Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Victor McLaglen’s father – new revelations

It’s amazing how many connections between Bloomsbury and South Africa are being revealed in this blog. Take the story of Bishop Andrew McLaglen, for example, featured on 8 August. Local historian, Paul Rason, who sent me the story of the Hollywood star’s missionary father, could find no evidence of the clergyman’s claim to be Bishop of Claremont, South Africa. However, I have just been contacted by William de Villiers of Cape Town who has shed light on this mystery.

He writes: ‘I am researching the life and times of the McLaglen family as a private research project. I saw your blog on Bloomsbury People and thought you would be interested to hear about Andrew McLaglen's antecedents. As I understand it, Philip McLACHLAN and Catherina Petronella NEYHOFF, both resident at the Cape of Good Hope, had a son, born out of wedlock. This was Jacobus Petrus McLAGLEN (alias James Philip McLACHLAN), born in Cape Town on 15 January 1820, and baptised on 4 March 1821. He was a printer by trade, but developed mental illness and was confined to Robben Island, where he died on 16 September 1856. He was married at the Cape of Good Hope to Margaretha (Grietje) RUTGERS (she died in 1890). They had seven children, of whom the fifth was Andries Carel Albertus (alias Andrew Charles Albert) McLAGLEN, born on 4 April 1851, and baptised in Cape Town on 27 April 1851.’ This was, indeed, Victor McLaglen’s father. More genealogical details can be seen here.

Andrew Charles Albert McLaglen must have arrived in London sometime before 1877 when he is known to have been working as a probationer missionary with the London City Mission in Bloomsbury. He was either accompanied to England, or subsequently joined here, by his eldest sibling, Catharina (Catherine) Cornelia McLaglen (born August 1842 in Cape Town).

Apparently, the Reverend Andrew was a very active self-publicist, and William sent me the above picture (from an unknown Victorian journal quoting the Christian Herald) showing McLaglen presenting the Zulu King Cetewayo and his chiefs with Zulu bibles and seven copies of the Book of Common Prayer, in the parish of Kensington, 1881. In fact, King Cetewayo (c1826-1884), whose nation suffered defeat by Britain in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, actually travelled to England in 1882 to meet with Queen Victoria (1819-1901) in the hope of having his sovereignty restored. Cetewayo was given celebrity status in London and stories about him appeared in a variety of periodicals. This particular event may not, in fact, have taken place. William says that it ‘is breathtaking in its inaccuracy’.

What is accurate, however, is Andrew McLaglen’s consecration on 2 November 1897 as bishop of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England. He was consecrated to be ‘Colonial Missionary Bishop and Titular Bishop of Claremont’. The consecration took place in the wood-and-iron building known as St. Stephen's Church in Shrewsbury Road, East Ham, London, by one Leon Chechemian, an Armenian Uniate. The Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England was formed on that same day with the union of the Free Protestant Church, the Ancient British Church, and the Nazarene Episcopal Church. Dr Chechemian was its first Primus. Bishop McLaglen became its primus on 3 December 1920. He never took up his see in Claremont, and died in Lambeth, South London. The Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England (later known as the Evangelical Church of England) was formally dissolved in 1997 although it remains active in the US and Canada.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

From Bloomsbury to the Cape of Good Hope

Following my blog entry, Wesleyan Methodists emigrate to the Cape of Good Hope, Rodney Jones contacted me from Randburg, South Africa. He wrote: 'One of my wife's distant ancestors has links to Bloomsbury.

James Hancock (top picture) was born on 1 May 1776 in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England. He married Ann Kennedy (b. 1790, picture above) on 21 February 1808 at the Church of St George the Martyr, Bloomsbury. Ann was a Londoner, born in Bride Lane, in the City. James and Ann were two of the 1820 Settlers to South Africa, part of Hezekiah Sephton's party in the ship Aurora (344 passengers). They departed from London on 15 February 1820, and arrived at Simon's Bay on 1 May 1820. They arrived at their final destination of Algoa Bay, Cape Colony, on 15 May 1820.

James Hancock was a china painter. He founded an art school in Grahamstown. James Hancock was a Wesleyan lay preacher. In 1833, he had a street named after him (Hancock Street) in Port Elizabeth.

He died on 20 August 1837, in Port Elizabeth, Cape Colony. He is buried in the Old Settler Cemetery, South End, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Any further information about James Hancock would be of great interest to me.'

Hezekiah Sephton, who led the emigrating party, was a carpenter of 1 Bedford Court, Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury. He and other members of the group seem to have been members of the Great Queen Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, which was just over the Bloomsbury border in Holborn. They formed themselves into the United Wesleyan Methodist Society, with a committee responsible for the organisation of the party. The selection of the clergyman was put in the hands of the committee of the General Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, whose choice fell on the Rev William Shaw. Read more about this journey by clicking on the link to Hezekiah Sephton.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Barton family, the abolition of slavery, and the founding of Birkbeck College

Dave Barton has asked to be put in touch with Vivienne Lewis (née Horne), whose Gx3 grandfather, Thomas Horne, had a house in Gordon Square, Bloomsbury, and ran his successful coal merchant business from Bankside (where the Globe Theatre now stands, top picture) – see blog entries 21 April 2008, 30 March 2009 and 2 July 2009.

Dave writes: ‘Vivienne and I are 6th cousins. Her Gx3 grandfather and his brother William Horne were amongst the children of Anthony Horne. Anthony and Elizabeth Horne (my Gx4 grandma) were amongst the children of Thomas Horne senior (d.1802), who was the son of Benjamin Horne, who founded the coal business. Thomas Horne senior was my Gx5 grandfather, through his daughter Elizabeth (1760-1833, second picture from top), who married John Barton (1754-1789, third picture from top), one of the nine English Quaker members of the “Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade” set up in 1787 by William Wilberforce and two other Anglicans. Their efforts ultimately led to the passing, by British Parliament, of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (1807).’

John Barton’s son, John (1789-1852, Dave’s Gx3 grandfather, bottom picture), was a botanist and political economist, and a lifelong supporter of schools and mechanics’ institutes (established to promote the education of working people). In December 1823 he was elected a member of the governing committee responsible for setting up the London Mechanics' Institution, and his name was included on the foundation stone in the entrance hall of Birkbeck College, then in Chancery Lane. (The London Mechanics’ Institution was renamed Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution in 1866, and is now Birkbeck College, part of the University of London, in Bloomsbury). John Barton was acquainted with its chief founder, George Birkbeck, and other members such as David Ricardo, George Grote, Jeremy Bentham (also a founder, in 1826, of University College London) and William Cobbett. Barton’s economic writings influenced both David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus although he disagreed with both on aspects of employment and wages. Like Malthus, Barton tackled the issue of the effects of overpopulation. He argued that only where land was cheap and plentiful would economic growth be maximised and he therefore supported emigration to Canada and other colonization schemes. His ideas were discussed by Karl Marx in Das Kapital.

In 1827, John Barton left the Society of Friends and joined the Church of England, becoming a churchwarden at Stoughton, Chichester, West Sussex. His first wife having died in 1822, he married Fanny Rickman in 1828, and they had nine children. Fanny and their 4-year-old daughter, Sarah, died of scarlet fever in 1842.

About 1833, John Barton had his first four economics pamphlets bound in one volume and gave copies to Lord Grey who steered the Reform Bill through Parliament, Sir Robert Peel, the Duke of Richmond, Lord G Lennox, Sir George Staunton FRS and Lord Althorp. John was half-brother to Bernard Barton (1784-1849), a minor poet, and Maria Hack (née Barton, 1777-1844), a children’s writer. John, Bernard and Maria have entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Dave writes: ‘Every one of John Barton of Chichester's sons and son-in-laws were vicars! My Gx2 grandfather was another John (Rev. John Barton, a missionary in India and then Vicar of Holy Trinity Cambridge). He married a lady called Emily Eugenia Elliott, and her family history goes way way back, not just because of the already extensive Elliott pedigree but also because her grandmother Alicia Boileau was of Huguenot stock.’
Dave Barton contacted me in November 2010 to say that he has now set up a Barton family history site.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Henry T Packman and the monster Christmas pudding

This newspaper feature from the Daily Mirror, 3 December 1909, tells of a charity football match to be played between 'The Church and The Stage' - ie. 'eleven athletic clerics who are all really good players' versus 'eleven actors' - in aid of 'The Daily Mirror Fund for providing hungry London children with Christmas Pudding on Christmas Day.' The match was to be played on Monday 13 December at the Stamford Bridge ground, 'very kindly lent by the Chelsea Football Club'.
About 5000 puddings were to be produced by a legion of cooks at the 'Palace of Pudding', 41a Quaker Street, Spitalfields, in London's East End. In addition, 'A monster Christmas pudding is promised by Mr H T Packman, proprietor of the Dr Butler's Head (a pub in Moorgate owned by Henry T, which has a great medical history!), and a well-known salesman in the Central Meat Markets.'

The pudding recipe was supplied by Messrs Alfred Bird & Sons (Bird's Custard) so if you fancy making an Edwardian Christmas pudding 100 years after the original recipe was published, here it is (makes six puddings):

Ingredients: 3lb breadcrumbs, 1.5lb flour, 6lb raisins, 3lb currants, 4.5 lbs suet (finely chopped), 4.5 lb moist sugar, 0.75lb mixed peel (sliced), whole nutmeg (grated), powdered cinnamon (saltspoonful), salt (teaspoonful), 2.5 pints milk, egg power (6 heaped teaspoonfuls).

Mix together with wooden spoon. Moisten gradually with milk, pour into well-buttered basins. Tie on pudding-cloths, buttered and sprinkled with flour. Boil for 8 hours.


The children of Henry Tillett Packman

These lovely portraits are the children of Henry Tillett Packman and his wife Ann (see blog dated 29 September), sent to me by his great grandson, Roger Packman. The photographs were taken by Lang Sims, 437 Brixton Road, South London. Roger reckons they were taken about 1895/6, a couple of years before the family moved to Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury.

From the top, the children are: Annie Wensley (b. 1881), William Henry (b. 1883) - Roger's grandfather, Nellie May (b. 1884), Gladys Mary (b. 1886), and Winifred Dorothy (b. 1890).

Roger writes: 'I hope you will agree they are a wonderful set of photos with the little girls all in similar dresses but with different neck brooches.'
More about the adventures of some of these children in later features.

Solved! The mystery of Henry Tillett Packman's 'Tavistock Theatre'

Roger Packman has solved the mystery of his great grandfather's ownership of the 'Tavistock Theatre' (see blog entry 29 September). It was a spoof! Roger recently met up with a relative, Lesley Joffick, with whom he shares Henry Tillett Packman as a great grandfather, and Lesley showed him her collection of the printed theatre programmes.

Henry T was a wealthy wholesale and retail butcher who traded at London's Smithfield Market and also had a number of retail outlets, the only one in Bloomsbury being at 40 Store Street.

Roger says: 'There is an element of disappointment in that Henry T didn't actually own a theatre, but on the other hand the family and friends/neighbours had clearly taken huge trouble to produce these Christmas events. I think the wit and humour contained within them plus getting the programmes actually printed is a fantastic example of the lengths that they would have gone to in order to produce their own entertainment, by comparison with what of course is available today.'

The programme reproduced above dates from 1907. It is clearly also a very good exercise in marketing, and Henry T may indeed have distributed these amongst his customers for advertising purposes. By including advertisements from other local traders, he may also have offset the cost of printing! A clever man.

Roger has sent me lots of interesting information about his Bloomsbury family, which I'll be featuring in other blog entries.
If you have an ancestor who worked as a butcher, particularly such a high profile one as Henry T, you may find it worthwhile to search the trade journal entitled The Meat Trades' Journal and Cattle Salesman's Gazette published 1888-1966, thereafter called the Meat Trades Journal. These are viewable in the British Library Newspaper Library at Colindale, North London.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Wesleyan Methodists emigrate to the Cape of Good Hope

Although Bloomsbury was one of the most cosmopolitan and tolerant communities in 19th century London, many British emigrants of this period were non-conformists who sought lives in new lands which welcomed those fleeing from religious persecution.

Helen Roberts' ancestors, Daniel Roberts (1780-1844) and his wife Harriet (nee Mills, 1785-1845), who married in Bloomsbury in 1802, were Wesleyan Methodists. The family probably worshipped at Whitefield's Chapel on the west side of Tottenham Court Road. This was established by George Whitefield (1714-1770), a well known evangelical preacher, in 1756. When Whitefield died in Boston, America, his memorial sermon at the chapel was preached by John Wesley himself. A good history of the chapel is at: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=65173

Daniel and Harriet had three children, Mary Ann (b. 1803), Daniel (b. 1806), and Samuel (b. 1812). In 1820, the family was part of a group of Methodists who sailed for the Cape of Good Hope as settlers on board the Aurora. Daniel was a shoemaker by trade. Other people in the party were the Aldum family and William Shaw, a Methodist preacher. Helen believes that they were all lay missionary preachers. I found details of their passage on 'The British Settlers to South Africa' website. By the time they arrived at the Cape, its territory had been ceded to the British (1814) and was administered as Cape Colony. The Roberts family seems to have settled at Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, which saw a wave of colonial settlement between 1820 and 1834. You can read an account of what it would have been like to be a settler at this time on the Grahamstown website.
The photographs above show the bronze statue to the settlers of 1820 erected in Grahamstown and commemorative South African stamps.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Bloomsbury resident finds a new life in Manitoba

Mark Sanderson's great grandmother, Eliza Jane Adkin, was born in 1856 at St Giles (a parish next to Bloomsbury) and was baptized at St George, Bloomsbury. At that time, her family was living on Little Russell Street. He says, 'Eliza Jane did not tell us much about her family history before she died in the late 1940s. However, from what I am learning, her father, Robert Isaiah Adkin, was married to Sarah Wallwork in 1846 at St Pancras Church. At that time, he was living at Tottenham Place (now Beaumont Street). Sadly, the records show that Robert died in 1859, when Eliza Jane was only 3 years old. The 1861 census shows that Sarah Adkin, his widow, was a lodging house keeper at 20 Gilbert Street (now Gilbert Place), Bloomsbury.'

The top photograph shows the entrance to Gilbert Place from Museum Street (close by the British Museum). The entrance to Little Russell Street is also visible and runs parallel to Gilbert Place. Gilbert Place (middle picture) is not very attractive although it might have been better at mid-19th century. Not all the building are numbered, and the presence of a large block of flats built after the period, confuses the numbering. From what I can make out, number 20 was near the location of the now empty Quinto Bookshop (bottom picture).

Eliza Jane, then aged 5, is not listed with her family in the 1861 census, but in that year, her mother Sarah remarried. Her new husband was George Alfred Courcelle. Sarah died during the next decade for her husband is listed as a widower in the 1871 census. Eliza is not mentioned although her youngest brother, Charles T was living with his step-father.

Eliza appears on the 1881 census as a lady's maid. The following year, aged 26, she married Thomas Tuttle, a coachman, and they moved to Canada to become homesteaders in Manitoba. Mark says that they endured many privations but raised a fine family on the bald prairie.

Henry Tillett Packman and the Tavistock Theatre

Roger Packman sent me details of his great grandfather, Henry Tillett Packman, a wealthy butcher and meat salesman (top picture), who in 1901 lived at number 9 Tavistock Square with his family and servants. Henry and his wife Ann had five children - Annie Wensley, b. 1881; William Henry, b. 1883 (Roger's grandfather); Nellie May, b. 1884; Gladys Mary, b. 1886; and Winifred Dorothy, b. 1890. At the time of the 1891 census, the family lived in Brixton, South London, but moved to Bloomsbury sometime during the next decade.

Henry Tillett apparently owned the Tavistock Theatre, for which I can find no information although Roger says that another family member has theatre programmes printed with family names. These might throw light on the whereabouts of the theatre.

However, a very interesting theatre was based in Tavistock House at number 1 Tavistock Square, several decades before the Packman's moved there. This was the house where Charles Dickens lived from 1851 to 1860 and where he wrote Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens converted the house's large schoolroom into what was billed "The smallest theatre in the world". More information about this theatre can be found at: http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/gallery/30.html

Roger also sent two photographs of his grandfather, William Henry Packman, in two football teams of 1905/6 (in which he is seated first right, front row) and 1910 (standing third right, back row).

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Kerton family and a legal mystery

Jenny Wood’s 3xgreat grandparents, George Kerton and Mary Labrum (b. 1789) were married at St George the Martyr, Queen Square, Bloomsbury, in July 1814 (top two photos above by Ninoxowl, Flickr). Mary’s family were almost certainly of Huguenot descent and she was a member of the Independent Tabernacle, St Luke’s, Finsbury, a non-conformist chapel where her younger siblings were baptised. Jenny wonders what Mary’s parents thought about her marrying in a fashionable Anglican church. She does not know how Mary came to be in Bloomsbury or what work she did.

George Kerton gave his occupation as clerk (legal) at the time of his marriage so it is probable that he was employed at nearby Gray’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court of London (photo above by Dramagirl, Flickr). At the time of the birth of their son, Walter Labrum, in July 1817, the family’s address was Duke Street (now Coptic Street), named after the Duke of Bedford on whose estate much of Bloomsbury sits. George was now described as a ‘gentleman’, ie. of independent means. Walter grew up to become Chief Clerk to the Queen’s Bench.

A daughter, Sarah Ann Kerton, was baptised at St George the Martyr in 1820, by which time the family was living in Henry Street (now Roger Street), just off Gray’s Inn Road. George has now become a ‘Clerk to an Attorney’. Sarah Ann married James Fereday, a silversmith (who later became a gas fitter when houses and businesses began to be lit and heated by coal gas). Henry Thomas Kerton was born in Henry Street in 1822, and his father is described, once again, as a ‘gentleman’. Henry became an artist and photographer. By the time of Thomas Lally’s birth in 1825, George was an attorney, and the family had moved to Robert Street (now Kirk Street), a short distance from their previous residence. Thomas became a French polisher.

Jenny says, ‘I am not sure whether George was a gentleman who dabbled at law, or a legal clerk who called himself a gentleman when unemployed! I feel there may be a story here if only I had more information. So far, I haven’t found George in the Inns of Court archives online. I don’t know where he was born or when. As adults the children are all found south of the river (around Lambeth and Southwark), so I think the family must have moved there during their childhood/teenage years.’

George Harmer and the Catholic Apostolic Church

Nick Harmer’s great grandfather, George Frederick Harmer (1841-1911), came from a large family of ornamental plasterers who worked on many of the eminent houses in Bloomsbury. Indeed, George’s father, James (b. 1800), had an exhibit of ornmental plaster work in the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London (1851).

George Harmer was married in the Church of Christ the King, in 1872, where he was an organist. A photograph of the church, on Gordon Square, is featured on the blog entry for 2 July 2009 (see "Photos of your Bloomsbury ancestors’ homes and workplaces"). It was built between 1850-54 for the Catholic Apostolic movement, which began and ended in Bloomsbury, and which is associated with a Scottish minister, Edward Irving (1792-1834). Irving arrived in London in 1822 and for a time won followers with his eloquence and commanding presence. When he became increasingly drawn into a belief in the apostolic gifts of prophecy and healing, he was excommunicated by the presbytery of London (1830) and from the ministry of the Church of Scotland (1833). The Catholic Apostolic movement claimed to be restoring the Apostolate so that Christianity would be ready for the Second Coming of Christ. Membership gradually declined after 1900 although the movement had spread to about 1000 congregations in some 20 countries.

George Harmer played the organ at the Church of Christ the King but was an elder at the movement’s church in Mare Street, Hackney, established in 1874 (photo above by Fin Fahey, Flickr). Nick says that there is a plaque commemorating George in one of these churches. Our roving researcher, Dr Deborah Colville, has been unable to find it in the Bloomsbury church so it may be in Christ Apostolic Church, Hackney. This is a Grade II listed building and much of interior has survived intact. If anyone has information about this plaque, we would very much like to hear from you.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Victor McLaglen – son of a Bloomsbury missionary

For Hollywood film buffs, the name Victor McLaglen conjures up epics of derring-do, in which our hero was inevitably typecast as a ‘hard man’ with a soft centre.

Local historian, Paul Rason, has discovered that McLaglen’s father was a ‘probationer’ missionary from 1877-1879 at St Saviour’s Church, Fitzroy Square, part of which parish encroaches into Bloomsbury. (The church was built in 1865, united with St John, Fitzroy Square, in 1904, but no longer exists). Andrew Charles Alfred McLaglen served his Bloomsbury apprenticeship with the London City Mission, a Christian evangelical institution founded in 1835 which was (and still is) concerned with ministry amongst the people of London, particularly the underprivileged. McLaglen was about 23 years old in the late 70s. He married Lily Marion Adcock in January 1881 and their first child, Frederick, was born the same year in Bromley, Kent. Victor was born in 1886 at number 505 Commercial Road, Stepney, East London, although for the benefit of Hollywood he seems to have ‘upgraded’ his birthplace to the Royal spa town of Tunbridge Wells.

According to Victor’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, his father was an Anglican clergyman who became bishop of Clermont, South Africa. However, Paul’s research suggests that the ‘Right Reverend Bishop ACA McLaglen, DD’ was a title without substance. Although his occupation is listed as ‘Clerk in Holy Orders’ on his marriage certificate, he is not listed in Crockfords Clerical Directory of the Anglican clergy, nor in the archives of the non-conformist churches such as the Congretational Church and the Methodist Church. Furthermore, he does not appear on any ships’ passenger lists although both Victor and Frederick appear as passengers to Canada in 1905 and 1906 respectively. The Reverend McLaglen was apparently ‘known to the police’, being involved in a number of dubious charities from the 1890s to the 1920s, and was involved in a bankruptcy case in 1902.

The McLaglen’s 9 children (8 sons and 1 daughter) were all born in Bromley or the East End, and the family appears in the 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses. By 1914/15, they were living in Chiswick, and Andrew Charles Alfred died in Lambeth in 1928. He and his wife are buried in Kensington Cemetery, near Hanwell, Middlesex. The photograph above, taken by Simon White (Flickr) is captioned ‘Grave of Lily Marion and Bishop Andrew McLaglen’.

Victor McLaglen arrived in Hollywood in the mid-1920s, after several years in the British film industry and a previous career as a roistering global adventurer. During the early 20th century he travelled through Canada and the US, working as a prize fighter amongst other occupations. He apparently ended up as personal trainer to the Raja of Akola, India, before joining the Middlesex Regiment at the Outbreak of World War I, from which he was demobbed with the rank of captain.

Victor’s Hollywood career spanned 35 years. He won a best actor Academy Award for his performance as Gypo Nolan in The Informer (1935), a film based on Liam O’Flaherty’s novel about the Irish Uprising (1922), and was nominated as best supporting actor for his role as Red Will Danaher in John Ford’s The Quiet Man (1952). However, his action movies such as Gunga Din (1939), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), and Rio Grande (1950), are probably his most popularly remembered.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Benjamin Horne and the coal fraud

I have just received an e.mail from Vivienne Lewis (nee Horne), whose ancestral stories are featured on 30 March 2009 and 21 April 2008. She writes:

'Do you remember you put me into contact with the bursar of Aldro School who had seen the Horne blog on your web site. My second cousin, Rosemary, and her husband plus Paul (my partner) and myself went up to the school at the end of May and Norman kindly showed us around. Seemingly Edgar Horne not only owned the big house that now houses the school but all the surrounding land which comprised the whole of the village of Shackleford which is on the outskirts of Godalming, Surrey.

Inside the school they have a copy of the portrait of Sir Edgar, the original of which is evidently still in the Prudential Head Office. The Edwardian bell-push remains with the various names of the Horne family clearly written under each room. There is an old gong in the hallway plus an old-fashioned telephone. The staircase which Edgar acquired from another old property, which was being pulled down, also remains in situ. Evidently after his wife died he did not wish to remain in the house and moved to another property across the road. It was a very interesting visit and many thanks for being kind enough to forward Norman's e-mail on to me.

Two weeks ago I went up to the Society of Genealogists and found out some further information about the first Horne (Benjamin Horne, 1698-1766) who started the coal factor/merchant business. He has an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Biography and quite a large one. Seemingly, he started his business when he was 21 when he set up as a middle-man between the colliery owners of the North of England and the main users of coal in London and the suburbs, namely the brewers, soapboilers, dyers etc. As a result of an Act of Parliament he was allowed to set up his own wharves and lighters to ferry the coal ashore. By 1730 he had a financial interest in over 40 collieries (the picture above shows what a colliery would have looked like in Benjamin's day). However, a bit like the present MPs, he skated on thin ice when he issued bonds to the shipmasters to pay the excise duty on their behalf so they could return North quicker to pick up the next load of coal, and then delayed payment. When the Customs Department exposed the fraud that he and other coal factors had been involved in he quickly paid up!!!!! He retired to High Cross, Tottenham, and died in 1766 worth over £70,000.00.

His son, Thomas (1726-1802) was considered by one biographer to be the greatest coal-merchant in London. Succeeding generations entered into various partnerships and finally the business was absorbed into the Charringtons Group.

Hope your project is going well. I still intend to visit the Quaker Library in Euston although I have learnt that the Thomas Horne who was living in Bloomsbury in the 1841 Census had, in fact, left the Society of Friends in 1823.'

Photos of your Bloomsbury ancestors' homes and workplaces

I have started to take photographs of some of the areas of Bloomsbury inhabited by the descendants of people who contact me with stories. I will be happy to provide anyone with a Bloomsbury ancestor a digital image file of their house or work place. Or, if the property no longer exists, an image of the building now in its place. Many of the original 19th century properties are still very much in evidence, however.
The image above, taken by Mary Hinkley, a UCL photographer, shows the Church of Christ the King on Gordon Square. It was built from 1850 to 1854 and is Gothic Revival in style, typical of many 19th century Anglican churches.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Lancet's editor certifies death of Bloomsbury resident

Coral Still sent me the death certificate of her ancestor, William Thorne, the paper hanger who fell off a ladder, broke his hip and died in University College London (see 'An untimely death at University College Hospital', 1 April 2009). It confirms that William sustained a comminuted fracture of the femur (thigh bone) and died from gangrene. A communited fracture is one where the bone is not cleanly broken but crushed or splintered in a number of pieces - almost impossible to repair in 1853, when he died.

However, what is intriguing about this death certificate is that a coroner was involved in investigating William's death. This was the coroner for Middlesex, who at that time was Thomas Wakley (portrait above). Wakley (who lived in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury) is famous for founding the Lancet journal, in 1823. This was the first inexpensive weekly medical journal, written specifically for the 'ordinary' British surgeons and physicians rather than the elite. It focused on 'hot' news and comment, especially the major political issues of the day, as well as learned medical articles. Wakley was a radical and spent much of the first decade of his editorship in the law courts, defending libel actions and copyright litigation. He pirated lectures delivered by eminent doctors and reprinted them in Lancet, and 'outed' those who had botched operations or misdiagnosed diseases.
Wakley became MP for Finsbury in 1835 as an independent radical reformer and his first parliamentary speech defended the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of Dorset labourers sentenced to transportation for forming an illegal trade union. He also campaigned agains the flogging of sailors as well as reform of the medical profession. It was largely Wakely's campaigning that resulted in the 1858 Medical Act, which created a Medical Register in which all practitioners were listed, and the establishment of a General Medical Council to regulate the profession and set clinical standards.

Wakely was elected Coroner for Middlesex in 1839, a role he adopted with his usual rigour, investigating every suspicious death in the district, calling multiple medical witnesses when he believed it necessary, and involving the police when he suspected foul play. He was particularly insistent that industrial accidents should fall under the coroners' jurisdiction, and his recommendations became the norm.

So, William Thorne's industrial accident came under Thomas Wakely's jurisdiction, a post-mortem would almost certainly have been ordered, and possibly an inquest held as well. We can guess that these events took place because William's death was registered over two months after he died. In any other district, it is unlikely that a coroner would have been involved at all.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Dr Thomas Hunt of Bedford Square

Geoff Culshaw's ancestor, Thomas Hunt (c.1798-1879), was a doctor who lived and practised in Bloomsbury (photo above). He was born in Watford, Hertfordshire, where his father (also Thomas) was the Baptist minister. In 1812, Thomas received an apprenticeship grant of £80 from the John Bankes Trust of the Haberdashers' Company, and probably commenced his medical training. As a non-conformist, he would not have been eligible for a university place at Oxford or Cambridge so his route into medicine lay in becoming apprenticed to a surgeon and taking hospital courses in anatomy and surgery. At that time, surgeons acted more as 'general practitioners' in the community than as hospital-based doctors, treating skin diseases (including syphilis), performing minor surgery and amputations, and setting fractures. Physicians, on the other hand, were more likely to be university-educated and ranked higher in the medical heirarchy.

Thomas Hunt trained at at St Thomas's and at Guy's Hospital, London, and was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons by examination in August 1820. In 1826 he lived at Upper Clapton, Middlesex, but by 1829, he was practising in Herne Bay, Kent. He returned to London some time before 1850, taking up residence at 26 Bedford Square, Bloomsbury (picture above). He practised as a dermatologist (skin specialist) and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1852. He lectured on diseases of the skin at the College and was also consulting surgeon to the Western Dispensary for Diseases of the Skin, Great Portland Street. He served for a time as Vice-President of the Medical Society (the Medical Society of London, founded in 1773, is the oldest medical society in Britain: http://www.medsoclondon.org/) and was an active member of the Epidemiological Society (founded 1850: http://www.ph.ucla.edu/EPI/snow/LESociety.html). He was also Medical Officer of Health for the St Giles District of London. Thomas Hunt published a number of books and articles which are listed on Geoff's website: http://www.geoffsgenealogy.co.uk/hunt/huntdoc.htm

Thomas married Martha Mary Colam sometime between 1819-1925. She came from a properous family and was born in Charterhouse Street in the City of London. The marriage produced thirteen children (6 boys and 7 girls), of whom Thomas (probably their first son) also trained as a doctor and lived at his parent's residence, which by 1861 was 23 Albert Place, Bedford Square. He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1859.

The third son, William, born about 1839, was a medical student at the Middlesex Hospital, London, in 1861, but died the following year off the Cape of Good Hope, on his way to Sydney on board the Nourmahal.

Martha Mary died in 1861 and Thomas senior married Caroline Hall three years later.

Despite having a very large family, the Hunts lived very comfortably in Bloomsbury. At 26 Bedford Square the household included a cook, a housemaid and a page. Thomas was an exact contemporary of two other eminent medical residents of Bedford Square, both of whom lived at no 35 - Thomas Hodgkin (1798-1866), who first described Hodgkin's disease, and Thomas Wakley (1795-1862), founding editor of The Lancet. They also trained at St Thomas's and Guy's Hospitals. After the move to 23 Albert Place, the Hunt household no longer included a page but still employed a cook and housemaid.

Interestingly, only three of the Hunt children married, and produced only three offspring between them.

An untimely death at University College Hospital

Coral Still's 5 x great grandfather, William Thorne, born about 1804, came to London from Dorset before 1829, which was the year that he married Mary Ann Stockwell at All Souls, Marylebone. He was a painter and wallpaper hanger with premises at 10 Tottenham Street (1839 Trade Directory for London), pictured above as it is now. At least one of his sons and grandsons also followed this profession, which would have been much sought after with the growing affluence of Bloomsbury.

Unfortunately, in his late forties, William broke his hip falling from a ladder and died at University College Hospital, Bloomsbury, after gangrene set in.
At the time of William's death there was little that could be done for severe fractures, particularly those in which the bone penetrated the skin and which almost always became infected. These compound fractures usually necessitated amputation of the limb although amputating a leg at hip or upper thigh level was particularly difficult and dangerous. If William died before 1846 there would have been no anaesthetics to deaden the pain of amputation because it was not until October of that year that ether was first used to anaesthetise a patient undergoing surgery.

In December 1846, Robert Liston (1794-1847) at University College Hospital, performed the first major operation under ether anaesthesia in Europe. This was, in fact, a mid-thigh amputation of the left leg on a man named Frederick Churchill, who subsequently recovered. Accustomed to operating at speed without the benefit of anaesthesia, Liston removed the leg in twenty-eight seconds!

The picture above shows Liston performing the operation watched by a number of colleages including Joseph Lister (1827-1927) - standing second left - who went on to develop the concept of antisepsis. He cleaned wounds, particularly those related to compound fractures, with carbolic acid. Antiseptic surgery was adopted at University College Hospital and many other hospitals. Lister's idea was based on Louis Pasteur's belief that 'germs' of putrefaction were carried in the air. This was in the 1860s although it would be another twenty years before the first 'germs' (ie. bacteria) were seen under the microscope.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Woodman and Ogden Families

Jenny Stoner sent this information about her ancestors: There seems to be quite a few Woodmans in the Bloomsbury area at this time. It's not a very common name so I presume they're all from the same stock but as yet I haven't discovered where they originally came from.
William Woodman was born in 1808 in St Pancras. He was a solicitor's clerk originally but by the 1861 census he was an engineer. He and his wife Maria lived in Duke's Street (now Duke's Road), just south of the Euston Road. They had seven children, of whom one was William Lacey Woodman.

William Lacey Woodman was born in Newington in 1842 and married Anna Ogden (1865) in St Pancras Church. He, too, was an engineer.

Anna's parents, John and Anna Ogden, although not born in London, lived at 1 Little Russell Street, Bloomsbury by the mid-19th century. John Ogden was a coach builder. Their daugher, Anna (1846-1904), who was a milliner by the age of fourteen, was one of five children. The others were: John, a surveyor, who had eight children and lived in St Pancras; William, a coach painter who had three children and had moved away by 1891; Emily, who married a solicitor's clerk at St Pancras, and Rosina, who remained unmarried and looked after her retired father. From her birth until 1901, Rosina lived at 1 Little Russell Street. After her father's death, she was a self-employed sempstress and lived with two lodgers.
William and Anna Woodman had four children, all born in Bloomsbury - William became a barman, Anna married and moved to Liverpool, Rosina was a clerk to a photographer, and Francis (my grandfather), known as Frank, became an accountant. Frank was a choirboy at St George's Church, Bloomsbury (pictures above), and then went on to amateur dramatics. I can remember that he and his sister, Rosina (Rose), could converse in 'back-slang', which reverses the first and last letter of words - eg. boy becomes yob! It was something that they had learned in childhood.

The Kirk Family

Mary Slater sent this information about her family: James Kirk, my great, great grandfather, is listed in the 1884 Business Directory of London at 3 Bloomsbury Court, Holborn (near the British Museum), as a french polisher. By 1895 (in the Post Office Directory), the firm is James Kirk and Sons.

James Kirk, the son of a bootmaker, was born in Norwich about 1827-8. No doubt economic and social conditions led to his move to London and by 1851 he was in Finsbury. By 1853, for marriage licence purposes, he called himself a cabinet maker and was married in Shoreditch. By 1861, as a french polisher, he was once again in Finsbury with four sons and later, a daughter. He was widowed by 1875 and had moved west to Wardour Street. At the time of his second marriage he was calling himself an upholsterer. By 1881, he and his family (totalling seven) were at Bloomsbury Court.

These premises must have become too small for both working and living, as the 1891 census shows that he and his second family had moved to Clapham (south London). They were living in the same premises as a son from his first marriage (William Henry Kirk), and his family of three children.

William Henry, my great grandfather, was also a french polisher, no doubt in his father's firm. At the time of his marriage in 1878, he had been living in Gilbert Street (now Place) , which is round the corner from Bloomsbury Court. In 1881, he was in Great Titchfield Street. By 1901, he was one of the 'lucky' industrial poor to get a new home in the London County Council Boundary Estate model dwellings on the site of the 'Old Nicol' (Shoreditch). His father James, now 73, was living in Coram Street, Bloomsbury, with his wife and three children.

No doubt french polishing and upholstery would have been a service much in demand by the more well-heeled Bloomsbury clientele and West End shops, and to have one's own business there would be a good step up from journeyman work in the furniture sweatshops of Shoreditch and the East End of London. Wood was a favourite material for 19th century interiors because it was attractive and provided good insulation against the cold. The picture above is of the Flaxman Gallery, University College London.

William Henry's son, William Henry junior, eventually became a chauffeur to an employer in Mount Street, Mayfair, where my father was born in mews, and later a publican in Sussex. My father became a surveyor and architect in Sussex. So, London was a staging post in this family line's escape from poverty.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin (1709-1790), printer, philosopher, politician, diplomat, scientist, inventor and civic activist, was a major figure in the Age of Enlightenment and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. He invented bifocals, the lightning rod, formed the first public lending library in America and played major roles in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania General Hospital. Benjamin Franklin lived in London as a diplomat (1757-75) at 36 Craven Street, less than half a mile from Bloomsbury. His landlady's son-in-law, William Hewson (1739-74), ran an anatomy school from the house, and during its renovation in 1997, more than 3000 human and animal bones and other material artefacts were excavated. Tania Kasmaully, a PhD student and forensic archaeologist at the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL, is working on this extraordinary and unique material.

More about Tania's work can be found here:

Information about Benjamin Franklin in America and Britain:

The pictures above show Benjamin Franklin wearing spectacles (top) and conducting his famous lightning rod experiment.

The Horne Family and Benjamin Franklin

In April 2008, Vivienne Lewis (nee Horne) e.mailed me with details of the Horne family who were involved in the coal merchant business and subsequently in banking and insurance in central London. Sir Edgar Horne was a founding member (1848) and first chairman of the Prudential Insurance Company.

Earlier this month I was contacted by Norman Patterson, the Bursar of Aldro School in Godalming, Surrey, the former family home of Sir Edgar Horne, whose portrait (above) hangs outside his office. Norman wrote: 'I have been searching for any present day members of the Horne family and after googling I found the Bloomsbury blog.' He asked me to forward his message to Vivienne and she came back with more information about the Horne family.

'My cousin Rosemary, who is also a Horne descendent, drew me to the site about Aldro School and Hall Place so we were familiar with the fact that the school was occupying Edgar Horne's old home. However, I never expected to hear from the Bursar so that was a surprise. One thing I did discover last summer was by some weird coincidence I found the modern day descendents of the Horne branch which emigrated to America in the early 1700s to Philadelphia. Benjamin Horne, who was the founder of the coal merchant business, had an elder brother called Edward who emigrated with a number of other Quakers. I googled 'Benjamin Horne' and came up with a family tree of the Knox-Johnson family who were descended from Edward and Benjamin's mother and father, Thomas and Susannah Horne. I contacted them and they were amazed as they had only known about Edward and five of his siblings, and were unaware that there were four more children. They have now added the family tree that Rosemary and I had compiled, to their own.

I have also found a reference to Edward Horne being a friend and mentor to the young Benjamin Franklin, but have been unable to verify this as yet.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Martha Louisa Nixon (1869-1924)

Jean Skinner sent this account of her entrepreneurial maternal grandmother.

Martha Louisa Kirby was born in Shadwell, East London, and married Albert Thomas Nixon at Stepney in 1898. Her daughter, Winifred Rhoda (Jean's mother) was born in March 1900 in Hackney. Later, the family moved to 14 Hand Court, Holborn. Albert was a master carpenter, working at theatres, stages and exhibitions. By the eve of World War I, his wages were £136 a year whilst Martha was making a profit of £200 a year, running her newsagents at Hand Court.

Jean writes: 'Martha had a sort of benefactor or business partner who was a bookmaker, and she kept a betting book under the counter of her shop. She took bets against the law. When Albert wanted to go to the gold-rush (I think my mother mentioned Australia), Martha said there was no way she would take a baby and live in a tent. Albert went but returned threadbare and too fond of alcohol. This probably influenced at least two generations of temperance in our family, broken by my own children in the 1990s on going to university.
Martha was very petit (under 5ft) and had copper-coloured hair - the colour of a new penny - which was long enough for her to sit on. She was strict, authoritarian, and wanted her daughter (my mother) to be ladylike. She sent her to a convent school where Mum learned nothing useful except beautiful copperplate handwriting. Due to this, Mum worked, in the 1920s, as a ledger-keeper, standing up at a sloping desk with huge ledgers but not quite a quill pen! There weren't many women and the men had to move for her. It's interesting to note that I became a book-keeper and my daughter a chartered accountant.

Mum's lifelong friend was called Bobs (nicknamed after General Roberts, famous during the Boer War in South Africa). She was my godmother and also godmother to my son, Andrew. Bobs lived with an old lady called Mrs Turnbull who wore a long black skirt and little black mob-cap and could have been her grandmother. If Mum had a new dress made they did one for Bobs too because she was so poor.

At Hand Court, Martha had the shop and a back room but I don't know how many other rooms they had. In the 1901 census, there were three familiies living there - 23 people, 17 of them children. According to my Aunt Freda, it was dark and dim. It was opposite the Lincoln's Inn Courts, and if the newspaper boys didn't turn up, Mum used to have to do their paper rounds around the Inns of Court. She sometimes went on roller skates during the war years (1914-18). From 1916-18, Mum's father was in the Army.

Martha died, aged 55, at the National Hospital, Queen Square, Holborn, in 1924 (pictured above). She left an estate of £2550 and Mum was her sole benefactor and Executrix. Martha's husband, Albert, was cut out of the will completely and when Mum offered him a share, he refused.'