It is time to downsize when you have to rid a cupboard of old fashioned shelving and find that you have too much to go back into the space provided. Add this to still having boxes of pictures, photographs and many other items belonging to our late parents the last of whom died nearly 5 years ago and the situation could be described as desperate.
One item that really didn’t warrant much attention was an 800yds swimming certificate awarded to my father in the 1930s that had been in an old but damaged dark oak wood frame. Being inquisitive, I carefully remove the backing paper, pull out the pins to allow the removal of the wooden backing only to find yet another swimming certificate (completely unfaded) and a picture of an elderly gentleman sitting at a table. This picture had probably been put there merely as backing to give support to the two certificates.
Written underneath the picture (about the size of an I-pad) was the name of, presumably, the seated gentleman, a Rev R W Loveridge, stating that he was the vicar of St. Phillip’s, Mount Street, Bethnal Green, London. More wording merely said “35 years”. Sadly there was no date on the picture but because my family once lived in Mount Street the picture was intriguing.
Now, Google is a wonderful tool and it was not long before I was able to establish that St Phillip’s church was demolished in the 1960s and the congregation merged with St Matthew’s. Contact with the church revealed that a historian by the name of Sarah Wise has written a book and a blog about the deprivation of the area and describes the vicar as being “heroic” in view of his kindness to the poor of the area.
The blog had quotes from a family member, stated that no known picture survived of him and that he left St Phillip’s church in 1896 to move to Yorkshire where he died the following year.
So, I had in my possession, a picture probably taken no later than 1896 (itself somewhat amazing bearing in mind the good quality of the picture), of an individual described as heroic and one that his family did not know existed.
Contact with the blog writer, Sarah Wise, through her publicist, resulted in an exchange of e-mails with the relative, who by chance lived only a few miles away from our daughter in SE England.
Living on an island, as we do, trips across to see our daughter have to be planned some time in advance and by co-incidence we were visiting her 10 days later so agreed to visit the relative whilst in the area and hand over the photograph in person rather than trust the postal services.
Understandably, the relative was thrilled to have the photograph and I like to think that it will also be useful for the church’s records as well.
Now all we have to establish is how the picture came to be in my family’s possession back in the late 1890s bearing in mind that it must have cost a substantial amount of money to produce and the type of area my ancestors lived in at the end of the 19th Century.