b.1872 – d.1917
Long Grove records say Henry died in 1917 age 44 meaning a birth year of about 1873.
I found his birth registered in June quarter 1872 in Poplar Union, also those of two of his siblings – Esther in 1868, Francis Ebenezer in 1869 – all of them had mother’s maiden name Webb. William, as mentioned in the Poor Law records, was actually Arthur William, born 1878 and Henry had another brother, Albert, registered in the June quarter 1880, who had a very short life – he died in the September quarter that year. Both had a mother with maiden name Webb.
So far, so good!
It has been a challenging search for Henry’s life as I have been unable to prove who his father was – there are two Henry Volckmans and possibly two Richard Volckmans. I am sure Henry’s mother was Lucy Webb.
1840s/50s and 1860s
I found a family called Volckman, who are confectioners in High Street, Hackney in the 1841 and 1851 Census returns with a son Richard whose baptism was in 1838- it is noted in the margin ‘reported born 14th Dec 1837’. The family appeared to be quite well off – they had apprentices and servants. Seems positive! However, as in 1880 Richard’s family are in the workhouse, I find this hard to link with an apparently wealthy family. I could not find any evidence of Francis’ business failing when he was in charge.
I found a Richard Volckman admitted to Bethnal House – ‘a licensed house’ (see author’s notes) on 12th January 1859, discharged 11. 09.1859 and ‘private’ written in the record – is this Henry’s father or from the confectioner family, or are they one and the same?
Although a marriage in March quarter 1862 volume 1, Page 455 in Hackney between a Richard Volckman and a Lucy Webb is recorded on two genealogy sites, I could not find a copy in Parish Registers on any genealogy site. Neither could I find a definite birth date for our Lucy which matches any ages mentioned in various correspondence.
1871 Census of Tower Hamlets has a nephew of Sarah Greayer, Richard Volckman, 38 listed as ‘joiner out of employ’. This would match with being a carpenter in later records..
In 1881 Henry, Esther and Francis are in Mile End Old Town Workhouse School,
Lucy – wife of Richd (sic) a carpenter and baby William (recorded as born in the workhouse) are in the Mile End Old Town Workhouse. An 1834 Act required workhouses to supply 3 hours of schooling per day.
London Poor Law Removal and Settlement records between Shoreditch and Mile End Old Town mention that they ‘verily believe’ Lucy is legally married to Richard Volckman and the children are lawfully his. Her age is assessed as 33/34 and later in the document he is stated to be 43 years.
Richard seems to have had a source of income as his wife claims he has lived at various addresses: Chesnut (sic) Road, Tottenham. She has not heard from him from August 1879 to Feb 1880 as noted in the Poor Law records and he has worked as a carpenter. It seems that because he was not living in the Parish with the family, he was not liable to pay for them, but I am not sure of the law at this time. The records also record him going away 9 years ago. I have not found evidence he was chased for payment – but it may emerge during later research as more and more records become available.
What puzzles me is that the Guardians state that, according to Lucy, Richard in 1863 absented himself to a distinct dwelling at an annual rental of £10 and paying the Poor Rate’. This was a substantial sum then! I just wonder if the Richard from the confectioner’s family is in fact Lucy’s husband, or at least the father of her children. The records tell us that Lucy claims Richard has moved addresses several times. If he absented himself, was he actually the father of her children, or did she just use his surname? Whatever the truth of the matter it seems the children can rarely if ever have had much contact with their father. I cannot begin to imagine how Lucy coped, particularly after little Albert died before his first birthday. How much attention could Henry have had from his mother all this time? Very little I suspect! No doubt they all had to be as self sufficient as possible in the circumstances, maybe were often hungry and poorly dressed.
A divorce happened – most unusual in 1875 – Henry’s uncle Francis it seems – see author’s notes.
Lucy died in Mile End Old Town Infirmary (which at the time was part of the workhouse) in 1884 – Henry was only 12 years old – which is also puzzling as records say she left £410 – probate granted to Richard Volckman. This was approximately equal to £ 50,000 today, so why was she in the workhouse?
In the 1891 census, Henry is recorded as a waiter and an inmate at Medland Hall, Queen Street, Tower Hamlets which is described in the census book : ‘now used as a shelter for the homeless’.
Also in 1891, Henry is in Stepney Workhouse, age 19 a waiter, admitted with ‘diarrh?’ which I take to mean diarrhoea. He has also worked as a bar boy.
The Lunacy register records him being admitted to Colney Asylum in Norwich, Norfolk on 27th April 1894 and discharged (Rel’d) on 7th April 1903 but otherwise markedly lacking in useful information. REL’D (Relieved) often meant the patient was transferred to another asylum or workhouse, however the 1903 records are not available online to see (we have reported this to Ancestry).
The 1911 census there has ‘HV, age 38, Labourer. Date and place of birth not known’ imbecile. I think this could be ‘our’ Henry.
We can see from various records that Henry seems to have been able to get at least some work to try and support himself. but we need access to his hospital records to ascertain when and why he was admitted to Long Grove. His mother died when he was only 12 and his father Richard does not seem to have been present in his life very much .
I found his brother, Francis, in Leatherhead in the 1911 census and in the 1939 Register, Francis is living in Dorking with his wife and daughter. I wonder if Francis ever visited his brother but we will probably never know. His sister, Esther, married in Croydon in 1894 but I have no further news about her. In 1901 his brother William is a working for a farrier in Islington.
This is very much a record waiting for us to fill in the gaps as more information becomes available.
Some of the Poor Law Board of Guardians records are faint and hard to read and some are damaged and unreadable, so the account may need reviewing in future.
Licensed houses: In the 19th Century, private residences or hotels could become licensed to care for ‘paupers and lunatics’. Some took both private and pauper clients.
There is evidence of friction in the extended family – the divorce – but there is no evidence at present that Henry was involved or even knew of it. Francis, who we presume is his uncle, is the most likely subject of the divorce as the only Volckman marriage found in 1857 was Francis, possibly uncle of Henry and brother of Richard.
The 1893 fire report mentions owners W and C Volckman – quite possibly relatives who now own Henry’s grandfather’s shop.
I have not managed to find if Sarah Greayer/ Granger was his aunt on his mother’s side or his father’s, neither have I researched Esther and William any further as they are not recorded near to Long Grove.
This has been a joint research project as I needed another eye to sort out Richard and Lucy’s dates apart! It is very much a project for further research but at least we have some facts upon which to build.