Emma Eliza Brown Before marriage
Emma Eliza Brown was the fourth daughter and child of John Brown, a shoemaker of Enfield, and his wife Mary Anne. (I have yet to find out her surname.) The couple went on to have three more girls - seven children before there was a boy! The last three were boys, although, looking at the dates, I have to wonder whether they ‘belong’ to this couple. Maybe poor John never had any sons, which might explain his acceptance of James Dearman (later). With a surname like Brown and common names like John and Mary Anne it is really somewhat difficult to be absolutely sure of the parentage unless the children appear on census records. So just to conclude what is really John and Mary Anne’s story - it seems that their first-born child, Mary Anne, died within a year (another one, it’s becoming a common theme), as did their fifth daughter Eliza, whilst another, Frances Eleanor, may well have done so too, as she does not appear in any census records. The boys, however, seem to have been sturdier and all appear in later census records, so in spite of my speculation above about parentage, they presumably are John and Mary Anne’s (unless Mary Anne died of course - but that’s another story).
But back to Emma Eliza. She was indeed baptised as Emma Eliza, but on almost every other record we have she is simply called Eliza, so I am guessing that this is the name she went by. Her baptism took place on April 19th 1827 at St. Andrew’s Enfield. She had been born several months earlier - back on 1st November 1826. I do not know why it took so long for her to be baptised - normally baptisms happened pretty early on, but not always of course. It could just have been that the right moment did not present itself or it could be that she or her mother had been ill, though in that case the baptisms usually happen quickly in case the child died unbaptised.
Enfield was pretty rural in those days - the picture above is of St. Mary’s Church and the windmill, although, as her father had a business to run, they lived in the centre of the village in Parsonage Lane. Her father probably had a shop there, and as she grew she may have helped out there as well as helping her mother run the house. But no doubt there would have been time to play with her sisters in the village and in the countryside - maybe she was sent out to find berries and herbs. And with so many sisters there would not have been quite the burden of responsibility to help mother, as some little girls had to endure. She was not the oldest after all. I suspect that middle children, such as Eliza was, sort of disappear into the background, neither being part of the older group or the younger group.
So there was probably time to play in the fields, to play in the village, maybe even to attend a few hours of school, though education was not compulsory until 1880. She certainly learnt to at least write her name as she signs for herself on her marriage certificate. But whether she was home taught or went to school it is impossible to know. Maybe her future husband, James, taught her. One of the advantages of being a workhouse child after all, would have been that he would have received at least a basic education
When she married, much later in 1854, she puts her profession as servant, so it is likely that from a fairly young age, she was sent out to work as a servant in one of the richer households in the area or maybe on a farm. She could have been employed as a maidservant, or as a farmhand - even girls worked in the fields in those days. Even in Enfield there were several large manor houses with large staffs, and also smaller but well-off households who would have had servants.
But then - disaster. Or maybe not. In 1848 Eliza’s first-born child Henry William was baptised. She was 22 and unmarried. Who was the father? Well the evidence all points to James Dearman, her future husband. Like many poor families, both in town and country the Browns seem to have taken in the occasional lodger, and this is perhaps how James Dearman, child of the workhouse, came into her life. I do not know when he joined the Brown household, but by the time of the 1851 census he is installed as a lodger at their new address in Games Yard: “A group of highly unhealthy cottages situated off Chase Side near the Holly Bush”. (The beautiful old photograph above right is a different village, but gives an idea perhaps.) He is not an apprentice shoemaker, but a labourer, so the reason for his lodging there is not immediately obvious. Did he start lodging there before or after the birth of her two illegitimate children?
For Eliza had two illegitimate children - both boys before she married, almost 100% certainly the children of James Dearman. The first child is baptised in February 1848 as Henry William Brown, to unmarried Eliza Brown, but in the space for father, ‘James’ is written in and then crossed out. The second, Frederic(k), at his baptism in 1851, is first of all noted as the child of James and Eliza Dearman, but then James and Dearman are crossed out and Brown and single woman are inserted. Frederick’s birth certificate has no father’s name on it, so he is registered as Frederick Brown. Moreover in the 1851 census record the two boys are shown as sons of the head of the household - John Brown, which I assume is some sort of attempt at making the children’s birth respectable. After James and Eliza’s marriage though, they seem to be fully accepted as James’ sons.
So, to summarise - by the time Frederick is born, James Dearman is lodging with the Browns but it is not until Eliza becomes pregnant yet again that the couple marry in March 1854 a month before the birth of their third son, James John, in April. What took them so long one wonders - almost ten years between the birth of Henry and their marriage, and only three children in that time too? I have been trying to find out more about the attitudes to unmarried mothers in village England, but am still uncertain as to whether it was a common thing and therefore not much thought about, or whether she would have been viewed with opprobrium. I can say with some certainty that it was not uncommon for the bride to be pregnant when she married though. Sure, James was only a labourer, but poorer people than labourers have married, so why not James and Eliza, who seem to have so obviously been a couple to all and sundry. The confused vicar seemed to think so anyway.