Fire fire, Fire! Fire!

While searching through old newspapers online in the hope of finding Francis ‘catch me if you can’ Shearley (I didn’t) I noticed an article in The Morning Advertiser in August 1832 informing its readers that it was once again time to vote for the 40 children who would be fortunate to gain a place at the Licensed Victuallers School in Kennington Lane, Lambeth. There was a long list of children’s names, ages, where they lived and a little bit about their family background. I wasn’t sure what it was all about but it sounded interesting so I thought I would see what I could find out.

I began by picking a few of the children in the article to see if I could find out about their lives. Now I could have made this easier on myself by searching later newspapers for children being voted for after 1841, because then I would have perhaps been able to find them together with their families on a census. But oh no, that would be far to simple… and also it didn’t occur to me until afterwards. D’oh.

One of the children on my little list was Jane Gross. Here is her entry in the paper..

Jane Gross, 11. Father dead, Mother in reduced circumstances and has another child to support; number 17 Gibralter Walk.

All the children on the list had lost one or both parents, if a parent was left he or she normally had other children and worked or was in poor or very bad health. Some were blind, others had lost a limb. All were in a bad way financially and unable to support the child they were desperate to get into the school.

So what was the Licensed Victuallers School?

It was a charity set up in 1803, for the benefit of the children of licensed Victuallers, or Inn Keepers, who had been paid subscribers while in business. Should a landlord or his wife find themselves in financial distress – perhaps due to a bereavement – they could place one of the children on the ‘voting’ list and hope they were successful  in gaining a place in the school. Subscribers were allowed a certain amount of votes, depending on how much they paid in per year. Each year about 40 spaces were available for eligible children to fill.

Once in the school they would receive an education and be cared for financially until they were old enough to go to work. They would be trained up in a trade or be taught useful skills that would enable them to be employed in service, maybe as a kitchen maid or gardener. Children that did well at the school would have received a small amount of money to help them on their way when they left. Have a look on websites such as http://www.childrenshomes.org.uk to find out more.

So what had happened to Jane and what became of her?

Jane was born in the spring of 1821, in Bethnal Green London. She was the daughter of Daniel Gross and his wife Elizabeth Bay.  Daniel, the son of a Weaver, had married Elizabeth in August 1811 at St Michaels in Crooked Lane. I wonder if it was?

I have found five children for the couple – Daniel, Mary Ann both born in Bermondsey, Elizabeth, then Jane followed by Amelia who were all born in Bethnal Green on the other-side of the Thames.

Daniel Snr it seems was a Pub Landlord. I found him first at The Green Man in Tooley Street, a few minutes walk from London Bridge Station. But of course that wasn’t there then. In fact the whole area now would be pretty much unrecognisable to Daniel and his family should they have a wander round. Even London Bridge itself has been replaced twice, and the church he married in was pulled down a few years after the happy couple signed the register, to make way for London Bridge MK II in 1831.

By 1818 the Gross family had moved from Bermondsey to Bethnal Green – first to Virginia Row where he again has a pub which may have been the Magpie and Stag, one of several inns in the road but I liked that name best.

While at Virginia Row Daniel was the victim of a crime. Or rather his tiny daughter Amelia was. The little girl (who was just a year old) had been taken out for some air by a neighbour when a man had approached them, and wrenched from Amelia’s neck her beaded necklace, which had been tied on by a ribbon so I am guessing that probably hurt some what. The culprit, 19 year old John Robinson, was caught by quick thinking bystanders and duly sentenced to 14 years transportation. The necklace had been worth 7s. Harsh times.

The family moved again in the late 1820’s, this time to The Fountain in Golden Lane a short distance away. Daniels change of address seemed to give him a change of fortune. He himself begins to appear in the papers.

He was fined 20s in 1829 for serving gin during church service time. Then in December 1830 Daniel was fined 40s for the pub being open between 1 and 2am and having upwards of 25 customers, some of very bad character including a couple of known Resurrection men having a few drinks before wandering off to dig up a body or 2! Daniel responded to this by writing to the Morning Advertiser denying the accusations and also upbraiding the local policeman for refusing to come to his aid when called upon to help empty the pub of a night, telling him ‘He would not come, and I might get them out myself!’.

In October 1831 He was fined 50L for watering down his beer. He said his neighbours sold their beer so cheaply he felt compelled to do the same, but being unable to afford to buy as much beer as them he had to water down his own stock. He had since ‘been obliged to leave his house’ through embarrassment. Presumably they left the pub and moved round the corner to Gibraltar Walk.

This is the last mention of Daniel Gross I have found.

So somewhere between October 1831 and August 1832 Daniel passes away leaving his family in a lot of difficulty. We didn’t leave him in the best of moods so lets hope he didn’t go for a wander along that new London Bridge.

You will be pleased to know that Jane was voted into the School. Mother Elizabeth tried for 3 successive years to get little sister Amelia in too but she doesn’t seem to have made it.

I looked in the 1841 census for Jane, but couldn’t find her. I found her mother living with  children Daniel, Mary Ann and Amelia and also her mother-in-law Ann, still living in Gibraltar Walk. I looked on freebmd for a marriage or death for Jane.

I found her death in September 1840.

I went back to the papers to see if I could find a funeral, an obituary, anything for her. I wasn’t expecting to find anything but I was pleased (odd I know) to find a couple of articles about her.

It seems she was working as a barmaid in the Jacobs Well, in Milton Street not far from her family and lost her life in a fire during the early hours of the 14th of September 1840. Her body and that of the other victim, a lodger, was taken to the Cripplegate ‘bone-house’ before being laid before the jury at the inquest.

At the Coroners Inquest the policeman on duty told the court he had spotted a great fire taking hold at the back of the building. Unable to rouse the inhabitants, he had sent for an ‘engine’, alerted some fellow officers and had then gone back to his station to report the fire. Ladders were not sent for, it was noted, for some time. The Sexton of the local church said that the ladders were not allowed to be taken unless his permission was sought first.

The orders given to police in the case of a fire were read out in court and one particular part criticized by the coroner, that a policeman on duty must not leave his beat unless ordered to by a superior, as ‘depredators’ may take advantage of his absence. This of course left a policeman unable to help save human life. Another point raised was that police and fire brigade did not have access to the keys used to unlock the water pipes, the Churchwardens did.

Only the landlord and the pot boy escaped. The landlord said he had met Jane on the second floor outside her room,and that she had been in such a state he had been obliged to carry her up to the third floor to try to escape. He had then attempted to carry her up a ladder to the roof but some of the rungs had given way and he had dropped her, he thought she had fallen down to the second floor. Unable to descend back through the smoke to find her, he had climbed on to the roof where eventually he was able to climb down a ladder that had eventually been allowed to be used.

After the fire had been put out Jane was found in her room. It seems in her fright the teenager had returned to her bed and hidden under the bed covers and suffocated. she had just a few burns to her feet.

Jane was buried at St Matthews Church in Bethnal Green, where she had been baptised just 19 years before.

Her brother Daniel died in 1854 and her mother in 1858. Mary Ann seems to have ended her days in Bethnal Green Workhouse in 1884. But Amelia, the little girl with the necklace, married, had children and enjoyed a long life dying in 1906 aged 83.

 

 

 

 

 

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