Court Report

Sibella Proctor, Ann Martin and Charlotte Richardson, three of the first pupils in January 1789, all lived in Courts. To wit: Black Swan Court, Wild Court and Flower de luce Court. Of these, only one still exists – Wild Court –immediately behind the Library and Museum of Freemasonry and United Grand Lodge.

https://www.streetlist.co.uk/wc/wc2b/wc2b-4/wild-court
Image from Google Earth street view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A map of 1750 sort of shows Wild Court, on the edge of one map and the next, showing that the propensity for the places you want being right on the fold of gazetteers is not a new phenomenon!

https://www.theundergroundmap.com/map.html?id=33108&mapyear=1750&zoom=16&show=none&mode=fullscreen

Fifty years later and the court is a little clearer

ibid.

Wild Court ran off Great Wild St with Little Wild St (now renamed Keeley St) running parallel. In 1781, a sermon was preached in Little Wild St.

Image from Google books

Dr Samuel Stennett, a dissenting Baptist preacher, ministered to the Little Wild Street church. The map below, although somewhat later in date, shows the Baptist chapel.

https://www.theundergroundmap.com/map.html?id=33108&mapyear=1750&zoom=16&show=none&mode=fullscreen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His sermon was made on a day which had been declared a public fast. Unfortunately ‘references to public fasts are relatively scarce in public records’ (Religion and the American Civil War: Miller, Stout & Wilson, 1998) and the same must apply to UK as not a trace can be found to explain why February 21 1781 was a public fast day. For those with plenty of food it perhaps had more impact. For the less well-off, for whom a fair few days might involve fasting, the impact was less great.

Whether Charlotte Richardson’s family witnessed the sermon or participated in the fasting is unknown. Charlotte herself was not yet born, arriving in the world in April 1781. She was baptised at St Sepulchre’s in June 1781 which is certainly not the nearest church to Wild Court. Perhaps the family did not at that time live there but we will never know.

The map of 1889 from Charles Booth, Life and Labour of the People in London marks Wild Court as being an area of ‘Intermittent or casual earnings’. Although this is a century later perhaps the beginnings of these are evidenced in the entry in a Minute Book of 1788 which states that Charlotte’s father ‘was … formerly in good Circumstances but now much distressed’.

The school records tell us that, having arrived at the School in January 1789, in February 1789 Charlotte’s name again appears in the Minute Book.

The Matron being then called in and examined reporting Charlotte Richardson (one of the Children) who had been taken away by her Parents when she informed the Committee that her Father had been very troublesome and had insulted and abused her and afterwards the Mother came had took her Daughter away and notwithstanding the Child declared she was perfectly satisfied.

Oh dear.

Charlotte’s place was taken by Charlotte Hatton. Curiously, despite Charlotte Richardson’s parents being instructed to remove their daughter, her benefits withdrawn, the Book of Governors, published in 1818, records that she had been returned to her parents ‘in consequence of an alteration in circumstances’. As this was almost 30 years later, the edges of memory may well have been softened.

Where Charlotte went after this has proved impossible to trace with confidence. Wild Court, however, continues to exist even if much changed. Some of that change may well have been courtesy of the Luftwaffe as a high explosive bomb fell in the area between Oct 7 1940 and June 6 1941 as shown by http://bombsight.org/#17/51.51454/-0.12005

But then Wild Court has fared better than either Black Swan Court or Flower de luce court neither of which exist any longer.

Black swans, native to Australia, were regarded as exotica in Britain and perhaps explains why a number of pubs and streets were named after them. [A piece of swan ephemera for you – on the ground, a group of swans is a ‘bank’. When undertaking group flight they are a ‘wedge’. ]

 

This image from https://haydensanimalfacts.com/2015/08/22/5-interesting-facts-about-black-swans/ has quite a high cute factor, don’t you think?

https://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/dictionary-of-london lists at least four Black Swan Courts, plus one Black Swan Alley which had formerly been a court. What is unclear is which of these is the Black Swan Court where Sibella Procter lived. This is largely because her address is given as Black Swan Court, Market St, a street that does not appear in earlier maps.

https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/st-john-zachary

We have already seen from Charlotte Richardson that the place of baptism of these early pupils may not be an indication of where they were living. In Sibella’s case, it is even more confusing because she was baptised at St John Zachary, a church which did not exist after the Great Fire!

The parish was absorbed into St Ann and St Agnes and St John’s never rebuilt. Only its graveyard remains and its site is now a garden.

 

 

By Matt Eyre – Own work (Original text: self-made), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7966662

Despite this, her baptismal record is clearly given as being at St John Zachary on Feb 14 1779.

Image from Ancestry.co. uk

This 1883 street map of the St John Zachary area shows it labelled as a parish but with the site of the church rather than a church building.

Using the http://www.british-history.ac.uk references, there are two courts that seem to be in the vague area that might be served by St John Zachary. Black Swan Alley (described as South out of St. Paul’s Churchyard at No. 21 to 7 Little Carter Lane, first mentioned in Horwood’s map of 1799 but given an earlier reference as being formerly Black Swan Court) and one called Black Swan Court which was south of Cannon Street and west of Lawrence Pountney Lane. Just to add confusion, this Court was previously (1720) known as an alley! www.british-history.ac.uk goes on to say that ‘The site has been rebuilt and is now occupied by warehouses and offices, etc.’

Maps taken from https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side using 1892 map

Earlier maps, from https://www.theundergroundmap.com/map.html?id=70&mode=fullscreen show the same areas in 1750. In neither case can Black Swan Court or Alley be identified but they may simply have been too small or insignificant to be marked on the map.

When Sibella was admitted to the School, she was referred to as ’a very proper object’. This peculiar shorthand is inexact in meaning but as a rule of thumb a ‘proper object’ was a girl who had lost one parent and a ‘very proper object’ was a girl who had lost both parents. There is a reference to a Joseph Procter being buried Aug 20 1784 in St John Zachary which could be her father. There is also a marriage reference for 1767 at St Dunstan in the West, between Joseph Procter and Mary Wilkinson which might be her parents (or might not!) but further than this is difficult to trace. As for the girl herself, the School records state she was apprenticed to Mr Simons of Jermyn St, Soho Square. However, the 1818 Book of Governors lists her as apprenticed to Mrs Gonne, Champion Hill. Possibly she did both, moving from one to the other. Both could have been as domestic servants although there is a fleeting reference to Mrs Gonne running a school. In 1841, we find a Sibella Procter in Camberwell, aged 60, given as a schoolmistress. The 1841 census rounded ages up and down, so the computed birthdate of 1781 is within accepted parameters. It seems likely that this Sibella Procter (whether the one from School or not) died in 1845 and was buried at St Giles Camberwell.

Our last candidate for the Court Report is Ann Martin whose address was given as No 3 Flower-de-luce-court, Fleet St. The spelling of Flower de Luce varied enormously (Flower de lys, flower de lyz or fleur de lys) and all were corruptions of fleur de lis anyway, from the quartering of the French arms with the English.

The history of the fleur de lis armorially can be read at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fleur-de-lis from where the image is taken.

The likeliest candidate for the court that housed the Martins is Fleur de lis Court described as East out of Fetter Lane at No. 9, and north to Trinity Church Passage.

 

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=19&lat=51.5150&lon=-0.1094&layers=163&right=BingHyb

In the 17th and 18th centuries this was a long court extending south to Fleet Street, but when the southern end of Fetter Lane was widened, this southern portion was absorbed into Fetter Lane, as shown above.

https://londonist.com/2017/12/londonists_back_passage_53_crane_co

 

 

In Lockie, 1810, it is described as at 179 Fleet Street, behind the houses Nos. 1-16 on the east side of Fetter Lane. The name of the court may well have come from a house formerly in Fleet St called ‘flowerdeluce’. It does not seem to have been a particularly salubrious area as Strype describes it as ‘of some note for the Mousetrap House, a receptacle for lewd persons (ed. 1720, I. iii. 277)’. http://london.enacademic.com/2316/Fleur_de_lis_Court

 

 

by John Michael Wright, oil on canvas, circa 1668

However, let us restore its reputation a little by stating that John Dryden lived at No 16 Flower de luce court [no date given for this but as he died in 1700 we can assume it was well before the Martins were there]. Image in the National Portrait Gallery

Nearby Fleet St is still synonymous with newspapers even though many prominent national newspapers have moved away. At one point, it was also a place for tanning which declined once the River Fleet was re-routed underground in 1766. Ann Martin’s father, Reeve Martin, is described as a glover which would fit with this. Given that the presiding rule for a girl to become eligible for the School was that of indigence, we should note that in 1784, Prime Minister Pitt imposed a tax on gloves. His calculation of the number of gloves that would be sold each year (9 million pairs) gave rise to a tiered taxation.

“One penny duty should be added to all gloves up to the value of ten pence

Two pence to gloves costing between ten pence and fifteen pence

Three pence for all gloves costing over fifteen pence”

https://georgianera.wordpress.com/2016/05/24/18th-century-tax-on-gloves/

The tax was payable by the retailer and in July 1785, The Stamp Office declared that: “Anyone selling gloves without this tax would be liable for a fine of £20.” (ibid). To ensure that duty was paid, every retailer had to be licensed. Unfortunately for Pitt, his careful calculations were somewhat over optimistic. By 1785, it was realised that it was raising less than an eighth of the revenue anticipated.

Given the timing of this, it may well have been a contributory factor in Reeve Martin’s indigence and his daughter was elected nem. con. In 1788. The Minutes Book records that he was ‘Formerly in good Circumstances, now in great distress with a Wife and four Children’. It is possible that he is the person recorded in Newgate Prison, London: ‘Lists Of Felons (Prisoners) On The Common Side (Debtors)’ in 1786.

Perhaps our sympathy for the Martins’ plight is somewhat diluted by the fact that the Minutes Book records that in 1793 occurred an incident that should have resulted in Ann’s dismissal from the School. As is the way with this instrument, it fails to give further details, perhaps on the basis of ‘them that knows, knows …’ but it appears to have been the behaviour of the father rather than that of the child. The 1818 Book of Governors records that Ann was returned to her parents ‘for improper conduct on their part.’ Of her life story nothing more can be ascertained. Like Fleur de lis court, it gradually disappears. Even the date of that disappearance is uncertain. https://london19.com/streets1832/FleurdeLiscourtFleet.shtml states that it disappears about 1842 when Fetter St was widened but a map of 1895 still shows it so it can’t have done. It was still there in a 1914 map albeit not named. So perhaps, like this Court Report,

The Bloomsbury Group

The first pupils of the School all hailed from London (although later pupils came from all over the globe) but following their individual stories is hampered by an inconsistency in spelling of surnames and place names, seemingly entirely dependent on the clerk who wrote them at the time. For example, Sophia Kewney is written thus and also as Kenney and it is not certain which, if either, is correct. Catherine Charlotte Baes was actually baptised under the name Boyce – or possibly Bayce – and both might be intended to be Base or Bays anyway!

Mary Ann Wolveridge’s address was given as Melliore St, Maize, Southwark which doesn’t take much research to discover is Melior St, Maze. So trying to locate their addresses as given when they were admitted to the School in 1789 does have a degree of jeopardy attached.

This series of posts attempts to trace the addresses and has been divided into Bloomsbury, City, East End, Marylebone, Soho and Southwark based solely on what is written in the register at the time. Some of the addresses have disappeared since the eighteenth century and most have changed beyond recognition even if the original streets are still there. The School began in premises in Somers Town but the girls hailed from central, east, west and south London so arguably represent a microcosm of London life.

We will begin with Bloomsbury for no other reason than two of the first pupils lived in the same street. It would be most intriguing to know if they knew each other before they came to the School but it is unlikely that this will ever be discovered. Elizabeth Lowe and Sarah Jane Sitgraves both lived in King Street, Bloomsbury. (Sarah Jane is a case in point for clerical errors as her surname has been written variously as Sitgrave, Sitgraves and Sitgrace. As Sitgraves appears with greater frequency that is the version that will be used.) The Sitgraves’ residence is given as Upper King St if we are splitting hairs, but in any case King St isn’t King St any more so the distinction is academic.

‘King Street, which was presumably named in honour of Charles II, first appears in the ratebooks of the parish of St. Martin in 1673: it had previously been known as Charles Street like the street on the other side of the square’. In 1720 John Strype described King Street as ‘a good handsome Street’. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols29-30/pt1/pp295-307

However, today it is known as Southampton Row although the jury is out about whether this is the whole of King St (as was) or just a part of it.

‘No street in London changes its name as often in as short a space as the one which starts at the BBC’s overseas broadcasting centre Bush House, just around the corner from the Strand. The street begins … as the characterless, traffic-despoiled Kingsway. A couple of hundred metres later, at the perma-jammed crossroads with Holborn, it is reborn as Southampton Row.’ https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2005/jul/12/july7.features11

On Rocque’s map of 1746, it is labelled as King St, although he also calls the whole street as far as Bloomsbury Place ‘King Street’ and does not distinguish between King St and Upper King St. It lay on the western edge of the Bedford estate whilst the first site of the School was described as ‘north of the Duke of Bedford’s’.

‘according to Cary’s map of 1795, the continuation of the road was King Street and on some maps, Upper King Street’ https://www.bedfordestates.com/bloomsbury/history/

The streets were named after the Earls of Southampton whose land this was until 1667 when Lady Rachel Vaughan, née Wriothesley, daughter of the Earl of Southampton, married William, son of the 5th Earl of Bedford and the Bloomsbury area became part of the Bedford estate.

Image of Lady Rachel from https://www.bedfordestates.com/bloomsbury/history/

By 1897, the whole street became known as Southampton Row and it is shown thus on a map of this time.

 

An earlier map (Horwood’s 1799) shows on the east side of the street, consecutive numbers from 1 to 33, running from south to north with no numbering on the west side. The numbers are irrelevant for Elizabeth Lowe’s address, which is given only as Taylor, King St. Her father is described in the School register as ‘Formerly a respectable Master Taylor now in great distress with a sick Wife and two Children’ so we have to assume that he is the tailor (as we would spell it today) of the address or, at the very least, worked for the tailor. Sarah Jane’s place of residence was Bedford Head, Upper King St. and we know her father was a victualler so it comes as no surprise to find that there was a PH called Bedford Head. The Bloomsbury Project lists 19 pubs in the area from the 1832 Robson’s directory of which the Bedford Head is one. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bloomsbury-project/streets/tottenham_court_road.htm So plenty of watering holes for the working man to quench his thirst.

Pubshistory.com very kindly identifies the number as 5 Upper King St https://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/StGeorgeBloomsbury/BedfordHead.shtml and gives the publican in 1805 as Richard Gascoigne (Holdens Directory). This is the earliest reference on this website to which we could now add Edmund Sitgraves in 1789. Edmund died possibly in 1802. There is a burial record but not really in the right place and, additionally, he was described as deceased in 1794 when his son Thomas was apprenticed.

The wonderful website https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/ shows Southampton Row both today (heavily encroached upon by Kingsway in 1905) and how it was in 1895.

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17&lat=51.5211&lon=-0.1235&layers=171&right=BingHyb

Whilst there have clearly been many changes, the bones of the eighteenth century places can still be seen. The original 112 acres acquired by the Earl of Southampton after the Dissolution of the Monasteries has been reduced to twenty acres (Survey of London, vol. 5, 1914; Shirley Green, Who Owns London?, 1986), but it bears names that forever identify it with those origins.

 

 

 

 

It is probably safe to say that it is unlikely Elizabeth Lowe or Sarah Jane Sitgraves ever considered the name origins of where they lived before they became pupils at the School. After their time at the School, Sarah Jane returned home to her mother and may possibly (uncertain) have married John Robyns in 1820 and died in 1825. Elizabeth Lowe, on the other hand, who left in 1797, was apprenticed. She was originally due to be apprenticed to ‘Captain Thomas Meriton, of St Catherine Cloysters, nr the Tower’ but the School records that she was ‘Apprenticed, by her own wish, to Colonel Jackson, Titchfield St’. Why it was Elizabeth’s wish to be apprenticed to one and not the other (both probably in a domestic servant capacity) is unknown and neither is it recorded the reaction of the School authorities to her declared wishes. One can, however, imagine the row that ensued!

It is possible that Captain Thomas Meriton is not actually a person. In The eighteenth century: or, illustrations of the manners and customs of our grand-fathers is the following paragraph taken from ‘the Craftsman of May the 12th, 1787’:

“Thursday night, between the hours of twelve and one o’clock, the Calais Packet, Captain Thomas Meriton, lying in the Thames, at Lady Parsons’ Stairs, was boarded by eight men, armed with pistols and cutlasses, who … robbed the vessel of goods to the amount of one hundred pounds” https://archive.org/stream/eighteenthcentur00andruoft/eighteenthcentur00andruoft_djvu.txt

The way this is written would suggest that the Captain Thomas Meriton is a ship that undertook a regular return trip between London and Calais. On the other hand, there was definitely a sea captain called Thomas Meriton as identified in The London Magazine, Or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer although, as this reference was to his death in April 1766, this cannot be the same one.

St Catherine’s Cloisters is described in Lockie’s Topography of London (pub. 1810) as being in Tower Hill on the north side of the church. Now written as St Katherine, it is the site of St Katherine’s Dock, the original hospital founded in 1147 by Matilda subsumed. There is still a Cloister Walk however where a certain coffee house can be found.

Titchfield St (or Great Titchfield St) on the other hand is not at all far from Elizabeth’s family home in King St.

So perhaps her motivation was the very understandable one of being near home or family. There is a possibility that she married William Phillips in 1803 but, like the possible marriage for Sarah Jane, there is not enough certainty to state this is definitely the case. For both girls, until other information comes to light, their lives float off into the middle distance. From Bloomsbury to beyond!