My recently discovered cousin - grandson of James Henry’s youngest child, Lily, supplied the photograph at left, found in old family papers. Nobody knows who it is. Could it be the man himself - or is it Frederick or somebody else entirely? We really have no idea but I am posting it here in the hope that somebody out there recognises it. There seems to be a black ribbon at the bottom right hand corner. A photograph that was supplied for a funeral? Did they do such things in those days? If you know who this is do please send us an email.
James Henry Ellis died on October 27, 1922 at no 29 East Street. Still the same street he has lived on or around since 1885, although in a few different houses. He died of cancer of the liver. He was 82. The death was registered by his son Frederick who was with him when he died. His profession is given as general hawker - no more flowers. We do not know where he is buried. Hannah died a few years later in 1925.
He was an old man when he died, and by then had been married to his second wife for 30 years. Hopefully it was a good relationship. She certainly seems to have been accepted by the family as Grandma. Ellen must have been long forgotten. I sometimes wonder, though whether there had been an even earlier wife, as he was over 30 when he and Ellen started having children - rather old for the times I would have thought.
And was he always a hawker? Did he start out in life as something completely different? Maybe he went to sea - like his father is supposed to have done. When his son Frederick married in 1909 he describes his father’s profession as Florist (Master). Was this a bit of snobbery? Trying to upgrade his father’s occupation? Or had James Henry somehow become more upmarket? And was it always flowers he sold? Why flowers? The questions go on and on.
There is one last piece of information. James Henry Ellis was a follower/member of the Salvation Army - something passed on to his son. I do not know how dedicated a member he was - it was simply a passing remark from one of his granddaughters, that he belonged to the Salvation Army. But if he was he must have been a teetotaller, as alcohol is banned to members. In fact many of the Army’s followers had been destitute, alcoholic or otherwise addicted. Maybe James Henry had had problems and been saved? He certainly belonged to the target population of the Salvation Army - the destitute and the despised. It was founded in 1865 in London by William Booth so he would have been around at the very early stages of its growth. The picture at left is of the Portsmouth Citadel Army Band - probably an early version of it. Maybe he is one of the people in the photograph?
At this stage there is nothing more I can say really. A tantalising and frustrating mystery!
• Camber Dock - today on the left and in 1880 on the right