A Despicable Case of Child Cruelty and Abuse - Ranmoor, Sheffield

The following table shows the household of Mr Charles McLaren MP at the time of the 1881 Census.

The house was called Barn Elms and is located in Barnes Surrey (Public Records Office Reference  RG11 Piece/Folio 0847/68 Page Number 1). Incidentally there is a website that is crammed with information on the history and the people who lived in BARN ELMS - it confirms the information given in the census

 Name  Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation
Charles McLAREN   Head   M   Male   30   Edinburgh City Of   M.A.Practising Rister M.P. 
Laura McLAREN   Wife   M   Female   26   Manchester, Lancashire, England   Masures Of The Brit Socy For Wooln Supply 
Agnes POCHIN  Mot In Law   M   Female   56   Timperley, Cheshire, England   Wife Of H D Pochin Esqr J P 
Percival POCHIN  Bro In Law   U   Male   19   Salford, Lancashire, England   Undergraduate Of Cambridge 
Henry D.     McLAREN   Son      Male   1   Barnes, Surrey, England    
Elsie D. McLAREN   Dau      Female   8 m   Barnes, Surrey, England    
Richard BURGE   Servant   U   Male   42   Frome, Somerset, England   Servant D 
Annie HUNT   Servant   U   Female   46   Tudinham, Norfolk, England   Servant Dom 
Jessie ASH   Servant   W   Female   30   Cargill, Scotland   Servant 
Hannah ROUSBY   Servant   U   Female   39   Baudrey, Suffolk, England   Servant 
Jane KERR   Servant   U   Female   27   Dundee, Scotland   Servant 
Kate WATERMAN   Servant   U   Female   22   Taunton, Somerset, England   Servant 
Margeret OWEN   Servant   U   Female   30   Egloysbach, Denbigh, Wales   Servant 
Caroline PULLEN   Servant  U   Female   34   Cheltenham, Gloucester, England   Servant 

To say that the family was at the pinnacle of late Victorian society is a very fair if rather obvious statement.

The following biographical details were obtained from Wikipedia and detail the lives of the McLaren and Pochin family

Charles Benjamin Bright McLaren, was born in Edinburgh 12 May 1850 , the son of Duncan McLaren and Priscilla Bright (sister of John Bright). McLaren was educated at the Heidelberg University, Bonn University and Edinburgh University, from which he graduated with the degree of Master of Arts. He began his career in journalism, but turned to the law and in 1874, he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn as a Barrister.

On March 6, 1877, he married LAURA ELIZABETH POCHIN (d. 1933), the daughter of HENRY DAVIS POCHIN, in Westminster. The couple had four children:
Henry D McLaren, 
Hon. Florence Priscilla McLaren (1881–1964), married Sir Henry Norman, 1st Baronet
Hon. Elsie Dorothea McLaren (c.1884 – 15 May 1973), married Sir Edward Johnson-Ferguson, 2nd Baronet
Lt. Hon. Francis Walter Stafford McLaren (June 16, 1886 – 30 August 1917), married Barbara Jekyll and had issue

Six years later, he was elected to the House of Commons as MP for Stafford; he served that constituency until 1886. In 1892, he returned to the Commons as MP for Bosworth, which he represented until 1910. When his father in law HENRY DAVIS POCHIN (1824–1895) died in 1895 McLaren, became increasingly involved in the management of the companies inherited from him. He would become chairman of the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company and several others.

McLaren's political career advanced during his second term. In 1897, he was invested a Queen's Counsel, and, in 1902, became Sir Charles McLaren, Baronet of Bodnant, in the county of Denbigh. He was appointed to the Privy Council in 1908, and held the office of Justice of the Peace in Middlesex, Flint, Denbighshire, and Surrey. In 1911, a year after he left the Commons (his son replaced him), he was created 1st Baron Aberconway. PC in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. Lord Aberconway, received various honours throughout his life, including:
Order of the Sacred Treasures (Japan) (3rd class)
Order of Takova (Serbia)
Commander Order of the Redeemer (Greece).
He and his wife were friends of the artist James McNeill Whistler and owned several of his works.
On his death in 23 January 1934 age 83 at Bodnant, the barony and baronetcy passed to his eldest son, Henry McLaren, 2nd Baron Aberconway.

His father in law HENRY DAVIS POCHIN (1824–1895) was an industrial chemist. He was the son of a yeoman farmer of Leicestershire who served an apprenticeship to James Woolley (1811–1858), a manufacturing chemist in Manchester, and in course of time became his partner. Woolley died in 1858 and Pochin kept a manuscript diary of the illness, treatment and death of his partner. This diary is preserved in the Wellcome Trust Library. On Woolley’s death Pochin became the sole proprietor.

Henry Pochin, is noted for two important inventions. Firstly, he developed a process for the clarification of rosin, a brown substance used to make soap, by passing steam through it so that after distillation it came out white, thus enabling the production of white soap. He sold the rights to this process to raise money to exploit his second invention, which was a process using ammonium sulfate and alumina as a low cost alternative to alumstone in the production of alum cake used in the manufacture of paper.

The process required china clay, and Pochin, bought several china clay mines in Cornwall for this purpose. Pochin's principal china clay works was the Gothers drying complex, near Roche, Cornwall. This consisted of a number of kilns, each served by a narrow gauge tramway, and was considered to be an extensive works in its day. Between 1863 and 1867, POCHIN, led a consortium of Manchester business men in the formation of a number of companies in the iron, steel and coal industries. The first of these, the Staveley Coal and Iron Company Limited, was also the first to be formed by David Chadwick (1821–1885) a Manchester accountant whose accounting methods in relation to capitalisation and depreciation have attracted interest even 100 years or more later. POCHIN, was elected to Parliament in 1868 as one of two MP’s for Stafford. (see below) He also held public office at times as a Mayor of Salford, Deputy Lieutenant and as Justice of the Peace. In addition, Henry Pochin was a director of The Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, that sunk two shafts (North and South) at Pochin Colliery, Tredegar, in 1876 to a depth of 340 yards; the first coal was brought to the surface in 1881. The mine was named after Pochin’s daughter, Laura. Between 1871 and 1876 Henry Pochin, had a residence in Llandudno, North Wales at Haulfre, on the south facing landward side of the Great Orme where he was able to pursue his passion for gardening in an extensive and steeply terraced garden that since 1929 has been under the care of the local authority and is freely open to the public. In 1874 Pochin, bought the Bodnant estate at Tal-y-Cafn in the Conwy Valley comprising 25 farms with the Bodnant House and over 80 acres of garden where he lived in active retirement. At Bodnant, Pochin, realised the superb qualities of the Dell through which the estate river ran and after first strengthening the banks to deter erosion he set about planting with great American and Oriental conifers. In 1949, Bodnant Garden was given to the National Trust.

The descendents of the Charles and Laura McClaren continue to play a prominent roles in the affairs of this country. I have gathered information from a variety of sources and placed them in a PDF file. Some of the information I have used in the above narrative but there is other information that is in the public domain that readers may find interesting. There are very remarkable revelations about the role Charles grandson also called Charles McLaren, 3rd Baron Aberconway JP  played in the policy of appeasing Hitler in 1939 AFTER the invasion of Czechoslovakia 

There is no doubt about it - this family is definitely Establishment with a capital E

And so where is the child abuse and cruelty. In the 1881 Census for Barn Elms there is an entry for a Cambridge undergraduate, the younger brother of LAURA McLAREN and son of  HENRY DAVIS and AGNES POCHIN, PERCIVAL POCHIN or to use his full name PERCIVAL GERARD POCHIN. Age 19, the next trace I can find is in the PRO Marriage Registers for the December quarter of 1882 for of all places Rotherham Yorkshire. 

Surname First name(s) District Vol Page Marriages Dec 1882 
GOVER Meta Cathleen Rotherham Volume 9c Page 953 
POCHIN Percival Gerard Rotherham Volume 9c Page 953 

I cannot be sure of his wife's maiden name. I also do not know why he was in Yorkshire but can only assume that it was to do with his wife's family or family business interests.

However what comes next figures in none of the obituaries and biographies of the family and in my opinion never will. I came across a crime report in a copy of THE TIMES dated January 28th 1891 (page 10). It gave a report of the previous day's proceedings in Sheffield's Magistrates Court. under the heading


At Sheffield yesterday, Mr Percival Gerard Pochin, living in a fashionable quarter of Sheffield and Matilda Pochin, his wife, were charged at the instance of the National Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children with having systematically ill-treated and neglected a lad named Wilkinson who was in their service as a page boy.. The lad, according to the case for the prosecution, was taken from the workhouse by Mr. Pochin who said he wished to adopt him. He first lived with Mr. Pochin, for a month in a house-boat on the Thames, and then went to his residence at Ranmoor Park Road, Sheffield where he became a page boy in buttons. It was shown that the boy had been thrashed by Mr. Pochin, with a horse whip, beaten by Mrs. Pochin, with a stick, and on one occasion tied naked to a bed post and whipped. During a heavy snowstorm he was turned out into the snow and kept there all day without food. At night, a maidservant took compassion on him and gave him half a slice of bread and butter. Several witnesses were called to prove habitual ill treatment.

Both the defendants, gave evidence, and denied that they had been guilty of any cruelty.

The stipendiary magistrates held the case to be proved, and fined Mr. Pochin, £5 and Mrs. Pochin, £10

The case was also picked up by other contemporary journals of the time. The Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), dated Sunday, February 1, 1891; Issue 2515 repeated the case verbatim


And if you are wondering that is equivalent to £375 and £750 in 2006 monetary values

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 28th January 1891 also reported, this time adding the victims full name William Clarke Wilkinson 

Even allowing for the mores of late Victorian society where instances of cruelty and ill treatment were often the norm, the sentence handed down by the magistrates can only be viewed as lenient in the extreme. Financially the combined fine of £15 would hardly have made a dent in the household and personal accounts, and as a deterrent, the fine is meaningless. The option of a prison sentence does not seem to be have been considered either. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this case is that the Sheffield magistrates thought the couple had "overstepped the mark" i.e. it was considered acceptable to thrash the servants and ill treat the lower orders but not on a "systematic" and "habitual" basis, and certainly not in front of witnesses!. Apart from the lies of the defendants, the other interesting point to arise from the trial is that Mrs. Pochin, was fined twice as much as her husband, no doubt reflecting the magistrates prejudices' about women appearing in court. The evidence also seems to point to Mrs Pochin as being the main instigator of the assaults - the magistrates infer that she was an enthusiastic participant in these assaults.

15 Ranmoor Park Road, Sheffield - the location of the assault - Photo taken March 2010

The aftermath - I would like to hope that after the trial Mr. and Mrs. Pochin, would suffer the worst indignities that life can throw at a person but I have no way of knowing at the moment. They simply disappeared. There is no reference in the registers or in the 1901 and 1911 Census. My own assumption is that the couple were ostracized and held in disgrace by Sheffield society in particular, and Victorian society in general, and had no real option but to emigrate hence their disappearance. The one piece of information that did come to light is their deaths

The cowardly wretch Pochin, died on 2nd April 1918 age 55 and his grotesque wife three years earlier on 30th June 1915 age 60 (Deaths Sep 1915 Pochin Meta C Age 53 Steyning Volume 2b Page 294  - Steyning is on the south coast of Sussex which seems to indicate the Pochin's became stigmatized in the genteel salons of Sheffield's western suburbs.   

There is also a clue to what the family thought of Percival Gerald's activities in Sheffield. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography carries a summary of Henry Davis Pochin's life

"Throughout his life Henry Davis Pochin had suffered from headaches and high blood pressure. In December 1890 he suffered a slight stroke and, though he made a full recovery, following sixteen months of subsequent ill health he died on 28 October 1895 at Bodnant Hall, Eglwys-bach, Denbighshire. He was survived by his wife and two of his six children, Laura Elizabeth and Percival Gerald. With the latter disinherited ‘for conduct which private papers confirm, fully warranted that decision’ ( H. T. Milliken, The road to Bodnant: the story behind the foundation of the famous north Wales garden 1975 page 95–6), Laura, who had married Charles Benjamin Bright McLaren (later first Baron Aberconway), inherited most of her father's property. Pochin was buried in a mausoleum at Bodnant."

And so Percival was disinherited which seems like a good start!. 

If anyone can supply me with any more information on either of this vile couple or better still photographs, please contact me

For many years I wanted to know what became of  "the lad Wilkinson" - he surely deserved a better start in life than the workhouse and this odious pair of degenerates. In November 2016 I did make a breakthrough and was able to piece together an article that details his later life.

And in January 2010 I received the following e-mail which again shows the family in not a very flattering light!

"...have just read your article entitled "A Despicable Case of Child Cruelty".

I thought you may be interested in the fact that Henry Pochin was not whiter than white!

In the course of recent research into the life of Sir Thomas Salt (1830 - 1904) we (Berkswich History Society, Stafford) have discovered that Henry Pochin stood for election as MP for Stafford in 1868. However, the election results were contested. Not everyone was happy with the result and with the behaviour of the supporters of the elected candidates.

After an investigation lasting nine days, Mr Justice Blackburn decided that the election for Stafford was void in the case of both members. (Henry Pochin and Walter Meller). There were charges of “treating” and “bribery”, and witnesses gave evidence of being offered amounts of up to £10, a considerable sum in 1868, to vote for the Liberals. Following the publication of Mr Justice Blackburn’s findings, a by-election was called for early in 1869. Thomas Salt was again elected to represent Stafford at this by-election.

Charles McLaren who had married Laura Pochin in 1877, unseated Salt in 1880."


Name: Percival Gerard. Pochin
College: ST JOHN'S
Entered: Michs. 1880
BORN: 23 Jun 1862
More Information: Adm. pens. at ST JOHN'S, Oct. 9, 1880. S. of Henry Davis, manufacturing chemist (and Agnes). B. June 23, 1862, at Salford, Lancs. [School, University College, 1875-9.] Matric. Michs. 1880. Kept three terms. (University Coll. Sch. Reg.)

Henry Davis Pochin ( 1824-1895 )

Born 1824, son of William Pochin of Wigston, Leicestershire.

Mayor of Salford 1866-1868. Connected with Iron and Steel Industries.

Elected Liberal MP for Stafford 1868  ( later unseated on petition , further attempts to gain election unsuccessful)

Author of ‘Plan of parliamentary Reform’

From: The Times, Saturday, Dec 05, 1868; pg. 7; 

Died Oct 28 1895. - Obituary: The Times, Saturday, Nov 02, 1895; pg. 6; Issue 34724

Founder of  “H.D. Pochin & Co (Ltd)” ; Introduced “aluminous cake” into commerce; acquired many leading steel and iron concerns, converting them into limited liability companies, but retaining the majority of capital and directorship:- including John Brown and Co. ; Deputy Chairman of Metropolitan Railway Company;  Director of the Manchester, Salford and Lincolnshire Railway; Member of the Reform Club.

Married to Agnes


Daughter Laura , Lady McLaren, wife of Sir Charles McLaren.

Agnes Pochin ( née Heap) (1825-1908)

Born 1825, daughter of  George and Hannah Heap of Timperley.

Married Henry Davis Pochin in 1852, Manchester..

Died Feb 12 1908

Early Pioneer of the suffragette movement.  See  The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928”, by Elizabeth Crawford  , 1999 , Routledge

Obituary : The Times, Friday, Feb 14, 1908; pg. 12; Issue 38569; See pages 75 and 76  for photo and description of her funeral.

Lady Aberconway ( Laura McLaren née Pochin) married Lord Abercronway ( Sir Charles B B  McLaren )

Daughter of Henry Davis Pochin and Agnes Heap

MP for Stafford , co-founder of the National Liberal Club 

Chairman of the Metropolitan Railway Company; Palmer’s Shipbuilding and Iron Co. Ltd, John Brown and Co Ltd.

See http://www.thepeerage.com/p2405.htm

Son Francis Walter Stafford McLaren was the youngest MP of the time . Killed in flying accident at Montrose 1917



THE TIMES dated January 28th 1891

The Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 28th January 1891

The Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper (London, England), dated Sunday, February 1, 1891; Issue 2515

1881 Census

Uncle Alex Pringle's Webpages


There is an address in the Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society  - "48, Springfield-road, St. John's Wood, N. W, Pochin, Percival Gerard."

The Daughter - Births Sep 1884 Pochin Daisy Rosamond A Sheffield Volume 9c page 505

The Son - Births Dec 1887 Pochin Courtenay Henry G Worksop Volume 7b page 29

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This page was last updated on 10/02/21 10:40