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Charles Richard Smith  Old age


ca. 1870-1904

I suppose that 58 in 1871 was viewed as older than we would today, but it seems rather young to retire.  But then again, why not?  If your sons are ready, willing and able to take over the family business why not a back seat and live a life of leisure?   The sons were still unmarried, though this was about to change, and although Charles continued to live at Russell House, by 1881 his son Richard is named as the head of the household.  I wonder if this means that Richard now owns the house, or whether he now merely considers himself in charge.  Richard is now married with children of his own but Charles is still there.

Not Ann however.  I have talked about this on the page about Charles’ marriage, and it now occurs to me that, like many couples, when the husband retires, the marriage sometimes hits a rough patch as the couple adapt to seeing more of each other.  That said, it could just be one of those things of course, Ann, just might have been away visiting her daughter (for that was where she was) on census night.

But I wonder what Charles did with all that leisure?  Did he just stay at home and play with the grandchildren?  Did he visit his growing brood of grandchildren?  Was he a much loved grandfather like the genial old man in the painting at right, and the rather lovely one at the top of the page?  Or was he a crusty old man. finding it difficult to relinquish control?  We sometimes draw fanciful conclusions from tiny little bits of information - like two census years in which Charles and Ann were apart.  One of these tiny things is the 1901 census, in which Charles is now living with his other son, Frederick and his family, but the census does not describe him as father, but as a boarder.  This seems a bit harsh.  Is that what Frederick wrote on the census sheet, or is it what the enumerator put down because he didn’t know the relationship.  One could be tempted to say that Charles was now put up with and not treated well but really it’s a tiny little bit of information from which to draw such a conclusion.

The only other thing we know of Charles’ old age implies that he was a tough old man, as indeed he must have been because he lived to a goodly age. 


In 1887 he was knocked down by a cart and injured.  The account in The Sussex Advertiser, reads:


“Mr C. R. Smith of the Britannia Steam Flour Mills had just left the residence of his brother the Rev. A. C. Smith in Park Crescent.  He was making his way to the station when at the bottom of Trafalgar Street he was knocked down by a cart driven by a boy.  With assistance he reached the station, said Dr, Richardson who happened to be there.  He helped him to his residence and got him to bed when it was found two of his ribs were broken and he was much shaken.  Up to the present time no unfavourable symptoms have occurred and deepite his age - 75 years - he will get about again a few weeks.” 


Alas the only illustration I could find is the watermarked one at left, but it does seem to fit the bill.  

Charles went on to live another seventeen years, but maybe the accident left him somewhat less mobile or well.  Who knows.  Incidentally the brother referred to in the article is actually his half brother, Adam Clarke Smith.

Sometime between 1891 and 1901 his wife Ann died.  Was she beloved, or had they grown apart over the years.  I do not have either of their death certificates - I am not sure which is the right one for Ann, and I have not yet obtained Charles’.  I must do so.

He died at the ripe old age of 91 - very old for the times - in the June quarter of 1904.  When he was born Napoleon was rampaging around Europe and Jane Austen was writing her novels.  Horses and ships were the main means of transport.  Queen Victoria had lived out her entire reign in his lifetime and the world had changed radically.  The industrial revolution in which Charles played his not insignificant part had transformed the country.  Britain ruled the world or so it seemed and motorised transport and electricity were beginning to transform the world yet again.  

Somehow or other Charles has been overshadowed in my mind by both his daughter and his father, but now that I have looked at his life in more detail I see that, he was, in fact a major mover and shaker in the Smith family history.  A remarkable man.  Why did he retire so early?  How did he become a miller?  These are the questions I find myself still unable to answer?

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