Elizabeth Wilson Tier Before marriage
Emsworth, Warblington and Portsmouth 1836-1858
In 1836 when Elizabeth Wilson Tier was born, the Tier family had been long-term residents of Emsworth - a small village on the estuarine waters of the Solent. Elizabeth was baptised in Warblington church, Warblington being the adjacent village. There is a church in Emsworth, but most of the church events in the Tier family seem to have taken place in Warblington. It has a large cemetery attached, and one day I mean to go through it. Elizabeth was baptised on June 19th (the day before my own birthday!), the daughter of James Tier - mariner and his wife Mary Ellen (Wolfe). As subsequent events in Elizabeth’s life will demonstrate why, I have thoroughly investigated her parentage and really cannot come up with any other likely parents.
I can only assume that at the time of her birth the family was still living in Emsworth - the rather lovely and well-preserved little village shown in the modern painting above - or rather the painting shows its harbour. However, by 1841 the family seems to have moved to Portsmouth where they remained. James was the master of a boat that travelled to various parts of Europe, so maybe the harbour at Emsworth was not large enough to accommodate it. When I visited it recently, admittedly at low tide, there really was not any water in the estuary where the boats were. I imagine that the majority of these waters are silting up, protected as they are from the open sea, by the Isle of Wight and various other smaller islands.
In her later life Elizabeth worked as a milliner/dressmaker, so it is likely that at the earliest possible date she would have been earning her living - either as a servant, or as a dressmaker. Mind you, the last census record we have of her still living at home - in 1851, aged 14 does not have any profession next to her name. Neither does her mother, but then she would not have had much time for anything other than looking after small children. The rather idealised painting at right shows a young mother teaching her child to knit, and it is entirely likely that her mother would indeed have taught her these skills.
But maybe Elizabeth was a rebel, maybe she really had had enough of being a little mother to her younger brothers and sisters, because in 1856 at the age of twenty, maybe even nineteen Elizabeth gives birth to her daughter Annie, my great-grandmother. We still have not found the birth certificate, or a baptism record, so we do not know the exact date. And Annie does not have a father’s name on her marriage certificate, so it is most likely that we shall never know who the father was. I shall, of course, continue to look, and as subsequent events will show, one possibility does present itself. Because of the date (between censuses) and the lack of birth certificate, I do not know whether Elizabeth was living at home when she had the baby or whether she had been cast out, or whether, indeed, she was living with the father.
Elizabeth was the first child of the young couple who had married in October of the previous year, so maybe a shotgun marriage, although you would think that Mary Ellen would hardly have known she was pregnant. But then I do not know when Elizabeth was actually born. The baptism record does not say.
She was the first of what was ultimately to be a very large family of twelve, maybe thirteen children. No doubt some did not survive, but as the oldest child, Elizabeth would most likely have been kept very busy helping her mother. She may have just helped around the house but she probably would have taken the younger children off with her to the shops, the village, the harbour. They can’t have been well-off - well this is what I imagine anyway. I think her father, at least initially, owned his boat but then it sank, and after that he had to work for others, which must have meant a change in fortune for the family. No longer would the family reap the profits of the voyage - now he would simply have been paid a wage. At least, that is what I imagine. Its only relevance here, for it is really James’ story, is the effect that it would have had on the family - smaller income and maybe the move to Portsmouth which happened at about this time.
I still haven’t really established whether there was a social stigma attached to being a single mother, but I can’t really imagine that it was easy. The old system of bastardy bonds, whereby the parish could make the father responsible, at least financially, was over and done with, so there probably was not a lot of support, unless your parents stepped up to the mark. And it’s hard to see much support from that direction because they must have been struggling to make ends meet themselves. Nevertheless until I can find the birth certificate and know where she was living I think I will assume that she did indeed continue to live at home and to work too - like the lady in the picture at the top of the page.
And then, to add insult to injury, she falls pregnant again. This time it seems it was too much for the family, for, before the child is born she is married. However, is her new husband the father? For her new husband is her uncle, William Harfield Wolfe, her mother’s young brother!