Willie John Richards
On Thursday, June 27th 1878 at the Chapel in St. Paul’s Square, William married Annie Tier. Both of them had been living at home with their parents prior to their marriage. He was 23 and she was 22, which was probably an average sort of marriage age at the time. The witnesses were her step-father and sister. No representative of the Richards side of the family was a witness, though it doesn’t mean to say they weren’t present. Both of his parents were still alive after all, as were his two sisters. The Chapel was a Baptist chapel, one of the many non-conformist establishments in the town. This particular chapel was patronised by ‘The Particular Baptist Church of Christ’ which was a Calvinist offshoot of the Kent St. Baptist Chapel. So I’m guessing they were fairly rigidly religious, unless, of course, it just happened to be the nearest church to their home. Her mother had married for the first time in an ‘Independent‘ chapel though, and I believe that late in life she still frequented a Wesleyan chapel in preference to the Church of England.
Their first child, my grandmother Alice Maud, was born in 1880. She was followed by twin girls in 1882, May in 1886, Jessie in 1888, William George in 1891, Ernest Edwin in 1894 and Thomas Francis in 1896. However, the 1911 census tells me that nine children had been born, and that by 1911 only seven survived. So one of the above (I think it must be Jessie) must have died, and also there must have been one other child. So in contrast to his own parents’ small family, Willie went for the more standard eight or nine children. There was nothing unusual in this - birth control did not really exist, and besides their religion may well have forbidden it anyway - I don’t know much about non-conformist religions, other than their adherence to the bible, in which case I can well believe that birth control would be a no-no.
They lived in and around Portsmouth, North Southsea, Fratton, Kingston sort of area. I could give addresses - Anerley Terrace, Barnes, Foster and Commercial Roads, but the names probably do not mean much and most of them are not as they were then, being either flattened in WW2 or changed and redeveloped. Suffice to say that for every record, they are in a different house, so I am assuming that they were renting, and that their tenancies came to an end every now and then, forcing a move, for whatever reason.
At some point William became a member of the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 in London, but, try as I may, I cannot find when it opened up in Portsmouth. I do know that the Portsmouth Citadel Band was formed in 1880, so can only assume that the Portsmouth branch also started at about the same time. The band is such an integral part of the whole organisation. I doubt that he joined because he needed ‘saving’ it is more likely that he joined because the philosophy appealed. He had married in a Calvinistic Baptist church after all. The Salvation Army were teetotallers and anti smoking, gambling, drugs, etc. At the same time they helped people that nobody else would help, admittedly in the hope that they would be converted, but it was probably a small price to pay - a bit of preaching - for a warm place for the night and a basic meal. They were the target of opposition from many - probably spurred on by publicans who were losing business, but the organisation grew enormously and spread around the world amazingly quickly. The picture at right is actually of a Swiss Salvation Army band, but you get the idea. I do know that William’s children were encouraged to join the Army and that they used to go and watch the band playing by the Dockyard gates and then march to the Portsmouth Citadel (which is what they call their headquarters/chapel). The main aims of the Army seem to have been twofold - to help the destitute, and to save their souls - i.e. convert them. One of the census records (1901) finds William away from home in Brighton, as a visitor, so I guess it is possible that he was away on a Mission, as I believe this is what they did.
I wonder what the effect on his family life was? I’m sure he would have been working long hours at work - I doubt if the working day was very short in those days and I don’t suppose there were lengthy holidays, so if he did spend his spare time on Salvation Army business there might not have been much time left over for family. But I speculate. Maybe they spent their weekends on the beach at Southsea, strolling along the Esplanade and visiting the amusements on the Pier. The picture at the top of the page is of Brighton, but I am sure that Southsea would have been similar, though perhaps not quite as busy- the postcard of Southsea next to it, implies a rather less crowded scene. But if he was away converting the heathens then maybe it was mum who ended up on the beach with the children, as in this rather charming picture at right. Surely, living as they did near the sea, they would have spent time on the beach. Or maybe they spent all of their spare time as a family helping the poor and spreading the light of Jesus. Certainly of the few pictures I have of my grandmother as a young girl, a good proportion are of her in Salvation Army uniform, so I suspect that it rather dominated their lives.
The area near St. Paul’s Square - the corner of King and Norfolk Streets.
A Salvation Army band under attack