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Story of judge whose death from heart attack at Nottingham brothel was covered up by his servants

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What is today a bustling Nottingham street, typically alive with merry revellers, Forman Street was once understood to be part of the city’s ‘red-light district’. Its history as such is evident in the story of High Court judge, Sir Charles James Watkin Williams, who had been visiting the city on circuit in 1884 when he met his untimely end at a brothel.

An attempt to cover up the 56-year-old’s death from a heart attack, while he was with sex worker Nellie Blankey, was made by his servants. But the truth of what happened that night, in the building now inhabited by Italian restaurant chain Prezzo, eventually came out in court.

Sir Charles suffered a fatal heart attack on July 17 to the shock of Ms Blankey and her boss quickly called the police to inform them of his passing. However, in a last-ditch attempt to conceal his activities that very night, servants from Shire Hall hurried over and took his body back to the judges’ lodging in High Pavement.

Read more: The street where prisoners were thrown from cliff

Today the judges’ lodging building, known as County House, still stands today. However the Georgian townhouse has been derelict for many years. It was at one stage to become a restaurant, but this never materialised.

The building has been deemed ‘at risk’ by Historic England.

Speaking of the fateful night Hilary Silvester, the executive chairwoman of the Nottingham Civic Society, said: “The town house was used as judges’ lodging in the 18th and 19th Century.

“A judge who had been residing there had taken a trip down Forman Street. That area was the red-light district of Nottingham. Unfortunately that night the judges’ servants were called up from County House because the judge had suffered a heart attack.

“They got him in a hand-cart, covered him over and wheeled him down to County House before anyone could find out what he had been up to.”



County House, 23 High Pavement, Nottingham.
County House, 23 High Pavement, Nottingham.

Unfortunately the manager of the brothel had indeed already called the police and, despite his body being back at his lodgings before the night came to an end, an inquest ultimately uncovered the circumstances of his final moments.

According to The Nottingham Ghostwalk, which operates a storytelling tour around the city, his spirit still haunts the city to this day. During the tour his story is sometimes told.

It says: “The man we call ‘the happy ghost’, a liberal MP and legal expert in his day, Watkins Williams died in a Nottingham brothel, mid-coitus, of a heart attack, in the embrace of one Miss Nelly Blankey.

“His spirit is now doomed to live out the circumstances of his death, for all eternity.

“A popular rhyme of the day describes the scene: ‘In eight feet deep of solid earth, Sir Watkin Williams lies. He lost his breath, which caused his death, ‘twixt Nellie Blankey’s thighs’.”

Written by: thehitnetwork

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