Our own “Dickens Story”: Part One of Four

workhouse-children-eating-bread-and-gruel
Anonymous Workhouse children

It was cold and stinky. And black, black, black. She didn’t like it. She wanted it to stop.

Even with both their blankets and Cissy’s arm around her, she shivered. She couldn’t help it. It was snow outside. They were together in one sleeping box with a pokey tick beneath them. She tried to be brave but she didn’t like it. Especially so dark. 

The girl beside them with no front teeth kept bumping her head against her box. Thump, thump, thump. That girl was lucky Missus was sleeping or she’d get another slap. 

She ran her tongue along her own bottom lip and felt the sore place. That’s where she bit it so she could stop crying. So Missus would go away. Her stomach hurt. She was so hungry. But Missus didn’t want to hear it.

Where was Mama? She brought them here and now she’s gone.

Mama, Mama, Mama.

_________________________

The preceding is fiction. An imagining. My imagining of what a short moment in time might have been like for a little girl named Grace Ronald and her seven year old sister Cecilia (called Cissy then, later called Ella) in 1892. The girl’s thoughts are fiction but Grace and Cissy and the setting are not. This story, as far as my generation is concerned, was never fully known until the research into family history in recent months.

In Christmas week of 1891, Grace and Cissy, along with their brother Roderick and mother Marian Ronald, were admitted for the first time to the Kensington and Chelsea Workhouse in South West London, England. Roderick would have been on his own in the boys’ section of the Workhouse and Marian would have been separated from all of them in the women’s section. The document below is a record of their Admission to the Workhouse. The reason for their admission? The Admission record says: “Destitute”.

Grace was four years old

She was Grace’s Mother and my Grandmother.

1891-admission-kensington-and-chelsea-workhouse-marian-cecilia-roderick-grace-chelsea-cropped

1891-admission-kensington-and-chelsea-workhouse-marian-cecilia-roderick-grace-chelsea-a

To be continued . . .

Linda's Siggy

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