Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Annie Morris, Lady Kirby and a neat little history lesson

Annie Morris circa 1900
What connects a reward issued by the Lord Mayor of London at the height of the Whitechapel Murders with Avery Hill and Mrs Morris of Court Yard?

This was the question I posed last week and now it is time to reveal the story.

According to a leading newspaper
"The Lord mayor, acting upon the advice of the Commissioner of City Police, has, in the name of the Corporation of London, offered a reward of £500 for the detection of the Whitechapel murderer, the last crime having been committed within the jurisdiction of the city.”

But he was not the only person to come forward with a reward and the same newspaper reported that “Colonel Sir Alfred Kirby, J.P., the officer commanding the Tower Hamlets Battalion Royal Engineers has offered, on behalf of his officers, a reward of £100, to anyone who will give information that will lead to the discovery and conviction of the perpetrator of the recent murders committed in the district in which his regiment is situated.”

And it is Colonel Sir Alfred Kirby who is the link to Avery Hill or to be more precise his wife, Lady Kirby who regularly visited Avery Hill with her husband to dine with Colonel North who lived there.

Their food would have been prepared by Annie Morris who lived at Court Yard but worked as the family cook.

Avery Hill today
I doubt that Annie and Lady Kirby ever passed through the gateway at Avery Hill at the same time but even so they were bound together by that simple relationship of cook and guest.

The one was a resident of Eltham and the other a visitor.

But that is not all. Almost a century later the descendants of Annie Morris and Lady Kirby met by chance both shared an interest in painting and began attending art classes together.

They became friends and discovered the link with the past, a link which has a nice twist.  Annie Morris’s great granddaughter is my friend Jean who readily admits she “hates cooking” while Pam whose great grandmother was Lady Kirby loves entertaining and so Jean is regularly wined and dined by Pam and her husband.

Jean and Pam 2013
It is one of those quirky turn of events that the great granddaughter of the cook at Avery Hill should in turn be served by the great granddaughter of Lady Kirby.

Now I could go off and explore the neat reversal of roles and examine the social changes which in just a few generations transformed the relationship between the descendant of a cook and a Lady.

But I won’t, that is perhaps for another time.

Instead I shall just leave with that thought that history is messy and it always has a habit of surprising you.

Picture;s of Avery Hill, 2013, Annie Morris, circa 1900 and Pam and Jean today courtesy of Jean Gammons

No comments:

Post a Comment