"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, 30 June 2012

On Peelers

A particularly apt post today, given my current detective theme!

I have recently made progress on the Rayner branch of my tree, by identifying the probable parents of William George Rayner.
William George consistently claims that he was born in 1844 in Chelsea. On investigation, there seems to be only one likely birth, with a corresponding baptism record giving his parents names as Henry and Mary Ann Rayner. Two siblings, Mary Ann and Rachel, were baptised at the same time. I then managed to track down the family on the 1841 and 1851 censuses hiding under the variations Reynard and Reynar, which allowed me to identify more siblings. This discovery also led me to a second marriage for William George, in 1898, and finally to a probate record for Henry in 1878.
Henry Rayner was born in 1808. He and his wife both came from Ireland, and gave birth to their eldest daughter Eliza there in about 1831. Frustratingly, no town or area is given... thankfully, however, they were giving birth to children right into the mid 1840s, so one of their birth certificates will hopefully furnish me with Mary Ann’s maiden name at least, and we can assume that they married in Ireland in the period 1825–31, so there’s hope yet!
Their next child was born by 1833 in Middlesex (in the mysterious 'Ratchell' - any ideas welcome!), which allows us to pinpoint their arrival in England to the period 1831–33. After this point all of their children are born in Chelsea, and we know from the censuses that they lived at 27 Paradise Row, which I have discovered is now Royal Hospital Road, from at least 1841 until 1851.
The most interesting, and useful, thing I know about Henry, however, is that he was a policeman from at least 1841. As well as being a relatively unusual occupation and therefore helpful for spotting him in the records, it also seems likely that I might actually be able to find out more detail about his life based on this, as the Metropolitan Police do have an archive.
Henry’s probate record states that he is a police pensioner, suggesting that he stayed with the force for all of his working life. I discovered that the National Archives hold records of met police pensions, and a after a few search attempts I discovered a record for ‘William Reynar’ from the period 1853–1855, which has been added to my list of things to order.
The Met’s website tells me:
Records of Metropolitan Police pensioners who retired or resigned between 1852 and 1932 and who were granted or (after 1890) qualified for a police pension are to be found in class MEPO 21. These contain detailed personal records, including physical description, date and place of birth, marital status, dates of service. Before 1923, names of parents and next of kin are also given. To use this class it is necessary to know the approximate date of retirement.
I’m particularly looking forward to the ‘physical description’, and also names of parents and next of kin will be extremely helpful!
Henry must have joined the force within ten years or so of its inception, in 1829. Wikipedia provides some detailed information on the history of the force, including listing the divisions. I can conjecture that Henry was most likely in division B – Chelsea.
I particularly like this snippet:
The original standard wage for a Constable was one guinea (£1.05) a week. Recruitment criteria required applicants to be under the age of 35, in good health, and to be at least 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m). Working shifts lasted 12 hours, 6 days a week, with Sunday as a rest day. Until 1897, Metropolitan Police officers did not receive a boot allowance.
It also gives this 1850s picture of a ‘Peeler’ – who knows, it might even be Henry Rayner himself!

L x

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