The Baby Book of Rosamond Nina Lehmann, 1901
Our reference D114/104
Rudolph Lehmann and his wife Alice had four children: three daughters, Helen, Rosamond and Beatrix, and a son named Rudolph. The family home was a large house called Fieldhead in Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, right by the River Thames. The family was an influential one; Rudolph was a notable journalist and barrister. His wife Alice would, in 1911 help found the Bourne End and District Women's Suffrage Society and later become a Justice of the Peace for the county.
In our collections we have baby books compiled by Alice for three of the children. The delightful Edwardian volumes detail the children's entry into the world and their early milestones: the first tooth, first inoculations, first steps and first words spoken. Here we focus on Rosamond's Baby Book and through it I shall follow her early years to see what information and glimpses into family life it gives that official documents do not.
Rosamond was born on 3 February 1901 at Fieldhead. The book tells us that she arrived at 1.17am and was 10½ pounds. Not only does Alice describe her physical characteristics it also includes the name of the doctor and nurse who attended the birth. We are even told what Rosamund's pet names are: 'Rosie' and 'Brownie'; information not held anywhere else within a public record.
We have the Parish Register for Rosamund's baptism on 13 April 1901 at St Paul's, Wooburn. This is included in the baby book too on the 'Holy Baptism' page, but the book also lists the Godparents and the presents received, including a pearl brooch. This gives us a more personal view of the day.
Flicking through the book the reader can see how Rosamond develops; we discover that she had far more difficulty cutting her teeth than her older sister Helen had. Rosamond’s had a very sunny disposition, full of smiles and it would appear she had a much calmer nature than Helen’s. She is very close to her father and enjoys the rough and tumble play with him.
The 1901 census lists the family and their domestic staff. Rosamond is two months old when the census was taken. The Baby Book tells us that at a month old her eyes were very deep blue and her hair dark brown. Alice wrote of her daughter when she was thirty-one months old:
"She has a sweet low voice and a delicious smile which when it suddenly comes into her otherwise sober pale face, is like a veritable burst of sunshine"
Detail we would never have known from the census alone, for on the enumerators return, Rosamond is just a name and a daughter to the Head of the Household. Unintentionally, the Baby Book flags changes in society since 1901: the 'Dates of Sicknesses' record page includes mumps, measles and whooping cough, childhood illness that are now very unusual.
There are pages for Boys' and Girls' Amusements, each templated with certain key activities that a doting parent can write a date next to. Boys' 'firsts' list Cricket, Football, Chess, Whist, Wowing, Game of Fives and Lawn Tennis. For the girls' there are Dolls, Skips, Hoops, Needlework, Lawn Tennis, Croquet, Chess and Swings. Boys, it would appear were not expected to use a swing. Rosamond's mother did not complete the section so we do not know what her 'firsts' were.
The books are a charming snapshot into the world of an Edwardian family, albeit a privileged one in a houseful of servants. It is a social history time capsule and one that we as an archive are fortunate to have. For how many of us are able to say when we first crawled, walked or what our early characteristics were?
Rosamond became a significant novelist, in her memoirs "The Swan in the Evening" she talks about her life as a child growing up in Bourne End, with a father who created 'fairies' for the children to watch dancing in the moonlight and her mother taking her on trips, trips that are documented in Rosamond's own Baby Book.
It is unusual for Baby Books to be created and even more so for them to be deposited in archive collections. There is mystery in how this volume, and its two 'siblings' became separated from the Lehmann family; it was deposited with the Centre for Buckinghamshire by a collector of local history ephemera but it is unclear how they came across the books. They are unique in our collection. During 2019 we will be focussing on other historic documents that tell something about Matters of Life and Death: expect more stories about Buckinghamshire births, marriages, deaths and legacies.