Edna's Story Memories of Life in a Children's Home and in Service, in Dorset and London
Edna's Story Memories of Life in a Children's Home and in Service, in Dorset and London. By Edna Wheway, Published in 1984. ISBN: 9780904939316
I discovered a treasure trove of hidden family history stories and information in this old book I recently bought! Picked up from idle curiosity, the book contained very detailed descriptions of living in St Faith's Home for Girls,1 Mount Road, Parkstone, Poole, Dorset,1907-1919. The level of detail, combined with today's access to records online, means it's quite easy to find out more about a lot of the people who were mentioned. Not everybody is identifiable at first glance and I'm sure to be returning regularly to the book to discover who more of the people were.
The scope of this book is way beyond the life of one person, Edna Wright, as it gives insights into a children's home, the area of Parkstone and other inhabitants in the home and in the local area.
At the time of writing, I believe that Edna Wright was the daughter of William Wright and Christiana White. In the 1901 Census they were living at Palatine Road, Stoke Newington.
William Wright was a 49 year old Fish Porter, born in Brentwood Essex, while his wife Christiana (nee White) was 32 and born in Barnham, Suffolk. At the time of the Census the eldest of Edna's sisters was present, Nellie Frances Wright. She had another sister, Ruby Ethel Wright, born 1902, Hackney Registration District.
With three daughters to bring up, William Wright died in 1906, leaving his wife with three girls aged 6, 4 and 3. While the older two were accommodated among family members, Edna was sent to the Waifs and Strays organisation, who arranged for Edna to be located at St Faith's Home for Girls who took quite a few girls from London. In the 1911 Census Edna's mother has the other two girls with her, but we can only guess whether this was a short-term arrangement. Life wouldn't have been easy for them.
Christiana Wright, widow, certainly made all efforts to stay in touch with Edna, to write letters, to visit, to take her sisters to visit her, so that's lovely!
At this stage of looking into all these characters, I believe that Christiana Wright could be the one baptised in Barham, Suffolk, on 12 April 1868, having been born in 1867. Daughter of William White & Eliza Quant. She was one of many children (about a dozen) a few of whom never made it beyond infant/childhood. If you are part of the Quant family of Barnham and Suffolk, this book could be relevant to your research!
Having worked closely with the team of writers, contacting records offices, obtaining photographs of the girls at St Faith's Home, Edna Wheway died in 1984, the same year the book was published. At the time she had two children, three granddaughters and two great-grandchildren. There will, no doubt, be more now!
Thank you for writing your book Edna, I LOVED it.
For the family historian, wishing to discover more about the lives of the people on the family tree, they might have never discovered these mentions of their ancestors or wider family simply because the book was never indexed. Even one of the main characters is mentioned using the name she chose to be known by and not her full name, but she's clearly identifiable!
Below I've provided a basic index of the people mentioned in this book. Some of the mentions other people got will be small anecdotes, others include descriptions and more details.
Perhaps your ancestors were brought up in St Faith's Home under the guidance of Miss Fanny Matilda Langley and her sister Nina ....? You can discover how the Home was run and what fun they had there.
Edna Wright, Edna Mould, Edna Wheway
For starters, Edna Wheway is the name of the author, who was living at Barton on Sea in Hampshire when she approached a local history group to help her compile her memoirs, subsequently published by Word and Action (Dorset) Ltd. But this is Edna's second married name.
Edna Wright was born in 1903 and her father died in 1906. In 1907 she was taken to St Faith's Home for Girls, under the auspices of two sisters, Miss Fanny Matilda Langley and her sister Miss Nina Langley. The book covers in detail Edna's memories of arriving at the Home, daily life, school, trips, outings, their financial benefactors, what they wore, celebrations, what they ate, pets, toys and gift-giving as well as how they spent their time.
During WW1 things changed - and this time is also covered as Edna lived at St Faith's for the duration of WW1, aged 11-15 - a shock to the system as Edna became one of the older residents and had to help with the task of foraging for food, growing food and even trying to hoodwink local shops into selling it to them when there were shortages and rationing on.
These were the days when most girls expected to go into service to work until they were married - and Edna left the Home in 1919, taking up a variety of in-service jobs, first locally and then in London to be closer to her mother and sisters. A few of her employers are mentioned, she moved to Chelsea in London, so worked for some "important people", including the newly elected Mayor of London.
During a visit back to Poole she bumped into a girl, Daisy, who had lived at St Faith's, but had been three years older than her so Daisy hadn't been one of Edna's close friends, but they became friends that day and Daisy invited Edna to her home, where she met Daisy's husband and young child, Ida. Daisy's descendants might not know of this book, especially as Daisy wasn't her real name!
Edna ended up marrying Daisy's brother-in-law and becoming Edna Mould in 1927.
Although it's possible Daisy's descendants have discovered the book, anybody seeing Daisy from a wider tree perspective won't have taken the extra time of research to discover this book and its detailed contents. They might simply have "Elsie" on their tree, as the child of their grandmother's sister, or similar! Never knowing that Daisy was Elsie at all.
Edna's husband died when he was just 43, leaving her a widow with two children, aged 14/15 and in the middle of WW2. Edna got on with her life, moving to Southampton, then meeting and marrying again and moving to Barton on Sea, Hampshire, hence her final name of Edna Wheway. This second husband was an older gentleman, a widower himself who had lost a son in WW2 and she lost him, too, just 9 years after marrying.
Drawn In By Family Secrets
These type of "my memories" books tend to have quite uninspiring titles - and I'm afraid that Edna's title is just that ... it's a factual title of the content it covers, but start turning the pages and you quickly get fully absorbed by all the life events, minor and major, that she goes through.
I started off wondering, sadly, if Edna had ever met her mother and sisters again... and the book told me that not only did they visit, but they were living in London when she moved to be in-service in London, so she had a relationship with them that was carried out by letter when she was a child, with occasional visits - and then they all got together again when she moved to London.
Unfortunately, the "trail goes cold" because the information that Edna gave to the Society was very extensive and would have taken up four separate volumes, with this book being volume one. But there was only the money to publish ONE book at the time, so just this one book has been published. It ends on Edna's wedding day in 1927 when she's sitting eating cherries on Constitution Hill in Poole with her new husband, their life ahead of them, the War behind them ....
By this time I'd got the bug - and started to dig around online on family research and family history websites to try to find the names and identities of more and more of the people who I'd read about.
I couldn't put the book down, continually re-reading it and referring back to people, then trying to dig out more information!
It was through my own research that I discovered that Daisy was Elsie M Haselton at birth, marrying Victor Allen Mould in 1923. But this opened up more mystery, which I won't spell out here... but it is an intriguing twist to what happened next there. You have to remember that the children of these girls/ladies may still be living and so it's insensitive to publish what I believe to be the "what happened next" salacious gossip! You can look and draw your own conclusions.
And the man at the Old Coastguard's Hut in ~1914-1919 - he's not named, he gets a couple of mentions when they go to the beach for a treat day and have to buy a bucket of water from him for their needs of drinking water and washing water on the beach. Buckets of water were sold at ½d a bucket, which they had to carry carefully over the sand so they didn't spill their precious cargo!
The chap who drives them around when a carriage is hired for outings gets mentioned three times. He drove them to a funeral, with a description of the funeral carriage; he is mentioned again as their driver to the beach outing, with a description of the carriage, and another time in the book is described as a "sad faced man"... maybe he is on your family tree and you have no idea except what was in the Census of "carriage proprietor".
I'm itching to know what comes next... so I will, at some point, try to track down the remaining manuscripts!
How Many Girls Were at St Faith's Home for Girls?
At the time Edna went there, there were about 12 girls. They all slept in one dormitory room. Later on, during WW1, additional girls arrived and the numbers swelled to 25 girls, which was the maximum.
Miss Langley was paid 5/- a week for Edna when she arrived in 1907, which was the same price paid when Miss Langley first opened St Faith's Home in Poole in 1891. 5'- is "Five Shillings". An exact conversion to modern money is 25p, £0.25.
What School Did the Girls Attend?
All the girls at St Faith's Home went to St Peter's School in Lower Parkstone. Their walk to school is described in the book, as well as detailed information about the uniform the girls at St Faith's had to make for themselves to attend school - and information about their footwear; one of their benefactors would buy every girl a new pair of boots every year.
It's full of minutae and great detail that would be of interest to anybody whose ancestor passed through these walls!
Are These People in YOUR Family Tree?
As I read through the book I've been making a list of the people that have been mentioned. Below is an outline list of these people and if one of these is in your family tree then this book is worth a read just to see them get a mention - and to discover, too, the general way that people were living in Parkstone, Poole, during these years.
All work like this is always a "work in progress" as new record sets open up and more connections can be made. Over time, therefore, this list might be added to, updated, or improved/changed.
Staff at St Faith's Home:
- Miss Grainge, or Miss Grange. Staff, Matron. Described in the book. [p7] Was this Jane E Grange in the 1911 Census, Matron of Home/born Stepney 1861? After retiring from St Faith's Miss Grainge moved to West Kensington and kept up her contact with Edna, often inviting her to tea at her flatlet.
- Miss Dorothy. Staff, Assistant or Under Matron. Dorothy is her first name. [p7-8 and p47]
- Nellie. Staff, maid to the two sisters Langley. Edna believed Nellie had grown up in the Home. There is a short description of her on p7, where it also mentions that she adored her two bosses.
- Mrs Phillips, mother of Freda who lived at the home, applied for the job of Under Matron and was appointed in March 1919 [p69]
The Girls at St Faith's Home:
Their identities are not spelt out, there are mentions by name in passing most of the time.
- Winnie, Gwennie, Dora, Daisy, Laura, Gladys, Elsie: Other girls, no surnames given [p8] Daisy, however, is Elsie May Haselton, born in Paddington in 1900, daughter of Charles Haselton, chimney sweep, and Charlotte Haselton (who I believe died in 1903). Although Elsie's father doesn't appear to have died for many years, I can see why she was either not told he was still alive, or chose to re-invent her history.
- Louie, about the same age as Edna, was her best friend [p47]. They were both the youngest at the Home for a few years.
- Titanic - two orphaned children from the Titanic disaster of 1912 went to live at St Faiths, they were not named. [p41]
- Freda Phillips. Her mother, Mrs Phillips, became the under Matron in March 1919 and Freda lived at the Home. [p69]
Benefactors, Locals, Dignitaries and Others:
- Mr & Mrs Cross, lived at a house called Crossways, Parkstone [p33] - a hilarious short piece of what happened when Edna went there "begging" for food. Sounds like a lovely lady.
- Dr Dobell - a description is given of this man - he used to give the girls a shilling every year in March in memory of his wife[p38]
- Irlam Briggs - description of house approach and fact she was deaf/used an ear trumpet. [p43]. She was one of the kind benefactors of St Faith's.
- Miss Elspie, daughter of the Sheriff of Poole, taught them singing and dancing. She lived in Mount Road. [p38 - p40]. She formed a Girl Guides Troop and became their Commander [p39]
- One of Miss Elspie's sisters was a suffragette and went to prison [p40]
- The Elspies had a dog [p39]
- Rev RE Adderly, vicar of St Peter's. [p40]
- Miss Gracie Haskett-Smith became their Lieutenant in the Guides. Edna and one other girl remained friendly with her until she died in 1963. [p41]
- Miss Llewellyn, Guides County Commissioner; the girls went to her house. [p41]
- Miss Baden Powell gave them a commendation for smartness [p41]
- The Fire Chief used to run down their road every time there was a fire shout. [p42]
- Misses Walters (two sisters in the Voluntary Aid Detachment) worked at the home during the flu epidemic. Although well to do ladies, they did cooking/cleaning and looking after the sick children. They later helped Edna Wright get her first job in service. [p46]
- The man at the coast guard's hut, Sandbanks "never be alone with him" [p51]
- Mr Swain, brake/horse driver that took them on day trips [p54] could also be the "sad faced man" mentioned on p22; he also drove them to a funeral [p38]. This Mr Swain could be George Briars Swain, described as a Carriage Proprietor in the 1911 Census, aged 38 and living at Parkstone, Poole. In the 1911 Census he was married to Mary Anne (nee Mingay) who he had married in 1904.
Sheriff of Poole: Frederick S Pridden, 1915-1916
In the book Edna referred to a "Miss Elspie" and her sisters and said their father was the Sheriff of Poole. This would be Frederick S Pridden, Sheriff of Poole 1915-1916.
Looking at the 1911 Census the family were living in Poole and consisted of:
- Frederick Swabey Pridden, aged 57, born near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.
- Ada Mary Pridden, wife, aged 51, born Woolwich, Kent
Their daughters were:
- Maud Ethel Pridden, aged 28, born Guildford, Surrey
- Elspie Gertrude Pridden, aged 24, born Guildford, Surrey
- Gwendolyn Margaret Pridden, aged 19, born Guildford Surrey.
Also living with the family was Emily Lucy Christopherson, sister in law aged 52, born Woolwich Kent and two servants: Ethel Louisa Markes and Edith Mary Lydford.
Frederick Swaby Pridden died unexpectedly of heart failure on 16 October 1916, being been found dead at his writing table, aged 66. His address at the time was Chevington Croft, Parkstone, Poole.
The full address of Chevington Croft is 6 Mount Road, Poole - making these close neighbours of St Faith's Home, which was at 1 Mount Road.
During WW1, daughter Gwendoline carried out War Work with the Red Cross from 1914-1917, based locally helping with the VAD effort, as well as at the Red Cross Annexe to Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford. Gwendoline's Red Cross records are online at http://www.redcross.org.uk - where you will see that she was also on the Hospital Ship Britannic that hit a mine on 21 November 1916, with 30 being killed. Gwendoline served in France after this.
All these events will have impacted upon the lives of Edna and the Home as these were their friends, benefactors, neighbours and part of the fabric of everyday life.
Trips, Treats and Good Times
The book describes or mentions many trips, treats and good times that the girls at the children's home enjoyed. The home was certainly one of the good ones. Trips to Sandbanks Beach at Poole were described in great detail, including Mr Swaine, the carriage proprietor, who conveyed the party to the beach and the man at the coastguard's hut.
During her time in service, Edna had many temporary jobs, as well as jobs where she stayed for up to 2½ years. Some of the employers are mentioned in the book, as well as other household staff and others.
- The Valley House, Lilliput, Sandbanks: In March 1919 Edna took up her first in-service position, working for three ladies, maiden sisters, Miss Mia, Miss Edith (became a magistrate; wasn't very pleasant when Edna had feet trouble! [p 76]) and Miss Mollie.
Edna says Miss Bottomley collected her to drive her to her new job and home (a distance of just a couple of miles). Miss Bottomley was one of her new employers as these three are the three spinster sisters, The Bottomleys: Edith Gertrude Bottomley, Mary Ada Bottomley and Maria Louisa Bottomley. These were the only next of kin of Bramley Bottomley, a major manufacturer and employer who owned and ran his father's Mill at Greenfield, Saddlemoor, Yorkshire, employing well over 300 people. Their father had run their grandfather's business, alongside his brother Edward Bottomley; when Bramley Bottomley died in 1884 he left his part of the business to the three sisters. Three years later, in 1887 there was a falling out with the uncle that ended up in the courts.
The sisters would have been about 60 years of age when Edna went to work for them. They died in 1940, 1945 and 1954, with Edith Gertrude Bramley dying last, aged 91 and still living at The Valley House in Lilliput. Probate shows Edith's estate to be worth £34,515.
- Nellie was the name of the cook; Barton was the parlour maid, she married ~1921 and left, which means there's a possibility that Barton the parlour maid was Amy R Barton who married Frederick Hillier in June qtr 1921 in the Poole Registration District.; Allen, the housemaid. [p69]. Nellie was replaced by Lavinia in ~1921 as Nellie's father was a semi-invalid so she went home to help him. Lavinia was engaged to be married, but it was broken off and she left the house.
- Mr May, the gardener, lived with his wife and two sons in the gatehouse of Valley House.
The book contains a very detailed and extensive description of the house, inside and out and the daily duties and times they were to be performed.
Edna left Valley House after 2½ years.
The most handsome man in the British Army!
Edna decided it was time to move to London, to be closer to her mother and sisters. Her next employer's household routines and some anecdotes are given in detail. There are also secrets spilled out, such as how Mrs Pike mistreated the dress of a princess that was being stored safely at her house between portrait sittings. Edna also describes events at the large summer holiday gatherings the family had at Hayling Island.
- Southwick Crescent, Paddington at the home of an Army Colonel who was abroad. Edna remembered his name as Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Ebenezer Lecky Pike. It appears to be this chap: Colonel Ebenezer John Lecky Pike, 1858-1933. Edna said of this employer that he was "described as the most handsome man in the British Army", while his wife was reputed to have "the slimmest, trimmest ankles".
In this role she joined five other staff at the house, although when the Colonel was at home his batman joined him. At the time the couple had two children, but, from online records available, I can see they did go on to have four children. She remembered one day when the Colonel was wearing bright yellow pyjamas with black cats romping on them.
- Mary was the cook in this household, she was Irish.
- Muriel was a seamstress, among other duties - and was involved in the Princess Dress Saga.
Sir Albert Gray, Lord Mayor of London 1924-1925
Edna's next job was gained through Miss Grainge's contacts. Edna worked as a house-maid when she was 19, moving to Chelsea and starting work at the beginning of November.
There are descriptions of how the staff were treated, as well as the daily household activities and chores. Edna goes into great details of the type of foods they prepared, especially at Christmas time. Edna was with the Grays when Sir Albert was elected Mayor of Chelsea, which was in 1924. Sir Albert died in 1928, aged 78, so he was about 74 when Edna was employed by Sir & Lady Gray.
- Sir Albert and Lady Gray at Catherine Lodge, Trafalgar Square, Chelsea, London - now called Chelsea Square after being renamed 10 years later.
- Mrs Sheldon was the cook. This is possibly the Alice Sheldon living with Albert & Sophie Gray and their young son Patrick in the Census of 1901. Born in Wells, Somerset and aged 29 in 1901, she will have been in her 50s when Edna worked in the household. Alice Eliza Sheldon was born in 1870 to Edwin & Anne Sheldon. Her father died in 1888.
- Emily was an under-housemaid - Edna and Emily shared a bedroom.
- Ada was the head-housemaid.
- Mr Jennings was the butler, he like a little bet on the races
- John Quick was the footman. He sometimes dated Emily.
Another website gives details of Catherine Lodge, with an image of it - where Edna worked: Catherine Lodge - with photos of the inside of the house. They also referred to Edna's book in their research as they mention her.
After 2½ years in the employ of Sir Arthur Gray, Edna chose to leave as she wanted a job where she did more of the cooking. She returned to work for the Bottomley sisters at The Valley House, a move she later regretted.
Back at Valley House, the three sisters were still in residence, as were the gardener and his wife.
- Kitty was a member of staff.
- Mary was an under-maid; a local girl she lived with her parents still.
Edna renewed her previous friendship with Gracie, from St Faith's. Edna had been back at Valley House for about 1½ years when she felt it was time to move on again - and she met her future husband.
At this point Edna became hazy on details, but she did leave Valley House, taking up a job in Farnham on a temporary basis; this was in part so she could be closer to Aldershot, where her future husband was stationed with the army.
After this she took on a number of short-term temporary jobs in the area before moving to Surrey. After this she returned to the Parkstone, Poole area, taking up a job at Mount Road, Parkstone - which will have been just a few doors away from St Faith's Home for Girls! She doesn't name these employers, but they were musicians, who sometimes played the tea-sessions at Bournemouth's Winter Gardens.
In 1927 Edna married - and her life of working in-service probably stopped ... but the book stops there.
Referred to in the book as Daisy, her real name was Elsie May Haselton. She appears to have been sent to St Faith's after the death of her mother (Charlotte Haselton) in London in 1903.
At the beginning of WW1 Daisy had only recently discovered her brother and he had visited a couple of times at St Faith's Home. When WW1 came along he joined the Bovington Tank Corps.
This would be Edwin Charles Haselton, born Paddington 1898, son of Charles Edward Haselton & Charlotte (nee Parry); he died on 9 August 1918, aged 19. Private Charles Edward Haselton, service number 96748, 15th Battalion, Tank Corps.
Edwin's death left Daisy with no relations that she knew of [p 57].
In 1926 Daisy (Elsie May Mould, nee Haselton) named her son after her deceased brother.
Do You Know More?
If you're connected to one of these people, or if one of your ancestors lived at St Faith's Home, or they lived in Parkstone at the time, or attended the same school as these girls, why not post in the comments below! Knowledge shared and connected becomes a much bigger picture once shared.
And there's more....
This is a difficult book to get hold of, having had a limited edition run in 1984, but copies are still available on Amazon UK and Amazon.com from time to time:
Edna's Story is available on Amazon.com:
E&OE. I have to state that all this is all my own work and thoughts - there is the chance that there are errors, omissions and exceptions. I might, say, find a Sally mentioned - and, from information available to me, choose the wrong Sally. That's how (poor) research unfolds and is the nature of the beast.
To research people you need to start with an idea, a clue, then research it and cross check it - and new record sets can prove you wrong. I wouldn't knowingly write something I didn't currently believe to be true, but if you discover something, then I apologise ... but if you post a comment to correct me, it might prompt somebody else to provide even more information.