Thursday, 23 March 2017

Sherard House and Church Row in Eltham in 1841 and Richard White census enumerator

Sherard House from the garden, 1909
This is Sherard House and once again I set out to describe the place and once again I have got side tracked.

But I shall start with a little of what I know.

 It stood on the High Street roughly on the site of the Nat West Bank, was built in 1634 and retained many of the original features including “the handsome mantelpieces of carved oak, oak panelling which surrounded the library and the quaint old open fire places.*

By the 1840s the front had been changed considerably but the rear remained unaltered although it would have been difficult to see the features given that it was covered in ivy.

And I would  have loved to walk through its 20 rooms and sat in the garden which extended north to the footpath known as the Slip.

Church Row numbered 316-320 and Sherard House 311 and garden 309, 1844
I can’t be sure at present but I think in the June of 1841 it was occupied by a Jane Edwards who was attended to by six servants but had moved on by 1843 when Sherard House was home to Samuel and his wife Frances and their children.

The Jeffreys were well off, farming 256 acres of land north of the High Street around Well Hall.

Not that they or any of our people of property can be said to have lived a life excluded from those of the less well off.

At the bottom of their garden were the five gardens of Church Row, in which lived the families of a shoemaker, carpenter, plumber and three agricultural labourers.

And these people fascinate me.  There was John and Dorothy Fiske, Anne Wakeman, John and Susanna Francis who shared with Joseph and Jane Arnold, while further down the row lived the Russell and Blundell families.

What is all the more remarkable is that these ordinary families show up in a range of official documents from the tithe schedule to the parish records.

The opening page of the census Enu 4 Eltham Kent , 1841 with Richard's signature
All would have been known to Richard White schoolmaster and the enumerator who in the June of 1841 was responsible for delivery the census forms to the 126 households on the north side of the High Street from the church down to South End.

His was the job of making sense of what had been written and in some cases of filling in the forms of those who were illiterate.

These enumerators were not slow to amend and correct the entries, sometimes even altering the occupations listed by a householder.

Now Richard White is an interesting chap and I only wish I knew more about him.  He would have been paid for his work, and may have been selected from a number of people who applied for the job.

Baptismal record of Catherine white, 1838
He lived with his wife in Pound Yard close to the National School, and baptised his two children at the parish church, and then he falls out of history.

I can’t find him or his wife Mary, although there is one official reference to their son later in the century.  Neither of them was from Eltham so perhaps they moved on.

I suspect the rate books may give me a clue, and I have yet to pursue the school records, but in the meantime I shall leave them, but secure in the knowledge that I will return to both them and the occupants of Church Row.

*R.R.C Gregory, The Story of Royal Eltham, 1909

Pictures; Sherard House from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, detail of Eltham High Street,  1844 from the Tithe map for Eltham courtesy of Kent History and Library Centre, Maidstone,

Baptismal records and census extracts from courtesy of The National Archives

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