3 young orphans
My Grandfather Walter William Slade & 2 of his siblings Alfred Denham & Gertrude Bessie were orphaned as very young children. What series of events lead to this tragic situation? I have obtained some documents that give us the bare bones of the story, and some other documents which add some ‘flesh’ to those bones. Armed with these pieces of information and with some degree of speculation I have put together the following, which outlines the lives of 3 children who [it could be said against all odds] grew into well-rounded, optimistic adults.
Walter Slade [my GG Grandfather] was born in Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset on May the 2nd 1857. He was the 3rd child of Samuel & Elizabeth Slade [nee Pearce] Samuel’s occupation as stated on Walter’s birth certificate was that of a gardener/domestic servant.
During the 1861 census, the family were still resident in Hatch Beauchamp, At No:3 Palmers Green. Samuel and Elizabeth’s ages were 33, Walter was just 3 and his 2 older brothers Charles & Vincent were aged 7 & 5 respectively, and both were scholars – Walter being too young for school at that time.
Ten years later, the family had grown somewhat as the 1871 census lists 3 additional children. Charles is the only one no longer living with his parents, we’ll find out where he was living and working [as he was 17 by then] shortly. Samuel & Elizabeth’s children living with them in the family home at that time were, Walter 13, Vincent 15, Louisa 5, Elizabeth 3 & baby William just 9 Months. Samuel’s occupation has changed slightly as he is now shown as a gardener – no mention of him being a domestic servant any longer. Their address shows no road name, the census simply states ‘Private House’. The description of the enumerator does specify areas within the village and Palmers Green is 3rd from last to be mentioned in the description, so it’s fair to assume that as the Slade household is on the 11th page of 15 – they were most likely still living in the same abode as they were 10 years previously.
Charles had moved some 50 miles northwards by the time of the 1871 census, to Newton St. Loe, on the outskirts of Bath/Bristol. Charles was boarding with just one other in the 1871 census – a man by the name of Job Bees who was described as the head of the household despite him being only 21 – 4 years older than Charles. Both Charles and Job were gardeners and their address was 98 Park Gardens, Newton St. Loe. Maybe it was Charles who was instrumental in Walter’s heading up to Bristol a few years later?
On February 25th 1878 Walter Slade married Frances Emma Honeycombe in the parish church of Clifton, Bristol. The parish church of Clifton at that time was St. Andrew’s, which also has quite a story surrounding it. Click here to read more about St. Andrew’s Church.
Both Frances Emma & Walter were of full age [over 21] when they married, and they shared the same address which is noted on the marriage certificate only as ‘Eldon Place’. Eldon Place has disappeared from current maps of Bristol, but I wanted to try to find out where it had once been situated. I first tried to do this by following the 1881 census enumerator’s route [as it reads on paper] from that information it appears to have possibly been located at one end of Meridian Vale [which is still there today] maybe on the area of waste ground [outlined in bright green] which can be seen on this aerial view below – which has an image to the right of it showing Meridian Vale from the Lower Clifton Hill end.
I have also searched Webster & Co.’s Directory of Bristol & Glamorganshire, 1865 – the closest annual business directory I could find to 1878 – and all mentions of Eldon Place in that are followed with ‘Lower Berkeley Place’ sadly this street has also disappeared from current maps, though Berkeley Place is still there. It’s interesting that on the junction of Berkeley Place and Byron Place is a sign which points to ‘Upper’ Berkeley Place, which leads us to assume that at some point the Upper & Lower parts of Berkeley Place were dropped.
Suffice it to say we now have a very good idea of where Walter & Frances made their home in Bristol, albeit only for a short time.
** UPDATE May 5th 2011** Today I have been able to pinpoint the precise location of Eldon Place. It was [as I suspected] at one end of Meridian Vale. Below is a picture of a very old map of Clifton from 1874, you can click it to see the full size image. Eldon Place is in the bottom left of the image, and is the rank of around 6 houses on Berkeley Place. I’ve also added a larger map that incorporates Clifton parish church [St. Andrew] where Walter & Frances married in 1878 – which shows how close they lived to the church. In another map of 1880 [just 6 years later] the name Eldon Place had already been dropped.
A little later in 1878 – November 24th – 9 months almost to the day of their marriage, Frances Emma presented Walter with their first child, a girl they named Frances Louisa. We don’t know how soon after baby Frances was born they moved to Kingston upon Thames, but our Grandfather Walter Slade was born there on June 18th 1880. The address on the birth certificate is No:1 East Road, however, Grandfather Walter has added a correction at the bottom of said certificate stating “The above address should be:- 1 East Terrace, East road” he then initialed the correction. By the time of the 1881 census, Walter, Frances Emma, Frances Louisa & Walter Wm were living at the same address as is on Walter’s birth certificate.
What could have brought about this move eastwards to Surrey? It’s not as if Walter & Frances went there alone, as 2 of Walter’s older brothers, Charles & Vincent also upped sticks and moved there too. Both can also be found there in the 1881 census. Vincent & his wife Mary plus their 2 young daughters Ellen 2, and Ann 1, [both noted as being born in K upon T] were also living in the same road as Walter & Frances. Vincent and family are penultimate household on the bottom of page 50 of the census for that area, Walter & his family on 2nd from top of page 51. They were only 2 doors away from each other! The map below illustrates how close by Charles lived, in Albert road, no: 45.
Not much is known of how life in Kingston during most of the 1880′s was for the 3 Slade households. Except for the fact that more children were born. Gertrude Bessie was born in 1882 & Alfred Denham 0n December 4th 1884. Another baby boy was born to Frances & Walter in July 1887, who turned out to be their last child, they named him Francis Sidney. Just one month later [exact date unknown] little Francis died. As the decade drew to a close tragedy struck once again. November 20th 1889 Frances Emma Slade sadly died, leaving Walter to cope with, and bring up, their 4 children. Frances Louisa was just 4 days away from her 11th birthday when she lost her Mother. My Grandfather Walter was aged 9, Gertrude 7 & Alfred was just 5 years old. On the death certificate for Frances Emma her cause of death is stated as ‘Phthisis Pulmonalis’ I researched this on the internet and found ’Phthisis Pulmonalis Consumption of the lungs; strictly applied to the tuberculous variety. [Cleaveland 1886]. Pulmonary consumption. Pulmonary tuberculosis. [Dorland].’ This must have had a devastating effect on this young family. Thank goodness that Walter had his brothers and their families close by. Christmas that year must have been a very sad time in that household.
At the start of the new decade I’m sure the family must have felt that they’d suffered enough loss to last them a lifetime, so it was a very cruel blow when in June of 1890 – the 4th to be precise, at the tender age of just 11 years Frances Louisa, died. Her death certificate has her cause of death as ‘syncope consequential upon the administration of chloroform’. Her place of death was Evelina Hospital, Southwark. I’d obtained this death certificate 3 years ago  and I’ve only recently been able to uncover more information about how Frances Louisa had died. It was only by chance whilst reading through a back issue of ‘who do you think you are’ magazine that I noticed an article about historic medical records that had recently been made available to search online. I visited the website and found Frances Louisa’s hospital records – they can be seen by clicking here.
It seems that Frances had also been struck down with Tuberculosis [possibly at the time Frances Emma had the infection – or maybe before, as the duration of her illness on the medical report is 2 years?] but that she had survived it. Sadly it looks as though despite having survived she had been affected very badly by the infection, which may have resulted in her being unable to walk, though it’s possible her ability to walk had been impaired for the 2 year period. The very breif post mortum in the Evelina hospital records states ‘Heart pale & flat, old tubercle in lungs, liver, spleen & intestine’. After an internet search, I have found out that tubercules can be found on the bones as well as organs in the body. It’s very tragic to know that she fought the Tuberculosis and beat it, only to then end being unable to walk. The poor little thing was probably not strong enough to cope with the chloroform anesthetic, or perhaps the amount administered to her was misjudged, but whichever the reason she lost her fight for life whilst undergoing an attempt to surgically straighten her legs.
We can only imagine the overwhelming grief that must have hit Walter. To lose a child just 7 months after the loss of his wife is unthinkable.
The strain on Walter after these two tragic losses in such a short space of time must have been immense. Trying to hold down his job as a carpenter to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table & 3 young children to take care of must have taken their toll on Walter as on September the 9th 1890 Walter Slade also died.
The cause of death on Walter’s death certificate states ‘Valvular disease of heart – 2 years’. This shows that Walter’s heart condition had been present for 2 years prior to his untimely death. Knowing this only adds to the tragedy as Walter’s grief in the 10 months before he died, must have added to the already considerable strain on his heart.
I have tried to find out what happened to Grandfather, young Walter William [then aged 10] and Gertrude & Alfred immediately after the death of their Father when they became orphans, but despite contacting a number of record offices [where records of orphanages in Surrey are held] and Dr Barnados I have not been able to obtain definite proof of what happened to them. Fortunately the 1891 census was taken on April the 5th in that year, just 7 months later, so finding all 3 children on the 1891 census should answer the question.
The most difficult child to locate in the 1891 census, was sadly, Walter William. There are 2 possible candidates. The first is a Walter W Slade found to be living in the registration district of Bedminster [sub-registration district St. George] Bristol. The age is wrong as the person who transcribed the original has interpreted the age of Walter Wm as 15 – and has therefore stated ‘born about 1876’. On close inspection, I’m more inclined to say that the age of this Walter was 10, add the fact that this Walter was a scholar, after the age of [I think] 14 all children were expected to earn a living. The place of birth is noted as Surrey, Kingston. Which can be clearly seen in the image from the 1891 census below.
This Walter is described as an Orphan and other members of the household are: William Potter 62, Annie Potter 60 & William Moody 17 who was noted as a lodger and as far as I can tell was no relation to the Potters. I will try to find out more on these other household members so that I can find out if this Walter is ‘ours’. At the moment I think he is our most likely candidate.
The 2nd candidate is entered onto the census as Walter Slade [no William – though middle names often got omitted from censuses] he is shown as being 11 and his relationship to the head of the house is nephew. The head of the house being Robert Vincent aged 33, a farmer. His wife was Sarah J Vincent, also aged 33, and they had a 1-year-old daughter named Eva. This Walter’s birthplace is entered as London Bloomsbury – which is around 11 miles from Kingston upon Thames. It may just be coincidence but, during the years my Grandparents [Walter & Elizabeth – nee Richards] spent living in Parkwall, Longwell Green, Gran was very close friends with the lady next door, her surname was Vincent and she had a daughter called Eva, who was a good friend of Stella & Vi. Could there be some connection here? Could this Eva have been named after Mrs Vincent’s husband’s older sister Eva? If I am ever able to prove which of the above two Walters is my Grandfather, I will update this page with that information.
** Update ** Oct 13th 2011 – I have now researched the connection between Robert & Sarah J Vincent [nee Slade] and their nephew Walter Slade from the above paragraph. I have found Robert Vincent [aged just 3] in the 1861 census for Clayhidon, Devon had a sister called Anna [aged 7] – by moving forward 20 years or so I have found a marriage between an Anna Vincent and a Walter Slade that took place in Honiton, Devon in 1876 – you can see the marriage here – this now rules out the orphaned Walter Slade from the above paragraph. It now looks even more likely then that the 10 year old orphan lodging with the Potters is the correct Walter William Slade
Next, on to Gertrude, who was much easier to find! It looks like some social services authority of the day had rehoused Gertrude as she was living in an orphanage of sorts. Her address was 44 Lee Crescent, Edgbaston, Birmingham – No: 43 was also an orphanage, with another group of 7 orphan girls living there. Thankfully this orphanage wasn’t the large institutional type of building that springs to mind when you think of an orphanage in 1890’s Victorian England. This orphanage was made up of a rank of terraced houses with 1 female head of each house [a matron] and [in Gertrude’s house] 7 orphaned girls, whose ages range from 14 to 8. Gertrude was the youngest in her house, so I like to think she got a little more pampered than the others, being the ‘baby’ of the house. I’ve researched the orphanages as the census mentions ‘Crowleys Orphanages’ which was very helpful in finding out the following information.
CROWLEY‘S CHARITY SCHOOL
Anne Crowley, by will dated 1733, left property to maintain a school in which 10 poor children of Birmingham should be taught to read English by a poor woman to be chosen by the trustees. She also founded a charity for the minister of the Old Meeting House. Before 1779 the schoolmistress was paid £5 a year, after that £6. In 1827 she taught 10 girls to read, sew, and knit in her own house. A Mrs. Scott gave £100 to the charity in 1804. In 1827 the dividends were spent on the purchase of cloth and worsted, for the girls to work up into clothing for their own use. In 1851 a mistress still taught the pupils in her own house. Crowley’s Orphanage, in Lee Crescent, Edgbaston, founded 1869, absorbed the earlier school.
From: ‘Public Education: Schools ‘, A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7: The City of Birmingham (1964), pp. 501-548
Click the image above to see the fullsize census
Both numbers 43 & 44 Lee Crescent are still standing today, and I’ve been able to get this photo below of No: 44, where Gertrude lived, using Google street view.
Finally, Gr Uncle Alfred’s whereabouts during the 1891 census. Alfred was by far the easiest of the 3 children to track down. He was the only one of the three siblings who was ‘taken in’ by blood relatives. He was living with Vincent Slade [then aged 35] and his family in Staplegrove, Wellington, Nr. Taunton, back in Somerset. In a property called ‘The Nurseries’ & Vincent’s occupation is shown as Nurseryman/Florist. Finding Alf has exposed yet another tragedy though, as Vincent’s wife in 1891 is Melina, not Mary Ann as it the 1881 census had shown. So it appears that Walter wasn’t the only brother to have been widowed. Maybe Mary Ann had also been struck down by TB as well? Vincent’s children are shown as Annie 11, Alice M 9, Albert V 8, no mention of Ellen [who was aged 2 ten years before] All of Vincent’s children stated Kingston upon Thames as their place of birth. Vincent’s 2nd wife Melina was born in Staplegrove, Wellington and she was aged 37. Alfred D Slade is aged 5.
Looking at things from a modern day perspective, where every effort is made to keep orphaned siblings together, it’s hard to understand why no family members were able to take either Walter or Gertrude into their homes. In the 1891 census: Charles Slade, his wife Elizabeth Rosina & their young son Charles William aged 5, were still living in Kingston, & Samuel & Elizabeth [both quite elderly at aged 60 & 61] had 3 male lodgers living with them, yet they didn’t take in any of their young orphaned Grandchildren.
The census taken 10 years later in 1901 I will only touch on briefly, as this story is primarily written to clarify what happened to the 3 siblings during their very early years.
- Walter William was still living in Bristol, boarding at No: 3 Ervine Terrace, St.Pauls, in the parish of St. Clements. He was aged 20 and working as a cabinet-maker.
- Gertrude Bessie was living at Penn House, Hendford in Yeovil, Somerset where she lived in as a House Parlourmaid/Domestic. She was 18 years old. Penn house must have been quite a large property as they had 5 servants to attend to the family of 5. One of the household who was a visitor on the day the census was taken was a Wesleyan Minister Allen Rees aged 55 – a British subject visiting from his home in Hong Kong!
- Alfred Denham had it seems maintained his family ties as he was living with his Grandparents Samuel & Elizabeth [both in their early 70s now] in Palmer’s Green, Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset. Both he and Samuel are described as Gardeners not Domestic. Alfred was 15 years old. You can read Samuel Slade’s Will here – where Alfred is bequeathed a feather bed by Samuel!