Jumping on the #MyColourfulAncestry bandwagon, here are my ancestors:
I seem to be the odd one out compared to the rest of my ancestors. My parents emigrated to U.S.A. in the early 1960s but moved back to England when I was 9.
My paternal great grandfather, William Clark, was illegitimate, so I don’t know where his father was born. I would hazard a guess that he was from Berkshire but I have no proof (yet).
I’m very lucky I know anything my maternal side at all. Guyanese records are very difficult to get hold of, so although I know the names of my missing great grandparents, I know nothing else. Madeiran records are much better. I found my great great grandparents’ travel documents to Guyana so I was able to go backwards to the 1700s. Throw in a little endogamy into the mix (my grandparents were 1st cousins). In some respects, it makes working out my DNA shared matches relatively easy! If they have Portuguese ancestry, then they are on my maternal side; anything else is on my paternal side.
My husband’s chart is similar to mine in that it very neatly divides into maternal (Irish) and paternal (anything else). The Jolliffe family lived in Hampshire/Isle of Wight from about 1650. His German 2 x great Grandfather was a watchmaker from Hanover.
What better way to celebrate the opening of pubs on the 12th than an old fashioned pub crawl, making sure we’re Covid safe at all times of course! [Licensee/owner information taken from 1900 Post Office directory]
Turning left out of Turner’s Retreat, we come to our first stop, the Horns.
There’s been a pub on this site since 1792. Hugh John Curley and his wife, Rebecca Agnes, were the owners from about 1882 to 1901. It was renamed the Final Furlong in the 1970s and was demolished in 2003.
We’re going to continue down Grange Road, past Woodlands Place on our right, until we get to the New Tanner Arms, on the corner of Grange Road and Ernest Street.
The New Tanner Arms was open in about 1843. In the 1881 census, Amelia Hone was recorded as a boarder. Thomas Higgins was the manager. Amelia was the owner between 1882 and 1910. Like much of Bermondsey, Ernest Street no longer exists, having been bombed in WW2. Bermondsey Spa Gardens was built on the site.
As we have got a few more pubs to visit, we’d better grab a snack at William Jones’ bakery on the corner of Woodlands Place.
Let’s cross over the road and head down Spa Road. While we’re walking, we can take in the views of the magnificent public library and the town hall, next door. Built in the 19th century, it was badly damaged in the Blitz and had to be demolished.
Continuing along Spa Road, we pass the old Bermondsey Public Baths, on the corner of Neckinger. In 1927, this was replaced by the new baths on the corner of Woodlands Place. We have a couple of pubs to visit on Spa Road before we stagger up Neckinger.
Opposite Neckinger & the public baths is the Queens Arms. Although still standing, it hasn’t been a pub since about 2008. Originally opened in 1811, it was owned by James and Mary Shaw from about 1822 to January 1854. All this drinking is making me hungry, so lets pop into Mary Reeves’ fried fish shop at number 84 before our next pub.
Next we’ll head along Spa Road until we get to the Crown on the corner with Dunlop Place. George Henry Bailey was the landlord from about 1895 to 1923. You can see his name on the pub’s signage. The Lion Brewery Co. was founded in Lambeth in 1836, on the site of what is now the Royal Festival Hall. It was a major exporter of beer around the Empire for over 100 years. The brewery was famous for its Coade stone lions, two of which still stand on Westminster Bridge and at Twickenham Stadium.
Continuing on our walk, we are going to double back along Spa Road before turning right onto Neckinger.
Neckinger or Bevington & Sons Leather Mills was one of the largest tanneries in Bermondsey, making leather for shoes and fancy goods. The mills were first opened in 1801 & continued making leather until about 1981.
On the corner of Neckinger and Abbey Street is our penultimate stop, The Fleece.
Another lost pub, the Fleece existed from about 1839. As you can see, the façade is still standing but the building itself has been converted into flats. The 6 flats sell for around £500,000 each and are ranked in the top 20 most expensive leasehold flats in the borough. No wonder the pub has disappeared!
Turning right along Abbey Street and staggering under the South Eastern and Chatham railway line, we come to our final stop. What better way to end than a visit to the Music Hall!
The Star & Garter pub was open from about 1794. The Star Music Hall, next door was open from 1867-1919, before becoming a cinema.
It must have been quite grand in its day and would have been a special day out for the local residents (provided they could afford a ticket). There is a description of the pub & Music Hall in the 26 April 1868 edition of The Era newspaper.
‘The Hall which, though without a gallery of any kind, will accommodate about 400 persons, adjoins a large, respectable, and thriving hostelry, called the Star and Garter, which is situated in the Neckinger Road, Bermondsey, at no great distance from the Spa Road station. There is a large stage, with a pretty back scene, and the place is suitably decorated and well lighted……… On Wednesday evening last the place was quite full and the audience was of the most orderly kind. Mr Chris Slater, the Manager and Chairman, opened the proceedings by singing “There are many worse off than you,” a “Song on the Times” and “I’m not so fat as I used to be”
Other acts included Miss Nelly Wood singing “The pig that won’t get over the stile” and Mr Orville Parker and his banjo singing “I’m off to Baltimore”. [Aren’t you glad we have Netflix today!]
By 1883, the stage had been enlarged but there were only 2 dressing rooms, one each for the male and female performers. The Star showed early silent films from about 1908 and by 1930, it was showing ‘talkies’. The Star finally closed during WW2 and, along with the pub, was demolished in 1963.
Its a sad sign of the times that of the 7 pubs in this blog only 2 still exist (as residential properties).
Having read Janet’s and Helen’s interesting posts, I thought I’d have a go too. To my surprise, I’ve done a lot between censuses that’s not recorded. Makes me think how much I don’t know about my family’s lives when I’m looking at documents. The other thing I’ve noticed is that I am the family photographer, so there are very few photos of me. I need to change that!
1st April 1971
Any eagle-eyed readers might spot the date of the first census I appear in. Although my father was English, we were living in New York. I’m the oldest of 6; my second to youngest sibling was only 2 months old in 1971. We lived in an apartment and I went to the local school, P.S. 122.
5 April 1981
It’s incredible how much happened between 1971 & 1981. My youngest sibling was born in 1972. The family moved from New York to South London. I went to Alphea Middle School from 1972 to 1976 and the Ursuline Convent in Wimbledon from 1976 to 1981. I met my future husband at a party at the start of sixth form. This photo was taken on our first holiday together. We got married in the summer of 1982. I went to work after my A levels, partly because I was with Adrian and partly because my A level grades weren’t good enough for me to go to university. I had no real career plans, working in a variety of office jobs to pay the bills.
21 April 1991
After our marriage, we got on the property ladder, buying a 1 bedroom maisonette in the mid 1980s. We moved to a 3 bedroom house a year before our 1st child was born in 1989. Adrian’s job relocated to Northampton, so we swapped our 1930s terraced house for a thatched Lutyens cottage in Ashby St. Ledgers, an idyllic place to bring up a young family. We went on holiday to New York & Florida this year and managed to visit my Granddad in June. I gave up work when we moved to Northamptonshire.
29 April 2001
We had our 2nd child in 1992. I may have got a little bored of country life because by 1994 I started a BSc in Biomedical Science at De Montfort University. I really enjoyed the course but I didn’t make it easy for myself. I managed to get pregnant in the second year just as Adrian’s job moved temporarily back to London. At one point, I was a full time, heavily pregnant student living on my own with 2 small children & a dodgy car that never started (during the week). Interesting times. While the rest of my cohort worked in industry, I took a year out to look after the baby & my other children. Adrian found a job nearer home and I finally graduated in 1998 with 1st class honours. I didn’t know what to do with my degree but thought teaching would be sensible because at least I’d get school holidays off so in 1999 I completed my post grad. certificate of education and started teaching science at an independent school in Northampton. 1999 was also the year we moved to our current house in Welton, having outgrown the pretty but tiny thatched cottage.
27 March 2011
The 2000s was definitely the decade of travel. Adrian and I both had good jobs and could afford to take the children abroad. We even managed to take them around the world in 2005. I switched subjects, teaching ICT & Business Studies in schools around Coventry and Rugby. Looking at the 2011 census return, I can see that my eldest was at university & my middle child was taking a gap year before starting university in the September, the beginning of our empty nesting.
21 March 2021
I became Head of IT at an independent school in Banbury in 2013 and retired from teaching 2018. Retirement & an empty nest (my youngest child having left home in 2016) allowed me to pursue my passion for family history. I completed my post grad. diploma in Genealogical, Palaeographic and Heraldic Studies last year. I had intended to do the MSc but the pandemic has put a (temporary) stop to that. My first grandchild was born the week before 1st lockdown. As we are in a bubble with his mum & dad, I was able to be there for his 1st birthday this month.
This is the second part of my #OnePlaceWomen post about my great grandmother, Eliza White. Part 1 ended with the death of Eliza’s first husband and three of her five children being sent to Brighton Road School in Sutton in March 1885.
I don’t know how or when Eliza White met my great grandfather, William Clark. I haven’t found a marriage record for them yet. I do know that William married his first wife, Alice Amelia Hutt on 24th July 1877 in St. Paul’s Bermondsey. They had 4 children: Frances Elizabeth (b. 1875), Frank William (b. 1877, d. 1878), John Harry (b. 1879) and Alice Amelia (b.1881). William’s wife died of bronchitis 4 days after the birth of baby Alice, leaving William to look after 4 young children on his own.
Its not hard to imagine that the families might have known of each other. William and Eliza were both living in Long Lane when their respective spouses died. Its the Laxon Street School register that gives the best clue. Frances Elizabeth Clark joined the school in March 1883. Louisa Eliza Yates joined in April 1884. The girls were the same age, so probably would have been in the same class. Louisa left the school in March 1885. Frances left soon afterwards in August 1885. This means I can fairly accurately pin down the timeframe to between March 1885 and January 1886 because by September 1886, Eliza gave birth to their first son, Sydney Walter Yates Clark.
Sydney was baptised at St. Alphege church in January 1887. Two weeks later, his half brother Henry Yates was baptised in the same church, confirming that Henry at least had been living with his mother. By the September of that year, Eliza’s older children, James Anderson, Clara and Alice left Brighton Road School and returned to live with their mother and new step father in Martin Street.
By 1891, William, Eliza and 7 children were living in 2 rooms at 27 Gun Street, Bermondsey. At this point, at least 9 children were still living. Louisa Yates had probably left home; she married John Stanley on Christmas Day 1895. Sydney sadly died of broncho-pneumonia in 1888. I haven’t been able to trace William’s eldest daughter, Frances Elizabeth. Another daughter, Elizabeth Emily (b. July 1889 in Gun Street) is missing from this census record.
My grandmother, Sarah Grace, was born on 25 September 1892, followed by her brothers, William (b. 1894) and George (b. 1896). The family moved to 8 Turner’s Retreat in about 1899. This is the first time my family moved to one of the streets in my One Place Study.
By 1901, the family were still at Number 8. Most of the children from the couples’ first marriages had left home.
They moved from Turner’s Retreat in 1902. The couple had one more son, Alfred, born 26 May 1903. His death certificate, 2 months later, gives an indication of how poor the family actually were.
This certificate is, for me, the most distressing part of Eliza’s story. Marasmus is a severe form of malnutrition. The main cause of this disease is maternal malnutrition or anaemia. I don’t usually get upset when I find something bad has happened to an ancestor but this really got to me, possibly because this feels very recent. It certainly shows that, although not having to resort to the work house for support, the family were living in poverty.
William & Eliza were back in Turner’s Retreat, this time at number 7, from 1910 to its demolition in 1913. The 1911 census below shows the children, having reached adulthood, still living at home and now contributing to the family’s income.
William Clark Jnr. joined the regular Army (King’s Royal Rifle Corp.) in May 1913. By this time, the family had moved across the road to 15 Woodlands Place. They shared the house with their daughter, Elizabeth Emily & her husband James Walsh. James was serving as a driver with the Army Service Corp. Eliza’s oldest child, James Anderson Yates, was living next door at number 14 with his wife and 5 year old daughter.
Just as things seem to be finally coming together for Eliza & her family, World War 1 started.
William Jnr. and James Walsh were almost immediately sent to France. George Clark joined up in May 1915. All three men served for the duration of the war in France and, thankfully, survived. William was wounded in February 1917 and gassed in 1918. He was sent back to England after this, to train as an army instructor. William, George and James returned to Woodlands Place when they were discharged in early 1919.
It only occurred to me as I was writing this post that my grandparent’s wedding in June 1919 was probably the first opportunity the family had to be together since the start of the war. It must have been a very happy occasion. Elizabeth Barrett, one of the witnesses, was a friend of the family. She married George Clark in 1922.
Eliza’s happiness, like so many times in her life, didn’t last. William passed away on Christmas Day 1923 after a long spell of bronchitis. He was buried on New Year’s Day in Nunhead Cemetery.
Eliza lived with her daughter at 15 Woodlands Place for another 11 years.
She was buried on the 10th December in Manor Park Cemetery. Too poor for an individual plot, she lies somewhere in the central stand of trees: Square B, plot 332.
This post has been quite a journey for me. I knew a lot of the facts but it was only by putting everything together that I can fully appreciate what a remarkable woman my great grandmother was. Eliza and William had 16 children between them. Despite everything, she managed to keep the family together. The fact that she lived with her daughter, next door to her oldest son tells me that family was probably very important to her. To have survived to old age with most of her children reaching adulthood in the face of such poverty was an incredible achievement. What an extraordinary ordinary woman! I am proud to be her great grand-daughter.
Children of Eliza White & James Anderson Yates 1. James Anderson Yates (1874 – 1951) 2. Louisa Eliza Yates (1876 – 1960) 3. Alice Maude Yates (1878 – abt. 1904) 4. Clara Frances Yates (1881 – 1971) 5. Henry Edward Yates (1883 – ?)
Children of William Clark & Alice Amelia Hutt 1. Frances Elizabeth Clark (1875 – ?) 2. Frank William Clark (1877 – 1878) 3. John Harry Clark (1879 – ?) 4. Alice Amelia Clark (1881 – aft. 1908)
Children of Eliza White & William Clark 1. Sydney Walter Yates Clark (1886-1888) 2. Elizabeth Emily Clark (1889-1944) 3. Ada Florence Clark (1891 – 1891) 4. Sarah Grace Clark (1892 – 1952) 5. William Clark (1894 – aft. 1939) 6. George Clark (1896 – aft. 1939) 7. Alfred Clark (1903 – 1903)
Eliza White was my great grandmother. At various points of her life, she lived in both Turner’s Retreat and Woodlands Place. What better person to write about for this month’s #OnePlaceWomen post! One big problem about researching an ‘ordinary’ woman is that there are very few records relating to her specifically. Eliza probably had a basic education. She could certainly sign her own name. If she was employed outside the home, it wasn’t recorded on official documents. I can only get an idea of her life by looking at what happened to her whole family. I have found so much information that I’m going to have to split this post into 2 parts; her life before and after she met my great grandfather.
Eliza was born on 29th December 1855 at 22 Fitzroy Terrace, Kentish Town, London. Her parents were Edward White and Esther nee Dalton. Edward was a horse keeper.
The White family were living in Kentish Town in 1861. By 1871, Eliza was working as a nurse/domestic servant in Marylebone with her older sister, Esther.
The rest of the White family were living at 18 Pancras Street, off Tottenham Court Road, London. Number 18 was on the south side of Pancras Street, next door but one to Shropshire Place.
Eliza had her first child, James Anderson Yates in May 1874. Although Eliza wasn’t married, James’ father was named: also called James Anderson Yates. James’ occupation was a currier, a specialist leather worker who processed animal skins, turning them into leather.
James Anderson Yates senior was literally the boy next door. His family also lived at 18 Pancras Street in 1871. Its not a stretch to imagine that Eliza and James met when Eliza visited her family on her rare days off. The couple married in November 1875. They lived very close to their families. 82 Whitfield Street was near the school, centre left on the map.
The couple had 3 daughters in quick succession. Louisa Eliza (b.1876), Alice Maude (b. 1878) and Clara Frances (b. 1881) were baptised together on 13 July 1881 at St Andrews, Marylebone.
The baptism register has the family living at 1 Upper Rathbone Place, Pancras. Booth’s poverty map for the area gives a possible inkling that the family were in trouble. Upper Rathbone Place is the dark blue area at the bottom of the map. That colour indicates a very poor area where regular work was hard to come by.
I haven’t been able to trace James & Eliza in the 1881 census but I get the feeling they moved around a lot from school admission registers. In October 1882, James Jnr. attended Rosebery Avenue School, having left Whitfield Street School in St Pancras. The family were living in 12 Back Hill, Clerkenwell. Charles Booth described Back Hill as ‘thieves, very rough’, definitely not a good place to bring up a young family. While at this address, James & Eliza had another son, Henry Edward, born 23 November 1883. James Jnr. left Rosebery Avenue School a month later.
The family next appears in Laxon Street School admission registers. Laxon Street was in Bermondsey. Perhaps the family moved to the area so that James Snr. could find work in the local leather industry. The address given in this record was 7 Henry Terrace.
If this was a movie, the family would thrive and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, life is a lot more complicated.
This one document gives a possible explanation to the downward spiral of the family’s circumstances. James Snr. was probably ill for a long time and unable to work. His death must have been horrific. According to PubMed, pulmonary gangrene is a rare complication of severe lung infection. If untreated, it leads to sepsis, multiple organ failure and death. Today, the only treatment is to cut out the gangrenous tissue; impossible in 1884.
James died 1 day before Eliza’s 29th birthday. She was a widow with 5 children, living in an unfamiliar area of London. How could she support herself and her family?
The school registers again give clues to what happened next. James Jnr. left Laxon Street School in March 1885. He was admitted to Brighton Road School on 10 March 1885 with 2 sisters, Alice and Clara. Brighton Road School was a residential school in Sutton, Surrey; part of the South Metropolitan District School for the poor of Southwark. Peter Higginbotham has written about the school here. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Eliza to send her children away. Clara was only a toddler. She must have been desperate.
I haven’t been able to find Louisa, who would have been 9, or the baby Henry in any workhouse records. I do know that they were still alive at this point. Louisa was also taken out of Laxon Street School in March. Perhaps, as Louisa was the oldest girl, she was kept at home to look after Henry so Eliza could work. I will never know for sure.
In my next post, I’ll continue Eliza’s story about her life in Bermondsey with my great grandfather, William Clark. Spoiler: her life doesn’t get any worse than this (thankfully!).
This is last post in a series where I use Phil Isherwood’s research plan method to find the birth of my great grandfather, James Saunders. The other posts in the series can be found here.
So far, I’ve managed to find my great grandfather in the 1911 census and I found the baptisms of Lydia Saunders’ son and daughter, James and Elizabeth Harriett. I haven’t found a definitive birth or baptism record for my James using historic records. This isn’t really surprising as my brother’s YDNA indicates that there was a NPE (nonpaternal event) at some point. There are no Saunders in his shared matches and the nearest match has a genetic distance of 2 with the name Anderson. I’ve created a tree for this match but I haven’t been able to find a possible ancestral candidate (yet!).
My brother and I have both done DNA tests on Ancestry. There are a group of shared matches that, up to now, I haven’t been able to place. I know they are on my paternal side because their ethnicity is English (my maternal line is Portuguese). They aren’t matches with anyone whose tree I have been able to verify. Are these related to James?
Irritatingly, the closest match has no tree and hasn’t been on Ancestry for over a year, so I haven’t been able to trace this match’s family. The last match has a well sourced tree which allowed me to construct a solid tree connecting the other 4 matches together.
What’s got my attention is their common ancestor, James Walker. James was born about 1821 is St. Pancras, Middlesex. He married Mary Ann Moulden on 9 May 1859 in St Pancras Church. The couple had 6 children altogether. James died before the 1881 census, possibly between October and December 1880.
Why do I think this is my great grandfather’s family?
The baptism records for Lydia’s children give James Walker as the father.
2. The James Walker in my shared matches tree was born in 1821. He would have been 22 when Elizabeth Harriett was born.
3. In the 1851 census, Lydia is recorded as married but her husband left her. Lydia’s 1st husband died in 1850, so it can’t be him. Did James Walker & Lydia ever marry? Was James a bigamist when he married Mary Ann in 1859? The one thing I know for sure was that James Walker was named as the father in the baptism records and disappeared by the census.
3. James Walker’s occupation was a bricklayer in the 1861 & 1871 census returns. GGF James Saunders gave his father’s occupation as a bricklayer in both marriage records.
4. DNA doesn’t lie! Using DNA painter, my shared matches are:
0 – 190 Ave. 66
0 – 168 Ave. 48
0 – 139 Ave. 37
0 – 168 Ave. 48
Lydia Saunders, the widow of John Saunders, had 2 children after John’s death in 1840, James and Elizabeth Harriett. Their father, James Walker, left the family and is possibly the same person who married Mary Ann Moulden in 1859. I haven’t been able to find a marriage record for James Walker and Lydia. Whether there was a marriage or not, Lydia used her deceased husband’s surname continuously from the 1851 census until her death on the 8th July 1888. Her children, James and Elizabeth, used that surname in 1851 and 1861.
This is how I think the 2 families are connected:
Like all genealogy, I now have more questions that need answering: – Did Lydia Saunders & James Walker marry? – Where was James Walker in 1841 & 1851? – I need to do more work on my shared matches, particularly 3 & 4. I’m not sure I’ve got this right. – How does shared match 1 fit into this?
What I do have though is a working hypothesis for taking my family back another generation.
By using this method I found that I was able to think critically about my search strategy. Instead of random record surfing, following unsubstantiated hunches and chasing shiny objects, I methodically searched a record until I was sure it was or wasn’t useful. Constantly returning to my original objectives made me consider search options in a more effective way. Has it given me a definitive answer to my question? No, but nothing is ever black and white in genealogy. What it has done is give me a working hypothesis to take my family research forward. I’ll settle for that!
If you have an impossible brick wall, I highly recommend you give Phil Isherwood’s research plan a try. It certainly worked for me!
By searching local parish records, I have confirmed that:
Lydia Beales married John Saunders on 2 October 1827 at St. Luke’s, Chelsea. They had six children: – John (bpt. 9 August 1829) – Lydia (bpt. 13 May 1832) – Frederick (bpt. 21 July 1833) – Mary (bpt. 16 August 1835) – Sarah Ann (bpt. 12 February 1839) – William Francis (bpt. 14 April 1839) The children were all baptised in Paddington St. James. At the time the parish covered Kensington. John died on 21 February 1840.
In June 1841, Lydia was living with 5 children in Wellington Cottages. Her father-in-law, John Saunders, was living in the same road.
In 1851, Lydia had 2 more children: James and Elizabeth.
It’s at this point that my previous research attempts collapsed. I’ve had no luck searching for various combinations of James Saunders and Elizabeth Saunders. It turns out, I was making the rookie mistake of searching for specific names. This time, I just used first names: father James & mother Lydia and I hit the jackpot!
I’m sure this Elizabeth & James are the children of Lydia Saunders: – The birth dates of both children tie up with the 1851 & 1861 census returns, – Lydia had a daughter called Elizabeth in 1851 & one called Harriett in 1861 with the same birth date. I wasn’t sure if they were 2 different people or not, – Kensal New Town is the same area as Lydia’s 1851 census record, – Lydia’s older children were all baptised in Paddington, St. James.
But is this my James? In my next post, the last in this series, I’m going to show how this James is probably my great grandfather.
This post is a continuation of the series where I try to find a birth record for my great grandfather, James Saunders. My research plan can be found here. Here is a review of my search so far.
1901 census In 1891, James was living with his 2nd wife and children in 17 Acklam Road, His son’s service record (1890 – 1902) gave James as the next of kin and 3 possible addresses: 17 Acklam Road, 99 Tavistock Crescent & 2 Lonsdale Road. James wasn’t at any of these addresses in 1901. I’ve found his sons in the 1901 census. James wasn’t living with any of them. I found 2 possibilities for his daughter, Harriet. Both records were for a Harriet Saunders working as a domestic servant. I also did searches using various combinations and wild cards for James Saunders either living on his own or with his 2nd wife. Outcome: can’t find James Saunders(yet)
1911 census I’ve found a possible record. James Saunders, a widower age 63, was an inmate at Marloes Road Workhouse, Kensington. He was born in Kensington. I searched for a death record for his wife: Elizabeth Saunders died 22 May 1895 at 99 Tavistock Crescent age 53. Outcome: this is probably my James. Was James in the workhouse in 1901?
FreeBMD & GRO index Searching for James Saunders between 1844 – 1850 came up with 1 possibility: James Saunders born Kensington 1st quarter 1850. I traced this James through census records and was able to discount him. Outcome: Can’t find James yet
Willesden/ Kensal Green/ Middlesex baptisms I couldn’t find any record that made sense. Outcome: Can’t find James yet
1851 & 1861 censuses I couldn’t find any record that made sense. Outcome: Can’t find James yet
Where next? I’m going to park this for now & focus on the possible family discussed in part 2 of this series. Is Lydia Saunders my 2 x great grandmother? Is her son James in the 1851 census my great grandfather? Going back to Phil Isherwood’s original post, I have an obvious gap in my timeline – the birth or baptism of James Saunders and his sister/s Elizabeth/Harriet. I’m going to focus on parishes in Paddington as that was where Lydia’s other children were baptised.
This #OnePlaceTragedy is of its time but, for me, it doesn’t feel out of place alongside the free school meals and food bank news stories of the last few months.
James Cornelius and Louisa Dickman started their married life on the 26th March 1892 in the grand setting of Bermondsey’s biggest parish church, St Mary Magdalen. James was living near the docks where he worked as a lighterman. Louisa gave her address as Riley Street: James’ widowed sister in law, Jane, lived at number 18 with her 3 children. Did Louisa help her out?
It wasn’t long before James and Louisa had a family of their own. By 1901, the family were living in number 7, Turner’s Retreat. In the short time since their marriage, the couple had already faced tragedy. Of their 4 sons and one daughter, only Jane Elizabeth (b. 1896), and Edward (b. 1900) were living with them. James (b. 1893) and John (b. 1898) both died in infancy. Philip (b. 1894) was a patient in Gore Farm Convalescent and Fever Hospital near Dartford, Kent. The hospital looked after patients with smallpox and other infectious diseases. Fortunately, Philip survived his spell in hospital and was back with the family by 1911.
By the summer of 1902, James and Louisa had a new addition to the family, a son who they called Thomas, but it wasn’t long before disaster struck again.
Thomas’ death and inquest were reported in several local papers, The Nottingham Evening Post gave a verbatim report of Louisa’s evidence.
Reading this, I can’t help feeling sorry for Louisa and angry at the coroner for his condescending attitude. A family who could only afford the cheapest food available would have no idea what hors d’oeuvres were, let alone have them with a meal!
The family continued to live in number 7 until about 1905. James and Louisa went on to have another son, Joseph b. 1907, and a daughter, Louisa Sarah b. 1910. Thankfully, their surviving children all lived to adulthood and had families of their own. James died in 1928, age 70, and Louisa died a few years later, in 1935, age 66.
When even your One Place Study street has disappeared, its difficult to pinpoint local landmarks. Only one of my two street studies still existed when this map was published. Turner’s Retreat, demolished by 1920, was situated behind The Horns pub. Woodlands Place was renamed Bacon Grove in the mid 1930s.
Looking at this 1940s OS map, there were many more landmarks than the Alaska Factory. I have written about it in a previous post. This post will look at one of the most important buildings for local residents, Bermondsey Central Baths.
When you think about public baths today, you might think of swimming pools, maybe a child’s paddling pool, a sauna, a gym, wave pool; a centre for leisure. Back in the 1930s, they played an important community health role.
Bermondsey Borough Council were pioneers of public health. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Public Health department made great efforts to improve the health of residents in the area. Living conditions were appalling for the majority of people. Housing was poor quality. Most, didn’t have access to water and weren’t connected to mains drainage. Houses were multi occupancy with the kitchen often being a space for a family to live in. There were no bathrooms. In some flats, up to 30 people shared a single outdoor toilet. Keeping clean and washing clothes would have been impossible without the existence of these baths.
Bermondsey Central Bath was opened in 1927, replacing the previous baths in Spa Road. It cost £150,000 to build, over £6 million in today’s money. There were first and second class swimming pools, slipper, Turkish and Russian baths and even tiny baths for babies. There was also a wash house for clothes. It’s not hard to imagine the residents of Woodlands Place being regular visitors.
Not everyone was happy about the new baths. An article in the Daily Mirror on the 26th September 1927 made it clear that the baths were seen as a waste of money.
There is a fantastic description of the baths in the article:
“The marble halls and the first class and second class swimming pools, with their stained glass windows, would have satisfied even the most luxury-loving Roman patrician. Below the level of the swimming baths are situated one of the most splendid Turkish baths in England. For 3s. 6d. one may revel in palatial hot rooms where a temperature of from 140 to 220 degrees is maintained. Ratepayers wonder how many Bermondsey residents will have the time or money to sample the delights of Turkish bathing after paying their 22s. 6d. in the £ rates. The Russian baths are likely to be much more popular, and it is anticipated that many bathers will pay the shilling fee for the pleasure of sampling the steam rooms. One of the most novel features of the Bermondsey bath palace is the Baby Department. Here baths are set aside for Bermondsey babies…….. In addition to the babies’ baths there are 126 private baths and an imposing recreation room. In constructing the building 2,500 tons of concrete, 350 tons of steel, over a million bricks and 1,500square yards of artificial marble were used.”
Whether the baths were good value or not is not for me to say. Evidence from local and national newspapers suggests that the baths were used for a variety of sporting and social events.
Local residents and schools were able to use the facilities until the baths finally closed in 1973. The building was demolished 2 years later. The image below shows the site as it is today.