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Marriage                                                            Gerald Osmond Hubert Mollett    

Camberwell, Dulwich, Southend-on-Sea 1904 - 1911


Gerald was still living at home, which was now 12 Therapia Road - when he married.  The house at right is the house that Google Earth has as no. 12 - quite large, detached - solidly middle-class.  His future wife was also living at home in a less salubrious area, but somehow or other they contrived to meet, fall madly in love or lust, and, a discreet time after the death of his father, marry.  A ‘prudent’ marriage was what the middle-classes aspired to, and this would hardly have been seen as a prudent marriage.  Her father was a policeman and her grandparents had died in the workhouse and moreover they were of Irish origin and once catholic.  We have no idea what Maude herself did - no occupation is given on the marriage certificate.  How much less suitable could a girl be?  As I said before, no members of either family seem to have been present, so I am guessing they didn’t know - that it was a kind of elopement - or else that it was not approved of and so it was a defiant act of rebellion.  Was Gerald cast out and disowned by his family or did they remain supportive?


And how did Gerald feel I wonder, when the deed was done at the Camberwell Registry Office (the rather nice looking building above)?  Excited, terrified, numb? Did Gerald and Maude, intoxicated by their act of defiance, go off for a romantic honeymoon beside the sea - like the couple in the picture above (Southend perhaps, where they later lived).  Or did the enormity of what they had done sink in immediately?


It’s interesting that I have come to the conclusion (largely because of the class difference, and what happened afterwards) that the marriage was a spur of the moment, rebellion against what was expected, because in my heart I see Gerald as a rather weak character.  There is absolutely no evidence for this - indeed the little we do know would suggest the opposite in a way - it’s just one of those curious things I have discovered about family history - one invents personalities, virtually plucking them out of thin air - and somehow I have decided that Gerald was a nonentity and a weakling - which goes against the evidence of someone marrying for love (or lust at the very least) against the wishes of his entire family.  A brave soul really.  It must be the accountant and the tb that is colouring my imagination.


An aside on the complexity of the definition of middle-class at the time.  This is from The Edwardian House by Helen Long:  “at the top and overlapping with the upper classes were two hundred thousand families of lawyers, merchants and top civil servants, earning about £1000 to £3000 a year, living in fifteen-roomed houses which cost about £1000 to £3000 to build and £100 a year to rent, and employing a butler, two maids, a cook and governess.  Below this category were other professionals, such as lawyers, doctors, top clerks, earning £500 to £700 and living in houses costing £1000 to build or up to £100 a year to rent.  Lower-paid professionals, for example, higher clerks, earned £350 and rented seven to eight roomed £500 houses at £40 to £60 a year and kept one or two servants.  Lower clerks and shopkeepers on £200 a year, who could afford a house costing £200 to £300 or rented at £25 to £45, generally kept a young maid.  At the bottom of the middle-classes were the lower clerks on £100 to £150, whose houses had five or six rooms and cost £120 to £200 to buy or £12 to £30 rent and who did not have a live-in servant but probably had help of some kind.”  My guess is that Gerald’s father began in at least the second rung down, if not the top (his parents), though there is the apparent lack of servants in his later years.  Gerald and Maude, however, would have been at the bottom end of the middle-class and I doubt that they owned the houses they lived in - much more likely to be renting.  (£100 in 1905 would be worth £5,735 or almost AUD$14,000  - not a lot for a year’s salary on which to support a wife and expanding family.)


Anyway - back to the facts about Gerald and Maude.  The young couple’s first home seems to have been 29 Cutcombe Road, Camberwell, just off Coldharbour Lane on what is now part of the King’s College Hospital campus.  (Again we have Google Earth’s view of where it should be).  At least, this is where their first child, Florence Elsie, is born on 16th September, 1904 almost nine months to the day from their marriage on January 12, so it was not a marriage that was forced on him by his wife’s pregnancy (unless she lied of course).  Gerald is described as an accountant’s clerk - so probably not all that well paid.  There is certainly no sign of any servants until a few years later.  Another aside - Florence Elsie could well be named after Maude’s and Gerald’s sisters - and if so, it implies that somebody loved and supported them anyway.


Their second child, my father, Hubert Stanley, was born on 28th November,1906 at 19a Lytcott Grove, Dulwich.  19a implies part of a house, rather than a whole one - a few rooms perhaps?  Looking at the Google Earth view I would say that the original buildings are no longer there.  Gerald is still only a clerk - now a commercial clerk which is just a slight change in title, but probably means the same thing - or rather it implies a clerk working in an accounting department rather than for an accountant.


Then there is a rather large gap until 1911 before their third child, Roland Harold is born.  Florence would have been 7 when Roland was born and my father would have been five - so we would have had a family rather like the one at right and the one at the top of the page.  The other significant change is that the family is now living in Southend-on-Sea at the mouth of the Thames Estuary and Gerald is now describing himself as an accountant, though we believe he never actually gained the chartered accountant qualification.  They also have one servant, so I suppose the first thing to note is that they seem to have come up in the world somewhat.  Gerald must have worked long and diligently, as my guess is that Maude didn’t work at all (not many women in their position in society did).


Why the gap and why Southend?  We now have the 1911 census, which shows how many children a couple has had, whether dead or alive, and no other children are shown, so why the gap?  I do not think the census shows miscarriages though, just births, so she could easily have had a miscarriage or two in between.  They may have practised birth control - not wishing to have more children because of their financial circumstances, or because they simply didn’t want more, their relationship could have been deteriorating, or they may just not have been very fertile.  Maybe the birth of Roland was an attempt to patch up a shaky marriage.  And Southend - a job offer too good to refuse, a friend or member of the family who had moved there, for Gerald’s health?  Sea air, was thought at the time to be good for TB - though I have no idea when he first developed the disease.  If he knew he had TB in 1911, then he took a long time to die in 1917.


Just a couple of other things to note from this census.  The address is 30 Surbiton Road - a satellite view is at right - an absolutely typically boring English suburban street.  Gerald is still an accountant’s clerk, but now working for Western Telegraph Ltd.  I think this must be the Western Telegraph Company which eventually merged with the Eastern Telegraph Company to become Cable and Wireless (at the time they were laying telegraph cables under the Atlantic), though why he would have been working for them in Southend I fail to see.  And they have a live-in servant - a young girl aged 19 who is probably slaving away - either because Maude is lazy, incompetent or genuinely needs the help (wouldn’t we all like some help with a house and small children?).   The house has six rooms, so I hope the maid got one of them.  It must mean that Gerald is earning more though - or else that life in Southend is cheaper.


Their brave gesture of an unapproved marriage, may have led to a few very happy years, but maybe the financial struggle and the experience of having to fend for oneself, rather than relying on family, may have put pressures on their relationship which were not easily resolved.  At any rate I suspect that by 1912 the marriage was in meltdown.

Links


The Edwardian House- a link to a Google Book by Helen Long which tells what home life was like, and also a lot about the class structure of the time.

Youtube - Edwardian London 1904 - a short rediscovered film of street life in London in 1904.  It’s a bit blurry, but interesting

Join me in the 1900s - one person’s account of life in the 1900s