Ikey Solomon, Famous East London Characters

The East End of London has had its fair share of characters over the years. Some are famous in good ways; others are more infamous. Ikey Solomon, a well-known figure in the Houndsditch area in Victorian times, certainly qualifies on the infamous scale.

Infamous Ikey Solomon

Some people even think that Dickens modelled the character of Fagin in Oliver Twist on this well-known criminal. This may or may not be true, but he was also part of an unlikely love story.

Early days in Houndsditch

Ikey Solomon was born in Houndsditch in the late 1700s. He came from a Jewish family who already had criminal connections. His father, Henry Solomon, was a fence. Henry probably introduced his son to the criminal side of life. Ikey spent some time in Brighton, running a shop, and then moved back to the East End where he opened a jeweller’s shop close to Petticoat Lane. He married his wife, Ann, in 1807 in London’s Great Synagogue.

Solomon basically ran a pawn shop. This was not an unrespectable trade; however, he used the shop as a front for his fencing business. Criminals would bring things that they had stolen to him, and he would buy them and then sell them on. In the early 1800s, he was one of the best known fences in the East End, if not in all of London. As well as fencing stolen goods, Solomon was not above a bit of direct theft.

This caused him some problems in 1810 when he, and an accomplice, were caught stealing a pocket-book and some money. They almost got away with it, as they gave chasing police a run for their money. Solomon’s accomplice almost got rid of the evidence by eating the bank notes; unfortunately, Solomon could not do the same with the pocket book, and they were caught red-handed.

Solomon’s Old Bailey trial and imprisonment

Both men were tried at the Old Bailey in 1810 and found guilty of stealing. At the time, this was a felony offence that came with strict punishment options. The judge sentenced him to be transported to the penal colony in Australia for the rest of his life. At this stage, Solomon did not quite get to Australia, however. He was held in the prison ship, Zetland, for four years and then suddenly appeared back in the East End again. It is thought that he was either released by mistake or managed to escape.

Solomon’s escape from Newgate

By 1820, Solomon was working as a pawn broker and fence again. It took the police until 1827 to catch him in the act and arrest him on charges of theft and receiving stolen goods. He was taken to London’s infamous Newgate prison to wait for his trial.

This arrest is the one that probably made Solomon a well-known personality. Pamphlet publishers, who manufactured popular lurid news sheets, released three editions all about Solomon and his antics. The publishers weren’t much interested in factual reporting and tended to exaggerate their news, making Solomon a bit of an anti-hero in London.

Meanwhile, Solomon pulled a legal stunt that meant he had to be taken from Newgate to a court. His guards hired a hackney coach to take him back to prison, not knowing that Solomon’s father-in-law was driving the coach. After a short trip through Petticoat Lane, some of Solomon’s friends hijacked the coach, took on the guards and Solomon escaped once again.

Life outside England

At this stage, Solomon probably thought he’d run out of luck and left England, leaving his wife and family behind. He ended up safely in New York, but his wife became the focus of police attention. She was a fence, like her husband, and was arrested and sentenced to be transported to Australia in 1827. She was allowed to take her younger children with her; her older children left the country voluntarily to be with the rest of the family.

Meanwhile, Solomon read newspaper reports of her sentence and decided to go to Australia to be with her. However, he was quickly recognised by many of his old criminal friends who had also been transported, and news soon spread that he had been found. It took a year for an arrest warrant to arrive from London, and he was sent back home to be tried.

His 1830 trial at the Old Bailey was popular news. This is the point in his life where people think that Dickens became aware of his exploits, as Fagin’s trial in Oliver Twist resembles this one. Ironically, after sailing back to England for the trial, Solomon was sentenced to be transported again and was shipped back to Australia. This time, there wasn’t a happy reunion with his wife, and they split up fairly acrimoniously. Solomon died in Australia in 1850.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Comments

  • A.J.Spencer on London East End Street NamesI am looking for any information on Rosher Row ? It was still there in the 1960's as I remember taking my G/Friend of the time to meet my aunt Ett
  • JM Tubbs on Manchester Hotel | Aldersgate Street | WW2 PhotosMy great great grandfather Henry Thomas Tubbs and his business partner Joseph Lewis built this hotel and owned it for a time after it was opened. The initial cost in 1879 was around £70,000. It originally had 240 bedrooms but was expanded. There was a second main entrance on Long
  • JM Tubbs on Manchester Hotel | Aldersgate Street | WW2 PhotosYou could check the 1911 census. Either a subscription or a local studies library should have one you can use.
  • Charles Sage on History of Canning Town East LondonI was born in 1939 and lived in Beckton rd , I can rememember after the war going to the Queens theatre in poplar to see the variety shows , I think the compare was called Buttons,does anyone else remember the theatre.
  • Margaret Knight ( nee Key ) on The History of Beckton Gas WorksMy father was a stoker at the gas works and we lived in one of the company houses , 46 WinsorTerrace until I married in 1957,
  • Charles Sage on History of Canning Town East LondonPatlrick , We lived very close to Hermit rd after moving from Beckton rd in fact we drove along there this very day , we went to the cemetery to take flowers to put on my parents grave. To put it bluntly Canning Town is like a foreign country now
  • Naz on Alf Garnett East London’s Famous Resident.Barnet is not rhyming slang for Alf Garnett, it is rhyming slang for Barnett Fair, that piece of slang was in use well before Johnny Speight wrote TDUDP
  • Patrick Blake-Kerry on History of Canning Town East LondonMakes me laugh, the talk of hop picking as I ended up living in Hampshire as my mum and brother were bombed out and evacuated in 1940. They ended up in Bentley because it was the only place the driver knew outside London. Conversly having stayed and live in Bentley
  • Charlie sage on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Alfie Brown ! I remember the hop picking very well they were great times down China farm , the old huts lightig the fires going so mum could get dinner going , that long walk to the shop opposite the green hill, Bert doing the toilets , scrumping in
  • Carol Featherstone on Second World War Bombing Raid South Hallsville SchoolMy nan and grandad Pat and Emily Murphy were killed in the school leaving my mum an orphan at six she was brought up by her nan Lou McKay
  • Tim Conlan on History of Poplar East LondonGrindley and Co of 21 to 23 Broomfield Street, Poplar, London, E 1868 Company established. 1914 Tar and rosin distillers. Specialities: insulating and transformer oils, black varnishes, soluble drier preparations, motor and other greases.
  • Jane on History of Canning Town East LondonThank you, Ray, that's such a helpful reply - much appreciated.,
  • A.J.Spencer on London’s East End and The BlitzMy grand parents lived in Canning Town during the Blitz and I cannot find any trace of them on any records. I am looking especially pertaining to John William Spencer who lived at 66 Bidder St, Canning town in 1913
  • Ken Shelton on History of Canning Town East LondonHi there, I went to both of the Stratford Grammar Schools - the first one next to West Ham Park was just around the corner from where we lived, on Shirley Rd. I remember there was a tuck shop on the corner. Lots of memories from there - thanks for
  • Elaine Ford on History of Poplar East LondonDoes anyone know of a company called 'Grindleys' ? or similar, was based in Poplar in the 1940's (I believe) and was eventually pulled down. I'm writing a tribute for a gentleman who worked there, he was 99 years old. The family are not sure of the spelling of the

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 175 other subscribers.