Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Old Bell Inn Bromley

As the Bromley Arts and Community Initive (BACI) continues to gather support and funding, my mind has turned to Bromley Archive to look at the original Inn and it's place in Bromley's history.
After several months I have gathered together threads about the site. The history of the current building is relatively easy to research but to place the original in the context of Bromley as a market town close to London (many of the City's population came to Bromley) is more elusive.
The parish registers contain some clues and other records are associated with the Inn.
In the burial register for 1652 there are two mentions of the burials of the Gyles brothers,sons of Daniell Gyles of "the belle".
We later have records of the Wilson family who from 1773 until 1822 were Master of the posting house. James Wilson and then his widow and family all acted as landlords;during this time the Beefsteak Club was formed in Bromley and many notable gentry characters united in a love of sport met there.
The Wilsons were succeeded from 1823 to 1845 by James Painter Davis and his daughter. Davis was an enthusiastic cricketer. His daughter Mary Ann Davis took over when he moved to Farningham until 1845 when she left. Horsburgh describes her leaving  to fulfil an appointment as housekeeper to the Lord Mayor of London at the Mansion House but there appears to be no documentary evidence to support Horsburgh's account.From 1846 until it's demolition and rebuilding in 1897 it was run by William Sutton and his family. The neighbouring bakers shop in Market Square was also demolished and the site was incorporated in the rebuilding of the Royal Bell Hotel that we see today.
Before the coming of the railway to the town Bromley was something of a rural market town some 12 miles from London. It is often described as such but it had a constant passage of horse drawn traffic between London, Tunbridge Wells and Hastings.
The Bell and another Bromley Inn, the White Hart grew to serve this traffic and the local population. The stage coach service between London and Tunbridge Wells and onward to Hastings had need of a staging point in the town and the Bell and White Hart could stable up to 100 horses for  travellers.
Two coaches a day left Bromley at 9 a.m. in the summer or 7-30 a.m. in winter. One coach travelled to the Boars Head Fleet Street the other for the Spread Eagle,Gracechurch Street.Over time additional stage coaches added to the service with two to Charing Cross and an additional coach to Gracechurch Street until the railway arrived in the town.
In addition there were two local daily carrier carts to London and these are recorded as late as 1884. Consequently the Bell found fame and Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice has Lady Catherine de Bourgh recommend to Elizabeth that she change horses at the  Bell.
There are also references to death's of those accommodated at the Bell overnight in the parish register and adjacent to the Market Square. It was also popular for travellers at market days and the ancient Fair days. Bromley although rural has a surviving 1801 census with a total population of 2,700 (including schools and Bromley College which housed widows and families of deceased clergy). Bromley's population of permanent residents hardly increased over decades.
Bromley has for centuries been a place for Romany and other travelling families and the parish registers record substantial burials of traveller  families who were a feature of Bromley Common and seasonal fruit pickers and agricultural workers can be found to move through and work the land.
 One cause for increase in population was the attraction of permanent residence to be under the care and supervision of Mister James Scott who until retirement in 1829 to Clay Hill had become renowned as a surgeon specialising in diseased joints and ulcerated hips. He had succeeded Mister Bagshaw in his medical practice in Bromley. Thus the town attracted patients and residents and there is a notable decline in population after his retirement. "Scotts Coaches" brought patients from all over the country to the practice.
The Bell became "Royal" when royal coaches began to change horses there and in this respect it came to attract a different clientele to it's companion the White Hart.
Bromley had resident ostlers and stage coach men and traffic between nearby "Croyden" and between Bromley Bishop's Palace and Rochester was also undertaken. The initial passenger bus services between the town and outlying villages and parishes like Keston, Downe and Cudham were horse drawn and necessary to connect to the rail services which developed after the 1850's when the town rapidly expanded to occupy the land to the south and east along Bromley Common and north to created the need for a branch railway line to Bromley North.
Copyright (c) Henry Mantell 2013

Friday, 27 December 2013

Old John of Bromley Common and the Long Island USA murder

I am grateful for the Reverend Henry Smith D.D. who from 1785-1818 was Vicar of Bromley Saint Peter and Saint Paul and maintained detailed registers. Reverend Smith provides detailed footnotes and biographical details for several burial register entries.
Old John spent a large part of his life serving the households of the Norman family and resided at Bromley Common.
However as Reverend Smith describes John Reynolds was born in the USA and was a fugitive from that country for the murder of an Custom House officer at Long Island. He died aged 85 in 1797.
John Reynolds was buried by the Reverend Smith on 26 November 1797 in the churchyard of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Bromley as at that time Bromley Common was within the Ancient Parish. The Reverend Smith records:
"This man was a servant to James Norman Esquire of Bromley Common and afterwards his son George Norman. He was by birth an American who left that country for murdering a Custom House offical at Long Island. He had been in the family many years and was allowed his weekly wages to the day of his death."
George Norman lived at the Rookery Bromley Common and the Norman family had originally occupied a tenancy of the house from Thomas Chase from about 1755. James Norman purchased the property and land of 37 acres on 8 February 1765 and subsequently James Norman and his son George employed John Reynolds.George Norman was a prominent businessman in London trading in timber with Norway where he had large holdings. The Norman family were Treasurers of Bromley College; five members of the family acted in that capacity from 1776 for over 150 years.
Clearly his employers knew of his flight from America and since it is openly recorded that he had murdered a Custom House Officer presumably two generations of the Norman family were aware of this. The Norman family were one of the most influential families in Bromley. George Norman had been resolutely opposed to the enclosure of Bromley Common which became enclosed by Act of Parliament dated 6 April 1821,over 60 years after the initial enclosure Act of 1764.
I would be delighted to receive any further information from the USA on John Reynolds life before he came to England as a fugitive. No doubt the Declaration of Independence offered John Reynolds some protection in England.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Bromley Coroner's verdicts of Felo de se

On 16 May 1809 one William Goldsmith alias Smith was buried on Shooting Common near the sign post . He had been committed from Bromley to Dartford for the theft of "Beetle and Wedges" from Mister Bonner at Chislehurst. The Beetle and Wedges were tools used for log splitting to create firewood.
Before he could be committed and whilst he was detained in the town Cage in the eponymous Cage Field, he hung himself in the Cage on 16 May 1809. The Cage was the town Lock up and had recently been constructed to form two spaces to lock up detainees and was open to the elements. The present East and West Streets stand on Cage Field which was close to Market Square and was largely at that time a field of corn. The Bromley Town fire pump was housed in the adjacent shed and these two buildings were the only buildings on the Bromley edge of Cage Field.
The suicide in the cage lead the Bromley Coroner to record a verdict of Felo de se.
This archaic term meaning literally "Felon of himself" referred to suicide and had the effect of making the victim a felon prior to the nineteenth century movement to consider suicide a mental health condition. In this case in Bromley the internment conformed to the tradition of burial at a crossroads often at midnight with no mourners or clergy present and no rites observed. There is no record whether the body in this case had the traditional stake driven through it. The exceptions were suicides of children or mentally incompetent persons.
In 1824 the law relating to interment was repealed and amended and in 1882 the Interments (felo de se) Act 1882 and the coroners verdict of non compus mentis became more common due to the trend to view suicide as a mental health issue affecting human behaviour. Victorian mental health legislation also influenced the elimination of the use of the term.
However this passed by the Bromley Coroner who returned a verdict of Felo de se in 1906 and conforming to the 1882 Interments Act the parish register of Bromley Common Holy Trinity records the internment in a burial plot close to the West wall of the Church of "Man Unknown, about 45, suicide by poison found in Oakley Road, no service held verdict of Coroner's Jury Felo de Se". The burial plot is numbered 772 on the burial ground map. The transcript of this burial is available at Kent Online Parish Clerks .
The Coroner's verdict is perverse not only due to repeal but the verdict of non compus mentis had been in use for over 100 years locally and nationally. Quite why the Coroner recorded such a verdict remains a mystery.
I wonder whether those passing along the modern A21 have any sense that to the side of the road lies the interred remains of William Goldsmith alias Smith.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Pimp Maker and Spile makers of Bromley Common

Bromley Common had a very few houses in the 1801 census which I transcribed earlier this year. John Dunkin,an author, wrote of only 25 houses on the Common and it's borders in 1815. However the transcripts of Bromley Common Holy Trinity which I have completed reflect the rapid growth in population after 1843. All Bromley Transcript material is available on a single page Bromley Kent Online Parish Clerks transcripts .
So we have a population occupying the Common land who are often travellers or inhabiting the wooded borders of the Common land as at Skim or Skym Corner; a hamlet since mediaeval times.
Our Pimp Maker is John Whitehead , whose son John is entered at Baptismal Register number 237 on 22 May 1853 and lives at Bromley Common. The large group of Whiteheads on the Common and particularly at Skym Corner are descendants of the Chelsfield Whiteheads.
The Pimp maker or Spile Maker is also found in some census entries as a Bavin maker. In wooded areas, particularly on Commons, the collection of firewood bundles often called spiles or bavins could provide a lucrative income when sold to householders or inns in the town.
In the 1873 marriage of William Johnson and his bride Louisa Bowers the groom's occupation is recorded as a Shine and Spile Maker.
The wooded areas of the common supported rural crafts as many traveller families made a range of wooden items and other occupations include basket making.
The Common was home for part of the year at least to many Romany and traveller families. Bromley Racecourse also attracted other local families who travelled with fairgound rides and are connected with other traveller families in Kent and Surrey.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Kent Online parish Clerks Hearth Tax transcripts

As Online Parish Clerk for Downe I am grateful to have Susan D. Young's transcript of the Hearth Tax available online on the Downe Parish page Downe Hearth Tax .
The Hearth Tax was levied between 1662 and 1689 during the rule of Charles II and was intended to support the restoration of the monarchy and in particular to fund the expenses of the Royal Household from 1660 when the monarchy was restored after the period of the Commonwealth.
It had historic precedents but was a novelty in Britain. In simple terms the advantage of levying a charge on hearths or stoves was great compared to attempting a per capita tax.
One Shilling was to be paid for every fire hearth or stove in all houses,dwellings, lodgings or edifices and was payable twice yearly on Michaelmas and Lady Day (29 September and 25 March respectively). The original Bill allowed no exemptions but amended legislation introduce exemptions:

  • Those not paying Poor Rate or Church rates
  • Private ovens,furnaces,kilns or blowing houses
  • Those with assets worth less than 10 pounds sterling.
  • Those inhabiting a house,tenement or land worth less than twenty Shillings (one pound) rent per annum.
  • Hospitals and almshouses where revenue was less than £ 100 per annum.
From the simple idea which was conceived as a tax on the larger householder the result of the 1662 collection fell short of expectation. From 1663 the responsibility of assessing every person whether liable or not was to be included.
The Hearth Tax is therefore a property Tax record which reflects the size of property and those in exempt categories adds further detail about the household circumstances.
The Downe Hearth Tax 1664 reflects the small settlement and parish. The receivers of the tax were assisted by sub-collectors and in Downe by the petty-Constable Robert Ownsted, who is himself exempt. Exemption had to be obtained from a minister,churchwarden or Overseer of the Poor and 2 Justices of the Peace.
The tax became bureaucratic and unpopular and was repealed when the Catholic Stuart James II was forced to flee for his life and the new Parliament repealed the Act in 1689 when William and Mary on accession signed the repeal Law.
I know from my inbox that the Downe transcript is valuable to those searching ancestors in the village for this period. Once a neglected record Hearth Tax Returns have in the last 40 years become a focus of greater importance to historians and researchers.
The Centre for Hearth Tax Research is based at the University of Roehampton,London.
I follow the Centre's excellent blog Hearth Tax Online  whose current blog post features the award winning "flythrough" of the Pudding Lane area of London with a  Hearth Tax return for comparison.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

John Lubbock 1st Baron Avebury

I have been entertained for several years by one of my favorite bloggers Footnote Maven whose Genealogy blog Footnote Maven became the beginning of a transatlantic friendship and I have been entertained to read of a household which revolves around an i pad using feline.
As the Downe Kent Online Parish Clerk I have transcribed parish registers and other material. The High Elms Estate was acquired by Sir John William Lubbock 3rd Baronet  and when Charles Darwin moved to Down House he became a close friend of the Lubbock family. By the time he discovered Charles and Emma Darwin were to acquire Down House, Lubbock's estate was over 3,000 acres and included land adjacent to Down House. Darwin was to acquire this land and plant woodland and lay out his favourite walk for contemplation.
John Lubbock his eldest son was born in 1834 and sent to Eton but was denied a University education by his father. He became one of the youngest friends of Darwin who bought him a microscope and encouraged his study of science. However his father insisted that he enter the family banking firm (later merged with Coutts & Co.) but despite his banking career he developed lifelong interest in evolutionary science (mentored by Darwin), archaeology and biology. He achieved eminence in each of these fields as well as in banking and politics. He also organised race meetings on the High Elms Estate which attracted 40,000 race goers. The land now occupied by a golf course was used for horse racing;hard to imagine from the present day land use.
To describe John Lubbock as eccentric would be an understatement! The man who later entered politics brought to the British Holidays of Christmas Day and Good Friday the addition of a Bank Holiday in August.
He moved in 1861 to "Lammas" on the Camden Park Estate in Chislehurst where he acquired a black cocker spaniel  puppy called Van.  Convinced that his puppy was as intelligent as a child and using a 10 inch piece of cardboard inscribed with the word "Food" which covered the empty dog feeding bowl, Van had to bring the card to his master to be fed. Convinced that he was able to read Lubbock soon introduced "Water" "Bone","Tea" and "Out" to his pet's supposed vocabulary. He fared less well with attempts to teach counting to the dog! Attempts to educate his wife's pet collie failed totally perplexing him. The death of Van led Lubbock to adopt a pet ape who he claimed talked to him.
His study of bees lead to the introduction of a bee hive inside his sitting room at High Elms House close to an open window to allow exit and entry. This gave him opportunity to observe colony activity night and day. In the same room he had an ant colony ;he is credited with the scientific discovery that ants are sensitive to the near ultraviolet range of the electromagnetic spectrum. He marked ants with coloured paints and even named them. He is probably the only privy Council member in history to have had a parliamentary box occupied by ferrets! He had them originally in a sack but they escaped to the consternation of passengers on the railway and he placed them amongst his parliamentary papers only to discover them destroyed.
"Earth and sky,woods and fields,lakes and rivers,the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters and teach some of  us more than we can ever learn from books".
Lubbock entered politics and successfully enacted The Bank Holidays Act 1871 and the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882 along with another 28 Acts of Parliament. He adopted Avebury in his title due to his efforts to conserve the ancient monument and is credited with introducing the terms "Paleolithic" and "Neolithic" to the worlds of archaeology and science. The terms are found in his book "Pre-Historic Times as illustrated by ancient remains,and the customs of modern savages." He was elected to Parliament for the Maidstone constituency and later for London University, and London County Council. His other enactments included regulation of working hours and public libraries. He was also an advocate of proportional representation and was a founder of the Electoral Reform Society.
Lubbock opened his home in Camden Park to the rising scientific men of his day known as "The X Club" promoting theories of natural selection and academic liberalism. Whereas in his lifetime Darwin used the term transmutation commonly to describe his evolutionary theory as a series of  random and accidental variations;Lubbock,Huxley and Spencer developed a model of evolution which is much more ordered and progressive than that envisaged by Darwin himself. This model of evolution is that which is widely accepted today.
In Downe itself Darwin and Lubbock were patrons of the school room. They wished to open the room to labourers on winter evenings as a reading room. This was opposed by the Reverend George Sketchley Finden but Lubbock prevailed. Lubbock said,
"A wise system of education will at last teach us how little man yet knows,how much he has till to learn"
Within banking Lubbock introduced the concept of cheque clearing so that the country man could have his cheque cleared equally with his city counterpart ; we owe to him the public Library system and without him Bank Holidays would not exist.
Now almost forgotten John Lubbock eccentricities aside contributed a great deal to banking. To read more see Wikipedia entry

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Challenging Disability :November John Langdon Down

I am in Surrey this year during November and unable to participate in any of the Challenging Disability events which are part of UK Disability History Month; see UKDHM website . As you may gather from earlier blog entries I became a genealogist before I was involved in caring for those with learning difficulty and mental health problems so my two disciplines were intertwined; both my knowledge of mental health legislation and genealogical and historical interest in attitudes to those within earlier centuries. I live not far from the Beckenham site of The Bethlem Royal Hospital and Bethlem Gallery and the Bethlem Heritage Museum and Archive.
So as a personal blog from Surrey my personal thoughts turned to Surrey and the life of John Langdon Haydon Down (18 November 1828-7 October 1896). He became the first medical Practitioner to describe the condition of what later became known as Down's Syndrome.
Originally he came to London to study and work as a scientist and began work as a surgeon since he was unable to develop his organic chemistry into work. In 1853 he studied medicine at the Royal London Hospital where with distinction he graduated in 1856 at the Apothecaries Hall and College of Surgeons. To the astonishment of colleagues in 1858 he was appointed Medical Superintendent at Earlswood Surrey at what was then termed the Earlswood Asylum for Idiots. Down entered one of the most neglected and despised areas of medical practice; turning away from confidently predicted election to the staff of the Royal London Hospital. He was to advance his medical qualification and retained his links with the Royal London Hospital whilst reforming Earlswood and developing understanding of those with severe learning difficulties.
He was through his work to identify different groups of learning difficulty able to refute the proponents of negro slavery in the Southern states during the American Civil War that racial difference was a cause of disability.
He was also for his time a strong advocate of higher education for women refuting by his work on diagnostic classification that to do so would produce off spring with learning difficulties.
He set up a private home at Normansfield,Surrey for the "mentally subnormal" and the impact of his work continued at Normansfield by his two sons after his death was hugely influential in reforms of legislation relating to people with both learning difficulties and mental health problems in the emergence of mental health Acts. Normansfield is now Langdon Down Museum and is a Grade II listed building. There is associated with the work of the museum Langdown Down Museum Oral History Project . The former Normansfield Hospital is now headquarters to the Down's Syndrome Association.
I can think of no better person to connect to UK Disability History Month than the life's work than John Langdon Haydon Down, one of the pioneers of Disability awareness.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The earliest parish register of Downe,Kent

The earliest of the registers of Downe is a 74 page volume, measuring thirteen inches by five and a half, 54 pages of vellum parchment with the last twenty of paper. It is roughly stitched with string, by way of binding, into a parchment sheet which is part of an old deed. This deals with a debt and consequent transactions between ' the said Anthony ' and ' the said Israeli', Sale of Wapping, distiller, and a Mr. John Johnstone. One of the parties seems to have lived in the parish of the Blessed Mary of Bow in the ward of Cheap. This document shows no  evidence of any connexion with the parish of Downe although a Lieutenant Colonel Johnson, who inhabited Down House may have kept this record of an ancestor and donated it to bind the register. The latest date visible in the deed is 1650. The inclusion within the wrapper or binding of a list of clergy as late as 1874 ( the Induction of a domestic chaplain to Lord Carrington to the vicarage 2 November 1874) suggests that the whole register we now see as “The Downe Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials 1538-1733” at the Bromley Library and Archives under reference P132/1/8 was bound or rather rebound with the addition of a half page and clergy page later than the original register binding.
There is evidence of water damage, some pages are partly holed before ink entries were added as the writing avoids the hole; whereas the page with Baptisms for 1564 and on reverse for 1574 and 1575 have missing part word entries. It is however possible to read sufficiently to offer transcripts for the two baptisms in “Anno Domini 1574”
The period of the Civil Wars and Commonwealth was one of ecclesiastical anarchy, which seriously affected parish registers.  (In 1640 a Committee was appointed to deal with scandalous ministers, that is, with the Clergy who were loyal to Church and King).
Refusal to take the Covenant caused the ejection of many clergymen in 1643 and afterwards. New ministers, often undesirable persons, were imposed upon many parishes, and in 1653 civil registrars were ordered to be appointed, and marriages to take place before justices of the peace. All these conditions came to an end with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 ; meanwhile, the system of parish registers had fallen into confusion if not into neglect.
There were curates at Downe during part at least of this troubled period. No appointment appears between those of Nicholas Peirson in 1589 and Thomas Emerson in 1646. Emerson was followed by Kinge in 1650, and then by George Bradshaw in 1654. The next is Philip Jones in 1672.
Actually, the disorder of the Downe registers extends over a longer period than that of 1640-60. The entries of baptisms are not completely interrupted, except in 1646-8, for any period longer than a year; but there are only fifty-one of them in twenty-two years. Marriages are not registered from 1640 to 1653, nor burials from 1641 to the same year. From 1654 George Bradshaw made some entries in his own hand until 1664. But another and quite literate hand made most of the few baptismal entries over the whole period from 1638 to 1663, apparently at one time, and this may represent an attempt to collect the names of those who at the end of the Commonwealth were not unbaptized. Again from 1665 there is a lapse in the marriage entries until 1671, and in those of burials until 1672. The year of the plague (1665-6) is not covered. Philip Jones resumed the proper keeping of the register in 1672.
The Mannings were the most distinguished of the earlier families of Downe. They are described by Edward Hasted to come from Mannheim in Saxony, and to have come to England before the Conquest. John Manning died in 1542. His eldest son, George, married in the following year, and his second son, Henry, some twelve years later. The third and fourth sons, John and Richard, lived and worked in London.
Henry Manning was Knight Marshal, or Marshal of the Household, under Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. The Downe parish register records that Margaret, one of Henry's daughters, was baptized on November 30, 1559, ' after ye Queene's visitacon'.
The entry of Margaret's baptism in 1559 is the last referring to Henry and his family in the Downe parish register until that of the death of his wife in 1596. He sold Downe Court in 1560, so that he presumably left Downe for Greenwich in that year. His widow may have come back to end her days at Downe, perhaps with her eldest son Henry, whom she made her executor and heir.
To access the Downe parish registers see Downe homepage Kent Online Parish Clerks
Copyright (c) Henry Mantell 2013

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Bromley Parish Register Burials in Woollen

My in box as an Online Parish Clerk contains many queries in the earlier parish registers for Bromley area parishes and the question arises why "burial in Woollen". I am currently working on the Bromley burial in Woolen  register from 1678-1778.
In 1666, Charles II signed into English law (Cha.II ch.4 1666) a law which required a corpse to be buried only in a shroud or clothing made of wool. In 1678 the original Act was repealed and the 1678 repeal Act remained in force until 1814. The original Act is explained here
Fear of importation threatened the woolen trade and Parliamentary constituencies involved in the wool trade led to the Acts. A failure to comply lead to a £5 Fine or seizure of goods to that value. The sale of seized goods was directed to the parish poor house and was to be used by the Church wardens and Commissioners of the poor to assist the destitute and any able bodied to be put to work. If a relative informed of non-compliance they received 50% of the fine money and this lead to abandonment of wool for other materials and non compliance.
The 1666 Act exempted plague burials and the Bromley Composite register from 1578-1677 includes the early operation of the Act. The 1678 Burial Register begins:
"A Register of Burials in the parish of Bromley in the County of Kent,according to an Act of Parliament in the 30th year of  His Majesty's reign and in the year 1678"
The Bromley Register has a column of dates of Burial and a column of dates of Affidavits. The Act required an affidavit to be obtained from the Mayor, Justices of the Peace or two creditable persons within 8 days of burial. The Bromley registers between 1678 and the mid 1690's demonstrate very few non compliant burials although infant burials have a burial date only. By the mid 1690's dates are no longer recorded but the affidavit column reflects the name of the person signing the affidavit. The affidavits were perhaps kept in the parish chest and many would not survive.
The Bromley register provides little evidence of non compliance and the clergy could organise signatures to comply in nearly all cases, named Doctors and Esquires exist in the Bromley register as well as clergy in the town including chaplain to Bromley College. In other parish registers I have experienced large non compliance and  I recall Alexander Pope in his Moral Essays Epistle 1 refers to the words of Mrs Narcissa Oldfield (an actress). Pope read of her burial in a Brussels lace headdress, a dutch lace embroidered shift and new kid gloves.
"Odious in woollen! 'twould a saint provoke!
(Were the last words that Narcissa spoke).
No let a charming chintz and Brussels lace
Wrap my cold limbs, and shade my lifeless face"
The transcript of this Bromley register is currently being compiled for online publication in 2014.
All of the transcripts for Bromley Parishes are gathered on one page at Kent Online Parish Clerks Bromley Transcripts
One feature of Bromley in the seventeenth century is the burial register record of  nurse children from London and the names of those nursing them (mainly male). These entries precede the foundation of the London Foundling Hospital of which the most authoritative writing is Anthony J.Camp MBE,BA (Hons) FAGP,FUGA,FAGRA contribution London Foundling Hospital:Reclaimed Foundlings This is consistent with the registers of nearby parishes like Keston with other nurses recorded in the burial registers.
Copyright (c) Henry Mantell 2013

Bethlem Heritage Blog

Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum blog this month draws attention to the work of an artist in a piece by Rebecca Olajide. Rebecca's piece appears in Bethlem Heritage blog November
It is a fascinating piece of art and indicates what hidden heritage Archives contain.

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Royal Bell Bromley

The Royal Bell is an ancient Inn site in Bromley close to the Parish Church and Market Square. The present building on the site is a grade two listed building and thanks to Amanda Hone and  other members of the Bromley Arts and Community Initiative (BACI) funding from Bromley Council has been given to enable them to engage in a wider consultation than their initial public meetings. Bromley Times contains news Bromley Times report.
I recently compared a water colour drawing of the rear of the Inn with a photographic image from the 1890's showing an attractive garden. The watercolour replicated in great detail the photograph which lead staff at the Archive and I to conclude it was painted from the image now in the Local studies image collection. 
Sadly the building's owners have not maintained the property.
Amanda created a Facebook page for BACI Campaign to Establish a Permanent Arts & Community Space in Bromley and I hope that this campaign brings back from endangered status one of Bromleys listed buildings.
The listed building entry British Listed Buildings refers to the 1666 original Royal Bell hostelry on the site and my transcription of the Bromley parish register contains references to the various family members for over 300 years before the present building was completed in 1898. The plague had been present in Bromley previously but the Great Plague year affected Bromley and the plague Field was on one side of the London Road to the north and opposite the gates of Bromley College.This was also founded in 1666 as a result of the will of John Warner Bishop of Rochester at a time when the Bishop of Rocester's Palace was in Bromley. The site of the Bishop's Palace was where the recent Bromley Civic Centre was constructed although it appears that part of this is intended to be sold for redevelopment in future.
The College was founded to provide housing for "twenty poore widowes of orthodoxe and loyal clergiemen";see Bromley and Sheppards Colleges 
I happen to know as a former colleague one of the trustees of Bromley and Sheppards Colleges, of the need to appeal for funds to maintain and conserve another part of Bromley's Heritage. The buildings which historically came from John Warners dispossesion of the Bishop's Palace during the Commonwealth period provided the foundation for housing generations of widows of Church of England clergy. As can be seen from the link this is another set of buildings seeking funding to maintain and conserve Bromley's heritage.
The Commonwealth period in the parish register merits a future blog in it's own right as it diminishes the parish record keeping for the period. It is possible to compare recorded burials pre and post Commonwealth gap to see how the town grew up in the period.
I look forward to seeing the building brought back to community use if the campaign is successful in negotiating purchase from the current owners before further damage takes place. There is a need for a central space for community use in Bromley and an Arts space; the ground floor could become a community public house.
As we at Kent Online Parish Clerks continue to publish parish material online in the year ahead we hope to support all those with an historical interest in the site's history and that of the current Royal Bell building.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Bexley Archive closure Part 2

It is now possible to locate information about the financial saving to be achieved by a proposal to close Bexley Archive which is situated at present in Bexleyheath. I can readily reach Bromley Archive by public transport but it is a challenge for me to reach Bexleyheath and involves several changes which reduces time for research. In short I don't use the Bexley Archive as it is impractical.
So for all researchers in Archives the transfer from Bexleyheath to Bromley will make it equally impractical for all but those residents in the Sidcup area who can catch a bus from Sidcup to Orpington;change and an onward bus to Bromley.
Bexley aim to save £41,000 in 2014/2015 by closing the Archive. This is one option of many others affecting a wide range of provision in that Borough.
I have for two years used Bromley Archive to transcribe material for 6 parishes in Bromley and will spend the next 14 months working to achieve a complete transcript of Bromley's Ancient Parish. Last week the first transcripts for Bromley appeared online and Kent Online Parish Clerks also offers Bromley Archive all completed transcript material. For the first time Bromley will have deposited transcripts for the rare 1801 Census and Birth,Marriage and Burials registers to 1918 for Bromley Common Holy Trinity as well as some volumes of burial registers.
For the professional genealogist or researcher in the Bromley Archive,family historian or volunteer transcriber,local resident,solicitor or anyone wishing to consult planning applications,Council minutes local maps or specialist collections (including H.G.Wells,Enid Blyton,Richmal Crompton and much more) what facilities now exist?
Bromley has no dedicated parking but has expensive parking for Archive Users. The nearest blue badge (maximum 3 hours) bays cater for just 4 vehicles and are provided for both The Library and Churchill Theatre and of course High Street shops and for 3 days a week the markets.General car parking at The Glades for the Archive user is expensive and other car parking is further afield. Many people resident in Bexley have difficult public transport links and therefore lack of parking seriously disadvantages researchers in archives. On a local note the Glades shopping Centre has developed a split personality as the company now owning it refer to it as Intu Bromley but Transport for London designate it the Glades!(Intu is a national brand for the owners who own several shopping centres)
Bromley Archive has no dedicated area for archival research. Researchers are seated on a gallery with high noise levels and only one table for archive use which lacks power points for laptops. General sessional computer use is alongside researcher use. Bromley lacks a quiet area for the handling of documents or an area exclusively for research in its own existing archives so how is it intended to meet these needs and cope with material from Bexley?
The existing equipment used for family history or general computer sessional use in this area has had a troubled year with equipment failures and most recently only one printer for both staff and users which is functioning.
I am grateful for the addition of a digital scanner which can provide on a daily Photographic fee of just over £10 sterling digital images from microfilm or for newspaper researchers a printout of an item in a newspaper. Bromley has a good collection of local newspapers both free and purchased for many titles. I did wonder why as I was donating material to the archive which did not previously exist I was paying for the privilege but that's life in the culture of The Library Bromley business unit which retails it's own line in book bags and sells roll of degradable waste bags for residents refuse collections as a source of income!
The genealogical community has not been consulted and have been omitted in the rather obscured Bexley website information about this proposal. The existing staff at Bromley are skilled in relation to that borough; how are they expected to handle Bexley parish and other archival material and queries relating to these?
I have added my voice to the Bexley online consultation.
I hope on return to Bromley in December that some  improvements in conditions for existing Bromley Archive users are planned.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bromley transcripts go online

Kent Online Parish Clerks now have new transcripts online. Visit the Bromley parish page for all the links in one place here, Remember if you are a Firefox user you must right click on a link and select "Open in a new tab " to get the link to open for you.
The 1801 census transcript is the second 1801 census I have transcribed; such survivals are rare and Bromley Archive includes one. I know this will be a very useful transcript to searchers from emails to me once it became known I was preparing the transcript for online publication.
It is worth remembering that Kent Online Parish Clerks transcripts will be available by search engine search for an individual and it is well worth trying to search using this method as search engines may find your ancestor was included in transcription as a witness to marriage or in a Land Tax transcript as well as some Census transcripts.
I have had a number of email requests using the large search engine Yandex which is used in Eastern Erope and throughout the Russian Federation and parts of China.
Traffic to this blog represents interest from Alaska, Ukraine and traffic via Yandex as well as Google.
I must express gratitude to Susan D.Young the Kent Online Parish Clerks County Administrator who I load with transcript material. I fear that I test her weekly with transcript overload and my limited technical ability creates a heavy workload for her. She points out the newest transcript additions for the county takes Kent Online Parish Clerks past 300,000 individual entries.
I have 1/3 of the Bromley earliest Composite register at proof reading stage and subsequent Burial registers to 1812 in progress. This will greatly increase the OPC individual entries later this year and throughout 2014; we hope to transcribe all pre 1837 material and publish online.
Finally can I outline that the transcript process involves several experienced staff at the Archive and fellow genealogists kindly reviewing images of entries and proof readings so the transcript involves approximately 7 stages of review. With the exception of a predictive text month error (I no longer use this method of compiling entry material) I know of no other error in well over 100,000 entries. I am particularly grateful to genealogists who were friends of the late Bob Rubie A.G.R.A AGP and others for their generosity in assistance and donations of material. The Bromley transcripts from the 1840's onwards include Bob's own unique work as a local genealogist in tracing railway employees family history.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Bethlem Royal Hospital and Archive

I am very fortunate to have access to two archives in the London Borough of Bromley and a lengthy association with Bethlem Royal Hospital through work as a psychiatric social worker, as well as a genealogist.
I pursued a suggestion from my late uncle in recent years to research a distant relative he recalled from childhood. I found a fascinating history as a result. The person my uncle recalled was a civil servant (additonally a marathon runner in the first two decades of the 20th century) but it was his father that interested me. I established at Lambeth Palace Library that he had been ordained in the Church of England and had moved from a curacy at an estate church in the Midlands to an appointment as chaplain to the Surrey County Asylum (later known as Springfield Hospital). I can only imagine what that appointment meant to him leaving a rural living with his family to enter London and adjust to meeting the needs of  those with mental health problems in an institution.
I researched the Asylum records and other items referring to his lengthy ministry in the Asylum and additionally to staff outside the recorded hours praised by the Board. He lived initially close by the Bethlem Royal Hospital and worked with the chaplain there in visiting other asylums at Colney Hatch and Friern Barnet and advocating improvements to the then institutionalised care of those with mental health problems. He was mentioned in parliamentary debates as petitioning on behalf of staff and inmates alike and was therefore at the fore front of changing conditions of Victorian work house infirmaries and Asylums in caring for those with a range of health problems. He was very clearly committed to serving long hours over many years as there are written references to evening staff meetings as late as the year of his death. What emerged was an uplifting human being who clearly had a great influence upon many  people through personal commitment.
In researching material I discovered that asylum staff received a daily alcohol intake not unlike the Naval rum ration. This was ended after a suicide at Springfield when an attendant was found asleep and intoxicated and criticism by the Coroner and others who carried out more rigorous inspection of staffing and conditions lead to withdrawal of this allowance to staff.
The Bethlem Heritage blog is also linked to a Facebook page.
During the next year the existing Museum,gallery and archive buildings are being developed to create the new "Museum of the Mind" and an accompanying oral history project is under way. I am happy  to support both.
For decades I have enjoyed the rich art heritage of Bethlem Royal Hospital. The Imperial War Museum now occupies the most famous of the various sites in London which were in use prior to the 20th century relocation to Monks Orchard Road in Beckenham of the Hospital.  The word "Bedlam" is derived from the Bethlehem Hospital original name when the hospital was sited just outside the walls of the City of London. In the 17th century it moved to Moorfields until it's 19th century relocation to St.George's Fields in Southwark;the site familiar to my ancestor and now occupied by the Imperial War Museum. The move to Beckenham took place in the 1930's and it was to that site that I travelled to support people who were receiving treatment.
The online gallery of the Bethlem Art and History Collections Trust conveys some of art work in the collection and since the 1970's I have visited art exhibitions  now conserved by the Trust. I was very pleased to see that the Tate Gallery chose for a London wide poster campaign one of the William Dadd Fairy paintings. Dadd is one of many celebrated artists associated with the hospital art collection.
In October I was able to visit the current exhibition at Bethlem Gallery and learn of the larger sculpture works  loan during building work associated with the Museum development in 2014. See Raving & Melancholy Madness on Tour
The Archive is of interest to a Kent Online Parish Clerk,since it is possible that transfers and records of them between Asylums in Kent or Surrey may include those from parishes in the Bromley or South Bromley area.
There are hints in transcribing parish burial registers that coroner's verdicts or local clergy attitude to suicidal behaviour was compassionate and the  burial of suicidal persons varied. The Keston Burial registers record a higher than average suicide rate through various means in or on the banks of the River Ravensbourne but also the death months after an attempt at suicide by a retired army officer later befriended by the rector who died months later of infection from sword wound attempt at cutting his throat. There is clear care of the man and detailed record that he was offered christian burial at Keston.
I continue to research with the archivist for documentary evidence in the Bethlem Archive of local people linked to any parishes in Kent.
Copyright Henry Mantell 2013

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Microfilm or original for transcribers?

Microfilm is an excellent conservation medium for archivists; indeed since the 1930's microfilm has preserved records which no longer exist in their original form. I recall the Vicar of a Norwich parish who invited microfilming of his parish register material by the Genealogical Society of Utah in the 1930's in his vestry because he feared that war was possible. The "Baedecker raid" Luftwaffe bombing of Norwich destroyed the church and all parish registers, high explosive blasted the walls of the building and incendiary bombs set fire to roof and interior. The only survivals are those microfilm images.
However the transcriber of parish registers faces several difficulties as a result of the methods used by microfilming. As Online Parish Clerk for Downe the Composite register which begins with an entry in 1529 offers the microfilm viewer an immediate challenge as it is bound in an ancient deed unrelated to the parish. The microfilm therefore presents a puzzling series of images. Duplicate images are also present as a result of instructions to the microfilm operator. The pages contain many faded entries and edge of page folding and these result in duplication of image with focus adjustments on different areas of  the page. Microfilm imperfectly captures pencil entries including the page numbering of the original. If a transcript is produced only from microfilm version it will not be able to collect as many entries as handling the original document. I am fortunate that Bromley Archive have always allowed me to handle original documents. If I had used microfilm or digital images of the Downe register for transcript many entries affected by edge of page date fade would be missing. The omissions from batches of index material for the parish and errors in transcription contained in the International Genealogical Index material are as a result of microfilm only transcription with a lower quality standard for the index entries. The Downe transcripts I undertook have no omissions from the earliest years and are online at the Kent Online Parish Clerks webpage for the parish Downe Parish page.
Handling any paper or parchment document requires personal preparation. First a word of caution. A genealogist colleague ordered up material from an archive and had a cut on his finger. He worked in the archive for several hours and later developed an infection so severe a finger had to be amputated.
The white cotton archival gloves which were used in earlier decades are now regarded as potentially harmful to certain papers because of abrasion and the possibility that laundering them introduces chemicals to the document which will attack both paper and ink pigments. Another disadvantage I have found is the loss of sensitivity and since a transcriber needs to write or type onto a keyboard this is a major disadvantage.
The Conservation Register is the recognised source for professionally qualified restorers and conservators in the UK and Ireland and a couple of years ago I had a paper piece of my grandmothers teenage artwork which was badly in need of paper restoration. I went to a local professional art conservator who works regularly for the major art collections in London and learned a good deal as well as having my grandmother's work listed on the Conservation register. The Register criticise Institutional insistence that staff and researchers don white cotton gloves to prevent dirt and skin oils from damaging collections since gloves are as easily soiled as hands. Gloves also have the disadvantage of collecting and transferring dirt to page surfaces.
Many archives have taken advice from the register as all archives need paper conservators to examine deteriorating material. On visits to the London Metropolitan archive I have been advised by staff of three different methods of handling original material. Different grades of latex gloves are available to deal with:

  • Leather rust. Leather bindings which are red rust both red green and blue and handling a volume for an hour is a dirty business. volume is positioned in a cradle. Transcription is hampered and keyboard cleaning and hygiene before and after is recommended.
  • Brittle paper. During the 1930's to 1950's the quality of printed paper is such that any public records or publications are very fragile and archists have generally prefeered to film or digitise material.
  • Vellum or paper records. These are likely to include any parish material prior to 1754 for marriages when printed paper marriage registers were introduced or the 1812 printed Stationers register for Baptisms and burials. Even storage of relatively modern 20th century registers can result in damage by insects or rodents.
I was a volunteer during my years as a family history student in arranging the contents of three tea chests of early parish register pages in chronological order. One of the chests had a large hole in the corner and sure enough had formed a rats nest. Fortunately the archive had provided gloves gauntlets and a boiler suit for me! Those original pages were later bound and microfilmed and are complete with little damage and no loss of entries.
From personal experience I recommend that before handling an original document you should ask for instruction from the archivist responsible. Thoroughly wash your hands to the personal hygiene standard for food hygiene and ensure you protect any cuts in the way you would for food handling before you handle the documents.Use protective gloves if advised to (I take a personal supply) as the document you are handling may contain bacteria and if rodent damage is present it is possible the paper may harbour harmful bacteria. I use my right hand to touch the document and type with my left and wipe clean my keyboard before and after any session.
I have for many years used essential oils and when I have ended work in an archive I thoroughly wash my hands and then apply tea tree oil which is a powerful antiseptic. I dispose of gloves used in a clinical waste bag and my local hospital and family doctor surgery accept clinical waste.The microfilm of the 1812 Downe Baptismal register is so faint for many years as to be of limited use for transcription and the original is legible. This remaining challenge is nearing completion. I have some concerns about the efforts of online indexing  for example by FamilySearch Indexing volunteers where the original filming appears to produce indexes with no correction feature and which are clearly wrong resulting in failures of search engines to locate entries in the original material. The England & Wales census series only available on microfilm for indexers illustrates the difference between The Ancestry index with corrections included and Family Search version with no corrections. I do hope that FamilySearch enable corrections soon!

Copyright Henry Mantell 2013

Friday, 25 October 2013

Bexley Archive closure

I have received the following reply from the consultation team:
Dear Mr Mantell

Thank you for your enquiry.  Here is a link to the online information about the proposal you are interested in:

Please find below a link to the consultation survey, in which you can leave your comments and feedback.

I hope this information is useful. Please do not hesitate to come back to me if you need further assistance.

Many thanks,

Mollie  Pepper Communication and Consultation Officer Ext: 4069 DDI: 020 3045 4069

Proposed closure of Bexley Archive and removal to Bromley

On the 21st of October a "public Consultation" began on the proposed closure of Bexley Archive and transfer to The Library Bromley. As a researcher in several archives in London and the South East I was concerned and wished to contribute to an exercise which ends in December. Bexley have a website and indeed a consultation team, however they have yet to post this consultation is underway or give any information about the proposal. I emailed the consultation team and have been promised by automatic responder a reply in 5-10 working days.
I became aware of the general drift to amalgamate when the Bromley Archivist post was vacated and then filled by transfer of the archivist from Bexley. There were other indicators at Bromley too.
Bexley and Bromley have a long history of united services across a range of provision and the The Library Bromley is managed by the same post as that for Bexley. All archives are under financial pressure and library closures are common to all London Boroughs.
If the public consultation is to be meaningful then it needs to be transparent. I would submit that at present it is far from that.
I am well aware of the problem of travel to Bexley Archive from my home by public transport and would like to see how the proposal addresses this issue. For those who live in Sidcup it is possible for bus journey from Sidcup to Orpington then change bus to reach Bromley. For people in the remainder of Bexley a public transport route is not apparent. That is not a sound basis for closing and removing an archive collection if the present research and user community has immense difficulty in reaching it.
Archives are publicly funded by Community charge payers and I have a series of detailed points as a regular user and contributor to Bromley Archive which I wish to contribute to the consultation process. I'll blog again when I receive a response from Bexley.

To blog or not to blog

For some years friends, colleagues and Geneabloggers have asked me why I don't blog. My answer has been that I don't have time, since my archive research and transcription of  parish material takes up time and another media outlet both challenged my technical ability and time management. However gradually it appeared that the voice of the Parish Online Clerk is increasingly being heard (and occasionally listened to) and that help was available from long standing Geneabloggers the world over.
So here goes….
I first began transcribing in the 1960's as a result of a school project with my Latin teacher Mr. Diamond at Xaverian College Manchester. He took his students into Manchester Cathedral Archive to examine the Latin parish register of the ancient parish of Manchester. This was my first encounter with a Collegiate Church and I managed to not only transcribe two pages to submit to the Cathedral Archivist but also two pages for my class mate to copy and submit. Dave never threw any of his school things away and a few years ago scanned the two pages he still has to me in an email. The Archivist recommended grades. I had a high grade Dave had the lowest grade with a note that copying anothers work is unacceptable!
I returned to the archive and was encouraged to link with 3 genealogists who were busy transcribing parish registers in the Manchester Archive and at Cheshire County Record Office. I learned much from them and the team of four produced many typed transcripts.
As the surving member of the team I hold copyright to the transcripts. One of the copyright violations in recent years occurred when FamilySearch Indexing introduced a typed burial register (which they withdrew) to a collection of parish material from Lancashire parishes.
Nowadays in retirement I can look back over around 50 parish register transcripts I have produced. My 1940's portable typewriter (Army Clerks for the use of) was acquired from the Quartermaster's Stores of the 16th/5th Staffordshire Yeomanry in the 1950's. It helped that my father was Regimental Quarter Master and the machine was declared surplus to Museum requirements. It was reputed to have visited France in 1944 via Normandy.
From the keys flowed thousands of typed transcript entries and as a genealogy student much more besides. I could still use the art of assembling an alphabetical index of parish entries although that art is dying out as a generation of long serving archivists retire and transcribers depart.
For two years I have been an Online Parish Clerk for Downe in Kent and my research and transcriptions are available on several other Kent Online Parish Clerks pages. Downe has a parish register which commences in 1829 and is bound in a deed. The deed has no connection with Downe; save the mention of an ancestor of an owner of Down House. The deed became the outer cover of the early Composite register in the late nineteenth century due to the thickness of the vellum and the Rector includes a conveniently dated note of the binding of the register. Down House became home to Charles Darwin and his family for the last 40 years of his life.
It is a pleasure to be invited to family reunions in the village, the most notable being the Manning family whose forebears left the village in the 1500's!
Copyright Henry Mantell