During this time of Lockdown, it seems rather appropriate to be writing about a Lock. [OK – it’s a contrived connection. I happen to like contrivance!] Two little girls who were pupils at the School in 1851 share a history of waterways which converged, you might say, in a lock on a Hertfordshire river. Well, to be fair, only one of them ended up at the Lock and even then only briefly and the other nowhere near it but what the heck – why waste a contrivance?
Ann Morton and Jane Maria Morton – the same surname is not a coincidence – were both pupils between about 1849 and 1855. Both lived in Bishop’s Walk, Lambeth before arriving at the School.
Above image of Bishop’s Walk from http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/lambeth/lambeth-assets/galleries/lambeth-north/bishops-walk-1860
Their addresses made the Archbishop of Canterbury a neighbour although popping round to borrow a cup of sugar was probably not high on a list of priorities. The girls were in fact cousins, daughters of two brothers, Richard and George, both Thames watermen.
The London waterman’s job was to transport people across the Thames before there were many bridges. London Bridge had been the only crossing for centuries. The next bridge upstream was at Kingston which is an awful long way to go if you were in Westminster and you wanted to get to Lambeth.
The watermen of London carried passengers safely – mostly – across the river and they continued to ply this trade until road transport improved enough to make the risks of a water-crossing less palatable than the chances of meeting a highwayman or other brigand on the roadways. Additionally, steam boats were making an appearance in the early C19th and for George Morton in particular, this spelled disaster. The petition for his daughter to attend RMIG gave that his trade as waterman and his business of hiring out boats had been damaged by the steam boat trade. Although he continued to operate as a waterman, he also became a Customs House officer, probably to make ends meet, and possibly using his own boat. Smuggling, against which the Customs House waged war, was big business and required big solutions. Although Customs House would have had its own boats, it also hired other boats which
‘were generally taken up with their crews complete, [and] only one Customs officer shipping with them when there was work to be done.’ https://www.shippingwondersoftheworld.com/customs.html
Whether George acted as the Customs House officer on his own boat or was one of the ‘surveyors, land waiters, tide waiters, coast waiters, boatmen, riding surveyors and many other ratings’ that were part of the service is an unknown.
His older brother Richard seemed to fare worse and shortly before his daughter Jane Maria joined the School, he left the watermen’s trade and took up a job as a licensed victualler, appropriately enough at the Waterman’s Arms. Paris Street, Lambeth. In 1847, however, he was to be found in gaol, quite possibly for debt. When Jane left the School in 1855, she was ‘Delivered to her father residing at Lambeth – who said he should find employment for her at home.’ (Minute Book 167) so by that stage he was no longer a gaolbird.
Jane’s cousin, Ann, had left school a year earlier and been returned to her family in King’s Bench Walk, Lambeth. As the name suggests, this was a road near to the King’s Bench prison in Southwark.
The map above shows the position of the prison, which is possibly where Richard had been held previously, and tucked away in the north-west corner can be seen King’s Bench Walk.
In 1860, Ann married Charles Stolte, a printer’s compositor, and she continued to live in close proximity to the river for the rest of her life: Lambeth, Bermondsey and Southwark. She had six children and outlived all but two of them as the 1911 census informs us. It also tells us that Ann was a state pensioner which, from 1909, paid people over the age of seventy the sum of five shillings a week. Currently it is £175 per week (before tax).
Jane, meanwhile, had left the Thames but staying in the vicinity of water was found with her father at Ware (Where? Yes, it’s an old joke.) Specifically in the lock keeper’s cottage, as Richard had become said lock keeper.
The name Ware, incidentally, is from the Anglo-Saxon for weir so Ware Weir is tautology.
http://www.leeandstort.co.uk/Ware_Lock.htm Modern day image of Ware Lock from By Stephen Dawson, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4337269
Richard and his wife Sophia were at the lock from at least April 1861 and were present there for two census returns, including the one that Jane was living with them (1861). The original seventeenth century lock had been replaced in 1832 and the photograph (above left) dates from c1900, showing it at its original width of 14 feet. It was widened in 1922 to 16 feet. In 1793, the lock keeper was paid £18 3s per year and there was a toll of 1s 6d to use it. A modern lock keeper on the R. Lee (2012) was paid c£13,000 a year and the job entailed not just aiding boaters to navigate the lock and the upkeep of the lock and its workings but also to control water levels by the use of the lock and weir. In times of flood, this becomes very important.
Image of Ware Weir By Jamsta at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7747116
The lock keeper was granted use of a cottage so that he was available at all times.
It is unclear whether either of these is the cottage lived in by the Mortons but they suffice to give an idea of the sort of accommodation supplied.
Jane Maria Morton married in 1863 and went back to London where she remained for the rest of her life which was, in fact, shorter than her slightly older cousin as she died in 1896. Jane was technically the lock keeper’s daughter but probably only briefly before she scurried back to the City. A pity because, otherwise, we might claim the following extract from John Galsworthy’s The Forsyte Saga to be appropriate.
Ware has a nice literary connection of its own as one of Chaucer’s pilgrims hailed from the town. The Cook identifies himself as Hodge [ie Roger] of Ware: “I highte Hogge of Ware”
But we cannot leave Ware without drawing attention to another literary connection relating to the School’s history. Around the Great Hall today can be found the Frampton literary windows created in the 1890s and transferred from Clapham when the School moved. 36 windows illustrate various literary works and one of these is Cowper’s comic poem John Gilpin. Or to give it its full title: The Diverting History of John Gilpin Shewing how he went Farther than he intended, and came safe Home again.
The story of the poem is that John Gilpin’s wife decides it is time for a holiday but, as there would be no room in the coach for John, what with all the children and the luggage etc, he must follow behind on horseback. Unfortunately not being the most proficient of horsemen, John soon finds himself in bother.
The snorting beast began to trot,
Which galled him in his seat.
So, ‘Fair and softly,’ John he cried,
But John he called in vain;
That trot became a gallop soon,
In spite of curb and rein
John ends up hanging on for dear life. He loses his hat, he loses his wig and passers-by think he must be in a race for a £1000 prize and cheer him on. He reaches Edmonton, the holiday destination, but the horse gallops on and in vain does his wife hang out of the upstairs window telling him ‘Stop, stop, John Gilpin!—Here’s the house!’ The horse races on possibly because he has scented home – ‘Full ten miles off at Ware.’
Having arrived in Ware, minus hat and wig, his friend invites him to supper but John quite rightly points out that his wife is in Edmonton, it is his wedding anniversary and it would look a bit odd if ‘[My] wife should dine at Edmonton, / And I should dine at Ware’
He sets off again back to Edmonton. Alas and alack (as all good Victorian potboilers are inclined to say) the horse didn’t take kindly to it and galloped once more past the inn where Mrs Gilpin is waiting. She then sends the postboy after him on another horse which frightens the Gilpin steed even more. Then someone sees Gilpin galloping ahead of (apparently) a pursuer and sets up a cry of ‘Highwayman!’
It is comedy capers of the best sort only resolved when the horse runs out of puff back where he started in London. This long comedy narrative is far less well known today than it once was and we are fortunate that Frampton chose it for illustration in stained glass. The story’s connection to Ware, and the Morton connection to same, allows us to draw attention to it. Lockdown does have its positives.
Grateful thanks to SuBa for her sterling research into the Mortons and Ware Lock.