THE RASCH FAMILY

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos


There are families for whom the basic lines of research produce little of interest as far as an article goes, but if you look for long enough there is usually something. And late in the day the Rasch family came up with someone fascinating, albeit by marriage, who is very apposite in the context of the Victorian Studio Photos series.

As mentioned in the article on Ewell House the Rasch family was in residence for a time in the late 1850s to the 1860s and they might have stayed longer, but they made a decision to remove themselves to Hove, possibly for reasons connected with Mr Rasch's health.

Arthur Augustus Rasch was born in Brighton on 1 December 1811, although there is no evidence that the family actually lived there in the normal sense. Rather, they probably visited for the 'season' and rented one of the big houses, as many people with money did in those days. Brighton and Hove, as Cheltenham and Bath, were leisure destinations for the gentry and the newspapers of the time were given to listing their arrival and departure if they were anybody at all.

Arthur was the son of Lloyd's underwriter John Peter Rasch (born 1774), who had married Louisa Mary Leroux on 8 January 1804 in Suffolk. I am not too sure how many children there were in total, but I have found Frederic Carne, Oswald Lee, Louisa Mary Sophia and Mary Elizabeth, all of whom were with their father in Charlton in his sole census appearance (1841), as was Louisa's forthcoming husband, William Bridgman. Mrs Rasch died in 1830, aged 48, and John Peter followed in 1846.

Frederic Carne Rasch (c.1809-1876) was a Chancery barrister whose bigger claim to fame was probably as the father of Sir Frederic Carne Rasch MP.

Arthur, who was christened in Merton, also became a Lloyd's underwriter and insurance broker. In the 1841 census he was at the house of his new father-in-law, Simeon Warner, at Colonnade House, South Row, Blackheath. Mr Warner was a substantial landed proprietor; the house is still there, divided into flats, and is rather striking.

Colonnade House
Colonnade House
Photograph by Reading Tom, via Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0)

So, Arthur's wife was Mary Letitia Warner, born on 22 February 1817 in Great Coram Street, London; her father was the aforementioned Simeon and her mother was Ann Bryan (nee Young). Arthur and Mary were married at St Mary, Lewisham on 18 May 1841. In the 1851 census they were living in Bloomsbury with two of their children, Mary Louisa and Henry Augustus, and Arthur's as yet unmarried sister, Mary Elizabeth. The eldest child, Arthur Warner, was at a private school in Hornsey, headed by a clergyman, and the next child, Frederic Charles Louis, attended a school in Brighton, which was then full of private schools, often accommodated in the grand houses of the town, and this was a large one at 27 Sussex Square, presided over by the widowed Mrs Henrietta Reinecker.

Another Rasch offspring, Florence Catherine, arrived in October 1853, followed by Edward William. The latter was born in Ewell in 1857, so the family had moved to our area by then, but he was christened just days after his mother died at the age of 40. Mrs Rasch's funeral service was conducted at Ewell and she was taken to Chipstead for burial.

Here is a list of the children with their dates of birth.

NameBorn
Arthur Warner1842
Frederic Charles Louis1843
Mary Louisa1845
Henry Augustus1849
Florence Catherine1853
Edward William1857

Continuing with Arthur Senior, on 13 December 1860 at St Mary's, Ewell he married Emma Corbett, aged 38. Emma was the daughter of deceased merchant Archibald Corbett. In the 1861 census the Rasch family was at Ewell House.

I will return to the children shortly but something had obviously gone wrong between the 1861 and 1871 censuses, because Arthur and Emma had moved to Hove but seemed to have two abodes there - at 25 Palmeira Square and 12 Adelaide Crescent. These big houses are fairly near to each other - Adelaide Crescent is at the sea end of Palmeira Square. And meanwhile, Simeon Warner, Arthur's first father-in-law, had a house at 18 Brunswick Square, which is the next grand estate to the east. Whilst on the subject of Simeon, he came to a most unfortunate end at that address and died on 2 May 1866, as this newspaper report relates. 'As he and his sons were enjoying wine and dessert after dinner one of the chains of the gas chandelier suddenly snapped. The chandelier fell and with it part of the ceiling. Some of the latter struck Mr Warner on the head, producing concussion of the brain, from which he died three days afterwards.'

I have not worked out the conundrum of the two addresses but I surmise that there was a problem with Arthur's mental condition. We know that he died at Moorcroft House, Hillingdon, Middlesex on 17 November 1879, which establishment turned out to be an asylum for the gentry, run by the Stilwell family. One of the Stilwells also ran a private asylum in Epsom at Silver Birches. Moorcroft House was a bigger establishment than Silver Birches and it is well documented on the Lost Hospitals of London website. Arthur was buried with his first wife at Chipstead.

Emma was in the Palmeira Square house in the 1871 census and I think I have found Arthur in Moorcroft House. The handwriting on the relevant census form is execrable but looks to be 'A.A.R', born in Brighton - I can read neither the age nor the occupation. Whether or not Arthur was in and out of the asylum I have no idea, but maybe he was intermittently at 12 Adelaide Crescent whilst Emma stayed up the road. In the 1871 census Number 12 appears to be rented out to Stephen Hankey, a brother of Thomas Alers Hankey of Epsom. By 1881 Emma was back at 12 Adelaide Crescent with her step-daughter Florence, where she remained until her death on 27 January 1895; she was also buried at Chipstead, in a new grave virtually adjacent to that of her husband and his first wife.

General view of Adelaide Crescent, Hove.
General view of Adelaide Crescent, Hove.
Image © Linda Jackson 2018

To recap then, we have four Rasch sons and two daughters. The boys did not live to any great age, although the girls were durable.

Arthur Warner Rasch

Arthur did not last long, but he packed a lot into his short life. There are indications that he went off adventuring with one Edward Pine-Coffin and, according to Australian newspapers, they were graziers in Australia but the partnership was dissolved in about 1870. In 1875 Arthur married Georgina Fanny Cafe at Chichester. He managed to cram in being ordained in 1876 and ended up as a clergyman in the village of Clandown, Somerset, where he died on 8 October 1879, aged only 37. Georgina subsequently remarried but died in 1893, also aged 37.

Frederic Charles Louis Rasch

Rather boringly for the purposes of this article, Frederic became a Lloyd's underwriter and in 1871 he married Henrietta Annie Warner, daughter of an army colonel who appears to have been a brother of Frederic's mother. They lived successively in London, Hove (22 Brunswick Square) and Bath, but Frederic died on 4 May 1887, aged 43. In the 1891 census Henrietta was a lodging house keeper in Bath and then she died in 1897. Perhaps curiously, one of the executors for both of them was Sir Henry Valentine Rae Reid of Ewell Grove. Their daughter, Mildred Alice Sothern (born 1878), got herself into a considerable marital tangle, petitioning for a divorce from her husband, Lewis Adolphus de Vic Carey, by whom she had four children. The proceedings began in November 1905. It seemed to be the familiar story of a husband's adultery and violence and, according to Mildred, this had been going on throughout the marriage. The problem was that she didn't seem to be able to prove any of it and in the meantime Lewis countered with allegations of her adultery. (I read another set of paperwork like this just recently, whereby a wife claimed to have been treated similarly, and, right at the end, after the marriage had undeniably broken down, she committed adultery with someone else, thus having to withdraw her own petition. In those days women were fairly unlikely to start divorce proceedings at all, since the odds were stacked against them - for example, whereas a male petitioner merely had to prove adultery, a female petitioner was required to add an extra dimension, such as cruelty or desertion, which is why a wife's affidavit often refers to being punched, kicked or otherwise assaulted.) Having waded through the court paperwork, I am not always sure what was going on in legal terms - it must have cost a small fortune - but the upshot, eventually, was that Mildred withdrew her petition and Lewis got the divorce. The case was heard in the High Court (June 1907) by none other than Epsom's own Sir Thomas Townsend Bucknill. There ensued a protracted battle about finances and custody, which was still going on in 1910 with the Master of the Rolls now involved. In the meantime Mildred had remarried and hopefully lived happily ever after.

Mary Louisa Rasch

Mary Louisa Rasch
Mary Louisa Rasch
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Mary Louisa married William Hegley Byas (born 1841 London) at ' the parish church of Hove' (this would have been St Andrew's Old Church at that point) on 26 February 1867: he was an underwriter's clerk and in the 1861 census resided at the Grove Hall Lunatic Asylum in Bow, but not for the reason you might think. Grove Hall was another private asylum, something like Moorcroft House but on a larger and less gentrified scale, and the Byas family established it. Once again the Lost Hospitals of London website has information. So, in 1861, William's father was the proprietor and his wife and many children were with him.

By 1871 William, now an insurance broker, and his newish wife were living at Beech Lawn, Friern Barnet and they already had three sons - Lancelot Arthur William (1867/8), Harry Louis (1869) and Cyril Frederic (1870). By 1881 William was described as an underwriter and they had all moved to Isleworth, Middlesex; there were no further children, but six servants. In 1891 home was Kensington and only Harry was still in residence. Lancelot had married Violet Graham Stow in 1888 and they produced two daughters. I know that he was in the British South African Police, which operated in what was then Rhodesia, and that his wife fairly consistently appeared on the electoral registers in England during the 1930s, but there is no sign of him. Cyril married Wilhelmina Violet (or vice versa) Chapman and died in South Africa on 31 March 1936, described as a livery stable keeper of Fort Bassett, Tweespruit, Orange Free State. His son, Captain Cyril William Byas RN, was born on 23 June 1902 and christened in Richmond, Surrey, but I surmise that his parents were either on a visit back from Africa or were about to go. Cyril William distinguished himself during World War II, latterly as commanding officer of the escort carrier HMS Arbiter, and retired to Rhodesia, having been made a CBE in the 1951 New Year's Honours. He had had a private pilot's licence for many years and sadly he was killed shortly after his retirement whilst performing aerobatics. As for Harry, his end was awful. The Pall Mall Gazette of 14 January 1921 reported as follows.
'A pathetic story of the suicide of Harry Louis Byas, a retired major of the Northern Rhodesian Police, at his mother's home in Chelsea was told at Westminster Coroner's Court. Deceased shot himself while in bed on Saturday afternoon. He lay there until Sunday morning and not until then was the fact discovered by a doctor. Mary Louisa Byas, deceased's mother, stated that her son intended to go to Margate on Saturday. When she knocked at the door of his room, which was locked, her son told her he was not well enough to open it. Ten minutes later he opened it and said that he had had an attack of malaria. She visited him during the day every half-hour or so.

Dr Bartlett stated that he was called to see deceased on Sunday. He complained of malaria. Witness suggested examining his chest. He turned back the bedclothes and saw that they were saturated with blood.

Witness said, "Good God! What have you done?"

The injured man replied, "I have shot myself".

Witness asked why and he replied, "I am sick of it". He said that he shot himself at two o'clock on the preceding day.

At the bottom of the bed was a loaded Service revolver, one cartridge of which had been discharged. There was a bullet wound just missing the heart.

A police constable said that when he was being removed to the hospital, deceased said, "I did it myself. I was fed up. I have had malaria, contracted in Rhodesia twenty-one years ago".

He died in hospital on Tuesday morning. The Coroner recorded a verdict of "suicide while of unsound mind".'
William Hegley Byas had died in 1910, but Mary Louisa survived until 7 October 1939, having endured the deaths of at least two of her sons and probably the third too. Her executrix was her grand-daughter, Mrs Phyllis Gilbey, Lancelot's daughter, which suggests that she was the nearest surviving relative.

Henry Augustus Rasch

Henry was a career officer in the 65th Foot, ending up as a Captain, but as early as 1881 he was on the Reserve list, lodging in Portsmouth. However, by 1891 he was in Southsea, still a lodger, but residing with a family called Brown, who had an unmarried daughter, Kate Jane. Henry and Kate married in 1893 and a son, Frederick Henry Smith, was born in 1895. There was probably no great wealth around, since they were still living with the Browns, and then Henry died on 1 May 1896 after a 'long and painful illness'. Kate never remarried and lived on until 1928.

Edward William Rasch

I have taken him out of chronological order as I need to finish with Florence, but unfortunately he is soon dealt with. In 1871 he was at a private school in Broadwater, Worthing (another establishment run by a clergyman - you get the feeling that in those days there were far more clergymen than vicarage vacancies). Then, in 1878, he married Alice Jane West, daughter of a retired Royal Navy Commander who lived on Jersey. The wedding took place at St Malo, France. A daughter, Vera Irene, was born in Folkestone in about 1881. Edward didn't seem to have a job - he was just a 'gentleman' and, unhelpfully, he was visiting in Wales for the 1881 census. However, there does seem to have been a scheduled bankruptcy hearing in May 1888 and on 20 May he died, aged 30. Alice remarried around 18 months later.

Florence Catherine Rasch

As mentioned earlier, the Rasch sons did not live to any great age, but the two girls did. Florence remained with her step-mother in Hove until Emma died in 1895, by which time she was 41 years old and seemingly set for permanent spinsterhood, as the phraseology went in those days. However, she then did something surprising by going to San Remo, Italy and marrying a much younger man, Mervyn Joseph Pius O'Gorman, who was born in Brighton towards the end of 1871. At that stage Mervyn was a consulting electrical engineer and, rather than reinvent the wheel about his fascinating career, I will direct you to Wikipedia. By 1911 the couple were living in Chelsea, where they remained. Florence died in 1931 and Mervyn in 1958.

The reason I left Florence until last was Mervyn's hobby, which was photography, and in 2015 some of his images appeared in an exhibition called 'Drawn By Light' - if you click the link, one of them features right in front of you. This sparked a whole debate on social media, internet blogs and in the papers, ranging from amazement at the age of the images in question (102 years at that point), the stunning composition, which wouldn't look out of place today, and the identity of the subject, dubbed 'Christina in red'. The images were made using the Autochrome colour process, which still involved glass plates, but with a mosaic of microscopic coloured grains on one side.


Christina walking on the beach, c 1913.
Photograph by Mervyn O'Gorman. Source Getty Images

Initially it was thought that Christina was Mervyn's daughter, but he had no known children and certainly none with Florence. She has now been identified as Christina Elizabeth Frances Bevan, the daughter of Edwyn Robert Bevan, a philosopher. It has been presumed that the two families were friends because they both lived in Chelsea and speculation has continued about the precise connection, so I'll throw in my eggs too.

17 and 18 Brunswick Square, Hove.
17 and 18 Brunswick Square, Hove.
Image © Linda Jackson 2018

In the above photo the front door of 18 Brunswick Square is on the left. This was the home of Simeon Warner and family (Florence Rasch's grandparents) until the ceiling fell on him in 1866 and Mrs Warner died in October 1869. His neighbours at Number 17 as far back as the 1861 census were a family called Polhill and Florence must have known them. There is a blue plaque on Number 17, shown below.

Close-up of plaque on Number 17.
Close-up of plaque on Number 17
Image © Linda Jackson 2018

This gentleman was actually Robert Polhill Bevan, a founding member of the Camden Town Group of artists (as was Epsom-born Spencer Frederick Gore) and he was a son of Laura Polhill and banker Richard Alexander Bevan. Richard was from the Bevans of Barclay, Bevan & Tritton & Co, which became Barclays Bank. Edwyn Robert Bevan, the father of 'Christina in red', was a son of Robert Cooper Lee Bevan, another of the banking family. To cut a long story short, Richard Alexander and Robert Cooper Lee were first cousins, so it is possible that Florence Rasch also knew Edwyn and Christina before Chelsea.

Having perused an enormous number of early Autochrome images on the internet, I think they mostly look very posed and static, no doubt because of the long exposure times required. And most of them are just photographs, albeit impressive for the era. Mervyn's images of Christina are something else entirely - art.

Linda Jackson 2018