Untold lives blog

154 posts categorized "Health"

25 February 2020

17th Century Recipes for Those Feeling Under the Weather

It is that time of year again when almost everyone is getting ill.  Luckily, the British Library manuscript collections are full of historic and innovative gastronomic concoctions to help alleviate your various ailments.

A fine place to start is with the Sloane manuscripts, which contain a formidable number of medical recipes, or receipts, as they were known before the 1700s.  On his death, collector and physician Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed his vast collections to the nation.  Chief among Sloane’s academic interests was medicine and he collected many manuscripts that illuminated approaches to medicine through the ages.  These manuscripts date back as early as the 10th century.  They form a fascinating record of the varying treatments used for illnesses over time, as well as highlighting the persistent impulse to treat ailments with food.

From the 1600’s onwards, we can read some of these recipes in modern English and see just what sort of potions we may have had to drink for an illness had we lived during the 17th century.  Here are a few informative examples:

Recipe for the treatment of consumptionRecipe for the treatment of consumption, Sloane MS 3949

For the treatment of consumption, it was recommended to take 3 pints of cow milk, 12 yolks of fresh eggs, 6 ounces of fine breadcrumbs, 3 ounces of fine cinnamon, 2 or 3 pieces of fine gold (surely a staple of every good chef’s kitchen cupboard), 5 ounces of fine sugar, mix together and bring to the boil.  Then one would drink as much of it at a time as possible, or as the recipe states, as much ‘as you shall think convenient’.

Recipe2Recipe to ward off fever, Sloane MS 3949

This was a nice simple recipe to ward off fever:  Take a piece of white bread and dip it in red rose water, then strew it with sugar and eat it an hour before the fit (obviously it helped to know when you were due to be ill for this one).

Recipe 3Recipe against the plague, Add MS 4376

If you were feeling particularly unwell, had buboes in your armpits and a progressively aggressive fever that hinted at your impending doom, then you more than likely had the plague.  In this case, you would have needed to consult the following advice by order of the Corporation of London.  It involves taking rue, sage, mint, rosemary, wormwood and lavender and infusing them together in a gallon of white wine vinegar (so far, so very Waitrose), cooking them in a pot for eight days, draining the liquid and then applying this to the body every day.  You would also have to pour a bit of the mixture onto a sponge to smell when you happened to pass by a particularly plague-ridden avenue.  This receipt even includes its own product review.  It states that criminals would put some of the recipe on their bodies before robbing the houses of those deceased from plague, and that despite them entering these sites of contagion, they had remained healthy.

Although very different from a modern cough medicine, one can recognise in these recipes a few familiar tendencies, such as: equating infused herbs with health; using warm dairy products to comfort; and the use of sugar to make the mixtures more palatable.

Jessica Gregory
Curatorial Support Officer, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further Reading:
Ayscough, S., A Catalogue of the Manuscripts Preserved in the British Museum (London: John Rivington, 1782), 2 vols
Hunter, Michael, and others, eds, From books to bezoars: Sir Hans Sloane and his Collections (London: British Library, 2012)
Scott, E. J. L., Index to the Sloane manuscripts in the British Museum (London: British Museum, 1904)

 

07 January 2020

Sir Ronald Ross and the Transmission of Malaria

To mark the digitisation of medical archives in the India Office Records, I am highlighting some seminal research relating to Ronald Ross (1857-1932) and his important work discovering the causes of the transmission of malaria.

MosquitoMosquito BL: IOR/R/15/2/1061 Noc

By the late 1870s a miasmic (‘bad air’) theory of transmitting malaria was falling from favour and being replaced by a focus on biological transmission.  Corrado Tommasi-Crudeli and Theodor Klebs had isolated a bacteria from water which they claimed acted like malaria.  A French physician, Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, had shown that malaria was spread by parasites by performing necropsies on malaria victims.  Following this groundwork, a combination of work from Patrick Manson, Giovanni Grassi and Ronald Ross added ultimately conclusive developments to the theory…

Man hiding under blanket with mosquito hovering overheadImage from Wallis Mackay, The Prisoner of Chiloane; or, with the Portuguese in South-East Africa (London, 1890) British Library 010096.ee.16 Noc BL flickr 

Sir Ronald Ross was born in Almora, India, in 1857 to Sir Campbell Ross, a general in the Indian Army, and his wife Matilda.  He entered the Indian Medical Service in 1881.  During a year’s leave, he studied for the diploma in public health from The Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons in England taking a course in bacteriology.

Photograph of Ronald RossSir Ronald Ross. Photograph. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Ross’s interest in malaria began in 1892 when he was converted to the idea that the malaria parasites were in the bloodstream.  Patrick Manson demonstrated this to Ross in 1894.  In India, Ross was investigating if mosquitoes were connected to the transmission of malaria, but he was called away from malaria-infested areas on Indian Medical Service duty.  This frustrated Ross; he sent a letter requesting to be ‘put on special duty for a few months after relief at Bangalore to enable him to investigate the truth of Dr. Patrick Manson’s theory of the Transmission of the infection of malaria by means of the mosquito’. 

Proposal to place Surgeon Major Ronald Ross on special dutyIOR/P/5185 Mar 1897 nos 141-45; Proposal to place Surgeon Major Ronald Ross on special duty to investigate the truth of Dr. Patrick Manson's theory of the transmission of the infection of malaria by means of the mosquito Noc

The work would be carried out by someone who was ‘a microscopist and bacteriologist with a bent towards original research’.  Ross planned to follow Manson in proving that it was the mosquito which spread the disease.  He wrote instructions on how to carry out the experiments and listed three necessary proofs:
• That the parasite went through the same change inside the mosquito as it did in blood drawn from humans
• That the parasite was capable of developing and living inside the mosquito
• That the parasite could be communicated from the mosquito to humans.

On 20 August 1897, in Secunderabad, Ross made his breakthrough discovery.  While dissecting the stomach tissue of an Anopheles mosquito, fed four days previously on a malarious patient, he found the malaria parasite.  He noted these memorable words in a poem:
‘..With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
O million-murdering Death’.

Communicability of malaria by mosquito bitesBritish Library IOR/P/5644 May 1899 nos 156-59 Communicability of malaria by mosquito bites Noc

Ross continued his research in India and demonstrated that mosquitoes could serve as intermediate hosts for bird malaria.  He showed that the route of infection was through the bite of a mosquito with experiments on four sparrows and a weaver bird.  The account of these findings was presented to the British Medical Association in July 1898.  In 1902 Ross became the first Briton to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine.

David Moran
Western Heritage Collections

Further Reading:
IOR/P/5185 Mar 1897 nos 141-45 Proposal to place Surgeon Major Ronald Ross on special duty to investigate the truth of Dr Patrick Manson's theory of the transmission of the infection of malaria by means of the mosquito
IOR/P/5644 May 1899 nos 156-59 Communicability of malaria by mosquito bites
IOR/P/5418 Nov 1898 nos 10-12 Ronald Ross, Indian Medical Service, Preliminary Report on the Infection of Birds with Proteosoma by the Bites of Mosquitoes
IOR/P/434/44 Sep 1869 no 01 Report on the causes of malarial fever in Bengal
IOR/P/5644 Jan 1899 nos 79-82 Investigations at Rome into the role of mosquito-bites in the spread of malaria
IOR/P/5644 Jan 1899 nos 206-16 Proposed appointment of a Scientific Commission to investigate the causes and cure of malaria and the deputation to India of Dr C W Daniels to aid in the investigation
IOR/P/1204 Dec 1828 nos 10-13 Results of the trial made in certain hospitals in the Bombay Presidency with Mr Wood's alkaloids in the treatment of malarial fevers
IOR/P/351/37 20 Dec 1854 nos 6117-19 Report on sanitary conditions at Poona Cantonment and in the vicinity, and corrective measures to remove the causes of malaria

 

19 December 2019

Christmas appeal from the Shaftesbury Society and Ragged School Union

In 1925 the Shaftesbury Society and Ragged School Union published a touching booklet entitled A Christmas Recipe.  It was an appeal for funds to support their work with needy London children.

Front cover of A Christmas Recipe Front cover of A Christmas Recipe Noc

The Christmas recipe was this:
‘Take a little trouble.  Mix with it a little thought.  Add a pinch of imagination, and some warmth of heart.  Stir yourself up to the point of action.  Pour in as much as you can spare from your pocket.  Take a pen and ink, and an envelope, and a three-halfpenny stamp. Take the result to the post.  And there you are – a bit of happiness worth anybody’s while’.

The recipe from A Christmas Recipe A Christmas Recipe Noc

The old saying of ‘too many cooks’ did not apply to this recipe – the more cooks the better.  The leaflet then went on to urge the reader to open their eyes to children who were poor, lonely, ailing, hungry, and badly clad.  Then to imagine that they were their own children and that they were powerless to help them. 

As for the amount of the donation: ‘Trouble and thought and imagination and warmth of heart together will tell you more clearly than anything else just how much of this ingredient you should use… you should not stint it.  If you can spare half a crown, a florin piece will be just too little to bring the best result of happiness.  If you can spare fifty guineas, fifty pounds will be just too little for a really perfect dish of happiness’.  The very act of donating would bring cheer: ‘You will smile to yourself rather happily as you drop the letter into the box.  You will have a light heart for the rest of the day, and for some days to come’.

The booklet then goes on to set out why money was urgently needed.  Despite increases to wages and the help given through schools and other agencies, many poor children in London lacked warm clothing, nourishing food, and fresh air.  Many were ill or disabled.  In large families the dole given to unemployed men seldom met all necessary expenses after the rent was paid.

As well as gifts of money the Shaftesbury Society asked for clothing, boots, nourishing food, toys, and picture books.   The Society also appealed for donations of time: ‘It just means coming to one of our Missions for an hour or two a week, and being friends with the children’.  The Society’s volunteers were very diverse: ‘the unlettered, the rough toiler, the man and woman who were themselves such children as these,…the scholar, the University graduate, the artist, all eager to help’.

Figures from the 81st Annual Report of the Shaftesbury Society and Ragged School Union Figures from the 81st Annual Report of the Shaftesbury Society and Ragged School Union in A Christmas Recipe Noc

Figures from the 81st Annual Report of the Shaftesbury Society and Ragged School Union demonstrated the breadth of work.  Children were given trips to the seaside and country.  Medical treatment, equipment and ‘industrial training’ was provided for disabled children.  Clothing and boots were supplied.  The Society maintained holiday homes and homes for destitute children, as well as organising day nurseries, infant welfare centres, Sunday Schools, Bible classes, schools and meetings for mothers, companies of Scouts and Guides, and Bands of Hope promoting temperance.

Seasonal greetings from A Christmas Recipe Seasonal greetings from A Christmas Recipe Noc

The Society summed up its aims as to love and to serve.  The booklet includes a quote from the 1924 Declaration on the Rights of the Child: ‘Mankind owes to the Child the best that it has to give’.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records


Further reading:
Shaftesbury Society and Ragged School Union, A Christmas Recipe (1925) shelfmark X.519/23823

 

10 December 2019

Sarah Danby – JMW Turner’s lover

Sarah Danby was born Sarah Goose in Spilsby, Lincolnshire, probably in 1766, as she was christened, a Roman Catholic, in Baumber on 5 April in that year.  She was brought up in Lambeth and became a singer and actress.  On 4 April 1788, she married John Danby, a successful organist and glee composer, with whom she had five daughters and one son, two of whom died in infancy.  The Danbys first lived in Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, and were near neighbours of the Turners, who lived in Maiden Lane. 

John Danby's death May 1798 reported in True Briton John Danby's death reported in True Briton 19 May 1798 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers

John Danby suffered with poor health, probably rheumatoid arthritis, and died, aged 41, at home on 16 May 1798, sadly just at the close of the benefit concert organised by his friends at Willis’s Rooms that very evening.  At that time the Danbys were living at 46 Upper John Street and Sarah was two months pregnant with their fifth daughter, Theresa.  John Danby was buried in Old St Pancras Churchyard but his grave was destroyed with the coming of the railway.  His name can be seen on the Burdett-Coutts Memorial Sundial.

 
John Danby’s name on the Burdett-Coutts Memorial SundialJohn Danby’s name on the Burdett-Coutts Memorial Sundial.  (author’s photo)

Sarah began a relationship with Turner and lived with him for short periods of time at various addresses but this was never a permanent arrangement and they never married.  Various reasons have been suggested and the truth may well be a combination of some or all of the following: 
Turner often made disparaging comments about matrimony, probably as a result of his observation of his parents’ troubled marriage and perhaps as the result of an early failed relationship.
Sarah was a Catholic; Turner was not.
Sarah was dependant on a pension from the Royal Society of Musicians, which would stop if she lived permanently with Turner.

Life study of a female figure, possibly Sarah Danby, from one of Turner’s notebooksLife study of a female figure c.1812-13 , possibly Sarah Danby, from one of Turner’s notebooks -  Tate Britain  Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

They had two daughters together; Evelina (1801–74) and Georgiana (1811–43) but Turner saw little of them and he spent his latter years mostly in Chelsea, with Sophia Booth.  After Turner’s death in December 1851, Sarah lived in poverty in William Street, Marylebone, with her unmarried daughter by John Danby, Marcella, a music teacher, and her granddaughter Louisa Symondson.  Turner left Sarah nothing in his will and she was forced to sell various drawings and sketches that he had given her, just to survive.  She applied for an increase in the pension she received from the Royal Society of Musicians but this was refused.

Crossing The Brook - painting by Turner'Crossing The Brook' by Turner.  The two girls are thought to be his daughters, Evelina and Georgiana - Tate Britain Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported))


Sarah later moved to George Street, near Euston Square, where she died on 16 February 1861.  The Registrar recorded that she was 100 (she was probably 95) and that she had eaten beefsteak for her dinner the day before she died.  She was buried in a pauper’s grave in Kensal Green.

Sarah’s death was quickly followed by law suits involving her family.  In April 1861 Marcella was taken to court by her niece, Caroline Frances Lamb, and Caroline’s husband, Edward Buckton Lamb, over the administration of Sarah’s personal estate, which was valued at under £200.  Marcella then countered with a case against the Lambs to recover letters and documents relating to Sarah’s accounts and private affairs.  She also recovered the large sum of £1621 9s 7d which was paid into court by the Lambs.  Yet when Marcella died in 1863, her estate was valued at less than £100.  A mystery which remains to be unraveled!

David Meaden
Independent researcher

Further reading:
Anthony Bailey, Standing in the sun (London, 2013)
Stephen J May, Voyage of the slave ship, J.M.W. Turner's masterpiece in historical context (Jefferson, North Carolina, 2014)
Dictionary of artists’ models, edited by Jill Berk Jimenez (London, 2001)
Article on John Danby by Selby Whittingham in New Dictionary of National Biography
The life of J. M. W. Turner, R.A.; founded on letters and papers furnished by his friends and fellow academicians, Walter Thornbury, 1897.
 

Turner’s restored house in Twickenham will reopen on Saturday 11 January 2020.
Wednesday-Sunday: 12 –1pm: self-guided visits.
Guided tours Wednesday to Sunday at 1.00, 2.00 and 3.00pm.  Last entry 3pm.

Turner's House logo

 

 

05 December 2019

Marine Society boy to master mariner to pauper – Part 2

We left George Byworth in Tasmania working as a merchant officer on sealing voyages.

Back in London, his father Thomas died in 1837.  His will left everything to George’s mother Mary.  She carried on with the watch-making business in Lambeth with her son Thomas.

We know that George returned to England at some point, because on 24 October 1844 he married Amelia Webb in Camberwell.  He described himself as a master mariner of Old Kent Road.  Nineteen-year-old Amelia came from Binfield in Berkshire.

View of Singapore with ships at anchorView of Singapore with ships at anchor from Pieter Harme Witkamp, De Aardbol (Amsterdam, 1839) Shelfmark 10002.g.16-19. BL flickr Noc 

The couple were soon travelling.  Their son George Alfred was born in October 1845 and baptised in March 1847 in Singapore.  In June 1847 George was the master of the Antaris sailing from Singapore to Port Jackson with a general cargo.  His wife and son were passengers on the ship.  Sons Donald Campbell and William Wordsworth Russell, were born in Sydney in July 1847 and April 1849.  Four more children were born in Tasmania between 1851 and 1858: Mary Ann Louisa, Amelia Frances, Edith Constance Burnell, and Loughlin Alan.

George’s mother Mary died in 1853.  She left the business premises and equipment to her son Thomas.  Household goods and other personal effects were shared equally between her sons George, John and Thomas.  She named her friend Henry Vandyke of the Marine Society as her executor but he renounced probate in favour of Thomas. An intriguing link to the Marine Society!

In 1854 George changed careers and became licensee of the British Hotel in George Town, Tasmania.   He advertised in his local paper, the Cornwall Chronicle:
‘GEORGE BYWORTH (late Master Mariner) has great pleasure in making known to the public at large, and particularly to families who visit George Town for health and recreation, that he has obtained a license for the BRITISH FAMILY HOTEL, where will be found accommodation for families and parties, of the most agreeable nature, and at moderate remunerative charges. G. B. will devote himself to ensure the comfort of all persons who favour him with their patronage’.

George Town, TasmaniaGeorge Town, Tasmania from Francis Russell Nixon, The Cruise of the Beacon: a narrative of a visit to the Islands in Bass's Straits (London, 1857) Shelfmark 10498.aa.7. BL flickr Noc

However in September 1857 George Byworth, licensed victualler, was declared insolvent.  By July 1859 the Cornwall Chronicle was reporting the destitute state of the family.  George was desperate to find work and, even though he had ‘seen better days’, he was very willing to accept ‘humble employment’.  Local people raised money for the Byworths and donated clothing, flour, tea, sugar, wood and coal.  Amelia was given help to open a milliner’s shop. 

Launceston, TasmaniaLaunceston, Tasmania from Élisée Reclus, The Earth and its Inhabitants (London, 1878) Shelfmark 10005.ff. BL flickrNoc

The next blow was Amelia’s death from dropsy in October 1862.  George tried to earn a living by running evening classes in navigation, and then expanded this into a commercial and nautical school offering ‘an English education’.  But in 1869 the seven-roomed cottage in Launceston he had occupied was advertised for letting, and his household goods were put up for auction – ‘Piano, table, chairs, bedstead, cooking utensils, and quantity of sundries’.

Things weren’t going well for the Byworth family in London either.  In 1869 George’s brother Thomas was sentenced to eighteen months’ hard labour for receiving stolen goods.

In September 1870 George Byworth entered the Launceston Invalid Depôt, a government-run institution for the sick and poor.  He was unable to work but left in March 1872 at his own request.  George died in Launceston on 20 October 1876 at the age of 69 after a life full of incident.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Trove newspapers
British Newspaper Archive

Marine Society boy to master mariner to pauper – Part 1

28 November 2019

The Medical and Surgical Home at Fitzroy Square, London

.

When Charles James Richards, formerly a General in the Madras Army, needed surgery in 1894 he decided he didn’t want to stay in hospital for his post-surgical recovery.  He preferred somewhere more homely instead.

Richards chose to stay at the Medical and Surgical Home, 15 Fitzroy Square, later to be known as Fitzroy House.  The Home was established in 1880 by the Home Hospitals Association and was intended to be a ‘home from home environment’ where patients could stay while recovering from medical or surgical procedures.

Doctor and nurse at a sick bedImage taken from C. H. Cochran Patrick, Maude Chatterton, etc. (London, 1898) Shelfmark 012623.ee.11. BL flickr

The home did not employ any medical staff of its own.  Patients instead remained under the care of their own GP or consultant physician for the duration of their stay.  The home did however employ a large number of skilled nurses and other servants to help with patient care.

The home was considered to be more of a medical boarding house, with patients paying a weekly charge and in return received nursing care, prescribed rest and a regulated diet.  There were however a number of criteria under which patients would not be eligible, these included those with contagious illnesses and incurable diseases, the home being intended as a place for recovery and not for long-term stay.

The home proved to be a great success and by the 1890s it had expanded to occupy numbers 15-18 Fitzroy Square.  In 1904 the home was rebuilt, providing 30 beds for patients.  From 1918 onwards however the number of patients and beds began to decline.  In 1963 the Nuffield Nursing Homes Trust, who now owned Fitzroy House, decided that its function and facilities had reached their end and replaced the Home with a new building of their own.

Unfortunately for General Richards, his stay was to be shorter than he might have expected, as he passed away at the Home 36 hours after surgery to remove a cancerous tumour.

The 1891 census however suggests that deaths of patients at the home were not a common thing, with most leaving once recovered and continuing on with their lives.  The census lists 24 patients residing there on the night of the census, 9 male and 15 female aged between 23 and 66 with a wide range of occupations including a professor of music, a Catholic priest, an architect and a theatrical manager.

One of these patients was Charles Hay Cameron, the son of Charles Hay Cameron, a barrister and member of the Supreme Council of Calcutta.  The reason for his stay at the home is unknown, but it can be assumed that whatever medical or surgical condition he had required care for was not altogether resolved, as he died a few months later on 14 August 1891 in Antwerp.

Karen Stapley. Curator, India Office Records

Further reading:
IOR/L/AG/34/10/13A Part 3, Birth, marriage and death certificates submitted as evidence for pensions under the Madras Military Fund
Lost Hospitals of London

 

22 October 2019

Indian military widows

The terrible plight of the widows of Indian soldiers in the period before, during and after the First World War is revealed in a file from the India Office's vast military archive.

The earliest document in the file dates from March 1913, but the outbreak of war in the following year brought the issue to the fore.  A letter of 26 February 1915 from Viceroy Lord Hardinge to the Secretary of State for India Lord Crewe attempted to lay down rules for the granting of military pensions:

(i) The widow must be proved beyond doubt to be in straitened circumstances  ... Absolute destitution not to be a necessary condition for the widow of any person above the rank of a private soldier.

(ii) The deceased husband must have performed really good service ... Other considerations to be taken into account  ...will be (a) the rank subsequently attained, (b) the character and conduct of the deceased, and (c) the length of his service.

(iii) The date of marriage will be an important consideration. We propose that the rules should not ordinarily include widows who married after their husbands had retired ...

Indian soldiers forming the escort for the Gilgit Mission 1885-1886 from the album of George Michael James Giles Photo 104032 - detailIndian soldiers forming the escort for the Gilgit Mission 1885-1886, from the album of George Michael James Giles - detail from Photo 1040/32 Images Online

It is understandable that Imperial bureaucrats in London and New Delhi felt the need to formulate guidelines to deal with such matters, but the contrast with the appalling suffering touched upon in many of the cases cited throughout the file is stark.  Umrao Bi, thought to be aged about eighty, was the widow of Mutiny veteran Sowar Shaik Imamuddin, and in June 1914 she petitioned the British Resident at Hyderabad for assistance, stating that her husband's Mutiny medal had been lost during a flood in 1908.  The previous month Amir Bi, aged 95, widow of Mutiny veteran Sowar Azmuth Khan, applied for an allowance ' ... so that she may endure the remainder of her life without experiencing the pangs of hunger’.

The dismal theme is continued in a list of 9 June 1916 which provides brief details of 55 applications for compassionate allowances, with 26 containing the simple words 'Woman was destitute'.  The majority were widows of soldiers who had served on the British side in 1857-58.  Qamru Bi '... was 80 years of age, and was begging for a living’.  Hasharat Bi '...earned about Rs. 4 per mensem by sewing, but she was getting old and was partially blind’.  Firdaus Begum '...had a small income of about Rs. 2 per mensem out of which she had to support 2 female relatives.  She had incurred a debt of about 500’.  The children of several petitioners were themselves too poor to support their mothers.      

The sum allocated by the British authorities to cover all successful applications for relief between 1915 and 1927 was capped at a miserly Rs. 1500 per year.  Although more money was made available through the establishment of the Indian Army Benevolent Fund in September 1927, eighteen months later its administering Board had made a mere 197 grants out of 1160 applications received.

Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Team Leader

Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/7/12143

 

12 September 2019

Pupils from the Asylum for deaf and dumb children

The Asylum for the support and education of the deaf and dumb children of the poor published lists of pupils’ names with some family details.  Some parents had more than one deaf and dumb child to care for.  I picked a family named in a report of 1817 to try to trace what happened to the children after they left the Asylum.

The Deaf and Dumb Asylum Old Kent Road'

'The Deaf and Dumb Asylum, Kent Road' from David Hughson, Walks through London, including Westminster and the borough of Southwark, with the surrounding suburbs (London, 1817) Noc

Pupils Henry and Louisa Tattler (or Tatler) came from a family of eleven children, four of whom were deaf and dumb. They lived in Plough Court, Fetter Lane, London. Their parents were James Tattler, a jeweller or trinket maker described in the report as ‘insane’, and his wife Mary Ann. In 1816 James was a patient at Bethlem Hospital which specialised in the care of the mentally ill.  He died in 1817, aged 44. 

Bethlem Hospital'View of the new Bethlem Hospital in St. George's Fields' 1814, Maps K.Top.27.56.2 Noc Images Online

What happened to the family after James Tattler’s death?

Mary Ann continued to live in Plough Court. Henry Tattler (born 1804) followed his father into the jewellery trade.  He was apprenticed to Robertson and Co of Villiers Street in March 1820.  In 1851 he was living in Baldwin’s Gardens Holborn with his brother James (born 1793) who was a shoemaker described as partially deaf and dumb.

Louisa Tattler (born 1807) became a bookbinder.  Around 1841 she became a pauper inmate of the West London Union Workhouse.  She was still there in 1861.

Here is what I have discovered about some of the other siblings.

Anne Tattler was apprenticed aged 13 in 1810 to Joseph Anderson, a water gilder in Clerkenwell.  It is likely that she was the mother of Alfred Tattler born in the Shoe Lane workhouse in 1818. Alfred was buried aged three months.

Frederick Tattler (born 1801) lived in the Fleet Street area and worked as a carman and labourer. He married Sarah Wickens in 1839. It does not appear that they had any children.

Sophia Tattler (born 1803) married Joseph Snelling in 1829 but died in 1831 in Holborn.

Emma Rebecca Tattler (born 1805) had mental health problems.  She was admitted in January 1840 to the workhouse in Shoreditch and became the subject of a removal order to her home parish of St Andrew Holborn.  Her mother Mary Ann gave a detailed statement about the family’s circumstances going back to her marriage to James in 1792. The Shoreditch justice suspended Emma’s removal ‘by reason of insanity’ and she was taken to Sir J. Miles’ Asylum. However the removal order was executed in March because she was said to have recovered.  Emma died in March 1842 whilst in the care of the Holborn Poor Law Union.

Charles Richard Tattler (born 1808) was a wine cooper living in Finsbury. He married Susan Lawrence in 1830 and they had five children,

Edwin Tattler (born 1814) was a pupil at the Orphan Working School in City Road.  He then worked as a cooper before joining the Army, serving in the Rifle Brigade.  He deserted in December 1834 and the trail goes cold.

The story of the Tattler family shows what can be uncovered from online resources, especially for those who came into contact with institutions and authority.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Asylum for the support and education of deaf and dumb children of the poor
List of the Governors and Officers of the Asylum for the support and education of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor; with the rules ... and an introductory statement of the purposes of the institution (London, 1817)

Family history information can be found from findmypast and Ancestry under a variety of spellings for the surname e.g. St Martin-in-the-Fields Poor Law examination for Henry Tatler 1827 from City of Westminster Archives Centre and. Poor Law settlement papers 1840 for Emma Rebecca Tatler from London Metropolitan Archives.

 

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