Friday, 31 January 2014

Bethlem Museum and Museums at Night

Sadly Bethlem and the development of the Museum of the Mind scheduled to open this year came second in voting with over 2000 votes for the services of portrait photographer Rankin. The competition was won by St Ann Allotments in Nottingham.
Bethlem blog has more details and has information about their forthcoming talk about the work of Frank Kuralek. See Bethlem Heritage blog
I look forward to the work of the photography project at Bethlem.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Bethlem Photography

I spent a day recently at Bethlem Gallery looking at the current exhibition which opened earlier this month and as always the Gallery is of interest with images taken by the Bethlem Gallery artist Max Reeves.
My visit followed an invitation and a blog which you can read here at Bethlem Heritage blog.
 Currently the Museum and Archive are among contenders for a visit by Rankin in the Museums at Night 2014 online vote. I have happily supported Bethlem Museum in this and you are able to vote here. It seems fitting that Glasgow born Rankin should come to 21st century Bethlem with it's rich heritage of photographic images incorporated into patient treatment.
The support for Bethlem is strong but I would urge any reader of this blog to vote.
The Bethlem Heritage blog has featured this month several of the hospital archive photographic images see 19th century photographic images

Monday, 20 January 2014

An epetition for UK residents to HM Government concerning the 1921 Census for England and Wales

The national  census for 1921 of England and Wales is vitally important to family historians worldwide. Given the loss of 1931 and 1941 national census a generation of growing future family historians will have to rely on data in the 1921 census to assist them for decades. The next available census is the 1951 census scheduled for release in 2051.
In view of this I have supported an e petition and would encourage any UK resident to do so as well to ask the Government to relax the 100 year rule on public release so that this data could be partially released before 2022. The 1911 census was partially released early with sensitive details not visible but enabling the household members to be identified.
I am  grateful to Ian Hartas at his UKBMD site for offering me the link for the e petition 1921 census epetition and would urge all with an interest in family history to support the petition. You can opt to be kept informed by email of the progress of the petition.
I have a personal interest in the 1921 census as it is the only remaining record source likely to identify a severely disabled child who was cared for by my maternal Great Aunt and her husband. My Grandfather's brother who died in 1918 was father of the illegitimate child whose mother could not cope with a severely disabled child (surname unknown). I have a picture of her at the couples wedding but neither the registration district or local authority has record of her and we could not identify a burial place. We do know the given names by which family members knew her but this was not the name used officially.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Clergy in the parish registers of Bromley,Kent

The work of transcriptions in many volumes of a parish register is painstaking, challenging and yet it is possible to perceive something of each person who makes the record.
As I have handled material from 1578 to the early years of the 20th century I have noted various signatures in the registers.
In this blog entry I want to mention the two longest servants of the people of Bromley and place them in a context of succession.
I note that in 1603 James Dyer calls himself Curate of Bromley as a holder of the living.
In 1607 there is a signature of John Preston and in 1620 Jasper Carrow is also entered. By 1634 Richard Rathbone or Rathbourne signs. These fragmented periods of ministry are firmer when the Vestry records are considered. Henry Arnold signs the parish register 1648-1662 and there is record that he was elected at a Vestry to be Parish Minister in 1653. Simlarly the names of Stephen Grasscombe  Minister1678-1681;1682 George Wilson;1686 and Edward Roman 1686 appear.
Succeeding Henry Maundrell and Samuel Bowles comes the first long serving Minister Harington Bagshaw who signs as Vicar. Bagshaw was Chaplain at Bromley College and it is common for the chaplains of the College to sign entries in the burial register. Harington Bagshaw held the College Chaplaincy from 1696-1734 and was also Rector of Woolwich. Prior to the destruction of the ancient parish church a memorial stone recorded this information. Harington and his wife Abigail had a son Thomas who succeeded his father in 1734 as Chaplain to Bromley College and remained as such for 54 years,until 1787 and was also Vicar of Bromley from 1744-1785. He was also Rector of Southfleet.
The Bagshaw's father and son bring an order to the earlier anarchy of record keeping although the burial register becomes disorganised over several pages in the period 1738-1740,before order is restored. Thomas Bagshaw was a contempary and friend of Samuel Johnson,contributing to additions to Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language published on 15 April 1755. You can read this dictionary online Johnsons dictionary online .Johnson's acknowledgement to Thomas Bagshaw for his assistance included "If many readers had been as judicious,as diligent,and communicative as yourself my work had been better". I think that this compliment might equally be applicable to both Bagshaw's service to the widows of clergy at Bromley College and the town and parish.
Thomas Bagshaw died in 1787 and Boswell mentioned that he resigned the living of Bromley parish shortly before his death.
His curate Dr.Henry Smith assumed the living from 1785 and remained Vicar of Bromley until 1818. He in turn was succeeded by a curate James Edward Newell from 1819-1826 in which year he signs the register as Minister of Bromley. From 1826 until 1865 Newell is absent from signing the register and appears to be living in retirement.
In 1865 the register is signed by Arthur Gresley Hellicar M.A. who had great influence in the expanded town and Anglican Church building;his brother acted as architect for one of the churches under construction. He arrived as curate became Vicar until his death in 1904. He was an influential figure in the town and was Chairman of the Science and Art School. He also purchased the iron church from Ryde and had it erected as a chapel of ease in Park Road on land leased for the purpose and was opened in 1872 and the parish register records imediate use. Baptisms during a period of rebuilding to enlarge the parish church seating capacity take place at St John the Evangelist, Park Road.
Meanwhile land for a permanent church was purchased in Park Road and a separate parish Church of St John's was created out of the ancient parish in May 1880.
The Reverend Hellicar was an antiquarian and took great care of the parish registers in his keeping, describing in great detail the contents and recording annual totals of baptisms and burials. It is of enormous value to me in transcribing the volumes to have a record of how many entries in each year my transcript should contain and the discovery of entries in unlikely places within bindings accounts for the totals that Arthur Hellicar left for me!
The preservation of records today rests in no small measure on the care of these men to maintain the records. I find it moving to note that Reverend Hellicar baptised illegitimate children privately unless the parent requested baptism with other children of the parish publicly and I note the numbers of adult baptisms and whole family baptisms conducted by him. These all suggest a man of faith, sensitivity  commited to bringing others to faith in Jesus Christ.

Monday, 13 January 2014

"To stand in a white sheet" and the penance of Ann Chapman

I  grew up in a time when the phrase to stand in a white sheet was still used as a proverbial term for penance.
In the parish of Bromley we see a perfect explanation of the penance being carried out.
Ann Chapman was a widow,who in her widowhood had relationships with several men and this promiscuity had become known in the town. It is worth remembering the presence of the Bishop's Palace,Bromley College and its chaplain and of course the parish and vestry in a small rural town. The Diocese of Rochester had at time within the Archdeaconry of Rochester one Worshipful Francis Simpson,Doctor of Laws. He summoned Ann Chapman to do public penance and this is documented in detail. I believe this to be quite rare that a surviving written account can be found.
Horsburgh attributes the written document to the ownership of Phillip Norman 's antiquarian collection.
"The said Ann Chapman widow,shall come to the said church on Sunday,the twenty eight day of October in the year of Our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy at the tolling of the second bell to morning prayers, and shall stand in the porch of the said Church from the tolling of the said second bell until the second lesson be ended,Bare headed,bare legged and bare footed,having a white sheet over her wearing apparel,and holding a white rod of an Ell long in her hand after the manner of a penitent sinner and the second Lesson being ended she shall come into the said Church and stand in some convenient place near the Minister's Reading Desk."
The procedure then required Ann after the Nicene Creed had been read to make a public confession of her misconduct and repeating after the Minister the following;
"I Ann Chapman do in the presence of God and this congregation humbly and penitently confess and acknowledge that having not the fear of God,and being seduced by the Temptations of  the Devil and my own Lusts have lived incontinently and committed the foul sin of Fornication,having had a bastard or base begotten child born of my body whereby I have greatly offended Almighty God,endangered my own Soul,and given an Evil example and scandal to all good Christians for which Offence I am heartily sorry,and do humbly beg pardon of God and this Congregation for the same, and do promise (God assisting me with His Grace) never to offend in the like manner again, and I beseech this Congregation to pray for me and with me to say Our Father which art in Heaven and so forth."
The Minister was Thomas Bagshaw,his curate John Brett and they together with Samuel Cutson Overseer of the Poor were required to return sworn certificates within a specified date to the Registry of the Archdeaconry  of the Diocese of Rochester.
Such a certificate was produced in good time to the Registry and signed by the three men to attest that the prescribed penance had been performed.
This is a rare survival of a written account of such a penance being performed under the direction of a Diocese and the clergy and Overseer producing sworn certificates to a Diocesan Registry of such public penance.
Copyright (c) Henry Mantell 2014

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The mystery of an 1877 private baptism

The final entry in Bromley Saints Peter and Paul Baptismal register 1867-1877 is a mystery. The entry contains only a First name Reginald date 20th October and an address of  Kingston Terrace Bromley and is entered by a curate as a private baptism.
Since the entry ends one volume of the register I presumed the curate intended the entry to appear at the beginning of the next volume,but it does not.
There are two registered births in the Bromley Registration district for 1877 earlier in the year which are possibilities but  are much earlier in the year that a private baptism months after civil registration is a remote possiblity.
So baby Reginald remains a mystery and the entry is enigmatic.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Kent History Centre at the Kent History and Library Centre Maidstone

Although my efforts are mainly focussed at The Library Bromley which is home to Bromley Archives and local studies material in a library setting I also need access to material at Maidstone.
I have been disappointed in visits to Maidstone in 2013 as it appeared to me that archive material was remote and more difficult to access. Ordering material used to be a responsive service. Unless documents were ordered prior to arrival the online catalogue posed problems and I suspected that it was incomplete;experience reinforced by other regular researchers in Archives. I had the experience of library staff being unfamiliar with the document I wished to view. This is one of many other problems now under discussion with the Centre management team.
The Kent History Centre User Group are now actively pursuing these issues and other feedback see Kent archives user group
I have some concerns about the Library Bromley but document production is rapid and the staff are skilful in responding to the wide variety of requests made on them and the service.
The online catalogue within CARN is of high standard and is readily updated.
The major problem at Bromley is that archive material is produced on a gallery seating which includes Library general use . The facilities are noisy;the gallery area is immediately above the repositoned main desk with no enclosed or quiet space to examine documents. Add to this the noise of mobile phone ringtones and conversations and computer use for music and film and it becomes very difficult to progress in transcription work in early record sources,an already painstaking task.
I have seen a deterioration in conditions for the researcher and professional genealogist in both these settings. The modern "Library" approach brings an emphasis  on media access which poses challenges for the archival researcher.  Maybe after 44 years of archival research I am a lone voice locally in regularly using and experiencing difficulty in working with original documents. It would be useful if each Archive consulted its users. Maidstone is doing just that and the experience reflects difficulties relevant to other Libray based facilities.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Bromley Postmasters 1685-1897

As I was walking past the Old Post Office in East Street Bromley I began to wonder how old the postal service was. I did some research and came up with some information.
From an act in 1710 (under Queen Anne) the prior system of postal delivery by private individuals was superseded and the transportation of letters was placed under the direction of a Postmaster General.
In 1783,mail coaches were instituted as the means of delivery and remained until the coming of the railways. The Penny post was introduced in 1840 and the postal service became more complex.
In Bromley prior to the introduction of mail coaches, the town was well served by horse carriers,cart services and coach services to London,Tunbridge Wells and Hastings and therefore the first Post Master dated from 1685.
1685-1687      Wm.Crumpe who lived neat the Bell Inn.
1687               Thos.Bennett,landlord of the White Hart Inn.
1688-1692      Thos.Godden,described as such in rate books.
1693-1695      Edmund Millington,Parish Clerk.
1696-1720      William Waldron
1728-1735       Mr. J. Lawson,referred to in rate books.
1736-1752       Wm.Wood
1752-1753       Martha Wood
1754-1774       Wm.Stich,who was a local landowner in the town.
1775-1783       John Phillips,landlord of the White Hart Inn.
1784-1786       Thomas Palmer,successor as landlord of the White Hart Inn.
1787-1788       James Wilson,Landlord of the Bell Inn.
1789-1796       William Francis Peachey.
1796-1802       Hugh Hair,Draper's in Market Place;Vintner in High Street.
1802-1811       Ann Hair;Hugh's widow.
1812-1839       John Acton,who took over Hair's wine merchant business.
1839-1857       Samuel Poole Acton,son of John.
1857-1876       Joseph Bradley Shillcock,Chemist in the High Street.
The coming of rail services at two railway stations to the north and South of Market Square replaced the need for John Palmers Royal Mail Coaches.
After 1876 the appointment as Bromley Postmaster became a sole occupation and premises were needed. The original Post Office was on the East side of the Market place and the Post master from 1876-1897 was William Hewick. In 1877 he established the Post Office on the west side of Market Square and it remained there until 1897.By 1879 the Office employed 3 telegraph boys,3 indoor postal staff and 16 outdoor delivery men.
William Beale was Postmaster from 1891-1897  when the Post Office relocated to East Street to the building now referred to as the Old Post Office. It was this building that aroused my curiousity. The Royal Mail closed the premises in the last decade;counter service is now provided within a branch of W.H.Smith in the High Street. Mail for a large part of the borough is now sorted at Dartford with local deliveries from a distribution centre in Orpington at the rear of the High Street Post Office.