In 1871 William, now 20, was described as a "clerk in his father's office". He was obviously beginning to become involved in the family business.
In 1874 he was residing somewhere in Hastings when he married Marion Eliza Johnson at St Mathews Church in Redhill.
Marion gave birth to a baby girl on 27th September 1878 but sadly she died of "cardiac weakness and epileptic convulsions" on the same day, and even more sadly I think, she wasn't named. Marion soon became pregnant again and Alick (week 2) was born fifteen months later in December 1879. After almost exactly another fifteen months in March 1881 they had a daughter, Marion, although like their first born, she died four days later with an impervious intestine. As if by clockwork, fifteen months later in July 1882 another son, Hugh (week 50), was born. Rather bucking the trend their ultimate child, my grandmother, Marjorie (week 45) was born in April 1884.
During this time, William was variously described as a “merchant” and a “cotton merchant”.
They lived in the picturesque 'manor house' called The Mount in beautifully named Sparepenny Lane, Farningham, Kent between about 1874 and 1884.
Sparepenny Lane got its name in the 18th century when you could spare a penny by using the lane instead of the toll road at the other end of the village. The Mount is one of three large manor houses in the village and is an elegant, grade 2 listed, Regency house built in 1820 with "splendid views across the river valley".
It was marketed for sale in 2010 and consisted of 2.82 acres with 6 bedrooms (2 in the attic), 3 reception rooms, a kitchen / breakfast room, a laundry room, 2 bathrooms, a substantial cellar and attractive gardens. It also had outbuildings which comprise a former coach house which had been converted into 4 store rooms and a stable. It sold for £1,150,000.
"Apart from the labour of bearing children my grandmother had never done a stroke of real work in her life, and how she and the thousands like her survived the excruciating boredom of their days is hard to comprehend. For she was by no means a cabbage intellectually, but she belonged to that unhappy class not rich or grand enough to have a gay social life yet brought up to ring the bell for a servant rather than to put a lump of coal on the fire herself. It is almost incredible, but she was more than seventy years old before she first struck a match for herself, in order to light the gas fire in a hotel bedroom after ringing in vain for the chambermaid.
Her household duties, in the days when she had any, had consisted merely in a daily interview with cook to arrange the meals and approve the shopping list, checking the tradesmens' account books weekly, very occasionally doing a little light domestic shopping in person (with the butcher or greengrocer bringing a tray of wares to the carriage or cab window for her to select) and running a finger over ledges and other dust traps in order to detect some dereliction of duty by a luckless maidservant.
Of her marriage I know only that shortly after my mother’s (Marjorie) birth in 1884, her husband left her and went to South Africa. There appears to have been no violent disruption about this, and on his rare visits to England my grandfather always spent part of his time with his wife and children. It is likely that sheer boredom had driven him away and sheer inertia made her unwilling to join him."
I have tried but failed to determine exactly when 34 year old William walked out of the family home. Contrary to what Tony wrote, I suspect he left prior to Marjorie’s birth in 1884. The evidence for this is that
- Marjorie was born at St Georges Terrace, Kensington which suggests Marion was no longer living in Sparepenny Lane and, more crucially,
- Marion was the informant on the birth certificate - on all the other births William had been the informant.
I will blog more about Marion next week.