Emily’s Autograph Album: A Local Tale (pt 1)

Introduction
Every so often, in my personal opinion, something special turns up at the Walsall Archives; while I know it wont be the Domesday Book or Magna Carta, it will be something that is special to me for one reason or another. Such an item, in this case what seemed to be an ordinary Victorian/Edwardian autograph album, arrived from Sheffield Archives several years ago. The album had a big impact on me, simply because it was so unusually ordinary! I went on to create a talk about it – which, even after a good few years, is still my most popular. Do remember at this point, you can click on the images to enlarge.

Emily's autograph album, containing at least 25 years of her life, (Walsall Local History Centre)

Emily’s autograph album, containing at least 25 years of her life, (Walsall Local History Centre)

The album had been sent by someone I had worked with on a Black Country archive project, as it seemed more relevant to us than Sheffield. No paperwork accompanied the album: it had been ‘discovered’ during a stock audit, so its provenance was a mystery – we didn’t even know how long the album had been in Sheffield. What was clear, whoever the Emily was that owned it, it covered 25 years of her life at least – starting in December 1900. Cheryl, who sent it, and knew our local area well, was quite right, the book did contain mementos of friends and family from the Hednesford, Cannock, Great Wyley, Bridgtown, Heath Hayes, Brownhills, Walsall, Willenhall and Pelsall areas amongst others.

A Christmas message from Edwin Dunn, Holly Lane, Landywood, in 1904. Dunn was a miner, married and around 29 at the time. (Walsall Local History Centre)

A Christmas message from Edwin Dunn of Holly Lane, Landywood, in 1904. Dunn was a miner, married and around 29 at the time. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Initially, having been told it was just an ‘autograph book’, I wasn’t overly bothered about getting around to it and it sat on my desk for around three weeks before I did – after all, I expected it to be no more than a list of people’s names – hardly anything truly historical in the wider sense. When I did at last open the envelope, I exposed a battered and rather generic looking album. At first I was unimpressed, but as I turned the pages something really got under my skin and I knew I had to try and find out what I could about it.

An oil painting by GW Woolley,1919. Looks like a Christmas card scene - i use this for my avatar on Wyrleyblog Facebook (Walsall Local History Centre)

An oil painting by GW Woolley, from 1919. It looks like a greeting card scene – I use this for my avatar on Wyrleyblog Facebook (Walsall Local History Centre)

Yes, it is an autograph album, but it is so much more. Do you remember when you left school, did you ask friends to write in an album or on your now defunct school shirt? I know I did and a few years back Moat Hall School in Great Wyrley gave my daughter an album just like Emily’s when she left the school to do the same. Well, this is like that, only instead of just names and the odd comment it has thoughts, poems, sketches and even high quality oil paintings by Emily’s friends and family.

A Lake District style landscape, a watercolour by E Dawes, 19/11/1902. (Walsall Local History Centre)

A Lake District style landscape, a watercolour by E Dawes, 19/11/1902. (Walsall Local History Centre)

So What Does An Archivist Do Anyway?: Evidence on Emily
So, if there is no paperwork from Sheffield, the only clues to Emily’s identity come through the book itself; so what is in the album that is direct, indirect and possible evidence? People often ask what does an archivist do? Well, we don’t build arches as someone once asked a colleague of mine. The most widely known aspect of what we do is in fact to collect and make available historic records, and a part of that process it to write an administrative history to the collection/record. This history uses the records and any other sources to create a context for the items in the collection: who, when, why and so forth.

A cartoon - possible ridicule of one of the Chamberlains (Neville, Austin or Joseph). (Walsall Local History Centre)

A cartoon – a possible ridicule of one of the Chamberlains (Neville, Austin or Joseph). (Walsall Local History Centre)

What I shall present here to start are just a few of the pictures, some crudely executed and some quite the opposite, that are simply either nice or may contain evidence. This will mean that at times it will be picture heavy, with little text, which is unavoidable; also, that some pictures are referred to in more than one paragraph as they contain references, through picture and caption for example, to more than one field of evidence.

A watercolour I call the angry sea - I dont think it is Chasewater judging by the lighthouse/church on the hill. Painted by JW Leach in 1925. (Walsall Local History Centre)

A watercolour I call the angry sea – I don’t think it is Chasewater judging by the lighthouse/church on the hill. Painted by JW Leach in 1925. (Walsall Local History Centre)

What is an interesting thought is that other than one printed item and one photograph placed in the album, along with one loose item tucked in, all that you see is original (as the foxing and soaking into the paper shows), which means that in some cases the book must have been taken away for some period of time – take GW Woolley’s painting above for instance.

A poem by A Addison of Walsall, you can see the colour in the holly has spread. Dated 28 Jan 1901, it says 'May she to whom this book belongs light trials meet if any - her hours of gloom, may may be few, her sunny moments many'. (Walsall Local History Centre)

A poem by A M Addison of Walsall (possible Alice, from Persehouse St), you can see the colour in the holly has spread. Dated 28 Jan 1901, it says ‘May she to whom this book belongs light trials meet if any – her hours of gloom, may may be few, her sunny moments many’. (Walsall Local History Centre)

After the selected album images, I will summarise the clues and start to look for further evidence from other sources; most of this will be in the second part of the article, due to the size.

Dedication page - the most important clue. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Dedication page – it provided the initial and some of the most important clues, Remember, click to enlarge images. (Walsall Local History Centre)

You would expect family to be in the album, and in this we are not disappointed. In fact, the biggest single clue is offered on the dedication on the opening page: the page is dedicated to Emily from her sister, Lottee – which we would assume to be Charlotte. Further, the book, dated 12 December 1900, was a birthday gift for Emily, although we don’t know her age at this time. A final piece of evidence is the poem: Lottee uses a verse from Charles Kingsley’s ‘Farewell’, and her knowledge of the poem, especially as she redacts the words ‘and death’ after ‘so make life’ (it is a birthday gift after all), along with the handwriting, suggest a good level of education for both girls.

'Affectionate brother' Garrett's rather curious drawing, 17 September 1901. (Walsall Local History Centre)

‘Affectionate brother’ Garrett’s rather curious drawing, 17 September 1901. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The next family clue, and one that would lead to all kinds of frustrations, would be supplied by a second, and somewhat curious, picture and caption from her ‘affection brother’ Garrett. It is an unusual name and one I hoped to trace. The picture is of a somewhat crudely drawn moggie, standing as the accused in a courtroom before ‘the beak’; the caption reads ‘he the prigs what is not is’n when he’s cotched he’s took to prison’. This was a maxim that was allegedly once on the walls of Newgate Prison and means if you are caught stealing, you will go to the nick! As I went through the album, this drawing seemed so out of place with what was emerging of Emily.

Is this the face of Emily drawn in 1902? (Walsall Local History Centre)

Is this the face of Emily drawn by C.A.S. in 1902? (Walsall Local History Centre)

As the album belonged to a female (we don’t know her age), you may expect pictures of women to feature. They do, with several dated and undated ones. The earliest was drawn in Keighley, Yorkshire, by a C.A.S in January 1902. The impression you would get is that Emily was an adult by this stage, especially if she knew people from that far afield (unless relatives). Of course, we don’t know if any of these are actually meant to be representations of Emily, or are in fact some ‘fantasy’ woman. The choice of title, ‘The Lost Gainsborough’, as it is an imitation of the painting of ‘Lady Georgina Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire’, is interesting – again it implies that she understands the art. As an aside, a copy of one of Gainsborough’s Sarah Siddons paintings hangs in the Black Country Arms, Walsall.

The unfinished 'Sporty Spice' by TW. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The possibly deliberately unfinished ‘Sporty Spice’ by TW. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Looking for some kind of resemblance within the pictures is difficult, as the artist may simply be working from memory. I do think there is some resemblance between the ‘Gainsborough’ and the two ‘TW ‘pictures. Whoever TW was, he drew colourful scenes and if they are of Emily, he portrays her as playing tennis and behind the wheel of a car. I call them ‘Sporty’ and ‘Drivey’ Spice. It isn’t clear if ‘Sporty’ was deliberately left unfinished, but the two images suggest that Emily was from if not a privileged or middle-class background, then one that wasn’t struggling financially.

TW's 'Drivey Spice'. (Walsall Local History Centre)

TW’s ‘Drivey Spice’. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Two other pictures are dated to 1904. The one is a nice drawing executed by a T.P. and the other is an amazing pencil drawing surrounded by a penned flower effect. This, to me, does have a similarity to the other pictures. The drawing was executed by a W. A. Dunham, from Walsall, in July that year. I believe this was a Wilfred A Dunham, a land and mine surveyor that I also believe may have been involved with the Young Men’s Christian Association. The church may have been a connection between her and him – indeed, her and a lot of the subscribers to her album.

The drawing of WA Dunham - I believe a land and mine surveyor - and involved with the YMCA. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The drawing of WA Dunham – I believe a land and mine surveyor – and involved with the YMCA. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Another picture that centres on a female is that drawn by Billy Daft in July 1905. Billy Daft, yes that was his name, was born in Brownhills around 1877 – apparently Brownhills is full of Dafts. He was a picture-framer in 1901, before moving to my neck of the woods – Great Wyrley – where he got involved with both the Great Wyrley Workingmen’s Club (as secretary, I believe) and Harrison’s Club (also secretary). He was living on Walsall Rd, with his wife, in 1911, and was a colliery clerk – maybe at Harrison’s pit, however, the picture suggests that back in 1905 it appeared he was still in Brownhills. His picture is ‘touched-up’ on the mouth, detracting slightly. It is flanked by flowers, a scene that almost looks like Venice and another that looks like the Norfolk Broads.

Billy Daft's painting, 1905. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Billy Daft’s painting, 1905. (Walsall Local History Centre)

It is possible that there is evidence of one of Emily’s hobbies within the album. An unattributed pen drawing depicts ‘The Merry Widow’ which is an operaetta by Franz Lehar that opened in 1905. The hobby would be singing and not killing off husbands of course 🙂 . If it isn’t to do with her singing, I cant see why it would be in the album – after all it isn’t a cartoon like the Chamberlain cat above. One other entry in the album, a crude drawn cartoon, was by an Ethel Taylor of Stafford: in the 1901, her father was listed as a professor of music.

Unattributed pen drawing of 'The Merry Widow', Franz Lehar's opera which opened in 1905. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Unattributed pen drawing of ‘The Merry Widow’, Franz Lehar’s opera which opened in 1905. (Walsall Local History Centre)

There are an awful lot of connections within the book to education, simply so many, they cannot be a coincidence. The very first date drawing in the book, executed by a Wesley H Boot, was done just ten days after the book was given to Emily, on 22 December 1900. Boot was a school teacher on the 1901 census and living in Bridgtown, by Cannock. This suggests to me that – with the closeness of dates – the possibility that Emily either lived or worked nearby, maybe at the same school, or she was a pupil at Boot’s School.

The first drawing in the album, made by Wesley Boot -a school teacher from Bridgtown. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The first drawing in the album, made by Wesley Boot -a school teacher from Bridgtown. (Walsall Local History Centre)

In 1901, a George A Edwards painted in the album. His flowers reamin vibrant in colour even today. What maybe considered a little unusual would be his choice of verse, or more perhaps accurately, the author. He takes a verse called ‘Lost’, which has the ‘seize the day’ message. The author was a Horace Mann, who was an American politician and, importantly in this context, educational reformer (1796 – 1859). Is this a coincidence? Of course, nothing is certain.

Poem by George Edwards, 1901. Curiously, he quotes Horace Mann - a US educational reformer. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Poem by George Edwards, 1901. Curiously, he quotes Horace Mann – a US educational reformer. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The Mann quote, as well as a couple of other images in the album, do suggest to me that she was more a teacher than a pupil. A Mason’s entry, surely another woman, provides, in the form of a school lesson plan, a ‘domestic economy’ lesson on how to make ‘love cakes’. The lesson, ‘not for those under 18 years’, may suggest that Emily was sweet with someone. I love the style, split into matter and method. Her ingredients include: 2 loving hearts, 2 hands well clasped, 1 shady tree and ‘sweet and honeyed sentences’ – ‘the number depending on the persons’! Her suggestive ‘cautions’ include ‘sufficient for two persons only’ and ‘no heat required’! I like her comment on revision – ‘Accomplished by repetition’.

A brilliant and different entry in the album by , the use of a school lesson plan indicates to me that Emily is a teacher. (Walsall Local History Centre)

A brilliant and different entry in the album by A Mason in April 1903: the use of a school lesson plan indicates to me that Emily is a teacher. (Walsall Local History Centre)

I also had to include the image below, as it infers to me that Emily would be doing the punishing of the old stereotyped ‘dunce’ and not on of his classmates. The picture, executed by J. Watson, also early in the album’s life on the 3 January 1901, has a schoolboy looking rather like the ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a ‘dunce cap’, obviously having just been punished – the caption is a twist on famous line from Tennyson’s ‘Break, Break, Break’, and favoured on many later WWI war graves, and should read ‘But O for the touch of a vanished hand’.

J Watson's stereotype school 'dunce', looking suspiciously like Gordon Brown? (Walsall Local History Centre)

J Watson’s stereotype school ‘dunce’, looking suspiciously like Gordon Brown? (Walsall Local History Centre)

We come now to the geographical spread of entries. Most do not say, some do and of those above we have Keighley, Landywood, Walsall and Brownhills. We know Wesley was from Church Street, Bridgtown, and his mother did in fact paint a rather psychedelic looking effort further in the album.

Wolverhampton's B Attwood's line drawing that reminds me of my Chocolate Labrador. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Wolverhampton’s B. Attwood’s line drawing that reminds me of my Chocolate Labrador. (Walsall Local History Centre)

From outside the general scope of the Blog comes this one from a B. Attwood, who is from Wolverhampton. I mentioned earlier a cartoon by Ethel Taylor from Stafford and, what may be coincidental, but there is an undated picture of a shaggy dog’s head by a J. Woolley from Burton-upon-Trent. If this is the same family as G.W. Woolley, who painted the earlier picture, then that could place her in Burton around that time.

W Green's exquisite pencil drawing of a cat, Hednesford, 1903. (Walsall Local History Centre)

W Green’s exquisite pencil drawing of a cat, Hednesford, 1903. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Within the Wyrleyblog zone, and staring with the Cannock area, we have, as well as the places mentioned, this beautiful image of a cat by W. Green from Hednesford. The smudging into the surrounding paper is evident, but it is stunning. While I wasn’t convinced, I did feel that there was a possibility that Emily may have been in the Cannock area around this time.

W. Simpkin's cryptic message in February 1901. Simpkin was a teacher from Great Wyrley and later the Parish Council secretary. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Walter Simpkin’s cryptic message in March 1901. Simpkin was a teacher from Great Wyrley and later the Parish Council secretary. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Walter Simpkin was a school teacher, later a headmaster, from the ‘Beeches’ in Great Wyrley. Simpkin would also later become the secretary to the Great Wyrley Parish Council and have to get special clearance to remain at home during World War One. His cryptic drawing is one of the few to mention Emily’s name. The strange lines actually read ‘good luck’ when scrunched down – I have no idea what the bar of music is.

Edward VII, by William Rogers of Cheslyn Hay. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Edward VII, by William Rogers of Littlewood, Cheslyn Hay. (Walsall Local History Centre)

One generic effort is supplied by William Rogers – it is of King Edward VII – and a copy of ubiquitous picture that was hung in school classrooms for example. Rogers describes himself as from Littlewood, Cheslyn Hay. Littlewood was then a small a small hamlet (preserved in the names Littlewood Road and Littlewood Lane); it was home to the recently demolished Woodman pub and the the extended Rogers family, I believe, operated the pub around this time.

John Bull, Heath Hayes, 1905. (Walsall Local History Centre)

John Bull, Heath Hayes, 1905. (Walsall Local History Centre).

From Heath Hayes we have John Bull. I thought this may have been a joke name – reflecting England, but there was a family that lived near Five Ways in 1901. John Bull senior was then a 40-year old colliery blacksmith, his son was 13. Another from that neck of the woods was a rose, painted in July 1905, by E Rowley. This may be Elizabeth Rowley. Flowers are popular in the album, as they had a lot of symbolism in the Victorian/Edwardian period.

Heath Hayes' E Rowley's rose. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Heath Hayes’ E Rowley’s rose. (Walsall Local History Centre)

From the Walsall Borough end of the Wyrleyblog spectrum, I have currently covered Walsall and Brownhills. A set of two entries was undertaken by a Fred Marston of Cemetery Rd in Willenhall. The first, and the youngest Blogette’s (my daughter) favourite is a water-colour of a cartoon in which two shrimps are drinking in a tea-room; the menu hangs on the wall, shrimps 9d, tea 3d!

Fred Marston cartoon. Fred was from Willenhall. May 1905.

Fred Marston’s cartoon. Fred was from Willenhall. May 1905.

The second entry Marston completed was a pen surround to a photograph. Since the caption says ‘I am here’, one can only conclude that the photograph is of Marston himself. Frederick D. Marston was born in 1888; the son of a lock maker, he was an office boy in 1901 – either working in a post-room or he was with the Post Office. He would have been around 18 when he drew in the book, but the photograph appears to be of a schoolboy. I can only suggest that this may well be a retrospective picture and significant in what I believe to be Emily’s teaching past.

Fred Marston's photograph - as a schoolboy. May 1905. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Fred Marston’s photograph – as a schoolboy. May 1905. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Of course there are many neutral pictures that are of scenes, animals, flowers and so forth that are not even attributed – bizarre when it is an autograph book – unless the one below is a self-portrait for example as so recognisable to Emily.

Completely un-attributed watercolour. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Completely un-attributed watercolour. (Walsall Local History Centre)

So, where does this leave us? We have gleaned some information – and I hope that you agree: we have an Emily, a Lottie [likely a Charlotte?] and a Garrett that were all siblings in the locality around 1901. It is possible that locality could be narrowed to the Cannock area. The family seemed to have ‘respectable’ and educated friends, with many references to teachers and teaching.

Mary Mason, Emily's 'sincere friend', painting sunflowers in June 1903. (Walsall Local History Centre)

Mary Mason, Emily’s ‘sincere friend’, painting sunflowers in June 1903. (Walsall Local History Centre)

If I wanted to try and track down the family it seemed to me that Garrett was the best name to search for, as it isn’t that common. I was hoping of course that Garrett, Charlotte and Emily all lived at the same address at this time. A general ‘local’ search on ‘Ancestry.Com’ for a ‘Garrett’ revealed an Emily, Garrett and Charlotte Darby living at 39, Queen St, Walsall. Their father was a Daniel Darby, a gig saddle maker with his own business. The family were all from Walsall. I celebrated with a rather shameful outburst of dad dancing.

A little Dutch girl (Walsal Local History Centre)

A little Dutch girl (Walsall Local History Centre)

And so I called in the ‘press’ and an article appeared in the local Chronicle newspapers; all was great until a relative of ‘Garrett’ contacted me, saying…. ‘of course, his name was ‘Garnett’. Alarm bells rang – the picture in the book was clearly by a ‘Garrett’ and the Queen Street ‘Garrett’, after cross-checking, was definitely a ‘Garnett’ – Ancestry had tagged the name incorrectly and in my enthusiasm I was all too ready to accept it. It taught me to calm down – Emily’s last lesson maybe! I went back to the drawing-board, but what I found didn’t make sense.

Garrett Watson in the Princess Alice Orphanage in the 1901 census. (National Archives)

Garrett Watson in the Princess Alice Orphanage in the 1901 census. (National Archives)

A Garrett Watson appears as a 14-year old boy from Cannock originally, but no birth certificate was registered anywhere under that name. Some evidence did support the possibility, after all, a ‘J Watson’ executed a the ‘Gordon Brown’ drawing in the album, ‘E Watson – Surveyor’ appears on a bridge in another and ‘TW’ did the ‘Spice’ water-colours; saying that, Watson is not uncommon and, what I do not understand, is why would the brother of a ‘respectable lady’ be in an orphanage around the time he is drawing in her album?

The Princess Alice Orphanage in New Oscott - residence of a Garrett Watson in 1901. (Walsall Local History Centre)

The Princess Alice Orphanage in New Oscott – residence of a Garrett Watson in 1901. (Walsall Local History Centre)

I felt I had drawn a blank. I decided to look at the 1891 census, after all Garrett was 14 and so should be on that as well. I checked, but there was no entry for a Garret Watson. I cast the net wider and checked for an Emily Watson, just in case. I found one intriguing entry, but not conclusive.

 

Garrett, Emily and Charlotte Watson in Cannock in 1891- is this who the album belonged to? (National Archives)

Garrett, Emily and Charlotte Watson in Cannock in 1891- is this who the album belonged to? (National Archives)

In Mill St, Cannock, a house, then situated between the Cannock Gas Works (now Girton Road) and the Railway Hotel (now gone, but where Mill St curves round into Spring St) was occupied by a Charlotte Watson (senior), who is described as American, although British subject, and a widow at the age of 43. There were six children: three girls, Rosa, Emily and a Charlotte, along with three boys John (Gordon Brown picture?), James G and Thomas Watson (could be TW?).

John (16) was a railway booking clerk – possibly, considering where they lived, at Cannock Station. He ans scholar, Rosa (13), were born in Warwickshire. The next two children, Charlotte (11) and Emily (9), were both born in Pelsall, and at school. The last two, James (4) and Thomas (2), were born in Cannock. With Thomas being just 2 years old, and Charlotte a widow, his father must have died recently. While there was no Garrett, a ‘James G’ is listed and as being the consistent with the age at 4 and born in Cannock. I did a check on this name and it showed a birth certificate issued under the name of James Garrett Watson. Had we made some progress?

Coming soon, part 2.

My thanks to:
Sheffield Archives (Cheryl)
Walsall Local History Centre
National Archives

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