Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Henry & Henrietta Payne – A “Noble” Life

The theme for the 12th edition of the Smile for the Camera Carnival, hosted as usual on the blog Shades of the Departed, is “A Noble Life.” The connotation of this word that immediately occurs to me is akin to the first part of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) definition:

nō’ble 1. a. Illustrious by rank, title, or birth, belonging to nobility;
I don’t really know of anyone in my extended ancestral family who fits that rather grand description and, to be honest, I don’t really think that is what "Smile" host footnoteMaven contemplated. She elaborates:

“Show us a photograph of an ancestor, relative, or friend that is the embodiment of A Noble Life. A life that is worthy of those who came before and those who follow after. A Life filled with small but courageous acts; filled with love and honor. A simple life, an ordinary life, A Noble Life.”
The second part of the OED definition continues thus:

... of lofty character or ideals; showing greatness of character, magnanimous, morally elevated; splendid, magnificent, stately, imposing, impressive, in appearance; excellent, admirable.
A splendid cabinet card portrait of my great-great grandparents Henry Payne (1842-1907) and Henrietta Christina Benfield (c.1843-1914) comes immediately to mind. In that sense, I suppose that between them, they did lead what could be thought of as “noble” lives. I don’t have much direct evidence of the personal character of either of them, but I believe a great deal may be interpreted by a reader from an account of the experiences that shaped their lives, together with some contemporary reports.

Naturally, as was often the case in the male-dominated Victorian times through which they lived, it was Henry’s life which left the most significant paper trail, and has therefore been the most fruitful to research. I have little doubt, however, that Henrietta’s character was of no less influence in the lives of her children, grandchildren and those around her, even if her activities may have been conducted in a somewhat less public manner.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne, Colourised by Andre Hallam
Henry & Henrietta Payne, c. April 1898

This photograph of Henry and Henrietta was taken at the Frederick J. Boyes’ Electric Daylight Studio at 22/24 Osmaston Road, Derby, around April 1898. I can’t be sure what occasion might have precipitated their visit to a photographer, but it may have been to mark Henry’s recent retirement from the building trade. Henry would shortly celebrate his fifty-sixth birthday; Henrietta was only a few months younger, and they had been married for thirty-three years. They had seven children – four boys and three girls – and their second grandson had been born in January that year. Henry’s duties as Vaccination Officer to the Borough of Derby, a post to which he had been appointed some thirteen years earlier, would now became his primary focus during his semi-retirement.

Image © the Derby Local Studies Library & courtesy of Angela Hercliffe
139 St James' Road, Normanton,
the home of Henry & Henrietta Payne,

By this time Henry and Henrietta were settled residents of Normanton, a southern suburb of Derby, where they lived in a large house that Henry had built at the western end of St. James’ Road in 1893. Their two eldest sons Charles Vincent and Charles Hallam, both married by this time, lived further down St. James’ Road in two houses opposite each other on the corner with Hastings Street. Vincent had set himself up as an estate agent, while Hallam had taken over the family shop, a grocery and off-license, which they had been operating for twenty-two years. The younger children were all still living at home. Frank had been appointed vaccination officer for Burton-upon-Trent a year earlier. Lucy Mary was probably working as domestic servant, although she became a stationer’s assistant a short time later possibly at Clulow’s in Derby. Fred and the two youngest girls Lily and Helen, aged 18, 16 and 14, respectively, were presumably still at school.

This settled scene is perhaps indicative of the environment in which their grandchildren, including my grandfather, grew up in the 1890s and early 1900s. However, it was a sharp contrast to the several decades of drive and hard work that it had taken for Henry and Henrietta to overcome the enormous hurdles which beset their early years.

Henry was born on 8 May 1842 in the Staffordshire brewing town of Burton-upon-Trent to a carpenter/wheelwright Peter Payne (1801-1845) and his wife Ann Tipper (1807-1857). Their three earlier children born between 1833 and 1840 had all died in infancy, so Henry’s prospects from the start were not great. Not many details of his father’s life are known, except that he suffered badly with asthma, from which he died in February 1845, three months before Henry’s third birthday. Ann’s mother had died the previous year in Church Gresley, and in the interim her stepfather had remarried and moved south to Warwickshire. She had several half-siblings but they were poor and had young families of their own to look after. Peter’s parents had died in 1839, leaving little in the way of an inheritance, while most of his siblings had moved away, either to other counties or abroad.

Ann’s sister-in-law Harriott Bagnall, a widow like herself, remained in Church Gresley with her five children. The four young Bagnall sons, barely in their teens, supported the family by working in the coal pits. It is possible that Ann and Henry went to stay with them, but they may also have visited Ann’s half-sister Dorothy Lunn née Benfield, whose husband William Lunn was working as an agricultural labourer in Church Gresley and Woodville.

Image © 2007 Brett Payne
The Parish Church of St. Stephen the Martyr, Woodville, 2007

On Wednesday 1st March 1848 Henry was enrolled among the first intake of 150 day scholars at the then newly built St. Stephen's Daily and Sunday School at nearby Woodville, two months before his sixth birthday. Less than a fortnight later Henry was baptized at the parish church of St. Stephen's.

On 25 April 1850 Henry's mother Ann was caught stealing several items in the High Street, Burton-upon-Trent. She was imprisoned in Stafford County Gaol on a charge of theft, and three weeks later, on 14 May 1850, Henry was admitted as ‘destitute’ into the Ashby Union Workhouse, situated on the Loughborough Road north-east of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire. Ann was charged at Stafford County Court with two counts of larceny, to which she entered guilty pleas. The first complainant was William Brunt, a tailor, draper and hatter, from whom she had taken two jackets, worth one pound, and a cloth cap, valued at four shillings. The second was William Stanley, a butcher, and the theft this time was of three pounds of beef, valued at one shilling.

Image © and courtesy of Staffordshire Past-Track
Reception Ward, Stafford Gaol, c.1869-1871
Image © and courtesy of Staffordshire Past-Track

She was found guilty of the charges, although in mitigation it was stated that she suffered from epilepsy, and the crime was considered to have been committed "while in a state of unconsciousness and absence of mind." Even without the epilepsy, it is not difficult to imagine Ann's dire circumstances: no husband, no close family, no means of income and an eight year-old child to care for. She joined her son in the workhouse roughly eight weeks later after her release from incarceration.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne
Workhouse or childrens' home, c.1880s
possibly in Nottingham

Henry and Ann appear to have spent most of the next five years in the workhouse. The Admittance & Discharge Registers show a series of comings and goings, with their spells outside the workhouse each being of only a few days’ duration. Worthy of note is the comment written at the time of Ann's re-admittance on Thursday 8th June 1854, stating that she was still "of unsound mind." The last known register entries for them show Henry still in the workhouse in October 1854, and Ann as an inmate in July 1855.

Image © and courtesy of Dover History

On 20 September 1857, Ann Payne died as the result of a terrible accident. The following is a report of the inquest from the Leicester Chronicle dated 3rd Oct 1857:

HARTSHORNE - An inquest was held on the 22nd ultim at Hartshorne, on the body of Ann Payne, widow, aged 50 years, whose death took place the Sunday morning previous from the effects of burning. The deceased was sitting alone in the workhouse, about nine o'clock at night, when, being suddenly seized with a fit (to which she was a subject), she fell against a table upon which there was a lighted candle, which candle falling upon her set her clothes on fire, the whole of which were consumed. The deceased lingered a few hours in excruciating pain, and the body on being viewed by the jury presented a most frightful sight. A verdict of "Accidental death" was returned.
Workhouse Funeral a Poor Woman is Distraught as the Body of Her Husband is Carried Away, by F. Wentworth

She was buried two days later in the parish churchyard of St. Peter’s, Hartshorne.

According to family legend, Henry started work at the age of nine hauling in a clay pit. He was then reputedly bound to a cobbler, but ran away and worked on farm at Smisby, and possibly other farms, till he was eighteen. Although I haven’t found documentary evidence of this, it was common practice for workhouses at this time to “farm out” children to various employers. It is conceivable, therefore, that Henry may have worked in a pit belonging to one of the several earthenware and firebrick makers in the Woodville area. The Ashby Workhouse had some ten acres of land, most of it under pasture, but the inmates using “spade husbandry” cultivated about three acres. The nearby village of Smisby was mainly an agricultural community, and Henry could have worked at any of a number of farms in the vicinity.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne
Unidentified policeman from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, c.1870

On the 18th February 1861 Henry joined the West Bromwich Police Force, having spent a year or so in partnership with his cousin Thomas Benfield as a blacksmith at Princes End, near Birmingham. The change seems to have suited Henry very well. He rose quickly through the ranks and in the space of just over two years - by June 1863, soon after his twenty-first birthday, he had become the youngest sergeant in the force. However, Henry had itchy feet, and after resigning from the force on 7 July 1864, he moved to Burton-on-Trent and found work as a night watchman with the brewery firm of Ind Coope & Co., whose premises were at 120 Station Street. Five months later he married Henrietta Christina Benfield at Christ Church in Burton, describing himself as a book-keeper.

Image © & courtsey of Fabulous Masterpieces
Edouard Manet, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère, 1882
Courtsey of Fabulous Masterpieces

Information about Henrietta’s early life is still very sketchy and mostly reliant on secondary sources. Family legend has it that she was the illegitimate child of a chamber maid or barmaid who worked at a pub or small hotel in Burton-upon-Trent, the father being a wealthy-Jewish American industrialist named Gold. According to census records, she was born between 1840 and 1843 in Notting Hill or Camden Town, London. The identities of neither of her parents are very clear, but the painting of a barmaid at the Folies-Bergère by Édouard Manet is the image that always comes to my mind when I think of her mother. It seems very likely that Ann Tipper’s half-sister Dorothy Lunn informally adopted her, although the 1851 Census actually shows her lodging with an apparently unrelated family at Woodville. A decade later she was working as a housemaid for a retired army surgeon and his family in the village of Tutbury, northwest of Burton.

Shortly after their marriage they moved to Derby, where Henry found employment with Midland Railways as a pointsman. Having saved ten pounds, and assisted financially by a local solicitor named Sale who for some reason took a shine to him, Henry started building houses in the suburb of Litchurch. Henrietta, in between giving birth to and looking after three boys between 1868 and 1874, operated a shop from their successive homes in Douglas and Grange Streets, being described in various documents as a provision dealer, grocer, baker and off-license holder.

In September 1870, Henry made a trip to the United States. According to his son, he first "traveled to Virginia, looking for a farm. He put his watch and chain on a farm in or near Omaha, Nebraska, but didn't take it up." One of Henry’s granddaughters claims that Henry went looking for Henrietta's father, Mr. Gold. Whatever the reason, it appears that he must have returned to Derby after just a few months.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
83 St James' Road, Normanton
The Payne family shop, 1876-1940s

In 1875 Henry built a house in St James' Road, Normanton for a curate. For some unknown reason, the curate never seems to have taken the house, so the family instead moved there, marking the start of a Payne association with that street which lasted for some eight decades. They successfully applied for an “out-door beer license” and opened a new shop in the part of the house situated on the corner with Hastings Street. Between the late-1870s and the early 1890s, Henry developed most of St James' Road and the adjacent Crewe Street, building a total of about 50 houses there, chiefly for letting.

In late 1877 Henry Payne left Derby with his family, by then including a daughter Lucy Mary almost a year old, and spent a few months living at Ash House, Turnditch, where it is possible that he built a new infants classroom at the National School. In August 1878, they returned to St James' Road, and the two older boys were re-enrolled at St Andrews Middle Class School, Litchurch. Henry had the off-license transferred back to his name on 8 October 1878.

Then in late 1879, Henry made a bold decision to try again to emigrate with his family to the United States, and an advertisement appeared in The Derby Mercury offering for sale "29 dwelling houses & business premises situate in Litchurch and New Normanton ... with instructions from Mr. Payne (who is leaving England.)" Henry sailed with his 13-year-old eldest son Charles Vincent from Liverpool to Philadelphia on board the S.S. British Crown, arriving on American soil on 2 March 1880, and "took up" a farm near Bladensburg, about four miles north-west of Washington D.C. They must have moved fast to find the farm and get the crops planted by late April or early May, and the census taken the following months shows a farm labourer Thomas Cash boarding with them.

Image © the British Library and courtesy of Gale Collections
Advertisement in The Derby Mercury, 26 May 1880

Henrietta had given birth to their fourth son Fred at St. James' Road in December the previous year, and probably waited in Derby for Fred to get a little older, and for word from Henry, before setting out to join them. She was probably also taking care of important financial and administrative matters. A sale notice in The Derby Mercury dated 26 May 1880 offers for sale "the whole of his superior household furniture and effects" by "Mr Henry Payne (who is leaving England.)"

Henrietta left Derby for the docks at Liverpool, nursing Fred and with Hallam, Frank and Lucy Mary in tow, in late June. It must have been some adventure for the children, and not a mean feat for Henrietta to achieve with four small children.

Image © and by kind courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society Library
Port of Baltimore c. 1875

They arrived at the bustling port of Baltimore on 7 July aboard the SS Hibernian and joined Henry and Charlie at the farm shortly after. Even after the rigours of an Atlantic crossing, they do not seem to have had much time for rest and recuperation. "After being there about two days Hallam fell out of buggie and broke right arm ... went to hospital in Washington for 4-5 weeks." In the meantime, Charlie "went into Washington one day and as he came back was set upon by two niggers." Of far greater importance, "Mother was bad through change of climate." They returned to England soon after Hallam's recovery, "leaving all crops growing (2 nigger cabins on farm)," by 16 November 1880, when the beer license for the shop in St James’ Road was transferred back into Henry’s name. The UK census dated 3 April 1881 shows them again running the family grocery at 38 St. James' Road.

While they had been in America a new school, St James’ Road Board School, had been completed directly across the road from the shop, and Charlie, Hallam and Frank all enrolled there. Henrietta had two more girls, Lily and Helen, in March 1882 and October 1883, respectively. Henry went back to building more houses in St. James' Road and Crewe Street. A plan dated January 1885, by Edward Fryer, Architects & Surveyors is entitled, "Proposed Houses - St. James' Road Derby - for Mr Payne." In August 1887, Henry tried to obtain a full license as an "innkeeper or victualler, retailer of beer, wines spirits and liqueurs (to be drunk on the premises) at a house and shop situate at 38 St. James’ Road." Several local landowners and residents, clergymen from nearby churches, and members of the School Board strenuously opposed this, and it was denied. He tried again, also unsuccessfully, in August 1891.

In January 1883 Henry, who described himself as a house agent, made an unsuccessful attempt at election to the post of Relieving Officer for the Derby Board of Guardians. Two and a half years later, on 29 September 1885, and "after a spirited ballot," he was elected by the Board of Guardians as Derby’s first Vaccination Officer, a position which he was to hold for the next twenty years. The Derby Poor Law Union administered the post from offices at Becket Street in Wardwick, Derby. By his own admission, the duties involved resulted in him being "the most hated man in Derby," and occasionally brought him into conflict with his employers. The Minute Books of the "Dispensary Visiting Committee" of the Derby Board of Guardians contains numerous references to Henry and his work. A resolution made in July 1891 demonstrates the prejudice existing against "arm-to-arm" methods, and notes the introduction of a Calf Lymph vaccine. Statistics quoted show that by the first half of 1893, Henry was already vaccinating 100 people a month, representing roughly half the births in the borough. The minutes include numerous records of legal proceedings initiated by Henry against defaulters, as well as several occasions where Henry had disagreements with the Board, mostly concerning remuneration for his services. Henry eventually retired from this post in about 1905.

Image © and courtesy of PortCities London

A newspaper obituary written for Henry in The Derby Mercury after his death in April 1907 contained the following:

"He carried out his duties in strict accordance with the orders of the Local Government Board in London, and his action was often made the occasion of adverse criticism on the part of local anti-vaccinators. Mr. Payne was a conscientious man who had a keen sense of duty, and did it. The nature of the official position which he held was perhaps not exactly one that conduced towards the making of hosts of friends. Still, those people who had more than a passing acquaintance with the deceased gentleman could not help but know of many sterling qualities which lay beneath a somewhat brusque exterior."
The April 1891 Census showed Henry and Henrietta at the house/shop on the corner of St. James’ Road/Hastings Street with five of their children. Apart from his vaccination duties, Henry was listed as a rent collector and still held the "off beer licence," although it was Henrietta who ran the shop. Presumably this rent was from houses that he had built and still owned, as he was still shown as a builder in trade directories and other documents as late as 1896.

When Charlie and Hallam returned from Chicago in November 1892, after working on the World's Columbian Exposition, Henry employed them to do joinery and other building work on houses that he was building in Crewe Street. They may also have worked on the large house that Henry built at the western end of St. James’ Road, number 139 which they named “The Hollies,” and into which Henry, Henrietta and the remaining children moved in 1894. It was about this time that Henry retired from the building business and Henrietta from an active role in the shop. Charles Vincent, his wife and young son moved into the shop, took over the licence in June 1894 and ran the family business for a couple of years, but then turned it over to Hallam and his wife in February 1896, and became an estate agent. Presumably he was managing the family’s growing property portfolio which, apart from his parent’s numerous houses, may have included properties that Charles Vincent and Hallam were developing and leasing out.

By April 1901 they still had five children living at home, although all except the youngest Helen were working. A year later, Henry and Henrietta retired to a house in nearby Sunny Hill, while Charles Vincent, Amy and their two children moved into number 139.

Henry died at 1.00 pm on Monday 1st April 1907 at "The Hollies," Sunny Hill after being ill for some time and was buried later that week at Normanton Cemetery. Among the hymns sung was "Now the labourer's task is o'er", fitting perhaps for someone who had worked hard from the age of nine almost until his death at the age of sixty-five to achieve so much.

Henrietta Payne, c.1910

Henrietta moved back to 139 St James’ Road and lived there until her death on Wednesday 18th February 1914. A memorial service was held at St. Augustine's Church on the following Sunday, and she was buried in the family plot at Normanton Cemetery.


  1. WOW - What wonderful work you have done with this post. Very interesting!

  2. Show off! LOL
    As always you bring life and wonderful stories into each photograph you share with us! You know what a huge fan I am of your blog. The best part is the education I get each and every time I visit.

    (She says gushing and batting her eyelashes)

  3. Thank you, Terri and Sheri, for your kind comments. You are always welcome to gush and bat your eyelashes around here ;-)


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