Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Bromley in 1797

An anomaly in examining the Dunn funeral accounts and other deposited material at Bromley Archives is a copy of Thomas Wilson's 1797 "Accurate description of Bromley". Wilson had lived in Bromley for 5 years and as an historian and author as well as retailer of books ( a long list is included in the two page advertisement at the end of the volume) he developed the book as a first attempt at a commercial directory.
The engraved view of Church Lane is of interesting not only for the results of recent building modifications to the Ancient Parish church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
 On the left hand side of Church Lane is a double height door. We know from later descriptions that a fine Georgian House became the home and Surgery of Doctor Thomas Ilott in 1809. Ilott rented the property originally from Lord Gwydir who owned other land adjacent to Bromley Market Square. The house included a coach house and stables and it is likely that this is a possible use for the building.
I have transcribed the gentry,clergy,Law,Physicians and Tradesmen listed by Wilson for online publication on the Kent Online Parish Clerks Bromley page as it precedes and offers more detail of the occupations of households referred to in the 1801Bromley Census at Kent Online Parish Clerks.
Wilson contains passages describing the journey from London to enter Bromley and from Bromley to London remarking at the view of Saint Paul's Dome from Bromley Hill beyond the Long's estate. He also describes Lewisham, Rushey Green Southend and the hamlet of Mottingham.
The copy which entered Dunn's possession has several pages missing from the binding. The book is marked as the property of Baronet Richard E Williams . There is also a handwritten reference to Emmeline Clayden as being 11 years old in September 1871. The 1871 Census shows her resident in her native Hanwell Middlesex.
The enigma is how this volume passed from Williams to the author of the hand written record of Emmelines birthday in 1871 and thence to the Dunn's. The one thing that can be determined is that in the closure of Dunn and Company in Bromley Geoffrey Dunn deposited the funeral accounts and a collections of advertising and company material at Bromley Archives and can be found under reference 688/6/8. The Archive has only one copy of Wilson  which is a pocket book which appears to have had a life outside Bromley!
I will return to Wilson in my next blog to explore the poetry of Miss Ann Holmes.
My transcription of the named individuals in this work is now online at Bromley1797 Kent Online Parish Clerks.
 © Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2015

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Find My Past and Bethlem Museum of the Mind records online

I was pleased to hear that the Bethlem record series went online on Thursday 19 March 2015 as this nationally important archive of the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world contained people from many locations in the country.
I first used the Find My Past search engine to explore local parishes in Kent and each time on a residence search drew a blank. However using Beckenham,Kent I located a number of entries relating to residents in the Bromley District. Examining the digitised image of one admission and discharge entry I found that the transcriber had rendered an address in Bickley as Buckley and duly entered corrections of the errors. I realised that the search engine was not searching residence of the admitted patient but was yielding results for the addresses of their surety or relatives and could not see a way in which the search could be amended to narrow results.
On Friday I transcribed a funeral account which recorded an 1875 collection of a body from Bethlehem Hospital in London for burial at Bromley. The funeral account refers to Harriet Matilda Batten wife of a coachman to Mister Alston of Fairfield Bickley being buried at Holy Trinity Bromley Common and my transcript of the Holy Trinity burial register Kent Online Parish Clerks Bromley Holy Trinity Burials gives Page Heath as the family residence.
I happened to know that Harriet Matilda Batten was a mother of eight children by this time (at the age of 34) as I had dealt with a request for information about her from a descendant. The admission to Bethlem was therefore of interest as I have long tried to establish whether people in Bromley were sent to Barming in case of mental health problems requiring detention or whether they may have been transferred to Bethlem in London.
Mrs Batten appears to be exceptional in transferring to Bethlem as inmates of the Bromley Poor Law Union seem generally to be taken to Barming as the County Asylum and one might expect that relatives and local medical practioners to take that route. Also by this date medical Practitioners in the town were able to admit women with difficult problems during or after childbirth to Bromley Cottage Hospital. From the account later found at Bethlem it appears that the journey to Barming was too arduous and the Cottage Hospital could not manage her behaviour and the shorter journey to London and Bethlem was chosen. Mrs Batten proved to have a different and sad end and the case notes are useful in recording her illness and death.
I went to Find My Past and entered Bromley,Kent and Bickley,Kent as search terms with the surname only since a married woman with two given names may have been recorded in a number of ways. My search failed until I removed a residence field from the search and used the year of death year of birth fields. I then located the hospital admission and discharge entry for Matilda Batten and also located her case notes.
Following the birth of her eighth child her health had declined and she entered Bethlem in November 1875 in a very weak state. She had "been confined with childbirth on 9-10 November 1875 and there had been difficulty with after birth with considerable bleeding". At the same time her manner and mood had altered and her case notes record her refusing food and "saying and shouting for hours together" that she had seen Jesus and he was going to work a great miracle. She had never asked to see her new born child. With little food or sleep over 3 or 4 days a fever and deluded a decision was taken to take her to Bethlem in London. On 1 December she was taken to bed at Bethlem and took a liquid diet. The case notes on 2 December express the view that she would not recover. She died at 8-45 pm on 10 December 1875 and the death notice in the case notes includes that she was continually visited by friends. The notice records how weak she was on admission and unable to get out of bed and that death was of natural causes. She had been constantly attended at Bethlem and two Attendants were present when she died.Her hospital number was 5776 and the causes of death were congestion of the lungs and exhaustion after acute mania.
Joseph Dunn in his funeral account refers to the removal of a child burial to permit her stout elm coffin to be interred and her infant child re-interred above her as was commonplace at the time.
Whilst I appreciate the online availability of the Bethlem records it does feel that the Find My Past search engine and indeed the transcription quality leave a little to be desired. I am quite concerned that the data fields for a person's residence cannot reflect local places in the largest geographical London Borough and hope that further work can be undertaken to improve searches in this collection.

Monday, 16 March 2015

"Dead and bright handles"

From 1803 Edward Dunn (the elder) and later his son Edward in their accounts books refer to coffin furniture including dead and bright handles. I came to learn that in the period 1803-1830 Edward used a wide variety of metals in furnishing his coffins. It also became apparent that the more lavish large funeral corteges required him to use a wide inventory of coffin furniture and many types of nails.
When his son took over the range of decorations of coffin lids began to appear repeatedly in accounts.
Both Edward's were literate but their spelling on some accounts suggests that some commonplace aspects of funerals had not reached a uniform spelling; Mattrass was still being used it is not until the 1850's that mattress is adopted at the end of Edward the younger's career before Joseph Dunn takes over the funerals for the Dunn Bromley Market Square company.
I have researched the sourcing most likely for the Dunn funeral inventory and was not entirely surprised to find that my native county of Warwickshire and one part of Birmingham provided all the goods needed by the Dunn's.
Nail manufacture took place in many locations but the specific types of nail required for the layers of black or white headed exterior  coffin decoration were most reliably manufactured in Birmingham and when Edward Dunn's accounts of Bromley district funerals began in 1803 the Birmingham and Midland hardware manufacturers were developing new metals with which to provide metal funeral wares.
Prior to 1804 two metals black lead and tinned metal were used for "coffin-lace" and handles to provide black or white "gripes " or grip handles which can be found employed in Edward Dunn's accounts. He also made and stocked wooden handles. For larger and more ornate funerals brass handles were stocked and "superb" "massive" preceded descriptions of handles which appear to bear arms or coronets.
In 1804 in Birmingham Thomas Dobbs invented "Albion Metal" which consisted of tin laid on lead and pressed into thin sheets which were then pressed to form coffin handles or plates. It became possible for Birmingham to supply through the pressed metal manufacture both black or white on black furniture in addition to the one foundry supplying cast iron coffin handles in the same district of Birmingham. Local nail manufacture using various metals supplied black and white headed exterior nails for coffins.
Bright varnishing black finished items was accompanied by the use of  a dead black being highlighted with bright white or golden hues which could offer the funeral trade alternative colour schemes for preparation of coffins. The early adoption of Albion metal "dead and bright" handles is evident in Edward Dunn's accounts of the Georgian and Regency period.
In several accounts both Edward's described white on black plates of inscription with tin laid on lead.
Several lid decorations from the classical "Glory and an urn" through various child and flowers decorations as well as the Angelic styles of lid ornaments are mentioned.
As I have indicated in earlier blog sadly there are account books lost in various fires at the expanding Market Square premises. When Edward's carrer is ending in the 1850's and Joseph is trading in the 1860's and seventies the detail of ornaments is less but there are substantial metal decorations of coffin lids covering lid from head to foot.
Brirmingham still conserves one of the later Coffin Works Newman Brothers began manufacture in 1882 for a history of this see Newman Brothers history.,the Coffin works store, I like to imagine resembles a part of the Dunn premises at Market Square which could when required produce a bespoke coffin for a child in under 24 hours to accompany a sibling burial.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Botany Bay Cottages Keston Kent

Serendipity (noun) defined as:
The occurence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
It is now some years since I transcribed part of Keston Parish registers and found references to Botany Bay or Botany Bay cottages but I could never locate a named place on any map held at Bromley Archive.
This week my colleague Bob Cooper was researching gypsy families in a group of parishes and found references to a family living at Botany Bay Cottages in the Bromley Holy Trinity registers.
On 11 March 2015 we had pursued my thought that the cottages could be in Keston parish but again could not find the name on a map ( the same applied to mapping of Sheep Wash Cottage although we knew this location from other references).
Within two hours of our leaving for the day another searcher was examining maps and happened to mention that he should include Botany Bay Cottages in his material.
The unmarked four cottages are shown on maps!
Somewhat isolated but not far from the windmill the name of the cottages seems appropriate and in our combined experience "Botany Bay" often is used as a field or cottage name in relatively distant location.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Edward Dunn Funeral Accounts 1840-1857

There is a gap in the funeral account books at Bromley Archives deposited by the Dunn Family when the business ceased trading in the 1970's.
The missing account books were lost in one of a series of fires at the Market Square premises of the firm.
Edward Dunn took over the funeral trade in Bromley from his father Edward who died in 1830. The funeral accounts to 1839 reflect the burials of paupers from the parish Poorhouse as well as the notable persons of the District. The missing accounts sadly miss the opening of the Bromley Union Workhouse and the searcher must examine the Bromley parish burial register to identify burials from the Union Workhouse.
By 1858 when Edward's accounts resume the funeral trade in Bromley has altered. The coming of the railway in 1858 enables Edward to convey coffins with an Attendant to various places of burial including the major Cemeteries which had grown around London and are often referred to as the "Magnificent Seven". West Norwood Cemetery Wikipedia and the origin of the nickname for the seven cemeteries are explained in Magnificent seven cemetery Wikipedia.
The South Metropolitan Cemetery at Norwood features regularly in burials after 1858 but burials at Nunhead in South London as well as Brompton and Highgate are represented from Bromley. Edward is also able to bury at Kemptown near Brighton and collect bodies from Hucclecote in Gloucestershire using railways. Burials at Tower Hamlets Cemetery are also carried out with bearers and fittings travelling by rail. One train from Croydon to Brighton carries not only the coffin (protected in several yards of calico) but also a coach to convey mourners from Brighton station.
Norwood had been created following the South Metropolitan Cemetery Act of 1836 and held it's first burials in 1837. The Act permitted a payment to Parish Vestries of a parochial benefice of 7s 6d per full price adult burial but only 1s 6d for a pauper. Norwood therefore attracted burials of the wealthy whereas the poor could be buried more cheaply at Tower Hamlets which charged only 9 shillings for adult pauper communal burial compared to £1 at Nunhead and 17s-6d at Norwood.
Edward appears to be the only local funeral trader. He regularly employs large groups of men and in accordance with tradition has an appropriately fitted Attendant stay with the corpse overnight on the eve of burial. It is believed that these women were local midwives who would wash the corpse and dress prior to the corpse being placed in either the shell or coffin(s). In many accounts the Attendant accompanies Edward to the "taking in" of coffins.
The traditional horse drawn funeral hearse (now owned by Dunn),the upholstery and furniture removal vans to collect and convey coffins with suitable fittings and Dunn's own horses for funeral work are a feature which develops post 1830. Dunn employs some local coachmen regularly although not exclusively and local turnpikes particularly on London Road are used to collect coffins for local interment in Bromley and nearby parishes. The missing account years concide with an interesting development of local funerals as in the Victorian era we see the need for large cemeteries and the beginning of rail conveyance of not only coffins but bearers and fittings.