She’s Leaving Home

In today’s boarding school world, where there is frequent leave of absence for boarders, the notion of a girl going to a boarding school and not going home again for five years must seem very strange. However, when RMIG (or the Royal Cumberland Freemasons’ School as it was then) first started it was thought important that a girl’s time at school was not interfered with at all. Parents were actively discouraged from contacting their daughters. In fact ‘visiting time’ was limited to Thursday afternoons only and, even then, by appointment. As the school was in London, anyone living outside the capital would have found it very difficult indeed to visit. If parents insisted on contacting their daughters, they might be told to take them away again and be given a bill for their education to boot. Added to this, the phrase used to note the outcome of a girl’s education was the rather chilling one of ‘How disposed of’ – which to modern ears sounds like the prelude to a murder mystery.

Once a girl left the School, she could be returned to her parents, or surviving parent, or to her Friends (i.e. whoever was acting as a guardian) or be apprenticed in some way. In the early days, this was almost invariably into domestic service rather than a trade but later it often became training for nursing or teaching, some of which training may actually have taken place at the School before further training elsewhere. Some girls did go home to parents and the parents placed them in work/training but it is remarkable how many girls left home to attend the School and never really went home again. They probably visited family but, having left the family home as children, they often went into the world of employment away from home and made their new post-school lives from there.

One such is Gwendoline Hammersley Warrillow who became eligible for a place in the School upon the death of her father (see Cheaper by the Dozen) and left the School in May 1894. The Head Governess had this to say of her:

[she] “has been a good girl and has done well generally but hardly as well as she might; consequently she has not succeeded in gaining any prize; she passed College of Preceptors exam P Class III Div II”. Library & Museum of Freemasonry GBR 1991 RMIG 1/2/2/4/1-4 A11943 – A11946

Hmm, hardly a ringing endorsement but actually better than some. Sarah Louisa Davies, the Head Governess, did not often mince her words!

Gwendoline’s story began on 3 May 1878 and she was baptised at St John’s, Hanley 27 days later.

St Johns church
Hanley St John

Image of St Johns is drawing by Neville Malkin and reproduced from an out of print book.

At this time, the Warrillows were living at Grove Lodge, Snow Hill, so named because it was originally a deep cutting with unpaved roads frequently blocked by snow in winter. Presumably the lodge was that for Grove House which was described thus:

“Grove House, altered and enlarged by Charles Meigh c. 1840 and at that time containing a fine collection of pictures, stood near the junction of Snow Hill and Bedford Road.”

“The main road was formerly known as Snow Hill only between the present Cutts St. and Wood Terrace and as Broad St. from Wood Terrace to Victoria Sq.; it then continued as High St. up to the junction with Marsh St.: Hargreaves, Map of Staffs. Potteries.”

A much magnified image from Thomas Hargreaves’ map of 1832 may show the lodge, although this is by no means certain.

Grove Lodge
Hargreaves’ map magnified

A much later resident of Snow Hill – long after the Warrillows had departed – was Clarice Cliff. The image of houses in Snow Hill today perhaps reflects the quality of the housing stock once although most of these are now sub-divided (and sub-sub-divided) into flats.

Snow hill housing
Snow Hill today captured from Google Earth

Having left school, we catch up with Gwendoline in the 1901 census – in Tadcaster, Yorkshire. This is so far removed from her previous sphere as to suggest that the School played a part in placing her there as governess to the Pickering family. We don’t know that for certain of course but, however she arrived at this situation, it certainly changed her life for ever. Four years later she married the son of the family, the marriage being announced in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of 05 September 1905.

Marriage announcement
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 05 September 1905.

The banns were read in St Mary’s, Garforth and in Stone, Staffordshire – a nod to her Staffordshire roots. Just to clarify the situation, it should be pointed out that John Herbert Pickering was some six years Gwendoline’s senior so most decidedly not one of her charges!

Six years later, the 1911 census places the couple, now with their two children, in Station Rd, Garforth. John Herbert Pickering was continuing the family business as a cattle dealer and butcher. Station Rd today has modern houses which appear to date from much later than 1911 so it seems likely that the area was redeveloped after the Pickerings had left it for pastures new. The next recorded address for the family is Coney Springs, Robin Hood Road, Ravenscar where, sadly, their daughter’s death was announced in 1936.

Ravenscar property
Coney Springs, Ravenscar

Captured from Google Earth

At what point the Pickerings moved from Garforth to Ravenscar is not known and they could have been elsewhere in between. It is also worth noting that death notices for both Gwendoline and John give them as ‘of Garforth and Ravenscar’, rather as if they possibly lived in both places.

Ravenscar is in itself an interesting place.

“Standing on the fringes of the rugged North Yorkshire Moors and perched on the top of 600 foot high cliffs overlooking the North Sea sits the village of Ravenscar, the ‘town that never was’, or the Victorian dream that failed.”

In the heyday of Victorian railways, the idea of developing a seaside town, purpose-built to be served by a new railway line, where not only holiday makers would flock but so too would hordes of people clamouring to buy one of the 1500 plots made available and having a house built. Unfortunately, it was one of those ideas that looks good on the drawing board or on a flat map but which never quite takes in the reality of the geography. A place with stunning sea views it may be but there is the small matter of a 600 foot cliff separating this ideal location from the shoreline – which was not even a sandy beach anyway.

Ravenscar cliffs
Map of Ravenscar 1937

The map above shows clearly the steepness of the cliffs. This is from FindMyPast showing where the Pickerings lived in 1939 (although mistakenly interpreted as Casey Springs).

“Access by train proved to be difficult with trains often struggling to overcome the steep gradient of the newly built line. With Ravenscar’s exposed cliff top location often at the mercy of the wind and rain, a rocky shoreline hundreds of feet below with difficult access and no proper sandy beach this particular Victorian ‘new seaside town’ failed.”

Instead of Ravenscar becoming a thriving seaside destination to rival Whitby or Scarborough (between which two places it lies), it remains today something of a ghost town with roads laid out and a station platform built to offload the hordes of trippers who never arrived and a few scattered houses. Two of these, Coney Springs and Broom Rise, were occupied in turn by the Pickerings. In the 1950s, Broom Rise was their given address. Ravenscar still has stunning sea views as shown in this picture from Antony Waller’s blog.

views across the bay
Sea views from Ravenscar

The station closed in 1965 and the tracks have since been lifted although the ‘up’ platform is still there.

2 period station
Images from

The death notices referred to above show that, at the end of their lives, both Gwendoline and John died in Leeds. The address, Weetwood Lane, was the home of their son. They died just a year apart with John being described as a dearly loved husband in the newspaper’s announcement. Both of them left their estates to their remaining child, Thomas Warrillow Pickering, who was continuing the family business of being a butcher. Perhaps following the death of his father or perhaps because his mother was aging and he was concerned about her living in a relatively remote place where neighbours were probably at least a field away, Thomas may have insisted that his mother come to Leeds. We are not party to that discussion. The fact remains, however, that the following year when Gwendoline died in St James’ Hospital (‘Jimmy’s’), her address was given as Weetwood Lane. So, even in her death, Gwendoline Hammersley Pickering, nee Warrillow had ‘left home’. Her burial place is not given in the public records but as her daughter and her husband were both buried in Ravenscar parish church, it seem likely that Gwendoline was too.

Ravenscar church
St Hilda’s, Ravenscar

My thanks in this posting and the last to SuBar who, to mimic the old Heineken ad, reaches parts of the research others can’t reach!

Cheaper by the dozen

Compared with the Zurhorst children (see Curious Connections posting), the twelve children of James and Sarah Warrillow must have seemed a breeze! Actually, it was a baker’s dozen if we’re being accurate, as there was a 13th child. Sadly Charles Bennison Warrillow did not make old bones as he was born late in 1881 and died in the 2nd quarter of 1882 (i.e. April, May or June). But, at a time when infant mortality was still much higher than it is now, the other twelve all survived into adulthood (at least one to the age of 90), although chasing them through public records is not made any easier by the variation in the spelling of their surname – Warrillow/Warillow/Warrilow.

offspring JamSar
Warrillow children

It is interesting that the names became more ‘unusual’ the greater the number of children. Edwin Octavius, despite his name has an ordinal number of 7 which might imply that there was another Warrillow child before him but no records have yet been found. Hyacinthe (who rarely referred to herself by the name Exmas, so it may have been a kind of family joke that ended up being perpetuated in the records) was registered in the 1st quarter of 1880 but may have been born at the end of 1879 – one is tempted to believe on Christmas Day itself.

The Warrillow daughter who became a pupil at the School was Gwendoline. No other eligible daughters joined RMIG so the ‘ruling’ on sisters must have been in the ascendancy at this point. However, the records do show that Sarah and Hyacinthe also both attended boarding schools, and Lilian, Eleanor and Dagmar all became teachers which implies a good educational standard. Dagmar, in fact, went off to teach in Newfoundland and the adverts she placed show that she was there from 1910 to at least 1912.

Dagmar adverts
Newfoundland adverts

By 1930, she must have been back in England as she travelled to Gibraltar from there and in 1939 she is living with her widowed brother in the Gas Managers House, Lower Bedford Street, Stoke on Trent. The site of the British Gas and Light Company works is next to the Etruria Industrial Museum, where there is a steam-driven bone and flint mill – to produce the ‘bone’ for bone china. The Gas Works have gone although their positions can clearly be seen on a map of 1898.

1898 map of Etruria

In 2011, the online Evening Sentinel began a discussion about the gas holder that remained and Roger Warrillow commented:

“My grandfather, James Warrillow, works manager of the then private gas works lived and died at Gas House in 1944 beside the canal next to Shirley’s bone works.”

In fact, a number of the photographs of bygone Stoke on Trent were taken by Ernest James Dalziel Warrillow, MBE, a cousin of the Warrillow Twelve, and son of the above, and whose photographs are now housed in the Warrillow Collection at Keele University.

The Sentinel report went on to say that John Simpson Warrillow, son of James, and John Stanier (later to be the manager) received medals for their actions during the war when aerial bombardment damaged the gas holders. The Supplement to the London Gazette on 7 March 1941 reports the commendations

Gazette report
London Gazette

In the following advertisement for the gas works, dated 1947, we can see that John Stanier was given as Manager. James Warrillow had died in 1944.

gas advert
Advert for gas 1947

But to return to the Warrillows at the centre of this posting, the parents of this large family were James and Sarah Warrillow.

James Warrillow (b Hanley 1842) was an innkeeper in 1871 although he referred to himself by the rather grander title of Wine Merchant in 1881. Between the two dates, he invested (with his brother) in property. The Staffordshire Sentinel and Commercial & General Advertiser of 29 September 1877 reports that he bought the Albion Hotel and 2 adjoining shops for £6200, a fortune for the time!

Albion Hotel

In an early 19th century directory, such a building is described: “Albion House, at the top of Shelton, is a handsome modern structure, coated with Roman cement, belonging to Mr. W. Parker, a gentleman extensively engaged in the import trade of cobalt and zaffres . . .” Neville Malkin 4th August 1976 and cited by

James seemed to have owned a significant amount of property to judge from the following notice which appeared after his death in 1886:

James property
Notice re James Warrillow 1886

And yet his effects as given in his will amounted to £3367 4s 9d. Interestingly, his will also stipulated that neither the Angel nor the Sea Lion were to be sold until his youngest child was 21 years of age [which would have been 1905] but his estate was clearly having none of that! His will also included reference to any other business engaged in by James at the time of his death, which suggests that he was still actively in business at the time of his death.

Opening lines of James Warrillow’s will

Trying to reconstruct the facts after the event is virtually impossible. We have no idea why his wishes were ignored: there are many possible reasons, not least of which is an interpretation of his comment that things might be sold after his death in order to release the capital required to continue the businesses and to provide capital for investment in public stocks or in real estate or leasehold (as long as the lease was greater than 60 years).

One thing that is noticeable in his will is that he treats his children alike whether male or female and quite specifically excludes interference of a husband in the daughters’ inheritances. He does assume that a daughter under 21 but married is in the care of a husband and therefore not requiring maintenance from his will but otherwise he states specifically “equally amongst all and every the child or children of mine living” and “equal shares between Brothers and Sisters”. This does seem to be very forward thinking for the time.

He appointed two trustees to be joint executors with his wife in 1876 when his will is dated. One might read this two ways: he is conferring on his wife an honour in assuming she has enough business sense to be equally as capable as the two men or that he didn’t trust her enough! However, six years later, he removes the two trustees and appoints only his wife which leaves one to wonder what had happened in the meantime that he should change his mind.

Sarah Warrillow, nee Tipper, had been born in Cheadle (Staffordshire) in 1843. Clearly running pubs was in the blood as James’ father and Sarah’s parents all did. James’ father, Joseph, appeared to own the Angel before him (which is perhaps why James was reluctant to sell it) although he was also described as a butcher as well as an innkeeper. In the 1890’s the Angel Restaurant was “a handsomely fitted up establishment, where luncheons, dinners, suppers and all refreshments are served in first-class style.” ( By this time both Joseph and James had died but it may well have been James who was instrumental in this development and certainly the description of it immediately after his death would suggest that this was the case. The Angel was still trading as a pub until the 1970s. Now only a part of it remains and is occupied by a building society.

The Angel Hotel over time

James branched out more into restaurants and refreshment rooms and property in general. In 1911, Sarah is given as the proprietress of a refreshment room. At one point Warrillow owned the refreshment room at Hanley Railway Station but it is unclear whether this is the one of which Sarah is listed as the proprietress. She was by then living in Barlaston and there used to be a railway station there which may have had a refreshment room. It is possible that Sarah was now running this having disposed of all else or still running the refreshment room in Hanley. The station at Hanley was next to what was then the Grand Hotel and the advert of 1905 implies strong competition for a small refreshment room.

The Grand
Grand Hotel advert

The Grand is now called The Quality Inn but there is no longer any trace of the station, buried beneath the car park of the hotel.

The Quality Inn, formerly The Grand

Perhaps this helps to explain why, when Sarah died at Ivy Cottage on 27 Dec 1922, leaving her estate to James Warrillow, gas engineer, Edward Octavius Warrillow, grocer, and Arthur Ernest Williams, drysalter (her grandson), it was valued at £1708 0s 8d. This, whilst comparatively comfortable, is clearly significantly below the value of James’ estate in 1886. What can be read into that is very much open to interpretation. As also is the fact that she apparently did not leave any of her estate to any daughters, four of whom were unmarried at the time. Constance, her youngest daughter, was living with her mother in 1911 but was a trained nurse. This does appear to be very different to her husband’s attitude of regarding all children as equal but is again constructing a ‘truth’ after the events.

Ivy Cottage, and its other half Catnip Cottage, are Grade II listed buildings built about 1840. It seems likely that Sarah, whilst living in Barlaston in 1911 was not, in fact, living at Ivy Cottage then. A memorial stone in Barlaston records that Harriet Harvey, who died in 1905, resided at Ivy Cottage. Her husband, Charles, died in 1916 so perhaps this is the point at which Sarah took up residence.

Ivy Cottage today

Clearly, however, the latter part of her years was spent in Barlaston. Perhaps she is buried there too although not recorded in a memorial. But then, neither is she recorded in the memorials in Hanley cemetery where her husband and at least two children are buried.

Of course any parent’s lasting legacy is his or her children, some of whom have been mentioned here. The one who became an RMIG pupil is the story that will follow in the next posting.