Archive | June, 2014

I Left My Heart in Old Bagan: The Magical Kingdom in Myanmar

30 Jun

Ananda and Dhammayazika Pagodas

It has been three months, since I returned from my trip to Burma. Now called Myanmar, I still call it Burma, as that was what it was back in the day! I had chosen this particular tour as it would allow me to see the country before the developers took over and it became just like many of the other Southeast Asian countries. Burma has been closed to world for much of the last half century. On March 2, 1962, the military took control of the country through a coup d ètat and the government has been under either direct or indirect control ever since. Between 1962 and 1974, Burma was ruled by a revolutionary council headed by the General Ne Win. A  new  constitution was adopted in 1974, but until 1988 it was a one party system. It was during this period that Burma became one of the most impoverished countries in the world.

In 1988, there were widespread Pro-Democracy Demonstrations against the government for economic mismanagement and political oppression. Thousands were killed including many students,  others though, were fortunate enough to escape into neighbouring Thailand. Alice, a Nursing Professor at the University of  Alberta was one of these people and I spoke with her both prior to and after my trip. Another coup d ètat resulted in the formation of the State Law and Order Restoration Council. SLORC declared martial law and changed the country’s official name to Myanmar. May 1990 saw free elections for the first time in 30 years and the  National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, won 392 out of 489 seats. The junta refused to cede power and continued to rule. Aung San was put under house arrest. In August 2007, an increase in the price of diesel and petrol led to a series of anti-government protests, called the Saffron Revolution, which was led by Buddhist Monks, hundreds of whom defied the house arrest of  Aung San Suu Kyi to pay their respects at the gate of her house. The government finally cracked down on them on 26 September 2007. The crackdown was harsh, with reports of barricades at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and monks killed. A General Election to be held in 2015 to determine where the country will go.

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Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, the site of some of the protests during the Saffron Revolution in 2007

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Gate at Aung San Suu Kyi’s Home

Burma is a land of unbelievable sights and warm, gentle people. My favorite stop on the tour was in Bagan, about one hour north of Yangon (Rangoon) by air. We landed at the airport one hot morning about 8:ooAM and boarded our Big Blue Bus. It was taking us to the Bagan Archaelogical Zone, about which I knew nothing. I didn’t anticipate the MAGICAL KINGDOM I was about to experience and how it would grab my heart. We got off our bus on the dry dusty plain and walked about a half mile to a temple from which we could get an overview of the area. Climbing up some narrow stairs, we emerged onto the platform and it is impossible to describe the sight before me……..a vast expanse of Temples and Stupas as far as the eye could see. I was mesmerized!!!! I felt as if I had been deposited in another world….and I guess I had.

The BIG BLUE BUS

The BIG BLUE BUS

Archaelogical Zone on the Bagan Plain

The ruins of Medieval Bagan are scattered over 26 Square miles. This ancient capital was once inhabited by 100,000 plus people. It flourished between Anawratha’s conquest of Thaton and its destruction by Kublai Khan in 1287. We visited so many temples on the tour, I got to the point I couldn’t remember one from another. They were all unique and beautiful in their own way. I especially liked the ones constructed with red brick and which had arches of all types. Think I have 1000 pictures of arches!!! Maybe I was a monk in another life and I walked these very corridors during meditation time.

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Tight Fitting Bricks

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Ghosts of the past are all around

The Dhammayazika Pagoda was built in 1196 during the reign of King Narapatisthu.  The pagoda is circular in design, and is made of brick. The King ruled that the bricks were to be so close fitting that a pin couldn’t pass between them. Woe betide the worker who failed in his task. Considering this structure is nearly 1000 years old, it is amazing what good  shape it is in, given that this area is subject to such devastating monsoon rains that wash everything away each summer. It was wonderful to be able to explore these ancient structures and be the only tourists present.

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Buddha in his arch

 

The Ananda Phaya Temple, a masterpiece of surviving Mon architecture (1091),  is built in the shape of a Greek Cross. It was severely damaged in the 1975 earthquake and restoration is still ongoing.  There is much international concern that the Myanmar Government, in an effort to get temples restored, are doing it quickly and with unskilled workers. These projects are time consuming and require a great deal of money which the country does not have. The UN has refused to giver Bagan World Heritage Status.

Ananda Phaya

Ananda Phaya

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Buddha covered in gold leaf

There are 4 buddhas facing the cardinal directions

 

 

 

 

Our accommodation was at a resort along the Ayeyarwaddy River.  It had a large garden area, a beautiful pool and an outdoor dining room. Too bad we didn’t have much time to enjoy it……we were always on the go! I could imagine myself staying here for a month or so, just to be able to fully explore the area. It is also the boat dock for river boats, so one could also enjoy time on the river.

 

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Resort in Old Bagan

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Ayeyarwaddy River in the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was a local village along the shore just below our hotel. I walked down there to check it out and was amazed at what I saw. The houses were of bamboo and looked like they would blow away in a strong wind. Women were bathing in the river alongside boats which were unloading cargo.

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Women bathing in the river

 

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Unloading one of the boats used for transportation on the river

 

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Village below the hotel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday there was a Novice Initiation for Children into the Monastery. All children in this Buddhist country must spend a week with the monks learning about Buddhism They are very young, 5 – 8 years old. Our guide Win had indicated that, as this was a community celebration,  we were all invited to attend.  It began Friday night with a big party with loud music and dancing. Good thing my hotel room was on the opposite side of the hotel. Some fellow travellers got very little sleep. Saturday morning, the entire village was up at  6:00AM or perhaps they never went to bed. They gathered at the monastery in their finest clothes to walk  in the procession. Horses, Oxen and carts were decorated. The  novitiates all rode horses  which are led in the procession by a local man or boy. This parade through the villages can take several hours.

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Village women in their beautiful silk outfits

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Decorated oxen

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Young Novitiate beside his horse

Monk shaving boy

Monk shaving boy

Village women shaving girl's hair

Village women shaving girl’s hair

The morning activities finished with a big lunch and the Head Shaving Ceremony began at 3:00PM. The monks shave the boys heads, while a local village woman shaved the girls. After the ritual bath and robing, the children departed with the monks and everyone else packs up and goes home. This celebration can cost $5000 and so usually several families get together and split the costs.

 

Saturday is a big market,  so after the parade moved on, we headed into New Bagan to check it out. What can I say…..it is a fabulous place where you are able to buy anything from clothing and shoes to fresh produce, fish, meat and flowers.While there we encountered another Novice Initiation Parade. This one even had an elephant.

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Just like a Chinese Dragon!

Bagan Market

 

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Women were very friendly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did not buy much in the market as I had already met ThanThet a local woman who was selling clothing to the tourists. She had pushed the clothes through the bus window at our first stop and told me to try things on. She would meet me later to barter a price and/or exchange for Larger! sizes…westerners have so much more padding than the Burmese. Sellers are not allowed onto Hotel property, so I would go down to the gate to meet her.

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ThanThet, my local dressmaker.

 

Not a day would go by without a visit to a temple or pagoda. Today it was the Shwezigon Pagoda, an important pilgrimage site for the Burmese. While there, a Burmese lady from a rural area indicated that she would like to have her picture taken with me.  Guess I had the look of a foreigner. Before  I knew it, her whole family jumped into the picture. My fellow travellers were standing across the way and thinking, I am sure “What is Louise up to now?”

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Me and Big Mama are in the centre

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My tour group wondering what is going on?

 

Watching the sun drop in to the river

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food in Burma is a combination of Indian, Chinese, Thai and Burmese depending where you are in the country….and wherever it is delicious. Saturday evening we were wined and dined on a sandbar in the Ayeyarwaddy River. We were taken there by boat and then treated to magical evening where we could watch the sunset across the river behind the hills. Think I could have set up a tent and stayed on the sandbar overnight. It was so quiet out there with just the sound of the river going by….a perfect place to meditate. I am actually in a number of pictures taken by my fellow travellers. I was doing just that ……

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Sunset on the Ayeyarwaddy

 

 

 

Me in my “Covergirl Photo”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When in Bagan, one must not miss sunset over the plain. So after a Pony Cart ride to the temple and climbing steep steps to one of 5 platforms, each one higher and with narrower steps, we were treated to a spectacular, natural light show. The colors are amazing. The sky goes from pink to purple to orange….then the sun is gone and it is dark! Slowly everyone makes their way back down the steep steps. Another day is over……but the memories will last a lifetime.  I left my heart in that small corner of Burma. I hope one day to return and perhaps have more longyis made by my Personal DressMaker…ThanThet!

Pony Cart and Driver

My Private cart and driver

Climbing the steep stairs

I quit at level 2

View from the Temple Platform

The purple light of dusk over the Bagan Plain

 

 

 

 

Sunset in Old Bagan

And the sun goes down in the Magical Kingdom!

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Edgar Gorer: London Antique Dealer…Death on the Lusitania

26 Jun
Sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915

Sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915

He was Edgar Gorer and his First Class Ticket was number 46057 and his Saloon Cabin was number B73. He was making the return trip from New York to his home in  London aboard  the Lusitania. He had come over in January to arrange for an exhibit of the Henry Sampson Collection at Dreicer’s on Fifth Avenue. He sailed May 1 but  never made it home. He died when the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat 11 miles off  the south-eastern coast of Ireland on May 7, 1915.  It was reported that, although at one point he was in possession of a lifebelt, he gave it away. The only member of his party of nine to survive was Frank Partridge.    

 

FIFTY NEW YORKERS LOST IN FIRST CABIN; Hope Abandoned for Justus Miles Forman, Edgar Gorer, and Dr. Fred Stark Pearson

 

 

 

To understand the full story of how Edgar Gorer became a well-known and respected Antique  Dealer, we must go back to the arrival in England, in the early 1800’s, of his grandfather Lewis Gorer. Lewis was from Prussia and was likely part of the early wave of Jewish immigration in the 19th century. Many of these immigrants settled in the seaside ports, including Brighton, where in 1839, Lewis married Hannah  Abraham Cohen. By 1851, according to the census, he had moved and was living at #7 North Street in Stepney, London. He was listed as a General Dealer. His 4 children were Solomon (10),  Adelaide (9), Barnet (6), and Esther (3). By the 1871 Census, Lewis had died and Hannah was living with her son, Solomon (29), his wife Helen (vanGoor) and their children, Lewis(2) and Annie (infant))   in High Street, Kensington. Solomon was listed as  a Tobacconist.

Solomon quickly established himself in London, as by the 1881 Census, he was living at 32 Delamere Crescent in Paddington and was listed as a Silversmith. His third child Edgar had been born and was 8 years old at this time. By 1891, Solomon had moved to 113 Edgeware Road and was a Gold and Silversmith. Edgar appears to have moved out, though the two older children were still living at home. In 1901, the family was back together again in a new home in Hampstead at #16 Greville Road.

Solomon had been busy expanding his business and by 1886, had additional premises on the Strand at #433. This was a fancy jeweller’s shop which specialized in artificial diamonds. In 1896, Solomon relocated this business to 59 New Bond Street next door to his son Edgar. He operated as a Silversmith, while Edgar, who had considerable business acumen, was a dealer in Oriental works of art. The final move of both stores was to 170 New Bond Street in 1899. By 1900, the two businesses had become S. Gorer and Son, interior decorators and the Indo China Trading Company which was run by Edgar. Solomon died in 1907 in retirement at Eastbourne.

Edgar was really the shining star in the family. He had married Rachel Alice Cohen at the Hampstead Synagogue in 1902. Ree as she was called, was a sculptor who had attended the Slade school of Art and who was a friend of the poet and writer Edith Sitwell, the eldest of the three Sitwell siblings, Osbert, Edith and Sacheverell, who created so much of a stir in English artistic circles between the wars. The Gorer’s had three sons,Geoffrey, Peter and Richard.  On the 1911 census, Edgar and his family were living at #45 Netherhall Gardens, Hampstead.  Geoffrey was 6 and Alfred Mace was 3,( possibly Peter Alfred).  The third son Richard was not  born until 1913.

#45 Netherhall Gardens looks new so original house may have been torn down as #47 is the older home at the end of the drive

Edgar Gorer, his wife Rachel. mother Hannah and sister Annue

Edgar Gorer, his wife Rachel. mother Hannah and sister Annie

 

Edgar continued to grow his business and opened up a store in New York on Fifth Avenue. Michael Dreicer was the sole agent for Edgar in the US and Canada. Gorer, as the business  became known, moved Edgar into the realm of an international dealer in Chinese Art, especially Chinese Ceramics,  boasting major clients in Britain and across the Atlantic. Edgar  gained a reputation for buying up important collections, such as that formed by Richard Bennett, Sir William Bennett, George R. Davies and Alfred Trapnell, and promoting them through exhibition and privately printed catalogues.

 

  Letterhead

Old Chinese porcelain and works of art

Sole agents for the United States and Canada,

Dreicer and Co., (Jewels) 560 Fifth Avenue, New York.
Gorer, 170 New Bond Street, London, W

gorer1

 

Edgar entered into two lawsuits as a result of his high-profile activities, one with William Hesketh Lever over the purchase of the Richard Bennett Collection and Duveen over a Kangxi vase, which Gorer had offered to Frick but which Duveen had claimed was a fake. The latter lawsuit, launched to save his reputation, was never heard in court, as on the day of its announcement, 7th May 1915, Gorer was crossing the Atlantic on the Lusitania which was torpedoed and he lost his life. When Edgar died in 1915, he left an estate of 53,ooo uk pounds to his wife Rachel, who died in 1954.

RIVAL SUES DUVEENS ASKS FOR $575,000; Gorer Says Art Dealers Called His Wares “Fakes” and Spoiled Sale to H. C. Frick. DENIED HE WAS AN EXPERT And Declared They Were the Real Judges of Art, the Complaint Sets Forth.

 

Edgar’s three sons went on to distinguish themselves in various fields. Geoffrey (1905 – 1985) became a writer and Social Anthropologist and was a colleague of  the American Cultural Anthropologist Margaret Mead. Peter Alfred (1907 – 1961) became an immunologist and pioneered transplant immunology in London and, had he not died an early death from cancer, would likely have received the Nobel Prize.  Richard (1913 – 1994) became a Horticulturist. He wrote a number of books and  also edited Edith Holden’s hand-written diary about wild flowers in the countryside near her home, which she illustrated  with water-colour sketches. This work, published as The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, became very successful. More people know of Richard Gorer because of this book than from any of his other writings.

Spencer Mason Goes to London! Withybrook, War to Old Street, Islington

19 Jun

 

Islington map

I should have known things wouldn’t  be any different, even back in the 1700’s, given that my grandparents up and relocated to Canada from Leicestershire, England in 1913. People have always migrated,  generally either to escape their current situation or to find better opportunities elsewhere. My grandparents were no different, and in their 40’s with a 9 year old son,  they migrated to Canada looking for a better life.

I attended the Exodus: Movement of the People Conference in Hinckley, LEI in September 2013 sponsored by the Halsted Trust. I heard speakers talk about all types of “Migration”. Some folks moved down the road from village to village or village to city, while others moved from halfway around the world.

This got me to thinking….my ancestors were all Midland people from Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire or so I thought. Had any of them moved on to other areas of England, even to other countries? One day while I was  looking at Non-Conformist Church Records, I decided to do a general name search for one of my lines, the Mason’s of Warwickshire. I knew that in the late 1700 their children had been  baptized at the Independent Chapel in Stretton under Fosse, WAR. Along with all the records I expected to find,  up pops a Mason in London. Now this wasn’t  a surprise, as Mason is a very common surname. What was a surprise was the name Spencer Mason, a less common christian name.  In 1745,  John Mason had married an Ann Spencer in Withybrook, WAR. The Spencer name was then used as a christian name in subsequent generations. I knew that John and Ann had a child they christened Spencer. Could this be the same Spencer Mason,  who with his wife Martha, was having his children christened in London in the late 1700’s at St. Luke’s.

I began my search and  soon discovered that my Spencer Mason had been baptised in Withybrook at the Parish Church November 5, 1750. In the transcription on Ancestry, they had not been able to read the Christian name and wrote “Sp???? son of John and Ann Mason. When I checked the original record, I could clearly see the name was Spencer. So I confirmed a Spencer born in Withybrook who was my ancestor.  The Baptism Records 0f St. Luke’s Church on Old Street, London showed Martha as Spencer’s wife.  Further checking and I located a Marriage Record in Warwickshire for Spencer Mason of the Parish of St. Luke’s Old Street, London and Martha Compton of the Parish of Withybrook. They were married by License on March 6, 1776 at the Withybrook Parish Church. Martha had been baptised in Withybrook on 28 Jan 1755, the daughter of John and Martha Compton. It looks as if Spencer was already living in London but returned home to marry Martha. They then returned to London to live, as their first child is christened at St. Luke’s, Jun 15, 1777.  Spencer Mason also  turns up on the London Tax Records for 1780 as a tenant in the house of Joseph Foster Pryor in St. Luke, Old Street, Borough of Islington. He appears in these records until 1802, although the proprietor is now  listed as John Martin. Spencer’s burial is listed in the Bunhill Fields Burial Grounds on City Road (Non-Conformist Records Bunhill BG 1800-1803) on December 16, 1802. His Will lists his address as Old Street Square.

2013-09-16 05.01.46

Old Street showing St. Luke’s Church and Old Street Square where Spencer and his family lived until his death in 1802.

St. Luke's Parish Church

St. Luke’s Parish Church

 

Old Street area showing the Bunhill Fields Burying Grounds.

Old Street area showing the Bunhill Fields Burying Grounds where Spencer Mason was buried in 1802.

 

During his lifetime, Spencer worked as a Baker. He and Martha had a number of Children, all of whom were baptised at St. Luke’s, Old Street. Following naming patterns, his first son was John, named after his father John Mason and his first daughter Ann Spencer, named after his mother.  Listed below are the Birthdates for the children: 

John Mason                                18 May 177  

Ann Spencer Mason                26  Mar 1779                 

Martha Spencer Mason          09 Jul 1781

William Spencer Mason         16 Aug 1784

Samuel                                           01 Jun 1786

William Henry Mason             11 Jul 1788

Mary Ann Mason                      05 Sep 1790

Daniel Spencer Mason           01 Jan 1793

Eliza Mason                               15 Feb 1795

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground today

Bunhill Fields Burial Ground today

I located a will for Spencer Mason and at the same time found one for his youngest son, Daniel Spencer Mason. It was this one that intrigued me as the heading was “Daniel Spencer Mason: A Gentleman of Islington”.  Daniel would have been only 9 years old when his father died. How did he come to be called “A Gentleman”. A new investigation began.

Daniel Spencer Mason: A Gentleman of Islington

Daniel Spencer Mason: A Gentleman of Islington

 

To a degree, gentleman came to signify a man with an income derived from property, a legacy or some other source, and was thus independently wealthy and did not need to work. The term was particularly used of those who could not claim any other title even the rank of esquire.

Records of Admissions  indicate that Daniel Spencer Mason was admitted to St. Paul’s School London on October 23, 1804. He was age 11 and it was noted that he was the son of the Late Spencer Mason, Baker of Old Street Square.

St Paul’s was founded in 1509, at the height of the Renaissance in England. It may be that its founder Dean John Colet of St Paul’s Cathedral intended his friend Erasmus to be the first High Commissioner, though the plan never came to fruition. Colet made The Mercer’s Company trustees to the School, rather than the Church or Oxford or Cambridge, because he found less corruption among married men of business. Originally situated by St Paul’s Cathedral, the school moved four times before occupying its present, riverside site in 1968. It survived the Plague, the Great Fire and the Civil War and in 1870 was one of only two day schools included by the Clarendon Commission as one of the the “Nine Great Public Schools of England”.

Full text of “Admission registers of St. Paul’s school, from 1748 to 1876”

http://www.archive.org/stream/…/admissionregiste00stpa_djvu.txt

……Daniel Spencer Mason, aged 11, son of the late Spencer M., baker, Old Street .

i8o4] SCHOLARS OF ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL. 229

Admitted.
Aug. 11. James Phillips, aged 10, son of Richard P., lighterman,
Hungerford.
Oct. 4, John Corrie Hudson, aged 8, son of Thomas H., of the
Stamp Office.
Entered the Legacy Department, Somerset House ; died about 1879.
William Kynaston; aged 13, son of John K., hosier, of
Newgate Street.
See July 31, 1804.
„ 5. David Henry Flack, aged 11, son of Henry F., school-
master, of Broad Street, St. James’s.
„ 6. Thomas Stroud, aged 8, son of Thomas S., haberdasher, of
Ludgate Street.
Charles George Dixon, aged 9, son of George D., of St.
Martin-in-the-Fields.
„ 23. Daniel Spencer Mason, aged 11, son of the late Spencer M.,
baker, Old Street Square.
Dec. 22, Robert Rowley, aged 9, son of Robert R., surgeon, of High
Street, Borough.

I kept searching and found mention of Daniel Spencer Mason in Electoral Registers, The London Gazette, The Law Advertiser and the Records of the Sun Fire Office.

He is mentioned in the London Electoral Registers 1832 – 1965 in the years:

1832  Shoreditch, Ward St. Leonard, Shoreditch Borough of Tower Hamlets.

107/108 Shoreditch High Street today

1835, 1836, 1837  #107 Shoreditch

In the London Gazette 18 Oct 1837

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Partnership formerly

subsisting between us the undersigned, Daniel Spencer

Mason and Jabez Balch, carrying on business at No. 107,

High-street, Shoreditch, as Linen-Drapers, Mercers, Hosiers,,

and Haberdashers, was. dissolved on the eighth day of October

1837 ,by, mutual consent—Dated this 27th day of June 1837.

Daniel Spencer Mason.

Jabez Balch.

Records of Sun Fire Office – The National Archives | Access to Archives

……Insured: John Dorset Pool and Daniel Spencer Mason 107 Shoreditch linen 

The Law Advertiser – Volume 2 – Page 149

1824 –

POOL John Dorsett, and Daniel Spencer Mason, of Shore- ditch, linen-drapers 1 May

Partnership was dissolved May 1, 1824.

Daniel died 1846. Age 53. Record indicates on 25th July his body was brought to the Bunhill Field Burial Ground from New Norfolk Street, Islington.

(Piece title 4000 BFBG 1838 – 1846)

His will is  Dated Aug 1, 1846. He leaves his estate in Brinklow, Warwickshire to his youngest sister Eliza and the rest of his estate to be divided between his sisters Ann Spencer Mason and Mary Ann Mason Finch, widow. On the 1851 Census, Mary Ann is head of the household at age 60, Ann is 72 and Eliza 56. They are all listed as Fund Holders ( A Fund holder is someone who does not have land but has funds in government bonds, then known as consols or consolidated annuities) and are living at 19 Brudenall Place in the Parish of Shoreditch.  On the 1841 census the sisters were living in Islington at New Norfolk Terrace. Daniel Spencer may have been in Warwickshire visiting as there is a Spencer Mason listed as a visitor at the farm of John Mason in Withybrook. In 1846, it is the New Norfolk Terrace house from which Daniel’s body is removed.

Here we have a glimpse of the Spencer Family who left Warwickshire to seek their fortune elsewhere. I found this all very interesting as when I made trips to London in recent years, I stayed at Rosebery Hall in Islington. I walked many of these streets, little knowing that 200 plus years ago, my ancestors had made their home in this area.

 

An area in Islington today which remains much the same as when the Spencefr's lived here.

An area in Islington today which remains much the same as when the Spencer’s lived here.

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Rosebery Avenue outside Rosebery Hall

Rosebery Avenue outside Rosebery Hall

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