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.