Tutor, London History
A new course at Morley’s Chelsea and Waterloo Centres, explores the lives of the families that inspired ‘Bridgerton’ the TV series. Bridgerton: Regency London Walk and Talk, includes a walking tour run by Elaine Wein, City of Westminster and City of London Guide exploring and bringing to life the grand houses, parks, shops, churches and notable locations around Green Park, hub of Regency London.
Focusing on two families, the Bridgertons and the Featheringtons, Caryle Webb-Ingall, tutor, will also look at documents and pictures in the classroom unpacking stories connected to the art and architecture, fashion and intrigue of the time.
“This course will help you to walk in the footsteps of the Bridgertons. You can enhance your enjoyment of the TV series by finding out about royalty and the season; learn about fashions, balls and parks and then go on a guided walk to discover actual buildings and shops where the family would have lived and intrigued.”
Bridgerton Season 2 (Netflix series) premieres on Friday 25 March, with the Bridgerton courses on Saturday 26 March (Chelsea) repeated Wednesday 30 March (Waterloo).
Perhaps influenced by her own history, Caryle has researched and recorded women’s history and this has influenced courses for International Women’s Day and on blue plaques of notable women. Below, Caryle talks about her influences and the link between people and place…..
Caryle’s family lived in Ladbroke Grove in the 1950s close to Morley College London’s North Kensington Centre. Her Uncle had a haberdashery shop on Portobello Road and in her podcast she describes how they lived in two rooms in what today is probably a very comfortable single family house but in the 1950s life for first generation Jewish immigrants from Belarus was difficult.
Caryle says, “They were very poor and moved from rented flat to rented flat; from Colville Road to Elgin Crescent to Blenheim Crescent and finally Ladbroke Grove. At one stage they slept six to a room and at some time they also lived in Portobello Road where Jacob Sulkin (my Uncle) had a hairdressing shop. The children all spoke Yiddish at home, learning English only when they went to Buckingham Terrace School.”
Caryle is fascinated by her family’s genealogy and by the journey they took from Belarus to London in the early 20th Century.
“As far as I make out Sarah Sulkin (my grandmother) came to London before 1911 with an aunt (could be Dora) and some sisters. On the 1911 census she was living with her sister Annie’s family and another sister ‘Inda’ (or Hilda). Both of the sisters were employed as tailors. They were living at 8 Stratford Road Kensington West and from the records of births in this country I am estimating they probably came before 1909.”
“Sarah Sulkin married Morris Shindler 20 December 1914 at Notting Hill Synagogue at which time Morris was a journeyman tailor (halfway between an apprentice and master) so a skilled worker. Morris’ father was Judah and I think they may have come from Kiev. On the wedding certificate neither Morris nor Sarah could write their names; only a mark is recorded. I recently learnt that Sarah Sulkin could read but write Yiddish, whilst her husband could neither read nor write. From these poor beginnings nearly all of their grandchildren went to university and in the immediate descendants is an MBE and three OBEs.
Q: Do you think your own family’s fascinating history as immigrants has influenced your interest in history?
I don’t think I knew much about my family’s history until the early 1990s. It was not talked about much as it was obviously painful. Also because of my mother’s early death we didn’t really see that side of the family. My grandmother was too busy caring for us two small children to spend time telling us about her life. Overall in common with many Jewish families we knew it wasn’t something they wanted to remember.
I took GCE History at school which was useful for dates & political background but at university I studied a whole range of subjects which included history but again more political than social. I really became interested in social history living back in London and working in the City. It’s where history is all around and this coincided with starting to research my own history – the catalyst for this was a letter from Gnessen, written in 1902, in a form of Yiddish. I still don’t exactly know who it is from or to but it is probably concerning my dad’s side of the family.
So there were two strands – history of London and family history. Family history research has been sporadic as new material is available or snippets emerge from my existing cousins. I seem to have become the official archivist for the Shindlers at least!
In terms of London history I went on a few guided walks, then on some adult education classes and took a diploma in History at Birkbeck. Then it was really learning on the job. Teaching at Morley for some 13 years as well as Bishopsgate Institute, for the WEA and my synagogue means I have taught some 50 different classes. Obviously there is overlap but I constantly strive to present information in different ways, encouraging students to make the links and for them to present their research. Working with adults means there is a wealth of experience and knowledge which we can share.
Q: You are committed to women’s roles in history and telling that story – why do you think this is?
In common with many adult education classes the majority of my students are women and it is important to understand our contribution to society so that the often hidden stories of women are told. Sometimes the students are aware of these women and sometimes not. It’s quite incredible the places you can find these women – from coding & computing to aviation and politics. But it’s not only women on my ‘mental checklist’. In telling the stories I include people for other excluded groups as an integral part of the narrative whether black, lgbt, from different religions or differently abled. This is an implicit part of the course not an ‘add-on’.
While we often learn about the ‘great men’ and battles in history I prefer to look at how events affect ordinary people – what was the impact of the Peasants Revolt on labour? How did the Napoleonic war change fashion and jobs? Why did imperialism change our drinking habits?
Q: How do you think places (London, Chelsea, North Kensington) connect with history and why are you so fascinated by place as well as people?
A big one here! Wherever you go in London people have left evidence whether the cursus built by early people at Heathrow, medieval ice skates found in the cross rail excavations or tins from Crosse and Blackwell factory found in Tottenham Court Road for example. There are new archaeological sites being dug all the time. Even without excavation however there are buildings where you can imagine Roman or Regency or Victorian people chatting, shopping and intriguing. We often notice and perhaps are fascinated by these links but sometimes it’s helpful to have a guide identifying and explaining what we are looking at.
As for Chelsea well my father in law has lived in the area around Lots road and Parsons Green all of his life and so my in-laws and my partner are very familiar with area. Through their eyes I have learnt about football (Chelsea of course), South Park and Eel brook common. Apparently the Morley College London Chelsea Centre was originally Chelsea Boys’ School. My mother in law worked in Kings Road and remembers about the fashions and people from the 1960s and 1970s. I talk about this in my course ‘swinging sixties’.
I’ve already spoken about my mum’s family who lived in North Kensington where there was a Jewish community in the early 20th century centred on the Notting Hill synagogue. Mostly they were tailors as was my grandfather and mother. There was a thriving community with shops in Portobello Road, where my uncle had a haberdashery shop and a great aunt, a button shop. All this was against a background of racism and Rachmanism. As a teenager my mum and her brother leafletted for the communist party in the market.
Thank you to Caryle for her time and for sharing her fascinating personal history and passion for political and social history!