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Emma Turner  After marriage

Portsea 1853-1912

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In August of the following year - just about nine months later, their first child William (Willie) John Richards, named after his father, was born.  It was probably a great cause for celebration and indicates a marriage beginning well.  The family were living nearer the sea in Southsea in Bedford Street, almost directly behind what is now the University of Portsmouth - and in the central area of Portsmouth that was heavily bombed during the last war and so does not look at all the same these days.  The mystifying thing is that the next child Ellen is not born until 1863 - almost ten years later.  I have searched but can find no more births in between either from parish records or from census records.  Were there lots of miscarriages, or just no children and if not, why not.?  The couple were obviously fertile.  Is it an indication of some incompatibility?  As always we shall never know.  Whatever the reason the problem was not solved by Ellen's birth because the third and last child, Jessie was not born until 1867 - another four years later.  Whatever the reason this was a small family for the times and well-spaced,so that it must have enabled a slightly better standard of living than for many at the time.  William had a good job at the dockyard as well.

I have no idea where Emma met her husband.  He was a machinist in the Dockyard (after the sea itself, the other major employer in Portsmouth) and three years younger than she.  Were they neighbours?  Were their families friends?  Perhaps they met in church, or at church social events.  So far I have not come across any family connection.  It often intrigues me how these long ago couples met.  Sometimes it is obvious, but more often or not it isn't.  And she was a little old - above the average age of a woman marrying for the first time - it seems to have been around 22 at this point in history and Emma was 27.  But she was not pregnant and although she and William both give the same address (her father's I think), it did not necessarily mean that they were co-habiting at the time.  For this was apparently a common ruse at the time, to prove that one was a resident of the Parish and therefore entitled to marry there.

And so on November 15th in 1853 Emma married William John Richards in St. Mary's Church in Portsea.  Apparently the original Norman church was demolished in the early nineteenth century and replaced by an ugly building which only lasted a few years.  Nevertheless this was the one in which Emma was married and whose interior is shown at left.  There were no Richards witnesses present but Emma either had her grandfather or her brother - both named George - as a witness, so at least a few family members were probably present at the wedding.  And everyone could sign their own name, which is interesting as this is well before compulsory education.

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The census records show that the family moved around Portsmouth a little but not radically.  Emma's parents William and Ruth came to live with the small family, which may have been a help to begin with, but eventually a burden perhaps, for they remained with them until they died - Ruth died in 1861 and William in 1871.   Still it shows that the family must have been prosperous enough to be able to offer the two old people a home.

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Willie married and left home in 1878 but the two girls stayed on - becoming dressmakers (what else?) as they grew.  And then, tragically in 1886 (I think), at the age of 19 Jessie, their youngest child died.  As she is not a direct ancestor I have not sent for a death certificate so I have no idea what happened.  I can only assume an illness of some kind.  Ellen continued to live at home with her parents, still working as a dressmaker, until she too married, at the age of 29 (they married late this side of the family!).  Her husband was Edward Eason who worked in infant protection somehow.  A good man, who took Emma in when William died in 1896.  He died in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight of unknown causes, which is yet another mystery that I cannot currently solve.  Why Cowes?  Well it is not far away - maybe they were visiting friends or family, having a day out, on holiday ...?  I'll leave this for William's own story to investigate more.

1886 Tine, a Young Girl from Skagen oil

Emma lived with her daughter and her family until her death in 1912.  So her last years were spent as a grandmother to five children.  For all of that time they lived in the same house in Henley Street, Southsea - an unremarkable British street full of unremarkable British semi-detached and terrace houses.  In 1911 she is described as an old-aged pensioner, so obviously had a very small income of her own, enabling her to leave £306 to her family when she died.  This equates to around £18,000 ($36,500) in today's money- so I think this shows that she must have been a good money manager - thrifty in the Ellis/Mollett/Dearman tradition!  She was 86 when she died of senile decay and heart failure.  I do hope the senile decay did not mean that she spent several years in a sort of limbo.  Distressing for everyone.


Before marriage

After marriage

The children


Emma Turner

William Turner

Ruth Wareham

William John Richards

Willie/William John Richards


So an ordinary life I suppose.  An unusally small family for the times, and a tragedy in the form of the death of their youngest.  Every life seems to have at least one tragedy - often hidden - but most survived.  In 1912 the world was on the verge of major change brought on by WW1.  At least she was spared that - she had seen enough change in her own lifetime already - from just post-Napoleon to the brink of WW1, coaches to cars, village life (even in Portsmouth) to urban life, electricity, education for all ... 

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