JOHN HOARE'S FAMILY HISTORY
Eleanor Florence Williams
updated October 2015
My childhood memories of my grandmother are of a very 'Victorian' lady, who would put up with no cheek or disrespect. My mother was clearly respectful, and even fearful in her relationship. A friend and neighbour from that time remembered grandmother as cold, but behind the coldness very kind and caring. We knew that her father died when she was young. apparently her mother found a new partner, who grandmother didn't like, and she went to live with her uncle. As I have found out more I have come to understand her better.
I will use my grandmother's name Eleanor from this point on, although I never heard it used in her lifetime.
Eleanor's father was John Dalby WILLIAMS, a Thames lighterman working for Taylor Walker, the brewers in Limehouse. Eleanor's mother was Sarah MAXWELL, and she had an older sister Henrietta Maud, born 1875.
Eleanor's father John died in 1882 of 'congestion of the brain'(a term used at that time for a variety of illnesses, including hydrocephalus, stroke, cerebral haemorrhage, and meningitis).
The events following John Dalby WILLIAMS' death have found their way into the official records of the children's charity Barnardos, and are the source of the following section.
John was a skilled worker and he had enjoyed a reasonable income in the years before his death, but he didn't have any substantial savings and only left the family the contents of their home. As he had been a Freemason his family also received a pension of £15 from them. For three months Eleanor's uncle Dalby WILLIAMS (an inn-keeper) supported Sarah to the extent of 20 shillings (one pound) a week.
For the next four years until 1886 Sarah was able to support her daughters and survive by sewing, which brought in eight to ten shillings a week. Then she was admitted to Bromley Sick Asylum with acute rheumatism. At this point Eleanor and Henrietta were sent to Poplar Union (the workhouse), and then to Forest Gate Schools (for more about life at Forest Gate Schools see 'the Scandal of Forest Gate Schools')
Sarah left the hospital as soon as she could, in August 1887, because she was unhappy to have the children in care. She applied for 'outdoor parish relief' (an alternative to the workhouse - see this page in the Brookmans Park newsletter) but this was refused because she only had two children. (This was significant, because she could only apply to charities if she had applied for parish relief and been refused).
In September 1887 Sarah applied to have the children looked after in 'Romford Girls Village home for Orphan Neglected and Destitute Girls', Ilford. This institution was the first home set up by what we now know as 'Barnardos'.
The governors report relating to Eleanor and her sister henrietta was very detailed, and was over fifteen months in preparation.
Character witness reports were obtained. Three local tradespeople who had known Sarah for several years said that she was respectable, but slightly addicted to drink. Dalby WILLIAMS reported that she was lazy and addicted to drink. Miss KILBURN, a dressmaker who had employed Sarah said that she wasn't sufficiently competent or energetic to earn enough to support herself and her children.
Furthermore, Mrs. LOW, a local necktie manufacturer, whose husband was providing Sarah with accommodation and employment said that the relatives on both sides of the family were respectable and able to support the children. Mrs. PERKINS, the children's maternal aunt, who lived in Southsea , Hampshire, (whose husband held 'a good position' in Portsmouth dockyard), was stated to run a private school, and had looked after Henrietta when her father died.
Sarah lived in Sussex Street, Poplar until Christmas 1888, when she left owing £12 for rent and food. Part of her furniture was taken in lieu of payment.
The governors report would have been finalised about January 1889. The home agreed to take Eleanor, but Henrietta went to her live with her uncle Dalby. At that time Sarah signed an agreement for the care of Eleanor for a period of eleven years 'with the omission of the Canadian clauses'. These clauses gave Barnardos permission to arrange for a child to be moved to Canada as part of the Barnardo Emigration Scheme. My research suggests there was some controversy over this scheme, and the way children were treated, and that Sarah might have been under pressure to agree to them. If Sarah hadn't held out Eleanor's life and our family tree might have been very different.
Eleanor left the home in 1893, aged about fourteen, and went into service. I believe that she was baptised in 1899, aged 21, in St. George in the East Church, Tower Hamlets.
In the 1901 census Eleanor and Henrietta were both living with their uncle Dalby at the Gun Hotel. By this time Dalby was a commercial agent. The census records the extended family as well as a visitor and barman. Dalby's brother William wasn't mentioned but had been the landlord in 1900. By 1905 George Cossey was recorded as the landlord.
Archive material from Barnardos