The best way to navigate this blog is probably by using the posts, archives, or categories menus which you can find on the sidebar on the introduction, all posts, contact, or photos pages.
This blog covers a period from about 1800 – about 1930. Where it helps to understand things better the timescale will expand either backwards or forwards, but what it is mostly, is an attempt at understanding who people were, what they did, what sort of lives they had, and what was going on at the same time.
I decided quite early on what I wanted to do was go horizontally rather than vertically through the families. i.e. what various brothers and sisters did, what sort of families they married into, and also what was going on around them, and the places they lived in. Digging in, there is a nice mixture of people, places, classes, and quite a surprising number of the religious. Pretty much every post covers a member of the family, or something they did or took part in.
It is also slightly weird quite how many times the same places come up, and not just in one family, but lots of them. I still find it very weird that my great grandmother, and my grandfather were living in the Uxbridge Road one hundred and twenty five years ago, about a mile away from where I live now, and no further than two and a half miles from where I have ever lived in London, including where I was born. More to the point, she had brought the family over from Australia in the late 1880’s to live in Shepherd’s Bush, so all the children could go to school in England. She took the aunts back to Australia, but the boys stayed here.
As a Londoner, I would be ashamed if London wasn’t, inevitably, a major theme running through the whole story, but it is astonishing how far back the links go on both sides of the family. It’s at least two hundred years on either side, and probably before1776. It’s also strange how small an area people lived in; there are quite strong groupings in the East End, Bermondsey, the City itself, and then later in Notting Hill – though when I was young we called it North Kensington, and Hampstead.
Just an aside, apparently 46 per cent of Londoners surveyed in a YouGov poll said “Londoner” was their primary identity. A quarter felt themselves most to be European. Only 17 per cent said British, and just 12 per cent felt English most of all.
Ireland is another big link for almost all the families; it is extraordinary to see how quickly, in some cases, people turn themselves from middle class Irishmen to upper-middle class Victorian Londoners. It’s fascinating to consider who these people thought they were – did they think they were Irish, British, part of the empire?? Certainly most seem to have moved from Ireland by 1920, and they weren’t all driven from Ireland by poverty. They weren’t Ascendency either, but they were prosperous, in some cases rather more than that, part of the Irish merchant class. But rather closer to the merchant princes of Ireland than a village shop-keeper.
There is also a nice strand of poverty running through the tale, in some cases, both rich and poor in the same families. It helps add grit to the tale, and even then the coincidences of geography are odd. There’s a range of jobs in London going from labourers to coal and sand sellers to scavengers (not the most obvious of career paths to take). The Irish story is even better with different [later connected] branches of the family living within thirty miles of each other in county Roscommon in very different circumstances. One side as a significant landlord [ 3,000 acres plus] the others as slightly better than peasant farmers, but still with nine members of one family living in three rooms in 1901.
The other tale that comes out very strongly is the number of priests, nuns, and vicars that crop up, not many bishops, a Papal chaplain, a few deans, and only one saint to date, all tempered with an awful lot of wine merchants, and the [almost] peasants.