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Ann Berry   After marriage

Even though Roger was a Norfolk boy, for some reason they decide to go back to the Thames where Ann was born, but closer in to London this time - to Greenwich and subsequently to Deptford. As I said previously, Ann was relatively old when she married and therefore relatively old when she first became a mother in 1847.  Her first child was my great-grandfather, John James Magee, born on 14th January in Brunswick Square, Deptford.  She would have been 35 when he was born - very old for her times. my times even.  When they had married, Roger still had a small son, James, from his first marriage, but I think he must have been left behind in Norwich - maybe with his grandparents - for he died there some three or four years later.  An abandoned child who was maybe too much of a reminder of Roger’s first marriage.  Indeed so abandoned that Roger named his second son with Ann James as well - even though his first son was still alive.  I can only assume that there was no contact between father and son.

Deptford and Lewisham 1845?-1897

I have discovered daguerrotypes of late - an early form of photograpy which has left us with enigmatic portraits of people from the early nineteenth century.  The one on the right is an unidentified American woman and it is disintegrating badly, but this very disintegration somehow conveys how I think of Ann Berry.  Some of my female ancestors married up, some of them married down, and some of them married people from their own station.  I suspect that Ann married rather below her station and perhaps paid the price for her choice.  But I really have no idea about the quality of her emotional life at least, so I present this fading portrait to demonstrate how little we can really know about our ancestors.

But back to Ann.  She started out her married life in poor circumstances - Brunswick Square was probably much like the slum shown at right, not that it would get to be much better.  Although I had in my head a view that Roger was a gardener first and foremost, in fact he spent most of his working life as a mere labourer and factory worker.  The gardening came later in life (when I first encountered him).  A labourer is only one step above the poorest of the poor - the unemployed.  I doubt that the work was steady.  It was probably intermittent, exhausting and poorly paid.  So Ann would have struggled to put food on the table and keep everybody clothed and fed.  Maybe she did a little bit of millinery on the side to help boost the family income. 

After John James, came the aforesaid James (1848), twin girls (Sarah Jane and Elizabeth Ann) (1851) and a last girl Charlotte Eliza (1854), who sadly died as an infant, although it has to be said that this may be the child of another marriage. So a small family - two boys, two girls - at least this would have eased the burden, and, as I said, Roger changed his labouring to gardening (domestic) in later life, which although hard, may have been more pleasant and maybe even lucrative. 

Like all the other women of her age and station Ann would have worked from dawn to dusk with limited resources to keep the family clothed and fed.  How Roger - or James as he often seems to call himself, contributed we cannot tell.  Was he loving and supportive or a drunken boar who terrorised his wife and family?  His children certainly don’t seem to have done much to help their parents in their old age, but then their resources were meagre too.  The children grew, had a minimal education, married and had children of their own.  Their son James lived with them for a while with his small family.  Their various homes were in the Greenwich and Deptford area, but when they were finally on their own, they moved to Lewisham and Roger finally became the gardener I thought he always was.  But by now they were in their late 60s and ill health takes over.

So another hard life full of struggle and pain, although not quite as many dead children as some.  Let us hope that her relatively good start in life helped her survive, although I suppose it could have made the later struggle even harder.


Before marriage

After marriage

The children



Ann Berry

John Tucker Berry


Roger James Magee

John James Magee


The Isle of Sheppey



The Workhouse

In 1891 we find Ann in St Peter’s House,  a nursing home run by the Sisters of Charity - interesting that she should have been in a Catholic institution, for I do not think that the initial Catholocism of their marriage was continued.  Like all the women in the institution (the building in the photograph at left) Ann is described as old (78) and unable to work.  And indeed just a few years later, on November 18th 1896 Ann dies of chronic bronchitis and heart failure in the Lewisham Union Infirmary - the Workhouse hospital - where doubtless all the poor went to die.  Indeed it seems that Lewisham Workhouse largely performed the functions of a hospital for the poor - the plan at left shows that at least half of the site was taken up by the Infirmary.  Ann’s husband Roger was with her when she died, and although he also was to die in the same place, at the time of her death he had an outside address and seemed to be still working as a gardener, although he was, by now, in his eighties.  So at least he must have visited her from time to time, which says something about their relationship.  If he didn't care he would not have gone to visit surely.

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