The Pilgrimage to Rome 1893

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Castel Sant’ Angelo

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.

Sala Ducale

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.

 

Henry Fitzalan Howard 15th Duke of Norfolk

 

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 .

Obituary – Alderman Ernest A. O’Bryen 3rd May 1919

ALDERMAN ERNEST A. O’BRYEN.

We regret to record the death of Alderman Ernest A. O’Bryen, Mayor of Hampstead, which took place on Saturday night, at the age of fifty-three years, following on an operation from which he at first seemed to be progressing favourably. Educated at Stonyhurst and Cooper’s Hill, he spent some ten years in the Indian Forest Service in Upper Burmah, shortly after its annexation. He retired from the service in 1897 and married in the following year, Gertrude, daughter of the late Alfred Pursell. In 1913 he was elected Mayor of Hampstead, first Catholic to hold that position, and held it till his death. In 1916 he was President of the Stonyhurst Association and the same year was elected a Vice-President of the London Circle of the Catenian Association. During the war he took a leading part in making arrangements for the feeding and accommodation of Belgian refugees, and he also organised and equipped hospitals for the British Red Cross and St. John Ambulance. In 1915, Alderman O’Bryen was instrumental in raising the 183rd Howitzer Brigade and the 138th and 139th Heavy Batteries of Royal Garrison Artillery.

The funeral took place on Wednesday. The Requiem Mass was celebrated at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haverstock Hill, by Father Bodkin, S. J. Among those present were Mrs. O’Bryen and her five children, Mr. and Mrs. A. J. Winstanley, Captain and Mrs. Parker, Mr. Alfred Pursell, Mrs. Edwardes, Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Bellord, Mr. Frank Pursell, Mr. Alfred O’Bryen, Mrs. Rex O’Bryen, Mrs. Basil O’Bryen, the Deputy Mayor, the Town Clerk, Aldermen and Councillors of the Borough of Hampstead, the Vice-Chairman of the London County Council (Mr. A. T. Taylor, L.C.C.), Alderman Sir William Dunn, Bart., Alderman J. W. Gilbert, L.C.C., Mr. W. Reynolds, L.C.C., Mr. John O’Connor, K.C., Canon Burton, Father Robert Bracey, 0.P., Rev. J. Keating, S.J., Father John Leather, 0.P., Mr. J. G. Bellord, Dr. Ernest Ware, Mr. Synnott, Mr. Lescher, and many others. Father Bodkin also gave the Absolutions, and officiated at the interment at Kensal Green, assisted by Father John Leather. Several communities of nuns were also represented in the church. The children from Bartram’s Orphanage lined the road near the church and the entrance to the avenue at the cemetery.

“The Catholic body in London has suffered a severe loss by the death of Alderman Ernest O’Bryen,” writes one who knew him. “The number of Catholic laymen who take a prominent share in London public life is unfortunately not very large, and the untimely death of one who had achieved such a notable success as to be elected six times in succession Mayor of the borough of Hampstead, in which he lived, must fill with deepest regret all those, interested in Catholic social effort in the Metropolis. Those who had the privilege of knowing Ernest O’Bryen intimately were not surprised that he secured the confidence and the esteem of his fellow workers, both Catholic and non-Catholic. An able administrator, with a sound judgment, a strong resolution, a persuasive manner, and a power of appropriate silence—the last a valuable gift in public life, his two outstanding qualities were perhaps his loyalty and his generosity of service. He was loyal, most loyal, to his religious beliefs and practices, loyal to his country, loyal to his friends, and loyal to those co-operating with him. His fellow Catholics know of his loyalty to his religion : Hampstead marked its appreciation of his loyalty to his country at the beginning of the war by re-electing him as Mayor five times to see the war through ; many like the writer have experienced his loyalty to his friends, which showed itself in times of anxiety and difficulty, not in word service but in practical form ; whilst of his loyalty to those co-operating with him his record in public life and in many Catholic organizations with which he was connected will bear willing witness.” 

His great generosity of service has undoubtedly contributed to his breakdown in health. Few London Mayors have exceeded his standard of effort as first citizen of a London borough throughout the difficult period of the national emergency. His achievements in connection with the Prince of Wales Fund, Red Cross and St. John Ambulance work, Belgian Refugees, recruiting for Kitchener’s Army and the Derby Scheme, the Hampstead Tribunal for exemptions from military service of which he was Chairman, the War Loan Campaign, the Food Economy Campaign and the provision of allotments—all are in the records of Hampstead public life, and it is to be deeply regretted that he has not lived to receive the official recognition of these services, which he so richly merited. The Catholic body in London, certainly, may be proud of the excellent record of public service for the common good which a Catholic layman has achieved.

Of his Catholic work it is unnecessary to write at length. The Catholic Federation, in its early days, the Catenian Society, the Stonyhurst Association, Catholic elementary schools, have by his death lost a good friend. If he had been spared, and, as seemed likely, his scope of public service had been increased, all these associations would have benefited materially from his support. His last visit to the writer was with a view to securing material assistance for a Catholic charitable institution, in the development of which he took great interest. His untimely death certainly creates a void in London Catholic life, which it will be very difficult to fill.

The above text was found on p.28, 3rd May 1919 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.

Purssell marriages in the 1890’s

It has always been a slight curiosity that whilst Uncle Frank’s (Purssell) wedding was well written up, none of the Purssell sisters seemed to have had as grand a wedding. Of the seven children, Laura had married Max Winstanley in 1884, Lucy had married Henry Grant Edwardes in 1892, and Frank had married Lily Kuypers in 1896, and Alfred J. never married. But at least almost all of them got a brief mention in the Tablet.

Parker-Purssell marriage notice July 1898

PARKER—PURSSELL.–On June 30, at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haverstock Hill, by the Very Rev. F. A. Gasquet, D.D., Wilfrid Watson, second surviving son of the late Sir Henry Watson Parker, of Hampstead, and Lady Watson Parker, of 22, Upper Park-road, N.W., to Frances Charlotte, third daughter of the late Alfred Purssell, C.C., of Hampstead.9th July 1898, Page 13

Wilfrid Parker was the groomsman at  Frank and Lily’s wedding, and he, Frank, and their Kuypers brothers-in-law all went to Downside, which is where they met Father (later Cardinal) Gasquet.


O’BRYEN—PURSSELL.—On the11th inst., at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haver-stock Hill, by the Rev. P. A. O’Bryen, B.A., brother of the bridegroom, assisted by the Rev. George Cox, Ernest A. O’Bryen, of the Indian Forest Service, son of the late John Roche O’Bryen, M.D., to Gertrude Mary, youngest daughter of the late Alfred Purssell, C.C., of 9, Belsize Grove, Hampstead. (Burma papers please copy.) 15th October 1898, Page 13

 

BELLORD—PURSSELL.—On the 11th inst., at St. Dominic’s Priory, Haver-stock Hill, N.W., by the Rev. James Bellord, Chaplain to the Forces, Edmund Joseph Bellord to Agnes Mary, fourth daughter of the late Alfred Purssell, of Belsize Grove, N.W. 14th January 1899, Page 11

It was Edmund Bellord’s second marriage.James Bellord was appointed the Vicar Apostolic of Gibraltar and Titular Bishop of Milevum on 16 February 1899, and his consecration took place on 1 May 1899.

Easter Sunday at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge 1897

This is seventeen days before Alfred’s death on the 5th May 1897, and about six weeks before Frank’s wedding a month later on the 6th June.

ProvidenceRowPROVIDENCE (Row) NIGHT REFUGE AND HOME.—On Easter Sunday at the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home, Crispin Street, Spitalfields, E., in accordance with the custom of the late Mgr. Gilbert, a special dinner, consisting of hot soup, meat, potatoes, and bread, was provided for the inmates, who numbered over 300. In the absence of the Hon. Manager, Mr. Alfred Purssell, through illness, his son, Mr. F. W. Purssell, presided, and was supported by the Rev. M. Fitzpatrick, the Misses Purssell, Miss B. G. Munk, Mr. and Mrs. Secrett, Mr. J. W. Gilbert (Secretary) &c.

In the men’s refectory, Mr. F. W. Purssell gave a short address. He said that they came there on behalf of the Hon. Manager and the committee to bid the inmates welcome to the refuge. Whilst deeply regretting the misfortune which had forced them to accept its hospitality, he trusted that it might be the means of reinstating them in life. Although it was very hard to be poor, poverty was not necessarily a disgrace. The refuge had been established by the late Mgr. Gilbert to help the deserving poor, and his work was still being continued. There was every prospect this year of a revival in trade owing to the many public celebrations which were to take place, and he (Mr. Purssell) hoped that when Easter came round next year, all the inmates present would have homes of their own. In conclusion, he announced that the Rev. Mother would give each inmate sixpence as an Easter gift on leaving the refuge next morning. Three ringing cheers for the Rev. Mother and the Sisters of Mercy, and for Mr. Purssell were followed by dinner, which was served by the Sisters. The visitors then proceeded to the women’s room and to the servants’ homes, in each of which Mr. Purssell addressed a few kindly words to those present. During the course of the afternoon oranges were distributed, and additional fare was given at the tea in the evening. Altogether the poor people had a very enjoyable day, and the Sisters and visitors must have been gratified at the joy and happiness to which they by their help contributed.

The above text was found on p.36, 24th April 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 .

Alfred Purssell writes a begging letter in 1896

The Providence (Row) Night Refuge was founded in 1860, and heavily supported by Alfred Purssell, and his children, and sons-in-law almost from its foundation. Wilfrid Parker, Alfred Purssell’s  son in law, was chairman of the committee in 1931, Wilfrid’s nephew George Bellord was also on the committee. George’s father, Edmund Bellord (Agnes Purssell’s husband) had also chaired the committee. Frank Purssell had also been on the committee, and deputised for his father at times.

AP begging letter
Alfred Purssell’s letter, probably from 1896,

 

Jamaica Buildings,
St Michael’s Alley,
Cornhill, London
EC

 

 

The Honorary Manager of the Providence (Row) Night-Refuge & Home, Mr Alfred Purssell, C.C., presents his respectful compliments to Her Grace The Duchess of Newcastle, and begs once more to plead for this most deserving charity.

During the Winter Months, the Refuge provides every night nearly three hundred night’s lodgings, suppers & breakfasts to homeless wanderers free of cost. From the foundation of the Refuge thirty six years ago by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert, nearly one million two hundred and fifty thousand night’s lodgings suppers and breakfasts have been provided.

The work of the charity does not end at “feeding the hungry” and “harbouring the harbourless”. It is also the means of enabling many of those, who find shelter within the walls of the Refuge, to begin life afresh, and to obtain again a position for themselves in the world. Those, for example, who through dire necessity, to save their families from starvation or worse, have parted with their tools, are enabled to recover them: sellers of fusees (large matches), flowers, newspapers, bootlaces, and the like, without hope or money, are supplied with a little stock: rent is paid and a small allowance granted to mothers and children, when the breadwinner through sickness is unable to work: the ragged are also clothed and situations obtained for them.

It is specially desired to call the attention of the charitable to some distinguishing marks of the Charity. In the first place it is absolutely non-sectarian. There are no questions as to nationality or creed. Whilst there is accommodation in the Refuge, no bona-fide applicant is refused, the sole passport necessary being genuine poverty and want. Secondly no effort is spared to secure the benefits of the Charity for the really deserving. The imposter, the professional beggar is soon detected. All the inmates are called upon to make a statement as to their last employment, and the cause of their misfortune, which is afterwards inquired into. By this means the benefits are secured for the bona-fide poor. It must be distinctly understood however that the poor applicant is not kept waiting for relief, but is lodged and fed, whilst the investigation is proceeding. Nor are the fallen debarred from participating in them, truth being considered a guarantee of desire to amend.

This winter special help is needed. There are no signs of any diminution in the poverty and distress around us. If the weather is severe, the sufferings of the poor will be materially increased. At times so great do their misery and wretchedness become, that those who are attempting to alleviate the distress are well nigh discouraged. The thought that hundreds of men, women and even children have in the depths of winter no home but the streets is simply appalling. There is a worse aspect to the question than this. How many of our poorer brothers and sisters in this vast metropolis are driven to crime. As degradation, by the want of food and shelter. Men and children become thieves; women and girls, alas! Barter their most valuable possession, their priceless innocence for food and shelter. These unfortunate ones find in the Refuge the means of reforming their lives, and of turning their backs for ever on the sinful past.

Will you kindly help the Committee of the Providence (Row) Night Refuge and Home in their great work amongst the poor? If you could pay a visit to it, one night during the winter months, and see for yourself the good that is being done by it, you would willingly do so.

Hear the opinions of some who have visited it:- Mr James Greenwood, the “Amateur Casual”, writing in the “Ludgate Monthly” has said “Outcasts of all kinds and from all parts find shelter there, and all are sure of something for supper and a bed, and a big roll, and a mug of cocoa ‘as a comforter’, “before they start on their way next morning…. The Managers of the Home have been thus unostentatiously engaged for many years, and the good they have effected is incalculable.”

The late Mr Montague Williams Q.C., in “Later Leaves” says of this Refuge: “There is no more Excellent institution…. The place is beautifully clean…. This institution, which is not nearly so well known as it deserves to be, is in the heart of Spitalfields.”

The “Daily Chronicle” has said: “Christianity is certainly not played out at the corner of Crispin St., and Raven Row, although it may be doubled, whether it ever found more depressing material to work upon.”

As an example of the distress, which exists in our midst may be mentioned that in the Refuge last year, amongst those assisted were an Architect, an Optician, clerks, waiters, valets, woodcarvers, ivory-turners, weavers, painters, a professor of music, a linguist, certificated teachers, dressmakers, domestic servants, etc., etc.

In addition to the Refuge, there are two homes, one for Servants, who partially support themselves by work, the other where women out of engagements can board and lodge at a small cost per week, whilst searching for situations.

An especial appeal for help is made this year, in order that funds may be raised to extend the work, which has now been carried on so effectively for thirty-six years. The Refuge was founded by the late Rev. Dr. Gilbert in 1860 with fourteen beds. It has now accommodation for nearly three hundred. Will you assist in extending the good work?

The smallest donation will be gratefully acknowledged, and the heartfelt prayers of the hungry you help to feed, of the houseless you help to lodge, the naked you help to clothe, the fallen you help to brighter and happier lives will be bound to

http://spotlight.nottingham.ac.uk/story001/viewImage.asp?page=4&image=2

Mother St. George (Frances Jane Purssell) 1827 -1914. A heroine-veteran of the Crimea

Mother St George was born Frances Purssell in 1827, became a nun when she was 21. She is Lady O’B’s aunt, and Alfred Purssell’s elder sister

from The Tablet Page 24, 8th February 1908

There are not many of the nun-nurses of the Crimea left among us—not, we believe, more than four, namely, Mother Mary Aloysius, the last survivor of the band of Irish Sisters of Mercy who tended the sick and wounded in the hospitals at Scutari ; florence-nightingale-nursesSister Stanislas and Sister Anastasia (both now at St. John’s Wood), the representatives of the English Sisters of Mercy who gave an equal devotion to the same service ; and Mother St. George, of the Convent of the Faithful Virgin, Norwood. Of these, the first, Mother Mary Aloysius, put on record some ten years ago her wonderful experiences in that delightfully simple and graphic little book, “Memories of the Crimea.” Mother St. George resigned a few weeks ago the active headship of the branch house of her Order at Folkestone (which she helped to found) and has now returned to pass her remaining days in the Norwood Convent, where she was professed sixty years ago at the age of twenty-one.

This week the readers of The Daily Chronicle were privileged to hear some of the reminiscences of this venerable nun, recounted in an interview which she gave to a correspondent of that paper.

“I must have five of your Sisters by seven o’clock to-morrow morning at London Bridge ready to start for Constantinople.”

Those brief, imperative marching orders from Bishop Grant were handed to the Mother Superior of the Convent of the Faithful Virgin at Norwood late in the evening of Sunday, October 22, 1854. Before six o’clock the next morning the Sisters asked for were at Bishop Grant’s house, and they started the same day with Florence Nightingale and her nurses for the East. Of that little band of five, Mother St. George was the youngest, and to-day is the sole survivor. The Order of the Faithful Virgin is a teaching, not a nursing order; but when that urgent cry of “More Nurses for the East” came from the perishing Army, there were few trained for the work who could immediately step into the breach, and hence it was that, at Bishop Grant’s summons, the Sisters of the Faithful Virgin came eagerly forward to fill the gap, and they filled it at Scutari nobly from November, 1854, till February, 1855, by which time plenty of nursing Sisters had arrived.

Mother St. George recalls the enthusiasm with which Florence Nightingale and her nurses were received when they landed at Boulogne. “Then we sailed from Marseilles” (she says); “it was a Friday, I remember, and the Captain objected to starting on Friday. The sailors were perfectly sure that the ship would go down. But Miss Nightingale would not wait ; she was anxious to reach her work as soon as possible. We had terrible weather, and the ship at one time was in very great danger in a narrow passage. However, we reached the Bosphorus safely, though I believe the ship was too damaged to make the return voyage, and Miss Nightingale said to the Captain, Why, I thought we were all to go to the bottom because we sailed on Friday ‘ ; and he answered, ‘And so we should have done if we hadn’t had Sisters on board ”

Barraok_Hospital,_Scutari._George_Dodd._Pictorial_history_of_the_Russian_war_1854-5-6On arriving at Scutari, Mother St. George went with the other nurses to the great palace which the Sultan had placed at the disposal of the British Government for a hospital. “At that time,” she says, “all the wounded had to be brought across the Black Sea before they could be properly treated. Many died on the way across, or directly they were brought in. But the men were so good, so brave, so delicate. Why, they would try to take off their soiled bandages themselves to save the Sisters the task. And some of these men were brought in after lying out six weeks in the trenches, so that their clothes stuck to their skins, and it was difficult to remove them. There was no chloroform in those days ; so when a man had to be operated upon they used to put a ball of lead in his mouth.” Of Miss Nightingale, though she has never seen her since she left Scutari, Mother St. George retains a vivid impression. “Tall, slender, upright she was, with dark hair. Very, very gentle in her manner, but very capable. She was a wonderful nurse. And she was very accomplished, too ; she spoke three languages fluently. The officers at the hospital at Scutari did not like a woman put over them ; I think she often suffered much from that. She used to be called ‘The Bird.’ We came home in the Candia with some invalided officers and men, coming direct to Southampton. It was a Sunday morning when we reached port, and we went ashore to see if we could find a church and hear Mass. A troop of street boys followed us ; they were so astonished at our white robes, and cried that it was ‘the Emperor of Rooshia and his five daughters come over.’ ‘Them Rooshians ‘—that was how the soldiers always spoke of the enemy,” concluded Mother St. George, with a smile.

from The Tablet Page 22, 28th October 1911

Coldstreams at ScutariOther memories of Scutari are quickened afresh in English minds this week by the death of Mother M. Anastasia Kelly at the St. John’s Wood Convent of her Order. This event, recorded in another column, leaves but one sole survivor of the band of brave Sisters of Mercy who took ship with Florence Nightingale for the Scutari hospital wards, packed with England’s cholera-stricken soldiers. This is Mother Mary Joseph Stanislas (born Jones), of the same Convent, whose years now number eighty-nine. Elsewhere and in another Order, one other remains who shared in the horrors and glories of the Crimea. Mother St. George (born Purssell), at the Convent of the Faithful Virgin, Norwood, well recalls the day, fifty-seven years ago, when she left that house, at a few hours’ notice, in response to Bishop Grant’s appeal for volunteers. Royal_Red_Cross_Medal

Hers was not a nursing Order, but that impediment counted for naught when the supply of trained Sisters of Mercy had fallen short of the demand. The venerable Nun now dead, her surviving companion at St. John’s Wood, and Mother St. George alike received from Queen Victoria, in her Jubilee year of 1887, the decoration of the Royal Red Cross

from The Sacred Heart Review, Number 22, 16 May 1914

WHAT FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE OWED TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

Mother St. George, the last survivor of the band of nuns who worked in the Crimea with Florence Nightingale, died at Norwood, England, recently, aged eighty-seven. Last week in our news columns we chronicled her funeral. The London Tablet tells of Bishop Grant’s message to the Norwood convent, in 1854, one Sunday evening: “I must have five of the Sisters by seven o’clock to-morrow morning at London Bridge, ready to start for Constantinople.” The next day the five Sisters started with Miss Nightingale. Mother St. George was decorated with the Red Cross, by Queen Victoria, many years after the war. The recently published “Life” of Florence Nightingale, written by Sir Edward Cook, quotes from a letter to the London Times,— written by its special correspondent, in the Crimea- several passages that deplore the futility of the nursing arrangements on the British side and point to the advantages of the French who had the nursing Sisters. He wrote:— Here the French are greatly our superiors. Their medical arrangements are extremely good, their surgeons more numerous, and they have also the help of the Sisters of Charity, who have accompanied the expedition in incredible numbers. These devoted women are excellent nurses. Two days after this letter appeared, a reader of the Times sent to that paper the query, “Why have we no Sisters of Charity?” Florence Nightingale was persuaded to organize a corps of nurses. ” Her experience all tells,” wrote her sister, ” including in the list of qualifications, her sympathy with the Roman Catholic system of work.” The corps included ten Catholic nuns (five from Bermondsey and five from Norwood—Mother George’s party.) Miss Nightingale was from the first anxious to have Catholic nurses on her staff, because, says her biographer:— In the first place many of the soldiers were Catholics; and, secondly, her apprenticeship in nursing had shown her the excellent qualities as nurses, of many Catholics. A letter from Miss Nightingale to Mr. Herbert described a number of her Catholic nurses as being: “The truest Christians I ever met with,—invaluable in their work, devoted, heart and head, to serve God and mankind.” When the war was at an end, the Reverend Mother, who had come from Bermondsey with the first party, returned home. What her services meant to her chief is frankly acknowledged in the letter Miss Nightingale wrote to her from Balaclava: —

“God’s blessing and my love and gratitude with you, as you well know. You know well, too, that I shall do everything I can for the Sisters whom you have left me. But it will not be like you. Your wishes will be our law. And I shall try and remain in the Crimea for their sakes as long as we are any of us there. I do not presume to express praise or gratitude to you, Reverend Mother, because it would look as if I thought you had done the work not unto God but unto me. You were far above me in fitness for the general superintendency, both in worldly talent of administration and far more in the spiritual qualification which God values in a Superior. My being placed over you in an unenviable reign in the East was my misfortune and not my fault.”

From her childhood Florence Nightingale showed a vocation for nursing. She nursed and bandaged the dolls her sister broke, and she gave “first aid to the wounded” to a collie with a broken leg. The earliest sample of her writing is a tiny book, which the child stitched together and in which she entered in very uncertain letters a recipe ” sixteen grains for an old woman, eleven for a young woman, and seven for a child.” The conventions of her day and class forbade the following of her desire to become a nurse. The advantages of wealth and culture were hers, including travel and study in foreign countries. The chief attraction that Paris offered to her ” lay principally in its hospitals and nursing Sisterhoods.” Her beautiful home at Embley appealed to her chiefly as a desirable place for a hospital— ” I think how I should turn it into a hospital and how I should place the beds,” she said to a friend. When Dr. Howe visited Embley, Florence asked him; “If I should determine to study nursing, and to devote my life to that profession, do you think it would be a dreadful thing ? ” ” Not a dreadful thing at all,” replied the visitor. “I think it would be a very good thing.” To Catholic Sisterhoods she owed the opportunity that opened the way to her future career. She wrote on one occasion:— “The Catholic Orders offered me work, training for that work, sympathy and help in it, such as I had in vain sought in the Church of England. The Church of England has for men bishoprics, archbishoprics, and a little work. For women she has what ? I would have given her my head, my heart, my hand. She would not have them. She did not know what to do with them. She told me to go back and do crochet in my mother’s drawing-room; or, if I were tired of that, to marry and look well at the head of my husband’s table. You may go to the Sunday-school, if you like it, she said. But she gave me no training even for that. She gave me neither work to do for her, nor education for it.” In Rome, the great attraction for Miss Nightingale was the Sacred Heart Convent, but for nursing Sisterhoods she retained always the deepest regard. Her latest biographer says: — She thought more often, and with more affectionate remembrance, about the spirit of the best Catholic Sisterhoods than of Kaiserswerth, or indeed of anything else in her professional experience. At Kaiserswerth, an ancient town on the Rhine, there was a hospital conducted by Deaconesses, (Protestant) and here Miss Nightingale spent some months. That Kaiserswerth trained her, she herself denied. “The nursing there was nil,” she wrote. “The hygiene was horrible. The hospital was certainly the worst part of Kaiserswerth. I took all the training there was to be had; Kaiserswerth was far from having trained me.” From the Protestant Deaconesses of Germany, Miss Nightingale went to live among Catholic Sisters in France. Dr. Manning secured the opportunity for her to study in their institutions and hospitals. ” Florence joined the Sisters of Charity in Paris. “And thus after many struggles and delays, was she launched upon her true work in the world,” states Sir Edward Cook. In 1854 came the “call” to the Crimea and the practical test of Miss Nightingale’s vocation for nursing. Of her companions to the Crimea we have already learned something, and more is related in a general way in the chapters dealing with her experiences as an army nurse. A small black pocket-book, found among Miss Nightingale’s effects, after her death, contained a few of the letters she received before starting for the East. One of these letters, was from Dr. Manning, who wrote:— “God will keep you. And my prayer for you will be that your one object of Worship, Pattern for Imitation, and source of consolation and strength may be the Sacred Heart of our Divine Lord.” Summing up Miss Nightingale’s feeling towards Catholics and Catholicism, Sir Edward Cook says: — “There were many points at which Roman Catholicism appealed to her.  Cardinal Manning, for whom she entertained a high respect, may sometimes have regarded her as a likely convert; but towards acceptance of Roman doctrines, I find no ground for thinking that she was at any time inclined. Yet the spirit of Catholic saintliness—and especially that of the saints whose contemplative piety was joined to active benevolence— appealed strongly to her. She read books of Catholic devotion constantly, and made innumerable annotations in and from them. . . She admired intensely the aid which Catholic piety had given, and was giving to many of her own friends—to the Bermondsey nuns, especially, and to the mother and sisters of the Trinitade’ Monti — towards purity of heart and the doing of everything from a-right motive. Then, again, to be ” business-like” was with Miss Nightingale almost the highest commendation; and in this character also the Roman Church appealed to her. Its acceptance of doctrines in all their logical conclusions, seemed to her business-like; its organization was businesslike; its recognition of women-workers was business-like.”

The Mayor of Hampstead’s Garden Party – 4th July 1914

It took a lot of digging to try to find out the answers to this one, but it was always the most intriguing photo. Some of the people are clearly identifiable from other photos. Particularly the members of the O’Bryen family, Ernest and Gertrude are easily identifiable either side of the clergyman, with Cis kneeling looking at her mother, and Kenneth and Molly also to the front with their parents. Rex O’Bryen and his wife Florence are standing on the far left.

The clergyman remained mysterious for rather longer, as did most of the others in the picture. He did provide a very useful spur in the search, which rapidly threw up two O’Bryen priests. The first was Father Philip, who was an older brother of Ernest, and Rex. The other was Mgr Henry O’Bryen, who was a much older half-brother.

The Mayor of Hampstead Garden Party 4th July 1914

The clothes provided the next clues, particularly the hat and ring. Fr Phil was a parish priest, so wouldn’t have dressed like that, and Mgr Henry was dead before Ernest and Gertrude married, so it couldn’t be him. Eventually I found this…..

The Tablet Page 17, 11th July 1914 NEWS FROM THE DIOCESES

WESTMINSTER-THE CARDINAL’S ENGAGEMENTS

THE MAYOR OF HAMPSTEAD’S GARDEN PARTY.—The Cardinal Archbishop was entertained by the Mayor and Mayoress of Hampstead, Mr. and Mrs. E. A. O’Bryen, on Saturday last (4th July) at a garden party at their house and grounds at Daleham Lodge. A large company had been invited to meet his Eminence, and were presented to him. Among the guests were Canon Wyndham 0.S.C., Sir Roper and Lady Parkington, Lady Parker, Mgr. Grosch, the Father Superior and several of the Fathers from Farm Street, Prior Bede Jarrett, and several of the Dominican Fathers from Haverstock Hill, Canon Brenan, Mr. Lister Drummond, K.S.G., and Mr. C. J. Munich, K.S.G., and very many others. Refreshments were served in the grounds, and there was some, very enjoyable music.

This now answered some of the questions, but not all, and also is one of the many odd coincidences. One of the Roper Parkington’s granddaughters  Marie marries Alan O’Bryen ten years after this photo, and Colonel Sir John Roper Parkington, and Lady RP have quite a part in this tale. We’ll come back to whether it is the two of them behind the Cardinal, and the Mayor.

Lady O’B – Gertrude Mary Purssell 1873 – 1950

Youngest daughter of Alfred Purssell

Gertrude (Lady O'B)
Gertrude (Lady O’B)

The London Gazette Sept 1919

O’BRYEN, Mrs. Gertrude Mary, widow of Ernest
Adolphus O’Bryen, Esq., late Mayor of Hampstead,
upon whom it was H.M.’s intention to have conferred the honour of Knight Bachelor, has been granted the precedence of a Knight’s Widow.

The Tablet, Page 22, 6th September 1919

Lady O'Bryen
Lady O’Bryen

The many friends of the late Mr. Ernest O’Bryen, Mayor of Hampstead 1913-1919, who deeply lamented his untimely death last April at the early age of 53, will greatly rejoice that His Majesty the King has ordained that the widow of the late Mayor shall have the title and precedence, which she would have had if her husband had lived to receive the knighthood which His Majesty had intended to confer upon him. Lady O’Bryen is the youngest daughter of the late Mr. Alfred Purssell, and was married to the late Mr. Ernest O’Bryen in 1898.

During her long term of office as Mayoress of Hampstead, she earned great popularity for her large share in the many war works with which her husband was so intimately associated. Her efforts in connection with the Belgian Refugees will serve as an example of the devoted work which gained for her the grateful esteem of the citizens of Hampstead, irrespective of creed. In 1914, the Mayor formed a committee for assisting these refugees, which between October and December of that year dealt with a very large number of them, some 18 hostels being opened locally for their accommodation. For four years this committee continued its work, under the direction of Lady O’Bryen, finding employment for and looking after the interests of the refugees. Just before the Armistice about 300 were, still under the care of the committee.

Alfred Purssell 1831 -1897

Alfred Purssell is Gertrude Purssell’s (Lady O’B) father.  He is one of nine children of Roger Purssell and Charlotte Peachey as shown Purssell letter006by this copy from a family bible. Alfred himself had seven children. Five girls and two boys

  • Laura
  • Lucy
  • Alfred Joseph
  • Frank
  • Agnes
  • Charlotte
  • Gertrude

 

The Purssells were variously described as confectioners, bakers, tea importers, and by 1871, Alfred described himself as a wine merchant. In the census in 1881, he is living in Clapham as a widower, with five servants. (a housekeeper, cook, housemaid, parlourmaid, and a children’s maid.)

Alfred Purssell
Alfred Purssell

Alfred was also a member of the Court of Common Council in the City for many years. He was a Trustee of the Bridge House Estates, who were responsible for building Tower Bridge  as shown on theAlfred Purssell tower bridge plaque on the north side of the bridge.

 

 

He is listed as a guarantor of the International Exhibition of 1862 –  not the Great Exhibition (£100), which also lists him as a Member of the Society of Arts, and he is listed as a founder of Westminster Cathedral.

As part of the initial search for who was who in the photos, I also traced this print in the London Metropolitan  Archives, which confirmed that our picture was Alfred.The Chairman and Officers of the Commissioners of Sewers of the City of London 1889-1890

 

And then finally from the Tablet, Page 22, 22nd February 1930

Mr. Purssell served for many years as a member of the Court of Common Council for the Ward of Cornhill, of which the present Lord Mayor is Alderman. If memory serves, he was Chairman of the Bridge House Estate Committee when the Tower Bridge was opened.

Not quite true; he was on the committee, but not the chairman. But he was at the opening ceremony.