Archives at Home, Housing, Memories, Women

Archives at home, part 20

The theme of this year’s heritage festival was to have been Wandsworth’s homes and housing.  Luckily, the work our contributors took in researching their walks, talks, exhibitions and open days will not go to waste, as this year’s events will be postponed until next year.  However, we thought it might be nice in the meantime to explore some of the items in our collections which tie in to this theme. 

Many of the personal papers in our collection come to us via serendipity.  Perhaps they are found by new occupiers of a house on clearing out the attic, or by relatives when they have the sad task of clearing out a family home after a death.  Most of the time the would-be donor knew the person who created the papers – sometimes they were a close friend or relative.  Inevitably, these records are offered to us almost apologetically – with the caveat ‘you probably won’t be interested in these, but…’ and we just know  we are about to be offered something both ordinary and special!

Last year, we were offered two school jotters dating from 1926 which once belonged to Margaret White (1914-1979), who lived in Bolingbroke Road and went to Honeywell Road School.  One from housecraft classes, and one from cookery classes.  Margaret’s daughter wasn’t sure we’d be interested in these – but we were delighted to add them to our collection.  These two jotters tell us a great deal about the lives the girls in Margaret’s school were being prepared for.

Margaret was eleven years old when she wrote in these jotters.  Her very first lesson was in washing clothes – and there is a hint here that she got up to no good before even starting:

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Washing and drying the clothes is broken down in Margaret’s jotter into six (seemingly straightforward) steps, which in reality would have taken several hours:

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Quite apart from being horrified at the prospect of eleven year old girls sloshing boiling water around  and crushing their fingers in mangles, I was baffled as to what ‘bluing’ was.  Turns out that it is a process still used today, although far less common, and is largely for white fabrics.  Adding a touch of blue dye to the wash mitigated the yellowing and greying of the whites.  Further lessons documented in Margaret’s jotter include care and cleaning of glass, window cleaning, caring for leather boots and shoes, ironing, dusting, care and use of household brushes, cleaning cupboards, washing wood,  and cleaning utensils – all of which sound complicated and time consuming!

The likelihood was that Margaret and her classmates would have been putting the cleaning and washing skills they learned at school into practice at home – a reminder of this is the inclusion of infant care classes:

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Apart from the [extensive] work involved in keeping the home clean and orderly, there is also cooking to be done.  Very little of which, it has to be said, sounds terribly appetising.  One of the first things Margaret attempts is ‘Baked Stuffed Fish’, which sounds as flavoursome at the title would suggest:

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For her efforts, Margaret is awarded 6 out of 10 – and her teacher’s fading hand indicates that she should also have added parsley, suet, and seasoning [really not sure that the suet would have helped matters – don’t we use that mostly in bird feed these days?!].

I wish I could ask Margaret why she kept these jotters all these years.  It seems unlikely she would have referred back to them when cleaning her home as an adult, so perhaps her reasons were more sentimental.  Maybe she was fond of her teacher, despite the teacher’s tendency to be a harsh marker.  Or perhaps Margaret kept these jotters as a reminder of the expectations and limitations imposed upon women of her generation to share with her own daughter.  We’ll never know – but we’re grateful to give them a permanent home!

Archives at Home, House history, Housing

Archives at home, part 19

The theme of this year’s heritage festival was to have been Wandsworth’s homes and housing.  Luckily, the work our contributors took in researching their walks, talks, exhibitions and open days will not go to waste, as this year’s events will be postponed until next year.  However, we thought it might be nice in the meantime to explore some of the items in our collections which tie in to this theme. 

One of my favourite tasks as an archivist is exploring the history of a particular patch of land – seeing how it developed over the centuries, what it was used for, and – if it became housing – who lived there.  I often undertake this sort of research for school workshops, as I find looking at the microcosm of a school and its surrounding areas helps children undertake very practical tasks, such as interpreting maps; as well as more imaginative tasks, such as thinking about the different experiences of those who lived and worked on their patch.

In the context of house history, one school I thoroughly enjoyed doing this for was Broomwood Hall, which is located in Ramsden Road, Balham.  Broomwood Hall’s year one pupils are taught in a building which was once the vicarage of St Luke’s.  I spent a delightful morning with their year ones exploring not only the vicarage, but what was there before.  (And they must have enjoyed it – as I’ve visited their year one intake for the same workshop for the last two years!).

I like to start with the Roque map, so called after the cartographer, John Roque, who created it.  This map was surveyed between 1741-5, and covers London and parts of what was then Surrey.  We don’t have an original of this map, but we have a 19th century Stanford’s copy:

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Copy of the Roque map of 1741-5 with the position of the school indicated

I like this map because it is beautiful, but also because it shows us how rural the area was.  The children think about what kinds of crops were grown in the area, and what kinds of sights and smells they might encounter if they were to travel back there.

We can see that there was certainly a house on the site prior to the vicarage by looking at the 1865 ordnance survey map:

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Ordnance Survey Map, 1865

A look at the census record for this property from 1861 tells us that there was a lodge attached to Old Park House which housed the Ling family (the head of which was Henry Ling, the gardener of Old House):

The house itself was home to the Dent family, a family of four consisting of Villiers Dent; his wife, Susan; and their sons, Douglas and Villiers.  What was particularly fascinating to the children was that this household of four had six servants.  One of these servants was Ann Ling, who was doubtless the daughter of the Dent’s gardener.  On the night the census was taken, we can see the family have four visitors staying with them.

The first time we see St Luke’s Church in our map collection is in the 1894-6 Ordnance Survey map:

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1894-96 Ordnance Survey map showing position of vicarage

But it is not until the 1913-16 ordnance Survey map that we see the vicarage on the map:

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Ordnance Survey map, 1913-16, with vicarage highlighted

The children were rather delighted to discover who had lived in the house from the 1911 census:

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At this point, the minister is John Erskine Clarke, born in Calcutta, aged 83.  He has a visitor staying with him, as well as a house keeper, servant, house maid, and kitchen maid.  One class is taught in what was an attic room, and were delighted to think that their classroom was perhaps where Georgina, Thomas, Alice, or Em[?] had slept!

We talked about the sorts of jobs Georgina, Thomas, Alice, and Em would have done, and what their lives would have been like.  And some of us shouted out their names – though we didn’t get an answer back!

If you would like to know a bit more about the history of your house, while we have limited access to our collections at the moment, we are still answering enquiries!  Get in touch at Heritage@gll.org! 

Archives at Home, Housing, Women

Archives at home, part 17

This fortnight would have been the Wandsworth Heritage Festival.  Wandsworth Libraries & Heritage Service coordinates the heritage festival each year – but it only happens because so many of our local societies, organisations, and members of the community give up their time, knowledge, and enthusiasm so willingly.  The theme of this year’s festival was to have been Wandsworth’s homes and housing.  Luckily, the work our contributors took in researching their walks, talks, exhibitions and open days will not go to waste, as this year’s events will be postponed until next year.  However, we thought it might be nice in the meantime to explore some of the items in our collections which tie in to this theme. 

Dr Sue Demont is a local historian, and was a teacher (and headteacher!) for many years.  She is an active member of the Battersea Society and the Friends of Wandsworth Common.  She was part of the War Comes Home committee which delivered a community project documenting the experiences of those who lived in Battersea during wartime.  Her most recent publications include ‘the Bombing of Battersea’ and ‘Battersea’s First Lady: the life and times of Caroline Ganley MP’.  Sue would have been leading a walk through Caroline Ganley’s Battersea today (though given the torrential rain and thunderstorms, she might be relieved it was postponed until next year!).  She has very kindly agreed to be interviewed about Caroline Ganley’s home life.

Ganley head and shoulders 1950s
Portrait of Caroline Ganley, National Portrait Gallery

Can you tell us why Caroline Ganley MP is so important?

 This is a big question with two big answers!

In terms of activity…65 years of public service in a whole range of roles, spanning a lifetime from Queen Victoria’s reign well into the Swinging ‘60s. Having left school at 14, Caroline Ganley became one of the first female magistrates in Britain, a district and county councillor, the first woman President of the 800,000-strong London Co-operative Movement, and Battersea’s first woman MP. Within and between these roles she was an ardent internationalist and peace campaigner, a strong supporter of women’s suffrage, the proud instigator of Battersea’s first maternity home and VD clinic, and a passionate officer of the Women’s Co-operative Guild at local, national and international level. In 1953 she was awarded the CBE, and she continued to sit on Battersea Borough Council until it was abolished in 1965 – by this time she was 85 years old and using a wheelchair.

And in terms of symbolism… Caroline Ganley’s life and work demonstrated what a working-class woman of limited education could achieve at the same time as raising a family in straitened financial circumstances – even before women had the vote.She proved that the money worries with which she grappled for most of her life need not prevent women from carrying out public and political service.Being elected the oldest Labour woman MP at the age of 66 she further demonstrated that age need not be a barrier to success. Caroline Ganley was a role model for other women both within Battersea and across the Labour and Co-operative Movements.

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Caroline and James Ganley at a celebration for their golden wedding anniversary, image courtesy of Sue Demont

What was Ganley’s home life like, and how did it influence her work?

Caroline Ganley’s own home life was overshadowed by bereavement; her father died before she was born and for ten years she was raised by her Irish grandmother so that her mother could go out to work. When her grandmother died Ganley was sent to an orphanage until she was 14, when she left to take up employment, ending up as a ‘nurse domestic’ for a stockbroker’s family until her marriage in 1901.

This sounds quite grim to us today but Ganley emphasises in her unpublished memoir that her grandmother, ‘a good wife and mother’ was very affectionate towards her. She also instilled in her grand-daughter the belief that women had rights as free citizens well as responsibilities within the home. 70 years later Ganley wrote that it was ‘upon the foundations of thought laid by her (that) I have built my life’.

Ganley plaque unveiling Oct 2018
Unveiling of Battersea Society plaque at Thirsk Road by Councillor Tony Belton, image courtesy of Sue Demont

Can you tell us anything about her home itself?

Like many Battersea families the Ganleys struggled for years to find a decent home in which to bring up their family of three, and when in 1910 they managed to acquire no.5 Thirsk Road,with its own bathroom, it literally transformed Caroline Ganley’s life. She was to live here for the rest of her 56 years. A visiting reporter in the 1920s described no.5 as‘her pretty home’ and the house played an important role for generations of the family, including in old age Ganley’s mother Selina as well as her host of grandchildren. Even during the war Ganley continued to host regular Sunday family gatherings ‘where the news and happenings of the week were condensed into hours between the interval of meals and odd jobs.’ And it is clear that Ganley took her home-making role seriously; her memoir is full of references to domestic chores such as sewing, knitting, cooking and washing.

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Caroline Ganley with her Mother, Son, and Grandson, image courtesy of Sue Demont

Mention should be made here of Ganley’s husband James, who appears to have been unusually supportive and accommodating of his wife’s numerous public roles. The two of them sometimes shared domestic tasks, for example James might cook the dinner or Caroline would help him fit new light switches, and on one occasion the pair of them combined to redecorate the Labour Party’s headquarters at 177 Lavender Hill. Their long and happy marriage was the first to be celebrated by a Golden Wedding reception in the House of Commons.

How important was the issue of housing to Ganley in her role as MP?

This was a huge issue for Ganley as a constituency MP elected straight after the war. Battersea’s housing stock had been devastated by bombing with over 28,000 homes wholly or partly destroyed. By 1951 a quarter of the Borough’s population had moved away yet there were still nowhere near enough houses for those who remained, and much of what did survive was overcrowded and insanitary. Ganley’s constituency case load was dominated by housing issues and their associated problems, including broken marriages. She never forgot her own experiences of traipsing round Battersea with three small children trying to secure a decent home for her family – even in the 1940s she was still recording in her diary her joy at being able to have a hot bath. This made her a strong supporter of Aneurin Bevan, the Minister of Health and Housing in the 1945 Labour Government who was fighting to build houses of good quality as well as in large numbers.

What impact do you think the Co-operative movement had on the lives of housewives?

It was transformative for many women. The Women’s Co-operative Guild was one of the first ‘safe spaces’ within which women could gather and discuss not only the issues that affected their own lives but big social and political questions like divorce and abortion. The Guild ran extensive training programmes on public speaking, chairing meetings and setting up organisations and events, enabling women to participate in public life on more equal terms with men. One elderly member recalled in the 1970s that these programmes ‘altered the whole course of my life… I always had something to talk to’ whilst another noted that her Guild role made the drudgery of housework much more palatable because she always had something interesting to think about.

On a practical level the Co-op reached even more women, as the daily food shop was the one area of home life over which they had control of both purchase and purse. The Co-op prided itself on the quality of its goods and the fairness of its distribution,and its women members led numerous campaigns to promote the movement’s healthy eating options.

How important was female friendship to Ganley?

This was something else she particularly gained from the Women’s Co-operative Guild, though her friends were by no means confined to this area. The Guilds certainly knew how to enjoy themselves, running a host of social activities such as birthday parties and drama productions, and Ganley clearly relished these. Reading her memoir one is struck by the constant approving references to collective action and shared endeavour at every level. In 1929 she attended an international Co-op conference at the Hague and praised the hospitality of ‘our Dutch friends’, whilst at the other end of the scale she was much loved by the Lavender Hill Branch of the Guild, who referred to her as ‘our Mrs G’, always ready to do any small job.In Parliament she counted Prime Minister Clem Attlee and Liberal MP Lady Megan Lloyd George as her friends as well as the Labour women MPs.

Like any woman in public life before the late 20th century, Ganley had to operate in male-dominated arenas, and she clearly appreciated the support of her fellow women activists.These included Charlotte Despard, who engineered Ganley’s first public speaking engagement in Battersea Park, and her local colleague Mrs Winton Evans with whom she had fun over the issue of children’s feedingat the expense of the Chairman (sic) of the LCC’s Education Committee.

What made you write your book on Caroline Ganley?

Put simply, I felt it was terribly important that she shouldn’t be forgotten. Unlike most of the women MPs of 1945 (Barbara Castle, Jennie Lee, Bessie Braddock, Edith Summerskill etc) Caroline Ganley does not feature in the history books and has left no published memoir. Her constituency of Battersea South was abolished decades ago as were the LCC and Battersea Borough Council; even the Women’s Co-operative Guild has finally been disbanded. Yet these institutions were crucial to the history of our borough and our city, and to the history of women across Britain, and I wanted to salute the woman who made such effective use of them all to improve working people’s lives – especially those of women.

Many thanks, Sue!  To purchase a copy of Battersea’s First Lady: the Life and Times of Caroline Ganley MP, please email suedemont57@gmail.com

 

 

 

Archives at Home, House history, Housing, Women

Archives at home, part 16

This fortnight would have been the Wandsworth Heritage Festival.  Wandsworth Libraries & Heritage Service coordinates the heritage festival each year – but it only happens because so many of our local societies, organisations, and members of the community give up their time, knowledge, and enthusiasm so willingly.  The theme of this year’s festival was to have been Wandsworth’s homes and housing.  Luckily, the work our contributors took in researching their walks, talks, exhibitions and open days will not go to waste, as this year’s events will be postponed until next year.  However, we thought it might be nice in the meantime to explore some of the items in our collections which tie in to this theme. 

Jeanne Rathbone has been a resident of Battersea for many years – she worked in the laboratory of Gartons Glucose factory at one point, so was more familiar with the unique aroma dubbed ‘the Battersea Smell’ than most!  Jeanne has many hats (literally as well as figuratively!), including local historian, campaigner, and humanist celebrant.  She is passionate about Battersea’s history – specifically its historical women.  For the Wandsworth Heritage Festival, we were looking forward to hearing Jeanne’s talk on some of Battersea’s most interesting homes and their occupants.  Jeanne will be doing this talk next year, but for now she has very kindly agreed to tell us a little about four 18th century houses around Lavender Hill and their occupants.

Gilmore house
Gilmore House, courtesy of Jeanne Rathbone

Gilmore House 113 Clapham Common became the deaconate established by Deaconess Isabella Gilmore 1842-1923, widowed sister of William Morris, requested by Bishop of Rochester to serve in impoverished Battersea. Deaconesses were a mix of nurse, social worker and policeman. Her brother said of her that ‘I  preach socialism, you practise it’ The house was one of a pair built 1750 called the Sister Houses overlooking Clapham Common. As the house had to be in her name this prevented it from demolition. She added a chapel designed by Philip Webb which has a Burne-Jones window. She is commemorated in Southwark Cathedral and listed among the Calendar of Saints.

 

Lavender Sweep House back garden possibly taken by Lewis Carrol
Lavender Sweep House,  courtesy of Jeanne Rathbone

Lavender Sweep House was home to Tom Taylor 1817-1880, editor of Punch,  playwright wrote Our American Cousin watched by Lincoln when assassinated, and his wife composer Laura Barker. They attracted visitors like Dickens, Tennyson, Clara Schumann, violinist Joachim to their house and musical soirees. Lewis Carroll took the photos of the house and Ellen Terry said  Lavender Sweep was a sort of house of call for everyone of note… a mecca for  pilgrims from America and from all parts of the worlda home from home for people from all the walks of literary, artistic and theatrical life

 

Tom inherited a Stradivarius violin that Laura played with Paganini and Louis Spohr.

 

G.F.Watts, Jane Elizabeth Hughes - J.Elizabeth Hughes /Ptg.by Watts/ 1858 -
Jeanie painted by Watts Wightwick Manor, Staffordshire (The National Trust). 1858.  Image courtesy of Jeanne Rathbone

Elm House Lavender Hill now the site of Battersea Town Hall was home to Jeanie Nassau Senior, the first woman civil servant. Jane Hughes was known as Jeanie, and her brother Thomas wrote of their early life in Tom Brown’s Schooldays.

 

She was appointed government Inspector of workhouses to report on the education of “pauper girls”, was co-founder of the British Red Cross, and founded the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants

Friends included Florence Nightingale, Octavia Hill,  Carmen author Prosper Mérimée, Anny Thackeray, Kate Dickens, George Eliot, Tom Taylor and Marie Spartali. George Eliot wrote about her, Millais and Watts painted her, Jenny Lind sang with her, and Clara Schumann played with her.

As a trained soprano she tested the acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall.  She is due to have a Battersea Society plaque.

 

The Shrubbery
The Shrubbery, courtesy of Jeanne Rathbone

Marie Spartali 1844-1923, a prolific Pre-Raphaelite artist lived in The Shrubbery Lavender Gardens, an Italianate villa which overlooked Clapham Common, now behind St Barnabas Church. She sat for numerous paintings by Ford Madox Brown with whom she trained, for Burne-Jones, Rossetti, Whistler, Stanhope, was photographed by Julia Cameron and was friends of William and Jane Morris. She exhibited at the  Royal Academy. She married American William Stillman a widower with three children and they had another three, lived in Florence and Rome and was the only Pre-Raphaelite artist to work in the United States. She featured in the recent Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. An application for an English Heritage plaque to her has been successful.

 

Many thanks, Jeanne!

 

 

Archives at Home, Gardens, Housing

Archives at home, part 15

This fortnight would have been the Wandsworth Heritage Festival.  Wandsworth Libraries & Heritage Service coordinates the heritage festival each year – but it only happens because so many of our local societies, organisations, and members of the community give up their time, knowledge, and enthusiasm so willingly.  The theme of this year’s festival was to have been Wandsworth’s homes and housing.  Luckily, the work our contributors took in researching their walks, talks, exhibitions and open days will not go to waste, as this year’s events will be postponed until next year.  However, we thought it might be nice in the meantime to explore some of the items in our collections which tie in to this theme. 

Hilaire is one half of London Undercurrents with her fellow poet, Joolz Sparkes.  We were looking forward to welcoming them both to read their poetry at the Wandsworth Heritage Festival (though worry not, as I suspect my colleague Kate has plans to rope them into Wandsworth Libraries online programme!).  Hilaire is a regular visit to our searchroom – whether she is looking for inspiration for her poetry, or delving into the history of Battersea! She lives on the Doddington Estate in Battersea, and today she shares her memories of the estate – specifically the Doddington and Rollo Community Roof Garden.

 

How long have you lived in the Doddington estate, and what do you like most about it?

I’ve lived on the Doddington Estate for 30 years! More than half my life, so it’s definitely home. When I first moved here, I liked that it’s quite close to central London. I can walk to Sloane Square in less than half an hour. It’s also great having Battersea Park on the doorstep, and being close to the river. But in the last 10 years, I’ve really grown to appreciate the local area, its history, the sense of community, and especially the community roof garden. It’s a wonderful tranquil green space in the heart of the estate.

Doddington Rollo garden
The garden!  Copyright: The Doddington & Rollo Community Roof Garden

Maintaining the Doddington’s beautiful garden is most definitely a team effort!  What are your favourite (and least favourite!) gardening tasks?

I’ve always enjoyed weeding (once I’d learnt what to weed out!), it’s a task that can really get you ‘in the zone’ and you see the results of your work straight away. The downside though is that, certainly with some plants, such as brambles and bindweed, it’s an ongoing battle. More recently I’ve started growing veg from seed on my windowsill at home, to plant out later in the garden. It’s so exciting! I give the seedlings little pep talks and greet them in the morning.

My least favourite tasks? I’m really not good at dealing with slugs and snails. I tend to turn a blind eye to them, and hope someone else will tackle them. I’ve also managed to avoid mowing the lawn – the lawnmower scares me!

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Some of the plants and flowers in the garden!  Images courtesy of Hilaire

You’re a poet – and Stephen Graham, a regular visitor to the garden, is an artist.  How does the garden help your work?

My interest in gardening, and nature in an urban setting, has feed into my poetry a lot over the past few years. In part, it’s a way of celebrating our immediate surroundings. Also, poetry is very much about noticing and particularly noticing details, which often illuminate a lot of unsaid stuff. There is so much to notice when you’re involved a garden over a period of time! The cycle of life, most obviously.
Stephen says: ‘Usually the garden is conducive to art, being peaceful, and full of beautiful subjects, both the evernew product of nature, and positive examples of human work.’

What’s been the impact of the lockdown on the garden?

Lockdown has had a big impact on the garden. We’ve had to close to the public for the time being, and were only allowing two committee members at a time to access the garden, to water and carry out other gardening tasks. We’re a small group of volunteers, so it’s meant areas of the garden have become more overgrown, and with the long dry spell we’ve struggled to keep it watered. Although the restrictions have eased a little, we still can’t open to the general public as we’re unable to manage and ensure everyone’s safety at this point. We are though looking for more local volunteers to help on an ad hoc basis, so we can get the garden ready to re-open safely. If anyone is interested in volunteering, or would like to find out more about what this involves, you can email: doddingtongarden@gmail.com

What advice would you give someone who is new to gardening?

Get stuck in! There is lots of advice online, and you can subscribe to emails from organisations such as the Royal Horticultural Society and Thrive for seasonal tips and advice. I guess it also depends on what kind of person you are and whether you have your own space to garden or are looking for a shared or community space. The joy of a community garden is that you can try different elements of gardening and then focus on an area or the tasks that you most enjoy. As in most areas of life, there isn’t one right way – you’ll find your own gardening path!