Sunday, 28 June 2015

Where may my Bromley Ancestor have been cremated?

I recently was asked this question by a visitor to Bromley Archives and Local Studies and it is interesting to record that in the latter quarter of the nineteenth century cremation came to be a phenomenon.
In the last decade of the century the Dunn Funeral accounts contain references to cremation.
The practice of burning bodies in many civilisations has been recorded for millenia some Australian evidence suggests ritual 20,000 years old. The Egyptians adopted preservation of the body and the Romans also preserved the body in a lead or stone coffin long before Christianity spread across Europe.
Early Christianity rejected cremation as a remaining pagan ritual and developed the belief that the Resurrection of Christ (from the Jewish tradition of burial in a stone tomb) indicated a need for the individual at the Second Coming of Christ to present their whole body before him rather than as a fragmented body of ash.
In the nineteenth century British involvement in India and other countries where open air cremations took place lead to the suggestion that crematoria should be built in India to end such open air cremation and in Britain suggested legislation but both church and government opposed the suggestion of cremation.
In 1874 in London the Cremation Society was formed and campaigned for cremation due to the growth in population in many cities exceeding the burial space with consequent increase in expense of burial. The idea of a cheaper and cleaner alternative to the costs of funeral and burial which involved purchase of ground in a burial site governed by legislation to protect water sources from ground pollution was attractive to many people. In Germany crematoria were in operation but a number of British Bishops objected to this example as " a heathen practice".
Sir Henry Thompson Physician to Queen Victoria lead the Cremation Society to negotiate with the London Necropolis Company to purchase an acre of  land near Woking despite opposition and on 17 March 1879 they tested the crematoria by cremating a dead horse which lead to local residents complaining and The Home Secretary, Sir Richard Cross also objected on the grounds that evidence of a murder might be destroyed before proper medical examination of a body could be conducted.
But it was the case of  Doctor William Price an 83 year old Druid medical practitioner in Glamorgan. Price was also an anti vivisectionist strict vegetarian who advocated free love and fathered a son by his housekeeper,naming his son Jesus Christ Price. When the child died aged 5 days in January 1884 Price cremated his remains  on an open air pyre on a hill in Llantrisant dressed in Druidic robes and conducting druidic ritual. So great was the public outcry that Price was mobbed by an angry crowd to be rescued by the police who arrested him for what they believed to be illegal disposal of a corpse which was recovered from the flames.The corpse was medically examined and found to have died of natural causes. Price appeared at Cardiff Assizes before Mister Justice Stephen who agreed with Price's defence that cremation was neither legal or illegal and the case lead to the body being released  for Price to conduct his Druidic cremation at Llantrisant on 14 March 1884.further detail on Price This case lead to legislation which brought passage of the Cremation Act 1902 c.8 Regnal 2_Edw_7.
The Act regulated the location of crematoria and inspection of facilities and authrised local Crematoria.
However the other effect of Price's case at Cardiff Assizes was to enable the Cremation Society to begin cremations at Woking. On 26 March 1885 Mrs Jeannette Pickersgill was cremated at Woking and 2 further creamtions followed in 1885. In 1886 ten bodies were cremated and by 1888 when 28 cremations took place additional land for a chapel,waiting rooms and other facilities were provided by public subscription.
To return to Bromley the first record source for cremation of residents of the town is the Dunn funeral account. By the 1880's the Dunn family had conducted funerals since 1803 and from 1866 onwards commercial directories do not identify another Bromley undertaker in business until the end of the nineteeth century. The Cremation Society had clearly been of interest to that number of persons who had been buried in the unconsecrated area of the Bromley Burial Board Cemetery and Dunns as a mature undertaking business and member of the national body were familiar with both the London Necropolis Company and the Cremation Society. The carriage of corpses from Woking for burial in South London as well as carriage of corpses to Waterloo for burial at Woking is present in the accounts as Dunns buried in most London cemeteries and collected bodies repatriated to England from overseas. It is not surprising therefore to find references to Woking crematorium and fees of £5 to the Cremation Society in a small number of accounts each year as the Woking Crematorium became increasingly popular. Dunns provided a type of coffin which met the requirements of The Cremation Society and all subsequent creamations that is a coffin assembled from easily combustible materials and without metallic furnishings and this is mentioned in accounts from the 1890's.
Herbert George Dunn modernised all aspects of the business in Market Square and the accounts contain evidence of Dunns being part of London and national trade association for undertakers. In the last years of the nineteenth century the British Institute of Undertakers was formed. In 1904 the London Funeral Furnishers Association came into being followed by the British Undertakers' Association. Dunns were members of these developing Associations  and would have approved for membership any undertakers beginning to trade in Bromley..
In 1900 land for the first crematorium in London, Golders Green Crematorium was purchased and the Crematorium opened in 1902 offering families and funeral directors assisting them an alternative to Woking. It was not until 1956 that the Beckenham Crematorium and Cemetery on the site of the Crystal Palace District Cemetery or Elmers End Cemetery of the nineteenth century  provided local crematorium for Bromley and district.
© Henry Mantell 2015

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Hands on ....but not at Bromley Museum

This week I spent a thoroughly absorbing morning at Bethlem Museum of the Mind visiting both the Gallery and Museum which had a "hands on" experience with items from the Bethlem  collection. I would describe the many items displayed as relatively easy to work out through to complete mysteries.
It is worth bearing in mind that the the archive is from the oldest psychiatric hospital in the world and therefore objects which remain unclassified and mysterious can come from eighteenth or twentieth century use.
This was also an opportunity for me to meet the wonderful Renia Jenkins who had set visitors the challenges. Some of the items took me back to my childhood early memories. I soon recognised a familiar small object and recalled my grandmother in Staffordshire who cooked on a black lead range with a kettle suspended over the open grate and three ovens;one was a slow oven which cooked rice pudding,another was the bread oven and this is where I learned to bake. The third oven was for roasting etc. Of course the lead range the precursor of the beloved Aga cooker (on which my mother worked as a housekeeper) needed to be black leaded regularly and there at Bethlem was Zebra which my grandmother used! I began to think of the Lambeth site of the hospital and of the kitchen and laundry for the hospital.
As well as some scientific items one a mysterious glass measuring jar marked in both different spoon sizes and liquid measures. The glass was however not open at the top and possessed a shoulder and angled opening. Renia said that this had bemused dispensing chemist historians and the purpose remains a mystery. A fascinating object and I wondered roughly what period the manufactured glass had come from. My memory of Bethlem's apothecary until the Asylum reforms at Lambeth in the 1850's had me wondering who had used the measuring device. An intriguing conundrum and it was a lesson in the challenge of catalogue descriptions for such artefacts.
Renia had another challenge in the shape of a cast iron object with 4 clearly constructed holes for fixing either vertically or horizontally. A plain functional hinged handle opened around three different diameter openings. As I handled the object it felt natural for me for this object to be mounted vertically somewhere as the handles seem inclined to hang and form a closure. The black painted cast iron was decorated with a foliage pattern. A true mystery of the kind that you keep turning over in your mind.
When I returned online I emailed a USA based genealogist who I knew had knowledge of Pennsylvania cast iron manufactured savings boxes and other items and gave a verbal description of the Bethlem object. I was delighted with the response as I was able to pass on to Renia what the mystery item was.
 This item is more elaborate than the simpler Bethlem version whose handle was plain cast iron. The catalogue description of the cast iron Crimpier was as follows
American, 19th century figural crimpier or flutter in the form of three footed foliage base with hinged top, upon which is winding snake with head raised and acting as handle; opens to reveal 4 graduated vertically fluted cylinders, in old, if not original black paint; cast intaglio mark on base J. Monis Co./Phil.; 10" long x 5.4" wide x 3.25" high.
The Bethlem item is therefore from the laundry of the hospital and was designed to hold 3 sizes of cast iron rollers for use in ironing collars. It's date and manufacture are not known. What was not present at Bethlem was the other parts of the equipment which would have been heated in a fire and then the roller would have gained heat from the roller base. The roller would be tested on paper for sufficient heat to perform the ironing function.
Renia has contacted me since my visit and found herself "grateful cross and delighted" at my finding what this mystery object was for. My first point in this blog is to emphasise that I was a member of the public offered a hands on experience by Bethlem Museum and that this is the very essence of museum collections that something historical which is not recognised or understood by the present generation has value in describing the social history of earlier generations. In over 6 decades of life I am still learning about my forebears through the opportunites to handle and visit artefacts in collections and what a collection Bethlem possesses!
Which brings me to a second point the sad subject of Bromley Museum. Prolific blogger and museum volunteer Tincture of Museum has described the decision of councillors on the Executive this month to close Bromley Museum from 1 October 2015 see Bromley Museum Lost
The Bromley Museum service has offered artefacts to 60 schools in the large London borough who are required within the National Curriculum to study various periods of history. The strength of Bromley Museum has been the work of its Education officer (soon to be redundant) in providing museum based activities during school holidays and hands on experience in schools and Museum. Those elected councillors who have ended the Museum have denied access to the collections by learners of all ages but have certainly disadvantaged the rising generation of Bromley Residents.
Bromley proposes to offer two display spaces in the Central Libray although there will be no curator. Bromley Central Library is a building which has been underfunded for decades. It's external cladding of small tiles tinkles down due to weather erosion onto the Neuwied way entrance to Libray and Churchill Theatre as well as flat roofs. The fourth floor toilets have an airlock that is audible throughout all public floors of the building but councillors who demonstrably cannot distinguish between the disciplines of Archival collection and storage and curation of artefects are offering a "new and exciting" display of museum artefacts in the Library on two different floors.
As a daily researcher in the Archival material it does appear that this display is a cosmetic attempt at hiding a dogma of cutting jobs and services. Housing the John Lubbock Collection on the second floor of the building displaces other services offered and is not the most frequented area of the Library building so footfall is likely to be diminished. The Archives and Local Studies staff are committed to providing an excellent service to researchers in maps and document collections. They do not have the time or experience to answer visitors questions about The Lubbock commissioned paintings about the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods and artefacts. Staff cannot at present keep pace with tasks involved in acquisitions so the notion of dealing with museum artefacts is unreal. They do help many to locate council minutes electoral registrations at addresses, house histories, legal searches of archival material and image collections as well as service the large family history research and local history projects.
This blog has been long enough but to hear an elected councillor express that the nationally and internationally significant John Lubbock Collection including the Ernest Griset paintings commissioned by Sir John Lubbock are of little local interest (or apparent value) is lamentable. Lubbock was born and lived  at High Elms in Downe and the collection was at High Elms until surviving the fire which destroyed the house. It is subject to a deed of Covenant loaned to the public of Bromley for public display. It remains to be seen how dogma from local councillors pursuing an austerity programme will deprive local people of the collection. It is ignorance and inability to master a brief that leads a member of a council executive to voice the opinion that Sir John Lubbock 1st Lord Avebury 1834-1913 did not live at High Elms for long. There can be no dialogue with such councillors on the value of history in educating all. I would suggest that a visit to the National School at Downe (now Downe Village Hall) might be a starting point in the reeducation of Bromley Councillors.
I am grateful for the volunteers at Bromley Museum like Tincture of Museum for their contributions to the service.
 © Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2015

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Bethlem Museum:held by Jane Fradgley

From 30 May-21 August 2015 Bethlem Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery hosts an exhibition of the photography of the "strong" clothing used as restraints. This work has been exhibited before in a variety of locations,
Jane Fradgley visited the small old Bethlem Archives in 2010 and was able to handle the clothing and then photograph in various lighting techniques.
I loved Jane's photographs some items appear with dark backgrounds and the clothing takes on an almost ghostly quality evoking imagination of the occupant. The texture of the clothing is immediate and I felt offered a feeling of safety.
I can recommend a visit to the exhibition as the photography is evocative and enhances the permanent exhibit in the Museum which was itself the subject of a symposium on displaying the subject in the Museum.
One of the rooms at Bethlem Museum of the Mind focuses on restraint and examples of strong clothing. The subject of physical restraint in psychiatry had been controversial and the abandonment of restraints in psychiatric hospitals lead some to claim that it may ironically cause harm to patients.
The Bethlem Royal Hospital officially abandoned restraint in 1851 and the Museum exhibits include items predating this.In the late nineteenth century non-restraint was reassessed and some garments began to reappear and the Bethlem Archive reflects these and the Restraint register displayed illustrates why certain items were in use.
George Savage Bethlem's Superintendent (see George Savage The Lancet 1888 "The Mechanical Restraint of the Insane") described "strong clothing" as garments made of stout linen or woolen material and lined throughout with flannel. The limbs are all free to move but the hands are enclosed in the extremities of the dress, which are padded". He therefore saw slight restraint as liberating people from the mindset of straitwaistcoats handcuffs and padded rooms.
However the 16-20 people per annum restrained by Savage in the Bethlem register was criticised in letters to the Times with eminent psychiatrists on both sides of the debate. In 1890 the Lunacy Act was introduced and was explicit in regulating restraint for the first time and set guidelines. After the introduction of the Act there is an argument that asylums largely adopted the same types of restraint as Savage at Bethlem.
There is scope for failures to record all instances of restraint and physical restraint remained in use into the twentieth century.
I have an immediate interest in physical restraint as later this year I will begin to transcribe the Lunacy Registers of Bromley Poor Law Union Workhouse at Locksbottom as part of the Kent Online Parish Clerks and Bromley Archives Indexing agreement. The Workhouse has a Physical Restraint Register which is not open to the public for another 15 years as entries continued until 1930.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Bromley Funeral vehicles 1803-1915 operated by Dunns

The work of transcribing the first 10 surviving volumes of Dunns funeral accounts is nearing completion and this gives me an opportunity to document the vehicles of the funeral trade carried out by Dunns.
The early volumes from 1803-1830 are descriptive of the Georgian and Regency period of funerals.
As the later volumes confirm the Dunn family prior to 1830 rely on hearses hired by the day although it appears that a hearse was acquired in the 1820's and remained in service. Certainly it is possible to identify this vehicle in accounts as the cost of use was lower than that hired for the occasion.
From the coming of the railway to Bromley the death trade in Bromley changes;it is not uncommon for funeral parties to travel with the coffin by rail and for coffins and Attendant to travel long distances and the accounts include burials in Devon attended and organised by the Dunn family.
In the 1870's there is specific reference to the combined hearse and coach designed by George Shillibeer and as father's give way to son's carrying on the funeral trade within the Dunn family the charge for the "funeral car" reflects use of a Dunn owned Shillibeer. The accounts even detail that the charge for "Funeral car glazed" is identical to the charge for the company's hearse. The Bromley Burial Board Cemetery in London Road was rapidly occupied and the ability to carry passengers (often bearers) as well as the coffin meant it was useful for collection of the body from rail stations in the district  for burial in Bromley.
 The fashion of mourners travelling in carriages continued for a small number of more elaborate funerals but the trade catered to offer a simpler and cheaper funeral for all classes. There was  a readily available group of coachmen in Bromley and Dunn was by the 1870's one of the longest established businesses in Bromley retailing furniture and had expanded from the Market Square premises to open a three storey large furniture depository which housed the vehicle fleet. The Dunn family were one of the major employers in the town.
The need to collect corpses from the Kent County Asylum at Barming Heath lead the family to utilise a variety of vehicles. The company's horse drawn furniture vans were used to collect bodies from Barming and all London Hospitals to bring the corpse in a shell to spend a night before burial either in the shop at Market Square with Attendant or in the depository, This building had been built to be wood partitioned into secure "rooms" for storage and it was therefore relatively simple for a body to accommodated. The accounts regularly specify the location. It is worth bearing in mind that more than one funeral a day might be arranged. Only the large houses of the district could accommodate a coffin and Attendant the accounts specify which room the deceased is to be attendend in such circumstances.
In many child funerals and several adult funerals a year a Brougham was capable of conveying a body to the Cemetery. The Brougham was readily available in Bromley for hire with or without driver and obviously developed as well as cab and fly hire as the need for onward travel from stations developed. The Brougham was a light four wheeled horse drawn carriage which had the advantage of as small a turning circle as the London Carriage Office "Conditions for Fitness" for licensing as a cab for hire.