Meeting Reports

Meeting Report 7 June 2018 by Susanne Young

No Place like Home

The Wharfedale Family History Group met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 7th June. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed guest speaker Peter Higginbotham whose illustrated presentation was ‘No Place like Home’: the institutions that housed Britain’s children. Children’s homes over the years have been in many different guises. One of the earliest was founded by Thomas Coram in 1739. His Foundling Hospital was London’s first home for babies whose mothers were unable to care for them. This large establishment was supported by a number of wealthy individuals and artists including William Hogarth, Handel and Charles Dickens. The Coram Charity continues to this day providing support for vulnerable children and their families. Many early orphan asylums had strict admission requirements determined by legitimacy, health, wealth and race. Entry was often determined by election or payment of a lump sum.

One of the most well-known figures in child care was Dr Thomas Barnado 1845-1905 who established Barnado’s Homes for children from 1866 following his encounters with many destitute children in London’s East End. Many homes were established including cottage home developments in the style of a village. One early Barnado’s home was the Home for Little Incurables in Bradford. The Barnado’s Charity is still well-known today continuing to provide help for vulnerable children. Perhaps less well-known is Thomas Bowman Stephenson 1839-1912 a Methodist minister who founded what were to become National Children’s Homes in 1869. Hilton Grange in Bramhope was Yorkshire’s first National Children’s Home opened in 1907. Another influential figure was Edward Rudolph 1852-1933 founder of The Waifs and Strays Society (now The Children’s Society) which ran a number of smaller homes around the country including St Chad’s Home for Delicate Girls in Headingley, established 1889. Here the girls ran a very successful cottage industry producing and selling a variety of high quality knitted stockings.

Aside from these larger organisations there were many other smaller independent institutions which cared for children such as Ilkley Orphanage for Girls (now Margaret’s Court) and Joseph Nutter’s Orphanage for Boys in Bradford. There were also a number of occupational homes such as the Sailors’ Orphan Institute of Hull established 1837 and St George’s Northern Police Orphanage in Harrogate established 1897. Various religious groups ran their own homes including the renowned Magdalene homes for ‘fallen’ women and their babies. Certified schools were established from 1862 to remove children from the influences of the work house. Other types of institution include borstals, emigration homes, industrial schools and many more.

Local authorities took over control of children’s care in 1930 and their role was extended by the Children’s Act 1948. During the course of the twentieth century there was a gradual decline in residential care for children with a growing emphasis on vulnerable children staying with or being restored to their families. Today’s remaining children’s homes mainly cater for children with special needs. Local authority children’s homes were often located in large houses such as Inglewood in Otley, Wheatley Lawns in Ben Rhydding and Hill Top House in Ilkley.

Family historians can approach organisations that still exist such as Barnado’s for information and records and photographs may be available for a fee. Many former children’s homes have become schools and may have retained historic records. County archives may also hold records for local institutions. Peter’s websites childrenshomes.org.uk and workhouses.org.uk provide lots of useful information and details of his popular publications. Finally Lynda proposed a warm vote of thanks following questions from the floor. The group’s next meeting will be a research evening 7.30 pm Thursday 5th July. Access to all the main genealogical internet sites will be available, members and visitors all welcome, refreshments provided. If the latest series of Who do you think you are? has inspired you do come along and we’ll help get you started with your research or perhaps find a way of breaking down your brick walls.

Meeting Report 3 May 2018 by Susanne Young

The Wharfedale Family History Group met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 3rd May. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed guest speaker for the evening Sue McGeever who presented her illustrated talk ‘Letters from a Faraway Laddie – from the Nidd to the Nile’.

The subject of Sue’s talk concerned her grandfather Harry Gill born Summerbridge 1858. Harry came from a family of rope and twine makers and was a lay preacher. In early 1899 he embarked upon an educational cruise aboard the steam yacht Argonaut, organised by Henry Lunn, for the princely sum of £21. Whilst he was away he wrote a series of letters to his fiancée Maggie Morton who lived with her family on the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. These letters are still in the possession of the family together with a collection of rare holiday snaps most probably taken by Harry on an early folding pocket Kodak camera. Harry addressed his letters to his Lassie and signed them from a Faraway Laddie and they provide a wonderful description of his travels, taking in many locations associated with the Bible.

After travelling to Marseilles he boarded the ship to Naples then on to Katakola in Greece from where the party visited Olympia then went overland by train to Piraeus, calling at Mycenae and Corinth along the way. The party spent time in Athens before reboarding the ship which took them to the island of Patmos and then to Jaffa (Tel Aviv). They stayed in Jerusalem visiting many Holy sites including the River Jordan where Harry experienced a full immersion baptism. He also brought home a phial of river water in anticipation of his own future children’s baptisms. The group then travelled to Alexandria, staying in Cairo and enjoying the Pyramids and the Nile. Harry was delighted by Egypt as he was by most of the places he visited with the exception of Jerusalem which he thought rather spoilt.

Departing Egypt for Malta Harry was by this time rather unwell which he blamed on sea-sickness but he was also missing home. He purchased some beautiful Maltese lace which he brought home for Maggie, who he married later that year. The couple settled in Summerbridge and had 6 children together. Harry’s letters express his delight in his journey including cold water sea baths and cricket on board ship but towards the end of his one month trip he was missing simple home cooked food.

Lynda Balmforth gave a vote of thanks and following refreshments a short AGM was held during which the existing team of committee members were re-elected for the coming year. The Group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 7 June at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when well known historian Peter Higginbotham will present his talk, No Place like Home. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.

The Wharfedale Family History Group met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 5th April. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and welcomed guest speaker Edgar Holroyd-Doveton whose presentation on the History of Education in 19th and early 20th Centuries included some excellent historic film sequences.

He explained how an eclectic mix of educational establishments existed prior to the formalisation of State Education following the Education Act of 1870 (which incidentally was known as the Forster Act after its sponsor MP William Forster 1818 – 1886 owner of Greenholme Mills and resident of Burley). Early 19th century schools were either public, grammar or charity and wealthy families educated their children at home with a tutor or governess. By mid-19th century ‘public’ schools had become elite private schools for the wealthy and grammar schools catered for the children of wealthy middle class families. There were also smaller private schools (usually run by charities), Dame schools, British & National schools, Sunday schools and Ragged Schools. Prior to 1870 however, many working class children did not attend school at all because they were working.

Public schools were originally located in rural areas and were actually ‘public’ before they developed into expensive fee paying schools for the wealthy. Such schools mainly taught literacy to boys who boarded there. Preparatory schools also developed to cater for younger wealthy boys before they went to public school. Grammar schools were usually located in towns and their original purpose was to teach Latin to the sons of middle class tradesmen and professionals. The curriculum gradually broadened to include Ancient Greek, English language and geography. These schools were fee paying like the public schools but after 1870 a number of free scholarship places were made available. Private schools were often established where there was no available grammar school and these were usually run as a business in a master’s large house. Fees for such schools restricted their availability to the wealthy.

Ragged schools (a movement begun by John Pounds 1766-1839) were established in some places to provide free education (mainly reading) to poor, destitute and often homeless children. There were 250 of these in London prior to the 1870 Act. Sunday schools were often the only available form of schooling in many places where children were taught reading and writing. Their emphasis upon religious instruction only really began after 1870. National Schools were established and run by the Church of England whilst British schools were set up in opposition by non-conformists. Both these types of school were absorbed into the State education system after 1870 and Board schools (run by an elected board) came into being to provide more school places.

Despite the 1870 Act many children, particularly in the industrial areas of West Yorkshire and Lancashire continued to work in the factories and mills, only attending school as ‘Half Timers’ until as recently as 1921. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries educational reform was resisted not only by industry owners but also by parents who needed their children’s wages in order to survive. Where available, school log books and admission registers can provide useful information for family historians.

President Stanley Merridew gave a vote of thanks following questions and comments from the audience. The Group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 3rd May at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when Sue McGeever will present her talk, Letters from a Faraway Laddie, from the Nidd to the Nile. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.

The Wharfedale Family History Group met at the Salem Church Hall on Thursday 1 February. Chairman Lynda Balmforth opened the meeting and introduced speaker Carolyn Huston, whose illustrated talk was on the subject of DNA for Family Historians.

Carolyn introduced the basic science of DNA, explaining how it is present in every human cell and how certain elements of DNA are shared with every living thing including plants, fish and birds. There is a growing interest in DNA analysis for family historians as it can be used to trace ancestral origins and ethnicity, link into one name studies, and extend family tree research. There are two main elements of DNA connected to family history: Mitochondrial DNA which traces the female ancestral line and Autosomal DNA which can be used to trace the male ancestral line. All individuals, with the exception of identical twins, carry a unique DNA pattern yet matching elements can be used to link people together (the closer the link, the closer the relationship). DNA analysis has helped illustrate the original migration of all humans from the African continent some 60000 years ago. Closer in time, it is also possible to produce a pattern of DNA ancestry relating to individual counties in the UK; for example it may show that 50% of your near ancestors (say four generations) came from Yorkshire. The further back your family goes, the smaller the percentage of shared DNA, yet it is possible to match a person to other living relatives who share a common ancestor provided their DNA is available on the same database. Haplogroups are genetic population groups of people who share a common ancestor on the female or male line.

Whilst it may be intriguing for family historians to undertake a DNA analysis it might provide much less information than you hope for as only relatively small numbers of the population are on the databases and at present there is little shared information between the companies analysing the information. It may come as a shock to discover unexpected roots or perhaps unexpected relatives. On the other hand it could possibly help break down a brick wall in your family history research. A number of different companies offer DNA testing for family history purposes and books by Professor Bryan Sykes provide useful further background information regarding DNA.

Lynda gave a vote of thanks following questions and comments from the audience. The Group’s next meeting will take place 7.30 pm on Thursday 1st March at the Salem Church Hall, Main Street, Burley when Norman Simpson will present his talk, The History of Chocolate in York. Members and non-members all welcome, refreshments provided.