Webpage created: July 24, 2018
Webpage updated: July 24, 2018
MICHAELANGELO ANTONUCCI (1858-1919)
Ice cream came to England from Italy via the French Court but was initially reserved for the rich who could afford the high cost of importing and keeping ice. It is said to have only gone on general sale to the public in 1851 at a stall at Hungerford Market, London, which is now the site of Charing Cross Station. It was at that time served in shells at one penny a time and would have been cool but flavourless.
Exactly when this summer treat reached Plymouth is not known.
As far as is known at present, Italian-born Mr Michaelangelo Antonucci became the first ice cream vendor in Plymouth. It is assumed that he actually manufactured his own ice cream as machines for doing so were already available.
Unfortunately Mr Anonucci's ice cream hit the local headlines in 1900. On the evening of Saturday October 27th 1900 a 12-years-old youngster named Christopher Kemp, a son of Mr Thomas Kemp, of 3Stanlake Terrace, ate four or five ice creams at the premises of Mr Antonucci, 49 Treville Street, claimed his younger brother. He fell ill when he got home and got worse over the weekend. A Doctor was called but Master Kemp died on Tuesday October 30th, before he arrived. At the subsequent inquest, when his younger brother testified, the Coroner concluded that he had suffered "Ptomaine Poisoning" from eating the ice cream. Two similar cases had been reported at Rochdale, Lancashire, shortly before this so the matter was taken very seriously by Plymouth Borough Council. Hygiene standards were not very high in those days and it was claimed that the glasses in which the ice cream was served were not washed properly afterwards before being used for another person. Indeed, the water in which they were washed was often dirtier than the glasses themselves, it was claimed.
The 1901 census shows the family living at number 48 Treville Street. Both he and his wife, Mrs Antonia Antonucci, had been born in Italy in 1858 and 1862 respectively. The oldest two daughters, Maria Sarafina and Rosa, had been born in Plymouth in 1885 and 1888 and their younger brother, Giovanni, likewise in 1889. The family must have returned to Italy during the 1890s as that is where Maria G and Anna T Antonucci were born, in 1891 and 1899 respectively. Helping out in the shop were three servants, Rocco Antonucci, aged 19 years, who was not noted as a relative, Francesca Portella, aged 23 years, and Alfonzo Rossi, aged 39 years, all from Italy.
This clearly gave his ice cream a bad reputation and instead Michaelangelo, by now known as Michele, turned to being a refreshment house keeper at 133 Exeter Street, Plymouth, next door to the Exeter Street Salvation Army Mission Hall, where he died on February 9th 1919. The funeral service was held at the Roman Catholic Church of the Holy Cross.
By 1935 the business was listed as a fried fish shop, yet still in his name. His widow, Antonia, survived until August of that year, when he was killed in an accident with a delivery van belonging to Messrs Winnicott Brothers Limited.