Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Christmas in Sussex

The appropriately named Richard Christmas was baptised on Christmas Day 1838 in Chiddingly.

Christmas is one of the rarer surnames (it is ranked 26,344th in the world) but it is not so unusual in Sussex.  It may have its origins with a 12th century Cristemass family although it is often thought to be a surname given to those involved in organising Christmas celebrations or to someone born at Christmastime.

Richard Christmas’s family were sometimes recorded as Christmas but more frequently their surname was spelled Chrismas.

Richard's father was Treyton Chrismas who was born around 1810, possibly the son of James and Sarah Chrismas of Wartling.  Treyton married Mary Ann Sargeant on the 22nd September 1833 in Ticehurst (this made his wife Mary Christmas and the marriage was witnessed by Henry Cole aka Old King!).  

Treyton and Mary had a large family beginning with Frances baptised in Ninfield in 1834 and followed by Orpah (1835), Benjamin (1837) and Richard; all baptised in Chiddingly.  The family then moved to Battle where Treyton farmed at Beech Farm and the family grew with the addition of Mary (1840), Tilden (1841), Jane (1843), Trayton (1844), Thomas (1847), Charles (1848), Sarah Elizabeth (1850) and Frederick George (1851).
Jane doesn’t appear in the 1851 census with the family so it’s probable she died in infancy despite the lack of burial record and there is no baptism record for Thomas but he appears with the family in 1851.  Treyton junior died in 1846 but all other children appear to survive to adulthood.  The 1851 census entry refers to a daughter named Charlotte but this appears to be an enumerator error as Charlotte was actually Charles.

Treyton and Mary’s youngest son was born posthumously after his father died on the 3rd May 1851 aged just 43 years.  His will is straightforward and leaves everything to his wife who moved to Hastings where she continued to bring up their young family.

Richard, according to the 1861 census, trained as a blacksmith and by 1861 was working just down the road from his mother’s house.  He married Mahalath Dabney in 1860 when he was just 21 years old and she was only 18 years.  A year later their daughter Mahalath Jane was baptised in St Leonards church on the 7th April 1861.

Mahalath was to remain an only child, Richard sadly died just a few years later at the age of only 25 years.  By 1871 Mahalath was living with her maternal grandparents, William and Sarah Dabney, in Hastings her mother had probably remarried but this cannot be confirmed at present.  In about 1880 Mahalath met Constantine Maguire who was working at a drapery shop in Hastings high street.  They soon found themselves having to marry and just a few weeks later their eldest son Horace was baptised.  Horace was followed by May Frances in 1883 and after moving to Newhaven they also had Hubert Joseph in 1888.

Like her father Richard, and her grandfather Treyton, Mahalath died young.  She was only 28 years old when she died in Lewes.  Constantine and their three children moved in with his parents.  Constantine never remarried, by 1901 he was working in an iron foundry as a foreman in Lewes but by 1911 he was a house painter in Eastbourne.  He may have died in 1924 in London.

Richard’s grandchildren were slightly longer lived than their mother, grandfather and great grandfather.  Horace began working as a footman in Kensington before setting up his own business as a newsagent in Pimlico.  He married Rosa Blatchford in 1912 and they had three children Anthony (1914) and twins Mary and Winifred (1917).  He died in 1963 at the age of about 73 years.  His sister May never appears to have married. She worked as a school nurse in Lewes for a while and died in Somerset at the age of 83 years.  Their younger brother, Hubert, began by following the same career path as Horace as the 1911 census shows him working as a footman in Marylebone.  He married Jane Leachman in 1915 in Lincolnshire and they had two children Albert (1918) and Alaric (1924).  Hubert was the first of the three siblings to die - he died in 1947 at the age of 58 years.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The oldest occupation

Our female ancestors did not have particularly easy lives, they were effectively second class citizens, answerable to their fathers and then their husbands, with little freedom to make their own way in life.
Most women worked hard too.  Unless they belonged to the upper class with lots of servants at their beck and call then they would be kept busy taking care of their children and home without the benefit of modern conveniences.  Many women had employment too; in the towns many worked in millinery, teaching and in retail.  
One occupation which gave women a bit of independence, although at a high price, was prostitution.  As prostitutes women had more choice, they could to some extent choose when and where to work, they control over their income and a freedom from the social restrictions which governed other women.  It was not always an employment option that the women wanted to take but often one they were left with little choice but to take.

It is not easy to identify prostitutes in the census but concentrating on the 1881 census I was able to identify a few with links to Sussex.

Margaret Robinson was resident in Ypres Castle Prison in Rye in 1881, she was 26 years old and had lived in Rye all her life.  Her occupation was recorded as prostitute but this had been crossed out and replaced with ‘no occupation’.  

Fanny Smith was living in Derby Place in Brighton where she worked as a prostitute.  She was born around 1848 in Sussex and is recorded as being married although there is no husband living with her.

Kate Coombs and Frederica Grigson probably never knew each other but in 1881 their lives had brought them to a similar outcome.  Both were born in Brighton in around 1862 and in 1881 both were in prison for prostitution, Kate in Dorchester and Frederica in Westminster.

Two Sussex women were suffering the unpleasant consequences of their occupation; Ann Leggett was born in Petworth in about 1859 whilst Annie Petersfield was born in Brighton in about 1847 but by 1881 both were resident in lock hospitals.  Lock hospitals were hospitals which specialised in venereal disease. Annie was in an Aldershot lock hospital whilst Ann was in one in Paddington.

Sarah Pipman, born in Brighton in around 1859, was living in London in 1881 where she lodged with the Painter family whilst she worked as a prostitute.

Most women did not want to be labelled as prostitutes in the census.  Most of the women above were in circumstances which did not give them control over how they were presented in the census.  Often women would record their occupation as anything but prostitute, seamstress is a common alternative occupation and in many cases the women may have had two jobs, working a regular job and earning a bit extra on the side.

Sometimes it is possible to identify women who probably worked as prostitutes even though they are not listed as doing so in the census.  Carrie Wood says she was born in Brighton in 1831 but by 1881 she is living in Mint Street in Southwark, an area noted by Charles Booth for its prostitutes.  None of the women lodging along with Carrie are listed as prostitutes but of the 23 residents only one is a man and one is a child of 23 days.  The ages of the women vary from 18 years to 64 years and their occupations vary from ironers to seamstresses to laundresses and a variety of other low income jobs.  Carrie and another women are listed as ‘unfortunate’.  The likelihood is that this is either a brothel or a lodging house where the majority of the residents earn their income from prostitution.  It is also likely that few of them gave their real names as there are 2 Browns, 2 Smiths and 6 Jones within the group.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it is hard to locate these women in other censuses. Margaret Robinson and Ann Leggett can be located in earlier censuses but I have yet to find the other women in the earlier censuses and have found none of them in later censuses nor can I identify any obvious marriages or burials.