About 18 months ago, during the course of some family history research, I made contact with a distant relative of my wife. The gentleman in question had a lot of information he was happy to share, the best of which, was a journal written by my wife’s great aunt. The existence of this document was a complete surprise. Entitled ‘Memoirs of my family and my parents, George and Louisa’, the hand-written journal offers a wonderful personal account of family life spanning more than 100 years from around 1863 onwards. After consultation with the relative who kindly supplied this little treasure, I’ve decided to post some short extracts over the coming weeks.
‘My mother, Louisa, was born at Milford-On-Sea on June 1st, 1863. She died in Winchester County Hospital on 20th June, 1961, aged 98 years.
Her parents, William and Ellen, were married at Lymington Baptist Church in 1863. Ellen was William’s second wife. He already had a family of six daughters. Two were at home when Ellen arrived; she soon made it plain that they would have to find work, which they did.
My grandfather was a bricklayer, and found work among the wealthy people of the district. Times were hard, and often the weather prevented him from working. My mother spoke of him as a very independent man and politically, a Liberal. Consequently, he did not receive any help or gifts of food which were given by the richer people.
William had four daughters and one son with Ellen. My mother was the eldest. She attended the village school, to which my parents paid one penny a week.
It was a small building, and the children did the cleaning of the school before classes started. The girls were taught needlework and helped to make clothes for the children of both the schoolmaster and the vicar.
My mother only attended school until she was 10 years old. Her first job was at the local butcher’s, where she had to do the cleaning. The butcher’s wife was very strict, and because mother didn’t clean a steel fender properly, she was sent home.
Her second situation was at Westover House, where she became cook, at 12 years old, for Colonel and Mrs Steadman. She stayed there until she married my father, George.
She often spoke of how she coped with her job. Colonel Steadman ruled the servants as though they were soldiers. If the meals weren’t ready on time, mother was called to order. The joints of meat had to be roasted on a spit, in front of the fire, which was a slow business. The kitchen store cupboards were kept locked, and each day Mrs Steadman would come to tell mother what the menu was, before giving her the exact amounts of ingredients to cook with. If mother had a disaster in her cooking, she could not hide it.
She had very little time off, and if the Steadman’s daughter wanted to visit friends, either mother or the housemaid had to escort her there and back.’
© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges