WHIFFIN, Braughing, mid 19th century

March, 2005

Hilary (hilary_how @t of Helensburgh, Scotland, writes: My great grandfather, Simeon Whiffin was, I think, born out of wedlock in 1846, in Braughing. I have traced his life pretty much from 1861 census onwards and there is some variation in the spelling of his name. Wiffen, Whiffen or as now Whiffin.

By the age of 14 he was in London working as an assistant compositor. How is this possible, would he have been educated by the parish? Any suggestions would be welcome. I can travel down to do searches for myself, I just need some guidance.

From what you say it is quite possible that Simeon's early upbringing had much in common with that of Oliver Twist. Charles Dickens' novels provide a pretty accurate insight of life at the time, and the workhouses wanted the children in their care to become subservient wage earners, so that they were no longer a drain on the parish funds. Oliver Twist was apprenticed to a coffin maker - and it could well be that Simeon was apprenticed to a printer. For some Unions the education given to the paupers in the workhouse was better than they would have got elsewhere, and many employers would be very pleased to have an ex-workhouse boy who could read and write.

Map showing Bishop's Stortford Workhouse circa 1897

Braughing was in the Bishops Stortford union and if Simeon ended up in a workhouse it was almost certainly the one at Bishops Stortford.  There are some records at HALS, but you will need to find out whether these includes details of individual inmates, apprentice agreements, etc. 

There are web pages for Braughing and Bishops Stortford and a web site on Workhouses which contains much useful information on the Bishops Stortford Workhouse, and Workhouses in general.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.


Page created March 2005