Caroline SaltmarshView full burial details
in the cemetery
CAROLINE SALTMARSH; 1827-1916
Caroline, like her future husband Alfred Saltmarsh, was born not in Berkhamsted, but Chelmsford in Essex. Although the kerbstone of Caroline’s grave records that she was born in 1828, she was in fact born in 1827 as we know from her baptismal record that she was baptised at the church of St Mary the Virgin in Chelmsford on 18th November 1827. Alfred was baptised in the same church. Her parents were Robert Harris, a gardener, and Charlotte. The 1841 census tells us that the family was living in Rainsford End, Chelmsford, only a mile or so from where Alfred and his family lived in Moulsham.
At the time of the 1841 census Caroline was 13 years old and an older brother, Charles, who was aged 14 is noted on the return. By 1851, Caroline’s mother had died. Robert, her father, was then described as a widower and Caroline, 23 years old, was keeping house. Her brother, Charles, like her 73 year old father, was working as gardener.
In 1852 Caroline married Alfred Saltmarsh. Alfred had moved away from Chelmsford and in 1851 was in London working as a shoemaker. Their marriage took place in Kensington but given that Charlotte and Alfred had lived near to each other in Chelmsford, it seems likely that the couple knew each other before Alfred left Chelmsford for London.
The couple were to have seven children. The 1911 census, unlike earlier censuses, states how many children a woman had given birth to at the time of the census and how many were still living and how many died. Of the seven children born to Alfred and Charlotte no less than the first four died. The eldest, Clara, was born in 1854 and died in 1858; Sidney was born in 1856 and died in 1871; Alfred, born in 1857, died in 1859; Arthur was born in 1860 and died in 1865. Only Caroline, born in 1862, Eliza born in 1865 and Frank, 1868, were to survive childhood.
Infant and child mortality was very high during the Victorian era. High mortality rates among the young were the result of industrialisation, which led to rapid urbanisation, increased pollution, severe impoverishment, and exploitation of child labour. According to Report of the Medical Officer of Health for the City of London in 1849, the death rate for children under 5 years of age was around 33% in some areas in London. In Kensington the district in which Alfred and Caroline married, over the course of one year, there were a combined number of 1,022 deaths among infants and children. In Islington, there were 2,269 deaths among infants and children. The infant mortality rate for Berkhamsted was little better, although it was recognised that mortality rates were worse in the towns and cities than in rural areas. In 1851 the rate stood 151.38 deaths per 1000 in Berkhamsted, dropping steadily over the years to 87.39 per thousand in 1911.
The first ten years of the twentieth century saw a number of investigations and publications on the subject of infant mortality. The first National Conference on Infant Mortality was held in 1906 followed by the second two years later. This activity was motivated by a growing conviction that a large proportion of the wastage of infant life was preventable. Happily, today the infant mortality rate is much reduced. The rate for the Borough of Dacorum, of which Berkhamsted is today a part, was 3.16 per thousand in the years 2016/2018.
Whilst we know that when Arthur was born in 1860, the family were living at 6 St James’ Street in Chelsea, there is no apparent trace of the family in the 1861 census, either in London, Chelmsford or Berkhamsted. Where were the family? We do not know. However, we do know that two years later in 1862, the family had moved to Berkhamsted, as that is where the fifth child, Caroline, was born and her birth registered. The family reappear in the 1871 census; Alfred and Caroline, together with Sidney (who was to die later that year), Caroline, Eliza and Frank were living in Victoria Road, Berkhamsted. That itself begs another question – why had this couple, originally from Essex and with no immediately apparent link to Berkhamsted, moved from London to settle here? Perhaps it was the opportunity of work. The 1871 census records that Alfred was working a boot closer and the 15 year old Sidney was working as a printer’s apprentice.
At the time of the 1881 census Alfred, Caroline, Eliza and Frank were living in Berkhamsted High Street. Caroline is noted as being a “missionary woman”.
The Victorian era saw the Established Church become a major focus of female voluntary activity. Many Anglican women became involved in charitable and philanthropic works. The Church of England provided a base for widespread activity involving visiting, which included health advice and education of the poor, Sunday schools and local involvement in social purity and temperance. The Church of England also supported national organisations with a strong local base, such as women’s temperance societies. Churchwomen supported the campaign for abolition of the Contagious Diseases Acts. Inner-city home missions promoted the twin missions of evangelism and philanthropy, while women’s auxiliaries supported foreign missions.
Paid church work for women developed from the 1850s within the Church of England in the various forms of the Raynard Society, Caroline Talbot’s parochial mission system, the Church Army, foreign mission societies. This activity included both voluntary activity by middle-class women, who were financially supported by husbands and fathers, and paid activity of single women.
The first nursing home in Berkhamsted opened in Gossoms End and moved in 1880 to a house opposite St Peter’s Church. The minute book of the Berkhamsted Nursing Home for the years 1879-1872 briefly makes mention of Caroline and gives us some hint as to the sort of work she undertook. One of the nursing staff, Sister Louisa, was concerned that some of the poor were missing hot dinners which had been discontinued on account of the expense and it was decided that Mrs Saltmarsh, the mission woman, should have 5 shillings a month to “get a chop and cook it” in cases of great need.
Caroline’s missionary zeal evidently did not last. It is only in the 1881 census that she is described as a missionary, no such reference appearing in any of the subsequent censuses in which she features.
By the time of the 1891 census Alfred, Caroline and Frank had moved to Castle Street. Frank, age 24 years was working as a carpenter. By 1901 Alfred and then 72, had retired from boot making. The census notes that he was living on his own means. Frank had moved out of the family home, but Alfred and Caroline had been joined by a lodger, Caroline’s aged brother, Charles. Charles was still working as a gardener as he had been 60 years earlier at the age of 14 .
Alfred died in the fourth quarter of 1911.The 1911 census reveals that earlier that year he was in the Union Workhouse in Berkhamsted High Street. He was age 80 and is noted as married. Caroline was not herself in the workhouse. She was still living in Castle Street.
Caroline died five years later in 1916 at the age of 88 and was buried with Alfred in Rectory Lane cemetery.