This is a revision and addition to an old post from almost two years ago. It was originally included because the Bellord siblings are all brothers and sisters-in-law of the other Agnes Bellord (neé Purssell) who is one of Lady O’Bryen’s sisters. They are all almost twenty years older than she (Agnes) is. What hadn’t struck me at the time was some of the other connections in what is initially a very simple paragraph.
Both Elizabeth and Josephine Bellord were Sisters of Notre Dame in Liverpool and are the direct successors of Sister Mary of St. Philip [Fanny Lescher] at Mount Pleasant, and Sister Mary of St. Wilfrid [Adela Lescher] at Everton respectively. So in one of those nice twists and turns, Ernest O’Bryen’s cousins are replaced by his wife’s sisters in law in Liverpool, and another of her sisters-in-law is a nun at the Convent of Mercy in Crispin Street, in the East End. The nuns also helped support the Providence Row Night Refuge which provided nearly 2,600,000 free nights’ lodgings, and 5,200,000 free meals between 1860 and 1931. Providence Row was run as charity separate from the convent, and heavily supported by the Purssell family, with Alfred Purssell chairing the committee, followed at various times by his son Frank, and two sons-in-law Wilfred Parker, and another of the Bellord siblings Edmund.
It’s all a long way from the Original Red Cow, at 22 Long Lane in Smithfield where all the children were born.
On September 1, Mother Mary Aquinas,[Agnes Bellord] of the Convent of Mercy, Crispin-street, E., celebrated the Silver Jubilee of her profession. In addition to the blessing of the Holy Father, the jubilarian was the recipient of many congratulations from clergy, convents, the friends of the Night Refuge and Homes in Crispin-street, with which she has been so long connected, and the past and present pupils of St. Joseph’s School. Mother M. Aquinas is a sister of the late Bishop Bellord. Three of her sisters, two of whom survive, became Sisters of Notre Dame, one being at present Sister Superior at Mount Pleasant Training College,[Elizabeth Bellord – Sister Edburga of the Cross] and the other Sister Superior at Everton Valley, Liverpool. [Josephine Bellord – Sister Gilberta of the Blessed Sacrament]
The above text was found on p.21, 10th September 1910 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 .
On the 4th of February 1893 the Tablet published a list of approximately 500 English visitors heading to Rome as pilgrims to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII’s consecration as a bishop. Amongst the pilgrims were Alfred Purssell, accompanied by Charlotte, Agnes, and Gertrude Purssell, then in their early twenties. The following text is an article from March describing the pilgrimage
THE RETURN OF THE PILGRIMS.
The great English Pilgrimage of 1893 is over and done with, and is already part and parcel of the indestructible past. Nothing can happen now to mar the perfect success of an enterprise which is safe from all hazard, because treasured away for ever in the memories of all who took part in it. The significance of this public demonstration of British faith and loyalty to the Holy See has been recognized and recorded in Rome for friend and foe, and in all the lands which were represented on that solemn occasion in the Eternal City. It was a time when the courts of the Vatican were thronged with pilgrims from all the earth, eager to do an old man homage ; when Cardinals were busied with splendid and stately ceremonial, acknowledging the courtesies of Kings, and the congratulations of nations, and the gifts of sovereigns—whether Emperors or Republican Chiefs ; but it is doubted whether any single incident during all the Jubilee gave Pope Leo a quicker and livelier sense of gladness than the sudden cheers which broke from 1,300 English and Scotch throats to greet him as he entered the Sala Ducale on Monday week.
For those ringing cheers which so astonished the members of the Papal Court, were tuned to the music of sincerity and so touched a chord which went very straight to the heart of the Pontiff. But that little separate incident in its thoroughness and simplicity, was a symbol of the spirit in which the pilgrimage was made. No such band of pilgrims ever left our shores, was so numerous, or so fully representative of the Catholic life of the country. Scarcely a Catholic family of note but was represented directly or indirectly. Following that of the Duke of Norfolk are ranged how many of the old familiar names, some of them of those whose fathers were true through all the trial, and were Catholic from age to age, and some of them of those who will be for ever associated with the coming of the second spring to Catholic England. The history of the Church in this country, whether in recent times or through the days of the penal laws, is inextricably bound up with that of the families represented at the pilgrimage. It is enough to cite in random recollection those of Howard, Clifford, Weld, Feilding, Stourton, Radcliffe, Noel, De Trafford, Townley, Vavasour, Maxwell, Vaughan, Whitgreave, Blount, Cox, Ridell, Hornyhold, Berkeley, Charlton, Southwell, Mostyn, Petre, Stonor, Wegg-Prosser, Dunn, Ward, Wolseley, Herbrt, Walmesley, Weld-Blundell, Ullathorne, Trappes, Lomax, Pollen, Neville, Hibbert, FitzHerbert, Ellison, Chichester, Bellasis, Acton, Arnold, Bagshawe—and other names as well known as these, will occur to the individual reader. But the pilgrims were representative of the future and the present as well as of the past ; as well of those who stand for the new streams of energy and industrial success and modern achievement, as for old family traditions. The accident of circum-stance in other years associated the story of hunted Catholicism with a handful of faithful families, the more vigorous and eager growth of the Church to-day covers a wider field, and depends upon newer homes which circumstances, essentially similar to those which operated of old, are now pressing to the front in the secular struggle of life. It was a happy characteristic of the present pilgrimage that it was a mingling of all classes, of the pro-mise of the future with the survivals of the past. From all parts of Great Britain, and from all sorts and conditions of men were gathered the pilgrims who rightly represented the Catholicism of the land. It was enough that all those widely-sundered hearts were united in their loyalty and love for the Holy See, and one common desire to win from Heaven a blessing upon their native land.
It is very pleasant to be able to put it on record that the returning pilgrims are loud in their appreciation and praise of the manner in which their wants and comforts were attended to by the Committee of Management, and in their gratitude to every member of it. The Duke of Norfolk, who has accustomed us to the sight of a willing effacement of all personal claims, uses our columns to tender thanks to others, both Englishmen and Italians, for their efforts to make the stay of the pilgrims in Rome pleasant to them.
It hardly needed the friendly importunity of a little crowd of pilgrims to induce us to offer to his Grace the thanks of all the Catholic body for the services and the example he gave. It has been a gracious labour to us to listen to the tale of gratification and pleasure which has come to us from so many pilgrims whose highest hopes have been more than fulfilled. Rome was seen at its best, on a great occasion, by people from all the ends of the earth, but to the British pilgrims it seemed that the Jubilee was in some sort a specially English festival. They were gathered there primarily to do honour and homage to Leo XIII. on the fiftieth anniversary of the day on which he was consecrated a Bishop, but the event, happily synchronized with the creation of an English Cardinal, and the magnificent function at St Peter’s was followed by that in S. Gregorio’s. The words of the Duke of Norfolk happily absolve us from the duty pressed upon us by many of the pilgrims of expressing to Cardinal Vaughan the enthusiastic thankfulness which his kindnesses and attentions have evoked, and we note them only as among the elements which went to secure the unqualified success of the Pilgrimage. Of course there were individual mishaps and disappointments, and, in some cases, privations and hardships to be endured,. but these private mortifications seem to have been suffered in a spirit of cheerfulness and resignation which is eloquent of the spirit which animated the pilgrims. The discomforts of a bad passage across the Channel, of a hurried but far from rapid journey through France and Italy, and difficulties about accommodation in Rome were things naturally to be borne in silence and patience. The fate of the few British pilgrims who in some momentary panic, caused by the cry that forged tickets of admission were being used, were shut out from the great function in St. Peter’s, must have been harder to bear without a murmur.
It was natural to expect that amid the general good humour of the pilgrims some comic incidents should be reported home. Thus much sympathy is expressed for the devout Highland chief who appearing in his national costume in the Corso, was placed under temporary arrest by the Roman police, in what appeared to be the interests of public decorum. The griefs of the Scotchman however, were soon forgotten for the woes of the young lady who, the day after the arrival of the pilgrims, got lost in St. Peter’s, and having forgotten the name of her hotel and speaking only Lancashire, got into an omnibus on the chance that if she saw her abode she might recognize it, and was driven about Rome for several consecutive hours.
Still better authenticated is the fate which befell an Italian who, as the Pope was borne up St. Peter’s, was imprudent enough to shout ” Viva Umberto I.” The creature thought he was insulting only the patient Catholics of the Continent. He was undeceived. A pair of Tipperary arms was round his neck in a moment, for another moment his heels were high in the air, and the next he was stretched flat on the sacred pavement. The crowd was too great to allow him to be put outside the Church, so two devout sons of Tipperary alternately sat and knelt upon him during the remaining hours, of the service. When the Holy Father had again blessed the people and returned to the Vatican, the Italian unharmed but terribly scared, was allowed to escape by his captors who though they caught the word Umberto had been unable to communicate with him.
The reception given by the Duke of Norfolk to the English, Scotch, and Irish pilgrims at the Hotel de Rome will long be a topic of conversation in Rome, and has led the Italian papers to indulge in some very fanciful conjectures as to what it may have cost. Certainly no such crowded reception was ever before held in that spacious hotel. Cardinal Vaughan’s reception at the English College, at which a large number of the Roman aristocracy were present, will also not soon be forgotten. The common bond of religion, for that night at least, was able to obliterate all the barriers of rank and race which men have set between men. Romans and foreigners from the British Isles, idlers and workers, rich and poor, all were there on a footing of Christian equality to do honour and accept the courtesy of the English Cardinal. Our last word before we conclude these recollections of the British pilgrimage is one which we would very willingly linger on. We are able to state that the piety and devotion of the pilgrims from Great Britain, as well as in the heartiness of their congregational singing, have made an excellent and a permanent impression in Rome.
The above text was found on p.5,11th March 1893 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 NEW VICAR-APOSTOLIC OF GIBRALTAR. CONSECRATION AT HAVERSTOCK HILL.
All who were present on Monday last at the church of the Dominican Fathers, Haverstock Hill, on the occasion of the consecration of Bishop Bellord for the Vicariate of Gibraltar must have been impressed by the fitness of the noble edifice for so great a function. The open and spacious sanctuary, well raised above the level of the nave, presented an unrestricted view to all who thronged the enormous church. The beautiful oaken stalls, carved by Peters of Antwerp, were filled with long lines of white-robed friars, black-robed Benedictines, Augurtinians and Passionists, purple-robed Monsignori, and secular priests in their graceful lace-trimmed cottas, while moving about the altar were the officiating prelates and their numerous assistants in performance of their sacred rites and clothed in the symbolic grandeur of their sacred vestments. And through all the splendour of colour and moving forms a grand simplicity was manifest. Those who were present, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, – and not a few non-Catholics were in evidence, – must have been moved, too, by the supreme care and the many safeguards with which the Church in all the details of a sublime ritual surrounds the great act by which the apostolic commission is handed down to individuals in unbroken continuity as it was received from Christ.
The Bishop of Emmaus was the consecrator, and the Assistant-Bishops were Bishop Brindle, D.S.0 , and the Bishop of Southwark. These were attended by their chaplains, the Revv. Fathers Davies and T. Hogan for the Bishop of Emmaus : Fathers Reekes and Coote for the Bishop of Southwark ; Fathers Denny and C. Cox for the Bishop of Hermopolis ; and Fathers Amigo and Armstrong for the Bishop-Elect. The Cantors were the Revv. Fathers Pennington and Wyatt, and the masters of ceremonies Fathers G. Cox and Mgr. Dunn.
Occupying places in the stalls were the Very Revv. Father John Procter, O.P., Provincial ; Father Gabriel Whitacre, O.P., Prior ; the Right Rev. Mgri. Goddard, Moyes, Fenton and Connelly; the Very Revv, Dr. Johnstone, V.G., Provost Moore, Canons Keatinge, Pycke, Scannell and Fannan ; the Revv. Dr. Aidan Gasquet, O.S.B., Father Arthur, C.P. ; Deans Lucas, Reardon, Vere ; several army chaplains ; the Very Rev. P. r ., Kelly, O.S.A. ; the Dominican Fathers Thomas Laws, Reginald Buckler, Austin Rooke, Bernard Sears, Raphael Moss, and Gilbert Tigar ; while a large number of secular priests from several dioceses were in the body of the church.
The Apostolic Brief having been read, the Bishop-elect took the episcopal oath prescribed by Pius VI. for Bishops in the British Empire. Then followed the Examen, in which, response to questions of the Consecrator, the Bishop-elect made solemn profession of faith and fealty and devotion to his episcopal duties, promising to preserve humility and patience, and to be gentle and tender to the poor and to strangers, and to all who suffer want. The Mass begins, the Litanies of the Saints are chanted, the Book of the Gospels is laid open on the shoulders of the Elect in token that while he is appointed to rule over others he himself is subject to the law of the Gospel. A swift-winged moment swept by and the mighty and mysterious act has passed. The consecrating hands have been imposed and the simple word has been spoken ; ” Receive the Holy Ghost.” Almost unobserved, the great central act has been consummated. Then the Mass proceeded, interwoven with, the signs and ceremonies continued the kiss of peace and brotherhood was given, the new-made Bishop was enthroned and endowed with mitre, ring and crozier, while the praises of the Te Deum are resounding, with his new born powers he imparts his solemn benediction. A touch of human interest was there when the Bishop proceeding round the church made scarcely perceptible pause as he extended his hand to a Sister of Mercy who knelt in the foremost seat, and thus it came about that his sister was the first to kiss his hand and receive his happy blessing.
MGR. BELLORD’S CAREER.
The Right Rev. James Bellord, to give the title in full, Bishop of Milevis and Vicar-Apostolic of Gibraltar, was born In London in 1846, educated at St. Edmund’s College, Ware, an, ordained priest at Hammersmith on March 12, 1870, Like Mgr. Brindle, the new Auxiliary Bishop to Cardinal Vaughan, Mgr. Bellord has had a distinguished career as a military chaplain. He served with the troops in Bermuda in 1875-77, and, again in 1888-92, and also through the Zulu, the Boer, and the Egyptian campaigns. Upon him devolved the sad duty of performing the last rites over the body of the late Prince Imperial of France, who, it will be remembered, lost his life during the first mentioned war. The Bishop was present at the battle of Ulundi, at which the Zulus were finally subdued at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, in Egypt, Father Bellord was severely wounded early in the action, but, despite his own sufferings, he courageously insisted on being carried round to give the consolations of religion to the wounded and dying. For the last few years he has been attached to the garrison at Colchester. Needless to tell, he has always been most popular both with the officers and men at all the stations at which he has served. In consequence of his appointment to Gibraltar the Bishop retires from the army after near thirty years’ service.
Father Bellord is the author of some devotional works, and, last year he published a remarkable book, Meditations on Christian Dogma, founded on St. Thomas Aquinas, to which the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster contributed a preface: and which has been most favourably received. Three of his sisters are nuns, two being Sisters of Notre Dame and the other a Sister of Mercy at the convent in Crispin-street, London,
LETTER FROM THE EMPRESS EUGENIE.
After the ceremonies luncheon was provided in the Priory. Bishop Patterson, in proposing the health of the new Bishop, referred to him in warm and felicitous terms, and said he had known him man and boy all his life, and had enjoyed as well the friendship of his parents. The toast was receive enthusiastically, and drunk with musical honours. Father Amigo, on behalf of the people of Gibraltar, promised the Bishop a hearty welcome, and Mgr. Goddard, in the course of some graceful reference to the relations of the Bishop, when be was chaplain to the forces in Zululand, with the unfortunate young Prince to whom he administered the last consolations of religion, read the following letter from the Empress :
Villa Cyrnos, Cap Martin.
Cher Monsignor Goddard,—J’ai communiqué à S.M. l’Imperatrice votre lettre du 17e l’informant de la nomination du Père Bellord, à l’Evêché de Gibraltar. Sa Majesté a appris avec plaisir cette nouvelle. Elle se réjouira toujours de ce qui pourra arriver d’heureux à ceux, de près ou de loin, se rattachent à la mémoire de son malheureux fils – et elle felicite le Père Bellord de son élévation a l’Episcopat.
Sa Majesté vous remercie de votre bon souvenir. Quoiqu’elle ne pas complêtement rétablie l’état de sa santé s’est amelioré. Veuillez agreer, cher Monsignor, l’expression de mes sentiments respectueux et dévoués.
The Bishop, in his reply, thanked all who had been so kind to him, and whom he held in dear remembrance. The toast of Bishop Patterson was also drank.
In the afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Bellord held a reception at their house in Belsize Park Gardens, at which, besides the Bishops and the clergy who had assisted at the functions of the morning, the following ladies and gentlemen were present with many other friends of the family : Colonel Donovan, Major Tibbs, Major Ration, Dr. Ware, Mr. and Mrs. W. B. Hallett, Mr. and Mrs. Le Brasseur, Mr. and Mrs. E. Hanley and Miss Hanley, the Hon. Mr. Parker and Lady Parker, Mr. and Mrs. E. O’Bryen, and Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Pursell.
The members of the Deanery of Colchester presented the Bishop with a handsome pectoral cross as a token of their regard. A gift highly valued for its givers and very beautiful in itself, was the episcopal ring, presented by his sisters, who, as has been said, are nuns. The exquisite Gothic mitre, which Was worn by the Bishop at the ceremony, and was much admired for its beauty, was the gift of his brother, Mr. E. J. Bellord.
The church at Haverstock Hill is full of interest to those who have watched the Catholic revival in England and the reintroduction of the religious orders into the country.
The Friars Preachers or Dominicans, commonly called Black Friars, came into England in 1221, and founded a house in Holborn, removed in 1286 to Ludgate. This was destroyed in 1538, and the Times Office is built on part of the site. Under Queen Mary they established another community in Great St. Bartholomew’s, Smithfield, in 1556, but this was destroyed by Queen Elizabeth in 1559. On the invitation of Cardinal Wise-man, in 1861, the Friars commenced a mission in Kentish Town, and in 1863 began a Priory on Haverstock Hill, which was completed in four years, and solemnly opened May 31, 1883 , It has a total length of 200ft., the nave of 6 bays being 140ft., and the choir 60ft. Fourteen chapels and the high altar are dedicated to the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, each chapel in the aisles being 15ft. wide. The lady chapel on the right side of the choir, contains the altars of the Holy Rosary, St. Joseph and St. Dominic. The church is in the style of the 13th century, built of brick, with stone dressings. There are several good stained glass windows, especially in the choir, by Hardman and Co., Birmingham. The high altar (late decorated style) Put up and consecrated in December, 1889, cost £ 2,000. The Priory was built by the late Countess Tasker.
The above text was found on p.21,6th May 1899 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 .
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 be “settled 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 ?
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.
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 Clifford of Chudleigh.
Sir Charles Clifford
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 .
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.