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377 posts categorized "Domestic life"

30 April 2024

A military wife in India - Deborah Marshall's letters

The wives of Army Officers offer a unique perspective into history.  They were often close to conflict and military action but distanced from their husbands and extended family.  Such is the case for Alice Deborah Marshall, known as Deborah, (1899-1993), whose letters sent to her mother document her life as a military wife between 1927-1933 in the North-West Frontier Provinces, India [now Pakistan].  These letters are now part of the India Office Private Papers series Mss Eur F307.

Extract from a letter sent by Deborah Marshall to her mother describing an incident where a young British soldier was shot on a train  28 July 1931Extract from a letter sent by Deborah to her mother Isabella Alice Cree describing an incident where a young British soldier was shot on a train, 28 July 1931 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F307/5

Deborah was the wife of Major-General John Stuart Marshall (1883-1944), who served in the Indian Army between 1904-1940.  She came from a military family herself, born to Major General Gerald Cree (1862-1932) and Isabella Sophie Alice née Smith (1874-1966), with a brother, Brigadier Gerald Hilary Cree (1905-1998), whose very active career during World War Two is well documented.

The life described in her letters is one she seems at ease with despite the hazards and constant upheaval.  In her witty and descriptive manner, she documents the lively and gossipy social life of a military town and the characters involved, as well as the minutiae of how she occupied her days and her responsibilities as a mother to her daughter Suzanne Mary (1924-2007) .

We see the towns she lived in, Gulmarg and Peshawar primarily, changing over the year, becoming lonely ghost towns when the army moved on or weathering the destruction the monsoon caused.  Golfing and gardening are casually discussed alongside the daily conflicts of the Indian Army and the dramatic events of the Afridi Redshirt Rebellion (1930-1931).

Crowd on Khissa Khani Bazaar 31 May 1930 Crowd on Khissa Khani Bazaar in Peshawar, 31 May 1930 -  British Library Photo 345 (66) Images Online

Her husband John Stuart Marshall’s military duties and his involvement in the conflict are described in detail.  Between 1930 and 1931 battles fought against the Afridi tribal freedom-fighters in the Tirah Valley as well as in the Khajuri Plains are described by Deborah to her mother.  At the end of the year in December and January 1931-2 we see the intensity of the mass arrests of ‘Redshirt’ sympathizers in Peshawar.  ‘Rebels’ were beaten bloody and imprisoned and Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the anti-colonialist activist, was arrested. While living in Army-occupied Peshawar at that time Marshall writes to her father:
'They [the British soldiers] combed the City through and when they marched out (...) were salaamed on all sides by a perfectly silent crowd!  Those with any tendency to shouting hicalab [revolution] by that time were nursing horrible bruises at home! (…)  Everyone is very hopeful on the effect this may have on the rest of India, when they see what a very strong line they have taken here' (Mss Eur F307/5 f.287).

Scenes such as this and Deborah’s observations reveal the everyday British attitudes towards their own rule during a time when great political upheaval was imminent.  John Stuart Marshall would eventually go on to become Chief Administration Officer of Eastern Command in India and of the Eastern Army before passing away in 1944.  Deborah was re-married in 1946 to Major Arthur John Dring (1902-1991) of the Indian Political Service, subsequently becoming Lady Dring until her death in 1993.

Maddy Clark
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Deborah Alice Marshall Papers India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F307– a paper catalogue of the contents is available to consult in the Asian and African Studies Reading Room.
Allen, C. 1975. Plain tales from the Raj : images of British India in the twentieth century. St Martin’s Press, New York.
Papers of Lt Col Arthur John Dring 1927-c.1948 India Office Private Papers Mss Eur F226/8.

 

12 March 2024

Applications for Trinity House Pensions

The British Library holds the papers of Lord George Francis Hamilton (1845-1927), Secretary of State for India 1895-1903.  The papers are on a variety of subjects relating to India, and correspondence with the Viceroy and Governors of Bombay and Madras.  Amongst these papers is a very interesting file of applications relating to the Trinity House in London.

'View of the new Trinity House on Tower Hill'  in 1799'View of the new Trinity House on Tower Hill' 1799 - British Library Maps K.Top.25.8 Images Online

Trinity House is a charity dedicated to safeguarding shipping and seafarers.  It began as a fraternity caring for distressed mariners and their widows and dependants by maintaining alms houses and awarding pensions.  Lord George Hamilton was an Elder Brethren of Trinity House and was able to nominate a mariner in need of help.  The file on this in his papers contain letters applying for his help in securing a place at Trinity House.  Here are a few of the applications he received:

John James in applying for an annuity declared that he was 66 years old and had been employed at sea for the previous 52 years.  He stated that he was thoroughly incapable of filling any post whatsoever having swollen legs and feet due to chronic Bright’s disease [an inflammatory disease of the kidneys].  James further stated that ‘I have no means to support myself and wife and have to rely upon the generosity of my two married daughters’.  He said his savings had been lost through investing in shipping and his wages for the past ten years had not left him any margin for saving.

Letter from John James applying for an annuityLetter from John James applying for an annuity, 1900  - British Library Mss Eur F123/43

William J Spark wrote on behalf of his brother-in-law, J F Spark and wife, whom he described as ‘an old worn-out master mariner & his wife, who are a very deserving couple & are in very needy circumstances – both of them are between 70 & 80 years of age, and I regret to say, are quite broken down & always in the doctor’s hands’.

Edward Dunstall wrote in February 1901, that he was an old master mariner of the merchant service, aged 66.  In 1890, he had been compelled to vacate the sea service, and in 1894 he had an operation for a ‘very painful internal disease, the effects of which I am still suffering’.  In 1898 he had been accepted as an eligible applicant but had never been nominated.  He appealed to Hamilton for help:’My Lord, myself and wife, having been so long on such poor pittance, and with the enormous rising in the price of living, been unable to procure a sufficiency of the necessaries of life have often to go hungry.  And with ailment in the struggle of life to keep a house over our heads, we are sorely pressed and to get relief we should be ever thankful’.

Letter from Edward Dunstall in 1901 appealing for helpLetter from Edward Dunstall in 1901 appealing for help - British Library Mss Eur F123/43

Elizabeth Mary Goddard wrote to Hamilton in October 1900.   She wrote that she was ‘the unmarried daughter of Captain Charles William Goddard who had the Captains Out Doors Pension and died some years ago and Anna Johanna Elizabeth Goddard my dear Mother who also had the Captains Out Doors Pension also died some years ago’.  Elizabeth was then 60 years old and suffering very much from rheumatism.  She wished to apply for a pension and needed Hamilton to nominate her.  A note on the letter gives the reply: ‘Lord G H has noted her name on his list of applicants and will consider her claims with those of others when an opportunity occurs; but H L is sorry to say that his list for the Trinity House is already a long one, and it is but seldom that he has a presentation at his disposal’.

John O’Brien
India Office Records

Further Reading:
Applications for Trinity House Pensions, 1900-1902, shelfmark: Mss Eur F123/43.
Trinity House

05 March 2024

What about the East India Company Women? Emma Roberts and the spinsterhood of India

'There cannot be a more wretched situation than that of a young woman who has been induced to follow the fortunes of a married sister, under the delusive expectation that she will exchange the privations attached to limited means in England for the far-famed luxuries of the East.  The husband is usually desirous to lessen the regret of his wife at quitting her home, by persuading an affectionate relative to accompany her, and does not calculate beforehand the expense and inconvenience which he has entailed upon himself by the additional burthen.’

These are the words of Emma Roberts whom we met in a previous blog post.  They appear in her book Scenes and characteristics of Hindostan, with sketches of Anglo-Indian society which was published in 1835.

Title page of Sketches of Anglo-Indian Society by Emma RobertsTitle page of Emma Roberts, Scenes and characteristics of Hindostan, with sketches of Anglo-Indian society (London, 1835)

Emma had travelled to India in 1828 with her sister Laura, who was married to Captain Robert Adair McNaghten of the Bengal Infantry, so it seems that she was speaking from experience.  She explained that it was likely that the family would move up-country soon after arriving in India, and this was when the poor young woman's’s troubles began.  She was ‘an incumbrance’, the third person in the buggy, always finding herself in the way.  Outdoor recreations were denied, except riding in a carriage, and she was not allowed to walk beyond the garden or verandah.  The climate made gardening impossible even though she was surrounded by exotic plants.  Hot winds split the wood of pianos and guitars, and sheet music was eaten by white ants.  Drawing was a possible pastime, but supplies of necessary materials might be lacking.  The climate did not suit needlework.

Any young men at the station would avoid giving attention to a single woman unless they were contemplating matrimony, fearing that ‘expectations’ would be formed which they were not inclined to fulfil.  Few young women who had accompanied their married sisters to India possessed the means to return home however much they disliked the country.  They were forced to remain ‘in a state of miserable dependence, with the danger of being left unprovided for before them, until they were rescued by an offer of marriage’.

Tom Raw's Misfortune at the Ball -  dancers in a ballroom, with young soldier Tom Raw about to tear a muslin gown by standing on the hem accidently‘Tom Raw’s misfortune at the ball’ from Tom Raw the Griffin; a burlesque poem (London, 1828) Shelfmark: C.119.d.25 British Library Images Online

Emma identified two other categories of ‘spinsterhood’ in India apart from the sisters and near relatives of the brides of officials.   The first consisted of the daughters of civil and military servants, merchants and others settled in India, who had been sent to England for their education. They generally returned to India between the ages of sixteen and twenty, expecting to be married.

The second was made up of the orphan daughters, both legitimate and illegitimate, of men resident in India.  These girls were educated in India and often had no family connections to help them.  A large number, supported by the Bengal Orphan Fund, lived in a large house at Kidderpore near Calcutta.  The practice of holding balls for invited men to meet the resident girls was discontinued by the 1830s – ‘this undisguised method of seeking husbands is now at variance with the received notions of propriety’.  Emma said that the girls then had no opportunity to encounter suitors unless they had friends in Calcutta to invite them to social events, or ’the fame of their beauty should spread itself abroad’.  The increasing number of young women arriving from England every year lessened the Kidderpore girls’ chances of meeting eligible matches.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Emma Roberts, Scenes and Characteristics of Hindostan, with sketches of Anglo-Indian society (London, 1835) British Library shelfmarks 1046.e.10. and T 37078


29 October 2023

Clement Mansfield Ingleby of Valentines

Clement Mansfield Ingleby was born in Edgbaston (Birmingham) on 29 October 1823.  He is remembered as a Shakespearean scholar, but his interests included metaphysics, mathematics and philosophy as well as literature.



Portrait drawing of Clement Mansfield IngelbyPortrait of Clement Mansfield Ingleby ‘from a recent photograph’ in Edgbastonia, Vol.III, No.25, May 1883.


Ingleby suffered from ill health throughout his life and was privately educated, but in 1843 he entered Trinity College, Cambridge.,  He graduated BA in 1847, later receiving the degrees of MA (1850) and LLD (1859).  Against his own inclination, he worked in the family firm as a solicitor until his father died in 1859.

On 3 October 1850 Ingleby married Sarah Oakes, and around 1860 they moved with their four children to live with Sarah’s uncle at Valentines in Ilford, Essex, her home as a teenager.  Ingleby provided for his family by writing – his work in the British Library catalogue comprises 18 books in 29 editions, including 12 on Shakespeare with an edition of Cymbeline with notes for schools.  He analysed Shakespeare’s use of words rather than writing a commentary on the meaning of his text, saying ‘The textual critic who discharges his true function is as one who, bearing torch or lantern, attempts to find his way through dark and devious lanes’.

In the 1850s Ingleby taught Metaphysics and Logic in the Industrial Department of the Birmingham and Midland Institute, and the British Library holds four books on these subjects. He also wrote many essays and contributed to publications like Notes & Queries. Apart from Shakespearean topics, his articles ranged from ‘The Principles of Acoustics and the Theory of Sound’ to ‘Miracles versus Nature’.  Ingleby also composed poetry, both serious and amusing, some of which was published in periodicals.  After his death, his verses were collected together and printed for private circulation.  This volume has now been reprinted.

At the Annual Meeting of Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust at Stratford-upon-Avon on 5 May 1875, the Trustees unanimously agreed to elect Dr Ingleby one of the Life Trustees.  He was also elected a Vice-President of the Royal Society of Literature, an honorary member of the Shakespeare Society of New York, and an honorary member of the German Shakespeare Society of Weimar.

In 1877 and 1881 he published the two volumes of his work Shakespeare – The Man and the Book.  This was a compilation of his writings gathered from a number of sources, some published in magazines, some previously unpublished.  In the introduction Ingleby says ‘It is useful to get one’s scattered papers together… the collection includes such of my smaller writings as I have deemed worthy of preservation’.



Title page and frontispiece of Shakespeare's Bones, showing a picture of the playwright on his death bedShakespeare’s Bones (1883)

One of Dr Ingleby’s later books, Shakespeare’s Bones (1883) was a proposal to disinter the skull so that it could be considered in relation to its possible bearing on Shakespeare’s portraiture.  The proposal was attacked in the press and firmly rejected by the town council, but it shows that he was a man who wanted facts, and his logical mind is evident in much that he wrote.

Ingleby was well liked in the Ilford area and had a particular fondness for children and animals, taking an interest in the fight against vivisection.  He suffered a serious rheumatic attack in August 1886 and, although he seemed to recover, died on 26 September.  His obituary in Shakespeariana said: ‘he died – honoured and mourned by all who knew him best and longest. . . . he probably never made an enemy and never lost a friend’.

CC-BY
Georgina Green
Independent researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Edgbastonia, Vol.III, No.25, May 1883
Shakespeariana, Vol.III 1886
Memoir of his father by Holcombe Ingleby in Poems and Epigrams (Trübner & Co, London, 1887) - Original in London Library, now available as a facsimile reprint.
Family papers donated to Redbridge Museum & Heritage Centre
History of Valentines Mansion 

 

24 October 2023

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 2)

On Monday 30 December 1851, following Turner’s funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral, his cousin and chief executor, Henry Harpur, who had been chief mourner, read the will to the other executors at Turner’s Queen Anne Street gallery.  It was later contested by a collection of Turner’s relations on his father’s side of the family and was not settled until 1856.  Henry and Philip Hardwick, the Royal Academy Treasurer, dealt with the financial aspects of the contested will, leaving other executors to deal with the artworks.

Interior of Turner's Gallery - The Artist showing his Works by George Jones‘Interior of Turner's Gallery: The Artist showing his Works’ by George Jones, probably painted from memory, shortly after Turner's death. Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

In the struggle over the will, Henry did battle with another of Turner’s cousins - Jabez Tepper, the son of Turner’s Devon cousin, Mary Turner Tepper (1770-1855).  He was also a London solicitor.

The most disappointing outcome for Henry was that ‘Turner’s Gift’, the proposed Twickenham alms houses for ‘decayd English artists (Landscape Painters only) and single men’, was never fulfilled because under the Mortmain Law, the transfer of the three quarters of an acre of land in Twickenham to a trust, had to be at least a year before Turner’s death, and this had not happened.  This oversight was probably the fault of Henry and Turner’s other legal adviser, George Cobb.

When Turner’s housekeeper, Hannah Danby, died in 1853, her will included the bequest to ‘Mrs Harpur of Cobourg Place Kennington my Tea Caddie’.  This was, of course, Henry’s second wife, Amelia, who had been kind to Hannah. 

The Westminster Hospital c.1834 Wellcome CollectionThe Westminster Hospital, London. Engraving, Wellcome Collection.

In 1868, Henry gave £10,000 to Westminster Hospital, with the request that a ward be endowed in his name.  The hospital was relocated several times and in 1992 amalgamated with Chelsea Hospital to form the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital.  There is no longer a Harpur Ward.

Amelia Harpur died on 5th August 1868, aged 54.  Henry died on 2nd March 1877, aged 86.  At the time of his death, he was living at 96 Upper Kennington Lane.  In the 1870s, Evelina Dupuis, Turner’s daughter, had moved into a house at the other end of Kennington Lane, number 154.  Following Evelina’s death there in August 1874, Henry made his last will, bequeathing the remaining money in Turner's Monument Account to her children.

Henry, Amelia and a number of Henry’s siblings are buried in West Norwood Cemetery but their memorials are probably among the 20,000 or so removed by Lambeth Council during the 1970s/80s.

In his will Henry left two Turner paintings to the National Gallery, on the condition that they put them on display.  Strangely, the Gallery refused the paintings.  Apart from several small personal bequests, and having no children, Henry left the bulk of his estate, including the two Turners, to his friend and fellow solicitor, Henry Drake, who was also the sole executor.  One of Drake’s sons, Bernard, had been given the middle name Harpur.

Drake exhibited the two Turner paintings in 1884, 1886 and 1892.  The larger painting, 'Fishing Boats Entering Calais Harbour' is now part of the Frick Collection in New York.  The smaller painting, described as 'Figures and boats in the foreground; low-lying coast seen across the sea on the horizon' is untraced.

In his will, Henry also made special provision for his cat to be cared for by Fanny Hodges.  One can only hope that, unlike the paintings, this bequest was fulfilled.

Report on Henry Harpur's will in Courier and West-End Advertiser 14 April 1877Report on Henry Harpur's will in Courier and West-End Advertiser 14 April 1877 British Newspaper Archive

CC-BY
David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Selby Whittingham, Of Geese, Mallards and Drakes: Some Notes on Turner's Family, with contributions from others, Part 4 The Marshalls & Harpurs, Independent Turner Society (1999)
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016).

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 1)

Turner's House logo

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.

 

19 October 2023

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 1)

Researching JMW Turner’s cousin, Henry Harpur, is complicated by the fact that he was Henry Harpur lV.  Henry Harpur l was a solicitor who rented a house in Islington to Turner’s grandparents, William and Sarah Marshall.  Their daughter Sarah married the landlord’s son, Henry Harpur ll.  Sarah was the sister of Turner’s mother, Mary.

Henry Harpur ll left London to become vicar of St Giles, Tonbridge, from 1756 to 1791.  Turner is believed to have stayed with Harpur during his summer holidays and on one visit painted a scene of Tonbridge Castle.

Turner's painting of Tonbridge Castle Joseph Mallord William Turner, 'Tonbridge Castle, Kent'. Grey and blue wash over graphite, on paper. 1794. Accession Number: 1588 Photograph copyright © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Harpur’s son, Henry Harpur lll, returned to London, where he became a successful lawyer in Westminster, in partnership with a baronet.  He married Elizabeth Lambert at St Giles, Camberwell, on 21 October 1800; by this time the couple already had three children.  Their son, Henry Harpur lV, was probably born on 18 June 1791 and baptised at Christ Church, Southwark on 1 January 1792; he also entered the legal profession.  Despite the sixteen years’ difference in their ages, he and Turner had a close personal and professional relationship for nearly 50 years.

Painting of Henry Harpur IVPainting of Henry Harpur lV - Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Art Collection


Henry married Eleanor Watkins on 11 May 1810 at Christ Church, Southwark and they set up house in Lambeth.  Eleanor was nine years older than Henry.

In 1820, Henry acted for himself and Turner in the challenge to their uncle Joseph Marshall’s will and, as a result, he became the owner of two properties in Wapping: numbers 9 and 10 New Crane, at the southern end of New Gravel Lane (now Garnet Street).

Henry and Eleanor accompanied Turner in 1840 on his trip to Venice, as far as Bregenz on the Rhine.  Leaving Turner, they next visited the Swiss Alps and then went south, via the lakes, to Italy, ending up in Milan.  While Turner was in Venice, Eleanor and Henry wrote to him, enthusing about the scenery in the Alps.  This may well have influenced Turner’s decision to visit Switzerland the following year.

Death notice for Eleanor Harpur from Morning Herald 25 June 1846Death notice for Eleanor Harpur Morning Herald (London) 25 June 1846 British Newspaper Archive

Eleanor Harpur died on 24 June 1846, aged 64.  She and Henry had no children.  On 22 December 1848, Henry married a widow, Amelia Stubbs, née Cotterell, at St James Westminster.

Henry retired as a solicitor in 1849 but still took care of Turner’s affairs and remained a close personal friend.  When Turner’s housekeeper, Hannah Danby, discovered where Turner was living with Sophia Booth, shortly before his death, it was Henry whom she informed of his whereabouts.  Hannah didn’t know that Henry and Amelia had remained in close contact with Turner and had visited him in Chelsea many times during his final illness.  It was Henry who, at the end of November 1851, told the Academy Treasurer, Philip Hardwick, that Turner would not be able to dine with him on Christmas Day ‘as was his custom’ because he was ‘confined to bed and had been since the commencement of October’.

Henry continued to visit Turner in his final days and later told his friend, the painter David Roberts, that Turner was ‘speechless two days at the end’.  This rather spoils the story that Turner expired with the words, ‘The sun is God’ on his lips.  After Turner’s death, to avoid any possible scandal about his relationship with Sophia Booth, Henry and Philip Hardwick arranged to move the body to Turner’s gallery in Queen Anne Street.  Turner had named Henry as his chief executor.


CC-BY
David Meaden
Independent Researcher

Creative Commons Attribution licence

Further reading:
Selby Whittingham, Of Geese, Mallards and Drakes: Some Notes on Turner's Family, with contributions from others, Part 4 The Marshalls & Harpurs, Independent Turner Society (1999).
Franny Moyle, The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J.M.W.Turner (London, 2016).

Henry Harpur – JMW Turner’s Cousin and Lawyer (Part 2)

Turner's House logo

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham is open to visitors.

 

12 October 2023

Mapping the Dining Culture at Holland House, 1798–1806

Holland House, Kensington, was one of the most important cultural sites in Regency London.  The cosmopolitan circle established in 1799 by Lord and Lady Holland advocated political and religious liberty, and the couple made their home a kind of alternative ministry for liberal culture and politics during decades of Tory rule, receiving European authors and politicians who they hoped would spread reform at home and abroad.  The centre of exchange for this group was the dining room, where Elizabeth Vassall-Fox (Lady Holland) was chatelaine, hosting the leading figures of the day.

Holland HouseHolland House in Kensington by George Samuel - Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

A dinner book is a written record of who dined at a given location on a given night, and Lady Holland assiduously kept such books to document forty years of her salon.  The books also acted as a diary, noting when the Hollands and their friends dined elsewhere or went to the theatre, and marking holidays in the country and abroad.

Holland House dinner bookHolland House dinner book  - British Library Add MS 51950)

The Dined project has created a database of the first dinner book (British Library Add MS 51950) which covers dinners from 1799 to 1806.  The database can be searched by date and person, and manuscript images like the one above can be browsed.  You can see information about diners in the Index of People, and about the locations visited by the Hollands in the Index of Places, and what they did in the Index of Events.  Literary figures who dined at Holland House included the poet Thomas Campbell, the novelists Matthew ‘Monk’ Lewis and Caroline Lamb, the travel writer Adélaïde de la Briche, and the philosophers Jeremy Bentham and William Godwin.  More important than any individual is the regular attendance of Henry Brougham, Francis Horner and Sydney Smith, three of the founders of the Edinburgh Review (arguably the most significant periodical of the 19th century).  The dinner books also bear witness to the period’s great events including the battle of Trafalgar and the Acts of Union with Ireland, and the death of national figures such as Nelson and Pitt.

While famous diners and events present themselves on almost every page, the books also chronicle the Hollands’ family life.  Lady Holland records her children performing scenes from Shakespeare in Christmas 1805, and is a stickler for recording birthdays, illnesses, and anniversaries, and even on one occasion notes that her mother is coming to babysit.  Browsing the books also illuminates the long-forgotten names who dined beside famous figures such as the Duchess of Devonshire, Fox, and Sheridan.  Few will now remember such figures as Richard ‘Conversation’ Sharp, the celebrity hatter who dined at the house, and organised a meeting between the Hollands and John Horne Tooke; or Don Roberto Gordon, the Hispanicized Scottish vintner who was distantly related to Byron, and who, following dinners in 1800 and 1801, convinced the Hollands to visit him in Jerez in 1803; or Serafino Buonaiuti, the opera librettist at the King’s Theatre who kept the Hollands’ library and later wrote for the Literary Gazette.  It is the presence, and the opportunity to recover, these characters and their stories that make the dinner books captivating to explore.

Will Bowers
Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Thought, Queen Mary University of London

 

14 September 2023

The short life of Beatrice Goodacre

The realities of life for working class women in the 19th century are often hard to envisage, but sometimes an individual story can bring things firmly into focus. 

Group of three women seated in front of a kitchen fireplace, looking at a young baby being cradled by one of themFrom The Illustrated London News 15 September 1900 British Newspaper Archive

Beatrice Goodacre was born on 28 April 1880 in Rock Ferry, an area on the Wirral Peninsular south of Birkenhead.  Originally an place of genteel villas, Rock Ferry had expanded to house many of the workers from nearby Cammell Laird’s shipbuilders.  Beatrice’s mother Mary Elizabeth Goodacre was 25 when her daughter was born.  She was unmarried and had been working as a domestic servant.  Beatrice was baptised at St Peter’s Church in Liverpool rather than the local church, which may say something about her illegitimate status, although it was not uncommon for families to have their children baptised ‘across the water’ in the parish church of Liverpool.  There is no mention of Beatrice’s father on her baptism record or birth registration.

Black and white photo of St Peter's Church LiverpoolSt Peter’s Church Liverpool from Henry Peet, ‘Reliquiae of St Peter's Church Liverpool’, Journal of The Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire Vol 74 (1922) 

Baby Beatrice was left in the care of her maternal grandparents William and Ann Goodacre.  The 1881 census enumerator failed to record that she was a granddaughter rather than a daughter.  Mary Elizabeth had found employment as a domestic servant in the household of architect and surveyor James Murgatroyd - not on the Wirral, but in Didsbury, Manchester.  In December 1884 she married George Davies, a carter, and in 1891 was living in Gothic Street, Rock Ferry, having had four babies in six years.  It’s a five minute walk to where Beatrice was living with her widowed grandmother in Medway Road.  The census is of course a snapshot and we can’t know whether Beatrice ever lived with her mother, step-father and half-siblings, or how she was treated as part of the family.  She didn’t adopt the Davies name and remained a Goodacre.

In a story that mirrors her mother’s, 18-year-old Beatrice found herself pregnant.  She was not abandoned and on 19 June 1898 married bricklayer’s labourer George Davenport, the marriage entry underlining the fact that Beatrice did not have a father to name.  The marriage not only gave Beatrice legitimacy as a married woman, it cemented that of her expected child.  The newly married Davenports set up home in (now demolished) Bold Street in nearby Tranmere, not far from her mother and grandmother and next door to her maternal aunt Alice Taylor.

Unfortunately, there was no happy ending.  Beatrice gave birth to daughter Fanny on 6 January 1899 and became ill days later.  After an agonising twelve days suffering from puerperal peritonitis she died on 22 January, a few months shy of her nineteenth birthday.  At that time, an estimated 4-6 women per thousand died in childbirth, almost half of those from sepsis like Beatrice.  Daughter Fanny was baptised on 12 January in a private baptism, which often meant that the child was not expected to survive.  In this case she outlived her mother by six short months, dying in July 1899.  Fanny died of ‘malnutrition marasmus’ which seems horrifying, but perhaps this was not an unusual fate for motherless babies as families were forced into artificial feeding, with foodstuffs such as cow’s milk, condensed milk, and cereals.

Mary Elizabeth outlived her daughter Beatrice by over 40 years.  She and husband George had five children, two girls and three boys.  She was widowed in July 1936 but continued to live at 19 The Causeway, Port Sunlight, in company housing supplied by George’s employer Lever Brothers.  She died in Port Sunlight on 23 May 1943.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer, India Office Records

Further Reading:
Irvine Loudon, Death in Childbirth: An International Study of Maternal Care and Maternal Mortality 1800-1950 (Oxford, Clarendon Press 1992)
Irvine Loudon, The tragedy of childbed fever (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)
P J Atkins, 'Mother’s milk and infant death in Britain, circa 1900-1940' in Anthropology of food 2 September 2003 https://doi.org/10.4000/aof.310

 

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