The Redoubtable Miss D

A significant chunk of the nineteenth century history of the School came under the leadership of Miss Sarah Louisa Davis. Appointed in 1862 and retiring in 1896, she led the School for 34 years. In her stature as a Head Governess, it is hard to comprehend that when appointed she was barely 21 years of age. At a time when there was little formal training for teachers and most of the teaching staff (at the School and indeed elsewhere) learned their craft at the chalk-face, so to speak, Sarah Louisa Davis was the nearest to a professional appointment for several decades. Indeed, The Morning Post in 1894 reported these comments from the Anniversary Festival:

From the inception of the School, the education of the girls was in the care of the Matron and this was deemed to be sufficient.

Original advertisement for the matron in the classified ads section of World on Oct 10th 1788

As the numbers on roll increased, the matron was assisted by pupil teachers but as they would have been only 15 years old, their experience of the world was somewhat limited. However, girls’ education was beginning to develop. In 1847, Queen’s College ‘became a pioneer in the field of women’s education and emancipation.’ (Wikipedia) At a similar time, moves to extend the education of RMIG girls by introducing French and Music were initially rejected (1848) but it was the beginning of the beginning of educational improvement. Its direct descendant, as it were, was the appointment of Miss Davis who, almost immediately introduced French and drawing classes.

Time to introduce a more personal note into our biography of Miss D. She was born in Hackney, in the rather delightfully named Paradise Fields, the middle of three daughters born to James and Sarah Jane Davis. Her first public appearance was the 1841 census where she is recorded as an unnamed baby aged 2 weeks. This would give her a birthdate of about May 24th as the census took place on June 6th. Her father was a schoolmaster, and if ever it were a case of ‘being in the genes’, it is with this family. Not only was father a schoolmaster but daughters No 1 and No 2 both became Headmistresses. The career of daughter No 3 is unknown as she ‘disappears’ for over 70 years after the 1861 census, apart from a brief reference in 1876 at her son’s baptism – in Russia!  Why she was there we may never know but it must certainly have introduced an air of exoticism into the family.

In 1851, Sarah Louisa and Esther are pupils in Hackney.

‘The New Gravel Pit Hackney Chapel School, founded in the 1790s, was considered highly benevolent and caring by the local community in its dealings with its pupils…’

https://www.layersoflondon.org/map?record=9694

By 1861, Sarah was an assistant mistress at

1861 census title page

Founded in 1813, it operated on very similar principles to RMIG. Its mission was ‘to afford maintenance, instruction and clothing to destitute orphans of both sexes, and to put them out in situations where they may have the prospect of an honest livelihood’ https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/outline-of-the-london-orphan-asylum.

So her move to the Royal Masonic Institute for Girls the following year would been a geographical shift but a very familiar situation. It is not known how she was selected for her new role. It is possible she was recommended by the Headmaster of the Asylum as Miss Davis, in her turn, recommended many pupils for advancement. But a Head Governess she became and was catapulted into senior leadership above the Matron (Eliza Waterman Jarwood, some 30 years her senior) and the two assistant mistresses, Frances Souter (b 1833) and Mary Ann Kernot (b 1837). Frances is a governess in another London school in 1881, so Sarah Louisa’s appointment may well have arisen from a vacancy when Miss Souter moved on.

Sarah Louisa Davis

This official portrait of Miss Davis is undated but is surely a portrait of a woman in her prime and could perhaps be from about 1880. However, given her elevated status at the age of 21, it is hard to be exact about what her prime might be.

A group photo taken in 1886 shows the teaching staff of that time.

As is to be expected, the Head Governess is at the centre of the group.

Of greater insight into Miss Davis herself are her own words as she wrote a monthly report for the school governorship and we can ‘hear’ her voice in what she wrote.  Her summaries of the girls in her care are sometimes acerbic: she clearly did not suffer fools lightly, as the saying goes.

[The] “youngest pupil teacher, is leaving at Christmas, an uncle & aunt having offered to provide for her entirely; she has been somewhat unsettled and Miss Davis does not regret parting with her” (1887)

Two years later she wrote of another pupil teacher, Ruth, who had failed an exam she was expected to pass: “With proper application and care on her part it would not have happened as she passed last year and this time was expected to take honours”.  Miss Davis expressed “her great disappointment in the girl as she was clearly capable of the work and ought to have at least achieved a pass.” The comments suggest that the recalcitrant girl had probably had a very uncomfortable interview with Miss D as she was to be put on “probation as a pupil teacher and if she does not prove an energetic and intelligent teacher, she must leave.”

Then to ram the point home even more, Miss D proceeds to ask the Governors if they would provide as a reward a little treat for those who pass.

“They are girls who keep close to study [one can almost hear the unspoken words ‘unlike Ruth’] and … Miss Davis feels they deserve some reward.”

Of another pupil, Miss Davis did not mince her words at all.

[She] “is a girl of power & influence but unfortunately not of a nature to be of benefit to those with whom she associates. Miss Davis cannot say that she has at all been a good girl, she has always been difficult to manage, evincing a most spiteful & trying temper and instead of improving as an older girl has been lately most independent about observing the rules of the school.”

But lest we think that Miss D had just got out of bed on the wrong side the day she wrote that, the pupil of whom she was writing remained somewhat fiery all her life it would seem. In 1928, for example, she appeared in court on a libel case the upshot of which was that the judge ordered her retained in custody for two weeks as she had caused a grievance and “You have not expressed to me one word of real regret or apology for your conduct”.

At the age of 60, she had another court appearance for ‘stealing’ a parcel from a car because

Perhaps we might judge Miss D’s assessment of her rather unruly pupil a little more kindly after this!

Miss Davis’ tenure as Head Governess was only occasionally interrupted by absence. In 1883, she had an absence of six months. Such was the respect she had earned from the School governorship that £50 was granted to her in in October 1883 ‘partly to reimburse her for the heavy medical expenses incurred by her late severe illness.’ Although she clearly recovered enough to return to post with as much vigour as ever, there were other briefer absences following this, known only when her deputy signed the monthly reports. In 1895, The Graphic, an illustrated newspaper, was given access to the School and subsequently published some images amongst which was a view of Miss Davis seated in her sitting room.

Here she is shown deep in thought with her feet on a little footstool. What she was thinking about is of course unknown but it should be noted that the following year she advised the governors that she wished to retire, a resignation they were reluctant to accept but one which, perforce, they must. This is not just colourful interpretation. The Cheltenham Chronicle of 11th July 1896 carried the following item:

In 1896, Miss Davis’ salary is recorded as being £225 pa which means that she retired on full pay. If ever there was a marker of the respect she had earned it was this.

In 1901, the census records her living with her older sister Esther, also a retired Headmistress, at 52 St James Rd, Tunbridge Wells.

This image is not actually No 52 as that property on Google Earth Street view is obscured by a large hedge in front of it. However, all the houses in that vicinity appear to be the same style so this view of a property further down the street must suffice.

In 1907 news came that Sarah Louisa Davis had died, her probate being granted to her sister who herself died the following year. Miss Davis’ funeral took place at the local church but this does not have a graveyard so it is unknown where she is buried.

Kent & Sussex Courier 08 February 1907

 

Miss Davis’ legacy to the School was manifold. By the time of her death, two other Head Governesses had come and gone but by 1911, another was waiting in the wings (Bertha Jane Dean) who would become in her turn as esteemed as the redoubtable Miss Davis.

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.

The only way is Essex

Approximately 6.5% of the historical school roll were Essex girls. The figure is a guesstimate because the birthplaces of some 10% of the historical roll are at present unknown. Additionally, Essex is one of the four counties abutting London so the boundaries are rather flexible. A degree of second guessing has to be done even when Essex is stated as a home county. The opposite boundary of Essex is fortunately pretty clear cut because the map turns blue where the land meets the sea. So we know where Essex stops on that side at least.

And we know that of those 6.5% Essex girls, five came from one small town near-ish to an edge that is wet: Rayleigh. Situated just off the A127, near to Southend, the market town of Rayleigh is 32 miles east of London.

Image from http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/maps

The name Rayleigh means the clearing of the deer – rǣge (roe deer) and lēah (clearing). The land around Rayleigh was a royal hunting forest so, if the king comes a-riding and there is nary a deer to be found, he’s going to be a tad cross. It made sense to help nature along and ensure there was good hunting to be had.

There is a tenuous connection with a deer area and the school on its present site. An area in the school grounds known as the Dell may have been where deer were over-wintered. Certainly when Park House was purchased to build the School, it was advertised as being situate in a deer park although the deer were moved out when the School moved in.

Rayleigh is mentioned in the great tax document known as the Domesday Book and listed as having a castle, which appears to have been in ruins by the 13th century. Indeed some of the stones may have been used to build the church. All that remains is the medieval mound now in the care of the National Trust and which affords a good view of the surrounding countryside.

View from the Mount taken from http://littlemissedenrose.com/home/rayleigh-windmill-review/

The families of the School’s Rayleigh pupils at one point lived in the High Street. As they were born in the same period, and their fathers were both members of the Lodge of True Friendship, it is possible that they knew each other. However, that remains as speculation and the most we can do is place them, for a brief period, in the same place at the same time.

It is time to meet the families: Noone and Kernot.

Anne Linggood Noone and her older sister Betsy Ann were two of the 13 children of John Loten Noone and his wife Elizabeth Hunt Noone nee Linggood. Anne, b 1830, became a pupil in 1839 and left in 1845. In fact in 1845, she was “at home ‘ill’; a bible and prayer book and some clothing delivered to her father”. Nevertheless, she was of the right age to leave (15) so it does not appear to have been the illness that caused her departure. Betsy, six years older (b. 1824), arrived as a pupil in 1833 and left in 1839. In fact, the two Noone girls were not in the School together as Betsy left in February 1839 and Anne arrived in April. So, keeping strictly to the rule that sisters were not permitted – a rule that was frequently broken in any case – the Noone period of residency was 12 years: 1833-1845.

The Kernot Three did not overlap with the Noone Two as the Kernot girls were slightly younger but it was another large family with 7 children. Mary Ann Kernot was born in 1833 and she is listed at the School in the 1851 census (and in 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 too but we get ahead of ourselves); Louisa Catherine, b 1840, appears in the 1851 census at the school listed as Catherine which suggests that this was the name by which she was known. Sadly she did not make old bones as she died in 1875. It may be her listed in 1871 as being a patient in Bristol General Hospital although her place of birth is given as Maldon, Essex so the jury remains out on that one. The last Kernot girl to be a pupil was Kate Charlotte who was born in the year Anne Noone left the School.

The rule of no sisters was frequently broken but the rule of indigence was much more strictly adhered to. It was, after all, the raison d’etre for the Charity. In practice, most of the indigence was as a result of the death of the father but it was not a perquisite that the father must be deceased and John Loten Noone wasn’t. At least not whilst his daughters attended as pupils. We have to assume that his indigence was connected to his numerous progeny. A saddler and harness maker by trade, he died in 1846, by which time both his daughters had left the School.

The Noones were also connected to printing. Charles Clark Noone, paternal uncle to Anne & Betsy, was a printer and hairdresser [an interesting combination!] and it was he who printed the pamphlet in Rayleigh in 1821 in support of Queen Caroline.

Digression for a brief history lesson. The Prince Regent married Caroline of Brunswick. The marriage was a failure although they managed to produce an heir (Princess Charlotte) before going their separate ways. Both behaved scandalously but George held what he thought was a winning hand. He introduced a Bill of Pains and Penalties designed to rid himself of Caroline before his coronation as George IV. Unfortunately for him, the general populace was pretty much behind Caroline so the failure of the bill was accompanied by enthusiastic celebrations. It was to no avail as Caroline was locked out of Westminster Abbey whilst George was crowned. Shortly afterwards, she left the country and died abroad. Their daughter grew up to marry but died giving birth to a son who also died, thus creating the race for inheritance that resulted in the birth of Queen Victoria.

Rayleigh celebrated the defeat of the Bill with a bonfire and fireworks and ‘at 6.30 p.m. on the 16th November a cannon was fired to announce the start of the festivities and “the windows of all the inhabitants….were instantly lighted; the bells commenced ringing a merry peal; a large bonfire was made; the effect was truly grand” ‘(reprinted in Rayleigh parish magazine, April 2018, p6 http://btckstorage.blob.core.windows.net/site2742/Documents/Magazine/MagazineApril%202018r.pdf ). A band paraded through the streets and perhaps more to the point ‘fifty-four gallons of strong beer were distributed among the poor inhabitants, and the people in the poor-house were regaled with plenty of meat, bread and beer’ – so clearly everyone had a good time.

The Kernot father, George Noyce Kernot, was a chemist (chymist) and druggist and he, like John Noone, carried on his business in the High St, Rayleigh. In 1841, the Noone and Kernot families were both residing in the High St. Mary Ann & Louisa Kernot and Betsy Ann Noone were therefore all in the same place at the same time. Thereafter, their lives were divergent. Anne Linggood Noone is the only one of the pupils still in Rayleigh in 1851. Then she disappears from trace until a fleeting reference in the will of one of her brothers which places her as a spinster in Southend in 1864. We don’t know what happened to her after that. Her sister Betsy married in 1847 and, by 1851, had moved with her draper husband to Romford. They were doing well enough for there to be two servants in the household. After this, she too vanishes. As husband and children also fall off the research radar, it is possible that they went overseas. Brother Alfred went to Australia so it is quite feasible that Betsy and her husband also went and so they have not been traced.

The Kernots, on the other hand, apart from Louisa who died in 1875, are much more visible. Mary Ann, as hinted earlier, stayed on at the School, eventually becoming Matron. She retired in 1895 after 43 years’ service and received a pension of £60 pa. In 1901, she was in Shoreham as a retired Matron. On 25 July 1909, aged 72, she died, her probate giving her address as College Rd, Ripon and granted to Abraham Bowerman Kernot, her nephew. As her brother Abraham had also lived in Yorkshire, it may well be that Mary Ann moved north to be with him, particularly since he had married late in life and his wife died giving birth to their son so he had a young child to look after.

Kate Kernot, on the other hand, did marry (1873) – William Cooper, a draper by trade. In all the remaining available census returns, Kate is at different addresses but always in the South East: Hackney, Woodford, Streatham, Balham. In 1923, she died, her address given as 39 Trouville Rd, Clapham Park. Probate was granted to Kate’s son, Maurice. Her estate was worth a tidy sum – £3014 10s 4d with a further grant in 1925 [amount not given] which is the equivalent today of £66,000. Mary Ann too left a very respectable amount, the equivalent of £108,000. In fact all the Kernot girls who reached maturity were comfortably off if we judge by their probates.

Images of College Rd, Ripon and Trouville Rd, Clapham Park both from Google Earth and showing some of the substantial Victorian/Edwardian housing that would have been there in Kate and Mary Ann’s time.

The Kernots and the Noones feature in a variety of wills as testators and beneficiaries so it is quite possible much of their estates were inherited and then passed on to another of the clan in turn. Like so much about individual pupils we have tantalising glimpses into their lives which leave us wanting more!