Victoriana Schooldays/Church and Family
Its often the way, children are named after the Monarch, or leading national figure. Albert was named after the Prince Regent, he was the fifth child, born on the 21st March 1889 - at Salem Gardens, Bayswater. After his birth three sisters followed, and three more brothers; added to the previous four children… making eleven in all. In the late Victorian age many children from poorer families were thought of as ‘an investment’ and put out to work as errand boys, carriers of beer, street cleaners, and railway station porters. Others held horses, carried trunks, and delivered parcels, they stood at doorways ready to call a cab, and helped cabbies who were drunk; the number occupied thus was estimated as between ten to twenty thousand. Many became match boys and street sellers, carried food and fruit. They did even the smallest thing to make what they could to help at home. As soon as dawn broke, they were to be seen outside every market place ready to take up a barrow. Others traded by the queues of shops and theatres to entertain and amuse, by ‘their antics’.
Workmen of the period sported heavy moustaches; wore heavy boots with hob-nails, thick twill trousers, course worsted jackets, a waistcoat supporting a watch or key chain, and a cap or billycock hat – a short top-hat. All their clothes were very well-worn - probably cast-offs! Some may wear smocks, overalls, warehouse coats, or wear a uniform that would distinguish them from others – it was a matter of survival, to stand out from the crowd.
In 1865, a middle-class man, was distinguished by a face richly adorned by hair in the shaped of muttonchops, full beard, with moustache. He wore a universally prescribed silk-plush, top hat on a stiff blocked base made of canvas. A black or dark blue frock coat, with a fashioned waist and skirt, with straight edges, to about knee height, open at the front by curving or wrapping the skirt-front round to the back. A pocketed, silk lined, velvet waistcoat with a man’s watch usually on a silver chain. Trousers were fashioned tight in white, grey, fawn or striped, held up by braces. A pinned satin cravat beneath a studded collar-band topped a mid-thigh length shirt with separate, point up, starched collar and linked secured, folded cuffs. For special occasions, a starched, frilly shirt front and tied silk bow. Beneath all would be one-piece longjohns and silk socks held in place by garters thrust into ankle-boots.
For women, the fashion was very wide skirts supported by crinolines, which took over from tight-laced corsets… The all-in-one dresses, superseded by tunic dresses and waisted blouses, with a bustle at the back… both, soon to be replaced. A waterproof cloak with hood, heightened boots, the essential hat and parasol, completed the picture. City life was one of organised chaos. There were few women particularly in public areas – there was a changing shift of people mainly men to and from work. Clerks were in abundance being the main form of employment for the non-servant classes; they would not only populate their offices but be rushing about delivering letters, plans and manuscripts.
Albert lived with his parents, Martha and Alfred, at Salem Gardens - which was later demolished - is now called Salem Road, which is to be found just off Queensway, close to Bayswater tube station. All these small roads formed a square. On the other side - backing onto the gardens, is Moscow Place and Moscow Road, which forms another square – together with Queen’s Mansions… Both these squares are but a stones throw from his paternal grandparents. The house was – rented, with just four rooms, two up and two down, a kitchen and an outhouse. It had a back garden, which stopped at the Queens Mews stable wall, belonging to a house in the next road.
Within the homes of Albert’s friends, elaborate rules of etiquette were observed. In middle class homes, one had to dress for dinner in full evening dress. Lace curtains were de rigueur and on Sundays, best clothes were worn. No games were played; no shops were open, no theatres played, and only the bible was read. No running in the road and parks, for decorum was observed at all times… and no shouting, ever! The parlour was used as a ‘special room’ for Sundays, ‘high days’, Christmas, and for entertaining guests and visitors. Albert attended Sunday school when four, in 1893 - at the school in Queens Road [now Queensway]. The girls and boys were formed up in ranks of two… then, holding hands, marched off to Saint Matthews Church, Saint Petersburg Place, led by a Master and Mistress… It was here that Albert spent his first two years at Infant School.
It was thought important - by the government, that, as more people were taking up the option to vote they should be educationally equipped to make proper decisions. At the same time, it became apparent that Britain industrial base was lagging behind some European countries. Both these factors suggested that elementary education should be expanded. The 1870 Elementary Education Act ensured this would happen and school boards were set up. In 1895, the voluntary schools still provided half a million more places than the board schools. Poor families complained that sending their children to school instead of to work prevented the rest of the family from eating.
Albert's family was relatively well off - having a father skilled in his own painting and staining business with a full order book. The school fees were 1d. or 2d per week. There was, however, a considerable variation of fees - depending on the numbers of children from one family - attending the same school, whether there was sickness, lack of footwear, or real need. By 1891, sufficient money was made available by the government to provide free places. When Albert went to school in 1893, he did not have to attend school with this fee in his pocket. The minimum age for children leaving school was eleven… It would take another six years to legislate this up to twelve.
That was time education in London led the way: in curriculum innovation, promoting music, drill, and object lessons, some instruction about the world around them: about science, history, and geography. Lessons other than the three Rs were considered ‘class lessons’. For the older children two other specific subjects were included. The question about the provision of a piano was much debated finally it was left to the head teacher knowing what funding from grants was available. At around the age of twelve children who went to church schools were confirmed… afterwards allowed attending communion services. For several weeks before confirmation, there would be classes of instruction to learn The Creed, Ten Commandments, The Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer and other religious works. On the day of communion the girls would wear white long sleeved dresses, white shoes and veils and the boys their best suits and well shone shoes, starched collars to their white shirts a buttoned up waist coats. In the late Victorian era, Sunday’s were a special day, no work was to take place, and no games played. People who did not attend church were considered wicked, or lacking in respect, and often snubbed.
Most children went to Sunday school, and attended one proper service – morning or evening. At Christmas, they went to both. The Sunday school lessons consisted of bible reading, instruction and righteous stories with a moral theme and learning the collect [single prayer of the day]. Picture stamps of bible scenes were collected and mounted into an album. Hymns for young children were sung to the accompaniment of a piano. All the people were dressed in their Sunday best. Children in particular were clothed in shirts stiff with starch. The congregation knew were to sit - always in the same pew. The congregation knelt down and said a prayer - ask for forgiveness for wrong doings, before the service began.
The High Altar, a covered table, was reached by several steps around which were displayed several oil paintings depicting biblical scenes. The chancel was imposingly large - separated from the body of the church by a wrought iron grill. There were always on hand many servitors - functionaries, in high-church dress. The service was intoned and sung, except the lessons. There was a special service for woman who had not long given birth. This was called ‘Churching for Women’ a service to cleanse her - release her from sin.
At St. Matthew’s Church, pews could be rented. When the Upper Classes – particularly the Nobility and Aristocracy, attended the service, a footman followed them in. He was dressed in frock coat, white skin-tight trousers and buckled shoes – his job was to carry the bible and prayer book – to be handed over to their masters at the door. Pew-openers directed the ordinary parishioners into their strictly graded, rented, and paid for seats. In the previous generation, these titled folk were ushered into their pews, which had doors, and sometimes a separate internal roof. Pew-openers attended them making sure they were provided with a cushion and blankets - to spread over their legs. These attendants were women who had black poke bonnets and white aprons. Services were known by heart, particularly the hymns. The sermons were often long and difficult to hear because of the echo. The rector constantly instructed his parishioners that they should worship all day Sunday. However, the evening services were those best attended. The aristocracy attended church in the mornings, the evenings mainly attended by their servants - who were too busy at their household tasks, and looking after the horses and farm animals, to find time during the day.
In the winter months, the church interiors were lit by the soft glow of oil lamps, which cast mysterious shadows over the walls and pillars - making the gloomy, cold, and damp environment eyrie – to small children, frightening. The congregation sat in the same seat every week and woe betides if you sat on somebody else’s pew. You always had to be on your best behaviour, kneel down with everyone else, say a prayer - asked forgiveness, before waiting for the service to begin. You were supposed to read the collect for the day, or a psalm. Everyone knew the service order by rote and most of the hymns. For the collection, a halfpenny, or farthing, would be dropped in the plate. It was common for the gentry to have their own family pews and the added luxury of a couple of heated rooms where they could meet, entertain, and retire. The beadles kept order… and the poor out.
At the end of the service, the parishioners walked out into the blackness of the night and those who had a long way to get back home would light candles in their lamps that flickered on the footpaths and disappear into the night. However distant the journey there was little fear of being accosted by vagabonds or scoundrels for the congregation all left together. You could hear the happy 'goodnights' all around you as the cheery calls echoed through the night air...
It was a ritual on a Sunday, for the ladies and gentlemen from surrounding churches to perambulate around the squares and gardens, after Matins. This walk ended up strolling down Lancaster Walk past Speke’s monument, and further still, onto the Albert Memorial. This walk was termed ‘The Parade’. It was here that the bonneted women and attending dandies would be bobbing and nodding to their acquaintances all showing off their latest fashions. The riders had a similar parade; both men and women wore top hats, the women rode side-saddle, and the society dandies, with their simpering belles - disporting in their barouches, whilst chattering loudly, fluttered their fans. Some of the small children would be riding their ponies besides their parents giggling and chattering like sparrows. The nannies would be pushing the enormous sided prams, the largest of which displayed wealth, kept to the railing paths.
Regents Park, planned by Nash, displayed the Zoological exhibits –a favourite place for them to go - needing one shilling for the pleasure. This display, performed by the rich, occurred in all of London’s royal parks. This droll, ostentation by the bourgeoisie had a great effect upon my father who saw it as a display of wealth – from those who might also cast a glance of disdain on the unfortunates who did not have an equal social standing. Although he always voted conservative, he was fully aware of the injustices in society and could not abide pomposity.
After church, Albert would walk to the top of the road towards Kensington Gardens. At that time, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyle, occupied The Royal Palace of Kensington. When he got to the park, he had to walk – never to run because the Park Keeper would soundly admonish him for desecrating the Sabbath Day. Regent’s Park was never just the preserves of aristocrats, about a third of occupants of Nash’s terraces were in business. Kensington Gardens was not open to the public for its first ten years after it is inauguration but kept as a great private estate for Royalty and the aristocracy.
During the week the water carts would be out laying the dust, crossing keepers dressed in their uniform, keeping their particular spots clean of mud and dung. The potboys and shop staff lifting open the hatches to the cellars, rolling back the blinds and pulling open the shutters. The street life during the day was cosmopolitan with a frantic grating, crunching, swirling of speeding horse drawn traffic, the hackney drivers vying with each other to get back to the pitch as soon as possible - were the worst, darting here and there without a by-your-leave’. During early mornings and after work the streets returned to almost village life… over and behind the shops family life progressed. There were three main commercial and business groups: the sellers, the buyers and the providers. This last group contained the service and maintenance staff, builders and repair people who lived in the so-called village.
Babies, at the turn of the century, were not often weaned until they were at least one year old. It was not only expected, not to give up breast-feeding, but cheaper and more convenient. Babies were kept in long gowns and nothing was done to disturb them or excite them. They were not expected to sit up until the age of at least six months. Their prams had large wheels, high sides and were fully sprung. Trying to help the child to walk before the age of two was frowned on because it was thought the childhood become bow-legged. In summer, many of the children went to the London parks. As most children were from large families, the eldest daughter kept an eye on the younger-ones. The prams were pushed by their owners some hired other by the child’s nanny…picnics held beneath the trees or by the lakes. Drinking water was to be had at the fountains, ducks fed on scraps of stale bread and peacocks gazed at in awe.
Albert remembered an incident when he was a toddler, no doubt reminded of the happening many times - when his brothers came out of the park to return home found they had forgotten him; he was quite innocently trotting off in another direction. A chimney sweep saw him, apparently all alone, picked him up, and placed him on his barrow - amongst all the brushes and bags of soot… and made off with him. The brothers meantime had reached home still deeply engrossed in conversation, to find him not bringing up the rear. There was panic and his mother ran up to the park, frantically searching for her son. In Victorian times the slums of Notting Hill, which is the other side of the park, had an evil reputation for kidnapping, and extortion, and it was because of this reputation that Martha made her way there. Fortunately, she found her son Bert perched on the barrow parked outside a public house. The sweep was celebrating his successful abduction inside the inn. At that moment someone called out to the sweep that the child’s mother was outside. Out he came at the double, demanding, “put the child down”. Fortunately a policeman was walking down the street... on hearing the rumpus, listerned to Martha’s plea for help... The policeman believed her. Meanwhile, the sweep - vigorously holding onto Bert, declared, “I know's me rights gov, he’s my child, and I’m defending, and protecting him!” The interested onlookers gathered around, some coming from within the public house. They heard my father calling out to his mother, whilst furiously trying to clamber into her arms. The crowd supported my grandmother calling to the police officer to do his duty. That decided it for the police officer who, taking the infant from the cart, returned the child to its parent… telling the sweep of a possible summons, if he didn’t keep quiet and clear off…
Sweeps and slum factory owners wanted cheap labour - frequently resorted to child theft. Small children were used by sweeps to descend narrow chimneys, especially the bends used in the chimney to obtain a better draught. The child being lowered from the top scraping and sweeping whilst they descended, the soot being collected at the bottom. Sweeps, as a form of advertising used very small children, declaring that, ‘they could clean smaller chimneys than any other sweep. On every first of May, a rustic pageant called ‘Jack-in-the-Green’ was enacted. The sweep’s boys decorated with garlands of green leaves cavorted around the streets. Maid Marion, was the traditional May Queen who was pulled by hand-cart to her throne.
On January 10th 1863, Paddington railway station was open to the public; it was The Great Western Railway Line, and the Metropolitan Railway. The railways construction had resulted in many families evicted from their houses, so that they could be demolished. A broad staircase lead down thirty feet to platform level but long before reaching the bottom the smell of smoke and steam pervades the air. You could feel the draught the closer one got to the underlying cause. The gas burners lit the way, as the crowd jostled along – for there was a steady stream of would be passengers… making there way along the smoke filled tunnel. At last, the train reached - it was just over a mile away from Salem Gardens.
That same year, riding in ‘The Row’, in London’s Hyde Park, the latest carriage style included the Victoria Phaeton could be seen. The bicycle too changed with: improved tyres, gears, and brakes. By 1900, the cost of an average car was £385, which was about ten times that of a farm workers yearly income. Paddington was now a borough with tree-shaded roads and squares. There was an enormous disparity between the various districts. This was apparent when getting close to Hyde Park, and those houses along the canal. The areas around the railway terminus, the shops, and entertainment centres: in Westbourne Grove, Queens Road, and Edgware Road, gave variety and colour. Horse-transport was still the usual mode of travel for both individuals and groups of people. Most of the carriages were privately owned although there was a public horse drawn system called the omnibus. Some people had a pony and trap or small governess cart, drawn by very small ponies. Occasionally goats pulled the country carts.
Every shop had its errand boy who delivered goods by hand; the older boys, doing a bigger round, used a pony drawn cart. Very few people carried their own shopping relying upon the shop’s delivery service. Men drove Brewer’s drays drawn by four huge horses, with their jingling horse brasses and bells, wearing bowler hats, sitting high up at the front, covered with a tarpaulin wrap fastened over their knees. Carrier Vans collected and delivered heavier goods on either two or four wheeled carts. Two paraffin oil or acetylene lamps lit his way. These vans travelled around a particular route known by the inhabitants. If their services were required, a note had to be pinned to your door or gate. Deliveries were also made from the railway stations guaranteeing a door-to-door service.
It was alongside Kensington Gardens that the stagecoach route ran from Central London. During the week, you could sit in the public gardens and watch the coaches bowling along the road to Windsor or Hurlingham with the guard whipping up the horses and blowing his coaching horn. All traffic travelled at the pace of a horse. Carriages of many different styles abounded.
Alfred and Martha were asked to leave Salem Gardens by the owner - who was selling-up, so they rented a house round the corner. It was here that Albert started kindergarten in 1892 at the age of three. His starter class, attached to the infant school, was well attended; taught by senior girls, at the age of fourteen - considered fit by their studies to consider teaching as a profession. Parents had to pay perhaps 4d per-week for the first child then, on a sliding scale, less for additional children; the rate was flexible according to the parent’s income. These fees were only just beginning to be scrapped after an extra government grant for elementary education was brought into being. The minimum leaving age was twelve by the time Albert started school… at the same time attendance for all children was compulsory.
Saint Matthew’s Infant School, Poplar Place, Moscow Road, was a small Church school for very young children - taught up to the age of seven. There were no desks or individual seats but galleries amounting to eight rows of broad steps. Albert had to sing his multiplication tables and alphabet every morning. These were not the only form of learning by rote, there were others: spectrum colours, kings and queens, months of the year and many other useful facts. Common words learnt by ‘heart’ and religiously checked every day by his teacher. Proper pronunciation of words, the correct use of grammar, national tunes, mental arithmetic, countries of The Empire; all were given a place in the curriculum. By the end of the two-year period a great deal was learnt and committed to memory.
Girl teachers, who were very patient and kind knowing as they did how important it was that their charges could cope with the curriculum at the Junior School, gave the lessons. His girl teachers were fourteen, the age when pupils left school - were the brighter girls from the top class - who were in teacher training. There were no grants, training had to be paid for by the parents. There were few jobs for girls. To be a nurse the training was the same. The parents paid the fees. Some worked in local hospitals but were not able to qualify without going to College to receive their certificate. Albert was very happy at St Matthew’s school and did well coming out top of the class. He began taking piano lessons a popular pastime. Owning a piano and being able to play it properly was a recognised social achievement... propelled the participant out of the lower classes - making them a welcomed addition to parties, and social gatherings.--Terence Kearey (talk) 10:29, 3 October 2010 (UTC)