Ann Martin Old age
Considering how Ann seems to have spent the last years of her life I do wonder whether James’ death was a release for her. Well I guess it would have to have been. Even if she never visited him or cared for him, it must have weighed on her mind that he was fading away in the dreaded Workhouse.
So with the death of her husband, Ann settled into an active old age running a business. What a remarkable woman she must have been. Her life had been full of trials and disasters, the deaths of so many of her children, the death of her first husband, an economically up and down second marriage, and now in old age a blossoming into entrepreneurship.
Even more tantalising is the fact that from 1890 until her death in 1900 Ann appears in the electoral register at this address. Now women did not get the vote proper until the twentieth century, but householding single women could vote in local elections from 1865. The appearance of Ann in the register must mean that she actually owned this house which is extraordinary considering her husband died in the workhouse. I can only assume that he must have been just too difficult to look after at home and that the workhouse was therefore the only alternative.
But die he did, and Ann, no spring chicken herself - she was 75 in 1891 when the next census rolls around, is now living in Tanner’s Hill in Deptford calling herself a wardrobe dealer, with an assistant and a servant living with her. What an apparent change in fortune! Tanner’s Hill is shown in the rather lovely drawing at the top of the page - alas not quite the right numbers, but almost next door. And I do mean numbers, for, by now her daughter Mary Ann, now married to one Benjamin Brittle, blacksmith, is also a wardrobe dealer and also living in Tanner’s Hill - she at no.29 and Ann at no. 16. I can only assume that Benjamin continued working as a blacksmith - either at no. 29 or elsewhere, and Mary Ann worked with her mother in a wardrobe business. I also assume we are now talking about actual wardrobes rather than clothes, but then again, maybe not. Whatever the case, the business was sufficiently profitable for it to give an income to two parts of the family, pay for an assistant and a servant to look after Ann. What a turnaround. The photograph at left of this section of Tanner’s Hill shows no.29 near the front on the right (the laundrette). No. 16 must be one of the properties on the left further down the street. This is now a pedestrianised conservation area.
And there would have been grandchildren too. Martha was married with a small family, Catherine, who had married young had completed her family by this time and Mary Ann also had several children, although in her case, tragically, most of them died. Ann must have been closest to Mary Ann - she lived just across the road after all, so she would have been a support through these trials. I am pretty sure that there was contact between Catherine and Mary Ann at least - there are too many children’s names in common.
In 1900 at the grand old age of 84 Ann died - I do not know of what or where as I do not, as yet, have her death certificated. It seems likely that she at least had her daughter Mary Ann nearby though. They must have been close. Indeed why not, as they had been through so much together.
And so like so many of my ancestors, and no doubt yours too, an ordinary, previously unnoticed life came to an end. But these women of the nineteenth century were extraordinary, from their queen all the way down through society. They were confronted by so many difficulties that are unimaginable to us today - so many children, so many children who died, poverty beyond anything of which we can conceive and no help from government handouts or labour saving gadgets. Another remarkable woman. I am proud to have her as my ancestor.
Dressmakers and Seamstresses