When Annie Kelland married Robert Dolding in 1884 she could not have imagined that within ten years she would be widowed, destitute and that she and her children would be living in a workhouse. Nor could she have thought that she would end her days in an asylum and be buried in a pauper’s grave. But such would prove to be Annie’s sad fate.
Annie’s parents and siblings
Annie Dolding (née Kelland) was born in the village of Cannington in Somerset in the 4th quarter of 1861 to William Kelland, a blacksmith, and his wife Betsey (née Greedy). She was baptised in Cannington parish church on the 29th of December 1861. Both William and Betsey were born in 1825 in Wiveliscombe, a small town about twenty miles from Cannington, and were married there in June 1845.
In the 1851 Census William and Betsey were living in Langley Marsh in Wiveliscombe with their children Elizabeth (born in 1846), William (1848), Fanny (1850) and Eliza (1851). We learn from the census that Elizabeth was born in London (her birth was registered in St James) but we do not know why William and Betsey were in London at the time or how long they spent there. However, as at least five of their children moved to London as adults it might be assumed that there was a family connection there.
By the time of the 1861 Census William and Betsey have moved to Cannington and are living at the Black Horse, where William is a ‘master blacksmith employ(ing) two boys’. Betsey has given birth to four more children, James (born in 1853), Edwin (1856), Henry (1857) and Emma (1856). After Annie in 1861 Betsey gave birth to her last child, Frederick, in 1864.
The 1870s and early 1880s
In the 1871 Census Annie is living with her parents and her six younger siblings at the Grange Lodge in Cannington. The Grange is the home of Joseph Poole an ‘attorney farmer of 3 acres, employing 3 men and 2 boys’. William is still employed as a blacksmith, as are his sons James and Henry. Eliza is a draper’s assistant and Edwin is apprentice to a printer.
The two eldest siblings have now left the family home: Elizabeth is married to mariner John Thomas and living in Pill, a village about four miles from Bristol and William has moved to London where he is working as a blacksmith and lodging at 19, Union Street in Marylebone. It has not been possible to find Fanny in the 1871 census but we know that in 1877 she married commercial clerk Charles Nathaniel Levien in the Church of St John the Evangelist in Hammersmith.
In the 1881 Census nineteen year-old Annie was still living at the Grange Lodge with her parents, her brothers Henry and Frederick and her brother William’s son, five year-old Henry. The older Henry is working with his father as a blacksmith and farrier and Frederick is ‘apprenticed to (a) merchant, book-keeping’. Annie does not work.
Robert Dolding’s family
Annie’s future husband, Robert William Dolding, was born in Capel in Kent in 1855, the second child of George Dolding and his wife Mary (née Hodgkin). Although Mary was from Capel, George was born in the nearby village of Pembury. At the time of the 1861 Census George, aged 29, was working as a farm bailiff and living in the ‘Farm House’ at Limekiln Farm in Staplehurst, Kent, with his 27 year-old wife and their children, Rachel (born in 1854), Robert, Albert (1857), William (1858) and Emily (1860).
In the 1871 Census we find 15 year-old Robert has left Kent and is working as a ‘page’ in the home of the Reverend John Fraser Taylor, ‘the incumbent of Holy Trinity Church’ and his family in St Aubyns, Hove.
By the time of the 1881 Census, however, Robert has moved to London and is the butler in the home of JP Morgan banker Philip Pleydell Bouverie, grandson of Jacob Pleydell-Bouverie, the 2nd Earl of Radnor and son of Whig politician Philip Pleydell-Bouverie. In 1881 Pleydell-Bouverie was living with his wife, Jane, and two of their seven children, George and Alys, at 32, Hill Street in Mayfair. As well as Robert, the household staff comprised a housekeeper, a ladies’ maid, two housemaids, three kitchen maids and two footmen.
As butler, Robert would have been in charge of the male servants while the housekeeper would have been responsible for the female servants. Traditionally, male servants were better paid and of higher status than female servants and, as the senior male servant, Robert would have had the highest servant status in the household.
The marriage of Annie and Robert
We do not know when or how Robert and Annie met but they were married on the 27th of January 1884 at the St George’s Church in Hanover Square. As Robert’s address is given in the register as 32, Hill Street, it may be assumed that he was still working for the Pleydell-Bouverie family at the time. However, Annie – for whom no occupation is given – is living at 6, Queen Street Place in the City of London.
According to the 1881 Census, 6, Queen Street Place was the home of caretaker James Simmons and his family but by 1891 Robert’s younger brother, Albert, was living there with his wife, Amy, and their children Winifred, Constance, Dorothy and Leonard and a domestic servant, Catherine Bickford.
We do not know if Annie had been working for or lodging with Albert when she met Robert or was simply staying with her future brother- and sister-in-law – both of whom were witnesses at the wedding – prior to her marriage.
The birth of a child
Four months after the wedding, on the 27th of May 1884, Annie gave birth to the couple’s first child, Fred, who was baptised at St Mark’s Church in North Audley Street, Westminster, on the 29th of June. In the baptismal register their address is given as 13, Duke Street, Grosvenor Square, and Robert is described as a butler. Very few butlers were married at the time and those that were had to make separate housing arrangements for their families. One would assume that Robert’s position would require him to continue to live at Hill Street while Annie and Fred lived in Duke Street.
Annie and Robert’s children
Although born in London – his birth was registered in St George, Hanover, in the 1st quarter of 1886 – Annie and Robert’s second child, Robert, was baptised at the parish church in Cannington on the 25th of July 1886. The birth of their third child, Violet Annie, was also registered in London (Lambeth) in the 2nd quarter of 1887. However, the couple’s next three children were all born in Melton, a village in Suffolk, about one mile north-east of Woodbridge – Ethel (born in the 3rd quarter of 1888), Harry Hemmings (4th quarter of 1889) and Annie Kelland (4th quarter of 1890).
It has not been possible to establish a family connection with Melton through the Kelland, Dolding, Greedy or Hodgkin families so we do not know why Annie chose to live and have her children there – especially as she had siblings living in London at the time.
By the time of the 1891 Census Annie had moved about ten miles from Melton and was living at 171, Spring Road in Ipswich with her five youngest children. Six year-old Fred is living with Annie’s parents in Cannington. The census tells us that Robert is ‘in London. Bank manager’. It might be assumed from this that Robert is still working for the Pleydell-Bouverie family in Hill Street for, although Philip died in 1890, the house is now occupied by his son, Henry, who is also a banker. However, Robert’s name does not appear in the list of domestic servants who live at that address, nor is he living at 13, Duke Street. Indeed, up to now it has not been possible to find Robert in the 1891 Census.
Admission to the workhouse
It would appear that at some time after the 1891 Census Annie returned to London with her children. However, it is at this point that her life begins to spiral downwards: on the 22nd of September 1893, Annie was admitted to Hackney Workhouse with her daughters Violet, Ethel and Anne and sons Robert and Harry. They remained there until the 2nd of December 1893 when they were discharged and immediately transferred to Fulham Road Workhouse.
We do not know why Annie was reduced to seeking poor relief though it is possible that Robert was now unemployed, perhaps due to ill health. On the 30th of January 1894 Violet and Ethel were discharged from the workhouse ‘to father’ but on the 10th of February they were readmitted. On the 6th of February Robert had been admitted to the same workhouse and on the 17th of April he was transferred to the infirmary where he died two months later.
On the 23rd of June 1894, about the time of Robert’s death, Annie was discharged from Fulham Road Workhouse at her own request with her youngest daughters, Ethel and Anne.
The Ashford School
While Annie was in the workhouse – and after she was discharged – her children attended the West London District School in Ashford. Opened in 1872, the school was one of a number set up to provide accommodation away from the workhouse for pauper children from London. These were usually industrial schools where both boys and girls were taught the basics of a useful trade which, it was hoped, would provide them with better prospects in the future. The Ashford School was built to accommodate 800 children.
Annie’s children in the 1890s and 1900s
The next we hear of Annie is when her daughter Annie (Anne) is admitted to Saunders Road School in Hammersmith on the 8th of July, 1895. Annie is named as the child’s parent and her address is given as 5, Norland Gardens. However, when Ethel joins the school on the 13th of February the following year, no name was given under ‘Parent or Guardian’ and the address is now 5, Norland Road.
On the 16th of March 1896 both girls were admitted to Fox School in Kensington where Annie’s sister Fanny Levien is named as their guardian. This would seem to indicate that Annie is no longer able to look after her children, perhaps experiencing the mental health problems that would dominate her later life.
Fanny lives at 18, Campden Houses in Kensington with her accountant husband Charles and their eight children. We do not know how long the girls stayed with their aunt but in the 1901 Census Anne is living with her brother Fred and their grandparents in Cannington and Ethel is an ‘inmate’ at Whitehall Orphanage, a home for girls in Reigate, Surrey.
In the same census we find that Violet and Harry are still at the Ashford School. After spending six years in the school, Robert was discharged on the 19th of April 1900, aged 14, ‘to the army’ and in the 1901 census we find him listed as a private, stationed at the Shaft Barracks in Dover. According to army records Robert joined the Royal Fusiliers, describing his trade or calling as ‘musician’.
Unfortunately, it has not been possible to find Annie in the 1901 Census but, as her younger children were either in care or living with her parents, it is likely that she had been readmitted to the workhouse or was otherwise physically or emotionally incapable of looking after them.
Violet spent nine years in Ashford School and was discharged ‘to service’ on the 4th of February 1903. 15 year-old Harry, after ten years in Ashford, was discharged on the 8th of June 1904, ‘for emigration to Canada’.
Between 1869 and 1932, over 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada through assisted juvenile emigration. Some children were orphans but most were from destitute families who were unable to care for them due to poverty or because of the illness, death or workplace injury of a parent. Some children, like Harry, were paupers who were living in or who had lived in a workhouse.
Most of the organisations and agencies caring for these children were motivated by social, economic and charitable forces to look to Canada as a new home for the children, believing they would have better opportunities and a chance for a healthy, moral life in the Canadian countryside. Rural families welcomed the children and agreed to send them to school according to provincial laws, as well as bring them to church and Sunday school. The children were also taught skills or trades that could help them make an honourable living as adults.
Described as a joiner, Harry left Liverpool on the ‘Canada’ on the 9th of June 1904, arriving in Montreal 24 days later.
Annie’s admission to Long Grove and death
While we cannot be certain of Annie’s whereabouts after 1895, she reappears in the 1911 Census, now aged 48 and working as a cook at the home of Mary Harriet Gifford and her family at 27, Bassett Road, North Kensington. We do not know how long Annie had been working there or her mental condition at the time but the following year, on the 24th of October 1912, she was admitted to Long Grove.
She died there on the 26th of February 1917, aged 56, and on the 5th of March she was buried in plot 1194b in Horton Cemetery.
Annie’s children after her death
And what was the fate of Annie’s scattered children after her death?
- Fred remained in Cannington where he assisted his grandfather and later his uncle Henry as a smith and a machinery agent. In 1914 he married Martha Jane Loveridge and they had two children, John and Marian. In the 1939 register Fred is described as an agricultural implement agent. He died in April 1977 aged 92.
- Robert remained in the Royal Fusiliers, rising to the rank of Lance Corporal in the 24th Battalion. Sadly, he was killed in the Battle of Arras on the 29th of April 1917. He left a widow, Emily Maude (née Dwelly) whom he had married in 1913.
- Violet remained in service all her working life. In the 1911 census we find her working as a servant in the home of the Lauste family at 12, Melbourne Square in Brixton. However, in the 1939 register she is a patient in the West Park psychiatric hospital in Epsom, Surrey, which suggests that Annie’s mental health problems may have been inherited by her daughter. We do not know when Violet was first admitted to the hospital but she died there on the 31st of March 1959. She left her estate of £1,858-9-11 to her brother Fred.
- In the 1911 Census Ethel was working as a housemaid in the home of Theodor Trost and his family at 70, Woodvale in Forest Hill. Three years later, on the 19th of November 1914, she married grocer Harry Doe at the Church of St Barnabas in Clapham. In the 1939 register the couple were living at 87, Honeywell Road in Battersea with their son Frederick Henry. Ethel died in April 1977 aged 88.
- Unfortunately, it has not been possible to trace Harry after his arrival in Canada.
- In 1911 Anne was working as second housemaid in the home of William Starky Horsby at Grove House, West Derby in Liverpool. In the 1939 register she is a waitress in Fiona(?) House in Heathcote Street in St Pancras, which appears to have been a residence for medical students. Anne never married. She died on the 2nd of January 1977 in Swaffham, Norfolk where she lived at 7, Oaks Drive. She left an estate valued at £1,587.