1939-1944 A little girl in Paris

I was 6 years old in 1939. My father was mobilized and I stayed home with my mother and my brother who was 1 year old. We received gas masks and we were allocated a shelter because our house had no cellar. But life went on as far as I was concerned as usual… I suppose it was the time of the “phony war”!

In October I should have started school for the first time. I was not accepted due of a lack of school teachers. Only the pupils who were prepring for exams were allowed, that has been my first great disappointment. So my grandfather decided to teach me how to read, to write and to count and in October 1940, when I went to school, I was accepted in the second class!! I was very proud!

But by that time “events” had changed. The Germans had invaded Belgium and rushed to the North of France. A lot of refugees were on the roads and many were killed by Italian military planes. Rumours about behaviour of the German soldiers spread: they cut the boys’ right hand and injured the young girls. Most of the people who had family in the country left Paris. But to leave Paris we needed a car with petrol and of course we could not find petrol. May be it is owing to this fact that I am still alive. Because the day my mother got petrol we met the first German soldiers. They were 2 in a sidecar dressed with long rain coats, helmet, boots and special large glasses. They stopped in front of the Town Hall. The Germans were here in Fontenay, East side of Paris and 9 km from the dead center of the capital. We had not been bombed and we did not even see a tank or a gun. They had not cut boys’ right hands and not injured young girls but they organized restrictions: we received tickets for every thing: food, coal, clothes, shoes etc…

The food intake for girls of 7 was very poor and my cousin who was older then I taught me how to steal bread tickets at the baker’s.

My grandfather had a garden with lots of beautiful flowers. The following year all the flowers disappeared and he grew vegetables.

The winter 40/41 was terribly cold. We had a lot of snow – people skied in Fontenay and since I never saw that again – I had a pneumonia and we had no more medecine. So I was treated with cod liver oil… My mother one day had to queue 2 hours to buy 1kg of frozen turnips. That was all she had to feed the family… and the dog. I forgot the dog. It was a little dog which was abandonned and of course the pound did not exist any more so the policemen killed all wandering animals. My mother could not resist and took it home! I suppose it was on that day that she decided to open a shop. It was a greengrocer. Thus she could make some “exchanges”.

On the other hand my father bred rabbits. (I know you don’t eat rabbits, but during the siege of Paris in 1870 Parisians ate rats). The only trouble with rabbits was to feed them. So every week end we rode by bicycle to the country in order to gather grass. (I promised to myself at that time that I would never ride bicycle any more after the war).

To come back to German soldiers I have only 3 souvenirs:

1°- I saw them one day (It should be in September 41 or 42 ? ) marching past through Fontenay dressed with only swimming suits, helmet and boots and singing loudly! ( Recently when I explained this to former German soldiers they said it was surely a punishment?)

2°- Another day I was with my grandfather in the metro and as we stopped at a station German soldiers appeared suddenly inside the wagon taking rather roughly some people who were sitting there, then lining them up on the platform and they shot them. I still can hear the noise of the guns in my ears and the noise of the wagon door closing.

After that day we never again went in to Paris with my grandfather. Later on it was said that a German officer had been killed nearby. I discovered the existence a French secret army called “Resistance” who wanted to get rid of German Soldiers.

It was quite usual to see on the wall a displaying place with posters giving names of men who had been shot as hostages. One of these displays was just in front of my school.

3°- I remember also when they arrested Jewish people. (I saw them because I was behind the bow window).

One of my friends at school wore the yellow star but that was nothing compared to what happened to her family. All her family was sent to concentration camp except her father and her. Why ? I never knew and never asked her.

It is said that French policemen arrested Jews but there were some exceptions. In fact the lord mayor of the town was not obliged to transmit the order of arrestat if he had not signed allegiance to the French government of that time. This was the case of Fontenay’s lord mayor who did not transmit the order and that is why the arrest of Jews in Fontenay was the act of the German army.

My grandfather had Jewish tenants in a suburban house in Fontenay. I used to play with their son whose name was Guy Forget (exactly the same name as one of our famous tennis players). All the family disappeared one night just before the Germans raided the Jews in Fontenay. A few months later Germans came to move all their furniture, paintings, carpets, everything even the curtains!!

Time was passing with not very much to eat, nothing to heat the house and nothing to wear. We had special shoes with wooden soles. Fortunately my grandmother knew how to sew. So she could make “new” clothes out of old ones. From time to time we heard air raid sirens but we did not care. We knew it was RAF or US Air Force planes flying to Germany to bomb them! And except when we were at school we never used a shelter. On the contrary we tried very hard to see the planes which were so high in the sky.

Nevertheless one day a plane was hit by the FLAK (the German anti-aircraft guns) and it fell down in the fields not very far from our home. When we saw it coming over our house we could see very distinctly the men inside because the nose of this kind of plane was like a window. (according to Paul this was certainly a B17 Flying Fortress). The plane touched the ground but when the Germans arrived near it the men had disappeared and that day I realized again that “Resistance” existed. Sure the men had been rescued by members of this organisation.

Some French men were requisitioned to work in Germany. I had an uncle belonging to this category.

To come back to bombardments, only important railway stations and factories which worked for the German army were bombed. I remember one night, (it was the first time my father woke us up saying: “Take whatever is the most precious for you” – I took my 2 new combs!! – and we stayed near the exit ready to run to the shelter. The bombardment was directed against an entire German regiment ready to leave by train for Russia. A fortnight later when we went to gather grass (for the rabbits) pieces of rails were still stuck in the street. We never knew how many dead there were but I can remember that I was not feeling sorry at all!! It’s queer but even now I don’t feel sorry. Sure I am as barbarian as they were.

On the 6th of June 1944 when arriving at school I already noticed a special excitement. What was going on? Older girls were pleased to tell us “Allied troops landed this morning in Normandy”. That was going to be the end of the war I immediately thought.

When we entered the class room our teacher opened the blackboard and we could read the words of “La Marseillaise” and all together we started singing!

The end of the war really was approaching. The “Resistance” became more and more daring. In Fontenay we could see cars with FFI (French Internal Forces) written in white and with French flags, men with armbands and with guns where going without any fear.

In August things became very serious. The policemen had disappeared to join the Resistance. (We could recognize them because we knew them but they did not wear any longer their uniform. It was said that in Fort de Nogent (about 1,5 km from us) 300 SS tank men were about to leave. We feared they’d came down to Fontenay to join Paris. So the Resistance went up to fight. My father who was in the garden near Fort de Nogent explained to us it was very serious. He kept laying down between 2 rows of potatoe plants without being able to move. 27 resistants were killed but the German had other plans and left towards East.

Two days later we saw our first “libérateurs”. They were Canadian and they drove 3 half tracks and were looking for quinine because one of them had very bad fever. One or two days after (I don’t remember precisely) when I woke up the streets around our house were full of American soldiers. Two of them were sleeping in front of our door taking the first step of our outside stairs as a pillow. When I remember that even after 65 years I feel like crying.

One of the first thing I noted was their shoes. The German made a terrible noise when they walked and the American had shoes with rubber soles, very silent and not frightening at all.

That was the end of a 4 year nightmare for us. We could again find food. I was very happy to eat a piece of real bread just for the taste of it. It was also at that time I had my first coat made specially for me (because my clothes were only old ones coming from my cousin too small for her). My coat was made out of 2 US blankets which my mother had dyed. Unfortunately the dye did not come out of the same colour. But never mind the couturier arranged this difference very artisticly.

For those young men who came to save us (not “you” but “freedom” as it said one day to me an old American lady) the way to Berlin was still very long and I am sure painful and dangerous.

Long after the war I spoke with former German soldiers about the war… but this is another story.u

The Yawn

I sat on the bench to wait for the 185 bus. One lady sat there already and yawned. She smiled and said Sorry.

“Life is hard” I replied.

“No its not that, its because I stayed awake painting 5 pictures last night.”

“Wonderful” I replied. She fished in her brief case and pulled out a folder with her pastel works. The first was a nice design, then came a Jesus like figure holding a communion cup.

“oh no” I thought, I’m with a religious fanatic, but the bad moment passed. She showed me a portrait of a child, not outstanding. I concluded her love of painting was greater than her talent.

Sometimes I give them to my friends” she said, but then a 185 bus came over the horizon. The bus was full and I had to sit next to her.

She continued her story “Well I have to put my paper on the floor and lie down to do my drawing and it gives me a pain in my back.”

I remembered that I have a wooden easel left by the girls and unused for 15 years and asked her if she would like it. “How much would you like for it?”

“Nothing” I replied I just don’t need it and would give it to you gladly. I was doing my 2 stop journey up the hill and it was time to get off . That is my house I pointed out as we passed and she got my telephone number before I alighted.

What a yawn had led to… for years I had wished to find someone who would use the easel. I have a slight worry supposing she is grateful and offers me one of her pictures.

Davies / Patrick timeline

Thomas Davies family search

Earlier The Davies may have run B&B at Sutton house ? is this the davies that he later marries?

1821 Thomas Davies christening: 3 February 1822 Whitchurch, Shroshire, England birth: Weston, Shropshire, England. father: William Davies, mother: Elizth
1881 census: Billingsley, Shropshire, England spouse: Eliza Davies, children: Matilda Davies, Cecil Davies, Ada Lawra Davies, Lambert Davies

1859 James Patrick GRO Salford 10b 276/8 Q1
1859 (Sergeant GMP 21 Thomas st,Cheetham 1881 21 yrs old, proposed Emily Davies, Rose Hill, Moss Bank)
1889 records – James marries Emily Ester Davies Bridnorth June 1889 (GRO 6a 1145)
1893 Laura born 30 jan (GRO Q1 6c 725)
1881 Census Davies
1901 Census 5 Church St Eccles
1909 James Patrick buys Sutton house
1923 Bernard Bateman marries Laura Patrick in Barton q4 1923 8c 995
1926 Sybil born
1928 Benny born
1933 Laura leaves Sutton House,to buy 3 Haydn rd, Didcot
1935 Emily Ester Patrick dies in Barton summer 1935 (GRO 8c 603) 75 yrs old born 1860
1936 Laura bought dress shop 23 gilda brook rd Eccles later moves to park rd Pendleton – later to barnes rd bournmouth)
1939 Mr Patrick comes up to Manchester
1940 Mr Patrick died in Hope municipal hospital GRO Salford 5/11/1940. Probate finalised 22/8/41 £1994 3s 6d
1953 Park road big house sold in for approx £1600
1958 Charlie + Cheryl
1971 Laura dies 78yrs GRO Q1 7c 261 Poole

Sutton House





Sutton house and 25 Acres bought by James Patrick (retired Police Inspector) about 1909.
1933 Laura his daughter leaves Sutton house with her husband and children both born in Sutton House.
74 yr old George Breakwell ‘befriends’ James Patrick in 1935.
In 1936 Breakwells move in with Mr Patrick. In 1935 Mr Patricks wife dies.
In 1939 James is thrown out of his house with only clothes on his back.
Daughter Laura was not allowed near house and felt cheated out of her / our inheritance. Had house been ‘sold’ , ‘given’ or had the Breakwells just ‘occupied’ it and destroyed wills and deeds refusing to talk to Laura Bateman.



LAND REGISTRY – filed for first time 1 June 2006 for Rupert Bebb and others.

Deeds constructed but only start transactions in 1936 – no mention of previous owner ie Mr Patrick and Laura bateman (daughter). Deeds possibly ‘merged’ with other property called “sutton farm” which WAS rented by Rupert Bebb’s mother in law who died in 1935. Mortgage by George and wife relates to Sutton house farm! BUT no such property exists!!
The epitome of title shows ownership jumping from George Breakwell (dad) to daughter and possibly back again!

In 1962 some woodland was sold by Noch Deightons Auctioneers Bridgnorth ( 01746 762666 ) to Rupert Bebb current occupant probably acting for Mary Westwood and Catherine Breakwell. Robin Nettleton auctioneer of Nochs and friend and neighbour of mr Bebbs has no recollection of selling the house to Mt Bebbs.


JAMES “James Patrick of 23 Gilda Brook Rd, Eccles, Lancashire died 5/11/40 at 91 Eccles Old Rd, Eccles. Administration Manchester 22/8/41 to Laura Bateman married woman. Effects £1994 3s 6d“


EMILY “Emily Ester Patrick of 5 Church St Eccles near Manchester (wife of James Patrick) died 3 April 1935 at the Eccles & Patricroft hospital Eccles. Administration Birmingham 16 September to the said James Patrick retired Police Inspector and Laura Bateman (wife of Bernard Bateman). Effects £1679 12s 5d“

A surviving relative not involved in the ‘deception’ Jack Breakwell (born 1922) recalls gossip in village that the Breakwells are contriving to acquire Sutton House and rumour says that the deeds were set alight.


  1. Electoral register entries for associated properties
  2. Notes on epitome
  3. Land Registry extract – Sutton house
  4. Epitome of Title
  5. Map showing difference between Sutton house ( map ref 76 ) and Sutton farm ( map ref 139 )
  6. Last Will of violet bebb
  7. Letter of administration James Patrick


James Patrick born spring 1859 Salford
George Breakwell marries Jane Breakwell spring 1895 Cleobury
DAUGHTERS ( of george and jane ) –
Catherine Francis Breakwell born winter 1899 Cleobury
– Mary marjorie Breakwell born autumn 1916 Cleobury
Emily Patrick dies summer 1935 Manchester
Rupert Bebb marries Violet Mottershead summer 1936 Bridgnorth
Jane Breakwell dies summer 1944 Bridgnorth
George Breakwell possibly dies autumn 1950 Bridgnorth
Violet m Bebb dies spring 2005 Bridgnorth
South Staffordshire Building society ( later Portman B S ) probably destroyed records 7 yrs after redeemed.


Jane Breakwell of Sutton house,chelmarsh bridgnorth
Shropshire(wife of geoge Breakwell) died 24 mar 1944.
Administration Birmingham 23 October to the said
george Breakwell . Effects £1370


George Breakwell of Sutton house chelmarsh near
bridgnorth Shropshire died 22 september 1950 Probate
Birmingham 14 November to frederick Sydney Breakwell,
farmer. Effects £1020 7s 1d

Compiled by

Charles Bateman

Paleolithic cave paintings at Lascaux


A story for today which links past and present. Today I heard on France Culture a programme about Lascaux and it set me thinking.

In 1949 I was teaching history to a class of 11 year olds in Paddock House Grammar school, Oswald twistle ( the very name of the place is redolent of English History and Language.) They were eager to learn and I had something special to tell then about. It was a discovery which had been made 9 years before on 12 September but because of the war and the remoteness of Montignac it was known to very few.

I had heard of it on the radio so I started telling my class about the boys in the french countryside walking with their dog when suddenly he disappeared down a rabbit hole, it was a true story of Alice in Wonderland.

One boy enlarged the hole to try to find his dog, found himself in a small tunnel and then slid down into a cave. There was hardly any light but he came out telling the others that he had seen wonderful paintings of animals on the walls. They told their schoolmaster and that was how the world knew about Lascaux.

Seven years later in May 1956 I was travelling in the Dordogne with Tony, our friend Eric Jewesbury and Robin, then 8 months old. We visited the fabulous cave and saw the paintings made by cromagnan men.

Many other people came and the visits damaged the cave so much that they were closed to all but scientists in 1963. None of us can see them anymore, the wonder of masses of people was destroying them. Since then an exact copy of the cave of Lascaux has been built next to the real one. So now people go to this musem to see what the reality a few metres away looks like.

I do not want to draw a moral but it seems to me that Lascaux points clearly to the strange and destructive relationship modern man has with pre history.


Like many people here today I have known Eric all my life, and it is difficult to imagine the world without him. He was a man who had a real gift for friendship, and gave generously of himself to his friends. That makes it difficult for anyone person to say what he was to all of us. All the same I have been encouraged in that task by having talked during his illness, and since his death, to a number of his friends and discovered how much of our view of him we shared and how we all held him in the same affection.

My sister Caroline and I first knew him as children and he was a wonderful uncle. He stood out for us as someone who was quite different from other grown-ups. His arrival always brought a certain magic with it – almost literally given his fondness for and proficiency with conjuring tricks. I know that many others here share that experience of him and some of us have been lucky enough to have it repeated with our own children. 1 remember a lively exchange of correspondence between a murky figure in the intelligence service called Clune Rice – a cleverly encrypted form of Uncle Eric – and one of his agents called Leinad (another ingenious cypher). More recently Eric’s hospital bedside was cheered up by the tulips and assorted creatures drawn by Stephanie, which he much enjoyed showing to visitors.

I think that Eric renewed himself through successive generations of children, and his affinity for them showed that he never lost touch with the child in himself. Perhaps that is what we loved him for most.

But of course it is not the whole story. I can’t speak with first hand knowledge of his professional life, and will have to leave that to be commemorated properly elsewhere and by others. I will just say briefly that after graduating from Christ Church he qualified in medicine at Bart’s Hospital. He did a spell of postgraduate work in the United States where he was based in Philadelphia, but he travelled widely visiting among other places Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park, taking some splendid photos which he was showing us only recently.

During the war he joined the RAF Medical Section specialising in neuropsychiatry and reached the rank of Wing Commander. He did important work on flying stress among operational RAF aircrews, serving in India, the Far East and North Africa. After the war he joined the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases as a registrar, and then moved to the Royal Northern Hospital where he was a consultant neurologist for many years. I would like to quote from a letter I have received from a former colleague who writes…

And Eric maintained his professional activity long after normal retirement age with a weekly clinic at the Princess Margaret Migraine Clinic; indeed I cannot say for certain that he ever gave this up.

Eric always enjoyed the social side of professional life. A number of people have written to say what a popular member he was of the Fountain Club of Bart’s, and have particularly recalled a dinner he hosted for them at the Savile Club about five years ago. I myself remember many good dinners and concerts at the Royal College of Physicians in Regent’s Park. He also showed a fierce loyalty to the institutions he had been part of – notably Bart’s and the Royal Northern Hospital whose official history he wrote, but also going back to his earlier roots Christ Church and Charterhouse. His loyalty to Bart’s was expressed with particular passion and force when its existence came under threat from Government policies.

That doesn’t mean he was stuck in the past. I am told that at dinners of the Oxford Graduate Medical Association you would often find him talking not to his contemporaries but to the youngest person there. He showed a very wide interest in many different aspects of present-day life to which he applied the same persistent curiosity. This extended to the various forms of regular and irregular alliances. Among his papers I came across a note listing the following words:

  • Consort
  • Co-vivant
  • Sleeping partner
  • Co-mortgagee
  • Current attachment
  • Stablemate
  • Co-habitant
  • Partner

I think he was still trying to find the most suitable term.

Eric was always good company and a good host. His laughter has been described to me as “a very whole-hearted matter. He would snort and gasp and choke and have to wipe his eyes copiously. It could be quite alarming.”

The open air theatre in Regent’s Park was a favourite of his. He used to tell how, as a child, he had won a prize from Queen Mary for his display of flowers in the Park and he seems to have gravitated hack to it. I think of trips with him to the Savile and Wisley Gardens and, last September, an expedition up the river to Hampton Court (where he commented after three hours of incessant rain on how lucky we’d been with the weather). I never went with him on a fishing trip but often had a tasty reason to appreciate them.

But it was surely music which, next to his friends, was the great love of his life. As in other fields he was never content with being a spectator but was always a participant as well. This extended not only to playing the piano but also to singing with the Bart’s choir. He also took up composition quite late in life. There were no narrow limits to his range. His output includes a recording of his own version of “Susannah’s squeaky shoes” (with suitably edited words) which was much appreciated by the young person to whom it was dedicated. I also remember going with him not long ago to “Five Guys Named Moe”, a musical with a lot of audience participation in which he joined enthusiastically.

His musical activity shows one of his strongest qualities which was never to stand still or stop learning. It somehow seems fitting that the fall which eventually proved fatal to him should have happened when he was leaving his weekly music class. Eric’s music teacher, Mike Hughes (who was sorry he could not be here today) has told me that he was always looking forward, always looking for something new. Eric was especially touched by the good wishes he received after his accident from his fellow members of the Monday music class.

We loved him for all those things, as well as all the things I have not managed to express. We shall miss him terribly. I just want to say thank you, Uncle Eric. for everything. And I will end with some words which Eric himself selected for an earlier occasion. They are by William Penn and are inscribed over his own father’s tomb in Bristol:

“Death is but a crossing the world as friends do the seas, they live in one another still. This is the comfort of friends that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present because immortal.”

Now Sue Laurence who is Eric’s youngest goddaughter (and therefore my godsister) is going to read a passage from ‘The Wind in the Willows”.

Banking Ombudsman FORMAL RECOMMENDATION on passbook

bank ombudsman recommendation PDF version

I recommend that the complaint by MRS. S. E. COADY (“Complainant”) against MIDLAND BANK PLC (“the Bank”) be withdrawn without the payment of any money or the provision of any valuable consideration by the Bank to the Complainant.

Following the issue of an Assessment on 11th October 1993, I have received further detailed submissions from the Complainant and a response to them from the Bank. All of that further evidence has been carefully considered and the evidence previously submitted has been reconsidered in detail. Nonetheless, that has not caused me to depart from the findings in the Assessment which I now confirm and repeat below with relatively minor change.

  1. The Complainant maintained a series of current accounts at the Forest Hill, Fleet Street and Mark Lane branches (“the Forest Hill Branch”, “the Fleet street Branch”, and the Mark Lane Branch”) for many years.
  2. She has produced to me, bank statements from the 9th September 1968 until the 5th February 1969 and from the 28th March 1974 until closure of the last account at the Mark Lane Branch on 30th October 1984.
  3. She has also produced the relevant cheque stubs and the paid cheques from the earlier period.
  4. The Complainant had a deposit account with the Mark Lane Branch from about 1980 until 30th October 1984 and has produced to me all but the first page of the statements relating to it.
  5. The Complainant also had a deposit account with the Forest Hill Branch. (The Forest Hill Branch was closed on 19 July 1991 and all accounts were transferred to Sydenham Branch). However, that deposit account (“the disputed account”) had been opened as long ago as 1971 at the Forest Hill Branch. The last entry in the passbook (“the passbook”) for the disputed account, which is still held by the Complainant, is 13th August 1973.
  6. From 1971 to 1973 the Complainant was living in Kuwait with her late husband. However, she was at their London address from July to September 1973 with their children.
  7. Activity is apparent on the disputed account from 9th July 1973 to 13th August 1973.
  8. Despite the passbook being in the Bank’s possession on several occasions, as evidenced by the entries mentioned in the above paragraph, no opportunity was taken by it to note in it the interest which must have accrued between 19th July 1971 and 13th August 1973. __
  9. In 1975 the Complainant commenced employment with H.M. customs & Excise (“C. & E.”).
  10. The Complainant’s husband, a doctor, was tragically drowned in October 1975. Thereafter, the Complainant concentrated primarily on bringing up and completing the education of their five children.
  11. Whilst the Complainant was employed by C. & E. she joined the “Custom Fund” which gave a good rate of interest and she used it as a deposit account.
  12. With her education pay, trust the for estate left by her husband the youngest son, she was and able an to manage.
  13. Her brother and sister-in-law died within five years of her husband and she inherited some further money.
  14. The passbook, the Complainant says, had been put “in a safe place with other papers”, before the death of her husband.
  15. For the reasons stated in the above paragraphs, she says (and I well understand) that her attention was “fully elsewhere”. It was not until she retired from the Civil Service and had the leisure to go through her papers that the disputed account again came to her attention. Her current accounts with the Bank had been transferred from the Forest Hill Branch to the Fleet Street Branch in 1976, and later, when she moved office, to the Mark Lane Branch.
  16. In 1984, when the Complainant closed her account at Mark Lane, she transferred the amount standing to her credit to two different accounts, one at the Bank of Scotland, the other being an Alliance Building Society Bank Share Account.
  17. On the 9th July 1991, having found the passbook, the Complainant went to the Forest Hill Branch and asked for the interest to be calculated to that date. She said that she would then withdraw the whole amount and move it to an account bearing a better rate of interest. She appreciated that the calculation of interest would probably take some time, as 22 years interest had to be worked out. She, therefore, left the passbook at the Branch.
  18. On the 29th July she wrote to the Manager of the Forest Hill Branch saying that, “as the deposit is redeemable on demand,” she was surprised not to have heard from him.
  19. 1 On the 31st July 1991 the Senior Branch clerk of the Sydenham Branch, to which Forest Hill Branch account had by then been transferred as explained in paragraph 5 above, wrote to the Complainant saying that no trace of a deposit account in her name could be found, and that “all records were computerised during the mid-nineteen seventies”. He said that he had researched the Branch records as far back as 1978 and could find no evidence that an account was open at that date.
  20. 2 Further correspondence followed. On 19 September 1991, the Manager of the Sydenham Branch wrote to the Complainant:

    “Firstly, the Deposit Account passbook in your possession has no value as Deposit Account passbooks were withdrawn between the years 1973 and 74 and the passbook was superceded by an account number your deposit account was 53013340 ….. ”

  21. 3 On the 11th December 1991 Mr. PW of the Southbank Area Office of the Bank wrote saying that he had made “further enquiries” and that ” all Deposit Account Passbooks were abolished in 1972 and the Branch records produce nothing supporting the continued existence of your Account. As a result, I must advise you that I am unable to agree with your claim.”
  22. On the 13th January 1992 Mr. E., Manager of the Bank’s Customer Relations Department at Head Office, wrote to the Complainant as follows:

    “Unfortunately I I regret at this stage that I can only re-emphasise the content of Mr. PW’ s letter to you of 1lth December 1991, in which he stated that following consultation with our legal department, Passbooks are no longer a valid claim to a deposit and in the absence of any further proof of your claim the Bank is unable to assist you further.

I do realise the disappointment that this must bring you and that this is not the response that you would have wished for. I do, however, thank you for taking the time and trouble to bring this matter to my attention affording me the opportunity of reviewing the situation.”

  1. The Complainant then brought her complaint to this Office and produced the passbook. It shows a balance of £4,102.66 as at the 13th August 1973. The Complainant claims that the Bank is in breach of its obligations in refusing to pay her that balance together wit~accrued interest.
  2. In my view, the legal principles which apply in such circumstances are as follows:

(a) Notwithstanding the period of time which has elapsed there is no question of the Limitation Acts applying, because monies on a deposit account are repayable only on demand and time does not start to run against an account-holder in a bank I s favour until a demand has first been made. Furthermore, the Bank itself has not in this case sought to invoke the Limitation Acts.

(b) Where there is, as here, an account which has been long dormant and an issue arises as to whether or not it is still subsisting, that issue falls to be resolved by striking a balance of probabilities in the light of all the relevant circumstances of the case, as was decided in the case of Douglass v. Lloyds Bank Ltd [1929] 34 Com. Cas. 263.

(c) It is a general principle of long standing that where there is a normal and regular course of events or procedures, it is to be assumed that these have taken place or been followed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

  1. 1 The Bank is unable to state exactly when the disputed account was computerised.
  2. 2 Mr. PW of the Area Office said, in his letter of 11 December 1991, that passbooks were abolished in 1972, (see paragraph 19.3 above). Yet earlier on the 31st July 1991, the Senior Branch clerk at the Sydenham Branch had said, “All records were computerised in the mid [my underlining] nineteen-seventies.” and on 19th September 1991 the Branch Manager of the Sydenham Branch had said “between 1973 and 1974.” (see paragraph 19.2 above), therefore, clearly there are discrepancies between the dates for computerisation given by different officials.
  3. 3 Mr. NPE of the Customer Relations Department on the 13th January 1992, after he had “completed a full enquiry” could “only re-emphasise the content of Mr. [PW] IS letter of 11th December 1991”. Mr. NPE also seems to have overlooked what had been said by the Senior Branch clerk and the Manager of the Sydenham Branch.
  4. 4 Finally, in writing to this Office, the Bank has plumped for “the latter months of 1973” as the date of computerisation. Presumably this was because the entries in the passbook in July and August of that year show that the disputed account had not yet been computerised.
  5. 5 In any event, the computerisation was clearly not 1972 as suggested by Mr. P.W. and Mr. N.P.E.
  6. 6 Nevertheless, because an account number was allocated, I am satisfied that the disputed account was computerised, at some time after 13th August 1973. The Complainant suggests 5 April 1974 as on that date her current account statement reverted to “Sheet I” with a new computer format of the Sheet itself. However, though regrettable that there is uncertainty about the exact date of computerisation, nothing in my view turns on that once satisfied as I am that it took place and that it did so after 13th August 1973.
  7. It was noticed, by this Office, that the Complainant had various shares held in safe-keeping by the Forest Hill Branch which were transfered to the Fleet Street Branch. It appeared a possibility that the money in the disputed account had been used to purchase these or other investments. The Complainant has satisfied me that this was not the case.
  8. 1 The Bank has resisted the claim and maintains that the account was closed, because:
  9. 2 It I S internal procedures, full details of which have been provided to me in confidence as is permitted under the Terms of Reference governing this Scheme, state that an account may be regarded as dormant two years after the last entry and where contact has been lost with the customer. In this case, the Bank did not lose contact with the Complainant until after she closed her accounts at the Mark Lane Branch on 30th October 1984.
  10. 3 Copies of the Forest Hill Branch’s Unclaimed Balances Register for surnames with the letter C. for the period 1914 – 1991 have been produced to this Office. They have been produced in confidence under the Terms of Reference governing this Scheme because they reveal the names of other accountho1ders which the Bank is not entitled to disclose to third parties. I have, however, inspected them and the names shown do not include an account in the Complainant’s name.
  11. 4 I accept on the evidence available to me that the disputed account was computerised when the number, 53013340, was allocated to it. Moreover, the Bank says and I accept that no account under that number can be traced at any of the branches mentioned in paragraph 1 above.
  12. 5 Under the Bank’s internal procedures, disclosed to me in conf idence, Ledger Records, Account Open and Closed Books may be destroyed after ten years and, therefore, generally at the time this complaint was brought they only went back to 1980/82. The Bank has, however, been able to produce Securities Record Sheets of the Forest Hill Branch showing the transfer of the Comp1ainant’s securities for safekeeping to the Fleet Street Branch.
  13. 1 When sending this Office the bank statements referred to in paragraph 2 above, the Complainant drew my attention to the fact that sheet number 18 of the Forest Hill Branch statements showed interest on the disputed account credited to the current account. This showed that the disputed account was still in existence at the date of that statement, which was for the period the 30th April to 24th May 1976.
  14. 2 However, no other entries showing from the deposit account occurx. a transfer of in any other interest of the about the
  15. 3 The interest was credited on 3rd May 1976 and was £30.03. It was expressed to be interest to 23rd March 1976. This seemed an unusual date for interest to be paid and I queried it with the Bank.
  16. 4 The Bank informed me and I accept that the standard date of application of interest on deposit accounts in 1976 was the third Monday in June and the third Monday in December. Tuesday, 23rd March was not, therefore, a date upon which standard interest would have been calculated.
  17. 5 It, therefore, seems to me likely, upon the balance of probabi1i ties, that the disputed account was closed on or about the 23rd March 1976. It was then found that a further small amount of interest was due to the Complainant. It could not, of course, be credited to the disputed account because it had by then been closed. It was, therefore, instead credited to the Complainant’s current account.
  18. 6 This point was put to the Complainant who replied at length.

Amongst other things she said:

“To summarise no interest is shown for the 5 years 1971 – 1975. No large capital repayment is shown in these years or in 1976 prior to the entry of May 3rd.

£30.02 is too small a sum to be the interest on £4,000 or thereabouts for 5 years as the closing payments would have had to account for all those years when no interest was calculated and entered. Had the account been closed at this point there should have been an entry of a final large transfer on 23.03.76 or in the quarter preceding.”

  1. Deposit account interest is normally credited to the deposit account in question. It is only if specific instructions to credit another account are given or when such an account has been closed that it would be credited to a current account. This, in my view, is why no other entries in respect of interest from the disputed account are shown in the current account statements which the Complainant has produced. Furthermore, it does not follow that a withdrawal from the disputed account would automatically be credited to the current account. It could well have been used for other purposes. The Complainant says that this would have been contrary to her normal practice and that it was not. She has also given full details of her normal expenditure, covering outgoings on her home, chi1drens education, car, holidays, food, furnishings and entertainment.
  2. The records provided by the Complainant are indeed meticulous. However, they do not include any statements supporting the existence of the disputed account after the allocation of the number 53013340 and following computerisation.
  3. 1 Despite the confusion on the part of the Bank as to exactly when the records were computerised, I am satisfied that they had been after 13th August 1973 and prior to March 1976. In my view, on the evidence available, I think it probable that from the date of computerisation of the disputed account until the date of closure in 1976, computer generated statements for the disputed account would have been produced and sent to the Complainant. The Complainant says that she has demonstrated, by the production of the current account statements, plus school accounts and so forth, that she is a “dedicated record keeper” and it would be a “psychological impossibility” for her to have destroyed the computer generated statements in respect of the disputed account if any had been sent.
  4. 2 I fully accept that the Complainant is indeed an excellent record keeper, but even the most meticulous of people occasionally both mislay records and misrecall events of many years ago.
  5. I find, on the balance of probabilities that:

(i) Prior to computerisation it was not a requirement that the passbook should be written up when presented for a transaction. Indeed the instruction to leave it at the Bank for that purpose indicates the opposite if anything. I do not, therefore, draw any inference from the fact that up to 13th August 1973 accrued interest could have been noted in the passbook but was not;

(ii) From the date of computerisation on a date after 13th August 1973 and prior to March 1976 the passbook became obsolete;

(iii) The Bank did follow its normal and regular procedures in this case;

(iv) The disputed account was closed on or about the 23rd March 1976, after the balance had been withdrawn or transferred elsewhere; and

(v) Following closure of the disputed account an adjustment of interest due to 23rd March 1976 was made and credited to the Complainant’s current account on the 3rd May 1976.

  1. In the circumstances and for the reasons given, I cannot recommend the payment of any compensation to the Complainant. Wi th hindsight this dispute might have been avoided had the Bank (and other banks) called in all old passbooks on computerisation. They were not obliged to do so and did not. It would also have been preferable if the Complainant had not, initially, been given contradictory dates for the date of computerisation when she first brought this complaint. However, these are not matters which entitle her to compensation under this Scheme.
  2. Despite finding against the Complainant, I should like to add that I am satisfied that she has brought this complaint in the genuine and honest belief that the balance was not in fact withdrawn or transferred from the disputed account. She has presented her cas~ coherently and fairly and has in all respects been as helpful and as straightforward as she could be to this Office in the course of carrying out its investigation. It is, therefore, with considerable regret that I find I have no alternative but to reject this complaint on the evidence available to me.

The Banking Ombudsman

19th April 1994

statement statement2



In the 21st Century childbirth is safe and uncomplicated in the majority of cases, medical care is good so that early problems are mostly overcome .If the mother cannot breast-feed good substitute dried milk is available.

In the 18th Century parents could have no confidence that their children could be born safely and thrive.

About a quarter of all marriages were childless, half of these through infertility, the others due to the early death of the children. Many lower class women were several months pregnant when they were married. This was partly due to the need to be sure of fertility before the marriage was undertaken.

The risk of death in childbirth increases with the number of pregnancies especially after the fifth. This combines with the extra dangers faced by older mothers. In this time before the use of birth control many pregnancies were the norm. One woman Mrs. Hodgson of York died aged thirty eight in her twenty fourth labour. Even the highest in the land were not exempt. The Duchess of Chandos though marrying as late as the age of thirty had nine children in fourteen years and four miscarriages, seven of her children died in infancy. Many tried to space their confinements by delaying weaning the previous infant, by coitus interruptus, or by refusing their husband access to their bed. Condoms were on sale in London but were used as protection against venereal disease by men using whores as described by Boswell in his “London Life”. Childbirth itself was a dangerous process. Any complications could have a fatal outcome. Sepsis and puerperal fever took many lives.

Even very poor women had some sort of birth attendant. This was partly due to a statute of 1647 which forbade the concealment of a birth. English midwives evidently had a good reputation as Mrs. Stanley a midwife in Savannah, Georgia who had delivered 128 babies decided to be delivered herself in England in 1737 rather than trust herself to the other midwives of Georgia. Labours were difficult and there were few painkillers. An obstructed delivery could led to the death of both mother and child since Caesarean sections were not successfully performed until the nineteenth century.

The greatest man-midwife of the century was the Scot William Smellie (1697-1763), who came to London in 1739. His “Treatise on Midwifery” appeared in 1752 and gave a clear account of the mechanism of labour. He had attended 1150 cases himself. He laid down good rules for practice. He taught about 900 students. His most famous pupil was another Scot, William Hunter (1718-1783).who did much to improve midwifery.

Women of substance would go from the country to the town for the birth to benefit from these more skilled doctors. Theresa Parker of Saltram in Devon wrote;

“Mr. Parker begins to grow uneasy at my staying so long in the Country, but I am convinced I am safe if I am in Town by the 1st of October I am not desirous of going sooner than necessary, tho’ in reality I have no objection than that of leaving the little boy a week earlier.”

In fact the child was born before she could leave the country. Fever followed and a few weeks later she was dead. After the birth the mother unless in poor circumstances spent several weeks in bed. During this time she received visits from friends and neighbours. This period ended with Churching a service of thanks for the safe delivery of the infant.

Baptism took place within hours if the child was likely to die, otherwise usually days later.

If the Mother did not have milk, or was of high social status, a wet nurse was employed, that is another mother who had recently given birth and was feeding her own child. The wet nurse usually came from a lower social class and did not usually live in the child’s house, only the richest parents could afford to keep the wet nurse in their home; so most often the infant was sent from his parents’ home to live in the wet nurse’s home for weeks or months until weaning was possible. The musician Stevens mentions arrowroot, a pure nutritious starch, as a very early food for his son, this foreshadows the fine starchy foods which are still the first solid items to be offered to infants on weaning.

Wet nursing resulted in the child living in unhygienic conditions, and the possibility of being exposed to even more dangers to his health. Yet parents living in cities believed they were giving them a good start by sending them to live with a wet nurse in the country.

Dr. Peter Oliver’s entry that his wife suffered from sore nipples reminds us that some breast feeding problems have existed from time immemorial and the mothers of our century will empathise with women of earlier times as this problem still troubles them and little has been suggested to alleviate it. The use of a wet nurse was not confined to cases of necessity. In the higher social classes it was an accepted procedure. The quality of the wet nurse varied from excellent in a few cases to tolerable in most and a hazard to the child’s life in others. William Hickey became very fond of his, but both doctors Claver Morris and Peter Oliver had very bad experiences.

The period after the birth was referred to as the confinement until recently and it was literally so in earlier times. We see Mrs. Morris was kept in her bedroom and probably in bed for two weeks after her son’s birth. Another two weeks passed before she left the house to be churched. After this rite a woman would slowly resume normal life. Another 18th Century woman Mrs. Custance referred to in Nancy Woodford’s diary was in bed for months after one child birth due to complications.

Thomas Marchant’s diary illustrates the vast number of children who died soon after birth even the one who survived to become a student died then of smallpox.


Dr. Morris lived from 1659-1726/7.

In an age of very little medical training, of barbers as surgeons and quacks galore his qualifications were outstanding. He was an Oxford BA, MA, and MD. He was effectively a consultant to wealthy people who lived over a wide area within reach of Wells.

He made up the medicines he prescribed in his own laboratory.

His three marriages brought him wealth and land. He became a prominent citizen in Wells. In 1706 he was appointed a Commissioner for Land Tax, in 1709 he became a Commissioner for Sewers. He was also a District Commissioner for collecting the tax imposed on Catholics and a Burgess of Wells.

His hobby was music and he belonged to a musical society which met weekly to perform contemporary music. Every year they performed Purcell’s Cecilia music on that saint’s day. By his second marriage he had a daughter. In 1709 his third wife gave birth to a son to his great joy. This son, though he survived his father, was never strong and died in his 30th year. Morris records that in 1712 he had to dismiss a nurse, Hester Harding, to whom he gave £1-5s,;

“because put off for having the King’s Evil (i.e. scrofula) and infecting my little son with it whom she attended,”

This entry shows that though their nature was quite unknown, the Infectivity of the so-called scrofulous lesions was recognised.

The great lexicographer Samuel Johnson suffered the same bad start. This affected his health and appearance all his life. Morris’ diary records the event.

17 October 1709

“About 6 a clock my wife began to fall in labour.” 20 October 1709 “At 20 or 22 minutes after 6 in the morning exactly, my wife was very happily delivered of a son. I had many congratulations on that occasion: and in the evening Mr. Mills, Mr. Henry Gapper, & Mr. Henry Purchase were with me & we were merry but temperately so, & play’d >”Drink if you please.”

The baby was well enough to avoid immediate baptism in the house. Ten days later Morris wrote: 27 October 1709

“My son was at Evening Service Baptiz’d by the name William in the Cathedral at Wells.

Colonel Berkeley & Colonel Prowse, for Major Brag, with Bishop Hooper’s lady and my sister Farewell for my sister Leigh were suretys [Obsolete word for sponsor] I had a great company both of men and women at mine house (especially men) & some of them staid with me till 4 a clock next morning & seem’d very well pleas’d with their entertainment. Colonel Berkeley (my house being full ) lodg’d with me in my Bed.”

In the 18th Century it was not unusual for people of the same sex to share a bed. Difficulties of transport made overnight stays necessary and people of necessity tolerated sharing rooms and beds. William had a baptism appropriate to his father’s social status, one of the sponsor’s being the Bishop’s wife. Mrs. Morris followed the custom of spending two weeks after the birth in bed. This practice survived until the 20th Century among reasonably affluent people.

2 November 1709

“My Wife went out of ye Parlour Chamber & walked a little in the Hall-Chamber, being the 17th day after her Delivery.”

17 November 1709

“My Wife was Churched by Mr. Mills. She was carried in a Sedan & was clad in a Vail. No woman went with her but Mrs Rogers, the Midwife. Mr. Mills dined with us. My son Will went to Mrs. Poor to Nurse.” [one month old]

29 November 1709

“I visited Mrs. Poor & my Son.” Churching is the ceremony of going to church to give thanks, most notably after a safe childbirth.

5 December 1709

“My Son was very ill of the gripes. [Intermittent spasmodic pain of the bowel ] I went to him & order’d a Clyster [A medicine injected into the rectum] & some medicines for the Wind & he was much better.” Years later Dr. Morris refers to the weaning of his grandson.

26 July 1725 >

“I lent my Calesh & Servant to carry Mr Burland, my Daughter, & Molley to Mr Newman’s at Cadbury, to stay some time while Jacky is weaning.” .

Thomas Marchant’s bald recording of the facts of his childrens’ illnesses and deaths seems to indicate a lack of feeling. This was not the case. Religious teaching affected people very strongly and taught them to submit to the will of God, however hard. Diaries often expressed the need to accept the will of God which was seen to control these events. So it was customary not to express openly the grief and torment which most parents felt internally. By such fortitude one was working towards one’s own salvation. A similar acceptance of fate was expressed by Dr. Oliver when writing of the birth of his first child.

Thomas Marchant

A Sussex yeoman farmer 5 September 1715

“Paid William Nicholas 1s.6d. for raising the graves of my four deceased children Ann b.1706, d.1706 Mary b.1707, d.1707 Thomas b. 1703 ,d.1707 James b.1710, d.1711

10 September 1715

“My wedding day. We have been married 15 years today”

24 September1715

“My wife brought to bed of a girl. May went to Cuckfield Mill with Mrs. Howard. I gave her 5s. and my wife gave her a guinea.”

May would have been out to fetch the midwife.

4 October1715

“My daughter Ann christened. Mr Hart was godfather, Mrs. White and my sister Nanny godmothers. Mr. Sixsmith christened her here, at home, on account of the bad weather.”

26 February 1728

“Marrian set out for Oxford to bring J.Marchant home, on account of the smallpox , which is much there.”

29 February 1728

“Marrion returned from Oxford without John, who had caught, and was laid up with smallpox.”

1 April 1728

“A letter from Mr. Ratcliff, of Oxford, to inform us that John has come out with and is very full of the smallpox and that it is a very bad sort.”

8 April 1728

“Thos. Elvey and Marrian returned from Oxford, and brought us the sad news that John Marchant died on friday night last, about 11 o’clock.”

John had been intending to take Holy Orders. Thomas Marchant presented the living of Rusper to Mr Marten

“which he is to resign, should either of my sons take Orders, and I took a bond of him to this effect.”

This was on 7 December 1721.

#Dr. Thomas Wilson

A typical Whig clergyman of his time, he was the son of the saintly bishop of Sodor and Man. His early life was taken up with seeking preferment and he eventually became rector of St. Stephens, Walbrook. He married his widowed cousin, a marriage which appears to have been happy except for the death at one year of their only child. During the 18th century midwives were slowly beginning to be superseded by men. The Reverend Dr. Thomas Wilson gives an early and rare example of both being present at a birth and the competition between them.

Tuesday 18 March 1734-5

“This morning about 6 my dear wife began to be in labour. I went immediately for Dr. Bamber to be present at the labour and he came at 8. At 14 minutes after eleven she was delivered by Mrs. Gates of Gower Street of a fine boy, with very little pain. God be praised for his mercies. The Dr. was afraid some of the skirts of the after burthen was left behind by the midwife’s being so very quick, and pulling it with the child away at the same time, which is very wrong practice.

“In the afternoon I wrote to Mr.Thoresby to give me leave to baptise my child privately, afraid of any mischance, intending, God willing, to present him publickly in the Church. Baptised him by the name of Thomas.

Wednesday 19th

“My wife much better and the child in a fair way to do well.”

Thursday 20th

“Dr. Bamber came here and found all very well.”

Friday 21st

“I measured my boy and he was 27 inches long. My dear wife tried to suckle her little one but her nipples were so sore and so small that the child could not get hold of them and so I hope it will be pardoned for I know that it is every woman’s duty to nurse her own child.”

Monday 24th

“My dear wife taken with a disorder like the Stranguary” (a disease of the urinary organs, slow and painful emissions of urine.) “I am afraid she got cold by having her room washed this morning.”

Tuesday 25th

“My Molly made water freer but had a great forcing afterwards. I am afraid her midwife did her some injury. She drunk Emulsion.”

Wednesday 26th

“Still the same disorder, weak, restless, no stomack, drinks Emulsion. I cut my finger to the bone.”

Thursday 27th

“The same disorder, tho’ a little better.”

Friday 28th

“I would have sent for Dr. Bamber, but she did not care for it.”

After a great forcing of water on Saturday he sent on Sunday for Dr. Bamber. He ordered her

“A stoupe of warm spices and white wine twice a day and spermatic tea draught every six hours.”

On the following Tuesday she was still feverish and he ordered 25 Gr. Of Gascoin’s powder and 25 Gr. of Crabbs Eyes every 6 hours. By 7th April she was improving. Dr Bamber came and ordered the Spermacetea draught and the Gascoin’s powder every 8 hours. But Dr. Wilson’s cut finger was very much inflamed. By Friday 20th April all was much better.

“My dear boy was received in Newington church by Mr. Thoresby. Father Patten (his Wife’s father) stood himself. Mr. Hayward for my father and Aunt Jackson for Cousin Thomas Patten’s wife.”

The priest Mr. Thoresby was the son of the diarist Ralph Thoresby.

Mrs. Pendarves

(later Mrs. Delany) Lived from 1700-1788 She was the niece of Lord Lansdowne. In 1718 her family forced her to marry an old man Alexander Pendarves. She was seventeen. Her husband died in 1724 leaving her with nothing but her jointure. She repelled suitors including Lord Baltimore.

From 1731-1733 she visited Ireland with her friend Mrs. Donnellan. She met Dr. Delany and Dean Swift with whom she occasionally corresponded after returning to England. In 1743 Delany came to England expressly to ask her to be his wife. Her noble friends and her brother were indignant at this misalliance, but she resolved this time to have her way and was married on June 9. 1743. They lived happily until Delany’s death in 1768.

She was introduced to the royal family, and George III called her his “dearest Mrs. Delany.” She became well known for her flower work,and for paper mosaic cut out of bits of coloured paper. It was praised by Darwin in his >”Love of the Plants”. Between 1774 when she began it and 1784, when her eyesight had failed she had finished nearly one thousand specimens some can be seen in the British Museum today..

We get some idea of the preparations for a new baby from the letters of Mrs. Pendarves. No easy visit to Mothercare for ready made garments. Long nightdresses reaching well below the infants feet were cut out and sewn at home and the same long dresses were used in the day by both boys and girls. Such long nightdresses were still in use in the 1950s for the first 6 months. The change came when new materials with greater elasticity led to the all in one baby garment the “babygrow”. This was followed by babies being dressed in cut down versions of current adult clothes and fashionable materials like denim which would have been considered too rough for a baby’s tender skin by our ancestors.

To her sister Mrs. Dewes April 23. 1741

“I will get myself perfectly informed of the new dress for the bantling, that I may instruct you when I come to Gloucester. I have sent you four yards of course long lawn, and two yards of finer for the little nightcaps, etc.; I suppose you will line the cradle with dimity or white calico, quilted…as for pins, I think you must pay the compliment to Gloucester of buying pins there.”

November 12. 1742 to her sister

“I am as much perplexed for you as you can be for yourself in regard to my godson, but I think you can be reconciled to the nurse’s house, that the story you have heard can be no great objection, but will for the future make her more careful, as she seems a good sort of woman. A deaf nurse is not to be endured; the poor little dear may make his little moans, and have a thousand uneasinesses that she will hear nothing of.”

February 28. 1745-6 Delville to her sister

“Mrs. Viney tells me you are better than you have ever been yet, and that my niece eats paps purely. It will save some trouble if you can bring her up by hand, and since she is naturally so stout I believe it may perhaps be done.”

March 8. 1745-6 Delville

“I am very glad my niece Mary takes so well to her food; I don’t see why it should not rear her up as it did me.”

The system of wet nursing could produce excellent results both in the health of the child and in providing happy early years as seen in William Hickey: Memoirs of a Georgian Rake.

#William Hickey


William Hickey, a man who loved good company and pleasure, sowed his wild oats in London. He spent 27 years in India, as an attorney at the Supreme Court in Calcutta. He claimed that the object of the Court was to counteract the prevalent notion that Europeans could with impunity harass the natives. He worked hard and like others there at that time was very well rewarded. He kept 60 servants including an Italian hairdresser. He was fortunate in escaping the many fevers which overcame most Europeans and returning to retire in Beaconsfield in 1807 where he wrote the story of his many adventures.

“I made my appearance …on the 30th of June 1749. I was soon pronounced a most lovely child. My mother had suckled the first three infants herself, but, this being deemed prejudicial to her health, she was forbid continuing it, and I was therefore sent to be nursed at Hampstead, at a clean and neat cottage, the property of a respectable old woman named Page, from the breast of whose daughter, Ann Page (for she had married a person of her own name), I drew my nourishment. Ann Page was an uncommonly beautiful creature, who also adored me….At Hampstead I remained until nearly four years old, when my first breeches were put on, and I was then taken away from my dearly loved, ‘sweet Ann Page’, the separation from whom wrung my little heart with the first sorrow it ever felt, nor did I ever forget her extreme affection for me”.

A different aspect of childbirth is dealt with by James Lackington. In the 18th Century paternity was assumed on the allegation of the pregnant woman. Some innocent men must have suffered but in this case events saved Lackington.

#James Lackington

James Lackington was a man from the humblest of backgrounds who taught himself to read after his conversion to Methodism. He rose so far as to become one of the most well known and biggest London bookseller. Instead of destroying books which did not sell well he sold them cheaply thus starting the modern way of selling remainders. Lackington, then a journeyman shoemaker, left his mistress at Taunton after a quarrel and made his way by stages to Bristol. Later:

“The Taunton carrier gave me a letter from my good (former) mistress Bowden. The contents of this letter very much surprised me. It informed me that a day or two before I fell out with my last mistress…Betty Tucker, a common lass, had sworn a child to me; that the parish officers had been at my Mother’s shop within an hour after I had left to go to Wellington, and they had been at Wellington just as I had left that place, and afterwards hearing that I was in Bridgewater, they had pursued me thither. But the morning they arrived I had set off for Exbridge; and believing that I had intentionally fled before them, they had given over this chase for the present…I was weak enough to imagine that a kind of miracle had been wrought to save me from a prison, or to save me from living with a woman I could not bear the idea of living with a single week..I had not any knowledge of her being with child (not having seen her for three months before). This girl was delivered about two months afterwards of a still-born child, so that I was never troubled for expenses.”

Elizabeth Drake’s advice that Mrs. Wrightson should feed her baby herself indicates that towards the end of the 18th Century ideas about the use of wet nurses were changing in good Society.

Towards the end of the century people in higher social circles were evidently accepting the idea that breast feeding by the mother was much better for the child than wet nursing. Mrs. Drake to Miss Heber Mary Heber of Weston 1758-1809 Not a diarist nor a letter writer but a recipient of many letters which throw light on her time. They were published as >”Dear Miss Heber” edited by Francis Bamford in 1936. The letters were found in a trunk in Weston, Northamptonshire by Sir Sacheverell Sitwell. Mary Heber’s portrait, a miniature by Richard Cosway shows her as delicate and beautiful. Among her correspondents was Lady Banks, wife of Sir Joseph, the naturalist and botanist.

Elizabeth Drake

Elizabeth Drake was wife of Francis William Drake, Vice Admiral of the Red, 2nd son of Sir Francis Henry Drake, 4th Bt. A descendant of the Elizabethan Sir Francis Drake.

Tuesday 20 May 1788

“I much wish to see your little Niece, but hope that you will not admit anyone for a fortnight at least to visit your Sister, [Harriot Wrightson] as her future health depends greatly on her being kept quiet. I hope she means to nurse the dear little Girl herself, for I am sure it will be a great pleasure to her, and of advantage both to her health and the child.”

Mrs. Wrightson to Mary Heber Swalcliffe. 8 March 1789

“The child has now pretty quiet nights, but that nasty humour still continues & has lately disguised her amazing by breaking out in scabs on her face. She yesterday became possess’d of a 7th Tooth, which like the former she cut with ease. She is remarkably quick in understanding everything that is said to her.”

Mrs. Drake to Miss Heber Decr. 1789 “…I feel inconceivable pleasure at your sister being so well and able to perform what I think the duty of every Mother to her little Boy, who will, I dare say, thrive much better than if he had a wet nurse.”

Mrs. Drake to Miss Heber Hillingdon Heath. 17 Febry. 1793

“…Mr. Fane and Lady Elizabeth [her sister] came; their four daughters with them. Augusta is the name of the youngest: she has had three Wet Nurses and none gave satisfaction, so the old Lying in nurse came here with her, and she is fed with pap made of Asses’ milk and it seems to agree with her for she looks extremely healthy and well.”

#Dr.Peter Oliver

Dr. Oliver was born in 1741 and raised in Boston, New England. He was a Loyalist and left his home for England in 1776 when the danger from rioters became unbearable for supporters of George 111 He attended lectures at the Royal College of Surgeons by John Hunter. Though very well qualified he does not mention practising in England . He settled in Birmingham and devoted himself to bringing up his three children after the death of his wife. His wife and two of his children died of tuberculosis.

“On the 7th Day of Jany. 1771 early in the morning Mrs. Oliver was delivered of a fine Girl. She was put to bed as well as any Woman whatever & had a fine getting up, but little milk & the Child throve but poorly, however at 5 months old it was weaned, it then grew very fast was a great favourite with everybody whereupon I thought myself exceeding happy but immediately gave it up to the Care of Heaven as it was only lent me.” [Margaret Hutchinson Oliver, first child and only daughter known as Peggy. The last sentence seems to suggest she died in infancy, but must have been a pious sentiment as Peggy lived to be a young woman, but only just.] “In July the 15th 1772 Mrs. Oliver was brought to bed of a son [Thomas H. Oliver] a good Travail, but the child weak and feable. She made out to suckle it & did well only she was severely troubled with sore nipples.”

23 Sept. 1774

“Mrs. Oliver was brought to bed of another son a fine hearty boy.” This was Peter. These children were born in Middleborough, Mass. Their parents had been born in Boston. The family fled to England in 1776.The chapter on parents and children tells more of their childhood.”

April 19th 1775

“The fatal Battle of Lexington which blocked us up in Boston.”

June 17th

“Following: the fatal battle of Bunker’s Hill We remained blocked up in Boston till the beginning of March 1776 when we were ordered to embark. Governor Hutchinson’s Family [Oliver’s wife was Sally Hutchinson] went aboard the Hyde pacquet for England.

March 25 1776

“We set sail for England after a tedious passage of 35 days we arrived at Falmouth the last day of April following. The day before we set sail from Nantucket Tommy’s Wife was delivered of a boy which had not a drop of milk during the whole passage was much emaciated & no one thought it would have lived- the Lady well. As to myself I was sick 21 days without any support reduced almost to a skeleton- 7 children on board ship & the oldest not 6 years old.”

They landed in Falmouth and on 6 May 15 of them set out in Post Chaises and came to London.”

12 May

“to St. James St at the Govrns.”

23 Dec. 1778

“Mrs. Oliver was delivered of a fine boy christened Daniel & the same complaint of the breast [sore nipples] from suckling.”

April 1 1779

“I inoculated the child at 4 months old but what with the Death & the anxiety of its Mother he was so loaded with it that it killed him-26 days from inoculation.”

Dr. Oliver’s agony and grief at the loss of his wife and subsequently his children is intimated by his manner of writing the date, the month and days of the life. They are noted as if he is meditating on each day the life lasted as precious and pointing the gulf between those days and a barren future. He seems not to have remarried .At that time it would have been highly unusual for a widower with 4 children, one an infant, not to have remarried rather quickly. He lived as what today is called a single parent, mainly in lodgings which he changed frequently. This sounds uncomfortable, but house ownership was rare at that time when most people would rent houses,

18 May 1780

“Mrs. Oliver delivered of a son- put to bed well but in 3 days she faltered. Mrs. Oliver grew worse faster every day ’till she died which was the 28th of June past 3 o’clock in the morning. That day I compleated my 39th Year. She was 36 Years & 7 months old. She died perfectly resigned to the Will of Heaven, but in great agony of body.”

July 3

“She was buried in Croydon Church next to her Father.”

July 21

“I set off with a wet Nurse and my 4 children for Oxford.”

July 22

“From Oxford to Birmingham.” [where his father now lived.]


“I put my two oldest boys to School at Winson Green under the care of Mr. Pickering.”

July 27

“I put my daughter to school at Moseley in Worcester.[now South Birmingham] under the care of Mrs. Henrison. & the Nurse & Baby in New Hall Street. Thus I had disposed of my Children in the best manner I possibly could. It appeared at first hard to part with them but I have got reconciled at last to it-but the pleasing reflection I had of seeing them often was soon turned to sorrow for my dear little Infant who was very near my heart particularly was drooping in a few weeks after I had got lodgings for it and finally was seized with convulsions the 20th August, lay in that state till the morning of 27th, 3 o’clock and then died in the greatest agony. I had it opened by Tomlinson Its Lungs, Heart, Diaphragm, Stomach & Intestines & all its Viscera were in the soundest state–whatever produced the fits was something on the Brain which could not have been perceived if we had opened its head. I moved the 29th August to High Street opposite New Street at Mrs. Ballard’s one bedroom only at 3/6d. per week for the Hotel.” [bed without board]

August 30th

“I buried my little baby the Northside of St.Philip’s Church [now Cathedral] near the Vaults 6 feet deep. Mr. James read Prayers.”

August 31. “I paid off and dismissed Nurse Dove hoping never to see her again.”

[The deep burial of the infant is an indication of the care of his father. The note on the dismissal of the nurse suggests that at the least Dr. Oliver thought her care of the child inadequate.]

R.J.S. Stevens

Organist and song writer Stevens was trained as a choir boy, became a glee club singer, and a private teacher. His fortune improved after Lord Thurlow, the Lord Chancellor, engaged him to teach his daughter Caroline. His love story deserves a place among the more extraordinary stories of devotion. More details are in the chapter on music.

Just over thirty years after Peter Oliver’s last baby was born an only son and first born child was born to a 43 year old mother. On August 7th 1811 Anna-Maria Stevens gave birth to a son after a labour of only 4 hours. Considering her age and that it was her first pregnancy all went well and quickly. Stevens got the apothecary, Mr. Spry to his wife in time to assist her, then spent the rest of the night walking about in search of a doctor, arriving back with Dr. Sims half an hour too late.

“When I saw my dearest Woman, I was happy to find her much better than I expected. My son looked very small, but cried stoutly, which I thought a sign of strength. My Footman, John Farndell, was exceedingly active in going to our nurse Mrs. Howard: by his exertion she was at the Charterhouse time enough to dress the child. Mrs. Gunn who slept at Charterhouse was likewise very attentive to Anna while I was absent before Mrs. Howard’s arrival.”

Thursday August the 8th

“It was discovered that the child had not strength sufficient to draw his Mother’s Milk. We then applied to Mrs. Greenwood, who was suckling her infant, and she came occasionally to my Son; all of us thinking that her milk would flow much easier than my dearest Anna’s milk.”

Monday August the 12th

“My dearest Anna -Maria, and my Son were gaining strength every day: this continued to the 15th of August. On Friday the 16th of August, we did not think the Child quite so well, and I applied to the Reverend Arthur Trollope of Christ’s Hospital, and Curate of St. Botolph, Aldersgate, to half baptize my son. This he did in the morning by the names Richard George.” Saturday August the 17th “We were advised by Mr. Croft (I believe very foolishly) to have a wet nurse for my Son. We engaged one, Sarah Cole her name. Notwithstanding this engagement, Mrs. Greenwood came to the Child occasionally, and her son John Greenwood used to draw Anna’s breast, having more strength than my Son Richard.. “

Sunday August the 18th, “I thought my dearest Anna-Maria and my Son Richard were in better health. They both gained strength daily! and on Tuesday August the 20th, Mr. Croft said, “my little boy was now perfectly safe”. We parted with Sarah Cole our wet nurse, this day, as it was thought her milk did not agree with Richard.”

Friday the 23rd of August

“Mr. Croft recommended Anna to have another Wet Nurse to my little boy, as Anna’s milk was still so backward. He mentioned an Irish woman to her, and she agreed to come to us immediately; at the same time this woman came to the Charterhouse, and Anna saw her she gave her a Dollar. the woman was so base, as never to come to us afterward!”

Sunday the 25th August

“We had a third wet nurse to my Son. Anna’s milk was notwithstanding every effort, so backward. Her name I have forgotten. She would not let my Son have more than the produce of one of her breasts; she brought her child with her. not withstanding this, the child got forward with a little of her milk, and a good supply of arrowroot.”

Thursday the 29th of August

“Anna and myself, were determined that our son Richard,should endeavour to suck his mother. The child was a little griped at the first operation, but according to Mr. Spry’s strong advice, by perseverance, and the greatest attention on the part of my dearest woman, the child did succeed in getting his nourishment from his Mother’s breasts.”

The 31st of August, Saturday

“My dearest Anna came down into the dining room for the first time since her confinement. My son was improving every day in health, in consequence of having his Mother’s milk. This day we discharged the 3rd Wet Nurse as she was of no use to us. She was a very fine lady.”

This account illustrates very clearly the difficulties of feeding babies when there was no alternative to breast milk either from the mother or some other lactating mother who was willing to feed both her own and some other child. A slightly unusual aspect of this case is that the two women Anna & Mrs Greenwood at times exchanged babies to enable the weaker child to suckle from the woman whose milk flowed more easily. Today with the epidemic of AIDS hospitals do not allow stronger mothers to help in this way. The Stevens were clearly desperate in trying every possibility both breast-feeding and wet nursing and in engaging one wet nurse after another. Two weeks later Anna Maria became ill with violent night perspiration. The child also began to droop. Stevens consulted Dr. Babington who recommended leaving London immediately. They went to Mr. Jeffery’s house in Peckham, at that time a village in the country. During the next fortnight Stevens feared he would lose both of them, but on

Sunday the 22nd of September

“Our dear little treasure was thought to be better! a very great comfort to his anxious father and mother, and all Mr. Jeffery’s family.” Happily this much loved child survived to manhood. The birth saga ended with the Churching of Anna in the parlour of their house at Charterhouse on October the 8th. This private ceremony seems odd as the purpose of Churching was to give public thanks and marked the woman’s return to the community after childbirth. Richard was weaned on August 11th, four days after his first birthday.

The last extract is an amusing account of a consequence of breast feeding which was a little embarrassing to the gentleman, a clergyman in the early 19th century. The writer Eliza was wife of the speaker of the House of Commons, later Viscount Hampden.

Eliza Brand to her husband Henry Brand

August 25th 1844. Glynde

“Dearest Henry I went yesterday to see the small St. Croix, a very nice baby but there is some difficulty about the nursing. Mrs St. Croix told me in a plaintive voice that she had sat up in bed four hours in the early morning trying to make the baby eat as it should in vain. At last she was obliged to send for William to pump out some milk for it. I looked naturally a little surprised. Oh! she said I have a little air pump to do it with, but cannot manage it myself. I laughed internally, fancy the dear William pumping. I must say it strikes me as rather a queer occupation for a gentleman.” [Mr. St, Croix had recently become vicar at Glynde.]

Note Breast pumps were used to relieve breast engorgement. Some mid-Victorian examples consisted of decorative brass pumps, with a shaped milk reservoir stored in a polished velvet lined mahogany case. Women who fed babies well after the eruption of teeth needed the protection of nipple shields which were made in sterling silver, glass, pewter and rarely boxwood.

The use of wet nurses virtually ceased in the19th Century after the invention of formulas to replace breast milk. The first was invented in 1869 by Justus von Liebig and was mixed with cows milk. Henri Nestle later created a formula which was mixed with cows milk. Formulas have continued to improve but today the mother28s breast milk is considered to be the best option for a baby. Medicine too has made great progress so that in the West today it is unusual for a baby not to survive infancy.