Girls from the Workhouse #MondayBlogs

As a common rule, girls of fourteen are hired out of the workhouse by persons who are in need of a cheap drudge. They get wages that will scarcely buy them clothes ; are overworked ; are left untaught or ill-taught, to become weary, slovenly, and out of heart with life ; are often left much alone, while their employers, who themselves must drudge, are absent at their place of work. These poor little girls break down and are discharged.

Charles Dickens

Emmeline, daughter of Lord Stanley of Alderley in Cheshire, was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.   She married Albert Way, a man of means, wealth and property and was able to use her money and influence to help the less fortunate.  As Albert indulged his interest in antiquaries and founded the Archaeological Institute, Emmeline turned to philanthropy.

The Honourable Mrs Way was particularly concerned about the plight of young women leaving the workhouse, who would seek employment as maids. without the experience or refinement to achieve a good position.  Near to her home in Wonham Manor, Surrey, she set up Brockham Home for orphaned girls from Workhouses all over the country, so that, as she later told the Poor Relief Committee of the House of Commons, the girls should have, “just the training that they would receive from a very good mother.” Beginning in 1859 with a group of orphaned girls aged 11 to 16, Mr and Mrs Way opened a Nursery Home for 14 infants, as a birthday present for their daughter in 1872.  Eventually both Homes were amalgamated under one Matron. The girls were trained to work in middle-class households, rather than becoming the lowly, spurned, workhouse skivvy in a large household.

The Honourable Mrs Way used her contacts and influence to instigate the Pauper Education Act, in 1863, which made it possible for Local Authorities to pay from the Rates for children to live in homes, including the Brockham Home, but at a rate not more than the Authority would pay to the Workhouse.  The girls were to have:
3 pairs drawers, 2 skirts, 4 brown holland pinafores, 2 night-gowns, 4 pairs stockings, 1 jacket, 3 shifts, 4 handkerchiefs, 1 hat, 2 pairs stays, 2 pairs boots, a brush and comb, 2 flannel petticoats and 3 frocks.

Among the orphans listed living at the Brockham Home in 1881, were sisters Fanny Huggett, age 7 and Jane Huggett, age 8, both born in Milford, Surrey.  Their training was successful, as in 1901 Fanny can be found working as a cook in Hastings to Agnes Barker, who lived on her own means and by 1911 she was still a cook but one of 6 servants working for a family in Sunningdale.  Her sister, Jane, was provided with an outfit to the extent of 30 shillings for her job as a cook, working in Kent in 1891.  But while these orphans were staying at the Home as children, their laundry was cleaned by a mother and daughter, Harriet Hammond, a 45 year old widow, and Edith Hammond, age 19, both from Hambledon near Godalming.  Ten years later Harriet was working as a Sick Nurse in Bermondsey, but by 1901 she was a resident of Guildford Union Workhouse, where she died two years later.

The Hambledon Poor law Union Minutes tell a sad story about Alice Legge whom they sent to Brockham Home in 1893. The Medical Officer for the Home reported that Alice was suffering from opacity of the cornea and a piece of thorn had been removed from her eye. An Order for admission to Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital at Moorfields, was arranged by the Poor Law Board of Hambledon.  Later that year a letter was received from Brockham Home saying Alice Legge must return to Hambledon Workhouse suggesting she should be at the seaside and have good nourishment.  The board resolved to send her to the Seaside Convalescent Home at Seaford at a cost of one guinea.  However, it was considered better to send her to the Metropolitan Infirmary for children at Danes Hill ,Margate. After 5 months, the Home in Margate considered that Alice could now be removed.  After a year’s training at the Brockham Home, Alice was sent out to service with Mrs Marshall, wearing her 30 shilling uniform, but 6 years later in July 1901 Alice Legge died at Brookwood Asylum.

Emmeline Way died in 1906, age 95.  The Brockham  (Way) Home closed in 1970.
©Elizabeth Lloyd

And what did they do with the Workhouse boys

The Frescoes of Allemans du Dropt Almost #WordlessWednesday

Deep in the countryside of south-west France is the village of Allemans on the bank of the River Dropt.  The inhabitants were invaded by a Germanic tribe in the sixth century, giving Allemans its name.  It is an attractive spot with half-timbered houses, narrow streets and a very unusual church.

The Church of St. Eutrope has been beautiful restored to reveal much of the late 15th century frescoes on its walls.  The Romanesque building dates from the 10th century commemorating St Eutrope, the Bishop of Saintes and 3rd century 

The frescoes, which were discovered in 1935, show in shocking detail, the Passion of Christ, the Last Judgement and Hell, but there is a feeling of calm in this whitewashed nave which includes bright 17th and 20th century stained glass windows.

Creation of a new town by the seaside at the beginning of the 20th century

Did your family move to another part of the country during the late 19th or early 20th century?  As the middle class increased in numbers and wealth, there were many professionals or tradesmen who could afford to give up their business in the cities and retire to a quieter place. Frequently they chose an expanding town by the seaside.

West Pier, Brighton 1905
Originally made popular in the mid-18th century when sea-bathing and drinking of its water were recommended as a cure-all, in Victorian times it was believed that the bracing sea air was ideal for those suffering from respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis as a result of living in smoke-filled cities.  In consequence, in Bournemouth an “Invalids’ Walk” was laid out, connecting the town centre to the pier, which still remains today.

My grandparents, who were both the youngest of their family, accompanied their parents to Bournemouth during their teens, on the retirement of their fathers.  Bournemouth had been a sparsely populated area until the 1840s when Augustus Granville included the new town in the next volume of his popular book on the Spas of England.  Once the railway was connected to the town in 1870, high quality villas and elegant hotels were built and the population rose from 1,707 in 1861 to 37,000 in 1891 and 60,000 by 1900.

The postcards of Bournemouth in my Grandmother’s collection, record that initially her mother rented a house in the town for several weeks before deciding that she and her youngest daughter should retire there after the sudden death of her husband in the busy wharfs of Rotherhithe where he had been a barge builder. My great grandmother continued to live with her youngest daughter for the rest of her life, even after her daughter’s marriage.

My grandmother continued to exchange postcards with her friends in Rotherhithe, showing the beautiful surroundings of Bournemouth but also missing her theatre visits in London.  However she enjoyed the musical house parties and church functions, where she met my grandfather who, while training as an architect at Bournemouth Municipal School of Art, was living with his father, retired Chief Constable of Kings Lynn.  Two years after they settled in Bournemouth my grandfather’s mother and sister died but a few years later his father married a widow whom he had met in the drawing rooms of Bournemouth.

There were in fact many opportunities for entertainment in the expanding town.  In 1885 a bandstand was opened on the pier, designed by Eugenius Birch, which had been completed five years earlier.  In the summer, military bands would perform concerts three times a day in the bandstand and as there were covered shelters they also performed twice a day in winter.  The Bournemouth Symphony orchestra was established in 1893 and was conducted on occasions by Elgar, Sibelius and Holst.

In Boscombe, which attracted the wealthiest residents and holidaymakers, during the early 1890s, terraces of shops, the Salisbury Hotel, the Royal Arcade, and the Grand Theatre were built.  The famous actor, Henry Irving brought his company to the Grand Theatre for three nights, performing four different plays which filled the auditorium.  The Grand Theatre was renamed the Boscombe Hippodrome after refitting with furnishings from His Majesty’s Theatre in London.  At this point its range of shows widened to include Music Hall entertainment.  An alternative venue was the Winter Gardens’ Theatre built in 1876.  Between the theatres it was possible to see Gilbert and Sullivan light operas, West End musical comedies and Drury Lane society dramas.

In 1865, John Sydenham, one of the proprietors of The Poole Herald, who had established the Royal Marine Library moved it to Pier Approach, Bournemouth. There were reading rooms containing newspapers and magazines and it was possible to borrow books for a small subscription. Refreshments, stationary and sheet music were also available.

On a more practical note, in February 1877 the Royal Boscombe Hospital opened in Shelley Road, initially with beds for 12 patients.  It was later renamed the Royal Victoria Hospital.  There was a Sanatorium for those with chest diseases and the first cemetery was established in Wimborne Road in 1877.  St Peter’s church was the first to be consecrated in 1845, but there were also religious services held in the Assembly Rooms.  Public meetings, political gatherings and parties were also held in the Assembly Rooms and in the adjoining Belle Vue Hotel, billiard tables could be found.

On the warm sunny days, Bournemouth provided plenty of open space and beautiful surroundings.  Fields had been leased to the Bournemouth Commissioners in the 1870s which were set out as Pleasure Gardens.  Wide promenades gave excellent views of the sandy beach and the avenues were lined with trees.  Before her death in June 1899, Lady Shelley, widow of Percy Shelley the son of the poet, had gifted four acres of land which were laid out to form Boscombe Cliff Gardens and by the turn of the century Boscombe Chine gardens had been planted.  At Dean Park a new cricket ground was established.
The pier was extended twice so that by 1909 it was 1000 ft. (over 300 m) long.  There was a landing stage for pleasure boats at the head of the pier while smaller craft landed on one side.  The "Bournemouth Queen," a paddle steamer, commenced excursions to Swanage in 1909.  On the other side of the pier there were many bathing machines, made popular by their use at Osborne house, Isle of Wight for the Royal family.  Kept at the water’s edge, they gave essential privacy to the bathers.  Bournemouth wished to be considered a respectable resort with no high jinks or unsuitable behaviour.

By 1910 the boundaries of Bournemouth had expanded to include six miles of sea frontage.  Originally recommended by Augustus Granville as, “a winter residence for the delicate constitutions requiring a warm and sheltered locality in winter,” it had become a large established resort for holidays, retirement and even a lifetime home for many people.  

©Elizabeth Lloyd