For the next chapter in the history of Cransford, I compare the make-up of the parish in 1861 with ten years earlier (see the last instalment here).
As noted before, the census is only one way to look at a parish. Still, it is a reasonably good representation of how the population looked on the surface – age, sex, occupation, family size and the like.
The most obvious change compared to 1851, is that by 1861 the population had started to slump, dropping from 309 to 284. This fall is not, perhaps, an enormous nosedive in the number of individuals, but a reduction of getting on for 10% was nonetheless probably felt in the community. A corresponding fall from 70 to 65 households can also be observed, along with two unoccupied houses (where before there had been none). One of these houses is a very special one, but you’ll have to wait for more on that…
And so we turn to the age profile. In 1851 this was almost even across men and women. No significant change had occurred were it came to the numbers of men and women in 1861: there were 142 women – and 142 men! Men and women were both a mean age of 25, a little younger than the mean ten years earlier. Eight babies and three residents over 80 bookended the population, both figures only a little lower than in 1851.
But were there significant changes in the population pyramid? Overall, the bottom of the pyramid was still chunky. 30% of the population fell into the age group 0-10 in 1851 and 33% in 1861. In the 11-20 group, the percentage increased by two points. However, the number of 21-30-year-olds fell from 13% to 11%, and the 31-40s from 13% to 9%. The pyramid had a dent by 1861. While it was a dent in both sexes, it was particularly prominent in the men’s column.
The total number of surnames present in the village had tumbled from 76 to 62 by 1851, rising back to 64 in 1861. Twenty-one of those surnames were held by one person each, usually an unmarried servant or agricultural labourer.
In 1861, 14 surnames were needed to cover half the village, and there were a few changes compared to a decade earlier. The names, in order of popularity, were: Chilvers, Crane, Watts, Baker, Goodchild, Jay, Manning, Mouser, Smith, Barker, Harling, Osborn, Vincent and Capon.
The Fisks, Banthorps, Reeves and Palmers of 1851 remained but in much smaller numbers, while the Balls name had disappeared. Manning, Osborn and Vincent were all unknown in the 1851 census, but the arrival of a large family of each catapulted them straight to the top of the name charts.
Which brings us nicely to the comings and goings over the preceding ten years. 58% of those present in 1851 were gone by 1861 (181 people). This is even higher than the figure for 1841 – 1851 (52%).
So where did they go? Just as before there are a few where I reserve the right to re-assess my conclusions, but here are my numbers as they stand today:
59 (at least) died. This is significantly more than the decade before.
70 (almost 40%) moved locally. Again, single women married and moved to new parishes, single men and women moved to work as dairymen and ag labs on neighbouring farms, children moved with their families to new villages where their fathers found work.
35 (ten more than my previous comparison) had moved elsewhere in the UK but to quite a variety of places. 21 were men, 14 women, the average age in 1851 was just 17, suggesting it was still younger men that were most likely to travel further.
17 still need to be pinned down with a bit more certainty!
In no particular order, here are some observations about those that travelled out-of-county.
Many of those that left remained in agricultural occupations, even in areas we would not now consider countryside, like West Ham and Harrow.
William Balls ended up at Holburn Hill Eating House, along with a few others born in the Cransford area – suggesting some kind of connection.
Leavers went all over the country. It is far to say that most went towards London, but also Surrey, Sussex and Kent as well as further afield: Shropshire, Gloucestershire, Wales.
At least two become police constables, part of a wider pattern from other surrounding villages.
All this of those that left; but we know several came into Cransford to take their places. 163, in fact. As before, it should be noted that others probably came and went between census years and are missed from the analysis altogether. It transpires my numbers don’t precisely add up – I’m working on why! (309 – 181 + 163 = 291, not 284!)
87 (53% of my 163) were under ten, so couldn’t have been in the 1851 census. This is a similar percentage to ten years before.
33 (20%) were what I have classed ‘new workers’. A third of this group were married, the others all unmarried or widows. Interestingly, all but two had left again by 1871. They were carters, ag labs, dairymaids and other domestics for the most part, but also three farmers, two carpenters, the Baptist minister and the schoolmistress. Again, the percentage is relatively similar to ten years earlier.
11 of the ‘new workers’ brought a wife with them (7%)
17 more were family members of the new workers aged over ten years old. Most of them were in their teens (at 10% this is five times the percentage ten years earlier, which might suggest the men bringing their families into the village were older than before and young men were choosing to move their new brides away or leaving before marriage?).
8 ‘existing’ Cransford men married and brought their new wives home (5%)
1 Cransford lady brought a husband to the village (quite the rarity!)
The final 6 were widowed mothers and other family members that had moved to be with their families (4%)
And so, by 1861, the population had begun to slide. It appears that those that moved in were often older than those that left. Fewer Cransford men married and brought new wives to the village – more took their wives to pastures new and plenty of others left before they even thought about marriage.
Unlike in 1851, the population was no longer quite able to sustain itself. Although large numbers of children were still being born – and perhaps more were surviving – those children weren’t, it seems, looking towards a lifetime in the local area.
By the time the 1871 census came around the population would have tumbled by another 20% – but we’ll take a look at that next time.
This past few days, I have been enjoying my first three days on annual leave and *without children* since well before lockdown. It’s been a great excuse to write some more of my book and get on with a few local history projects I’ve been tinkering with since 2018.
Without spoiling all the stories that will eventually come into print (I hope!), I thought I’d write up a little about the differences observed in the parish of Cransford through the lens of the decennial census, specifically that for 1851 vs 1841.
At first glance, the Cransford community shown in 1851 census appears similar to that recorded in 1841. The population remained almost the same – up to 309 from 303. In 1851 all houses seem to have been occupied (a total of 70 dwellings) so the population certainly wasn’t in freefall. The number of homes had risen from 61 to 70.
The age profile is astonishingly similar across men and women in 1851, perhaps reflecting the dominance of married agricultural labourers and their families compared to single itinerant labourers. The mean age for a man was 27.3, and a little younger, 26.8, for a woman. Both figures are almost identical to ten years before. There were three baby boys, and six baby girls, and the sexes were split 154 men to 155 women. On the other end of the scale, four women were over 80, and two men.
In both 1841 and 1851 it took precisely 13 surnames to achieve more than half the village, many of them unchanged from 1841: Baker, Chilvers, Crane, Watts, Barker, Smith, Fisk, Goodchild and Banthorp. Mouser, Reeve, Balls and Palmer replaced Boast, Cornish, Masterson and Wightman in the latter.
Yet digging a little deeper, these stats obscure some significant changes and the beginnings of a trend. The stable size of the population hides the fact that apart from those stalwart families mentioned above, most of the community had actually come or gone in the preceding ten years – 52% (158) of those enumerated in 1841 were not still in Cransford for the 1851 census.
Although it took 13 names to cover more than half the population, the total number of surnames dropped from 76 down to 62 by 1851. The age profile had shifted in the ten years since the last census, too.
Starting with the smallest, a whopping 30% of the population was ten years old or younger in 1851, up 5% on the decade before. That’s a total of 46 boys and 48 girls.
Conversely, the proportion of teenagers dropped substantially over the decade. Those aged 11-20 made up just over a quarter of the population (26%) in 1841. Ten years later it was down to only 18%, but this is magnified further when looking just at the males in the enumerator’s book: a drop from 28% to 16%. Something – or rather many things – must have been pushing young men away from Cransford and/or pulling them towards somewhere else. The rest of the population pyramid remained broadly the same.
The first question, then, is where the 52% (158) went? You could guess some of the answers, and you would probably be correct. Here’s what my research so far suggests… (I admit I do not have solid conclusions for every single individual yet, so take this with a pinch of salt for now).
37 of those that ‘left’ appear to have died (as you might guess, mostly the oldest and the youngest).
80 (just over half) had moved locally; single women married and moved to their new husband’s parish, single men and women moved to work on neighbouring farms or couples took their families to different, predominantly rural, parishes. The average age of women that moved locally was just 18 in 1841 (20 for men).
25 moved further afield, most of them single men who were in their teens in 1841.
16 remain on my ‘to be confirmed’ list!
Of those that moved beyond Suffolk, Essex and London proved to be a draw for many, taking men to be boot makers, drapers, coffee house servants, sawyers and meat vendors. However, the young men of Cransford also dispersed across the country as wheelwrights, railway workers, soldiers and agricultural workers. Of the nine women that moved further afield, five moved with their husband or father, and the four remaining all become domestic servants (or in one case a barmaid) in London.
And so we turn to where the 164 ‘new’ people came from to replace the outward migration of those above. It should be noted that others probably came and went between census years and are missed from the analysis altogether.
89 (54%) were under ten, so couldn’t have been in the 1841 census. They were, in effect, the new generation growing into the gaps left by those ahead of them.
33 (20%) were what I have classed ‘new workers’, mostly agricultural labourers and domestic servants, but also the new Rector, a curate, and two blacksmiths. At least six of this group were Cransford-born and had perhaps been living-in on another farm a decade earlier before coming back home to start their married lives when jobs and cottages permitted. This group are almost universal local even if not born in Cransford itself. The vast majority were from parishes very close-by like Badingham, Sweffling, Great Glemham, Bruisyard and Parham.
13 of the ‘new workers’ brought a wife with them (8%)
Four newbies were family members of the new workers over ten years old (just 2% – a small number suggesting most moved early in marriage).
13 men present in 1841 married and their new wives feature on the 1851 census (8%)
The final 12 were mothers, widowed daughters, grandchildren or other family members that had moved to be with their nearest and dearest in Cransford (7%)
It may not come as a surprise that while men married and brought their wives ‘home’ to Cransford, not a single woman appears to have married and whisked a husband back to her home village!
In 1851, the population was, as demonstrated, able to cope with the emigration of its youngsters. New families grew from the teenagers-turned-young-men-and-women that remained in (or returned to) the parish, or from those drawn in from surrounding villages.
Over time, even fewer people were born outside of Suffolk and living in Cransford – just ten by 1851. Included within those were the Rector and his wife, the curate and his wife, and six children, grandchildren or other relatives staying with extended family who weren’t as much immigrants as they were returning extended offspring.
The parish population was in effect self-sustaining at this point. Enough children were born and surviving to plug the gaps left by those striking out. But that was about to change.
It was in March 2017 that I first wrote about Miss Bessie Carley. She grew up in Badingham and had a varied nursing career in several English institutions before war broke out. After the declaration of war, she worked at the First Eastern in Cambridge and the 55th General in France, becoming decorated with both the Royal Red Cross (2nd Class) for service at home and, two years later, the Royal Red Cross (1st Class), for service abroad. To receive both was, and I quote, ‘pretty impressive’!
Bessie has intrigued me ever since I ‘discovered’ her, but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve been able to sit down and research her life in a little more detail. And I am so glad that I did. What follows is the story so far, but I am sure there is more to tell. I would love to hear more in the comments.
Bessie is nothing short of an inspiration. A remarkable woman, through hard work and determination, Bessie rose right up to Matron by the age of 38. She probably nursed at least one of her parents before training formally, and went on to be ‘intensely useful’ for the rest of her life, even, according to the local newspaper, working under bombardment.[i] The legacy she leaves is one of which her family (and her ‘place’, Badingham) can be very proud.
Two things happened earlier this year that reawakened my interest in Bessie after three years of spending most of my free time with my two consecutive babies. Firstly, a twitter contact was tweeting about nursing records that Bessie most likely appeared in – and it turned out that she did.[ii] Now, having a copy, I know that those records are full of moving additional details beyond her war service, including letters from her family (more on that later). I unwittingly received the documents almost one hundred years to the day since Bessie’s death.
Secondly, and almost concurrently, I received an email from a gentleman who had letters written by Bessie in his possession. Bessie had nursed Chris Payne’s grandfather, Sergeant Charlie Payne, in his final days, and had written to his family on more than one occasion. Again, these letters give us additional insight into Bessie’s life.
The next task seemed to be whether we could unite all of these records with Bessie’s modern-day family, and, potentially, find a photograph of her to put a face to her name.
I am delighted to say that we were able to do just that, and so much more. Bessie’s Great Nephew has kindly allowed me to share images of some family archives. So, without further ado, here she is:
Please note these photographs are shared here with the permission of Bessie’s family. Please do not re-use them without speaking to them first; I am happy to pass on your details to them.
Bessie’s early life
Bessie was the seventh child of eleven registered by her parents John Carley and Jane Adeline Carley (nee Mills; her first names have, on occasion, been noted as Jeanie and Adelaide).[iii] Bessie was born at the Red House in Badingham, the family farm, which amounted to 172 acres in 1881.[iv] Three elder sisters and an elder brother were living at the time of her birth; two more brothers had sadly died young.[v] Three additional brothers and a sister would arrive after Bessie came along and before the next census.[vi]
Seven of the surviving nine Carley children were still at the Red House in 1891 with their parents and two servants, one of whom was 16-year-old Elizabeth Baldry, my Great Great Grandmother.[vii] Eldest sister Ellen was a teacher (still at home) while Bessie’s eldest living brother was boarding at Framlingham College with the sons of many other local farmers.[viii] Janet, also missing, was staying with her aunt and uncle at their grocer’s shop on the High Street in Hemel Hempstead.[ix]
It was to be Bessie’s father’s last census. He died at the Red House just a few months later, on 29 January 1892, aged 53.[x] John had for many years sat on the Board of Guardians for Hoxne and ‘endeared himself to a large circle of friends by his genial nature and sterling worth’. He was important to the parish and valuable to the community, and as such his funeral received several column inches in the East Anglian Daily Times.[xi]
Interestingly for Bessie’s story, this meant that she grew up with her father involved in the treatment of the poor locally. There are other relevant clues in her father’s obituary too. We know, for example, that according to the newspaper, he had ‘for many years [been in] delicate health’ and had ‘fallen at last a victim to the prevailing epidemic’.[xii] It seems most likely that the epidemic in question was the ‘Russian’ or ‘Asiatic’ Flu pandemic, which was widely reported in the local news at the time. It came in several waves, the third occurring from approximately November 1891-June 1892.[xiii]
‘Notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, and the prevailing sickness (which prevented all the female members of his family attending the funeral) a large number of relatives and friends assembled to pay the last tribute of respect to the memory of an old friend’.[xiv] Did Bessie herself succumb? Her brother attended, so I am not sure her absence can be entirely explained by the family isolating. At the time of writing, the parallels with today’s funerals without family members in attendance are striking.
By the age of 11, therefore, Bessie had experienced the influence of a pandemic on her own family. Potentially she had played a part in nursing her father, or at least observed others doing so. And there was more to come.
On New Year’s Day, 1899, her mother sadly died too, again at the family home. ‘The deceased lady had been in somewhat delicate health for some time past, but it was not until a few days before death that she was compelled to take to her bed’.[xv] Bessie and her eight surviving siblings now found themselves without either parent, and this time around, at the age of 18, we might imagine Bessie had done more of the nursing, especially as at least one of her elder sisters had already left home.
The family at the Red House was much reduced by 1901.[xvi] It would be a very unusual circumstance to find nine siblings happily sharing a property after their parents’ death, and it was no different for the Carley family. As one might expect for the time, Richard, the eldest son, was enumerated as the head of the household, farming the land. The sister immediately before Bessie, Annie, was acting as the housekeeper, and the youngest child, Robert, was still at home, being just ten.
Where had the other children gone? Ellen was already married and had taken her younger sister, Janet, as Governess for her children in Middlesex.[xvii] Agnes, too, was a Governess, this time for the Brown family in Melton.[xviii] The boys, John and Samuel, being younger than Bessie and still of school age, were boarding at Beccles College.[xix] They would later strike out for Australia.[xx] As for Bessie, her nursing career had begun…
Bessie’s early career
Perhaps being a governess or housekeeper like her sisters wasn’t for her and nursing presented itself as a good alternative option for a single woman in want of an occupation. Perhaps she had known she wanted to be a nurse for some time. Either way, the 1901 census finds Bessie as the youngest nurse (just 20) living in at The Warneford Hospital.[xxi] The hospital opened in 1832 and closed in 1993, and records are deposited at Warwickshire County Record Office.[xxii] It was at Warneford that Bessie completed her training. She left home at a time when more and more hospitals were establishing training schools, and probably attended lectures as well as learning ‘on the job’. It may be that her work on the wards covered her training, bed and board for her first years in the profession. This photograph shows nurses on the Hitcham Ward at the hospital in the 1900s, and there are several others on the site for interested readers, although generally from after Bessie’s time.
The first image in this blog likely coincides with Bessie’s time at Warneford. The photographer was local to Leamington Spa at the turn of the century.[xxiii]
From Warneford, Bessie worked in at least two other institutions. In 1911, the census placed her as a ‘fully trained sick nurse’ living at the Nurses’ Home on Brook Street, Ipswich.[xxiv] It is unclear under what logic the staff were recorded, but Bessie was the first nurse in the list. By 1911 she had more than a decade’s experience under her belt. At the time, the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital was at Anglesea Road. Interestingly, staff records are among those held at Suffolk Record Office for the period 1881-1951 – something for another day![xxv]
First World War – home service
According to the local newspaper, before war broke out, Bessie was in charge at Dovercourt Nursing Home.[xxvi] Her service records, which amount to 77 pages, give details of her wartime career as well as providing touching connections to her family back home in Badingham, where her eldest brother and next of kin, Richard Carley, still lived at Red House Farm.[xxvii]
Her records say that Bessie joined the Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS) on 10 August, 1914, just days after Great Britain declared war on Germany. At the time she was a Sister-in-Charge and lived at the ‘Dovercourt Branch of the Ipswich Nurses Home’. There were several hospitals in Dovercourt during the First World War. It is unclear for now at precisely which one Bessie worked. The Borough of Harwich already had an Isolation Hospital and Cottage Hospital before the war, and almost immediately after war was declared it had several more including Dovercourt Military Hospital and The Women’s Suffrage Hospital. For more details of local hospitals, please see here.
After joining the TFNS, Bessie initially worked at the First Eastern General Hospital at Cambridge, incidentally where my Great Grandfather (and more than 70,000 others) received treatment. The site is now home to the University Library.
Bessie remained at the hospital for more than two years. Her first annual report in August 1915 described her as methodical, hardworking and punctual with a good deal of initiative; ‘her ward has a good tone’. All essential qualities in a Ward Sister. A year later, the same Matron, Annie Macdonald, described her as ‘self-reliant…instructs the Red Cross Workers well and has a good influence on the ward’. It seems she was able to keep her ward – and the men and staff on it – in good order.
At its peak, the hospital had 1700 beds, a cinema, post office and other recreational facilities for those well enough to bowl or box. It was, in essence, a small town within a city, but one known for its open-air wards and curative use of direct sunlight, saline baths and massage therapy (Bessie was certainly trained in the latter). Having been mobilised right at the beginning, Bessie would have seen the hospital mushroom in size over the course of ten weeks.
While she was working in Cambridge, her younger brother Samuel signed up for war service from New South Wales, Australia, where he was farming with their brother John (Jack) at Mountain Creek.[xxviii] He would later be posted to France. Her sister Annie, perhaps inspired by Bessie, volunteered with the Red Cross and took on general duties at Easton Park Hospital for a couple of years, just a few miles south of Badingham. The 27-bedroom mansion on the Easton Park estate had been turned into a Red Cross Hospital under the care of Mary (Dowager) Duchess of Hamilton.
Although the First Eastern Hospital was in England, conditions during those first years were not easy. Being open to the elements brought challenges from storms, floods and pests, and the number of wounded being admitted was often overwhelming. It was difficult to blackout the wards and the fear of Zeppelin raids was real. Although commercially-produced postcards were posed showing the staff and patients looking relaxed, they disguised the true nature of nursing under canvas with patients often in great pain and the constant rotation of new admissions. Trained staff were in short supply, and Bessie would have worked on her feet for long hours, probably collapsing into bed exhausted at the end of each shift, ready to do it all again a few hours later.
In March 1917, Bessie was decorated by the King at Buckingham Palace with the Royal Red Cross.[xxix] I wrote in my original blog post that, according to the local newspaper, her portrait appeared in the Sketch and the Mail. Having now performed a search of the Sketch myself and asked a friend to check her access to the Mail archive I remain empty-handed, but I will keep looking.[xxx]
The Sketch features several high-society women who selflessly toiled in hospitals during the First World War. Bessie, of course, was not a society lady. She had reached her rank not through her position in the prevailing class structure but through hard slog: scrubbing and caring and cleaning and instructing. While she had been born the daughter of a farmer (and employer) rather than an agricultural labourer, I am sure she was no stranger to hard work, and she was deserving of the honour.
This photograph of Bessie, supplied by her Great Nephew, may well have been taken at the First Eastern:
First World War – service abroad
Shortly after receiving her RRC (2nd Class), Bessie was promoted from Sister to Assistant Matron of the Eastern General Hospital (No. 55 General) for Active Service overseas.[xxxi] The request was agreed and confirmed in May 1917 with her appointment dating officially from 30 April. According to a memo in her record, the hospital was to have 1040 beds. Bessie was among many staff transferred from the Cambridge hospital to France, leaving the base in Blighty ‘acutely short-staffed’.[xxxii]
No. 55 General was a Base Hospital at Wimereux, a coastal town three miles north of Boulogne. With today’s transport, it is about 90 minutes from Ypres (to the east) and Arras (to the south-east). During the First World War, Wimereux was a critical hospital centre, and it is while Bessie was there that she nursed Chris Payne’s grandfather, Charlie.
On 17 July 1917, a couple of months after she arrived, Bessie’s Report Form (part of her service record) says that she had good health, good conduct and excellent character; ‘capable, energetic, hardworking. Has plenty of common-sense and is a great help in my work’ remarked her Matron, still Annie Macdonald.
At home, Bessie’s elder sister Annie, who still lived at the Red House, Badingham, died on 29 August.[xxxiv]She was only about a year older than Bessie. Both Bessie and Samuel were noted as being on active service in the funeral report published in the Framlingham Weekly News, Bessie being ‘unable to reach home in time for the funeral’ from ‘a base hospital in France’.[xxxv]
There must be a great deal more to learn about No. 55 (or ‘the 55th’). Bessie’s service was unbroken, and we know from her record that in January 1919 she was recommended for promotion once again. Her Matron, still Annie Macdonald, who had worked with Bessie from October 1915, first as Sister and later as Assistant Matron, had this to say when recommending her for promotion:
‘She is a well-trained woman interested in all branches of nursing, a good administrator and teacher. She quickly sees important points and her judgement can be relied on. Very even-tempered, tactful, energetic and hardworking, her one desire is to be useful. I find her the greatest help in my work.’
In response, the Commanding Officer, Lt Col. Rodink, noted ‘I thoroughly agree with all Matron has said’! Col. Thurston concurred, and the Matron-in-Chief, Emma McCarthy,[xxxvi] described her as ‘A most capable woman, kind, conscientious, reliable and a loyal supporter…came to France 30 April 17’.
It was during her last months at No. 55 that Bessie nursed Charlie Payne, otherwise Sergeant C. F. Payne 235435 of the 2/5 West Ridings.[xxxvii] Charlie was admitted to the hospital dangerously ill with broncho-pneumonia on 6 February 1919.[xxxviii] The hospital was in the midst of the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic that swept around the globe in waves from 1918-1920, ultimately killing more people than the war itself. Now a trained nurse under pandemic conditions, it must have brought back pangs of the influenza that most likely killed her father. (Writing about previous pandemics in the midst of another is not lost on me; I do wonder what Bessie might have thought about the response to Covid-19.)
It is a particular privilege to read letters penned in a subject’s own hand. Through a handwritten message, there is a tangible connection to the past and the people that existed in it. For many that have left us no such link exists because it has not survived (or never existed in the first place), but with Bessie, we are lucky. Bessie wrote to Sergeant Payne’s wife twice, and these letters have been treasured by the Payne family ever since, first by Charlie’s wife Ida – who stored them in a black Victorian hatbox – and later by Chris’ father and finally Chris himself.
According to Bessie’s first letter, of 9 February, Charlie’s condition on admission was ‘most serious…we thought some of it might be due to the journey during this severe weather and that quilts[xxxix] of warmth and treatment would perhaps make a great difference but I regret to say so far he has failed to respond to any treatment’.
She goes on, ‘his breathing still remains as laboured and…his pulse is very feeble. I am so sorry to have to send you this sad report realising all too well the anxious time you will have been passing through ever since he came out here…I can assure you that everything possible will be done for his comfort and towards his recovery – but the next week or so will be most critical and until that is past I dare not give you any definite hope.’
Sadly, Bessie was to write again ten days later with the worst news. ‘It is indeed with sadness that I write to tell you in spite of all possible care and skill your poor husband got gradually weaker and weaker until he passed into his well earned rest at 4.45 pm today. I am sorry to say that I have no message or last wish for you. He slept the greater part of the time and when awake his breathing was too distressed for us to worry him or encourage him to talk’.
The last paragraphs of the letter deal with how any of his ‘treasures’ will be returned (‘we are compelled to send these through official channels’) and the statement that ‘when the first great sorrow is over you will always have the proud satisfaction of knowing that he made the Supreme Sacrifice for his country and as one of the Great War Heroes his name will ever remain sacred’.
I find myself wondering just how many times Bessie wrote to bereaved families and how she felt writing that last. There was not much Bessie would not have seen in a wartime hospital. She was surrounded by the sick and injured, dealing with death every day. Her letters come across to me as very professional. She would have been schooled to be so and was, after all, operating within a highly regimented and hierarchical nursing environment. Her letters are also enduringly honest. She does not sugarcoat or skirt around there being ‘no message or last wish’, but, ultimately, her letters are kind and, I think, genuinely sympathetic and caring.
My Mum, herself a farmer’s daughter and life-long nurse, once told me to be ‘firm but kind’. Bessie seems to embody that sentiment in these letters. She writes the truth, with no truck for embellishment, but in a way that hopefully would become a lasting comfort to his widow and the four young sons he left behind in England.
In his emails to me, Chris describes how he discovered the letters, along with some from his grandfather written earlier, among his family’s archives. He believes Charlie’s wife Ida must have found them of value because she always kept hold of them. Chris is writing about his grandfather Charlie on his website and in a forthcoming book.
Please contact Chris through his website is you have any queries about the Payne family.
After Bessie’s war service
Following her recommendation, Bessie’s career might have progressed even further. However, her war was nearly over, and she came home on leave in July 1919. While back, she needed treatment for varicose veins and had an operation on the 21st of that month at the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital. It may be the case that prolonged standing during her duties was part of the reason that Bessie’s condition developed this far: a physical response to the constant hard work of being a nurse. The Medical Board reported that her condition predated her service (as far back as 1902) but answered ‘Yes’ to active service conditions having aggravated it.
Her file includes several letters written by Bessie to the Matron-in-Chief, Miss Riddell, in 1919. She seems to have been keen to get back to work as soon as she was passed fit for service again on 9 October, 1919. She wrote to Miss Riddell on that same day to say that she would await her orders, wishing to remain in the Force as long as her service was required. She had missed the original date for the second Medical Board owing to a railway strike. I rather suspect she was frustrated by this as she was champing at the bit to get back to work after six weeks’ sick leave convalescing in Badingham.
Bessie was demobilised from the TFNS on 14 October, 1919, days after the Medical Board report about surgery on her legs, although the reason given was a reduction in staffing. She had unbroken service of more than five years. There was no vacancy at any territorial unit as there was a significant reduction in staffing taking place.
Miss Riddell had already given Bessie a glowing reference to copy to prospective employers in June that year, ready for her to send wherever she wished to apply after the war. The evidence suggests that Bessie was already looking at civil posts in Spring 1919, knowing her period of war service was coming to an end. In her letter requesting a recommendation, Bessie noted that she had been advised to ‘write to the College of Nursing and also to my old training school re a future appointment as [I] shall have to continue nursing’.
Bessie wasn’t, as we have seen, a ‘society’ nurse. For her, nursing was not something to pick up and put down again after wartime, being able to fall back on an independent income. Instead, it was a vocation and a career, a salary and profession. Perhaps she might even have said nursing was her life’s purpose.
When writing to Miss Riddell, she noted that she had answered an advertisement to a post as Assistant Matron at Isleworth Infirmary. She said in a letter that she would ‘very much like this post but feel my application is too quaint – with no testimonials, photograph or anything’. She had apparently been assured that she could be released early from service rather than waiting for demobilisation if she ‘succeeded in getting anything nice’. She asked for advice ‘if you are not too frantically busy’ and wondered whether Dame Sidney Browne (Matron-in-Chief of the TFNS and later the first President of the College of Nursing) liked a personal letter ‘stating we have given her name for a reference?’
The gist of Miss Riddell’s reference is similar to statements already quoted, stressing Bessie’s good judgement, hard work and energy.
‘She is of the greatest assistance as Assistant Matron, and has been recommended for promotion to a higher rank. She is a reliable and loyal co-worker and maintains discipline. Miss Carley was awarded the Royal Red Cross, 2nd Class, in February 1917, for work in her Home Unit, and the Royal Red Cross, 1st Class, in June 1919, for excellent work and valuable service in France. She is a valuable Member of this Service.’
Sadly, not so very long after peace was declared, on 26 April 1920, Bessie died at the age of just 38, a similar age to her sister Annie, who had died in 1917. Knowing that she worked at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and Streatham Nursing Home after the war, it might have been possible that her untimely death was caused by the 1918 ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic, just as Charlie Payne’s probably was, but the records show otherwise.
A letter in her file, written on 22 May within the TFNS, says that she died from a cerebral haemorrhage; ‘a record has been made of the cheerful and willing service this member rendered to her Country’.
But it is the letter written shortly after Bessie’s death from her elder sister, Janet, that tugs at the heartstrings the most. I include it here in full, taken from the pages of Bessie’s service record.
‘Dear Miss Riddell,
Thank you for your very kind letter of sympathy. I think my dear sister’s life was one of intense usefulness – then she was so unselfish, so bright and so inspiring! Her loss leaves – for me – a blank of very great loneliness. Sometimes I feel it would perhaps have been among her wishes – to pass straight on from work here, to the wider work beyond.
With renewed thanks, very sincerely yours,
Janet had also written to the authorities a week earlier, bearing the news of his sister’s sudden death at Guy’s Hospital. She said that she died from a cerebral haemorrhage caused by a cerebral tumour that was found to be forming. At the time of her letter, Bessie had received the RRC (2nd Class), but the 1st Class was still due to her, and Janet enquired about other medals that may not yet have been issued, viz; the Victory, Allies and Territorial medals.
The Framlingham Weekly News ran an article following Bessie’s death entitled ‘Badingham Family’s Sorrow. Death of Miss Bessie Carley at the Zenith of her career’.[xl]
The piece tells us a little more about her ‘splendid war nursing career’ and recounts that she had recently been appointed Matron at the Streatham Hill Nursing Home. It was there that she had suddenly been taken ill on a Sunday evening, after which she had been taken to Guy’s Hospital where she was seen by ‘a Harley Street Specialist’.
‘While on duty in France Miss Carley was frequently in the danger zone and was in one of the hospitals at the time of their bombardment by the enemy. She escaped uninjured while the victims of the enemy’s wrath lay around her, but she suffered for a considerable time from shock. After being demobilised in Autumn last she joined the staff of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and just prior to commencing her new duties at Streatham early in April she spent a few days’ holiday at home’.[xli]
The article goes on to detail the attendees at her funeral, among whom was Miss Annie Macdonald, her wartime Matron, who by then was Matron of the Suffolk Convalescent Home. There are no details about the bombardment and how it affected Bessie’s mental and physical health in her service record, but perhaps somebody reading can tell us more about what happened at No. 55 General Hospital.
Bessie now lies under a CWGC headstone in Badingham churchyard. Just over 100 years have passed since her funeral, and I am glad to have brought some more of her story to light for future researchers; I know I am by no means the only one to have become interested in her story (and indeed those of her colleagues).
Having nursed thousands of patients and instructed many a trainee, Bessie must have left her mark on a very many lives. I wonder whether, when she was writing her letters to soldiers’ widows, she ever thought that she might one day be considered to be among the ‘Great War Heroes’ of which she wrote? I suspect not. My humble opinion is that she believed she was doing her duty by being useful, and her role was to be so ‘unselfish, bright and inspiring’.
History and readers can judge, but having delved into her records, I would say that Bessie was no less a hero than anybody else working bravely in those hospitals, and a hero of whom Badingham can be proud to lay claim.
[i]Framlingham Weekly News. Saturday, 1 May 1920. p2.
[ii] War Office. WO 399/10280: Carley, Bessie. 1914-1920. WO 399 – War Office: Directorate of Army Medical Services and Territorial Force: Nursing Service Records, First World War. National Archives, Kew. I regularly refer back to this key record set when I refer to her ‘service record’ or ‘file’.
[iii] Most frequently, these variations occur in local newspapers. GRO and census records tend to be under ‘Jane Adeline’.
[iv] 1881 Census, England and Wales. Badingham, Suffolk. RG 11, ED 2, Piece 1858, Page 1.
[v] By GRO entries: John Carley (1875-1876) and Samuel Green Carley (1876-1880), both names were reused for later sons. Please contact me for further references.
[vi] Happy to share these details but I have not referenced all births and deaths of family members here.
[vii] 1891 Census, England and Wales. Badingham, Suffolk. RG 12, ED 2, Piece 1461, Page 1.
[viii] 1891 Census, England and Wales. Framlingham, Suffolk. RG 12, ED Framlingham College, Piece 1479, Page 7.
[ix] 1891 Census, England and Wales. Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire. RG 12, ED 3, Piece 1124, Page 1.
[x]Framlingham Weekly News. Saturday, 6 February 1892. p4.
[xi]East Anglian Daily Times. Monday, 8 February 1892. p5.
[xiii] Opinions differ on the number of waves. John’s death certificate has not yet been ordered to confirm this cause of death so we are relying on the newspaper here. Ideally, his death certificate should be ordered for clarity.
[xxiv] 1911 Census, England and Wales. Ipswich, Suffolk. RG 14, ED 15, Piece 10813, Page 1. [Note, this record is not indexed on Ancestry. You can browse to it or search for Bessie on TheGenealogist instead.]
[xxvi]Framlingham Weekly News. Saturday, 1 May 1920. p2.
[xxvii] War Office. WO 399/10280: Carley, Bessie. 1914-1920. WO 399 – War Office: Directorate of Army Medical Services and Territorial Force: Nursing Service Records, First World War. National Archives, Kew.
[xxviii] Australia, WWI Service Records. Carley, Samuel Green. 1914-1920. SN 6481. Available online: ancestry.co.uk
[xxix]Framlingham Weekly News. Saturday, 10 March 1917. p4.
[xxx] It should be noted that what the Framlingham Weekly News published cannot always be backed up. Although the gist of the reporting is correct, the paper is liable to change the spelling of names or alter minor details, either introducing a variant/error, or perhaps reporting one that was passed to them or something that in the end might not have happened. An example is refering to Bessie as being attached to Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service rather than the TNFS. As always with newspapers, read with a pinch of salt!
[xxxi] War Office. WO 399/10280: Carley, Bessie. 1914-1920. WO 399 – War Office: Directorate of Army Medical Services and Territorial Force: Nursing Service Records, First World War. National Archives, Kew.
[xxxiv] Again, a death certificate should be ordered here. There is no clue as to the cause of Annie’s death in the local newspaper or note about whether it was sudden or otherwise. We know that she worked as a VAD at Easton only until 1916, but not why she left.
[xxxv]Framlingham Weekly News. Saturday, 8 September 1917. p4.
A challenge kicks off the first blog post here this year (sorry I’ve been away…toddlers, who’d have ’em?).
I recently purchased this postcard, no obvious copyright, but a lovely clear title of “Badingham Mens’ Club Outing 1938” (sic).
What luck: there is an article in the Diss Express on Friday, 8 July that year describing the club’s annual outing:
MEN’S CLUB OUTING
Members of the Badingham Men’s Club held their annual outing on Saturday when close on 40 journeyed by road to Great Yarmouth. Messrs. J. Thrower and E. Dearing (hon. secretary and treasurer of the club) were responsible for the capital arrangements and an enjoyable time was spent.
Diss Express, Friday 8 July 1938, Page 3, Column 3.
So, readers, the challenge is this: can you put names to faces? Please comment below if you think so. It may be that some of these men did not return after the war and there could be families out there that would love to see this picture.
A list of men in the 1939 Register could be useful here so I shall revisit on a future occasion. For now, I have reason to believe that the men noted in the Diss Express article were John Thrower, born 27 September 1897, married to Jennie and gardener at the Old Rectory; and Ernest Dearing, born 21 June 1910, married to Florence and working as a farm horseman. Both were noted as ARP Wardens in the Register (ED TXAD, RD Blyth, RD&SD 216-1).
I daresay some of them are related to me – but which ones?
On 11 May, 1867, Mr John Etridge died in Badingham after a ‘long and painful affliction’. The Framlingham Weekly News reported his death on 18 May following. He was in the ’61st year of his age’.
The Suffolk Chronicle of the same date also carried a death announcement, noting that Mr Etridge was a pianoforte-maker, late of Euston Square, and respected by all who knew him.
The 1851 census finds John, transcribed as Etheridge in the enumeration book, at Wellesley Street, St Pancras. He was a 42 year old widower living with James Amis, a carpenter, John Addison, a French polisher, and Harriett Thompson, of no recorded occupation. James had been born in Middlesex, but the others were from ‘Windham, Norfolk’ and Woodbridge, Suffolk. John Etridge’s birthplace is given as Badingham, suggesting he left his home for London before returning at the end of his life. (1851 Census; St Pancras, Middlesex; HO107/1496)
Ten years earlier, he had been on the same street, and indeed ten years later, John Etheridge (sic) was still lodging there, although the makeup of the household changed over time. (1861 Census; Somers Town, St Pancras, Middlesex; ED 5, Page 44).
John was buried at St John the Baptist, as were many of his siblings and his parents.
Suffolk Record Office have been busy digitising their original will collections and making them available for download at £6 from www.suffolkarchives.co.uk. See my blog post here.
Where Badingham is concerned, to date, images available cover the wills of 33 people described as being ‘of Badingham’ in the index. These wills are dated between 1712 and 1766 and come from the Archdeaconry of Suffolk collections.
As explained on my personal blog, the system of ecclesiastical courts in operation prior to January 1858 meant that probate could be dealt with at various levels in a hierarchy of courts. Where Badingham was concerned, most would have been dealt with by the Archdeaconry Court of Suffolk (records at SRO), others – usually for a wealthier set, but not always – at the Consistory (Bishop’s) Court of Norwich (records at Norfolk Record Office), and others still – usually the highest in society, but again, not always! – at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (records at The National Archives). There are further complications in some cases and for some dates e.g. the Interregnum.
At the time of writing this post, Discovery includes nine Badingham wills from the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (download there or view on Ancestry) as well as two other related records. The Norfolk Record Office catalogue includes nearly 100 probate records (covering wills, inventories, admons), those from 1800-1857 should be available for free at www.norfolksources.norfolk.gov.uk.
Over time I aim to summarise probate records for Badingham residents through history in blog posts here, and transcribe a few inventories etc. Watch this space!
Mr Charles Barnes Kersey, farmer from Twin Oak Farm, died on 27 March, 1917, aged just 39. Born in Hull, his obituary in the Framlingham Weekly News stated that he had lived in the village eight years when he died (31 March 1917; Page 4).
The 1911 census showed him at home at Twin Oak Farm with his wife, Lillian, and their first daughter, also Lillian, who was just one at the time. (1911 Census; Badingham, Suffolk; ED 1; SN 141). Also in the household were his Aunt, a boarder, and a live-in servant.
By the time of his death, Charles had four young daughters (Margery, Joyce and Muriel later joined Lillian – see Birth Index; England and Wales; Hartismere RD). During his time in the village Charles and his wife had ‘made themselves deservedly popular among all classes of parishioners’. Charles was also a parish Overseer and a member of the Volunteer Force.
The Sunday after his death saw a memorial service at Badingham Church, attended by members of the Dennington and Badingham Volunteer Corps. After the service, the members filed past his grave, covered with wreaths left at his funeral the day before. (Framlingham Weekly News; 7 April 1917; Page 4; Nb initials given as ‘G R’ not ‘C B’.)
Recently published to my Norfolk/Suffolk research blog but worth a repost here due to its obvious relevance if you are researching Badingham:
Among a large selection of new titles added to the British Newspaper Archive in the last few days – the East Anglian Daily Times, one of the ‘most wanted’ newspapers for local research in this area.
The newspaper was first printed on 13 October 1874 and continues to the present day. Digitised copies amount to 2179 issues from the years 1876, 1878-81, 1884 and 1887 as of today, Saturday 11 March. Keep checking back to the link above to see progress with digitisation.
Check newsplan for details of where the newspaper is deposited outside the British Library, and for gaps in known collections.
If you are a Badingham researcher this is a great addition to local digitised newspapers, that sits alongside the Framlingham Weekly News as a key local source of accessible material on the British Newspaper Archive.
On Thursday, 8 March 1917, the School Room played host to a meeting, the purpose of which was to start a War Savings Committee and organise the planting of village gardens and allotments with potatoes and other vegetables.
The main speaker at the event was Mr T H Bryant of Laxfield who spoke at length about the privilege of aiding the war effort, the benefits that could be had by investing in War Savings Certificates, management of gardens, and the necessity of all men joining the Volunteer Force.
Mr R Carley motioned a vote of thanks to Mr Bryant, and particulars of seed potatoes were then given. Mr J H King [John King, Wood Farm] was made honorary secretary and Mr R Carley [Richard Carley, The Red House] honorary treasurer. (Framlingham Weekly News; 10 March 1917; Page 4).
On 3 March 1917, Miss Bessie Carley was decorated with the Royal Red Cross (2nd Class) by the King at Buckingham Palace in recognition of her work as a hospital nurse during the war.
Sister Carley was attached to Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and portraits of her reportedly appeared in the Sketch and Mail. (Framlingham Weekly News; 10 March 1917; Page 4).
Also honoured was Miss Ada Smith, of High House, Parham.
Later, in 1919, she further received the Royal Red Cross, 1st Class.
On 26 April 1920, at the age of 38, Assistant Matron Bessie Carley, RRC [Royal Red Cross], died at Guy’s Hospital after a brief illness, never regaining consciousness after being taken ill. She lies under a CWGC headstone in the churchyard at Badingham, her name recently added to the war memorial. (Framlingham Weekly News; 1 May 1920; Page 2).
The local news recorded her family’s sorrow, losing her at the ‘Zenith of her career’. Bessie had trained at Warneford Hospital, Warwickshire and was in charge of Dovercourt Nursing Home before war broke out. She subsequently saw active service in France after a time at the 1st Eastern Hospital in Cambridge. She was apparently frequently in the danger zone and even under bombardment. After the war she went to work at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital before moving to Streatham Hill Nursing Home as Matron.
Her funeral took place at Badingham Church on 1 May 1920 and was attended by a very many people. The Carley family were of course well known locally and were chief mourners. Also in attendance were people from villages all around, as well as former colleagues, one of whom, Miss Macdonald, from the Suffolk Convalescent Home, had been with her in France. (Framlingham Weekly News; 1 May 1920; Page 2).
Note: many further records of Bessie Carley, who was born in Badingham in 1881, can be found at the National Archives.