Enfield 1854 - 187? James John Dearman
ENFIELD AFTER 1850 an article from the excellent British History Online website
VICTORIAN CHILDHOOD a Google book by Thomas E. Jordan. The whole book is not there, but quite a lot is.
Boys playing at Enfield Lock - the Swan and Pike Pool below the Lock used to be a bathing pool
The berry boy by John George Brown
Playing a game - painting by Frank Hardy 1888
James John Dearman was officially the first born son of James Dearman, bricklayer, and his wife, Emma Eliza Brown. He was born on 27th April 1854 in Chase Side Enfleld, just over a month after his parents’ marriage, so only just legitimate, and a possibly forced marriage. His father was a bricklayer’s labourer at the time and ultimately a journeyman bricklayer. He was doubtless named after his father and his grandfather on his mother’s side - John Brown. Chase Side is both a district of Enfield and a road in it’s own right, so it is not possible to tell which the birth certificate is referring to - my guess is the district. He was baptised in St. Andrew’s church on July 24th. This does not necessarily mean the family was religious - everyone got baptised in those days.
I say officially the first born son, because when I later came to research his father’s history, I found that there were, in fact, two older boys - William Henry born about 1847 and Frederick born in 1851 before James and Eliza were married in March 1854. In later censuses they were described as Dearman sons, but on Frederick’s birth certificate at least, there is no named father. But this is James Dearman, bricklayer’s story so I will not ruminate on it any further here.
Suffice to say that whether the two older boys were his real brothers or just half brothers, they lived with the family until old enough to leave home, so really James was to all intents and purposes the third son. And the sons just kept on coming. In the end Eliza had nine sons and one daughter, who sadly died just three months after her birth. I think two of the boys died too, but this still leaves her with seven sons. (The picture at right will give you some idea of what seven young boys looks like.) I don’t envy Eliza. Imagine being a lone woman in a household of eight males. Imagine the testosterone - the fights, the wrestling, the general mayhem. It must have been exhausting. It would also have been pretty competitive from the children’s point of view I would think, as they were all about two years apart from each other in age. Plenty of boys to play with though - no need for outside friends, which is an interesting thought. I imagine they would have looked much as this rather dishevelled little group at right.
Enfield at the time was pretty rural, although the world-famous munitions factory was in operation. Here is an edited description of Enfield, taken from the 1868 National Gazeteer of Great Britain and Ireland.
“ENFIELD, a parish and town in the hundred of Edmonton, county Middlesex, 2 miles N.W. of Edmonton, and 10 N.E. of London.
The New River flows through the parish, which extends eastward to the river Lea. In Domesday Survey it is called Enefelde, and was then held by Geoffrey de Mandeville. It afterwards passed to the crown, and was converted into a royal chase, well stocked with deer. During the Civil Wars, the parliamentary army destroyed the game and cut down the trees, and a considerable portion of the land was divided into farms. The town, which is situated to the W. of the Hertford road, or Roman Ermine Street, consists of two streets, in which are several well-built houses. There is a Board of Health for sanitary purposes, and police stations in four different parts of the parish. Here is a government manufactory for small arms on an extensive scale, also a brewery, corn-mill, and saw-mills. The town and neighbourhood are lighted with gas, and well supplied with water from springs. At Ponder's End in this parish is a large manufactory for finishing crape. Of schools there are four National, one British, and six for infants; also a free grammar school, and a school of industry for girls. Of the ancient palace there are some remains, but the greater part was taken down in 1792. There are several handsome seats and residences in the neighbourhood. Saturday is market day, and fairs are held on the 23rd September and 30th November for horses, &c.”
According to the British History Online article several attempts at encouraging development of the area round about this time failed miserably, and it was still largely a rural area of market gardens. Not anymore of course.
So I guess there would have been rural games, such as hanging out at the river, playing games in the street with maybe a little bit of schooling thrown in. Education did not become compulsory until 1888, so James John would not necessarily have attended school.
The 1861 and 1871 census records have the family living in Parsonage Lane - the road going diagonally across the map above right. It is just above the town centre, but as you can see - even in 1895 there are still an awful lot of fields - more fields than built-up areas in fact. In 1871, aged 17, James is working as a servant, which could mean a variety of different things - from a boot black in a grand house, to a dogsbody in a shop or an office or on a farm. The family must have been relatively well off though, because it is common for children as young as 11 to be out working as errand boys and the like, and James’ 15 year old brother John does not seem to have a job. So maybe they did all go to school for as long as the parents could afford it.
Let us assume that it was a happy childhood and a relatively comfortable one too, in spite of the tragedies of the deaths of three babies. I guess this would have been relatively common for the times, and children are rather less likely to be affected by it than parents. It was certainly a stable childhood in that they had the same address for at least ten years, possibly more.
Victorian working boys - sort of the right number of boys for the Dearman family portrait - it shows young boys already working
1895 map of Chase Side- the road going from left to right is Parsonage Lane
Cart horses- a painting by Richard Henry Brock 1909, probably a pretty typical village scene