Vauxhall Victor 152 FLV 1959Vauxhall Victor 152 FLV 1959

The History Of Benfleet Hall Sutton Surrey

January 30, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Benfleet Hall was a large house in Sutton built in the 1860s by local builder Mr E Rabbits. The house was set in extensive grounds in Benhill Wood. In 1890 William Appleton, a tea merchant, became one in a succession of rich and influential residents to own the hall. He lived there with his wife Charlotte and third son Herbert who was an eminent architect of the time. Amongst Herbert's designs in Sutton were the Baptist Church in Hill Road, Sutton Public Offices and Sutton County School.

Benfleet Hall SuttonBenfleet Hall Sutton

Benfleet Hall Before The First World War

Sutton 1913 Map Benhill Wood Road AreaSutton 1913 Map Benhill Wood Road Area

Map Of Benfleet Hall And Surrounding Area 1913

To assist with the many wounded servicemen returned to England during the First World War, large houses such as Benfleet Hall were converted to hospitals. This hospital was opened on the 11th June 1915 by the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey at the time and local resident Sir Ralph Forster, with sixty beds, for use as a Red Cross Hospital, under the care of Dr Hooper. The hospital was entirely funded by donations from local people, who gave money so generously they were soon able to accommodate seventy two patients. When it opened 80 members of The Voluntary Aid Detachment assembled, eager for the work that lay ahead of them. The hospital was run by two matrons and a small team of trained nurses but a large number of Sutton girls, gave their services as voluntary aid nurses for the duration of the war.

Benfleet Hall War Hospital SuttonBenfleet Hall War Hospital Sutton

Benfleet Hall War Hospital

Benfleet Hall Sutton 1918Benfleet Hall Sutton 1918 Soldiers And Staff Benfleet Hall War Hospital

The servicemen convalesced in Benfleet Hall's comfortable surroundings, in summer enjoying the extensive grounds by relaxing in deckchairs or playing croquet and bowls. The less physically fit spent time playing games such as draughts, chess or dominoes. 

Kitchener Ward Benfleet Hall War Hospital SuttonKitchener Ward Benfleet Hall War Hospital Sutton

Kitchener Ward Benfleet Hall War Hospital

After the war Miss H Gifford rented the house and it became The Marie Souvester School For Girls. Sadly by the mid 1930s this lovely old house was demolished and the many houses between Benhill Wood Road and Benhill Road, including those in Benfleet Close, stand on the site today.


Searching The 1921 Census Online

January 07, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Yesterday, family historians had access to the eagerly awaited 1921 census online. It is 100 years since the census was taken, and has taken three years to carefully transcribe and digitalise. The census, which covers England and Wales, was taken on the 19th June 1921, having been delayed for two months due to industrial unrest. It includes the details of 38 million people from over 8.5 million households as well as public and private institutions. This census not only asked individuals about their age, birthplace, occupation and residence (including the names of other household members and the number of rooms), but for the first time their place of work, employer details, and 'divorced' as an option for marital status. Searches can be done by individual name or by address. I searched my house and it felt so exciting to see the names of all the family who lived there. Did they plant the old cherry tree at the end of our garden we enjoy every year and was it Bessie who lost the old silver necklace I dug up in the garden? It somehow gives us a connection with the past.

1921 Census1921 Census

At the time the country was still recovering from the First World War and at the tail end of the Spanish flu pandemic. Owing to the vast number of men who fell in the war, the Census reveals there were 1,096 women for every 1,000 men recorded, with this discrepancy being the biggest for those aged between 20 and 45. This means there were over 1.7 million more women than men in England and Wales, the largest difference ever seen in a census. 

There was a 35% increase in the number of people recorded in hospitals from the 1911 Census, three-quarters of whom were men. Presumably many were still suffering from wounds received in the war. Thanks to the additional information recorded on the status of parents and children, the Census also reveals the devastating impact the war had on families with over 730,000 fatherless children being recorded versus 261,000 without a mother. The 1921 census is a fascinating moment in history and as the 1931 census was destroyed by a fire and the 1941 census was not recorded because of the Second World War, this is the last census that will be released until 2052. It is well worth searching to see what you can find out.

 


The Tragic Case Of Stephenson Smith In Bethlem Hospital

September 26, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

One of the saddest memorial cards I have researched in the past few years is the one of Stephenson Smith. Stephenson as born in 1855 in Tooting, which was then in the county of Surrey. His parents were William and Sarah Smith. William was an omnibus proprietor and the family lived in the High Street in Tooting. He had one brother and three sisters and for the 1860s and 1870s the family appeared to live a reasonably stable upper working class life. On the 1871 census Stephenson and his brother Robert had joined the family business, Robert was an omnibus conductor and Stephenson was a fly driver. In the 1870s a photographer John Thompson captured working class London life in a wonderful set of photos and one of his photos was of "Cast Iron Billy" a London omnibus driver photographed with his conductor in 1877. It gives a real feel of what life would have been like for the Smith family at that time.

Cast Iron Billy London Omnibus Driver 1877Cast Iron Billy London Omnibus Driver 1877From Street Life in London 1877 by John Thomson and Adolphe Smith. Kindly shared by the LSE Library.

By the 1881 census, following the death of their parents Robert and Stephenson had inherited the family business and continued to trade from Tooting High Street. Then early in 1883 a tragedy struck which would devastate the family. I managed to piece together the circumstances of Stephenson's death from the records of Bethlem Hospital. Apparently he had fallen from a horse a short time previously, sustaining an injury to his head and then developed "mania". His brother and friends tried to look after him and for five days tried to keep the problem hidden but he had managed to escape from them and run out into the street in his night clothes while they were in another room. He was taken and admitted to Bethlem Hospital in St George's Fields in Southwark. A mental hospital with a terrible reputation, it was the outcome his brother and friends had been trying to avoid. On arrival to the hospital on the 7th April 1883 he was violent and spitting at the attendants, behaviour completely out of character. The tragedy is that if a similar head injury happened today, Stephenson's behaviour would be a recognised symptom, but in 1883 he was restrained and no doubt was not eating and drinking. On the 17th April, despite his brother and friends being in constant attendance, his condition deteriorated and in his weakened state died. 

Stephenson was buried in Tooting on the 22nd April 1883. It took three years for probate to be granted, as it appears Stephenson hadn't written a will. His occupation was listed as Coach Proprietor, Draper and Furniture Dealer of High Street Tooting. As a fit young man of only 27 years old probably death had not crossed his mind. His brother Robert, as his next of kin, inherited £743. 

His memorial card hints at the heartache of his family and friends:

We weep with grief, that one so dear,

No more shall share our smiles or tears,

We weep for joy that God has given,

The hope that we may meet in heaven.

Memorial Card Stephenson Smith Died 17th April 1883Memorial Card Stephenson Smith Died 17th April 1883 Memorial Card Stephenson Smith Died 17th April 1883Memorial Card Stephenson Smith Died 17th April 1883 Memorial Card Stephenson Smith Died 17th April 1883Memorial Card Stephenson Smith Died 17th April 1883

London, Bethlem Hospital Patient Admission Registers and Casebooks 1683-1932 can be searched here
 


The Denshire Family Of Ashtead House

September 24, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

When I was writing a book on the history of Ashtead 20 years ago I was lucky enough to be loaned a  Victorian photo album by the then owner of Ashtead House in Surrey. The album was from the Denshire Family who lived there in the 1800s and with the album were details about the family.

Ashtead House Farm Lane Ashtead Surrey 1865Ashtead House Farm Lane Ashtead Surrey 1865Standing in Farm Lane , this house was the residence of Captain Nathaniel Smith and his wife Hesther from the late 18th century. Their three surviving daughters remained unmarried, this was believed to be due to the opposition from their mother, despite their being suitable suitors. George their son married a beautiful young woman, Sarah Hardman, who again was not accepted by Hesther. The marriage ended in disaster, Sarah leaving George with five young children who were brought up by his mother and sisters at Ashtead House. The eldest son, also called Nathaniel, married and had two children. Elizabeth their daughter married Charles Denshire in 1841, sadly to be widowed 12 years later. In 1859 Elizabeth married the widower Reverend William Denshire , her late husband's cousin, and with the marriage came eight step children.

This photo of Ashtead House, which stands in Farm Lane was taken c.1865. Nathanial Smith who had made his fortune in India moved to Ashtead House around 1790 with his wife Hester. He had the house substantially rebuilt around 1800. Their three surviving daughters, who lived in the house with them, remained unmarried. This was believed to be due to opposition from their mother, despite their being suitable suitors. George, their second son married a beautiful young woman called Sarah Hardman who again was not accepted by Hester. The marriage ended in disaster, Sarah leaving George with five young children, who were brought up by his mother and sisters at Ashtead House. The couple's eldest son, also called Nathaniel, married and had two children. Elizabeth, their daughter married Charles Denshire in 1841, sadly to be widowed 12 years later. In 1859 Elizabeth married the widower The Revd William Denshire, her late husband's cousin and with the marriage came eight step children six girls and two boys. The family are pictured below outside Ashtead House in 1861.

The Denshire Family Outside Ashtead House 1861The Denshire Family Outside Ashtead House 1861From Left To Right Elizabeth, Hester (Aged 9) , Isabella (13) Mrs Elizabeth Smith (Elizabeth's Mother), Emma (15), Selina (11), Miss King (The governess), Mary (8), Seated on the grass Henrietta (6), Charles (4) and William (7). The history of the Denshire family at Ashtead House can be read here.

The Denshire Family From Left To Right : Elizabeth, Hester (Age 9), Isabella (Age 13), Mrs Smith (Elizabeth's mother), Emma (Age 15), Selina (Age 11), Miss King (the governess), Mary (Age 8).
Seated on the grass Henrietta (Age 6), Charles (Age 4) and William (Age 7).

 

Isabella was the first of the Denshire daughters to marry. She married Henry Bailey on the 8th Nov 1870. On the day of the wedding Miss Denshire arranged for St Giles School in Ashtead to be closed and the infant children to throw rose petals at the ceremony. 

The Wedding Of Isabella Denshire And Henry Bailey At Ashtead House Surrey 8th November 1870The Wedding Of Isabella Denshire And Henry Bailey At Ashtead House Surrey 8th November 1870

On the 24th July 1872, Selina Denshire married Charles Wilde pictured below under what was reputed to be the largest tulip tree in England which stands in the grounds of Ashtead House. Her brother William Denshire, aged 18, is standing on the left. The remaining Denshire daughters, except Emma, had all married by 1889. Emma Denshire, the eldest daughter was considered to be the most beautiful of the sisters, but it was said she was jilted and after that remained unmarried, inheriting Ashtead House on her step-mothers death and living there until 1939 when she died in her 92nd year. Emma is buried in St Giles churchyard Ashtead.

The Wedding Of Selina Denshire And Charles Wilde Ashtead House Surrey 24th July 1872The Wedding Of Selina Denshire And Charles Wilde Ashtead House Surrey 24th July 1872


The Mystery Of The Crump Family Of Gravelly Hill

September 22, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

  A very interesting photo I have in my collection is one which has been posted as a postcard and has a message on the back. It is of a couple with a little girl outside their house. I love it much more than any studio shot as somehow their personalities are in the photo. When whoever took this photo asked them to pose, the mother and daughter chose to proudly stand with their bikes. Both of them wearing their outside clothes before setting off on a ride. I'm amazed at how they chose to dress for a bike ride in those days. What would they make of all the lycra and helmets worn by cyclists today I wonder.

Lewis. Blanche And Elsie Crump 1903Lewis. Blanche And Elsie Crump 1903Lewis Crump as born on 2nd Oct 1862 in Dudley, Worcestershire. In 1892 he married Blanche Sidney Oram in Birmingham and they had one daughter Elsie Kate born 1893. Lewis died on the 16th April 1936 in Gravelly Hill, Birmingham and Blanche died on the 28th September 1953 in Bournemouth. In this photo the family are outside their home "Pendennis" 49 Minstead Road, Erdington, Warwickshire.

Lewis Blanche And Elise Crump Outside
"Pendennis"65 Oval Rd, Gravelly Hill, Warwickshire
 

The postcard was sent in 1903 to an address in Cardiff and the message was signed Lewis and Blanche Crump. I managed to find them quite easily with such unusual names. Lewis Crump was born on the 2nd Oct 1862 in Dudley, Worcestershire. In 1892 he married Blanche Sidney Oram in Birmingham and they had one daughter Elsie Kate born 1893. On the 1911 census the family lived at "Pendennis" 65 Oval Rd, Gravelly Hill Warwickshire. If you look closely on the photo you can see the name "Pendennis" on the wall above the front door. It was also recorded that Lewis and Blanche had one daughter Elsie and no children had died.

The postcard message is quite cryptic. Posted to a Mr Maton, Langland House, Oakfield Street, Roath, Cardiff. It read : Dr Mr Maton, Many thanks for the interesting communication. We both join in hearty congratulations & trust the progress will be maintained. Very Kindest Regards from Lewis & Blanche Crump. 

Lewis Blanche And Elise Crump Outside"Pendennis"65 Oval Rd, Gravelly Hill, WarwickshireBackLewis Blanche And Elise Crump Outside"Pendennis"65 Oval Rd, Gravelly Hill, WarwickshireBackPosted to a Mr Maton, Langland House, Oakfield Street, Roath, Cardiff. It read : Dr Mr Maton, Many thanks for the interesting communication. We both join in hearty congratulations & trust the progress will be maintained. Very Kindest Regards from Lewis & Blanche Crump.

By the late 1920s a strange thing happened to the records. On the electoral register Elsie is no longer living with Lewis and Blanche but a woman called Daphne Queenie Crump. I presumed Elsie had left home to get married, although I couldn't find a marriage record for her, and another female relative had moved in but it became even more confusing in 1931 when Elsie appeared on the register too.

Crump RegisterCrump Register

Lewis Crump died on 16 April 1936 when he was 73 years old in Bournemouth. After this the mystery deepens. On the 1939 register Blanche now registered as a widow is living with Daphne Queenie who's date of birth is the same as Elsie's in 1893 and she is listed as daughter. There seem to be only two possibilities, either Elsie changed her name to Daphne Queenie or the couple adopted another daughter who coincidentally was born in the same month and year as Elsie. Blanche died on the 28th September 1953 and the sole beneficiary of her will was Daphne Crump, spinster. Daphne died in Bournemouth in 1976 and appeared not to leave a will as a notice was posted in the London Gazette asking for people who may have a claim on her estate to contact the bank. I can not know for sure if little Elsie in the photo changed her name to Daphne Queenie and if she did what was the reason, but it makes me realise, the more research I do there are mysteries in every family. 

The house at 65 Oval Rd, Gravelly Hill still stands but everything looks very different today. Gravelly Hill, an area of Birmingham, is home to the present day interchange known as Spaghetti Junction. If only walls could talk 65 Oval Road may be able to answer the puzzle of what happened there to the Crump family in the 1920s, it seems it will remain a mystery.

 

 

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