Sister Adeline Babington: The Stories Behind.
Sometimes I will google an item that I have found in my research of our past Sisters: a place, a church or a farm or hall, something that is relevant to their lives before joining us. I seldom find much (although hope springs eternal), therefore when I googled Benjamin Babington, I wasn’t expecting to find anything. He was a barrister, who died in his 50s, leaving something under £600 in his will. However, I was surprised: his father, Benjamin Guy Babington, was an eminent physician, who has left quite a trace on the internet, having invented some medical instruments, among other things. It answered a few questions and filled in a few gaps. Mostly, the questions I’d like answered are still there.
In the 1851 census, Benjamin and his wife Helen (both in their 30s) are living with their four children in Benjamin Guy’s house, with another son, Stephen (unmarried), Benjamin Guy’s sister-in-law, Charlotte Fayle, and several servants. They are mainly still there in 1861: the servants may have changed somewhat, there is now a governess and Benjamin and Helen’s youngest child had died. The three oldest, Anna, Adeline and Colville are all present. I have no idea why they are all living together, although it would be nice to find out. After Benjamin Guy’s death, the household split, and in 1871 Stephen, Charlotte and Adeline are found together, with Benjamin, Helen and Anna also together.
Maybe this was just a natural result of Benjamin Guy’s death, although again it would be interesting to know as well as knowing whether Adeline was visiting her uncle or living there permanently, I’m thinking the latter is more likely, as both families lived in London – but I can’t be sure, nor do I know why. Stephen dealt with the Probate after his brother’s fairly early death, about 9 years after his father’s. This seems to have been quite complicated, although I do not know why: probate was granted 2 years after Benjamin’s death, compared with a few months after Benjamin Guy’s. Benjamin also left much less money than his father, and I wonder how Helen, Anna and Adeline managed; and whether any of this contributed to Adeline’s decision to join the Community of All Hallows.
Another question I have comes from some information I discovered as part of my research: a Benjamin Guy Babington, a physician aged 37, was tried for ‘rape upon Mary Holt’ in December 1830 and found not guilty. Is this the same Benjamin Guy Babington? The details, such as I have, fit. But I cannot be sure. What was the story behind these bare facts? Was anyone ever found responsible? and who was Mary Holt? I have looked for her, but I haven’t been able to find any details. Census data doesn’t work, as I have only the name and no idea of age. Searching the newspapers from the time also brings nothing. Google Mary Holt, and a twentieth century politician comes up. Benjamin Guy Babington was found not guilty of this crime; yet I cannot help thinking of Mary Holt, who presumably had suffered, and whose story seems lost to history, at least as far as I can discover.
I found myself torn when I discovered this information: I knew I couldn’t write a blog without mentioning it - that would have been unfair to the memory of Mary Holt, and of others who have also been sexually abused. But it also seemed unfair to Benjamin Guy (and to any possible descendants) to include it, without knowing any of the story. (I cannot be certain it is the same man, and he was, after all, found not guilty). I have no idea of why Benjamin Guy was charged in the first place, of who Mary Holt was, or whether anyone else was charged with the crime. I can invent plenty of possible scenarios, but none of them would be accurate. Yet we know, especially after recent events, that people are victims of sexual abuse, and that this is not always taken seriously. It felt wrong to ignore the subject, yet it is one which I know little about, and one which could raise difficult memories for anyone who has suffered.
Then I come back to my earlier questions about the Babington family: to know the story behind the facts is more or less impossible, unless we have personal documents – and, even then, some degree of reading between the lines may be necessary. What was the relationship between Benjamin Guy and his sons? How close was the family after Benjamin Guy’s death? How difficult did Benjamin’s family find it after his death? How intimate were Anna and Adeline? It’s so easy to make judgements based on facts, without knowing anything of the story behind those facts; to make snap summing’s up based on what we might have heard in the media, or online, or from friends, without bearing in mind that there is still a story behind what we have heard.
Snap judgements which cannot lead to justice; snap judgements which limit our relationships with others, and maybe malign them; snap judgements which may be based more on how we are than how the other person is.
Sr Adeline spent most of her life working with the women of our Third Order which, as regular readers of this blog may know, was for women who had been at our House of Mercy and who wished to dedicate their lives to God alongside the Community. We do not know their stories either, although I have uncovered some of the facts. The lives of the girls in the House of Mercy had all gone astray somehow, and they were with us to try and amend that. Some of the girls may have been responsible for whatever led them there; others may have been victims, in ways maybe not recognised at the time. It is worth bearing in mind that we do not know the story behind the facts: stories which may explain, if they do not excuse.