England, Genealogy

A Moody Chef

My Uncle was born second to the eldest daughter in a family of 11 in Cornwall, England.

My Dad never spoke of him, and I had no idea of his existence until I started to research the family tree, adding the family and my unknown Uncle.

Who was he? All I had was the fact he was born in 1909.

My parents divorced when I was seven years old, and I had no contact with Dad’s side of the family after that event. However, my cousins, whom I met about eight years ago, were none the wiser although cousin Diane did speak of a family argument and the eldest son leaving the family home never to return or to be heard of again. EVER!

It was still a shocking event in the family.

What that argument was about I will never know. Many of the other children were not even born when he left. Nobody seems to have any photographs of him, either.

After researching a few sites, I found out he was married at 21.  I cannot find any children yet, but Uncle  died on the 13th of June, 1940 at age 30.

I was shocked to find he had died so young. Immediately, because it was the beginning of WW2 in England, I assumed he died in the Blitz, as so many in that area of London had, and his death certificate states he died in Pimlico which I knew was, like many other areas of London, badly bombed.

When I retired, I took the time to find out the reason he died so young. I decided to purchase his death certificate. When it arrived, it stated he had died of coal gas poisoning.

Thinking again of the war my first thought was he had died of gas poisoning. How awful! Then common sense prevailed. Of course not! Gas poisoning only happened in WWI, so I took a few deep breaths, and re-read the death verdict.

‘Coal Gas Poisoning; Did kill himself while of unsound mind’  Certificate received from WB Purchase Coroner for the County of London. Inquest held 17th June 1940.

Ah, so he had actually gassed himself poor Uncle! What on earth made him do it?

Gas was and still is, a common source of heat in England. Most homes including ours had gas fires. The gas then was coal gas, a very dangerous substance. You turned the tap on let the gas flow, and then lit it whereupon there was a loud POP! My Mum was always nervous about lighting it.

You had to be very careful that the fire, when the gas ran out, was turned off before you ‘fed’ the gas meter with shillings to re-establish the gas flow. Otherwise, you had odourless colourless gas flowing into your home and not realising it. Once a month the ‘gas man’ would arrive open and empty the meter and count the coins at the kitchen table. Depending on the amount of gas used, we would usually get a rebate of coins which were then fed back into the gas meter.

Photo Credit: Pat Cryer, with permission and thanks.

Committing suicide with a gas fire was easy, you just turned it on and did not light it. People accidentally died after forgetting to turn the tap of the gas flow off and feeding the meter, thus gassing themselves. Later in the 1950s a safety tap was added.

Because Uncle’s death was unusual a post mortem had to be conducted.

I reasoned that if he committed suicide, then there was a coroner’s report, which would be reported in a local newspaper. After hours of researching the newspapers of the area, I found what I was looking for.

Because this site is a subscription site, I only had access to this page and the text, so I had to re-write the copy [1]

A MOODY CHEF

A Pimlico Tragedy

The Westminster coroner (Mr. Purchase) held an inquiry at the Horseferry Road.

Coroner’s Court Monday into the death of […..]  (30) a chef, 79 Cambridge-street, Pimlico, who was found gassed there.

On Thursday morning. William McColl, 8 Rugby-street said he was a friend of the deceased. “He was in good health,” said witness. ‘and was in work. He was very moody.

Whenever I asked him what was the matter he would say’ Don’t take any take notice of me. I am a funny guy’

He had never said that would take his life and did not look the sort who might. He was in no trouble of any kind.

Faustina Alvarez. 79 Cambridge-street Pimlico said deceased had lodged there for three months.

On Wednesday night last week, he put threepence in the gas. The next morning witness’s wife got worried about him and witness went upstairs and knocked at the deceased’s door. There was no answer.

On opening the door witness saw deceased lying the floor by the gas ring.

PC. Elliott, 4138. who was called, said he saw the deceased lying on the floor with his head resting on a gas ring. He was dead.

The gas tap was turned on, but the supply had been exhausted. Dr. M. Hains, who made a postmortem examination, said the death was due to asphyxiation from coal gas poisoning.

Herbert Rehm. chairman of Rhem Brothers.Ltd., said the firm had eight licensed restaurants in London, […]  was employed at a branch at Buckingham Palace-road.

He was a very efficient employee, but very moody. The coroner said it seemed that in one of his moods, the deceased took his life. He recorded a verdict that the deceased took his life whilst of unsound mind.

When I was told by my cousin Diane, that the family never heard from him again after the death certificate arrived, I let them know of the circumstances of his death and we realised the reason nobody in the family had ever heard from him again. We cousins were sad for him.

‘Depression’ was not a word used in those days but obviously, that is what he suffered from.

One day, I hope to find if there were any children and so, like any genealogist who hits a brick wall, I keep searching.

Sources:

[1] Whether you are a researcher, historian or you simply want to know more about Britain’s history, take this opportunity to search The British Newspaper Archive – a vast treasure trove of historical newspapers from your own home.

Source: A Moody Chef | Chelsea News and General Advertiser | Friday 21 June 1940 | British Newspaper Archive

(2) Gas Meter Photographed in Blaise Castle Museum  https://www.1900s.org.uk/1940s50s-heating-gas.htm

With many thanks to Pat Cryer, whose website https://www.1900s.org.uk is a valuable source of information on the social life of wartime Britain. Pat allowed her photo of an old gas fire, similar to the one in the story, to be used. Thank you, Pat.

 

Genealogy

The Huguenot of England Part 1

The Huguenot Cross.

A window at Canterbury Cathedral England where Huguenot descendants still worship every Sunday, in French.

‘Huguenot’ What does that mean to you? For me, living in Quebec, Canada it is a part of Quebec and France’s history but did you know that England also has a vast amount of history about Huguenot? I was amazed to learn that!

After I recently read a short article about English Huguenot, it made me want to find out how and why they ended up in England.

The Edict of Nantes (french: édit de Nantes), signed in April 1598 by King Henry IV of France, granted the Calvinist Protestants of France (also known as Huguenots) substantial rights in the nation, which was still considered essentially Catholic at the time.

The Huguenot were Protestants in a largely Catholic populated country and after Louis XIV cancelled their civil rights granted to them by the ‘Edict of Nantes’ in 1685, about 50,000 fled France across the English Channel.¹

Once in England, they spread out not only to London but to 20 towns from Canterbury to Norwich, Plymouth to Rochester. As time went on, many of them drifted towards the Church of England and names became anglicized. Ferret became Ferry and Fouache became Fash most often due to mistakes made by English clerks!

In the 1600’s, Huguenot in England was called Journeymen journéee – ‘day’ in French – because they were, yes! paid daily. Journeyman is a word still in use in England today. Huguenot homes included a feature that marked a journeyman weaver home or a ‘sign’ such as the one below.

This Spindle is the Sign of A Silk Weaver On A Huguenot House in Spitalfields, London England

They set about settling in and transformed their homes to suit the valuable silk trade. They enlarged the windows in the attic to let in the maximum light for the weavers and designed a staircase positioned right by the front door to allow access to the upper floors without entering the workshop. This protected the expensive silks from dirt and soot from the streets. As the silk trade in the East End took off, they formed a community of working-class tradespeople that transformed Spitalfields into “Weaver Town”.

These talented artists brought to England many high-skilled trades. In addition to being famous for their silk weaving and beautiful fabrics, they brought to England paper-making, hat makers cabinet makers watchmakers gunsmiths goldsmiths jewellers and many more skilled trades.

By 1710, at least 5 percent of the population of London – then around 500,000 – were French Protestants. In the French enclaves of Spitalfields and Soho, that proportion was much higher.  London soon had 23 French Protestant churches. Within a few years, a society totally unacquainted with mass migration had given a home to the equivalent – in terms of today’s population – of 650, 000 new arrivals.

According to one estimate, one in every six Britons has some Huguenot ancestry. Some famous Huguenot names in England include Simon Le Bon, from the pop group Duran Duran actor Sir Laurence Olivier, author Daphne Du Maurier and Samuel Courtauld (1793 – 1881) an English industrialist who developed his family firm Courtaulds to become one of the leading names in the textile business in Britain.²

Today, in the lively East End area of London, there is an area known as Spitalfields. Home to artists, creative fashions and food, Spitalfields is well known for its history of silk weavers. Fournier Street – built in the 1720’s – with its grand old Georgian terraced houses of the master weavers attracts visitors each year.³

There is a thriving Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland formed in 1885.

In Fournier Street, at number 18 the elegant home belongs to the Artist Denis Severs. He bought a dilapidated 10 room property in 1979 and used it to re-create a Huguenot home for his own pleasure. Word got around and it has now been open to the public for 35 years.

https://www.dennissevershouse.co.uk/

Huguenot Silk Weavers Houses on Fournier Street

There is still so much to write about the English Huguenot so look out for part 2.

Sources:

¹https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Nantes

²http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/refugee-week-the-huguenots-count-among-the-most-successful-of-britains-immigrants-10330066.html

³https://oldspitalfieldsmarket.com/

https://www.huguenotsociety.org.uk/

NOTE:

This link is to the ‘Huguenots – Index of Names’ within Quebec.

Posted by Genealogy Ensemble author, Jacques Gagné.

https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/03/06/848/

 

 

England, Great Britain

Visiter le Londres de Shakespeare

London in 1561.  Go see this amazing map at Agas map, university of Victoria:  it is a bird’s eyeview of the city, first printed on wooden blocks.  I heard about it on the French CBC radio show, La tête ailleurs.

 

J’écoutais La tête ailleurs le dimanche 23 février 2014 comme chaque dimanche, à la radio 95.1 fm radio-canada première.  J’ai été très intéressée lorsqu’ils ont parlé de cette carte,imprimée sur des blocs de bois

Détail de la carte d'Agas montrant Londres vers 1561
Détail de la carte d’Agas montrant Londres vers 1561     Photo : Université de Victoria

Une carte de Londres datant de 1561 permet aux internautes de visiter la ville au temps de Shakespeare grâce à Janelle Jenstad, de l’Université de Victoria, en Colombie-Britannique. Notre collaborateur Thomas Leblanc présente cette étonnante expérience dans sa chronique « Le cartographe amateur ».

Dans ses cours sur la littérature anglaise, Janelle Jenstad utilise cette carte de Londres, appeléeCivitas Londinum ou carte d’Agas, pour faire voyager ses étudiants dans les rues, les tavernes, les églises, les cafés et les théâtres du 16e siècle. Ces lieux ont presque tous disparu à la suite du grand incendie de 1666.

La carte d’Agas – Université de Victoria