Sunday, 18 March 2018

Farnborough Kent's Earliest Composite register

Despite the appearance of the external cover this volume of the parish register commencing in 1558 is in generally good condition and proved straightforward to transcribe. However the poverty of record keeping in several periods means that there are gaps in coverage. Some of the entries are confused with one entry containing two male names as husband and wife in a baptismal entry. The volume however is valuable in containing the names and changes of Monarchs and  of clergy who were Rectors of Chelsfield and Farnborough. Farnborough was at this time a parish; formerly a chapel of ease within the Ancient Parish of Chelsfield. From 1558 it had it's own parish register Churchwardens and Officers although the entries record only Curates names suggesting that the Rector was responsible for the Parish of Chelsfield ( and resided there).
The Curates vary in their record keeping; there are from the outset yearly composite entries which contain a mixture of baptisms marriages and burials. However the entire register contains burials until 1678 only with a note "here ends the register of burials in this book". From 1679 onwards only baptisms are recorded and the marriage entries appear in the last pages of the bound volume after several blank pages. This suggests that supervision of the recording was lax and that in some years entries may under record baptisms.
Farnborough lost the third of the George Smiths who had served as rectors of  Chelsfield and Farnborough in 1650 during the period of the Commonwealth 1640-1660 and Parliament installed as Rector of Farnborough John Montague. This ended in 1660 when the Acts of Commonwealth Parliaments were declared non existent. The entries of Farnborough events throughout the Commonwealth period are conained in the Farnborough pages of the Chelsfield Parish register and are online at Kent Online Parish Clerks Farnborough page.
There are gaps in years and  I have previously blogged about some misunderstandings and eccentric spellings of Farnborough families with one entry for George recorded as Jarg which reflect the unfamiliarity of clergy with long established parish families.
Marriages contain only names of spouses until the 1700's when some entries record marriages by Licence and spouses from other parishes. It is noteworthy that Farnborough became popular for marriages of individuals from Tonbridge,presumably because it was a point for changing horses for coach services.
The size of the settlement in Farnbough does not appear to alter if the number of entries per year is compared through the register and the population appears modest. The traveller population is reflected and deaths of unnamed strangers suggest the village was travelled through by carts and coaches as well as others.
My completed transcript will appear in due course at Kent Online Parish Clerks Farnborough page previously quoted and linked.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2018

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Farnborough Kent's Come-by-Chance

As I transcribe the Composite Register for Farnborough in Kent I have encountered several clergy treatments of illegitimate children's baptisms.
It is a rare treatment to describe a child born out of wedlock as " a come-by-chance" but on 25 January 1690/1 John Green was baptised and is so described in the baptismal entry.
The register in earlier and later years applies the terms "base born" and bastard child but I appreciate an entry in an earlier period which is in Latin to conceal the child's status. Familiarity with nuanced Latin identifying both parents and illegitimacy would ensure that no parishioner would be able to read the entry!
I also encountered how clergy unfamiliar with a strong local pronunciation could render George as "Jarg" and produce Mare for Mary  and Haner for Hannah in 1690's Farnborough. This period results in some well established surnames in the parish and register undergoing variation in spelling  Budgen becomes Budging; Jeale becomes Jail .
Hopefully the transcript presentation at Kent Online Parish Clerks in due course will aid searchers to locate families despite such challenges.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2018

Friday, 12 January 2018

Farnborough Kent Composite Register 1749-1812

My email correspondents have recently queried why their Downe ancestor was not buried in the churchyard at Downe;invariably my answer has included burials in nearby parishes and recent answers were found in the Churchyard at Farnborough.
This lead me to the Composite Register which broadly covers the years from 1752-1912. The register is not capable of being digitally scanned and evaded the Genealogical Society of Utah filming at Bromley in the 1970's. It is preserved in two paper conservators ring bound volumes which contain the fragmentary pages in protective covers which are sealed and stitched.

The history of this volume has been pieced together from various sources. In the late 1890's to 1903 it was handled in the parish by antiquarian Henry Wilson who lived at Farnborough Lodge. In 1903 he completed a foreword for a book entitled the Parish Registers of Farnborough which was printed and published in 1904 and which he is designated as editor. Henry Wilson died in 1908 and a large gravestone remains in the churchyard of  Farnborough Saint Giles the Abbot.
Henry describes the volume he handled as " 168 pages of parchment 12 and three quarter inches by 7 inches and bound in rough calf. It has marriages from 1752 to 1791 and at the other end marriages from 1792 to 1800. It also includes christenings from 1749 to 1812 and burials from 1792 to 1800."
Between 1903 and its arrival in 1974 at Bromley Archive the designated Diocesan Record Office for Bromley Borough Anglican parishes the volume was subject to fire and water damage. It was handed to the Maidstone Record Office when it left the parish and returned in 1978 for recovery and conservation. Although I have searched for any record of a fire at the Church and made enquiries of Farnborough residents; when and where this volume was damaged eludes me. The Kent Record Office at Maidstone included a paper conservater who took all steps to conserve the pages. The cover of the volume did not survive and conservation decisions omit any blank pages. The sequence of the entries in the original format has not been maintained so searches are complicated. Henry Wilson's transcript published in 1904 follows the entry sequence of the original and describes intervening marriage entries in both Baptism and Burial page sequences. As the burials were located largely at the end of the volume they are particularly affected by fire damage. Burial entries from 1801 to 1812 survive and I have been able to locate and transcribe them all but heat and water have curled both sides of the pages which means dates are complicated due to curling and shrinkage. The conservation treatment has also resulted in sorting pages in a sequence which is anything but chronological and Henry Wilson's page descriptions are useful in showing the undamaged volume sequence. There are gaps in  the recording of the original register for the burial sequence and therefore some years are missing.
I have found Henry Wilson's transcript to have one or two surname errors and date errors but these are less than 1%  of the total.
The sequence of christening entries owes its inconsistency to the original record keeping and is further complicated by treatment by the conservation. The condition of pages for the baptismal sequences in both of the two surviving conservation volumes are better than those for burials and with only a handful of entries is there any difficulty. Although difficult to search for an individual these pages will benefit from computer handling to sort the data into alphabetical order for publication on the Kent Online Parish Clerks Farnborough parish page in due course.
Henry Wilson also encountered a gap between 1624 and 1660 for entries and found at  the mother parish of Chelsfield that Farnborough entries omitted from the earliest Composite register for the parish. The Chelsfield content includes marriages from 1538 to 1557 and many entries which largely fill the gap from 1624-1660 although entiries are incomplete in the later years of this period.
Despite the helpfulness of the Henry Wilson register the original publication is only available in photocopy form at the Society of Genealogists and the Bromley Historical Collections photocopy of the Society's photocopy suffers from the method of photocopying a bound volume.
It is hoped that work on the surviving record will enable online searchers to locate entries which are time consuming to locate in the original. Searching the volume for a single entry can take up to one hour research time so that an easy search for surnames will benefit many people who do not have access to Bromley Historical Collections.
I have found the challenge of the transcription rewarding. The inclusion of detail of cause of death after 1800 quite moving in several cases. I am once again reminded of the frequency of death by waggons running over people or ponds being site of drowning or suicide.
The Baptisms were originally added at head or foot of pages otherwise filled by marriage entries with witness signatures. There are several severely damaged pages which refer to marriages which are now virtually lost;however Henry Wilson could clearly read the entries and this helps overcome some problems. The Marriage entries are chaotically placed out of chronological sequence as Wilson found before the record was damaged. Baptismal entries on marriage pages are many years different from the dates of marriages and there is one whole page recording the  Whiffen children a large family with wide date range.
I'm grateful to Bromley Historic Collections for access to these two conservation folders which are close to being unable to be handled and have a sense that few people have handled them since 1974-1978 when they came to Bromley. The register serves as a reminder how close we can come to losing records vital to family historians for significant periods of history.
My transcripts are now online at Kent Online Parish Clerks Farnborough parish page.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Earliest Farnborough Kent parish registers

The earliest entries for the parish of Farnborough are in fact found in the mother Church of Saint Martin of Tours at Chelsfield. This church which was separated from the village in the twentieth century served a very large area and Farnborough was originally a chapel of ease with a rector of both places.
It is wonderful to reflect on over 900 years of Christian Worship at Saint Martin's and although unusual for such old records to remain in the parish rather than be deposited at the designated Diocesan Archve I was able to visit the vestry to examine the record. I will return to comment on the record and transcript shortly but wanted to comment on Chelsfield parish church which is an open church such a rarity in these days. It is a place of peace quiet and spirituality which also serves many age groups in the village.
There is an unusual survival in the north wall of the church a squint window which was probably a Hagioscope or leper squint to enable a seated view of the elevation of the host at eucharist.  The parish register for Chelsfield and neighbouring parishes (including Farnborough) record various diseases as fatal to groups of residents from the early years of the 16th century onwards and since the church was mentioned in the Textus Roffensis in 1122 A.D. it does seem that the squint window was built into the north wall from an early age.
Chelsfield also contains and celebrates Brass Crosby who in 1771 as Chief magistrate released a prisoner who dared to publish parliamentary proceedings and was subsequently imprisioned in the Tower of London himself. He was released and subsequently Hansard was published as a daily record of Parliamentary proceedings. Brass married the Church and a memorial to him is on the north wall of the Church.
To return to the record for Farnborough bound in the volume of Chelsfield, let me first say that the record has used a vellum deed as an external cover and been bound to the deed. I did not attempt to read the deed as it is awkward to do so but the last Farnborough entries are on a fold of the deed inside what is the rear cover of the bound pages. Since the early Downe parish register was also bound in similar fashion it is an interesting coincidence particularly as in Downe we have an entry which records roughly the month and year of this treatment.
There are signs of pages affected by dampness and with water stains and handling of some page edges has resulted in their loss but in most surviving years it is possible to offer a transcript. Some names and dates have been lost. For those searching for Farnborough records prior to 1558 the earliest entry in the Farnborough Composite Register deposited at Bromley Historic Collections reference P/144/1/1 and searching for the missing years in that register this transcript will provide some answers.
1538 saw the introduction of the parish register and at first King Henry VIII's measure was feared as a means of taxation. The retention of the register at Chelsfield reflects the old parish church and Rector and status of Farnborough as a chapel of ease. The creation of a Farnborough register in 1558 which remained in that church reflecting "the parishe Churche of Farnborowe". In 1552 The Kings inspectors visited Farnborough and declared it to be free of "Popish" items and had not disposed illegally of any items effectively giving the parish and Churchwardens John Lambe and George Marshall a clean bill of health. The required three yearly inspection has been carried out to the present day although it is the duty of the local Rural Dean to inspect these days.
Farnborough was a combined benefice with Chelsfield and the Rector usually resided in Chelsfield. A curate was responsible for Farnborough. On the death of the third rector from the family of George Smiths to serve as rector during the Commonwealth period (1640-1660) Parliament installed John Montague as rector of Farnborough and Robert Miller at Chelsfield. In 1660 Robert Miller became Rector of the Joint Benefice resuming it's relation with its patron. In 1751  All Souls College Oxford became patron of the joint benefice The retention of a record at Chelsfield enables many years of usual gap in parish records to be covered although to what extent this constitues a complete record we will never know.
My transcript is now online at the Kent Online Parish Clerks Farnborough Parish page.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2018

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Lieutenant Geoffrey Saxton White VC

Occasionally in my emails I receive thanks for some transcript entries made in recent years and published online at Kent Online Parish Clerks.
Recently enquiries were made and research undertaken in order to establish a memorial plaque to Lieutenant White as Victoria Cross recipient who was born in Bromley on 2 July 1886.
He was baptised at Saint Peter and Saint Paul Bromley Parish Church on 23 October 1886 son of William Henry White whose occupation is recorded as a Civil Servant and his wife Alice. The Baptismal entry in the transcript at Kent Online Parish Clerks website provided the crucial identification of the the family home needed to locate a commemorative plaque for a Victoria Cross recipient.
Although he is commemorated on Panel 28 Column 3 of the Portsmouth Naval Memorial in Hampshire since he has no known grave the recognition of his Bromley birth will be significant.
His family did not reside long in Bromley and Geoffrey entered naval service on 15 May 1901 and was found to be a promising naval Cadet advancing to Midshipman in December 1903 Assistant Sub- Lieutenant in February 1906 and Sub-Lieutenant on 15 February 1906. He became a Lieutenant on 1 October 1908 and on 1 May 1909 went to Forth for Submarine training. His service record comments on his abilities and "zeal and very good way of working the ship's company who work well under him".
In 1915 and 1916 he was based at Maidstone and attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander on 1 October 1916. His service record also records that he was married on 26 June 1911.

On 28 January 1918 when in command of  HM Submarine E 14 in the Dardanelles,he was ordered to locate the German battle cruiser "Goeber" reported aground. Unable to locate her,he came across another enemy ship which he torpedoed but detonation of the torpedo damaged E14 forcing her to surface. The submarine was damaged by shellfire and he decided to ground the submarine to give his crew chance of safety. He himself remained on deck until killed by a shell.
The London Gazette of 23 May 1919 contains the Admiralty record of the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross. An image of him can be found on the Memorials to valour web page.
The torpedo fired from E14 detonated 11 seconds after it left the submarine's tube and burst open the forehatch of the submarine. Initial shelling from forts on both sides failed to damage the submarine and E14 then dived and sought a way out but "the boat became out of control,and as the air supply was limited was nearly exhausted,Leutenant Commander White decided to run the risk of proceeding on the surface. Heavy fire was immediately opened from both sides,and after running the gauntlet for over half-an-hour,being steered from below,E14 was so badly damaged that Lietanant Commander White turned towards shore in order to give the crew a chance of being saved. He remained on deck the whole time himself until he was killed by a shell."
E14 was a unique submarine in naval history as two Victoria Crosses were awarded to her crew;images of her and details of her wreck location are found  in the Daily Telegraph article.
Lieutenant Commander White was killed om 28 January 1918 age 31.
I look forward to the Bromley commemoration of his gallantry and it seem fitting today to remember his Bromley baptismal anniversary.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Cudham Kent Baptisms and Burials Composite register 1763-1800

Over the years as Downe Online Parish Clerk I have had regular contact from frustrated searchers trying to locate entries in Cudham the adjacent parish to Downe. I soon encountered the anarchy of the preserved record prior to 1800.
I have spent a good deal of time examining the Composite Register volume for the years 1763-1800 to prepare a transcript which will be simple to search. Along the way I have encountered some woeful record keeping.
My transcript of the Banns and Marriages register at Kent Online Parish Clerks is already available online and hints at the problems facing the searcher. It also demonstrates the simple search enabled by the transcriber.
Since the Reverend Thomas Browne Curate at Cudham created anarchy in the marriage register with up to three attempts at spelling a surname and frequent errors (often concealed by an inkblot smear) it was not a suprise to discover that the Composite register of baptisms and burials was a challenge.
The granting of permission to microfilm this volume only narrowly given by the Parochial Church Council and lead to Genealogical Society of Utah microfilming. In this volume the collection of images is incomplete (as in another volume of burials). Many of my correspondents had experienced grave difficulty with microfilm as a search method. Before the volume was handled by microfilming operator Bromley Archive had numbered in pencil each sheet in the bound volume. I believe that the string bound volume with loose sheets may have been bound circa 1880. On archive page 5 following two blank sheets the register directory reads:
"The entries begin at this side in 1763 and are written on right hand pages to the middle of the book and there end in 1783. The entries begin at the other side on page 14 and writing on both sides but in some interleaved with burials and end in 1800".
I have been unable to establish where the "page 14" is in the surviving record and this Directory omits to mention the two marriage entries found in the volume. One of these is entered in the Marriage register and included in my transcript but when you reach the rear of the bound sheets and turn the volume over to continue to search for Baptisms a single sheet contains a marriage entry with spouses signatures and four witness signatures. Within the archive numbered page 103 are the following marriage entry and two added private baptisms at Cudham Lodge in 1788 and 1790 of STRINGER children.
On 22 October 1788 the marriage of John MONK and Mary TILDEN both of Cudham parish was conducted by Curate Robert Fegan;both spouses sign the single sheet and the marriage was conducted by licence so no entry is found in the banns book. The four witnesses are Thomas TILDEN Elizabeth HILL Alice MONK  and Ann JEWSON.
It appears to me in examing the whole record that the random mixture of a marriage and private baptisms on a single sheet reflects the casual approach to the record which is predominantly the work of Thomas Browne whose longevity as a rural curate does not indicate stellar performance as part of his career in the parish. The record includes entries omitted by him (mentioned by name) presumably to reflect to the compiler of the Bishop's Transcript who was at fault. It is also clear that he was responsible for many surname variant spellings and errors perhaps reflecting poor penmanship. The supply of quills and the poor quality ink used in Cudham poses an additional problem as several entries are so faint as to be barely legible although the sheets have not needed paper conservation in their decades in archival conservation. I included a warning about his Marriage register entries which have been found to err greatly as to surname spellings and this volume also reflects this problem.
The burial entries indicate that the Curate was responsible for the parish Workhouse inmates at Leaves Green and private baptisms at Aperfield Cudham Lodge and the farms at the extremities of the seven mile long parish. The Workhouse burials occur in the 1780's and this appears to date the opening of the parish workhouse It is clear that the record was not immediately entered as entries for different years appear and the sheets are not in chronological sequence in the binding. The two hands for some years and separation of entries suggest that vicar and curate kept separate sheets.
I would caution any searcher for family that the surviving and conserved record may therefore be incomplete and inaccurate for names and dates because there are entries which revert to use of the Gregorian calendar month which seem implausible within content on an individual page.
The burial entries are now online at Kent Online Parish Clerks.
I hope that the many hours spent sifting this record will emulate the Banns and Marriage transcript in simple search when the final preparation of data for online parish publication by Kent Online Parish Clerks and that searchers will have a simpler experience.
In responding to correspondence an average look up in this record has taken up to an hour to locate an entry when a year of birth was known. The transcript will hopefully save searchers a good deal of time.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Day in the Bromley Union Workhouse

"And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that truly be said of us,and all of us." -Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

Any consideration of Christmas Day in the Workhouse of Bromley Union must consider the example of Charles William Gedney a Union Guardian.
In 1927 he died pacefully in his sleep in early January shortly after he had organised his 57th year of Christmas Day celebrations for the inmates of the Workhouse.
This year round activity involved securing donations from the public of the parishes of The Union to make the hundreds of men women and children unfortunate enough to be inmates at Christmas feel something of Christmas.
The staff of the Workhouse and their families were also recruited to the cause and donations of decorations and large amounts of evergreens from various estates in the district were put to use to decorate the chapel, wards of the Infirmary and day rooms throughout the site. The dining hall was heavily decorated throughout the beamed ceiling.
Gedney ensured toys for each child which he distributed whilst the men would be offered very acceptable tobacco and the women packets of sugar and tea.
Most Workhouses received such gifts but Bromley is exceptional in that one Guardian took responsibility for so many decades. His sons had grown up spending their Christmas Day as a family giving their time to those in need and in support of their father's work.
Christmas Dinner was nearly always reported in local newspapers and consisted of roast beef and roast pork, mutton and plum pudding. Alcohol was not provided but Mister Gedney always secured mineral water donated by a local company.
In the evening musical and other entertainments were organised with visitor musicians and singers to entertain.
Mister Gedney usually received a traditional vote of thanks from The Master of the Workhouse and would make a short speech of thanks. Occasionally in some years he prevailed upon the Chair of the Board of Guardians to appear.
In 1908 he was able to make a speech and appreciate the introduction of old age pensions. Initially the pension of five shillings a week from 1 January 1909 was not available to those in receipt of poor law relief. Mister Gedney suggested that were 5 shillings a week available to relatives many elderly residents of the Workhouse over 70 years of age would find home with family members.(From 1 January 1911 those over 70 years of age in receipt of Poor Law Relief  were adopted into the scheme and Act of 1908).
Bromley Union had prior to this had a larger than average number of inmates over 70 and had a reputation of an enlarged Infirmary and improved accommodation for children from 1909. Gedney's prediction proved accurate as the number of people over 70 fell throughout the remainder of his years as a Guardian.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017