- Original family history written and mechanically typed
by Godfrey BRAMHALL.
George Henry BRAMHALL (1866-1947) and his wife Eliza
Ann WASHBURN (1866-1928)
My paternal grandfather, the eldest child of John Henry
BRAMHALL and his wife Ellen MARSDEN, born at 40, Fawcett
Street, North Sheffield in 1866.
At that time John Henry was a saw-maker but by 1879
he had moved to Hull and had become an insurance
manager. The family later moved to Stoke-on-Trent
where John Henry continued his insurance work but also
kept a toy shop.
George Henrys obituary states that brought up
in the established church but his youngest
daughter Ellen felt sure that they were all Methodists.
However, her claim that, as a boy, her father used
to sing in the church choir'' suggests Anglicanism rather
I know nothing concerning my grandfather's early life
or education but everything I have discovered about
him indicates that he had considerable ability with
figures and considerable skill in music both as an instrumentalist
and as a composer. There can be no doubt that he had
inherited these gifts from his father who, as we have
seen, abandoned the steel trade for an occupation requiring
some facility with figures and had learnt the by no
means easy technique of transferring musical ideas to
paper. I would like to now how and where he had acquired
Late in life he composed much choral music for Salvation
Army choirs (nine items being published) in addition
to training and conducting an Army choir in Stoke-on-Treat.
Although his compositions cannot be described as great
music they are, nevertheless, competently done and well
suited for their evangelical purpose.
But although father and son shared mathematical and
musical interests they did not see eye-to-eye on religious
matters. George Henry's teenage involvement with the
Salvation Army met with parental displeasure. In the
end his declared intention of enlisting full-time''
so enraged his father that George was obliged to leave
home. In fairness it must be recorded that years later
they were reconciled and John Henry himself joined the
ranks as a humble ''Private.
George Henry found employment in Wolverhampton and
it was from there he was sent to the Officers
Training Centre at Clapton, East London, in 1887.
At that time aspiring officers seldom received more
than four months training before starting their evangelical
work in a hostile world. In the light of what I had
learnt about the mobility of officers - especially at
the beginning: of their careers - I was surprised to
find no mention of any early appointments until the
Gazette section of the [Page 2] War Cry
recorded the following on September 28th 1889
at the very least eighteen months after the completion
of his training:
''Lieutenant Bramhall of the Training Garrison Headquarters
to be Scribe with the title of Captain.
Two inferences can be drawn from this: first, that
after completing his meagre preparation he had been
retained on the staff of the Training Garrison and second,
that his undoubted facility with figures and accountancy
had already been spotted.
Family tradition and my grandparents obituaries
agreed that they had both spent eventful years in three
Scandinavian countries but precise details were scanty
and sometimes contradictory. Fortunately research in
the Army's archives in London, Helsinki, Stockholm and
Copenhagen has produced a wealth of material, which
has enabled me to reconstruct their careers in more
detail than I had ever thought possible.
At this point it seems necessary, for the better understanding
of my grandparents story, to say something of the origins
of the Salvation Army both here and in Finland.
It is a matter of history that the evangelical innovations
of the Methodist preacher, William Booth, sprang from
the total failure of both established and non-conformist
churches to make contact with the vast numbers of folk
who had, for various reasons, rejected any kind of organized
religion. Booth's references to ''darkest England''
encapsulates his conviction that Britain was a missionary
area just as much as ''darkest Africa.
But William Booth was not alone in realising the need
for an unconventional approach to the problems of poverty,
deprivation and amorality.
In Finland a similar, free-church, evangelical movement
had sprung to life - the initiative having been taken
by a group of very privileged and wealthy people led
by Constantin Boije, Hedwig von Haartman, Louise af
Forselles and Countess Karin Ouchtomsky.
Boije came from a very influential family. While studying
at the Military Academy in St. Petersburg he experienced
a religious conversion, which caused him to abandon
his studies and resign his commission.
By virtue of his aristocratic birth he had, since 1883,
been a member of the hereditary upper house of the Finnish
parliament and had successfully introduced a bill legalising
meetings held by religious bodies other than the State
During visits to Sweden and Switzerland Boije and his
friends become familiar with the work of the Salvation
Army and realized that, by comparison, their own efforts
were woefully inadequate.
They asked William Booth to absorb their organization
into the Salvation Army and by April 1889 three of them
Boije, Haartman, and Forselles had come to London
to be instructed in the Armys evangelical techniques.
Haartman and Forselles [Page 3] went to the women's
Training Centre at Norwood (at that time under the direction
of William Booths daughter Lucy) while Constantin
Boije went to Clapton.
It seems certain that grandfather's Scandinavian travels
must have been the direct result of Boijes stay
at Clapton. Knowing that he would soon be returning
to Finland Boije was, no doubt, on the lookout for the
assistance of somebody who might combine several gifts
with would be useful in evangelical work.
Grandfather must have filled the bill very adequately.
The records of his transfer to Finland come from four,
slightly conflicting sources:
- ''November 8th 1889 is considered the birthday of
the Salvation Army in Finland. On that day three officers
who had returned from England, together with an Englishman,
conducted the first meetings on Finnish soil. (Elin
Olsoni - a Finnish officer)
- "When work had been in progress for about a
week a necessary and welcome reinforcement arrived
from England in the person of Captain Bramhall who
skilfully played several instruments. He was to be
responsible for book-keeping at Headquarters as well
as helping with other work.....''
(Extract from one of a series of articles in the Finnish
War Cry 1939)
- ''Captain (later Lt. Colonel) George Bramhall arrived
from England soon after the opening to help the little
group of officers with music and book-keeping."
(History of the Salvation Army Vol. 4
page 48 by Archibald Wiggins.)
- ''Captain George Bramhall arrived on the scene two
weeks after the inaugural meetings.''
(Jaakko Hinkka of Finnish archives)
By a majority of three to one we must, therefore, accept
that George Henry arrived after the ''first shots had
been fired but this does not shake my conviction
that grandfathers ''posting'' had been arranged
before Boije left London. The notion that an appeal
for help could have been made and that, in response
to it, grandfather could have travelled to Finland all
in the space of two weeks does not seem feasible. If
Grandfather was not present at the inaugural meetings
on November 8th then the ''reinforcement'' was, surely,
already on the way.
Constantin Boijes daughter Helmy recalled:
Naturally he (George Henry) had to learn the language
(Swedish) first. We children became good friends with
Captain Bramhall at once. When we discovered that he
reminded us of our uncle Adolf we started to call him
''Little Ado and he always remained our favourite.
Since he had to learn Swedish and father was anxious
that we should learn English ''Little Ado used
to place a large number of objects on the dining-room
table, place himself solemnly at the head of the table
with us children around him and the lesson would begin.
''Little Ado picked up an ink-stand - we repeated
[Page 4] the word after him and then said it in Swedish
for him. That's how our language classes went on. Sometimes
we had to learn an English chorus and when the lesson
was over we had a ''hallehujah'' march around the table.
''Little Ado'' went first with his cornet and we followed
after in our little bonnets and waving our red, Army
handkerchiefs while we all sang at the tops of our voices.''
(Finnish War Cry of July 28th 1939)
This delightful account of a parlour pastime combining
the elements of Kim's Game'' with ''look and say''
reading techniques must surely conceal the strenuous
but more private efforts which Grandfather must have
been making to learn Swedish - the official language
of Finland. But if his tuition had been confined to
childish - though helpful - games he could never have
acquired the vocabulary required in double-entry bookkeeping
(a proceedure not confined to the manipulation of figures)
let alone the idiomatic skill to deal with such abstractions
as sin, ''repentance'' and ''salvation''.
In the matter of learning a foreign language there is
nothing so stimulating as being ''thrown in at the deep
end'' but I am tempted to think that grandfather's first
lessons in Swedish were not those so amusingly described
by Helmy Boije.
If I am right in thinking that grandfather's appointment
to Finland had been requested and approved during Constantin
Boijes stay London it is distinctly possible that
the Swedish lessons started there and then.
By March 1890 another three ''overseas'' officers had
arrived in Helsinki - Eleanor Kelly and Eliza Ann Washburn
both from England and Erik Leidzen from Sweden. The
two women had been working in Sweden since 1886 and
would, therefore have already possessed a good command
Within two years grandfather had married Eliza Washburn
and Erik Leidzen had married Eleanor Kelly. All four
remained firm friends for the rest of their lives. When
Erik Leidzen died very suddenly, and at a relatively
early age, my grandparents cared for his three children
Karen, Erik junior and Maggie.
Eliza Ann Washburn
She was the sixth child of Joseph Washburn and his wife
Ann Keeling and was born in 1866 at Trouse Lane, Wednesbury,
Staffordshire. Joseph was a general labourer from Wilmcote
in Warwickshire. The Keelings were all potters from
Although Elise's home was in Wednesbury she joined the
Salvation Army in 1884 from Northwich in Cheshire which
prompts the question What was she doing there?''
After the customary brief period of training she served
at Northwich, Walton-on-the-Naze and North Walsham as
Lieutenant to Captain [Page 5] Eleanor Kelly who had
joined the Army in 1883 from Watford.
In August 1886 these two young women were sent to Sweden.
The Stockholm archives record that in the following
two years they served in Linkoping, Kristian-stad, Koping,
Karlstad and Sala. By August 1888 they had parted company
and Eliza, singlehanded, had started the Army's work
in Karlshamn before moving on to Norrkoping. This breathless
itinerary fills me with admiration for the stamina and
zeal demonstrated by these young women.
By February 1890 Eliza had joined forces with Eleanor
Kelly once again.
In a letter to ''The War Cry'' Miss Kelly reported that
Eliza was with her at Kristinehamn and was resting''
there - which presumably meant that she was enjoying
a brief holiday or a period of recuperation.
In that same month they were both sent to Helsinki where,
as we have noted, they both met their future husbands.
However, for the sake of objectivity, it must be recorded
that the official reason for their journey across the
Baltic Sea was to assist Hedwig von Haartman who had
just been put in charge of the Army's work and had been
But their stay in Finland was brief and by August 1890
Eliza had resumed her ''whistle-stop tour of Sweden
with appointments at Nybro (March 1891), Vimmerby (July
1891), Nas (December 1891) and Kristinehamn (a return
During this period Eliza, together with some of her
colleagues, fell foul of the civil authorities in the
district of Kalmer in south-west Sweden and spent some
time in prison for conducting meetings contrary to local
bye-laws. The Swedish archives say that an those early,
intolerant years about a third of the officers suffered
imprisonment - the most frequent offence being that
of holding meetings after eight o'clock in the evening!
According to family tradition grandmother spent the
time making match-boxes. Official sources record that
she and her friends emerged from their brief ordeal
''hale and hearty and in hallelujah mood!
Opposition to the Army in Finland
Anyone who reads the story of the Army's early days
will know that their work met with verbal and often
physical opposition. In Scandinavia it was no different
but whereas in many countries the trouble often started
with the mindless aggro of hooligans in
Finland opposition appears to have been fomented by
the establishment. As early as December 1889 no less
a person than Bishop G. Johansson had produced - with
precipitate haste - a book of one hundred and sixty-two
pages attacking the Salvation Army. He asserted that-
''Once having established itself in Finland the Salvation
Army would try to push into Russia and would assuredly
. and disturb the religious
harmony between those two countries.''
[Page 6] He went on to demand that the Finnish authorities
should act and the journal of the Finnish Free Churches,
Evangelick-Kristendom quickly echoed his
sentiments. It seems that the Bishop had some temporary
success for when the Army leaders applied for legal
recognition as a non-conformist organisation they were
refused - thus putting their activities outside the
With a century of hindsight it mildly amusing think
that such sinister motives should have been attributed
to the Army's missionary work but perhaps the privileged
and aristocratic backgrounds of the founder-officers
led the Bishop to suspect that evangelism was being
used as a cover for political activity. It also seems
possible that, as the spokesman of the established church,
Bishop Johansson was still resentful of Constantin Boijes
parliamentary success in winning a degree of toleration
for the non-conformists and viewed Boijes still
more radical activities with a jaundiced eye!
George Henry Bramhalls Itinerary
Although grandfathers work in Finland must be
seen against this back-ground of opposition he did not,
as far as I know, suffer any great personal hardship
- as did many Finnish officers.
This is a summary of the record of his movements as
supplied by the Helsinki archives:-
November 1889 George arrived in Helsingfors (Helsinki)
March 1890 George travelled to Porvo (Borga) with Hedwig
von Haartman to initiate the work there.
March 1890 Arrival cf Eleanor Kelly, Eliza Washburn
and Erik Leidzen from Sweden.
March 1890 The Helsinki Archives report the welcome
given to the above and mentions that Kelly and Washburn
played and sang at this welcome-meeting.
June 1890 A band of seven players was formed of which
George and Erik were members.
Nov and Dec 1890 George was in charge of the Helsinki
Christmas 1890 George visited Pori.
February 1891 George transferred to Sweden.
On arrival in Sweden grandfather was employed at the
Swedish Headquarters in Stockholm before embarking on
a long period of purely evangelical work, which must
have proved the most exacting and strenuous he had encountered
February 1891 At Stockholm H.Q.
December 1891 At Anal
August 1892 At Skara. Here he and Eliza Washburn were
married. Ceremony recorded by British Consul in Gothenburg.
December 1892 At Smedje-backen
May 1893 At Falun. Daughter Eva born here May 2nd 1893
January 1894 At Sodertalje
August 1894 Hudiksvall
Daughter Katherine born at Falun November 15th 1894
January 1895 Vasteras
July 1895 Oskarshamn. My father, William born here May
July 1896 Luleo.
May 1897 Sodertalje. Daughter Ellen born here September
Letters written by grandfather and preserved in Stockholm
show that from 1897 until the family went back to Denmark
in April 1899 he was working, once again at the Headquarters
My Aunt Ellen told me that her parents marriage
did not take place without a certain amount of difficulty.
It was - and still is - the custom in the Salvation
Army for officers to apply to their superiors for permission
to marry - since they are all initially regarded as
being ''married'' to the war against the devil
and his works.''
Georges application was, at first, refused on
account of Eliza's indifferent health.
With a touch theatrical bravado George declared that
if he couldn't marry Eliza within the Army, then
would marry her outside it! The Army relented
but only after a year had passed in which Eliza received
a special course of treatment suggested by a kindly
Swedish doctor who, out of admiration for the Army's
work, refused all payment.
In the light of the official record of Elisa's movements
between her return from Finland in the summer of 1890
and her marriage in 1892 it is difficult to see how
any protracted medical treatment could have been fitted
in. Nevertheless, the wedding did take place and the
punishing schedule continued.
My mother said Ellen, always had to fight
against a weak body but she had a wonderfully strong
But nine changes of home and four children in five years
must have taxed Elizas admirably ''strong spirit
to the very limit. The fact that both Eva and Katherine
were born in Falun leads me to suspect that perhaps
Eliza was forced to ''stay put for a short time
while George continued his work alone.
For some reason which neither my father nor his younger
sister could explain the births of the four children
were not registered with any of the British consuls
in Sweden. It was not until 1942 that George Henry was
persuaded that this omission was going to cause difficulties.
He did his best to rectify this irregularity by making
a statutory declaration before a solicitor so that each
of his children should have an acceptable document concerned
their birth and parentage.
The Copenhagen records show that Ensign and Mrs.
George Henry Bramhall [Page 8] were transferred to Denmark
from Sweden on April 18th 1899.
Of grandfather's seven years in Denmark the first five
were spent working the Finance Department in Copenhagen.
For the last two years he was the Divisional Officer
for the district of Funen. This second appointment,
together with the Swedish itinerary, provides a sharp
reminder that, whatever their specialist interests may
have been, all officers were expected to take their
full share in the fundamental task of evangelism
Clearly the family enjoyed a more settled existence
in Denmark with only one intermediate move in seven
years before they returned to England. My father and
his sister differed as to the date of their return home.
A search in the London records failed to produce this
important date but, ironically, a letter to Copenhagen
produced this quite specific reply:-
Your grandfather left Denmark for England in
July 1906, taking up an appointment as Divisional Secretary
in Cambridge on July 26th 1906.
While their parents were establishing some sort of
a home for them at Milton Road, Cambridge, the four
children went to stay with their grandparents in Stoke-on-Trent.
Both my father and his sister insisted that this was
a very difficult time for all concerned as none of the
children could speak a word of English. This seems like
an exaggeration for it is difficult to believe that
English parents would not have spoken their mother tongue
in the home - whatever the linguistic necessities of
their evangelical work, and especially as they knew
they would all return to England. Nevertheless it is
certain that they had all acquired some command of Swedish
or Danish, which was never totally forgotten. One of
my early memories is of the aunts singing Scandinavian
carols at family parties and, judging by the reactions,
sometimes being extremely rude to one another in a foreign
In view of George Henry's musical ability it is not
surprising to learn that he was active in musical activities
in all three Scandinavian countries. Wherever he went
he seems to have organised and played in instrumental
ensembles and found time to give his four children a
modest musical education.
My father was a very good trombonist and his three
sisters could all read vocal music and play the guitar
competently. I recall that Aunt Eva was much amused
to find how the wheel of musical fashion had turned
full circle and that, in her retirement, she had to
re-string her neglected guitar and teach the eager youngsters
of the Romford Salvation Army Youth Club how to strum
the simple tonic, dominant and sub-dominant harmonies
that were de rigour- in the fifties and
George Henry did not stay long in Cambridge By 1908
it was clear that he had been allowed to follow his
bent in accountancy matters and was employed at the
Army's London headquarters. Consequently the family
moved to 23, Hatherley Road, Walthamstow in order to
be within commuting distance of [Page 9] Victoria Street.
By 1917 grandfather had risen to the rank of Major
and had been appointed an Auditor - a responsible role
in the course of which he travelled all over the world.
It was not possible for Eliza Ann to accompany him
and she was forced to lead a somewhat lonely life in
the various London homes she occupied with her daughters
Eva, Katherine and Ellen until her death at Leytonstone
George Henry retired in 1932 with the rank of Lieutenant
Colonel and spent the rest of his days at 60, Parkside
Avenue, Romford. He died in 1947.
George and Elizas children
- Eva became a Salvation Army Officer and spent most
of her life on the staff of the Salvation Army Assurance
Company. She died at Romford in 1969.
- Katherine was an invalid all her life and was, sadly,
never able to earn her own living. She died at Romford
- My father, William, married Henrietta Day Pigott
in 1917. He ended a successful business career as
managing director of the Margros Company of Woking
- a firm which manufactured artists materials.
He was also a founder-member of the Educational Exhibitors
Association. He died in Exeter in 1981.
- Ellen married Alex Deans - son of Colonel Deans
of the Salvation Army. Alex died in 1961. Ellen now
lives with her daughter's family in Felixstow.
Grandfather's homes after his return from Denmark
1906-1908 Milton House, Milton Road, Cambridge.
1908-1911 23, Hatherley Road, Walthamstow.
1911-1922 45, Howard Road, Walthamstow.
1922-1925 15, Belgrave Road, Leyton.
1925-1929 63, Poppleton Road, Leytonstone.
1929-1947 60, Parkside Avenue, Romford.
Parish Registers of Longton, Wednesbury, Staffs.
Census Returns for Sheffield, Hull and Wednesbury -
1871 and 1881 Consular Marriage Records.
Salvation Army archives, London, Helsinki, Stockholm
The British War Cry
The Finnish War Cry