Eliza White (part 2)

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.

This must have felt like a new start for the couple. I like the fact that Sydney was given Yates as a middle name, acknowledging Eliza’s first husband.

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.

1891 census. St. Saviour, Southwark. RG12; Piece: 347; Folio: 58; Page: 50.

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.

1901 census. St. Olave, Southwark. RG13; Piece: 390; Folio: 61; Page: 24.

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.

Site of Eliza White’s grave, Manor Park Cemetery. Photo taken by C. Jolliffe 2013

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)

– Marasmus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marasmus
– The Long Long Trail. https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/
– King’s Royal Rifle Corps. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_Royal_Rifle_Corps#Regular_Army
-Featured image, Osborne Buildings 1930. https://heritage.southwark.gov.uk/ [The Clark family lived in 2 Osborne Buildings from 1894 – 1897]

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