Collection date: Apr 1904
Jane Wheller (c1841-1916): age 62, 4 songs inc a nice version of 'Barbara Allen' FT179: Jane was the first of the Langport singers and she met Sharp on 12 Apr 1904 in the Union workhouse. In the 1911 census Jane was still at the workhouse, aged 68, a former seamstress (RG14/14323 schedule 70). Although this census return says that Jane was a widow and born in Somerton, previous censuses differ and she perhaps changed her story over time. In 1901 she was in West Street Somerton, '58, single' and her birthplace was listed as 'Bath'. In 1891 she was in Taunton St James, a widow and glover, born Bath, alongside her daughter Eliza, aged 23 (b Somerton). In 1871 and 1881 she was in the Langport Workhouse with two young daughters Eliza (b1868) and Alice (b1870). She was listed as 'unmarried' in both these censuses. In 1861 census Jane was living in Bow Street, Langport, age 19, unmarried lodger, occupation Glover, again born in (Widcombe) Bath. Tellingly, in the 1851 census for Lyncombe and Widcombe (Bath) we find Eliza Whiller, widow, 29 ironer b Bath with her daughter Jane Whiller age 10 b Bath. There is a birth registration for a Jane Wheller in January qr 1841 (ref 11-34) and this looks like the start of a long and difficult life for Jane.
Sharp was probably introduced to Jane by Rev Stubbs, vicar of Huish Episcopi and chaplain to the workhouse. The Master of the workhouse was Richard Cavendish (b1859 Fulham), a more progressive liberal master than many. See Langport & Somerton Herald January 2nd 1904 ‘The joys of Xmas were at hand; the young and feeble were all alike remembered . . many improvements have been effected in the house since Mr Cavendish has been in charge. It is now an institution so comfortable that life within it is far preferable to a pitiable existence outside, struggling through declining years on the paltry weekly relief of 2/6d.’ It is good to think that perhaps Jane was well treated in her second stay at this institution. She died 12/1916 Langport 5c 479.