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197 posts categorized "Domestic life"

16 February 2018

Fashion fit for a suffragette procession

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White attire detailFebruary includes London Fashion Week and marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act which gave some women aged 30 or over the right to vote. Suffragette purchasing-power provides an unexpected link between the world of fashion and the fight for women’s right to vote.

In early June 1911, fashion purchasing-power was highlighted as a weapon to be deployed in the struggle to achieve women’s suffrage. Suffragists and suffragettes were preparing for a procession to highlight their cause on 17 June during the Coronation of George V. They were asked to wear white when they took part in this procession.

  Whet Your Weapon article 02-06-1911 cropped                               

 

 Votes for Women, 02 June 1911

 

 

 

Readers of the weekly newspaper, Votes for Women, which was edited by Frederick and Emmeline Pethick Lawrence, were urged to buy their outfits from firms that advertised there. ‘If they find it pays them to advertise in VOTES FOR WOMEN they will advertise – if they find it doesn’t, they won’t. The more money that flows into the coffers of our advertisement department the better our paper can be made, the wider its influence reaches. Therefore let every woman who believes in this cause never enter a shop that does not advertise in VOTES FOR WOMEN, and let her deal exclusively with those firms that do, and inform them why.’

Women who obeyed this call to arms would have had a good choice of items to ensure a suitably modish appearance during the procession. Advertisers enticed them with pictures of dresses, dainty blouses, charming hats, smart coats and hair care products. The procession through London from Westminster to the Albert Hall comprised around 60,000 women from around the world carrying 1,000 banners and stretched for seven miles. One hopes that they also bought the comfortable shoes on offer!

 

   March route detail

                                  Votes for Women, 16 June 1911

 The advertisements below, taken from Votes for Women 1911, give an idea of the heights of elegance that might be achieved.

Charming hats 09-06-1911  

Universal Hair detail

The fashions of the day generally required a good corset. It is fascinating to see how Mesdames I&L Hammond developed their advertisement for their corsets, garments that might now be regarded as instruments of female oppression, to appeal more strongly to suffragettes.

Corset Hammond detail 1

  Corset detail 19-05-1911 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The advertisement on the left comes from Votes for Women for 21 April 1911. The advertisement on the right, from Votes for Women for 26 May 1911, shows how the company had developed its marketing strategy to be in tune with the suffragette cause.

The British Library's Votes for Women online resource highlights many more treasures in the collections that tell the story of the campaign for women's suffrage.

Penny Brook
Head of India Office Records

Further reading
Votes for Women online resource
Votes for Women, 1911
https://www.findmypast.co.uk/suffragettes/

Untold Lives blogs relating to women's suffrage
Indian Princess in Suffragette March
Emily Wilding Davison: Perpetuating the Memory 
Lord Curzon's Anti-suffrage Appeal
Christmas Crackers and Women's Suffrage
The Women's Co-operative Guild


Untold Lives blogs relating to fashion
Knitting a shower-proof golf coat
Thomas Bowrey's Cloth Samples 
Muslins, Kincobs and Choli Cloths 
Was 'water rat' the new black in 1697?

 

14 February 2018

A much married man

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Following our stories about cases of bigamy and trigamy, colleagues suggested that I find a man with four wives for an ‘alternative’ Valentine’s Day blog post.  The British Newspaper Archive provided plenty of examples of four wives, and five, six, seven, and more.  I stopped looking when I found a man with twenty wives!

Lot of Fun B20130-10From Lot-of-Fun vol.2, no.28, p. 8 Images Online

One ‘most sensational’ case stood out from the rest.  Reuben Henry Chandler was born in Bristol in 1849, the son of a cabinet maker.  After leaving school he was apprenticed to an organ builder, then became a joiner before enlisting in the British Army, ‘being of fine physique’.  His father bought him out when he tired of military duties.

In 1870 Reuben married Mary Elizabeth Day in Bristol.  Soon afterwards he went to America and joined the US Navy.  On his return to England he did not rejoin his wife.  Instead he was wed in Bath in 1874 to Harriet Ellen Hales, a married woman who had been deserted by her husband Edwin.  At the time of the 1881 census, Reuben was working as a carpenter in Bath and living with Harriet Ellen and one of her two daughters, a servant, and three lodgers.  Reuben used to leave home for days, and then he disappeared altogether.

Reuben’s next wedding was in July 1885 to Flora Jenkins at St Mary Bitton in Gloucestershire.  The couple settled in Newport Monmouthshire.  In September 1887 Reuben filed a petition for divorce on the grounds of Flora’s adultery with a Richard Hermann, demanding £1000 in damages.

However Reuben and Flora stayed together and in January 1888 were both convicted of letting their coffee house in Newport be used as a brothel.  They then moved to Cardiff where they had a lodger, a master mariner called John Collins.  Reuben helped Flora to pass herself off to Collins as his daughter rather than his wife.  Flora married Collins in 1892 and Reuben attended to give the bride away.

Wedding number four was to Ada Maria Stutt at Bristol June 1898.  Reuben and Ada ran the Lord Chancellor pub on Easton Road until Ada’s death in the summer of 1902 at the age of 29.  Reuben’s stepmother Ann had a dream that her husband’s grave had been disturbed.  She was very upset to discover that Reuben had buried Ada there without her permission and went to the police with Ada’s father to report the multiple marriages. William Stutt wished to claim his dead daughter’s property as her rightful next of kin.

Chandler bigamySheffield Evening Telegraph  1 October 1902 British Newspaper Archive

Reuben’s trial took place in November 1902 at Bristol Assizes.  He was charged on three counts for marrying Ada Maria Stutt, Flora Jenkins, and Harriet Ellen Hales whilst his wife was still alive in Bristol.  The judge Mr Justice Wright commented that it was over 30 years since the first marriage, and said he considered the prosecution to be oppressive and ridiculous.  Reuben was found not guilty.

Reuben then moved to London and set up house with Frances Maria Wheeler.  I can find no evidence that the couple married.  They had twelve children, the last born five months after Reuben died in July 1922 at the age of 73 after a most eventful life.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive

 

25 January 2018

Keeping fit in 1900

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Did you make a New Year Resolution to keep fit?  Are you making the most of a subscription to the gym?  You might be surprised to learn that interest in personal fitness is not a recent phenomenon.  I found a file in the India Office Records which shows that exercise was taken very seriously at the start of the 20th century.

Family  exerciserThe Family Exerciser from a catalogue of gymnastic apparatus supplied by Heath & George IOR/L/PWD/8/220 f.352v

The file comes from a series of records relating to the Royal Indian Engineering College at Cooper’s Hill near Egham in Surrey. It is entitled ‘Gymnasium: Qualifying examination, notices, apparatus, instructors 1900-1906’.  That might not sound thrilling, but it includes some fascinating papers.

The Royal Indian Engineering College was founded in 1871 to train civil engineers for service in India in the Public Works Department.  In 1900 there were approximately 130 students in residence. Compulsory gymnastics and physical drill were part of the curriculum. The College also offered voluntary classes for gymnastics, fencing and boxing.  A gymnastics competition was held each year.

Bridge ladderBridge ladder – from a catalogue of gymnastic apparatus supplied by George Spencer IOR/L/PWD/8/220 f.320

First year students had to pass a gymnastics exam – parallel bars, horizontal bar, rope climbing, vaulting horse, bridge ladder, row of rings, slanting ladder, pair of rings, and high jump.  Marks were awarded equally for ‘performance’ and for ‘form’.  Students had to make half marks overall and, if they failed, had to continue with classes until they did.

Here is a draft of the rules of the Cooper’s Hill gymnasium in 1902.

20180116_172350IOR/L/PWD/8/220 f.223

The clothing to be worn in the gymnasium was flannel trousers, vest or a sweater, gym shoes, and belt.  Smoking was prohibited.

The file contains physical descriptions of students – age, height, weight, and measurements for chest, forearm, upper arm, and deltoid.  Here are the data for a group of first year students in 1903.

20180116_165751IOR/L/PWD/8/220 f.109

In August 1901 the India Office sanctioned expenditure on improvements to the gymnasium.  The College authorities then had to decide which new equipment to purchase.  Saved with the file are catalogues for two suppliers of gymnastic apparatus: George Spencer and Heath & George. Both firms were based at Goswell Road in London.  The catalogues show gymnastic equipment designed for the home as well as for military and naval institutions, schools, colleges, and public baths.  The apparatus was intended for men, women and children. Here are a few examples of what was on offer.

Home horizontal barThe Portable Home Horizontal Bar from a catalogue of gymnastic apparatus supplied by George Spencer IOR/L/PWD/8/220 f.295v

Whitely exerciserThe Whitely Exerciser from a catalogue of gymnastic apparatus supplied by George Spencer IOR/L/PWD/8/220 f.310v

Nursery gym (2)The Nursery Gymnasium from a catalogue of gymnastic apparatus supplied by Heath & George IOR/L/PWD/8/220 f.343

The  woman supervising the Nursery Gymnasium looks very like Queen Victoria, and isn't that Windsor Castle in the background?  Perhaps Heath & George were trying to tell potential customers that the Royal Family enjoyed ‘combining amusement with healthy exercise’.  Let’s hope that the Queen was as amused as her small charges seem to be.

Margaret Makepeace 
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/PWD/8/220 Cooper’s Hill Gymnasium: Qualifying examination, notices, apparatus, instructors 1900-1906

 

09 January 2018

Charles Kingsley’s grandfather in the East India Company Army

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Ensign Charles Kingsley (grandfather of the author of The Water-Babies) was born in 1743. In March 1769 he sailed to Calcutta as a Practitioner Engineer to work on the construction of the new Fort William on a salary of 107 Rupees per month, on the recommendation of Anselm Beaumont, his father’s first cousin. Copies of letters written in 1771-72 show that he was unhappy, having not received the promotion that he had been promised, accidentally losing an eye, and in poor health.

Fort William CalcuttaDetail of handcoloured etching with aquatint of the south west view of Fort William in Calcutta by William Baillie (1752/3-1799) from Twelve views of Calcutta (1794) Online Gallery

In April 1772 he wrote: “Mr Pinman and I have hired a small house about a mile & a half from the Fort in the Country, there is a Garden containing an Acre of Ground, and a fish Pond in it – The house contains a hall & two rooms, and we propose adding two more with such out-houses and conveniences as may be wanting, which will cost me nothing. I shall here have an opportunity of raising my own Poultry feeding Sheep &c which with the fish Pond & produce of the Garden will enable me to live very reasonably, and I shall be out of the way of that number of people who are always calling in upon you in the Fort, besides this I can put 30 Rupees amount of my allowances of rent into my pocket which will [make] some addition to my present small income”.

  Kingsley - Mother's LetterLetter sent to Kingsley by his mother 6 April 1771 – Author’s collection

Two months later he wrote: “The comfortable way of living is already at an end, as I am in orders to proceed the 20 [June] to take the command of the Fort at Budge Budge [about 12 miles down-river from Fort William] – The Garrison consists of 3 Officers, one of Sepoys, a Gentleman to assist me and myself, there are 50 Invalids, 100 Sepoys and 100 Artillery Lascars besides the workmen belonging to the Forts”. In July he wrote: “I am now fixed at Budge Budge as Commanding Officer, Doctor and Parson – I administer Medicines, but neither bleed or amputate, I baptise & bury, but do not read prayers, unless I can get an allowance for it”.
 

Kingsley Letter 9 July 1772Kingsley’s letter to his mother 9 July 1772 including a description of the garden at Budge Budge – Author’s collection

Also in July he wrote “I am very pleasantly situated in this place, have a good house to live in (of which I am Master) & a garden, two fishponds supplied with very fine fish, some of them 5 or 6 feet long – I have also a good breed of Geese, Ducks, Rabbits, Fowls and Pidgeons, I keep Sheep, Goats & Kids with a Cow & Calf – my unnecessarys are a Monkey, Mongoose, Civet Cats and a young Crocodile – Excepting the Climate you I dare say could spend some time very agreeably here”. In August he wrote “My situation is very disagreeable here as at present the Country for many miles around is under water, & will be so for at least a month – the air is hot moist & putrid”.

Charles was made a Lieutenant in September 1773 and he resigned in September 1775. He returned to England in 1776 and died in 1786 aged 43, having received over £20,000 as residuary legatee in Anselm Beaumont’s will.

Peter Covey-Crump
Independent researcher

Further reading:
More on Anselm Beaumont - English Nabob amasses a fortune from salt in Bengal 
PAK Covey-Crump, Letters from India to his family in England from Charles Kingsley, East India Company, Calcutta MSS Eur F562
Major V. C. P. Hodson, List of Officers of the Bengal Army 1758-1834

 

04 January 2018

Trigamy - a man with three wives

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Our last post told the story of a soldier who forfeited his Victoria Cross because he had committed bigamy.  Today we bring you a case of trigamy.

WeddingFrom Thomas Hood, Humorous Poems, illustrations by C. E. Brock (London, 1893) BL flickr

George Meaden was a shoemaker in Marylebone, London.  In March 1842 he married Sarah Cash, a servant, at St Mary's Church. Sarah was the daughter of an agricultural labourer from Lakenheath  in Suffolk. 

St Mary Bryanston SquareSt Mary Bryanston Square from Thomas Smith, A Topographical and historical account of the Parish of St. Mary-le-bone (London, 1833)

In November 1845, George married for a second time, this time in Hoxton.  His new wife was Mary Ann Taylor, daughter of a tailor.  The marriage certificate records that George was a widower.  Apparently George went to measure Mary Ann for a pair of boots and had fallen in love ‘with her feet or her money’.  Mary Ann gave George £800 or £900 to study medicine.

Hoxton St JohnSt John Hoxton from James Elmes, Metropolitan Improvements ... From original drawings by T. H. Shepherd, etc (London, 1830) BL flickr

However, George's first wife Sarah was still alive. According to one press report, George and Sarah had fallen out soon after marrying, when he discovered that she had had a child. They separated and Sarah went home to the country. This may be true, but in 1851 Sarah was working as a cook in Marylebone, describing herself in the census as a widow. And whatever the truth behind the separation, Sarah also committed bigamy by marrying James Ludlow in Reading in January 1852.  Complicated, isn’t it?  And it gets worse.

Depending upon which newspaper you read, Mary Ann either knew about Sarah’s existence all along, or she discovered that George’s first wife was still alive shortly after their wedding.  George broke his promise to get a divorce.  Mary Ann left him, ‘unhappy differences arising between them’.  George agreed to pay her a weekly allowance of £2 but payments dried up when he lost money through speculating in mining shares. In February 1852 George Meaden, chemist and druggist, appeared at the Insolvent Debtors Court, pursued by creditors. 

However, by 1857 George had set up in business as a surgeon in Islington.  He married for a third time in March 1857 in St Pancras to Emma Exall. Both Sarah and Mary Ann were still alive.

St Pancras New ChurchSt Pancras New Church from Albert Henry Payne, Illustrated London (London, 1846) BL flickr

In September 1857 Mary Ann brought forward a charge of bigamy against George.  He appeared at Clerkenwell Police Court ‘very gentlemanly attired’.  Certificates were produced for all three marriages.  The sum set for bail was increased when it was claimed that George was preparing to do a runner.

George claimed that he had married Emma believing that his first wife was dead and that the second marriage was illegal.  But Sarah was found and she attended court.  Richard Morris, who had been a witness at George’s marriage to Sarah, was tracked down in Liverpool for the purpose of identifying George as the man who had taken part in the ceremony in 1842. After it was revealed that Sarah had re-married, she disappeared, perhaps fearing that she too would be charged with bigamy.  As Sarah was not present, the prosecution failed and George was discharged.  He left court with a large number of friends who had attended to hear the case.

By 1860, George and Emma had emigrated to the United States and settled in Brooklyn.  He appears in directories mostly as a physician, but also as a dentist and as a drug store proprietor. Emma died in 1872 at the age of 42, and George in 1882 aged  67.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Morning Chronicle 21 February 1853; Hampshire Advertiser 5 September 1858; The Era 6 September 1857; Clerkenwell News 19 September 1857

 

02 January 2018

Forfeiting a Victoria Cross

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Documents in the India Office Records shed some light on the story of a flawed Victorian military hero.

The man in question is Edward James Collis, who was serving as a Gunner with the Royal Horse Artillery during the Second Afghan War when an act of near-suicidal bravery gained him the country's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross. The citation in the London Gazette of 17 May 1881 gives brief details of his feat:

' ... during the retreat from Maiwand to Kandahar, on the 28th July 1880, when the officer commanding the battery was endeavouring to bring in a limber [part of a gun carriage], with wounded men, under a cross-fire, in running forward and drawing the enemy's fire on himself, thus taking off their attention from the limber'.

Battle of MaiwandBattle of Maiwand - from Archibald Forbes and Major Arthur Griffiths, Illustrated Battles of the Nineteenth Century (1895) BL flickr

The battle of Maiwand, fought on the previous day, had been a disaster for the British, who lost almost 1,000 officers and men killed in action. As it was deemed impractical to travel back to the UK for the purpose, Collis was presented with the medal at Poona on 11 July 1881 by Sir Frederick Roberts, who had himself won the Victoria Cross during the Indian ‘Mutiny’.

Collis later joined the Bombay Police, marrying a widow, Adela Skuse, on 14 March 1882 and fathering four children in quick succession - Arthur (born on 5 January 1883), Elsie (born 5 May 1884), William (born 11 December 1885) and finally Robert (born 7 October 1887). By the time of Robert’s birth, he was working as a railway engine driver.

Unfortunately the domestic bliss of the family was not to last. Eight years later, on 6 August 1895, the Assistant Commissioner of Police at New Scotland Yard wrote to the Chief of Police in Bombay. He requested assistance in tracing Mrs Collis, as part of an investigation into a charge of bigamy. Collis had left India and married again in Wandsworth on 26 February 1893, his hapless bride having no inkling that he already had a wife and family in far-off Bombay. The un-divorced and still living first Mrs Collis having been located, in November 1895 her errant husband was sentenced to eighteen months’ hard labour.

Contemporary regulations dictated that he was also obliged to forfeit his precious medal which, in a further sad twist, poverty had driven him to pawn. He is thought to be one of only eight individuals who came to be deprived of their Victoria Cross through subsequent dishonourable behaviour.

Collis Evening Star 26 Nov 1895Evening Star 26 November 1895 British Newspaper Archive 

Collis Worcester Journal 30 Nov 1895Worcester Journal 30 November 1895 British Newspaper Archive

Collis died aged 62 in June 1918, and was buried with full military honours. His medal, which had no doubt brought him both pride and pain, can be seen in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum.

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services

Further reading:
The Victoria Cross, 1856 – 1920, edited by Sir O'Moore Creagh and E.M. Humphris, - shelfmark OIA355.134.
Correspondence on the Collis bigamy case is in files 2057 & 2081 of the volume IOR/L/PJ/6/409 and press reports can be found in the British Newspaper Archive
Collis’s marriage to Adela and the baptisms of their children can be viewed on the Find My Past website, free of charge in any British Library Reading Room.

28 December 2017

Untold Lives looks back at 2017

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As 2017 draws to a close, we’re looking back on some of our posts which proved to be the most popular during the past twelve months.

In January we told you about a major new digital resource which had just become available for researching the East India Company and the India Office. We showed a few of the digitised documents, including the list of the first subscribers to the East India Company drawn up in September 1599...
 

IOR B 1 f.6
IOR/B/1 f.6 Noc

.. and the Instrument of Abdication signed by Edward VIII at Fort Belvedere on 10 December 1936.

IOR A 1 102IOR/A/102 Instrument of Abdication Noc

 

‘Value in unexpected places’   was the story of the sole surviving copy of a 17th-century schoolbook now held at the British Library. The grounds of learning was written by schoolmaster Richard Hodges primarily for children as early learners of literacy.

HodgesPhoto1Noc

 In March we asked: Did Jane Austen develop cataracts from arsenic poisoning? In the drawer of Jane Austen’s writing desk at the British Library are three pairs of spectacles. The Library had the spectacles tested and the post revealed the results.

  Jane Austen's glassesSpectacles believed to have belonged to Jane Austen (now British Library Add MS 86841/2-4) Noc

 

We researched Gerald Wellesley’s secret family. Wellesley was an East India Company official who spent many years as Resident in the Princely State of Indore. He provided for his three children born to an Indian woman in the 1820s but stopped short of giving them his name or recognising them publicly as his offspring.

Indore X108(15) Indore from William Simpson's 'India: Ancient and Modern X108(15) NocOnline Gallery 

Thomas Bowrey’s cloth and colour samples  were unexpected treasures found in tucked away in a volume packed with closely-written correspondence and accounts. The colours are still vibrant after 300 years.  And how about number 18 on the chart – Gall Stone?

MSS Eur D1076 (9)MSS Eur D 1076 Noc

MSS Eur D1076 (3)MSS Eur D 1076Noc

The East India Company’s Black Book of Misdemeanours 1624-1698  was brought out of the shadows this year. Most complaints relate to private trade carried on against express orders, but they also cover drunkenness, negligence, desertion, disobeying orders, embezzlement, and debauchery.

 Black Book  IOR/H/29 Noc

We told the story of how Isfahan in Iran became the City of Polish Children during the Second World War. Thousands of Polish military and civilian refugees journeyed from the Soviet Union to Iran.. One poignant statistic stands out: in January 1943 the camp in the city of Isfahan contained 2,457 civilian refugees, of which 2,043 were children.

Group photo Isfahan

Group photo of older children at one of the children's homes in Isfahan. Reproduced with kind permission from the personal collection of Dioniza Choros, Kresy, Siberia Virtual Museum

  EAP001_7_1
Portrait of Polish refugee children, taken by Abolghasem Jala between 1942-1944. Abolghasem Jala took thousands of portraits of Polish refugees during his time in Isfahan at the Sharq photographic studio. Abolghasem Jala Photographic Collection, Endangered Archives Programme, EAP001/7/1

 

In 1847 a book called Real Life in India offered advice to British ladies going to live in India. This covered clothing, equipment for the voyage, household management, and ways of passing the time. Women were told to take six mosquito sleeping drawers and to learn the art of piano tuning.

India - ladies' equipmentFrom Real Life in India by An Old Resident (London, 1847)  Noc

 

And finally we treated you to the untold life of a paper bag!

  Paper bag Evan 9195Evan.9195 Noc


The bag reveals that Indian sweetmeats were being sold in London in the late 19th century, much earlier than most people would expect. This lovely piece of ephemera was displayed at Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage, an exhibition at the Library of Birmingham which ran from July to November 2017.

We hope that you have enjoyed revisiting these fascinating stories as much as we did. Who knows what our great contributors have in store for you in 2018?

Twittter takeover posterNoc

A Happy New Year to all our readers!

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

 

08 December 2017

Hostess with the mostest… and so much more: introducing the Ishbel MacDonald Archive

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Imagine the Prime Minister having to pay to run Downing Street out of her own pocket – seems unreasonable from today’s perspective, but until fairly recently this was an expectation for the British Prime Minister. The recently acquired archive of Ishbel Peterkin née MacDonald (1903-1982) sheds light on the burdens of this. Ishbel was the eldest daughter of Ramsay MacDonald, the first Prime Minister for the Labour Party in the UK, first in 1924 and again from 1929 to 1935. When Ishbel’s mother Margaret passed away in 1911 Ishbel acted as her father’s host during his political career living alongside him at 10 Downing Street and running the house.

MacDonalds in Garden Hampstead
The MacDonald family in their garden in Hampstead, North London. Ishbel stands behind her father Ramsay. © With kind permission of Ishbel Lochhead.

Ishbel visited Downing Street prior to the family’s move and was perturbed by the big, empty house. Previous Prime Ministers had brought their own furniture – and then taken it away with them. The MacDonalds, however, were not moving from a grand residence but from their modest family home in Hampstead. To prepare, Ishbel and her sister purchased linen, crockery and cutlery with their own money, while Ramsay MacDonald arranged a loan of paintings from the National Portrait Gallery. These intimate domestic details reflect an interesting shift in 20th-century politics. MacDonald was of more humble origins than his predecessors in government who had set a precedent for running Downing Street as an extension of their wealthy homes.

Guestlist Thurs 11th Dec 1930

Guestlist Thurs 18th 1930
Guest lists for 11 and 18 December 1930 © With kind permission of Ishbel Lochhead.   

Ishbel’s effort to run Downing Street modestly did not stop with the furnishings but in hosting and feeding guests. Carefully preserved notebooks of guest lists and menu cards paint a vivid picture. We can see who was eating with the Prime Minister and when, including place settings inked on the left in red. The menus themselves suggest that the MacDonalds had to budget carefully and were unconcerned with the culinary fashions of the day. Typical menus of the period from society events showcased a classical, often ostentatious French repertoire, usually written in French. By contrast Ishbel’s menus contain simple dishes like ‘Nut Roast’ and ‘Roast Chicken.’

Menus 18th and 11th Dec 1930
Menus for 11 and 18 December 1930. © With kind permission of Ishbel Lochhead.

Ishbel MacDonald’s papers will offer researchers a fantastic insight into her efforts running 10 Downing Street as well as a record of her fascinating life more generally. Ishbel was an active politician in her own right, elected to the London County Council in 1928 and again in 1931. She was the subject of public fascination and when she decided to leave politics to run a pub in 1935 the move was covered by extensive media coverage. The archive contains correspondence, detailed diaries, and scrapbooks and notebooks relating to the family's time in politics.

Luncheon 2nd December 1930
Guest list and menu for luncheon on 2 December 1930. © With kind permission of Ishbel Lochhead.

The archive is currently being catalogued with the aim of making it available to researchers in the Manuscripts Reading Room by the middle of next year. In the meantime please contact eleanor.dickens@bl.uk with any enquiries.

Eleanor Dickens
Curator, Politics and Public Life