Charles John Batstone and his many occupations

In transcribing the 1861 census for St Leonards I noticed that the very last household is an “omitted” entry, though we are not told from where the details had been missed. The household is:

Charles Batstone, head, married, 31, builder & carpenter, born Surrey Newington

Frances S. Batstone, wife, married, 30, do wife, born Sussex Hastings

Frederic Batstone, son, 5, scholar, born North India

Charles J. Batstone, son, 4, do, born At Sea

Clement G. Batstone, son, 2, do, born Sussex St Leonards

Priscilla Batstone, dau, 1, born Sussex St Leonards

Miriam J.M. Batstone, dau, 2 mo[nths], born Sussex St Leonards

Katharine Bennett, serv, single, 16, house servant, born Kent Tunbridge

Those born in India in the British Victorian era censuses are nearly always people of European descent, and usually from well-off households, being the children of officers, administrators, merchants and planters. I was intrigued. Frederic would, I guessed, be in the Anglican baptisms for India, housed in the British Library, and available on the Find my Past database. I was surprised to see the father’s occupation.

He received an Anglican baptism in 1830 in Southwark, son to a carpenter.

In the 1851 census he was a joiner, a boarder in the house of a postman at 5 Albion Place, Hastings.

He married on the 26 June 1854 at All Saints Hastings. He was a schoolmaster, son of John, builder, she was Martha Colbran, daughter of William, bricklayer. Both were of the parish.

I cannot trace a voyage for him out to India. Once there, the baptism of Frederic reveals his new career. The image below is the entry from the Anglican records for Kishnaghur, India held at the British Library.

The baptism is hard to read, so here is a transcript:

Baptised 15 May 1855. Born 25 April 1855. Frederic William, son of Charles John, schoolmaster of the Church Missionary Society, and Frances Sophia Matilda Batstone, of Santipore.

I was surprised. Few schoolmasters become builders, particularly after first being a joiner. Santipur is a town to the north of Calcutta/ Kolkata. The archives of the Church Mission(ary) Society are held at Birmingham University, and they have a file on Batstone, which is catalogued as covering 1855-56. The Society was an Anglican organisation founded in 1799.

We are fortunate that the New Calcutta Directory listed passengers on ships between Calcutta and England. The 1858 edition states that he left Calcutta on the “Southampton” on the 13 January 1857, bound for London via the Cape. The alternative route was the “overland” route – which involved a camel journey between Cairo and Suez, on the Red Sea, a journey of some 140 km. Newspapers tell us that that ship had as passengers Mrs Batstone and child and C. Batstone, and that she arrived at Gravesend on the 15 May 1857, hence a four-month voyage. He was lucky – on the 10 May the bloody Indian Mutiny had broken out.

They must have soon gone to St Leonards, as three weeks later, on the 10 June 1857, at St Leonards church, there was the baptism of Charles John Batstone to Charles John, schoolmaster, and his wife, of St Leonards. This was the boy who in the 1861 census was said to have been born at sea.

The baptisms of the next two children, Clement and Priscilla, on the 25 August 1858 and the 12 October 1859, both give Charles’ occupation as a schoolmaster. It is only when Miriam was baptised, 27 February 1861, that he says he is a builder. Then there was the census on the 7 April 1861 where he was builder and joiner.

We do not have an exact address until the 1867 Kelly’s Directory where Charles was an upholsterer and undertaker at 29 Gensing Station Road [now called King’s Road]. He was also an agent for the Scottish Commercial Fire insurance company. A joiner would know how to build a wooden coffin, while an upholsterer knew how to provide a plush interior.

The 15 January 1867 issue of the Hastings and St Leonards Observer has a rather macabre advertisement for his undertaker business. Why “London prices” ? Surely they would be higher.

Advert for Charles Batstone’s undertaker business, 29 Gensing Station Road

Charles soon became a bankrupt. The entry for him in the London Gazette, 20 October 1868, tells us that he was a lodging house keeper, undertaker and blind maker. Although no dates are given, he was previously of 4 Melbourne Place, Western Road; then 4 West Hill; then 1 Western Road; and now of 29 Gensing Station Road. These addresses were where he was running up debts.

The London Gazette entry for Batstone’s bankruptcy

The 1871 census has the family at 30 Alma Terrace, he a Venetian blind maker, with wife and eight children.

During 1877-79 he began to advertise again for his making and repairing blinds at London prices from 7 Shornden Terrace, Bohemia. Frederic, the eldest at 15, was also a blind maker; Charles, 14, errand boy, was born in the Bay of Bengal, hence shortly after leaving Calcutta on the four month journey home; and Clement, 13, was also an errand boy.

He was frequently in financial difficulties. In 1869 William Gladwish pursued a claim for £2 off him, Batstone to be imprisoned for 20 days if not paid within a month. No more details from the newspaper. Similarly, there were claims against him in 1874 and 1880, and probably on other occasions although we only have his surname. This sounds odd to me: surely a tradesman would be more likely to sue clients for non-payments ? In 1882 he was summoned for not paying the poor rates. In 1901 he was committed [to prison] for one month for not paying 9s 3d in rates, although this may have been suspended as the accounts are unclear. In 1903 he falsely pretended to be a limited company to secure business, so that son Clement had to advertise he was not a partner in the firm to avoid being sued for debts. It does sound as if he was in financial difficulties for much of his life.

The 1881 census has the family at 26 Hughenden Road, Hastings. Frederic had moved out and Charles was a 24-year-old student, born in the Indian Ocean. Later in 1881 he sailed from Liverpool to New York, and, as an Anglican clergyman, died in 1923 in Ontario, Canada. Clement in the census was a blind maker, and two of the daughters were dressmakers.

The 1891 census has the family at 58 St Mary’s Terrace, Hastings. He was a blind maker and carpenter.

The 1901 census has the family at 69 Milward Road, Hastings. He was still working as a blind maker at the age of 71, on his own account, from home. His son Theodore, age 38, was also a blind maker, living there with his wife, as well as three sisters.

 His wife died in 1904 at Hastings.

 Charles’ final census address was in 1911 at 55 Elphinstone Road, Hastings, where he was in a four-roomed flat with two daughters, in their forties, and an invalid lodger. He was 81, rheumatic, still working, but now returning to his roots as a joiner and carpenter, on his own account, from home. As required, he stated that he had had ten children and that seven were still alive. One daughter was a dressmaker, the other a domestic.

He died in 1916. Below is an advert by him in 1871.

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