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Magazine Articles

Magazine Articles

The Family Tree Forum Online Magazine was written and put together by the members of The Family Tree Forum. As one of the editors, I was able to twist some arms and  the following articles were originally written for the Family Tree Forum Online Magazine.

A wide variety of topics were covered in the magazine. Most articles were drawn from the authors’ own research into interesting relatives who they have come across, others inspired by questions posed in the forums. Alongside these, you will find in depth articles giving an historical context to our ancestors’ way of life. Some of the issues looked at specific occupations and related trades. 

Generally the magazine followed a loose theme in each issue, but there were also two series of special features, ‘My Kind of Town’ where members focus on a specific location, and ‘Family Treasures’ where members describe objects which have been passed down to them.

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Servant of this house

Servant of this house

Herbert George de Fraine, son of George Turner, spent 55 years at the Bank of England and his recollections of life with the bank were published after his death at the age of 88, by his daughter in “Servant of This House” in 1960. From its earliest beginnings the bank has been referred to as ‘the House’ rather than ‘the Bank’ by the employees, perhaps because its first permanent premises were built on the site of the house belonging to its first Governor.

Herbert began his career with the Old Lady, as he also called her, in 1886 as a boy of sixteen, and for over two years spent all day counting the bank notes removed from circulation. Some sixty thousand were returned each day and every one had to be examined, placed in its appropriate section with the signature torn off and then entered in a ledger by hand, before being bundled for burial in the vaults, where it stayed for seven years before being burnt. But not before, Herbert says, the balance had been checked, for the value of the notes withdrawn had to match the value of record of those handed over the counter, and the young men were kept back until everyone’s lists tallied. It sounds a tedious and boring job, but reminiscing later Herbert thought himself very lucky to have had it. The clerks were always appointed on the recommendation of one of the twenty six directors, or were sons of clerks already working for the bank. Herbert’s father knew one of the directors and asked him for the nomination. As the director died shortly afterwards Herbert thought himself doubly lucky.

His reminiscences show that he was someone who was interested in everything around him. He recalls travelling by horse tram and the dirt and mud underfoot which necessitated having to use clothes and shoe cleaning brushes before starting work. He was earning £42 a year at first, which he says had to be supplemented by his father, but was nevertheless, “princely in comparison with the current wage for a farm labourer”. But, as he adds, he had to pay for lodgings and clothes suitable for working in the bank – which included a black silk hat, which had to be refurbished several times a day in bad weather (that is, Herbert had to take it to the hatter who smoothed it with hot irons, for free). In Summer the silk hat was changed for a straw one, but the rest of his outfit stayed the same. He wore a dark blue overcoat with a black velvet collar, compulsory gloves, and carried either a walking stick or an umbrella. In the Bank he had to wear trousers without turn ups, black button boots and a tailcoat over a starched shirt with a stiff white collar and cravat. The whole outfit was set off with a gold watch-chain across the waistcoat. He notes that one could smoke a cigar, or even a cigarette in the street, but a pipe was quite forbidden. His book is a mine of information for social historians.

After a year his pay was raised to £54 and he was given a week’s holiday, and at the end of the second year he was raised to £80, which was a really good salary for a young man at the time. Even so, although he became engaged to be married in 1890, they were not able to marry for another seven years and his fiancée earned her living as a governess, which was, as Herbert remarks, the only respectable occupation for women but extremely poorly paid. He spent his spare time sightseeing at first, but was soon going to music halls and the theatre, as well as riding the new safety bicycle he bought with his first overtime payment for volunteering to work in the evening for a special job.

Discipline in the Bank was very strict. Talking as they worked was forbidden, visits to the WC were timed and they were allowed exactly thirty five minutes for lunch. This formality extended to personal relations and Herbert says he never called anyone by his Christian name however friendly they became.

He became fascinated by the working of the Bank and within three years he managed to pass the necessary exam to become a full employee with pension rights against stiff competition. On his promotion Herbert became ‘unattached’, which meant he could be sent anywhere to work, which gave him an excellent knowledge of the various workings of the Old Lady. The book of
Discipline in the Bank was very strict. Talking as they worked was forbidden, visits to the WC were timed and they were allowed exactly thirty five minutes for lunch.

His reminiscences give many details of the various departments of the Bank and the ways in which the Old Lady controlled things through three people; the Chief Accountant, the Chief Cashier and the Secretary. For a time he was in the Shutting Office, so called because it was were the books were shut before a dividend was declared, and the payment warrants made out. As he says, when it was not time to declare a dividend there was really no work to be done and he found that it was quite a leisurely affair.

He spent time dealing with stockbrokers, buying and selling stock, and in the dividend payment office where the cashiers were so busy that they had to work in relays on the pay-out days, for people expected to receive cash in their hand. The Old Lady thought payment by warrant was risky and it was only done on request.

Having sampled several different sides of the Bank, Herbert was given the choice of working on the stock or the cash side of the Old Lady for the rest of his career. He chose the cash side because there was a greater chance of becoming a Cashier in the Bank’s Treasury, which had a higher final salary and thus an increased pension. He says he came to realise that actually promotion in the Bank depended more on string-pulling or on catching the eye of someone with influence than on hard work.

He worked in the Clearing House which was where representatives of other banks would come together physically to exchange their cheques and bills of exchange with each other and with the Old Lady. As he mentions, everything had to be entered, scrutinised and computed by hand. As he became older and more experienced, Herbert was sent round a district to distribute and collect bills of exchange, dividends, cheques and warrants from various businesses, and at one time was collecting from Government offices as well as the small private banks, and once from royalty at Marlborough House.

In 1894, women graduates were recruited into the Bank as clerks, with some as typists on the new typewriters, and they were given a separate department with a separate entrance and exit from the men. Herbert says they were not allowed even to catch a glimpse of a male nor enter an office where one might be present because, “behind the closed doors lurked horrible males with hairy goat legs waiting to pounce on them as they passed”. They had their own Superintendent in Janet Elizabeth Hogarth, who later wrote about the tedium of their work. Even today, the Bank is said to try to regulate the female employees and recently issued a memo on the appropriate dress at work saying that they must wear make-up and high heels. Although Herbert is not always clear it seems that around the same time, the young men dealing with returned bank notes were replaced by young girls of the same age who were found to be more dextrous than the men, and Herbert also has a reference to girls aged from fourteen to sixteen replacing the boys in the printing shop, where they worked as messengers distributing the paper. The boys had been encouraged to take up apprenticeships afterwards, but he does not say whether this applied to the girls.

The Old Lady was compassionate to her employees and when Herbert was ill with chronic bronchitis and then found to suffer from asthma, she paid for him to go to Madeira to recuperate for a month. He paints a horrifying picture of people there suffering from advanced tuberculosis, which as he says many did not believe was infectious, but he met with a doctor who warned him against too much contact and he decided to leave early and returned home, where the Old Lady set him on light duties clearing the desk of someone who had just died of TB, which he found disconcerting.

In 1911 after being Deputy Principal for four years of the Bills Office where he had begun his career, Herbert was made Principal of the Printing Department responsible for overseeing the printing of all the bank notes, warrants and other papers the bank issued. This suited Herbert, his father was the printer and publisher of the Bucks Herald in Aylesbury, and Herbert had always been interested in engineering and machines and he says he devised various improvements in the working of certain areas. The job included wide ranging responsibility for much of the housekeeping of the Bank, the buying of fuel and other supplies, and overseeing much of the maintenance of the building and equipment.

Herbert encouraged many recreational activities at the printing works, they had their own sports ground, their own orchestra and choir, all kinds of clubs from chess, to the rifle club, to the ramblers, and the girls had a gymnasium class for which his wife played the piano.

During the 1914-1918 war he was ordered in great secrecy, and working with only two others under lock and key, to supply forged documents and papers which were delivered to the Admiralty for, he guessed, distribution to the Secret Service agents working against the Germans.

After the war he oversaw the building of the new printing works in the old St Luke’s Lunatic Asylum in the 1920s, which continued as the Bank’s printing works until the 1950s. When in charge of the printing works he had been partly instrumental in some research into phthisis, a disease rife amongst printers who were inhaling the silica dust from the type, and he installed and implemented the use of large scale permanent vacuum cleaning of the workshops in the new building, which became general practice in similar workplaces. At the time, the works were producing a weekly output of between eleven and twelve million of plate-printed notes, each of which took some forty days to go through the various process. This was just in notes; the works were also printing many other items, including at one time pension books, postal orders and pay records for the services, as well as the necessary warrants and dividend sheets.

By 1928 the works were fully working with the latest machinery. This was the climax of Herbert’s career, although he did not retire until 1931 when work was stopped for an hour (as he says at a cost of £1 a minute!) to say farewell with a grand party, including entertainment, put on in his honour by the various clubs and societies and presentations of all kinds, including the Queen Anne writing desk at which he was photographed.

(He was second cousin to Ethel Louise de Fraine and second cousin once removed to both John de Fraine, and George Henry de Fraine, who have all appeared in the Magazine previously, and my grandfather’s younger brother.)


Servant of this House; Life in the Old Bank of England by H.G .de Fraine. Constable. 1960

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G T de Fraine’s summer holiday

G T de Fraine’s summer holiday

Herbert George de Fraine also wrote about his family life in Aylesbury where his father was the publisher and printer of the local paper ‘The Bucks Herald’.

They lived a fairly affluent life. Herbert says that when his father had their bathroom installed it was only the third in Aylesbury. Even so, he says that the children thought a bath in the corner of an unheated room was a poor substitute for a tub in front of the nursery fire.The family had an annual seaside holiday and this is Herbert’s account of one year.

“My father took us to the seaside in August, and oe year we went to Ramsgate, where he had rented from an Admiral a large furnished house.

The London and North-Western Railway provided a special coach which had four compartments, two on each side of a small one for baggage. When the exciting morning came, behold us, father, mother, eight children (one in a pram), governess, nurse-maid, cook, housemaid and possibly a cat or two. My father and mother took a compartment to themselves inviting the older children in from time to time. We were hitched to a fast train to Euston which shed us at Willesden Junction. There we were shunted by an enormous and jolly old Shire horse, who, when he heard his chains being hooked onto our coach, immediately put his back into the job without waiting for the word of command. Then we bumped and bumped across the points at the huge junction, the horse’s great hairy hooves picking their way daintily over all the obstacles.

By strange routes and several more shuntings we got on to the London, Chatham and Dover line. Sometimes we stopped for long periods at stations, and this, as the provision of lavatories on trains had not been thought of yet, was found convenient. All this took a great part of the day. At Ramsgate Station, most of the family got into ‘growlers’, while my father stopped to oversee the unloading of the luggage into the railway van provided by the company. Besides clothes, etc, for fourteen people, (if you count the baby as only one) there were hampers of fruit and vegetables, and sacks and sacks of potatoes. Silver was rarely included in a let, so there would be boxes of that as well, and also of linen, although not so much bed-linen was needed as would be nowadays as all the beds were double.

Next day we went down to bathe. The machines were on four wheels, and were on the move all day long as the tide rose or fell. They were pulled by horses, not in the least like the jolly one at Willesden, but crushed by the misery natural to those whose feet are never dry. They were often mounted by small boys, who were presumed to be immune from female attractions. Mixed bathing would have shattered all right-thinking people, and the group of women’s machines were separated by two hundred yards of innocent sea from those of the dangerous male sex. Each women’s machine had an awning which could be pulled down to within a few inches of the water, for use by the most coy, and the whole group was superintended by a woman, who, like the horses, spent her time in a foot or two of water. She was nothing short of a tyrant, and if coaxing failed would seize her frightened victim and not only haul her into the sea, but duck her too.

They wore a long, ill-fitting sort of over-all, on top of out-size bloomers reaching below the knee and suitably flounced. So modest indeed were some that they wore stockings as well. No rubber caps existed, but a hideous mop-cap, big enough to contain all their long hair, was drawn down nearly to their eyes. The men wore a one-piece combination affair, with sleeves, striped all the way down like a football jersey. We boys got away with bathing drawers.

One morning we arranged to meet our sisters in No Man’s Land. But the Ramsgate powers-that-be had foreseen this terrible thing might happen, and engaged a burly old waterman to lie offshore in a tub of a boat. Drowsy as he looked, he spotted us, shouting dire threats and began pulling on his oars. We judged it wise to retreat, and thus prevented a front-page scandal. Twenty minutes was the absolute maximum for a bathe, and afterwards we were hurried to the nearest confectioners and given hot tea or cocoa, which was rather silly for us boys, after our spartan bathing at school.” [Herbert went to a school where the boys had to dive into the freezing river every morning before breakfast].

He was about thirteen at the time of this holiday and was the third in the family of eight with an older brother of sixteen, an older sister of fifteen, three younger sisters of eleven, six and three, another brother of nine and the baby was a boy.

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A Paper Chase

A Paper Chase

While searching the digital newspapers, looking for information about John de Fraine, several entries for a certain G.H. de Fraine kept popping up in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle. As he was probably a distant relative I thought that I would follow them through to see what I could find out about him, and so I began a systematic, chronological search.

The first mention of G.H. de Fraine is in 1866, in two reports of cricket matches at Southsea played by the Southsea Diocesan School pupils, in which he batted first and then bowled out most of the opposing side. I assumed that he must have been a boarder, as many of the de Fraines were sent away to school, but thought I should check the census returns to find out his age. On these I found a George Henry who had been born in 1836 in Berkhamsted, the seventh child of William, a hairdresser/perfumer, and his wife Ann. He was still there in 1851, but next appears in 1871 in Portsea, Hampshire, at the Southsea School. This must have been the same person, although at the time of the cricket matches he would have been thirty and probably a teacher rather than a pupil.  Having confirmed his identity, I concentrated on what I could glean from the newspaper reports.

No more sports reports appear with his name, but he begins to be listed as giving readings as one of the participants in entertainments for charity. The paper’s readers are not often told what he read or recited but once his audience enjoyed Lord Macaulay’s ‘The Lay of Virginia’.

In October 1868, the first advert for the Southsea Diocesan Grammar School, Southsea House, appeared in which George Henry is given as ‘Principal and Headmaster’, and which says he was “sometime lecturer in the English Language and Literature at the Universities of Leyden and Utrecht”. The advert adds that he “is assisted by Staff of Certificated Masters” and that “THE SCHOOL is under the inspection of the Winchester Diocesan Board of Education, and in union with the Royal College of Preceptors, London”.

The link with the College of Preceptors may help explain the letters after his name. LLB usually stood for Batchelor of Laws and in the nineteenth century this meant a broadly classical education rather than the strictly legal one students take today. Occasionally he has ‘London’ after it and it is quite possible he was an undergraduate at college in London and took the London University exams. MRCP then and now usually stands for Member of the Royal College of Physicians, but as George Henry does not seem to have been any kind of medical practitioner, it is possible the letters stood for Member of the (Royal) College of Preceptors, which is now the College of Teachers, as the advert mentions it, although the history of the college gives a different nomenclature for their members then and now. In 1869 there is a report of the school’s sports day at which he presented a cup.

Also in 1869, he is one of the founder members of the Portsea Island Society for the Culture of Science and Literature. This society was formed to have monthly meetings at which members would give an address on a topic of interest and initiate a debate. George Henry gave one of the monthly talks on “Education, its means and great end”, which was reported very fully in the paper.

It is a rather rambling argument in which he gave an account of the history of education and suggests that there should be some empirical analysis of exactly what education is and what is to be achieved by educating the young, and gave some examples from the continent.  He says the end of education “is the full perfection of our being in another world, through faithful discharge of our duty here – those means, for the full development of our double nature, for the ultimate accomplishment of that end. Such I believe to be the great purpose of all human existence, the great object to which all human existence should unceasingly be devoted”.

He continues by describing what he sees as the faults in modern education, that the children should be educated to their later station in life, that they need to be taught how to memorise facts and then apply them, “add knowledge afterwards, which will lead to the doing better of each particular work”. In passing he comments that, “The ten Commandments are as obligatory as ever”. The talk gave rise to some debate. A clergyman hoped he did not mean that anything other than faith in Christ was all that was necessary for eternal life. He advocated learning Latin to train the memory but added that all the repetition in the world would not make a scholar. George Henry responded by saying that in Germany, “they could scarcely find a single artisan who could not play an instrument, write his name, and read his mother tongue, he could not see why it should not be so in England”.

At the registration court held in September 1869 to determine who could vote in the election for Parliament, when people had to be property owners, or to have been lodgers of property of a certain value, or tenants for at least a year, he is noted as renting his house. There was some dispute over how long he had lived there, but he was allowed his vote. Soon he is reported as sitting on the committees that arranged the charitable entertainments with the Mayor of Portsmouth and with an admiral in the chair, George Henry was beginning to be known in influential social circles.

There is a record of his marriage to Sarah Ann Harris in Berkhamsted in 1862, and she is reported in the paper as giving birth to a daughter at Thornbury Hall, Southsea, on 22nd July 1867, a son at Southsea House, Southsea, on 9th March 1869, and another daughter at the Diocesan Grammar School, on 26th July 1870.  The addresses are interesting. During 1869 two Diocesan Grammar Schools were advertising themselves. One was given as at Thornbury Hall, the other at Southsea House.  One might conclude that George Henry had been a teacher at the Thornbury School and then set himself up at Southsea House, and that the adverts for the school at Thornbury Hall had been paid for in advance and continued even though the school itself had moved and changed hands.  The census gives the children’s names as Augusta, Ernest Edward, and Marian (she had another son, Reginald Harris, in 1875, but this was not reported in the paper).

In 1871, George Henry stood for election to the Portsmouth School Board, but was not successful. The School Boards ran the local education under government guidelines, the near equivalent of today’s LEAs, so it was quite a prestigious and powerful body. The same year he is listed as subscribing ten shillings and sixpence (half a guinea) towards the presentation of a silver cradle on the birth of a son to the mayor. In July he served on a jury at the quarter sessions and in September was present at a complimentary dinner. Meanwhile, reports of his readings and committee work for the charitable entertainments continued and he is also reported as being on the committee for subscribers to the Portsmouth School of Science and Art, which provided day and evening classes in subjects such as naval architecture, geometry and machine construction and drawing, building construction, mathematics, animal physiology, and geography for young men.

In August 1874 he attended a grand ball on board the Duke of Wellington, the Admirals’ flagship, at which some one thousand “of the elite of the neighbourhood and several from great distances were received on board”. He was certainly moving up in society and on this occasion he was accompanied by his wife. She was probably present in the audience for the readings and entertainments, but she is not mentioned in those reports.

In October 1875 he was advertising for “A steady LAD, to make himself generally useful. Apply to Mr De Fraine, Grammar School, Southsea”. In 1876 he was assisting at a public spelling bee and in January 1877 he stood for election to the School Board again.

School Board Election For Portsmouth 1877

Ladies and Gentlemen

At the request of many influential residents in the borough, I have consented to OFFER MYSELF as a CANDIDATE at the forthcoming elections.
I have been engaged in the practical work of education for more than twenty years and venture to suggest that the benefit of my experience might be of service to the Burgesses. I have no hesitation is saying that Education not coupled with the Bible is worthless.
It cannot be denied that the Voluntary Schools have done and are still doing, great service, and believing that the Elementary Education Act was never intended to Supersede but to Supplement them, I should at all times look favourably on them, if kept in a state of efficiency, as their continuance will materially save the pockets of the ratepayers.
Respectfully soliciting the favour of your confidence and support,
 I am, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yours obediently, G.H. De Fraine

This time his cleverly balanced appeal to the ratepayers’ religious beliefs, as well as their pockets, won him the seat and his letter of thanks appeared on 20th January.

School Board Election 1877

Ladies and Gentlemen

I take the earliest opportunity of tendering my best thanks for the great honour conferred on me by placing me in so good a position among the list of successful candidates. I also beg to assure you that nothing shall be wanting on my part to merit the continuance of that support which has been so generously given me.
I am, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yours very truly,
G.H. De Fraine

At the March meeting George Henry initiated a debate on standards and argued for an amendment which was carried after a fierce debate. At the other meetings he was again pressing his point of view on various topics. He was clearly not prepared to be a ‘yes’ man. In April 1877 he was elected as the ‘People’s Warden’ at St Jude’s Church in Southsea, and was making suggestions at the annual vestry meeting for improving the seating and perhaps acquiring a new bell. At the same time adverts for the school appeared regularly.

Southsea House, Castle Road, Southsea.

Principal Geo. H. de Fraine LL.B. MRCP

In the above school the Sons of Gentlemen are received and thoroughly taught. More than two hundred Pupils educated in this School have successfully passed the entry examinations for the Royal Navy, Law, and Medicine, as well as for the Universities and Public Schools. In the Mathematical Tripos (January, 1876) an old Pupil took the position of Tenth Wrangler.
A JUNIOR DEPARTMENT (in a separate, large and well ventilated Room) will be opened next Term for boys from seven years of age.
DUTIES will be resumed on Wednesday January 24th.

In March 1878 he attended an enquiry into the condition of the Southsea roads, and the same month appears as Brother De Fraine at a Freemasonry meeting, proposing the toast to, “The Past Masters of the Portsmouth Lodge”, and has the letters P.P.G.S.D after his name, which imply that he has held office in the Lodge.

He was re-elected as People’s Warden at St Jude’s in 1878 with a comment on, “the indefatigable manner in which Mr De Fraine has carried out the duties of his office”. In early January 1880 he was re-elected to the Portsmouth School Board, with 4956 votes, of a total of 6553 voters. He seems to have been attending the monthly meetings assiduously, as well as being involved in those other committees with which he was connected.

Suddenly, in the report of a meeting of the Southsea Hospital for the Sick, in late January 1880, he is listed as Rev G. H. De Fraine, which might have been a simple misprint, except that it happens again in the report for the March annual meeting of the Portsmouth and Portsea Free Ragged Schools, and at the celebration of the centenary of Sunday Schools in Portsmouth, the Rev G.H. De Fraine gave a special sermon at St Jude’s for the children. The Rev. G.H. De Fraine examined pupils in geography, history, arithmetic and English.

An advertisement in January 1881 by the High School for Girls at Gosport says that the Rev G.H. De Fraine examined pupils in geography, history, arithmetic and English, and in the same edition he is listed as being present at a ball given by the mayor for and at the lunatic asylum. The distinguished guests, which included their Serene Highnesses Prince and Princess Edward of Saxe-Weimar, danced with some 159 of the inmates to the band of the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Later in the year he is judging an “Elocutionary competition”, which is so popular that it is repeated the following February.

George Henry now designates himself ‘Reverend’ in the school adverts too, and at the vestry meeting in April 1881 he is no longer the People’s Warden, but is addressed as Reverend. This is all confirmed in the census for 1881 where he is still at the school address but now gives his occupation as ‘Curate of St Jude’s,  Southsea’. However, nowhere in the newspapers is there any report of his actual ordination. To discover when and how that took place would need some investigation into Anglican Clergy records and is outside the scope of this piece.

In June 1882 he is reported as being in the clergy procession at the consecration of a new church, St Michael and All Angels at Landport, and in September was preaching the sermon for the Harvest Festival in Newton on the Isle of Wight.

Adverts for the school continue to appear with his name, but the next report on George Henry himself is when he attended the annual meeting of the Royal Portsmouth Hospital in January 1884. The following month there is a report of a presentation to him of “silver salts, pepper box and spoons in a morocco and velvet case, bearing the following inscription – A gift to the Rev G.H. De Fraine from the children of St Jude’s, Southsea, February 1884”.

In September at the Guild of All Saints at Landport, there was a ‘special service’, although it does not report what for, at which George Henry read the prayers. In October he was at a meeting at All Saints Church, Landport, and agreeing to hold an exhibition and sale of work to raise money to clear the debt on the church.

It was reported in February 1885 that there was a “Fashionable Wedding at Southsea between Mr Edwin John Harvey junior and Miss Madoleine De Fraine […] the eldest daughter of the Rev. G.H. De Fraine of Langside, Victoria Road, Southsea (now assistant minister of All Saints’ parish Landport and Chaplain of the Royal Portsmouth, Portsea and Gosport Hospital, formerly curate at St Jude’s and principal of the Southsea Diocesan School)”. This brings us up to date with George Henry, but the odd thing is that Madoleine is named as his eldest daughter and Augusta and Marion are given as two of her bridesmaids, who were “led by Master Reginald De Fraine the youngest brother of the bride”.  Suddenly we find that George Henry had five children including a daughter and a son, whose births were not reported in the newspapers. The census should tell us more about them, but that is for another time. Here we are following George Henry’s career. The list of wedding presents gives “satin pincushions and dressing case from domestics at Langside”. There were thirty or forty guests at the wedding breakfast “at the Rev G.H. De Fraine’s residence“, and in the evening “the bride’s parents entertained upwards of fifty guests at a ball”. All of which implies that George Henry could afford to have more than one servant and had a large house.

In May 1885 he was conducting the funeral of the vicar’s wife at All Saints, in June was speaking as chaplain of the Hospital as to the good character of a prisoner at the Police Court, who he had visited in hospital, and in November performed a marriage at All Saints. Also in November, he was present at a large meeting held to discuss disestablishment of the church, but is not mentioned as speaking at it.

He still belonged to the Masons and in January 1886 was present as one of the chaplains at an installation of a Worshipful Master. In February he was at the annual meeting of the Royal Portsmouth Hospital.

Then in June it was reported that he had been presented with the living at Stoke St Michael, Somerset, and adds that he “for sometime filled a curacy at St Jude’s Southsea, and has latterly been curate at All Souls Landport and the Chaplain of the Royal Portsmouth Hospital. The rev gentleman was instituted by the Bishop and was inducted at the close of last week […]the cordial way in which he has been received shows there is every prospect of a good congregation being secured and mutual happiness reigning. Mr De Fraine, who will permanently commence his duties at the end of the present month, will leave Portsmouth amid the regret of many of his friends”. 

The last mention of George Henry in Southsea is on 1st June 1886 when he officiated as the Rev. G.H. De Fraine, Vicar of Stoke St Michael, Somerset, at the second marriage of the vicar of All Saints, Portsea, whose first wife he had buried the previous year when he was the curate at All Saints. In The Times archives for June 1886 the Rev G.H. De Fraine LL.B, is listed in the ecclesiastical appointments put out by Lambeth Palace as “Vicar of Stoke Lane, Somerset”, and The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post for 10th June lists him by his full name as having preferment to the vicarage of Stoke Lane. He does not appear in the papers so frequently in Somerset, but in 1888, The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post reports his presence at the reopening of a local church at Lamyatt in October. Again in The Times in June 1890, the Rev G.H. De Fraine, Vicar of Stoke St Michael, Bath, is reported as assisting at a marriage at St Barnabas Church, Kensington, London. He is next found in The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post for 12th March 1894 giving evidence of the presence of oil in the water in Somerset, including contamination of his own well water at Stoke St Michael vicarage, in a report about oil springs at Shepton Mallet. The paper reports his presiding at his annual parish meeting in 1896.

Two years later in December 1898 the paper reports from Stoke St Michael,

The Rev G.H. De Fraine, vicar of this parish, who died on Friday week from apoplexy, was buried on Tuesday afternoon. A large number of people were present to pay their last tokens of respect, and many neighbouring clergy and gentlemen attended.

The paper does not mention who of his family were present.

George Henry had come a long way in sixty two years. To give a complete picture of his life one would need to go to other records to find out how and where he had been educated and when he was at the Dutch Universities, when he was actually ordained, where and when he met his wife, and where his eldest daughter was born.  But this has been concerned with what information about one man can be gleaned from newspapers, with a little help from the census. Luckily of course this man had a very distinctive name, led a very public life and his activities were often reported. Nevertheless he does show it is possible to draw quite a detailed picture of someone’s career in this way, given a lot of patient on-line ferreting.

And yes he was a distant relation, another of my great grandfather’s second cousins (the de Fraines of Aylesbury had quite large families.)

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The Preacher

The Preacher

Some thirty years ago while house-hunting we went to see what the agent said was a small chapel ‘ripe for conversion’ in the village of West Wickham in Cambridgeshire. The chapel was tiny and needed far too much done to it for us to afford to make it habitable but then we suddenly saw a foundation stone behind the nettles and a different search began. A Mrs John de Fraine had laid the stone on the 13th June 1870. This was my fairly unusual family name but we are a Buckinghamshire family and as I knew of no relatives in the area, this was intriguing.

In the churchyard we found several de Fraine graves which gave me some dates and names to research including John himself who died in 1910, and the hunt was on.

I found that John de Fraine had been a well known lecturer in the nineteenth century who had travelled the country talking to large audiences on leading a good Christian life and avoiding the demon drink

I was lucky enough to find a copy of his autobiography which gives the impression of someone totally self absorbed with his own affairs and with little time for anything outside what he saw as his mission in life.  The autobiography says little about his family life but lists the many places he visited, quoting extracts from the complimentary remarks when people praised him and noting when he met people of consequence like Dickens and Thackeray, and those in the temperance movement like the artist George Cruikshank, whose painting The Worship of Bacchus with its depiction of all kinds of drunken behaviour John saw at the private view in 1869. (It was on view at Tate Britain in 2001 after restoration.) There is a picture of it on the Tate Britain web page.

For his was very much a public life. He tells how he became a lecturer for temperance and the Band of Hope when a very young man after living with a drunken father as a child. He describes his father, Joseph, fighting imaginary ghosts and demons in the throes of delirium tremens, and of seeing his mother’s face all bloody from his father’s blows. However, when he was eleven his father joined the temperance society and took the pledge and John’s life was much happier after that. He speaks of Joseph as a kind and witty man but he never forgot the suffering the drink caused his mother.

He was born in Aylesbury in 1838 and belonged to a large family of de Fraines in and around the town but he does not mention any of these relations, and writes as if he was an only child yet the census shows he was the youngest of four, and perhaps therefore the closest to his mother whom he clearly adored. He was distraught when she died when he was twenty and, from the reports on his lectures, would use her life as an example of pure goodness under the immense hardship of the cruelty and poverty caused by her husband’s drunken behaviour.

He speaks feelingly of his wife, wrote a touching poem for their Silver Wedding, with a religious sentiment, and says how much he missed her companionship when she died, after thirty seven years. Yet he mentions none of his children by name and only once notes when they were born, and that because the birth occurred after a tragic accident.  In 1870 there was fire in the house and he makes much of the death of the dog who warned them, even writing to The Times about it, only adding almost as an afterthought in the autobiography that his wife presented him with a Valentine gift of a daughter next day. This would have been his second child, Frances Mary Elizabeth.   He says his eldest son, when seven years old, laid the foundation stone for the Reading room he added to the Mission Hall in 1875, but he does not name him. The 1871 census shows the son was called John too.

Three daughters are buried in the churchyard; Frances Mary Elizabeth born after the fire died in 1943, Ursula Maud born in 1871 died in 1946 and Marie or possibly Annie Maria who was born in 1874 and died in 1950. The three daughters are thought to have left the village when their father died but it is uncertain where they settled. It may have been one of them who was advertising from Cambridge to be a nursery governess to teach ‘first lessons, music, elementary French, needlework’ in The Times in the 1920s but that has yet to be proved. They may not have been particularly well educated for John clearly saw woman’s role as supporting her man so he can avoid the temptations of alcohol. In his lectures he often inveighs against servant girls who spend their money on fripperies and dress more finely than their station and in one asks:-

And now, can any of you tell of what use it is to teach a poor girl, who is to become the wife of a hard working labouring man, the height of a mountain, or the length of a river, or to have known fifteen fine names for a pudding bag when she knows positively nothing of that which is to fit her to be one of the lights of an English homes, and one of the mother’s of people brave and free. There’s plenty of ‘ism’ and ‘ology’ – but not enough scrubology, and sewology, and bakeology and boilology, and pudding-makeology, and the ology that would do something towards making a poor man’s fireside a more attractive spot, than the sanded taproom and the bright parlour of the Blue Badger and the Green Pig.

Although one must remember that he is always aiming his words at the labouring poor. There was another son, Thomas born in 1876, who was the parish clerk at West Wickham until 1908 while his father was Chairman of the Parish Council. Nothing is known of him after that and it is rumoured that he may have been an alcoholic which would have been extraordinarily sad.

John himself was very well educated for the time, not leaving school until almost fifteen and even then was encouraged by his local clergyman to continue reading. His delight was in attending lectures and public meetings, where he listened to speakers such as Livingstone, Disraeli and Samuel Wilberforce, whom he says gave him a taste for speaking in public himself.  He started when his father put him on the table in a public house to recite a poem and from seventeen to twenty spoke at many local meetings in the towns nearby, often in the open air. An early report of one of these meetings was not very flattering. Jackson’s Oxford Journal reports flatly that in Buckingham on 11th June 1857:

Mr John de Fraine delivered a lecture on “Total Abstinence” in this Market Place. There were not many people there and the affair was dull and spiritless.

But he was only nineteen. The experience did not put him off and he continued to travel round the district addressing open air meetings, which must have taken some courage but would have trained him in the techniques necessary to use both his voice and his subject matter to hold an audience.

After his mother’s death he was invited to go to London by the National Temperance League as their clerk and from there he soon started on his career as a lecturer on total abstinence from alcohol, receiving his first professional fee at Leamington Spa in November 1858 when he was just twenty. He was told years later than a man who had heard him at that first meeting was so impressed he named his new house De Fraine Cottage.

The British Association for the Promotion of Temperance had been formed by working men in Preston in 1832. At first the members only abstained from spirits but soon the society was pressing for total abstinence. The Band of Hope for working class children was formed in Leeds in 1847 and organisations such as the Salvation Army and the Quakers became actively involved in campaigning with non-conformists, Baptists and congregational ministers.

While never ordained John must have been popular with these various groups for the ministers would invite him to stay in their houses and ask him to return to address their congregations many times. The meetings usually started with a hymn and a prayer and were often chaired by a clergyman. .At Kenilworth the Band of Hope greeted him with a song composed specially for him

Welcome to John de Fraine,
We’re glad he’s come again,
Long live de Fraine
May Heaven’s best gifts descend,
On our twice welcome friend,
On God his hopes depend
God bless de Fraine

Newspaper accounts were soon lauding his oratory in meetings as far away as Jersey and Belfast. In 1861 he spent a month touring and speaking in Ireland where The Belfast Newsletter spoke of “this youthful orator of two and twenty years who spoke on The Battle of Life.”  The reporter wrote that he

related several well told anecdotes and incidents illustrative of his subject, and, in most thrilling eloquence, repeated several pieces of poetry upon the point of his subject under consideration, of which no idea can be conveyed in a mere outline of his oration, and concluded by urging upon young men to fight the battle of life, having trust in truth and faith in God, and after a most eloquent appeal upon this head he resumed his seat amidst prolonged applause.

It seems that at first much of his appeal lay in his youth. The Newcastle Daily Chronicle said he “appeals as a young man to young men with great earnestness , and we are certain that if the lecture he delivered on Friday night be a fair example of his budget,  all who listen to him will be the better for his teaching.”

This kind of complimentary remark is repeated in the many reports of his speeches as the years go by. He published several books of his lectures and addresses and they show that, although he was always giving the same message that one should lead a moral life and that it is easier to do so if one avoided alcohol. He larded his remarks with humour, told stories and illustrated his points with quotations or used poems from writers like Tennyson or the American Longfellow as metaphors. This stirring extract is from one of his best known lectures The Battle of Life.

Onward – upward –higher! Excelsior! Up the mountain of knowledge and culture, be the height ever so dazzling, and the summit ever so distant; Excelsior! though the road be rough and rugged, and the stones be sharp under the toiler’s feet; Excelsior! with high resolve and proudly beating heart, for ever listening to that music from afar which beckons forth the better hope; Excelsior ! Step by step, with a spirit to conquer or be conquered, breaking the huge stones of difficulty till from powdered dust you can pick up the gems of precious worth; Excelsior!! for health and strength, and just as travellers climb some Alpine steep to revel in the joy which lies in fertile vales, and ever widening plain; Excelsior!

In life’s rosy morning,
In manhood’s fair pride
Let this be your motto
To comfort and guide;
In cloud and in sunshine
Whatever assail
We’ll onward and conquer,
And never say Fail.

As well as providing his audiences with a varied and wide ranging hour’s talk he must have had a pleasant, clear and attractive speaking voice at a time when there was no amplification. It is difficult for us with all our different kinds of amusement to appreciate how much the Victorians liked a good talking to, but his halls were usually full and often packed out. Nevertheless it entailed an enormous amount of travel sometimes in atrocious conditions. For example, in 1874 he left home for three months speaking in the Midlands, the North and the Scottish Highlands. He writes of twelve hour train journeys, of trudging through snow, of walking twelve miles to reach his hosts after hours on a train.   It must have been financially worthwhile for he seems to have earned enough from his appearances to keep his family in some style, bring up five children, and raise the money for the building of the Mission Hall and its Reading room.

The Mission Hall was opened a year after the foundation stones were laid. There had been a fete and free teas for the children with the band of the 17th Essex Rifle Volunteers for that occasion.

At the actual opening on Easter Monday of 1871, of the 45 by 21 foot hall, there was a hymn followed by a prayer by the vicar and John gave an address, after which there were free teas for all the poor of the village, the Haverhill Choral Society sang and “Mr and Mrs Gurteen presided at the piano and harmonium.”

In his address John explains that he had built the hall for the young agricultural labourers where they could have lectures, readings, music “and such other things as I hope will, in the language of the circular that invited you here, promote what Tennyson beautifully calla ‘the common love of good; will rouse the sinful from their sleep of death, and win the vacant and the vain to a heavenlier and better life.” He hoped the hall would continue to “be a light to the whole neighbourhood” and that after his death his children would continue its work “for the moral, and social, and religious elevation of a people yet unborn.”

In 1906 The Newmarket Journal reports that John had allowed use of the hall for a variety entertainment in aid of the West Wickham cricket club which included comic songs and sketches and at which his daughters played the piano and his son Thomas played a gramophone. However after his death the hall was sold as part of his estate. It became a Methodist Chapel but was eventually sold to a builder and became a private house.

In some ways John seems to have acted as the squire of West Wickham. He writes of visiting the poor of the village, and provided them with Christmas goods and free teas on special occasions. There is something admirable about his benevolence but it is perhaps tinged with a slight sense of self-righteousness.

In 1888 he stood for the first Cambridgeshire County Council, and served for one term but would not stand again.  Saying he “did not think the work was congenial to me” and that he could not afford the time or the means to continue. It was probably hard for him to work as a committee man having been his own master all his life. He continued to travel the country to lecture and wrote several short books all based on his addresses. He remarks that some years earlier he had begun to give his lectures for free trusting in the collections to defray his expenses. He did draw the crowds, and remarks on their generosity but there was little left over once all the travelling and other expenses were cleared and he says he will never make his fortune. He finishes his autobiography by explaining why his lecturing was so important to him.

My earnest desire is to promote the Glory of God, extend the Redeemer’s Kingdom, advance the great cause of Temperance, and raise the moral and intellectual tone of the people [….] My earnest desire is to draw lessons from noble life, and historic fact, and deathless deed, and poets song, and show how grand a thing it is for all of us to do our duty and know how sublime a thing it is to suffer and be strong. My earnest desire is to cheer the toiler, and encourage the timid, and strengthen the weak and battle with evil, and throw a ray of heavenly light down the cold and starless road of doubt and despair. In this desire I have lived, God grant that in it I may die.

He lived another ten years. Dying at his long time home in West Wickham in 1910 where he was buried alongside his wife Ursula. He appears to have had one grandchild, although this has to be confirmed, another John who was always known by his second name of George. George worked at the Cambridge University Library for forty four years occasionally appearing in print with an anthology of hymns and with comments on various musical topics.  He died in 1965.


I am indebted to Janet Morris of West Wickham for correcting some assumptions and filling in many gaps.

The Autobiography of John de Fraine or Forty Years of Lecturing Work, and Recollections of the Great and Good 1900

Lectures and Addresses by John de Fraine nd.

The archives of The Times and various local newspapers.

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Towards the end of the nineteenth century, both my grandmothers went to the local school and when they were old enough were sent away to board for a short time at a young ladies boarding school where they learnt the three Rs, needlework, music and possibly French.

My own mother went to the village school where once she knew her letters and numbers she became a monitor, that is an older pupil who taught the little ones, until she left at sixteen to help her mother at home. Even in my day, just after the Second World War, when it was suggested that I might go to University, it was seen as an unnecessary expense for a future wife and mother (I did go eventually but after the children had been to college themselves and left home). So when I came across a distant female relation who became not only a graduate but also a Doctor of Science as early as 1908 I was more than a little intrigued. For it is only in modern times that women have been educated to the same standard as men, and, as you will know from family records, many could not even write their name but signed with a cross.

Although they might be able to read if not write, our fore-mothers were expected to know only enough to teach the smallest children their letters, or manage the household accounts. But some knew how much they were missing. In the seventeenth century, Aphra Behn believed to be the first professional woman writer, bewailed her lack of learning:-

Till now I curst my Sex and Education,
And more, the scanted Customs of the Nation,
Permitting not the Female Sex to tread,
The Mighty Paths of Learned Heroes dead.
The Godlike Virgil, and Great Homers Muse,
Like Divine Mysteries are conceal’d from us,
We are forbid all grateful Theams,
No ravishing Thoughts approach our Ear;
The Fulsom Gingle of the Times,
Is all we are allow’d to Understand, or Hear.

In the eighteenth century  a group of society ladies, bored with card playing, gambling and social chit-chat (think Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer), set up an informal group to enjoy conversation on all kinds of topics, except politics (shades of the WI) with invited guests. These would usually be men of letters, and Samuel Johnson, Horace Walpole, David Garrick and Joshua Reynolds were some who attended. Another was the botanist Benjamin Stillingfleet who published the first English editions of the works of Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist. He was said to have been too poor to afford the black silk stockings which were formal dress, and Fanny Burney said that he was told to come as he was, which was in his day wear of blue worsted stockings. An Admiral who was very rude about his wife’s enthusiasm for the project mocked her for attending the Blue-stocking Society, and the name stuck. Ever since, Bluestocking has been used disparagingly about any woman who has been educated above what someone considers her place in society.  

I discovered that Ethel Louise de Fraine was a student at Whitelands Training College on the King’s Road, Chelsea, in the 1901 census.  I have not yet found out how she came there after being born in Aylesbury in 1879. Her father died when she was only ten, leaving her mother with three girls to bring up of whom Ethel Louise was the eldest. In the 1891 census she was in Leicester living with an aunt who was down as an elementary school teacher and perhaps someone had recognised her talent and sent her there to be taught. As she attended Whitelands College she was probably living in London before she went to Whitelands. Her mother was a Londoner so it seems quite possible they went back to live with relatives. But that is speculation.

Whitelands College was an important factor in the education of women in the nineteenth century. It was one of the oldest higher education establishments, predating only Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and London Universities, and it was solely for young women.  It was founded in 1841 with just twelve students by the National Society for the Promotion of Education of the Poor in the principle of the established church, as a teacher training college for women, and the students had to be members of the Church of England until 1907 when it admitted non-conformists for the first time. Its aim was to ‘produce a superior class of parochial schoolmistress’ and its graduates would mainly be employed in the Church of England primary schools. It did not admit men until the 1950s but became fully co-educational in 1966. It had an excellent reputation from the start and was supported by such as John Ruskin, William Morris and Burne Jones.

The students learnt to teach in schools attached to the college, in one of which poor children were admitted free, and in less than ten years it had four schools including a girls’ secondary school. It was a rigorous curriculum for the student teachers, including Latin as well as French, botany, art and algebra, kindergarten theory, music and needlework.

Ethel Louise’s grandfather had been listed as a gardener and seeds man in all his census returns and her father too appeared as a gardener, the first time when he was only sixteen and working with his father. So although both men were dead before she was very old, an interest in plants must have been in her genes for she clearly excelled at botany as her later records show. The staff at Whitelands must have realised that her interest in botany was something special and encouraged her to study for a degree from London University at Westfield College.  The record states that she was an ‘Internal Student’ which meant that she was accepted as a full time student of the university.

London University admitted women as full members in 1878 and awarded degrees to women long before either Oxford or Cambridge. In Oxford, women had to obtain permission to attend the lectures, and degrees were not awarded until 1920. Cambridge had two colleges for women and allowed them to attend lectures and sit the exams, but did not allow them to graduate until 1948.  Whereas in London Ethel Louise, having graduated as a Bachelor of Science, was able to study full time as a post-graduate at Goldsmith’s College and gained her Doctorate with a written dissertation in 1908.

It would be interesting to know how her studies were financed for none of this would have been free, unless she had a scholarship. It may be that the college records might shed some light, but that is for another time.  A history of Westfield College and the history of women in the University of London can be seen at Women at Queen Mary Online: a virtual exhibition.

Her entry in the Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, states that she became a Fellow of the Linnaen Society in the same year as her DSc and describes her as a British botanist and plant anatomist who lectured at Battersea Polytechnic from 1910 to 1913. She returned to Westfield College in 1915 where she headed the department of Botany, teaching other women towards a degree, until her early death on 25th March 1918 in Falmouth, Cornwall.

She published what was probably her DSc thesis, “Seedling Structure of Certain Cactacea,” in the Annals of Botany in 1910. This was followed by an important paper on fossil botany and another after taking part in ecological expeditions. Her last publication was on the morphology and anatomy of the genus statice in its habitat at Blakeney Point. She is mentioned as collaborating in certain research techniques with a T.G.Hill, and presenting their results in papers for the journal Nature, and in the Annals of Botany and in the Linnaen Society publications.   The Biographical Dictionary states that she contributed to the knowledge of the structure of seedlings.

Benjamin Stillingfleet would have had something in common with Ethel Louise, a real ‘bluestocking’ who certainly benefited from her higher education, as did society, even if in a very narrow field of knowledge (and she was my grandfather’s second cousin).


Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, by Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie and Joy Dorothy Harvey 2000

Dictionary of British and Irish Botanists and Horticulturists, Ray Desmond, Christine Elwood. CRC Press 1994

Castle Adamant in Hampstead, A History of Westfield College 1882-1982, Janet Sondheimer, University of London 1983

Women at Queen Mary, University of London 2007

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