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.