Category Archives: Purssell

A deeper look at the Will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870) part 2, Basil and Harriet.

For reasons I’m not entirely sure why, there has been a large increase in interest in the post I did just over two years ago about the will of William Henry Burke (1792-1870).  This got me to look at him again, and to see what else could be put together. This is the second of a series of posts that should explain a lot more. If you haven’t read the first one you can find it here. My starting point for looking at William Burke was one of his sons-in-law Basil O’Bryen. But everything is much more complicated than that.

To re-cap slightly.

William Henry Burke and John Roche O’Bryen [Basil’s father] were neighbours in South Kensington. Both men drew up new wills in May 1870, and died in July that year. What raised my curiosity was the fact that neither of WH Burke’s elder children, or their spouses were made executors, and he chose his youngest daughter, and her twenty-two year old fiancé Basil. Basil O’Bryen had stood out very early on. Mostly, because he is a wrong’un; he married three times, at least once bigamously [at least according the English law] in Australia. He abandoned his son from his marriage to Harriet, and his second wife and their two children, and moved to Australia, where he married his third wife. There is also signs of at least one court case, with reference to a court case Burke v. O’Bryen in a London Gazette notice in August 1871.

So on with the story.

There’s something about the Basil and Harriet story that I just can’t get at the moment. In brief, it reads like the plot of a novel. They marry when he is twenty-two, and she is thirty-three. I still can’t work out whether it’s love, money, or both. His father left  £1,000 [present-day value £750,000] to the trust Harriet was a beneficiary of when he drew up his new will. The other parties to the settlement being his daughter Corinne, and Basil’s step-mother Celia. Presumably, there were already funds in the trust, initially I thought it seemed to be a Marriage Settlement, but I am beginning to think that it was a settlement to provide income for both Corinne, and Harriet. John Roche O’Bryen’s will is very detailed, quite long, and very specific with regard to provision to the children of his second marriage to Celia Grehan. There is a great lack of detail about any of his adult children, apart from the reference to the settlement.  The reason, I now think, it may be a settlement for adult female members of the family is the will very clearly states that any sums provided for daughters should besettled upon daughters in manner following, that is to say. Upon trust, to pay the income thereof respectively to such daughter for her sole and separate use, free from the control of her husbands.” But this doesn’t really help with where Basil got any money from, and when. The best guess is that there was money from Eliza Henderson [ JROB’s first wife], his mother, and that both Henry Hewitt, and Basil had benefitted from that already.

The marriage lasted just thirty-one months, and Harriet was dead by the end of August 1873, leaving Basil a twenty-five year old widower, with an eleven-month old son Basil John. All very tragic, but Basil bounces back, and is re-married within nine months of Harriet’s death. He is now twenty-six, and his bride Agnes Kenny is twenty-three.

Basil and Harriet’s marriage also raises questions about who the families are. The main one is why were they married by the Archbishop of Westminster? Marrying in the pro-Cathedral makes sense because it is fairly close to Thistle Grove, and was probably the parish church at the time. Archbishop [later Cardinal] Manning seems to be a rather grand celebrant for the wedding, particularly as Harriet had been christened as an Anglican, at St Leonard’s Shoreditch, as had her brother, and sister. But perhaps, as Manning was a convert himself, he looked fondly on bringing Anglicans to the true Church. Elizabeth Burke, Harriet’s sister also married a Catholic.

What is interesting is how connected to the Burke family he seems to remain, at least initially. Or possibly more correctly, how connected to Burke property he is. According to the London Gazette  William Henry Burke of No 32 Thistle grove South Kensington, had his will proved by amongst others, Harriet Matilda Burke of No 32 Thistle grove  and Basil William O’Bryen of No 28 Thistle grove. So in December 1870, they each gave their father’s addresses as theirs. On the census date, April 2nd 1871, they both were listed at his step-mother’s address No 28 Thistle grove, where they were described as “visitors”. But the probate record for Harriet – slightly strangely not proved until 30th August 1875, two years after her death, gave her principal address at the time of her death as No 32 Thistle grove, which was also the address that Basil gave when he proved the will.  So five years after William Henry Burke’s death, and two years after Harriet’s, her widower is apparently still connected to the Burke family home. Even though during that time, Harriet had given birth to their son Basil junior in Torquay, and she died at 34 Cavendish Place, Eastbourne. Her probate record recorded her as “late of 32 Thistle grove”. She left just £100.

The next nugget came from a small story in “The Tablet” [The International Catholic News Weekly.]

THE PRO-CATHEDRAL—A pleasing addition has lately been made to the Pro-Cathedral of Clifton. The side chapel, dedicated to St. Joseph, has been entirely renewed and decorated, and a marble altar erected, the reredos of which was executed in Belgium. The whole has a very pleasing effect. It is the gift of Basil O’Bryen, esq., as a memorial of his late wife Harriet Matilda O’Bryen, who died August 23, 1873, and whose remains are buried in the cemetery at Fulham.  [Page 18, The Tablet, 5th February 1876.]

This is also very curious. There doesn’t appear to be any family connection between the Burke family, and Bristol. In fact, far from it. William Henry Burke gave his birthplace as the “City of London”, and Sarah Burke (neé Penny) and all the children were recorded as being born in London in the 1841 census when they were living in Noble Street in the City. [Noble Street is north-east of St Paul’s]. There is an O’Bryen Bristol connection, John Roche O’Bryen had practiced medicine there from at least 1841, and Basil himself was born there, and his mother, and six brothers and sisters, are buried in the city. But by the time Basil was 10 the O’Bryen family were in Liverpool, and by 1861, when he was 12, the family were in London, and he was at boarding school at Ratcliffe College.

It’s an interesting public gesture, and all the odder for the eccentric choice. A memorial in the Pro-cathedral in London would have seemed more obvious, given that Basil and Harriet got married there, or a memorial at St Thomas of Canterbury in Fulham, where John Roche O’Bryen, Basil’s step-brother Walter, and Harriet were buried; followed twenty-five years later by his step-mother Celia, and, later still, by another step-brother Philip. Perhaps Basil felt the need to try to repair his father’s somewhat sullied name in Bristol.

But there is still the question about why Basil and Harriet were her father’s executors, and more particularly, in a rather patriarchal age, WHB didn’t choose either his son, or a long-established son-in-law.

The Burke children were

  • Elizabeth Sarah (1829 – 1889)
  • William Henry ( 1835 -1908)
  • Harriet Matilda (1838 – 1873)

In 1870, the eldest daughter Elizabeth Sarah was forty years old , and had been married for fourteen years, all five of her children had been born, her eldest son was about eleven years old. In one of those nice twists, and coincidences, Elizabeth and Alfred Edwardes’ second son, nine year-old, Henry Grant Edwardes would go on to marry Lucy Purssell, whose sister Gertrude married Basil’s step-brother Ernest O’Bryen in 1898. So Basil’s nephew was his step-brother’s brother-in-law.

His only son William Henry, known as Henry, was thirty-five, had been married nearly nine years, and was the father of four children, with another one on the way. Yet the choice of executors was the youngest unmarried daughter, and her much younger fiancé.

 

So is the answer to be found in Burke v. O’Bryen ?

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The Founding of Westminster Cathedral, 1883.

Westminster cathedral

This is included for a few reasons, but two of them are family related. Herman Lescher, the auditor of the Westminster Land Company is a 1st cousin, four times removed, as is his brother Frank. Frank Harwood Lescher’s wife Mary is also a 1st cousin, in her case three times removed. It’s also here because Alfred Purssell was a founder-donor to the cathedral with his name in the loggia, if I remember rightly.

 

The Westminster Land Company and The New Cathedral 1883.

We have already given our readers full information on the formation of the new company, as far as it concerned the site for the new cathedral of this diocese. Some incomplete particulars, however, having found their way into a bi-weekly paper, we feel it necessary to give the facts in greater detail :— It will be remembered that we stated that the law binds the Home Office to re-convey the site of Tothill-fields Prison to the Middlesex magistrates. This formal re-conveyance, we understand, has to be made some time within six months, and will therefore in all probability be effected shortly after Christmas. In the meantime the land was purchased from the magistrates by the Earl of Denbigh, Lord Beaumont, Sir Charles Clifford, and the Count de Torre Diaz. These four gentlemen have entered into contract with the Westminster Land Company, which is now duly formed, registered, and in working order.

The Memorandum of Association, which had to be filed at Somerset House on registration, bears the following signatures :—The Earl of Denbigh, Hon. Henry Wm. Petre, Francis Charles New, Sir Charles Clifford, Count de Torre Diaz, Herman Lescher, Alfred Blount.

The new company has now, by a draft Agreement between them and the four purchasers, taken over from the latter the prison site and the land in possession of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. In this draft Agreement, to the signatures of the four purchasers are added the names of eight of the original founders or guarantors of the deposit, the remaining two being among the purchasers. These signatories are :—

  • The Earl of Denbigh.
  • Lord Beaumont.
  • Sir Charles Clifford.
  • Count de Torre Diaz.
  • Edward Devenish Walshe, Esq.
  • The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.
  • Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.
  • Lord Arundell of Wardour.
  • Thomas Weld Blundell, Esq., of Ince Blundell.
  • Walter Hussey Walsh, Esq.
  • Herman Lescher, Esq.
  • Alfred Blount, Esq.

The Westminster Land Company are, therefore, in equitable possession of the land of which the Middlesex magistrates have the power to dispose, and by their agreement with the purchasers and founders take over all the liabilities. The Company’s agreement with the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, whereby they take over the adjoining portion of land in his possession in exchange for a part of the prison site on the payment of the difference in money value, is in course of preparation for signature. The Company’s registered capital is £130,000, in 15,000 shares of £ 10 each. The Board of Directors and the officers of the Company have been constituted as follows :—

  • Earl of Denbigh.
  • Lord Beaumont.
  • Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.
  • Sir Charles Clifford
  • Directors
  • Hon. Henry William Petre.
  • Edward Frederick Devenish Walshe, Esq.
  • Walter Hussey Walsh, Esq.

Solicitors—Messrs. Blount, Lynch, and Petre, 4, King-street, Cheapside, E.C.

Auditor—Herman Lescher, Esq., T, Princes-street, Bank, E.C.

Surveyors—Messrs. Vigers and Co., 4, Frederick’s-place, Old Jewry, E.C.

Secretary—Francis Charles New, Esq.

Offices—T. Princes-street, Bank, E.C.

The above text was found on p.8, 6th October 1883 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher” The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .

The Purssells 1870 – 1890

“It is indisputable that while you cannot possibly be genteel and bake, you may be as genteel as never was and brew.” Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1861.

As we’ve already seen the decade between 1861 and 1871 seemed to have been  pivotal for the family. Some have definitely succeeded,  others don’t seem to do well; and by the start of the 1870’s there appears to be almost a gulf between the two remaining branches of the family, possibly exacerbated by a split in religions, but more likely by a combination of class, status, and money.

St Anne Limehouse

St Anne Limehouse

As far as we can tell, the whole family were born and christened as members of the Church of England.  Roger and Charlotte were christened, and married at St Anne, Limehouse, in the late C18th, and all the children were christened there.  All seem to have had C of E christenings.  But at some point, there were some conversions to Rome, at least on the part of Charlotte, Frances Jane [Mother St. George], and Alfred. It’s not entirely clear why, or when.

Mother St. George is the easiest to pin down, she was professed a nun, at the age of twenty one, in 1848, the year of revolutions, and, coincidentally, the year the Communist Manifesto was published in London. So, we at least have a date as to when Mother St George was a recognized Catholic.

At the moment, this has to be speculation, but it is logical to assume that Charlotte was the first to convert, probably after the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, and almost certainly as an adult convert. Charlotte was the eldest of the brothers and sisters; sixteen years older than Mother St. George, and twenty years older than Alfred.  Charlotte and Frances were the only two girls, and it’s reasonable to assume that given the amount of instruction, and the sacraments Mother St. George (Frances) would have had to received prior to her profession that she followed her sister, and they were both Catholic by, perhaps, 1844.

Alfred was the youngest of his brothers and sisters; much closer in age to Mother St. George than anyone else. He was at least eight years younger than his nearest brother John Roger, and sixteen years younger than Joe, the eldest. Quite when he converted is rather more difficult.  Alfred married Laura Rose Coles in the spring of 1857 at St George the Martyr, in Southwark, in an apparently  C of E marriage. He was twenty six, and she was two years younger. Laura Rose was born in Blackheath on 19th March 1833, and apparently christened into the Church of England. Alfred then married Ellen Ware in 1865 in Exeter. That marriage also seems to have been Anglican. But by 1871, his eldest daughter,Laura Mary, is being educated by the nuns in Norwood at her aunt’s convent. So it’s a reasonable bet that Alfred had become a Catholic by then.

By 1871,  Alfred had re-married, and had five more children. Mother St George is in the convent in Norwood. Charlotte Purssell Jnr had been dead almost two years,William is dead, and  James, and his family, had been in New York for almost fourteen years, and well established on Broadway.  John Roger Purssell is presumed to be in Australia, and Joe has been in Australia for at least ten years, and possibly as many as nineteen years; and finally, their mother Charlotte Purssell Senior is living in Mile End, at 350 Mile End Road, aged eighty-one, with Mary Isaacs, a sixteen year old servant girl; and her daughter-in-law, Eliza (nee Newman), William’s widow, is living at 2 Satin Road, Lambeth, also with a servant.

So the split is almost complete, possibly it is more of a drift than a split, but there are now only two of Roger and Charlotte’s families remaining in London. Alfred’s living in Finsbury Square, on the northern edge of the City, and John Roger’s in Mile End Old Town in the East End. The remaining households are Eliza Purssell, William’s widow, who is living at 2 Satin Road, in Lambeth with a nineteen year old servant Louisa Cox, and eighty-one year old Charlotte herself, who is living in Mile End Road with her servant Mary Issacs.

John Roger has emigrated to Australia sometime in the 1860’s, most probably after 1866 when his daughter Eliza was born. His wife Eliza (nee Davies) calls herself a widow, in the 1871 census, when she was living at 19 Lincoln Street, Mile End with their five youngest children. She describes herself as a house-owner, though doesn’t give herself a profession, or occupation. The usual descriptions of the well off are “living on own means” or “fundholder”, or possibly “annuitant” so while she may have had some money, but that’s by no means certain. Given JR’s rather checkered history with money, he may have left her with some, he may not. He’d gone bankrupt in 1854, and his restaurant business had failed in 1861 when he had re-invented himself as a photographer. He later re-imagines himself as a builder.

 It’s not quite clear whether John Roger re-marries in Australia, but he wouldn’t be unusual in doing so. His older brother Joe had emigrated in the 1850’s and remarried, quite possibly bigamously. It seems to be quite common, so much so that Australian law seems to have permitted a second marriage if husband and wife had lived apart for seven years. Certainly, there were bigamous Australian marriages in the O’Bryen, and Elworthy families as well.

In terms of status, in 1871, Eliza is to all intents abandoned, so it’s not surprising she calls herself a “widow”, and slightly defensively as a “house owner”. At least the eldest three of her children have already died; John Junior aged two and a half in 1852, Alfred aged nine in 1860, and thirteen year old Edward in 1865. There is no trace of Albert after 1861, so it seems reasonable to assume he is dead by 1871, though he would be seventeen by then, so he could feasibly have left home. But she is living with five children, aged between five and thirteen, and no servants in the East End, quite a step down from ten years earlier when she had two. In 1871,Francis, and Charles are living with their mother, along with Arthur,Augustus, and Eliza.  

All of John Roger and Eliza’s adult sons appear to have gone to Australia. Francis emigrated on the Illawarra, arriving in New South Wales on the 6th Aug 1883.  Charles George seems to have emigrated some time after 1881, and died in Australia. Arthur, also, appears to have emigrated; and Augustus appears to have emigrated, married, and died in Australia as well.

John Roger Purssell returns to London by the end of the century. Crucially, JR’s youngest, and only, daughter remained in London; and it’s with her, and her family, that he lives with on his return. So at least one of the children knew their father was still alive.

By contrast, a couple of miles away on the other side of the City, Alfred is living at 49 Finsbury Square, with Ellen, who he has been married to for almost six years. They’ve had five children in the six years they’ve been married, in addition to Alfred’s daughter Laura; starting with Lucy who was born in the autumn of 1865, the year they got married, followed by Alfred Junior, Frank, Charlotte, and Agnes, none of them more than twenty one months apart, and in the case of the youngest two girls nor more than fifteen months apart. Gertrude, following the same pattern as her youngest sisters, was born fifteen months later in the summer of 1872.

Alfred is now describing himself as a “wine merchant etc employing 65 heads”, rather than a “confectioner”, which is what he called himself ten years earlier. The business is still expanding, he has increased the workforce by 30% in ten years, on top of a 25% increase in the 1850’s. But he is now clearly wanting to cement his place further as a Victorian gent. He was a subscriber to the International Exhibition of 1862 – held ten years later than the Great Exhibition- He subscribed £ 100 [ the modern day equivalent of £ 130,000].  But to quote from “Great Expectations” published ten years earlier, in a remark about Miss Havisham’s father ” Her father…. was a brewer. I don’t know why it should be a crack thing to be a brewer; but it is indisputable that while you cannot possibly be genteel and bake, you may be as genteel as never was and brew. You see it every day.”  I think we can safely assume that gentility, and the wine trade are fine, but baking definitely not. So Alfred is re-inventing himself.

By this point in the century, 1871, the family has transformed itself. In two lifespans- from Roger [1783 – 1861] to the death of Alfred [1831 – 1897] his youngest son,in 1897, and over the course of the nineteenth century, at least one part of the family has done very well for itself. At least in terms of social status, I think it is fair to imagine that Alfred has come to think of himself as “genteel” in the Dickensian sense.

Roger can first be traced in the 1851 census, living in a shared house in Mile End. His neighbours can only really be described as working class, though to use a Booth definition, probably  Higher class labour”. Roger himself is, in that acutely British way of looking at class, not genteel, but he does seem to be wealthy. Roger dies in 1861, and Charlotte, then living at 1 Saville Place, in Mile End, buys a grave in Bow Cemetery [City of London, and Tower Hamlets Cemetery] where he is buried in 1861, and William Purssell is buried with his father nine years later in September 1870, aged 54.

So back to Alfred, thirty nine years old, the father of six, soon to be seven, children, and living in some splendour in Finsbury Square. In addition to his wife and children, the household contains five servants, a ratio of family to servants that he maintains for the next thirty years. I think it is safe to say this is a prosperous upper middle class Victorian household, and would regard itself as such. There is no attempt to emulate the upper classes with a butler, or footmen, just a mixture of housemaids, nurses, and a cook.

Alfred Purssell has moved a long way in ten years. In 1861 he was a twenty-nine year old widower staying with his eldest brother in Brighton with a two year old daughter. He and Laura, then lived in Blackheath, and continued to do so after Alfred’s second marriage to Ellen Ware in 1865, up to at least 1868 because Lucy, Alfred Joseph, and Frank were born there. Charlotte, Agnes, and Gertrude were all born in Finsbury Square.  

In 1871 Laura Mary Purssell (aged 12) was at school  at the Virgo Fidelis convent in Norwood where Mother St George was, she is shown as Frances Jane Purssell aged 42 on the census return, and listed with the rest of the nuns as “attending on the children”.  Gertrude Purssell, the youngest daughter was born a year later in the summer of 1872. Her mother Ellen was 37, and within a year Ellen was dead. Alfred was forty one years old, a widower twice over, and a father of seven.

In the next snap shot in 1881, Alfred has moved house again. The family are now in Clapham, at 371 Clapham Road; though on the 3rd of April, most of the children are away at school. Lucy, Charlotte, and Agnes are boarding in Folkestone at the Convent of the Faithful Virgin. It’s a daughter house of the convent in Norwood with ” a Community of Nuns, Boarding school, and Orphanage with 17 orphans, and 13 boarders.”  Mother St George is the Lady Superior, and as well as her nieces boarding there, they are being visited by Laura Purssell on the night of the census.

Both the boys are also away at school. Frank is definitely at Downside, and it’s not entirely clear where Alfred Joseph is. Given that there is only a year’s difference between the boys, it would be logical to assume he was there too, but he doesn’t appear on the census return.

At home in Clapham, are Alfred and Gertrude who is eight years old.  He’s employing Annabella Norris as a housekeeper, along with a cook, two housemaids, and a children’s maid. Annabella’s position is a slightly hybrid one, similar in status to a governess. She is firmly not categorised as a servant, and was previously, and subsequently a schoolmistress.  In 1851, the Norris family were living in Stroat House, in Tidenham, Gloucestershire on the edge of the Forest of Dean, where Thomas Norris described himself as a farmer of 46 acres employing two labourers. Annabella’s mother called herself a “landed proprietor”  in 1861 when she and her daughters were living in a cottage in the village, and Annabella was teaching in the house with four boarding pupils. By 1871, she was running a school at 1 Powis Square, in Brighton with her sister Ellen and thirteen boarding pupils. After her stint with the Purssells, she moved to Bristol and resumed life as a schoolmistress, living at 10 Belmont Road in Montpellier, with her sister Margaret. She died in 1909 leaving the modern day equivalent of £ 264,700.

Of the remaining family,  William’s widow Eliza is living in Romford; John Roger’s abandoned wife, another Eliza is nowhere to be found but seems to have died in Dartford five years later. James and his family have been established in New York for nearly twenty years, and his five youngest children were all born in New York City, and Charlotte Purssell still seems to be alive, dying five years later in the winter of 1886 in Romford at the age of ninety-six.

Breaking and entering at Purssell’s Cheapside 1864

MANSION HOUSE

William Claxton and William Gambier, 19 and 16 years of age, and described as photographic printers, were brought before the Lord Mayor charged with breaking and entering a dwelling-house. The prisoner Claxton was also accused of robbery.

Mansion House, London

George Whitney, a city police-constable in plain clothes, deposed that on Sunday morning about half-past 10 o’clock he was secreted under a counter in the shop of Mr. Purssell, confectioner in Cheapside. He saw the two prisoners enter by the street door and go upstairs. About a quarter of an hour afterwards they both came downstairs and placed a pair of steps against a glass door of Mr. Purssell’s shop, which is partitioned off from the passage of the house. The prisoner Claxton ascended the steps and forced the fanlight, so that it swung open. Witness had examined it when he went into the shop, and found it fastened with a small wooden wedge. Claxton struck a match and lighted a candle, which he gave to the prisoner Gambier to hold, and then going over the fanlight took the candle from Gambier, and entered the shop. He had neither boots, coat, nor hat on. He passed round behind the counter, and catching sight of witness he started back.

Cheapside

Witness ran round the counter after him, after which the prisoner threw away a bottle in which the candle was, and struck him. He then went over the door again and escaped with Gambier up stairs. Witness got assistance and followed them. He found on going upstairs that they had locked themselves into a room at the top of the house. He went for something to force the door, and on his return they were standing at the entrance to the room. He told them he should charge them with breaking into Mr. Purssell’s shop for an unlawful purpose. Claxton explained that they had heard a noise and, fancying thieves were in the shop, he got over the door to see. Witness took them to Bow-lane.Police station, and there found on Claxton a watch and chain and 10s. 8.1/2d. in money. The prisoners could go from the shop into the basement.

On Saturday last some money had been marked in the presence of witness and placed in a bag. On Sunday night he was present when Gambier and Claxton were together at the police-station, and when Gambier said to the inspector he wished to tell the truth. He said Claxton asked him to come and have his likeness taken about six weeks ago on a Sunday morning; that he went, and after his likeness had been taken Claxton told him he knew where to get some money; that they took the steps and a candle and went downstairs; that Claxton got over the fan- light, and returned with some money, of which he gave him between 20s. and 30s. ; that on Saturday last he told him to meet him on Sunday to get some more money; that he met him accordingly, when they went upstairs together and returning with the steps Claxton got into the shop, but that he (Gambier) had not heard any noise, nor had Claxton said anything to him about any noise before he went in.

Witness afterwards went with another constable and searched the prisoner’s lodgings in Orchard-street, St. Luke’s. There he found 235 stereoscopic slides, a book containing sketches, upwards of 300 copies of stereoscopic scenes and eight gauges. The prisoner Claxton, on being asked how he accounted for their possession, replied that they were all his own, and that he had printed them himself. Mr. Alfred Purssell, of 121, Cheapside, confectioner, said within the last six weeks he had been missing money from his cellar where the till was taken, and it had generally been between Saturday and Monday. His shop was on the ground floor, and the door in the lobby. He had lost about £50. in all. The upper part of the house was occupied by Mr. Fox, a photographer, who had a key of the outer door and Mr. Willis. On Saturday last witness communicated with the police, and placing marked money in the cellar gave them the keys of the premises. He had missed from £8. to £10. every week for the last six weeks. The fanlight was only fastened by a wedge and swings.

Mr. Edmund Fox, photographer, deposed that he occupied the first and fourth floors over Mr. Purssell’s shop, and had the street door-key. The prisoner Claxton, who had been in his service for six years, had the charge of that key and others. Gambier was also in his employment. Neither of them had any occasion to be there on a Sunday. Witness identified as his property the 235 stereoscopic slides, the 300 stereoscopic scenes, and the eight gauges referred to. The slides, he said, must have been taken from his premises in Little Britain about 12 months ago, where both prisoners were at work, as must also the gauges. The sketches, he believed, were not his. The value of the whole was about £13. The prisoners had no right to make the copies nor to take them off the premises.

On being cautioned as to anything they might say in respect to the charge the prisoner Gambier declared he had told the truth to the police-inspector, and Claxton declined saying anything. The Lord Mayor committed the prisoners to Newgate for trial.

Newgate prison

from The Times, Wednesday, December 21, 1864

And the result

WILLIAM CLAXTON, WILLIAM GAMBIER, Theft – theft from a specified place, 11th January 1865.

169. WILLIAM CLAXTON (18), and WILLIAM GAMBIER (15), PLEADED GUILTY to breaking into the shop of Alfred Pursell, with intent to steal.

GAMBIER was recommended to mercy by the Prosecutor, believing that he had been led away by the other prisoner; he promised to take him again into his employ.— Confined Two Days.

CLAXTON.— Confined Twelve Months. There was another indictment against the prisoners.

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org. Reference Number: t18650111-169

Admission of Sheriffs of the City of London, 1896

I like the fact that this one has two great,great grandfathers at it even though neither of them would have known it, and by the time they were interlinked, one [Alfred Purssell] had been dead twenty seven years, and the other [John Roper Parkington] dead four months. This is from The Times, on Tuesday, September 29, 1896.

Admission of Sheriffs

Yesterday Mr. Alderman James Thompson Ritchie and Mr. Deputy Robert Hargreaves Rogers, who were elected by the Livery at midsummer as Sheriffs of the City of London for the year ensuing, were formally admitted to office at Guildhall. The proceedings were conducted with all the ancient and quaint ceremonial customary on the occasion. The Lord Mayor, accompanied by Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Pound and Mr. Sheriff Cooper, the retiring Sheriffs, and attended by the Sword and Mace Bearers and the City Marshal, went in state from the Mansion-house, and on arriving at Guildhall were escorted to the Aldermen’s Chamber, where the Aldermen, the Recorder, the Chamberlain, and the other high officers had assembled.

The Great Hall, Guildhall, London

There they were joined by the new Sheriffs, with whom were the masters, wardens, and courts of the Bakers’, Ship-wrights’, and Loriners’ Companies, to which they belong. The Sheriffs-Elect were formally introduced to the Aldermen by Alderman Sir Stuart Knill and Alderman and Colonel Davies, M.P. A procession was then formed and the civic dignitaries passed to the hustings in the great hall, where a considerable number of persons, including many ladies, had gathered to witness the ceremony.

The Common Cryer (Colonel Eustace Burnaby) having called upon Mr. Alderman Ritchie and Mr. Deputy Rogers to come forward and take upon themselves the office of Sheriff, these gentlemen presented themselves amid cheers. The Town Clerk (Sir John Monckton) then administered to each the declarations prescribed by the Promissory Oaths Act and couched in the quaint language of former times. In these they promised loyalty to the Sovereign and protection to the franchise of the City of London.

They would well and lawfully keep the Shire of the City “ and right they would do, as well to poor as rich, and good custom they would none break, nor evil custom arrere.”  They would not tarry the judgments and executions of the Sheriffs’ Court without reasonable cause ” nor right would they none disturb.” They would promote the Queen’s profit in all things that belonged to their office as far as they legally could or might, and they would not respite or delay to levy the Queen’s debts for any gift, promise, reward, or favour where they might raise the same without great grievance to the debtor. They would do no wrong to any man for any gift, reward, or promise, nor for favour nor hatred. Finally, they would truly and diligently execute the good laws and statutes of the realm, and in all things well and truly behave themselves in their office for the honour of the Queen and the good of her subjects and discharge the same according to the best of their skill and power.

Tho Sheriffs-Elect having signed the declarations, the late Sheriffs took off their official robes and chains and placed the chains of office upon each of the new Sheriffs- Mr. Alderman Pound investing Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Bitchie and Mr. Cooper discharging a similar function for Mr. Sheriff Rogers. The ceremony then ended and the civic authorities left the hall.

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, who is an elder brother of the President of the Board of Trade, is the head of the firm of Messrs. W. Ritchie and Sons, jute spinners and merchants, of Lime-street and Silver- town, and has been Alderman of the Ward of Tower since 1892, when he succeeded the late Mr. Alderman Gray. His colleague Mr. Sheriff Rogers is a member of the firm of Messrs. R. H. and S. Rogers, linen manufacturers, of Addle-street, City, and Coleraine, in Ireland, and has been a Common Councilman for Cripplegate Ward since 1886 and Deputy-Alderman since 1890. Their Under-Sheriffs are Mr. Webster Glynes, solicitor, of 29, Mark-lane, and Mr. Clarence Richard Halse, solicitor, of 61, Cheapside, and their chaplains are the Rev. C. J. Ridgeway, vicar of Christ Church, Paddington, and the Rev. J. S. Barrass, rector of St. Michael Bassishaw.

Clothworkers Hall, Mincing Lane, London

After the ceremony of their inauguration, Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie and Mr. Sheriff and Deputy Rogers proceeded to Clothworkers’-hall, in Mincing- lane, where they entertained a large company at breakfast. Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie presided, and his colleague in the shrievalty occupied the seat on his left. The guests included Mr. C. T. Ritchie, M.P., Alderman Sir Stuart Knill, Alderman Lieutenant- Colonel Davies, M.P.. Mr. Alderman Newton, Alderman Sir J. C. Dimsdale, Mr. Alderman Truscott, Alderman Sir J. V. Moore, Mr. Alderman Green, Mr. Alderman Samuel, Mr. Alderman Bell, Mr. Aldelman Alliston, Mr. Alderman Halse, Sir W. J. R. Cotton (the Chamberlain), Sir Forrest Fulton, Q.C. (the Common Serjeant), Mr. Alfred Lyon, Mr. Matthew Wallace (the Chief Commoner), Mr. Walter H. Harris, Mr. T. K. Freeman, Mr. J. S. Phené (warden of the Clothworkers’ Company).Mr.W. M. Bickerstaff, the Rev. R. H. Hadden (Lord Mayor’s chaplain), the Rev. C. J. Ridgway, the Rev. J. S. Barrass, Mr. Under-Sheriff Glynes, Mr. Under-Sheriff Halse, Dr. R. T. Pigott, Mr. Deputy Pepler, Mr. Deputy Cox, Mr. Deputy Pimm, Mr. Deputy Atkins, Mr. Deputy Baddelley, Mr. Deputy Edmeston, Mr. Deputy Dowling, Lieutenant-Colonel Milman, Major Roper Parkington, Mr. W. H. Collingridge. Colonel Browne, V.C., Mr. A. Purssell, Mr. W. J. Johnston, Colonel Davies Sewell, Mr. A. B. Hudson, Mr. J. A. Britton, Mr. J. H. Lile, and Mr. Graham King .

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, who was warmly received, in proposing ” The Health of the Queen,” after reminding them that if her Majesty were spared until next June she would have reigned over them for 60 years, remarked that the historian of the future, when describing the events of the Victorian era. would write it down as the most glorious in the annals of history. (Cheers.)

Mr. Sheriff and Deputy Rogers, who also received a cordial greeting, afterwards proposed ” The Prince and Princess of Wales and the other Members of the Royal Family.”

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, in proposing    The Houses of Parliament, “ remarked that Englishmen were proud of their ancient institutions – institutions which had come down to them through the ages, and which had been moulded and fashioned by successive generations to meet the requirements of the people and of the times. They had at the present time a House of Lords and a House of Commons – and he might add, by way of parenthesis, a Corporation of the City of London (Cheers) – which at once excited the envy and the admiration of the world. (Cheers.) The House of Lords, as they were all aware, was composed of a body of men of high culture, marked ability, and great patriotism, and he believed that the verdict of the public was generally in its favour. With regard to the House of Commons, it was elected by the people themselves, and it was good or bad as the people themselves made it. Opinions differed, no doubt, with respect to the quality of the present House, but they all had an instance not long since that it considered the country superior to party. (Cheers.)

Mr. Ritchie, M.P., in responding to the toast, observed that the House of Lords differed in one essential respect from the House of Commons. The House of Commons came and went, while the House of Lords went on for ever; and he confessed that that was one of the characteristics of the House of Lords which members of the House of Commons envied most. (Laughter.) Reference had been made to the peculiar position of the House of Lords with respect to its constitution, and he had no doubt that the constitution of the House of Lords was what was usually called an anomaly. As far, however, as he was concerned, he was not frightened at the word ” anomaly.” Our constitution was full of anomalies, which, as the proposer of the toast had said, had grown up from year to year in order to meet the times; and it was a remarkable fact that, anomalous as was the position of the House of Lords, there was not a country in the world which did not regard it as the very embodiment of excellence for a second Chamber. (Cheers.)

There was this other anomaly in connexion with the House of Lords-that although the House of Commons was an elected body and the House of Lords was not – it so happened that the latter sometimes more adequately represented the opinion of the people than the elected Chamber. (Hear, hear.)

That, however, was an anomaly which had been of great service sometimes to the people of this country. Again and again the House of Lords had saved the country from unreflecting legislation by the House of Commons which might have had disastrous consequences; and he ventured to think that if they were to look back to the last occasion on which this had taken place it would be found that members of the party to which he belonged were not the only men in the kingdom who said “Thank God, we have a House of Lords.” (Cheers.)

The people of this country were satisfied with the patriotism of the House of Lords, believing that no unselfish aims, no pledges to constituents, warped the judgement of its members when matters of importance came before them,but that their decision was given in an unbiased way, and in a manner which they thought would best serve the interests of the country. (Cheers.) There had been times when the House of Lords had been attacked,but he had not of late heard very much said against it, nor did he think they were likely to for some time to come. So far as the House of Commons was concerned, he believed that some of them were quite satisfied with its present composition, while, no doubt, there were others who were not so satisfied ; but he assumed that the toast had been drunk so heartily because they believed that the House of Commons, however it might be constituted, deserved well of the country as a rule. (Hear, hear.)

The present House of Commons had already done some good work, and it would do more in time ; and he believed the probabilities were that when it came to its end it would have reaped as many laurels as any House of Commons that had preceded it. (Cheers.) There was one thing which the House of Commons and the country were fully aware of – that the House had not been elected for the purpose of carrying out revolutionary or sensational legislation or to pass into law all the fads of the various sections of the community. (Cheers.)

They had had a clear mandate from the country that the days of legislation of that kind – at least for the present – were over, and that the people expected the present House of Commons to devote itself to legislation which would be for the benefit and the interest of all classes of the community. (Hear, hear.)

He believed that that was the legislation which the House of Commons would devote itself to, and that this would meet with the approval of the people of this country. He was returning thanks for the toast in circumstances somewhat peculiar. It had been proposed by one of the Sheriffs, who was a very near relative of his (Cheers), and he need hardly say, therefore, that he responded to it with special pleasure. Some of them who desired to take part in public life took one path and some of them took another. Some chose the path of municipal life, others the path of Imperial work. Both paths were equally honourable, and both led to the same end, but he believed that if there was a choice between the one and the other, it would be found that municipal work, well and honestly done, did more for the welfare and happiness of the community than Parliamentary work did. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)

Mr. Sheriff and Deputy Rogers, afterwards proposed  “ The Lord Mayor and the Corporation of the London.”  Having referred to the dignified manner in which the present Lord Mayor (Sir Walter Wilkin) had discharged the duties of his high office, the speaker observed that the Corporation of London was the oldest and most Democratic body in the world. It had always been to the front in protecting the interests and the freedom of the citizens of London, while in quite recent times the Corporation had proved its usefulness in such works as the Holborn Viaduct and the Tower Bridge.

Alderman Sir Stuart Knill, in responding to the toast, said they all felt that the atmosphere had of late cleared, and the great benefit which had been rendered by Lord Mayors and the Corporation in ancient times as well as in the present day was now acknowledged. He felt it a special privilege to respond to the toast, because the present Lord Mayor honoured him during his term of office by being one of his sheriffs. (Cheers.)

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, next proposed ” The Livery Companies.” They were assembled, he said, in the hall of one of the greatest of the City guilds –  a company which stood high in the ranks of the livery companies, and which was also one of the greatest in its charities. (Hear, hear.) The Cloth-workers’ Company spent large sums yearly on technical education, but he believed that all the City companies were doing what they could in their different ways to promote the education of the people. He was convinced that if another commission investigated their affairs the conclusion it would arrive at would be that the funds which were at the disposal of the City companies could not be better dealt with than they were at the present time. (Hear, hear.)

Captain James Watson (Master of the Bakers’ Company) responded to the toast.

Alderman Lieutenant-Colonel Davies, M.P., in proposing ” The Sheriffs, “ referred to the antiquity of their office, and wished them a pleasant and agreeable year.

Mr. Alderman and Sheriff Ritchie, in acknowledging the toast, said that, as those present were aware, his colleague and himself did not play the principal parts in “ this Corporation annual.” The chief role was to be taken by another, who had not yet been chosen; but as he was somewhat behind the scenes, he might tell them a secret -the gentleman who was to be chosen was Mr. Alderman Faudel Philips (Cheers), to assist whom his colleague and himself would do their very best.

Mr. Sheriff and Deputy Rogers, also responded, and subsequently proposed ” The Retiring Sheriffs,”  warmly testifying to the able way in which Mr. Alderman Pound and Mr. Cooper had discharged their duties.

Mr. Alderman and Ex-Sheriff Pound responded. The company shortly afterwards separated.

Mother St. George’s obituary, The Times, 1914

The death took place last Tuesday, at the convent of the Faithful Virgin, Upper Norwood, of Mother St. George, at the age of 87. Mother St. George (Frances Jane Purssell), who was born In 1827, she was a sister of the late Alfred Purssell, a founder of Westminster Cathedral. She professed at La Délivrande. Normandy, in 1850, and went to the Norwood convent of the Order. She left Norwood in 1854 with other volunteers, in response to the appeal of Bishop Grant, to tend the wounded and cholera-stricken in the Crimean War, and rendered valuable assistance to Mrs Florence Nightingale in nursing the sick. She was the last survivor of the band of volunteers, and corresponded with Miss Nightingale for many years, afterwards being elected a member of the committee which was entrusted with the work of erecting a memorial to her. As an acknowledgment of her services she was decorated by Queen Victoria with the Red Cross. From 1857 to 1860 Mother St. George took part in the foundation of the convent at Roseau, Dominica, in the West Indies. For over 30 years she was Superior of the Convent of the Faithful Virgin at Folkestone, where she earned the respect and affection of all who knew her. The last six years of her life were spent in retirement at the Convent of the Faithful Virgin at Upper Norwood.

from The Times, April 16, 1914. p.10

Entertaining the poor people at Providence Row in April 1897

This has a slightly bittersweet feel to it. It took place eleven days before great grandpa’s death at home in Belsize Grove, with Uncle Frank deputising for him on the evening. But it does sound like a hilarious evening, for not entirely intended reasons. Mlle. Gratienne’s company are almost certainly worth more investigation. But give every impression of being a real life version of the cast of “Allo, Allo”. They were apparently a small touring reparatory company, living very much hand to mouth, and teetering on the edge of bankrupcy. Mlle. Gratienne was French, from an apparently prosperous background. Her family had owned a vineyard in Burgundy, but were ruined by the Franco-Prussian War. She still owned some property in Paris, and the quarterly rents subsidised the company. Her elderly mother travelled with the company, and acted as her dresser, and was referred to as “Madame” by the company . She played both male, and female parts, and did her own make-up which was “ghostly pale, with large chocolate brown half moon eyebrows”. The shortage of money meant they only performed plays out of copyright to avoid any royalty payment. All in all, the company sound as much of a laugh as the plays.

PROVIDENCE (Row) NIGHT REFUGE AND HOME, CRISPIN-STREET, E.—On Friday, April 23, the inmates of the above were provided with a special evening’s enjoyment in the shape of an entertainment by Mlle. Gratienne and her company. In the absence of the hon. manager, Mr. Alfred Purssell, through illness, Mr. F. W. Purssell presided and was supported by the Rev. M. Fitzpatrick, Mr. T. G. King, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary) and others. The programme consisted of three plays, the comedietta, £50,000, a comedy Only an Actress, and an interlude Poor Man, in which the characters were ably sustained by Messrs. Leslie Delwaide, Ernest Roberson and Arthur Goodsall, Miss Dora Garth, and Mlle. Gratienne. For three hours the poor people were kept in roars of laughter, and after each piece the performers were recalled and greeted with deafening applause. During the intervals between the plays, music was provided by Miss Octavia Kenmore, and Messrs. Gordon Hilmont and Claude Rivington. A vote of thanks on behalf of the Committee to the performers, who had so generously given their services, was carried with acclamation, and the inmates gave three hearty cheers for Mlle. Gratienne and her friends. The Sisters of Mercy afterwards distributed oranges and buns to the poor people.

The above text was found on p.29,1st May 1897 in “The Tablet: The International Catholic News Weekly.” Reproduced with kind permission of the Publisher. The Tablet can be found at http://www.thetablet.co.uk .