Childhood                           Maud(e) Beatrice Magee

South London 1884 - ca 1898


In the 1891 census the family has moved to East Dulwich, to 2 Rodwell Road  - now a fairly salubrious part of South London, then a new suburb created from a large dairy farm and an old estate.  


“The houses were aimed at socially mobile members of the lower middle classes - typically London clerks - and the new population was largely one of young families. They largely preceded services such as shops (which developed along Lordship Lane), places of worship, such as St Clement’s, Friern Road of 1885, and education and leisure facilities (Dulwich Baths dates from 1892).”


I guess upwardly mobile could describe Maud’s family, certainly lower middle class would.  I doubt that a policeman would regard himself as working class - working class, being much more ‘working’ than nowadays.  However, middle class they are not either - much more well off.  It’s a sort of limbo class in between the middle and the bottom - so socially mobile might do. The top picture could pretty well represent a scene I could imagine happening in Maud’s family as the children were growing up - this is obviously a row of terraces but with a small back garden and perhaps some pretensions to better things - the urn on the pedestal.  Mind you it is unlikely they would have owned the house - they were probably just renting.


From 1870 education had become compulsory so Maud went to school and at least learnt the three r’s - reading, writing and arithmetic.  I found three school admission records, two of which were for Heber School in East Dulwich in 1891 and 1893.  The school is shown at right - a typical Victorian school - rather like the one I first went to, and also like one I taught in in later years.  The other school for which I have a registration is Cottenham Road School on the other side of the river in Holloway, where I think her father was working in his last years as a policeman. Their home addresses (I checked some of her siblings too) change frequently, but this is more relevant to her father’s story I guess, other than confirming that they were probably renters rather than owners of property.  The moving around would have hindered lifelong friendships too one would think.


Was she clever?  I don’t think so as the school admissions registers talk about levels I and II (and they go up to (V).  All that can be said is that nobody in the family seems to have really bettered themselves through education.  One of her brothers became a soldier, the other I cannot find, so maybe he died, as children so often did in those days.


No doubt they played in the street like the children pictured playing shuttlecock - children used to do this - I did when I was young.  It seems there would have been plenty of children to play with anyway if the area was one of young families.


Maud or Maudie as she might have been known - seeing as this is how her name is entered on the 1891 census, was the baby of the family by quite a few years, and if she was indeed beautiful, was no doubt spoilt rotten.  She would certainly not have been doing so much of the mother’s helper thing as her older sisters.  The family is actually pretty well spread out after the initial four births.  Florence is four years behind her brother William and Maud is another five years after her due to a couple of infant mortalities in between.  This must have meant that, first Florence, and then Maud took the role of baby and family pet - this is what usually happens to the youngest of the family.  Did Florence resent this?   By the time Maud was 7 in 1891, she and Florence were the only ones left at school.  Catherine had left home (or died - I have yet to find out which) as had John James who was in the army, and Anny and William were working as servants.  So this was not a family that was really on an upward trajectory.  Does this imply they were not super bright?  Or does it merely demonstrate how hard it was to move up the social scale at this time and how few job opportunities there were, other than being a servant of some kind.


Questions, questions - always there are questions.

Links


Suburbia in Focus - East Dulwich - a history of the development of East Dulwich, with maps, and old photos

Victorian London - has some contemporary pieces from books on how to bring up children, etc.

Victorian Childhood - a Google book by Thomas E. Jordan.  The whole book is not there, but quite a lot is.


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