Thomas George Partleton (1803-1838)

Ann Rebekah George (1802-1845)


On Monday 01 September 1823, at St Mary-at-Lambeth church, the wedding took place of Thomas George Partleton (1803-1838), aged 20, and Ann Rebekah George (1802-1845) aged 21.

First things first: Bridegroom Thomas George Partleton had been born in 1803 in bustling Piccadilly where his dad Benjamin Partleton (1774-1833) had resided and worked as a carpenter / builder / painter. You can see the location of his family home on Swallow Street, circled in green in the map below – it was a great location for a working man in a posh district of London:

In 1814, when Thomas was 12, the lease on the family home expired and the house was demolished to make way for the brand-new Regent Street development. As for relocation, his dad had no choice but to head down-market, choosing to move to Lambeth, south of the river, circled in blue in the map.

Thus it was that our Thomas, nine years later, in 1823, finds himself being married at the Parish Church of Lambeth - St Mary’s, which we see in the engraving below:

The engraving above was made just two years two after the wedding, so we may step right into the picture for a moment and walk around in their shoes.

The viewpoint of the artist is looking east towards the church from the Thames - from the pink arrow in the map below:

This story does not end well – indeed it is an illustration of how a family can slip from comfort, via poverty, to destitution in three generations - but at least we can begin with the happy bits.

Here is the record of the wedding in St-Mary-at-Lambeth church register:

As we can see, Thomas can read and write, and signs his name. Ann cannot and signs with a cross.

Thomas' older brother Benjamin (b1799) had been married in the same church one year earlier. Benjamin's marriage had been witnessed by their father, Benjamin (1774-c1833), but for some reason, Thomas’ marriage was not; the witnesses are James Longman Gawler (the clerk of the parish) and Jon. Seager.

On 11 September 1831 Thomas and Ann's first child, Thomas (1831-1899), is born at White Hart Street, Kennington, circled in orange at the bottom of the map below:

“Whoa, hold on” - I hear you say – “the first baby is born in 1831, eight years after the marriage?”. Indeed this is the case. Very unusual, considering they had no birth control available. But that’s what happened, so let’s get back to the story, and the location of White Hart Street, in the orange circle.

Here is baby Thomas' entry in the church baptismal record:

The church where young Thomas was christened is St Mary Newington, circled in yellow in the map below:

Some of White Hart Street is still there, straight ahead as we see it in the modern picture below, courtesy of Google Maps:

The whole area of Lambeth / Kennington has been massively redeveloped practically every decade since Thomas and Ann’s day, but I reckon those three Georgian houses on the left were then when they lived on White Hart Street in 1831.

177 years later, it was the scene of a murder:

Back to Thomas and Ann: their next child is Mary Ann who was born on 24 February 1834:

The baptism was again at St Mary Newington, so it seems we should have a look at the church as Thomas and Ann saw it on the day of their daughter’s christening:

The above view is from the orange arrow in the map below:

And here’s the interior, drawn in 1825, so we may step into their shoes for the christening ceremony:

There had been churches at Newington since at least the 12th century, to serve the ancient village and the nearby hamlet of Walworth.

The church which Thomas and Ann attended in 1831 had been built c1570. In a notable incident in 1714, with the congregation in the church, one of its walls started collapsing, causing a stampede for the exit in which several people were hurt. It was substantially remodelled in the 1790’s, but the odd feature was its front entrance portico, facing away from the main road of Newington Butts, which betokens what must have been a rather different layout to the original village.

We can match the arched window above with the external view painted by artist John Hassell in 1825:

As is apparent in the painting above, the church’s alignment was at also a skew angle to the busy road and the whole edifice was frankly an obstacle. It's exactly as Thomas and Ann would have seen it, so step into their shoes for a minute.

Due to its awkward siting, the church was knocked down in 1876 for a widening of Newington Butts; its original location lies under the modern road surface.

In 1878 an extravagant 100ft clock tower was built in the churchyard to mark the site…

…but by 1908, though it looks ok in this postcard, it had already fallen into a state of decay.

The tower was repaired many times over the next few decades, and it looks fine in the following photo taken in May 1961:

But in 1971, the council tired of the cost of maintaining the tower, and demolished it nearly 100 years after the church had been knocked down. The former graveyard site is now the small park which we see on the left of the photograph below [2010], courtesy of the small miracle that is Google Street View:

Back again to Thomas and Ann. On 09 February 1835 they have their second daughter, Emma:

Thomas' occupation is confirmed as house-painter, a job which runs in the family.

Their address is again given as Hodson Street we can see outlined in green at the bottom right of the map below:

We can't do miracles, so unfortunately I don't have a picture of Hodson Street, but we do have a 1911 photo of Brune Place, which we see below, where the 1800s terraces give us a fair visualisation of what Thomas' house on Hodson Street also looked like.

In the 1862 map above, Brune Place goes by its former name of Rose Court, as we see evidenced on the 1708 plaque at the end of the courtyard in the photograph, affixed to the wall of a surviving older house which had probably seen happier days in the south London countryside before it was subsumed by urban London. The occupants of the houses have tried to screen grim reality with a few plants in window boxes, but as we can plainly see, there ain't no roses, or anything else, growing in Rose Court in Victorian times.

Brune Place / Rose Court was opposite St Mary Newington church, at the point of the brown arrow in the map above.

We can get a view of the narrow entrance to Brune Place aka Rose Court by stepping outside into Newington High Street at the point of the brown arrow in the photo below:

The photo above was taken in 1936, but if we ignore the 1930s shop facades, we know that this is exactly how Newington High Street would have appeared to Thomas Partleton exactly 100 years earlier.

The photographer stood at the viewpoint of the brown arrow in the map below:

Thomas and Ann are migrating gradually inland, if I may use that term, away from the river Thames. So it seems the perfect moment to step into their shoes and explore their neighbourhood, which in 1835, was much more countrified that it is today.

The first picture is another view of the church of St Mary Newington, from the viewpoint of the pale green arrow in the map above:

The picture above was engraved in 1825. Sheep and cows are still being herded down Newington High Street - an extended thoroughfare which, as we saw earlier, at its northern stretch, also goes by the name of Newington Butts. And I can’t let that street-name pass without mention of Michael Faraday.

Chemist and physicist Michael Faraday, who has been described as the greatest scientific experimentalist in history, had been born in 1796 in Newington Butts. He studied magnetic fields and electric currents, and established the basis for the electromagnetic field concept in physics. He discovered electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism, and laws of electrolysis. His inventions of electromagnetic rotary devices formed the foundation of electric motor technology.

I could go on but I suspect our readers may not share my enthusiasm for electronics or for the great man: the fact that this genius was self-educated only endears him more… here he is on a twenty quid note:

The place of birth of Michael Faraday - and of Thomas Partleton's children - is never really called Newington any more. The old name of the village, which was - if truth be said - never a very inspiring appellation, has fallen out of favour, and this area is referred to by the name of Elephant & Castle, after the old coaching inn which stood at the road intersection.

So now that we know that Michael Faraday was born in Newington, hey, let’s make a pilgrimage to the northern end of Newington Butts where I’ve heard there is a monument to him. Having said that, and having driven round and round the Elephant & Castle roundabout several times, we might ask; “But where is the monument…?”


Well, gentle readers, the answer is that the large shiny aluminium-clad block, installed in 1961 in the middle of the roundabout IS the Michael Faraday Monument, though that fact is perhaps one of London’s best-kept secrets.

It was designed by architect Rodney Gordon (1933-2008) who is usually referred to in architectural terminology as a brutalist, though I reckon that description doesn’t apply to this airy shiny structure which I think has survived the test of time very well. It houses – very aptly – an electric substation for the London Underground.

What’s all this got to do with our Thomas Partleton? Well, he’d recognise the building we see below, at the north end of Newington Butts, exactly as would Michael Faraday, who had seen it a few years earlier. These are the Fishmonger’s Almshouses, a charitable institution which had been built in 1618 to house old folk.

The almshouses are the main feature of the end of the street and sat directly opposite the Elephant & Castle pub, the original site of which is now under the Faraday Monument.

These buildings were just a few yards from our Thomas’ front door and would be a very familiar sight to him. The viewpoint is from the green arrow in the map below:

In 1851 the almshouses were knocked down, and, on 18 May 1851, their demolition was seen by artist James Findlay as a good subject for a watercolour painting:

The almshouses were not the only charitable institution in Newington...

In fact the whole area was bristling with institutions, as the marshy surroundings were drained and became available to 19th century developers and philanthropists at a low cost compared to land on the north side of the Thames.

The next institution - far less obvious to the eye than the Fishmonger’s Almshouses - is the Newington Parochial School:

This inconspicuous building would have been a familiar sight to Thomas and Ann – assuming that they ever noticed it - seen from the viewpoint of the dark green arrow in the map below:

Newington (St Mary’s) Parochial School was a charity school for poor kids, one of whom was depicted in 1826 by artist John Hassell:

John Hassell (1767-aft1826) is a hero of this website for his fascinating watercolour glimpses into the past. Thanks John! His paintings of places long-gone are priceless, as is his depiction of the apparel worn by the ‘Charity Girl’, even if his rendition of her anatomy is somewhat naive.

Thomas Partleton’s children are not in need of charity – yet. But his son will end up in the charitable blind school just up the road, and, unbeknownst to him in 1834, a number of his grandchildren in the future will be born in the workhouse.

But before we get too mired in the tragedy which is about to unfold, life is never just gloom and doom, even for the poor, and we have another landmark to explore which must have been a lot of fun. It doesn’t appear in the 1830 Greenwood map, for the good reason that it doesn't exist yet; the landmark in question is the Surrey Zoological Gardens, and for this we’ll need to unfurl a new map - Chapman & Hall’s, published in 1843:

The Surrey Zoological Gardens were started in 1831 with the transfer of a number of spectacular wild animals including lions and tigers by impresario Edward Cross who was closing his tiny crowded indoor menagerie at the Exeter Exchange on The Strand, giving the unfortunate beasts a little more freedom in Walworth.

And, as you can see, at point of the yellow arrow in the map above, the entrance to the gardens in Penton Place is only 100 metres from Thomas Partleton’s family home in Hodson Street (circled green), and - since the family lived in there for at least 4½ years from February 1834  to August 1838, and the entrance fee of a shilling per head was just about affordable to ordinary citizens, it’s reasonable to assume with some certainty that the Partleton family must surely have visited the gardens. Son Thomas, aged 7 in 1838, would have loved it.

So let’s take a five-minute walk from Thomas’ house down to Penton Place, and stand outside the entrance gate to the Surrey Zoological Gardens which we see below in a charming drawing of 1832:

Aside from the animals and rare plants, the Gardens hosted a wide variety of entertainments. These included, from 1837, re-enactments of historic events such as The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius and The Great Fire of London, using huge painted backdrops up to 24 metres high; the spectacle enhanced with full-scale 3-D models in the foreground. Below we see one such panorama shown in The Illustrated London News in 1843; Temples of Elora at the Surrey Zoological Gardens:

In the view below, of 1845, we stand near the lake, at the blue arrow in Chapman & Hall's map; we can see some of the grandstands where audiences would be entertained by the orchestra, watch performances in front of the grand painted panoramas, or gawp at spectacular firework displays:

Punch magazine sent along a reviewer in 1841 who seemed much impressed, though one suspects from his enthusiasm that he imbibed some of the alcohol about which he wrote:

Victorians loved a freak show, and showman Barnet Burns was happy to oblige:

Left: Barnet Burns

Barnet Burns was an English sailor-turned-showman who made a living recounting his adventures in New Zealand including how he obtained his full-face Maori tattoo. He was engaged for public appearances at the Surrey Zoological Gardens in 1835.

Left: Surrey Zoological Gardens in 1836, artist unknown, engraved by F.Alvey

In 1836, Ann gave birth to a daughter for the third year running, Ann Caroline:

It’s hard to imagine it, as little Ann Caroline is only a babe-in-arms, but she is going to have a very, very tough life. Very tough.

But for the time being, things are just fine. Thomas Partleton goes out to work in the morning, paints houses, brings home some money, and hopefully there’s some spare for an occasional family outing to the Gardens. The family couldn't ignore it as they saw - and heard - the huge firework displays which took place three or four times a week within sight and sound of their house.

Indeed, huge events were staged at the Gardens - events on a scale of which Thomas and Ann could hardly be unaware, and they may have attended, along with crowds of many thousands of spectators making their way down Kennington Road. One such occasion was heralded with much brouhaha in May 1838:

There had been balloon ascents from the Gardens before, but this was the inaugurative flight of a the biggest-ever hot air balloon in Britain, half the size of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral, no less.

It wasn't the first balloon launch from the Surrey Gardens, but it was a clear attempt to muscle-in on the territory of its bigger, older, and grander competitor, a couple of miles down the road - the Vauxhall Gardens, which had been hosting balloon ascents for decades.

The balloon's creators had put in a vast effort, as described in the same Mirror magazine of 26 May 1838:

But the editor of The Mirror had a problem. Due to printing deadlines, the article above was written before the launch date of 24 May but the magazine was published on 26 May, two days after the launch date.

Consequently we see the description of the launch in the early edition of the magazine:

But I also found a later edition of exactly the same magazine... the editor had noticed that '... Thursday next ...' was just not correct at date of publication, and he decided to change it to 'Thursday last':

So the magazine took a chance, declaring the flight a success, before the event... Risky!!!

Thomas Partleton and his wife Ann may have had a conversation: "Shall we go to see that giant balloon?"; "It'll cost us two and six if we take the nipper."

Whether Thomas and Ann attended or not, the event, of course, proceeded regardless, only 100 yards from their home, as we see in the advertisement below - just as the organisers envisaged it, in their minds - in advance - the balloon rising serenely above an appreciative crowd:

So - just in case Thomas and Ann didn't go along to watch - we should transport ourselves back 172 years to Thursday 26 May 1838 and find out what happened...

A large crowd estimated at 15,000 gathered in the park and the grandstands by the lake - much larger than the small gathering in our balmy picture of the Gardens on a quiet day:

The crowd were in place in good time; everyone had paid their shilling, and with great anticipation waited for the main event.

And they waited...

And waited...

Eventually word was passed around that there was a small technical problem... after all, the owners of the balloon boasted that it could be inflated in "eight minutes". And indeed it did inflate to its full size, just as The Mirror had illustrated it in advance:

It was inflated but it wouldn't lift off. Nothing like it. The balloon simply swayed in the breeze. It seems that the owners perhaps hadn't actually fully tested it before its very-public inaugural flight.

More waiting: by now a couple of hours had passed and the crowd was becoming distinctly restless. The aviators fiddled around with the furnace. Finally after many frustrating hours, a small boat sailed past the grandstand bearing the announcement that the balloon would not take off, but that as compensation, an eruption of the Vesuvius exhibit would be staged. You can see Vesuvius smoking in the background of the engraving above.

Well, gentle readers, we know a bit about the Victorians, don't we? They had Victorian values; they respected authority, Law and Order. Perhaps they would watch the Vesuvius, politely applaud, and return home disappointed, but philosophical?... Not a bit of it. What actually ensued was a full-blooded riot. The angry crowd stormed the balloon enclosure, threw rocks at the useless balloon, tore it apart, stoned the glass animal enclosures and tried to drown the guards who attempted to intervene. Fact.

Left: Morning Post - Saturday 26 May 1838

The Mirror carried the following apology in the next issue for their somewhat embarrassing premature reportage and image of the 'successful' flight:

Ah, well. The Surrey Zoological Gardens  learned their lesson and did not attempt any more balloon stunts.

Yes, yes, I know that was a diversion, but we can get back to Thomas and Ann now.

Just ten weeks after the riot, on 06 August 1838, Ann gives birth to another baby girl, Jane. Here’s a copy of Jane's birth certificate, courtesy of Terry Partleton:

Five weeks later, little Jane is christened at the church of St Mary Newington:

So, Thomas and Ann in 1838 now have a lovely family, one boy and four girls:

Thomas is regularly recorded as a house painter - which will be no surprise if you have read any of the other Partleton Tree 'In Their Shoes' Pages - and surely this is a vital time for him to get busy and meet his obligations as breadwinner.

Baby Jane had been christened on Sunday 09 September 1838; a day of celebration, a family event - we may presume Thomas was there as proud father for his daughter's baptism.

But, as PG Wodehouse would put it, just when you think things are going really well, Fate will often sneak up behind you and clock you round the back of the head with a sockful of wet sand.
It turns out that baby Jane’s baptism may have been rushed through for a reason – she was going to meet her maker. Tragically she died within a few days of her baptism, aged 32 days:

The burial record places Jane’s death as 32 days from her birth on 06 August. That would be 07 September. However, this date conflicts with her christening which was on 09 September, at which time she must have been alive; the dates are a little mixed. She must have passed away between the 9th and the 19th of September.

The exact date of Jane’s death is, of course, not greatly significant, except that, less than a week afterwards, whilst parents Thomas and Ann are still grieving, her dad Thomas falls ill and is rushed across the Thames to Westminster Hospital. There he dies of a stroke, on Monday 17 September 1838. He is only 34:

Westminster Hospital, which was a very new building at the time, occupied a site opposite Westminster Abbey. You can see the hospital circled in pink in the top-left of the map below:

The Victorian photo [c1855] of the hospital, below, is taken from the turquoise arrow in the map above.

So we know exactly where Thomas Partleton was on 17 September 1838. He’s in one of the rooms pictured above, with his wife by the bedside, and this is where he dies. This is catastrophe for Ann Rebekah Partleton. There’s no better word for it; Catastrophe. We may imagine her exiting the hospital in the photograph, reeling in shock, not knowing where to turn.

Before we deal with what happens next to poor Ann and her little children, let’s take a diversion to understand Westminster Hospital.

In 1838 this fancy establishment was shiny, clean, state-of-the-art, well-equipped, and staffed by highly qualified doctors: in fact absolutely brand-spanking-new. But it’s quite clear that Thomas and Ann barely had two pennies to rub together… so how is it that Thomas, when he became ill, in that era before the welfare state, came to be admitted?... for the answer to this, we need to rewind the clock 118 years from Thomas’ death, and take a peek a the first Annual Report of the hospital, dated 1720:

It didn’t save his life, but Thomas had been admitted thanks to charity. The hospital’s admittance policy was recorded in 1878 in Old and New London:

Now, I hear you say "... but surely 34 is a very young age at which to die of a stroke, or 'effusion of blood to the brain' as the coroner so succinctly put it?", and you'd be right. Thomas' elder brother Stephen had died two years earlier, also aged 34, and we know for certain that Stephen's death was due to lead poisoning; he was a house-painter and the lead in the paint was toxic. Thomas was a house painter and I'm going to firmly say that his stroke was precipitated by lead poisoning. Thomas' younger brother, Benjamin, also a house-painter, also died of a stroke in 1843 aged just 44.

Let’s have another look at the location of the Westminster Hospital. Whatever means they used to take Thomas to hospital - which was surely by horse and carriage - we can see the very likely route, picked out in blue in the map below. It's about two miles:

We have a better picture of Westminster Hospital, but first of all, here’s the site today; occupied by the QEII Conference Centre [built 1986]. The front entrance of the hospital used to occupy what is now the grassy area at the bottom right of the photo:

And here’s Westminster Hospital, taken from the viewpoint of the orange arrow in the map. The year of this photo [from English Heritage] is 1910, and the hospital proudly proclaims its charitable status on its walls. The building was demolished in 1950:

But we can go one better, and see two pictures of the hospital exactly contemporaneous with our Thomas as he lay on his deathbed.

The first is by Partleton Tree hero, artist Thomas Shotter Boys. One of his immaculate examples of draftsmanship of London street-scenes, painted in 1842:

This time we are looking eastwards from the viewpoint of the red arrow in the map below.

There are two scholars from Westminster School in their robes in the foreground.

The hospital stands on the left, specifically designed by architects William and Henry Inwood in a 'Modernized Gothic' style to harmonise with the ancient Westminster Abbey on the right of the picture.

And from almost exactly the same viewpoint, artist J Salmon gave us his rendition of a lively and animated street scene outside Westminster Hospital in 1837, just one year before Thomas Partleton was a patient. We may imagine him being rushed up to the front entrance and helped into the building:

Fate is being particularly cruel to Ann Partleton nee George. She had to face the deaths of her one-month-old baby and then her husband in the space of a week. Despite the proximity in time - since Thomas died of a stroke - we can say with some confidence that the two deaths must have been unconnected.

So close in time were the burials of Jane Partleton and her daddy Thomas Partleton that they both appear on the same page in the St Mary Newington Register of Burials:

Their graves joined those we see in the engraving of the graveyard of St Mary Newington below, though - since Ann Partleton is now in a desperate financial situation - there ain’t going to be any headstones:

The churchyard was not huge, as we see in the surviving illustrations. In mediaeval times and we may imagine perhaps two or three burials a year for the villagers who had passed away. But by the time Thomas and Jane died, 1838, there were 146 interments for the month of September alone.

Let's have another look at the churchyard to remind ourselves just how small it is:

The graveyard obviously couldn’t take this indefinitely. In 1849, a bad year due to the cholera epidemic, there were 802 burials in the small cemetery. In fact the Victorians kept piling more bodies into this limited space, where necessary recycling old graves when the remains had decomposed, until 1854, when the bloated graveyard could take no more.

The last burial at St Mary Newington was that of 50-year-old William Brook, who was interred on 04 December 1854:

Officiating Minister J.W. Payne signed the St Mary Newington Burial Register and closed it for the last time. Burials for Newington Parish were subsequently transferred to Victoria Park Cemetery, Hackney, north of the river Thames, which was - by-the-way - unconsecrated, and which itself in turn quickly filled up to its maximum.

The long-term solution arrived at by the Victorians was to create the world’s largest cemetery: the Brookwood Necropolis, near Woking, about 25 miles outside London. It encompassed 2000 acres, and was sized to accommodate London’s burials for the foreseeable future (in 1849). Actually, the number of interments was far fewer than was originally planned (only 6.5% of London burials in the early years), and consequently, as to date [2010], the cemetery is still in use and only 450 acres have been used.

Of course, some means had to be arranged to transport the bodies from the city to the cemetery, and a bizarre, gothic, Victorian, solution was devised: a railway station specifically for the dead, its passengers travelling on a strictly one-way ticket to the graveyard... This was the Necropolis Cemetery Station at Waterloo:

The name Necropolis, chosen by the London Necropolis Company, comes from the Greek, meaning City of the Dead; the Victorians were unafraid of such terminology.

We can see the location of the Necropolis Cemetery Station, circled in purple, in our 1861 map:

A special train, the Necropolis Train which we see below, existed solely for funerals, and ran every day from the Necropolis Station to Brookwood, carrying both coffins and mourners.

Left: The Necropolis Train in 1902

Each parish got a chunk of the cemetery for its burials. The price charged by Brookwood in 1852 for a pauper funeral was 15 shillings, including two attendants to travel with the train. Of course various classes of burial were available: if you weren't a pauper, the next cheapest class cost 1 pound 5 shillings [ie 25 shillings].

The journey - which was indeed the final journey for the principal passengers - took 30 minutes. Return time to the London terminus Necropolis Station was two hours including the time for the interment.

Here's a nice view of the Necropolis at Woking, with the railway entering right into the heart of it:

There were two separate train stations within the bounds of Brookwood Cemetery - though I can't discern them in the engraving above. One was for Church of England funerals, the other was for nonconformists.

If you're wondering what became of the other end of the line, the Necropolis Station at Waterloo...

On 16 April 1941, as we see in the photo above, the station and train were completely destroyed in a WW2 bombing raid. The line was already uneconomic and was not rebuilt.

Ooh that’s been a serious digression. Let’s get back to Thomas Partleton. He was buried the old-fashioned way, in the graveyard of his Parish church, in 1838, eleven years before Brookwood Cemetery even existed. There wasn't even a railway through Lambeth in 1838.

So… Thomas Partleton is dead and buried, and we must turn to the story of his now-beleaguered widow, Ann. She is 36, has four little children [Thomas 7, Mary Ann 4, Emma 3, Ann Caroline 2], and has been instantly plunged into the status of single-mother and incomeless pauper.

The year 1838 is, of course, long before the era of the modern welfare state. But we have seen from other examples of Victorian Partleton mothers in distress that Ann would receive charity from the Parish under the ancient system set up for villages - a system bursting at the seams with the Victorian population explosion - whereby a few shillings a week would be given, subsistence, something to feed the kids and provide a basic roof over their heads.

But it’s never enough, and all the evidence shows that in this all-too-common circumstance, in the long run, single mothers on their own were unable hold a family together on charity alone without a breadwinner.

In November 1839 Ann’s crisis deepens. Heartbreakingly, four-year-old Emma dies:

So Emma’s little grave joined those of her dad and her sister in the churchyard of St Mary Newington. The 5s 6d cost of burial would be paid for by the parish - Ann's got no money - and there would be no headstone:

We have a surviving Victorian photograph of the church, and we may step into Ann Rebekah George's shoes, if we are brave enough, to share her despair as we walk along the path to the church to mourn her little girl:

The above photo of the church was taken from the viewpoint of the orange arrow in the map below. We can even see the route of the little path which takes us to church:

The address given at Emma’s death was Frederick Place, circled in blue:

By the 1841 census, Ann Partleton nee George has moved again - but not far - to Peacock Street, circled red. Her 1841 census record is below:

Ann is in a desperate situation. She is described as a Casual Pauper. A Casual was a pauper collecting welfare from the parish, supposedly on a temporary basis, but not a permanent resident of a workhouse.

Missing from the census sheet is Mary Ann (b1834), and we and we must presume that she must have died before July 1837 when death certificates became compulsory. Living with Ann are the two of her five children who are still alive; 9-year-old Thomas and 4-year old Ann Caroline. The three of them occupy a single room in Peacock Street.

Hodson Street, Peacock Street, Frederick Place… if only we had a photograph of these places…

Well, as luck would have it, we do have a couple of photos of Peacock Street:

The picture above and the one below are from 1953, but of course, it's also just how Peacock Street looked in 1841, even down the the Victorian gas lamp standard in the street.

The picture above, of the rear of houses in Peacock Street, is certainly familiar to many who grew up in inner-city London. Rickety outbuildings, laundry drying, and junk in the back yards.

We do also have a wonderful early photograph of Newington Butts, aka High Street, taken in 1860 from the viewpoint of the dark blue arrow in the map above.

We stand at its junction with Lower Kennington Lane, which we can see coming in from the left. We're looking north towards the Elephant & Castle. It’s exactly as Thomas and Ann would have seen it… step into their shoes…

In the distance on the left is the bell tower of the church of St Mary Newington where Ann's children had been christened. The building on the far right with the gaslamps outside is the Horse & Groom pub. Go past the next building and there is a narrow alley. This leads to Peacock Street.

Here is the map which indicates where we are. The dark blue arrow shows the point of view of the above photo.

And here’s the same view today; nothing remains except for the junction's topography and the curve of the road:

Left: How the same view looks today

We can surmise that Ann did not live at Peacock Street very long. Things are not getting better for her. They are getting worse.

At some time between 1841 and 1845, Ann can support herself no longer, and she enters the Newington Workhouse at Walworth:

For the painting we see above, which was depicted in 1826 by artist G. Yates for the publication Views in Surrey, the painter stood on Walworth Road at the point of the purple arrow in the map below:

I think it's a fairly common misconception that the Welfare State in Britain started in 1945. Actually, from ancient times, welfare of the poor was the responsibility of the parish, albeit in a rather primitive form.

Below we see, published in 1841, the order of the Act of Parliament which required the parish of St Mary Newington and Walworth Workhouse to look after our Ann in her hardship:

In 1825, artist John Hassell visited Walworth and left us this lovely record of what it looked like:

In the year 1825, John Hassell can accurately title his painting as the North Entrance to the Village of Walworth.

For four years, in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I used to drive through Walworth every day on my way to work in central London, and I can comfortably say that the last word I would use to describe Walworth is Village.

Left: Walworth Road in 1978

Walworth was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was 15 minutes walk south along the road in the marshy countryside south of the Thames from the village of Newington, and was part of Newington Parish, so its inhabitants in those ancient days had a bit of a walk to church on a Sunday. But, by the time Ann is living there in 1845, Walworth has reached a pivotal point of its transformation from ancient sleepy hamlet to London urban sprawl.

In 1854, American author Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published a book of her letters home from a visit to England:

Harriet stayed in Rose Cottage, Walworth in 1853, and gives us an interesting insight into its state of evolution at that time:

Rose Cottage was located on the future site of the town hall, in which case it is one of the buildings circled in purple in the map below – with sheep grazing, and all just 25 yards from the humble abodes where Thomas and Ann resided in Hodson Street etc in the 1830’s:

Ok, there’s a danger that we may lose the thread of our commentary [what do you mean - “too late!”], so let’s return to Ann Partleton nee George who in 1845 is in the Workhouse at the south end of Walworth, and it’s a good moment to have a look at some then-and-now pictures…

Here’s a comparison of Walworth Workhouse in 1825 and the exact same viewpoint of the site in 2010:


The only reason we know that Ann was in the workhouse is because she died there, aged 43, as evidenced by her death certificate obtained by Terry Partleton:

It may be that Ann only entered the workhouse just a short time before her death; workhouses had sick wards attached to them for the benefit of poor parishioners in need of medical attention. Unfortunately, there’s no way of telling; the admission and discharge records seem to be lost to posterity - though please correct me if you know better.

Ann died of epilepsy; the witness Elizabeth Rowley was illiterate and was presumably a fellow inmate.

Ann's death as a pauper leads us down an interesting path… dead bodies in Newington Workhouse were worth money:

What Charles Dickens was reporting upon was quite a well-publicised scandal regarding the Newington Workhouse at Walworth. Body-snatching had been made illegal many years before, but there were ways around the law if you were ready to stretch the rules...

Thus, the shameless undertaker, Richard Hogg, got paid twice for a number of Newington Workhouse paupers’ burials. To be fair, the fee provided by the parish for burials, five shillings and sixpence, was truly a pittance, in fact an uneconomic price which could only be sustained because it was subsidised by the under-the-counter earnings from the hospital. [We may compare it to the price of a pauper's funeral charged by the London Necropolis in 1852 which we saw earlier - 15 shillings].

The price Guy's Hospital paid him - three pounds ten shillings, with a big wink and a shushing finger on the lips - to bury the dissected remains, was over twelve times what he got from the workhouse for ordinary burials. Lovely jubbly. The workhouse master, Alfred Feist, when he was caught and prosecuted, got off with a promise not to do it again. He lost his job, though - he became a publican of the Lord Nelson pub near Drury Lane in subsequent censuses.

Medical journal The Lancet reported more detail on how the wretch Richard Hogg performed the old switcheroo:

The Workhouse at Walworth had relocated to a new building in 1850, but these cases, reported in 1858, went back to at least 1849, and the old workhouse. The body-switching had been in operation in both the new and the old workhouses, and Guy’s Hospital had pulled off this stunt with several successive Newington Workhouse masters.

So it is possible that in 1845, as 14-year-old Thomas and 9-year-old Ann Caroline stood and wept at their mother's graveside, as we take one last look at the church of St Mary Newington below (looking suitably austere in that photograph taken soon before its demolition), Ann Rebekah George might not even have been in the coffin.

There's a good chance that other mourners also at the graveside were 45 year-old Richard George and his wife Susan. Richard was Ann Rebekah George's brother. Richard and Susan had a conversation about what to do with their orphaned niece and nephew.

Their decision was to take their niece, 9-year-old Ann Caroline, home with them. But poor Thomas, who was 14, and probably blind at that age (he was blind in later life), had to remain in the workhouse where we find him six years later in the 1851 census.

It is a sad ending, but despite their hardships and early deaths, Thomas George Partleton and Ann Rebekah George have at least four descendants currently alive under the name Partleton, and many more carrying their genes under other surnames.

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