Untold lives blog

268 posts categorized "Work"

29 June 2020

More girls called Seringa!

Whilst researching the Seringas of the Norris family I came across other families with a daughter named Seringa or Seringapatam.

One family in particular caught my attention, that of James Hewes (1841-1917) a mariner from West Mersea, near Colchester in Essex.  James Hewes had married Angelica Lay in 1865 and the couple had seven children.  Although I have not been able to find out much about James’s career as a mariner, it clearly had an influence on him, and was reflected in the names of his daughters.

His eldest daughter, born 22 April 1867, was named Seringapatam, though she often turns up in records as Seringa or Meringa Patson.  Their second daughter, born in 1868 was named Tamar Adelaide.  She sadly died in 1869.  Their third daughter born in 1870 was named Robina; their fourth daughter, born in 1872, Rosina; and their youngest daughter, born in 1877, Urania Minnie.

HMS Seringapatam figure headFigurehead from HMS Seringapatam courtesy of Royal Museums Greenwich

Seringapatam and Tamar are the names of ships from the time that James Hewes was a mariner.  HMS Seringapatam was built in the East India Company dockyard at Bombay in 1819, and from the 1850s onwards was being used as a coal hulk.  HMS Tamar was a troop ship built in 1863 which frequently visited the port of Adelaide, which is perhaps why James's second daughter was named Tamar Adelaide.  Robina, Rosina and Urania all sound like the possible names of ships too.

The couple also had two sons, Oscar Thomas who was the twin of Seringapatam but who died in 1868, and James who was born in 1874.

It would appear that by 1881 James Hewes had retired as mariner, and his occupation from then on is given as fisherman.

Seringapatam Hewes had a daughter born in 1890, whom she named Seringapatam Kate (although she appears to have preferred her middle name Kate, and her full name often appears as Kate Merringer in records), and a second daughter Ethel born in 1898.  In 1899 Seringaptam married Thomas Woodward, a fisherman.  Interestingly the GRO index for their marriage lists her as Meringo Hewes.  Seringapatam Woodward remained in West Mersea all her life.  Her daughter Seringaptam Kate was married in 1919 to Thomas Walter Reeves Pounceby.

Of the other daughters, Urania Minnie married in 1902 to Thomas Soloman Potter, a police constable, and lived in Colchester with their daughter Ivy Urana and son Thomas James Oscar.  Rosina died unmarried in 1922.  I have been unable to trace Robina after the 1891 census where she is listed as working as a servant in West Mersea. 

Their only surviving son James never married, remaining in the area and following in his father’s footsteps as a fisherman.

Karen Stapley
Curator, India Office Records


22 June 2020

Solving a suffragette mystery – who was Miss Wolff van Sandau?

In 2019 a Women’s Social and Political Union medal was sold at auction in London.  It was awarded in 1912 to Elsie Wolff van Sandau in recognition of ‘ a gallant action, whereby through endurance to the last extremity of hunger and hardship, a great principle of political justice was vindicated’.

WSPU membership card from the scrapbook of Maud Arncliffe SennettWomen’s Social and Political Union membership card from the scrapbook of Maud Arncliffe Sennett

On 4 March 1912 Miss Wolff van Sandau broke a window of the post office in Howick Place, Victoria.  She was sentenced to two months’ hard labour in prison for wilful damage.


Arrest of Miss Wolff Van Sandau reported in 'Votes for Women' 29 March 1912
Votes for Women 29 March 1912 British Newspaper Archive

Miss Wolff van Sandau had previously been imprisoned in February 1907 after taking part in a suffragette deputation, and again in November 1910 when she was arrested in Parliament Square on ‘Black Friday’.

The name van Sandau rang bells with me.  We published a blog post featuring Lewis van Sandau of the Bengal Army who was shot dead when mistaken for a ghost.  I wondered if I could find a connection between our unfortunate officer and the suffragette.

There are references to both Elsie Wolff van Sandau and Mathilde (or Matilda) Wolff van Sandau in suffragette records, leading some to conclude that there were two sisters campaigning.  But I believe that there was only one Miss Wolff van Sandau.

Votes for Women published a brief biography in 1910 stating that ‘Miss Wolff von Sandau’ had worked for women’s suffrage for nearly 30 years.  She was a music teacher.  Her grandfather Reverend Dr Ernst Schwabe had been private chaplain to Queen Victoria’s mother.

Biographical note from 'Votes for Women'
Votes for Women 25 November 1910 British Newspaper Archive

I found the marriage in London in 1832 of Ernst Schwabe’s daughter Bethia Friedericke to Ernst Woolf, who was a flax manufacturer in Leeds.  In the early 1840s Ernst and Bethia moved with their children to Dresden in Germany.  Their daughter Elise Eugenie Mathilde Wolff was born there in 1843.

In the 1881 census Elise Eugenie M. Wolff is a music professor aged 37 living in Clapham, South London.  In 1891 she is listed in Kensington as Mathilda Wolff, pianist.

A newspaper advertisement in 1888 names her as Fraulein Mathilde Wolff of the Dresden Conservatoire.

Advertisement for the Hastings and St Leonards College of Music in The Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 September 1888Advertisement for the Hastings and St Leonards College of Music in The Hastings and St Leonards Observer 22 September 1888 British Newspaper Archive

There are reports of her concerts, such as this one in 1888 at Collard’s Rooms in Grosvenor Street London.

Report of concert in 'The Era' 16 June 1888Report of concert at Collard’s Rooms in Grosvenor Street London The Era 16 June 1888 British Newspaper Archive


Miss Wolff advertised in newspapers for pupils and for lodgers. She entertained members of the Women’s Vegetarian Union at her home.

Meeting of Women's Vegetarian Union reported in 'The Queen' 20 July 1895Meeting of Women's Vegetarian Union - The Queen 20 July 1895 British Newspaper Archive


In 1889 she used the name Wolff  van Sandau when publishing a song ‘David’s Message’.

 Article mentioning song 'David's Message' in 'The Graphic' 12 January 1889
The Graphic 12 January 1889 British Newspaper Archive


It was reported in 1895 that Miss Mathilde Wolff van Sandau was managing the new Equitable International Chess Club for Ladies.

Newspaper article about Equitable International Chess Club for LadiesMorning Post 10 June 1895 British Newspaper Archive


In 1911 she refused to provide information to the 1911 census and is recorded as simply ’Miss Wolfe – Suffragette’.

Her brother Henry William Wolff (1840-1931) also left Germany to live in England. He was a well-known journalist and writer and founder of the Co-Operative Alliance.

Portrait of Henry William Wolff writing at the Reform Club

Henry William Wolff at the Reform Club by Eyre Crowe, 1905 NPG D6688 © National Portrait Gallery, London National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

In the 1920s Matilda van Sandau of Brooklyn Road, Shepherds Bush, was offering typewriting and translation services.  Is this the same woman?

By 1926 our Matilda was lodging in Putney.  She died in a local nursing home on 29 August 1926 aged 83 and was buried in Putney Vale Cemetery as Matilda Wolff.

One mystery remains.  Why did Matilda adopt the name van Sandau?  I have found one connection between the families.  Andrew van Sandau, brother to Lewis, was a witness at her parents’ marriage.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Her recorded surname varies between Wolff and Wolff van/von Sandau in census returns, electoral registers and directories, and her first names are any combination of Elise Eugenie Mathilde with variant spellings. It appears she is named as Elsie only in suffragette records and related newspaper reports.

British Newspaper Archive - also available via Findmypast.

The National Archives papers from Home Office, Director of Public Prosecutions, and Metropolitan Police Commissioner – see the Suffragette Collection on Findmypast .

Entry in Who Was Who for Henry William Wolff.

Researching Suffragettes in the British Library’s Modern Manuscripts and Archive Collections.


09 June 2020

Henry John Tozer – India, Rousseau, and sanitation in St Pancras

In late 1904 William Foster took extended leave from the India Office Record Department to visit India, an experience he found most enjoyable.  Foster travelled with Henry John Tozer who was a clerk in the Statistical Department of the India Office.  The pair visited Calcutta, Madras, Trichinopoly, Madura, Conjeeveram, Tanjore, Tuticorin, and Columbo.  Tozer toured industrial premises and interviewed officials, and also studied the inscriptions and architecture of temples.

The principal shrine of the Varadarajaperumal Temple at ConjeeveramThe principal shrine of the Varadarajaperumal Temple at Conjeeveram (Kanchipuram) from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections: Madras, 1896-98 British Library Photo 1008/3(321) Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Tozer was collecting data for a paper on Indian arts and industries which he was to deliver on his return to London. On 11 May 1905 the Maharaja Gaekwar of Baroda, who was on a private visit to England, presided at a meeting of the Indian Section of the Society of Arts.  Henry Tozer read his paper ‘The manufactures of Greater Britain – India’.

Henry Tozer was born in 1864 in Cottishall, Norfolk, the son of an Inland Revenue officer.  By 1881 his family had moved to Romford in Essex and Henry was working as a junior clerk at the Admiralty.  He joined the Accountant’s General Department of the India Office in January 1882 as a clerk, 2nd class.  Tozer then studied at the University of London, gaining a B.A. (Hons) in 1889 and an M.A. in philosophy and political economy in 1893.  He transferred to the Revenue and Statistical Department in 1897.  The Society of Arts awarded Tozer a silver medal for a paper on Indian trade in 1901, and he published British India and its trade in 1902.

Tozer was a man of many interests. He addressed industrial conferences and spoke at the Economic Club of the Working Man’s College in Crowndale Road in the 1890s. He published an English translation of Jean Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract in 1895 which is still widely cited today. 

Title page of Rousseau's The Social Contract translated by H J Tozer

Title page of Rousseau's  The Social Contract translated by H. J. Tozer Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Before he married Amy Jane Carruthers in 1908, Tozer lived at the Passmore Edwards Settlement in Tavistock Square London.  Young professional men living at the Settlement gave classes in academic and practical subjects to poor adults and children living nearby.  Tozer was an active member of the local committee of the Charity Organisation Society.  In 1898 Tozer corresponded with George Bernard Shaw about the appalling sanitation of the parish of St Pancras, and in 1903 about the Education Act.  Tozer wrote to Winston Churchill in January 1903 inviting him to open a debate at the Settlement on the fiscal question – Churchill declined.

Henry Tozer also corresponded with Pierre Kropotkine, the Russian writer and activist who spent part of his exile in Britain in the late 1890s.  Tozer sent Kropotkine a Blue Book on India.

There is evidence that Tozer acted as an informer for the India Office, reporting on a meeting of the London Indian Society in May 1901.  His report on ‘Resolutions Passed at a Meeting of the London Indian Society’ has been preserved in the records of the Public and Judicial Department.

Tozer was promoted to senior clerk in 1911 and principal in 1921.  He worked in the military, public works, revenue and industries and overseas departments. He retired in 1924.

In 1939 Henry and Amy Tozer were living in Kensington Park Gardens, Notting Hill, with a resident cook, parlour maid, and housemaid.  Henry Tozer died in October 1943.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Passmore Edwards Settlement
Nigel Scotland, Squires in the Slums - Settlements and Missions in Late Victorian Britain (London, 2007)
Dinyar Phiroze Patel, 2015. The Grand Old Man: Dadabhai Naoroji and the Evolution of the Demand for Indian Self-Government. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
Resolutions passed at a Conference of the London Indian Society; report on the meeting by H. J. Tozer, May 1901 - IOR/L/PJ/6/570, File 970
British Newspaper Archive


04 June 2020

An unexpected letter from Sir William Foster of the India Office

Historians of the East India Company and archivists working with the India Office Records owe a debt of gratitude to Sir William Foster whose publications are an invaluable source of information for them. Foster joined the India Office in Westminster in 1882, becoming Registrar and Superintendent of Records 1907-1923, and Historiographer to the India Office 1923-1927.

Sir William FosterPhotograph of Sir William Foster (1863-1951) by Bassano Ltd 12 February 1929 courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery  NPG x81132 National Portrait Gallery Creative Commons Licence

So I was delighted when I was given a copy of Foster’s John Company as a present. 

Tilte page of 'John Company'

Title page of John Company Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

The name R. A. Bell is written on the title page and there are three letters from 1945 pasted into the back of the book.  The first, dated 20 February, is addressed to Sir William Foster at his home in Mountfield Court in Hampstead from Mr Bell of Chiswick.  He was researching the older churches of London and wanted to know about the pictures of St Matthias Poplar in John Company.  Bell had visited the church last summer and found it badly knocked about by bomb blast but not beyond repair.

Bell's letter to Foster

Bell's letter to Foster 20 February 1945 - copyright resides with the heirs of  Robert Arthur Bell

Mr Bell said that he was ‘an old Anglo-Indian’ who had worked in Negapatam in the late 1880s.  His grandfather had been a collector in Trichinopoly and his great-grandfather a General in the Madras Artillery.  Bell asked if Sir William had been head assistant collector at Negapatam.

I have identified the writer as Robert Arthur Bell (1865-1949), son of Robert Courtenay Bell and his wife Clara.  Bell worked as civil engineer for the South Indian Railway in the 1880s and 90s.  He married Eveline Maud Richardson in Negapatam on 29 October 1891.  The couple had two children born in Cuddalore: Eveline Clara in February 1893 and David Courtenay in October 1894.  Sadly Eveline Clara died in December 1893 and David Courtenay was killed in 1918 whilst serving in the Royal Navy.  Robert and Eveline had returned to the UK by the time that their daughter Lavinia Courtenay was born in 1898 and they had four more children.

First page of Foster's letter to Bell

Foster's letter to Bell 23 February 1945 -  copyright resides with the heirs of Sir William Foster

Foster replied promptly on 23 February.  The verger of St Matthias had lent him a faded photograph and a pencil drawing by Miss Sexton, a local schoolmistress.  Mr Baragwanath had drawn the illustrations for the book using copies of these.

Sir William said that it was many years since he had visited St Matthias and had not realised it had suffered bomb damage.  The population of East London was estimated to have been reduced to one third of the pre-war figure and he had heard that there were plans to amalgamate parishes.  As it was very close to Poplar parish church, St Matthias might be deemed superfluous.

In answer to Bell’s question, Foster said he had never served in India.  However in 1904-1905 he had taken extended leave to visit India, a most enjoyable experience.  He had seen little of the Madras Presidency but he had known several officials based there, such as Sir Murray Hammick, Colonel Love, and Julian Cotton: ‘All these are now dead; and I myself am now in my eighty-second year and very much of a back number’.

The third letter is from Bell dated 5 March 1945. He replied that he had known Hammick, Love and Cotton whilst in India.

Our next post will focus on Sir William’s companion on his trip to India - Henry John Tozer.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
William Foster, John Company (London, 1926)
Digitised entries for baptisms, marriages and burials from the India Office Records can be seen at the British Library and via findmypast -
Marriage of Robert Arthur Bell to Eveline Maud Richardson IOR/N/2/78 f.297
Baptism of Eveline Clara Bell IOR/N/2/75 f.68
Burial of Eveline Clara Bell IOR/N/2/76 f.164
Baptism of David Courtenay Bell IOR/N/2/77 f.312 


28 May 2020

The mysterious Captain Gladstone, RN - a bookbinding James Bond?

Beautifully tooled bookbindings signed with the initials C.E.G. appear on printed books dating from the early 20th century.  These are the initials of Charles Elsden Gladstone (1855-1919) of the Royal Navy. 

Extract from record of service for Charles Elsden Gladstone The National Archives ADM 196-19-266Extract from record of service for Charles Elsden Gladstone - image courtesy of  The National Archives, ADM 196/19/266 ©Crown Copyright

The National Archives chart his somewhat unusual career.  Like his later fictional counterpart James Bond, he attained the rank of commander.  Also like Bond, he used cutting edge tech.  There is even a suggestion of covert intelligence gathering activities!  Admiralty service papers refer to an early specialism in torpedos, submarine weaponry and skill in photography which aided research on the subject of armaments.  He saw action in 1873 when he was landed with the Naval Brigade in the Ashanti War, while serving on the corvette H.M.S. Druid.

Photograph of starboard side of H.M.S Druid, a corvette at sea with sails down, 1880Photograph of starboard side of H.M.S Druid, a corvette at sea with sails down, 1880 - image courtesy of Royal Collection Trust 

As for hobbies, Gladstone’s name is included in the annals of specialist societies relating to microscopy and optical magic lanterns, interests which suggest he had a keen eye and feeling for accuracy.  His family house was based in Thanet where he lived with his wife, a son, a governess and enough domestic help to make his situation comfortable.  Gladstone’s life, therefore, is quite well documented, but, annoyingly for the fans of bookbinding, not his connection to the craft!

Apparently Gladstone family lore confirms that Gladstone bound books but what does this mean?  Traditionally, binding was a two stage process, making the structure (called ‘forwarding’) and applying the decoration (‘finishing’).  Practitioners did not usually teach themselves.  Apprentices spent seven years training with an accredited bookbinder.  Did Gladstone master both techniques and who taught him?  I have found no evidence either way.

People outside the craft did learn to bind but were usually guided by professionals in some way.  A contemporary of Gladstone’s, Irish barrister Sir Edward Sullivan (1852-1928), ‘finished’ ready-bound books to a high standard.  Today, these bindings fetch high prices, as do Captain Gladstone’s though to a lesser extent.  Was this a pastime for Gladstone or the means of raising income?  The latter seems unlikely as his navy salary was good and his retirement pay (from 1904) was £400 a year.  In 1919, the Liverpool Probate Registry listed the gross value of his estate as £27030 2s 5d.

Gladstone’s well bound colourful goatskin book covers, displaying a range of finishing skills, are attractive additions to sales catalogues.  Antiquarian book sellers have included images on their websites, notably David Brass Rare Books, Temple Rare Books (see Temple Rare Books online Book of the Month January 2014), and Nudelman Rare Books.  The bindings usually (though not exclusively) include all-over designs comprising small flower and leaf motifs, have smooth spines and elaborately decorated turn-ins.  Here is the British Library’s example, Alfred de Musset's On ne badine pas avec l’amour.

Gladstone's binding of Alfred de Musset's 'On ne badine pas avec l’amour' with small flower and leaf motifs Alfred de Musset, On ne badine pas avec l’amour (Paris, 1904) British Library shelf mark C.188.114 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


 Tooling on the turn in of Gladstone's binding showing the initials C.E.G.

Tooling on the turn in showing the initials C.E.G.  - Alfred de Musset, On ne badine pas avec l’amour (Paris, 1904) British Library shelf mark C.188.114 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

For a naval officer Gladstone was a quite remarkable bookbinder!

P.J.M. Marks
Curator, Bookbindings

Further Reading:
The National Archives Admiralty records ADM 196/19/266; ADM 196/38/621; ADM 196/40/207
Dreadnought Project
Commander Charles Elsden Gladstone


26 May 2020

The 1911 Census and the Wellesley Training Ship

Carrying out some family history research, I came across Frank Gore’s entry in the 1911 census.  Frank was a 14-year-old boy from Birkenhead so what was he doing on Tyneside, and why was he described as an ‘inmate’?

Frank was on the Wellesley Training Ship, moored on the Tyne, which prepared young men from poor and troubled backgrounds for service in both the Royal and Merchant Navies.  On census night in 1911, the ship housed the Superintendent, the wonderfully named Lieutenant Percy de Winton Kitcat, and his family – wife Edith, sons John and Charles and daughter Delicia - as well as a visiting mother-in-law, and a female servant.  Staff consisted of a drill instructor, a master sailor, three seamanship instructors, a woodwork instructor, a carpenter, and a school master.  There were 280 boys on board, from across the North East, Yorkshire, Durham, Lancashire and Cheshire, and from as far away as Nottinghamshire, Glamorganshire and even Surrey.  The boys were given a practical education in seamanship and woodworking skills, and a basic general education.

Boys of the training ship Wellesley from the Illustrated London News 2 December 1876Boys of the training ship Wellesley from the Illustrated London News 2 December 1876 British Newspaper Archive

Frank’s family were scattered in 1911.  His father John Robert, a ship’s riveter, had died in 1904, and his two surviving brothers were at sea.  His sister Lillian was living with relatives and doing piece work wrapping soap.  I haven’t been able to trace his mother Ellen in 1911, so perhaps it is no surprise that he was being looked after in an institutional setting.

Frank’s life was very different from that of Percy de Winton Kitcat, who was born in 1872 in Swallowfield, Berkshire, the son of John Kitcat and Emma Margaret de Winton.  Percy and his brothers, but not their sisters, all received the de Winton name in addition to Kitcat, a tradition that followed on amongst Percy’s own children.  In the 1881 census Percy was boarding at a school run by Martha Hibbard at Bell Farm, Clewer, Windsor, along with twelve other boys aged from 8 to 12.  Two of the boys – Hugh Marendon and Keith Jackson both age 10 – were born in India, as was their teacher Emily Clarke.

Percy was apprenticed into the Merchant Navy in Feb 1890 and by 1895 he was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy.  At the time of the 1901 census, he was serving on HMS Resolution, a 1st class Battleship at Gibraltar.  By 1908, Kitcat was a Commander Instructor in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve based in Bristol.  He was appointed as Superintendent to the Wellesley Training Ship in July 1910.

Article in Newcastle Daily Journal 18 July 1910 on Kitcat's appointment to the Wellesley Training ShipArticle in Newcastle Daily Journal 18 July 1910 on Kitcat's appointment to the Wellesley Training Ship British Newspaper Archive

The Wellesley Training Ship was destroyed by fire in 1914.  The nautical school continued on land, first at Tynemouth and then at Blyth, Northumberland.  It became an approved school in 1933 and continued to provide a nautical education.  It officially closed as an educational institution in 2006.

Wellesley training ship on fire 1914Training Ship Wellesley on fire at North Shields 1914 - image courtesy of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums 

So did the Wellesley Training Ship prepare Frank Gore for a life at sea?  He did join the Merchant Navy, and was still at sea in the early 1920s. 

Frank Gore - Merchant Navy document with photographMerchant Navy card 1918 for Frank Gore from The National Archives BT350 via findmypast © Crown Copyright Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives, London England

Frank Gore went back to the Wirral, married, had children.  His entry in the 1939 Register shows him living in Birkenhead and working as a labourer in a margarine works.

Lesley Shapland
Cataloguer Modern Archives & Manuscripts

Further reading:
An Illustrated Guide to the Tyne Training Ship "Wellesley" (South Shields: Gazette Office, 1904) British Library 806.bb.33.
An Illustrated Guide to the Tyne Training Ship "Wellesley" (South Shields: Gazette Office, 1909) British Library X.529/14682.
Minute Books of the Wellesley Training Ship can be found at Northumberland Archives.
The National Archives BT 150/50 & ADM/196/137/84 via findmypast and Ancestry for Percy de Winton Kitcat’s naval apprenticeship papers and naval certificates.
Frank Gore's merchant seaman papers can be found at The National Archives BT 348/1, BT 350 via findmypast.
British Newspaper Archive – also available via findmypast.


14 May 2020

The most noted girls of the town: A newly discovered edition of Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies

Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies is a notorious publication that detailed the names and ‘specialities’ of prostitutes working in Covent Garden and the West End during the late 18th century.  When the first edition appeared in 1760, it was immediately derided as pretending 'to give some account of the most noted Girls of the Town; but it has all the air of a lying Catch-penny Jobb' (Monthly Review, June 1760).  A contributor to the London Magazine claimed that the sex workers were 'frightful, and smell strongly of paints, pills, bolus’s, and every venereal slop' (April 1760).  Yet despite, or perhaps because of, its scandalous content Harris’s List amassed a large enough readership to be published yearly until 1794.

Frontispiece and title page of Harris’s List of Covent Garden LadiesFrontispiece and title page of Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, London: printed for H. Ranger, 1773 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

It was doing so well that, by 1791, a rival Harris’s List had appeared.  An indignant but anonymous newspaper notice was printed, claiming the rival edition was 'a compilation of falsehood and imposition' and urging discerning readers to keep their eye out for the so-called authentic version of the directory.  No copies of this 1791 rival Harris’s List survive today.  In fact, the only extant edition of this rival publication was, until recently, thought to be the one from 1794 – suggesting that it ran for at least four years.

However, we have recently acquired a copy of the rival Harris’s List from 1793.  It was printed for John Sudbury in Southwark rather than the pseudonymous ‘H. Ranger’ who occupies the imprint in the official Lists.   John Sudbury was a bookseller and occasional publisher who was active between 1786 and 1795, dealing in cheap bawdy material.

Title page of Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, LondonTitle page of Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, London: printed for J. S. [John Sudbury], 1793 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Even though it has the same title, this edition describes different sex workers to those featured in the official Harris’s List for 1793.  However, the descriptions are similar in that the line between authenticity and titillation is somewhat blurred in both editions, probably containing only kernels of truth.  In the rival Harris’s List, Miss Patty S—n—rs, for example, is described as the daughter of a bricklayer’s labourer and was one of 'numerous offspring'.  She worked in 'Lissen-green, near Paddington'.  Miss Betty Fr-el, is said to have lost both her parents and, as her stepfather would not support her, joined a 'Strolling Company' and became an actress.  The 'principal hero got the better of her chastity' and, in the words of the List, she 'was soon initiated into the misteries of the Cyprian Deity'.  Another woman, Mrs Stam-er at No.7, Charles-court, Strand, is a widow and nearly forty years old. Having said that, however, she still had 'very fine teeth'. 

Pages from Harris’s List of Covent Garden LadiesPage 42 and 43 of Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies, London: printed for J. S. [John Sudbury], 1793 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies provides insight into the underworld of Georgian London and is invaluable for the studies of censorship, erotica and the treatment of women in the late 18th century.  Although the male gaze and its haze of titillation prevents us from getting anything other than a glimpse of these unfortunate women, this is far better than them being lost to history altogether.  While this new acquisition is important from a bibliographic perspective, adding to a precious and limited canon of this notorious publication, it is the stories of these women that are the most significant part of this discovery.

Maddy Smith
Curator, Printed Heritage Collections

Further Reading:
The majority of the British Library’s copies of Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies are part of the Private Case collection

The bibliographical history of Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies is explored here:
Freeman, Janet Ing. Jack Harris and ‘Honest Ranger’: The Publication and Prosecution of Harris’s List of Covent-Garden Ladies, 1760-95.

For more research on the women described in Harris’s Lists:
Rubenhold, Hallie. The Covent Garden ladies : pimp General Jack & the extraordinary story of Harris's List, 2005.
Rubenhold, Hallie. The Covent Garden Ladies: the Extraordinary Story of Harris’s List. Penguin, 2012.


12 May 2020

Lady with the Lamp at 200: Florence Nightingale’s Bicentenary

Florence Nightingale was an icon of the Victorian era and her name still inspires confidence today.  It was the name given to the seven temporary intensive care hospitals set up by the NHS in response to the Covid-19 epidemic in recognition for her work to the nursing profession.  It is interesting to note that the origins of pre-fabricated temporary hospitals come from the Crimean War, when Isambard Kingdom Brunel was directed to design a temporary hospital for use at Renkioi in the Dardanelles.  Despite arriving late in the war, the hospital proved a success with a lower death rate than the hospital in Scutari, Turkey.

Photograph of Florence Nightingale about 1860Photograph of Florence Nightingale c.1860 British Library Add. MS 47458, f.31 Images Online

Nightingale is best known for her nursing work during the Crimean War.  At the request of her friend Sidney Herbert, the Secretary of State for War, she led a party of 38 nurses to work at the hospital in Scutari.  This was an unprecedented decision by Herbert as women had never been officially allowed to serve in the army and Nightingale reported directly to the Secretary of State. Reports had reached Britain of a shortage of nurses, medicine and a lack of hygiene that meant that soldiers were not just dying from battle wounds but from poor conditions.

Hospital ward at Scutari One of the wards in the hospital at Scutari. Image from The Seat of War in the East - British Library 1780.c.6, XXXIV  Images Online

Scholars disagree over the impact of Nightingale’s work in Scutari but essentially she implemented basic hygiene and sanitation practices such as cleaning the wards and hand washing.  These practices alongside the additional nurses began to have a significant impact on the survival of soldiers.

First page of letter from Florence Nightingale to Sidney Herbert
Letter from Florence Nightingale to Sidney Herbert dated 19 February 1855, Add MS 43393 f.164

In this letter from 19 February 1855, Nightingale writes to Herbert to inform him of the falling death rate at the hospital in Scutari.  Nightingale was a talented statistician becoming the first woman to be admitted to the Royal Statistical Society in 1858 and a pioneer of data visualisation as seen in the diagram below, which shows the Causes of Mortality in the Army of the East.  The diagram corroborates the falling rate of deaths, mentioned in her letter, from preventable causes.  The number of deaths had climbed since the start of the war and reached a peak in January 1855.  Nightingale arrived in Scutari in November 1854 and once her efforts began to take affect within a couple of months the death rate began to fall.  The diagram will be on display in the Treasures Gallery once the British Library has reopened.

Diagram of the causes of mortalityFlorence Nightingale, 'Diagram of the Causes of Mortality in the Army of the East', Add MS 45816, f1 Images Online

Nightingale continued to advocate the importance of good sanitation and environmental conditions for patient health throughout her life.  A letter from 1860 describes how she believed that ‘open air’ and ‘ventilation’ could help a patient to recover.  Using these methods, Nightingale set out to professionalise the occupation of nursing for women and eventually set up a nursing training school at St Thomas’s Hospital in London.  She was keen to end the stereotype of the ‘fat drunken old dames’ previously employed as nurses, such as the character of Mrs Gamp used by Dickens in Martin Chuzzlewit.  Nightingale was prominent in promoting sanitation reform to the wider British Empire, especially in India. Documents about her work in India can be found in the British Library’s India Office Private Papers.

Page of letter from Florence Nightingale to Sidney Herbert


Page of letter from Florence Nightingale to Sidney Herbert

Letter from Florence Nightingale to Edwin Chadwick dated 8 September 1860, Add MS 45770

The two letters and diagram by Nightingale form part of her significant personal archive of correspondence, reports, accounts and administrative papers held as part of the Library’s modern archive and manuscript collections.  This collection guide created for her anniversary provides more detail on these collections.

Laura Walker
Lead Curator of Modern Archives and Manuscripts


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