Thursday, November 5, 2009

HMS Monarch painting by William Frederick Mitchell

Much excitement in the Daw household yesterday - well I was excited - the rest of the family probably have no idea.

At the beginning of my Long Service Leave I ordered a birth certificate from the GRO.

That was my first mistake. According to fellow family historians they are cheaper and easier to get from the local record offices.

I found this out half way through my LSL. GRO claimed to have no knowledge of the order I placed in July.

I then entered into some amusing correspondence with the Portsmouth City Council - auto generated emails of course...e.g.

4.02pm 20th October "Thank you for contacting Portsmouth City Council. The City Helpdesk's opening hours are 8am - 6pm Monday - Friday. We are closed all day on bank holidays. Please be aware that e-mails will not be monitored when the office is closed. All emails received at this time will be reviewed and acknowledged when we are next open."

Then at 5.12pm on the same day

"Thank you for contacting the City Helpdesk. Portsmouth City Council has a corporate timescale of 10 working days. However, in City Helpdesk we aim to respond to your email within one working day. Due to a high volume of emails at present, we have had to extend our own timescale for responding to you to three working days. We will be reviewing this timescale on a regular basis.Regards."

Then two days later:

"Dear Alexandra Subject: Birth Certificates.

Thank you for contacting the City Helpdesk at Portsmouth City Council.

Information on family history and birth certificates can be found by contacting our Portsmouth Registry Office:
Email: or by Telephone: 02392 829041. Or by contacting our Geneology department within our Central Library: or by Telephone 02392 819311.
Should you require further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Tell us what you think. Let us know about our service to you.
Click on the link to complete our online survey and tell us what you think about the service you received from City Helpdesk

Customer Service Advisor CCS008
City Helpdesk

Did you notice that the registrar has the same email suffix as the city help desk? aka Could they not just forward the email to their colleague??
Ah Bureaucracy - what would we do without it?

But I didn't care - I was in communication with them and that was fantastic! I emailed the registrar and then she emailed me back and suggested I use old fashioned technology i.e. the telephone. And I did!! And five days later I received the certificate.

So, the picture of the ship above is not of a slow boat to China. NO! It is of the HMS Monarch. The birth certificate was for my great-grandmother on my father's side - Eleanor Eliza Cook. She was the eldest, I think, of no less than 12 children born to James Vernon Cook and Caroline (nee Jeffries). She was born 21 September 1874 at Orange Street in Portsea.

Eleanor's father, James, was a Gunner on the HMS Monarch at the time.

The distinguishing feature about the HMS Monarch was that it was the first sea-going warship to carry her guns in turrets. But because she was designed at a time of change from sail to steam, the poor old Admiralty Board were a bit nervous about unreliable steam engines, so insisted that she carry a full ship-rig and have a forecastle mounted. Sir Edward Reed, the ships's designer apparently wasn't too impressed, as this limited the way guns could be fired i.e. only port and starboard. Oh dear.


Little Snoring said...

Fascinating... I think it is fabulous that they built it with steam and rig... fantastic to be in touch with your ancestor standing on the deck!

actonbell said...

How interesting! The family history AND the ship's history. This is fascinating.

Captain Nick Sparrow said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm glad it worked out in the end.

The turret kind of makes it look funny to me!