Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Inside Bloomsbury's medicinal herb garden

Who owns our health? This is the question asked by Dr Vivienne Lo who planted our medicinal herb garden in Mecklenburgh Square. The garden includes an intriguing herb spiral landscaped from Welsh slate.

Vivienne says: 'Food is really the basis of medicine in many difference aspects, certainly the kind of potencies attributed to food then become attributed to medicines. But we think the boundaries between food and medicine are obvious when in fact they're not at all. I dreamed up the herb spiral to teach us what's safe and what's appropriate when we are suffering from a cold or virus so that we can deal with these kinds of complaints in an everyday way. My early work has been about self-care in ancient China, and most recently the boundaries of food and medicine, and it's really in that context that I'm building the spiral.'

See the video 'Who owns our health? Inside the medicinal garden'

Monday, 21 June 2010

A medicinal garden in Bloomsbury

We have created a medicinal garden in Mecklenburgh Square, Bloomsbury. This lovely residential square is not open to the public except on London Open Garden Squares weekend, which this year was 12-13 June.

On Sunday 13 June, we held an event devoted to rhubarb - Fools 4 Rhubarb - at which speakers from UCL included Professor Chris Lawrence who explored the rhubarb in David Livingstone's medicine chest (Livingstone's Rowser), Dr Guy Attewell on rhubarb in the Indo-Muslim healing traditions, and Dr Vivienne Lo on rhubarb in China. Dr Anne Stobart from Middlesex University, who is also a consultant medical herbalist, gave an insight into the medicinal use of rhubarb in the 17th century. Although rhubarb has been taken for centuries as a laxative, it has also been used as an ingredient in remedies to treat rickets in children, kidney complaints, ulcers in the womb, and to soothe fevers. Rhubarb root is generally used in medicines rather than the stems which are used in cooking.
My talk was entitled 'Rhubarb Growers in the Land of Fire'. The Land of Fire is of course Tierra del Fuego, where Abby Goodall and her family grow rhubarb varieties brought from England by her great grandfather, Thomas Bridges, who went to Tierra del Fuego in 1863 as a missionary, and built a farm, Estancia Harberton in the Beagle Channel, which is now the oldest farm in Argentina. Abby grows 200 kilos of rhubarb a year and has hundreds of rhubarb recipes! We had planned to skype Abby during the event but the connection was very bad and we had to abandon it, much to our disappointment.

After the fascinating talks at Goodenough College and a superb lunch of chicken and rhubarb tagine (an historic Persian recipe), rhubarb sorbet, rhubard crumble and custard, rhubarb juice, rhubarb mead and other culinary delights, we moved to Mecklenburgh Square where Ann Stobart gave us a lesson in healing herbs around the physic garden. There are two components to the garden - a herb spiral (bottom photo), and a herbaceous herb border (top photo). The herb spiral is landscaped from Welsh slate, skilfully constructed by slate workers from North Wales. Vivienne Lo worked with Mecklenburgh Square gardeners to plant and nurture the medicinal herbs which include feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), tansy (Chrysanthemum vulgare), opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), borage (Borago officinalis), camomile (Chamomilla nobilis), and of course a number of varieies of rhubarb. Advice and help in planning and establishing our garden was given by Chelsea Physic Garden and the Royal College of Physicians, which has a wonderful medicinal garden curated by the garden fellow, Dr Henry Oakeley.
The Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL, after which the garden is named (centre photo), has also supported this venture.
A lovely day ended with afternoon tea in the garden - scones and rhubarb jam with cream, rhubarb muffins, rhubarb meringues, washed down with rhubarb tea. Love my rhubarb but am currently rhubarbed-out.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The servant, the doctor, and the British Museum

Thanks to Stephen Pewsey at the British Museum who has been able to identify the houses in which lived Jayne Hyslop's x3 grandmother, Sarah Green, a servant, and Dr Henry Shuckburgh Roots, who lived next door and who assisted at one of the first ever plastic surgery operations.

Stephen says: 'I had a look at your very interesting Bloomsbury People blog, which I came across by accident as I was researching the history of 42-43 Russell Square, now part of the British Museum, for an in-house newsletter.

I was trying to track down information on Henry Shuckburgh Roots, who lived at 42 Russell Square in the 1830s and 1840s, and googling his name gave a link to your blog. I think I can help on the exact address of Sarah Green, the domestic servant. According to the 1844 list of members of the Royal College of Physicians, Dr Roots lived at 42 Russell Square. According to the 1841 Post Office Directory for London, No. 43 was occupied by James Christian Clement Bell, so John Foster’s house where Sarah Green lived must have been No. 41.

Hope that helps!'
The top photograph (taken by me today at 12.30) shows No. 41, the home of the Foster family. I captured the scene just as a group of tourists were wandering by although I''m not sure what they are pointing at. The photograph below shows Nos. 41 (on the right) and 42. The Russell Square street sign is just visible on the left of the picture.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England

Bloomsbury People has featured a number of stories about Bishop Andrew McLaglen, the father of Hollywood star, Victor McLaglen. Andrew McLagen was consecrated in November 1897 as bishop of the Free Protestant Episcopal Church of England (later known as the Evangelical Church of England). This church was formally dissolved in 1997 although it remains active in the US and Canada.

I have just been contacted by Bishop Edwin Follick, Director of University Libraries and University Chaplain, South Baylo University, Anaheim, California. He writes: 'Your article relating to Bishop McLaglen was so well done and afforded special insight into missionary activities related to Africa. After graduating from the Free Protestant Episcopal Seminary in London (Bishop Follick was consecrated on 28 August 1968), it fell upon me to serve as a director of education under the Bishop Primus, Charles Dennis Boltwood. The educational ministry included James Martin Bible College and St Andrew's Correspondence College, for the training of an indigenous pastorate to serve the local churches.

The Free Church is ongoing, and undoubtedly continues in service within the United Kingdom. A schismatic bishop from Germany did apparently attempt to disestablish the church and replace it with an "international" prefix hopefully perhaps trying to bring some good intention to revitalize the mission. With many of the clergy not versed in legal matters and a vacuum in leadership the usual issues of social disorganization appear. Fortunately, one of the bishops in Canada, Bishop Darrel D Hockley, literally is the consummate historian of the church.

I do have a real love of history [BA Cal State Los Angeles 1956, MA Pepperdine 1957] with majors in history and sociology. Thus, your work at the University of London is so important to record our past progress and mistakes - we don't mind repeating the progress but need to minimize the mistakes! Thus, a copy of this email is being sent to Bishop Hockley and for sure he would be able to shed far more light on the history of the church than me.

Please do feel free to post any message from me on the Bloomsbury People blog. Working in an Asian university and going to lunch with my deputy, Dr Kwang-hee Park, I jested that we should be in a pub watching the boats move past on the River Thames and enjoy the food with a pint of stout. Of course we repaired to an elegant Asian restaurant for wonderful food. But with respect for past delightful experiences the nostalgia does come through. My appreciation for your interest in the past of the now ambient Bloomsbury district.

The Most Reverend Edwin Follick is Primus and Bishop of California.

From knowing absolutely nothing about Bishop Andrew McLaglen's background when the first blog about him was posted on 6 August 2009, other than the fact he had been an apprentice missionary in Bloomsbury from 1877-1879, the Bloomsbury Project now has a link to the church.

I couldn't find a suitable picture unfortunately, but perhaps Bishop Ed will kindly send me one.

Bloomsbury resident tried at the Old Bailey

Sue Fisher’s 4x Grandfather, George Lewis, was a schoolmaster at an academy established in about 1818 by the Reverend Peter Fenn, in Hyde Street (no longer exists), off New Oxford Street, Bloomsbury. George Lewis died in November 1827, and on his death-bed obtained a promise from the Reverend Fenn to protect his wife and three children, George William Fenn Lewis (b.1819), Richard Caleb Fenn and Esther Georgiana.

However, the Reverend Peter Fenn was not all he seemed because on 11 September 1828 he was tried at the Old Bailey for deception and forgery. An article in The Times of 2 April 1828, tells the story:

‘It appears that about thirty years since (ie. c.1800), this man was ordained in holy orders, under the name of Fall, but why he subsequently changed his name, remains at present a mystery. Under the assumed name of Fenn, he was employed as a teacher in Kirkman's academy, Islington, and about ten years since purchased, on his own account, an academy in Bloomsbury, in which he succeeded beyond his most sanguine expectations. Unfortunately for him, and, we may say with truth, for the greatest body of his creditors, Mr Fenn was not satisfied with the profits derived from his school; he started also as a bill-broker, or rather discounter of bills, taking to himself (as others of that notorious class do) an exorbitant rate of interest. He thus made many bad debts, and was himself ultimately induced to resort to other usurers, who, like himself, though more wary, were not wanting in the rate to be charged to a brother miscreant. Spurred on by this connexion, he was led to commit the crime of forgery, and not only committed various forgeries himself, but he also made one of his tutors draw and accept bills in fictitious names. He also had the unmanly hardihood to involve his pupils in his guilt, for he has also, in a like manner, made them draw, accept, and indorse fictitious bills, and has circulated that kind of rubbish (among tradesmen only) to an enormous amount; and in order to give a greater facility to his criminal traffic, an account was opened at Messrs. Ransom's bank. This circumstance gave a degree of credit to his movements, and by an insinnating address, pretended friendship, and plausibility of manner, ingratiated himself with various tradesmen. He would in some instances pretend that he possessed a a bill for a large amount, such as £2000 on this nobleman or the other, and that he was himself to receive £200 or £300 from the pretended nobleman, for the accommodation, and consequently could afford to give the unsuspecting tradesman £50 for the loan of £500. The tradesman, confiding in the sanctified clergyman, has in many instances been thus duped to the tune of £2000 or £3000. Again, the clergyman would produce one of his concocted bills, and say "If you discount me this £200 at 5 per cent, I will take £50 worth of goods, and you shall draw a bill on me for the amount of the goods", so that this fellow has in many instances obtained £250 for one of his forged bills of £200.

It appears that the circumstances which led to his immediate detection, was his absenting himself from his home, together with several of his cheques (which he had post-dated) becoming due, which were returned, as a matter of course, by his banker, for want of funds. Under these circumstances a meeting was convened, and an intercepted letter coming to hand, disclosed the whole system, and that the Rev. gentleman had emigrated to Paris, under the assumed named of George Lewis.’

Sue says: I believe that Peter Fall who matriculated from Pembroke College Oxford in 1791 and went on to be a curate in Guernsey and Jersey is our Peter Fenn. His father is given as "John of Isle of Jersey, gent" but I have yet to confirm this. Why Peter changed his name from Fall (possibly spelt Falle, as is more common in the Channel isles) to Fenn is still a mystery. I always assumed that my 3x Grandfather's middle name of Fenn (George William Fenn Lewis) would turn out to be his mother's maiden name, not the vicar's surname!

Peter Fenn was sentenced to death (see his records at Old Bailey online) but this was commuted to transportation for life to Australia (there had been a petition for clemency in The Times). Charles Dickens was aware of his case as he mentions his name in a letter to the Daily News in 1846. Fenn had hoped to be sent to Botany Bay "where,by the employment of his literary talents, he calculates upon improving his condition". But unfortunately he was sent to "The Valley of the Swells", a penal colony where he was set to manual work. He was given a conditional pardon in 1845.

My 3x Grandfather, George William Fenn Lewis (b.1819) became a Thames waterman. The photograph above shows boats on the River Thames at Southwark in 1845. Southwark Cathedral is in the foreground.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Samuel Mathers, a schoolmaster in Bloomsbury

The Bloomsbury Project has discovered no fewer than 62 educational establishments in the area, between 1800 and 1904. So, when Pat Pond e.mailed asking if I could find information about her ancestor, Samuel Mathers, who was a schoolmaster during the 1840s, I had to reply that I hadn't a clue where to start. However, there might be a descendent with more information so here's as much as I know.

Samuel Mathers was baptised on 12 February 1786. He married Hannah Liddell at St Giles, Great Orton, Cumberland, on 12 July 1808. His marriage certificate states that he was a weaver from Cross Gates, County Durham. Samuel and Hannah's first daughter, Margaret, was born on 4 November 1811, by which time Samuel had become a schoolmaster and parish clerk. A son, John, was baptised on 19 November 1815, but Hannah died in the same year, possibly in childbirth. Samuel presumably remarried and by the 1840s the family had moved to Bloomsbury. Another son, Joseph, was married at St George, Bloomsbury (1847) and a daughter, Elizabeth, at St James (1850). This was probably the church of St James, Hampstead Road, adjacent to Bloomsbury, and now demolished. On his children's marriage certificates, Samuel's occupation is still a schoolmaster.
And this is where Pat loses Samuel's trail although she says, 'We are hoping he was with his children in London, although Samuel's son, Joseph, eventually goes to America.' Some of the family did remain in the area because Pat's grandfather was also a schoolmaster in Holborn. Samuel Mathers is not to be confused with Samuel Liddell Mathers.
The photograph above (courtesy Ipoh 7, Flickr) shows the Bloomsbury skyline with the spire of St George's church in the distances. The keen-eyed will observe three men sitting on the parapet of a roof (right) with their feet dangling over the edge.

Joseph Aloysius Stanfield and the British Museum

Tim Stanfield, who lives in Paris, sent me information about his eminent grandfather, Joseph Aloysius Stanfield. I'm posting his message in the hope that other descendants of this family will help Tim in the search for his ancestors.

He writes: 'I read about your research on the internet after a conversation with a student involved in your project. Sometime ago I traced my family back a few generations. My grandfather, an archaeologist associated with the British Museum (Joseph Aloysius Stanfield) was born in the latter half of the 19th century in Bloomsbury where the family had lived for some time. His work on Gallo-Roman ceramics (lovely example above) co-authored with Dr Grace Simpson (d. 2008) is still to this day an important text on the subject (J A Stansfield & Grace Simpson, CENTRAL GAULISH POTTERS: Oxford University Press, London, 1958). An affiliation with Imperial College I believe.

The name was altered form the original STANDFIELD. So any census details from before my grandfather's era will show this as the correct spelling. I know that my great, great Grandfather John William Standfield was married circa1780 to a Louise Maria Harding and they were resident in Bloomsbury. My gandfather's father John Henry Standfield similarly married and resided in Bloomsbury. I have copies of birth and mainly marriage certificates from early research I made in the mid 1980s (from waxed-written tomes at St Catherines house!) and am trying to locate them. If there is any information you may be able to provide concerning historical facts, where they may have lived, their occupations, I would be most grateful for anything you can provide. I hope you may be able to turn over a stone or two for me.'

Knowing how successful this blog has been in putting ancestors in touch, it would be great if anyone could help Tim - and the Bloomsbury Project!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Bloomsbury doctors pioneer plastic surgery to rebuild nose

Jayne Hyslop's account of her x3 grandmother, Sarah Green, a domestic servant in a house in Russell Square (1841), mentioned a Dr Henry S Roots who lived in the house next door. This was intriguing as one of the purposes of the Bloomsbury Project is to discover information about the medical and scientific practitioners who lived and worked in the area.

Henry S Roots is probably Henry Shuckburgh Roots (1785-1861). In 1823, Dr Roots was a physician at the St Pancras Infirmary in King's Road, St Pancras (now St Pancras Way), a 20-minute walk from Russell Square. On 19th September of that year, Roots examined a 40-year-old shoemaker named Mr Capon, who was described as 'a most hideous object' because of a gaping hole in his face where his nose and mouth had once been. The unfortunate man had had syphilis and been treated with mercury. The dreadful disfigurement was a result of both the treatment and the infection which destroyed the tissue and cartilage of his face and which he was obliged to cover with a handkerchief. Since his palate had also been destroyed, his speech was barely articulate.

An operation - one of the first of its kind - to repair the defect, was carried out by a Dr John Davies (1796-1872), who had a practice at 189 Tottenham Court Road. No doubt Dr Roots was present when the patient was made to sit on a chair with his face towards the window so that the surgeon could operate with the maximum light. This was more than twenty years before the discovery of anaesthesia so Mr Capon would have been held fast by a number of assistants. The description of the operation can be read here. It appears to have been successful and Mr Capon was still alive the following year.

The picture above shows the type of facial deformity caused by syphilis for which there was no successful treatment until the discovery of the arsenical compound, Salvarsan, in the early 20th century, followed by the antibiotic penicillin in the 1940s.
In searching the web for more information about Dr Henry Shuckburgh Roots, I came across a post by Brian Shuckburgh (2002) also searching for connections to his ancestors. I hope Brian finds this blog. Apparently, Henry's father, George Roots, of Kingston Surrey, was also a doctor. He married Anne Shuckburgh in 1772 at Twickenham, Middlesex, and they had at least two children, Henry and William.

Sarah Green in Bloomsbury

Jane Hyslop e.mailed me from Canada with this story of her x3 grandmother, Sarah Green, who was born around 1816.

Sarah Green gave several places as her place of birth on the Census entries from 1851-81. Usually she gave Great Clacton, Essex, and once she stated Colchester, Essex, between the years 1812-13. There is no baptism entry on the IGI (International Genealogical Index, Mormon Library) to verify the exact place. Her marriage certificate indicates her father was William Green, a labourer.

Sarah appears in Russell Square, Bloomsbury (top picture courtesy GothPhil, Flickr), on the 1841 Census as a F.S. (Female Servant?), age 25, N (not born in the County). She is one of 4 female and 1 male servants in the household of John Foster, whose household lists 6 family members beside himself, 4 female and 1 male servant. As there is no listing of specific duties we cannot know if Sarah was a kitchen maid, governess or cook. Mr Foster’s occupation is blank except for the abbreviated word Ind., presumably meaning 'Independent', obtaining his income from private means. The house next door to the Fosters was inhabited by Henry S Roots, a physician. So although we don’t know the Foster’s house by street number, it was next door to Dr Roots (more of him in the next blog).

On 16 April 1843 Sarah married Christopher Best at St George’s, Bloomsbury. She gave her address as Upper Bedford Place (possible number 6 but the entry is illegible. This is now Bedford Way), Bloomsbury, and her occupation as Servant. The witnesses were Sarah and George Johnson (relationship to Sarah Green unknown). Christopher Best was a Mason by trade living on Little Guildford Street (now incorporated into Herbrand Street), the son of John Best, Cordwainer. Christopher was born in Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire, and had gone to London in search of work after 1841. He was not a resident of Hull, his family were natives of Heighington, County Durham, a village near Darlington.

Sarah and Christopher lived at 7 Cowley Street in Smith Square, Westminister when their first child, Sarah Mahala, was born on 14 Jul 1844. They were still there in 1845 at the birth of their son Christopher on 2 Oct 1845. They had returned to the north, Darlington, County Durham, by the birth of their third child, Ann, in May 1848. Sarah and Christopher had 6 children (3 died in infancy). It is unknown when Sarah died. She appears in the 1881 Census for Darlington as a Widow (Christopher had died in 1860). It is undetermined whether she left the area or remarried.

From her presence in Bloomsbury, it is assumed Sarah went to London in search of work and found employment in a house at Russell Square. Since little else is known about her family it is unclear if she was living near to family members who also worked in service. Her reason for choosing London is presumably more opportunity for employment than in the small rural villages of Essex. No photos survive of Sarah or Christopher Best.

The bottom photograph (courtesy Jamie Barras, Flickr) shows the Peabody buildings in Herbrand Street which were completed in 1885, long after Christopher Best had left the area. The street had become a slum and these superior apartments were built to rehouse working people. Peabody buildings, of which there are a number around London, were intended for 'respectable' working class tenants rather than the indigent poor or those out of work.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

End of History of Medicine in Bloomsbury

Followers of this blog (and my backlog of contributors) have no doubt noticed the lack of entries for the past couple of months. A couple of things happened: I broke my ankle running for a train at Waterloo Station (yes, I know that shouldn't prevent me using a keyboard), and I lost my job.

Just before the Easter vacation we heard that our department is to be closed. You can read about it
here. We supposedly get a two-year wind down but there is some scepticism amongst my colleagues about this. However, I will keep this blog going while I'm here, and it will be archived as an important component of the Bloomsbury Project, so if you do have ancestors who lived and / or worked in the area please keep sending me stories.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Bloomsbury Day

Bloomsbury Day, a celebration of Bloomsbury Past and Present, will be held on Friday 12 March in the Department of English at University College London. During the course of the event, guests will be able to look at the Bloomsbury Project website (although the most interesting features are still password-protected) and at the Bloomsbury People blog. This has now been online since April 2008 when I decided that it would be exciting to find out as much as possible about the ordinary folk of the area as well as the elite who changed Bloomsbury during the 19th century from swampy rubbish dump to a centre of intellectual life.

I was relying on descendents of Bloomsbury residents to come forward with stories, and that is more or less what has happened over the past two years. Perhaps I could have wished for a few more than the forty features that I have been able to post, but links have been made with some extraordinary families such as the Hornes and the Bartons, and also with South Africa, to where a large number of Bloomsbury residents emigrated in the early 19th century. This in itself deserves a more thorough investigation.

The Bloomsbury Project has another year to run and I am therefore appealing to anyone who has ancestral links with the area, however tenuous these might be, to contact me with your story. The blog has been able to link up members of a number of families as you'll see if you read the story of Sir Rickman Godlee immediately below this one. The Bloomsbury Project has also benefited from the information given by the families. Together we hope to reconstruct the area as it existed in all its vibrancy between 1800 and 1904.

Sir Rickman Godlee and the first brain tumour operation

Paul Tucker, another descendent of the incredible Barton family (John Barton, 1789-1852, was a founder member of what is now Birkbeck College, Bloomsbury), has highlighted a further Bloomsbury link between John and his second wife, Fanny Rickman. They were married in 1828 and had nine children before Fanny died of scarlet fever in 1842, along with their 4-year-old daughter, Sarah.

Fanny’s aunt, Mary Rickman (1770-1851), married John Godlee (1762-1841). The firm of Rickman and Godlee were ship builders and built the first sea-going vessel to sail out of Lewes Harbour in Sussex. It was named the Lewes Castle and its keel was laid on Queen Victoria’s Coronation day, 28 June 1838.

John and Mary Godlee had a son, Rickman Godlee (1804-1871, who became an eminent barrister at Middle Temple, just over the Bloomsbury border. Rickman married Mary Lister who was the daughter of Joseph Jackson Lister (1786-1869), a wine merchant but also a very competent optical engineer. He built the first achromatic microscope lenses and thereby revolutionised microscopy in the mid-19th century. Joseph Jackson Lister was not only the father of Mary but also of Sir Joseph Lister (1827-1912), the surgeon whose antiseptic techniques using carbolic acid, helped reduce the surgical death rate from infection. The top photograph shows Sir Joseph Lister (centre) with his family.

Rickman and Mary Godlee’s son, also named Rickman (1849-1925), became a well known surgeon who performed the first operation to remove a brain tumour in 1884 at was is now the Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, Bloomsbury. He was knighted for his services to medicine and also wrote a biography of his uncle, Lord Lister. Sir Rickman Godlee was also surgeon to the household of Queen Victoria, and a Fellow of University College. The middle photograph shows Godlee operating on a child at University College Hospital, and the bottom picture is a portait.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Eliza Jane Tuttle (Adkin) tells her story

In the year of her 90th birthday in 1946, Eliza Jane Tuttle was interviewed for The Winnipeg Tribune. She is pictured daintily drinking tea from a blue Crown Derby cup for Mother’s Day. Her Honiton lace collar was made by one of her daughters, Mrs N McDougall, in Saskatoon, and her gold-rimmed locket held the pictures of two sons, Robert and Walwark, who were killed in the First World War. Her little gold brooch, ‘from my uncle’s shop in Devonshire’, held a lock of a sister’s hair.

It’s easy to imagine Eliza offering the newspaper reporter tea and buttered bread. ‘Have some,’ she urged. ‘My daughter makes wonderful bread. All my four girls learned to bake well.’ The reporter remarked that ‘Little Mrs Tuttle weighs 90 pounds, stands less than five feet, crochets and knits, puts on glasses just to read.' 'I don’t call myself old but I know I really am,' she smiled. Eliza and her husband Thomas came to Canada in 1882. ‘It was his idea,’ she recalled. ‘ He wanted some land. The government gave us a quarter section for $10. Later we got some more, 480 acres in all, near Minnedosa. He just loved the land, but I found it solitary. Later, there were enough of us to have square dances and enjoy ourselves.’

There was a dramatic story of arrival on the prairie. ‘Brandon was the terminus then. My husband left me there and walked over strange land the 23 miles to his brother’s log cabin. He didn’t know the way, of course, and walked far more than that. His feet … were so swollen from the icy water he stumbled into, they had to cut his boots off. Next day they came for me with a pair of horses. There was no bridge at Brandon and we had to ford the river. The tongue came out of the wagon and the water came in. I picked up my skirts but that was no good. I had to get out. I slid along the whiffle tree and they encouraged me by singing, “There’s One More River”.' A year later, in October 1883, she found the chimney of her log home on fire. ‘I could see the house had to go so I set to saving things. I got out the two chests that held our blankets and clothing, and my nice set of blue and gold china. I put my 14-months-old child on the feather bed and covered her up. She stayed outdoors all day long as I kept saving things. I got out the 100-pound bag of flour and the wheat. We didn’t have much furniture. I got it out, except for the stove. It had to stay. By late afternoon, the embers had died down and I set out, carrying the baby, to meet my husband. “You needn’t go any further,” I told him. “There’s no house. It’s burned to the ground.” We went to his sister’s homestead till we could rent a place.'

The Tuttles had eight children. They had a big dairy with 16 cows to milk and they made 50 pounds of butter a week, trading it for sugar and groceries at Rapid City. After her husband’s death, Eliza took turns living with her daughters. Two sons, Robert and Walwork, were killed in the Great War. On the wall of her home was framed a Biblical text – “Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like His. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” This was embroidered by Eliza Jane at the age of nine when she was living in Bloomsbury.

The Adkin / Tuttle Family in Manitoba

When I received an e.mail from Mark Sanderson back in September, telling of his great grandmother’s emigration in the early 1880s as a young married woman to the Manitoba prairie, I was intrigued to learn more. I asked Mark if he had any photographs of Eliza Jane and her family. It was four months before Mark replied but with an amazing set of pictures!

Eliza Jane was born in Bloomsbury in 1856. Her mother was Sarah Wallwork Adkin (top picture). Eliza Jane’s father, Robert Isaiah, died when she was three-years-old, and her mother remarried although she herself died in the 1860s. Eliza went into service as a lady’s maid. In 1882, she married Thomas Tuttle, a coachman, and they moved to Canada to become homesteaders in Manitoba. The second picture shows Eliza and Thomas with their eight children – four boys and four girls. The third picture is a portrait of Eliza taken at the beginning of the 20th century. The fourth picture is of Eliza’s brother James (Jim) Adkin in his hardware store in Manitoba. Jim was born on 9 July 1850 and was baptized on 28 July at St George, Bloomsbury. He also went to Canada around 1882. After making his fortune there, he returned to England in 1926 and died in Devon in 1938, aged 88. Eliza’s sister, Alice Avonell Adkin, born 9 November 1854 in Bloomsbury, seems to have moved to Devon as a young woman. The fifth picture is a portrait of her taken in Exeter.

Mark also sent me a newspaper cutting of Eliza Jane on the eve of her 90th birthday, which I’ll feature in the next blog. Mark writes: ‘It was really great that you posted her story on your blog. My family was very pleased. Actually, at the present time I live in the Philippines, but I was born and raised in the USA. I lived in Canada for about 18 years. I’m a missionary here.’

John Barton, a founder of Birkbeck College

Some months ago I wrote about Dave Barton’s Gx3 grandfather, John Barton (1789-1852), who was a founder, in 1823, of the London Mechanics’ Institute which later became Birkbeck College, part of the University of London. John Barton’s name was included on a commemorative stone which I discovered still existed in the new Birkbeck building. Unfortunately, it was tucked behind protective wrapping while building works were in progress so I was unable to photograph it.

Yesterday, on a grey wintry morning, I went back to take my photographs. The stone is very faded so I’ve pushed up the contrast somewhat. The top picture shows the stone in situ with a cameo of George Birkbeck above. Below this, is the stone in its entirety followed by a list of names which includes John Barton. The bottom photograph shows Birkbeck College with London University’s Senate House in the background. Senate House, built in Art Deco style, dates from the 1930s and was, at one time, one of the tallest buildings in London. During the Second World War the flat roof on top of the building was used for communications equipment by the Ministry of Information. The building, which resembles a 1930s American skyscraper, has been used in films for just that purpose.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Women, babies and working men - a radical education in Bloomsbury

What stories lie beneath the surface of Bloomsbury's streets and squares? The Bloomsbury People blog is but one facet of the project which aims to explore Bloomsbury's rise from swampy rubbish dump to London's centre of intellectual life in the 19th century.

Professor Rosemary Ashton and Dr Deborah Colville (UCL English) are researching educational reform in the area. The founding of University College London - to provide an alternative to Oxford and Cambridge - is just one of the great reforming institutions of Bloomsbury. The painting above, by George Shepherd (1784-1862), is of Old Gower Mews in 1835 with the famous portico and cupola of UCL in the background (UCL Art Collections).
To find out more about radical education in Bloomsbury, click on this link.

The Tisdalls of Bloomsbury

William de Villiers of Cape Town, who sent me the latest information on Bishop Andrew McLaglen, has revealed a Bloomsbury ancestry! His great-great-great grandparents, James Tisdall (b.1795) and Martha Tisdall (née Purchas, b.1793), lived in Queen Street (now Museum Street), Bloomsbury, during the early 19th century. James was employed as a ‘hot presser’ (someone who worked a hot press, used in a number of occupations such as paper making). The Tisdall’s eldest daughter, Caroline Martha, was born in 1817 and christened in St George’s, Bloomsbury, the sixth and final London church designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor (c.1661-1736). Their second daughter, Martha Sarah (1818-1895), was christened at St Giles-in-the-Fields, Bloomsbury. By this time, her parents were living in Brownlow (now Betterton) Street, just outside the borders of Bloomsbury, off Drury Lane. James had changed his occupation to that of dry-salter (usually refers to someone who traded in preserving chemicals, including salt, but also in dyes and other chemicals). Martha Sarah was William’s great-great grandmother. The couple had two further children, Sarah (b.c.1821) and James Nathanial (c.1826-1865), both of whom were christened at St Giles-in-the-Fields.

Martha Sarah was married at St Giles church in 1841 to Richard Payze (1818-1915), a successful corn factor and land owner of Leytonstone, then in the Essex countryside but now part of East London! Martha’s own granddaughter, Martha Amy (always known as Jane) Payze, was born at Whitchurch-on-Thames, a picturesque village in South Oxfordshire. William takes up the story: ‘My grandmother, seeking adventure, went out to Tanganyika shortly after the First World War, and there met my grandfather, a good-looking young South African, and married him!’

The picture directly above shows the British Museum in 1805. This is the view that James and Martha Tisdall would have seen from their home at the north end of Museum Street (this was the Queen Street end). The top picture is a summer view of the east face of St Giles-in-the-Fields (taken by Mark Charter, Flickr). This disguises its position in the centre of a busy London thoroughfare and shows how it might have looked to the Tisdalls of Bloomsbury as they took their children to be christened.