Emma Susannah Blyth, born eight years into the new queen’s reign – Victoria, that is – was a pupil at the School between 1853 and 1860. This was because her father, James Blyth, died in 1852 at the age of 48. He had been a greengrocer and cheesemonger and in 1851, the last census in which he appears, his residence was Nutford Place, Marylebone. Although this street still exists, it has all been redeveloped and none of the mid-nineteenth century housing stock is evident. Born in Norfolk, James married Caroline Gilbey in 1839 and they took up residence in Chelmsford where Emma was baptised in what was then St Mary the Virgin and is now (from 1914) Chelmsford Cathedral.
Take note of the mother’s maiden name as that is going to become important.
At some point between 1847 (when the youngest child was born) and 1851, the Blyth family moved from Essex to Marylebone and for the next half century or so Emma Blyth claimed the capital as her home. Although Nutford Place was their residence in 1851, by 1853 James’ widow was given as residing at 27 Upper Southwick St, Hyde Park as a lodging housekeeper. Now there are lodging houses and there are lodging houses. This one was the superior kind inhabited by well-to-do gentlemen with society connections, as witness this record from the National Archives at Kew:
However, when Emma left school on 22nd March 1860, she was returned to her mother who was then at 36 Norfolk St, Strand so there appears to be a little instability in the Blyth residences during this period. Norfolk St was in an area once in the possession of the Howard family, the Dukes of Norfolk, and the streets were laid out after Arundel House was demolished in 1678. The image shows the junction between Howard St and Norfolk St so the family might be moving quite frequently but the houses were very grand.
Less than a year later, in the 1861 census, Caroline and her children are found in Great Titchfield Street. The return places them in ‘House in Yard’ but remember the Gilbey name? Caroline Blyth nee Gilbey’s brothers founded the company W & A Gilbey which created Gilbey’s Gin.
Emma’s brother James Blyth joined the firm. ‘James Blyth and Alfred Gilbey toured French and other Continental vineyards, buying and shipping direct to England for bottling at the Pantheon… ‘ (ibid)
James was ‘a recognised authority on wine culture and wine commerce’ and was created a Baronet of Chelmsford in 1895. In 1907, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Blyth of Blythwood and of Stanstead Mountfichet in the County of Essex.
Given the success of W & A Gilbey and the interconnection of the Blyth and Gilbey families, it hardly comes as a surprise to find that Emma never had any occupation recorded for her but she is found in various census returns at posh houses: 1871 and 1891, she was residing in Great Marlborough St, Westminster and in 1881 at Elsenham Hall in Essex. This was the home of Uncle Walter Gilbey (the W of W & A Gilbey)
So no doubt during the time that Emma was there, she too moved in exalted circles. Elsenham Hall is now divided into flats but the exterior still looks much as it did.
Where Emma was in 1901 is a mystery as she is not found in any of the census returns. Clearly she was somewhere as she reappears in 1911 at Dormston, 41 The Avenue, Beckenham. This is given as a ten roomed property which Emma occupied with two servants, a cook and a housemaid. Also there at the time the census was taken were her nephew, Oscar Blyth Taylor, a decorative artist, and a visitor Claude Gothard, a stockbroker. The Avenue today is what an avenue was originally – a roadway with trees on either side. The houses are mostly large modern-built properties. There does not appear to be anything from early C20th so possibly the land was acquired, original properties demolished and newer houses built but all of a substantial size.
Emma died on 27 Oct 1927, her estate being valued at £3.5k [equivalent of £11,500 today) – not bad for someone who never apparently earned a living! Given that, on her father’s death, the family met the criterion of indigence, if Emma’s estate derives from family, it post-dates 1853. As the Gilbeys were clearly family-oriented, it seems not unreasonable to suppose that Emma’s income stemmed from them or their property. Like many other members of her family, Emma is buried in Bishops Stortford Old Cemetery, recorded on the headstone for her brother James.
The little girl born on 24 February 1845 who lost her father when she was seven years old – as did so many of the pupils – ended her days living in comfort and all because her uncles, at a loose end after returning from the Crimean war in 1856, started a wine merchant’s business which branched out.
Actually, it would be a darn sight quicker to say Jack Robinson with only four syllables than the eleven syllables in the name Matilda Martha Caroline Robinson – the stem of this blog post. Daughter of William Thomas Robinson and Elizabeth Robinson, nee Peters, a successful petition to present Matilda to the School was made in 1839. She became a pupil in October of that year. Her father met the criterion for indigence as his profession ebbed and flowed. He is variously described as a wine cooper, gentleman, inn porter, wine merchant and a waiter. Whether his occupation varied quite as much as this or if what he did depended on who was describing him, the sub-text perhaps suggests a precarious income. This would have left his family – 4 children and a wife – never knowing whether they were in penury or clover.
Of Matilda’s time at school there are no extant records other than her arrival there, her presence in the 1841 census return at the School and her departure on 17 April 1845, delivered to her father. Six years later, we find her living with her brother Charles @ 18 Great Bland Street, Newington and earning a living as a dressmaker. This street is now called Burge St.
In 1859, Matilda married Edwin Charles Frederick Hare who was in the Royal Marines band as a drummer but by 1871 was a ‘Professor of Musick’ in Lambeth.
Matilda’s life as mapped out in census returns showed that she lived her entire life in London, south of the river. These also showed that her maths wasn’t very good as she was 20 in 1851, 26 in 1861, 33 in 1871, 43 in 1881 and 61 in 1891, the year she died. Of these, only the last is correct! Together Matilda and Edwin gave rise to a showbiz family spanning two generations. And even the next generation but one down has been involved – briefly – in the film industry. In 1973 Matilda and Edwin’s great-great grandchildren, whilst watching their grandmother film On the Buses, had small parts as extras. (Information from http://onthebusesfanclub.com/id20.html) And also as a by the bye, Matilda’s great-niece, descended from her brother Charles, was also an actor – Muriel George (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muriel_George) so there is clearly a strong thespian streak running in the genes.
But let’s try and put this is a sensible order. Matilda and Edwin’s son Herbert Hare married Kate Tansley in 1892 and they ran a travelling theatre company. In 1901 they were in Eglwysilan, Glamorgan in a caravan on the recreation ground with two daughters.
The theatre company seemingly comprised three caravans with the Hare family in one, the Orton family in another and the Tansleys in a third, Edward & Emma Tansley being Kate Hare’s parents. Frustratingly, even though John Orton was described as a travelling photographer, it has proved impossible to find any images of the caravan or the company but presumably they were horse drawn caravans similar to a Romany vardo. The Hares performed under the name of the Alexander Portable Theatre but the Ortons were part of the People’s Theatre which
Bargoed was evidently a little hot spot for performing as there were five portable theatres and two cinemas listed at the beginning of the C20th. In addition, there was a 1500 seat playhouse, the New Hall Playhouse, ‘built in 1907 as part of a High Street complex which included a ballroom and a café.’ (ibid).
With Kate Hare also coming from an acting family – her father’s profession in 1892 is comedian and he is part of the company in 1901- it hardly comes a surprise to find that four of Herbert and Kate’s five children also joined the acting world: Bertie Hare, Doris Hare, Betty Hare and Winifred Hare, who used the stage name Winifred Braemar.
Bertie Hare was born in 1907 in Bargoed, Wales as Herbert Edwin Hare. Sadly, and unexpectedly, his father died just two months later after an emergency operation for a throat complaint (ibid). Bertie’s notable achievements – at least those noted on IMDb – appear to have come late in life: Hancock’s Half Hour in 1956 and Summer Camp Councillor in 1977. This last, originally entitled Confessions from a holiday camp, actually had all four of the Hare family in it but only Doris was a named character. Bertie died in 1991 in Camden.
Betty was born Bessie Maud Hare in Treharris in 1898. Her filmography on IMDb lists eighteen appearances from 1952 onwards although her appearance in Annie get your gun at the London Coliseum in 1948 is also noted. It seems likely, given the family heritage, that she had appeared on the stage before this time but IMDb does not reference it being primarily concerned with film and TV. The earliest in her filmography is Tread Softly (1952) which was made at Marylebone Studios and at the Granville Theatre in Fulham. described as a crime film with music. The last was Summer Camp Councillor and then, presumably, she retired. She died in Chichester just four years later. Like her sister Winifred, Betty had a part in For the Love of Ada also in 1977. In fact many of her later credits also appeared on her siblings’ credits. Perhaps it was a case of ‘you get me, you get them: you get them, you get me.’
Winifred and Betty were the two girls listed in the 1901 census with their parents. Winifred was born Winifred Emma Kate Hare in 1896 in Tonypandy. Like her brother, she had minor roles in a number of films late in life such as For the Love of Ada and Work is a 4 Letter word (1968)
She died in 1979 in Chichester so For the Love of Ada may well have been her last screen appearance. Earlier, she played the part of Winnie in On the Buses, a television series from 1969 to 1973 but still shown today on various channels (and with its own fan club). And also in this series was one Doris Hare as Mrs Butler, in 67 episodes (as opposed to Winifred’s three),
Doris was nine years younger than Betty, being born in 1905 in Bargoed, Monmouthshire. She made her stage debut aged 3 in her parents’ travelling theatre, the Alexander Portable Theatre, in their production of Current Cash. She worked the music halls and then had her West End debut at The Palace in The Scarlet Clue in 1916.
She was still working in 1994 when she was in the film Second Best. Described in IMDb as a ‘popular comedienne of stage and screen’, to call Doris a jobbing actress would be to mislead but as she seemingly put it herself:
I’ll do anything, dear, as long as they pay me.
She had West End success in 1936 in a revue called Lights Up! and, during the war, she had radio work such as Shipmates Ashore for the Merchant Navy which earned her an MBE in the King’s birthday honours in 1946. In 1963, she joined the Royal Shakespeare company and, in 1965, the National Theatre at the Old Vic. She won a Variety Club of Great Britain Special Award for her contributions to show business in 1982 and made her final stage appearance, aged 87, at the London Palladium alongside John Mills in a tribute to Evelyn Laye. A role that she turned down was that of Ena Sharples in Coronation Street. She may never have been the star, but an acting career spanning 84 years is worth a credit or two.
The website http://onthebusesfanclub.com/id142.html has a photograph of the three Hare sisters taken whilst they were filming a Christmas Special in 1972. From left to right, Betty, Doris & Winifred.
Doris died in Denville Hall, a retirement home for actors in Northwood, in 2000. The list of former residents of this home reads like a Who’s Who of the great and good in the acting world.
The phrase ‘before you can say Jack Robinson’ with which we started is one that has been in use since at least the eighteenth century. The phrase originated
Well Jack Robinson may have had little sticking power but the same is not true of the Hare acting dynasty. The little girl who was Matilda Martha Caroline Robinson, and a pupil between 1839 and 1845, may have been very surprised to learn that her descendants were definitely not gone before their names could be announced.
My thanks to SuBa for much of the initial research into this family.
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.
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.
Given Florence’s later occupation and place of work, this is interesting. In 1891, she was a nurse at Brookwood Asylum.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Four addresses, all given as Soho, feature above: Brewer St, Berwick St, Moor St and Tower St. Now this last is a conundrum as there is no Tower St in Soho. There is, however, a Tower St in present day Covent Garden which is next door, as it were. It is unclear whether Tower St was once regarded as being in Soho (no historical references to support that) or if whoever recorded the information, or the clerk who copied the same for the newspaper insertion, or the typesetter of the newspaper, or whoever simply made a mistake. It is not the only possible mistake attached to these four girls as Catherine Charlotte, given the surname Baes in School records, has on her baptismal record records the name Bayce or possibly Boyce. So who made the mistake and when?
Catherine Charlotte, daughter of Francis and Catherine, was born on 12th July 1783 and, at the time of her admission to the School, lived at 23 Tower St. The application for her place was supported by ‘Mr Ruspini jnr’, son of the Chevalier. Clearly, Francis was a Freemason but the only reference in lodge records is M F Baes, listed as a Maj of languages (whatever that means) but with an address in Castle St, Leicester Square. This is not very far from Tower St but that may not be helpful in pinning down whether this is the right person or not.
Tower St today is a highly sought after address, at least according to the estate agents. (Now there’s a surprise!) Described as ‘In the heart of central London’s uber cultural Covent Garden’, 22 Tower St is a listed building now been converted to luxury apartments.
London’s house-numbering system appears to change from street to street so whether 23 Tower St is adjacent to 22 or opposite is unknown.
When Catherine left the School, she was apprenticed to James Duff esq. of Finsbury Square although the School records do not indicate in what capacity. There is a complete absence of any further records save a possible burial record in 1847 as Catherine Bays.
Sophia Riches, daughter of Henry and Mary, was the oldest of the first pupils having been born in 1780. Her address in 1789 was given as 43 Brewer St, Golden Square.
The layout of Golden Square (above right) in 1675 is a clear indication of the peculiarity of street numbering as it shows the back of 19 being adjacent to No. 82 and 62 adjacent to 13! Presumably those facing into Golden Square were built first, the rest being added into spaces left over. Brewer St, on the southern flank, was developed by Sir William Pulteney and was probably named for the breweries in the area. None of these houses survive today.
This outline is even worse for numbering, showing No 1 next to No 44! The above website indicates Nos. 40 and 42 Brewer St were paired houses ‘with plain brick fronts of early nineteenth-century character’. It describes the interior styling in some detail and then states that No. 44 is a four-storeyed house of a slightly earlier date, constructed in yellow London brick with a shopfront and accommodation above. Sadly, No 43 is not mentioned specifically. We might extrapolate a similarity but there seems to be such inconsistency that it is impossible to be sure. Lodge records for Henry Riches suggest that he may have been a coal dealer although neither lodge places him directly in Brewer St.
‘Brewer Street and its immediate vicinity was evidently a centre for noxious trades’ (ibid)
The western end of it was known as Gunpowder St as there was a saltpetre house there and the nearby Glasshouse St probably relates to a glass manufactory. You only needed a tanner’s yard and you’ve got a full house for stinks! The eastern end was originally called Knaves’ Acre and then Little Pulteney Street until 1937, when it was absorbed into Brewer Street. Whilst the word ‘knave’ today has connotations of roguish behaviour, in origin it simply meant boy or male servant and was a neutral term which ‘gradually underwent a process of “pejoration” and took on its modern meaning’ http://www.word-detective.com/2012/08/knaves-jacks. It is also used in cards and Dickens uses the term to demean Pip in Estella’s eyes in Great Expectations:
“He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy!” said Estella with disdain, before our first game was out. “And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots!”
Sophia does not appear to have returned to Brewer St after her time at school because she was apprenticed to Mr Whitehouse of Brownlow St although, as this was Covent Garden, she may not have been far from home.
Clearly this mildest of rebukes did not prevent the trading which continues to the present day. We’ve already had Dickens, so now let’s have Virginia Woolf, who “regularly frequented Berwick Street Market to buy ‘silk stockings (flawed slightly)’. Berwick Street featured in her writing and she described Soho as a space ‘filled with fierce light’ and ‘raw’ voices.”https://www.thisissoho.co.uk/history/
Berwick market was the place to shop for ‘exotic’ ingredients. In 1880 tomatoes first appeared in there and the first grapefruit in 1890. In the 1950s, Elizabeth David’s book introduced a post-war, monochrome Britain to Mediterranean food although actually buying the ingredients was a problem. Olive oil then was only used medicinally but Berwick market stepped up to the plate and became the place to buy all the unusual ingredients we can now find on the shelves of even relatively small supermarkets.
Margaret Burgess, who lived in Berwick St in 1789, may well have visited the market herself. Her home was given as ‘Turner, No 29 Berwick St’ so we have to assume that the family rented part of a house, from Mr Turner. Wakefield’s Merchant and Tradesman’s General Directory for London … 1794 lists a ‘John Turner, Upholder and Auctioneer’, albeit at No 12 rather than 29. There is no other Turner listed for Berwick St so one may make the assumption that this could be the same business. In Berwick St was ‘Le Quarré de Sohoe’ French Church (since demolished) in use since 1694. By 1770, this had become an auction room. Could this be the place of business of John Turner? By 1818, it was the ‘Berwick Street Theatre’, owned by Mr Daley, an auctioneer and copperplate-engraver. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vols31-2/pt2/pp219-229#h3-0007
Another building that Margaret would have seen – well the outside of it anyway! – is the Blue Posts Public House, at the corner of Broadwick and Berwick streets since at least 1739.
After her time at school, Margaret was apprenticed to Mr Dodd of Lime St, a packer in the East India Company so did not return to Berwick St.
If the other three addresses suggested previously gentrified areas gradually sliding downhill, Moor St could well be described as already at the lower end!
Perhaps this is an unfair description of it in 1789 but it neatly encapsulates its downward path.
The view from Google Earth street view shows a façade that may have been Georgian in origin but in which, at its nadir, the interiors were knocked about something cruel to accommodate their use.
‘The properties in the triangle had been unofficially converted and adapted – extra ceiling height for the lap dancing, lower ceilings for the more horizontal activities above, lean-tos in the courtyard to provide extra kitchen space for the restaurants, interconnecting corridors allowing those in the know to enter from Moor Street and exit via Old Compton.’ http://englishbuildings.blogspot.com/2008/05/moor-street-london.html
At the time the Vinets were there, it had perhaps not yet become synonymous with seediness and was probably an area with some shops and accommodation above as suggested in the image above.
Vinet Pere (the use of the French is appropriate here) was recorded in the first Minute Book (rough copy) as Jean Antoine Vinet, a master tailor now ‘in distress’ and with a sick wife.
‘Her Father appeared, 60 Years of Age brought persons known by the Committee who testified his being made a Mason before the year 1768. Having been in good circumstances but now in great distress produced a Certificate from the Grand Lodge and with great difficulty had procured 6/6d to pay for the same.’
Just a few years earlier he was recorded as paying Poor Rates and Watch Rates so perhaps the family, according to the rule of indigence by which all candidates were judged, had seen better times and sickness and increasing age were rendering life difficult. At any rate, his daughter was deemed ‘a proper object’ so the Committee accepted Vinet’s petition. Whilst Harriet was at school, her elderly father and possibly also his ‘sick wife’ both died, as Harriet, on leaving school, was returned to her aunt, Mrs Johnson, ‘who kept a house in a respectable part of Camden Town’. Thereafter there is but one uncertain reference to her, the burial of Harriett Ann Vinett, aged 45, in 1828 at St James, Piccadilly and of Little Pulteney St.
John Anthony Vinet was a tailor but in 1789 the family were living at Mr Shaw’s, Ironmongers, Moor St.
This image is actually a shop in Soignies (Belgium) but is typical of the old-fashioned ironmonger’s shop. http://spitalfieldslife.com/2013/05/18/at-londons-oldest-ironmongers/states that ‘London’s oldest ironmongers [In Hackney Rd] opened for business in 1797 as Presland & Sons’ but, as Mr Shaw the ironmonger in Moor St is listed by the Morning Post in January 1789, it was clearly not the first ironmongers. Whatever the history, ironmongers’ shops were pretty much all like that pictured above and testament to this is the wonderful sketch by the ‘Two Ronnies’ known as Four Candles. The delicious word play based on misunderstanding items on a shopping list could not take place anywhere but an ironmongers. In the sketch, Ronnie Corbett, as the increasingly exasperated shopman, is asked for things which he duly retrieves from little boxes or drawers only to find that the customer, Ronnie Barker, is actually asking for something else. It is a classic piece of comedic wordplay.
Sophia Kewney, another of the first pupils starting at the School in 1789, hailed from Marylebone although part of the street in which she lived was originally St. Pancras, ‘the boundary passing between the east and west sides of the street in an oblique line.’ http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol21/pt3/  ‘The crossroads at the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road is an historic junction, where four parishes met.’ 
In fact the address of 44 Glanville St, Rathbone Place is a kind of anomaly in itself as Rathbone Place was originally known as Glanville Street rather than being a separate street and perhaps it was at the point of changing in 1789 when Sophia’s address was given. Rather like a belt-and-braces approach, both names for the street were used so that there could be no doubting which street it was.
The surname Kewney is often difficult to trace through records, as the w may be written so that it blends into the n and could easily be read Kenney. In the Rough Minute Book, Sophia is described as being ‘approved a proper Object’, her parents being William and Ann. Her application was supported by H Spicer (Henry Spicer a portrait & enamel painter of Great Newport Street), someone who had been involved in the School since the beginning. There are some fleeting references in public records to a William Kewney. He appears in tax records in 1782 and 1792, both times given in Glanville St. However an electoral roll in 1774 gives him as a mason living in Noel St, Westminster. Presumably, this same William is the one who applied for financial assistance in the List of petitioners where it is recorded
‘William Kewney, mason, requests assistance after severe illness has left him unable to support his family. Recommended by Lodge of Operative Masons, No. 185 [SN 613], London’
Whether these two are the same William Kewney is impossible to say but, given the rarity of the surname, it seems likely.
The newspaper gives that Sophia was baptised in St Pancras on 6th March 1780 having been born on 29th January of that year. However, the records actually give a baptism on 6th March 1779 at Percy Chapel, St Pancras so, like Mary Ann Ruscoe, Sophia appears to be a year older than the School thought she was! If this were a deliberate fraud (as Mary Ann Ruscoe’s was) it is one which has only been uncovered two centuries later …
Of her time at the School, we know only that she was retained as a servant at the School when she was old enough to leave. This might imply that family circumstances had deteriorated even further than in 1788 or it may simply be a case that there was a vacancy for a house servant and Sophia was available. She clearly worked hard as she earned a guinea’s gratuity after a year. So we can place her until at least 1796 and then, in 1799, there is a marriage.
This marriage took place at St Mary’s, Lambeth and indicates that both lived there. This is not an area previously associated with the Kewneys but possibly Sophia had moved on from being a house servant with the School to a domestic role in Lambeth. John and Sophia had five children and their only daughter later married Mr Crichton and there are Crichton descendants today who can claim Sophia as an ancestor.
But it is Rathbone Place, Glanville St that is the star of this show (post) as around the time the Kewneys were there, it was a little hotspot for artists and art suppliers.
Where there are artists and architects and ‘Nearly every house in Rathbone Place had an artist as tenant at some point’ (ibid), then almost inevitably there will be art suppliers. George Jackson & Co, Samuel and Joseph Fuller, Winsor & Newton and George Rowney & Co were all in this area. The Fullers were at No. 34 from 1809 until 1862 in what came to be called Fuller’s Temple of Fancy.
A leaflet, apparently from the Lady’s Magazine, August 1823, depicted Fuller’s shop interior, and gives a good idea of the product range; the business was advertised as ‘Publishers of the greatest variety of Sporting Prints …Wholesale Manufacturers of Bristol Boards, Ivory Paper & Cards./ Engravers, Publishers, Printsellers, & Fancy Stationers.’ https://www.princeton.edu/~graphicarts/2013/03/interior.html
George Jackson & Sons Ltd was established in 1780 producing decorative plaster ornament. Their premises were at No. 50 by 1817, expanded into No. 49 c.1832 and then to Nos 47–48. Behind the showrooms was a large workshop. The firm continued to operate from Rathbone Place until 1934.
Next door at No 51 was George Rowney & Co., artists’ colour manufacturers, from 1817 to 1862 and at No. 52 from 1854 to 1884. This is a company that has had almost as many names as the colours of paint they produce! It started as T & R Rowney (Thomas and Richard Rowney), then Thomas’s son took on the business with his brother in law, trading as Rowney & Forster. After 1837, another son took over and it became George Rowney & Company, later George Rowney & Co Ltd. It relocated many times, finally leaving London completely. It retained its connection with the Rowney family but eventually it ran out of Rowneys and in 1969 was sold. In its bicentenary year (1983), it became Daler-Rowney, under which name it still trades very successfully today.
The other art suppliers from Rathbone Place, still very much trading today, is Winsor & Newton. William Winsor, chemist and artist, and Henry Charles Newton, artist, set up business at No. 38 in 1833 in what was then ‘part of an artists’ quarter in which a number of eminent painters had studios, and other colourmen were already established’ (Wikipedia). Together they combined the knowledge of science and the creativity of art to provide
To Dickens they were ‘Rathbone-place magicians … Has anyone ever seen anything like Winsor and Newton’s cups of chromes and carnations … and crimsons, loud and fierce as a war-cry, and pinks, tender and loving as a young girl?’ All the year round, vol.7. 1862, p.563
Having sourced our paints, let us go and find the artists who used them. Of the Rathbone Place ones, at least two of them had a connection with the School’s history. Humphry, Hardwick & Hone were there at the time that we know the Kewneys were living there; Burrell, Constable, Lewis and Pugin may have coincided with the Kewneys’ residence but after Sophia had started at the School; Linnell, Hawkins, Bielfield & Moore were there slightly later but still in the early part of the C19th.
Joseph Francis Burrell, was a miniaturist who exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1801 and 1807. He lived at No 7. John Constable, of course, is known to all of us. He lodged at No 50 when he was a student at the Royal Academy. Frederick Christian Lewis was an etcher, aquatint and stipple engraver, and also a landscape and portrait painter. He lived at No 5.
Augustus Charles Pugin at No 38 was a French-born artist and draughtsman and a skilful watercolourist. He was in Rathbone Place 1804–6. Perhaps he is somewhat eclipsed in fame by his son Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. John Linnell, who lived close by at No. 35 (1817–18) was a painter and engraver. Like Constable – but just a couple of years later – he became a student at the Royal Academy where he won medals for drawing, modelling and sculpture. It is known that Nathaniel Hone, portrait and miniature painter, died at No. 30 in 1784. He was an Irish-born painter and one of the founder members of the Royal Academy.
Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, living at No. 11 in the 1830s, was the son of an artist (Thomas Hawkins) and is particularly renowned for his work on the life-size models of dinosaurs in the Crystal Palace Park in south London. However he also produced very fine natural history paintings. Henry Bielfield, painter, lived at No. 13 (1837–54) but he also lived at No 18 and No 21. Presumably not at the same time. George Belton Moore, landscape painter, lived at No. 1 Rathbone Place in 1830. Moore was a pupil of Pugin so he only had to walk down the street for that.
That leaves the two who have tangential connections to the School’s history.
Ozias Humphry, who lived at No. 29 in 1777, was a miniaturist of some renown who was later appointed Portrait Painter in Crayons to the King (1792). Lest this sound somewhat childish to modern ears, crayons was the term used for what today we call pastels. Sadly, his deteriorating sight (he eventually became blind) meant that he had to turn from miniatures to larger portraits. Amongst his work was a portrait of one Bartholomew Ruspini, the instigator of the School of which Sophia Kewney became a pupil.
Philip Hardwick, an architect and son of an architect was born at No. 9 in 1792. He trained as an architect under his father, Thomas Hardwick, who was in turn the son of another architect Thomas Hardwick (1725–1798). The Hardwick family name spans over 150 years in the history of British architecture. When the School desired to move to its third site (Somers Place East and St George’s Fields, Southwark were the first two), Philip Hardwick was appointed the architect.
Whilst working on Lincoln’s Inn Great Hall (1843-4), Philip Hardwick fell ill and poor health dogged the rest of his life. His son Philip Charles Hardwick assisted his father and they worked as a team. In 1851, the 3rd school site was opened, its style very much reflecting the zeitgeist for Gothic revivalist style.
So the School in Somers Place East connects to the site in Clapham via Rathbone Place, or Glanville St that was, in a very curious and unexpected way.