A Ripping Essex* Yarn

*and quite a few other places

Starting from Rayleigh, we are taking the Kernot line (see previous post The only Way is Essex) into the wider family. It’s a tale involving a school, prisons and probates, and touches on some dastardly crimes to boot.

In 1841, George Noyce Kernot was a chemist in the High St, Rayleigh and the 1841 tithe map says exactly where: plot 250, which measured 14 perches. A perch is equal to 16½ feet, or 5½ yards, so his plot was about 73 metres. Currently occupied by an indoor market shop, it had been a chemist shop since at least 1841 and remained so until the 1960s. The information about the tithe map and the plots was supplied by Rayleigh Town Museum which just happens to stand next to what was George Kernot’s plot.

Rayleigh Tithe Map 1841, originating from Essex Record Office but kindly supplied by Rayleigh Town Museum; insert shows plot 250

After George died in 1848, three of his daughters attended the School as pupils but there was also another Kernot offshoot who came to the School as a pupil in the next generation.

As in all good stories, let us begin at the beginning.

George Noyce Kernot and his wife Mary Kernot nee Bowerman had 6 children. There was also a son from his first marriage who is therefore a Kernot but not a half Bowerman. As he is found at various times with the family, or parts of, such as being a witness at the marriage of his younger (half) sister. George Charles Kernot probably counts as the 7th child of the family. Jane, officially Sarah Jane but seemingly using Jane or Sarah or Sarah Jane during her lifetime, was the eldest daughter. Mary Ann Kernot comes next in 1833 and then Abraham Bowerman Kernot in 1835. Following Abraham is Emily Bowerman Kernot, b.1837, and then Louise/Louisa Catherine/Katharine born in 1840. The baby of the family was Kate Charlotte who arrived in 1845 and was only three when her father died.

Mary Ann, Louisa and Kate all become pupils of RMIG but Sarah Jane and Emily did not. Sarah was already 17 when her father died but why Emily did not become a pupil is unknown. She was of about the right age but in 1851, she and her widowed mother are listed at 23 Sherrard St, Westminster where Mary was keeping body and soul together as a tobacconist. In 1861 Emily was a milliner working for a draper in Carshalton. Presumably, her dexterity with a needle gave her the entrée into the higher echelons of domestic service. In 1881 and 1891 she is recorded as a lady’s maid.

 

Painting by Jean Baptiste Beranger

https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/bal56388fre/combing-my-ladys-tresses-bal56388-fre/#.W2ifiihKgdU

A lady’s maid was an esteemed position amongst female domestic servants. For an outline of life as a lady’s maid, https://lifetakeslemons.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/a-day-in-the-life-a-ladys-maid/ is a good starting point. The next time we catch up with Emily, it is on her death in 1915. She left an estate of almost £3000, probate granted to George Charles Kernot, gentleman.

While we are on the subject of the oldest child, he was born in 1825 in Rayleigh. In 1841, he is at the home of a chemist in London described as a male servant. However, given his later occupation, he was probably more like a trainee. He was a GP in 1851, MD & General Practitioner in 1861, surgeon in 1871, and ‘Gen Practicioner Lic Soc Apoth London’ in 1881. He had an address in Hastings when he died in 1888 although his death, described as sudden, occurred at the Caledonian Hotel, Inverness. This hotel was described as the only first class hotel on the banks of the River Ness and attracted wealthy visitors so it is hardly a surprise to find that George’s estate was valued at £9000 in 1888 (over £400,000 in today’s money).

 

http://www.ambaile.org.uk/detail/en/21650/1/EN21650-the-old-caledonian-hotel.htm

For those of you counting, Sarah Jane has not been forgotten but there is a reason for leaving her until the end.

Louisa, as we saw in the last posting, died when she was 35 years old. There is an uncertain entry in 1861 census as a servant and possibly as a hospital patient in Bristol in 1871. In neither case is the birthplace Rayleigh but Southend (1861) and Maldon (1871).

Abraham Bowerman Kernot was in Poplar in 1851 living with older (half) brother George. By 1861, he is at Great Wakering, Essex, and a member of what looks like ‘RCLE Practising’. Given that he was later a surgeon, this may be MRCS written badly. So the second son of George N Kernot also took up medicine as an occupation. (The medical connection comes in again later.) In 1871, Abraham was farming 16 acres in Reeth, Yorkshire but also a surgeon. His mother had moved north to join him. Reeth is in Swaledale and the image below shows it sitting in a gentle valley, almost nestled into the surrounding hills.

http://www.reeth.org/Reeth-village-information.htm

In 1891, still in Reeth, he has a four year old son. He married Sarah Hillary in 1887 – an oops moment as she gave birth three months later – and then she died, leaving Abraham at 52 with a four year old to take care of. This son is the Abraham Bowerman Kernot later granted the probate for Mary Ann Kernot in 1909.

However, as promised, let us return to Sarah Jane Kernot. In Brighton in 1857, she married William Sanders who, in 1861, was the Deputy Governor of Sussex prison. Lewes prison is still in use today.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lewes_Prison_from_castle.JPG by Charlesdrakew [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Of their two sons born in Lewes, one (George) died as a toddler in 1863. In 1871, William Sanders is listed as Governor of Pembrokeshire prison and, as the two younger sons (born 1867 and 1869) were born in Haverfordwest, he had been in this position since at least 1867. Sarah Jane is away visiting a certain school in London – RMIG!

Image from https://artuk.org/visit/venues/haverfordwest-town-museum-6885 Now the town museum, this was originally the Governor’s House.

Haverfordwest Prison closed in 1878, which may explain why the family are in Trowbridge in 1881. By 1891, William is given as a retired prison governor. In 1901, the Sanders were living in Leytonstone where, on 28 Oct 1904, Sarah Jane died, her probate being granted to her widower and son Charles.

The three sons, John William Sanders, Charles Kernot Sanders and Frederic Kernot Sanders all have an impact on the life of the next person who brings us back to the School. John William (her father) is at school in Derbyshire in 1871 and Ripperana 1993 includes an article which states

“Educated at Guy’s Hospital, where he was House Surgeon, First Prizeman in Medicine, Surgery, etc (1879), and Prizeman in Anatomy, etc (1877). He was for a time Medical Officer of the Croydon Fever Hospital, and then became Resident Medical Officer of the Bethnal Green Infirmary. At the time of his early death he was Medical Superintendent of the St George-in-the East Infirmary, Princes Street, E, as well as Surgeon to the St John Ambulance Brigade. He was also a Fellow of the British Gynaecological Society and a Member of the British Medical Association.”

He qualified as MRCS Nov 17th 1879; MD Brussels 1880; FRCS June 12th 1884; LRCP Lond 1880; LSA 1879; DPH 1887. (from https://livesonline.rcseng.ac.uk/biogs/E003082b.htm ). In 1884, he married Emily Baker in Gravesend and their daughter, Bertha Lucia Elizabeth Sanders, was born in 1885. She was only four years old when her father died. The fleeting reference above to Ripperana may have alerted you to a connection to the horrific crimes of Jack the Ripper. John William Sanders has been considered as a suspect although there also appears to be a John William Smith Sanders so the notion is even more shrouded in mystery. Passions run very high over this subject so we will gloss over it, stick to those facts we know and leave others to draw conclusions.

Bertha Sanders is a fact, as is her being a pupil at the School. John William Sanders died in 1889 apparently from heart failure whilst under anaesthetic (https://www.casebook.org/ripper_media/book_reviews/non-fiction/cjmorley/158.html) and in 1891, Bertha is living at 18 Beauchamp Rd, Battersea with her widowed mother, practically within spitting distance of the School.

Picture of 18 Beauchamp Rd from Google Earth

Bertha’s mother re-married in 1893, had another daughter in 1894 but died just four months later. In 1901 Bertha is a 15 year old pupil at RMIG. She was due to leave in 1902 but was retained as a pupil teacher in the junior school and by 1907 was the 3rd assistant in Matron’s department, rising to 2nd assistant in 1912. As Mary Ann Kernot retired in 1895, there might have been a short time when Bertha as a pupil (and niece) coincided with Mary Ann, Matron (and aunt).

In 1914, Frederic Kernot Sanders (Bertha’s uncle), serving on RMS Balantia, died in Barbados. He left his estate of £9000 to his brother Charles and his niece Bertha. The following year, Bertha left the School and took a cookery course, but the two things may be coincidental. By 1917, she had finished the course and ‘was cooking for a hospital in Kensington’ according to Massonica 1917 (the earlier version of the Old Girls’ magazine) although also in that year she is given as superintendent at a hostel for Bedford College so there is some discrepancy. In 1928, she married Percy Simpson, the former secretary to RMIG but by 1939 was widowed and living in Ashdown Gardens, Kensington and ‘of private means’. Three years later those private means became substantially larger as her uncle Charles Kernot Sanders died and his estate of £33,000 (well over £600,000 today) came to Bertha. Was her life changed by this? Difficult to say. In 1972, when she herself died, her estate was valued as £32,000+ which might suggest that she didn’t do a Viv Nicholson and spend, spend, spend. The only hint we have to her character was the description of her in Masonica 1972 when her death was announced: “a dignified and kindly, if somewhat awe-inspiring, figure!” Perhaps the money enabled her to live comfortably if quietly. Her husband when he died left his estate to his mother rather than Bertha which possibly hints of an unsuccessful marriage. Or maybe he thought she was well provided for and didn’t need it.

This is a story covering 130 years, several counties, not to mention countries, surgeons and scholars, crimes and prisons – a ripping yarn indeed.

Additional research material supplied by SuBa and also Rayleigh Town Museum.

Sunday service

Religious services have been a part of the School’s history since its inception.

Rule 20: That the Matron attend the children to Church every Sunday morning and afternoon, and on Good Friday, Christmas Day, and the Anniversary, that they learn the Collect for the Day, and such as are capable to read a portion of Scripture every Sunday Evening … and on every Friday the children be taught the Catechism.

(The mention of Good Friday and Christmas Day are reminders that for a considerable period of the School’s history, there were no school holidays. At all.)

But this posting is less about religion and more about the participants in it; less spiritual and more about practicalities. It’s about getting there and sitting still during. The first three school sites did not have a place of worship attached to them. The girls were taken to a local church – twice – on Sundays. To begin with, they had their own pew. To save the mental gymnastics of trying to work out how huge numbers (current school roll 900+) fitted into one pew, in the early days the numbers were significantly fewer. In 1788, fifteen little girls and a Matron might fit fairly comfortably into a large pew, which cost £3 per annum. This cost, incidentally, can be compared with the £24 pa for ‘Books, Sope, Mops, Brooms &c’.

The first church they attended was the Bethel Chapel initially in a pew donated by Jacob Leroux. The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1813 referring to Seymour Street in Somers Town said

“In this street was formerly a chapel of ease to St. Pancras. It was a gloomy building, erected in 1787, and called Bethel Chapel; it afterwards belonged to the Baptists.”

Cited in Edward Walford, ‘Somers Town and Euston Square’, in Old and New London: Volume 5 (London, 1878), pp. 340-355. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/old-new-london/vol5/pp340-355 [accessed 16 November 2016].

There was also St. Mary’s Episcopal Chapel in the same street which may have been used too as may have the old church of St Pancras (the new one was not built until 1819 by which time the School was south of the river.)

mary Pancras
St Mary, Somers Town & Old St Pancras

Image of St Mary’s by Steve F, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11433686

Image of Old St Pancras by Stephen McKay, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13429363

 

In 1795, the School moved to St George’s Fields, Southwark and the girls would have attended the church of St George the Martyr.

George Southwark
St George the Martyr, Southwark

Image of St George by Carlos Delgado, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17840016

The School had its home in Southwark from 1795 to 1852 when it moved to Clapham. St John’s, St Mary’s, St Peter’s and St Paul’s were all used at different times by the School.

Battersea churches
St Paul, Battersea & St Mary, Battersea

Image of St Mary by Derek Harper, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6088418

Image of St Paul from http://www.southwark.anglican.org/find-a-church/battersea/battersea-st-peter-and-st-paul/battersea-st-paul

St Mary’s is the oldest church of these being finished in 1777; St John’s (there is no extant image) was described, rather unflatteringly, as “ ‘A cheap brick church erected for the workers of the factory district of York Road’ according to J.G. Taylor (Our Lady of Batersey, 1925).” www.southwark.anglican.org/downloads/lostchurches/BAT11.pdf It was consecrated in 1863 so was only marginally newer than the 3rd school site. Later amalgamated with St Paul’s, it was badly damaged during WWII and demolished in about 1950. St Peter’s was built in 1875 and St Paul’s, originally a chapel of ease for St John’s, was amalgamated with St Peter’s in 1939.

By the time the School was in Clapham (or Battersea, or Wandsworth or Putney – take your pick: all can arguably claim to be the geographical place of the School’s third site), it had a considerably enlarged school roll. Now, walking to church was not just a marshalling of 20-50 girls in a relatively straight line but manoeuvring nearly 400 girls, in twos, in Sunday best. Pity the tram driver and the hapless motorist who stopped to allow the girls to cross the road!

cartoon
Crossing the road to church

Mention of Sunday best raises that other set of items known variously by the euphemisms unmentionables, unwhisperables, indescribables and underpinnings: the underwear, usually in the form of combinations comprising bodice, drawers and slip. These garments were generally regarded with loathing. Summer ones were made of cotton but winter ones were made of wool which one former pupil recalled “had the consistency of steel wool” and which “itched and prickled” in a most uncomfortable fashion. Being forced to sit still and attend the sermon was made much more difficult by these garments, issued fresh on a Sunday morning – and therefore at their most like a coarse hair shirt – presumably on a basis of cleanliness is next to Godliness. Clearly the constant fidgeting of the girls reached the attention of the Chaplain and ultimately he came to speak to Miss Mason, the Matron, about the matter. Quite what was said, in what sort of language (given the deemed delicacy of ever mentioning such things) and with what degree of mutual embarrassment is lost to history as the conversation was, literally, behind closed doors. The outcome, however, is known. From then on, the fresh ‘linen’ was distributed on a Monday rather than Sunday so it had become slightly more comfortable by the time it was necessary to attend to the sermon again. Modern girls are at this point dissolving into horrified hysteria at the realisation that only one set of underwear was issued per week … Victorian sensibilities were indeed different!

Once the School moved to Rickmansworth in 1934, the walks to and from the local churches were no longer part of Sunday life. Services, as today, took place in the Chapel.

Chapel
The Chapel exterior & interior

The Junior girls, still at this stage in Weybridge, continued to perambulate to their local church, St James.

Weybridge church
St James, Weybridge

Image from http://www.stjamesweybridge.org.uk/

After the service, the girls would write little essays about the sermon and the vicar would award gold and silver stars for the best. Before they departed the School to reach the Church, the girls would be given a penny to put in the collection. One week, a girl put her coat button in instead so that she could put her penny in the bubble gum machine they passed en route. Something went wrong with the mechanism and her sin was rewarded not with one but several – perhaps a case of the wages of sin being not death but illicit chewing gum. Of course, her behaviour did not go unpunished but the vicar’s essays may have been a little odd that week! Even without bubble gum, attention was not always focused on the service. Although girls recall different things about their church visits – such as the choir processional, the occasional use of incense and the bell ringers – one former pupil, under the mistaken view that the memorial plaques on the walls were vertical gravestones, spent a considerable part of her time trying to puzzle out where the bodies were.

A requirement for religious services throughout the School’s history there may have been, but it is probably fair to say that it did not always guarantee the girls’ focus. Although the steel wool underwear is no longer a reason for a lack of attention …