Sunday, February 5, 2012

Letter to my grandchildren February 2012

Dear Hannah, Ben, Rory, Jimmy, Maia and Ollie,
This second family history letter is about Louisa Emma Barrett.

We know that my grandmother Louie was born on 6th June 1888, at 20 Stadium St., Chelsea, London, England – so she was a Londoner (but not ‘a Cockney’). Her parents were John Henry Barrett (a builder’s labourer, born in Hackney London in1856, and aged 80 when he died in 1936) and Hannah Schofield Howie (born on the Isle of Dogs in London in 1855, and 69 when she died in 1924). You might want to look up ‘Isle of Dogs’, Hackney and Chelsea using Google Maps. Louisa had two older brothers - John Thomas (born in 1880) and John Henry George (born in 1887, and therefore only a year older than Louisa). She had three younger siblings – Emma Beatrice (born 1890) with whom she was christened at St. Johns, Chelsea. Families often had two children christened at the same time to save having to pay the vicar more than once! However, there may have been some medical problem for Emma B, which prompted the christening so soon after her birth - because sadly she died in October, aged 5 months. I guess medicine was not as advanced in those days. The twins - Frank and (would you believe this ?) Hannah Rose  – were born in 1892. Then finally, little brother Harry R was born in 1902. Isn’t it strange that they had a Hannah Rose Barrett, and we have a Hannah Rose Martin born 102 years later?

The person behind Louie in this photo seems too elderly to be her mother, and may be one of her grandmothers Mary Howie (nee Wormald) or Louisa Barrett (nee Wallen).
The family moved around London a bit – from 20, Stadium St., Chelsea, (where Louisa was born) to 65a Mardale Road, Chelsea, London (1891 census) to 24, Grove Ave., Fulham (1901 census), and that may have been related to John Henry trying to find work to support his family.

We think this next photo is most likely of John Henry and his wife Hannah (b. 1855, nee Howie). There seems to be a bit of distance between them, so we are not sure whether they liked each other... Certainly John Henry looks solemn. Perhaps they were not used to having photos taken.

We know nothing at this point about Louisa’s schooling or later training, and I have been unable to track her on the 1911 census, which might tell us what sort of work she did. She may have worked as a cook, and learned the trade of dressmaker. Certainly later after Harold’s death in 1921, we believe she would have had a pension from his military service, but I was always told that she (and Eve and Harold, her children) survived by her continuing as a dressmaker.

The people in this 1928 photo on the left are Eve (about 9, sitting holding Barbara, aged 3) then Granddad John Henry Barrett (aged 72), then Louie holding Dorothy (newly christened), May May (yes, that is right!) (aged 31, mother to Barbara and Dorothy), Harold (aged 7), and Granddad Joseph Henry May (aged 67).

Eve (aged 18 in this photo) completed school and then went on to Clark’s College to study to be a secretary, and Harold (aged 16 here) completed schooling at 
Hampton Grammar and later became a draftsman. So that is a credit to Louie for ensuring they did not have to be sent out to work prematurely.

Louie must have rented 28, Cromwell Road, Feltham, part of a row of small ‘two up-two down’ houses. I actually remember visiting the house, but it must have been after Louie died (aged 57 from cancer) given I was only 18 months when that happened. Strangely, I have a vague memory of attending Louie’s funeral – mostly gravel paths, kicked stones, and pervasive sense of others’ sadness. I don’t remember a family gathering, and after that Mum (Eve) and I were on our own living in a flat in Westgate, Kent.

There were two elderly ladies living in Cromwell Road when I was about 5, and I think they must have been distant family, but have no idea who. I should know, because (by a quirk of fate) they later moved to Birchington in Kent in the 1970s and became my patients when I was a local doctor!
Another quirky thing is that there is a Gollop (Grandad May’s surname before he changed it) living just up the road from Louie, Eve and Harold, but I need much more detail of that, and we may never know whether they were family supports.

I think Harold senior’s brother Ernest and his wife May were a great support to Louie, and later to both Harold and Eve and their families. Uncle Ernie was a stand-in grandfather to Brian, Andrea and I. Louie’s father John Henry (known as Granddad Barrett) and father-in law Joseph May were also supports, judging by the photographs.

In the photo above (Ted and Eve’s wedding, 14th September 1940 at St. Catherine’s Church, Feltham (in a WWII air raid), you can see Louie standing proudly on the left, a friend of Eve’s, then Barbara, then Ted and Eve, Dorothy, Ernie, Harold, and May. Of course, Dorothy (who would have been not much more than 12 in this photo) is still alive today, aged nearly 83.

Hope you enjoyed this update,
I will write again in a month
Grandpa Graham