South London?, Southend-on-Sea 1915 - 1925
Now we are truly into the realms of the imagination as we currently have virtually no facts available. The pictures above show some of the radically different scenarios. Let’s consider the possibilities from what we know.
The salient fact is that Gerald is dead and she has been left out of the will, although her first three children are provided for. What does this mean and where does this leave Maude, particularly as there now seem to be two more children - Violet and Harry?
Scenario 1 is that she is the fallen woman, the woman who betrayed her husband with another man. If they had been divorced she would have had the children taken from her and been left with nothing but shame and disapproval. Divorced or not, she has been left penniless and the three children, Florence, Stanley and Roland have been possibly been returned to their grandmother and the aunts. From the very little that my father ever said about his early life, one can assume that this might indeed have been what happened. He did say he was brought up by the aunts. Maude is left to fend for herself with Violet and Harry. Her own family was probably unable to help much - they didn’t seem to have helped her paternal grandparents after all - they died in the Workhouse. So was she destitute like the woman in the first photograph, forced to beg in the streets? Or did Violet and Harry’s father(s) support her? Or a succession of men? If she truly was beautiful and a ‘bringer of joy’, then perhaps this wasn’t too hard to do. Did she get a job? How did she feel though about losing Gerald’s children? When Gerald died they were 11 (Florence), 9 (Stanley) and 6 (Roland). Surely this would have been heart-breaking for her?
Scenario 2 is a variation of scenario 1 - in that Violet and Harry did indeed have just one father (not Gerald) who loved her, but for some reason was unable to marry her - and so they lived in sin together until she died, back in Southend, where she enjoys a happy enough, modest family life, crushing together with the other Southenders and the day trippers, on the beach.
In scenario 3 Violet and Harry either die, are looked after by her family, are adopted, or are put into an orphanage, and Maude is left to continue on her merry way, having fun, and returning to the stage from which she had been parted when she married Gerald.
I notice, however, that I do not seem to have considered the possibility that she went on living with Gerald until his death - probably because of the will.
Until the 1921 census is released, I doubt we shall be able to find out more, so can only imagine. What did she live on though? From the earlier census records, she does not ever seem to have had paid work. And now that we do indeed know that Violet and Harry survived, we shall certainly be continuing the research into their lives.! If you know anything more about them, please get in touch. They are our cousins.
But that’s not all. There are two more surprising facts, just to astonish us.
On January 25, 1924 a baby girl is born at 41 Quebec Avenue in Southend-on-Sea. She is named June, by her mother - Maud Beatrice Mollett. Her father is Gerald Osmond Mollett, timber surveyor of the same address. Tragically, baby June dies on the 14th of May of bronchitis, though apparently she was one month premature, which would not have helped. The death was registered by her sister Florence.
But Gerald has been dead for four or five years, so is obviously not the father. Besides he was never a timber surveyor - so this is perhaps a clue as to the identity of the father. There are two possible explanations.
The first possibility is that the child is actually Florence’s. Florence is now 19, and later that year, on September 6 she marries George Leonard Chalk, a gas works employee, who, like Florence, gives Maud’s home as his address. Their first child Leonard George is born in the following March so she would have been pregnant when she married. Doctors do not certify births, like they do deaths, so the parents could be anybody - proof is not requested at registration. And although the doctor certified the death, he might not necessarily have really known who the mother was - or, even if he did know, he might have turned a blind eye. Perhaps this is the most likely scenario. But then the same doctor certified Maude’s death, so was presumably the family doctor, and would surely have been consulted during the pregnancy. What it does show though, is that Florence had returned home (if she had ever left) to live with her mother. Also one of the witnesses at the wedding appears to be S. A. Mollett (the first initial is unclear). Who is this? My father (wrong initials), a cousin?
But what if the child is indeed Maude’s? She is only 39 after all, so it is possible. Mind you she must have been very very ill as she only had just over a year to live, but then this might have explained why the child was born prematurely. Who was the timber surveyor father? In some ways it is more likely that Maude was June’s mother. Surely if it had been Florence’s, Florence would have been too upset to register the death, and Maude would have done it for her? But then I suppose Maude could by now have been bedridden with TB. Obviously there are more investigations to be made here.
If the child is Maude’s it shows she was either extremely stupid and reckless or a hopeless romantic who loved children. And let’s face it, birth control was not what it is today. Let’s hope she was happy at this point in her life.