South London ca 1898 - 1904
By 1901 Maud was a young woman - well she was 17, which was probably considered to be young woman in those days. The concept of teenage is a little later I would think. Queen Victoria died in January of this year - an era was at an end - and her aging roué of a son succeeded to the throne. The Edwardian era, ushered in the Great War and huge changes to society - some say the end of the class system that had been so dominant for centuries. Well, personally I think that has lingered on, but there was definitely more opportunity to cross class borders not to mention the amazing new freedoms for women. So exciting times to be alive, though the clothes one wore, as a woman, were still somewhat restrictive and demure.
So where was Maud whilst all this social upheaval was going on? She has left home, sort of, but is living with her single aunt - Elizabeth Magee, and her sister Anny, now aged 27, at no. 2 Mount Pleasant Road, Lewisham - just a little further west from East Dulwich. That’s Mount Pleasant Road in the picture above - a pleasant enough street whose houses are semi-detached according to Suburbia in Focus, though they look more terraced from here. Elizabeth Magee was not married, and seems to have been running a small lodging house, a common enough occupation for women without other resources, so Maud and Anny were probably her unpaid help, although it is possible they were just visiting on the night of the census. There were six boarders - all men - ranging in age from 18 to 69, and most of them clerks, working in offices like the one above. For this was the area of London in which such young men often made their home. Some of them were locals, but some were immigrants from Ireland and the Empire. Two of the men in Maud’s aunt’s house were brothers from Madagascar. No doubt it was a moving cast of characters with lots of opportunities for flirtations and romance. Another thought is that the Magee girls were packed off to Aunt Elizabeth for a time, partly to help out but mainly in the hope that a suitable match might be found amongst the young men lodging there.
Apparently this was a time when the young were given more freedom to socialise at places like dance halls and skating rinks.
“After 1900, dancing became a special youthful pastime and dance halls were favourite meeting places for courtship. Groups of young men and women sauntered in certain parts of town on Sunday evenings taking part in courting rituals known by names such as ‘the monkey parade’ or ‘clicking’.”
We have absolutely no idea how liberal Maud’s aunt (or her parents) were. Maud may have enjoyed a flirtatious youth with lots of admirers and lots of time to meet them - or she may have been on her hands and knees scrubbing every day, with very little time off. As usual we can only guess, though she can’t have had much money, as she seems not to have a job.