Childhood Gerald Osmond Hubert Mollett
Camberwell 1882 - ca 1896
Gerald was born on 4th January, 1882 at home - 20 Grummant Road, Camberwell - a winter baby who would eventually die in the winter too. I can find no photos of Grummant Road, but it was just off Peckham Road - pictured at top left. He was the seventh of nine children, and the last son, surrounded by two sisters on either side. The nearest brother in age, Arthur, was already lost to him as a companion, as he was probably a Downes Syndrome child - one census described him as an ‘imbecile from birth’, and by the time Gerald was born had been boarded out in the care of a professional carer. So, Harold, the nearest brother in age, was seven years older than Gerald, and therefore, probably not much of a childhood playmate. Hence Gerald would probably have been coddled and loved by his four sisters, and his mother too. I am sure that the two sisters on either side - Elsie and Jessie - the only great aunts on the Mollett side that I knew, were very fond of him. I even wonder whether, Aunt Jerry as she was known to us, changed from Jessie to Jerry in deference to her brother. Would he have grown up differently if he had been closer to his brothers?
His father was an accountant and must have been quite successful as the family lived in a fairly swanky part of Camberwell, and in 1891 had at least one servant. They could well have had others, such as gardeners who came in on a daily or occasional basis, and then there was the cost of looking after Arthur as well. By 1901 the servant had disappeared, but then the girls were much older and probably did a lot of the work - or else, the servants just came in on a daily basis. It is hard to imagine that a family of their station did not have servants. So a rather comfortable but large family like the one in the picture above. By 1891 they had moved from Grummant Road to Grove Lane (picture at top right), which I think was even more salubrious, although their house does seem to be next to the skating rink. The family was now larger, of course, so they just might have needed a bigger house. The skating rink was opposite Denmark Hill Railway Station, so my guess is that, in the Google satellite view at right, the Mollett home is the large free-standing house and garden on the right, just above the little Google marker. The picture below it is of a Grove Lane garden, I have no idea which one, but it looks rather nice, and my guess is that it is typical of the homes there, which had mostly been built in the late 18th century.
The family was very definitely middle-class, though perhaps not quite as wealthy as the generation before (another story). According to Sally Mitchell’s book, Daily Life in Victorian England; to the middle classes, “Education was important; sons who were not sent to the elite boarding schools went to local grammar schools or to private schools with a practical curriculum.” I have yet to come to grips with school records, so do not know where Gerald was educated. It would appear that they did not go to boarding schools, as all the children always seem to be at home when the censuses are taken. They may have had a governess when small, as in the picture at the top of the page, but then it is likely that they went to the local grammar school or a private school nearby. It is also likely that the girls did not have much education at all.
Victorians doted on their children, though they also had fairly rigid rules of behaviour. Here is one list of dos and don’ts that I found:
“Never talk back to older people, especially to your mother and father.
Never whine or frown when spoken to by your elders.
Never argue with your elders they know best.
Never do anything that is forbidden by your elders.
Do as you're told in a pleasant and willing way.
Never contradict any one under any circumstances. It is very impolite.
Always greet members of your family when entering a room.
Always bid goodbye to members of your family when you leave a room.
Always rise to a standing position when visitors enter.
Never address a visitor until he has started the conversation.
Never interrupt a conversation.
Never allow your parents to bring you a chair and never allow them to get one for themselves. Wait on them instead of being waited on.
Talk in a low even voice.
Never run up and down the stairs or across the room.
Always give way to younger children. It is your duty to look after them.
Never retire without bidding family members goodnight.
Keep yourself clean and neat looking at all times.
Keep your hair combed, nails clean, and shoes looking nice.
Keep your clothes pressed and brushed.”
I would imagine it was a happy childhood - and have a picture in my mind of a rather spoilt and coddled little boy of average intelligence. All pure imagination of course