Down Under Up Top: their stories

Down Under Up Top (https://rmsghistoryextra.wordpress.com/2019/07/26/down-under-up-top/) carried the information about early travel between Australia and UK which eight of our former pupils experienced. That gave the background so here, then, are those pupils who set sail from Oz outward.

Elizabeth Minnie Lumley was actually born ‘at sea’ off Adelaide in 1857. Her father was Chief Officer of SS United Service and it is possible his wife had travelled with him and that Elizabeth was therefore born on the United Service but this is unconfirmed. Whilst an image of SS United Service has not been found, it probably looked not dissimilar to the Great Eastern sailing in the same period.

https://www.iln.org.uk/iln_years/year/1857.htm

 

 

Elizabeth appeared on a census in 1861 in Limehouse aged 4 so we may assume that the family normally lived there whilst the father was away. His death in 1864, after two years’ absence at sea, made Elizabeth eligible as a pupil and she joined the School in about 1867. She left in 1873 as Gold Medallist and Head of the School, described by Miss Davis as “a particularly good and clever girl”. Despite her early venture on the high seas – or perhaps because of it – Elizabeth appears to have remained in UK for the rest of her life.

 

 

 

Florence Annie Hopkins was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1868 whilst three older siblings were born in New Zealand. Her father, as a serving soldier was, presumably, stationed in these places. Like Elizabeth, Florence appears to have travelled the High Seas as a baby because a younger brother was born in UK in 1869. In 1871, the family were at South Denes Barracks, Great Yarmouth, part of which was a Naval Hospital and lunatic asylum.

Image of Barracks map from https://www.greatwarforum.org;

Given Florence’s later occupation and place of work, this is interesting. In 1891, she was a nurse at Brookwood Asylum.

https://www.countyasylums.co.uk/brookwood-woking/

Unusually, Florence appears to have become a pupil following the death of her mother, not her father. He subsequently married twice more. After 1891, Florence disappears without trace so possibly she went overseas again but we do not know.

May Winifred Vockins was born on 21 March 1884 in Adelaide, Australia. Although not found on the 1891 census she must have been in UK about this time as she was admitted to Belleville Road School, Wandsworth in 1892 but joined RMIG not long afterwards. Her parents had been married in London in 1877 and a sister was born in Australia in 1878, sadly dying after just two months. Clearly the family were still there in 1888 as not only was May’s younger brother born there, but her father died there in that year.

After leaving school, May became a shorthand typist and she did not return to Australia but she did later travel in 1939 to New York. Clearly this was only a visit as she returned the same year and is present in the 1939 register. She went out on the Aquitania and returned on the Britannic, both vessels of the Cunard White Star line.

www.thegreatoceanliners.com/aquitania.html

& the Britannic https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19783396

Florence May Webb was born in Ipswich, Queensland and her application for a place at the School was supported by Raphael Lodge, No. 1850, a Queensland lodge. The Matron’s Book states that Florence ‘returned to school on 21 January 1901 having been absent & receiving treatment for curvature of the spine’ (scoliosis). At the time, this was usually treated with traction and a plaster cast together with remedial exercise to strengthen the muscles on the opposite side to the curvature. Florence was 15 in 1901, so she would have been due to leave school shortly and the Matron’s book duly records her departure in Dec 1902. Where she went thereafter is unknown. She is not found on the 1911 census but as she later married in Queensland and died there in 1936, presumably she returned to her place of birth.

Her father was Edward Robert Webb, MRCS. In 1880 he was in practice in London but by 1881 was in Queensland as Acting Surgeon Superintendent at Woogaroo Asylum being called to give evidence at one of the enquiries made into conditions at the asylum. (http://fhr.slq.qld.gov.au/committees/we_wh.htm)

Image of Woogaroo Asylum from http://blogs.slq.qld.gov.au

Marjorie Gimblette was born in Fremantle on 25 May 1899. Marjorie’s parents had married in 1892 in Llanelli and in 1895 emigrated to Coolgardie, founded in 1892 with the discovery of quartz gold.

‘[Coolgardie] is located 510 kilometres east of Perth … At its peak in 1900 it had 23 hotels, 3 breweries, 6 banks, 2 stock exchanges and 3 daily and 4 weekly newspapers. The population then was 15,000, with 25,000 more in the area.’ http://www.outbackfamilyhistory.com.au/records/record.php?record_id=117&town=Coolgardie

Sadly, Marjorie’s father died on 2 Feb 1902 and was buried in Coolgardie cemetery. Despite this being a goldfield area, William Gimblette was in fact an accountant. After his death, his widow and daughter returned to UK. It is not known when but Gladys Mary Gimblette trained as a midwife and qualified in 1903 so it was probably immediately after his death that they sailed for ‘home’. Marjorie never returned to Australia and married in Llanelli before subsequently living in Llandudno (1939). She died in Aberystwyth in 1985.

Amy Margaret D’arcy Sugden was born 1 Apr 1894 in Queensland and, apart from the fact that masonic records have her supported by a Queensland lodge and refer to her as Australian, all other records place her in UK. Her father, D’Arcy Sugden, MRCS, is registered with a Masonic lodge in Bundaberg, Queensland in 1878 and he married in 1879. A son was born in 1883 in Queensland but died 12 months later. Lodge records show that D’Arcy had returned to UK by 1900 and was a member of Rahere Lodge in London, in the vicinity of Barts Hospital. We could probably infer that he was working there. In 1901, he is with a lodge in Buckfastleigh whilst his wife and daughter were in Sevenoaks, Kent so perhaps D’Arcy was preparing a home for them in Devon. Another son was born in Buckfastleigh in 1902 but the next record for D’Arcy is his death from double pneumonia on 30 December 1903. His death was attributed to his getting wet whilst attending an urgent case. Apart from one brief record, no travel documents have been found for the family but as no intercontinental time shift was available, they must have crossed the seas somehow and at some point between 1894 and 1900.

Amy was on the school roll by 1905 and would have left around 1909. In 1911 she was Crowborough, Sussex as a boarder and by 1939 is recorded as a shorthand typist @ 94 Herbert Road, High Wycombe, living with her widowed mother. Amy continued the family tradition of proving difficult to track down as we have to leapfrog to 1974 for the next record, which is her death. Her probate indicates that she was by then a resident of Davey Court Elderly People’s Home in Exmouth where she died on 12 Sept 1974.

https://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/

Annie Earnshaw Hewer was born 28 Oct 1903 and her sister Ethel Mary Hewer on 29 November 1905, both in Queensland. Their father, Alfred Earnshaw Hewer, was Government Medical Officer of Queensland. He had arrived in Australia in the 1890s and married Mary Emily Clerk on 23 Jan 1902, but he died in Hampstead, London on Oct. 17, 1910, aged 45. The family travelled from Australia and arrived in London on 14 Jun 1910. Given the date of the father’s death, one could assume that he was already very ill when he travelled. They travelled on the SS Runic, later torpedoed (1944) off the coast of Ireland.

Photo by Allan C. Green – This image from the Collections of the State Library of Victoria

 

By 1913, both girls were pupils at RMIG, Annie leaving in 1920 and Ethel in 1922. Annie undertook secretarial training and had a post at Australia House before, in 1921, returning to Australia with her mother on the SS Themistocles which sailed the London to Australia via Cape Town route.

Image from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

 

 

 

 

Thereafter Annie remained in Queensland, married in 1932 but remained in contact with the School, via OMGA, until at least 1973.

Ethel also returned to Australia, in 1923, travelling on the same ship that had brought her to London in 1910. She trained as a nurse and wrote to the School in 1929 to say she had a job with Dr Wallis Heare and was engaged to be married. This marriage did not take place however and between 1936 (when she was at the same address as her mother in Queensland) and 1939 (when we find her in the 1939 register in Sevenoaks, Kent), Ethel undertook her third oceanic crossing. When she left Australia, it was probably the last time she saw her mother, who died in 1944 in Yungaburra, Queensland. In 1942, Ethel married in Hampstead and made her home in UK. She died in Surrey in 1996.

These all too brief biographical notes barely scratch the surface of their life stories but if any of them left diaries, as transoceanic passengers by boat were encouraged to do, the School is not aware of them. Nor do we have any images of them.

Unless you know better …

Down Under Up Top

A goodly number of our former pupils have wended their way to the Antipodes for new lives. Going from the UK to Australia or New Zealand is a well-established global passage. Indeed, the vast majority of websites concentrate on the emigration routes from UK. But this post is actually looking at the reverse trend, so to speak. At least eight of our former pupils between 1857 and 1905 were born in Australia and made their way to UK as very young children.

Today’s transoceanic travel is comparatively a piece of cake. Nineteenth century sailing to and from Australia was gambling with one’s life a lot of the time. To those of us used to rolling up at an airport and boarding a flight; sitting back and relaxing, even if for a goodly time, being fed regularly, using on board conveniences; then landing, through customs and out to perhaps a holiday or a new life, or to visit relatives not seen for a few years, it is quite eye-popping discovering what travel was like for some of our earlier pupils.

For a start off, “In calm weather a sailing ship might take as long as four months, while a well-run clipper ship with favourable winds could make the journey in a little over half this time.” https://museumsvictoria.com.au/longform/journeys-to-australia/ Compared with that, almost 24 hours cooped up in cattle-class is a doddle! The sailing equivalent of cattle-class – steerage – was below the water line but the Southern ocean storms they might encounter were not their only problems. “Hygiene was poor at the best of times and worse in bad weather” (ibid) so in stormy weather, the order ‘batten down the hatches’ went out. And this meant that the steerage passengers were locked in without ventilation or light for the duration of the storm. Candles or oil lanterns were forbidden because of the danger of fire:

“… cramped conditions with timber, straw mattresses, hemp (rope) and tar caulking, meant a fire could spread with terrifying speed” (ibid)

Fire at sea is the mariner’s worst nightmare and, as few could swim and there were nowhere near enough lifeboats, a shipwreck left little chance of rescue. The conditions in steerage during a storm, with many people crammed together, no toilet facilities and the inevitable seasickness, must have been horrifying and doesn’t bear thinking about it. So perhaps we won’t. Think about it, I mean. Oh no – too late, the image is there …

Vinegar and chloride of lime were used to wash the decks of the ships, as fresh water was reserved for drinking and cooking. The vinegar helped prevent the spread of disease, although the understanding of why was not yet there, and, if nothing else, it made the ship smell better. Relatively.

On better managed ships, the areas below deck were thoroughly cleaned every few days by sailors and the women in steerage. Most ships provided only basic toilet and bathing facilities.

‘Sea bathing in the Tropics’, sketch from Edward Snell’s diary on the Bolton, London to Melbourne, 1849 (ibid)

The illustration indicates all too clearly the lack of privacy and may not have been available to ladies at all! Bathing was not normally a regular occurrence as the connection between personal hygiene and disease was little understood at the time. Most made do with a clean-up with a damp cloth under a blanket.

Straw bedding attracted fleas and cockroaches so people laid out their bedding in fine weather to air it. During storms, though, the bedding could get – and stay – soaking wet and this added to the problems with outbreaks of influenza and pneumonia.

Facilities for washing clothes were very restricted so many passengers wore the same clothes throughout the voyage. This, added to the stink emanating from the bilges below steerage, and given the increase in heat in the tropics, probably meant that the ship’s imminent arrival in port was announced by the wind rather than by any sightings from land!

The first steam ships made the journey to Australia in 1852 but these early steamers also had sails as their engines were inefficient and there were no coal depots mid-ocean for re-fuelling and actually few coaling ports en route.

The introduction of more efficient compound steam engines and iron, rather than wooden, hulls, enabled a voyage to be completed entirely under steam power. This was from the 1860s onwards but it was not until the 1880s that they became the transport of choice for emigrants. Because these ships did not have to rely on wind power and could travel at a constant speed, and the motive power could also provide electric lighting, refrigeration and ventilation, they could provide more comfort for passengers.

Grand saloons were able to be provided for first class passengers, and small cabins instead of sleeping berths were provided in steerage class.’ (ibid)

 

Married couples’ accommodation in steerage, by unknown artist, taken from the Illustrated London News, 13 April 1844

So accommodation such as above began to give way to smaller cabins for significantly fewer people! A diary of a journey made in 1874, read across the grain, shows how accommodation had improved.

the hatching had broken open in the second class cabin and they … all had to get to work baling … water out of the saloon (Diary of Ally Heathcote, England to Melbourne, Victoria, Onboard ‘SS Northumberland’, 1874) https://museumsvictoria.com.au/longform/journeys-to-australia/ [my emphasis]

The routes between Australia and London (with the Suez Canal option only available after 1869)

London to Perth is just a smidgen over 9000 miles with Sydney another 1500 miles further on. So that’s 10.5 thousand miles for things to go wrong. Great storms, gigantic icebergs, danger of shipwreck were some external factors but death from dysentery or typhus from the insanitary conditions and mediocre medical treatment at best added to the dangers.

“Deaths at sea were tragically common. As many as one in five children, and one in 60 adults died on the voyage to Australia” (ibid)

Conditions improved as the ships got larger. The Orient, launched in 1879, was the largest steamship built for the Australia route. It offered comforts unheard of for the period, including a promenade deck, refrigeration, and later, electric lighting.

Painting by Charles Dickinson Gregory of the sailing ship Orient on the sea, (1927)

Amongst other things was an ice-making plant. Horses were stabled on the rear deck and pigs, sheep and cows were in cages. These were not intended for a new life in another country because they were converted into pork, lamb and beef for diners in first-class!

‘The first-class saloon was fitted out with ornate brass furniture and elaborate wooden carvings, whilst the music saloon boasted a grand piano and an organ amidst profusely growing ferns and dracaenas.’ (ibid)

The SS Great Britain, Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s ship, carried thousands on the Australia-London route from 1852, being converted to sail in 1881.

In 1884, she was retired to the Falkland Islands and used as a warehouse and coal hulk before being scuttled in 1937. But as those who have visited Bristol will know, this was not her end. In 1970, Sir Jack Arnold Hayward, OBE paid for the vessel to be raised, towed back to the United Kingdom, and returned to the Bristol dry dock where she had been built. And where she can be visited to gain an idea of what life on board might have been.

 

Sir Jack Hayward from his obituary, Daily Telegraph 13 Jan 2015

 

Image from a cabin in SS Great Britain from https://teatimeinwonderland.co.uk/2016/11/09/bristol-brunels-ss-great-britain/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And none of this takes into account something that hasn’t changed – even today. The decision to leave one country for a new life far away brings the emotional issue of having to say goodbye to home and loved ones.

‘… people were very conscious of the fact that they would probably never see their friends and relatives again.’ (https://museumsvictoria.com.au/longform/journeys-to-australia/)

All in all, it was not a voyage undertaken lightly. Nonetheless, eight of our pupils did undertake it, some more than once.

Elizabeth Minnie Lumley b 1857; Florence Hopkins, 1868; May Vockins 1884; Florence Webb 1886; Amy Margaret d’Arcy Sugden, 1894; Marjorie Gimblette, 1899 and Annie & Ethel Hewer in 1903 & 1905 respectively were all born in Australia and became pupils in London.

Just to offer some balance, Emma Amelia Humphreys (1829) and Margaret Humphries (1836), both former pupils, went to Australia before any of the above were born. Emma and Margaret, despite the different spellings, do appear to be sisters! They would definitely have travelled by sailing ship because their emigration occurred before steam ships were in use. The individual stories of these travellers must await another day.

All aboard who’s going aboard, please!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Medalling with history

To any with knowledge of the School, the name Bertha Dean is a familiar one. To those with little or no knowledge of the history, the name may refer only to a building in the grounds – Bertha Dean House. Originally to be called Cornwallis House, this was changed before the building was complete. Whatever the thinking behind the name change remains a mystery as no-one recorded the reason and all of those involved in the decision are no longer with us.

Who was Bertha Dean? A former pupil, turned pupil teacher, turned salaried member of staff, turned Headmistress, she was one of many pupils who translated from pupil to teacher without leaving the premises. But, clearly, Bertha Jane Dean stood out from the others.

She was born on 6th January 1878 in Chichester, one of eight children born to William and Matilda and, if one inherits career tendencies from one’s parents, Bertha Dean was never going to be anything but a teacher. Her mother was a music teacher and her maternal grandparents were both teachers. Music, too, must have been a major feature as her father was a music seller and lay vicar. This last, also called a vicar choral, is a professional singer in an Anglican cathedral. One assumes, then, that this was in Chichester Cathedral.

Photo by Evgeniy Podkopaev on Wikipedia

William’s death in 1885 was the reason that Bertha came to the School in 1887. Her mother continued to run the family business selling music but it was a precarious income and the stipend from being a lay vicar would have ceased upon William’s death.

By 1894, the then Head Governess was writing of her:

in every way an exceptional girl: she has always been a particularly good girl and has long held the position of prefect. She is a girl of excellent general ability, no study of any kind comes amiss to her and she seems to excel in whatever branch she takes up.

In 1890 she took the prize for mathematics; in 1891 she passed Cambridge Junior with Class II Hons with a 1st class result in Maths and in 1894 took Cambridge Senior where she achieved a distinction in French and Music and passed Associated Board Music at the highest level with distinction.

In 1894, Sarah Louisa Davis wrote to the Committee indicating that she wanted to retain her pupil but also wanted her to attend a local public school to ‘work with older girls more advanced than herself’. There was one in Clapham and the fees, the Head Governess informed the Committee, were under £8 per term. Miss Davis put requests like these to the Committee (although they often read more as demands than requests!) and her master stroke in almost all cases was to indicate how much the School would benefit from this outlay. Allowing this extra for Bertha would mean that she would return to take up a good position on the teaching staff.

‘As it is but seldom as clever a girl in all branches is to be met with, Miss Davis asks that these special arrangements may be made.’

By January 1895, Clapham High felt that Bertha need not continue as she had covered all their syllabus by then. Bertha was then studying for ‘special subjects’ prior to her attaining her 18th birthday and being able to apply for a college. Miss Davis followed this with another of her master strokes – she knew exactly how to get the Committee on board! – as she went on to say that ‘If she returned here, the fees that would have been paid could be used to give her special tuition.’

In fact, Bertha did go on to further studies as she became the first former pupil to gain a degree. Not for her the luxury of attendance at a university though as she sat her degree as an external candidate of London University. By this stage, she was already teaching at the School. The Committee, clearly as impressed with Bertha as Miss Davis was, paid for the academic gown to which she was now entitled as Bertha Dean, B A.

This portrait, familiar from the Great Hall, shows Bertha – albeit in more mature years – wearing the gown she had earned.

In 1901, the census records her as a governess of general subjects although clearly music and maths were her specialisms. By 1911, although listed only as school teacher, her name is written immediately below the person in charge of the School at the time. There is no Head Governess listed in 1911 so Bertha’s position at the top of the list of teachers tells its own story. It hardly comes a surprise, then, to find her appointed as Head Governess in 1915.

This picture, although undated, is thought to be from about 1914, and shows Bertha Dean seated immediately next to the Head Governess of the time, the shorthand being ‘this one’s next’!

Headmistress 1915 to 1938, Bertha Dean retired to Alverstoke to live with her brother. Sadly her retirement was not lengthy as, in 1944, the School received the news that she had died.

But this post is less about her life and work and more about her medals. A box containing six medals is held by the School, some with Bertha Dean’s name engraved on them. At some point, they have been placed in the box to record something of the life of this remarkable woman.

The medals are (left to right, top row then 2nd row) Swimming badge, Gold Medal, Prefect’s badge, 1938 commemoration badge, Head Girl’s medal and commemoration badge 1927.

The silver badge was given in October 1892 for Swimming, as the obverse inscription informs us. But this award was perhaps a little eclipsed by the Gold Medal which was awarded in the same year.

Bertha Dean was 14 years old when this was awarded whereas today’s recipients of the Gold Medal are 18. Even given that the school leaving age was between 15 and 17 (depending on the Head Governess’ recommendations to the Committee), the award being made at 14 is clearly an indication of her qualities. These were further exemplified by her status as Prefect.

The hallmark, although indistinct, gives a date of 1891 from the London assay office. The sponsor’s mark (HTL) is for Henry Thomas Lamb and you won’t be surprised to learn he was a Masonic jeweller!

The two commemorative badges represent important celebrations in the School’s history for which badges were made and presented to everyone in the School.

In 1927 the Princess Royal came to the School to present prizes but the use of the Prince of Wales feathers on the badge implies something else. If it were ‘something else’ it has not been recorded as such although it should be noted that the Masonic Peace Memorial in London had its foundation stone laid in great ceremony in 1927 by Duke of Connaught, President of the RMIG.

Princess Mary, the Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood; Scan from a Beagle’s postcard, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3607650

 

The 1938 badge, again a medal struck to commemorate a special event and presented to all at the School, was one to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of the School.

The motto – circumornatae ut similitudo templi or as the King James Bible has it ‘that our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace’ – was newly out of its cellophane, so to speak, as the coat of arms including it had only been granted in 1936.

The final badge in the box has a little mystery all of its own. The Head Girl’s jewel was originally presented in 1891, in the name of Sir Henry Isaacs, Lord Mayor of London. As such, Bertha Dean would have been one of the first persons to be awarded it.

Sir Henry Isaacs

In 1887 Henry Aaron Isaacs became sheriff of London and Middlesex, and was knighted in the same year. In 1889 he was elected Lord Mayor of London. The medal has the Latin motto of the City – Domine Dirige Nos – the Lord guide us.

It is still presented today but it is no longer the original medal as that was stolen in a robbery at the School in 1967. A copy was made with an indication written on the obverse that it is a replica of the original. And here is the little mystery. Whilst it has Bertha Dean’s name inscribed on the back of this medal in its presentation box, it also says it is a replica of the original.

And, although indistinct in the photo, underneath it has the words ‘worn by Bertha Dean’

This must mean that the medal in the box was created after 1967 but, to show that it is not the actual medal presented to Bertha Dean, the words ‘worn by’ are inscribed. The mystery here is why someone collected all of these medals, clearly long after the lady in question was deceased, and placed them in a presentation case. Clearly at least two of them are the genuine article and there is no doubt that Bertha Dean received all of the others, if not these exact ones, but why put them in a presentation box much later without any kind of legend?

And on that note, let’s close the box until someone solves the mystery!

South of the river

The final two of the first pupils had the furthest to travel when they left home for Somers Town (via Pall Mall where they were foregathering). Mary Ann Woolveridge and Ann Kane both came from south of the Thames. And this at a time when bridges were few and far between.

Mary Ann’s home was given in the Morning Post as Melliore Street, Maize – a somewhat less accurate rendition of Melior St, Maze but, either way, in Southwark.

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=18&lat=51.5027&lon=-0.0845&layers=163&right=BingHyb

Daughter of William and Mary Woolveridge, Mary Ann was baptised in 1787, not in Southwark at all, but in Bethnal Green, which record confirms her birthdate.

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: P72/MTW/009

Quite why she was baptised considerably after her birthdate and in a place some distance away from her home address is a mystery we may never solve. Of interest is that single word ‘Pauper’, which tells its own story.

There were nine children born to her parents of whom five were born and had died before Mary Ann put in an appearance. Mary’s parents were unfortunate to lose so many children and of the remaining four, two others did not make it to the nineteenth century which was, metaphorically speaking, only just around the corner when they arrived in the world. Mrs Woolveridge’s father had the interesting forename Reason which may hint at a non-conformist background and two of Mary Ann’s brothers also carried the name but neither for any great length of time.

William, a carpenter, died in 1797 and was buried in St Matthew, Bethnal Green. Clearly this church featured heavily in the lives of the Woolveridges but Mary Woolveridge nee Palmer was born in Southwark so perhaps, somehow, they managed to keep ties with both areas. Whatever the truth, Mary Ann was clearly living in Melior St in 1789.

After Mary Ann joined the School, we hear nothing further until April 1794 when the Committee received a letter from Mrs Woolveridge requesting that her daughter be allowed to leave school six months earlier than expected. This was to assist her mother in running a school. The Committee’s response was starchy:

…no child should be permitted to be taken out of the school by her parents until the expiration of her time … unless such Parent shall pay for her Board, Cloathing &c from the time of her being admitted until the time of her being taken out.

Girls were there for the full whack or not at all. Whilst this might seem a little harsh for modern taste, it should be remembered that the board, clothing and education were provided at absolutely no cost to the family and the Committee was anxious not to be taken advantage of. We must assume that Mary Ann stayed for the remaining time and then went home. The Book of Governors in 1818 simply states that she was returned to her parents without specifying whether that was in April or October 1794. Sadly, that is the last we hear of Mary Ann as no further trace of her has yet been found. There is a possible marriage in 1823 but she would have been 44 years old so that may be straw-clutching time.

We can find far more about Melior St itself than we can about one of its inhabitants. It was named for Melior May Weston, a local 18th century property owner, who died in 1782.

https://www.mutualart.com/Artwork/PORTRAIT-OF-MELIOR-MARY-WESTON/95C393425D0D72B9

Rocque’s map of 1746 shows the beginning of development in the area and, interestingly given Mary Ann’s grandfather’s forename (Reason), has a building labelled Meeting House (although there are no other documents relating to it)  which ‘suggests that there was a Quaker Meeting House in the site at this time’ (planbuild.southwark.gov.uk/documents/ 4 Sep 2013) .

Maze Manor, after which the area took its name, had been in the Weston family since about 1623.

‘The site of the manor is marked by Weston Street, Weston Place, Melior Street, Great Maze Pond and Maze Pond (VCH Surrey iv, p 141–151). The manor … was inherited by John Webbe, a distant relative, who took on the Weston name (www.jwhistory.org.uk/sutton.html). Melior Street, John Street, and Webb Street (now under the railway) all date to this period.’ Ibid.

At the time that Mary Ann was in residence, there were some houses there ‘small terraced houses, without individual gardens … The remainder of the site is open ground at this time, probably in use as a communal garden or yard, possibly with small-scale industrial activities taking place.’ Ibid

Horwood 1792-9

A hundred years later, and well beyond the remit of this article, the area is much developed and what was open land has been built on and garden walls put up.

1894 map

Even further beyond remit, there was war damage inflicted on Melior St: ‘five of the 18th century buildings facing onto Melior Street suffered serious damage’

John Webbe-Weston, who inherited the land from Melior Weston, erected a marble tablet to her memory in Holy Trinity Church, Guildford where she is buried. Mary Ann Woolveridge has no memorial tablet that we know of so this post, and some history of Melior St in Southwark, must suffice instead.

Ann Kane, the other Southwark girl, was also baptised significantly later than her birth. She was baptised in St Giles in the Fields in October 1788 (possibly in preparation for her admission as a candidate) but was born in November 1780.

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: P82/GIS/A/02

The Morning Post gives her address as No 2 Lant St, Borough whilst the Rough Minute Book tells us that her application for a place was supported by Mr Peter Reilly. Her time at the school was uneventful but there seems to have been some difficulty in finding her a position as she approached the end of her time at school. Despite her mother, Susannah, declaring that she was not in a positon to take her daughter back, she was nevertheless instructed to come and take her away. The fact that it was her mother the Committee were dealing with implies that the father (Thomas) had since died although, like his daughter, there are scant records to be found. Even his lodge record (Fortitude) gives only his name and no occupation or address as with other lodge members. Did somebody mention conspiracy? At the last moment a position for Ann was found and in January 1796 she was apprenticed to Samuel Higgins of Red Lyon St, Clerkenwell, a pocket book maker. This was probably what today we call wallets. It is likely that Ann would have been employed in a domestic capacity. It wasn’t all plain sailing however as, in June 1797, Mrs Higgins appeared before the Committee complaining that Ann had absconded four times. After closer questioning, it was revealed that each of these followed a few days after a visit from her mother who, it was felt, was giving her daughter ‘imprudent advice’ – what a wealth of possibilities that phrase brings! The Committee took it upon themselves to tell Mrs Kane that her behaviour was not in the best interest of her daughter who, they pointed out, was well-placed in this situation ‘much better than might be expected from one of her Child’s weak intellects’.

What happened next is a cliffhanger with no following chapter because there is no further information of any kind. Let us hope that the Ann Kane found in the Australia Convict Ship Muster Rolls 1790-1849 as arriving there in 1806 on the Tellicherry, convicted as a vagrant and transported for 7 years, is not our [wo]man. Rather, instead, that the Ann Kane who married in 1811 in St Marylebone (she would have been 31 years old) might be her. Mind you, she married a Mr Smith so if she was hard to find before, she is impossible afterwards!

This is not the Tellicherry but her sister ship William Pitt which arrived the same year.

https://www.jenwilletts.com/convict_ship_william_pitt_1806.htm

Lant St, on the other hand, is much easier to research and brings the ghost of Charles Dickens back to the School’s history. (It is remarkable how often he features in the school’s history!)

Not far from Lant St is St George the Martyr church which was used by the School during its residence in Southwark. This is the church at which Dickens has Little Dorrit marry. The Marshalsea debtors’ prison, which also features in Little Dorrit, was located to the north of one end of Lant Street. This was also a spectre in Dickens’ own life as his father was incarcerated there, during which time Dickens lodged in Lant St and worked at the blacking factory.

https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/drawing-of-lant-street-borough

The image above is a somewhat romanticised one suggesting pretty little cottages. In fact Lant St was part of one of London’s many notorious slum areas. ‘It is located in the area known as ‘the Mint’, which in the nineteenth century was notorious for its poor, overcrowded and insanitary conditions, as well as for crime and disorder.‘ http://www.history-pieces.co.uk/Docs/Lant_Street_1851.pdf

A modern novelist describing Lant St had this to say:

“We were all more or less thieves, at Lant Street. But we were that kind of thief that rather eased the dodgy deed along, than did it…it was a very dull day with us, when no-one came to Mr Ibbs’s shop with a bag or a packet in the lining of his coat, in his hat, in his sleeve or stocking.” Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.

Whilst this is fiction, it is intended as a realistic portrayal of the street in the C19th.

The skeleton of another Lant St girl from even further back in time (fourth century) was one of four skeletons sent to McMasters University in Canada for an in-depth study of DNA. Nicknamed the Lant St teenager, this study enabled the researchers to discover that she had blue eyes and blonde hair; that her heritage (through her mother) was from the eastern parts of the Roman Empire; that she spent the first ten years of her life in Africa and then arrived in what was then Londinium; she had a diet of fish, grain and vegetables and that she died aged 14.

In fact, more is known about her than we know about Ann Kane. Perhaps we only need to wait another seventeen centuries to find out!

There’s Something about Mary(lebone)

No-one is in agreement with how the place Marylebone is pronounced – Marleybun, Marrylebun, Marylebone, Marrybone – and this indecision is echoed in the early newspaper reference to the first pupils. Mary Ann Fiske, it tells us, lived in ‘St. Mary-le-bone’ at the corner of ‘Marybone-lane’. In the space of six words, it is spelled in two different ways!

Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, Jan 1789

Marylebone Lane, one of the original streets of the Marylebone district, runs from Oxford Street in the south to Marylebone High Street in the north. Its sinuous shape contrasts strongly with other streets laid out in a grid pattern, a legacy of their being developed together. The lane originally followed the course of the River Tyburn.

‘While most of Marylebone dresses rather formally, with grand streets laid out in a stiff grid, Marylebone Lane is the stubborn old man who turns up in grubby chords [sic] and comfortable shoes, far too hoary and set in his ways to care. While its neighbours are all about straight lines and right angles, this most ancient of highways is defined instead by its distinctive lazy wiggle.’

https://www.marylebonevillage.com/marylebone-journal/street-stories—marylebone-lane

http://www.openstreetmap.org/search?query=marylebone%20lane#map=17/51.51644/-0.14892

The modern street map shows the contrast particularly well and gives it today a charm missing from its neighbours.

Marylebone gets its name from a church dedicated to St Mary built on the bank of a small stream or bourne, called the Tybourne or Tyburn. The church then became known as St Mary at the bourn – or Marylebone. The Ty- prefix is derived from Anglo-Saxon teo a word meaning boundary. Watercourses were often used as boundaries between districts, just as gallows were often erected beside them. The name Tyburn is probably most often recalled as a place of execution near to where Marble Arch now stands. The village of Tyburn is recorded in the Domesday Book and stood at the end of what is now Oxford Street, formerly called Tyburn Road. What is now Park Lane was once Tyburn Lane. That should cause a lot of confusion in a Monopoly game.

The earliest written mention of the Tyburn dates back to around 785 AD. The brook that is the Tyburn is not be confused with Tyburn Brook which is a tributary of the Westbourne and not connected to the Tyburn River! (http://www.londonslostrivers.com/river-tyburn.html) It’s hardly surprising non-English people find the British way of life confusing. The R. Tyburn today mostly flows underground and is connected into Bazalgette’s great sewerage system. It runs along a pipe in Baker St station and through an open rill near Grey’s antiques (complete with goldfish!). It also flows underneath Buckingham Palace before it finally emerges in an outfall at the Thames.

http://www.londonslostrivers.com/river-tyburn.html

Like the ancient village of Tyburn, Marylebone originally ‘was a small village, nearly a mile distant from any part of the metropolis.’ Daniel Lysons, ‘Marylebone’, in The Environs of London: Volume 3, County of Middlesex (London, 1795), pp. 242-279. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-environs/vol3/pp242-279 [accessed 5 March 2019].

The earliest development was in the early to mid 1720s at the south end, along the east branch into Oxford Street, on the future Marshall & Snelgrove site. (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/architecture/sites/bartlett/files/chapter05_marylebone_lane_area.pdf)

There is something rather deliciously cyclical that ‘the future Marshall & Snelgrove’ later became Debenhams after Marshall & Snelgrove ran into financial difficulty in 1819 and now, one hundred years later, Debenhams itself is in financial difficulty!

Image from Mary Evans picture library

Where exactly on Marylebone Lane Mary Ann Fiske lived is an unknown. We are told it is ‘Stationer, corner of Marylebone Lane’. In a roadway that curves and winds its way south, precisely which corner of many is unclear. There is a later reference to a stationer, Henry Somerfield, who had Nos 15-17 Marylebone Lane built for him. However, these buildings, demolished in 2010, were built in 1890-1 so long, long after the Fiskes were there.

One of four daughters of Jonathan and Prudence Fiske, Mary Ann – usually referred to as Ann – was born on 16th October 1782 and baptised on Dec 1st of that year.

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: P89/MRY1/008

 

This first reference to her is the only one before her admission to the School. However in 1781, her father appeared at the Old Bailey in 1781, indicted for forgery

Session Papers of the Old Bailey OB/SP/1781 London Metropolitan Archives

He was found not guilty in May 1781. In July of the same year, he published an account of the trial in which he not only made clear his opinion of his accuser but cast aspersions about him which would have lawyers licking their lips today – and maybe then too.

Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser, London, England, 7 July 1781

Of course, the cunningly disguised name of the prosecutor and his alleged mistress might just have saved his bacon …

What is interesting is that this was printed for J Fiske but also for four other booksellers which implies that they were a mutually supportive group. Fiske’s address is given as Edward St, Portman Square at this time but by the time he was applying for Mary Ann to attend the School, the family was in Marylebone Lane. Had they moved because of indigence? In 1828, Prudence Fiske, Jonathan’s widow, is listed as a bookseller in Wigmore St (next to which Portman Square can be found), so it is unclear whether they kept moving or had several premises. Between 1784 and 1811 Jonathan paid rent in Marylebone Lane and if this were one of several ‘outlets’, one has to assume a lack of indigence, but the fact remains that during this period he applied for his daughter’s attendance at the School and was successful in that application. By 1799, Jonathan had again achieved respectability – if he had ever lost it – when he was appointed foreman of the jury, his name being cited in a coroner’s inquest of that year.

London Lives, Culture & Society 1680-1817 MJ/SP/C/W London Metropolitan Archives

Mary Ann had eight siblings although the last two of these were born after she was attending the School in Somers Place East, so perhaps it was the large size of the family that made her eligible. Unfortunately the Rough Minute Book, which lists details of ten of the candidates for the first admission, does not include any reference to Mary Ann Fiske so we are not party to the thinking behind her inclusion.

Unlike the last Mary Ann this blog focused on – who had a rather unladylike turn of phrase it would appear – Mary Ann Fiske seems to have passed her time at the School blamelessly. She did leave ‘before her time was due to expire’ however. In 1794, we are told that ‘In consideration of the peculiar circumstances of this child’ she was returned home with the sum of £10 and no further claims on the Charity. Her father was asked to collect her. This was a considerable sum of money for the time and is an indication that she was not leaving in any disgrace, for which she would have been dismissed summarily with no payment. A month later, her mother wrote to the Committee expressing gratitude and in this communication lies a hint of the reason the child left. Her mother wrote that ‘Ann’s health seemed very precarious for since she had been at home she had had frequent relapses of the disorder with which she was afflicted’.

We will never know what affliction she was suffering from in 1792. However, lest one might imagine that a burial record would be the next document found, it might come as a surprise to discover that Mary Ann Fiske actually died in 1862, some 70 years after she left with an affliction! In fact many of the family lived to ripe old ages. Prudence (the mother) was 96 when she died, Mary Ann 82 and Thomas Hammond Fiske, the brother whose home she shared at least between 1841 and 1861, was 83.

Jonathan (the father) died in 1823 in Marylebone and was buried on the 4th February (the ditto, ditto in the record).

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: P89/mry1/326

Although, of course, we cannot be certain this is ‘our man’, it should be noted that the 1841 census does not find him with the rest of his family. Furthermore, Prudence is listed as a bookseller at Wigmore St in the 1828 Pigot’s directory which implies that it was a family business that Prudence took responsibility for after her husband’s death. The 1841 census did not record marital status so we do not know if Prudence was widowed but it seems likely. She is recorded, as are two of her daughters, as ‘Ind’. It might, however, explain why the Fiskes upped sticks and moved to Portsmouth if the head of the family had died. Mary Ann is sharing the household of her brother Thomas Hammond Fiske and it is in Portsmouth on 4th June 1862 that she dies and is buried, her address being given as the High St.

So from Marylebone Lane to High Street, Portsmouth, her life is mapped out albeit with tantalising gaps that one longs to fill!

Down by the riverside

Two of our first pupils hailed from East London within sight of the river. For one, her home in Shadwell was not just in sight but in sound and smell too! Mary Ann Ruscoe, daughter of Thomas and Mary, lived at 45 Bell Wharf.

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00253359.2013.767001

Rocque’s map of 1746 shows Coal Stairs (on the left hand side of the shaded area) whilst the stairs on the right, Lower Stone Stairs, became Bell Wharf Stairs. But Bell Wharf itself does not appear on maps. One has to assume, however, that the eponymous stairs led to or from Bell Wharf.

The photo (from https://alondoninheritance.com/tag/shadwell) is Bell Wharf Stairs from the Thames foreshore.

Shadwell was often referred to as ‘Sailortown’ and represented as a poverty-stricken, run down area

 many of the houses had fallen into a very bad state caused by the occupiers of the tenements rather than by the wilful neglect of the owners of the property. (1)

It was an area redolent with the ‘specialist industries required in the eighteenth century to provide the supplies and services needed by the thousands of ships, schooners and colliers …’ (2) including ropeworks, cooperages, breweries and taverns. In the case of Mary Ann’s father, his trade of pipemaker, whilst not exclusive to sailors, no doubt gave him a business with the mariners arriving and departing.

Thomas Ruscoe applied for his daughter to attend the School and submitted her birth as 16 July 1780 and her baptism on 8 August 1780. The Rough Minute Book had this to say:

Mary Ann Ruscoe, b 16 Oct 1782, no certificate of Register Mr White G S to search for some – referred ‘till his answer is received, Mr White returns register’d, Mr Dennison

The ‘certificate of Register’ relates to Thomas’ registration as a Freemason rather than Mary Ann’s baptism. The reference to ‘Mr Dennison’ – P R Dennison, Governor of the School – is an indication of who supported the application.

Now the sharp-eyed amongst you will have spotted that we have a discrepancy in dates here. And there’s more to follow!

Mary Ann joined the other girls in the house at Somers Place East where everything presumably went swimmingly until 1793. On 27th December of that year, the Matron reported that conduct had been poor, with language ‘very obscene and improper’. The phrase to swear like a fishwife may be apt here. Quite possibly Mary Ann had been exposed to some fairly fruity language from her upbringing near the docks. We do not know what she said that the Matron thought ‘very obscene’ but we can guess that Mary Ann realised she had probably overstepped the mark linguistically and produced a defensive countermove. She announced that she was older than everyone thought as ‘her Friends had put her a year back’ to make her the proper age for admission. The baptismal register was sent for and compared with the documents produced by the parents, whereupon it was discovered that the presented documents had been forged. The girl’s baptism was shown to be 8 August 1779 when she was 24 days old and not 1780 as claimed (and then written as 1782 in error just to compound it).

From London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: P93/PAU3/004 via Ancestry.co.uk

The Committee therefore recommend to the General Court that from the extreme misconduct of Mary Ann Ruscoe and the dangerous tendency of her vicious and immoral conduct among the other girls together [great heavens – what had she done??] with the imposition practised on the charity by her parents that she be immediately dismissed and returned home to them.

Minute Book 1794

Despite this condemnation, it is later recorded that she was apprenticed to Mrs Andrews of Tichborne St [now Glasshouse St] and it seems strange that an apprenticeship – and the costs thereto – would be found by the School given the shadow under which she apparently left. She would have reached school-leaving age in July 1794 and so would have been apprenticed then but one has the impression that Mrs Andrews probably wasn’t informed of Mary Ann’s previous behaviour!

Of Mary Ann’s post-school, post-apprentice life, little can be ascertained. There are two possible marriages. Neither are in Shadwell which means one is interpreting generally and possibly wholly inaccurately. Even taking these into account, the 1841 census, the first in which individuals were named, doesn’t give any entries that one could say ‘Yes, that’s her’ so it all remains unsatisfactorily vague. We are left with a set of parents not above fact-massaging to get an advantage and the unholy impression of a child who had a few unsavoury turns of phrase in her armoury and wasn’t afraid to use them!

So let us turn aside from cussing and look at Frances Sansum, the other ‘Eastender’ who hailed from East Smithfield St. This, unlike Bell Wharf, does still exist but the modern version looks nothing like the one the Sansums would have known.

https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side/#zoom=17&lat=51.5088&lon=-0.0695&layers=168&right=BingHyb

 

What is today East Smithfield leading into The Highway was previously Upper East Smithfield leading to St George St. The 1833 Schmollinger map shows the street skirting the edge of St Katherine’s docks.

Section of “Improved map of London for 1833, from Actual Survey. Engraved by W. Schmollinger, 27 Goswell Terrace” showing the location of the Royal Mint.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Royal_Mint_London_from_1833_Schmollinger_map.jpg

It is an ancient area, first recorded in Saxon times as an area for knightly combat. The name does not derive from ‘smith’, craft worker, but from ‘smooth field’, or open stretch of land. And if knights, possibly on horseback, were thundering up and down it, it must have been the equivalent of a sports arena today: ‘at a certain day in East Smithfield, they should run with spears against all comers’ (3)

The area was most notably used in the fourteenth century for two cemeteries in which London victims of the Black Death were interred: up to 200 people a day, in mass graves, stacked five deep.

The docks were constructed in 1828 and so would not have been there at the time Frances was resident. Presumably what she saw then in the area related to St Katherine’s Hospital.

East end of St Katharine’s Church, the chapel of the hospice https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7203392

https://www.theundergroundmap.com/map.html

This 1750 map shows the area pre-docks. To the right, is what looks like a market garden area. Between 1800 and 1810, this became part of London docks but today it has once again been reclaimed as land for housing. So clearly this is an area of much change. The modern East Smithfield would leave Frances Sansum completely bewildered! Today it is a busy but nondescript stretch of road between Ratcliff Highway and the Tower of London and the London Marathon runs down it.

Frances had been christened on 25 December 1780 at St Botolph’s, Aldgate Without, the name indicating that the church lay outside the City Walls.

Copy of her baptismal record at St Botolph’s; image of church from http://www.stbotolphs.org.uk/

Her parents – Isaac and Elizabeth – had married in 1774 when he was 27 and she was 18. Frances was one of three daughters born to the couple but, sadly, the only one who did not die as a baby.

By trade, Isaac was a hosier, someone who made, or distributed, foot and legwear. During the second half of the 18th century, changes in fashion and competition from the cotton industry meant that the hosiery industry began to decline. Perhaps because of this he moved into apparel generally. In January 1786 we find ‘The Petition and Appeal of Isaac Sansum of the Parish of Saint Botolph Aldgate’ to appeal against a £20 fine ‘for having sold a Pair of Gloves not having a Stamp Affixed there to’ (London Metropolitan Archives LL ref: LMSMPS508060005). In https://rmsghistoryextra.wordpress.com/2019/03/20/court-report/ we saw how Pitt’s tax on gloves may have caused hardship to the father of Ann Martin. Now we have another father caught out by political machinations. The hefty fine must have created a problem for the family finances.

Isaac’s name on the appeal.

However, in Frances’ case, her recommendation as a pupil, supported by Dr de Valangin and 11 more Governors, may be as much about her as her father. The Rough Minute Book records that she ‘has lost a leg’. At no point are we ever given any further information about how this had happened (e.g. accident, disease or congenital) or whether it created problems for her mobility. The subject is only mentioned one other time. When she was due to leave School, her mother expressed doubt that a suitable apprenticeship would be found because of the child’s missing leg.

In 1792, a problem arose concerning the child which appeared to have nothing to do with leglessness – at least it wasn’t mentioned so we presume not. In September, her Friends applied for Frances to have leave of absence. If ‘they’ (in reality likely to be her mother as she is the only parent later mentioned in School records) gave a reason for this application, it was not recorded. The reply from the Committee was decidedly frosty.

Leave of absence from the school ought not to be granted to any child on any pretence [my italics] whatever as the perseverance of good order in the school and the health and morals of the children especially depend on their never being suffered to go home to their Friends whilst under the protection of this Charity.

Furthermore, if her Friends applied again, Frances would be instantly dismissed. They didn’t.

Now the word ‘pretence’ above is interesting. Did the clerk mean to write ‘pretext’ which would fit the sense here? Or is the word ‘pretence’ a veiled indication of fraud? And if the reaction seems harsh, it should be remembered that a girl, once accepted, had everything she consumed paid for (food, clothing, education, living expenses) and received a good start in life along with gifts of clothing and money with which to depart the School. The Charity wanted to be very sure that no-one was taking advantage of them.

Three years after this episode, when Frances was of an age to leave, her mother thought that her daughter’s missing leg would be problematic. The rule, however, stated:

if a Child labours under any Infirmity which incapacitates her from Domestic Service, such Child shall be placed out, at the Discretion of the House Committee, to any Trade or Business which they shall think prudent, with a Premium not exceeding Ten Pounds

Half of this would be paid after 3 months and the remainder after half the term of years as long as the ‘Child has been and is properly taken care of.’

Frances eventually was found a position with Mrs Dorcas Grives of Fair St, Horsleydown, a schoolmistress. This street was so named as a fair used to be there (very literal our street namers).

http://www.exploringsouthwark.co.uk/horsleydown/4593119090
https://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/side-by-side

Where Fair St joins Tooley St is a Grammar School where Dorcas Grives was listed as a Governor in 1825. By this point, it is likely that Frances had moved on. She remained south of the river apparently for the rest of her life and may have been trained as a teacher by Mrs Grives but we do not know that. In 1841, she is described as ‘independent’, a phrase indicating she had her own money. She was living in the gloriously named Baalzephon St, Bermondsey (later Weston St). By 1851, she was in Kynaston Row, Bermondsey, described as an annuitant which would clearly indicate that someone or some institution was providing a pension. She died in 1857.

 

And with her burial record we conclude the story of our two Eastenders.

Doof, doof, doof …

https://en-gb.facebook.com/eastenders/

 

  1. From “The Copartnership Herald”, Vol. V, no. 57 (November 1935) cited by http://www.mernick.org.uk/thhol/shad1935.html
  2. Derek Morris & Kenneth Cozens (2013) The Shadwell Waterfront in the Eighteenth Century, The Mariner’s Mirror https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00253359.2013.767001
  3. (Allen, Thomas The History and Antiquities of London, Westminster, Southwark, and parts adjacent pp.709–712 (George Virtue, 1839), as cited by Wikipedia)

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,