Four streets – or maybe three

Morning Post 1789

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 It is unclear whether Tower St was once regarded as being in Soho (no historical references to support that) or if whoever recorded the information, or the clerk who copied the same for the newspaper insertion, or the typesetter of the newspaper, or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?

Baptismal record for Catherine Charlotte

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.

By Philafrenzy – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,




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.


Map showing close proximity of these streets


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’ 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.

Berwick St, our next port of call, was described in 1720 as ‘a pretty handsome strait Street, with new well built Houses, much inhabited by the French, where they have a Church’.

Berwick St is pictured on the Oasis album cover (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? It is famous for its market, the earliest reference being 1778 where the vestry committee minutes note that:

‘Ten brokers living in Berwick Street … were then summoned ‘for setting out goods in the Street‘ Whereupon the Committee … advised them to be careful not to offend in future.’

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.”

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.

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!

‘One area where the dodgy Soho clung on was the bit known to the police as the Moor Street Triangle, bounded by Old Compton Street, Charing Cross Road, and Moor Street itself’

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.’

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. 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.

Four candles? No … just four streets!

Glanville St as was

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.’ [1] ‘The crossroads at the corner of Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road is an historic junction, where four parishes met.’ [2]

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[3] 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.

London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Reference Number: p85/mry1/393

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.

The houses [in Rathbone Place] were regular three and four-storey brick terraces … Houses with 20–22ft widths generally had three-bay fronts, standard rear-stair layouts, corner fireplaces and closet wings. Some had marble chimneypieces … The street was a good private address, with a number of wealthy residents ‘

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.’

Left: Fuller’s Temple of Fancy Right: Jackson’s logo today from

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

‘a regular source of reliable colours and brushes.’  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     38 Rathbone Place may well have been Newton’s home before it became business premises and within a short time, No 39 was also part of the business.

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.

Left: miniature by Burrell. Centre: self-portrait Constable. Right: etching and aquatint by Lewis

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.

Left: portrait of Pugin by John Nash. Centre: self=portrait by Linnell. Right: self-portrait by Hone

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.

Left: Porcine Deer (Axis porcinus) from Knowsley Park by Hawkins. Centre: Meeting of day and light by Bielfield. Right: Fish Street Hill looking towards London Bridge, 1830 by Moore

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.


Left: Extract from “The Royal Freemason’s School for Girls”. The Builder. 9: 722. 1851..Right: photograph of Philip Hardwick, c 1850 from The Patrick Montgomery Collection

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.

The School at Clapham

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.


[1] Survey of London: Volume 21, the Parish of St Pancras Part 3: Tottenham Court Road and Neighbourhood ed. J R Howard Roberts and Walter H Godfrey (London, 1949), p. 12. British History Online [accessed 7 March 2019].

[2] ‘

[3] Moderns Grand Lodge Committee of Charity, GBR 1991 HC 12/C/110

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.’—marylebone-lane

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! ( 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.

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 [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. (

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.

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 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

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.


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.

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

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

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 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).

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 …


  1. From “The Copartnership Herald”, Vol. V, no. 57 (November 1935) cited by
  2. Derek Morris & Kenneth Cozens (2013) The Shadwell Waterfront in the Eighteenth Century, The Mariner’s Mirror
  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.
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!

Fifty years later and the court is a little clearer


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.















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

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 has quite a high cute factor, don’t you think? 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.

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,

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

Image from 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 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! goes on to say that ‘The site has been rebuilt and is now occupied by warehouses and offices, etc.’

Maps taken from using 1892 map

Earlier maps, from 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 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.

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.



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)’.



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”

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. states that it disappears about 1842 when Fetter St was widened but a map of 1895 still shows it so it can’t have done. It was still there in a 1914 map albeit not named. So perhaps, like this Court Report,

The Bloomsbury Group

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

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

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

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

‘King Street, which was presumably named in honour of Charles II, first appears in the ratebooks of the parish of St. Martin in 1673: it had previously been known as Charles Street like the street on the other side of the square’. In 1720 John Strype described King Street as ‘a good handsome Street’.

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

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

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

‘according to Cary’s map of 1795, the continuation of the road was King Street and on some maps, Upper King Street’

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

Image of Lady Rachel from

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


An earlier map (Horwood’s 1799) shows on the east side of the street, consecutive numbers from 1 to 33, running from south to north with no numbering on the west side. The numbers are irrelevant for Elizabeth Lowe’s address, which is given only as Taylor, King St. Her father is described in the School register as ‘Formerly a respectable Master Taylor now in great distress with a sick Wife and two Children’ so we have to assume that he is the tailor (as we would spell it today) of the address or, at the very least, worked for the tailor. Sarah Jane’s place of residence was Bedford Head, Upper King St. and we know her father was a victualler so it comes as no surprise to find that there was a PH called Bedford Head. The Bloomsbury Project lists 19 pubs in the area from the 1832 Robson’s directory of which the Bedford Head is one. So plenty of watering holes for the working man to quench his thirst. very kindly identifies the number as 5 Upper King St and gives the publican in 1805 as Richard Gascoigne (Holdens Directory). This is the earliest reference on this website to which we could now add Edmund Sitgraves in 1789. Edmund died possibly in 1802. There is a burial record but not really in the right place and, additionally, he was described as deceased in 1794 when his son Thomas was apprenticed.

The wonderful website shows Southampton Row both today (heavily encroached upon by Kingsway in 1905) and how it was in 1895.

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ardens of Rickmansworth Park

We last left Rickmansworth Park in the possession of the Ardens ( as an occasional residence with London the primary residence. Joseph Arden was a barrister of the Court of King’s Bench, the court of law for cases of bankruptcy. King’s Bench Prison took its name from this court and is where Mary Fotherley-Whitfield had ended up with debts arising from Park House.

Julia Arden was Joseph’s elder daughter and had married John William Birch, of Mildred, Goyeneche and Co, Spanish merchants of London. He later became a Director of the Bank of England (Deputy Governor, 1877-79; Governor, 1879-81).

When Julia’s father died, she and her husband purchased Rickmansworth Park from his estate. Perhaps they were the ones who lived there most often. Or it could be that the eldest Arden son, as presumed legatee, was a bit short of the readies and offered the estate to his brother-in-law in return for a lump sum. Whatever was behind the transaction, Rickmansworth Park became the property of John William & Julia Birch. After his death, she inherited it and later bequeathed it to the widow of her eldest son. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here so let us go back to 1879 when Joseph Arden died and the Birches took on Park House and the estate. Rather as his father in law had done, John William Birch used Rickmansworth Park as a country residence as his address is given as 27 Cavendish Square. Interestingly, this is now the site of the RBS bank so it has moved from being the residence of a Governor of the Bank of England to the residence of a bank.

In 1881 the Birches’ eldest son, John Arden Birch, married Charlotte Mary Leycester Stopford and Cavendish Square is given as his residence.

However, it is her residence that is interesting here: Hampton Court Palace.

Grace and favour apartments inside a royal palace were preserved for widows ‘in straitened circumstances’ whose husbands had given service to the Crown. These apartments were

“not always the most comfortable places to live. Residents regularly complained that the palace was ‘perishingly cold’ and damp, and some had no access to hot water.”

Why Charlotte Stopford’s family had an apartment is unknown. Although her mother was widowed young with three small children, her husband, Major George Montagu Stopford, is not noted amongst the King’s loyal servants. However, Charlotte’s grandfather, Field Marshal Sir John Fox Burgoyne, was.

‘From his first entrance into the army [1796], John Burgoyne commenced a career of active and laborious service, which continued without intermission for the extraordinary period of seventy-one years.’

His achievements include acting as a Royal Commissioner to superintend the completion of the new Palace of Westminster (1848), closely followed by a report into old Westminster Bridge as a result of which the old bridge was replaced by the one currently there. He was present in the Crimean War in 1865


‘by Lord Raglan’s side through the battle of the Alma, accompanied him in the subsequent long march, and slept on the ground in the open air, like the youngest soldier of the army’ (ibid)

He was given the title of Constable of the Tower of London and Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets in 1865, the first commoner ever to be granted these titles. He was in full vigour until he was 88 years old when his only son died after the vessel of which he was captain capsized in a storm and all but 19 sailors were drowned. Thereafter, he went into a decline and died within a year.

In Waterloo Gardens, there is a statue to him:

Despite the acres of print about his remarkable career, there is no reference to him being given the use of a grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court Palace but it remains a possibility that this is why his granddaughter lived in one and, according to her own autobiography, Through Eighty Years, had done so since she was a child.

It is worth noting that, although the ‘residence’ of Hampton Court Palace is given on several documents, none of the census returns ever place either Charlotte Birch nee Stopford or her husband there, even though his burial record again gives his residence as the Palace.














But then, if you are entitled to give a palace as your address, why not trot it out at every opportunity? Especially if doing so enables you to marry in what was once upon a time a very exclusive venue – Hampton Court Chapel Royal.

John and Charlotte had five children, three sons and two daughters; Dorothy, John, Cicely, George & Francis (Frank). There is an outside chance that this last born had a different kind of connection to the School but that’s the way coincidence works. As an adult, he was a cryptographer with Naval intelligence in both world wars. He joined the Naval section at Bletchley Park in September 1939, and was involved in work on the enigma code. And the connection to the School? Well two former pupils also worked at Bletchley Park at this time: Violet Elsie Geddes-Ruffle, also assigned to naval Intelligence as an 18 year old ‘Wren’, and Pamela Mary Lidstone, Block B. Naval Section. NS IV, Japanese codes. Whether these two ever encountered each other, or Frank, will never be known.

Violet Geddes-Ruffle and Pamela Lidstone, former pupils

Frank was only three when his father suffered a catastrophic stroke that rendered him paralysed for the remaining four years of his life. John Arden Birch died in 1896 and his father (John William Birch) was so utterly devastated that he also became very ill. To aid his recovery, he took a break in the South of France. On his return, however, he stayed overnight in a hotel and there died of a gunshot wound to the head. The coroner stated that, whilst it was clear that this was self-administered, it may have been accidental and he therefore allowed the death to be recorded as this. It should be remembered that until 1961, suicide was regarded as a criminal offence. Anyone who attempted and failed could be prosecuted and imprisoned, while the families of those who succeeded could also be prosecuted and the estate taken by the Crown.


‘The suicide of an adult male could reduce his survivors to pauperism’ (

In allowing an element of doubt, the coroner was allowing the Birch estates to be inherited rather than being confiscated. His effects of £65,330 remained in the family and Julia inherited Rickmansworth Park.

She remained in residence until her death although, as before, ‘residence’ did not always mean she was physically there! It is a moot point whether she was there in 1911 when a murder took place in the Park. Rosa Gurney, a widow, was walking there with a man friend. Quite what happened is known only to the two of them – there being no witnesses– but she was stabbed a number of times and subsequently died. The Police next day arrested the man who (natch!) declared himself to be innocent. He claimed that, whilst walking, they had met two other men, Rosa had started talking to them and he got fed up waiting for her and left. Smacks rather like ‘a big boy done it and run away’ and clearly the Police thought so too. The bloodstains found on his clothing were the clinching factor and he was arrested.

Julia Arden died in 1917 and the estate came to the widow of her eldest son who had subsequently married (1905) Walter Bulkeley Barrington (1848-1933), 9th Viscount Barrington. On her first husband’s death, Charlotte had been left with five children to provide for, the oldest of whom was only 14.Her second marriage, to Lord Barrington, was a boon to her sons, no less than to herself.”

Lord and Lady Barrington lived at Becketts in Shrivenham, Berkshire, the house now being part of Cranfield University.

Here, Viscountess Barrington undertook the role of lady of the manor.

‘… a large part of her life at her country home is devoted to the care and comfort of the aged and sick and to the advancement of the children of her poorer neighbours.’ From Onlooker October 15, 1910 and cited by

In one aspect however, her beliefs would not gel with the girls’ school that bought Rickmansworth Park. Charlotte Barrington was a ‘convinced opponent of Woman Suffrage’ [sic] and sought

‘to inculcate among the girls of the village the first principles of domestic economy. Cooking, sewing, and housewifely traits are part of the education she considers necessary for every young woman’ (ibid.)

Rickmansworth Park was put up for sale by auction. It failed to meet its reserve price but it remained on the market until the School opened negotiations. These were protracted and it was a case of who blinked first. The School had the property independently valued (£45,000); it was advised that £50,000 should secure it but Viscountess Barrington was holding out for £70,000. Eventually, after much discussion, a figure of £65,000 was agreed with the curious stipulation that Lady Barrington could remain in residence until building began. Curious because, by all accounts the house was being looked after by a caretaker couple. And yet, in the School archives, letters between the School and Lady B clearly show her address as Park House. But then, when you have a multitude of houses at your disposal (there was also property in Ireland), you can use which of the addresses you like as and when it suits you!

Portrait in the National Portrait Gallery

The conclusion of the sale of Rickmansworth Park ended the Arden family’s connection with the estate after almost a century. Park House would, in due course, be demolished and the School begin its tenure. That in turn is rapidly approaching its centenary – the purchase of the estate in 2026 and the transferring of the School from its former home in London in 2034.