Sarah Hartwell, 2014


Mary Chantrell was a persistent cat and dog hoarder in England whose repeted convictions were vividly described in news reports around the world. The earliest report I could find was in 1867; it stated that Mr Robert Dennis Chantrell was before the courts about a number of starved cats and dogs, which numbered between one hundred and two hundred, many being skeletons, but which he said were his wife, Mary's, models for her artistic work.

West Coast Times, (New Zealand) Issue 573, 26 July 1867

The bench of magistrates at the Lewes Petty Sessions on May 21 were called upon, to decide a somewhat extraordinary case. An information was laid by Mr J. Noakes, surgeon, of Rottingdean, and inspector of nuisances to the Newhaven Board of Guardians, against Mr Robert Dennis Chantrell, a gentleman also residing at Rottingdean, a small village upon the sea coast, about equidistant from Brighton and Newhaven, calling upon him to abate a nuisance which existed on his premises in consequence of a large number of cats and dogs and other animals, including a fox and a goat, being kept there, so as to be injurious to health. From the notoriety which the case had attained in the neighbourhood, the court was densely crowded during the hearing by a large assemblage of spectators. The complainant stated that he was requested by the Newhaven Board of Guardians to inspect the defendant's premises, and report thereon. He did so on the 9th May. He first visited the garden, and there noticed nearly 30 cats running about loose, two dead cats, and the skeletons of some. From the garden he went to the defendant's kitchen, and there discovered a similar number of the feline race, making themselves very comfortable on the chairs and before the fire.

A stable or outhouse was next inspected, and here between 40 and 50 cats were found, some loose and some in cages. In this place raw meat lay about in all directions, and was being very demurely gnawed by many of the pusses. In a yard adjoining the defendant's house Mr Noakes saw upwards of 20 dogs, a fox, a goat, turkeys, geese, ducks, and fowls of every description. He next paid a visit to the house in the defendant's occupation, and attached to his residence. On going up stairs he found 1 all the doors shut, but they were immediately opened, and he was ushered into the presence of another nationality of cats. But he stated they were in a most disgusting condition, the excrement of the animals apparently not having been removed for a very long time. On descending to the lower regions he was greeted with the same scene - cats without number, all in an unhealthy state, and exceedingly dirty. There were also half-dried skeletons of cats lying about the grounds, and the smell arising from the whole collection was offensive in the extreme and most injurious to health. Defendant accompanied the complainant in his tour of discovery, and admitted that the place was in a very dirty state and promised that it should be cleansed. On the day after this inspection complainant presented his report to the board, and they immediately authorised him to take legal proceedings against the defendant. Mr Noakes also said that he visited the place again on May 20, and found everything almost without exception in the same filthy state, and the smell particularly obnoxious. The total number of cats he estimated at from 100 to 200. The defendant's residence was in the High street of the village, and there had been a disease very similar to cholera in the next house, which he believed was to be solely attributed to the smell of those animals. The above statement was corroborated by several respectable witnesses residing in the vicinity.

The defendant's solicitor, in reply, admitted the animals were a nuisance, and asked for a period of nine or ten days to abate it. The animals did not really belong to the defendant, but were the property of Miss Dear, a young lady by whom the defendant was accompanied, who was an artist, and resided with the defendant. The defendant was her guardian, and had purchased the large premises he now occupied in order that she might have her models of animal creation continually before her eyes ; in fact, she had established a sort of asylum for cats in consequence of the large number which she saw lying dead upon the beach, and even offered premiums to anyone who would bring any animals of the feline species to her city of refuge. After a brief consultation the chairman (Mr G. Whitfield) said the bench had decided to order the defendant to abate the nuisance in three days, and if a second complaint was made he would be ordered to remove them altogether.

Luton Times and Advertiser, 10th August 1872. 

Mary Elizabeth Chantrell, a lady of property residing at Rottingdean, was charged on remand Lewes Police court, at the instance of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with having ill-treated large number of cats and dogs. The defendant left home for London in (...)

Fulton Country Courier (cutting undated, but undoubtedly July/Aug 1872)

A most astonishing case of cruelty to animals was lately investigated at Rottingdean England, by the Society for the Prevention, &c. Miss Mary Elizabeth Chantrell, a person of property, had a mania for collecting cats and dogs, so that she had under her roof no fewer than thirty of the former and forty-three of the latter. Last Spring she left her home and quadrupeds in charge of a couple of servant girls ; but she forgot to. leave any money for victualling the menagerie and the girls. The latter, as the tradesmen refused credit, took their leave, and the unfortunate pets were shut up without food, in consequence of which some of them were forced to kill and eat their companions. The magistrate fined their neglectful mistress for her culpable neglect, and explained to her that those "who keep cats and dogs must make suitable provisions for their maintenance.”

The 1872 case was so extraordinary that it was reported in New Zealand.

Extraordinary Cruelty.
Waikato Times (New Zealand), Volume II, Issue 84, 12 November 1872
Colonist (New Zealand), Volume XV, Issue 1579, 8 November 1872

At the Lewes Petty Sessions, Mrs Mary Elizabeth Chantrell has been charged, at the instigation of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, with having subjected 42 cats and 32 dogs to a state of the utmost misery at her residence at Rottingdean. The defendant, it appeared, had formed a large collection of dogs; cats, and the like. Mr Harris appeared for the prosecution Mr Besley for the defence. Elizabeth Pettinger, a domestic in the defendant's service, now deposed that in May last there were forty-three cats and thirty dogs, with puppies, kept in a loft. The defendant went to London at that time, leaving the animals to the care of two servant girls. When witness saw them, at the end of June, they were worn to skeletons, and otherwise in a dreadful state. The girls had no money with which to buy the animals food, and the tradesmen had stopped the supplies.

Mr W. Pritchard, a veterinary surgeon to the prosecuting society, said that on the 20th June, he went to the defendant's house and found the stench so fearful, that at first,- until he had taken a stimulant, he could not enter. When lie did so he found cats and dogs roaming in a starving and ravenous condition about the place, their bones almost protruding through the skin. One cat lay dead upon a table, and another so emaciated that it was unable to rise. In the back yard he saw about twenty dogs so thin that he could count their ribs easily, and a large number of cats there were in a like condition. In the whole course of a lengthened professional career, he never saw animals suffering so badly from actual starvation; Mr Andrews, the chief Constable of the society, gave corroborative testimony. Henry Taylor, an officer of the society, said he wrote two letters to the defendant describing to her the condition of her animals, but she took no notice of them.

Phoebe Redworth and Jane Mansfield, the two servants who were left in charge of the house, both said that when the defendant went away she left them no money with which to get food either for themselves or the animals, and they wrote to tell her the state they were in. The dogs had eaten the fowls, and the dogs and cats had eaten each other. Mr Besley contended that the Bench had no jurisdiction, because a person could not be held responsible for that which occurred when he was 50 miles away. The magistrates however, held that they had jurisdiction. Several tradesmen were called for the defence, but all admitted that not having received their money, they had for a time stopped the supplies. The magistrates fined the defendant £5 and costs, £15 19s 6d, and told her if she came up again on such a charge, she would be sent to prison. When she left the court the defendant was surrounded by a large crowd, who followed her with hootings to the railway station.

Central Press, London, No 3414, February 28, 1874.

In the Probate Court to-day the learned judge concluded his summing up of the evidence in this extraordinary case, and left it to the jury to say whether the testator was of sound mind when the will was made. He also told them that whether the "Williams" and "Calderon" letters were written by real personages or not, if they were satisfied they were written with the sanction and knowledge of Miss Dear, she was equally responsible. They would have to say by their verdict with what object those letters were written, and whether that object was the obtaining of the will of the testator by fraud. The Jury, after an absence of four hours and a half, returned a verdict that the testator was of sound mind at the time of the execution of the will, but that the will was obtained by the undue influence and fraud of Mary Elizabeth Chantrell. His Lordship pronounced against the will, the question of costs being reserved.

The following testimonies show that Miss Dear (later Mrs Chantrell) was manipulative and that she controlled Robert Chantrell.

SINGULAR WILL CASE - The Teesdale Mercury, March 4, 1874

The hearing of this singular case was resumed, and farther evidence was given on behalf of the plaintiff, and in opposition to the will. Robert Dennis Chantrell, another son of the testator, deposed to visiting his father, and seeing how much he was under the control of Miss Dear even at an early period of his acquaintance with her. John Holland, a police officer at Rottingdean, spoke to knowing the testator, and also that his house was a nuisance, and that he was summoned for it.

There were often obstructions from the number of persons who called with various kinds of animals. This witness was present when some of the family saw the deceased, and he retracted the charge of their attempting to poison him. He was also present when Miss Dear was taken to Lewes Gaol for debt, and afterwards when barrowsful of the bodies of dead cats were removed from the house. Superintendent Johnson(?) was also present at the interview alluded to, and his testimony was added to that of other witnesses who preceded him as to the dirty condition of the house.

A servant named Seatle, who was formerly in the employ of the testator, said that she dare not speak to the deceased, as Miss Dear was so jealous of him. They often quarrelled, and the defendant frequently told the deceased that he ought to be shut up in a lunatic asylum. On one occasion she told him that the sons might shoot him from over the wall, and on another, when Miss Mary Chantrell, a sister of deceased, called, she was refused admittance. Both Miss Dear and the testator had studios, but witness had never seen the latter paint. The next testimony given was that of Mr. Penfold, a solicitor, who gave his unqualified denial to a knowledge of any person of the name of " Calderon "or " Williams." After the evidence of Mr. Hume, a bank manager, in support of the theory of the plaintiff, as to who was the real writer or author of several letters, the testimony against the will was closed, and Dr. Deane, Q.C , proceeded to sum up his case, and had not concluded when the court adjourned.

Boston Evening Transcript - Mar 6, 1874
By the will of Mr Robert Dennis Chantrell, whose title and fame was founded in the collection of cats which he kept in the house at Rottingdean, to the annoyance of his neighbors, the widow and a solcitor named Lamb were appointed executors. In the court of Probate the testator’s eldest son, by a former marriage, is disputing the instrument on the ground of incapacity, undue influence, and fraud.

The Pall Mall Gazette (London), Issue 3176, Friday, April 23, 1875: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has at length succeeded in putting an end to the proceedings of Mrs. CHANTRELL , who has been twice convicted of starving dogs and cats on her premises at Rottingdean. Having obtained the necessary authority from the Court of Chancery, the officers of the society took possession of Mrs. CHANTRELL's premises, and all but two of the emaciated animals were poisoned.

The New York Times, May 9, 1875

The London Standard of April 23 has the following: It may be remembered that on two occasions during the past three years, proceedings have been taken against Mrs Chantrell by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for starving a large number of cats and dogs at her house in Rottingdean, near Brighton. Convictions were obtained in each prosecution, and Mrs Chantrell appealed against both decisions, the latter being two months' imprisonment without the option of paying a pecuniary penalty. At quarter sessions the convictions were affirmed, but in the latest appeal her counsel obtained leave to state a case for the opinion of the Court of Queen's Bench, defendant being out on bail meanwhile. The condition of the animals, however, as far as could be ascertained (for her house was bolted and barred against visitors) has not improved, and in consequence last week an officer of the society gained admission by stratagem, with the Sanitary Inspector, to defendant's house, where he found a considerable reduction in the number of animals, but those still living were in a terrible condition of emaciation and suffering. An old woman, who had been left in charge of the animals, also appeared starved, and she stated that the house and property had passed into the hands of the Court of Chancery. Upon receipt of the officer's report in London, the Secretary of the society instructed their solicitor to appear before Vice Chancellor Malins on Tuesday last, and make known to him the present condition of the animals, and apply for directions to prevent a continuation of the cruelty; when it transpired that the Receiver of the court was not already in possession at Rottingdean.

The Vice Chancellor, however, upon reading the officer's statement, assured Mr Leslie that the Receiver should take possession immediately, and be instructed to to pass the animals into the society's possession should he find them in the suffering condition described. Accordingly, Mr Leslie, directed by the Secretary, took an early train on Tuesday morning last for Brighton; and arriving at Rottingdean the house was found to be barred and barricaded to prevent his admission. Reinforced by Constables, the Sanitary Inspector, and a veterinary surgeon, the party determined to force an admission; great stones were hurled at the gates and front door; and eventually Mrs Chantrell, armed with a bludgeon and poker, appeared on her doorstep and defied the party to enter. Admission was speedily gained, when not a single animals could be found on the premises, although the remains of several dead ones were seen. The doors of several rooms were locked, which Mrs Chantrell refused to open, alleging that the keys had been lost. A search was made, and every room was examined, but without discovering anything more than the traces of dead animals.

Ultimately the living animals were found in an adjoining cottage, they having been removed by Mrs Chantrell subsequent to the order of the Vice Chancellor alluded to. An indescribable scene of misery and suffering pervaded this place. The attenuated frames of living cats were found with the carcases of dead animals, and in a cupboard the skeletons of upwards of fifty cats were disclosed. In other places a number of dogs were found in the last stage of poverty and disease, upon seeing which the veterinary surgeon assured Mrs Chantrell it was an act of cruelty to permit any of her animals to live. The actual back-bone of one of the dogs was exposed to view, and another dog, a shrivelled wan-looking creature, gave birth to a pup during the visit and, being pressed by hunger, shortly afterward devoured it. Those persons who witnessed the eager, ravenous, struggles of these wretched brutes to obtain food which was thrown among them will never forget the scene of weakness and ferocity which followed. Mrs Chantrell obstructed the search with threats of violence, and persistently refused to permit any of the animals to be destroyed. Her loud language caused a large crowd to assemble around the house, and the people at one time threatened to break in for the purpose of putting an end to the cruelty, and venting their indignation on the strange person who had caused it.

The Police managed, however, to keep back the crowd, and a sufficient quantity of poison having been procured, the whole of the animals excepting two were put out of their misery. These extraordinary proceedings caused great excitement, which was protracted by Mrs Chantrell's willful resistance until near upon midnight, the entire neighborhood having turned out to witness the termination of a nuisance, as well as cruelty to animals, which have unhappily been continued by her for three or four years, in defiance of the Magistrates, the Police, and the Society (i.e. RSPCA).

To add some context, earlier in the year she was declared bankrupt and notices were posted in several newspapers. It seems she was incompetent as a mother, because in case number: 1874 C146. “Chantrell v Chantrell” it lists the Plaintiffs as Marian Felicia Dennis Chantrell infant by Charles Davie Beauchamp her next friend, and the defendants: Robert Dennis Chantrell, John Boham Chantrell, Alfred Hopps, Elizabeth Caroline Hopps his wife, George Frederick Chantrell, James Francis Martin, Frances Catherine Martin his wife, William Chantrell, Dennis Brownell Murphy, Emily Susannah Murphy his wife and Mary Elizabeth Chantrell widow.

The Bankruptcy Act, 1869.

In the County Court of Sussex, holden at Brighton. To Mary Elizabeth Chantrell, of Rottingdean, in the county of Sussex, Widow. TAKE notice, that a Bankruptcy Petition has been presented against you to this Court by Samuel Reed, of Rottingdean, in the county of Sussex, Grocer and Draper, and the Court has ordered that the publication of this notice in the London Gazette shall be deemed to be service of the Petition upon you; and further take notice, that the said Petition will be heard at this Court, on the 19th day of February, 1875, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, on which day you are required to appear, and, if you do not appear, the Court may adjudge you bankrupt in your absence. The Petition can be inspected by you on application at this Court.—Dated 22nd day of January, 1875.

Brighton.—The remaining cats and dogs belonging to Mrs. Chantrell, who is known for the extraordinary number of them she kept (...)

MRS. CHANTRELL CASE.- In the Bail Court an application was made by Mr Waddy, Q C., to set aside an order of certiorari in the case of Mrs. Chantrell, of Rottingdean, who was recently Convicted of cruelty to dogs and cats. It was contended by the prosecutor - the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - that no conviction of the kind could be removed into a superior court. The Court took time to consider if they had power to issue a rule for a certiorari.

(Certiorari was a supervisory writ that kept inferior jurisdictions within the bounds of their authority and directed the court to send records for judicial review in a superior court.)

MRS. CHANTRELL, of Rottingdean, near Brighton, is certainly a phenomenon for whose revolting vagaries it is difficult to account except on the plea of semi-insanity. On two occasions during the past three years proceedings have been taken against this person by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty t o Animals for starving a large number of cats and dogs at her house. Convictions, which were appealed against, were obtained in each prosecution; at quarter sessions the convictions were affirmed; but as the woman's counsel, in the latest appeal, obtained leave to state a case for the opinion of the Court of Queen's Bench, the defendant was out on bail, and the starving process went on without intermission. To this it was resolved to put an end; and the solicitor of the society, authorised by Vice-Chancellor Malins, and aided by the police, succeeded in gaining an entrance to the house, though not without considerable difficulty, as the doors and windows were bolted and barred, and Mrs. Chantrell threatened to do damage with the bludgeon and poker which she flourished in her hands when she appeared on the doorstep. In the house, on an entrance being at last forced, only the traces of dead animals could be seen, but ultimately, in an adjoining cottage, the living animals were found. The shocking spectacle was presented of the attenuated frames of living cats placed side by side with the carcases of dead animals, while in a cupboard the skeletons of upwards of fifty cats were disclosed. Dogs, one actually showing its backbone, were also found in the last stages of starvation and disease. The details are of the most sickening description and read rather like incidents of a hideous nightmare than anything that has really occurred. By a merciful application of poison, notwithstanding the resistance offered by Mrs. Chantrell, the police succeeded in putting the animals, with the exception of two, out of their misery. What the motives of the woman can be in following this extraordinary course, it is difficult to imagine, unless we conceive that she entertains a mortal enmity towards cats and dogs, and gratifies her inhuman spite by seeing the poor animals dying slowly of starvation.

TO be sold, pursuant to an Order of the High Court of Chancery, made in the causes of Chantrell v. Chantrell and Chantrell v. Clark with the approbation of the Vice-Chancellor Sir Richard Malins, by Mr. Peter Richard Wilkinson, of the firm of Wilkinson and Son, the person appointed ,by the said Judge, at the Estate Sale Rooms of the said Messrs. Wilkinson and Son, 168, North-street, Brighton, in the county of Sussex, on Thursday, the 26th day of August, 1875, at three o'clock in the afternoon precisely, in two lots :—
Lot 1. Consisting of a detached copyhold residence known as Ivy Cottage, situate fronting the High-street, Rottingdean, with gardens, two paddocks and stabling, containing together about 2 and a quarter acres. This lot is unlet.
Lot 2. A plot of copyhold building land, with" the shed thereon situated on the north side of Lot 1, as shown on the plan, with a frontage of about 33 feet to the High-street, Rottingdean, by a depth of about 81 feet and suitable for the erection of a detached residence.
Particulars and conditions of sale may be had (gratis) of Messrs, Roy and. Cartwright, Solicitors, 4, Lothbury, London, E.C.; of Messrs. Tilleard and Co., Solicitors, No. 34, Old Jewry, London; Messrs. Gadsden and Treherne, Solicitors, No. 28, Bedford-row, London; Messrs. Marson and Dadley, Solicitors, No. 1, Southwark Bridge-road, London ; Mr. T. W. Nelson, Solicitor, No. 6, Laurence Pountney-lane, London; Messrs. Black, Freeman, and Gell, Solicitors, Ship-street, Brighton; Messrs. Nelson, Buhner, and Nelson, Solicitors, Leeds;
of Messrs. Paterson, Kerr, and Goldring, Auctioneers, &c., Albion chambers, Moorgate-street, London, E.C.; and of Messrs. Wilkinson and Son, Auctioneers and Estate Agents, 168, North-street, Brighton.

And now for a word with reference to the actual results which the Society for the Protection of Animals can show from year to year. Their last annual report denotes a remarkable degree of activity, for in the course of the preceding year they had obtained nearly two thousand convictions. By far the greater part of these were for working horses when in an unfit condition, or for beating and kicking other domestic animals. But one of them - the Chantrell case - was a phenomenon of cruelty. On this person's premises, at Brighton, were found a large number of dogs, cats, rabbits, and fowls which she had collected, and then shut up, all together, without food. The natural result was that they preyed upon each other ; and when at last the survivors were relieved by the Society's officers their condition was disgusting. The details of the affair cannot yet be forgotten, and we will be content with a passing allusion to it.

The Chantrell Probate case was reported in Lloyds Weekly Newspaper (London, Middlesex) on Sunday, December 21, 1879. This is a summary due to illegible text: The Chantrell case came before Vice chancellor Malins; the will of the testator was contested in the Probate court in on the ground of undue influence on the part of Mary Chantrell to whom the whole of the personal estate was left. It transpired in the course of the inquiry that Mrs Chantrell kept a large number of cats and dogs in her home and when the sanitary inspector visited the establishment be found in different rooms the skeletons of several cats. The Vice chancellor ordered her to be paid one third of the personal (inheritance?) and provision was to be made for her. The Vice chancellor asked where Mary’s poor child was now - she was at a boarding school and her mother never even inquired after her. The Vice chancellor asked if the lady was still alive with her stock of cats. Mary had claimed she would never live without seeing the child but it was suspected she was more interested in her cats than in her child.

In 1881, the widowed Mary Chantrell, aged 48, is shown as living in Castle Street, St Martins in the Fields, Westminster, London and was occupied as an Artist in Oil and Watercolours. However, she soon moved back to the Brighton area where she was again fined for animal cruelty. A while later, she seems to have ended up homeless and sleeping rough in south-east London.

ECHO, Tuesday June 30th, 1885
At Brighton yesterday, a lady named Mary Chantrell was fined £5 and costs for keeping cats in a state of starvation.

The Church Weekly, 11th February, 1898:
AT one time Mrs. Mary Chantrell was an exhibitor at the Royal Academy. One night last week she was found sleeping on a doorstep in Minden Road, Anerley, homeless, and without money. She told the constable who took her to the police-station that she was a widow, and had no friends in the neighbour-hood. When she was brought up at Penge Police Court on a charge of sleeping out of doors without visible means of subsistence, it was plain that she was a woman of refinement and education. She appeared in court with several bundles, a portfolio of her own drawings, and carrying two cats under her cloak. The bench sentenced her to four day's imprisonment. Prisoner : Don't take away my little cats from me. They are my models for painting.

This infamous case was also translated into French


Mardi dernier, sur la plainte du secrétaire de la Société royale protectrice des animaux, la demeure d'une dame Chantrell, à Rottingdean, près de Brighton (Angleterre) a été visitée par un agent de la Cour de la chancellerie.. La bruit courait depuis longtemps que cette dame laissait mourir d'inanition des chiens et des chats. La police fut obligée d'enfoncer la porte qui avait été barricadée au dedans au moyen de grosses pierres et de planches. M" Chantrell apparut alors sur le seui), armée d'un bâton et d'un tisonnier, et déclara qu'elle ne laisserait entrer personne. On parvint toutefois à écarter la mégère; mais nulle part on ne put trouver d'animaux vivans; en revanche, do nombreux cadavres gisaient dans les appartemons. dont les portes durent être forcées, Mme Chantrell refusant de les ouvrir sous prétexte qu'elle avait perdu les clefs.

Enfin, à force de recherches, on découvrit, dans un cottage voisin, des chats vivans les malheureuses bêtes étaient dans un état de maigreur effrayant et pouvaient à peine se soutenir. Plusieurs étaient déjà morts de faim les autres poussaient des gémissemens lamentables.

Dans un bunet étaient entasssés les squelettes de plus de cinquante chats plus loin on découvrit des chiens, mais dans un tel état de maigreur et d'épuisement que le vétérinaire qui accompagnait la police déclara que ce serait une véritable cruauté que de les laisser vivre. Du cadavre d'un chien dévoré par les autres il ne restait plus que l'épine dorsale. Une malheureuse chienne, aux flancs décharnés, à l'œll famélique, mit bas devant les visiteurs et dévora Immédiatement ses petits. Ce fut une horrible lutte lorsqu'on jeta du pain et de la viande au mliieu do ces spectres anamés. La mort de ces pauvres bêtes fut décidée. Une autre scène commença alors M" Chantrell poussa les hauts cris et refusa da laisser tuer ses chiens et ses chats.

La foule, de son côté, qui s'était amassée autour de !a maison, voulait entrer de force pour mettre on aux souffrances des malheureux animaux et no ménageait pas les insuites et les menaces à l'excentrique M' Chantrell. Ennn la police parvint à écarter cette foule; on apporta, une quantité sufSsante de poison pour mettra un au martyre des pauvres botes. Deux seulement fursnt ????pargnes r

Il y avait plus de trois am qu-) M. Chantrell laissait ainsi mourir de faim des chiens et des chats dans s~ maison, soit parinégilgon ca soit par manie. Deux fois déjà elle avait été condamnée sur la plainte do la Société, protectrice des animaux.

(In addition to English reports, this says there was the corpse of a dog devoured by others there remained (only) the backbone.)

Short Biography of Mary Elizabeth Chantrell

Mrs Mary Elizabeth Chantrell (nee Dear) had been an Oil and Watercolours Artist. She was born 12th November 1832 at St Pancras, London (Middlesex); the eldest daughter of John Dear. In the 1861 census she was shown as visiting Architect Robert D Chantrell at 7, Park Place, Camberwell, Surrey; Robert Chantell and his wife were her guardians, her parents having died. Robert had been born in 1794 in Newington Butts, Surrey and died on 4th Jan 1872 and as an architect he had designed a number of churches, but he was also known for appropriating bits of old church masonry for garden ornaments! Some time in the next few years, Robert's wife dies. On Nov 2 1867, aged 34, Mary Elizabeth Dear married Robert Dennis Chantrell, a 74 year old widower then living in Rottingdean. They married at St. Pancras Parish Church.

A report in 1867 stated that Robert Chantrell was before the courts about the above mentioned animals, which numbered between one hundred and two hundred, many being skeletons, but which were Mary's models for her artistic work. In 1869, they had a daughter named Marian and the family were living at Ivy Cottage, Rottingdean. One wonders about the motive of the marriage (one suspects financial security) as Robert senior was reportedly on the verge of lunacy (in modern terms he no doubt had advanced Alzeimer's and probably should not have been fit to stand before the court in 1867), and the couple had violent rows. Robert died aged 78 on 4th Jan 1872; his death is recorded in Croydon, Surrey. The first case against Mary (as opposed to against Robert) was in November of that year.

THE OBSERVER published a detailed account of Chantrell's trial on Sunday February 15, 1874. It gives a history of Mary Dean and her relationship with Robert Chantrell.

COURT OF PROBATE AND DIVORCE.—Sat., Feb 14. Before the Right Hon. Sir James Hannen and a Common Jury. CHANTRELL V. CHANTRELL AND LAMB. This was a probate suit, which came before the court on Thursday last, and in which defendant propounded the will of her late husband, Mr. Robert Denis Chantrell, who died at Rottingdean, near Brighton, on the 4th of January, 1872, being at the time over 80 years of age. The will was dated the 8th of October, 1868, and is opposed by the plaintiff, a son of the testator, on the ground that the will was informally executed, that at the time it was executed the testator was not of sound mind, that it was obtained by the undue Influence of the defendant and Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Chantrell, and that the testator did not know or approve of its contents. Dr. Deane, Q.C., Mr. Philbrick, and Mr. Searle were counsel for the plaintiff; Dr. Spinks, Q.C., and Mr. Harrison were for the defendants. It appeared from the statement of Dr. Spinks that the testator was born somewhere about the year 1789. He passed the earlier portion of his life in Belgium, where he devoted himself to the study of the fine arts, of which he was passionately fond. Ultimately he came to England, where he commenced the business of an architect, aim was eminently successful. He resided at Leeds, and be there designed one of the finest churches and public buildings in Yorkshire. He did not appear to have lived on very good terms with his family, especially with his sons. About the year 1841 be came to London, where he had considerable property situated at Walworth. After be came to London he became a frequenter of the Society of Arts, of which he was a member, and he there met the lady who propounded the present will. She was then Miss Dean, a girl of 14 years of age. She had obtained the first prize of the society, and the testator was so struck by a girl so young being so distinguished in art that, on the occasion of the distribution of the prizes by the late Prince Consort, he conducted the young lady up to the Prince, who handed to her the reward which she had won by her genius. After that Miss Dean was a frequent visitor at his house, where she would stay on long visits. In 1869 she took a portrait of the testator, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy.

The intimacy the testator had formed with Miss Dean did not seem to be agreeable to the testator's family, and in 1860 his first wife left him on a visit to one of her daughters at Liverpool, and never returned. She died in 1863, and the first intimation the testator had of her death was seeing it in the newspapers. After his wife left, Miss Dean went to take charge of the testator’s house. He was then living at Camberwell, but soon after he removed to Eastbourne, and then he went to Rottingdean, near Brighton, where he resided up to his death. After they went to Rottingdean Miss Dean, who seemed to have inherited some of Landseer’s talents for sketching animals, applied herself to that occupation; but unlike Landseer, whose talents were applied to the nobler and more sagacious animals, the favourite subjects of her pencil were cats. Of these she kept an entire menagerie; but the neighbours having complained to the magistrate of the nuisance caused by them, the menagerie was either destroyed or dispersed.

In 1867 Miss Dean was taken to Lewes Gaol on a judgment summons for a debt due to a Brighton tradesman. This was said to have been done by the intrigues of Mr. Chantrell's sons, who, after she was sent to gaol, took their father away to Belgium. They were also stated to have taken possession of all his papers. He did not, however, long remain in Belgium, for he returned to England in October, 1867. He was joined in London by Miss Dean, whom he married at St Pancras Church on the 2nd of November of the last-named year. After the marriage they went to their residence at Rottingdean. In the autumn of 1868 the testator found his wife far advanced in pregnancy, when he began to think of making his will, in order to protect his wife and the child that was to be born. For that purpose he went to Mr. Lamb, a respectable solicitor in Brighton, who took his Instructions and prepared from them the will now propounded. That will was executed on the 8th of October, 1868, the testator’s medical attendant, Dr. Baker, being present when it was executed, and signing it as one of the attesting witnesses. The child was born on the 28th of the same month. This will is now disputed on the grounds stated. In support of the will, Mr. Lamb, Dr. Baker, and several witnesses were examined, all of whom deposed to the capacity of the testator to make the will in question, and that the instrument was executed in due form. An effort was made to arrange the matter in dispute, but it was unsuccessful, after which Mrs. Chantrell went into the witness box, and, in the course of her evidence, stated the circumstances under which she became the wife of the testator, which accorded with the statement which we have just given. the witness was cross-examined by Dr. Deane, but it did not terminate when the Court rose on Friday afternoon. The cause was resumed yesterday (Saturday), when the cross-examination of Mrs. Chantrell, the widow of the deceased, was proceeded with by Dr. Deane, Q.C. In answer to a question as to whether certain letters were not in her handwriting, she said the writing resembled hers in some Instances, but as they were written so long ago she could not say whether she wrote them or not. On a diary being laid before her she stated she believed the entries to be in the hand writing of the testator. She was then questioned as to the receipt of certain cheques for various amounts set out in that diary, as having been drawn in her favour, and in explanation said the cheques she received were all dealt with according to the direction of the testator

The learned Judge, after a great number of letters had been submitted to the witness, and she having denied generally all knowledge of them, said it was a useless waste of time to continue the proceeding. As the ground for doing so appeared to be that those letters, although purporting to be written by other persons to the testator, were, in fact, written by the witness, he thought a general question on the subject of the remaining letters might be put to her. Dr. Spinks then submitted a letter, numbered 257, to witness, which she recognised as in Mr. Chantrell's handwriting, but she positively denied that the alterations or additions at the bottom of the pages were in her handwriting. She thought that several of the letters that had been put into her hands were forgeries of her handwriting, but she could not say by whom they were written. She positively denied that she had received the letter 257 and suppressed it. She also positively denied that she had made the erasures in the same letter, and she added that if she had been so lost to all moral sense as to commit a forgery she could have done it a great deal better than appeared in the paper in her band, and so, indeed, could any other artist. The witness was then shown letters signed “Williams,” but she denied that she had written any part of them. Dr. Deane then put in the remainder of the letters in the correspondence bearing the signatures of “ Williams ” and “ Calderon.” The witness said she was not a party to the writing to any of these letters, and that she had never misapplied any of the money mentioned in those letters. She knew that the testator had a correspondent named "Calderon,” but she never knew who in reality that person was. The same remark would apply to the letters signed "Williams," but she thought those letters might relate to a Mr.Jones. After other evidence of a like kind had been given, the Court rose at four o’clock. the case will be resumed on Wednesday.

When Robert died, Mary was granted probate, but this was revoked in 1874 because Mary had unduly influenced him and committed fraud, and given to his son, Robert, by his first marriage. At the start of 1875, Mrs Chantrell was declared bankrupt. The repeated court cases came to a head in 1875. In 1881, the widowed Mary Chantrell, aged 48, is shown as living in Castle Street, St Martins in the Fields, Westminster, London and was occupied as an Artist in Oil and Watercolours. Her artwork can still be found, but it is necessary to pity the animals who were her models.

The Mary Chantrell case achieved such notoriety that I wondered what became of her daughter, who must have been brought up in a very unhealthy environment.  Marian (or Marion) Felicia who had been born on 28th November 1868 in Rottingdean, but Mary Chantrell evidently lost custody of her daughter.  Marion  married Frank Lisle (b 1867, Southampton) on 20th Jan, 1890 at Kensington, London.  She died on 4th April, 1958 in Kaitaia, Auckland, New Zealand.  Frank pre-deceased her in March 1937 at Kaitaia (many of the Chantrells seem to have lived into their 80s).  So Marion escaped her father's dementia and the squalor of a hoarder's house, married Frank and emigrated.  They had 6 children, most born in Taranaki, New Zealand: Grace Ethel Lisle (1893 - ?); Gladys May Lisle (1897 - 1996), Matilda Lillie Lisle (1899 - ?), Elsie Ivy Frances Lisle (1901 - 1970), Edith (?) and Clive William (1929 - ?).