Friday, 15 May 2015

The Romance of the Nation

My love of history began when as a small child I flicked through the pages of a large green book belonging to my father.  In fact there were two green books each packed with illustrations and they were bound copies of magazines first published in 1934.

There were detailed diagrams of how things worked, including my favourite, a castle.  This picture showed the attack and defence of a fortress in the days of Edward III when the first cannons were beginning to be used, but catapults and ballistas were still needed for accuracy.

Other illustrations are of famous peopla or events such as this one of Cardinal Wolsey at the height of his powers when he built Hampton Court Palace.

Originally 52 issues of the magazine were printed, edited by Charles Ray and you can read about his other publications here.
Ray described The Romance of the Nation as, "A Stirring Pageant of the British Peoples Through All the Ages."

If it had still been loose copies of the magazines, I might have been tempted to cut out and dress these medieval dollies.

I don't think I ever made any of the complicated models.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Catastrophic Fire at Clandon Park

The Surrey Infantry Museum

Today I share with many people great sadness at the terrible destruction of Clandon Park House by the fire yesterday evening.  Although not the most beautiful house to look at from the outside, it contained a stunning collection of beautiful artefacts, ceilings and its unforgettable marble hall. There are many pictures online of its lovely rooms including some on my Pinterest page here

The Corps of Drums of the 1st Battalion of the Queen's Regiment at Clandon Park in 1989
Last year I visited an exhibition about the First World War Hospital which was set up in the house in 1915 and while there I also spent considerable time in the Surrey Infantry Museum in the undercroft.  This contained the collections of the Queen’s Royal Regiment and the East Surrey Regiment from three and a half centuries of service.  There were uniforms, medals, musical instruments, flags and pictures from the Indian mutiny, Crimean War, Boer War and both world wars of the twentieth century.

Here are some of them.

These life sized figures dating from 1715 wear the uniform of the Princess of Wales Regiment and were made when the Regiment was quartered in Carlisle.  They carry flintlock musket, sword and socket bayonet. The leather pouch contained three grenades. 

Just some of the many medals on display including several Victoria Crosses.

The Sovereign's Colour was presented to the Regiment at Gosport in 1847.  The last time it was paraded was in Singapore in 1947,

Update on May 7th.

All photos from

A year ago soldiers recreated the scene when Clandon was a War Hospital.

A sad story 

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Serious Offence

On 10th October 1886, The Surrey Mirror reported that a serious offence had taken place on the premises of Guildford Union Workhouse.  Frank Maplestone Riches, who been appointed Temporary Master of the Union owing to the death of the previous Master, Mr Hardwick, was charged with embezzlement of £10, the money of the Guardians.

Mr Riches was prosecuted by the clerk to the Guardians, Mr Mark Smallpeice.  Riches had disappeared after agreeing to a meeting to go through the accounts, to look for an explanation of ten pounds 9 shillings and 6 pence which was unaccounted for.  A specific amount of five shillings paid to Mr Riches by a coal merchant was not forwarded to the Guardians.

Frank Mapleston Riches had been taken into custody in Alnwick, Northumberland, from where he was taken to Guildford for judgement.  He was found guilty of embezzlement and was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment.
The former Cuckfield Workhouse

This was a sad termination of his lifelong connection to Workhouses.  In 1861 he was living at Thingoe Union Workhouse in Bury St Edmonds where his parents were Master and Matron.  By 1881 Frank was Assistant Master at Cuckfield Union Workhouse in Sussex, where his older brother Thomas T. Riches was Master so it would have been a natural progression for Frank to become Master of Guildford Union Workhouse.  What a pity that he succumbed to the temptation of dipping into the funds to which the responsible role of Master gave him access.

British Newspaper Archive

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Scattered Homes

A house in Recreation Road

Towards the end of the 19th century, Poor Law Guardians were increasingly concerned about the upbringing of children in their care.  The workhouse was a totally unsuitable environment so other solutions were sought.

Boarding out in the homes of foster families was tried but there were few families able or prepared to do this.  In some areas Cottage homes were set up; several houses round a green, each housing approximately 12 children with a foster mother.  This was deemed to isolate the children in an unreal situation.

In Sheffield, J. Wycliffe Wilson, chairman of the Board of Guardians, suggested another solution.  In 1893 he set out to purchase several artisans homes scattered about the city, where approximately 15 children would live with a foster mother and attend the nearest Board School.  No more than 30 children would attend each school so that they could become integrated into the local community.  On Sundays the children would be taken to the neighbouring churches and Sunday-schools.

The success of this scheme lead other unions to adopt it and thus in 1908 Guildford Board of Guardians set up seven of these homes with romantic names such as Elsinore, Restormel and River View.  Each home housed 11-13 children aged 5-14, either all boys or all girls with a foster mother, who was usually a single woman in her 30s.  Brothers and sisters were separated into different homes.  Next door to the Workhouse in Union Road, was a Receiving Home for children where they could be assessed, but some children remained there.

The members of one family were “scattered” in several homes by 1911.  They were the sons and daughters of Samuel Norsworthy.  Samuel had been a contractor’s carman living in Quarry Street, Guildford with his wife Annie and 7 children, until Annie died in childbirth in 1910.  We find Samuel residing in Guildford Union Workhouse in the 1911 census along with his 10 month old daughter Constance, while two of his children, 11 year old Annie and 4 year old Ernest William are next door in the Children’s Receiving Home.  Meanwhile 13 year old Leonard and 6 year old Henry Charles Norsworthy are down in the town at Elsinore Scattered Home in Springfield Road.  Nine year old Cecil Norsworthy was in another scattered home, Newark in Recreation Road.  The oldest two children are at work; Selina as a housemaid in Weybridge and Samuel Arthur working as a gardener on a fruit farm in Shalford.

Another family who were split up after the death of their father were the Longhurst children from Shere.  Dorothea, aged 11, and her 10 year old brother Nicholas Irwin were lucky enough to stay with their mother, Elizabeth, taken in by their grandmother in the same village but younger brothers Edward, aged 8, and Charles, aged 6, were in the scattered home, Elsinore, while 10 year old Henry Algernon was living at Newark in Recreation Road.

Tower Hill Memorial

Henry Algernon Leslie Longhurst, can be found on a memorial at Tower Hill, recording that he was a steward in the merchant navy who was killed on SS Ashcrest on December 9th 1940, son of Elizabeth Longhurst and husband of Annie Maud Longhurst of Grange Town, Cardiff.

A radio programme about the Scattered Homes in Sheffield is currently available on iplayer

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Priscilla Cinderalla in the Workhouse

In 1901 among the many inmates of Guildford Union Workhouse could be found the Standing family, Priscilla, aged 39 and  her three sons, Harry, aged 5, Thomas, aged 4 and Edwin, aged 2. 
Priscilla Standing

Priscilla Cinderalla Cooper was born in Lurgashall, Sussex, the daughter of a travelling farm labourer.  The 1881 census tells us that she was deaf, although this is not mentioned when she was at the Workhouse.  At the age of 22, she was working as a servant, probably a housemaid, for the Standing family. Thirty eight year old, James Standing and his wife Emma were living in Copse Green, Northchapel, Sussex with their four children.  James was Under Bailey for the Petworth Estate.  But three years later, his wife Emma died and in 1895 Priscilla married James Standing in Petworth.  James moved on to greater responsibility as the Bailiff of a farm in Surrey.  By 1899 their third child, Edwin, had been born but James died in the same year.
As a deaf widow with three very young children, Priscilla was probably no longer able to stay in the tied cottage provided by her husband’s work and inevitably ended up in a workhouse.  Perhaps she had walked to Guildford to look for housekeeping work. Although the 3 brothers had each other, they were taken from their mother at a very young age and she must have missed them terribly. Priscilla’s stepson, William Standing, was 21 in 1901 when she and her young sons entered the workhouse, so he was able to earn a living as a carman lodging in Angel Gate, Guildford.  Her other stepchildren were also old enough to make their own way in the world.

Priscilla was still living at Guildford Union Workhouse ten years later when the 1911 census was compiled, but her sons had all moved to other accommodation.  Edwin, aged 12, now lived at the Scattered Home for Boys at 37 Recreation Road, Guildford, with eleven other boys 5-13 years old and a foster mother appointed by the Guildford Board of Guardians.  Thomas, now 14, was still in Warren Road, near to the Workhouse, but in the Children’s Receiving Home where John William Sowers, the Superintendent, was aided by a Matron and two foster mothers in looking after 12 children aged 3 to 15. 

Henry (Harry) Standing was now 16, so he had been sent to the Training Ship Exmouth at Grays in Essex.  He later married Gertrude Brown and they had eleven grandchildren before he died in Liverpool in 1972.  Thomas served in the Army Service Corps in the First World War and in 1923 he married Agnes Smallbone in Hambledon.  He died in south west Surrey in 1952.
The Sunset Home in Merrow House

 Despite their earlier separation, Priscilla and her sons kept in close contact throughout their lives until her death in Surrey in 1953.  She was described by one of her grandchildren as, “a lovely grandmother,” who was able to lip read and communicate well.  She spent her last years living happily at the Sunset Home in Merrow House.

With thanks to Dorothy Lauder for the photo of Priscilla.