a view to forming the basis of a book for commercial publication.

5) Drawings – There are a number of important survivals; in particular some originals pertaining to the Sidney Street Siege (1911) and a cartoon of the 'Big Four' at Scotland Yard.

6) Postcards. Although some are included under 1) where it has been possible to identify the writer, recipient and date – a large number are still separate. The evolution of the postcard as a means of social networking and virtually instant communication is well documented.

7) Manuscript commonplace books. Two have been preserved from this period – one relating to FPW and the second to his son Harold William. There is also a third relating to his grandson Harold Cory but this logically forms part of the later collection.

8) Prize books. Family school prize books are well represented from the period 1905 to 1915 and are in exceptional condition; these include volumes from Dempsey Street School and St Olave’s Grammar School.

9) Other books. FPW had a small library of literature relating to his profession and this, together with some other items from the family library, has survived.

10) Photographs – There is an extensive collection of these and they are being identified where possible. Photographs, however, were often printed onto a postcard in the early years of the 20th century – making family and commercial material sometimes difficult to separate.

11) Sheet music – A small collection of sheet music has survived demonstrating the type of music popular with the family in the 1890s until 1914.

12) Other Ephemera and Artefacts. Other material has survived which is included where it is considered that it may add value to the archive overall.

Quantity: c25 Boxes