Document of the Month, August 2015: mystery baptisms

Lawrence Barker, Archivist

This month’s document is a typical parish register (ref. D/P 183/1/37) from St Mary’s Church, Prittlewell, the mother church of Southend.  As well as marriages and burials, it covers baptisms from 1727-1807 and might record the baptism in secret of two illegitimate children of Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton in 1803.

Emma Hamilton as a young woman c. 1782, by George Romney

I was reminded of the local story about Emma Hamilton’s supposed secret confinement somewhere in Southend, which I had read about in Karen Bowman’s book Essex Girls,[1] when I collected some records and memorabilia of Eton House School last month.  The school used to occupy the house called Southchurch Lawn on the road from Thorpe Bay to Great Wakering, which is where it is claimed Emma’s confinement took place.  Apparently, a ship’s surgeon called Seacole was in attendance, and he was persuaded to act as the father at the christening.  Also in attendance, it was said, was a gentleman ‘with an eye patch and an empty sleeve to his jacket’.

Baptisms of Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole and Elizabeth Caroline Lind Seacole

Extract from the Prittlewell baptism register, including entries (at the bottom) for Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole and Elizabeth Caroline Lind Seacole, September 18th 1803 (D/P 183/1/37)

Looking at the register to verify the entry myself, I found a baptism that took place on 18th September 1803 for two children, a boy christened Edwin Horatio Hamilton Seacole followed by a girl christened Elizabeth Caroline Lind Seacole, the son and daughter of a Thomas and Anne Seacole.  If these were the secret children of Emma Hamilton, and the name of the boy obviously suggests that they might have been, it looks as though she might have had twins.

At the time, Emma would most likely have been staying at the Royal Terrace at Southend, which was in the parish of Prittlewell, as she did on occasion apparently to facilitate liaison with Nelson whenever his ship was moored at The Nore.  In 1805, Emma gave a ball in Nelson’s honour at the assembly room, Southend, which was reported in the Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday August 2nd.  Of course, at the same time, possibly in 1803 or 1804, Caroline the Princess of Wales stayed at the ‘Royal Terrace’ which was named after her, and two years before, her daughter Princess Charlotte stayed for three months at Southchurch Lawn in 1801 for health reasons.

The boy, however, is even more interesting for his connection to another remarkable woman.  Later, he went to Jamaica and married a Jamaican woman of mixed race, Mary Jane Grant, who was to become the celebrated ‘black nurse’ of the Crimean War, Mary Seacole, voted the ‘greatest black Briton’ in a poll in 2004 as reported by BBC News.[2]  ‘Mother Seacole’, as she was affectionately known to many soldiers at the time, ran the ‘British Hotel’ at Spring Hill near Balaclava, which she established in March 1855 to provide what she herself described in her autobiography[3] as ‘a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers’.  She also helped wounded soldiers on the battlefield and witnessed the fall of Sevastopol.

The only known photograph of Mary Seacole, taken for a carte de visite by Maull & Company in London (c. 1873)

Later, in her will, she claimed that her husband was Nelson’s ‘godson’ who gave him a diamond ring which Mary kept until the end of her life, even though she fell on hard times after the Crimea, and bequeathed to one of her supporters, Count Gleichen.[4]  In which case, one wonders whether Nelson also attended the christening at St Mary’s himself.

At the time, Mary Seacole’s celebrity rivalled Florence Nightingale’s but she soon fell into obscurity, that is, until recently.  Although many have pointed out that she was never a ‘nurse’ in the sense that Florence Nightingale undoubtedly was, members from The Royal College of Nursing attended the dedication in July 2014 of the site in front of St Thomas’s Hospital where a memorial statue is to be erected to her, due for completion this summer (2015).

The register will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout August.

[1] Bowman, Karen (2010). Essex girls. Stroud: Amberley Publishing.

[3] The wonderful adventures of Mrs Seacole in many lands, which has since become a Penguin Classic.

[4] Sara Salih, the editor of the Penguin Classics edition of Mary Seacole’s autobiography, as well as citing the will in her introduction, also refers to surviving records for her marriage to Edwin Seacole in Jamaica and the entry for Edwin Seacole’s baptism in the this register.

Major Essex Ancestors update: remaining wills now all online

Essex Ancestors, our online subscription service which allows users to view digital images of historic parish registers and wills, has undergone its latest major update.

Our collections include about 70,000 original wills which date from the 1400s to 1858 – images of all of which are now available on Essex Ancestors.

Where wills exist, they can be of great help in establishing family connections and for finding out about people’s property and belongings.  As we have indexed the testators’ occupations and their places of residence as well as their names these images are also a goldmine for social and local history.

This is the third and final batch of the original wills that we have uploaded to Essex Ancestors and represents many months of work by our digitisers, conservators and archivists.

IMG_6250

This batch of wills included some extra large documents which had to be flattened in our Conservation Studio before they could be digitised

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The ERO Digitsation Studio has been hard at work preparing the latest upload

With all the parish registers and wills digitised, the total number of images on Essex Ancestors is now over 750,000. We hope that researchers all over the world will enjoy using this resource to find out about the lives of all the thousands of Essex people past who are included within these fascinating records.

A particularly ornate opening to a will belonging to John Gardener of Little Bromley (D/ACW 25/18)

A particularly ornate opening to a will belonging to John Gardener of Little Bromley (D/ACW 25/18)

You can access Essex Ancestors from home as a subscriber, or for free in the ERO Searchroom in Chelmsford or at our Archive Access Points in Saffron Walden and Harlow. Opening hours vary so please check before you visit.

Before you subscribe please check that the documents you are interested in exist and have been digitised by searching Seax. You can view a handy video guide to using Essex Ancestors here.

We will continue to add to and improve Essex Ancestors, so watch out for more material being added in the future. Happy searching!

The experience of death and burial in Hatfield Broad Oak, 1827-1832

By archivist Lawrence Barker

Whenever we give talks to people about parish records and their use in family history research, we make the point that some burial registers can give extra information about the deceased in addition to the bare details of name, date and age, and sometimes record background historical information.

A case in point is the burial register for Hatfield Broad Oak, 1813-1859 (D/P 4/1/26), which was deposited with us in November 2011.  Most of the register confines itself to recording the bare minimum details of name, abode, when buried, age and by whom the ceremony was performed, as stipulated under the terms of ‘Rose’s Act’ of 1812, which stated that “amending the Manner and Form of keeping and of preserving Registers of Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials of His Majesty’s Subjects in the several Parishes and Places in England, will greatly facilitate the Proof of Pedigrees of Persons claiming to be entitled to Real or Personal Estates, and otherwise of great public Benefit and Advantage”.

Nevertheless, even though the information is basic, we can still build up a picture of the demography of death in Hatfield Broad Oak which tells us something about what life might have been like then.

Chart - deaths in Hatfield Broad Oak

Pie chart showing age at death in Hatfield Broad Oak, 1827-1832, taken from the parish register. A total of 200 deaths are recorded during this period, and over 80 of them were children under 10 years old.

For example, looking at the ages of those buried (above), one forgets just how high the infant mortality rate used to be before improvements were brought about by modern hygiene and medical practice, and how likely it was having survived birth you might not have survived much beyond early childhood.  The register shows that, out of the 200 or so burials which took place between 1827 and 1832 in Hatfield Broad Oak, 80 of them (40%) were of children aged 10 or under.  At the other end of the scale, it shows also that only 20% of those buried reached what we would now consider as old age, i.e. over 60.

A lot depended upon the individual incumbent as to whether he was disposed to record additional information.  From May 1827, the new curate at Hatfield Broad Oak, John Robert Hopper, took it upon himself to start recording in the margin the cause of death of those he was burying and other information besides.  So, we find that a serious epidemic of typhoid carried off 25 children between September 1828 and June 1829, reaching a peak in January and February 1829 (below).

D-P 4-1-26 a

In 1830, it was measles that took 6 children in March and April and in 1831, 4 children died of whooping cough.  Throughout the period, 4 infants died of convulsions.

Typhoid, an indicator of impoverished and unhygienic living conditions, seems to have been a major cause of death during the period, with 37 cases, followed by a condition described rather vaguely as ‘decline’ which accounted for 23 deaths.  A few died of consumption or of ‘inflammation of the bowels’ or of dropsy.  One 52 year old died of cancer in 1832.  Two were simply found dead in their beds and one woman aged 27 was found dead in a field on Sunday 30th March 1831 – the verdict that she died of apoplexy.

Occasionally, a fatal accident is recorded as the cause of death.  In November 1828, a 64 year old Edward Bird ‘fell thro’ 2 floors of Mr P Sullivan’s malting, Heath and died a day or 2 after’.  Another died in July 1832 of ‘old age arrested by a fall down stairs’.  In May 1830, one Patterson Parker ‘accidentally shot himself’.

Later that same year in July, a Royal Naval Lieutenant, George Berkley Love, visiting from Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, was working in the Park of Barrington Hall when he ‘accidentally cut himself thro’ the lower third of the thigh with a scythe’ and bled to death in 5 minutes.  J. R. Hopper records that an oak tree was planted soon afterwards to mark the spot where the accident occurred.

Earlier that year in February, poor little 5 year old Betsy Rogers burnt to death, and two extraordinary marginal notes on that page give a clue as to how (below):

Feb.y 7.  A frost of 7 weeks broke up today.  Temperature 12° below freezing point! Many persons frozen to death. One at Gt Canfield, one at Sawbridgeworth.

The seat of Lord Rendlesham (Rendlesham Hall, Suffolk) burnt to the ground, damage = 100,000£; The seat of Lord Sandwich (Hinchinbroke, Huntingdonshire) also destroyed by fire with title deeds, fine pictures, etc.; The Argyle Rooms, Regent St, London also destroyed by fire. Lyceam also…All in Jan.y in Feb.y arising from the unusual heating of flues etc. in consequence of the uncommon severity of the season.

D-P 4-1-26 b crop

If you would like to find out more about parish registers and how they can help you with your research, come along to our next Discover: Parish Registers workshop on Thursday 12 March 2015, 2.30pm-4.30pmTickets are £10.00, please book in advance on 033301 32500. Full details can be found on our events page.

If you are interested in booking a talk with one of our Archivists, on parish registers or another subject, please get in touch with us on ero.enquiry[@]essex.gov.uk

New Accession: Will of Benjamin Chipperton, 1795

The Friends of Historic Essex (FHE), the charity that supports the work of the ERO, has recently purchased for the ERO the will of Benjamin Chipperton of Little Bromley (to the north east of Colchester). While it is a modest will of a carpenter we are very pleased to receive it because we do not have a copy of his will in among the 70,000 or so wills that we look after. Thanks to their generosity it is now available for all to look at in the Searchroom. Since it arrived Archive Assistant Gail Sanders has been finding out more about Benjamin Chipperton…

After the  purchase of Benjamin Chipperton’s will (Acc. A14021 Box 1) written on the 28th August 1795, I have been able to draw up a family tree and look into a small part of village and family life in the late 18th and early 19th century. As mentioned below this document could be one of a number of documents that have been split up and I have been unable to pinpoint the exactly location of the messuages and cottages owned and mentioned in the will.

Gail - A14021 box 1 watermarked

Since there are so many Benjamin Chippertons involved in the tale below we shall refer to them as follows:

  • Benjamin senior – our main Benjamin’s father
  • Benjamin junior – the Benjamin who wrote the will at hand
  • Benjamin III – Benjamin junior’s son
  • Benjamin IV – Benjamin III’s son

Benjamin Chipperton junior was baptised on the 4th March 1738, the son of Benjamin Chipperton senior and his wife Elizabeth. Benjamin junior’s first wife was Susan Winter; together they had two sons, another Benjamin, and then James. Susan died a year after James’s birth. Benjamin junior remarried on 17 November 1774 to Hannah Cook of Little Bentley.

Benjamin junior’s will highlights his career as a carpenter, as the main items mentioned are his workshop and tools. It also makes clear his hope or expectation that his son Benjamin III would take over the business; he was left the family home, household goods, workshop and tools.

The will mentions only modest amounts of money: Benjamin junior left £1 to his wife for every year she lived but remained unmarried, and £5 to his second son James on the year of his death and the year after. The old money converter from the National Archives suggests that in the 1790s £1 was 6 days of a craftsman wages, and £5 was 33 days.

However, all was not to work out just as Benjamin junior might have planned. From the Little Bromley parish registers (viewable on Essex Ancestors) we learn that three generations of Chipperton men all died within five years: Benjamin Senior was buried on 23 September 1795, Benjamin junior died in 1798, and his son Benjamin III was buried on 15 June 1800.

Benjamin III was, however, survived by his son Benjamin IV (born 1799), with whom the family’s fortunes did revive a little. He survived to adulthood and married Maria Cook (her second husband) and went on to have a family of 7 children. He did, however, die in 1843 aged just 44. (Maria went on to marry her third husband, Robert Porter, and can be found on the 1851 census.)

If you have managed to keep up with all the Benjamins through to the end of this post then well done – and just as a bonus one of the witnesses to the will was also a Benjamin, although at least with a different last name (Carrington).

It appears that Benjamin junior’s will might be part of a bundle of documents that have been split up for sale, including a mortgage for a cottage and land in Little Bromley, 1795, and a lease for a carpenter’s workshop (now divided into two properties) and land in Great Bromley, 1827. Does anyone know of the whereabouts of these to help us add to the story of the Chipperton family? We’d love to hear from you! We can be contacted on ero.enquiry[@]essex.gov.uk

To support the work of the FHE, or if you would like to make a donation to their document purchase fund, please see: http://www.essexinfo.net/friends-of-historic-essex/

PS Remember that digital copies of more than half of our wills are now available to view on Essex Ancestors

Looted treasure and a family history discovery

The Essex Record Office offers a Search Service for researchers unable to visit the archives in person, and our resident searcher recently came across a fascinating account of a customer’s family history research, and helped to add to her findings, which are shared here with the customer’s permission.

Conducting historical research is like attempting a large and complex jigsaw, with fragments of the whole picture to be found scattered around in various family stories and memorabilia and in public collections. We were interested to hear this customer’s story, and are pleased to have been able to add a piece to the puzzle.

We were asked to search for the baptism of Thomas Davies, born around 1790 in West Ham. As a young lad Thomas joined the Royal Navy, and was assigned to the HMS Polyphemus. Part of the ship’s business was capturing Spanish treasure ships, and on 21 January 1805 Thomas Davies was court-martialled for looting valuables from one of these prize ships, the Santa Gertrude. For this he could have been hanged but given his youth received instead 200 lashes, was fined all pay and prize money, and was sentenced to one year in solitary confinement.

From the Marshalsea Naval Prisoners Entry Book (not held here) we know that that Thomas was ‘aged 18, a Seaman, about 5ft 5in high, brown complexion, light hair and eyes, rather slim and very youthful boy-like appearance, born at Stratford in Essex’.

From this information given to us the Search Service found a very likely match in the baptism register for West Ham, All Saints Church for the baptism of ‘Thomas Davis son of Richard & Phebe’ on August 5, 1787.

D-P 256-1-3 image 171 Thomas Davis baptism

If you would like to search a document in our collections but are not able to visit in person, the Search Service may be able to help. Just let us know which documents you would like us to search in and for what information and we will send you the results. More information, including charges, can be obtained by e-mailing ero.searchservice@essex.gov.uk or by telephoning 01245 244644. Please note that we can only undertake specific and not general searches.

Secrets from the Asylum

Tonight on ITV the inimitable pub landlord, Al Murray, amongst others, will be discovering the secrets of their ancestors’ lives. One of Murray’s ancestors was committed to an asylum and the show will follow his discovery of what that meant for her and the other asylum “inmates”.

1st Edn OS Map 25" showing the County Lunatic Asylum in 1975

1st Edn OS Map 25″ showing the County Lunatic Asylum in 1875

After The Asylum Act of 1845 it became a requirement for each county to have its own asylum. The Justices of the Peace in Essex opened their County Asylum at Warley near Brentwood in 1853 at a building cost of some £66,000. It was then designed to hold 450 inmates. The institution finally closed its doors in 2001 and much of the site has now been re-developed into luxury flats. To get a flavour of what the asylum was like at the end of its life this website has a number of very good pictures.

A/H 10/2/5/18 - A page from one of the female case books. The words used to describe her illnes are somewhat different to how we would describe them today. "Acute melancholia, morbidly despondant..."

A/H 10/2/5/18 – A page from one of the female case books. The words used to describe her illness are somewhat different to how we would describe them today. “Acute melancholia, morbidly despondent…”

Those documents which had survived the passing of time and the closing of Warley Hospital have now been passed to us at the Essex Record Office. These include Managers’ Minutes, Reception Orders, Case Books and Patient Indexes. We also have a range of Burial Registers which were kept by the Justices of the Peace. The majority of these documents fall under our A/H 10 reference and many of these can be searched in the Record Office, though it is worth bearing in mind that most records less than 100 years old are closed to the public and will have to be searched by one of our archivists (the exception to that being the Burial Registers which are held under references Q/ALc 12/1 to Q/ALc 12/5 and these are currently available to view on our catalogue Seax).

Q/ALc 12/1 - This is the first of 5 burial registers for the graveyard at Warley Hospital. They run from 1856 to 1935. Some burials of patients from Warley are also recorded in the parish graveyard of St Peters, South Weald.

Q/ALc 12/1 – This is the first of 5 burial registers kept by the Justices of the Peace for the graveyard at Warley Hospital. They run from 1856 to 1935. Some burials of patients from Warley are also recorded in the parish graveyard of St Peter’s, South Weald

Q/ALc 12/1

Extract from Q/ALc 12/1

If you are interested in what you discover with Al Murray tonight and want to find out more about life in the asylum or if you think you may have a relative who may have been in the County Asylum, please feel free to visit us or get in touch to discover the secrets that our records might hold.

Stories from the stores: William Raymond Scott and the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii)

Archivist Allyson Lewis blogs for us about a recent interesting discovery…

While preparing for our Discover Parish Registers workshop at Harlow Archive Access Point on Wednesday 14 May 2014 (see our events page for details), I came across a note that the registers of St Mary Magdalene, Harlow had been closed as they had been taken to the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii) by mistake and were not returned for two years, by which time new registers had been started.  Intrigued, I investigated further and found that the perpetual curate, Revd William Raymond Scott, had undertaken to accompany the newly-appointed Bishop of Honolulu to the Sandwich Islands, as Hawaii was then called, in 1862.  In addition, he and his wife were to chaperone 70 girls emigrating to Australia.

Extract from D/P 533/1/1

Extract from D/P 533/1/1

They sailed on the steamer the Tynemouth and the voyage was a disaster from start to finish.  The crew mutinied in mid-Atlantic and the ship had to put into the Falkland Islands.  Order was restored and the ship continued to Victoria.  On arrival Scott would not let the girls leave the ship due to the ‘moral dangers’ ashore.

He continued on to the Sandwich Islands and was present when the King and Queen of Hawaii were confirmed and received their first communion.  The service was translated into the Hawaiian language and sung.

He established a church on Maui and a school but left the islands in disgrace and returned to England where he ministered to the poor in the East End of London including Wapping Workhouse during a cholera epidemic.  He died in 1894 in Marlborough, Wiltshire.

To find out more about parish registers and how they could help your research, coming along to one of our Discover: Parish Registers workshops. There are two coming up soon, at Harlow on Wednesday 14 May, and at Walton-on-the-Naze on Wednesday 21 May. Find out more here.

Lumières, Caméra, Action!

We had a little bit of glitz and glamour at the record office today as the international television cameras started to roll in the Searchroom. The occasion was the filming of part of an episode of ‘Qui étes vous?’ which is the French-Canadian version of our own ‘Who do you think you are?’

Members of the crew prepairing to shoot in the searchroom.

Members of the crew preparing to shoot in the Searchroom

The crew and local expert Patrick Denney spent an enjoyable morning filming for the episode which features the award winning actor Antoine Bertrand. A number of our original documents were consulted but we won’t let on which in case some of our Canadian readers get upset.

The crew from Quis Etes Vous? Along with Antoine Betrand (5th from right) and Patrick Denney (6th from right)

The crew from Quis Etes Vous? Along with Antoine Betrand (5th from left) and Patrick Denney (6th from left)

Do you have any North American connections among your ancestors or does your family history wend its way back to British shores? Either way it can be a frustrating but rewarding obstacle to overcome in the course of your research and hopefully the Essex Record Office and our colleagues in the UK and elsewhere will be able to help you.

New team member: Andy Morgan

Our Digitisation Studio is one of those hidden but vital parts of the Record Office. The Studio does all of the digitisation work for Essex Ancestors as well as processing public orders, and creates hundreds of thousands of images of our documents each year. We are glad to be welcoming a new staff member to the Studio, and here we get to know him a little better.

Name: Andy Morgan

Role: Digitiser

New Digitiser Andy Morgan at work in ERO's Digitisation Studio

New Digitiser Andy Morgan at work in ERO’s Digitisation Studio

Why did you want to work at ERO?

Having worked at ERO for a short period 3 years ago, I was interested in the historical documents that I have photographed and converted to digital images and that they may now be more accessible for the general public to research.

 

Describe an average day at ERO for you:

The day may vary from photographing public documents, wills and books, recording births deaths and marriages, some of them date back over 400 years, beautifully written with quill and ink and many describe in detail how life was many years ago.

 

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

I enjoy sailing during the warm weather and restoring my classic car.

 

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

I have not had the chance to photograph some of the oldest documents in the collection but just copying some of the early marriage certificates gives you a clue to what life was like between the two world wars with all the different types of jobs that people had at that time that are not around now like cabinet makers, Bakelite moulders, stokers and car men.

From 1939 when the second world war commenced you can clearly see how life changed for women, replacing the men away at war by working in industry, women’s land army, to transporting replacement aircraft across the country. It can all come to life when you see it in black and white apart from the fact that the book may not have been opened since the day the happy wedding day took place!

Essex Ancestors update

Essex Ancestors, ERO’s online subscription service for digital images of Essex parish registers and wills, has undergone its next major update.  The service now includes parish registers from the ancient parishes of Chingford, Leyton and Walthamstow, and many of the newer parishes established as this area was built up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  These registers are held by Waltham Forest Archives at Vestry House in Walthamstow and were loaned to ERO for digitisation.  In all, ERO has copied another 473 registers, producing over 67,000 images, completing coverage of the whole of historic Essex and pushing the total number of Essex parish register images to over 580,000.

You can either subscribe to use the service from home, or take advantage of the free onsite available to visitors to the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford and to its Access Points at Saffron Walden and Harlow.  It will shortly be provided at Waltham Forest Archives.  Opening hours vary, so please check before you visit.

Please note that marriages after 1957 are not included, and not every single register has survived or been deposited with ERO.  Before you subscribe please check that the documents you need exist and have been digitised.

Happy searching!

Visit Essex Ancestors at www.essexancestors.co.uk

View our handy video tutorial on how to use Essex Ancestors: