Ellie Jacobs: Westminster Orphans (Series 1)



An influenza epidemic in 1840s London.
Six orphaned children.
And a girl who is determined to live out her mother’s dream…

At the age of 12, a grieving Rosey Shaw is devastated to find that she cannot carry out a promise made to her dying mother: to take care of her brothers and sisters.

Her father’s business partner tells her that her father left huge debts, and says he cannot afford to look after them. Rosey and her little family are sent to live with her father’s brother in the slums of Westminster, and before she has been there even a day things go from bad to worse.

Their uncle is cruel, greedy and impatient; their cousins are vindictive, and their aunt a cranky slattern. Their lives are a complete misery as they struggle to survive on the unforgiving streets.

Rosey and her brother George, starving and browbeaten, vow that no matter how long it takes, they will fight their way out from under their uncle’s control and find their missing brother and sisters. But fate is unkind, and Rosey has to struggle with doubts and setbacks at every turn…



Suddenly orphaned at the age of 7.

Thrown into the workhouse by an indifferent uncle.

Tormented by cruel guardians and a girl who hates her…

Only 7 years old, little Eliza Shaw ripped from the arms of her big sister and taken away under cover of darkness to one of London’s bleakest workhouses.

Eliza, still grieving after the death of her parents and the loss of her three oldest siblings, tries to adapt to life in the workhouse with her little brother Frank.

She befriends Ginnie, and tries to survive by avoiding the cruel taunts and abuse by Daphne and the guardians, but is devastated when both her friend and her brother are one day nowhere to be found.

Life drags on, until one day there seems to be a ray of hope when she is sent to work as a housemaid for a wealthy donor. There is one big drawback: two of them are plucked from the workhouse, and the other one is none other than Daphne.

Daphne’s cruelty and manipulative ways continue in the wealthy Turner household, and Eliza is often blamed for things she has not done. Time and again, she and Daphne are warned against fraternizing with the young masters, lest they be instantly dismissed.

Gradually, Eliza finds a life for herself, but she always wonders what had happened to her family, so cruelly split up. Then one day the unthinkable happens, and Eliza is forced to rely on her wits and talents to survive the cruel streets of London…



Separated from her family

Abandoned by her adoptive parents

Stolen by those that prey on children… can Tish survive?

At the age of 5, after the death of her parents, it seems at first that Letitia Shaw is the lucky one. Adopted by her father’s wealthy business partner when the rest of her family are made homeless and consigned to the slums of Westminster, Tish lives in a beautiful home and wants for nothing.

But Tish knows that the Thompsons don’t really care for her, and yearns for her lost family. Her only confidante is her new cousin, Archie, who is a constant thorn in his parents’ side. The two of them become fast friends over the years… and then disaster strikes, and the cousins can rely only on each other to survive whatever life might throw at them.

Unused to the darker underbelly of London, Tish and Archie immediately find themselves ill-equipped to cope. All too quickly, Tish is caught up in a far more precarious situation than if she had been taken to the workhouse.

Separated from Tish, Archie vows to find the little girl he vowed to take care of… but London is a big place, and Tish is well-hidden…



Bereft and alone after the death of her mother and newborn sister, Ginnie is pitchforked from the stark world of the London workhouse to the horror of a cotton factory. Her only friend is Frank… and then he leaves her, too.

Ginnie Buckley adores her brave mother, so it is a cruel blow to lose both her and her baby sister in childbirth. Life is unadulterated misery, until Eliza Shaw and her brother Frank Shaw come to the workhouse. Ginnie and Eliza become friends, and life is tolerable… just.

But one day she and Frank are abruptly taken away to work for a cruel and greedy cotton factory owner in Essex. Daily, they are forced to risk their lives and limbs to keep production up and profits rising. Ginnie is always afraid, but forges an unlikely friendship with Will Gillespie, the quiet son of the owner.

When Frank decides to run away, Ginnie cannot bring herself to go with him and risk an unknown fate on the dirty and inhospitable streets of London — not without saying goodbye to Will. But the owner and the overseer, enraged at losing Frank, make life intolerable for Ginnie. A target of their spite, she is forced to do ever-more dangerous tasks — and one day, the worst happens.

Badly injured and no longer of any use to the bullying factory owner, Ginnie is forced out onto the very streets she’d refused to risk with Frank. Now, she has no idea how she will cope.

Then life takes an unexpected turn, and it appears that Ginnie might survive. Until Frank, now a hardened thief, reappears and threatens everything she hopes for…



Frank Shaw, the youngest of the orphaned Shaw children, is just four years old when he is abandoned at the workhouse with his sister Eliza. Bewildered by the dramatic and cruel changes in his life, Frank is bullied unmercifully by older boys. His sister and her friend Ginnie do their best to look out for him, but that ends when Frank and Ginnie are sent to work at Arthur Gillespie’s cotton mill.

Frank endures the abuse of the owner and supervisor, and the dangers of the clanking machinery at the mill, for years, even after being injured. Finally, he can take no more and slips away to try to survive on the streets of London. Ginnie, who by now regards him as her little brother, is scared of what might happen to girls with nowhere to go, and refuses to go with him.

It’s not long before Frank realizes that honest work is not easy to find — and what there is will not give him enough to stave off starvation. When he stumbles across Mercy, a gaunt and hungry young girl with a baby, he spends the last of his hoarded coins on lodgings for them, for a week — and promises that he will not let them go back on the streets.

Such a promise, he soon discovers, is not easy to keep. Frank, embittered and almost broken, decides that he will get back at the ‘fat cats’ of London: the men like Arthur Gillespie who cared nothing for the poor and hungry, but only for their own profits. Frank slides further and further a life of crime to support Mercy and her child, until he unwittingly drags Ginnie into his world and threatens the life she has made for herself.

Frank has finally had enough. He resolves to get out of London, to make a new life for himself, Mercy and little Lilybeth, but the lure of ‘just one more job’ proves to be his undoing.

It looks like everything he has sacrificed to look after the poor and homeless will be for nothing…