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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Mary Wilkins.

mary-wilkins

In the days before online genealogy research was so easy, we researchers had to leave our homes and travel – by horse and carriage – to local (and not so local) archives and trawl through reels and reels of microfilm for little snippets of information to add to our family and other trees.

You had to scribble everything down in pencil, if you were lucky you could photocopy a page from the microfilm reader to save time. No laptops, tablets or cameras allowed then. And I’m not talking decades ago either.

My mum and I visited archives all over London and the southeast of England to track down baptisms and burials, and sometimes we got lucky and found them and sometimes we didn’t (yes Francis Shearley I’m talking about you! Again!)

As a consequence of all that scribbling I have quite a few bits of paper covered in partially illegible writing. Well it was probably 5 minutes to closing time and I would have been frantically getting as much information down as I could. It would have been weeks until my next visit!

So… I was browsing through one of my old notebooks recently and found an odd burial that I had made a note of, alongside a burial I had been looking for (and managed to find!). The burial was for a little girl, no forename had been added and it had obviously intrigued me at the time.

The entry in the burial register reads…

The daughter of Hubert and MaryAnn Wilkins. 8 hours. Buried 31st March 1899. Uckfield, East Sussex.

It mentions that the burial was certified under the Burial Laws amendment Act 1880. We’ll look at that in more detail later.

With a little bit of research using freebmd.uk.org I found that the most likely child was Mary Wilkins whose birth and death were registered in Uckfield during the first quarter (January to March) of 1899. So now we have a name for this little girl.

MaryAnn was born in Uckfield and was the daughter of local coal merchant Arthur Jeffrey. Before her marriage she had been a live-in domestic servant to a family living close to the Palace in Brighton.

Hubert had been born some distance away in Westbourne, West Sussex. After Hubert left school he worked as a carter, transporting goods.

I checked the 1901 census for Hubert and his wife MaryAnn and found them living in Uckfield. The couple had married in early in 1897, shortly after Hubert had taken up the post of luggage porter at Uckfield railway station, he obviously liked working with wheels. They had a house close to Hubert’s work and were parents to 10 month old Hubert Jr.

At this point I thought it would be nice to go and visit Marys grave in Uckfield, so I made contact with the civic centre who hold the cemetery records and located the grave. I also learnt that Hubert and MaryAnn had already lost a child before their daughter Mary.

Edith Annie was buried on the 12th of September 1898 aged just 19 days. She was probably named after MaryAnn’s sister Edith. Now by my reckoning that means that daughter Mary must have been a couple of months premature. How sad for the couple to have lost their first children. MaryAnn would have been just 21.

Childbirth could be a dangerous time, and a perfectly healthy mother could suddenly become ill and die leaving a husband to cope with older children and perhaps a new baby. There was of course no way of knowing how healthy the growing bump was or any real way of foreseeing any difficulties during labour until the moment arrived. A child born days or weeks early had very little, if any, chance of survival.

This was the reality of the life our ancestors lived.

However happier times lay ahead, three healthy babies born in quick succession, followed by another death – a son this time who died aged 6 weeks. Finally a last daughter for the couple in 1906.

The baby girls were buried together and their tiny brother was laid to rest beside them in 1906. None of the graves are marked.

When I checked the 1911 census I noticed that Hubert had written that he and MaryAnn had only 6 children, with 4 of them surviving. I wonder which one he had forgotten.

Lets go back to the Burial Laws amendment Act of 1880. I’ll be honest this made my head hurt. I think I have it right…

This law was added to allow ‘dissenter’ burials to lawfully take place in a Church of England churchyard. This meant that people practicing other religions (Baptists and Methodists for example) were able to be buried in their parish church with a service performed by the leader of their own religion, or a few words said over the grave by a family member. A certificate had to be presented to the Vicar stating that such a burial was going to take place, and the ceremony was performed at the graveside.

Shortly after the law was implemented there were all kinds of demonstrations at funerals by parishioners who were horrified by it. Meetings were held at the graveside about who was allowed to do what while mourners stood by waiting to bury a loved one.

In Marys case we don’t know why she didn’t have a Church of England ceremony. It may have been because of her parents beliefs or it may have been because she had died unbaptised. She was only 8 hours old so perhaps the family were unable to have a christening performed at such short notice.

One last thought, these children would not have appeared on a census and would have remained unknown except by chance – which reminds us to search for the births and deaths of other offspring a couple of years either side of known children when researching our family trees. Just in case.

Many thanks to Linda for her help in finding the Wilkins burials.

The Lady of the Manor.

Constance

This charming leather bound Common Prayer book was given to Constance McNicol in May 1872, when she was just 8 years old.  Despite its age and now rather shabby appearance you can tell by its soft, velvety worn cover and the fragile pages inside that it has been well used. Constance has placed  flowers in between some of the pages, a few still remain hidden inside today and you can see brown outlines where others have left their mark behind.

Constance was born in February 1864 in Calcutta, India. Her 20 year old mother Wilhelmina was from London,  and her father Nicol was a Shipbuilder who originated from Greenock in Scotland.

The family sailed to England in the mid 1860’s, and Constance became a big sister to  brother Ernest who was born in London in 1866. The family lived in a town house just a short walk from Hyde Park.

Nicol died in May 1872 and perhaps Constance received the book to mark the passing of her father. She certainly placed a flower across the page with the prayer for the ‘Burial of the Dead’ which has stained the paper.

Wilhelmina McNicol married again in 1878, this time to the recently divorced David Sandeman.

Constance herself was married in July 1890 to John Budd, the son of a Copper Merchant. The couple resided with the Budd family at Kingston House in Leatherhead, Surrey for several years until news that a large property, in a tiny rural hamlet in East Sussex, was coming up for auction. The previous owner had paid £13000 for the house ten years earlier but had just gone bankrupt and the Budds were able to purchase Tidebrook Manor for the princely (but bargain) price of £7600 in December 1897.

The couple settled in to their new life in the countryside. They employed many local people, and several of these stayed working for the Budds for the rest of their working lives. This included Thomas and Eleanor Knight who received £200 from Constance’s Will for their long service of over 40 years.

Constance took a great interest in the local church and gave it many gifts during her lifetime.  She enjoyed being part of village life, joining several societies and clubs. She was Vice-President of Tidebrooks Womens Institute for a time in the 1920’s.

John also was an active member of the community, he often played the church organ for services and attended local gatherings with his wife.

John Budd died in 1948, and Constance followed in 1950. They share a grave in the peaceful churchyard a few minutes walk from their home.

Shortly before her death, Constance paid for a huge stain glass window to be placed in the church. It reads…The thanksgiving of John Evelyn Budd and Constance Anne his wife in grateful remembrance of 50 years at Tidebrook Manor. 1898-1948.