Forest Hill, 1884
To begin at the beginning - Maud Magee was born on 10th October 1884, Eaddington Terrace, Brockley Road, Forest Hill. Her parents were John James Magee, Policeman and Catherine Eliza Magee, formerly Warner. These are the bald facts as put down on the birth certificate.
So what can we glean, or imagine, from them?
First of all her name - plain and simple Maud. And indeed, her family seem not to have changed this - they even, affectionately have her as Maudie in the 1891 census return. Yet sometime between birth and marriage, a more distinctive e has been added to Maud, together with Beatrice as a middle name. I like to think that this shows that she was a romantic soul (Dante’s love was Beatrice, though I doubt she knew of Dante somehow), striving for a more fulfilling existence - but I guess it could equally well show a shallow, silly girl wanting to emulate the ‘pop’ figures of the day. Whatever the reason, she kept the more refined version until her death.
The address. Brockley Road runs in a roughly north/south direction south of Deptford and parallel to the railway (which previously had been the Croydon Canal). That’s a photo at the top of the page, taken around 1900 - just a few years after Maud’s birth. Brockley Hall - the local manor house - was still standing and so the rampant development of the area had not yet happened. A couple of streets in the area, were inhabited by very rich people in fact, but the majority of the area was sort of genteel poor, with a small slummier area down in Forest Hill proper. At this point in time I do not know where Eaddington Terrace was, and so can only guess that policemen were not exactly poverty stricken but not exactly rich either. The life of a policeman is more properly her father’s story so we shall not explore it here. So a terrace house - was she born behind a window like one of those in the small picture at left. The faded sign does say Brockley Road. In the centre is Upper Brockley Road - I suspect too far north, and on the right is Brockley Road today.
Maud was the baby of the family. The last of six children, two boys, four girls. It is possible that one of the boys died young, but the others survived at least until young adulthood. This is probably an average size family for the times - one child every other year to begin with, then slowing down before the last two. Which, could, of course, mean that others had been born and died in between.
The times. We are still in the era of horse-drawn carriages and long skirts, as the photograph shows, though bicycles are around. Mostly the people in the picture are on foot. This is the Victorian era - a time of rapid change, but also deep conservatism. Crystal Palace is just down the road and had been moved from the Great Exhibition site in Kensington, just a few years earlier. How different from the 20s - when Maude died. She lived through a period of huge change - particularly for women - women got the vote in her youth, and began to have more of a say in their lives. All of which could have been factors in the way her life story played out.