Jeanne Rathbone

Mary Tealby founder of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home

Posted in Mary Tealby founder of Battersea Cats and Dogs Home by sheelanagigcomedienne on April 4, 2021

Mary was the founder of the Battersea Dogs Home and supporter of the RSPCA. Sadly, there is no photograph of Mary.

Mary Bates was born in 1801 in Huntingdon, the eldest of three children.  Her father was a chemist/druggist, so her provincial life was probably not very privileged, although her younger brotherw as sent to Clare College, Cambridge, and could look forward to clerical livings.  In her late twenties she was married on her 28th birthday, to a timber merchant named Robert Tealby.  The family firm had a number of businesses in Hull. She settled into married life there The couple had no children. She had long been a supporter of the RSPCA in Hull, and continued to contribute to the work of the charity.

At some point they must have decided to separate.  Mary moved from Hull to London in the early 1850s, probably in order to nurse her ailing mother, but temporary necessity became permanent separation by 1860.  Mary lived at her mother’s home, 20 Victoria Road, Holloway now ( Chillingworth Road), Holloway,with her father and her brother the Reverend Edward Yates. She kept her surname for convenience after she she divorced and apparently she talked of herself as a widow.

She cared for an abandoned dog that had been found by her friend Sarah Major, but it died despite her nursing and she decided to set up a place where abandoned dogs could be cared for initially in her scullery but as the number of dogs delivered to her grew and the Islington Gazette reported her view, having found so many starving dogs in that district alone, that ‘the aggregate amount of suffering amongst those faithful creatures throughout London must be very dreadful indeed’.

The home was located in stables behind 15 and 16 Hollingsworth Street (now occupied by Freightliners Farm and Paradise Park) and was opened on 2 October 1860. It is lovely that it has not been built over and eradicated. Freightliners City Farm is a 2.5 acres green space in the very urban London Borough of Islington. It is a small community farm where a diverse range of people take part in farming and gardening and people can visit and spend time in a countryside type environment in the city. Experience a working farm in action. Freightliner’s Farm has an animal village, rare breed animals, solar dome, straw bale building, bee hive and sensory garden.

The home was where lost dogs could be retrieved by their owners. As the rules made clear the home was to be neither a permanent home for ‘old, worn out favourites’ nor a hospital, but a ‘temporary refuge to which humane persons may send only those lost dogs so constantly seen in the streets’. This was she called “The Temporary Home for and Starving Dogs” funded by herself, her brother and Sarah Major. The costs were met by asking for donations and Mary and Sarah Major found several generous backers. In 1860 the RSPCA agreed to assist and the committee meetings were held at the RSPCA offices at 12 Pall Mall.

The first meeting of the committee running the home was held on 27 November 1860 at the premises of the RSPCA in Pall Mall, with Mary Tealby in the chair. She was not a wealthy woman and much of the committee’s early work focused on essential fund-raising. By 1861 she had become a life governor of the home. She formed a group of like-minded individuals.

However, her enthusiasm for helping stray animals did not curry much favour with Victorian society whose moral concerns were waking up to the plight of the city’s many poor, considered to be a far more important issue than the fate of ‘dumb and unwanted’ animals. The home was also roundly mocked by elements of the press. The Times launched a scathing attack on 18 October 1860. While praising advances in animal welfare, it scorned the home as a step too far: “From the sublime to the ridiculous – from the reasonable inspirations of humanity to the fantastic exhibitions of ridiculous sentimentalism – there is but a single step… When we hear of a ‘Home for Dogs’, we venture to doubt if the originators and supporters of such an institution have not taken leave of their sober senses.”

It was Charles Dickens who helped turn public opinion in Mary’s favour. In 1862 he wrote an article for a magazine entitled All the Year Round in support of the home. Two Dog Shows played on the notion of the peculiar British love of animals and praised Mary’s initiative, comparing it with the forerunner of Crufts Dog Show. Such was Dicken’s standing in Victorian society at that time that public opinion began to turn. The home acquired Royal patronage through Queen Victoria – Queen Elizabeth is its patron today.

The Amazing Battersea Dogs Home - LondonDucklings

When Mary became ill with cancer she went to stay with their cousin Mrs Robert Weale who lived with her husband at The Elms in Biggleswade (now demolished). It was a large Victorian House in extensive grounds at the corner of Dells Lane and London Road. Robert Weale was a poor law inspector and by all accounts they lived a comfortable life with five servants and two gardeners. She died in 1865 aged sixty-three so did not survive to see the home’s move to its now famous location in Battersea in 1871.

Her grave can be found in a secluded corner of the churchyard behind the Chapter House and is inscribed ‘Mary Tealby, widow born December 30th 1801 – Died October 3rd 1865’.. She and her brother were buried in the same grave in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, Biggleswade. The dogs’ home committee recorded their loss, declaring Mary Tealby to be a ‘kind-hearted and generous lady’. Her grave has been restored in 2011.

There is a plaque commemorating Mary in Islington. Mary came top of he poll to decide which former Islington resident most deserved a plaque in their honour. the plaque was was unveiled at Freightliners Farm in Sheringham Road, close to the original site of the Home for Lost and Starving Dogs in Hollingsworth Street. Members of Mary’s family, the Battersea Cats and Dogs Home and Freightliners Farm attended the unveiling the plaque on 2 October 2015 at Freightliners Farm. October 6, 2015

An Islington People’s Plaque to Mary Tealby

Edward Bates and Sarah Major continued with the home after its move to Battersea Battersea Cats and Dogs home has seen many changes and developments over the years.

“Battersea has always been known for our work with dogs and was originally set up to help dogs living on the streets of London.In 1883 that all changed. Following a donation of £500 by Mr Richard Barlow Kennett, Battersea began to welcome cats as well as dogs. Mr Kennett’s generous gift was entirely conditional on the organisation agreeing to start taking in cats, so that’s what we did. In that first year Battersea took in a total of 48 stray cats in addition to thousands of dogs.

The original cattery, Whittington Lodge, the world’s first purpose built cattery, designed by the renowned architect Sir Bertram Clough Williams-Ellis still stands at the London centre today and is a heritage listed building.

In 2002, in order to reflect our growing feline intake we changed our name to ‘Battersea Dogs and Cats Home’. In 2018 we went one step further and rebranded as ‘Battersea.’

In our 160 years of history Battersea has cared for more than 3.1 million animals. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of our supporters. From our 1,000th volunteer to Paul O’Grady, take a look at some of the other milestones which have helped us to become one of the UK’s oldest and most famous animal rescue centres.

The Queen unveiled the plaque on the Mary Tealby Kennels  and paddocks which are for for the new dogs experiencing their first few days at in the dogs home. The new, world-class facilities are designed to minimise stress and infection and introduce a calming environment. These redesigned kennels help keep noise and anxiety levels to a minimum, have underfloor heating, lots of light, air and space and an outside run for each dog.

It is interesting to note that one of the only fields where women hold a a higher percentage of executive roles than men and dominate by sheer numbers is in animal welfare. Female legislators are also more likely support animal protection legislation, making women true allies of dogs on every front. Mary Tealby was a pioneer in animal welfare and challenging male cruelty to animals for gain as hunters, poachers and entertainment or sheer cruelty.

As we know Battersea has been prominent in animal welfare. Historian Dr Hilda Keen has written about Battersea and animal welfare and gave a talk for the Clapham Society on it. She is the former Dean of Ruskin College, Oxford.

Click to access clapham-society-battersea-talk.pdf

In the same year (1871) the Brown Animal Sanatory Institution was started, with funds from a trust set up in the will of Thomas Brown, on a site in Wandsworth Road, almost opposite the present Sainsbury’s at Nine Elms. This was a veterinary medical centre for the treatment (generally as ‘outpatients’) of all animals, but mainly horses in the early years. The centre survived until 1944. Under its pioneering first superintendent, Sir John Burdon-Sanderson, research was carried out into immunisation and rabies. The question of muzzling dogs, lest they spread rabies, was controversial and led to petitions and protests locally

The the anti-vivisection hospital was based here and it too as founded by a woman. Again there is no photo of her and we don’t know her first name. The hospital was founded in 1896 by Mrs Theodore Russell Monroe, secretary of the Anti Vivisection Society. It was based at 33 Prince of Wales Drive by the Sun Gate of Battersea Park at the corner with Albert Bridge Road.

The hospital was notable for not allowing animal experiments to take place in its facilities, and for refusing to employ physicians who were involved in or approved of animal research. It first opened for in-patients in 1903. It faced opposition from the medical establishment, who regarded the hospital’s existence as “a great slur upon the profession.” Because of difficulties attracting funding – its stance made it ineligible for grants from the King Edwards Hospital Fund – it lost its anti vivisection charter in 1935. It became Battersea General Hospital and absorbed into the HHS in 1948. Older Battersea folk recall visits to the anti-viv with cuts and bruises and treatment at the A&E.

Battersea was chosen as the location by the for the the statue of the Brown Dog.

The Brown Dog affair was a political controversy about vivisection that raged in England from 1903 until 1910. It involved the infiltration by Swedish feminists Lizzy Lind af Hageby and Leisa Schartau of University of London medical lectures; pitched battles between medical students and the police; police protection for the statue of a dog; a libel trial at the Royal Courts of Justice and the establishment of a Royal Commission to investigate the use of animals in experiments. The affair became a cause celebre célèbre that divided the country. The little terrier had become the focus of an anti-vivisection campaign directed against Professor William Bayliss and UCL by The National Anti-vivisection Society accused of torture and illegal proceedings.

Irish feminist Frances Power Cobbe founded the National Anti-Vivisection Society NAVS in London in 1875 and the British Union for the Abolitio of Vivisection (BUAV) in 1898; the former sought to restrict vivisection and the latter to abolish it.

The barrister Stephen Coleridge secretary of the National Anti-Vivisection Society was the son of the former Lord Chief Justice of England, and great-grandson of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. His attention was drawn to the account of the brown dog. The 1876 Cruelty to Animals Act forbade the use of an animal in more than one experiment, yet it appeared that the brown dog had been used to perform surgery on the pancreas, used again by him when he opened the dog to inspect the results of the previous surgery, and used for a third time by Bayliss to study the salivary gland.. The protesters lost at trial. The brown dog statue was a memorial designed to help win the larger propaganda war.

The brown dog memorial in the Latchmere Recreation Ground, taunted scientists and medical researchers, provoking passions so high that thousands demonstrated against it. This eventually drew 24-hour police guards to prevent the memorial’s destruction.

On 10 December 1907, hundreds of medical students marched through central London waving effigies of the brown dog on sticks, clashing with suffragettes , trade unionists and 300 police officers, one of a series of battles known as the Brown Dog riots. Charlotte Despard and George Bernard Shaw avowed vegetarians spoke at a large meeting.

In March 1910, tired of the controversy, Battersea Council sent four workers accompanied by 120 police officers to remove the statue under cover of darkness, after which it was reportedly melted down by the council’s blacksmith, despite a 20,000-strong petition in its favour

In 1985, a replacement memorial was installed in Battersea Park by Nicola Hicks based the statue on her own terrier, Brock, and it was erected in the Park in 1985, but not here.This was unveiled by Battersea resident actress Geraldine James. Once placed prominently in the park, it was quietly moved to an inconspicuous corner where it remains today. In 1992 it was removed, apparently due to a park renovation scheme, and then re-erected at its current site, in 1994. The sculpture is a thought-provoking piece that stands on its own. However, some think it is more submissive looking compared to the original. We had a lovely presentation on The Brown Dog Affair by Ian Mursell for the Battersea Society telling about the monster meetings in Battersea Town Hall.

The plinth carries the following texts on bronze plaques.The text on plaque 4 is an exact copy of the words on the original memorial.The memorial is beside a narrow path through a small wooded area immediately to the east of the Old English Garden.

The London Remembers website noted: We had some trouble finding this statue, and given the story of the original statue, we think that may be deliberate.

{Plaque 1:}
This monument replaces the original memorial to the Brown Dog erected by public subscriptions in Latchmere Recreation Ground, Battersea, in 1906.The sufferings of Brown Dog at the hands of vivisectors generated much protest and mass demonstrations. It represented the revulsion of the people of London to vivisection and animal experimentation. This new monument is dedicated to the continuing struggle to end these practices.
After much controversy the former monument was removed in the early hours of 10th March 1910. This was the result of a decision taken by the then Battersea Metropolitan Borough Council, the previous Council having supported the erection of the memorial.

{Plaque 2:}
Animal experimentation is one of the greatest moral issues of our time and should have no place in a civilised society.
In 1903, 19,084 animals suffered and died in British laboratories. During 1984 3,497,335 experiments were performed on live animals in Great Britain. Today, animals are burned, blinded, irradiated, poisoned and subjected to countless other horrifyingly cruel experiments in Great Britain.

{Plaque 3:}
Funded by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and the National Anti-Vivisection Society.
Site provided by the Greater London Council.
Sculptor Nicola Hicks.
Unveiled on 12th December 1985.

{Plaque 4:}
In memory of the Brown Terrier dog done to death in the laboratories of University College in February 1903 after having endured vivisection – extending over more than two months and having been handed over from one vivisector to another till death came to his release.
Also in memory of the 232 dogs vivisected at the same place during the year 1902.
Men and women of England, how long shall these things be?

Mary Tealby is one of the people responsible for Battersea becoming a globally recognised name.

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