My Gift From a Nobel Prize Winner

Monday, 8 August 1881 - Birmingham, UK

University of Birmingham asked me to look up one of their most famous students: Francis William Aston. He attended Mason College which will merge with Birmingham Medical School to become Birmingham University. Aston went on to graduate from University of Cambridge where he stayed on to do research. There he will improve the mass spectrograph and use it to discover isotopes in a large number of non-radioactive elements. He will also prove William Prout’s hypothesis of the whole number rule which states that the masses of the elements are whole number multiples of the mass of the hydrogen atom. For this he will be awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

High Street, Harborne and the ominbus from Birmingham
F.W. Aston is currently in the town of Harborne. Once a medieval hamlet, the omnibus and train have turned it into a suburb of nearby Birmingham, which will one day engulf it. At this point though Harborne still has a country feel about it. There are still small farms about. Their gooseberries and strawberries are famous.

St. Peter's  Church tower
At the center of town is St. Peter’s church which dates back to Saxon times. (I was assured St. Chad himself had preached here.) The current church dates back to the 1860s but the tower was built in the 1300s. The rest of the town though is fairly new. Victorian homes line the streets.

On South Street, Bull Street and York Street there is lower income housing for the working class, but these are not poorly made back-to-backs. Only two sides, not three, butt against their neighbors and they have gardens in the back. Far cry from the slum workers lived in not long ago.

With historic records and DNA scan, I was able to track down the brilliant Francis William Aston. He was in his parents’ garden making mud pies. He will be four next month. I don’t know if its fair to record such a brilliant mind while that mind is still developing, but the folks back home seem to love seeing legends in their youth.

Wanting to get closer to record the lad without scaring him, I pretended I didn’t notice him until I got to the gate. “Oh, hello, young man. Can you tell me where the post office is?”

Francis William Aston (many years later)
He nodded and pointed in the correct direction. Bright lad.

“My word,” I said. “Whatever are you doing?”

“Making mud pies. Want one?” He generously held one out to me.

“Why, yes!”

Aston stood up, his short pants and his legs covered in mud. I hoped his mother would be merciful with him. He came to the gate, holding his gift out to me. I pulled out my handkerchief and carefully took it. “Why thank you very much, young man.”

“Francis. My name is Francis.”

“Thank you, Francis. My name is Dr. Wendell Howe. Very pleased to make your acquaintance. This is a very well-crafted mud pie.”

“The dirt under that bush over there makes the best ones.” Aston said with an air of expertise.

“Francis!” I heard a women’s voice call.

“That’s Mummy.” Aston informed me. “Got to go.” And he turned and dashed off.

I carefully carried my acquisition to a local shop and found a wooden jewelry box. The clerk must have thought me barking mad to put a mud pie in it. I carefully packed it with tissue paper.

I know the University of Birmingham will be very pleased with what I have accumulated today for them. Not only do I have a recording of Francis William Aston as a child, but I have his very first chemistry experiment!


The Victorian School

I know I have several teachers and homeschoolers following me. I have run across a webiste I think might be of keen interest to you. Stephen and Irene Clark in Somerset have a concern called The Victorian School. The Clarks will come to your school and turn it into a late 19th century classroom.

However if funds or distance is an issue, not to worry. The Clarks tell you exactly how to put on your own Victorian Day. Now your whole class can do a little time traveling without all that fiddly Institute of Time Travel red tape and paperwork. Check out their website at: The Victorian School

They also have Victorian costumes and accessories. However no canes for whipping children. They don't want you to get that authentic.


Living Back to Back

Tuesday, 2 August 1881 - Birmingham, England

I have been traveling about Birmingham recording buildings that will be destroyed by German bombs in the Blitz or over-zealous city planners. Today I tried to record buildings no one is sorry to see disappear.

Once a small village and now near the city center, Digbeth was the first industrial district of Birmingham. Starting with the late middle ages with the influx of blacksmiths, Digbeth rang with the sound of anvils. Other workshops and factories began springing up.

One problem with the industrial age (mainly 1750-1850) was the factories came before trains and trams. Workers had to walk to work. Housing had to be crammed into small spaces and had to be low cost. One solution was the back-to-back house.

Nicer back-to-back houses around a courtyard
The back-to-back was so named because the back of the house butted up against the back of another house, or a shop or factory. The sides were shared with the houses beside you. Windows were only in the front of the house, because that was the only open side. They were generally two story, with a parlor/kitchen/dining room on the bottom, and a bedroom on the second floor. Sometimes a third floor was added. The stairwell was narrow and steep, so accidents were common. Some houses had no stairs at all but a ladder built against the wall you had to climb to get to the next floor.

This might have made quaint Bohemian lodgings for college students, but these were usually crammed with large families. Add to that poor lighting and ventilation (windows on one side, remember?) No plumbing and crowded conditions made for poor sanitation. The only heat came from a small coal-fired stove, which added to the black soot that coated the neighborhood. Disease spreads quickly in this sort of environment.

A common site in the crowded Victorian slums
Birmingham isn’t the only city with slums but she is one of the first to do something about it. In 1874, then Lord Mayor Joseph Chamberlain began improving water, sewer and gas utilities by making them the city’s responsibility. He implemented a plan to tear down the slums, sending the tenants to the less crowded suburbs. Some will end up in back-to-backs again, but these will be ones in better condition.

Back-to-backs houses
due for demolition
Those who can afford it have already moved to the suburbs, leaving only the poorest in these slums. Many of them are Irish, the largest minority group currently (1881) in Birmingham. Unable to pay for passage to America or Canada, they took a boat across the Irish Sea to try to escape poverty. Poverty just followed them. Most of the Irish are unskilled labor and prefer to work construction to factory work. Chamberlain's  plan to build affordable but decent housing in the suburbs will not only given them new homes but jobs as well in the demolition and construction. Those that remain in Digbeth will be in a less crowded, more healthy Digbeth.

Joseph Chamberlain
Joseph Chamberlain is one of the few mayors anywhere who was able, in only a few years, to leave his city in much better shape than he found it. He made his fortune here in Birmingham and he has certainly repaid the city. The grateful citizens erected a memorial to him in Council House Square just last year. No, Joseph Chamberlain isn’t dead. He is in Parliament right now as the President of the Board of Trade (later called Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.) Although he will never be Prime Minister, he is becoming one of the most influential politicians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

As for Digbeth, it’s already looking much better. Some day it will be home to the biggest St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Great Britain as the community celebrates it’s Irish heritage, as well as the tenacity of their ancestors who clawed their way out of poverty so their children could live better lives.

Digbeth already enjoying improvements

Birmingham’s Last Back-to-Back (now a museum)


The Forgotten Blitz

Friday, 29 July 1881 - Birmingham, England

Last Tuesday I had tweeted about the marvelous New Street Railway Station here in Birmingham with it’s huge glass and iron roof. It will be destroyed in the Birmingham Blitz of World War II and will have to be demolished. It will be replaced in the 1960s by a cramped and poorly thought out station. One of my followers @wildfeather began tweeting me the following story that was too much to retweet and which I felt compelled to share:

I was just thinking, how sad that they knocked down the Victorian terminal. I forgot about the Blitz. Birmingham was bombed even more than London, because it was the heart of the manufacturing industry, and the war effort. But the press (and people) were forbidden to talk about it as they didn't want the Nazis to know the bomb raids had any success. It's only in the 21st century that the data's been declassified and we're finally finding out how severe the blitz actually was.

I was raised in a city with barely any historic buildings. We were always told to blame the 60s planners who didn’t care for age. Now we're discovering it was the Nazis that did it! Every old building here is precious. The poor planners worked to preserve as many facades as possible even if they were gutted. And all that time the next generation were blaming them, and they had to keep quiet about it.

I'm not an expert on the period. I don't know if everything I've been told is entirely accurate, but these are the stories the locals share with each other. We have a booklet written by the city Education Department. Carl Chinn, the world expert on Birmingham history, was involved in writing the booklet.

I know the only thing the papers were permitted to say about Birmingham bombings was "a town in the midlands" not where. And we're only just discovering now what really happened, so what planners/council/bomb victims concealed or did postwar is hazy. If I recall correctly, Birmingham was the very first place bombed. The official story was always that the Allies bombed Germany first. But now it seems it was in retaliation for a raid on B'ham. And the government kept it quiet because they didn't want to let the Germans get a propaganda victory so early.

The Security D Notice which forbade mention of the Birmingham raids was lifted on every other city immediately after the war yet it took 30 years of legal action to lift it on Birmingham. Too top secret. A large number of official government reports on it from the war are only being released now. But private individuals/bomb victims were permitted to start talking about their experiences when the legal action won 30 years ago. -- ‏@wildfeather

Birmingham Blitz
I thought I would fill my readers in on the whole story.

History is not what happened, but what was recorded. Officially London was the worst, with the most casualties. Liverpool comes in second in casualties. Birmingham comes in second for bombings. She also was a target weeks before London. On the other hand, if you throw in Coventry, less than 18 miles away, then West Midlands might well win the most hits by anyone’s calculations.

Birmingham was the industrial center of Great Britain. She was a major producer of fighter planes, guns, bombs, radios, military vehicles and everything else needed to fight a war. Naturally Birmingham would be a prime target for their enemy.

Birmingham Small Arms Factory war production
However Birmingham covers a large area. Many manufacturers had moved out of the crowded city center to the outskirts of town, or nearby villages where there was more space and cheaper land. A carefully orchestrated hit like Coventry’s would take out the city center, but most factories would just keep going.

British WWII Poster
At first the British government tried to keep air raids out of the news. They felt it would demoralize the nation and spur on the Germans. Yet how do you keep secret Coventry being immobilized or bombs raining down on St. Paul’s in London? Birmingham’s devastation was more spread out, easier to keep quiet. Most locals went along with the plan and kept mum, not wanting to help the Germans in anyway.

That it was mostly shushed up is a miracle when you consider just how bad the Birmingham Blitz was. The night of 11th December 1940 Birmingham was bombarded for 13 hours, making it the longest raid of the Blitz! The Germans made 77 raids in all on the city. Official figures state that 5,129 high explosive bombs were dropped. No one counted the incendiaries, which would have been an even higher number. 2,241 people were killed and 3,010 seriously injured. 12,391 houses, 302 factories and 239 other buildings were destroyed, while many more were damaged.

British Poster from WWII
You would think everyone would have left town. They did evacuate the children, but the rest valiantly carried on. 400,000 men and women worked in the war effort in Birmingham. Everyone got involved in one way or another. The Jewelry Quarter started fabricating critical fiddly bits for aircraft. The Advertising Tablet Company Ltd quit making beer trays for pubs and started making bomb casings. Even the chocolate factory got involved. While Cadbury continued to produce chocolate (deemed an essential food item by the Government) they also produced seats for aircraft.

Not that a bombed factory meant the end of production. When the Aerodrome Factory in Castle Bromwich was bombed, it was feared they would have to close for repairs. Off duty workers came in and patched the machines up enough so others could continue making Spitfire fighter planes, just at a slower pace. The volunteer repairmen continued on with permanent repairs, while other workers clocked on for them and worked the shifts for their comrades. Many employees worked two days straight without sleep and without extra pay. And this is just one story. That’s what Brummies are made of!

The Spitfire - made in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham
The Blitz was aimed at destroying the RAF’s supply of planes, terrorizing citizens into submission, and bringing Great Britain to its knees. In the end all the Blitz did was make the Germans lose 600 bombers, made the reluctant Americans sympathetic to Britain, and made the Brits more determined than ever to beat Germany.

After the war the Government still kept the damage of Birmingham top secret. All other records on the Blitz were released, but not B’ham’s. I’m not sure if they felt it would discourage the British people trying to rebuild, or if it would make them even madder at the now defeated Germans. The Allied Powers were now trying to help Germany back on its feet. After all, Hitler came into power because Germany had been crippled by World War I and was desperate enough to follow a madman. No one wanted to see history repeat itself.

Birmingham Blitz Memorial
Still having your loved ones death swept under the rug had to hurt. It must have really rankled when future generations were taught about the London Blitz and Birmingham’s was ignored. One Brummie, named Marjorie Ashby fought for thirty years to get the ‘D’ Notice removed and the records made public, then spent the rest of her life campaigning to have a memorial to the victims of the Blitz created. With the help of the Birmingham Air Raids Remembrance Association (BARRA) that became a reality in 2005 with a twelve foot “Tree of Life” sculpture. On its base are transcribed the names of the 2,241 victims of the Birmingham Blitz.

Those that died and those who fought on should not be forgotten. They will serve as inspiration to future generations that even in the bleakest hour, one can still triumph.

Birmingham Air Raid Remembrance Association

BARRA’s database of those killed or injured in the Blitz

Eye Winess Accounts of the Birmingham Blitz

Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection
Bomb Damage in Birmingham, c. 1940

Birmingham: Workshop of the War
Why Birmingham was a target for the Germans

German war time newsreel showing one bombing raid over Birmingham

Recreation of an Air Raid
Birmingham did not have enough air raid shelters and many had to hunker down in their homes. Here is what it must have been like sitting in the dark while bombs exploded around you.


This Man's Home IS a Castle

Saturday, 23 July 1881 - Tamworth, England

Today I took the train to town of Tamworth, only 14 miles northeast of Birmingham’s city Centre, to visit its most impressive building--Tamworth Castle. Some day it will be a museum, but now it’s a residence. I had written a letter to the current occupant, a Mr. Thomas Cooke, telling him I was a historian from the University of Cambridge (well, that’s not a lie) and asking if I could visit. He sent me an lovely invitation.

Thomas Cooke is a amiable, if no-nonsense man in his late fifties. He has a factory in Tamworth that employs 500 making clothes for the working classes. Victorians invented “off-the-rack” for those who could not afford tailored clothes. Or in Mr. Cooke’s words, “No reason an honest working man should have to wear ragged cast-offs. My clothes may from an assembly line, but they are well-made and smart looking.”

Tamworth Castle
I asked Mr. Cooke how long his family had owned Tamworth Castle. “My family has lived here since 1867, but I don’t own it. The Townsends own it, but have been renting it out since 1833. Did you know Sir Robert Peel lived here before me? I understand he bred imported Irish pigs with local pigs to create the Tamworth pig while he lived here.”

Tamworth Piglets
“Oh yes, hardy breed.” I didn’t tell him that it’s the Tamworth pigs ability to adapt to so many climates that made it so popular with off-world colonies.

Cooke is very proud of his home, even if he doesn’t own it. He said he loved showing it off. Even invited his workers here for outdoor tea parties. He knew all about it’s history and regaled me with stories as he showed me about the place.

Cooke's Drawing Room in Tamworth Castle
Tamworth Castle dates back to about 1070 and is one of the best preserved motte-and-bailey castles surviving in England. There was even an earlier castle here dating back to the Saxons. Queen Aethelflaeda, daughter of Alfred the Great, built it in 913 to fight the invading Vikings. I got the impression Cooke greatly admired this feisty lady.

Ariel View of Tamworth Castle
Over the years many additions were made to the Norman Castle. Rather than building beside the old fortification, as other castles have, the lords here built inside the walls, retaining the original look of the motte-and-bailey on the outside. Cooke gave a lively account of all the battles that had been fought here. I’m sure University of Birmingham will love shifting through his tales to see what is true and what is local legend--both of equal importance.

George Townsend II
Like many castles, Tamworth fell into disrepair. Luckily it was inherited by Field Marshal George Townshend, 1st Marquess Townshend through his marriage to Charlotte Compton, the grandniece of 1st Earl Ferrers in 1751. George Townsend was one the great movers and shakers of his time. He had little interest in the castle but his son, George II decided to restore Tamworth to it’s full medieval glory. Unfortunately that included the wing from the Elizabethan period. He tore out the original windows to put in Gothic ones. When Junior died in 1811, the castle was not quite finished and his estate was bankrupt. Still he devoted his life to saving this building so we can forgive him his lack of historic accuracy.

The ruined fortune of the Townsends forced them to rent out the property. In 1897 they will be have to sell and Cooke will have to move. Luckily for the rest of us the Tamworth Corporation will buy it and turn it into a museum opening in 1899. In the meantime, the castle is Cooke’s.

Tamsworth Castle Museum Opening Day - 1899
“So you are now Lord of the Castle, eh?” I said.

Statue of Aethelflaeda
erected on castle grounds 1913
1000 years after she built 1st castle
“I’m only renting that title, but it is romantic to be living in a medieval castle. Pity there isn’t a Lady of the Castle. My poor wife died some time ago. I suppose my daughter is the lady of the castle now. She’s my housekeeper.”

“You might get married again.”

Cooke snorted. “I’m fifty-eight, sir. What woman would want an old duffer like me?”

I suppressed a smile. My files show that Thomas Cooke in 1884 will marry Frances Wann, age thirty-five. They will have a daughter later that year and name her Aethelflaeda. Fitting that the last “queen” of Tamworth Castle will be named for it’s first.

Tamworth Castles official website -- more photos and history

You can follow Tamworth Castle on Twitter at @TamworthCastle

A video of Tamworth Castle museum

The Saxons Returned to Tamworth Castle


One Man’s Trash...

Wednesday, 20 July 1881 - Birmingham, England

Birmingham and Midlands Institute on Paradise Street
Today I visited the Birmingham and Midlands Institute on Paradise Street next to the Town Hall. Founded in 1854 by an Act of Parliament “for the Diffusion and Advancement of Science, Literature and Art amongst all Classes of Persons resident in Birmingham and the Midland Counties.” The Institute is a pioneer in adult scientific and technical education, offering classes from industry to music. They also give free lectures to the public.

Issac Pitman
This evening I attended a lecture on Phonography, both what it is and the career opportunities available. Phonography is a shorthand system invented by Isaac Pitman, improving on Samuel Taylor’s shorthand. Pitman wrote several books on the subject, starting with Stenographic Soundhand (1837) and Phonography (1840.) It was quickly adopted by newspaper reporters. In the days before microphones and cameras, this was the only way to record a speech. Pitman was finally knighted in 1894 for his important innovation.

Our speaker was one of the foremost authorities on the subject of Phonography, Marie Bethell Beauclerc. She told the audience her story, not to brag, but to point out that anyone can learn this system. Born 1845, Miss Beaucler had to quit school at nine due to family finances (her father had died a few years before.) Despite her scant formal education, she had already gotten proficient enough in reading and writing to continue her studies on her own.

Pitman's Phonography
At the age of twelve, she discovered a copy of one of Pitman’s books Phonographic Teacher in the trash. It was a treasure that would change her life. She studied it as best she could. Some things needed more explanation, though. She got that two of years later while visiting relatives in Bath for a couple of weeks. Her older cousin was training to be a Phonographer, and helped her. On her return home she poured herself into her studies, with no one available to aid her but a member of the Phonetic Society who corrected her exercises through the mail.

When Beauclerc was eighteen she got her first job. She was hired by a Mr A. H. Hagarty, to record his lectures on phrenology while in Birmingham. Soon she received other offers from ministers and lecturers to record their presentations. Victorians love reading lectures and sermons, but many public speakers are more articulate when talking and horrid when trying to write it down. Word got around about this young woman’s talents. In 1871 the Birmingham Morning News hired her as a shorthand reporter, making Beauclerc England’s first woman reporter. (Yes, I know Jessie White Mario beat her, but she was a freelance journalist.)

Marie Bethell Beauclerc
Beauclerc also began teaching Phonography and later typewriting classes, first out of her home and at her church. Partly it was for income, but mostly to share her passion with others. In 1874 when the suburb of Perry Barr opened an institute, they appointed her teacher of Phonography for the eighteen years the Perry Barr Institute lasted. So many other local schools and colleges asked her to teach that she was unable to take all the job offers, but took what she could manage. However in 1876 when the prestigious Birmingham and Midlands Institute invited her to teach, how could she say no? However this is not her only current teaching job. She also works in what dictation jobs she can. The woman is a ball of energy.

The majority of the audience tonight were men. Most stenographers and typists are currently male. However I noticed the young women in the audience were all sitting on the edge of their seats. If Birmingham’s leading phonographer was a woman, why couldn’t they learn it and get a better job than domestic service? Indeed by the twentieth century most stenographers and typists will be women, and historians credit Miss Beauclerc as being instrumental in that.

Seven years from now, Miss Beauclerc will be appointed teacher of shorthand at the prestigious Rugby School. Not only will she be the first shorthand teacher in an English public school, she will be the first female instructor in an English boys' public school! Sadly in 1892 she will be forced into retirement due to illness. She will pass away in 1897 at the tender age of fifty-two. Still that’s sixteen years in the future. Right now she was very much alive as she spoke to us of her chosen occupation.

The Victorian Age was the time when women started making strides in equality. Most of these pioneers are being met with hostility and have to fight their way into their chosen profession. And a lucky few are just so amazingly proficient at what they do that only a fool would ignore them. Marie Bethell Beauclerc is one of these masters--or should I say--mistresses of their art.


Why Politicians Should Never Run a Church

Sunday, 17 July 1881 - Birmingham, UK

Today I attended the service at Holy Trinity Church in the Bordesley area of Birmingham. Built in 1823 it is the second Gothic Revival style church in the area. As lovely as the church is, I was really asked here by the University of Birmingham to record a martyr.

Holy Trinity Church
Fortunately this is the Victorian Age and the British no longer burn heretics at the stake. Now they can toss them into jail, and then only if they are priests in the Church of England. That is what happened to Rev. Richard William Enraght. Last November on the 27th he was arrested and tossed into prison for 49 days.

Rev. Richard William Enraght horrible crimes were:
1. adoration of the Blessed Sacrament,
2. the use of eucharistic candles,
3. wearing the chasuble and alb,
4. using wafers in Holy Communion,
5. ceremonial mixing of water and communion wine,
6. making the sign of the Cross towards the congregation,
7. bowing his head at the Gloria,
8. allowing the Agnus Dei to be sung.

Rev. Richard William Enraght
In doing this he broke the law and was prosecuted under the Public Worship Regulation Act passed in 1874. How did Parliament get involved with what should have been a church matter? It all started with Henry VIII.

At first King Henry was appalled by Martin Luther’s ideas of a Protestant Reformation. He was a good Catholic boy, even writing a book entitled The Defence of the Seven Sacraments, for which he was awarded the title "Defender of the Faith" by Pope Leo X. Then the Pope refused to give him a divorce, so Henry proclaimed himself now the head of the Church in England and the Pope could shove off. Henry refused the rule of Rome but he did keep that smashing title “Defender of the Faith”.

Problem was that outside of making himself answerable to no one, Henry really hadn’t thought out what this new church should be. Were they Catholic or Protestant? It took his daughter Queen Elizabeth II to come up with a definition she thought would make everyone happy. The Church of England was Catholic AND Protestant.

Turns out a lot of people were not happy. Dissenters appeared almost immediately. Some were crackpots, like the Adamites who believed the only way to recover the lost innocence of Adam and Eve before the fall was to run around naked. (I believe they all froze to death.) There were also the Seekers who felt the True Church was the one Christ would bring to them on His return. So they would meet every Sunday to sit in silence, waiting in vain for Jesus to walk in. Neither sect lasted long.

Saner sects broke off either quietly like the Methodists or violently like the Puritans who took over the country with Oliver Cromwell. The one thing all the dissenters agreed on was they opposed state interference in religious matters. Parliament slowly agreed with that except when it came to Church of England matters.

In the meantime Catholicism had been outlawed. Killing Catholics proved not only messy, but created martyrs. So Parliament came up with a sneakier plan. Catholics were stripped of the right to vote, hold property, travel, worship openly, etc. Martyrdom might be romantic, but repression was just depressing. Still some stubbornly held onto their Catholic faith.

Then at the beginning of the 19th century two things happened that made Parliament rethink their oppression of Catholics.. Refugees were pouring into Britain from France trying to escape the French Revolution. Not only were the Revolutionists beheading nobility, they were going after Catholics as well. The French wanted to wipe the slate completely clean to start a new society--unfortunately in their zeal they rubbed a hole in said slate.

The second event happened in 1800 when the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. Suddenly the country had a whole Emerald Isle full of Catholics. Parliament was forced to slowly start abolishing those repressive laws until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1832 erased all of them. Now Catholics were full citizens allowed to practice their religion openly. What happened next, no one saw coming.

Curious Anglicans began showing up to watch these mysterious Catholic services. In the last 300 years, the Church of England had been stripping away the old traditions. Most visitors walked away thinking, “Well, that was boring. Glad we modernized.” However some thought, “How beautiful! Why don’t we have all those lovely rituals anymore?”

A group, calling themselves the Oxford Movement worked to make the Church of England more Catholic. They were deemed dangerous radicals. Making the Church more Catholic might lead to it becoming too Catholic and winding up back under the rule of the Church of Rome. Good or bad, it was England’s Church, and neither the Crown or Parliament wanted to lose it to some Pope. So they stepped in with the Public Worship Regulation Act to give the Archbishop of Canterbury all the help he wanted.

A cartoon from Punch, 18 December 1869
Archbishop Tait uses the crook "Public Worship Regulation Bill"
trying to control the  black sheep of  "Ritualism" before they
jump the fence of the "Established Church" and run off "To Rome" 
Not everyone in Parliament wanted the Act. This was a Church matter, not a State matter. Let the Archbishop Tait handle it, they said. If a clergyman disobeyed, the head of the church (Her Majesty) could just send off a nasty notice telling him he was sacked. But arresting and imprisoning? That was a bit too much.

They weren’t the only ones thinking so. When Enraght was arrested the public outcry was deafening. Newspapers here and abroad condemned the arrest. A huge rally that filled the Birmingham Town Hall protested the imprisonment. Enraght was released from prison early, much to the relief of the Warden who felt rather distressed at having to lock up a religious martyr.

I noticed today Enraght did a full Catholic communion. He learned nothing from his incarceration--and neither did Parliament. In a couple of years they will threaten him with imprisonment again. This time Bishop Philpott will just evict him from Holy Trinity to avoid the embarrassment.

Eventually many chaps in the Oxford Movement will decide to just turn their backs on the Church of England and “return” to the Catholic Church. I think part of the appeal of the Catholic Church to intellectuals is the fact that this is the religion of the Medieval Period which the Victorians long for. The world is changing far too fast for many of them and they long for the past. Never mind that it is a past grounded in fantasy rather than reality. Middle Ages was a dreadful period and none of them would really have liked living there.

Still one has to admire Rev. Richard William Enraght for sticking up for his convictions. Most men would have knuckled under. Four other clergymen will also suffer his martyrdom. Persecutions will end in 1906, although the Act itself won’t be repealed until 1965. Everyone felt good riddance to the silly law. Never mix politics and religion.

A List of clergymen imprisoned under
the Public Worship Regulation Act:

- T. Pelham Dale, Rector of St Vedast Foster Lane, London, 1880
- Richard William Enraght, Rector of Holy Trinity, Bordesley, 1880
- Sidney Faithorn Green, Rector of St John's, Manchester, 1881–82
- Arthur Tooth, Vicar of St James's, Hatcham, 1877
- James Bell Cox, Vicar of St Margaret's, Liverpool 1887


The Best an Orphan Could Hope For

Friday, 15 July 1881 - Birmingham, UK

Today I visited the Mason Orphanage in the Birmingham suburb of Erdington, exactly five miles from Birmingham’s city center. The custodians were eager to show me about, no doubt thinking me a wealthy philanthropist.

Mason Orphanage
The Orphanage was opened in 1869 by Sir Joshua Mason, the pen king. Mason was the largest manufacturer of writing pens in Britain. Don’t go looking for a Mason pen, for he made them for other distributors who put their own names on the pens. When Mason couldn’t find anyone who wanted to help poor children, he had to pay for the building himself.

The orphanage was needed. The lot of the orphan in the 19th century is not good. Most are either homeless or in workhouses where they are worked like slaves for a roof over their heads and some gruel (watered-down oatmeal--emphasis on watered down.)

By Victorian standards Mason’s Orphanage is progressive. The children are clothed in something other than rags, sleep in clean beds, get adequate meals and are given an education (things workhouse children don’t get.) Indeed this is a better deal than Joshua Mason received as a child. He had to go to work at a very early age, and never was able to attend school.

Mason girls attending class
By our standards, the orphanage is horrible. The children wear uniforms, sleep in crowded dormitories, the food is boring and flavorless and their spare time is spent doing chores around the orphanage. Some of the staff are mean, and those that aren’t understandably can’t give the children individual attention.

Dormitory in the Mason Orphanage
Perhaps the cruelest practice is the children are not allowed to leave to visit kin. Relatives can come here but only on specified dates in January and June, in the middle of the week, between 3:00 and 5:00 p.m. with a limit of three relatives. I suppose the custodians believe that the relatives should have just taken the child in, but too often they are just too poor to feed one more mouth. Contact with relatives would benefit the child so he would know that someone does care about him.

My guide assured me that all the children are of legitimate birth with both parents dead. They do not except “foundlings.” This always bothered me about the Victorians. Not only is poverty considered a crime, but a child is held personally responsible for whether or not his parents got married. But what is truly deplorable is a man in this society can seduce some young naïve girl and then waltz away, leaving her and the baby to suffer the wrath of proper society. The “hussy” and her “illegitimate” child are victims, not criminals.

Perhaps the saddest spot on the orphanage grounds was a burial plot with its little gravestones. I’m sure none of these children were starved or beaten to death. Most Victorian families will lose at least one child to some disease like Scarlett Fever or Diphtheria. No, what I found heart-breaking is that their lives were short and tragic. They never had a real childhood.

Cemetery at the Mason Orphanage
In the next century Mason Orphanage will be converted into a school. It will be closed in 1960 and torn down in 1964. All the little bodies will be dug up and cremated to make room for development. Almost all the records of the orphans will be destroyed as unimportant. Children disregarded in life and even more in death.

I know this boggles the mind. In our own 27th century every parent has to fight long and hard with the Population Growth Regulators to be given the privilege to even have a child. Any orphans are instantly snatched up by eager relatives. Children are considered precious and not nuisances to be ignored.

The orphanage currently holds 150 boys, 300 girls and 50 infants. The vast majority will reach adulthood with enough education to get a decent job. They will have a better life than they would have without Sir Joshua Mason. At least they will have a life.