Mr Slaughter and Mr May

A photo of Whiteness ca 1915 -20. The loggia where the family photo of ca 1906 was taken is on the left.

A photo of Whiteness ca 1915 -20. The loggia where the family photo of ca 1906 was taken is on the left.

William May’s background was very different from William Slaughter’s.  Born in 1863, May was from a professional, landowning family in Berkshire. His father was a surgeon in Reading, as had been his grandfather. William was born in the family home at Caversham, a mansion set in large grounds by the Thames. He was educated at Charterhouse and New College,Oxford,  where he read classics and modern history. Whereas William Slaughter left little personal information about his life, May regularly kept a diary for many years. He describes a comfortable, rural family upbringing. Much time was spent shooting, riding, boating on the Thames, playing cricket and tennis with family and friends, and going for hearty walks. He was keen on boats, and later kept a yacht. He loved music, playing the piano and cello, and  enjoyed going to the opera and theatre.

After leaving university he decided to train as a solicitor and was articled at Ashworth, Morris and Crisp where he met William Slaughter. May took his final law examinations in early 1888 and qualified as a solicitor in July that year. In spite of the differences in their family backgrounds and education, May and Slaughter must have got on well  for by the end of that year they had decided to go into partnership together.William Slaughter had already made a name for himself in the city and was gaining a number of successful clients. He must have felt that he would benefit from having May as a partner, both professionally and socially.

In the last decade of the 19th century until the start of World War 1, the legal profession in London was flourishing.The legal reforms of the 1850s onwards resulted in raising the standards of the profession and the social standing of lawyers. Better communications, in the form of improved postal services and  the expanding railway system meant that business could be dealt with more speedily and efficiently.It was also a period of relative financial security. England was still on the gold standard, inflation was low, while salaries, expenses and taxation were stable. Business and trade were expanding all over the globe – mining and railways were being developed worldwide . New companies  were being formed to facilitate these, and  the fees for providing legal work for setting up such companies  were very profitable.

The new firm of Slaughter and May was soon actively conducting business, initially with about thirty clients. Before long it was decided that they needed new premises, so they bought the leasehold on a block at 18 Austin Friars, in the city. The old buildings were demolished, and replaced by a new one designed by the architect Frank Hay Roberts. Opened in 1892, it remained the home of the firm until 1968.

But while the business partnership was flourishing, the personal lives of the founders were following very different paths.In 1890, William Slaughter’s wife, Ida, had died of typhoid leaving him a widower aged 33, with three young children. His unmarried sister, Mary, moved in to care for the family and manage the household. In 1895, William May had bought a large property called Ashburton House at Send, near Woking which had frontage on the river Wey, as well as tennis courts and several acres of land. William and Mary Slaughter’s sister, Elizabeth and her husband Reginald Drew, lived nearby and there were frequent visits between the families. When the children were older, Slaughter sometimes brought them over for a day out at Ashburton House, and they would play tennis or go boating on the river.

William Slaughter bought himself a country estate in 1898, when he purchased Whiteness, at North Foreland near Broadstairs. Marrying for the second time in 1899, he renamed the house Bruce Lodge, after his new wife, Hester Mary Duff Bruce. She was the daughter of William Duff Bruce, an official at the Port of Calcutta, and a cousin of  Stanley [ later Viscount] Bruce of Melbourne. Slaughter had been the main adviser to the Duff Bruce estate after the death of Stanley’s father in 1901.

So far, so conventional, but at some point during the years between the death of his first wife and his  marriage to Hester, William had embarked upon an affair with a French governess, which resulted in the birth of an illegitimate son. This had been a well-kept family secret for many years, no doubt  being considered not quite the done thing for a respected member of the legal profession – though not unknown in late Victorian times. How my mother discovered about the affair will have to wait until another chapter.

My great-grandfather and his family circa 1906 ,on the loggia at Whiteness

My great-grandfather and his family circa 1906 ,on the loggia at Whiteness

Categories: 19th Century, Before 1st World War, Men of God, and of Commerce | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

William Slaughter and The Home and Colonial Stores

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The lettering from a Home and Colonial shop front, on display at Castle Drogo, and the coat of arms outside the inn at Drewsteignton .

The lettering from a Home and Colonial shop front, on display at Castle Drogo, and the coat of arms outside the inn at Drewsteignton .

In November 1882, William Slaughter’s sister Elizabeth married Reginald Drew ,older brother of Julius Drew,the co-founder of The Home and Colonial Stores which was later to become one of the most flourishing food retailing companies of that era. My mother remembers her great aunt Lizzie and her husband [known as Reggie]. Though described in the marriage settlement as a retired Naval Officer, Reggie later became a tea dealer and was involved in the family business. Far less dynamic and businesslike than his younger brother, my mother remembers Reggie as a charming man though with the reputation in the family as ‘something of a ne’er do well’ – no doubt in comparison with his very successful brother.When the Home and Colonial Stores was launched in 1888, William Slaughter was its chairman and remained so until he died in 1917.

The Drew family had connections with tea importers and Julius had spent part of his early career in China as a tea buyer.  When he returned, he set up as a tea merchant in Liverpool. The drinking of tea nationally had become ever more popular during the second half of the 19th century, and consumption per capita grew enormously making it a very profitable business. Drew went into partnership with a Liverpool butcher named John Musker, who had a wide knowledge of dealing in dairy products as well as meat. He was also astute in choosing suitable locations for the new shops. In 1888 there were 14 establishments, the main office being in the Edgware Road. By 1914 there were over 600 shops. The Home and Colonial brand, including the iconic black and gold lettering was meant to inspire confidence in the shopper and to imply the quality of goods and services on offer. Slaughter was closely involved in the expansion of this successful business from the start and the company was an important client of his law firm.

Julius Drew retired from business, while still under 40, and devoted himself to buying large rural properties and living the life of a country gentleman. He changed his name by deed poll to Drewe, hoping to establish a connection with Norman ancestry. In 1910 he purchased an estate at Drewsteignton in Devon where he commissioned the architect Lutyens to build him a castle. Castle Drogo, a vast imposing granite structure was never completed because of the advent of the first World War. Now belonging to the National Trust the castle and gardens are open to visitors who can enjoy the commanding views over the Teign valley from the site.

When Julius Drewe retired early from his active business ventures to enjoy the fruits of his labours, William Slaughter’s legal career was rapidly moving forwards. While at Ashworth, Morris and Crisp he had met a young trainee solicitor, William May who qualified in 1888. By the end of that year they had decided to go into business together. A joint bank account in their names was opened on the 1st January 1889, the official date of the beginning of their very successful partnership.

Categories: 19th Century, Men of God, and of Commerce, Miscellaneous | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Gallipoli 1915

Anzac Cove April 25th 1915 , from Arthur Slaughter's album

Anzac Cove April 25th 1915 , from Arthur Slaughter’s album

My grandfather, Arthur Slaughter was in the 5th [territorial] Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. On September 10th 1914 they sailed for Egypt from Southampton on board the Caledonia, arriving in Alexandria on September 25th.They were quartered in the Mustapha barracks where they were kitted out for the tropics. By October, they had started training.

On May 6th 1915 the battalion landed at Gallipoli. They moved up to the front line trenches on the 12th under heavy artillery and machine- gun fire. Relieved on the 21st May, they went back to the beaches, still under fire. On the 26th May, the battalion became part of the 42nd division and moved back up to the flooded front trenches, working on maintaining  and completing the trench line.

On June 4th , they attacked the main Turkish trenches. Although the initial attack was successful, the troops were withdrawn as other supporting units had not obtained their objectives. The battalion managed to hold their position in spite of fierce Turkish counter attacks, but on July 5th the battalion returned to their trenches.

These are the bare bones of the part played by the 5th Manchesters in Gallipoli. There are only two family letters surviving from this period. The first is a brief note from Arthur written to his father on  26th May from the Carlton Hotel,Bulkeley, near Alexandria, just prior to embarkation.

A more detailed and personal account survives in a letter from Olive [Arthur’s sister] who was living near Alexandria, and was married to Colonel John Sanders. Her letter to her father ,William Slaughter, is dated June 20th 1915.

My dearest Daddy,

I have been to the hospitals today to see various officers from the 5th and they have given me all news of Arthur, he arrived at the Dardanelles June 3rd late at night and went straight into action June 4th when the regiment was so terribly cut up, he was the only officer left in his ‘B’ company so he had to lead them I am told he did so most splendidly, and at the end when they had to do a final rush, a sergeant called out “are there any officers left” and Arthur  cheerily answered  “yes” so he and the sergeant led ‘B’ company and took a Turkish trench but were given the order to retreat early the next morning and this man told me this afternoon the last he saw of Arthur was fairly [here there is a gap] back anyway he is alright and my Johnnie too.I took these two boys Tim Brown, who was shot in the right eye, and Ainscough, who was shot in the foot, out for a drive this afternoon, they were so cheery and said”You don’t know how ripping it is to see you again and to get out of the hospital” Goodness knows how the regiment will carry on, as there is only the Colonel, Johnnie, Major Cronshaw, Capt. Woods and Capt Bryham and Arthur left, it’s all too awful and one dare not think about it. Poor Captain Jackson was killed June 4th. I do feel so sorry for the wife and the poor wee babe who is to arrive at the beginning of September .

I have been down to headquarters and found an old friend in Johnnie’s Corporal  who gets all the list of killed and wounded at once, and he has promised to telephone me directly anything comes through. Anyway the whole division has been brought out of the firing line for a fortnight.

It’s lovely here with a cool breeze blowing. I feel quite alright and am thankful I came out as one gets all the news at once,and can help the poor souls who are wounded, any old papers you can spare will be most gratefully received. I have hired a Victoria thing for a month, and shall spend my time in taking these boys out, I think in about a month they are going to be sent to England as the one with the bad eye will be three months before he is fit, and then they are afraid he may lose the sight; it is sad he is only about 20, his brother has been killed.

Well the mail is going. I know you will be delighted to hear about Arthur. I do feel so proud of him. Best love to you all, and would you send this on to the Aunts as I have not time to catch the mail to them.

Your loving daughter,

Olive M. Sanders

Arthur, though physically unharmed was psychologically much damaged by his experiences. For the rest of his life he suffered from neurasthenia and chronic headaches. As a result of his condition he was retired from active service and from 23rd July 1915 was retained in Egypt for duty at the P.O.W. camp in Maadi where he remained for the duration of the war. This no doubt saved his life, for after the evacuation of Gallipoli in January 1916 his battalion arrived back in Egypt until March 1917 when it was transferred to France to play its part on the Western Front.

Susie Gutch

 

Categories: World War One | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Great-Grandma’s recipe book

 

My great aunts recipe books have long fascinated me so when today I was sorting boxes

photograph of young women

Charlotte Fanny Liversedge nee Cook, possibly her engagement photograph taken in 1878/9

to try and kick-start my research into their father’s life I allowed myself to distracted by one.  To call it a recipe book is rather misleading as the pages have long since detached themselves from the cover.  It was originally a hard back note book, and first belonged to their mother, Charlotte Liversedge (1852-1938).

The recipes written on the original pages include ones to stop a leak on a cask and to waterproof a coat alongside the more conventional Tapioca Cream, Everton Toffee and Mushroom Ketchup.   One is described as “Hydropathic Pudding” with the cryptic comment in brackets “where is not allowed”; actually the recipe seems similar to Summer Pudding but made with any fruit.  A recipe for cough mixture includes 4 poppy heads crushed, 2 oz Iceland Moss, 4 spoonfuls pearl barley and a little white sugar. All boiled in five pints of water reduced to three and then strained.  You can still buy a cough syrup containing Iceland Moss but not, as far as I can find, Poppy heads.  A recipe for furniture polish containing turpentine, linseed oil, methylated spirit, vinegar and antimony is to be put in a bottle labelled poison.

There are numerous loose cuttings from newspapers, mostly recipes but some longer articles.  The earliest dated is from 1898 and has useful notes for ladies on matters such as cleaning glass globes and boiling rice.  One from Person’s Weekly, April 24 1902, consists of a whole page advert for Kutnow’s Powder for rheumatism, neuralgia and gout.  A cutting from Forget-Me-Not, a pictorial journal for ladies gives us Sarah Bernhart’s Beauty Secrets.

Just to show some things never change on the other side of a page of Christmas recipes from December 1910 is an article headed “Perils of

shows two ladies discussing their weight

December 1910, Fashions for all, Advertisement for Antipon

Unchecked Obesity”, subtitled “the question of waist fashion” which is a lightly disguised advert for Antipon, the world famous remedy for the permanent cure of obesity.  I have looked this up and apparently it contained citric acid, red food colouring, water and alcohol and sold for 20 times the cost of its ingredients..

 

 

 

 

A later cutting talks about home rations and war-time gardening for the First World War.  Another similar recipe book I have gives recipes for carrot jam and using dried eggs from the second war.

Between the pages are also pressed leaves and ferns, letters and cards.  One letter dated 1921 is from Charlotte’s son and daughter –in-law in New Zealand since 1914 and describes their move to a new home and how their children are settling down.

Then we come almost up to date as the book changes hands from mother to daughters, my great aunts, Ethel (1886-1977) and Gladys (1889-1982).  The handwriting on the loose leaves changes and there is a cutting from the Radio Times of June 1958, Cookery Club winning entries chosen by Marguerite Patten.  As well as the cuttings there are now colourful promotional leaflets for Sainsbury’s chicken, St Michael’s cheese and Danish Bacon.

Finally possibly the most recent item, a postcard from me, sent when I was at guide camp near Windsor in 1965.

Barbara Selby

Categories: 20th Century, Before 1st World War, Strong Women | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

William Capel Slaughter -his early career

A copy of an 1880 edition of Longfellow's poems belonging to William Capel Slaughter

A copy of an 1880 edition of Longfellow’s poems belonging to William Capel Slaughter

Records of William’s schooling are scarce. In the 1871  census he was  a pupil at a boys’ school  run by James Ward at 116 Clapham Common where,aged 13, he headed the list of pupils  aged 7 – 14. After that it is assumed he was tutored at home. He never went to university, but decided to train as a solicitor spending five years as an articled clerk with the firm of Wilkinson and Drew while continuing to live at home. Legal training was expensive , with articles alone costing £80 in stamp duty.

His father, Mihill, did not retire but remained actively involved on the Stock Exchange during the 1870s where his work in the Share and Loan department meant he came in contact with all the important members of the City of London’s legal and financial circles of the day. When he died in 1880, Mihill senior left an estate worth £40000 [ a considerable sum at the time] to be divided among his children, his wife having predeceased him.

When William qualified in 1879 he went to work as an assistant solicitor with  Ashworth, Morris Crisp and Company, then as now one of the leading city law firms.[It is now one of the leading multinational law firms, re-named Ashurst LLP in 2003]. Among the company’s many areas of interest were merchant banking and railways.

The Limited Liability Act of 1855 resulted in the proliferation of small companies which led to a great increase in legal work in the mid 19th century. The economy was depressed during the 1870s but after that began to grow. European countries were expanding their territories in Africa , while Canada and Australia were developing as colonies. In 1886 gold was discovered in the Transvaal. Many people emigrated to Argentina, resulting in rapid expansion of cities and railway building. During the 1880s, Ashurst Morris Crisp had become one of the leading law firms dealing with the emerging South American regions, while during this period London had become the leading financial capital of the world.

William was in his early 20s when he joined the firm and gained valuable experience, learning about all aspects of  complex legal work and dealing with important clients. Morris must have had great confidence in Slaughter’s abilities as he was assigned one of the company’s most important clients, Baron Emile d’Erlanger. Erlanger and Company was active all over the world, with special interests in mining in South Africa and railways in North and South America. In his memoirs, the Baron’s son recalls Slaughter going by train to the Paris office to work for the company – on a Sunday ! It sounds very 21st century, but without Eurostar, the journey must have taken considerably longer than today.

By 1881, William was in a secure position financially. Apart from the inheritance from his father he was receiving a good income from his work at Ashurst’s.In September that year he married Ida, daughter of a surgeon with the unusual name of Loraine Weaver. Between  1882 – 7 they had four children , Mihill   [b.1883], Ida [who died in infancy in 1885] Arthur [b.1886] and Olive.The family lived comfortably in Streatham, and William became a Freeman of the Clothworkers’ Company.

In 1887,with the help and encouragement of John Morris, Slaughter left Ashurst’s and set up on his own at an office in Austin Friars. He was establishing himself professionally and with his growing family he must have felt he could look forward to the future with confidence.

Categories: 19th Century, Men of God, and of Commerce | Tags: , | 1 Comment

William Capel Slaughter – family origins and early life

 Photograph of William Capel Slaughter [ca.1910]

Photograph of William Capel Slaughter
[ca.1910]

 My great-grandfather was a significant figure in the city of London as one of the founder members of the law firm, Slaughter and May. It still bears his name, though no family members have been associated with the running of it  since William died in 1917.

Born on May 11th 1857, William was the youngest of six children born to Mihill Slaughter and his wife, Ann Erskine Capel. Her father, James Durnford Capel [1773 -1844] was a Bank of England cashier  from 1793 until he died – a tremendously long working life of around 50 years. As well as a very long career, he must have held  a post of considerable responsibility  since he is listed in the London Gazette of 1818 as being one of only 26 cashiers authorised to sign Bank of England notes to the value of £5 upwards.Through him, Ann had many family links with London banking and legal circles, as well as the Stock Exchange.

William’s great-grandfather – another William – had been a cheesemonger in St. Martin’s Lane during the late 1780s and 90s. His wife was Mary Mihill. Their eldest son was given their mother’s maiden name , as was the tradition in many families, so he became Mihill Slaughter, the first of four generations to bear the name. I have been told that this is a common Northern Irish variant of the name Michael, so perhaps Mary came from Ireland or had Irish ancestors.

The first Mihill Slaughter  [b.1781] went into the family cheese business, but died at the early age of 36 in 1817. He left his wife, Esther, and five young children, the eldest of whom had been named after his father. Sadly, Esther herself died in 1825 when the young family of three boys and two girls were effectively orphaned. It begins to sound positively Dickensian, but happily for the children, their uncle [ confusingly,yet another William Slaughter] and his wife Elizabeth, took the children in and brought them up. Having no family of their own, they devoted themselves to the care of their nephews and nieces and provided handsomely for them in their wills.

The eldest son, Mihill,[b.1813]  went into business with Thomas Capel [son of  James Capel of the Bank of England]. From 1835 -44 they were partners as coal-marchants in Blackfriars, but Mihill obviously set his sights higher in terms of his career and prospects socially. Through his connections with the Capel family he must have met Ann [Thomas’ half-sister] whom he married in 1846. By that time, Mihill was an employee of the Stock Exchange, in it’s recently established Railways department.

The 1840s was the height of the railway building boom, and there was a great deal of investment in the business. Mihill  was the editor and main compiler of ‘The Railway Intelligence’ – a half-yearly publication which gave detailed information on British and foreign railway companies and statistics on the  different businesses, mileages, accidents etc , which became an invaluable handbook for any potential investor. As Mihill’s wealth and status increased he moved his family to what were then the comfortable leafy suburbs of south London. It was still mainly open country at that time, with wide tree-lined streets  and spacious  houses . The newly built railways and omnibus services meant they were in easy reach of the city. Mihill and Ann’s first child [another Mihill] was born in 1847, then came four daughters, and finally their second son, William, who was born in the family home in Kennington.

Categories: 19th Century, Men of God, and of Commerce, Miscellaneous | Tags: , | 4 Comments

Families – happy and unhappy

I disagree with Tolstoy.  (‘Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’ – Anna Karenina.) It seems to me that when we witness, in fact or fiction, some pain or difficulty in family life, we often see connections to our own.  I have just seen a searing play about two sisters (Little Light by Alice Birch at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond), which left my companion and me in a state of high emotion, as we each recognized in it something horribly ‘familiar’ (Oxford English Dictionary definition ‘on a family footing’ ) – and I don’t even have a sister.   On the same day, I listened to a friend describing the tensions that were building up around her younger daughter’s wedding, and was well able to empathise – and I don’t even have a daughter.  We can identify with stories of family just because we are all part of one , and we understand that huge dramas take place within it,  some of them most unpleasant.  I dislike the way that, after a disaster such as a ‘tsunami’ or an aeroplane crash,  the saccharine words ‘loved ones’ are used in the media, referring to the victims as if they had all lived on a kind of Valentine’s Day cloud.  I find myself wondering if some of their surviving kith and kin might be haunted by the fact they had just had a blazing row with one of the victims, or be thinking of ending a longstanding rift and now it’s too late, or be secretly rejoicing because they really did wish the victim was dead.

With these thoughts in mind, I wonder what is the likely reader response to those of us writing family history.  We often ask ourselves ‘Of what interest is this story to people outside the family?’   Perhaps we underestimate the fascination that lies in family life itself – the ups and downs of fortune, the squabbles and making-ups, the jealousies and envies, the way illness or death disrupt the flow and overturn expectations, the generation struggles.  ‘Family’,  in this context, means more than the nuclear family consisting of two parents who produce 2.4 children.  Each generation brings new blood into the mix, changing the dynamic.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, grandparents all have their part to play.  And there may be other kinds of ‘families’ created at work or play, in church or politics, where other loyalties build up, adding to the complex pattern that makes up each person’s life and relationships.  That complexity may be of interest in itself.

Conventional history was about kings and queens, but for them too, family life played the greatest part. In Tudor: The Family Story (2013) (ISBN: 9780099555285),  Leanda de Lisle showed how the main pre-occupations in that dynasty were not about state affairs.  The decisions they made impinged on their ‘people’ of course, but were motivated by concerns about the family.   The story of each royal dynasty is compelling just because it’s a family story.  In my stage-struck teenage years, one of my favourite novels was Broome Stages by Clemence Dane (Heinemann, 1931), in which she transplanted the Plantagenet dynasty into the world of 18th century English theatre.  The succeeding generations of a medieval family created a palimpsest, on which a new story could be inscribed.

© Diana Devlin

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Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain – a review

IMG_0280 Vera BThe red flower for this Valentine’s Day piece is the scarlet poppy on the front of the Virago anniversary edition of Testament of Youth. First published in 1933 by Victor Gollancz, it became a great success both in the UK and the USA, and  familiar to a later generation when reissued in 1978 and a TV drama series based on it came out in 1979. Vera Brittain [1893 -1970] called it her ‘autobiographical study’, based as it was on extensive use of her own diaries and letters. Though other contemporary women authors had  written on similar themes [ eg Sylvia Pankhurst, and Beatrice Webb] Brittain wanted to emphasise the ‘unsung contribution of women to the war effort.’  Having studied the personal accounts of male authors’ wartime experiences, such as Sassoon, and Robert Graves [whose ‘Goodbye to All That’ had been published in 1929], Brittain felt that none of these acknowledged the value of womens’ war work. In her introduction, she describes how she felt the only course of action was to ‘tell my own fairly typical story as truthfully as I could against the larger background’ of contemporary historical events.’

After war was declared in August 1914, Brittain [then aged 20] decided to forgo her lang-awaited and hard-won place at Somerville College, Oxford, in order to train and work as a V.A.D.[ Voluntary Aid Detachment] nurse. The book tells of her experiences at a hospital in London, then on the Western Front. It also describes the tragic personal losses she had to endure, when first her fiance , then two close friends, and finally her much-loved brother were killed on active service. Brittain’s description of the impact these deaths had on her life, and on the lives of their families and friends , helps to explain the deep sorrow felt by a nation who had to endure the destruction of the ‘lost generation’ in the aftermath of war.

For anyone who is planning to write about the role of women as nurses, and domestic life in London during 1914-18, or who wishes to gain an appreciation of the horrors of mechanised warfare and its effects as seen in a field hospital in Northern France, it is a valuable and absorbing book which still has the power to disturb and move the reader, a century after the momentous events it records. Vera Brittain’s passionate plea for peace needs to be heard as much today as when it was first published.

Having recently seen the film, [directed by James Kent, and with Alicia Vikander in the title role] i would tend to agree with the Guardian reviewer, Peter Bradshaw, who describes it as ‘tastefully realised … but drifts meekly away from the necessary pain and anger, leaving a kind of heritage inertia.’Beautifully filmed and well-acted, the film does gain power after the young protagonists are drawn into the horror of the reality of war. It is almost impossible to do justice to such a long and profound book in a film of just over 2 hours, and much has had to be omitted.  However, it is hoped it will help to bring this remarkable and powerful autobiographical work to  the notice of an even wider audience  and to the next generation.

Categories: Books we've read, How we write, Miscellaneous, Strong Women, World War One | Leave a comment

Another family bible, another distraction

When I visit my uncle I usually bring back something intended to help me with my family history; sometimes an old document or a 1920s guide book to London but recently an old, very large, family bible. Whether this is our family bible is a moot point, certainly it’s someone’s family bible. It records births and a few deaths for the Lane family between 1808 and 1827. Although most events take place in London, in Shoreditch, the first christening is in Oxford.

The New and Grand Imperial Family Bible

The New and Grand Imperial Family Bible

Now I have come across the Lanes before when researching my mother’s maternal line. An Emma Wingfield ne Lane is registered as sharing a house with my great-grandmother in the 1871 and 1881 censuses. Most likely the same Emma Lane recorded in the bible as born on 26th June 1822 and christened on 23rd November 1823 at St Leonard’s Shoreditch, so this must be how the bible came through the ages to me. There is no direct family line between me and Emma so it seems sad that I am left with the problem of the bible’s future. It is a large book; 18”x11”x4”, in a sorry state through damp and decay but it must have been grand. Faint gold ornamentation remains on the spine, it is both annotated and illustrated and includes The Apocrypha, those mysterious books missing from my school bible; entitled “Moore’s Bible” it was published by A Whellier of 3 Paternoster Row. I think it must be “The New and Grand Imperial Family Bible” with commentary by Rev Henry Moore DD published in 1813. As it could not have been owned by the family at the time of the first few entries this may explain a discrepancy between the on-line christening records and the actual dates in the bible.

Page of entries for the Lane family

Page of entries for the Lane family

But what should I do with it; just take out the family pages and bin it, try to find a more direct line to pass it to or just rewrap it and put it in the attic to be another problem at another time? I know I’d like to find the remaining family but isn’t that just another distraction so I guess it’s into the attic as I just can’t bring myself to bin it.

 

 

Barbara Selby

 

Categories: 19th Century, How we write, Legacies, Men of God, and of Commerce | Tags: | 1 Comment

Different perspectives

My youngest sister, in her retirement, has set off on a round-the-world tour on which one of the stops is Singapore.  She has been asking me and our other sister for our memories of the place in the mid-1960s when our father was stationed there for three years with the RAF.  While my other sister and I only spent the school summer holidays there, my youngest sister and brother lived and went to school there.  However she will not find our old bungalow at RAF Seletar, the yacht club there or the places in Singapore City that we used to visit.  Nor will the evening village street market be the same if it exists at all.  That old transit hotel, the Pasir Ris, may be still there but much altered, in pretty grounds which are now a park.  Will my sister recognise it when she visits?

The yacht club, RAF Seletar

The yacht club, RAF Seletar

There are some websites with photos from others who were stationed there in the decades 1950-1970 and browsing them has stirred long forgotten recollections of post-war colonial leisure with an amah to clean, wash and iron, and nothing to do except swim, sail, play golf and socialise.  It was a tropical paradise to us.  It is a pity we have almost no family photographs of this time – apart from one on our custom-built little motor boat in which we used to explore a small section of the Straits of Malacca between Seletar and Malaya.  My father had to have a boat with an engine – sails were just unacceptable.  Singapore will be unrecognisable today due to phenomenal economic growth after independence in 1965.

A very skinny teenage me beside The Shark

A very skinny teenage me beside The Shark

It has been fascinating for us to compare notes on who remembers what about our three years there.  Certain basic facts are common to each of us but we have our own memories of what was important.  Where we differ most is in understanding our parents though whether our perspectives are complementary or contradictory is difficult to judge.  If I ever write a family history memoir of my own life four different accounts – mine and those of my two sisters and my brother – might come closer to a whole rounded picture of our family.

 

Margaret

 

Categories: 20th Century, After the 2nd World War, Miscellaneous | 3 Comments