The Waltons

Hands up if you remember The Waltons, TV series of the 70s and 80s. Set on the fictional Walton’s Mountain, it was loosely based on the life of Earl Hamner Jnr of Schuyler, Nelson County, Virginia.

 

Image of Walton family from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/25/good-night-john-boy-good-night-earl-hamner-jr/?utm_term=.179fa5844ab6

Image from TV series https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25660694

A family saga with the backdrop of the Great Depression, John-Boy Walton was the narrator, introducing the story of his parents, grandparents and six siblings. With such a large family, there was always scope for plotlines.

Another large Walton family – this time a real one – is the Walton sextuplets born to Janet & Graham Walton in 1983. At the time, they were the world’s first female sextuplets that all survived and they are still going strong today with the next generation of baby Waltons starting to appear.

But the Walton family this blog is concerned with is that belonging to Sarah Jane Thornton Walton, admitted as a pupil 21st April 1836. Whilst researching her, a very interesting family history began to emerge although, strictly, this is less The Waltons, a family saga from mid nineteenth century Hull, as much as it is The Standidges, Hullites since Stuart times. Allow me to explain …

Sarah was the daughter of Samuel Standidge Walton (1794-1868) and Sarah Walton nee Shilling (1794-1866). Both of them actually survived their daughter to whom we will return shortly. Samuel Walton was a shipbuilder and in 1829, Pigot’s Directory places him as 1 High St, Sculcoates. This appears to be a business address related to the shipbuilding that was the family’s occupation. Later, Samuel is found in Marine Row, Kingston upon Hull; Worship St, Hull; Reed St, Sculcoates in 1841, 1851 and 1861 respectively. As well as being a shipbuilder (and a landed proprietor), Samuel was a Captain in the East Yorks Militia. He had held that Commission for 45 years and the Queen granted him special permission to retain his rank and wear the uniform even after he resigned the Commission.

The East Yorks Militia had the nickname of the Beverley Buffs to distinguish them from other Yorkshire Militia regiments.

Image of uniforms from http://www.eylhs.org.uk/dl/129/militia-yeomanry-and-volunteer-forces

‘a comparable officer’s suit of the East Yorkshire Militia for this period [i.e. 1790] – coat, waistcoat, breeches – lies uncelebrated in the vaults of York Castle Museum.’

‘The scarlet coat is lined and faced buff, with ten buttons and silver laces on each lapel, four on each pocket and cuff, and one each side of the collar. The silver buttons are blank, with a striped pattern. Waistcoat and breeches are both buff. The waistcoat has twelve silver buttons and laces at the front and three on each pocket; the breeches have a tie and four buttons at each knee’ writes richardawarren in https://thisreilluminatedschoolofmars.wordpress.com/tag/east-yorkshire-militia/

Which of these uniforms Captain Samuel may have been given permission to wear is not clear although a portrait identified as him shows something similar to the image above labelled 1798 although, as an officer, his attire was presumably a little fancier.

Whatever his appearance, we do know that in 1867, Samuel gifted to the Corporation of Hull a portrait of his great grandfather, Sir Samuel Standidge.

Hull Packet 30 August 1867

unknown artist; Sir Samuel Standidge (1725-1801); Hull Guildhall; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sir-samuel-standidge-17251801-80010

Sir Samuel Standidge, Knight (1725–1801),

Mayor of Hull (1795), Five Times Warden of the Trinity House, Hull Maritime Museum.

Captain Samuel is descended from Sir Samuel through the female line and his mother’s surname, Thornton, is preserved in two of Captain Samuel’s daughters: Mary Thornton Walton (1824-1914) and our pupil Sarah Janet Thornton Walton, the latter being baptised on 30 Jul 1827 in Christchurch, Sculcoates. The address in the baptismal record is Worship St, where Captain & Mrs Walton were residing in 1851 as well. This perhaps implies that several properties were in the possession of this branch of the Standidges/Waltons and were all used at various times. No 1 High Street, where Capt. Samuel was in 1829 is the property built or acquired by his great-grandfather. An article in the Hull Daily Mail 20 June 1927 identifies this property with the Standidge name in 1765 and refers to it as a shipyard.

But let us stop jumping about like a sand flea between seven different generations of Standidges and try and tell the story in some kind of cohesive order.

We ought to begin with the earliest known Standidge except we don’t have a name! In the article of 1927, Sir Samuel is described as the great-grandson of the Chamberlain of Hull of 1677 but, unfortunately, the writer did not give a name for this person. Suffice to say that Mr X clearly had a child or children and said offspring also had children and one of them had children, one of whom was Robert Standidge. Yes I know, it’s hard to get your head round the greats and grands but we are on safer ground now we have reached Sir Samuel.

Born in 1725 in Bridlington, by 1744 he was Mate on board a ship bringing ‘fume’ i.e. tobacco from Virginia. [Oh look – Virginia: coincidences abound – see The Waltons.] Whilst engaged with that, Standidge was captured by a band of pirates (or privateers). They held him prisoner for six weeks before finally releasing him on Rhode Island. Ever the entrepreneur/quick thinker/striker of hot iron, Standidge used his time on Rhode Island to study the tides and this was later to save his life. After his release, he became Master (Captain) aboard the American and, caught in a storm off Rhode Island, was able to put his former studies into use to stop the ship being wrecked.

Sixteen years later, Standidge moved into shipbuilding in Hull where he ‘is recognised as the father of the Hull whaling industry in the Georgian period’ (http://www.thorngumbald.karoo.net/standidge.html citing G S Skeggs Thorngumbald that village yon side of Hedon) and it was at this time that he began operating from No.1 High Street, a property that ran down to the river and was ‘given as 186 yards long by 65 yards wide.’ (ibid)

‘In 1767 at his own expense he equipped a ship and sent it out to the whaling grounds off Greenland. It was said at the time by other merchants that this was an act “bordering on insanity” ’ (ibid).

Madness or otherwise, in fact he commissioned more than one ship and one of them, the British Queen, he captained himself. One of his ships came back from the hazardous Greenland seas with one whale and 400 seals. Prior to this, sealskins were thought worthless, earning 3d each (the equivalent of about 1p) and they were dumped but Captain Standidge had them tanned and sold them for 5 shillings each (about 25p), thus increasing the market value of sealskin for everyone else! (Information taken from A new and completed history of the county of York, Volume 3 by Thomas Allen accessed via Googlebooks). The sort of man who can turn his captivity into useful information and worthless booty practically into gold is always going to be a success in life!

Willoughby, Robert; The Whaling Fleet of Sir Samuel Standidge Depicting the Ships ‘Mary’, ‘Samuel’, ‘Lady Jane’ and ‘Grenland’; Hull Maritime Museum; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-whaling-fleet-of-sir-samuel-standidge-depicting-the-ships-mary-samuel-lady-jane-and-grenland-79085

The whaling industry being in full swing, the refining processes must have produced some noxious fumes and made living in the vicinity unpleasant. Perhaps because of this, in 1768, Standidge purchased 200 acres of land at Thorngumbald from John Hobman and built a mansion there. Although Thorngumbald Hall, now just Thorn Hall, still exists as a building, it is not the one Standidge built.

Image from http://www.thorngumbaldparishcouncil.co.uk/history.aspx

Several owners after Sir Samuel, Charles H Johnson, who had bought it in 1879, demolished it and had it rebuilt in the neo-Jacobean style that is seen today. It has subsequently had several more owners and is currently a home for the elderly.

Standidge became very wealthy from his efforts and owned substantial tracts of lands and properties.

‘New York Farm, Preston, is said to have been purchased with the proceeds of one successful voyage to that city’

and there were at least seven other farms as well as areas of land known in Yorkshire as Garths. Now there’s a word familiar to present day pupils of the School!

He was made Sherriff of Hull in 1775 and in that year too he commissioned a ship which was to sail to discover the North Pole. Standidge had intended to captain it himself but discovered that the restrictions of his Sherriffdom meant that he was not allowed to leave the country. Given his other successes in life, who knows whether Standidge might now be the man credited with the discovery of the North Pole instead of Robert E Peary in 1909.

In 1795, Standidge was appointed Mayor of Hull and the following year he was knighted by George III. He was also granted honorary Russian nobility status by Catherine the Great as he had aided her in her war against the Turks. Not bad for a lad from Bridlington!

He died in 1801, leaving £75,000 in his will – in today’s money several million pounds. He is buried in in the north aisle of St Mary, Lowgate and there is a tablet inscribed to his memory on the wall there.

Image from http://stmaryslowgate.weebly.com/

After all this fascinating stuff, Sarah Janet Thornton Walton (remember her??) is almost an afterword, not least because, unlike quite a few of the Standidge and Walton family members, she did not make old bones. She arrived as a pupil in 1836 and left in 1842. Her name is not only preserved in school records but also on a sampler that was created in 1838 listing all the pupils in the School at the time.

In addition, she completed her own sampler.

She possibly left slightly ahead of her 15th birthday as her father declared his willingness to continue her education with a view to providing her with a position as a governess. Sadly, this was not to be as she died in 1846 at just nineteen years of age. We are left with the marker of her short life in the form of needlework and the fascinating story of her forebears. It remains only to use the sign off style employed by The Waltons.

“With the night descending on Walton’s Mountain, the camera would show the lights going out room by room … the family would banter for a moment … and finally:

Good night, John-Boy

Good night, Elizabeth

Good night, Daddy” [Etc.]

‘If those words mean nothing to you, you’re probably under age 40, perhaps a millennial. If they do, you’re probably a boomer, to whom they are unforgettable’

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/03/25/good-night-john-boy-good-night-earl-hamner-jr/?utm_term=.179fa5844ab6

Good night Sir Samuel

Good night Sarah.

Advertisements

Five Little Ducks

Five little ducks went swimming one day

Over the hill and far away

In the School registers for admission to RMIG were five pupils whose names all appeared on the same page and for whom the ink barely had time to dry on their names before, sadly, their deaths were being noted.

Ann Brett Ashby’s life was barely longer than her name. Born on 10th December 1823, her death is noted as being on 23rd July 1835 whilst absent from the School on account of illness. Clearly not an entirely unexpected death then but still before she was 13 years of age.

 

Surrey Lyton Hassell, the very next entry in the register as it happens, was born on 1st October 1822 but died in her mother’s care on 10th September 1834. Again, a presumed death following illness as she was at home with her mother.

To we of the modern age, it seems surprising that the pupils of RMIG, once accepted by the School, moved to the School House and stayed there until they were ready to leave school at fifteen years of age, even if their homes were nearby. Parents were allowed to visit on a Thursday afternoon only, although this severe rule might have been relaxed a little by the time the School had been established forty years or so. Nevertheless, by 1834, there were still no recognised school holidays or weekends at home for the pupils so for Surrey to be in the care of her mother when she died rather implies she had gone home ill. From the outset, the School had always taken the greatest care of the girls’ health and welfare and they possibly had access to greater care at the School than they might have at home. Medical care was, at this time, paid for by the recipient of it and there are many examples in the record books of pupils receiving extensive medical care until their health was improved, regardless of the costs involved. So it is unlikely that Surrey would have been ‘sent home’ for her family to shoulder the burden of her medical costs rather than the School but more a case of the medical practitioners attached to the School realising that there was nothing more they could do and only palliative care was left. Of course, this is all speculation as we do not have anything but the entry in the School register to go on.

Catherine Elizabeth Swendell, born on 21st October 1823, was admitted to the School on the same day as Surrey Hassell. Less than two years later, her death was noted in 1834. In her case, it was at the School.

It is not specified what kind of fever but since at least 1795, the School’s authorities had been aware of how quickly any kind of infectious disease could spread in a closed community. From 1795 onwards, applicants for places at the school were required to submit, as part of the total documentation needed, a completed medical certificate, signed by a doctor.

“I have examined X and find that she has had the small pox, has no defect in her sight or limbs and is not strumous nor afflicted with any disorder or infirmity whatsoever as witness my hand this…. day of …. 1795.”

Strumous is the adjective arising from struma, a swelling of the thyroid gland or a goitre. It is a form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes. In developed countries this has been brought under control by an understanding of its cause – spread by unpasteurized milk from infected cows. Although the condition was treatable, there were probably as many quack remedies as serious medical discourse. The Wellcome Library in London has a plethora of recipe books listed in its catalogue purporting to offer cures. In the eighteenth century, any form of tuberculosis was feared as being highly infectious.

Although, apart from Catherine Swendell, no cause of death is recorded in the School register for any of the girls who died, the fact that Surrey Hassell died within two months of Catherine might suggest that the same fever had affected both girls and that Surrey, after being cared for by the School until it became clear she was not going to survive, was then taken home to be looked after by her mother. There is nothing in any other School records to suggest that there had been a serious outbreak of a contagious nature but it is not beyond reason that this was so. The School was at this time in Southwark and the plans of the house show that the girls lived in three dormitories. Any girl who was ill would have been in close proximity to other girls – the very thing the School sought to ameliorate in Rule 26: “in case of any infectious disorder, the person be forthwith removed if thought necessary by the faculty.”

Jane Gilpin arrived at the School in the cohort admitted on 19 October 1832. She was younger than the other two being born on August 14th 1824. She was an orphan when she arrived at the School. Her mother, Esther, died in 1827 leaving her father a widower for the 2nd time. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Esther may have died in childbirth although there are no records to confirm this. She died in June when Jane was almost three years old, and her father, Josiah, remarried in December of that year. In 1831, her father died leaving Jane’s half-sister, Sarah, as her guardian. Sarah had been born in 1811 and had married George Legge in 1830 although Sarah Gilpin is what appears in the School register. The home address for Jane was given as ‘Sarah Gilpin – sister, Romsey, Hants’. In 1841, Sarah & George are at Cherville Street, Horse Fair, Romsey Intra, Romsey & Whitchurch, Hampshire. Jane died on 11th September 1835 at the School but no cause is written in the register.

 

Emma Sheffield, admitted on the same day as Jane, was almost a year younger. Her birthdate is given as 20th April 1825. She died under the care of her mother four years after arriving at the School, almost to the day. The register indicates that her home address was ‘Mrs Sheffield, Durham’. In fact, we know from newspaper reports that her father Thomas, an ironmonger, ran his business in Silver St, Durham and that he had died in 1828.

It is worth noting that Durham is 260 miles from London which takes about five hours by car today. At the time, the journey from London to Durham would have been by stagecoach travelling at an average speed of about five miles per hour and covering perhaps 70 miles on a good day with good weather. Not only did Emma make this journey but so did her sister Fanny who also became a pupil at the School. Furthermore, it appears that Emma died in London at City Terrace, St Luke which presumably means that her mother travelled to London to take care of her. It is recorded that Emma –

In 1834, Mrs Dorothy Sheffield is recorded in Pigot’s Directory as residing in New Elvet, Durham but many of the later references to her children are found in London which possibly suggests there might have been a second home there. It is not known whether Emma’s mother, Dorothy, returned to Durham or whether she entrusted the business to her eldest son Thomas. In 1851, she was living in London with her daughter Fanny, by then married and with two children. In both the 1861 and 1871 census returns, Dorothy was still in London and she died there in 1873 so perhaps by then she had left Durham completely.

Of Dorothy’s many children, it was not only Emma who died young. In Durham St Mary the Lesser is a memorial to Emma’s grandparents:

“In memory of Elizabeth the affectionate wife of Thomas SHEFFIELD of the City of Durham ironmonger who died October 11th 1798 aged 56 years Also the above named Thomas SHEFFIELD who died May 4th 1805 aged 64 years Also George grandson of the above and son of Thomas and Dorothy SHEFFIELD who died Sept 21 1809 aged 6 months Also Edward son of Thomas and Dorothy SHEFFIELD died Jany 4th 1823 aged 3 weeks”

This chapel lies within the grounds of Durham Cathedral otherwise St Mary the Greater. In its cemetery “There is a badly worn grave to the Sheffield family, which proudly gives their occupation as Ironmongers.” https://community.dur.ac.uk/parish.stmary/the_church/burials.htm

In 1818, The Book of Governors printed for the School made the proud boast that of the 272 girls committed to the care of the Charity by 1818, only five had died whilst at school, which was less than 2%. This could be compared very favourably with the national average for child mortality to the age of 10 at the time which was reckoned at 50%. The admissions page in the register for 1831/2 somewhat blemished this record with five deaths out of 18 pupils between 1834 and 1836. It must have been a difficult time all round. The nursery rhyme Five little ducks ends on a happy note when all the little ducks come back. Sadly, in this case, none of the little ducks went home again. If these girls have gravestones, it is not known where they are. This image represents them all.

They died too young

This posting concludes the series about pupils and former pupils who died at a young age, sometimes whilst at school and sometimes just afterwards. Of one fact we can be sure: whilst in the care of the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls, they received exemplary medical care even at a time when childhood mortality rates were higher than we are used to today. Whether their deaths occurred at the School, with or without family members by their sides, or if the death happened after their time at School, none of them can be attributed to slipshod care on the part of the School.

Continue reading

They died too young

This series, highlighting the untimely deaths of some of the pupils of the School, may give a disproportionate view of the care afforded to them in their time at RMIG. This could not be further from the truth. To date, the numbers of pupils who have received an education at the school since its inception are numbered at 5000++ so the relative few that died as children is a huge tribute to the care they received. “To-day one child in seventeen dies before it is a year old, but in 1840 the figure was about one in six, and about a third of the children born died before the age of five” http://www.libdemvoice.org/life-expectancy-of-13-thats-victoria-values-for-you-17571.html On that basis, the 34 examples in this series are a triumph!

Continue reading

They died too young

From its inception, the School took great care over the health and wellbeing of its pupils. There are numerous examples of extensive medical treatment being undergone with no question of any cost to the patients concerned – and this long before the NHS was even dreamed of. Inevitably, though, there were fatalities and this series attempts to give them a brief glory that their short lives failed to give.

Louisa Margaretta Willis (1838-1850) died aged 11. The family home at the time of her petition was 115 St Martins Lane, Holborn and the application gives her father’s name as James Willis, Public House keeper (business failed); she had one brother and one sister. It seems possible that her mother was Jane and that her siblings were Annette & James. She was accepted at the school on 14 October 1847 and the Chelmsford Chronicle of 22 October 1847 confirms her election along with five other pupils. Louisa probably did not have any connection with Chelmsford and the fact that a provincial newspaper reported the election is an indication of the nationwide interest that was taken in the school in London. As her death record is for the Holborn district, we know she did not die on school premises. She was buried at St Luke’s, Chelsea on March 25 1850 with her address recorded as Bedford Row, Bedford St. Why, then, she was buried in Chelsea we may never know.

St Luke, Chelsea https://www.flickr.com/photos/costi-londra/sets/72157629127979527/
St Luke, Chelsea
https://www.flickr.com/photos/costi-londra/sets/72157629127979527/

Continue reading