Document of the Month, May 2018: Down and out in Victorian Essex

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

Our Document of the Month for May 2018 is an admissions register from the Essex Industrial School for Neglected and Destitute Boys (D/Q 40/1). The volume contains records of boys admitted to the school between 1872 and 1883, giving the reason for their admission and following their school career. For some boys it also records what happened to them after they left the school. Each page reads like a miniature Dickens novel, and the book is full of stories of boys who have been wandering the streets or arrested for petty crimes before being sent to the school.

Established in 1872 by local businessman Joseph Brittain Pash, the school started life in two converted houses in Great Baddow, supported entirely by donations. It provided accommodation, clothing, education and practical training for destitute boys, especially orphans or those at risk of falling into crime.

Buildings in Great Baddow used by the school in its early days

The school obviously met a social need, and by 1876 had grown to fill three houses and four cottages. In 1877 it was granted £5,000 by the Essex county authorities and £2,000 by the West Ham School board for a new building. Land was purchased in Rainsford End, Chelmsford, and a new building with space for up to 150 pupils was opened in 1879.

The new school building which opened in Rainsford End, Chelmsford, in 1879

The Essex Industrial School, in the north west quadrant of this map, was built in what was at the time open countryside outside Chelmsford town centre. The building survived until the 1980s when it was demolished and replaced with housing.

Alongside a basic education the boys received training in shoemaking, tailoring, gardening, building, carpentry, painting and decorating, and engineering. The school also had a theatre, a swimming pool, and a fife and drum band. When boys left, attempts were made to find them employment, sometimes in Australia, New Zealand, or Canada.

View more photographs from the school on our Historypin page

The school admission register and photographs of the school’s buildings, classrooms and workshops are wonderful enough, but we also have some further photographs which make the whole collection even more special.

The school sometimes commissioned individual portrait photographs of their pupils, and a little bundle of these survived today at ERO, most of which are named. These names can then be looked up in the admissions registers, and the photographs of the boys can be tied up with their stories told in the school records. Some of the photographs were taken after the boys had been at the school for a while, but others were taken when the boys first arrived. Often they were unshod and wearing rags, and had clearly suffered extreme deprivation.

Photograph of 11-year-old Charles Tungate, who was admitted to the school in 1873, along with his page in the admission register.

Charles Tungate was admitted to the school in October 1873, aged 11. His attendance at the school had been ordered by Greenwich Police Court, following his arrest for stealing a bolt, nails and screws which belonged to his father (his mother had reported this crime). He was sentenced to be detained at the school until he was 16 years of age.

The admission register gives a remarkable amount of detail about Charles’s situation. His parents were Robert and Emma Tungate of Deptford. Robert was a carpenter, but is also described as a drunkard. Charles was one of their eight children; three older children were out at work, but four children younger than Charles were at home. Clearly the family was struggling. Charles had been ‘wandering the streets’, and when admitted, his hair was ‘matted together & full of vermin’ and his body was ‘pale & thin, and almost naked’, and he had sores on his ankles and feet. He had never been to school, but his sister had managed to teach him to read a little.

After 11 months at the school, Charles was described as ‘Rather inattentive, somewhat disobedient, but much improved since admission’. Charles’s school reports are something of a mixed bag – he is described as being ‘deceitful’ and ‘untidy’, but also as ‘persevering’ and ‘diligent’. He left the school in 1878 and was apprenticed to a Chelmsford baker, Mr Hicks, ‘to be taught the trade of a Fancy Bread & Biscuit Baker’. Charles lasted two of his three years as an apprentice, before absconding in August 1880. In 1881, however, he had found another position in London as a baker. Baking seems ultimately to have proved not to be for Charles, and in 1884 he joined the army. He served in India and in South Africa, where he suffered a gunshot wound to both legs during the Boer War. By the time of the 1911 census, Charles was living in Warley, and was an army pensioner and grocer. He was married with four children. He died in 1940, aged 75.

There are two photographs which are labelled ‘G Newman’; the jury is out on whether they are before and after photographs of the same boy or if more than one G Newman attended the school.

George Newman was admitted in 1874 aged 10, having been ‘wandering around with his mother until she became insane’. His father was dead, and his mother was placed in the Essex Lunatic Asylum in May 1874. He stayed at the school until 1880, and wrote in December that year that he had got a job at one of the very first Sainsbury’s shops in London. Sadly when he visited the school in August 1881 he was out of work, and nothing further is reported of him.

William Swainston, who joined the school in 1876, aged 11, having run been orphaned and run away from his uncle. Photo by Edouard Nickels (D/Q 40/153)

William Swainston was admitted in 1876, aged 11, having been found sleeping rough in an outhouse at Parson’s Heath near Colchester. He was an orphan, and had been living with his uncle, but stated he had run away from his uncle because he was afraid of him. A newspaper article fixed to his school record says that ‘He had been wondering about the locality for a fortnight previously, and witness [a local policeman] had received several complaints respecting him… The witness added that when found the boy was in a filthy condition, and Mr. Charles Harvey, the gaoler, said he had never before in his life had a boy in such a dirty state in custody’. He was described on arrival at the school as ‘a quick boy’ and ‘intelligent’, and unusually he could read and write. In 1881 a position was found for him in Canada, and he wrote to the school to tell them he was doing well. Canadian records show that he married an Irishwoman, and settled in Toronto.

The school was later known as the Essex Home School, and continued in various forms until 1980. The buildings have since been demolished and the site redeveloped.

The admission register, along with photographs of some of the pupils of the school, will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout May 2018.

New team member: Valina Bowman-Burns

The ERO’s collections offer infinite educational possibilities, and we are excited to welcome Valina on board to explore these and bring them to students across the county.

 

IMG_7835Name: Valina Bowman-Burns

Role: Learning from History Manager

 

 

 

 

Why did you want to work at ERO?

I was introduced to the Essex Record Office as a student and spent many happy hours researching for my dissertation. It would have taken considerably less time if I was better at reading Tudor handwriting. I’ve also introduced friends and co-workers and always had positive experiences treasure hunting in the Searchroom. I’m very education focused, so when a job came up that used my skillset I jumped at it.

 

Describe an average day at ERO for you:

I’m still meeting people and trying to work out how the teams fit together.  I hope in the near future that I’ll be working much more closely with schools and bringing some new learning sessions online.  I’ll try and keep you posted.

 

What do you do when you’re not at ERO?

I like trying new things. So far this year I’ve tried screen printing, had a trial flight in a Tiger Moth biplane and given Tunisian crochet a go. In the evenings I am a regular at Zumba, yoga and Aikido.

 

Can you tell us about an interesting document you have come across while at ERO?

  1. The records from a mental institution in Colchester had some very sad stories.
  2. Jane Barnard’s will was my prize find when researching my dissertation – I could read it and it contained good detail that I was looking for.
  3. Some Victorian photographs of a man in full, fashionable Victorian ladies garb – corsets and all! I was very envious of his dress and style!

We Will Remember Them: North Primary School Roll of Honour

This guest post is written by Laura Davison, project officer for We Will Remember Them. This HLF-funded school project has used documents stored at ERO and included a visit to ERO for the pupils involved.

Year 5 pupils at North Primary School in Colchester are working on the year-long project We Will Remember Them, researching the lives of the 50 former pupils who volunteered or were conscripted for action in the First World War. This innovative project explores how the discovery of locally relevant histories can engage and inspire pupils in responding to moments in the history of the First Word War.

The project was initially inspired by entries in the school’s log book written by the Head Master John Harper on 9 July 1915 and 11 November 1919:

july 23 sch admissions reg - 256 enrolled 10 died 1

Entry into the North Primary School log book by Head Master John Harper, describing a Roll of Honour which was to be hung permanently in the school hall, recording the names of former pupils who were serving with the armed forces in the First World War (EML 86/2)

sch admission reg 11.11.1918 remembrance 1

Another entry by Harper, describing the observance of two minutes of silence on 11 November, and a display of photographs of the 50 men from the school who lost their lives in the way (E/ML 86/2)

The whereabouts of the Roll of Honour, installed in the school hall in 1915, is unknown.  The funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for We Will Remember Them will enable the school re-instate the Roll of Honour, restoring this object of heritage to its original setting within the school’s Grade II listed building. This will be supported by a showcase exhibition, publication and teachers’ pack narrating the untold stories of the former pupils’ lives and how they were affected by the First World War.

Headteacher Alan Garnett discusses the impact of the project for the school:

This history project captures all our past, present and future. The children are often told that our school is more than just a magnificent building – it is the stories of all its former pupils and staff. To work with a local historian to uncover the stories of those who lost their lives in that terrible war will bring national and local history alive to our pupils. And to have our Roll Of Honour re-made and restored to its rightful place in our school hall, well that will be a proud moment indeed.

The Year 5 pupils have worked with Historian Claire Driver to research and record the former pupils. All the hard work has paid off, as they have identified sixty-two pupils who served and died in the First World War. Each pupil is paired with a former pupil to develop individual case study. Claire has shown them how to use archive records from the School Log Book, the 1901 and 1911 census and military records. Using the 1897 map of Colchester, they have plotted where all the former pupils lived and identified what shops were in Colchester High Street in 1914.  Gradually a picture is being formed of what it was like to live in Colchester 100 years ago.

Some of the fascinating facts the census records revealed were:

  • People’s jobs – fishmongers, bakers, railway porters, tailors, police constables and printing apprentices
  • How many people lived in a house – in some cases  up to 11 people lived in a 2 bedroom Victorian terrace house
  •  Some of the pupils even came from the workhouse at St Mary’s

The children have been on an amazing journey building up an understanding of the social context of the school to promote awareness of their lives in the context of the First World War and the impact it had on the school and its locality.

school trip 9 Pupils visit Colchester's War Memorial and discuss the symboliic meaning of the sculptures. They used 1897 maps to make comparisons of what the site looked like 100 years ago

Visiting Colchester’s War Memorial

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Identifying 4 former pupils on the Roll of Honour in St Peter’s Church, Colchester

An Open Day was held at the school, inviting local residents and families to get involved with the project and share their family stories and memories from the First World War passed down through generations.

open day 1Visitors looking at ERO WW1 exhibition

Visitors enjoy the EROs WW1 exhibition loaned for the Open Day

open day 4 Year 5 Teacher Maria Gray discusses the project with Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell

The children are so proud to be working on this project because it really happened in our school. Year 5 Teacher Maria Gray discusses the project with Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell

Recently, the pupils visited Essex Record Office to view the collections and discover how historians use archives to support their research. Hannah Salisbury, Access and Participation Officer at ERO and project Historian Claire Driver introduced the pupils to the wealth of material available from the collections and explained how to use a range of historical sources to find out what life was like during WWI. The children were able to ask questions about their former pupil and in some cases looked on Ancestry too.

They focused on the two fascinating stories of the nurse Kate Luard and soldier Alf Webb using sound archives, letters and an interesting range of hands-on activities which even included bandaging at a WWI dressing station.

Using different historical sources, such as photographs, sound recordings, letters and even the original admissions register and log book from our school from over 100 years ago, the pupils were able to uncover more information about life during World War One. Maria Gray, Year 5 Teacher

ERO visit 3

Following on from the research, the pupils are now working with Creative Writer Baden Prince to creatively narrate in their own words each soldier’s individual story.  They will then work with Photographer Georgia Metaxas to document their homes, making comparisons with then and now.

Do you have any information to help our research?

If you have any information or images in relation to North Primary School during the First World War please contact Laura Davison, Project Manager at northwewillrememberthem@outlook.com

We Will Remember Them project has been made possible by the funding award from Heritage Lotter Fund’s First World War: then and now programme.

If you are planning your own First World War schools project and would like to use ERO resources or need advice, please get in touch with heritage.education@essex.gov.uk

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Schools on a Naze Adventure

ERO staff are frequently to be found not just in our building in Chelmsford, but all over the county. Our education officer Sarah Girling has been working with school children around Walton-on-the-Naze to find out about how this vulnerable bit of coastline was defended in the Second World War…

173 pupils from three Essex schools have been learning about their local World War Two history on the Naze at Walton this October.

On a trail around the Naze headland searching for remains of WW2 coastal defences

On a trail around the Naze headland searching for remains of WW2 coastal defences

Frinton Primary, Walton-on-the-Naze Primary and Hamford Primary Academy School were involved in four days of visits to the militarised area of the Naze during World War Two, looking at surviving pillboxes and the area used for secret guided missile testing.

Roger Kennell of the Clacton Victoria County History group tells children about an infantry pillbox

Roger Kennell of the Clacton Victoria County History group tells children about an infantry pillbox

Year 5s from Walton-on-the-Naze Primary School with teacher Liz Wilson, local historians Fred Nash and Roger Kennell, and ERO education officer Sarah Girling

Year 5s from Walton-on-the-Naze Primary School with teacher Liz Wilson, local historians Fred Nash and Roger Kennell, and ERO education officer Sarah Girling

They also climbed the Naze Tower, listening to a talk given by Michelle Nye-Browne, the manager of the 300 year old Grade II* listed building, which was used as a radar tower.

The Naze Tower

The Naze Tower

Inside the Naze Tower, learning about how it was used as a radar station in the Second World War

Inside the Naze Tower, learning about how it was used as a radar station in the Second World War

The Naze Tower in use as a radar station in WW2

The Naze Tower in use as a radar station in WW2. Image reproduced courtesy of the Naze Tower.

Looking out from the top of the Naze Tower

Looking out from the top of the Naze Tower

As part of the European-funded World War Two Heritage project, pupils learned about the defences that were built during the Second World War and how they would have been used if German invasion forces had landed on the Essex coast.

Looking at a pillbox which has fallen into the sea

Looking at a pillbox which has fallen into the sea. The coast at Walton has been eroded at a rate of 2 metres a year, and some of the WW2 defences have fallen off the cliff edge

Led by enthusiastic historians, Roger Kennell and Fred Nash, the children were inspired by the stories including an eccentric Brigadier, who when faced with a missile that was heading back to its launch site on the Naze, calmly raised a ‘colourful golf umbrella’ as the bits of broken metalwork fell to the ground.

Roger Kennell shows children the site where soldiers lived during wartime

Roger Kennell shows children the site where soldiers lived during wartime

The pupils had obviously learned something of the Second World War back at school but the visit was a chance for pupils to really understand how national and international events impacted their local community. The Naze itself was inhabited by the army and the RAF, making it their home for the duration of the war.

Pupils using the specially designed Four on a Naze Adventure workbooks to find out about the WW2 coastal defences at the Naze

Pupils using the specially designed Four on a Naze Adventure workbooks to find out about the WW2 coastal defences at the Naze

The project will be continuing and will include a visit to the Essex Record Office for pupils to investigate local records that reveal what life was like for ordinary people living in Walton during the war, interviewing locals to find out about their memories, and holding a 1940s tea party at each school to celebrate the end of the project.

To find out more about the educational work of the ERO, visit our services for schools webpage.

This project is part of the EU Interreg-funded World War Two Heritage project taking place on both sides of the Channel.