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Sr Gwendoline

Many, if not all, of our Sisters grew up in religious households. Some, the daughters of clergy, would obviously have had a strong Christian background; for others, we can only assume. It was with pleasure, then, that I found, via newspaper articles, that Sr Gwendoline’s father, Thomas Bazzard, was sidesman at his local church for a number of years, and was also Honorary Secretary of the Bristol Church Extension Committee, which raised funds to build a church in Bedminster Downs, in the Bristol area. The foundation stone for this church, St Aldhem’s Mission Church was laid in 1899, although I believe the current church of St Aldhem’s is a later building. However, it does make clear that Sr Gwendoline came from a family that not only attended, but was involved in the local church, and therefore this may well have been the foundation of her faith. Thomas Bazzard was a manager at the Malago Vale Colliery and Brickworks, so Sr Gwendoline would also have grown up aware of the issues surrounding mining. Whether this was a well-run colliery or not, I am not expert enough to say, but I do know of at least two accidents, one in 1891 and one in 1895. Gwendoline, 16 in 1891, must have been aware of both: her father was one of three convenors of a meeting to set up a committee to raise funds for those suffering after the 1891 disaster, and in 1895, he was involved in superintending events at the pithead, while Mrs and Miss Bazzard provided coffee and other resuscitating things for those not seriously injured. I am assuming – but do not know for certain – that Miss Bazzard would have been Gwendoline, as she was the eldest daughter. If so, she must have been aware that some were more seriously injured.

Was it this that prompted her decision to train as a nurse? I have no details. All I know is that in 1901, age 26, she was still living at home, but by 1911, a trained hospital nurse, she is registered with Jacky and Mary Murray, a mother and daughter living in Westminster. Why she trained when she did, I do not know, but it is also possible that a change in Thomas Bazzard’s circumstances may have prompted a change also for some of his children. In 1901, Thomas is still at Malago Vale, I think; I believe the colliery had closed down, but the brickworks remained, and his occupation is Brick and Tile manufacturer; by 1911, he is a boarder in Glamorganshire, as secondary and manager of a public company, while Ellen (his wife) is still in Bristol with two of her daughters. The remaining six children are away from home. It is possible that some of the girls had needed to earn their own living, with their father’s change of occupation. It is equally possible that this was unnecessary, but that the girls felt the need for a career of some sort, or a calling to work outside the home. Gladys, age 24, was a matron in a training house for girls in morals, laundry and housework. She later moved to a similar position in York. Her elder and younger sisters, Hannah and Winifred, were both at home with their mother. Two other sisters married, Ellen in 1900 and Ivy in 1915 (I have no idea where she was in 1911). Of the two boys, Thomas in 1901 was an electrical engineer and Gordan in 1911 was an assistant in a chemist business.

Life treated these siblings in different ways. The two boys I haven’t been able to follow through. Of the girls, only Ellen and Ivy married; by 1939, Ivy is a widow and working as a domestic servant in Portsmouth; Ellen I can find no trace of after her marriage. (There is only so much time I can devote to tracing the siblings of Sisters). Ellen (the mother) seems to have joined her husband in Wales at some point, with both Hannah and Winifred. I am assuming that Thomas (the father) moved in order to take up a job offer, and boarded out until he could find a suitable place for his family to live. Hannah and Winifred both seem to have continued to live at home, at least until the first world war when they both became VAD nurses at their local hospital (Bridgend, Glamorganshire); their father died in 1930, and their mother in 1936; Winifred was her executor. Hannah may have moved away before this, as only Winifred is registered with her parents in 1921. Hannah died in 1951 in Aberdeenshire, and Winifred in 1957 at Bridgend.

Of course, the main point of this blog is not Sr Gwendoline’s siblings, but Sr Gwendoline herself. Professed as a choir Sister in 1914, a few months before her 40th birthday, I have no idea of where she worked during the war years. In 1921, she was based at Ber House, our mission house in Norwich, where she was presumably involved in parish work; although during the actual census she was staying at Lowestoft with some others, presumably friends. By 1939, she is back at Ditchingham, working at St Michael’s home for girls, alongside Sr Eleanor Mary, Sr Catherine and Sr Irene Faith, and two employees, Mabel Ashford and Ina Rowlatt. Ina later became matron at our School. Sr Gwendoline became Assistant Superior in 1949, until 1957, by which time she was in her 80s. She died in December 1961, after 50 years in religion. Life took the Bazzard siblings in different directions; how many continued in the faith they were presumably taught as children, I have no idea. But the possibility was still there for them to serve God where they were, as we can still serve God today, wherever and however we are placed.

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