Caerleon Net


In the 1891 Census returns for the Industrial School you will find the names of three sisters: Annie Bond, Ellen Bond and Phoebe Bond . Also at that time, a fourth sister, who was too young for the school, was recorded as living in the Workhouse, Newport - Ada Alice Bond. The name of one of the sisters (Phoebe) is also listed in the 1901 Census returns for the school where she is recorded as being a visitor.

We have often wondered what became of the hundreds of children after they left the school. Well, Caroline Nicholson has kindly sent us the life story of her Grandmother - Ellen Bond - which we publish in full below.

If you have a story to tell of an ancestor who was sent to the Industrial School Caerleon we would be most interested to read it and with your permission publish it here.

My Grandmother
Ellen/Helen Susanna Bason (nee Bond)

By Caroline H. G. Nicholson

(On Gran’s Birth Certificate she is listed as Ellen but it has been crossed out and replaced with Helen.)

Granny Bason, as she was affectionately known was born on 21st May 1881 to Joseph and Hellen (nee Shirley) Bond in the Female Camp Hospital, Colchester, Essex where Joseph was a Sergeant Farrier in the Royal Artillery.  Gran was the second daughter born to Joseph and Hellen, Annie Elizabeth being the first born in September 1879; two further daughters were born Phoebe in 1883 and Ada Alice in 1886, Newport, Monmouthshire.  Life was good for the family, when on the 13 February 1888 their Mother died suddenly of heart disease and bronchial asthma. Her death left Joseph with a dilemma, what to do with the children.  If he were to leave the Artillery they would all be homeless and destitute, therefore his only option, which he followed through, was to put them in an orphanage/school in Caerleon, near Newport, South Wales as parentless and in effect deserted them.  Gran and her sisters did not see their Father again.

Gran reached the highest standard possible whilst attending the school showing outstanding ability and intelligence. In today’s world she would have gone to university. The school was run by Mr Harding, he was strict but kind to the children who Gran had great admiration for, and owed her excellent education to the school. During her last year at the orphanage aged 13 she taught the younger girls, of course no payment was involved.  Mr Harding’s Grandson was Gilbert Harding the well known broadcaster in the 1950’s/1960’s.

In 1895 when Gran was 14 she had to leave the school and find employment which she did as a domestic servant/cook to Mr & Mrs Little, Mr Little was a dentist in Newport. Her life as a servant was not easy although her employers were kind people.  Gran worked for Mr & Mrs Little until her marriage some 9 years later in 1904 to William Thomas Bason.  Gran kept in touch with Mrs Little for many years and in 1926 Mrs Little asked in one of her letters if Phoebe, Gran’s first daughter would go and work for her as a domestic servant, Gran had to decline because Phoebe was about to start at Aberystwyth University, nevertheless Mrs Little must have held Gran in great esteem.

Phoebe, Gran’s sister died when she was 19 of heart disease and cardiac dropsy, on her death certificate Ann Crocket (the nurse at the school) is listed as being present at her death on the 8th May 1903, High Street, Caerleon.  This suggests that Phoebe continued to visit the school long after she left and in fact is listed as a visitor in the 1901 census.

This photograph was taken in 1903; Ellen is mourning the death of her sister Phoebe.

Ada was 3 years of age when her Mother died and was put in the same orphanage/school as the other girls but a different part I think, (Ada is listed in the 1891 census aged 3 months which is incorrect and should read age 3 years) Gran maintained Ada was adopted, but on her  marriage certificate her name is Ada Alice Bond and a witness H R Lilly is also from the school which suggests she continued like her sisters to be educated there, she went on to marry a naval officer, unfortunately she died at the age of 27 after an accident.

 Annie married Evan Melsome in 1918 and had one daughter Florrie, they lived in Cardiff, Evan worked in the local prison and was an active member of the Salvation Army, Annie died in 1949 and Evan in 1939. 

Ellen and William married in 1904 in the Baptist Church, Duckpool Road, Newport, they had 8 children, and reared 7 to adulthood, William, a Chartered Accountant, Noel, a Vicar, he emigrated to Australia, Phoebe, a girls school Headmistress, Helen, a Nursing Sister, Ellis, a Customs and Excise Officer, Bert, an Engineer on the Railway and Jack, poor Jack died of congenital heart disease aged 20 possibly the same complaint as his Grandmother Hellen Bond.  Ellen maintained Jack was the brightest of all her children. Here is a letter written by Jack before he died for his parents to open after his death.  Just imagine a 19 year old having to write such a document.

Bala, N. Wales    

13th April 1944

Dear Mam and Dad,

When you read this letter I shall no longer be in your presence that is as a human body.  I shall however still be with you all in memory and also spiritually - so do not worry; for though it may seem hard to be separated, especially at an age when all should be together, please remember that I am simply one of many.  There is however one great regret, if I am to pass away in bed suffering from what I have unfortunately been forced to from childhood, fate will in one way have been hard to me; for I would much prefer to die fighting, like so many others are now doing, for my native land.  A death like that would be worthy - I would at least have done something for the good of mankind; but a death, which I shall most likely suffer, is nothing but pure waste.

Well Mam, long have you nursed me in this very room where I am now writing; often have we talked together about this and about that; sometimes I have been impatient and irritable, for this I ask forgiveness and knowing you as I do, I know you will grant me it; consider all these things and ask the one question, has it been worth it all?  To you Mam and Dad, you have brought a son into life and had the pleasure of knowing him, you have given him life believing that he would grow up strong and healthy like every child should; unfortunately with me this was not to be so, but it is no responsibility of yours -for when I was born there was no reason to believe that I should be different to anyone else; so dear ones do not worry.  To me, all has been worth it; I have been given life and had the pleasure of knowing what life is.  I have had at least twenty years of happiness.  From the time I was fifteen until I was eighteen I had four good years at school - were they not worth living for?  I certainly would say “Yes”.  This is indeed enough evidence; let me alter the subject.

My brothers and sisters have all been good to me and I thank them all for what they have done.  Let these few words be words of thanks, for indeed no other way have I of repaying them for their generosity and kindness towards me.

Do you know Mam and Dad it is rather difficult to write such a letter as this, for under normal circumstances I should not be thinking, let alone writing such a letter?  I would, however, be grieved if I was not to leave some written word behind me.

Do not think of me as the Jack you used to see in bed, sitting up writing; not lying down suffering from pneumonia or some other illness; to think of me like that is not to think.  Look upon the brighter side of my life.  Think of me as the Jack who as a small child, used to play in the Green, or the Jack who used to enjoy going to the Lake for a walk by himself about half-past-seven every night.  This is the Jack I ask you to remember.

So Mam and Dad I must come to an end.  But before doing so let me just tell you what is happening in the house while I have been writing this letter.  Down stairs Mam is having tea, Carol is here with Helen.  Carol is crying.  Mam is giving her little bits of crust to eat.  Dad will be in anytime now.

Goodbye, do not worry, though naturally it is hard not to; always remember you have been good to me and God always repays those who help others.  God bless you.

All the best,
     Much love,

Jack Bason a few months before his death in 1945

Last Will and Testament, 6th July 1945

To whom it may concern: - My Library

After many weeks of illness the time has come when I, Jack Esmond Bason, must seriously consider the probability of my failing to regain my health, and it is for this reason I write this which concerns my library of books numbering some 250.

All, everyone I leave to my parents - they have the preference in all.  I would however be pleased if a book or books of their choice, will be given to my brothers and sisters as keep-sakes.  May also any of my nephews and nieces have any that may be of use to them in their studies.
May any of my close friends have what they desire also.

Signed:  Jack E. Bason

When my Gran was 41 she developed breast cancer and had a mastectomy, the Doctor told her to go home and have another child, that child was Jack.

This photograph was taken for Noel’s emigration to Australia in 1927. 
My Gran and Granddad did not see Noel again.

William Thomas Bason (1881 – 1974) was born at Brook House Farm, Kerry, Montgomeryshire on June 22nd 1881. His birth Father is unknown, Margaret his Mother married Edwin Bason in 1883 and her son William Thomas assumed the name Bason, although no legal adoption papers were ever signed.

William left a number of diaries written throughout his life and it is clear that William was devoted to his Mother and subsequently to Ellen and his children who provided purpose to his life.

Having no formal education, he embarked with the help of Ellen to a life-long programme of self improvement.  His studies included English grammar and public speaking and debating, at which he excelled.  His lifetime reading list would shame the lists of many modern day art graduates.

A natural leader, he became a passionate Wesleyan lay preacher, a Labour Party Organizer, a Trade Union representative at the national level, a one time magistrate and a long time member of Bala District Council.


Duckpool Baptist Church, Newport, where William & Ellen were married in 1904,
they “bumped” into each other outside the Church a couple of years earlier.

Above, the Little residence where Gran worked; some of the Little family standing in the gateway.
Mr Little had his practice somewhere on the Dock Road.
Below, Gran’s bedroom is the attic room just visible through the trees.

These photographs were sent to me by a relative of the Little’s living in New Zealand.

The photograph below was taken in Bala North Wales, 1964 on the occasion of Ellen & William’s Golden Wedding. Back row is William their son, Helen their daughter my Mother, next to her my Father and Phoebe their daughter sitting down.

Gran died on 16 May 1966 in Bala, North Wales she was 85 years of age.  Life was not easy for my Grandparents, they had very little money and were determined that all their children would be educated properly, all going to grammar school. I spent many happy school holidays with Gran and Granddad they were fun and entertaining to be with, in fact my first holiday was when I was three years of age and they continued until I was in my teens.

Jack in his letter to his parents refers to Carol crying downstairs, that is me!