top of page

Louis Martinelli

Tragic Death of Cats’ Meat Vendor

Louis Martinelli 1848-1914

According to The Courier of 1st January 1915 ‘the sad story unfolded to the Coroner’. Louis Martinelli lived alone at 21 Tunnel Road where ‘he had first cut his throat but on failing to sever an artery had gone upstairs and hanged himself’ on his bedstead.

The day before his suicide, he had been fined £2 and costs at Tunbridge Wells Borough Police Court for carrying out an operation on a cat, ‘in such a manner as to cause the animal great pain.’
This outcome, which he refuted in a suicide note, would have ended his cats’ meat selling business. He was well known in Tunbridge Wells relying on his reputation to cat lovers.

Louis Martinelli had been born in Southwark, the son of William Rivers Martinelli a barometer maker and optician trained by his own father. Louis however had never been similarly trained. He was a carman at the time of his marriage – transporting goods for others – remaining in this role until he came to Charles Street, Southborough at the turn of the 20th Century. This coincides with his wife of 33 years disappearing from records. She had borne at least 10 children and when Louis is recorded on the 1901 Census in Southborough, the 5 remaining children are with him. Louis has now become a cats’ meat salesman. Cats’ meat was waste horsemeat which Louis collected from the railway station and would have chopped up, cooked and sold on skewers to regular customers.

Fifteen years later the children are all married and have left home. Louis is living in Tunnel Road, Tunbridge Wells. He is much nearer to the station and appears to be settled in his work. His son George, a grocer in Southborough, describes his father as ‘cheerful and temperate’ although he has not seen him for 9 months.
Louis suicide note addressed to a friend states ‘There is 30 shillings in my pocket for my burial. It is all I have got.’ He also had his will on him. Presumably it was invalid as it cannot be traced.

A final mystery is why Louis Martinelli was laid to rest with 7 others in a pauper’s grave. Whatever happened to his 30 shillings?

bottom of page