The census for 1911 has just been made available online for researchers and other nosey-parkers, just a little in advance of the usual century gap before publication. The database is quite easy to use, and I’ve already located my mother and a couple of well-known writers.
I was delighted to get an email from the grandson of A.M.Burrage, an unjustly forgotten writer whose biography I am trying to piece together. He included an image of his grandfather’s census record, which was rather intriguing.
On Sunday 2nd April, 1911, the 21-year-old Alfred McLelland Burrage was staying at Bredgar House, in Bredgar, near Sittingbourne, Kent. The head of the household was Mrs Millicent Seager, a 35-year-old widow of private means, who lived there with her 15-year-old daughter and two servants. The house was a most impressive 18-room property – here is a modern photograph of it. (The War Memorial, of course, would not have been there in 1911. Nor would those concrete tank traps, souvenirs of a later war.)
The photographer tells us that “Bredgar House was purchased in 1867 by a wholesale ironmonger and brassfounder from London called Comyn Ching who had such a large family he raised the roof and added a third storey to house them all. His company, which supplied the railings for London’s Royal parks, is still going strong with a Comyn Ching at the helm.”
A bit of googling suggests that in th early eighteenth century the house had belonged to Sir Samuel Chambers, an important worthy with naval connections. An impressive residence indeed.
What was Burrage doing there? He is listed as “visitor”. Is that a genteel way of saying “lodger”? Although he was by then an established writer for magazines, his “Occupation” column is left blank. To make him seem more gentlemanly?
Census returns give snapshot of one moment in a life. They can be puzzle pictures, and they can be misleading, but this one seems rich with possibilities.