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The tax became bureaucratic and unpopular and was repealed when the Catholic Stuart James II was forced to flee for his life and the new Parliament repealed the Act in 1689 when William and Mary on accession signed the repeal Law.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.