James Henry Ellis                                                                                            Later life

Dearman     Mollett     Merrick/Meyrick     Ellis     Jenkins     Magee     Nason     Richards     

Portsmouth ca 1885-1922

Why did James return to Portsmouth? Or is the question more, why did James leave Hastings?  After all I suppose we still have no definitive proof that he was ever in Portsmouth.    And indeed when, did he return to Portsmouth as there is a substantial gap between 1879 when Lily was born and 1885 when Ellen died.  More questions it is impossible to answer.

What we can say is that by September 1885 the family was in Portsmouth living at 3 Camber Alley because this is where Ellen died.  After Ellen’s death and sometime before 1891, James and Frederick moved to no. 10, and in 1901 they were in East Street.  In the bird’s eye picture of modern Portsmouth, shown above, East Street is a street that circumnavigates the small, almost island, poking into Camber Dock.  Camber Alley, I believe ran between the two sides of East Street, or at least off of one of them into the centre - which is now demolished and car park.  The decrepit looking building in the photo at the right is the Colliers Arms pub on Camber Dock.  Camber Dock is the oldest settled part of Portsmouth, right on the entrance to the harbour.  Across the water on the left is Gosport.  I think of an alley as cramped - probably like the ‘Portsmouth Row’ drawn on the left.  Not much room for a mule, or horse, or even a cart.

At the time of their mother’s death, Ellen was 13, Frederick was 12 and Lily only 6.  At this point in time we think that Ellen was put out into service, Frederick probably went to school and stayed with his father, and Lily was put in a nursery school.  Of course we do not know whether there were aunts and uncles, maybe even grandparents, who could have helped out.  However, the fact that Ellen was in service and Lily at school in 1891, implies that there was no such help to hand, although, how did he manage to pay for a nursery school?

What, or rather, who, was to hand though, was Hannah Marshall.  In 1891 James Henry and Frederick, both flower sellers, (at last we now know what he sold) are found living further up Camber Alley - at number 10, and sharing the house, though listed as a separate household, is Hannah Marshall, mangle lady.  What is a mangle lady?

In Working Class areas where Back houses and Courts provided little space for individual ownership of a large domestic items such as a Mangle, wash tubs etc, It was common to have a shared facility that all the neighbours could use.  This was looked after or run generally by an elderly woman called a ‘Mangle Lady’ or ‘Mangle Keeper’, who for a small fee would do a family’s "laundry".


Not that Hannah was all that old - she was 43, though I suppose in those days, that was considered old.  And never married either.


My grandmother had a mangle.  I remember it well and we used to take turns to work it, feeding the clothes through two or three times to squeeze out all the water. It looked very much like the one on the left - you put a bucket underneath to catch the drips.  


Anyway I guess Hannah was a laundress by another name.  And on November 7, 1892 James Henry and Hannah were married in the Portsmouth Parish Church.  And aren’t we glad they did, as this is the only source for our supposition that James Henry’s father was also James Henry and that he was a sailor.  If he was telling the truth anyway.  If he wasn’t then perhaps we are not glad as it has led us up lots of blank alleys when trying to find his birth and parentage.  The certificate does not say that his father is dead - normally it does, if he is.  But this is not always the case, so he could be dead or alive.  JH also says he was a widower, which implies that he had indeed married Ellen - also yet to be proved.  To my mother and her siblings, Hannah became Grandma Ellis, and it was only late in life that it was realised that she was not, in fact, their grandmother.


By 1901, Lily and Ellen were really gone - Ellen was married and Lily was a servant far away in Bristol.  Frederick was still living at home, but was now a coal heaver - he later became a stevedore foreman at the docks.  They have moved to East Street, round the corner, and James is still a flower seller (hawker) working on his own account, as we presume he always has - but then maybe not.  Maybe he worked for someone who had a number of hawkers in his employ.  Hannah seems to have stopped working - but then a wife’s occupation was not always noted.


For these years of his life there is no suggestion of anything grander than selling flowers in the street, though he seems to have settled in a very specific part of Portsmouth, so probably had lots of friends and/or relatives living close by.  We also know from comments by my aunt that his daughter Ellen’s husband, Samuel Lee was a gardener and that he grew flowers.  Maybe this was where JH got his flowers from.  The same aunt also told me at some point that he used to sell flowers in the market and that she sometimes went and helped him.


In 1911 he is still living in East Street with Hannah, who is still a mangle lady - by 1911 it was possibly more OK for married women to admit to working too.  But he is still just a flower seller (hawker).



Links

a brief history of portsea

     •     Indeed this is a brief history of Portsea - though I’m still not absolutely sure where Portsea ends and Portsmouth begins and vice versa.  And where does Landport fit in?




     •     Camber Dock in 1901