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216 posts categorized "Domestic life"

15 January 2019

Cats and games of forfeit

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Did you play any board or parlour games with friends or family over the festive period?  In our Cats on the Page exhibition we feature a small pamphlet entitled The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands.

Pretty  playful  tortoise-shell catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Facing this title-page there is an image of a group of children sitting round the (slightly over-performing) fire with their cat - apparently about to begin playing the game.  The publisher, John Marshall, seized this opportunity to promote two more of his games, namely The Hopping, prating, chatt’ring magpie and The Frisking, barking, lady’s lap-dog which he also published in 1816-17.

 
Pretty playful catThe Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat (London, 1817) © British Library Board

Other titles produced around the same time include The Noble, prancing, cantering horse, also printed by Marshall, and The Pretty, young, playful, innocent lamb, printed for J. and E. Wallis.  (There were also similar games based on the rhyme The House that Jack built and derivatives such as The Barn that Tom built and The Mill that Charles built!).

Several are subtitled ‘a new [entertaining] game of questions and commands’ and essentially they are cumulative memory games with forfeits.  Generally someone is appointed Treasurer and passes a small item such as a thimble to the first player with the command “Take this”.  The first player asks “What’s this?” and the Treasurer replies with the first section of the rhyme (e.g. “The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat…” ).  The first, and subsequent players, then repeat these actions until the thimble returns to the Treasurer.  It is then passed round again with the addition of the second section of the rhyme and so on until the entire, lengthy, rhyme has to be memorised and repeated by each player.  Should a player make a mistake or forget the rhyme a forfeit has to be paid to the Treasurer.  At the end of the game, another player is appointed to devise appropriate tasks for the retrieval of the forfeits – tasks might include solving a riddle, spelling a long, nonsensical word or being tickled.      

There seems to have been a brief flurry of these titles from about 1815 to around 1830.  Though Marshall was not the only publisher of such works he does seem to have made these games a speciality.  Presumably they were profitable since his widow subsequently assigned some of the titles to David Carvalho who continued to print them until around 1830. 

However their origin appears to have been earlier.  As you can see, there was a formula to the titles, which seems to have drawn on The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog.  This is believed to have been first recorded in print around 1760 in The Top book of all, for little masters and misses as ‘The play of the wide-mouth waddling frog, to amuse the mind, and exercise the memory’.  It is found again, with instructions, in Mirth without mischief around 1800 and we have a copy of the game based on the rhyme published by A.K. Newman & Co. around 1825.  A version of the verses was also illustrated by Walter Crane in the late 19th century.

Gaping wide-mouthed waddling frogThe Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog (London, ca. 1825) © British Library Board

Many of the catalogue records relating to the booklets published in the early 19th century by Marshall suggest that the illustrations were by Isaac Robert Cruikshank.  We shall be looking into stories about his early life in our next post.

Alison Bailey
Lead Curator, Printed Heritage Collections 1901-2000

Further reading:
The Pretty, playful, tortoise-shell cat: a new game of questions and commands. Embellished with fourteen coloured engravings. London: Printed and sold by John Marshall, 1817. C.194.a.968.
The Top book of all, for little masters and misses. London: sold only at R. Baldwin's, and S. Crowder's, and at Benj. Collins's, Salisbury, [1760?]. Ch.760/5.(1.). Pages 15-31.
Mirth without mischief. London: printed by J. Davenport, for C. Sheppard, [1800?]. Ch.780/110. Pages [17]-33.
The Gaping, wide-mouthed, waddling frog: a new and entertaining game of questions and commands. With proper directions for playing the game and crying the forfeits. Embellished with fifteen coloured engravings. London: A.K. Newman & Co., [ca. 1825] C.194.a.842.
The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. Edited by Iona and Peter Opie. New ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.  YK.1997.a.6456.
Brian Alderson and Felix de Marez Oyens, Be merry and wise: origins of children's book publishing in England, 1650-1850. London: British Library, 2006. LC.31.b.2656.

Cats on the Page exhibition supported by

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10 January 2019

The first baby born on the Tube

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Today we are marking the anniversary of the opening of the world’s oldest underground railway on 10 January 1863 with a story about the London Tube.

London UndergroundLondon Underground Railways. 1908. Johnson Riddle & Co. Ltd. London. Public Domain

When babies were born on the London Underground in 2008 and 2009, the news spread quickly.  Most of the stories noted that the first baby to be born on the Underground was Marie Cordery on 13 May 1924, but said little else about her.

Contemporary newspaper reports paint a vivid picture of the events, albeit with some variations to the story.  According to the Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette, Mrs Daisy Britannia Kate Hammond of Wealdstone was on her way to hospital on the Bakerloo line when she suddenly became ill at Marylebone.  The other passengers were cleared from the train, which then sped along the lines to a dead end tunnel at Elephant and Castle.  Staff had phoned ahead, and so a Dr Gulley was waiting with an ambulance.  Safely delivered, mother and baby were then taken to Lambeth Infirmary, their departure watched by a crowd of well-wishers.

The Belfast Telegraph published a slightly different version.  It stated that Mrs Hammond was taken ill as the train approached Elephant and Castle Station.  City typists on their way home formed themselves into a screen on the platform whilst porters ran for a doctor.  A  girl was born shortly after the doctor arrived.

A journalist from the Daily Express suggested to Lord Ashfield, Chairman of the Underground Railways, that he should be the baby’s godfather.  Lord Ashfield agreed, although he had some reservations: ‘I should be delighted, if the baby’s parents are willing.  Of course it would not do to encourage this sort of thing, as I am a busy man, but as this is so far as I know an event which is without precedent in the history of the Bakerloo, I think we ought to mark the occasion’.   The baby’s father George Hammond accepted the offer at once.

Marie HammondBirmingham Daily Gazette 15 May 1924 British Newspaper Archive

Suggested names for the baby included Thelma Ursula Beatrice Eleanor, so that her initials would be T.U.B.E., and Jocelyn because she was born during the rush hour.  Her birth was registered in Marylebone as Marie Ashfield Eleanor Hammond.  Marie married George Henry Cordery in 1947 and died in Hillingdon in 2005.

One source suggests that Marie didn’t like travelling on the tube at all when she grew up!

Huw Rowlands
Project Manager, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
Emily Kearns, Underground, Overground: A London Transport Miscellany (Chichester, 2015.) British Library YKL.2017.a.4386
London Underground Railways. 1908. Johnson Riddle & Co. Ltd. London. British Library Maps 3485.(180.)
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Belfast Telegraph 14 & 15 May 1924; Birmingham Daily Gazette 15 May 1924; Uxbridge & West Drayton Gazette Friday 16 May 1924

 

19 December 2018

Christmas bound

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'Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.' Sound advice from American magazine editor Lenore Hershey (1919-1997).

Naughty Boys and Girls11526.f.1. 19c green paper over boards on Naughty Boys and Girls [1852].

Those of us born ‘non digital’ would have regularly received a festive book or two; an annual, collections of fairy tales, ghost stories or Christmas verse.  Whatever the subject, the bindings were invariably attractive. Mass production techniques developed in the 19th century meant that books once hand-bound in leather were now available in inexpensive cloth or paper covers.  The emerging middle classes in Victorian England had money to spare for the purchase of extras, notably books, and if they were instructional as well as aesthetically appealing, all the better.  Artists were employed to decorate the bindings and they often ‘advertised’ by incorporating their initials into their designs.  Notable were John Leighton, also Albert Henry Warren, William Harry Rogers and William Ralston.  Examples of their work are below.

Naturally, Christmas would not be Christmas without Charles Dickens, particularly as many of his stories were set in the festive season.  Their popularity was a money-spinner for author and publishers alike.

Dickens - Christmas Stories12623.g.25. Christmas Stories from the Household Words. Conducted by Charles Dickens. [The extra Christmas numbers for 1850-1858.]

Victorian publishers exploited this lucrative new market to tailor books to the tastes of children, although the two depicted in the song book below seem somewhat depressed at the prospect!

 Stories for the Little Ones11602.cc.30. Gold blocked cloth binding designed by William Ralston.  Note the initials WR towards the centre of the tail edge.

Some children’s picture books retained a didactic flavour.  The upper cover of Simple Hans and other funny pictures and stories proclaimed 'Oh children, children come and see / This funny picture-book for you and me/ Bought by our Mama dear! / So that we may grow good and wise / And ‘neath a merry laugh’s disguise/ Learn naughty ways to fear'.

Other themes were more fun, ranging from the snowy weather to seasonal tales and traditional toys.

Jack Frost & Betty Snow
12807.b.53. Gold blocked cloth binding designed by John Leighton.

King Nut Cracker12806.e.12. Paper binding over boards on King Nutcracker, 1854.

Tales of the Toys12807.ee.35.  Gold blocked cloth binding designed by Albert Henry Warren on Tales of the Toys, 1869 and bound by Bone and son of London.

Books could also promote sociability and enhance family life.  After the grand Christmas dinner, chapters containing stories, jokes, nonsense verse and other favourites could be read aloud and enjoyed by everyone.
 

Hunting of the SnarkW14/4782.  Gold blocked cloth binding on Lewis Caroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, 1876.


Bushel of MerrythoughtsRB.31.a.43. Paper binding over boards on A bushel of merry-thoughts, 1868 designed by William Harry Rogers (his intertwined initials are beneath the red pennant to the left).

Serious-minded relatives or godparents who held themselves responsible for the spiritual or moral well-being of their young kinsfolk, sometimes felt it appropriate to give them devotional or educational works.  One can only hope that they were not quizzed on the contents!

Five spinesSpines from gold blocked cloth bindings (taken from the Library’s online image databse of bookbindings).

Annuals were popular, particularly as gifts to older children who could be trusted to read quietly to themselves (perhaps whilst the adults had an after dinner nap).

Peter Parley's AnnualPP.6750. Gold blocked publisher’s cloth binding on an 1860 annual (note the designer’s signature MAC below the date). This was a gift from father to son as indicated by the manuscript notes inside: "Dec. 21st 1859. To My Dear Son Denis. A Reward for attention to his studies. D H Donnell".

 

London Out of Town12352.a.3. Detail from the paper cover of London out of town.  The price was one shilling.

In 1844, John Leighton wrote and illustrated the amusing London out of town. Or the adventures of the Browns at the sea side.  It was one of the earliest comic books and appealed to old and young alike.

Merry Christmas and merry reading!

Christmas Rhymes and New Year's Chimes11649.f.22. Blocked in colours on cloth. Mary D Brine, [Christmas Rhymes and New Year's Chimes ... Illustrated.] [1890] 

P. J. M. Marks
Curator, Bookbindings. Printed Heritage Collections

Further reading:
Edmund M. B. King, Victorian Decorated Trade Bindings, 1830-1880: A Descriptive Bibliography. The British Library and Oak Knoll Press, 2003.
The Victorian Web

With thanks to Gillian Ridgley.

 

17 December 2018

Cats at Christmas

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What is it about cats and Christmas?  There doesn’t seem to be an obvious connection and yet…there are so many books which seem to make the association.

Here at the British Library we are currently celebrating cats in books, manuscripts, artwork and maps in our free exhibition Cats on the Page which runs in the Entrance Hall Gallery until 17 March 2019.

We are lucky enough to have been lent two pieces of original artwork by Judith Kerr which are held by Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books.  One is of this image from Mog’s Christmas which was published in 1976.  Mog, bewildered by all the Christmas preparations, seeks refuge on a nice, soft, cushion of snow on top of the chimney … you can probably guess the eventual result!  However, all ends happily – and here you can see Mog and the Thomas Family celebrating Christmas together.  If you look closely you will even find a copy of the first Mog story, Mog the forgetful cat, in Nicky’s hand.

Mogs-christmas-image©1976-kerr-kneale-productions-ltdMog's Christmas image, 1976 © Kerr Kneale Productions Ltd

There are at least two pantomimes featuring famous cats – Puss in Boots and Dick Whittington.  In the exhibition we show this poster for a production of Puss in Boots staged at the Drury Lane Theatre over Christmas 1887-8.  Augustus Harris, the producer, specialised in spectacular Christmas shows which drew large audiences and Puss was played by Charles Lauri, Junior, who was famous for his animal impersonations.

Puss in Boots 075971Augustus Harris’s pantomime: Puss in Boots. [London]: C.J. Culliford & Sons, [1887]. Evan.1903. © British Library Board

We also have a pop-up version of the tale by Vojtěch Kubašta, open at the scene with Puss and the cobbler and tailor, next to a leaf from a manuscript of Angela Carter’s re-working of the tale, later published in her collection The Bloody chamber (1979).

As for the story of Dick Whittington and his cat, based upon the real figure of Richard Whittington who was appointed Mayor of London in 1397, we display them as depicted in Lilian Lancaster’s humorous cartoon map of Northumberland.  Lancaster herself was an actor who often performed in pantomimes.

Northumberlandbewitchedbylillianlancaster19thcenturycthebritishlibraryboard Lilian Lancaster, Northumberland bewitched!! [19th century]. Maps CC.5.a.232. © The British Library Board

But what of other Christmas cats not currently on display?  Beatrix Potter’s The Tailor of Gloucester is set in the 18th century.  Mice are perhaps to the fore, but Simpkin the cat is a central figure.  The tailor is making a coat and waistcoat for the Mayor of Gloucester who is to be married on Christmas Day.  He sends his cat out to get provisions and more twist (silk thread) and meanwhile finds and frees the mice Simpkin had trapped for his supper.  On his return, Simpkin is annoyed and hides the twist.  The tailor falls ill and is unable to work but when he returns to his shop on Christmas morning he finds the mice have completed everything except for one buttonhole.  Moreover Simpkin, having seen the industrious mice at work, is repentant and gives the tailor the twist which allows him to finish the waistcoat in time.

The Tailor of Gloucester_900pxBeatrix Potter, The Tailor of Gloucester. London: Frederick Warne and Co., 1903. Cup.402.a.6. Cover illustration by Beatrix Potter. © British Library Board

A cat who tries to ruin Christmas for two mice meets his come-uppance on Boxing Day in Nick Butterworth’s Jingle bells.  In Robert Westall’s tale The Christmas cat, set in the 1930s, two children join forces to rescue a stray cat and their actions set in a train a series of new beginnings.  Even Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas is slightly cheered up when his cat is draped around his neck!

But we are just scraping the surface here - who are your favourite Christmas cats?

Alison Bailey
Lead Curator, Printed Heritage Collections 1901-2000

Cats on the Page exhibition supported by

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Further reading:
Puss in Boots. [Created by] V. Kubašta. London: Bancroft & Co. Ltd., [1958?]. W.E.d.692.
Angela Carter, ‘Puss-in-Boots’. [1979]. Add MS 88899/1/34, f.209
Nick Butterworth, Jingle bells. London: HarperCollins, 1998. YK.1998.b.8090.
Robert Westall, The Christmas cat. Illustrated by John Lawrence. London: Methuen Children’s Books, 1991. YK.1991.b.5798.
Raymond Briggs, Father Christmas. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1973. X.992/1364.

 

11 December 2018

Deserted families in The Poor Law Unions’ Gazette

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Information about men and women who deserted their families was published in The Poor Law Unions’ Gazette in the second half of the 19th century.  Each week, descriptions of the wanted persons appeared, listing their last known address, their age, height, build, facial features, clothing when last seen, and occupation.  The authorities were keen to trace them because their spouses and children were now chargeable to the Poor Law.  Rewards were offered for information leading to the apprehension of the individuals listed, most of whom were men. Names appeared in the list week after week, sometimes for years, suggesting that no information had been forthcoming and that those sought had managed to cover their tracks successfully.

Poor Law Unions' Gazette 25 Sep 1897The Poor Law Unions’ Gazette 25 September 1897 British Newspaper Archive

The mini biographies in the Gazette are a rich and fascinating source for social and family historians.  Let’s dip into the issue for 25 September 1897. 

Charles Mooring was a boot salesman well-known in the trade, formerly of 9 Prince of Wales Road, Kentish Town.  Aged 24, he was 5 feet 9½ inches tall, with fair hair and a moustache.  He was last seen wearing a black morning coat, light trousers, and a Trilby hat. It was thought that he might visit his mother at the Kentish Town address.  He had left a wife and one child.

Mary Brown had stayed at the Euston Hotel on 6 July 1895 and deserted her child Francis Henry aged 13 months by leaving him at 100 Euston Road.  She was 30 years of age, about 5 feet 3 or 4 inches in height, with very dark hair and eyes, having ‘the appearance of being a Hindoo’.  When last seen she was wearing a blue serge skirt, white blouse, and white straw hat.

Georgina Smith alias Organ was 34, of medium size, with dark hair and eyes, a prominent nose, and a front tooth missing. She was a native of Bitton in Gloucestershire and well known in Bristol where she cohabited with George Organ.  She had deserted her three children in Cardiff in July 1888.

George Organ was a mason aged about 50, with sandy hair, whiskers and moustache.  He was last heard of in Keynsham Somerset and was likely to be working as a builder.  He was wanted for disobeying a bastardy warrant concerning Georgina’s children.  
 

Poor Law Unions' Gazette 25 Sep 1897 child desertionThe Poor Law Unions’ Gazette 25 September 1897 British Newspaper Archive

This issue of the Gazette also published details of a child deserted five years earlier.  A baby boy aged about seven months had been found on Southsea Beach at 5pm on 19 September 1892.  He had fair curly hair and light eyes, and was well-clothed in several layers of flannel, linen, calico and muslin, with pearl buttons and lace trimmings, a cap, bib and woollen shoes.  The woman seen with him that afternoon was aged about 25-30, height 5 feet 3 inches, with a very pale complexion. She had been dressed in a drab hat with a broad brim and light coloured dolman without sleeves.

The notices in the Poor Law Unions’ Gazette prompt the reader to wonder about the sad stories which must lurk behind the bare details. What prompted these men and women to disappear? And what happened to the deserted families? 

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
The Poor Law Unions’ GazetteBritish Newspaper Archive

04 December 2018

From Westmorland to India – William Lambert of the Bombay Army

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In our last post we met William Lambert, a young Cadet in the East India Company’s Bombay Army, soon after his arrival in India in 1780.  He wrote to his friend Jonathan Oldman in England giving his first impressions of his new home and joking that a cargo of ‘North Country Ladies’ would be very popular there.

UllswaterView of the lake of Ullswater, Northern England by Thomas Walmsley (1801) Online Gallery


William Lambert was baptised in the village of Bolton in Westmorland on 19 April 1759, the son of yeoman John Lambert and his wife Isabel née Longmire.  In 1778 William was nominated as an East India Company military cadet by director Benjamin Booth.  He sailed for Bombay in the Hawke in June 1779, not arriving there until 23 February 1780.  There were nine other Bombay Army cadets on board as well as a large number of troops and other East India Company personnel.  Jane Wittman and Elizabeth Priscilla Coggan gave birth during the voyage but sadly both they and their babies died and were buried at sea.

The letter to Jonathan showed how keen William was for promotion and a rise in pay.  He was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant on 11 January 1781, and then progressed to Captain in 1796, Major in 1800, and Lieutenant Colonel in 1803. 

Tannah - boatsNative boats at Tannah - William Johnson  (1855) Online Gallery

In the 1790s, William was stationed at Tannah (Thane), about 25 miles from Bombay.  He died there on 3 January 1806.  His will made on 2 February 1803 stated that his property was to be divided equally between his two ‘natural’ children born at Tannah: Harry on 4 May 1792 and Anna Maria on 23 September 1794.  Harry was to receive his watch and seals and a cornelian ring.  He named as his executors his eldest brother Thomas Lambert in England, and his friends Fletcher Hayes and William Kennedy in Bombay.

Lambert will IOR/L/AG/34/29/343 p.4 Will of William Lambert

Two months before he died, William wrote a memorandum of debts and credits: 'In case of Accidents which we are all liable too I put down these little matters to prevent trouble'.  He listed debts for cheese, coffee, oil, two pints of catsup (ketchup), a knife, and a plated coffee pot.  None of his servants deserved more than a full month’s wages except his ‘girl’ who was given 200 rupees, clothing, trinkets, furniture, lamps, kitchen equipment, and ‘other small trifles to her with Coffree Boy’ (a slave). This perhaps suggests that the ‘girl’, Bibee Shariffa, was the mother of Harry and Anna Maria. 

William's children returned to England after his death.  Both settled in London as adults so perhaps they were cared for by their uncle Thomas Lambert who was a timber merchant in Pimlico.  Harry and Anna Maria were each bequeathed £50 by their grandfather John Lambert when he died in 1829 at the age of 94.

Anna Maria married Parliamentary agent John Angus Walmisley at Margate in 1816.  They lived in London and had five sons and three daughters. Anna Maria died in 1849.

Harry married Tabitha Hatchett at St George Blomsbury in 1817 and they had three children.  Harry’s occupation is variously recorded as gentleman, jeweller, and surgeon dentist.  He also died in 1849.  Harry’s son Alfred Augustus was married in 1861 to Josephine Lambert, the granddaughter of Thomas the timber merchant.


Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
India Office Private Papers MSS Eur C917 Letter from William Lambert, Bombay Army Cadet, to Jonathan Oldman in Cumberland, 30 April 1780
IOR/L/MIL/9/255 East India Company register of military cadets
IOR/L/MAR/B/390H Journal of the ship Hawke
IOR/L/AG/34/29/343 p.4 Will of William Lambert – available online via findmypast
IOR/L/AG/34/27/389 p.8 Inventory of goods of William Lambert  deceased – available online via findmypast

Cadet William Lambert writes from Bombay

 

 

22 November 2018

Boy Soldiers

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The Regulations for Recruiting for the Regular Army published in 1903 laid out the criteria under which boys aged between fourteen and seventeen years could be recruited and the roles they were permitted to take on.  Any boy enlisting in this way had to produce a certificate of good character, his birth or baptism certificate, proof of his elementary school education to at least Standard V, and have the written consent of his parents.

Soldier of the King'A Soldier of the King', courtesy of TuckDB Postcards

For boys being enlisted to Infantry Battalions, they could serve as trumpeters, buglers or musicians and each Infantry Battalion could have up to eight boys on their roll.
 
One such boy was George Joseph Wilson Baker, the eldest son and the sixth of twelve children of George Joseph Baker, a wood engraver, and his wife Henrietta Alexandra, née Howard, a music hall entertainer.  George was born on 21 July 1891 on the Isle of Sheppey, but spent most of his childhood in Colchester, Essex.

His parents had suffered great tragedy shortly before his birth when in May 1891 their daughters Nettie, Lillie, Ada, Bessie, and Nellie, all aged five and under, died of a combination of measles, whooping cough and bronchitis.

George’s parents had two more daughters together before they appear to have separated in about 1896.  George continued to live with his mother Henrietta who had four more children with another man, Joseph Lewis, although she remained married to George’s father until his death in 1936.

George enlisted in the British Army at Tidworth on 21 March 1906 and was attested as a boy in the 1st Battalion, Oxfordshire Light Infantry, he was fourteen years and eight months old at the time.  He remained in England until 5 December 1906 when he was posted to India, arriving there on 27 December.  The Battalion remained in India until 5 December 1908 when they went to Burma.  It was in Burma in June 1909 that George turned eighteen and having attained that age was given the rank of private.  The Battalion left Burma on 25 September 1910 and returned to India where they remained until George paid £25 for his own discharge on 30 September 1913.  During his time in the Battalion George served as a bandsman and later an unpaid lance-corporal.

It does not appear that George ever returned to England but chose to remain in India.  In 1915 he was an inspector for the Bombay Port Trust Docks when he married Margaret Paterson.  George and Margaret do not appear to have had any children and George died of pneumonia on 5 October 1918, most likely a victim of the flu pandemic sweeping Bombay.  By the time of his death he was assistant manager for the Bombay Port Trust Dock, a long way from his enlistment in the British Army in 1906 as a boy soldier.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
India Office marriage entry for George Joseph Wilson Baker and Margaret Paterson. IOR/N/3/114, f.260
India Office death and burial entry for George Joseph Wilson Baker. IOR/N/3/120, p. 314
Regulations for Recruiting for the Regular Army, Militia, and Imperial Yeomanry. 1903. 8829.b.57
British Army Service Record for George Joseph Wilson Baker. The National Archives WO 97, Box 4293, No.76

 

20 November 2018

A case for the Society for the Protection of Women and Children

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On 29 August 1864 Henry Wilkinson was brought before the magistrate at Clerkenwell Police Court charged with the wilful murder of his wife Eliza who had died the previous night.  Henry was a stonemason’s labourer aged 29 and he lodged with 28-year-old Eliza and their three children at 9 Cross Street in the Hatton Garden area of London.  Relations between the married couple were not always happy because of Henry’s jealousy and heavy drinking.

  Quarrel - temperanceFrom T. S. Arthur Temperance Tales vol. 1 (1848)

The Wilkinsons had visitors on Sunday 28 August, going to the station in the evening to see them off on a train.  One of the friends kissed Eliza.  Henry flew into a rage, and he cursed and threatened his wife before striking her very hard.  At 10pm Eliza arrived at home and spoke to Sarah Collier who lodged in the same house.  Eliza was afraid her husband would beat her, so she was sent to sleep in the same bed as Mrs Collier’s aunt.   At midnight Henry came home drunk.  He went looking for Eliza, pulled her out of bed, and punched and kicked her as she lay on the floor.  She began to vomit blood, saying ‘Oh mistress, he has given me my death blow!’  Henry immediately began to help his wife, carrying her to her own bed, giving her brandy, and going to fetch a doctor.  But poor Eliza died about an hour later.

Sarah Collier testified that she had seen Henry ill-treating his wife before this, adding that he was very kind to Eliza when sober and also treated his children well.  The case was then remanded to allow a post mortem to take place.  Bail was refused.

An inquest into Eliza's death opened on 2 September 1864 at the Three Tuns Tavern in Cross Street.  Henry was brought up in custody under a warrant from the Home Secretary.  Large crowds, mostly women, gathered in the street, and the windows of neighbouring houses were thronged with spectators.   The Marquis of Townshend, chairman of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, sat at the coroner’s side.  Several witnesses were questioned and Dr Thomas Clark who had conducted the post mortem examination gave the cause of death as a ruptured diseased spleen.  Clark said that the condition of Eliza’s spleen might have been aggravated by ill-treatment by Henry, but the slightest blow would have caused death.

  Clerkenwell News - Society for Protection of WomenClerkenwell News 3 September 1864 British Newspaper Archive

In summing up, the coroner said the case showed the importance of the work of the Society for the Protection of Women and Children.  Whenever a man ill-used his family, the women and children should apply to the Society and steps would be taken to prevent such calamities.

The inquest jury decided that Henry did not intend to kill his wife and therefore their verdict was manslaughter.  However, after hearing the evidence, the magistrate at Clerkenwell decided Henry should be tried for wilful murder rather than manslaughter.  At Henry’s trial at the Old Bailey on 19 September 1864, he 'received a most excellent character, amongst others, from the father, brother, and sister of the deceased'.  He was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to twelve months in prison.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
British Newspaper Archive e.g. Clerkenwell News 3 & 5 September 1864; Holborn Journal 10 September 1864.