Friday, 9 December 2016

The Bromley Mystery of an Abandoned Baby

The human condition changes little no matter which  century and abandoning children has an inherent mystery.
As I have researched the population of children boarded out from the Bromley Kent Poor Law Union from 1885 onwards there is only one child whose name and circumstances remain a mystery to me.
On the evening of the 20 March 1895 a male baby about six months old was abandoned in the porch of Pulham House Palace Grove the household of Mister A. Scott.
Elinda Potter a servant employed by Mister Scott thought she heard a baby crying in the front of the house and when she opened the door she found a small bundle containing the baby a feeding bottle and an attached note.The child had been carefully wrapped in a maroon covering.
The handwritten note said:
"Dear Kind People
Will you be so kind as to give this little baby a night's shelter as he is motherless,fatherless and there is no one to take him. I have done the best I could for the little lamb while i had him but I am almost destitute myself. Would you be so kind as to send him to the Swanley Home for little boys;and do not send him to the Union.it was his mother's wish for him to go to a Home".
The police were called and Doctor Ilott in his role as Divisional Surgeon was called to examine the child who was found to be healthy. He advised the police to remove the child to The Workhouse.
The Bromley Record account in its April edition records this detail and says the child was taken to the Workhouse and that the police were making "every inquiry" into the matter.
What is equally mysterious is that there is no record of admission to the Workhouse for a male baby estimated to be six months of age in the Porter's admission and discharge register,
It would in my experience be most unusual for no record to be kept-on the contrary one of the first issues confronting the Master and Board of Guardians would be to establish who the parents were and their circumstances.
The Boarding Out Commitee meeting on 5 April records that two foundling chargeable to the Union are in the Workhouse and the Committee recommends to the Guardians that a reward for the apprehension of the parents should be offered. It is not possible to identify these two children by name or subsequent reference to boarded out children in either the discharge entries or Boarding Out minutes or the two volumes of Secretary's register which provides detailed biography of the boarded out chidren and their after-care as well as years of birth and foster parents.
There is no evidence of the the Guardians placing a male child in a childrens home which would match these circumstances or reference to the removal of a child by a parent.
In most cases of abandonment the Union record sources are thorough  and one or two foster parents (usually with nursing backgrounds) are foster parents to small babies and every effort is made to ensure that small children are not admitted to the House. At this time the Ladies Committee were responsible for the placement of children and reported quarterly to the Board of Guardians so that detailed records are available.
The note attached to the baby refers to the Farningham Home for Little Boys at Horton Kirby which would not have accepted a baby. The Farningham Home for Little Boys is used by Bromley Union for boys up to 10 years of age often those who are difficult to maintain in foster care. Whether this child died or remained for some years in the Workhouse due to illness or disability is not known.
 © Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2013-2016