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In the course of studying for an MA in Imperialism and Culture, I have been examining how enthusiastic working class Britons were about the Empire in the period 1870-1914.

Emma Jolly, in the article Naming for Empire

Emma Jolly writer, historian, genealogist
  1. My Great Great Grandfather and the Great Confectionery Swindle of 1911

    Criminal ancestors may have been a source of shame to our families in the past, but for today’s family historians their antics have created many useful and well-archived documents. Court records and newspaper crime reports are particularly rich seams of material for researchers. Searching online, I was delighted to discover my great great grandfather’s appearance in an Old Bailey court proceeding from 1911.

    Thankfully, my ancestor Henry Joseph Barnes (known to his family as “Nen”) wasn’t in the dock. Instead, he had a small part in the misappropriation of a large collection of sweets by 37 year old clerk, John Stone. At the time, Nen was working as a carman for Thomas Handyside Ltd of Holloway Road, manufacturing confectioners.

    From the census, taken two months before this trial took place, I know that in 1911 Nen was living in Boleyn Road, Islington and that his sister lived just north of there in Allen Road, Stoke Newington, where some of the following events took place.

    Old Bailey Proceedings, 27th June 1911. Reference Number: t19110627-43 The full account can be found online at the website, “Proceedings of the Old Bailey: London’s Central Criminal Court 1674-1913”

    STONE, John (37, clerk) , obtaining by false pretences from Thomas Andrews two hundredweight in weight of mixed caramels and other articles, the goods of Nathan Baras Walters, from William Mason, a quantity of confectionery, the goods of Simon Flatto, and from Henry Joseph Barnes five hundredweight in weight of confectionery, the goods of Thomas Handyside Limited, in each case with intent to defraud: attempting to obtain by false pretences from Frederick Charles Wimble a quantity of chocolate, the goods of F. L. Cailler; from Walter George Scott a quantity of chocolate, the goods of Jean Bear, and from Frederick Nettleton one ton of cocoa shell powder, the goods of Frederick Nettleton and others; (forging and uttering and publishing as true a certain writing purporting to be a business reference from Jacob Mehlburg, with intent to defraud).

    Mr. Walter Frampton and Mr. Roome prosecuted; Mr. E. H. Coumbe defended.

    Mr. Coumbe objected to the indictment as charging a number of separate misdemeanours followed by two counts charging forgery and uttering; the prosecution should be put to election as to which count they go upon.

    Judge Rentoul said that he had some doubt as to including the last two counts; evidence of similar acts of obtaining by false pretences could always be given even where not a part of the indictment; the first eight counts were unobjectionable.

    The last two counts were struck out.

    FREDERICK CHARLES WIMBLE , assistant manager to F. L. Cailler, 4, Upper Thames Street. On March 6, 1911, I received letter (produced) from “J. Stone, tobacconist and confectioner, 69, Allen Road, Stoke Newington”: “Dear Sir,—I have for some time dealt with Nestlé and Co.,” ordering a quantity of sweets and giving reference to Bond and Co., 110, Matthias Road, and Bloom Stores, Brick Lane. I wrote the letter (produced) of March 11, stating that on receipt of cheque the goods would be forwarded. On March 13 prisoner telephoned, saying that he was surprised at receiving a pro forma invoice, and asking if the references were satisfactory. I told him the references were satisfactory, but they were not in our trade, and as it was his first transaction we should prefer to have a cheque. He replied: “There is no difficulty about that. I will send you a cheque, but I must have the goods on Wednesday morning without fail.” That was on Monday at 11 a.m. After 4 p.m. I received letter (produced), post-marked “2.15 p.m.,” containing cheque for £10 1s. 6d. The following morning I had the cheque specially presented; it came back dishonoured. I wrote expressing surprise and stating that on receipt of the cash the goods would be forwarded. I heard nothing further from the prisoner.

    Cross-examined. My firm is a member of the Confectioners’ Alliance, whose solicitors appeared at the police-court. We did not prosecute, but I appeared as a witness.

    WALTER GEORGE SCOTT , chief clerk, chocolate department, Nestlé’s Anglo-Swiss Milk Company, owned by Jean Bear. On March 6, 1911, I received letter produced from prisoner ordering goods and referring to Bond and Co. and the Bloom Stores; I forwarded pro forma invoices of £7 1s. 9d.; prisoner sent cheque, which was returned marked “R/D.” I wrote expressing surprise and heard nothing further. I did not part with the goods.

    NATHAN BARAS WALTERS , 122, High Street, Poplar, manufacturing confectioner. On March 15 I received letter produced from prisoner ordering sweets to the value of £5 11s., which I sent with invoice, when the carman brought me cheque produced, which has been returned marked “R/D.” I informed prisoner, who wrote that it was owing to a cheque of £8 9s. 10d. paid into his account being dishonoured and stating he would write when we could present it again. I have not been paid.

    THOMAS ANDREWS , carman to N. B. Walters and Co. corroborated.

    HENRY HANDYSIDE , managing director of Thomas Handyside, Limited, 166 and 167, Holloway Road, manufacturing confectioners. On April 3 I received letter produced from prisoner ordering goods. I wrote with invoice stating the goods would be delivered for cash, on April 6 sent them by my carman and received cheque for £4 14s. 6d. produced, which has been returned marked “R/D.” I informed prisoner, applying for the money and received no answer.

    HENRY JOSH. BARNES , carman to Handyside, corroborated.

    SIMON FLATTO , trading as the Anglo-Russian Confectionery Company, received similar order, sent goods and received cheque for £5 2s. 4d., which was returned marked “R/D.”

    WILLIAM MASON , carman, corroborated.

    FREDERICK NETTLETON , of Nettleton and Morris, 8, Colonial Avenue, E.C., confectionery merchant. On April 19 my firm issued a circular recommending cocoa shell powder to confectionery manufacturers; it is an article only of use to manufacturers. On April 24 I received letter from prisoner asking for quotation, which we sent, and on May 2 received letter produced ordering one ton and giving references to Bond and Co. and to J. Mehlburg, of 193, Whitechapel Road (to whom we had sent a circular). I wrote to both references and received letter produced purporting to come from J. Mehlburg stating that prisoner was good for £20 credit.

    Mr. Coumbe objected to the evidence as embarrassing to the prisoner and as tending to bring in the charge of forgery.

    Judge Rentoul held that this evidence was admissible as evidence of false pretences.

    (Examination continued.) I believe the letter from Mehlburg to be genuine, but after making other inquiries wrote prisoner offering to send the goods on receipt of cash. On March 17 I received letter with cheque for £10 (produced), which was paid into my bank and returned marked “R/D.” I paid the cheque in again with the same result. I wrote prisoner asking for an explanation, but received no reply.

    Cross-examined. I do not know J. Mehlburg and have had no dealings with him; my circular was sent to him as his name appeared in a list of confectioners.

    JACOB MEHLBURG , 193, Whitechapel Road, confectioner. I have known prisoner seven or eight years; he was a clerk to a solicitor and used to collect money and write letters for me. About seven or eight months ago he opened at Allen Road and had £3 worth of goods from me for which he paid. On Saturday, March 11, he asked me to change a cheque for £10 for him. I said if he would call on Monday morning if I had the change I would do so. On the Monday he called, but I had not the money. He said could I get the bank to change it. I said no, he had better open a small banking account. I then introduced prisoner to the London Provincial Bank, Whitechapel Road, where he opened an account and received a cheque book. Prisoner used to call on me once or twice a fortnight. I do not know Nettleton and Morris, have never written to them or authorised anyone to do so. I did not write letter produced or ask anyone to write it for me. It is written on my notepaper.

    Cross-examined. I have been 11 months at 193, Whitechapel Road, and formerly carried on a confectioner’s business at 14, Vallance Road. My wife and family assist in the business when I am out. I am an Austrian and have been 12 years in England. I occasionally deal in job lines in confectionery; I have bought three lots from prisoner for which I produce receipts: April 8, £9; March 31, £6 12s.; March 21, £8 0s. 3d. I did not buy goods to value of £4 9s. 8d. from prisoner in May. I have had no dispute with the Confectioners’ Alliance. I had no occasion to buy through the prisoner from Nestlé or Cailler—I have bought direct from those firms. Cocoa shell powder is of no use to me, as I do not manufacture. I do not know what it is good for. I never told prisoner I would buy some from him. I take about £140 a week in my business. I deal wholesale, buying from manufacturers and supplying small shops. I do not owe prisoner any money for goods supplied. I do not know who wrote the letter to Nettleton produced. Prisoner may have written letters for me years ago. I always sign my letters myself.

    Re-examined. Prisoner has visited me at Vallance Road. Letter produced is written on Vallance Road notepaper and is signed, “J.

    Mehlburg.” I always sign “Jacob Mehlburg.” It is not my brother’s or my traveller’s writing.

    DAVID WETTMAN , Wettman and Co., 19, Osborn Street, E., wholesale confectioners. In May last I received an order from a Mr. J. Stone for 4 cwt. of sweets, coming to £4 19s. 6d. I have mislaid the order. They were to be delivered to his place, Allen Road, Stoke Newington. My carman took them and brought back a cheque for the amount of the bill. This is it, signed J. Stone, and dated May 12. I paid it into my account, and it was returned. I went to see the prisoner, and his wife told me to pay the cheque in again, the money was there. I paid it in again, and it was returned. Prisoner kept a little shop; I did not see any of my stock there. I have received nothing for the goods. Mr. Coumbe said he did not challenge any of the deliveries.

    JULIUS EARET , J. Karet and Co., 38, Bridge Street, Mile End, wholesale confectioners and manufacturers. We received this latter, dated March 21, from J. Stone, Allen Road, Stoke Newington: “I have been dealing with the British Confectionery Company, and on recommendation wish to give you a trial. Please forward 2 cwt. of French nougat, 1 cwt. of chocolate nougat, 1 cwt. of nougat cubes, 1 cwt. of Jap desserts. Please advise when you are delivering.” I told my clerk to book the order, and mark it “C.O.D.” I delivered the goods on March 23. They came to £4 6s. The carman brought the goods back as there was no cash to meet them. On March 24 I received this letter from Stone: “Dear Sirs,—I regret I was not in when goods arrived. Kindly deliver to-morrow, Saturday, and oblige.” I sent them, and the carman brought back a cheque on the London and Provincial Bank, Whitechapel, for £4 6s., signed “J. Stone.” I paid it into my account, and it was dishonoured. I went to the prisoner’s place and saw a woman I believe to be Mrs. Stone; she insulted me. I have never had my money nor the goods back. It was a very little shop there.

    RICHARD WILLIAM HUMPHREY , clerk to London and Provincial Bank, Whitechapel Road. We have a customer named Jacob Mehlberg. On March 13 last he brought Stone to the bank. Prisoner opened an account with a cheque for £10 13s. 9d., and signed the signature book. These cheques (Exhibits 1, 5 to 13) are all signed by Stone. The cheque prisoner opened the account with was returned dishonoured; it has not been paid. The cheque was never paid in again. Our cheque-book was not returned; we applied for it.

    WALTER FREDERICK SISMAN , clerk to London and Provincial Bank, Limited, 167, Whitechapel Road. I produce a certificated copy of the account of J. Stone, Allen Road, Stoke Newington. It was opened on March 13 by a payment in of a cheque for £10 13s. 9d., and a cheque-book containing 24 cheques was handed out on that day to Stone. The account is debited with 2s. for it. The cheque for £10 13s. 9d. was returned dishonoured on March 17. On that date a cash payment was made of £2. A cheque was drawn against that on the 20th for £1 10s. The next payment into that account was on March 20 by a cheque for £8 19s. 10d. It was returned dishonoured on the 24th. It was paid in again on the 24th, and returned again dishonoured on the 28th. That was the last payment in. The only effective payment in was £2. At the last there was 6d. to the credit. On March 14 there was a cheque in favour of Cailler’s British Agency, resented for payment for £16 1s. 8d., which was dishonoured. On the 15th one in favour of Nestlé’s for £7 1s. 9d. There were sixteen other cheques presented for payment in favour of different people, all of which were dishonoured because of no funds to meet them. There was an effective payment into the bank to the credit of the account of £2, against “which cheques for £96 13s. 7d. were drawn. On April 3 a letter was written to Stone, asking him to close his account and return the unused cheques. They were not returned, so far as I know. The cheque-book contained 24 cheques; 19 were drawn.

    Cross-examined. We should not hear whether any of these cheques had been taken up by him.

    Detective-sergeant ERNEST BROCK , M Division. I arrested prisoner on a warrant at 69, Allen Road, Stoke Newington, on May 23. I read it to him. He made no reply. He was charged and made no reply. I searched the premises. There was no telephone there. The telephone number on the billheads, “1212 Dalston,” is at a public-house next door.

    (Defence.)

    JOHN STONE (prisoner, on oath). I am 37 years old, and have been a solicitor’s clerk practically all my life. Of late I have been managing clerk to Mr. G. Edgar Mew, practising in the East End. I first went to him in 1907, and left in September, 1910; his practice was not particularly successful, and he gave up. I then went to Mr. Richards, 1, Great James Street, Bedford Row, and was there for about six months. While with Mr. Mew I became acquainted with a Mr. Winfield. He wanted to sell a shop, and I bought it for £10. My wife looked after it. I was occupied in legal business right up to the time of my arrest. The confectionery business took from £7 to £10 a week gross at first, and then it fell off to about 30s. a week. At first I always paid spot cash for goods supplied for the business up to March this year. About the beginning of last March I was not in regular employment. I had known Mehlberg for years through doing legal business for him. He knew I had taken this shop. I told him I wanted to get further stock cheap, as the takings had gone down, and he said he could give me the names and addresses of firms where I could get cheap goods and credit, and give his name as a reference. I went with him to the bank and opened an account. Early in March I had a good deal of money owing to me from Mr. Nunn and Wilson’s Electric Empires, Limited. Mr. Nunn is managing director of Wilson’s Electric Empires. I have done a lot of work for him and for the company as secretary and confidential clerk. My belief in March was that I was going to be paid, and I should then have money. Cailler’s and Nestlé’s names were given to me by Mehlberg. He said to me, “If you pay cash terms you get a good percentage, 10 or 12 1/2 per cent., and I can afford to give you a very small profit, and then can resell again and get my profit over you. If you give these first orders you can get a month’s credit, and then you will get a certain amount of discount.” This was in the middle of March. In consequence I wrote the letters to Cailler’s and Nestlé’s. The cheques to them were sent on the day I opened the account. I fully anticipated the cheque for £10 13s. 9d. being met. As to the £23, if I had received these goods I would then have arranged with Mehlberg to buy them at a profit, and I should have immediately paid that money into the bank. Even if my cheques had gone back I could have gone to the payees’ banks on the following morning and have picked them up. I say that Mehlberg’s denial of any such contract is a deliberate untruth. What I wrote to Cailler’s is perfectly true, that I had for some time dealt with Nestlé’s. I had not dealt direct with the firm, but with their goods. As regards Walters, Handysides and Flatto, when I knew the £10 13s. 9d. cheque had been dishonoured I saw Mr. Nunn, and he said, “You must hold that cheque over.” I fully believed the cheque for £8 19s. 10d. would have been met. At that time I was expecting daily to receive £45, and acting on that belief I ordered these goods. As regards the other goods during March and April, Mehlberg had arranged to pay me, bat he did not do so promptly. I received some money from him, and paid current accounts. The cheques drawn to the Stoke Newington Borough Council and Metropolitan Water Board I tore up and paid cash instead, out of the moneys I received. If I had received sufficient cash from my debtors I should have picked up all these cheques and should have had a balance in hand as well. That was absolutely my intention from the beginning. The three firms dealt with in May were all well known to Mehlberg. He said to me, “You will get the goods from those people, I will buy them from you and you can pay them in to meet your cheques,” which I was going to do. I let him have the goods I received from the Maple Confectionery Company. He owes me the money for them to this day.

    (Saturday, July 1.)

    JOHN STONE (prisoner) recalled. On May 15 by a friendly arrangement a receiver on behalf of a debenture holder was appointed of Wilson Electric Empires, Limited. My claim was sent in then for £47 19s. 10d., of which £38 was a preferential claim for arrears of salary and admitted. Mr. Wilson is at Bath at present. The reference sent to Messrs. Nettleton and Morris came from Mr. Mehlberg. He requested me to write to them and order a ton of cocoa shell at the price quoted in a circular he gave me and he would give me a sovereign profit, the arrangement being that if I got that they would then give me credit and I could get five tons and he would be able to sell it. The letter from Mehlberg’s looks like his brother’s writing. I do not think he can write Englsh. I have written many letters for him and signed his name to them. Other people have done so as well. I wish to make an offer to assign to a trustee, on behalf of the prosecutors’ debts owing to me amounting roughly to about £72. I say the total of the goods I have had delivered to me is about £33 or £34. The thought never entered my mind of defrauding any one of these persons of their goods or their money.

    Cross-examined. I have been a solicitor’s clerk for 23 years and according to my circular the proprietor of a legal agency, but there was very little in it. I know from my legal experience that Criminal Courts will not listen to such a suggestion as I made as to paying these people, but it was a suggestion of mine. The evidence they have given (excepting Mehlberg) I agree is true as to my ordering the goods, but I do not say it is true they wanted cash for them. I left my cheque book at home signed, and if they asked for payment when delivering the goods they were to be asked if they would accept a cheque. I anticipated the delivery of the goods on the usual terms, one month. I say I had a perfect right to draw on the bank. Whether I had or not, unless there was money there to meet the cheques, is a matter of opinion. Many people draw cheques in anticipation of getting money in time to meet them: that is finance. This is a question of finance: I anticipated money. I did not wish the people to believe that money was at the bank at the time nor that I did not have a farthing there; I always had something. I never had more than £2 in the account. With the exception of that £2, against which 30s. was drawn a few days afterwards, and 2s. charged for a cheque book and two dishonoured cheques I received from Wilson and Nunn, I have unfortunately not paid a farthing into my account. When you asked whether when I applied to Messrs. Cailler and Nestlé for goods I mentioned that I was dealing with a rival house you are putting it very broadly. I said to Cailler’s that I was dealing with Nestlé’s and to Nestlés that I was dealing with Cailler’s. Mr. Nunn used to call himself Wilson. I have known him for seven or eight years. He is an undischarged bankrupt. He obtained credit far over £20 without disclosing the fact, was prosecuted and acquitted. He brought an action for malicious prosecution, which he lost. He has not paid any of the costs. I was a witness and managing clerk to his solicitor. I knew his position early this year. I acted for him in a matter of rates. That is the gentleman whose cheque I was accepting to open an account at my bank on March 17. I certainly thought it was going to be met. It was not a shock to me when I found it dishonoured; I have had a good many dishonoured. Although it was that day I drew cheques for £16 to Cailler’s and £7 to Nestlé’s I had every wish to meet them.

    Re-examined. Mr. Nunn has an action against the Bioscope Company still proceeding for breaches of agreement in which he claims £1,200. I know they made him an offer of £100 and costs, which he refused and then he brought the action for malicious prosecution.

    Mr. Frampton. That action has been discontinued.

    Mr. Coumbe. We do not know that. (Evidence continued.) Wilson has paid hundreds of pounds to big firms in the picture business, but his expenses were very heavy.

    Verdict, Guilty.

    Sentence, 12 months’ hard labour.

    BEFORE MR. JUSTICE DARLING.

    (Saturday, July 1.)

  2. Family History for Kids

    This month marks seven years since the publication of my first book, Family History for Kids. I wrote the book with my own children in mind. Since 2007, my children (now in primary key stage 2) have enjoyed interviewing their grandparents, visiting old streets and homes of their forebears, and placing school history lessons in the context of their ancestors’ lives.  Family_History_For_Kids_SI have enjoyed sharing my passion for family history with them, and am proud of their deepening understanding of the past. One of the joys of family history is that there is always something new (or old!) to explore. None of us will ever know everything about our genealogies.

    This month, I’m pleased to welcome another guest blogger: Suzie Kolber. In the post below, Suzie writes about a project she has set up to help children explore their families’ pasts. It’s never too early to begin. With the help of older families, websites and books, hopefully today’s children can grow up strong in the knowledge of their ancestors.

    Helping Kids Learn Their Family History

    I have created a fun project for families is to study family history. It is a project that parents can do with their kids, no matter how young they are. It makes an interesting learning experience and can even turn into a gift for a grandparent or other relative.

    Be Visual

    The first thing to do is to decide how you will organize the information you collect. Since most kids are visually focused, a family tree template can be helpful. This is a great way to organize names and dates for easy access and to keep things from getting confusing.

    Choose a template that works for the age of the children you are working with. Young kids need a basic template that only contains basic information such as names. It can even be a good idea to select one that provides room for pictures. If you don’t have photos, you can have the kids draw pictures. This is an especially fun idea if the family tree will be given as a gift.

    Choose a Starting Point

    For the very young, you may want to stick with an actual tree as your template. Choose a three-generation wide or tall tree to keep things simple. You can decide if you want the child to be the beginning point and include his or her parents and grandparents or if you want to begin with a different generation. For the littlest kids, it is best to start with them to help them understand about genealogy. For kids that are slightly older, it is easy enough to begin with yourself or your parents.

    As kids get older, they are able to do more research and can go back farther into their history. In this case, you may want to make the oldest generation the starting point. Write down a grandparent’s or great-grandparent’s name at the bottom of the tree. Have the child talk to the living relative and ask the person about their parents and grandparents. Write that information in on the family tree template.

    For kids just getting started in genealogy, a three-generation family tree template is the ideal choice. It is easy enough to find that information without being too overwhelming. You can decide ahead of time how much information you will try to collect on each person before moving on.

    Advanced Researchers

    As your kids get older or learn more about researching family history, you can move onto more complex family trees. For instance, a four or five-generation family tree may be a good choice. You may also want to continue with the three-generation template but branch out in a different area.

    No matter which family tree template you choose, make sure it is visually pleasing for the kids to work with and easy to understand. Some kids will gravitate towards templates that look like actual trees while others may prefer a different format. The right template will make studying family history more fun and easier to understand for even the very young.

    Suzie_Kolber_Obits

    Suzie Kolber created Obituaries Help Free Printable Blank Family Trees to be the complete online resource for “do it yourself” genealogy projects.  The site holds the largest offering of family tree templates online. The site is a not for profit website dedicated to offering free resources for those that are trying to trace their family history.

  3. Thames Discovery Programme: The Man who saved London from Drowning

    Thanks to the Thames Discovery Programme, the community archaeology project run by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology), for sending news of an interesting new plaque in Victoria Tower Gardens.

    S Copyright Institution of Civil Engineers

    On 29 October 2014, Sir Thomas Peirson Frank (1881-1951), an engineer who saved London from drowning no fewer than 121 times, was commemorated in a ceremony held at Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament, along the riverwall. The plaque is supported by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), and was unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Audrey Lewis.

    The location is significant as on the other side of the wall are the scars of the Blitz and evidence of the laudable efforts of Peirson Frank’s team during the Second World War.

    Sir (Thomas) Peirson Frank, co-ordinated repairs to roads and public services for London County Council between 1939 and 1945. He established a secret rapid-response unit to deal with the destruction of London’s flood defences from the Luftwaffe’s intensive bombing raids. Recent fieldwork and research of unpublished reports, by archaeologists from the Thames Discovery Programme (TDP), have revealed the extent of the unit’s heroic efforts.

    unnamedPeirson Frank, a respected civil engineer who later became President of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), knew well the catastrophic consequences that a flood defence breach could have, potentially submerging low-lying areas of the capital, including the London Underground, where so many Londoners sought refuge during the Blitz.

    ICE President Geoff French said: “While historic engineering greats like Brunel are frequently revered and well established in the engineering ‘hall of fame’, others like Sir Thomas Peirson Frank have remained unsung heroes. It was down to the ingenuity of this engineer that parts of our capital, including the main infrastructure network that supported it, survived the Blitz without being submerged. Needless to say the consequences could have been devastating. It is a truly fascinating story, and I am delighted that Sir Thomas’ feat has finally been discovered and acknowledged.”

    As the prospect of war loomed, Peirson Frank set about making preparations: identifying the most vulnerable sites, introducing secondary flood defences, and setting up depots staffed by rapid-response teams, called the Thames Flood Prevention Emergency Repairs unit. Their endeavours were conducted in secret, so as not to alarm the public or alert the Luftwaffe to this soft target.

    Research, supported by University College London, has explored unpublished records in the London Metropolitan Archives and revealed Peirson Frank’s detailed plans. Recent TDP fieldwork, to record the Thames riverwall, has exposed the devastation and extensive repair work covertly undertaken to protect the capital.

    Gustav Milne, Thames Discovery Programme Director, said: “Last winter illustrated the danger posed by floods. It emphasises the Herculean efforts of Sir Thomas Peirson Frank’s highly successful rapid-response team, at the height of the bombing. It’s a real credit to the Thames Discovery Programme’s community team that they were able to unravel this forgotten story, since all news of their efforts was deliberately supressed at the time.”

    Martin Frank, Grandson of Sir Thomas Peirson Frank, said: “The demands at the time for secrecy meant that this work was never widely recognised and so it is fitting, even after all these years, that we will have this plaque to remind future generations how close we came to catastrophe and how much we owe to Sir Peirson and his team.”

    You can find out more about the Thames Discovery Programme on the website www.thamesdiscovery.org, on Twitter @ThamesDiscovery, on Facebook Thames Discovery Programme.

    Image © by kind permission of London Metropolitan Archives, London

     

  4. Gender & the Great War – The myth of the ‘superfluous woman’

    Thank you to writer and researcher, Suzie Grogan, for contributing this guest post on the myth of the ‘superflous woman’ which followed the Great War of 1914-18. Suzie’s latest book, Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s legacy for Britain’s mental health, which is published by Pen & Sword History in October 2014, considers the concept in more detail.

    Wedding injuredmancard

    Historians have written widely on the roles of women during and after the First World War. From their vital war work to their role as mother of the Empire there has been much discussion around the true nature of the change to the society that emerged after the Armistice was signed in 1918. Pre-war views of women as wife and home maker had to change, but by how much, and how widely, offers room for debate. Previous assumptions about the liberating effects of the war, the wages available to women for the first time and the jobs they could secure have been challenged and misogyny in the establishment and the press of the time exposed. My research for Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s legacy for Britain’s mental health helped me understand that despite the changes wrought by war, there was much work still to be done.

    However, one myth that simply won’t be laid to rest is that of the ‘superfluous woman’ – an army of spinsters left on the shelf following the deaths of more than 700,000 of the nation’s finest in the four years of fighting. I am still asked to comment on the subject at talks, and certainly some people who lived through that period perceived this to be a real issue. The press referred to ‘millions’ for whom marriage had become an impossibility. Surely there were not enough men to go round?

    Virginia Nicholson in her marvellous book Singled Out focusses on the two million unmarried British women across all ages and classes as indicated by the 1921 Census. Her figures were rounded up from a number closer to 1.75 million and although the largest gap is in the 25-35 year old age group, where 1.1 million are unmarried as opposed to 919,000 men, it is clear that the figure of 2 million single, desperate women is way off the mark. Women have always outnumbered men in census records. In the 1870s there were 1,054 women to 1,000 men; in 1911 the figure had risen to 1,068 to every 1,000. So for it to have reached 1,095 to 1,000 by 1921, it is clear the war simply amplified a continuing trend. Further analysis indicates that it was women born between 1894 and 1902 of the middle and upper classes who had their chances of marriage to the ‘right sort’ reduced. This is the generation of young, public school educated men who took junior officer posts and were in relative terms much more likely to be killed or seriously wounded than the men who served under them.

    I was lucky enough to attend a lecture by Professor Jay Winter, author of Sites of Memory Sites of Mourning, a key text in the debate about the emotional impact of the war. He maintains that the war made marriage more popular than ever. In 1919 and 1920 the marriage rate was 30% higher than the pre-war figure and re-marriage was up by 50%. But those marrying were more likely to be working class, often driven by economic necessity. For the middle and upper class girl or woman post war, things were more complex. Agony columns in the press saw letters from melancholy women who could not attract one of the ‘few men’ available. ‘Competition is keen and my chances do not seem very bright’. Dr Murray Leslie, the Daily Mail reported, berated the ‘jazzing flappers’ who tempted away young men with their provocative ways and revealing outfits. Like others, often supporters of the Eugenics movement, he was concerned that only women of the ‘lower orders’ were left to repopulate the Empire.

    However, the post-war period and a seemingly restricted marriage market supported the ambitions of many women who sought fulfilment outside home and family. Unlike Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway, they did not want to be ‘always giving parties to cover the silence’ or be one of the women criticised in the press for living on tea and aspirin and complaining about their nerves. For some, their war work did open doors into the professions, but these were still largely closed off to women and some careers, such as teaching and nursing, were only available to unmarried women in any event.

    In Shell Shocked Britain I examine this issue in relation to the emotional impact of the war, and of post-war attitudes that made dealing with mental health issues challenging for all classes and both genders. Like the shell shocked soldier, women had to face life in a changed society. They were not, in numerical terms anyway, ‘superfluous’ but like some war veterans, many did wonder whether they had a useful place in the Britain of the 1920s and 1930s.

    Suzie Suzie Grogan is a London-born professional writer and researcher in the fields of social and family history and mental health. Suzie’s first book Dandelions and Bad Hair Days: Untangling Lives Affected by Depression and Anxiety was published in 2012 and she also writes for a wide variety of national magazines. Suzie also runs a popular blog, ‘No wriggling out of writing’, and presents a local radio show on literature, called ‘Talking Books’.

  5. The Best Websites for British India Research

    I have been on the British Library‘s list of approved researchers for the Asian and African Studies Reading Room, for some years. In 2012, my introductory guide to the British in India for family historians, Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors, was published by Pen and Sword. Since then there have been some major developments in this area of research. One of the most notable is the digitization of large sections of the India Office Records collection by Find My Past.

    Fort William, Calcutta 1735

    Fort William, Calcutta 1735

    Descendants of Europeans and Anglo-Indians who lived in the sub-continent under British rule are now spread widely across the globe. Happily, there are several free and good value online resources that researchers can use to investigate British, European and Anglo-Indian family history in India, Burma, Pakistan or Bangladesh before, and just after, Indian Independence in 1947.

    As some ancestors who lived in the subcontinent also travelled more widely in the British Empire and beyond, a number of related resources from outside the boundaries of India may also be useful.

    Here follows a list of my favourite websites for researching the British in India online. Some of them will lead you to further research in archives, especially at the British Library or The National Archives. If you cannot access archives in the London area, please contact me to obtain copies of documents.

    India Office Family History Search http://indiafamily.bl.uk/UI/

    Discovery (from The National Archives; includes material from The British Library that was formerly indexed on Access to Archives www.a2a.org.uk) http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

    Families in British India Society (FIBIS; essential database and Wiki resources) http://www.fibis.org/

    Family Search https://familysearch.org/

    British Association for Cemeteries in South India (BACSA) http://indian-cemeteries.org/bacsa/html/cemetery_records.html

    Index to HEIC [Honourable East India Company] Cadets
    http://www.ans.com.au/~rampais/genelogy/india/indexes/cadfram.htm

    Index to Original Papers, Letters, Photographs, and Manuscripts at the British Library
    http://searcharchives.bl.uk/primo_library/libweb/action/search.do?dscnt=1&dstmp=1410528032513&vid=IAMS_VU2&fromLogin=true&fromLogin=true

    Historical maps of India  http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~poyntz/India/maps.html

    Untold Lives http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/untoldlives/

    Kabristan Archives (Ireland, Ceylon & India Genealogy) http://kabristan.org.uk/

    For ancestors in Burma, see http://www.angloburmeselibrary.com/index.html

    European genealogies for those who lived in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) can be found at the Dutch Burgher Reunion website: http://www.dutchburgherunion.org/genealogy.html

    A useful blog on India and Anglo-Indian family history is at http://geneblanchette.wordpress.com/

    The Colonial Film Catalogue holds many films of Empire families and of events that took place in British India http://www.colonialfilm.org.uk/

    Other colonial records, include Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), can be found in the Records of Former Colonial Administrations from The National Archives (TNA).

    Gibraltar Archives http://www.gibraltar.gov.gi/gibraltar-archives

    Malta Family History http://website.lineone.net/~stephaniebidmead/other%20sites.htm

    Ionian Islands Index http://website.lineone.net/~remosliema/Ionian1.htm

    East Africa records from TNA ref. RG36 www.thegenealogist.co.uk

    Mauritius – Association Maurice Archives http://www.amamu.org/

    East India Company at Home 1757-1857 http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/eicah/

    NewspapersSG has a digital archives of historic newspapers from Singapore and Malaya published between 1831-2009. This resource can be searched at http://newspapers.nl.sg/

    Sarah Speedy, Mrs Livingstone, I Presume? Memoirs of Mrs S.M. Speedy, wife of Major James Speedy 1815-1859 (Allan Speedy, 1996) – see www,speedy.co.nz/recollections/

    Emma Jolly, ‘Open Access Microfilms in the Asia, Pacific & Africa Collections of the British
    Library in the September 2008 edition of The Genealogists’ Magazine – www.sog.org.uk

    I regularly post news on this area of research to the Tracing Your British Indian Ancestors Facebook page. Please ‘like’ the page to receive regular updates.

    And do read the blogpost on my client Evelyn Nelson’s experiences in India, searching for the church registers of St Stephen’s, Ootacamund (Ooty).

  6. Writers’ Blog Tour

    Last month I received an email from fellow Pen and Sword author, Sue Wilkes, inviting me to participate in a writers’ blog tour. The aim of the tour is to showcase the work of bloggers from across the world. So far, the tour has introduced excellent writers and historians, such as Gill Mawson, Angela Buckley, Michelle Higgs and, of course, Sue.

    Sue also invited Jane Odiwe to take part. Jane’s work is inspired by the novels of Jane Austen and her website is http://www.austeneffusions.com

    As this week’s host of the tour, it is my turn to answer the four questions about my work and writing.

    Taken by Di Bouglas

    What am I working on?

    I have recently completed an MA in History: Imperialism and Culture. For my final dissertation I explored cultural imperialism in Britain through the international friendship work of Mary Trevelyan and Student Movement House, 1932-1946. This has encouraged me to work more on women’s history. Inspired by the lives of my female ancestors in the Black Country, I am researching the history of women’s work and shall be blogging on that soon. Outside of research and writing, I am promoting my latest family history research guide, My Ancestor was a Woman at War (SOG, 2013) and have a number of related events lined up over the summer.

    Woman at War cover

    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

    Family history is a fascinating genre and approaches the past at a different angle from traditional historical research. My books so far have been introductions to different topics within the subject of family history. Although they are comprehensive and include thorough lists of resources, I also aim to make them easy to read and full of interesting social history.

    Why do ‘I write what I do?

    I am passionate about history and encouraging as many people as possible to learn about their family’s pasts. If just one person is encouraged to begin family history research as a result of one of my articles or books, I’ll be very pleased.

    How does my writing process work?

    I write at home in London, on a tiny desk in the corner of a room. I research in archives, online and using books from my ever-increasing collection. Research and planning are key. All my articles and books are tightly planned around sectioned word counts before I begin to write. Ideally, I would write with a fountain pen on paper at a vast desk overlooking a lush valley, but most deadlines usually demand that I type at the computer keyboard. Eye strain is an unfortunate hazard of the job!

    Finally, I am delighted to be able to introduce two exciting new writers from opposite sides of the world:

    Debra Watkins is the author of Symphony of War (Amazon eBook) and is also a complete family history buff. She divides her time between writing novels, and researching her family’s local and social history. Born in Beccles, England she has a deep emotional connection to the town, even though she lives permanently in Australia, and most of her work has a distinct Becclesian flavour. Debra blogs at http://debrawatkinswriter.com. Also http://pocketfulloffamilymemories.blogspot.com and http://relicsofbeccleshistory.blogspot.com

    Liz Loveland, an American living in Massachusetts, is a writer and researcher who sometimes wishes she could be paid to read old newspapers all day and didn’t know her family’s local roots when she relocated. She writes about family history and social history for magazines as a freelancer and is working on a non-fiction book. She blogs at My Adventures in Genealogy and is putting her ancestor’s diary of Victorian Paris online at Addie’s Sojourn.

  7. St Stephen’s Church, Ootacamund

    Recently, I received a fascinating email from a client, Evelyn Nelson, who had followed up on my research by visiting her family’’s former hometowns of Chennai/Madras and Udhagamandalam/Ootacamund.

    Her first stop was Chennai, where she found the family vault of her ancestor, Richard St Leger Mitchell. She also visited churches of event for more recent members of the family, and the location of the school where Richard was master, in the former ‘Black Town’ area of the city. In 1906, this area was formally re-named ‘George Town’.

    To find out more about her mother’s family, Evelyn and five of her cousins then headed for Udhagamandalam, or Ootacamund. This hill station in the Nilgiri Hills, known as Snooty Ooty in the days of the British Raj, was a popular escape from the heat of Madras below. Evelyn visited St Stephen’s Church, where her mother’s was first married. I had been unable to find any records for Evelyn’s family relating to this church in the India Office Records or on Family Search. Evelyn thus took the opportunity of meeting the priest to ask if any records were held at the church itself. Amazingly, the priest replied by inviting Evelyn to visit his house the following day.

    When Evelyn arrived at the priest’s house, she was shown the church register on a shelf in his study. The priest kindly allowed Evelyn to consult the register, in which she was delighted to find not only the marriage record but all the baptism records of her mother’s siblings.

    I am often asked by clients where they should search if they cannot find a record in the British Library or The National Archives, or online at sites such as the FIBIS database, Family Search, Find My Past, Ancestry, or India Office Family History Search. The answer I have to give is, “Contact the church in India.” This is not always possible for some, and not everyone is in a position to visit. However, Evelyn’s experience shows what successes can be made and that with family history, you should never give up!

    evelynnelson.jpg

    As a postscript to this, the memorials inside St Stephen’s Church have been transcribed by Kae Lewis and can be found on the website: http://www.kaelewis.com/database/ooty/searchpage.htm

  8. Review: Tracing Your Black Country Ancestors by Michael Pearson

    The Black Country, black by day and red by night, cannot be matched for vast and varied production, by any other space of equal radius on the surface of the globe.” Elihu Burritt, American Consul in Birmingham 1868

    As roughly half my family is from the Black Country, I was very pleased to receive a copy of Tracing Your Black Country Ancestors by Michael Pearson. The latest in Pen and Sword’s Tracing Your . . . series, this book fills a gap in family history bibliography. The Black Country is a relatively small area, but its unique heritage, culture and dialect warrant further attention from historians. The region is geographical rather than administrative, which can prove nightmarish for the family historian with BC ancestors. We have to move around between four archives, three counties and four metropolitan boroughs, encompassing Wednesbury, Darlaston, Wednesfield, Bilston, Coseley, Tipton, Dudley, Brierley Hill, Halesowen. West Bromwich, Olbury and Smethwick. It must be noted, though, that the Black Country never includes Birmingham. Furthermore, the BC is within, but does not fully cover, the counties of Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. Confused? Thankfully, this new book benefits from a clear layout, with its chapter on archives and resources, and a detailed appendix on local government providing a comprehensive overview for researchers.

    Although Black Country people know where they’re from, as Pearson notes, there are no “officially defined borders” of the region, with its four archives lying in the boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The origins of its name lie in the rich black coal seam of its lands. The book dedicates a full chapter to mining, including a useful list of mines in the region, clearly tabulated. In fact, the use of tables and charts throughout is one of the reasons for the book’s clarity. Other helpful details in this chapter are the definitions of jobs such as hewer, butty and bellman, and the dates of local mining accidents.

    edward-billingham-1930s

    My great grandfather, Edward Billingham (1874-1950), worked as a miner and lived in Coseley.

    The Black Country is renowned for its contribution to the Industrial Revolution. Pearson observes that “the wealth generated by industry meant people did not leave the region to work elsewhere”. My family lived in the area for centuries. Like many of them, most Black Country inhabitants worked in industrial jobs. My ancestors worked as miners, steel workers, iron puddlers, nail makers, hand loom weavers and brick makers. All of these areas are covered in detail, with the chapters on iron and steel, and industrial diversity. The latter is particularly useful, with details like the 21 out of 43 brickworks in the region being in Sedgley/Kingswinford. As my brick-making ancestors were women, I’m pleased that Pearson recognizes women’s contribution to the industrial revolution and to the growth and culture of the Black Country. He reveals, for example, that in 1883, 16,000 of the 20,000 area’s nail makers were women.

    1-noah-hingley-at-earl-st-wallbrook-home

    My great great grandfather, Noah Hingley (1848-1926), lived in Coseley and worked as an iron puddler.

    Other chapters examine transport, BC off-duty (an assessment of leisure, shops and so on), religion (non-conformism was very popular in the region) and Black Country life. This last chapter covers the remarkable local dialect. I have a particular interest in this as my great uncle Harry Harrison wrote fluently in the dialect, and kept the words and humour alive in regular talks and performances. He was one of the founders of the Black Country Nite Out Show. I can remember as a child finding one of his poetry books on my grandparents’ shelves. I couldn’t understand a word! Thankfully, Pearson provides a guide to some of the most commonly heard words and expressions. Some of them, like “yo’m” (“you’re”), recall the way my grandfather used to speak. To try and get an ear for the dialect, say aloud this line from my great uncle, still proudly displayed on the website of a Droitwich butcher, “Dunn’s mate is really great!”

    As a retired West Midlands Police Inspector, Michael Pearson is unsurprisingly strong in the Crime & Punishment chapter. Despite his non-genealogy background, Pearson’s extensive knowledge of the area is evident. He demonstrates personal insight and local knowledge throughout, from local foods like faggots and “greay pays” (maple peas simmered with bacon and served with bread) to the BC sense of identity (“those born and bred here . . .still see themselves as coming from their village”).

    The book is also well-illustrated, not least by the many images of the Black Country Living Museum, near Dudley, a must-visit for those with ancestors from the region. This open air museum, which opened thirty-four years ago, is spread over a twenty-six acre site with over sixty separate exhibits, such as a chainmaker’s forge and a school. All the historic buildings in the ‘living’ village have been moved brick by brick to be rebuilt exactly as they once stood.

    Racecourse Colliery at the Black Country Living Museum

    racecourse-colliery-at-the-black-country-living-museum

    Summary: this is a book that cannot fail to aid those researching ancestors from the Black Country.

  9. Historic Newspapers

    Anyone who has spent hours poring over fragile, yellowing sheets in local archives or at Colindale knows how engrossing old newspapers can be. The popularity of the British Newspaper Archive, which recently celebrated its first year online, proves how keen many of us are to explore the past through the contemporary press. For family historians, enjoyment comes not just from seeing our ancestors’ names in print or learning about the worlds they inhabited, but in reading the very words they read. Depending on the nature of the publication, this can give us insight into popular opinion or into the mind of the establishment.

    Much as I enjoy using online newspaper databases, which I do at least once a week, I was delighted to receive a couple of old newspapers from Historic Newspapers at http://www.historic-newspapers.co.uk/

    The pleasures of holding a full-size paper, feeling the thickness of the pages, and being able to judge just how tightly my ancestors had to squint to read the fine details of Mr. William Shadforth’s “Special” Heart and Nerve Tonic are rare, and something I miss in the digital experience.

    Although companies like Historic Newspapers market their papers for special occasions, such as anniversaries or significant birthdays, the possibility of choosing a specific title from a specific date can be useful for family historians. I have collections from local archives of photocopied newspaper columns featuring my ancestors: my great grandmother’s obituary in The Stage, the inquest into my great great grandfather’s death, and more recent cuttings of the achievements of close family members.

    Sometimes I’d like to keep the entire newspaper, to see my ancestors’ activities in the context of what was happening around them. This is possible with companies like Historic Newspapers, although it can be more expensive than visiting a local history centre and copying from a microfilm or scanner. Occasionally, the cost may be weighed against the issue that dedicates an entire page to an ancestor’s military bravery or a detailed obituary, and that features a death announcement and a letter on the event elsewhere. Given how easy it is for researchers and library users to find an article in The Times Digital Archive or the Daily Mirror online, it is not surprising that these titles are the most popular with Historic Newspapers’ customers.

    One of the papers I was sent was the Sunday Pictorial of 25 April 1926. With smallish, thick pages and heavily illustrated, this is markedly different from other newspapers of 1926. I chose this particular edition as I was keen to see how contemporary newspapers reported the F.A. Cup victory of Bolton Football Club – captained to a 1-0 victory by my great grandfather’s cousin, Joe Smith. As mentioned in the post on the National Football Museum, my grandmother claimed to have drunk out of the F.A. Cup when she was 15. On the back page of the Sunday Pictorial was a large picture of the Bolton player, David Jack, draining a draught from the very cup. And at the bottom of the page was a smiling Joe Smith, surrounded by helmeted police officers, carrying the cup to the Bolton dressing-room at Wembley Stadium.

    The FA Cup final took place on a Saturday and was reported the following day. Copies of Sunday newspapers are harder to find. Historic Newspapers holds fewer newspapers for Sunday than for the rest of the week, and they are consequently more expensive. There are lesser-known titles among the Sundays, however, like the Sunday Pictorial.

    My favourite article in this issue is titled, “Is Dancing Overdone To-day?” This feature by Clifford K. Wright on the dance craze of the period begins:

    Has dancing to-day become an obsession?

    Do we dance too much? One would

    imagine so from the frequent attacks to which

    this form of enjoyment is subjected.

    When at the conclusion of the Great War

    people welcomed dancing as one of the easiest

    avenues to forgetfulness it was pointed out

    that wars and social cataclysms like the French

    Revolution were frequently followed by some

    similar craze. It was though that this out-

    burst also would prove a mere craze and be

    short-lived. yet in 1926 we find that the cult

    of the dance is pursued by everyone with un-

    abated zest and enthusiasm,

    Wright ends with the defence:

    But most important of all are the mental re-

    actions produced by dancing. It is the ideal

    cure for a fit of the blues. Through it we can

    find an escape from the usual groove of our

    lives into a secret and magical world of our

    own.

    Sources:

    Historic Newspapers has the largest private archive of British newspapers in the world. The archive has been built over many years from various sources: initially from the newspaper group’s original archives as they moved out of Fleet Street in the 80s, and continues today, as virtually all the national Scottish and English newspaper titles send us their daily editions. Papers are also continually being sourced from libraries and other collections from all over the world. The newspapers are stored in leather binding, from which they are carefully removed when sold, and sent out in presentation boxes. The company will sell the last paper for a date, but have scanned leading titles in order that an original archive remains.

    Historic Newspapers is offering readers of this blog an exclusive 15% discount on anything on the site by using the code: 15TODAY.

  10. Naming for Empire

    In the course of studying for an MA in Imperialism and Culture, I have been examining how enthusiastic working class Britons were about the Empire in the period 1870-1914. This debate has long exercised historians, such as John Mackenzie, Bernard Porter, and Antoinette Burton.

    Mackenzie, a pioneer of cultural imperialism argues that the working classes were enthusiastic about empire and that they were particularly influenced by propagandist media, such as music hall songs, popular newspapers and juvenile literature. He highlights the adventure stories and heroes of empire, and the fervour with which many working class people greeted them. He quotes Mafeking night, 18 May 1900 (when impromptu parties took place across Britain to celebrate the relief of besieged British forces), as a striking example of this imperialistic passion.

    In contrast, Bernard Porter writes dourly, “For the working classes who participated in Mafeking night the whole occasion was probably little more than a celebration of the safety of their comrades in uniform.”1 Richard Price challenges them both by arguing that the enthusiasm emanated more from the lower middle classes and that this was evident in the voting patterns of the ‘khaki’ election of 1900. The boundary between the upper working classes and the lower middle classes can be difficult to distinguish but at the time of the war in South Africa, four fifths of British society is believed to have been working class.2

    Wherever the balance of the argument falls, there is no denying that a passion amongst the British people for the heroes, military successes and adventures of empire grew hugely up to the turn of the century. In the Second Anglo-Boer War 1899-1902, this enthusiasm reached its peak. And it was in this period that an interest in current affairs spilled over into the naming of children.

    In my Naming Napoleon blogpost, I look at the popularity of the name Napoleon during the nineteenth century and why this was so. In assessing these, I came across siblings or middle names of the Napoleons which indicated an interest in heroes or military adventure. Napoleon’s British foes, such as Horatio, Nelson, Wellington and Wellesley were all in evidence, as were as the names of mythical heroes such as King Arthur. In the 1899-1902 period, names such as Arthur and Horatio, as well as those of Saxon kings, Alfred and Harold, were common.

    By 1898, however, Horatio was becoming associated with another Horatio Herbert: the hero of the Battle of Omdurman in the Sudan, then Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. Although Kitchener preferred to use his middle name, both forenames saw a surge in popularity in the birth registrations3 from this date. From 1900 (as he progressed to Chief of Staff during the Boer War, eventually being appointed Secretary of State for War in 1914), the hero worship of Horatio Herbert continued along with the popularity of his forenames. In 1892, a Horatio Herbert Bryant was registered in Bradford West, with several more following in subsequent years. Even ‘Kitchener’ was used as a forename; first appearing in the GRO birth registrations of December quarter 1898: Kitchener Sladden of West Ashford. There was a marked increase in Kitchener related names in 1902, but no Kitcheners4 were registered between 1905 and September quarter 1914 – the onset of the Great War. The imperial link also seems clear with Horatio Kitchener (Goole, 1898) and Horatio Baden (Hendon, 1900).

    The connection of Kitchener with the then Colonel Baden Powell continues with Kitchener Baden P R Coleman, who was registered in Ipswich in September 1900 (4a, 973). Baby boys with the names Baden, Baden Powell and Baden Mafeking appear regularly in GRO records between 1899 and 1920, when post war socio-cultural values began to turn against overt references to military imperialism. The GRO birth indexes for England and Wales5 show that between 1837 and the beginning of the Siege of Mafeking in October 1899, only ten children were registered with the first name Baden. In contrast, from the December quarter 1899 and the outbreak of war in 1914 there are hundreds of Badens, several of whom were given the middle names Powell or Mafeking to emphasize homage to the hero of the siege.

    Checking some of these Badens on the 1911 census6 shows many of them were from working class families, with fathers who were miners, labourers and factory workers. There is a sense that by making a lasting public statement of their enthusiasm for Baden Powell, and possibly support for his military and imperial activities, that the parents of these children wanted to show the wider world that they were part of the empire-supporting community.

    Besides Kitchener and Baden-Powell, other heroes celebrated through babies’ names include Field Marshal Fredrick Sleigh Roberts (1832-1914), commander of the field army in the Boer Wars, who was nicknamed “Bobs”. Kitchener Bobs Thornton in Headington (1902), Bobs Baden P Ellis from St Saviour (Sep 1900) and Bobs Baden Jones of Fulham in the same quarter are all clear examples. The forename “Bobs” appears in the GRO birth registrations from March quarter 1900 through to September 1901, and then reappears in March quarter 1915. This posthumous reappearance may show respect for Roberts’ death7 in France, three months into the Great War, when visiting troops from his birthplace of India.

    The registration of a Bobs Germiston V Sargeant in Lexden, 1900, highlights an enthusiasm for naming children after imperial places or scenes of military adventure. This phenomenom appears to have been particularly prominent during the Boer War specifically. Previous wars do not seem to have had the same effect: between 1854 and 1901, for example, only five births were registered in the name of the Crimea (Tayler, Ebers, Evans, Boswell and Price) and another five after Balaclava (Tucker, Gibbins, Lofthouse, Smith and Smith).

    Germiston is a city in the East Rand. Roberts commanded forces to attack there on the 29th August 1900, enabling the capture of Johannesburg two days later. Master Sargeant’s parents may have been influenced in their name choice by the overtly biased reporting of the time, as evinced in Winston Churchill’s The Boer War: London to Ladysmith Via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton’s March (Longmans Green, 1900):

    Advancing with great speed and suddenness through Elandsfontein, Lord Roberts surprised the Boers at Germiston, and after a brief skirmish drove them in disorder from the town, which he then occupied. So precipitate was the flight of the enemy, or so rapid the British advance, that nine locomotives and much other rolling stock was captured . . .

    Although the macho exploits of Roberts, Kitchener, and Baden-Powell were feted in newspapers and boys’ own literature across the Empire, there was one woman whose name became celebrated in this period. This was the war correspondent, Sarah Wilson8. Lady Sarah Isabella Augusta Wilson (1856-1929), to give her her full title, was the aunt of Winston Churchill (at the time, he was a war correspondent for the Morning Post). ‘Sarah Wilson’ was a common name, even when used as forenames, but in the period from June quarter 1900 to March quarter 1901 there was a marked rise in the number of female children registered thus with the GRO. More evident are the births of “Lady Sarah Wilson” (June 1900: West Bromwich and Hastings) and “Lady Sarah W Hunter” (Sep 1900, Middlesbro). Significantly,

    Sarah Wilson wrote for The Daily Mail, which was even then known for its sensationalist coverage and large working class readership. Its influence in 1900 is difficult to over-estimate. One history of the paper states: “By the start of the Boer War its circulation had risen above a million, far higher than any newspaper in the world.”9. When Sarah Wilson wrote in gushing terms about the heroic adventures of Baden-Powell, therefore, thousands of working class people would have either read or heard about them. It is probably no exaggeration to suggest that her writing10 influenced the naming of some of the “Baden”s mentioned above.

    “Sarah Wilson” aside, parents tended to stretch their imaginations when choosing to name girls after imperial themes. Several opted for place names, like Ladysmith and Pretoria. The reasons behind giving children these names are less obvious than in the case of naming for adventurous heroes. These parents may have wanted to celebrate the relief of sieges or British successes in the War, but in some cases (e.g. “Colenso Peace”) middle names suggest a less enthusiastic attitude to military activity. Some of the parents may have wanted to demonstrate their Britishness or to mark celebrations that they associated with the events of war. In the case of Pretoria, it may just be that they thought it sounded pretty as a name.

    From census returns and middle names, we know that most Pretorias were female, but there were exceptions: Pretoria Fredrick Adams from Devon, Pretoria Harold Banting from Gloucestershire, and Pretoria Mafeking Robert Randall from Berkshire. The most common combination for girls was Pretoria May – according to FreeBMD there were two hundred and nineteen registered between March quarter 1900 and September quarter 1908. British troops, under the command of Roberts, took Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal, on 5 June 1900, but preparations had begun in the previous month. Other interesting, and obviously imperial combinations were Pretoria Mafeking Blomfom11 Ellis in Lancashire, Pretoria Anna Ladysmith Sexton from Erpingham in Norfolk, Pretoria Victress Spencer from North Yorkshire, and Pretoria Baden Wiseman in Bury St Edmunds.

    Some of the imperially named children had parents with a military connection. They may have wished to express support for British troops or demonstrate their association with their former regiments. Pretoria May Pritchard, for example, was the daughter of army pensioner, James Thomas Pritchard, and another was the child of a drill instructor. There are examples, too, of parents who had lived in various corners of the empire, such as the family of Pretoria Madge Taylor, whose brother, George A, was born in Dalhousie, India.

    Other parents seemed keener to give their children grand or distinctive names, not necessarily linked to the Empire: viz Pretoria Maud South (b1900), the daughter of Cartridge Foreman in Kensal Rise and her brother, Lord Algernon South.

    Before 1900 no child was registered in England and Wales with the name Mafeking. In May 1900-September 1901 forty-nine children (boys and girls) were registered in England and Wales with Mafeking as their first name. There was also a Mafeking Henry J Jones in Edmonton June 1905 and a Mafeking V Diskett in Dorchester June 1921. This Mafeking’s mother’s maiden name was Cawley; her mother may have been the Mafeking Cawley who was born June 1900 in Sherborne, making her naming less imperial and more familial. Middle names for earlier Mafekings, however, included Baden, May, Victor, Herbert, and Roberts.

    Between March quarter 1900 (when the Britains besieged in Ladysmith were relieved by troops under command of Lord Dundonald12) and Sep 1900, the births of twenty-four Ladysmiths were registered. There was also Ladysmith Winifred R Taylor, June 1902, in Islington, Ladysmith May Lambert, Sep 1903 in Sheffield, and Ladysmith J Lynas in Leyburn, 1931. This last may have been the daughter of Ladysmith Iceton (b. 1900), who died in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. Of the other Ladysmiths, the only middle name that stands out is that of Ladysmith Shamrock and Thistles Dujon of Peterbro’. As the shamrock and thistle were the national flowers of Ireland and Scotland respectively, this may suggest support for these nations or specific regiments. Miss Dujon appears to be of imaginative parents with a brother named Prince George Alexander Dujon (1910-1988) and a sister named Princess Edna A(E)lvizea Dujon. The name choice may indicate eccentricity, but also an emphatic patriotism from her father who was born outside Britain but within the Empire. John (later Julyan John) Dujon was from the West Indies but settled in Peterborough, where he was working as a labourer in an iron foundry in 1901. By 1911 he was working there as a greengrocer hawker.

    Not all families were keen to name every one of their children after imperial themes. However, it was amongst the working classes that these unusual naming practices most commonly appear. Plumber’s daughter, Ladysmith Lack, for example, had a younger brother named Buller – named after Victoria Cross hero, Major-General Redvers Buller. The name Redvers was extremely popular between 1900 and 1902, both on its own and in combination with the imperially-associated Bullers, Gordon, Victor, Baden, Stanley, Kitchener, Nelson, Cecil, Roberts, Hector, Macdonald13 and Colenso14.

    Kimberley is first recorded as a first name in June quarter 1896 with Kimberley George Foster of Totnes. The next set of Kimberleys were boys and girls registered after the relief of its siege, between March 1900 and June 1901. The name re-emerged in June 1915, but only regained popularity in the 1950s.

    Naming children for empire was more common than the examples here may suggest. Although names in this post are distinctive and show an obvious connection to the Anglo-Boer War and the Empire, many more children were named after imperial heroes with common names. Thus, children born in this period who are named Cecil after Cecil Rhodes can be difficult to distinguish from those named for non-imperial reasons. Where middle names are checked, the link appears stronger. “Cecil Rhodes” appears fairly regularly between 1882 and 1897 when larger numbers appear. 1900 saw thirty-five Cecil Rhodes, whilst the June quarter of 1902 saw the registration of twenty-two. The numbers of boys registered as “Charles Gordon”, for example, saw a marked increase in numbers from February 1884 when General Charles Gordon, Royal Engineer and Christian zealot was sent to the Sudan to ‘rescue’ Egyptian forces from the Mahdi, but soon became besieged in Khartoum. After his death, or popularly perceived martyrdom, in January 1885 to December 1910, hundreds of boys were registered with his name.

    Peace came to South Africa on 31st May 1902. After this, the obvious naming after imperial heroes faded away. Evidence suggests that this explicit imperial fervour reached its peak during this war. However, some of the overt support for militaristic imperialism was reinvigorated in the Great War and names such as Kitchener made a limited return after 1914. Naming for empire may have been short-lived, but it was significant. Unlike Winston Churchill and other establishment figures mentioned here, most of those who named their children after imperial themes never contributed consciously to history books. Through their children’s names, however, these parents were able to indicate to future generations how they felt about the War, and of the impact it, and its representation in the popular newspapers of the time, had on their lives.

    1Bernard Porter, The Lion’s Share: a short history of British Imperialism 1850-2004 (Harlow: Pearson, 2004)

    2 Michael Blanch in Warwick, Peter (ed), The South African War. The Anglo-Boer war 1899-1902 (1980), p210

    3 Birth registrations in this post are based mainly on the records of the General Register of England and Wales (GRO). The indexes of these records can be accessed via a number of online sites, including www.ancestry.co.uk (Ancestry), www.findmypast.co.uk (FindMyPast), www.FreeBMD.org.uk (FreeBMD) and www.thegenealogist.co.uk (TheGenealogist).

    4 As a forename

    5 Accessed via www.freebmd.org.uk

    6 Accessed via www.findmypast.co.uk

    7 Field Marshal Lord Roberts died 14 November 1914 of pneumonia in St Omer, France.

    8Wilson’s South African Memories can be read online at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/14466

    9http://www.dmgt.co.uk/uploads/files/The-Story-of-the-Daily-Mail.pdf

    10For an example of her support of Baden-Powell, see Wilson’s article: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/9542340

    11Presumably a reference to Bloemfontein

    12The Relief of Ladysmith took place on 1 March 1900. Winston Churchill entered Ladysmith at the side of Lord Dundonald.

    13 Major General Hector “Fighting Mac” Macdonald (1853-1903) – Hector a very popular name: in Scotland in 1900 it was the 25th most registered boy’s name, but from September quarter 1899 there are hundreds of ‘Hector Macdonald’ forenames.

    14 The Battle of Colenso (in Natal, on the Tugela River) took place on 15 December 1899. It was one of the worst defeats of the war for the British, and thus may seem an unusual choice of name for British parents. Colenso appears in the GRO records in 1894. Up to March quarter 1904 there are four recorded. In 1902 a male child, Colenso Peace E Chipping was recorded in December quarter in Chertsey. His father, James Chipping, was a bricklayer.

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