Monday, 16 November 2015

The frightened horse and tragic death Bromley Kent 1863

I am currently transcribing the volumes of sextons accounts for Bromley; a neglected source in Bromley Archives.
Bromley had the consistent service of members of the Dunn family in the eighteenth century as Parish Clerk and in the nineteenth century as sextons.
The most detailed entry I have found records the fatal encounter of a horse and young 15 year old James Henry Baker who played the triangle in the 18th Kent Volunteer Band (known locally as the Rifle Band).
The Bromley Record edition of 1 September 1863 describes how as the band reached Bromley on 21 August 1863 on their return march from Blackheath they began to play as was customary in the town. Sadly they encountered a Market Gardener's horse drawn van and the frightened horse caused the van to hit James Henry Baker who was killed instantly as the van wheel passed over his head. An inquest was held on Monday 25 August 1863 and returned a verdict of Accidental Death.
The sexton's account written by Edward Dunn records the funeral of 27 August 1863 and the two death marches played as the Band marched to the parish church and subsequently at the grave side as was customary for the funeral of any member of the band.
The funeral was conducted by Reverend Arthur Gresley Hellicar and is described as "very imposing" in the Bromley Record account. The son of the master of the National School and a popular pupil and band member the funeral was large as all pupils of the National School and most inhabitants attended.
The tragedy of the death is also reflected by Edward Dunn in a marginal entry in the sexton's account which points out that the death took place on the evening before his sixteenth birthday;The Bromley Record account describes his invitation to many band members and fellow pupils to attend his birthday celebration.
The Bromley  Record account refers to the impressive demeanour of the people of Bromley at this funeral and the large attendance.
James Henry had been an enthusiastic supporter of the band although not yet a a member of the 18th Kent Volunteers he had been encouraged to participate in band activities.
The sexton's account books routinely identify the relatives of the deceased and short biography with reference to occupation of former occupation as well as identifying where the burial took place in the churchyard and in later entries the name of the Undertaker responsible for arrangements. As such they are more detailed than the parish register entry of burial. The volumes are part of the parish records deposited within the Archives and my transcript will be added to the Bromley page at Kent Online Parish Clerks in due course.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2015

Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Art of Bedlam:Richard Dadd

I was one of the first day visitors to Bethlem Museum of the Mind which hosts this exhibition from 7 November 2015 until 6 February 2016 (closed 23 December reopens 2 January 2016). During the exhibition two companion talks are to be held and on 7 November Bethlem Archivist Colin Gale  introduced visitors to "A very sensible and agreeable companion: Richard Dadd the Bethlem patient".

The exhibition includes sketches and paintings which form part of the Bethlem archives and other material held in other collections. The substantial Bethlem collection has been on loan to the Watts Gallery Compton and Doctor Nicholas Tromans curates the Bethlem Museum exhibition and will  give a companion talk on Saturday 5 December 2015 about Dadd the artist.
Colin Gale placed Dadd's 20 year detention on the Criminal Lunatic Ward of Bethlem in the historical context of the Hospital of the nineteenth century.
We owe an enormous debt to Patricia Allderidge who was Archivist at Bethlem until retirement in 2003. Her study of the art collection lead to her curating a Tate exhibition in 1974 and writing a book about Dadd.It was her vision which lead to the creation of the 21st century Museum of the Mind and gallery for exhibitions such as this one and Colin  paid tribute to her work,
Dadd was a rising star as a Royal Academy trained artist and the exhibits reflect his great ability, However he came back from a tour of the Middle East and acting under the influence of a compulsion born of a powerful delusion that he was the agent of the Egyptian god Osiris engaged in battle with the Devil who had assumed the appearance of his own father stabbed his father to death in one of the most famous cases of Victorian murder.
Colin detailed the sympathy for Dadd which was evident from the outset drawing upon upon letters from his brother to Royal Academicians and the sympathetic treatment by Hospital staff and by the Victorian press.
His case notes form part of the exhibition and whilst the "Moral Management" of patients detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure offered him every assistance to paint his mental state was always questionable with Hood in 1854 describing his lack of insight into his behaviour but then contrasting that with the "sensible and agreeable companion" which formed this talk's title.
The exhibition attracted many visitors on its opening day and is open Wednesdays to Fridays Museum of the Mind events
I have long appreciated Dadd's art and as a visitor to Bethlem Archive in the 1970's was probably enthused by Patricia Allderidge following her Tate exhibition and book. Dadd is now recognised as a leading British Artist but one wonders if this would have been the case without Patricia's dedication to the material she curated as an archivist.
Currently the Bethlem Gallery has an interesting exhibition Unescorted #6 featuring the work of Interim Secure Unit patients.
The unification of two galleris in the same building together with the permanent Museum exhibits make for a very interesting visit.