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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Please mind the gap.

annie-jones

Its frustrating when we spend a long time researching an ancestor but are never able to ‘finish’.  Sometimes we have a date for the birth but no death, or a death but no baptism. We might have the family on the 1851 census but nothing more til 1891.

We try spelling the surname differently, searching by first name and place of birth, by nicknames, other family members and even by neighbours on other censuses. When all else fails we check prisons, asylums, workhouses and cemeteries.

But sometimes that elusive person wants to remain, well, elusive.

But by  nature we are curious (why else did we choose this pastime) and we want to know. No actually, we NEED to know. Really. We put the ancestor away, but revisit him often. Did I check that newspaper? did he go abroad? did I check that? and so on.

I have an ancestor called Louisa, I can’t tell you the hours I have spent looking for her in 1911. I have her in 1901 and I have her on the 1939 register. But what about those years in between? where was she in 1911? who was she with? was she OK? I just don’t know.

Sometimes we just can’t find out. However annoying it is.

I have a postcard from 1909 I wanted to research. It was sent by  an Annie to a Miss Gwen Jones of Vesta Road Brockley, south east London. Annie sent it on New Years Eve from St Ives in Cornwall.

So I have a name and an address as well as a date. What can I find out?

I checked the 1911 census and found the family. 55 year old Croydon born widow Annie Jones was head of the house, and living with her are her three adult children – Annie Gwendoline (28), Lily Gladys (28 twins?) and William JC Jones (26). Annie is a lodging house keeper and is renting rooms out to 4 people. I think this is why she has signed her postcard ‘Annie’ rather than ‘Mother’. It also explains that daughter Annie is known by her middle name so not to confuse everyone.

The three children were all born in Melbourne, Australia.

Now the research becomes a bit harder. First of all Jones is a fairly common surname and Annie is a widow so I don’t have her husbands name so can’t pinpoint a marriage for her.

However luck is on my side because Annie is also on the 1901 UK census and not only that she is living with her parents in 1891! Thank you Annie ☺

So now I have a maiden name for her – Cheverton, as well as her parents and some siblings.

I can’t find a marriage for Annie Cheverton and a ? Jones but I know that she has lived in Melbourne so I search for her leaving England. And I find her sailing from Plymouth on-board the Orient liner Garonne in November 1880. After a horrendous sailing through storms and bad weather the ship arrived in Melbourne on New Years Day 1881.

Next I look for her marriage. Annie Cheverton married Hugh Gwilym Jones on the 25th of January 1881 at St Saviours, Collingwood, Melbourne. Perhaps Hugh had gone ahead to set up home for the couple? It would have been a whirlwind romance otherwise! The couple put a notice in the paper declaring their marriage and one the following year for the birth of daughter Annie (April 7th 1882) and again in 1883 (13th March) for daughter Lily. So not twins but only 11 months apart.

Now what about Hugh? He arrived in Melbourne in  April 1880 having sailed on the Steamer Chimborazo. Now we know Annie suffered a stormy crossing but poor Hugh must have feared for his life. His ship met with a terrible accident and had to return to England for repairs. The Chimborazo had met with a sudden rough sea and part of it had been swept away along with 30 passengers.

Hugh arrived in Australia as a labourer. It was a great time to emigrate. Australia was the ‘Land Of Promise’ said F W Hetherington, a London based Emigration Agent who regularly advertised his services in the national newspapers. Land was cheap, jobs were plentiful and the prospects for hard workers were excellent.

Hugh and Annie must have been doing well, they moved house a couple of times and I found Hugh advertising his Drapery business in the local street directories. Their  son William John Cheverton  Jones arrived in 1884 and life seemed good.

For a while.

I found only two more entries in the Australian newspapers for the family.  Both on the same day Wednesday 2nd November 1887.

They appear one below the other in The Argus. The first informing its readers of the death of 37 year old Hugh G Jones, who died at his residence Claremont, Barkly Street, St Kilda and details of his funeral. The second entry asks for Hugh’s fellow members of the Cambrian Victoria Society* to attend his funeral.

*One of many societies set up at the time (and in many cases still running) to support newly emigrated people to find friendship, work, homes etc in their new lives.

I was able to find a record of Hugh’s death, it just gave the names of his parents William Jones and Elizabeth Hughs of Liverpool, England. And a note of what is written on Hugh’s headstone -Hugh Gwilym Jones son of Wm Jones of Liverpool, England. 31. October 1887. With no mention of his wife or children we must assume his father paid for his headstone.

So now Annie is far from home with 3 small children.  Did she try to carry on supporting her children or sell the business (or her husbands tools of the trade) straight away to return to her family?

I couldn’t find them sailing back to England and believe me I looked. For hours. I knew they had travelled sometime between late 1887 and being enumerated on the 1891 UK census.  Even I gave up at the point of having to search manually through thousands of families on ships leaving Melbourne.

We don’t know what happened to Annie during those three years. We can’t even make an educated guess. All we know is at some point she came back to England, but how she managed to live will have to remain a mystery for now.

Annie remained a widow at least til 1912 which is the last I have of her, on the Electoral register at Vesta Road. Her daughters never married ( I have their deaths) although her son did.

I haven’t even found Annie’s death (yet, yes I’ll keep looking…) it’s a bit like looking for a, well you get the picture.

It could all be rubbish.

I can only apologise to anyone who has been waiting for a new post. I have an excuse or 2 though. I have several new and exciting projects on the go… a couple don’t even have anything to do with dead people!

One of the projects is de-cluttering the house and doing a bit of decorating.

Soooo last Sunday I packed the car full of old junk and headed over to the local tip. I had a lot of old boxes to put in the cardboard recycling skip, so I climbed up the horrible metal steps in my sensible shoes (I have been known to get a boot heel stuck in the grills of those steps before…) and threw them in to the almost full bin. Then I spotted a pile of books sitting  near the edge of the container. Books! In the skip!!

One of the books looked quite old and I just couldn’t resist flicking the cover open to have a little nosy…

Edith Price

The inscription inside was almost illegible but the  year was still clearly visible, written in ink it said 1878.  I was pretty confident I could find something out about the Victorian owner of the book so I asked one of the staff if I could take the book home.

Printed in 1833, the book has the rather grand title ‘The Students Manual, An Etymological And Explanatory Vocabulary Of Words Derived From The Greek’ by R. Harrison Black, LL.D. According to its author it was originally compiled for the use of a young female relative and was then ‘published with the hope of it being generally useful more especially to young ladies – whose mode of education precludes them from an acquaintance with Greek.’ Thoughtful chap.

Now I won’t fib, this one has been a toughie. But I do not give up on dead people easily. Unless they specifically ask me to.

So I began by studying the inscription.  I have it as ‘from M.Blackstone to Edith M K Price. 1878’.  We can tell from the photo that the M.Blackstone has been written long before the rest of the dedication, it is in a steadier hand and the ink is of a slightly different colour. The book has been given to Edith by M long after M initially owned it.

I can only find one likely recipient, Edith Mary Karslake Price born in Scotland circa 1857, making her 21 when she was given the book.

Next job was to find Edith as close to 1878 as possible. In both 1871 and 1881 she was living in Rottingdean, on the outskirts of Brighton, with her mother and siblings including  younger brother Salisbury who later in life would become a Vicar.

Now I had to try and locate an M Blackstone.

A mile away in Ovingdean, living a quiet life next door to the local Vicar was an elderly spinster, Miss Margaret Blackstone. Born in 1799 in Wymering, Hampshire, Margaret was the daughter of Margaret Bigg-Withers and the Rev. Charles Blackstone. The ‘Materials for a history of the Wither family’ located on archive.org has some great information on the Bigg-Wither family including some letters written by them.

The Bigg-Withers family owned Manydown Park, Hampshire and were neighbours of the famous Austens and one of them, Harris, proposed to Jane. She apparently accepted his proposal briefly, changing her mind the next day.

Charles Blackstone died in 1804 and his widow Margaret spent much of her time at her childhood home with her also widowed sister and their combined collection of  small children.

Margaret the younger lived with her mother until Margaret Snr died in 1842. Then she gradually moved her way towards Brighton during the next few decades.

Could Margaret have been the mysterious M? We have no real way of telling. I think M was probably a woman, and had a love of learning. Both owners of the book came from families of wealth and property, were fortunate to be in a position where they could have a good education, and both had Clergymen in their immediate family.

Perhaps the women met socially as they only lived a few minutes walk apart, Margaret discovering their shared love of learning giving her book to Edith for her birthday. Could it have been a gesture to show the shared frustration felt by women who were limited in their studies by the age they lived in?

Maybe Margaret isn’t the correct M.Blackstone after all.  We’ll never know.

Margaret and Edith lived on their private incomes during their lifetimes and remained  unmarried. They died in 1885 and 1943 respectively.

Now I am sure I must have one project that doesn’t involve the dearly departed somewhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So where were we….

Like many people I like a quiet walk through a churchyard, I like to explore the old stones and sometimes take note of a name or two and see what I can find out about them. About 15 years ago I was walking around a Sussex churchyard with my mum and the thought occurred to us …why not record some of these stones? many of the memorials were from the early 1800s and were rapidly falling victim to weather – the soft sandstone losing the lettering once carved into it. So we began to spend our spare time there, on hands and knees with paper and pens (yes it was in the days before Tablets!) and in all weathers, desperately trying to read inscriptions that were terribly faint and almost illegible.

In the end we recorded well over a thousand headstones. It was a very difficult project, we didn’t get it right in some cases but we tried our best, visiting local archives to try and get as many names and dates right as possible.  We purchased death certificates, read obituaries in local papers dating back to Victorian times. But it was great, and we had fun doing it. When complete we felt we had achieved something, and many people who had long since gone were remembered and now have become like old friends to us, albeit some of them probably have the odd chuckle at my expense about that ant incident.

One nice part of our project was the people we met, both in person and online. We received photos of Edwardians now residing in our churchyard whose families had since emigrated, we were able to help people find long lost ancestors buried in a church miles away from where they should have been and we learnt a lot about the history of the area and its people.

So back to the name of the blog…. One of the oldest headstones we recorded had the rather sad inscription ‘Seized by death and prisoners made, three infant children’ and I was intrigued……..