Friday, 3 October 2014

Situation Vacant: the Servant Problem in Edwardian England

"Mrs Hunt begs to forward the particulars of a servant"

Mrs Ellen Hunt's Servants' Agency was located at No. 86 High Street, Marylebone, London with additional premises on the Fulham Road. In 1901, when Ellen's 74 year old husband, George was described on the census as a retired printer, Ellen (two years his senior!) was still the proprietor of a 'registry office for servants'.1 Even after her permanent retirement to the coast, the London agency continued to trade under Ellen's name.2

This Edwardian employment agency form is genealogical gold dust and a rare survivor - I have never seen another one!

It was sent by Mrs Hunt's agency to Ronald Hugh Wilson Robertson (1879-1917) in March 1907 and provided the 'particulars' of Arthur J Broadfoot of 2 Craven Mews, Ealing. According to the form, Arthur was aged 36, 5 foot 7½ inches tall, 10 stone 6 lbs and married with one child. He had been in the employ of a Miss Pontifex for four years, as her groom/gardener.

If, like I did, you try looking for Arthur J Broadfoot in the census, you won't find him. For all its apparent attention to detail, the Servants' Agency failed in one vital respect: his name! Considering the notoriously high registration fees charged by registry offices to any male applicants, this was a careless mistake.3

Eventually, I discovered that Arthur J was in fact Alfred James, born one of twins, in Liverpool in 1872, the son of Joseph and Susan Broadfoot.4 Alfred moved down to London5 shortly before joining the army, aged 19 in 1891. After active service in the Anglo-Boer War, he was discharged in May 19036 and started work with Miss Pontifex soon after. His steady, live-in job enabled him to marry in December and his daughter Margaret was born the following year, in 1904.

On 27th March 1907 Ronald Robertson, wrote directly to the man he believed to be called Arthur Broadfoot, outlining his requirements, which included laundry work for Broadfoot's wife. Apart from the technical matter of whether Broadfoot could 'both ride and drive', Ronald wanted to know the age and sex of his child and whether he and his wife were 'both strictly sober'.

Alfred promptly answered all Ronald's questions, including the personal ones: his daughter was aged 2½ but 'very little trouble' and his wife was 31, 'a good cook or housemaid & would not mind doing washing'. 

In addition, Alfred asked a salary of £1 per week.

Ronald followed up on the reference, seeking reassurance that Broadfoot was 'a good man, honest & sober, willing to make himself useful'. On 10th April, Helen Pontifex of 58 Uxbridge Road, Ealing confirmed that she had never seen Alfred 'anything but sober'. Although he had always done anything she asked, she thought 'he would keep more to his work if he was under a man'. She confirmed that the wife was a good cook but she couldn't comment on her washing!

Sadly, the original invitation hasn't survived but it is obvious that Alfred went to Gloucestershire for an interview soon after Miss Pontifex's reply.

It didn't go well.

By 17th April, Alfred was requesting payment of his expenses:

travel from West Ealing to Badminton 9d
losing 1 days work 4s

total: 4s/9d

The final letter in this series was from Ronald and he far from happy:

'In reply to yours of 17th I enclose a Postal Order for 4/9, do you think it quite fair to charge 4/9 a day for two or three hours when you are out of a job? Please acknowledge it.'

***Postscript*** 10th December 2014
If you are interested in servants' employment agencies then may I recommend the new post on 'A Visitor's Guide to Victorian England' by Michelle Higgs: 'Servants' Registries: How Victorian Maids Found their Places'

1/ 1901 Census TNA Ref: RG13/959/11 p12
2/ 1911 Census TNA Ref: RG14/5336/40B
See classified advertisements in The Times including 16 June & 22nd June 1905
plus an entry in the London Post Office Directory 1910
3/ Hansard: House of Commons Debate 3rd May 1906 vol.156 c.716: Servants' Registry Office Fees
4/ GRO Births on & Baptisms, St Mary Magdalene, Liverpool on 
Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project 
5/ 1891 Census TNA Ref: RG12/8/109 p9
6/ Service Record for Alfred James Broadfoot on TNA Ref: WO97/4418/82

© Emmy Eustace

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Every Military Requisite

On 2nd April 1901, the London Gazette published the commission of 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Hugh Wilson Robertson (1879-1917) in the 1st (Brecknockshire) Volunteer Battalion, the South Wales Borderers.

Immediately after the announcement, no less than 5 companies were pitching for his business!

military history
HJ Tucker, Military Tailor & Outfitter 137 Cheapside, London, EC.

HJ Tucker used a pre-printed and rather impersonal standard letter, accompanied by a generic estimate for a 2nd Lieutenant's uniform. The quote included the cost of a sword with either a 'best proved steel hilt and scabbard' or a more expensive plated version - 'to prevent rust'.

military history

military history
Hebbert & Co Ltd, Manufacturers of Army, Navy, Railway and Police Cloths, Clothing, Caps & AccoutrementsHead Office: Bethnal Green Road, London, E. Telephone No. 909 London Wall. 

military history
Unlike Mr Tucker, Hebbert & Co were connected to the telephone! 

Hebbert's approach was much more personal: a handwritten letter, signed by H G Brightwell of No. 24 Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road, London. 

They too enclosed a price list but this time specifically aimed at a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry Volunteers.

Note the difference in the price of gloves: doeskin versus dogskin!

According to his surviving correspondence, Hebbert & Co Ltd were rewarded with an order from Ronald Robertson - two years later, when he purchased a 'cloth cape' in October 1903.

military history
J Fisher, Army and Volunteer Contractor 33 & 34 Artillery Place, Woolwich. 

Fisher specialised in second hand goods. His 'Circular' did not advertise a telephone number nor did it contain a separate price list. Instead, J Fisher's 'Special' offer included an 'unsoiled' infantry officer's steel sword for £3/5s or one in nickel plate for a snip at £2.

military history
Samuel Brothers Ltd, Military Tailors & Outfitters Sydenham House, 65 & 67 Ludgate Hill, London EC. Telephone No. 689 Bank. 

Like the other four companies, Samuel Brothers Ltd despatched their price list on 3rd April. It was accompanied by a fairly hurried looking handwritten letter, which stressed 'quality, workmanship & finish'. Uniquely, it drew the new lieutenant's attention to fellow officers (from his battalion) who were already Samuel Brothers' customers: Majors Powell & Jones, Captain Jowel and Quarter Master Dickey.  A clever piece of marketing!
military history

Although they enclosed a handy 'Officers' Self-Measurement' guide (right), I think it unlikely that a young officer would ever attempt 'self-measurement' for his first uniform but it's a nice touch. 

The last, successful approach was made by: 

military history
Hobson & Sons 'Officers Department', 1, 3 & 5 Lexington Street, Golden Square, London W. Telephone No. 3666 Gerrard. 

Hobson & Sons used a standard but professional, typed letter. It offered the Crickhowel based 2nd Lieutenant Robertson the convenience of using their agent Messrs Williams Bros Tailors of 145 Commercial Street, Newport for his measuring and fitting.

Ronald Robertson took quite some time to consider his options and eventually ordered his tunic and mess uniform from Hobson & Sons on 4th June 1901. Two days later, under the pressure of attending his first Brigade Camp at Porthcawl on 13th July, he submitted an order for the rest of his uniform!
military history
Staggeringly, given the time frame, Hobson's managed to fulfil most of Ronald's order before he left for Brigade Camp. They only missed the deadline with the Great Coat and the Sam Browne Belts and Sword Knot, but these items were ready for delivery a week later. 

From an announcement in the Gazette to possession of your full kit, it was quick work!

Hobson & Sons are still in business!

© Emmy Eustace

Saturday, 21 June 2014

We Smoke Your Health and Wish You Well: WW2 Cigarette Postcards

postcard WW2
Overseas League Tobacco Fund Cigarette Postcard 1943

To our modern eyes, supporting the provision of free cigarettes for young men and women would be at best, irresponsible and at worst, immoral.

In the context of both the First and Second World Wars, it was regarded not just as an act of charity but a patriotic duty. A delivery of cigarettes from home brought comfort to the weary soldier on the front line and boosted morale.

The Overseas Club inaugurated its famous Tobacco Fund during the First World War. Its success was legendary: in addition to tobacco for the troops, it donated 350 aircraft to the Royal Flying Corps and paid for a new hospital for wounded airmen.1

During the Second World War, f
or the price of just a shilling, the Tobacco Fund, 'with the co-operation of the War Office and the Customs Authorities' was able to send 'duty and carriage-free' a parcel of 50 cigarettes to units at the Front,2 hospitals or even ships at sea. Included in each package was a postcard, with the donor's address on one side and a blank space for the recipient's message, on the other. 

My father (for most of his life a non-smoker) was a keen donor to the Overseas League Tobacco Fund. He desperately wanted to join up, having been in the OTC (Officer Training Corps) at university but his requests were always firmly denied. Much to his intense frustration, they decided he was more useful in India. I think the Tobacco Fund was a small but poignant part of 'doing his bit' as he appears to have kept every single reply. As a result, I am fortunate to have 43 of these very special 'reply postcards'. 

postcard WW2
Cigarette Postcard 1945

Note the message at the bottom: 'Important: at the request of the authorities' - in capitals - 'Do not disclose any particulars of your unit'. This stricture wasn't always followed particularly closely, as can be seen in the cards below.

postcard WW2   
Cigarette Postcard 1945

This postcard, dated 7th July 1945, was sent by Lalitha Hensman, a Welfare Officer with the Indian Red Cross at South East Asia Command. Having obviously remarked on the address of the donor, she kindly takes care to point out that the 'recipients were Indian soldiers'. 

postcard WW2  
Cigarette Postcard 1944

My third and final postcard was sent in August 1944. Simple and to the point, it really sums up the whole collection: 

These cigarettes were issued to Allied Ex Prisoners of War who escaped through our lines. They were more than acceptable, and we wish to express our thanks to you.

AG Kennard [?]

* New Zealand Expeditionary Force

1/ 'Founding Father' By Alex May. 'Overseas: Journal of the Royal Overseas League' Issue 3 3rd September 2010 p.13  
2/ 'Tobacco for the Troops' The Spectator Magazine 12th November 1939 from the Spectator Archive

© Emmy Eustace

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Not to be Used for any Other Purpose: Recycling the Royal Navy

"OHMS: On His Majesty's Service"

If a genealogist is allowed to have one, my favourite ancestor has to be my Great Uncle John Bridges Eustace, known to the family as Jack. He kept everything (almost) and his fascinating archive will undoubtedly feature heavily in this blog.

By way of example, here are a few envelopes!

Having originally been designed to hold Royal Naval Service Certificates and associated service documents (gunnery and torpedo history sheets etc) the 'Envelopes for Parchment Certificates and History Sheets' were made of durable, thick paper. Well over a hundred years later, they are still in fairly good condition.

Waste is and was frowned upon in the Navy, whether it be ammunition or paper and Jack, regardless of the strictures on the front, happily re-used all types of envelopes for his private paperwork as seen below:

royal navy history
HMS c1901
Royal Navy history
"Not to be used for any other purpose"

Royal Navy history
HMS Alert c1901 

Royal Navy history
Wax seal of the Commander-in-Chief North America and West Indies from the
back of above envelope addressed to the Commander of HMS Alert,
JB Eustace 

Royal Navy history
"Letter to HBM Minister at Caracas"

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The Wicklow Militia 1884

Wicklow Militia c1884

This glorious picture of the band is from the early days of my grandfather Alexander Henry Eustace's long and eventful military career. 

Given the choice between officer training in the rarefied atmosphere of Sandhurst or entering the army via the militia, Alec gratefully chose the latter. Accordingly, in 1883 he was posted adjutant to the 7th Brigade Northern Irish Division Royal Artillery - aka the Wicklow Militia.

Later in life, he described how, marching through Wicklow Town on the way to the annual camp held on the Murragh (an open area on the coast where they fired a cannon out to sea), the wives and sweethearts would run along side them crying and sobbing "as if they were really going to war...smuggling liquor into the ranks as they marched"!

Wicklow Militia c1884

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Roger and Anna Draper

In 1915, as the Colonel's wife, my Great Grandmother Monica Eustace had the sad duty of visiting the newly widowed Anna Lowell Draper. A year later, Anna sent Monica the following two photographs:
York and Lancaster Regiment
Captain Roger Francis Draper 1915

The first is a picture of Anna's late husband, Captain Roger Francis Draper (1890-1915) of the 6th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment. Written on the back (in Anna's handwriting) is: 

RFD at Godalming June 1915

Anna Lowell Gardiner married Roger Francis Draper on 16th December 1914, in the Private Chapel of London House, Westminster St James in London, just before he left for the front. 

He was killed in action at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli on 22nd August 1915 and his death announced in the Boston Evening Transcript on 13th September 1915.

Captain Draper is remembered on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli, the War Memorial in Adel in Leeds and the Christchurch Cathedral Roll of Honour in Oxford. 

York and Lancaster Regiment
Anna Lowell Draper 1916

The second photograph was taken by Frizell of Boston, 
probably Fred A Frizell of Boston and Dorchester (as per the 1909 edition of the Boston Blue Book).

It is dated January 1916 and shows Anna holding her baby, Roger Francis Draper, who was born at 322 Beacon St, Boston, Massachusetts, USA on 7th November 1915. 

Anna Lowell Gardiner was an American, the daughter of Robert H Gardiner, a Lawyer and Alice (nee Bange). She was born in Newton, Massachusetts, USA on 9th September 1890.  

It appears that Anna married Henry Richardson Shepley in 1919 but sadly, if online sources are to be believed (an Ancestry tree) little Roger didn't live long, dying aged only 13 in 1928.

****Additional Information****
I have just found two more photographs of Roger Francis Draper, which can be seen on 


"Massachusetts, Births, 1841-1915," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 04 Jun 2014), Roger Francis Draper, 07 Nov 1915; citing Boston, Massachusetts, p 328, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 2409903 

"Massachusetts, Births, 1841-1915," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 04 Jun 2014), Anna Lowell Gardner, 09 Sep 1890; citing Newton, Massachusetts, P 260, Massachusetts Archives, Boston; FHL microfilm 1428244  

US genealogical information courtesy of fellow genealogist Liz Loveland of Metro Boston, Massachusetts via Twitter on @lizl_genealogy 
Further contact details on