Monday, March 28, 2011

No. 3 Charles Street: Private Secretary to the Admiralty, and great genealogical sleuthing by me

It's one of those occasions when I feel so clever. Actually, instead of patting myself too hard on the back, I have to say that the Web makes research 1,000 times easier than it ever was. Wonderful!

OK, on with the show. Who lived on Charles Street, Berkeley Square, London, in the 1871 census? Who were these people.

At No. 3 in 1871 we have:

George T. Lambert, Lodger, Unmarried, 33 years old, Private Secretary to the Admiralty, born in Ireland
Clara Beetles (?), Head, Unmarried, 33, Landlady of Lodging House, born Bewerty, Huntingdonshire
Lucy A. Sharp, Servant, Unmarried, 21, Domestic Servant, born Vauxhall, Middlesex
Agusta Beetles (?), Sister, Unmarried, 25, Milliner, born Earsdon, Cambridgeshire.

  • Class:  RG10; Piece:  102; Folio:  75; Page: 32; GSU roll:  838762.

I'm going to start with George.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Personal message to reader Peter

Hi Peter!

Thank you so much for your comment on the Fleming posts. I'm very glad you liked them.

Your comment is actually posted to another blog, so with your permission I would like to copy it onto this one.

I didn't see your first comment, only the second one.

Thanks again,


Monday, March 21, 2011

Whoops! Forgot to give the Flea his Queen Victoria and Dracula numbers!

Back to our game of Six Degrees.

Henry Fleming -> Disraeli, Palmerston, Gladstone, others -> HM Queen Victoria

A Queen Victoria number of 2.
I suspect that is as high as he got.

Henry Fleming -> introduced the beauty, Virginia Pattle to the painter, George Frederic Watts at a party at Holland House -> Watts later married Ellen Terry, the actress -> Ellen Terry was Henry Irving's partner and leading lady, and of course would have known Bram Stoker, Irving's business manager and friend.

So far, a Dracula number of 3.

Henry Fleming -> spent many Sunday afternoons gossiping at the home of Thomas Carlyle, the writer -> Carlyle lived on Cheyne Walk, as did the Stokers, (though that doesn't prove they knew each other)

Possible Dracula number of 2.

I'd love to speculate about Henry Fleming and Oscar Wilde knowing each other, as they did have a few things in common, and Wilde was a friend of Stoker, but it would only be speculation.

The Stokers moved to London in the late 1870s, and Henry died in 1876, so it's not likely they crossed paths.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A goodbye, for now, to Henry Fleming

I have so loved researching Henry Fleming, who lived at No. 2, Charles Street, Berkeley Square, London, in 1871.

But it's time to say goodbye, at least for now, because I want to move on down the street.

Here are a few things I'll mention before leaving.

1. Henry's mother, Catherine, was the daughter of a famous, or infamous, Irish Protestant leader, John Hunter Gowan II (aka Hunter Gowan). One of her half-brothers was Ogle Gowan, who started the Orange Lodge in Canada.

2. Henry's father was Captain Valentine Fleming, from Tuam, County Galway, in Ireland. He was a captain in the British 9th Regiment of Foot. He was Catherine's second husband, and died in 1824 when his four children were roughly aged 10 to 14. I have a copy of his will.

3. All three Fleming brothers, James, Valentine, and Henry, were apparently educated in Ireland, possibly all at Trinity College, Dublin, and all three were lawyers, though Henry didn't continue with the practice very long.

4. Although I have traced each of the brothers, I don't know what happened to their mother and their sister, Emma.

5. A James Fleming, who had a brother named Henry, both of Dublin, petitioned the House of Lords in the late 1820s to claim the title "Baron of Slane". I think this may have been the brothers, before they moved from Ireland to London. They did not succeed.

6. James became a QC, Chancellor of the Palatinate of Durham, and an official for the West Indies. His wife was Julia Mary Canning, and I suspect she had a reasonably impressive pedigree herself. Their children all had the middle name "Francis", except the eldest, who was named "Francis" as his first name.

7. Henry's nephew, James's son Francis Fleming had a distinguished career in the foreign service, and was variously governor of Antigua, and a senior official (possibly also governor) of Hong Kong, Sierra Leone, and Mauritius.

8.  Another nephew from the same family, Baldwyn Francis Fleming, followed his uncle Henry into the Poor Law Board and then the Local Government Board. My first impression is that he was a good civil servant who cared about the people he was responsible for.

9. Henry's brother, Valentine, became Sir Valentine, and was the Chief Justice of Tasmania for some time, before returning to England where eventually he died in retirement in Surrey.

10. Henry had kind of a double life: civil servant and socialite. As a civil servant, he was described in none-too-glowing terms, varying from boring through to incompetent, depending upon who was saying it, and when in his career they were commenting. I have yet to see a comment describing him as dynamic and indispensable, and yet he was a top-level official for decades.

11. In his social life, Henry knew everyone, and it is in this capacity that the real interest lies. He mingled with lords, ladies, writers, members of Parliament, Prime Ministers Disraeli and Palmerston, and probably Gladstone too, and his role was to spread strategically-placed gossip. This is the part of Henry Fleming's life most deserving of scholarly study.

I have collected a number of links to references to Henry Fleming. Though I haven't seen any one work devoted to the man himself, it is rather surprising just how many 19th century Londoners mention him in their own memoirs and accounts of the day.

He died in 1876, still employed by the Local Government Board, still living at No. 2, Charles Street, Berkeley Square, and on the same day as Lady Stanley, thus departing life in the same manner as he had lived it: in the penumbra of the upper class.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Tithe Commission appoints Henry Fleming Assistant Tithe Commissioner for special purposes


In late 1848, this announcement appeared.

From The Jurist, Vol. 11, Part 2

Henry was apparently only with the Tithe Commission for a short time and then began work for the Poor Law Board. It's also possible the two appointments overlapped. I know very little about the Tithe Commission, but one place where they appear to have had an interest in common with the Poor Law Commission and then the Poor Law Board was in the mapping of the parishes of England.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Clippings about the lost Baronetcy of Slane

From: A genealogical history of the dormant, abeyant, forfeited, and extinct peerages of the British empire. Sir Bernard Burke, publisher: Harrison, 1866, at pp. 217-218.
This copy provided by Google books.

A more modern book, A Genealogical History of the Barons Slane, by Lawrence F. Fleming (published by the author, 2008), mentions that James Fleming of Dublin and George Bryan of Jenkinstown, took their claims to the baronetcy to the House of Lords in 1828. Lawrence Fleming says later Flemings owe a debt of gratitude to these two, "for their rather foolish claims to nobility". He believes the evidence brought in opposition was conclusive proof that the claims were not well-founded, but by assembling the evidence for the House of Lords, the claimants unknowingly protected it from destruction a hundred years later, when the Four Courts building in Dublin was burned, taking so many historical documents with it.

Grandfather was a tyrant. Henry Fleming, Hunter Gowan and the Orange Lodge in Canada.

While on his father's side, Henry Fleming was descended from the Barons Slane, his mother's family were equally famous but also notorious.

Henry's grandfather was John Hunter Gowan II, often called Hunter Gowan.

Various descriptions of this man make him out to be a tyrant, a bully, and a violent leader. He was an anti-Catholic with a reputation for bloodshed.

One of his many children, Ogle Gowan, an illegitimate but recognized son, started the Orange Lodge in Canada. In The Orangeman: The Life and Times of Ogle Gowan, by Donald H. Akenson (, there is some description of Hunter Gowan's brutality back in Ireland.

There is also a paragraph mentioning how Ogle Gowan would use his half-brothers' and half-sisters' names when it suited him, even though he was "at daggers-drawn with his legitimate sisters and brothers".

"Catherine [Henry Fleming's mother], first married to a Sligo gentleman and also widowed had, as her second husband the Honourable John Fleming, third son and heir of Christopher, Lord Slane. A fine and noble man, Ogle was proud to say." (page 77)

I don't know if that's how Ogle said it, or if something has been lost in translation over the years, but my research to date indicates that Catherine married Captain Valentine Fleming, and that the descent from the Barons Slane was not quite as easily proven as Ogle might have suggested.

My other post for St. Patrick's Day today tells a bit more about the lost Baronetcy of Slane.

The Lost Baronetcy of Slane. Maybe you are an Irish noble and don't know it.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! In honour of the occasion I am going to post two stories connecting Henry Fleming to Ireland.

Henry Fleming's story is in turn part of a larger history and genealogy project, tracing the residents of Charles Street, Berkeley Square, London, from the 1871 census.

The Charles Street Series

Flemings and the lost Baronetcy of Slane

There is a Slane Castle and a title, Baron Slane, attached to a little corner of Ireland near Dublin.

(U2 played there in 2001.)

I expect the castle is well taken care of, but the title is going begging for want of a suitable heir.

That's not for trying.

In the 1830s, one George Bryan petitioned the House of Lords in England to have himself recognized as the lawful inheritor of the title. It was a very complex claim, and the Lords referred it to a special committee. After five years of investigation, the decision was that the claim had not been made out, but Mr. Bryan was free to come back if further evidence surfaced.

Bryan's claim was opposed by a James Fleming and his brother Henry. I have seen references to these two being of Dublin, but also to James Fleming being one of Her Majesty's counsel. I have two theories.

1. The Fleming claim was made by James Fleming, a brother of Captain Valentine Fleming, and thus the uncle of James Fleming QC and his brother Henry of No. 2 Charles Street.


2. The Fleming claim was made by James Fleming, QC, when he was a student or a recent graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and thus living there, and that the Henry referred to was Henry of No. 2 Charles Street.

The latter theory seems more plausible because of the ripple effect this claim to the Baronetcy of Slane had in the generation to which James Fleming, QC, Henry of No. 2 Charles Street, and their brother Sir Valentine Fleming belonged. There is no doubt that this is the right family, it's just a question of which generation went to the House of Lords.

Sir Valentine named his second son Henry Slane Fleming.

James Fleming gave each of his children the middle name of Francis, other than the one who was actually called Francis Fleming. One of his other sons was Baldwyn Fleming. In the history of the Flemings as Barons Slane, the names Francis and Baldwyn are both prominent.

The three Fleming boys, James QC, Sir Valentine, and Henry of No. 2 Charles Street, and their sister, Emma, were perhaps raised with many tales of Irish greatness swirling in their heads, on both sides.

There is a Baron Slane today, Colonel Cyril Woods of Ontario, Canada, who was born in Ireland. Some controversy apparently surrounds the granting of arms to Colonel Woods, but without taking sides in an argument I do not pretend to understand, I think it may be safe to venture that Woods's claim may be for a slightly different title. Others can argue about the types of baronetcies and the intricacies. I am over my head.

There's another Irish story about Henry Fleming's family, but it's not quite so romantic. Since it's St. Patrick's Day, I'll post that one next.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Which end of Davies Street did Henry Fleming live at? The one with the smallpox? And what about the 12-year-old bride?

Henry Fleming, crossed my path by living at #2, Charles Street, Berkeley Square, London in 1871.

Read more about the Charles Street project here, if you're wondering what's up with that.


In the 1841 census, Henry and his brother James were living on Davies Street, with no house number given. I don't know which end, though I suppose a diligent examination of the census records might unearth that.

In 1839, the north end of Davies Street, where it meets Oxford Street, was an unhealthy place because of smallpox. Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain, by Edwin Chadwick of the home Office. (1843) pp 256-257.

The text here is rather small, but it talks about the disease cases of the day.

A map of Davies Street today. It still runs from Berkeley Square to Oxford Street, in London. Here is a link in case the map doesn't show up for you.

View Larger Map

This next has nothing to do with Henry Fleming, but a little bit of trivia about Davies Street may interest you.

According to that wonderful book, the London Encyclopedia, edited by Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert:

"Davies Street, W1. Takes its name from Mary Davies, by whose marriage to Sir Thomas Grosvenor in 1677 the Grosvenor Estate in London, of which it forms part, was established. It extends from Berkeley Square to Oxford Street, and was laid out in the 1720s. The sole survivor of this original work is Bourdon House, but most of the other houses were small and narrow and occupied by tradesmen. … No. 53 Davies Street, now the Grosvenor Office, was erected in about 1836, probably to designs by the estate surveyor, Thomas Cundy the Younger. Opposite is an agreeable public house, the Running Horse, rebuilt in 1839-40. …"

Google Street View photo of the Running Horse on Davies Street (link)

View Larger Map

Oh, and the 12-year-old bride? That was Mary Davies, for whom Davies Street was named. Thomas Grosvenor was 21 when they married, though she remained living with an aunt until the age of 14.

British History Online has more of her story.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Henry Fleming's brothers did very well for themselves. Chief Justice of Tasmania, Chancellor of Durham.

Although there are many mentions and footnotes about Henry "The Flea" Fleming in directories, memoirs, and other publicly available sources online, it has been difficult to find one definitively connecting him to his brothers.

1841: Henry and James

In the 1841 census, Henry and James Fleming were living together on Davies Street, St. George Hanover Square. Davies Street runs north from Berkeley Square to Oxford Street. Charles Street, where we found Henry in 1871, runs from the south-west corner of Berkeley Square, not terribly far away.

In 1841, both James and Henry were shown as lawyers. Henry was listed as age 25, James, age 30. This census doesn't give enough information to prove the two were brothers, but it's a start.

James and Sir Valentine

In roughly the 1860s and 1870s, directories of the prominent lawyers and citizens of the time mention James Fleming, Q.C., and Sir Valentine Fleming, both lawyers, both sons of Valentine Fleming, a captain in the 9th Regiment of Foot. Those directories don't connect Henry to either one, though James and Valentine show up as being brothers of each other.

In 1870, at p. 517 of The Law Times, it was reported that the lawyers of Tasmania paid tribute to Sir Valentine Fleming upon his retirement after 15 years as the Chief Justice there. Sir Valentine and his wife returned to England, where he died in 1884. The story mentioned that Valentine was the brother of the eminent lawyer James Fleming, Q.C.

1876: Henry and James

The connection between Henry and his brother James crops up more definitively after Henry dies. Probate for Henry's estate was granted shortly after his death in 1876 to his brother, James Fleming of 12 Dorset Square, one of Her Majesty's Counsel, as described in the grant.

1881: Sir Valentine

On page 350 of the Colonial Office List of 1881, Valentine's history in Tasmania goes back a little further, as an insolvency commissioner for Hobart-town in 1841. That list says he retired as Chief Justice in 1870.

1885: James, Captain Valentine, Baldwin and Francis

Page 157 of the 1885 Men-at-the-bar hand-list, which lists the prominent lawyers of the day, includes Henry's brother James, identified as one of Captain Valentine's sons. Two of James's own sons, Baldwin (also spelled Baldwyn in some places), and Francis are also listed, but more about them later.

The distinctions attained by James Fleming, Q.C. were listed in that same 1885 Men-at-the-bar hand-list:

Since 1865, chief commissioner of the West India encumbered estates court;
Since 1871, chancellor of the county palatine of Durham;
Author of Rules and Orders Chancery Court Durham;
1832 a student of Lincoln's Inn;
9 May 1836 went to the Middle Temple;
10 June 1836 called to the bar;
9 January 1858, Q.C.

Sir Valentine and Captain Valentine

Sir Valentine's obituary in the February 1885 issue of The Law Times and review (page 98), says he graduated with honors from Trinity College Dublin in 1834, was called to the bar of Gray's Inn in 1838, and from 1844 to 1874 was Solicitor General and then Chief Justice of Tasmania. He was the second son of Valentine Fleming Esq. of Tuam, County Galway, Ireland, Captain in H.M. 9th Regiment of Foot.

1887: James, Baldwin and Charles

When James died in 1887, probate went to two of his sons, identified as such in the grant: Baldwin Francis and Charles Francis.

Captain Valentine's Will

Midway through this research, I broke my own rule and paid to download Captain Valentine Fleming's will. The script is hard to read, and of the whole thing, the most difficult is the one word I was looking for: "Henry". However, I'm convinced I have it right.

Captain Valentine died in 1820, when his four children were around 10 to 15 years old. He named all the children in his will, three sons: James, Valentine, and Henry, and a daughter, Emma Frances. Much of the will is concerned with ensuring that control of the family fortune never passes into the hands of a spouse of the daughter, Emma, or the widow to be, Catherine.

1908: Henry and Sir Valentine

The final piece of evidence linking Henry to Captain Valentine is in a memoir by Sir Henry Drummond Wolff, Rambling Recollections, Vol. 1, at page 103, published in 1908. Henry Fleming had already been dead over 30 years by then. Drummond Wolff, who was about 20 years younger than Henry, wrote, "Another acquaintance of mine was Mr. Fleming, so well known in society. He had been a great ally of Mr. Charles Buller and ended his days as Secretary of the Poor Law Board. His brother, Sir Valentine Fleming, was a Judge in Australia."
THE ROYAL NORFOLK REGIMENT - The 9th Regiment of Foot

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Henry Fleming and Disraeli

I am becoming convinced that someone should do a thesis about Henry Fleming. Perhaps they already have.

So far he is a footnote, literally, in the papers of a number of prominent people. In his role as a trusted gossip, he seems to have been an important part of the communication channels of his day, from the 1840s until his death in 1876.

As I've mentioned before, his social life and his work for the Poor Law Board were in one way quite incongruous: champagne and gruel. On the other hand, in a paternalistic society, so notoriously class-stratified as 19th century England was, it's not surprising that the fates of the poorest were in the hands of people who had no direct personal experience of poverty.

In these two cuttings from letters of then Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, Fleming is mentioned. It seems from these two notes that Fleming had the opportunity to chat with Disraeli if they should meet; that he was a familiar, more than a nodding acquaintance.

I will let those who understand the history of the British Parliament in the 1870s explain further, in the many books and papers published about this period. Even to try and give a sketchy background is a bit of a daunting task.

In late January 1876, when the first letter was written, Parliament was about to resume sitting. Some of the contentious matters of the day involved the Suez Canal and Bosnia, names familiar in the news of our own time.

I quickly and the opposite of thoroughly checked Hansard for a debate where Gladstone and Lowe took a particularly active role, but I didn't locate one.

I did find this lovely picture and a connection to W. S. Gilbert.

File:The Happy Land - Illustrated London News, March 22, 1873.PNG
(Copied from Wikipedia. Original credited to the Illustrated London News of March 22, 1873.)
"The Happy Land" was a musical by W. S. Gilbert and Gilbert Arthur à Beckett. It broke the rules about portraying public characters: here, as shown is a parody of then Prime Minster Gladstone, Chancellor of the Exchequer Lowe, and First Commissioner of Works, Ayrton.

More from Disraeli's letters, under the heading "DISSENSIONS IN THE CABINET".

I'm assuming that this is the same Fleming, Henry Fleming "The Flea", as there are no other Flemings appearing in these letters. It would be in character for Henry to fill Disraeli in on the goings-on at the Easter Sunday church service.

Or, as Disraeli put it, "Fleming having, of course, prepared a rich discourse for my edification." Sounds like him.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sending 13-year-old pauper children to work in the mills

For decades, Henry Fleming (our resident of No. 2 Charles Street in 1871) was a senior official with the Poor Law Board.

As Secretary in the early 1860s, he dealt with some interesting correspondence which now is online as the 1861 Sessional Papers of the House of Lords.

Link to the book of Sessional Papers

In the section entitled "Pauper Children", there is a series of letters, some with supporting appendices, dealing with proposals from some factory owners in England to take children from the workhouses as apprentices.

(The papers are not easily numbered, but using the on-page search function to find "pauper children", you should get to the right place.)

The children Henry Fleming corresponded about were to be apprenticed from age 13 to 17 as spinners in the textile mills. They were to work from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and until 1 p.m. on Saturday.

The entire report is heartbreaking in its details. There are the names and ages of individual children. Orphan. Father deserted, mother dead. Father believed in Australia, mother dead. Seven years in the workhouse to date. It goes on and on.

Some of the adult mill workers had no socks or shoes when the inspector called. The owner said it's because they preferred it that way. But, reported the inspector, "… when they go to meals and leave off work, they are all provided with factory clogs, which create no unusual clatter in the streets."

Henry Fleming, as Secretary to the Poor Law Board, may not have been a decision maker but may have had to brief the Board on the details of the apprenticeship proposals, at the least.

Henry was a man who spent his leisure time as a socialite, riding horses, gossiping, and generally hanging out with some of London's top society, and his working hours dealing with the details of caring for the destitute.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

John Burgoyne Blackett at 2 Charles Street in the late 1840s

This is a listing from the Northumberland Archives, via Access to Archives, a very useful service indeed.

Here's exactly what's on the screen:

"Notebook (vol. IV) comprising copies of letters from J[ohn] B[urgoyne] Blackett, initially at 2 Charles Street, Berkeley Square, then at 10 Eaton Place to Congreve, May 1848-Dec. 1851. Concerning politics, literary matters, mutual friends, foreign affairs, university reform, possible personal insolvency, retrenchment in standard of living. A group of undated letters at the end, perhaps c.1844, predate the main section. ZBK/C/1/B/3/1/9 [n.d.]"

Why it matters to our story

You may notice that in 1848 when the letters started, Blackett was living at 2 Charles Street. He was also the Member of Parliament for Northumberland South from 1852 to 1856. His successor as the MP for the riding was George Ridley, who lived at 2 Charles Street later.

Maybe No. 2 was rented for whomever represented Northumberland South from time to time. But, the dates of the letters from Blackett at No. 2 don't match the dates of his time as an MP. Perhaps the connection is more to do with being from the nobility of Northumberland.

It raises the question of what Henry Fleming was doing there on census night in 1871, though. Guest of an absent MP, perhaps?

Blackett later lived at 10 Eaton Place, London, and for some reason I think I have run across Eaton Place in this research already. Will have to keep my eyes open.

Connection between Blackett and the March family (of No. 1 Charles Street, in 1871)

This is one of those "the world is a pretty small place" things, but that's what happens when you have people descended from William the Conqueror, Plantagenets, and so on.

The name "Umfreville" appears in both the Blackett and March families. For the Blacketts, it's way back around the 1500s. For the Marches, one of Thomas Charles March's sisters married a Yorkshire clergyman (of a titled family, if I remember correctly), and their sons had Umfreville as a middle name. The spelling varies, Umfreville, Umfraville.

A distant connection.

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