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.

A stitch in time

sampler

I recently spent a lovely afternoon (yes, of course it rained) at Michelham Priory near Eastbourne in Sussex.  It really is a lovely tranquil place, sitting in the middle of seven acres of land. In fact I would almost go as far as saying rain only adds to its loveliness. Almost.

After wandering round the gardens, the playground and feeding the ducks (3 times, my daughter thought they were the best bit of the day..)  we explored the house. Its a fantastic old building, full of wooden panels and leaded windows. And there are even costumes to dress up in! (somewhat unsuccessfully if you get the wrong size and your mum takes a photo..)

The priory began life in 1229 as a monastery, but was disbanded as part of the dissolution during the reign of King Henry VIII. It then  took on a new life as a country home passing through several families over the following centuries. Over the years some of the buildings and the church itself were destroyed, but as you walk around you still get a sense of its previous life.

So, in one of the rooms upstairs I noticed a couple of old samplers and some sepia photographs on one of the walls. I particularly liked the one above and, well obviously, that was it for me. I couldn’t wait to get home and start researching.

Samplers were just that, samples of sewing. They could be examples of patterns and colours to be shown to prospective customers, Domestically they were used to practice stitches, try out small sections of embroidery before attempting much bigger projects and, later on, girls would sew them at home or school perhaps with a poem, or long biblical verses on or like the one picture above the alphabet.

Catharine Child was eight years old when she completed her sampler.

Eight years old!

I couldn’t believe it either. She had in fact celebrated her 8th birthday just over a week before, hopefully not by sewing though.

Catharine was born on the 4th of March 1837, the seventh child of Thomas and Elizabeth. There would be a further three siblings born after her.

Three months after Catharine was born Victoria became Queen, and a month after that on the 1st of July (a date burnt into the memory of all genealogists) the General Register Office began to record  births, marriages and deaths in England and Wales. Yay!

By the time Thomas and his growing family lived at Michelham it was a working farm with a watermill to grind flour. Thomas would have probably grown his own wheat to mill but would also have milled other peoples grain for a fee.

Thomas was also proud to have a huge herd of Sussex Bred cows and calves all descended from one particular cow called ‘Lilley’ since 1804. He frequently won prizes for his cows. Thomas regularly visited the big cattle market at Lewes to sell his surplus cattle, and in 1818 he was one of many farmers who signed a petition to change market day from a Saturday to a more convenient Tuesday.

Thomas passed away in 1854 at the relatively young age of 61. It seems that some effort was made to continue farming at Michelham but in September 1861 a great auction with no reserve was set up on the premises as the family were ‘wholly disinclined to farming’.

Travellers from far and wide were met by carriages at the local railway station to complete their journey to the farm and by the end of the day horses, ewes, cows and calves were all gone along with all the farm equipment.

Maybe the Child family knew what was to come, because in 1865 ‘cattle plague’ wiped out a great deal of cattle at Michelham Farm, much to the distress of the new farmer there.

The widowed Elizabeth (now of independent means) moved to Lewes with a handful of her adult children although her eldest son, Francis remained close to his childhood home and moved to another farm. He was also the local registrar of births, deaths and marriages as well as being a relieving officer.

It would have been his job to record hatches, matches and dispatches as well as visiting the homes of people in need of financial assistance due to illness, infirmity or unemployment and then report back his findings to the local board of guardians who would have decided whether or not to help. Some families would have received ‘out-relief’ a weekly sum of money to help with rent and food for a few weeks, some would have been sent to the workhouse and the rest would have had no help. At all.

I was surprised to learn that of the 6 Child daughters, despite all living beyond a marriageable age, only one married. Eldest daughter Susannah left the family in 1865, marrying Benjamin Morris and remaining in Lewes close to her mother.

But what about Catharine?  Around about the time the family moved to Lewes, she found work as a housekeeper to the Hollis family. Her mother died in 1873 and some of the sisters stayed living together (again with a private income) until gradually they diminished in number.  By 1881 Catharine had become the Hollis children’s governess and was living in London with the family. She stayed with them until the mid 1880s when death was to change her future again.

In 1884 brother Francis (who we had left farming up there ↑↑↑ ) lost his wife, Jane. She left behind three young children in want of a mother. So Catherine left her charges in London and returned to her family and in effect became a now unpaid housekeeper receiving board and lodging in exchange for running the household. Hopefully she enjoyed her new life.

Francis died in 1902 and Catharine became redundant, her nieces were in their 20’s and had moved away to pursue their own careers. Catharine needed to find new employment and a new home. She may have lived for a while with her last remaining sister, Caroline, but by 1911 she was living with a poorly cousin, Mary Lambe, and employed once again as a live-in housekeeper. She was 74 years old.

Mary died in December 1916 from complications of influenza and I can’t find Catharine again until her death in 1921.

After a life time of caring for others Catharine passed away aged 84.

Thank you to Michelham Priory for allowing me to photograph the sampler.

A Blank Space.

WP_20140421_005Occasionally on my travels I stumble across (sometimes quite literally) a headstone like this one belonging to Caroline Young.  Caroline has died in  the prime of life and her husband has  purchased a memorial for her and rather thoughtfully left a nice blank space on it for his own name to be added to it when he joins her.

Except his name hasn’t been added to the stone .

The usual reason for this is the surviving spouse has married again and is buried with their second spouse.  I have found a man who married three times,  his first two wives are buried together and he is buried with his third wife.  Not quite sure how those first two dearly departed wives would have felt about that!

Caroline and James were both just 22 when they married in 1843. James seems to have moved into the quiet village with his parents and siblings a couple of years before this.  He worked on the surrounding farmland but in later years he became a Sawyer.  They had five children and if Caroline had lived just a month longer they would have been married for 20 years.

By the time of the 1861 census James and his three youngest children are living alone, the two eldest children have left home and are working away.  Caroline has gone AWOL but I think I may have found her mistranscribed in an infirmary in a nearby Kent town as Catherine instead of Caroline.

If this is our Caroline,  I think she must have been fairly unwell to have been admitted into the hospital. Nowadays if we are ill enough to go into hospital we are fortunate to know the standard of care provided and the progress of medicine is such that we will have the best possible treatment, but back in early to mid Victorian England things would have been very different. Usually a patient had to be recommended to the hospital by someone who donated money towards the upkeep of it.  Another way of being admitted was to be sent by the local Parish Clark. There were no antibiotics, not much in the way of pain relief and too much in the way of infection. A good outcome to a stay in hospital wasn’t always likely at that time. Patients may also have been required to pay something towards their keep, this may have prevented some people going until they absolutely had to.

Doctors may have been young and inexperienced, they would quite possibly have taken on private paid work to survive as  positions at voluntary hospitals were sometimes unpaid. The matron at the hospital Caroline may have been in worked there for almost 30 years and I noticed that after she had left the hospital and returned to her native Devon she was given the occupation of ‘Spinster’ in the 1891 census. Nothing mentioned about a whole working life devoted to caring for the sick and dying.

We know Caroline died in 1862, and I have ordered her death certificate so I can find out what happened to her and where. I will share that information with you when the certificate arrives hopefully next week.

Second marriages could be fairly rapid, sometimes just months after the loss of a spouse. It was most likely necessity –  a working man left with several dependent children needed a wife to care for his family. A widow with small children needed a steady income and of course both would want companionship. There was little official help available for bereaved families and the workhouse was a grim prospect.  Sometimes potential partners were neighbours or friends.

Another reason for a quick marriage could be where the new wife was a servant already in the household and tongues had begun wagging, especially after the arrival of a new child.

But James didn’t rush into another marriage, he waited 2 years before he married new wife Ann who  was a widow. Her husband had died shortly after Caroline in May 1862 and is buried close to her.  Ann brought to the marriage her own three children making a new household of 6 children.  And a father-in-law as Ann’s elderly father moved in with them. It must have been true love!

James, Ann, some children, a couple of nieces, a grandchild or 2 and a father-in-law moved into town where James opened a Beer Shop. He was fined a shilling for selling beer after hours (maybe he needed the money to support his extended family!)

Ann passed away in August 1888 and James followed her in 1908.  He lived with his widowed daughter Esther and her children  for the rest of his life. He passed away peacefully at home and was buried 4 days after his death.

Ann and James Young

 

I’ve managed to track down Ann and James’ last resting place, they are buried together in a quiet spot in  a cemetery on the outskirts of the town they lived in. Funnily enough if you stand at the edge of the churchyard Caroline is buried in you can see the cemetery where James is in the distance, only trees and fields separating the two.