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Henry Barnaby Bartlett Lane (1854-1940)                                                       

Grandfather of Henry Austin Lane - Generation 3.                                                                                                   

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Henry was the first of seven children born to his parents. He and his siblings were raised for the most part in London’s East End in Queenhithe in the ancient ward of the City of London. At the time of his birth, Henry’s father was working as a vellum binder, a highly skilled profession for which a 5-year apprenticeship under the supervision of a master vellum binder was usually served.


The process of book binding involved the assembly of a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material, and the attachment of a cover to the resulting text-block. Vellum was used to provide a flexible cover for accounts and stationery books, and required a high degree of skill to stretch, form, attach and stitch it to the text-block.

As London expanded rapidly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many of its inhabitants suffered extreme poverty and deprivation. Charles Booth, the son of a wealthy ship owner and a successful businessman in his own right, devised, organised and funded the most comprehensive and scientific social survey of London life that has ever been undertaken. Charles also supported the cause of state funded Old Age Pensions as a practical instrument of social policy to alleviate destitution in old age, which was established as one of the commonest causes of pauperism.


His 'Booth Poverty Map' (1898-1899) is the most distinctive output from his London Inquiry, with each street coloured to indicate the income and social class of its inhabitants:

  • Black: Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal.

  • Dark Blue: Very poor, casual. Chronic want.

  • Light Blue: Poor. 18s. to 21s. a week for a moderate family.

  • Purple: Mixed. Some comfortable others poor.

  • Pink: Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings.

  • Red: Middle class. Well-to-do.

  • Yellow: Upper-middle and upper classes. Wealthy.​

As a youngster, Henry grew up in a district described as “Poor. 18s to 21s a week for a moderate family” on this map. Having said this, his family lived in a house with six rooms (equivalent to a five-bedroomed house today), which suggests that they were not destitute. Despite this, during his childhood he lost his younger brothers William John Lane from pneumonia, and James Thomas Lane from convulsions, within a month of each other. He was 6 years old when they died, and suddenly became an only child until his sister Caroline Elizabeth Lane was born 12 months later.

Henry's life was thrown into turmoil with the untimely death of his father when he was 19 years old. Following this, he worked as a porter and tailor’s apprentice to support his mother and four younger siblings aged between 4 and 12 years. After being widowed, Henry’s mother worked from home as a waistcoat maker and then as a tailoress for a local clothing manufacturer, before working on her own account (self-employed). It may have been from his mother that Henry inherited the strong work ethic evident during his youth and in later life.

Henry married Amelia Augusta Hankinson in a double-wedding ceremony with his mother Elizabeth Martha Worrall, and her father Thomas William Hankinson, with each couple acting as witnesses for the other. Henry and Amelia started their married life living in the East End of London, but moved to the healthier environment of Dorking in Surrey after their second born son Thomas Bartlett Lane was diagnosed with marasmus.

This chronic condition was prevalent among poorer families surviving on a diet lacking in protein and calories, and using insanitary water which caused severe infant diarrhoea. Thomas would not have been able to absorb nutrients and would have slowly wasted away, an agonising death for both him and his parents. Despite moving to Dorking, Henry and Amelia also lost their fourth born son Arthur John Lane due to marasmus and whooping cough.

Henry was working as a master tailor, when in 1891 he was appointed as a postman with the General Post Office (G.P.O.). The introduction of the uniform Penny Post in 1840 and pillar boxes in 1852 to support frequent postal deliveries and collections made the role of postmen essential. The G.P.O. was handling around 2 billion chargeable items every year through 17,000 post offices/sub-post offices nationwide and 150,000 employees with annual profits in the region of £3.75 million (£22.6 million today).

As a postman, Henry worked from 5:00 am to 1:00 pm, Monday to Friday, and was paid around 18 shillings a week (£54 today). This represented earnings considerably above the minimum wage of 13 shillings and 6 pence per week (£40 today). This along with his other job as a home-based master tailor in the afternoon and on evenings and weekends, gave Henry the working week from hell. His supreme efforts ensured his family had a comfortable lifestyle and he was never impoverished again.

Having lost two sons in 1879 and 1883, Henry and Amelia raised six other sons and a daughter. Their next great challenge came during World War I (1914-1918) when four of their sons fought for ‘King and Country’. Henry delayed his retirement from the G.P.O. at the start of this war, and continued working as a postman until around 1920. The most heart-wrenching part of his job was delivering devastating news to those who had lost loved ones.

This conflict started on 4 August 1914 and ended with the armistice called for by Germany at 11:00 am on 11 November 1918. It decimated a generation of the world’s youngest men. Most directly affected were those families' whose male relatives aged between 18 and 41 years were compelled to fight through both voluntary and compulsory enlistment.​ When the war broke out it was generally believed that ‘it will be over by Christmas’, however, it was finally won by the British and French allies through a long, arduous and expensive trial of strength, with 6.7 million civilian and 9.7 million military casualties. The entry of fresh troops from the United States of America (U.S.A.) in 1917 was crucial in securing the final victory.

Our Boys at War

In 1914 the world went to war

and few foresaw

the appalling cost

of millions lost.

With trenches for shields

across Flanders fields

the poppies of red

paid homage to the dead.

Our ancestors played their part

as their families were torn apart

whenever they sacrificed a son

before the war was won.

© Mel Hamson, 2013

Fortunately, Henry and Amelia's sons and daughter survived this conflict:

  • Edward Frederick Lane (1880-1953): Was aged 34 years at the outbreak of war, and served with the Royal Engineers, Special Reserve, Motorcycle Section retained on Home Service. He served from 7 December 1915 to 26 March 1919 and attained the rank of Sergeant. He returned home to his wife and children with whom he shared his life until his death in 1953 at the age of 73 years.​

  • Ernest Oldridge Lane (1885-1971): Was aged 29 years at the outbreak of war, and was certainly eligible for military service during this conflict although no Military Service Records for him have been traced. In any event, he survived the war and lived with his wife and children in Redhill, Surrey until his death at the age of 86 years.​

  • Herbert Alfred Lane (1892-1966): Was aged 22 years at the outbreak of war, and served with the Royal Volunteer Naval Reserve (R.N.V.R.) from 11 August 1914 to 12 August 1919. This was Herbert's second period of service with the British Royal Navy. He survived the war and went on to marry and raise a family before he died in 1966 at the age of 73 years.

  • Horace Harold Lane (1895-1977): Was aged 19 years at the outbreak of war, and served with the 5th Battalion, The Queens (Royal West Surrey Regiment), Territorial Force. He served from 27 April 1912 to 21 May 1919 and attained the rank of Sergeant. He survived the conflict and returned home to his wife and children with whom he shared his life until his death in 1977 at the age of 82 years.

  • Violet Elizabeth Ada Lane (1890-1955): Henry and Amelia's only daughter, was jilted towards the end of this war, when she was left standing at the altar by Russell William Joseph Baker, a Corporal with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force, 28th Regiment. Unbeknown to her, this cad had a wife and six children waiting for him at home in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. 4 years later, she married a clerk with whom she had six children and an enduring marriage of 34 years.

Despite hardship, loss and uncertainty, Henry and Amelia were married for 56 years until Amelia’s death from hardened arteries at the age of 75 years. After losing Amelia, Henry lived with his youngest son until his demise from heart failure and senility 2 days after the execution of ‘Operation Dynamo', the successful 'Small Ships' evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk in 1940 during World War II (1939-1945). This was the wartime operation that condemned his grandson Henry Austin Lane to incarceration as a Prisoner of War (P.O.W.) for 4 years and 11 months.

Talented Tailor

Henry was a tailor by trade

with little money to be made

he became a postman as well

and had the working week from hell.

In London he didn't stay

to a better place he moved away

for happiness and wealth

together with good health.

World War I eroded hope

as Britain found it hard to cope

when many thousands died

with their futures denied.

© Mel Hamson, 2012

Note: If you would like to know more, or have information that improves this history, we would love to hear from you.

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