Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Day in the Bromley Union Workhouse

"And it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that truly be said of us,and all of us." -Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

Any consideration of Christmas Day in the Workhouse of Bromley Union must consider the example of Charles William Gedney a Union Guardian.
In 1927 he died pacefully in his sleep in early January shortly after he had organised his 57th year of Christmas Day celebrations for the inmates of the Workhouse.
This year round activity involved securing donations from the public of the parishes of The Union to make the hundreds of men women and children unfortunate enough to be inmates at Christmas feel something of Christmas.
The staff of the Workhouse and their families were also recruited to the cause and donations of decorations and large amounts of evergreens from various estates in the district were put to use to decorate the chapel, wards of the Infirmary and day rooms throughout the site. The dining hall was heavily decorated throughout the beamed ceiling.
Gedney ensured toys for each child which he distributed whilst the men would be offered very acceptable tobacco and the women packets of sugar and tea.
Most Workhouses received such gifts but Bromley is exceptional in that one Guardian took responsibility for so many decades. His sons had grown up spending their Christmas Day as a family giving their time to those in need and in support of their father's work.
Christmas Dinner was nearly always reported in local newspapers and consisted of roast beef and roast pork, mutton and plum pudding. Alcohol was not provided but Mister Gedney always secured mineral water donated by a local company.
In the evening musical and other entertainments were organised with visitor musicians and singers to entertain.
Mister Gedney usually received a traditional vote of thanks from The Master of the Workhouse and would make a short speech of thanks. Occasionally in some years he prevailed upon the Chair of the Board of Guardians to appear.
In 1908 he was able to make a speech and appreciate the introduction of old age pensions. Initially the pension of five shillings a week from 1 January 1909 was not available to those in receipt of poor law relief. Mister Gedney suggested that were 5 shillings a week available to relatives many elderly residents of the Workhouse over 70 years of age would find home with family members.(From 1 January 1911 those over 70 years of age in receipt of Poor Law Relief  were adopted into the scheme and Act of 1908).
Bromley Union had prior to this had a larger than average number of inmates over 70 and had a reputation of an enlarged Infirmary and improved accommodation for children from 1909. Gedney's prediction proved accurate as the number of people over 70 fell throughout the remainder of his years as a Guardian.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Charles William Gedney Part II Poor Law Guardian

Gedney was as I described in part I of this blog a pungent and outspoken critic of the decision by Bromley Union's Poor Law Guardians to exclude journalists from Board meetings held at the Union Workhouse. This coupled with criticism of the diet offered to inmates which had featured prominently in a General Election  lead Gedney to submit his name for election as a Guardian. His first efforts were unsuccessful but as he developed criticism of the way children were housed with adults in the Workhouse and the Guardians lack of response to Local Government initiatives to board such children out in foster homes over a 15 year period he was duly elected by Bromley Parish as a Guardian.
From the outset this forward thinking amiable man was to devote his service to the lot of destitute women and children in particular.
He was outraged by the Workhouse education of children and argued for attendance at local Board schools; later when the Farnborough School Board expanded the school the Board were to offer places at the school for children from the nearby Workhouse on condition that they did not "wear Workhouse habit" to school.
His concern for education generally lead to his election to the Bromley School Board and he and Miss Hepple were the only two members to remain until Bromley became a Council and an Education Committee assumed responsibilty. The popularity of these two members enabled their re-election all other original members were ejected due to delay in securing land for much needed schools championed by both successful candidates.
In 1885 he succeeded in establishing a Boarding Out Committee  for "deserted and and orphaned children" and as the Boarding Out Committe minutes record he successfully placed 36 children in "cottage homes" and local Board Schools in that year. Later he was to dramaticllay increase the number of eligible children to enter foster homes.
From the outset he placed heavy emphasis on after care and particular emphasis on training girls and guardianship of these young women some time after they ceased to "on the books" of the Guardians. In the 1920's obituarists were to comment on his willingness to accommodate in his own home those whose service had ended through no fault of their own.
Throughout the two volumes of Boarding Out Committe minutes there are examples of his intervention in case of sudden critical illness to transport a child to London for treatment and report to Committee the outcome of his intervention. he was also available to assit in removal of children from unsuitable foster parents.
The 1887 movement in Bromley to recruit and elect women Guardians was supported as he felt that the success of Boarding Out Children should increase and in other unions Ladies Boarding Out Committees were succeeding. In 1890 Bromley Union had Isabella Frances Akers elected. After her first remarks to the Guardians Gedney was somewhat ruffled by criticism of the conditions for women and children but characteristically his criticism of her remarks and her apology if she had offended Board members was met with amiable support. Indeed as Miss Akers introduced reforms to the Union she was fully supported and soon more parishes elected Women guardians in some cases unopposed. After the tragic death of Miss Akers her work was continued by a  highly effective group of women guardians and fostering in the rapid expansion of Bromley Union's population was well organised to support those leaving foster care.
The 14 year old Charles William Gedney's naval career and injury in active service overseas was perhaps the influence that ensured that Naval Training ships and Army recruitment was pursued by the Union's children and also provided funding for accommodation for young female servants out of situations by supporting the Bromley Servants House. The injured naval midshipman had come home to take up a new career and he pursued every opportunity for young men and women to emigrate to Canada through numerous Emigration Socities and ensured that the Guardians had Emigration Committee and funding to assist where necessary.
It is difficult to write about Bromley Poor Law Union Workhouse in the last quarter of the nineteenth century and first quarter of the twentieth century without appreciating his great contribution.
He was a mover in developing the Union Workhouse accommodation in general but especially separate housing for Boys and Girls in houses along Wellbrook Road,removing children entirely from the adult accommodation. He also proposed improved Infirmary accommodation in added wings and eventual improvement to casuals accommodation and saniation for women. He was pragmatic enough to point out the unsuitability of requiring casuals to perform "the stone test" a fitness to work test by breaking stone as the 1830's Workhouse housed casuals in cells unlike other Workhouses.
Nowadays we grumble about snowfall inconveniencing travel; but in the Victorian era frost and snow in the first three months of each year stopped farm workers and those in the building industry from working and many local families became destitute. Gedney's concern to improve the Workhouse diet had lead to a Workhouse Bakery (and incidentally apprenticeships for those boarded out). It became possible for the bakery to not only feed inmates but to offer relief in seasonal hardship. The Relieving Officers worked closely with the local government to open up labour yards at Beckenham and Waldo Road Bromley and Gedney would on these occasions visit the men during their lunch break.
When proposals to reform Workhouses were tabled Gedney referred to Locksbottom as being a House for the elderly and sick and was able to demonstrate this by numbers of able bodied poor being lower than comparable Unions whilst the Infirmary was larger.
It was also his activity alone to organise local efforts year round to support the annual "Workhouse Holiday" each August or September from 1880 onwards. Through the generosity of local landowners and businesses offering transport all inmates of the Workhouse would be taken for a day for lunch and tea. Sir John Lubbock became the regular host at High Elms of 200-300 men women and children and many Bromley businesses which maintained vehicles would transport them there. Mister Gedney would always speak and offer a vote of thanks to the host and year round would ensure that tableware seating .
As we will see in another blog Christmas Day in the Workhouse at Locksbottom became inseperable from the Gedney family.
Charles William Gedney died on 7 January 1927 peacefully in his sleep days after organising his 57th annual Christmas Day for the Workhouse which he always referred to as the "grim grey Great House" but the Workhouse was a much more effective organisation for his long service and zealous efforts to improve the lives of those who were admitted.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Charles William Gedney:Part I Journalist and Author

Charles William Gedney was born at Aldwick Sussex and educated a private school. At the age of 14 he became a naval cadet and served with distinction as a Midshipman under the captaincy of Captain William Peel V C aboard HMS Shannon 1855 when he formed part of the  naval brigade at the relief of Lucknow dragging guns overland to defend and fortify the garrison under siege.
He also sailed up the Yangtze River in 1857 when he was one of 46 injured sailors in the Battle of Canton (1857). This injury ended his career at sea and he returned home to take up journalism working for two years as journalist on the Daily News.
In 1865 he arrived in Bromley and began to publish the "The Bromley Telegraph" printed at 25 Market Square, a house at the south east corner of Market Square which Horsbrugh describes as:
"a secluded house with an ample forecourt containing lime trees and enclosed by wooden railings". It had in the 1801 census of Bromley been home to Edward Broad and subsequently occupied by Miss Anne Broad "a very select dressmaker,many of the county families from the surrounding neighbourhood being her patrons."
Gedney had a printing office on the ground floor which is sometimes referred to as "Telegraph" Printing Works Bromley.
Gedney became famous for his "highly seasoned" local reading which under his pseudonym "Idler in Local Gossip" criticised the way that local affairs were organised. This pungent outspoken critical attitude to authority's was to lead him to defend 20 actions against him in the High Court. He later joked that he lost only two which " I should have won and won one which I should have lost".
Despite this reputation locally described by Horsbrugh on his arrival in 1881 in Bromley as "a dangerous iconoclast and doubtless would have been dubbed a Bolshevist had that appellation existed" Horsbrugh became a personal friend and  described  a kind and jovial disposition encouraging others to enter journalism. He was somewhat ahead of his time in that those in public positions were unaccustomed to criticism.
He was a snooker player at The Liberal Club in Bromley and a supporter of Liberal politics in the town.
He was angered by the Local Board of Guardians refusal to admit journalists to meetings at the Workhouse and was also dissatisfied by the diet of inmates at what he referred to as The "grim and grey Great House".
In Part II I will pursue his action against the manner in which the Workhouse was being run.
In 1896 Gedney printed and published
This publication was successful and shows Gedney at leisure as a Fly Fisherman travelling to Ireland Scotland and Wales by train to enjoy his sport. The book is still read in various formats available online.
For many years he wrote the "Circular Notes "column in Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News.
In 1902 he sold his printing business to the proprietors of the Bromley Chronicle and for ten years from 1902-1912 the BromleyTelegraph and Chronicle was published.
After retirement he cared for his wife Annie during a lengthy illness until her death at their Glebe Road home on 17 October 1906. She was buried at the London Road Cemetery on 22 October 1906 when Charles was accompanied by his three sons at the funeral described by The Bromley Record obituary.
As we will see in Part II his kind and jovial disposition was to bless many lives throughout his long years of public service.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2017

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Bromley Mystery of an Abandoned Baby

The human condition changes little no matter which  century and abandoning children has an inherent mystery.
As I have researched the population of children boarded out from the Bromley Kent Poor Law Union from 1885 onwards there is only one child whose name and circumstances remain a mystery to me.
On the evening of the 20 March 1895 a male baby about six months old was abandoned in the porch of Pulham House Palace Grove the household of Mister A. Scott.
Elinda Potter a servant employed by Mister Scott thought she heard a baby crying in the front of the house and when she opened the door she found a small bundle containing the baby a feeding bottle and an attached note.The child had been carefully wrapped in a maroon covering.
The handwritten note said:
"Dear Kind People
Will you be so kind as to give this little baby a night's shelter as he is motherless,fatherless and there is no one to take him. I have done the best I could for the little lamb while i had him but I am almost destitute myself. Would you be so kind as to send him to the Swanley Home for little boys;and do not send him to the was his mother's wish for him to go to a Home".
The police were called and Doctor Ilott in his role as Divisional Surgeon was called to examine the child who was found to be healthy. He advised the police to remove the child to The Workhouse.
The Bromley Record account in its April edition records this detail and says the child was taken to the Workhouse and that the police were making "every inquiry" into the matter.
What is equally mysterious is that there is no record of admission to the Workhouse for a male baby estimated to be six months of age in the Porter's admission and discharge register,
It would in my experience be most unusual for no record to be kept-on the contrary one of the first issues confronting the Master and Board of Guardians would be to establish who the parents were and their circumstances.
The Boarding Out Commitee meeting on 5 April records that two foundling chargeable to the Union are in the Workhouse and the Committee recommends to the Guardians that a reward for the apprehension of the parents should be offered. It is not possible to identify these two children by name or subsequent reference to boarded out children in either the discharge entries or Boarding Out minutes or the two volumes of Secretary's register which provides detailed biography of the boarded out chidren and their after-care as well as years of birth and foster parents.
There is no evidence of the the Guardians placing a male child in a childrens home which would match these circumstances or reference to the removal of a child by a parent.
In most cases of abandonment the Union record sources are thorough  and one or two foster parents (usually with nursing backgrounds) are foster parents to small babies and every effort is made to ensure that small children are not admitted to the House. At this time the Ladies Committee were responsible for the placement of children and reported quarterly to the Board of Guardians so that detailed records are available.
The note attached to the baby refers to the Farningham Home for Little Boys at Horton Kirby which would not have accepted a baby. The Farningham Home for Little Boys is used by Bromley Union for boys up to 10 years of age often those who are difficult to maintain in foster care. Whether this child died or remained for some years in the Workhouse due to illness or disability is not known.
 © Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Monday, 31 October 2016

Miss Isabella Frances Akers of Warren Wood Hayes

The Church of Saint Mary The Virgin Hayes contains a black and white marble pavement in the sanctuary and an oak rail in memory of Mrs Frances Whitmore and her daughter Isabella. The work was donated by Aretas Akers Douglas and his sister Mrs Eleanor Mary Norman as a memorial to their mother and sister and were to a design by Thomas Jackson M.A. carried out in 1904/5.
Isabella and her mother are buried side by side in Hayes Churchyard to the right hand side of the Hambro family memorial. Mrs Frances Whitmore died in 1900 and as we will see Miss Isabella Frances Akers died in 1903.

Aretas Akers had married Frances Maria Brandram and the couple had raised their family as he served as a clergyman. Isabella was born on 15 May 1853  but was to become an orphan at the age of 3. Her father Aretas Akers had an interesting family history;the family in the eighteenth century had considerable land and slaves in the West Indies and on the abolition of slavery was compensated by the British Government. Isabella's inheritance was invested wisely on her behalf she held among other shares in the Great Western Railway and is designated with her mother in the census as of independent means.
Their son Aretas Akers who was born at West Malling in October 1851 where his father was rector later changed his name to Akers-Douglas and in 1880 was elected to Parliament. In 1902 he became Home Secretary and later was created Viscount Chilston and had inherited Chilston Park, The change of his name was in accordance with the terms of a family will which provided his inheritance see Wikipedia 1st Viscount Chilston.
Eleanor Mary Akers married Edward Norman in 1875 two years after her mother who had remarried and been widowed for a second time had taken a lease on Warren Wood Hayes Common in September 1873.
I am grateful for the generous assistance of Jean Wilson co-author with the late Trevor Woolman of Hayes: A History of a Kent Village Volume I and her detailed research on the house. The confusion between Warren Wood and the neighbouring house which came to be known as The Warren and still stands today as part of the Metropolitan Police estate is obvious as the census enumerator in the 1881 refers to the House it's lodge stables housing as The Warren whereas in 1891 the enumerator refer's to Mrs Whitmore's Gardeners Cottage and the house as part of Hayes Common. The houshold employed in 1881 a coachman and a gardener and his family as well as domestic servants. In the 1891 census entry a butler cook and four other domestic servants are employed. The house no longer exists but was occupied after 1903.
Isabella Frances Akers was the first elected woman to serve as a Guardian for Bromley Poor Law Union elected in 1890. She was to fulfil her commitment to "serve the women children and disabled of the Union" throughout her years as a Board Guardian and it was typical of her commitment to serve that she died tragically entering the Workhouse to attend a Board Meeting in 1903.
We can with a twenty first century perspective only imagine what the only woman elected to serve on a Poor Law Union Board experienced in an all male Board room. Her ability as a member earned unanimous approval for her proposals and her commitment to orphans and the deserted children of the Union Workhouse emerges most strongly from the pages of Committee minutes. She was the Guardian to join the Boarding Out Committee 5 years after the all male Committee had begun to recruit foster parents in Bromley.
Isabella had worked with the matron of the Workhouse to draw up an inventory of clothing for boys and girls and her attention to the provision of winter capes for boys and an ulster caped winter coat for girls which could be made by women in the Workhouse work room to patterns (by Paton and Baldwin) was the beginning of her work to research formally propose and implement a Committee of Lady Visitors which I have previously written about.  She was to work with the Boarding Out and Cottage Training Homes Association as well as her personal visits to foster parents and children in their care and assisting Charles Gedney who chaired the Boarding Out Commitee in his efforts to obtain urgent admissions to hospitals in London or urgent alternative foster homes on the death or illness of their foster mother.
There are indications that her health had required her to go away for three months on health grounds in her formal notice of absence contained in Commitee minutes but no one at the Union was prepared for the tragedy of her death. At the age of 49 she was in April of 1903 accustomed to travelling by tricycle to meetings at the Union Workhouse. In 1901 the most popular ladies tricycle was the Rudge-Whitworth which replaced their earlier models with a "modern" front brake to replace the earlier fixed wheel brake. I am grateful to the Old Bike Museum for their help. On the23 April 1903 Isabella Akers had ridden from her home at Warren Wood to the Union Workhouse. Without gearing the journey which has several inclines would have been challenging at  Farnborough Common. The Bromley Record obituary May 1903 reports that she had pushed her tricycle up the incline at Farnborough Common remounting at the top and rode up to the lodge of the Workhouse where she fell from her tricycle and died when her heart failed. The Obituary further records that she was unable to speak and great shock was felt by all at the loss of a well respected woman.
On 23 April 1903 at Hayes Church the Rector began the service which was then conducted by a bishop. Isabella was buried next to her mother in Hayes Churchyard.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2018

Monday, 3 October 2016

Guidance on choice of Foster Home in the 1890's

The Bromley Poor Law Union handbook for Lady Visitors in 1894 see previous blog contains both national guidance and local Union guidance of choice of foster home.
Article 4 of the Local Government Board guidance specifies that "not more than two children should be boarded out by the Guardians in the same house unless all such are brothers and sisters and do not exceed four in child should be placed in a home which would result in five children."
Those who had received Relief from the Poor Law Union in the preceding twelve months were ineligible to be considered as prospective foster parents.
Article 5 of the Local Government Board specifies that the creed of the foster parent should not be different to that of the child.
There are within the Bromley Union Ladies Committee minutes examples of the need to face these circumstances. In many examples of large family groups of orphaned or abandoned children the local practice is to try whenever practicable to place siblings in homes to enable them to attend the same school; there are changes of foster carer to bring about such circumstances.
Bromley Union Guardians do however encounter difficulty when Roman Catholic children need to be accommodated. The problem vexes local Roman Catholic clergy and Guardians alike despite exhaustive attempts to attract Roman Catholic foster parents over nearly twenty years  and children who might be boarded out are admitted to a Roman Catholic orphanage in Orpington rather than foster homes. In some cases clergy accept non-Catholic foster parents but organise Roman Catholic schooling in efforts to meet the child's interests and provide Roman Catholic education.

  • Child over seven years of age should never be allowed to sleep in the same room as a married couple
  • No child to be boarded out in a house where an adult lodger is accommodated "this rule is often evaded after the child has been some time in a home"
There is an example in the Bromley Union of the admission to the household of two teenage male lodgers who the visitor interviews and finds "most respectable Gentlemen" nevertheless the foster parent who claims not be to aware of the rule is required to cease the lodging arrangement or have the child removed.

Bromley Union Guardians require reports to them to reflect:

  • The moral character of prospective foster parents
  • that sleeping accommodation be inspected for future as well as present
  • income of the family should be quite sufficient for the child's maintenance without any payment for foster care
  • age and health of foster parents not only for present but for as long as child remains
  • "young couples with increasing families are not as a general rule good foster parents as the children become nurses or drudges"
  • boys should not be placed with widows or single women "they usually grow out of control of women"
  • country homes are as rule to be preferred for girls
Whilst some of these rules seem quaint to the 21st century reader the experience of failing or inadequate foster care contained in the pages of the Committe Minutes reflects the challenges that foster parents faced. The male foster parent who loses employment is faced with a dilemma as to claim poor relief would lead to removal of foster children;the Guardians tend to be pragmatic and make every effort to secure him employment to avert alternate arrangement for foster children.
Sleeping accommodation can be a difficulty as a small child at the beginning of foster care can by age 13 be large and strong enough to enter naval Training and a number of "large strong lads" are considered by Committee.
There are certainly failures in fostering which arise from foster parents inappropriately requiring the child to nurse or perform heavy domestic duties usually associated with declining mental or physical health of the foster carer or introduction of young children.
The presumption that a widow or single woman acting as a foster parent and being unable to control boys is confounded by the experienced foster carers who are widowed and cope with children with special needs or develop serious health problems. There are exceptions to the assumption but there are equally failures to be able to control the excesses of dishonesty including thefts from both foster parents by some children. Young women beyond control of foster parents are also evident and several young women require admission to institutions which are described as strict. In one case detention in hospital for danger to herself and others is described by visitor involved in after care visits.
The Bromley Union certainly began in 1885 with a policy of recruiting in the "country" parishes;however the development of housing in the Bromley Common and growth of the town lead to a rise in foster care in and near the town itself.
The introduction of the Lady Visitor's Committee and reports to Guardians forms a social history of the development of social work and regulated boarding out of orpans and abandoned children by Bromley Union. We are fortunate to have surviving Union records which by the 1900's also compromise a case note for each child recording both their foster care history and after care reports. I will blog about this history as work on this period progresses.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016 

Bromley Union Kent Boarding Out Committee and Visitors Handbook

The records held at Bromley Historic Collections relating to boarded out children include a surviving copy of the Handbook reference 846GBy/A/W/9 given to Lady Visitors (and Committee members).
It also lists the Committee members and Relieving Officers in the 4 Union Districts and Union Doctors for the districts including the Beckenham Doctor A Primrose Wells of Bournville Beckenham who was male despite his chosen first name.
Miss Akers 1893 formal proposal to form a Committe of Lady Visitors from the constituent parishes of the Union had lead the Boarding Out Committe on 5 January 1894 to approve and submit to the Local Government Board for their approval the following Committee of Visitors.
Bromley              Miss Hay "Parkfield" who died and was replaced by Mrs Beeby London Road
                          Mrs Partridge "Barnfield"
                          Mrs Dodgson "Hayesford"
                          Miss Martindale "Overfield" Bickley
Chelsfield           Mrs Edward Norman
Chislehurst         Miss Willis Lamona Villa
Downe                Miss Harris Orange Court
Farnborough        Mrs Preston
Hayes                  Miss Brett Ash Lodge (Hayes part of Keston)
Keston                 Mrs Dudin Broadmoor Keston
Saint Pauls Cray   Mrs William Nash
West Wickham     Mrs Packe Hawes Down

The Committee was responsible for:

  • the provision of homes
  • superintendence of homes within the limits of this union for orphan and deserted children chargeable to the common fund of the Union
  • a fee of four shillings a week per child up to age 16 for lodging exclusive of clothing school fees and fees for medical attendance medicines and medical extras
  • a quarterly clothing allowance
  • payment of one penny a week to the head teacher for each child whose attendance was to be reported quarterly to the Boarding Out Committee of the Union
  • burial expenses for deceased children
  • payments to District Medical Officers who are to report on health of each child quarterly

Each Lady Visitor was allowed stationery and postage expenses each quarter in order to submit reports and to enter in correspondence with potential employers and employers of those children in employment and after care. The visitors soon identified needs which were not met and with the exception of their Secretary all devoted this allowance to form a fund to pay for fares and other unmet needs of the children.
The Handbook contained Local Government Board requirements and some experience that Miss Akers had obtained from other Union Lady Visitors;in addition the requirements of the Bromley Union are specified. The latter include:
"a member of the Committee should visit each home at least once a month at varying intervals and by surprise keeping a record of her visits and taking special notice of
 the health of the children
the food supplied (occasional meal time visits) "The appearance of the children will indicate whether the food is the right quantity and quality"
clothing "This should be examined thoroughly gone over half yearly.The visitor should observe what underclothing the child is wearing at the time".
 An inventory of clothing issued by the Matron of the Workhouse had to be maintained and recovered if the child was removed from a foster home for any reason. Within the clothing list there are two specific items which within the minutes of the boarding out Committee are proposed by Miss Akers the only female member of that Committee. She proposes that boys be issued with a cape for winter outer wear and the girls receive an Ulster waterproof overcoat. Although commonly associated as a male overcoat with caped sleeves by the 1890's various paterns and styles were available for girls see girls Ulster coat.
In late 1894 one visitor reports to the Boarding Out Committee that she does not in conscience feel able to make "surprise" visits at mealtimes or examine boys underwear. Her continued service as visitor is welcomed by the Committee on the understanding that she will "in my own way" ensure the adequacy of both food and clothing.
The visitors were to report on
the adequacy of accommodation available for present and future accommodation
sleeping arrangements within the household bedding to be inspected "It should be clearly understood that these inspections are not made on suspicion but because the visitor is bound to report to Committee from their knowledge at first hand".
temperance "on no account should a child be sent to a public house for beer or for any other purpose".
In no circumstances should a foster child be returned to the Union Workhouse without the knowledge of the visitor and transfer of children "should be made without removal to the Workhouse". It was the role of the visitor to receive complains from foster parents and in case of requested removal of foster children the visitor was required to communicate immediately with the Board.
There is within the minutes of the Committee ample evidence that Relieving Officers and the Chairman of the Boarding Out Committee and Secretary were supportive of foster parents coping with difficulty with challenging children and every effort is made to prevent breakdown of established care arrangement. The aftercare of children who leave school and remain in foster home and enter work or who enter service is one testament to the strength of these relationships with ongoing correspondence even after emigration reporting on the welfare of those for which formal responsibilty has ceased.
Emphasis is placed on the relationships between visitor and child,visitor and foster carer to achieve a succesful transition to employment.
The Boarding Out Committee minutes record the pain of some children in facing life ouside the Workhouse. Guidance is given to visitors about pocket money "in the Workhouse Schools they have little temptation to dishonesty but when they come out and see shops the desire to buy sweets or other things comes on them and if they have nothing they are tempted to steal".In many cases foster care is not able to assist children who had deeply rooted problems of lying and dishonesty. Some are called before the Committee and leave foster care to enter institutional care in an effort to divert them.
I will blog again about some of the guidance offered as these reflect Local Government attitudes in the last quarter of Queen Victoria's reign.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Monday, 26 September 2016

Bromley (Kent) Poor Law Union children fostered 1885-1902

The Boarding Out Committee of Bromley Poor Law Union minutes in the first volume of held by Bromley Historic Collections record the development of the use of foster care for children in the care of the Union.
The 25 November 1870  General Order of the Local Government Board relating to the boarding out of pauper children formed the basis on which Poor Law Guardians could establish such provision. It was not until 1885 that the Guardians of the Bromley Poor Law Union established a Committee and elected a Chairman to effectively organise the placement of orphans or deserted children in "cottage homes" within the Union parishes. The criteria for children eligible to be placed was changed by an 1889 Local Government Order which widely expanded the eligibility for boarding out.
Although the record does not contain numbers of the children in the Union Workhouse at Locksbottom from 1885-1888 it does offer a clear record of each child and names and locations of their foster parents.
A total of 36 children were placed in 1885 and by 1887 this had reduced to 33. In 1888 the minutes record that 17 boys and 16 girls were located in the following parishes:
Green Street Green         2 boys
Farnborough                  1 boy      2 girls
Chelsfield                     2 boys     3 girls
Saint Mary Cray            5 boys
Saint Paul's Cray           no boys   2 girls
Bromley                       5 boys     4 girls
Hayes                           no boys   3 girls
West Wickham              1 boy      2 girls
Cudham                        1 boys     no girls
It is worth noting that this first group of children up to the beginning of 1887 are generally in settled foster care with few changes of foster parent unless essential and this group of children are visited by Relieving Offiver every two weeks. The Committee advertises the need for suitable foster parents and each District Relieving Officer must visit and inspect accommodation before the Commitee request the foster parent attends and completes a written undertaking before Committee.
In 1888 although the total number of children in the Workhouse is not known 12 children are said to be eligible in addition to 35 children boarded out by the end of 1888 7 children 5 boys and 2 girls remain awaiting foster carers.
The implications of the 1889 Local Government Order are considered by Committee - of 46 children in the Workhouse the Guardians identify 36 children now eligible for Boarding Out. The Committee finds and approves suitable foster parents in the Union so that by August 1889 23 children eligible are either in the Workhouse or in convalescent home at Ramsgate and by the final quarter meeting 8 boys and four girls await approval of Committee. It is also noteworthy that at the same time of this large increase in foster care two orphan infant girls and four months and thirteen months are subject of efforts to place with adoptive parents.
Bromley Poor Law Union had four districts each with a Relieving Officer and district Medical Officer. Both of these Union officers were required to report to the Committee;the Relieving Officer was required to see each child in his district in their foster home and make reports to Committe by entries on the back of report sheets. In May 1890 there remains only one child called Margaret age seven in the Workhouse eligible for foster parents and there are a number of foster parents approved and available to receive children. The expansion of the foster care leads the all male Committee to include Miss Isabella F Akers to join the Committee and this female pioneer is to dramatically change the care of foster children in Bromley. The Commitee also has a severe imbalance in demands upon it's Relieving Officers. It is estimated that around 60 children are cared for in 1890 of which 41 children are in the Bromley district reflecting the growth of population of the town and Bromley Common district. In addition to 82 visits a fortnight there are also responsibilities to escort Lunatics to the County Asylum at Barming Heath recorded in the Bromley Poor Law Union Lunacy Registers. In another district the Relieving Officer has 14 children to visit. Clearly the Guardians need to resolve these pressures.
In 1891 the Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children lead the Boarding Out Commitee to take all children in the Union under protection of that act and 65 children are recorded as being boarded out with an additional population of after care for those who have entered training or employment and are funded at either "full pay" or "half pay" by the Guardians.
In 1892 there are 30 children in the Workhouse 9 are eligible for boarding out and 3 for entry into service. Potential foster parents continue to exceed the need for children and Miss Akers by now an influential member of the otherwise male Committe begins to formulate plans to alter the handling of foster parents. In 1893 she gives formal notice to Comittee of a formal resolution to form a Ladies Committee of female vistors to take over responsibility for visiting each child and foster parent and presenting reports to the Boarding out Committee. Her proposal is unanimously approved on 22 December and she works with the Boarding out Committe clerk Robert Gordon Mullen to produce a printed Handbook for Lady Visitors.In January 1895 female Visitors from each parish in the Union are appointed by the Guardians who enter into correspondence with the Local Government Board to approve existing "Lady Visitors" and approve the change in treatment.
Bromley Poor Law Union was by no means unique in forming such a service but it is testament to Isabella Akers thorough work in her proposal that the Local Government endorses it;the only debate is with the Bromley Union custom and practice about paying foster parents for clothes mending and the remuneration for medical reports. Bromley Union subsequently conforms in both matters. Bromley Union records are a rare survival that enables searchers to explore this development in detail.
From early 1894 the Lady Visitors undertake visits to foster parents and I will blog on another occasion about the criteria used by them;one  Visitor Mrs Thomasset declines to follow the handbook instruction to examine boys underwear and the Committee approves her suggestion that she would prefer to visit "in her own way" to satisfy the Committee that clothing and food were adequate.
During 1893/4 the need for Roman Catholic foster parents vexes the Lady Visitors and Roman Catholic parishes as well as Boarding Out Committee. The Presbytery clergy at Saint Mary Cray are eneregetic in reminding the Committe that no child should be cared for by foster parents of another creed. Within Bromley Union no Roman Catholic foster parents can be found despite efforts on all sides and until 1902 this position does not improve resulting in children being boarded out where possible attending church and even Roman Catholic school. It also results in placement in a Roman Catholic institution rather than with foster parents.
During 1895 number of children in the Workhouse fluctuate from 52 in May to 93 during February 1895 but none are identified to the Committee as eligible for Boarding Out.
In 1896 a formally constitiuted Ladies Committe approved by the Local Government Board assumes full responsibilty for the care of children removing Relieving |Officers from visits unless requested by Committe Chairman or Clerk the number of children in the Workhouse fluctuates seasonally between 60-84 children while around 50 are boarded out with a number visited by ladies in after care.
From 1899-1902 only the number of children on full pay are reported to the Boarding out Committee so no number of children in the Workhouse is routinely reported In each year the following number of children are fully funded in foster homes:
1899     40
1900     41
1901     32
1902     33 to May 1902 when the record ends.
It will be seen that this volume of records contains phases of the development of foster care in Bromley. The initial phase found and supported children and foster carers and met the needs of children to live outside the workhouse and attend local village or town schools.
The impact of Miss Akers reforms until her illness in 1901 reduced her contribution and her death in 1903 is enormous and the by the time of her death female membership of the Boarding Out Committe under long serving Chairman Mister Gedney emerges from the record. The relationship between visitor and child continues into adulthood in many lives and the appreciation and support for valued long suffering foster parents is also evident.
It is worth recalling that throughout this period other well known fostering initiatives were beginning;two years after Bromley Union Doctor Barnado was to introduce fostering to help children in his care and other Doctors had developed after care for children from Workhouses. At the time of this record working class men did not have the vote neither did women have universal suffrage.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Bromley Poor Law Union Children Boarded out

Under an agreement between Bromley Historic Collections and Kent Online Parish Clerks from October 2016 I will be collecting for online publication on the Kent Online Parish Clerks website information about both children boarded out and where possible their foster parents.
This involves research in a variety of sources but is principally involved with two volumes of minutes of the Bromley Guardians Committee for boarded out children and  an 1894 handbook for lady Visitors attributed to Robert Gordon Mullen Clerk to the boarding out Committee.
In assembling a database of children referred to in Committee meetings and their foster parent name and parish or district I hope to guide the searcher to relevant pages of Committee minutes but also enable research to be undertaken on each parish within the union to enable a social history of the parishes to be attempted. Boarded out children attended local schools and school reports to the Committee are discussed each quarter; the funding provided to local school Boards is also revealed. The District Medical Officers reports to each meeting are also informative about child health and development.
The Committee records open in 1885 with an all male Commitee; however the inclusion of a female Committee member leads to the Bromley Union transforming the way in which children are boarded out and in 1893 the Committee unanimously recommends that a provisional Committee of Lady Visitors to Boarded out children in various parishes be formed.
The minutes record correspondence with the Local Goverment Board the approval of the Lady Visitors Commitee and the membership of approved visitors for each parish or district.
One feature of the cumulative mention of each child is a career in both entering the Workhouse foster care leaving school and entering employment. It is possible to see to some extent lives after 16 years of age and I have felt it important to include census references where possible to follow careers at work beyond the scope of the original Poor Law Union records of the individual.
This companion blog to the process will also attempt to illustrate themes to the work and an understanding of the boarded out children in the overall population of children in the Union Workhouse.
As in the case of the Bromley Union Lunatic registers transcripts undertaken in 2015 the role of both Lady Visitors and Relieving Officers are useful in forming a history of the development of the role of Social Work practice in the 20th century. When in 1894 lady Visitors began to fulfill their visits and reports the Union provided a printed Handbook advising of the duties and procedures that they were requested to make and the frequency of visits and arrangement of after care for children when the board of Guardians ceased to have financial responsibity. A copy of the booklet is held at Bromley Historic Collections handbook for boarding out Committee and visitors We are fortunate the Bromley (Kent) has  preserved Workhouse and Union record survivals with such detail. In the family historian's imperative to create family trees such record sources can be overlooked or neglected. It is hoped that this work will bring to life a social history of the period and the signifacnce played by Women locally in the provision and superintendence of homes within the limits of the Bromley Union for orphan and deserted children working also a five mile radius after care visit approved by the Local Government Board.
I hope in future blogs to offer a commentary  about the influential work of the first female member of the Committee who preceded by some years the election of a woman to serve as a Councillor in Bromley and whose work until her death in 1903 shaped the development of foster care for years to come.
Purely from the perspective of One Place Study as a Parish Online Clerk for Downe in Kent the records are valuable in identifying foster carers within the village and the support of villagers to maintain children in the village on the sudden death of a valued foster mother and children in the local school is moving. This is echoed in other parishes in the records.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Air Loom in the Bethlem Board Room 2016

In the 1970's I was introduced to the life of James Tilley Matthews who was a patient at Bedlam or Bethlem Hospital from 1797. His insistence that his mind was being controlled by a machine called the Air Loom which he believed was a terrifying French secret weapon directed at the Houses of Parliament in order to bring about revolutions,terror and war was referred to in a lecture at the Institute of Psychiatry
and I followed my interest in the man to the Bethlem Archive and read the accounts in Bedlam Apothecary James Haslam's book published in 1810. The illustration of the Air Loom had lead to a model of the Air Loom being created and this remains in the Bethlem Archive.
In 2003 Mike Jay published The Air Loom Gang and this was revised as The Influencing Machine in 2004.
In 2002 artist Rod Dickinson fulfilled a Commission and constructed the installation and audio soundtrack accompanying it for the Laing Gallery Newcastle. The audio soundtrack is available on Google Play and Rod's website on the link above enables the app to be downloaded as well as illustrating the installation.
When the former administration building was transformed to form the Gallery and Bethlem Museum of the Mind it was hoped to allow public access to the Board Room; the installation of The Air Loom coincides with the opening this autumn of the panelled boardroom which includes a chandelier from Bridewell.
The Air Loom was introduced to visitors on 3 September 2016 by Rod Dickinson in a talk about the influence of James Tilley Matthews on subsequent generations.
Essentially Matthews conceptualised a desktop with two giant levers and black and white keys which an operator could manipulate to influence an individual or group of people. Rod pointed to the use of desktop and desktop icons some 200 years later. He also showed a succession of concepts of Influencing machines in the 20th century including ken Adams designs for the set of the 1965 film The Ipcress File.
Although the installation has travelled to Germany it seems strangely at home in The Museum of the Mind and has attracted great interest this week. The installation in the Board Room will remain for six months;it remains to be seen what effect on the NHS Trust board who will continue to meet in the room will have on their governance of the Trust!
The Board Room contains the panelled walls removed from the Bethlem Hospital at Saint George's Fields (now site of the Imperial War Museum) a chandelier from the Bridewell and heraldic shields of the past Presidents and Treasurers of the bethlem Hospital since 1558.
The opening of the Board Room completes the  experience of the Museum of the Mind and Bethlem Gallery experience for members of the public and is another reason to attract the public to the collections conserved by the Archive. For details of opening times visit Bethlem Museum of the Mind  

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Reverend Thomas Bagshaw's order of 1785

Reverend Thomas Bagshaw was Vicar of Bromley, Kent from1744-1785 in succession to his father Reverend Harington Bagshaw vicar from 1698-1744. One of the historic entries on the Sextons Account which I have recently transcribed at Bromley Historic Collections (formerly Bromley Archives) is a page long entry of Thomas Bagshaw's "order" in March 1785 and  a separate list of person's to be "observed" as a result of marriage outside the parish whilst both living in it.
This era of ecclesiastical law in Bromley parish had included the penance of Ann Chapman whose promiscuity resulted in her giving birth to several illegitimate children and being called to "stand in a white sheet" in the church see my blog.
The entry relating to 1785 reads:
"List of those persons the the Reverend Mister Bagshaw has required proof of their marriage before he would church the woman
Kelly uptown
Mary Proudlove
Simon Hill
Skinner the Farmer
Mrs Townsend at Wigmore
ordered by him in March 1785 that those persons who marry out of the Parish if both live in it shall pay the same fees or he will sue them for it and they shall bring a certificate of their marriage otherwise he will not church the women".
The churching of women after childbirth is the ecclesiastical ceremony in which a woman is given blessing after childbirth. It was particularly significant to women who had still born children at this time.
On the same page in a separate entry are the names and occupations or spouse of three people to be "observed" presumably because they had married outside Bromley and had not paid fees to Mister Bagshaw.
This period of Bromley history had demonstrated the force of ecclesiastical law and the later bitter dispute between Bromley's Vicar and vestry over the appointment of Parish Clerk and the Vicar's sale of timber from trees in the churchyard showed that considerable power resided in law with the incumbent in a parish.
It is not known how these individuals were dealt with in 1785 when Thomas Bagshaw gave up the living.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Bromley Historic Collections

The demise of Bromley Museum in Autumn 2015 lead Bromley Council to conclude that it could offer collection displays within the Library and Archives building  Central Library.
With building work due to take place in late August and September the former Libray and Archives service is being rebranded as Bromley Historic Collections.
It remains to be seen how displays will meet the needs of researchers. There are already users of the artefacts which are produced alongside Archive users using the borough's document sources and the former role of Education Officer in the Museum service has fallen back to School boxes of artefacts for handling and teaching within curriculum topics.
The uncertainty of achieving this combined service has impacted the service offered by the Archive team as no events have been offered in 2016 in order to address a relocation of the entire Local Studies floor of the library.
On the positive side two digital image scanners and touch screens are now available for microfilm users and a digital book scanner is available for archived material.

 Three new computers are dedicated to family history use and the problematic general computer users are now accommodated elsewhere in the building. This has been a positive creation of a quiet study area;albeit this is often disturbed by noise levels from the General Enquiries from the floor beneath and the absence of any protection from such disturbance. The architecture of the 1960's has created a very poor environment fot quiet research and the addition of displays is likely to introduce some problems of disturbance around researchers.
At present there is a lack of power points to archive or museum collection users who wish to use persoanl computers which will hopefully be addressed by building works.
Meanwhile the exterior cladding of the entire museum and Theatre building has deteriorated in the last twelve months. The entrance to both buildings from Bromley High Street has had safety fencing to protect passers by from falling objects for nearly two years. In recent weeks large cracks have appeared on the uppermost floors along the High Street elevation and a cracked glazing unit in the Large Hall looks ominous. The whole buiding is starting to look neglected and underfunded by Bromley Council.
I have a personal interest in the Lubbock Collection and this will form part of the display on the second floor which has displaced material previously offered on the second floor Archives and Local studies area. I suspect that the display will be a small representation of the collection but will await the Autumn exhibition.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2016

Monday, 4 April 2016

Bromley Kent sexton's records 1809-1837

It has been a large undertaking to transcribe and proof read this large volume of records for Bromley Kent burials in several hands as a continuous record of the location and depth of burials in the churchyard at Bromley.
The volume is useful in understanding the land surrounding the churchyard and is also descriptive of the catacomb beneath the Ancient Parish church with its window location in one entry. Because of the descriptive references to the various neighbouring buildings and farm owners it is possible to identify the inhabitants of old Bromley. In 1809 the Rawes Academy was a large boys school and the sextons records indicate that Messrs Rawes had a paling fence oppsite the churchyard and a small wicket gate to gain access to the churchyard presumably for students and staff to attend church services. The account also records Doctor Ilott's house on another side of the churchyard and refers to a barn. There are also references to the different types of trees in the churchyard and to neighbouring farm and granary.
I have prevously blogged about my discovery of the Bromley Archives copy of Thomas Wilson "Accurate Description of Bromley" published in 1797 see here. On my rough sketch of the churchyard I think I can see the Rawes wicket gate and also the "Carriage Gate" entrance to the church and yard described in various accounts.
The locations of graves are measured using boundary features or trees or from existing tombs many described as with "rales" or flat stones or ledgers (a form of stone depicting a book). One is struck by the three dimensional nature of positioning burials in an ancient church yard. This account covers the Bromley response to the theft of bodies at Beckenham see my blog on the Beckenham Resurrectionists. From the outset of the volume it also records which bell was tolled for either the churchyard burial or the passage from bromley for burial elsewhere using either the Great Bell or small bell. In one case the bell is tolled for one hour although it was usual for the bell to toll the age of a person. There is a consistent fee of 7 shillings for the Great Bell and four shillings and sixpence for the small bell.
There was no "paupers grave" treatment at Bromley for the dead from the Poorhouse or Bromley Parish workhouse. Burials from there and from coroner's inquests regularly have the small bell tolled to accompany the interment which is in the next available location adjacent to other tombs and headstones. The grave is occupied by a number of burials and the burials tend to be shallower than neighbouring graves but there is no practice of using land at the edge of  the churchyard as "common" burial space.
In the accounts there are references to a Parish House at Bromley Common and given the field name Workhouse Field at Oakley Road and references to coffins made at the Parish House. It does appear that a second parish Poor House was occupied by the paupers from the Common and settlement at Skim Corner. The funeral accounts of both Joseph and Edward Dunn contain reference to "parish coffins" provided and I have formed the impression that paupers at Bromley Common which had a good deal of timber production woodbrokerage and sawmills were to produce coffins for both houses.
The entries have provided a number of blog entries including the death of Sarah Young in 1821. In most cases of a body found or sudden death or suicide the sexton records the circumstances to indicate suicide. Exceptionally Sarah's death is not designated as suicide. There are a number of deaths of people found in fields or drowned in ponds. Two deaths in sand pits (together) are entered and one in the gravel pit  "next to the Poorhouse". Outbreaks of smallpox claim young and old alike and there are a number of drowned persons in the moat of the Bishop's Palace mostly accidental but occasional suicides.
Another group of deaths are identified as patients under the care of Mister Scott famous surgeon and the number of patients treated is known to have been high so the death rate following surgery also seems relatively large.
In the era of the Napoleonic wars with France I was surprised to see a number of French burials. Since Shooting Common had a military encampment and soldiers were billeted in the town it surprised me to find a settled french population in Bromley.
Also associated with the war are deaths from injuries and reference to the death of fathers in Spain and in various regiments in other campaigns. There are also a number of amputees mentioned.
The early years of the record also identify the name of Bromley undertakers. These correspond with the Dunn funeral accounts ledgers that is the Dunn funeral business assisted various carpenters and cabinet makers from whom they purchased coffins at busy periods. There are a number of funerals recorded as being handed over for completion. R M Smith has a number of businesses in Bromley but ran a carpentry workshop; several of his employees are recorded at the time of their funerals.Smith also farmed land and owned rental properties known in the records as "Smith's Rents". Other undertakers are recorded as London or Stranger or name and the local parish such as Beckenham. Few in the local funeral trade could match the Dunn funeral business which undertook large funerals for the local nobility. The detail of the sexton's record series provide an insight into the funeral trade of the Georgian and Regency period and establishes Dunns as the leading undertaker in Bromley over this period.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Killed herself by passion:the death of Sarah Young of Bromley Kent

The sexton's account of the burial of Sarah Young at Bromley Kent on 12 July 1821  records that she was the 34 year old wife of of Henry Young a Wheeler at Widmore but intriguingly describes her cause of death as "killed herself by passion".
The description of the location of the burial plot leads me to speculate that Sarah's burial was not buried as a suicide and the entry is therefore all the more intriguing and unusual. The Sexton's account is usually meticulous in identifying the cause of unusual death using "death was occasioned by" to precede a coroner's inquest verdict. It is not unusual for the record to record "found" details for unexplained deaths or death by drowning or suicide by "reason of insanity" or a direct means. Was this phrase used as a euphemism?
Unfortunately there is no extant contemporary record from 1821 at Bromley Archives to shed further light.
Sarah's entry in the the parish register of burials makes no reference to her cause of death see Kent Online Parish Clerks transcript burials 1813-1836.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Robert Renton 1826 Bromley Kent

In July 1826 the burial of 6 year old Robert Renton in Bromley churchyard would appear uneventful. The parish burial register records his abode as Elmstead which lay outside the town but within the parish and no other detail Kent Online Parish Clerks transcript Burial register.
It is only when one reads the sexton account of the burial that the nature of Robert's death emerges as sexton Edward Dunn records that he was killed by his father and in a later addition that his father was acquitted of his son's manslaughter.
In the London Courier and Evening Gazette of 5 August 1826 the circumstances of the child's death and the acquittal of Robert Renton Senior are described. The Bromley Coroner had arraigned Robert Renton on Coroner's Inquisition charging him with feloniously killing and slaying young Robert.
The child's death resulted from a fractured skull caused by his father "correcting him" for disobedience with a leather strap which had a metal buckle. The child died as a result of a fractured skull.
As was usual before the abolition in the 1840's of the Grand Jury system ( to be superseded by committal proceedings in Magistrates Courts)  in the the case of Robert Renton the Grand Jury rejected a bill of indictment for homicide before the arraignment on Coroner's Inquisition was to be heard by Mister Justice Holroyd.
Both Counsel and Learned Judge identified two fatal flaws in the case against Renton;the record failed to identify the venue  or the means of death of the child and both were required for Renton to be arraigned.
Mister Adolphus for the prosecution and with the Judge's permission described the  more lurid and sensational rumours that had been circulated about the child's death and described the death as an accident. Mister Justice Holroyd also agreed that had a trial proceeded the result could only have been an acquittal as the depositions taken before the Coroner induced in him  a belief that the death was purely accidental.
Robert Renton " a person of respectable appearance" was acquitted and is described as bereft at the death of his son.
Edward Dunn was undertaker for the funeral of Robert the funeral account transcript is Dunn Funeral Account 1826 at Kent Online Parish Clerks and shows that Robert Renton had the child's coffin collected from Elmstead by hearse and a bearer to carry the coffin for interment.
To the 21st century mind such violence by a parent is horrifying but as the report of proceedings the all male process of acquittal saw the child as at fault and justified the parent using force to correct; the "accident" of a fractured skull is condoned by both counsel for the prosection and learned Judge as the father might lawfully discipline the child.
Little else is known of the Renton family who presumaly moved from the area despite exoneration at the Assizes.

Monday, 8 February 2016

The role of the Relieving Officer in the Bromley Kent Poor Law Union

In undertaking transcription of 4 volumes of the Bromley Union Registers of Lunatics and an additional Lunatic register which is distinctly administrative I came to appreciate the work of Relieving Officers. Kent Online Parish Clerks had obtained a written agreement from Bromley Archives to carry out this transcript series and to publish them online. The years 1899-1915 were included in this agreement; the fourth volume was made available to the public on 2 January 2016.
I was unable to locate any writing about the the role of Union Relieving Officers and realised that much of what they did had an important role in the twentieth century development of local services for both children and adults and what came to be called social work. The Lunacy registers describe a broad range of human need; both constables, Justices and Relieving Officers had powers to detain an alledged lunatic in the Workhouse under sections of the Lunacy Act for specified periods. The Union Workhouse Medical Officer was responsible for examining on admission and discharge and The Workhouse Master was responsible for ensuring the registers were completed and that orders were reexamined when each period of authority was at an end.
Asylum orders were also issued and the Relieving Officer would have to locate the individual and convey them to the Asylum and in the process would admit them to the Workhouse for examination by the Workhouse Medical Officer.
The Lunatic Registers for Bromley Union contain admissions for individuals from three years four months in age to elderly persons. Originally referred to as "George's House" by locals the workhouse was situated at Locksbottom in Kent and was nicknamed for George Warde Norman who chaired the Board of Guardians in it's early years.
The duty of the Relieving Officer was to receive applications from all persons who sought either medical or poor relief and could either provide emergency poor relief for the maintenance of persons in their own homes or arrange admission to the Workhouse. They had authority equivalent to a police constable  under the Lunacy Acts to authorise detention in the workhouse for children and adults for up to 3 days.
The transcribed Bromley Union registers enable each of the District Relieving Officers workload to be identified and to see their duties to convey people to and from the Workhouse.
The Workhouse had a stables (close to the Chapel) as well as an adjacent building for storing inmates own clothes.Examination of the Guardians minutes identifies that a horse drawn ambulance was available and the Relieving Officers make use of this vehicle. When a replacement vehicle is needed the Guardians authorise purchase from the London Asylums Board of a vehicle surplus to the Board's requirements and this perhaps reflects the needs of Relieving Officers in a large geographical Union and responsible for transfers to the Kent County Asylum at Barming Heath Maidstone.
The Relieving Officer was therefore called to intervene in crisis in families or individuals who could no longer cope with a wide range of human conditions. The Lunacy Acts of the period 1899-1915 were loose in what an "alledged lunatic" might be and the Bromley registers include

  • epileptics some assessed as sane others identified as needing care in the County Asylum
  • those with a wide spectrum of learning difficulties ( the Workhouse had two "imbecile" wards) one for each gender for adults who were permanently detained.
  • suicidal persons
  • those with no speech often characterised as deaf and dumb
  • pre and post natal depression affecting personality and behaviour
  • Police Order detention of those with alcoholism or alcohol related illness later discharged and supported by Relieving Officers
  • the use of belladonna plasters influencing behaviour see my blog the identification of belladonn plaster use in Lunatic Register admissions
It is interesting to observe that The Relieving Officer was on each occasion of transfer to the County Asylum responsible for taking the discharged workhouse inmate there. After some violently behaved inmates of the padded room on both male and female wards it became unwritten practice for the the Relieving Officer to be accompanied by an Attendant and on occasion the Relieving Officer would have as many as three Attendants with him. There is no reference in the Guardians meeting minutes around the time of introduction of this practice and it is not possible to tell whether this was a local decision by the Workhouse Master and four district Relieving Officers or a suggestion arising from inspection which preceded two violent inmates.
It is interesting to note that at no point were physical restraints used on such occasions on a lengthy journey to Maidstone, The Register of mechanical restraints for the Union is still closed to the public but I was able to examine the record of inspection by the Lunacy Commissioners and their recommendation to purchase an asylum restraint jacket otherwise referred to popularly as a straitjacket. The first recorded use of this is not until the 1920's although purchased several years before.
Relieving Officers throughout this period and for some years preceding them give long service. Their districts are over a wide area and the regularity of trips to Maidstone are striking. They work as a team often deputising in each other's absence. Elsewhere in the Bromley Workhouse record series the scale of their work with "outdoor relief" is recorded and they identify lack of suitable provision for children and adults with varying needs for support not available locally such as the need for boarding out children or provision of accommodation specialising in the needs of epileptics.
It is apparent that the Relieving Officers played a historically significant role in the development of what came to be termed social work. In the twentieth century mental health legislation it is the social worker who accompanies the person compulsory detained or "sectioned" to the psychiatric hospital. I wonder whether social workers appreciate that the expectation to do so arose from the Relieving Officer practice.
I will blog further about the Relieving Officers in each district in future.

© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Ex visitatione dei- Visitation by God Bromley Kent 1835

As I proceed to transcribe the sextons accounts of Bromley Saint Peter and Saint Paul I am reminded of questions asked by students and family historians over my years as a genealogist on this cause of death.
The early years of civil registration of death contain references to cause of death on death certificates and coroner's verdicts of Ex visitatione dei or Visitation by God as a recorded cause of death based upon medical opinion for the death.
On 6 March 1835 the burial of Edmund Neighbour of Bromley Common takes place in the Bromley parish churchyard. The Bromley Sexton in describing the burial in the south east part of the graveyard in a 7 foot deep grave also describes the circumstances of the discovery of his body dead in bed and the coroner's jury finding of death by visitation of God.
The duties of a Coroner include examining the circumstances of sudden or unexplained death as we see in this example. The Coroner first determines whether there are any suspicious circumstances and seeks evidence from medical opinion. The Coroner is concerned primarily in the detection of any crime or explanation of circumstances leading to death and likely to accept medical opinion as to other causes.
Of course any doctor called to a dead body is faced with a challenge; in a period when so little knowledge existed of many fatal conditions unless there was visible injury to the person or presence of fever,evidence of alcoholism or drinking alcohol prior to death or a history of epilepsy or "apoplexy" then the death could not be easily diagnosed. Indeed such natural causes would account for many deaths and the detail of this volume of sexton's accounts describe sudden death in shops,the Market Square and elsewhere in Bromley Kent over the years from 1809-1838. It was only in cases of poisoning or injury to the body that an autopsy would be called for. The medical practioner would rely on accounts of people who knew the deceased.
 Medical practice and the law had therefore devised the term Visitation of God to explain the death by natural causes. In more religious times it was supposed that God had determined it was time for the person to die and this cause of can be found in a variety of record sources from the 1600's onwards.
In 1836/7 the Registration of Births and Deaths Act  came into force but giving the cause of death on a death certificate remained optional, however in 1837 The Royal College of Physicians, The Royal College of Surgeons and the Society of Apothecaries circulated their joint view that accurate  registration of cause of death needed to be provided. The term "natural causes" came into medical practice on recording cause of death. It was open to the Registrar General to communicate with any medical practitioner if the cause of death on certification was considered unnaceptable in order to obtain a more accurate medical description. It was not until the Births and Deaths Act 1874 that it became compulsory to give the cause of death with penalty for failure to do so.
It is therefore possible to find death certificates between 1837 and 1874 with Visitation by God as cause of death. These frequently lead family historians to ask what did this cause of death mean?
Once again the detailed sextons account compiled by Edward Dunn the parish sexton has answers for 21st century searchers.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Monday, 25 January 2016

Vertical burial in the churchyard at Downe Kent

The January 2016 meeting of Downe Local History group was held in the parish church of Saint Mary where Howard Cheswick a long time churchwarden gave a history of the church and it's main features.
Howard  referred to discovery that the oldest wall of the 1291 chapel with original lancet window was built without foundation. The church in its form with a steeple was built by 1552 because an inventory of 1552 refers to three bells (which still are rung). Two of these bells are made by William Daw of London (1385-1418) and the third has a date of 1511 but an unknown maker. The vestry and boiler room beneath were Victorian extensions to the church.
Howard then described some of the prominent early families of Downe including Manning and Verzelini.
The incumbency of Charles Ffinden in the 19th century coincided with many internal and external alterations including the raising of the nave floor and installation of the present pews. Previously the pews were box pews and there is one burial in the burial register which refers to burial "in his own pew". The "restoration" of the church during Ffinden's time left a the church with a legacy of repair for present church members to deal with.
In 1990 these became apparent and resulted in major structural defects in the floor and drainage being addressed. The boiler room had to be extended and the crypt burials had to be removed and reinstated with rededication of the burials. During building excavation to the north side of the church to provide a larger boiler room  beneath the vestry and human remains were discovered in a vertical burial.
The mystery was who had been buried in such a manner?
In my experience the north side of churches often contain those referred to as suicides or lunacy causing suicide. Because of the extension of the church to build the vestry it is likely that the excavation had entered the area of earlier century churchyard burials beyond the foundations of the vestry walls.
So what do the Downe Burial Transcripts which I undertook some years ago reveal?
It appears from Howard's description that the burial took place earlier than the 19th century and I take that to be in the two volumes of register Composite register 1539-1733 and burials 1697-1812 which are transcribed Kent Online Parish Clerks Downe Burials on a single page. There is a nineteenth century suicide in a later burial register but no indication of type of burial and I think this unlikely to fit the description of the vertical burial.
There are two burials which could solve the mystery:
On 28 September 1713 John Michell buried on the North side of the Church after he had drowned himself in the River Ravensbourne.
0n 13 July 1758 the spinster Elizabeth BROWN was "buried on the north side of the church but denied Christian burial because she hanged herself."
Vertical burial is not unknown on the North side of churchyards but the sheer physical effort of digging a vertical burial (far greater than a conventional plot) unless chosen and paid for by the deceased point to strong motivation to dig a deeper 3 foot square (traditionally) burial. It is of course possible to dig a deep conventional grave space and surround the corpse with material which can be easily ecavated to add additional vertical burials if necessary and a pragmatic sexton and gravedigger may have adopted this approach at Downe. In 1758 the burial entry points to a strong motivation and although not referred to in 1713 the same reasoning would have applied namely that a suicide was denied right of burial within the Anglican church.
Both these burials fall within the period of the Burials in Woolen Acts. I have blogged previously about these acts in relation to the Bromley Saints Peter and Saint Paul registers from introduction of the Act here. I have also blogged about coroners verdicts in case of suicide Felo de Se verdicts in the district near Downe.
We will never know whose burial was disturbed at Downe by the building excavation but as in all cases reinterment of remains is conducted with a service by clergy. Over 200 years after ending life one of these two suicides was treated with respect and dignity at the time of reinterment.
© Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Mystery of a Guernsey Lady

My initial examination for transcription of the Bromley Union Workhouse Lunatics register for the year 1914 provides an intriguing mystery. Glued to the page of a November 1914 admission on Police Order for one overnight stay before transfer to The Kent County Asylum at Barming Heath under a different name is an unidenified newspaper clipping with "Woman's Lost Memory" and the headline of this blog.
I was able to trace the Metropolitan Police appeal to March 1915 when it appeared in the Sunday Mirror and Liverpool Echo amongst others through the syndication process of that time.
"The police are anxious to establish the identity and to discover the relatives of a well dressed young married lady who arrived in London from Lancress Guernsey about six weeks ago and who was discovered at Lewisham suffering from loss of memory. Despite exhaustive enquiries her indentity up to present remains a mystery."
The police description describes " about 32 a rather stout build five feet four inches fresh complexion light brown hair blue eyes wears powerful eyeglasses third finger of left hand missing". When found she was well dressed in a brown velvet costume and hat a new blouse and a light fawn coloured rainproof coat." She also carried a dress basket on which was a railway label "Passenger from Lancress to Paddington".
When found by Police from Lee police Station she gave the name of Dorothy Beshar and said that on reaching Paddington that day she had given all her money she had to Belgian Refugees. In 1914 Paddington Station had a large collection point for refugee donations and it is therefore possible that this was true.
She was wearing a wedding ring and police formed the impression from statements she made that her husband and brother recently left Guernsey to travel to France. The Lee Police took her to Lewisham Infirmary; the newspaper clipping then mentions transfer to another Institution.
L'Ancresse is within the parish of Vale Guernsey and it is intriguing to find travel from this parish to Paddington was possible in 1914.Given that the Metropolitan Police enquiries could not identify a well dressed young woman with a missing finger on her left hand and loss of memory was attributed to her destitute state in Lewisham it appears that the Metropolitan police then took her from Lewisham Infirmary to Bromley Union Workhouse.
"Loss of memory case" is often entered in the four Lunatic Registers I have transcribed in the preceding decade from 1914; all alledged Lunatics in this category are transferred to Kent County Asylum at Barming Heath. The Workhouse master Mister T Healey was sufficiently intrigued to discover the newspaper clipping that he comments in red ink that the Police Order on admission clearly gave the name as Rose Ogbourne.
On 26 November 1914 Metropolitan Police Sergeant A Kemp brings Rose Ogbourne to Bromley Union Workhouse under a police Order which authorises detention for up to 3 days until 29 November 1914. As part of the reception procedure for detention on the female Lunatic Ward of the Workhouse Rose alias Dorothy is examined by Doctor Price the deputy Workhouse Medical Officer. He records an amputation of the third finger of the left hand and as is usual in "loss of memory cases" which are relatively common in this Workhouse he arranges transfer to the Kent County Asylum. On the 27 November 1914 The Workhouse horse drawn Ambulance purchased some years earlier by the Board of Guardians from the London Asylums Board for such transfers is available for Mister Walter Banner Bromley Relieving Officer and Miss Cox Female lunatic Attendant to convey Rose on transfer to Barming Heath.
It appears that despite the best efforts of the Metropolitan Police to identify in Guernsey the identity of the young woman with an amputated finger and needing powerful lenses in her spectacles  the inhabitants of the small area of Guernsey were unable to identify her. Neither of the surnames offered appear to be present on Guernsey which would tend to have distinctly French origins. At that time islanders would probably have been bilingual;parish registers were maintained in French until 1939.
So the mystery appears to have partially resolved as Dorothy Beshar became Rose Ogbourne between November 1914 and the appeal to the public in March 1915.
The Mystery of a Guernsey Lady remains 100 years later.....

Friday, 1 January 2016

Saint Mark Aperfield Baptisms-the early years of Biggin Hill church history

I have thoroughly enjoyed transcribing the registers of the metal Church of Saint Mark's Aperfield a mission church to serve the spiritual needs of the "plotlands" development. I have previously blogged about the history of the church here.
Kent Online Parish Clerks has a Biggin Hill page and I have just completed transcription of the first register of baptisms. Since Kent OPC has a 100 year privacy limit to respect international privacy laws I have prepared the Baptisms for 1907-1916 for publication later this year on the Biggin Hill page Kent Online Parish Clerks Biggin Hill page.
As in other Mission Church records I have transcribed in the past the record in the first volume is included in a simple lined book which includes other information; indeed it feels as though the record began as something of an afterthought.
The volume is held at Bromley Archives reference P107B/1/1 and contains some early parish accounts and a section entitled Register of Church people of Saint Mark's District (Biggin Hill). The Mission District within the parish of Cudham initially was served by the curate of Cudham.
The alphabetic "Church people" was intended to list all those in the district but sadly like many new Year resolutions ended at the letter B!
Of greater use is the page which records "Person who take Communion in Saint Marks Easter day 1909"
In case of death within the district Saint Marks could be used to begin the funeral service and two deaths and such services are to be found. In November 1908 Amy Elizabeth Bushell who died at 7 a.m. on Monday 16 November 1908 was brought into the church for the first part of the burial service and the body taken to Cudham Churchyard for burial. Similarly Mary Ann Wicking who died 17 September 1910 at 3 30 pm was brought to Saint Marks on 22 September 1910 where the funeral commenced before interment at Cudham Churchyard.
There are also pages recording both the Ladies Work Party and Mothers Union (14 names) undated but likely to be 1909-1912 and the undated Gentlemans Theological Class with 6 members.
The recording of Baptisms is in the latter half of the book along with various financial accounts of expenditure. Saint Mark's in winter was heated by a single oil heater which needed only half a gallon of oil purchased each year! Two bottles of Communion wine were sufficient and sums for organist and choirboys are also recorded as well as a Vestry meeting to choose a churchwarden from the two sidesmen.
The volume is an interesting record of the life of the District prior to and during the First World War.
The raison d'etre for the Mission Church was to serve the needs of the development by Dougal of the Aperfield Court Estate in plotlands. Since the baptismal record describes the address of each parent it is possible to see that there are distinct groups of people who bring their children to be baptised.
The local farmers and farm workers, the local Gypsy seasonal fruit picking families and some "Plotland" occupants are the major groupings. The Gypsy families often occupy permanent housing in the district for winter use and my colleague Bob Cooper who researches Romany and Gypsy families at Bromley Archives has found the entries valuable in linking to other local families in Kent and Surrey.
Until I moved on to complete the volume transcription to 1924 for publication at a later date I had not realised the impact on the local community of the formation of the Royal Air Force. The volume includes RAF Flying Officer's families in settled residence not associated with the Aperfield Court Estate roads and researching these families will be a worthwhile research.
In 1909 Reverend Harold Augustus Curtis was vicar of Cudham and had as Curate Reverend W J Hamilton. It is Reverend Hamilton who begins the baptismal register; in 1913 H H Skinner is Curate in charge and maintains the register until his departure in 1915. The subsequent entries from January 1916 until 1918 are the work of two clergymen who are not of the Rochester Diocese;both travel some distance to carry out their duties according to Crockford's which does not mention any connection with Aperfield.
The Reverend J Mickley Randell resided in North West Lodon at Crowndale Road in the Diocese of London. Although a bus service from Westerham Hill ( whose driver and mechanic have children baptised) connected to Bromley by 1916 the impact of war appears to have depleted the clergy to the extent that he and in 1917 the Reverend T H Higgins from the Diocese of Lincoln are the clergy signing the register. I must admit that I had not realised the impact of war on the Church of England Clergy by 1916.
In 1918 Reverend Bryan O'Loughlin B.A. is recorded as vicar of Saint Mark's Aperfield and the Reverend H M Woodward is Curate in Charge Saint Marks Aperfield.Both sign the register until 1924.
As a footnote to Biggin Hill life is the arrangement for registering a birth or death. A Registrar from Bromley was available for one hour on two Thursday's a month between one and two pm at a cottage in Westerham Hill to register births and deaths. The alternative would be to travel to Bromley to visit the Town Hall.
The transcription of this volume has been a fascinating glimpse into Aperfield (Biggin Hill)'s early twentieth century history