A family separated by the Poor Law #Workhouse #Canada

One of the many families split up and spread across the globe in Edwardian times were the LARNER family. In 1858, Thomas Larner was born in Wokingham Workhouse in Berkshire to 16 year old unmarried mother Mary Larner.  By 1861 he and his mother were living with his grandparents Joseph and Ann Larner, but ten years later, 12 year old Thomas and his 75 year old grandmother were living alone, both working as agricultural labourers.

St John's Church, Merrow where many of the children were baptised

At some point after 1871, Thomas joined the army and on being posted to Aldershot, married Mary Jane Ellis from nearby Hartley Witney. They married in Guildford in 1885 and when Thomas left the army a year later, they set up home in 4 Swaynes Cottages in High Path Road, Merrow in Surrey and began, as many couples at that time, to have a great many children.  Mary Jane obviously didn’t like her plain name as her taste for the more exotic emerged in her choice of children’s names.  They were born as follows:

1884       Maria Frances Isabel
1886       Thomas Joseph William
1889       Frederick Ernest Edward
1891       Ivy Elizabeth May
1894       Lewis Leonard George                   died 1917 in Flanders
1897       Albert Henry John                          died 1915 in Flanders
1898       James David                                   died 1898
1899       Rose Kathleen Maud
1901       Violet Mary
1902       Lily Irene Daisy

In Merrow, Thomas Larner became a general labourer but with onset of the Boer War he returned to the army leaving Mary Jane to look after the family.  His son, Thomas Joseph William Larner, left his job as a gardener for Mr Fitzjohn at “The Warrens” and also joined the army.  

Meanwhile Mary Jane was in trouble.

Sussex Agricultural Express 15th April 1890
Barkingside Girls' Village
By 1904 the family were in disarray.  In the absence of her husband Thomas, Mary Jane could not cope with the large family.  Her four youngest children had been taken away.   By 1911 Albert was an inmate of the Gordon Boys School "for necessitous boys" at Bagshot, Lily was one of the few resident children of Guildford Union Workhouse, Rose had been sent by Dr Barnardo's as a British Home child to Canada and Violet was a resident of Barnardo's Girls’ Village at Barkingside in Essex.  Three months later Violet was part of the Barnardo's party on board the Sicilian bound for Quebec.

Thomas had returned to his family and by 1911 he and Mary Jane were living in Aldershot where he worked as a fish hawker.  It is very unlikely that they ever saw or heard of Violet or Rose again.

British Newspaper Archive

An update on the Larner children

In the Workhouse Committee Meeting Minutes of November 5th 1904, stored at Surrey History Centre, the following decision by the Board of Guardians to adopt the children who had been "deserted" by their parents Thomas and Mary Jane is reported.

When the girls were set to Dr Barnardo's Village at Barkingside the Guildford Board of Guardians sent five shillings a week for maintenance and clothing of each child.

1 comment:

  1. One can only imagine the trauma of all this! ''Necessitous boys'' speaks volumes. Plus the number of pregnancies. In researching the 4th book, I have come across so many examples of men demanding their ''rights'' and women having to grant them, knowing that any sex might result in another pregnancy. The concept of marital rape was unrecognised....apparently Mary Wollstonecraft's father forced himself upon her mother .. who died giving birth to Mary.