Author Topic: The Retreat, Mere  (Read 5371 times)

Offline markoffen

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The Retreat, Mere
« on: Monday 24 July 06 12:36 BST (UK) »
Good day,
I am trying to find more information about The Retreat, Salisbury Road (or Street), Mere, Wiltshire.  My great aunt died there at the age of 18 in 1921. From what I can get from her death certificate, it was after childbirth and she was not married.  The attending doctor was Dr Frances Rutter and Alice Rutter was listed as the occupant of the Retreat (I assume they were related).

Without slandering or upsetting anyone, could it be that the Retreat was somewhere unmarried mothers-to-be could go to give birth? The name seems to suggest this... My great aunt actually lived in Bexhill-on-sea so, as you can see, she was a long way from home. 

If anyone can help, then I would be very grateful.
Thanks
Mark Offen
Cape Town
South Africa

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Offline Little Nell

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Re: The Retreat, Mere
« Reply #1 on: Monday 24 July 06 13:11 BST (UK) »
Hi Mark,

Welcome to RootsChat.

In 1915 Dr Francis Rutter was a physician and surgeon, medical officer & public vaccinator, No 1 district Mere union, & medical officer to the Poor Law Institution & certifying factory surgeon in Mere.  I think you are probably correct in thinking The Retreat would be a home for unmarried mothers.  I can't find any records deposited in Wiltshire but they may form health service records and may not be accessible yet.  The place is not listed in the directories that I found, but then, it probably would not advertise itself in those days.

Nell
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Offline markoffen

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Re: The Retreat, Mere
« Reply #2 on: Monday 24 July 06 13:48 BST (UK) »
Good day Nell,

Thank you for the information.  Do you think it would be possible to see those records (medical)  if I visited the Mere archives (or wherever they keep them)?
My second question is obviously "what happened to the child".  I have looked at the BMD records and I can find HER death listed.  But I cannot find a child registered to her in the births or deaths.  If the child was stillborn then I would have thought it would be listed.  Of course, if the child survived, then it may be/would be listed under the father's name.  I cannot find a BMD site that allows me to search using the mother's name/maiden name.  Perhaps it was adopted...did they register the adopted children in the mother's/father's name or the adopted parent's name in 1921?

On another note...this must have been a real upset to the family.  My great grandfather (her father) was very religious and very active in the church.  He was, by all accounts, then a wealthy man so I guess that is how they could afford to send her away.  She is buried in Bexhill on top of her mother who died in 1916 (apparently this was quite common). There is no record at all about a child.  The Bexhill newspaper just says "a sudden death", which, I suppose, it was. 

We, in the family, had no idea she existed.  My grand father (her brother) did not mention her  to anyone EVER.   My father was born in 1922, after she died and it was quite a surprise to everyone to find out about her.  We have a photograph of my grandfather standing next to a young child.  We always assumed it was a photo of his sister Dorothy but, once we found out about Ada, we could see that the age difference is such that the photo could only have been of my grand father and her (Ada). 

Such is the fun of geneology!!  :)

Anyway, thank you very much for your reply.
Best Regards
Mark

Offline Little Nell

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Re: The Retreat, Mere
« Reply #3 on: Monday 24 July 06 22:28 BST (UK) »
Hi again Mark,

I suggest that you get in touch in the first instance with the Wiltshire & Swindon Record Office:

http://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/access-to-records/wiltshire-and-swindon-record-office.htm

The archivist there may be able to offer more definitve information than I can.  They may even know where the records might be.

There were no formal adoption records until 1927.  Prior to this, adoption was often within the family.

Stillbirths were not registered until 1926, but you may find a record of a burial which did happen even in the 19th century.

I wish you luck - you certainly have a hunt on your hands.

Nell
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Offline laurimar

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Re: The Retreat, Mere
« Reply #4 on: Wednesday 17 January 07 12:00 GMT (UK) »
Hi Mark

I have recently found that my Aunt was in the Retreat in Mere about 1910.

I contacted the Library and Museum in Mere and she confirmed that this was a home for unmarried mothers.

I am waiting for futher details i.e if Alice Rutter did keep a record of the people that were there in 1900's

Will keep you posted

Regards

Margaret Jones

Offline markoffen

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Re: The Retreat, Mere
« Reply #5 on: Wednesday 17 January 07 16:00 GMT (UK) »
Good day Margaret,

Thanks for the info.  A very kind gentleman (whose name escapes me at the moment) at one of the government offices (could be library) sent me two papers issued by the Retreat, giving a description of finances etc for the year.  In one dated 1921 , my great aunt is mentioned (not by name) but as the first fatality of a mother at the Retreat of eclampsia. If you would like a copy, I can scan them in and send them to you.  or, if u prefer, I can photo copy them and send them to you.  I received informatiion that there were no individual records still in existance.  It was mentioned that the Woman's League may have any still in existance but I did not get a reply from them.  Unfortunately it leaves many unanswered questions....was she sent there in disgrace or was everything arranged by her family? Did she get any support from the father?  What happened to the baby?  The gentleman mentioned above did a search to see if there were any deaths of infants registered in the area but there were not any, so I assume the child survived.  However, it was pointed out to me that adoptions were only registered from 1926 onwards so someone could have easily adopted the child.....so many questions, not many answers!!

Let me know if you want the Retreat docs I have. I can also check my emails and get you the gentleman's name and email address if u need it.

Thanks
Best Regards
Mark 

Offline laurimar

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Re: The Retreat, Mere
« Reply #6 on: Wednesday 17 January 07 20:17 GMT (UK) »
Hi Mark

Many thanks for your reply, I was surprised to hear anything as the first conversation was back in June last year.

I would be pleased to receive this information, there was advice on this site not to give out email addresses so how can you get these to me.

It was not so sad about my Aunt as her daughter was adopted by a family in Newport South Wales, unfortunately she predeceased my Aunt.

Apparently nobody in the family knew about this child all the scandal surfaced when my Aunt died in 1973, a widow and intestate, her estate went to her four grandchildren. I am now puzzled as to how these grandchildren were traced, they all inherited about £2,000 each so back then this would be equivalent to £150,000 today so no mean amount.

I have written to the solicitors that acted in this probate case to see if they can tell me how the family were traced as there probably wasn't any adoption certificates in approx 1910. The probate document gave me the information to enable me to trace the births of three of the granchildren and their mother's marriage certificate. I have sent off for the marriage certificate which will give me more clues to enable me to move forward and tell me if the child was born in Mere or my Aunt went back to Newport to give birth. Because the family that adopted her daughter were from Newport it suggests to me that she did the latter. As we don't know much of the workings of The Retreat would the adoption have been arranged there? Then there is the  question as to how the family would have known about this establishment and would they have gone there? Oh so many questions!!!!

So in many ways I know what happened to my Aunt which is more than you did.

Please advise how you can get this info to me

Regards

Margaret

Offline markoffen

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Re: The Retreat, Mere
« Reply #7 on: Thursday 18 January 07 14:46 GMT (UK) »
Good day Margaret,

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I think you were very lucky to get the info as adoptions were only officially registered from 1926 onwards.  I wonder if your Aunt perhaps had a letter written which could only be opened after her death (or something like that).  Perhaps a relative or friend who knew where the child went and could only tell after the death of your aunt......just suggestions.

I have found in my 4 to 5 years of research into my family that when a mystery appears, the obvious is usually the answer.   When I started out trying to find out about my greataunt I wondered why she was so far from home, which was unusual for those days and that age (18)....well, the obvious was that she was under a cloud or in disgrace and had been sent there. 

From reading the pages on Mere, they tried very hard to keep the child with the Mother and only in extreme cases would they arrange adoption.  So it is possible that they arranged the adoption but only as a last resort.  Usually someone in the family would take on the child or adopt it.  Was your Aunt from Newport or South Wales?  If so it seems quite a coincidence that the Retreat found someone from there to adopt the child and, in that case, it could have been someone she knew.  One of the people I have made contact with suggested that it was quite easy to find a family to take in/adopt  a child at that time between the two wars.  They seem to have been in short supply.



Thanks
Best Regards
Mark

Offline laurimar

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Re: The Retreat, Mere
« Reply #8 on: Thursday 18 January 07 15:06 GMT (UK) »


Many thanks and looking forward to hearing from you

Regards

Margaret