Ellen Buxton: A Victorian Childhood

Ellen Buxton came from the large family of social reformers and philanthropists.  Her grandfather was Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton who led the campaign to abolish slavery.  The Buxton family had made their money in the family brewery, based in Spitalfields.  Ellen married a cousin, Robert Barclay, whose family were connected with Barclays bank.

As a young girl growing up in Leytonstone, Ellen had a great deal of time to explore the local area and Epping Forest with her brothers and sisters – she was one of 14 children, although three siblings died in childhood. 

Ellen loved to write in her diary and make sketches of family life, including many of her brothers and sisters playing with their favourite toys.  Her descendants published extracts from her diary and the images in these make a wonderful resource for helping children today find out what toys children played with over 100 years ago.  How many toys do you recognise in this drawing of everyone playing the garden?

There is a china doll in the museum’s collections, which comes from the Buxton family.  It is possible it might be the doll Ellen drew her sisters playing with in this sketch.  They are certainly handling it very carefully.

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