Charles Barritt (1861 – 1902)

At 5 feet, 4 inches and weighing in at 118 1bs, Brown haired and Blue/Grey eyed Charles Barritt of Greenstead, Colchester set sail for East India. It was the 9th September 1884, he was 23 years old and he had never left England before. Was joining the Dorsetshire Regiment his reason to experience some of the world or were his prospects better then remaining a labourer back home in Essex. Whatever his reason it would be two years and 115 days before he saw England again.

My relationship to Charles Barritt

Charles BARRITT (1861 – 1902)
is my 2nd great grandfather

Hannah Maud Mabel BARRITT (1890 – 1957)
daughter of Charles BARRITT and my great grandmother

Rosie May JANES (1930 – 1997)
daughter of Hannah Maud Mabel BARRITT and my grandmother

Charles Barritt was the third youngest child of Thomas Barrett (1823 – 1911) and Hannah Rouse (1824 – 1912). The family was predominantly Agricultural Labourers and was native of Colchester, Essex and the surrounding parishes.
In 1861 however, shortly after Charles was born, his father Thomas worked for the London Chemical works who bought Crockleford mill in 1837, the factory produced ‘Mother Liquor’ there until it closed in 1877. Thomas returned to Farm labouring a few years later.
Charles was born on Sunday 3rd February 1861 in Parsons Heath, Colchester, Essex, In an old Cambridge diary dated that day it was written ‘It was a lovely showery day’.

Weather in England hasn’t changed much!

Between the dates 1861 – 1871, the Barritt family lived at number 28 St John’s Lane and the map below shows clearly where this street was in the Parish of Greenstead. This map is dated from 1838 but I can imagine it was very much the same in 1861 through to 1871. You can also see on this map where Crockleford mill was too.

Parish of Greenstead, Colchester, Essex Source: British History Online

Parish of Greenstead, Colchester, Essex
Source: British History Online

It is unlikely that Charles Barritt received any form of education as he couldn’t read or write but there were opportunities as A National School, which later became Greenstead Church of England primary school, was built in Greenstead Road in 1851 at the instigation of the rector. By 1863 it was attended by c. 100 children, and from 1866 it received annual government grants.

By 1881, Charles was the eldest of Thomas and Hannah’s children still living at home. He was employed as a labourer like his father and younger brother Frederick was.
It was an occupation that didn’t last too long because on the 21st November 1881 Charles enlisted with the 3rd Battalion, Essex Regiment at Brentwood Warley Barracks. His Attestation soldier number is recorded as: 6737.

Oath to be taken by Militia Recruit on Attestation

“I Charles Barritt do solemnly promise “and swear that I will be faithfully to Her Majesty Queen Victoria, her heirs and successors, and that I will faithfully serve in the Militia in any part of Great Britain and Ireland for the Defence of the same, until I shall be discharged. So help me God.”

Witness my hand. Signature of Recruit C X (his mark) Barritt

British Army Service Records - 1760 - 1915 First name(s): Charles Last name: BARRETT Calculated year of birth: ? Parish of birth: Parson Heath Town of birth: Colchester County of birth: Essex Age at attestation: 20 years Attestation date: Attestation corps: 3RD BATTN ESSEX REGIMENT Attestation soldier number: 6737 Discharge rank: Discharge corps: Essex Regiment - 44th & 56th Foot Discharge soldier number: The National Archives reference: WO96

British Army Service Records – 1760 – 1915 First name(s): Charles Last name: BARRETT Calculated year of birth: ? Parish of birth: Parson Heath Town of birth: Colchester County of birth: Essex Age at attestation: 20 years Attestation date: Attestation corps: 3RD BATTN ESSEX REGIMENT Attestation soldier number: 6737 Discharge rank: Discharge corps: Essex Regiment – 44th & 56th Foot Discharge soldier number: The National Archives reference: WO96

Victorian soldiers worked and lived in environments very much family based, your comrades were your family and all successes, failures; sad and humorous events were of personal interest to you. Pay was not that great but many things were cheap; whiskies were the equivalent of 1p a glass and as most people smoked, cigarettes were also cheap. A man in a smart uniform, which was usually worn even out of barracks, had as much attraction then as it does now.

The private soldier in the middle years of Queen Victoria’s reign had a daily deduction, from his pay of 1s 2d, of 3½d for groceries, vegetables and food, except for a pound (450 grams) of bread and three-quarters of a pound (341 grams) of meat, which were provided free of charge. If he wished to supplement the regulation dry bread for breakfast and tea, the soldier could spend a further 4½d daily in the canteen. In addition, the soldier was charged 1d for washing and would also have to pay for some articles of uniform, underwear and cleaning materials.
Barracks were long, draughty rooms with primitive sanitation. Fresh water had to be obtained from wells or tanks outside. A section of the barracks was screened of by a canvas sheet or blanket for the married men and their families.
Source: The Victorian Soldier – David Nalson

Warley barracks, Brentwood, Essex Postcard c. 1910

Warley barracks, Brentwood, Essex Postcard
c. 1910

Charles served with the Essex Regiment between the dates 21st November 1881 – 2nd November 1883 he remained based at Brentwood Warley Barracks for nearly two years whilst he trained, he is recorded on his military records as having a flag draped cross tattoo, maybe this is something he had done whilst training as a soldier. On the 2nd November 1883 his military career was about to change considerably, he transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Dorset Regiment which was based in Dorchester, Dorset 165 miles away.
Charles had no connections to the county of Dorset, his family was all Essex born and it’s difficult to guess why he chose to serve for a regiment so far away. The 2nd Battalion, Dorset Regiment was very young and had only established itself in 1881, this Regiment was also sending a lot of soldiers out to India, and this may have been the reason that drew him to the regiment in the first place. Perhaps his reason to change regiments was peer pressure, but whatever his reasons were and whether or not he traveled that distance with a few of his closest comrades, that journey would change his life forever.

to be continued…