Can you help with a mystery which has been bugging the Trust staff for some time? We have a large collection of photographs relating to the Clark and related families in Street, Somerset. Several of the young girls in the family wore their hair very short in late 19th century, and we have always been curious as to finding a reason. The Trust staff haven’t come across this in any other photographs from the period on their travels through other family archives of a similar timeframe.
There may have been some medical grounds for this, since Helen Priestman Bright Clark’s family had a history of TB. Helen was generally very protective on the health front for her children, moving the family home from the factory to a new house on the outskirts of the village (now Millfield School of sporting prowess).
There is a good example of short hair for the girls in the family in this photograph (mid 1880s). Two of the group suffered from TB, one dying of it fairly soon afterwards as a teenager (Pollie Morland) and one suffering from it at various points in her life (Alice Clark).
The photograph shows Helen Clark’s four daughters. Esther (born 1873) is the eldest and is presumably growing her hair out (shoulder length, second from left in back row). The three younger Clark sisters, Alice (back row furthest right), Margaret and Hilda (seated, third and fourth from left), all have short hair, along with their Morland cousin Eleanor/Nelly. Pollie Morland (standing, furthest left, born 1872) also has bobbed hair. Alice in particular (born 1874) wore very short hair even as an adult, which seems unusual during the late Victorian/Edwardian era. Age doesn’t necessarily seem to dictate this, since Esther and Alice are just one year apart.
Does anyone know of other instances of this, or could anyone point Trust staff in the direction of a hairstyle expert who could give us some further ideas for research? Please email the Trust with suggestions – we’d love to hear from you!