Who was Charles Perthlin?

Revised 15 Dec 2017 – postscript 2

On the eleventh of July 1902, a young woman died in Cardiff following childbirth. She was Lucy Jane Perthlin, formerly Sandoe, born in Cardiff in 1873, the daughter of William Sandoe and Mary, formerly Butland. The precise cause of death on her death certificate was measles (morbilli) and childbirth (post-parturition) and heart failure (cardiac syncope), any one of which could be lethal at that time, and she had all three. The baby died three months later. Just one more young woman? One more infant?

Lucy Sandoe had married Charles Perthlin, a sailmaker, son of farmer Frederick Perthlin, by licence at the Cardiff Register Office in 1899. His age was 31, so born around 1868. However, this was the first and only time he was actually present (he signed the register, no indication of proxies). The name Perthlin only appears for Lucy and her children. It hasn’t turned up in BMD or census searches. Before dismissing this marriage as a hoax (it was after all staged before the Cardiff registrar), there is a similar name that is mainly unique to northern England in the nineteenth century: Partland, Partlan, Partlen, Partlin, Partling etc. Searching for these does not find Charles or Frederick.

The two witnesses both belonged to Lucy – her brother Richard David (a postman at Merthyr Tydfil) and Rosina Kingdon (a neighbour of the Sandoe home in Theodora Street, Roath).

Lucy was having a rough life before this marriage. The 1891 census finds her at the Convent and Asylum of the Good Shepherd under the name of Sandho, working in the laundry as a penitent. This was presumably for a pregnancy (the convent was described as “A refuge for fallen women under the care of a sisterhood”) .  No registration of any birth has been found.

The 1902 birth (Charles Frederick Perthlin) was registered by M Jones, who lived in Hereford Street. She also registered the boy’s death a few months later, describing herself as “aunt”. She had apparently been caring for him as he died at the same Hereford Street address. A second child, Ellen Perthlin, was also living there for a few years while at school. M Jones turns out to be Martha Butland, the twin sister of Lucy Sandoe’s mother. The Hereford Street address was unoccupied at the previous year’s census so the Joneses were living somewhere else. However, she was in Dorset Street in 1901, opposite the house where Lucy Sandoe went for her confinement in 1902. Hereford Street is a continuation of Dorset Street and the addresses are within 100 yards. Martha not only cared for Charles during his brief life, but also his sister Ellen for a few years (evidenced by the Cardiff school admissions register).

The Cardiff Sandoes were nonconformists and rarely appeared in parish registers. But Lucy was baptised at the parish church of St Giles, Roath, in 1892, aged 18, while residing at the House of Mercy (which was presumably the Convent again or its Anglican equivalent at Church Terrace). The two surviving Perthlin children, Ellen and Lucy, were baptised at Roath Parish church in 1905 and 1906, both from Church Terrace.

Ellen’s birth in 1896 was not registered. Her whereabouts at the 1901 census are not known, but in 1903-1904 she was living with aunt Martha Jones at 9 Hereford Street, attending Ninian Park school until she left for the workhouse. In 1906 she was at the Children’s Home and House of Mercy in Church Terrace, recorded at her baptism in Roath Church. By August 1906 she was at Newport, Monmouthshire, being admitted to Clytha School and living at The Home. At the 1911 census she was at the Convent of St John the Baptist, recorded as Perthline.

Lucy’s birth in 1900 was not recorded either. There are no school admissions for her and she reappears at her baptism in 1905, living at the Children’s Home and House of Mercy in Church Terrace. For one or two years at least, she and Ellen appear to have lived together. Then at the 1911 census she is in the Workhouse complex on Cowbridge Road, probably in one of the separate children’s homes. An inmate, aged 10, she was in a small group of children of mixed ages. Her name was recorded as Perthun. She does not appear again, in any UK source that has been searched.

There was one more instance of this and a similar name in the GRO indexes, once again Cardiff. This was Perthein and Perthlyne applied to the same person in the 1920s, which was easily traced back to Powditch, a small clan with few but frequent events throughout the 19th century. But no Charles or Frederick.

Some of these name instances must be misreadings by the GRO when copying the original registers. But the Perthlin of Lucy Sandoe’s brief marriage is written clearly and carefully in the parish registers that can be seen in the original, as were the variants Perthun and Perthline in the census originals.

The elusive Charles Perthlin grew in stature as the years passed, from sail maker to ship’s carpenter to marine engineer.

POSTSCRIPT 1. The Glasgow Herald, 2 February 1894, reported the inquiry at Glasgow into the stranding off Arran of the four-masted barque Elmbank of Glasgow. Arriving at Le Havre from San Francisco, the crew were paid off and a new crew engaged for the voyage to Glasgow. The lookout on the Elmbank, seaman Carl Perthlin, gave evidence.

POSTSCRIPT 2. Ellen Perthlin married and had a family in Shropshire. She declared her father as James Perthlin (not Charles), a sailor in the RN. There is still no sign of Lucy Perthlin after her stay in the Cardiff Workhouse in 1911.

Dorset Street today. Most of the houses still have the original stone facades, a few have been peble-dashed. Photo GoogleEarth.
The former Church Terrace Children’s Home and House of Mercy today
The former Cardiff Union Children’s Homes today, on Cowbridge Road near the workhouse.
The remains of the former Cardiff Union Workhouse on Cowbridge Road in 2005
Photos by
©Sidney Wood and Sando/w/e History
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