Henrietta Rosina Bunn
Henrietta Rosina BunnView full burial details
in the cemetery
HENRIETTA ROSINA BUNN; 1875-1904
Henrietta was born in the latter half of 1875. Her parents were William and Caroline Mothersole and the family lived near Berkhamsted in the village of Potten End. Her father was a bricklayer. The 1881 census that reveals that Henrietta had three older brothers, George who was then 16 and who was working as a bricklayer’s labourer (presumably with his father William), Walter, 14, and Arthur, 8, both still at school in 1881. Henrietta was 5 at the time of the census and she too is noted as being a “scholar.” She also had a younger brother who was 4 days old at the time of the 1881 census and who still had to be named, being referred to on the census return as “Baby.”
Although the young Henrietta was referred to by that name when her birth was registered, she was evidently known to her family as “Etty”, that being her given name in the 1881 census and presumably how her family and friends may have known her throughout her life. Unusually her memorial in Rectory Lane cemetery also gives her maiden name, “Nee Etty Mothersole.”
Ten years later Henrietta was 15 years old and working. Like many other Victorian girls and young women, she had entered domestic service. By the time of the 1891 census 1.3 million women and girls were working as domestic servants. That is one in three women between the ages of 15 and 20. They were usually recruited between the ages of 10 and 13. Women were cheaper to employ than male servants as there was a tax on indoor male servants and pay for male servants was also greater than that paid to women. A servant working for a middleclass family would usually live in the family’s house. Hours were long and the pay was poor, £6 – £12 per annum. Servants were under constant scrutiny and whilst living closely with the family were kept rigidly apart from it. Most employers felt they had a right to look through their servant’s belongings and it was not until 1860 that it became illegal to beat a servant. It was legal for employers to order servants to accompany them to church, but the servants had to sit at the back in a segregated section. There was no job security if a servant fell ill or committed some misdemeanour. Being a servant did have some advantages; a servant probably lived in better surroundings than her original home and some families were very good to their servants.
Henrietta worked as a nurse maid and domestic servant for Samuel Satow, a solicitor, and his wife Katherine. The Satow family lived in Kitsbury Road, Berkhamsted, and they had seven children ranging in age from the 14 year old Harold to Christopher who was just 7 months old. Henrietta no doubt had her hands full as the family’s nursemaid.
Henrietta married Sidney Alfred Bunn on 25th April 1896. Sidney was not himself from Berkhamsted, coming from Norfolk, but it seems likely that he was related to members of the Bunn family living in Berkhamsted and that family connection probably brought him to the town where he met Henrietta. The 1901 census tells us that Sidney was working as a groom.
The 1901 census also reveals that Sidney and Henrietta lived at 42 High Street, Berkhamsted. Henrietta had given birth to two children, George who was 4 years old and Helen, 3. In 1902 she gave birth to Edward.
Three years later on 27th February 1904 Henrietta died, at the age of only 28. Her death certificate records the cause of her death as phthisis, that is tuberculosis.
During Victorian times tuberculosis, or consumption as it was also known, was particularly prevalent amongst the urban poor where overcrowding allowed the disease to thrive. Contemporary public health physicians had a tendency to blame the poor and their poor housing conditions for the disease, but it was by no means exclusive to the poor and it affected people at all levels of society. It is a mycobacterial infection spread when aerosol droplets of infected sputum ejected by coughing of the infected person are inhaled by those in prolonged and close contact.
Nearly 4 million people are estimated to have died of the disease in England and Wales between 1851 and 1910. Tuberculosis came to be considered in Victorian times as a “romantic disease” being entwined with notions of beauty and creativity. Tuberculosis was thought to bestow upon the sufferer heightened sensitivity and creativity. The consumptive appearance entailed a pale skin, red cheeks with a feverish glow and an ethereal thinness. This became associated with fragility and sexual attractiveness and became the defining fashionable aesthetic. Many upper class women purposefully paled their skin to achieve a consumptive appearance. Corsets and voluminous skirts further emphasised slender figures. Consumptive heroines appeared in literature ( e.g. La dame aux Camelias and Les Miserables) and in opera (La Boheme and La Traviata). Byron was to declare “ How pale I look! – I should like, I think, to die of consumption… because then all the women would say ‘see that poor Byron – how interesting he looks in dying!’”
However, it was not a pleasant death. “There was, and is, nothing remotely Romantic or psychosomatic about the disease. The most common form of human tuberculosis usually begins with flu-like symptoms which progress to a persistent cough, the spiting of blood caused by lesion of the lung tissue, and consequent weight-loss or general wasting of the muscles. The primary lesion of the lung can sometimes heal and the infection be contained within a protective tubercle. If this does not happen, the disease begins to consume the organ in which it has lodged, usually the lung, and the illness progresses to a fatal conclusion. This can sometimes be a protracted process with periods of remission or latency.” (“The Dark Shadow”, R. Brownlow.)
Henrietta was buried in Rectory Lane cemetery. She lies in her grave alone. Sidney returned to Norfolk.
No relatives have been linked to Henrietta Rosina Bunn