Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Sweeney Todd

Fresh Meat Pies

"Seems an awful waste
I mean
With the price of meat what it is"

"A Little Priest" by Stephen Sondheim from "Sweeney Todd."

Sweeney Todd's accomplice is even more shrouded in mystery than the murderous barber himself. Her surname was undoubtedly Lovett, but whether her first name was Margery or Sarah remains a mystery. Haining argues in favor of Margery, as most of the articles written about her use that name. She was less than beautiful, according to articles written at the time of her arrest, and her smile came not from her heart, but was as false as the veal filling in her pies.

Engraving of Mrs Lovett
Engraving of Mrs Lovett

Mrs. Lovett was a widow, whose first husband had died under mysterious circumstances and no one was ever able to place her in Sweeney Todd's presence in public. The pair were lovers, though, and apparently their passions were fulfilled after a successful murder and butchering job. She liked the finer things in life, considered herself better than her working class background, and used her portion of the profits to furnish silk sheets and fine furniture in her apartment above her Bell Yard bakery.

How she met Sweeney Todd is a mystery, but apparently he set her up in her shop in Bell Yard. He had been busy "polishing off" Sweeney's own play on words - his customers for some time before he brought Mrs. Lovett into the act. Until she started using his victims in her meat pies, Todd had been using the abandoned crypts beneath St. Dunstan's church to hide his handiwork. There, he managed to store the bodies amid the dozens of family crypts that time had all but forgotten. But he was running out of room and needed a new way to dispose of his murder victims.

Thomas Peckett Prest was the first author to write the tale of Sweeney Todd and Margery Lovett shortly after their arrest and trial. He had worked on Fleet Street and was familiar with Lovett's two-story pie shop. In the basement of the shop was the bakery, and a false wall could be opened to reveal the catacombs behind. It was through this false wall that Todd would apparently deliver his ghastly pie fillings. Prest described the shop this way: "On the left side of Bell Yard, going down from Carey Street, was, at the time we write of, one of the most celebrated shops for the sale of veal and pork pies that London had ever produced. High and low, rich and poor, resorted to it; its fame had spread far and wide; and at twelve o'clock every day when the first batch of pies was sold there was a tremendous rush to obtain them.

 

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