top of page

Elizabeth Wilson Tier  After marriage

arresting face.jpg
old woman.jpg
dressmaker 2.jpg

Portsmouth 1887-1922

My uncle told me that he had found lots of advertisements for Elizabeth’s dressmaking, though I am not sure whether they were actual advertisements or directory entries.  Be that as it may, and I have yet to find them myself, I am sure that Elizabeth supported herself for many years making dresses and maybe hats too, as in one of the earlier censuses she describes herself as a milliner/dressmaker.  And her daughters were also dressmakers and so probably helped her.  For all I know she had a successful business, although I guess that it was a home-based job.  The photograph at right is of a team of young women dressmaking in what looks like somebody’s home, with at least one child being looked after as they worked.  She also took in lodgers - there is one in the house in 1891 - so my guess is that they were a regular occurrence, most likely to supplement the income.  For there were no pensions in those days.  No job - no income.

As well as keeping house for her children, and earning money as a dressmaker, Elizabeth was caring for her second son Herbert, who, by 1891 was described as consumptive - generally meaning that the person suffered from TB.  In 1896 he died, presumably of TB.  This is five years later, and so it must have been a terrible five years nursing him through his illness.  And, of course, no mother should have to see her children die before herself.

It may well have been the event that tipped her into old age.  She was in her sixties, and probably had had enough of making dresses and hats.  Maybe her fingers were not as nimble as they used to be.  Whatever the reason, I think that she probably moved around from child to child and relative to relative until her death many years later.  In 1901 she is visiting her much younger sister Emily and her soldier schoolteacher husband in the Aldershot Barracks, and in 1911 she is living with her only son Henry and his wife and family, back in Portsmouth.

dressmakers 1900.jpg
grandmother & child.png
old woman knitting.jpg

Of course, I have no further census records, but my aunt and uncle both report that when they were small she was living with them at 13 Lombard Street in Old Portsmouth.  So now she is living with her granddaughter Alice - oldest daughter of Annie, with Annie still living nearby and coming in on Mondays to help with the children on washing day.  They describe her as a Victorian lady with a mob cap, who went to the Wesleyan Chapel on Sundays, until it was moved to the other side of Portsmouth.  Apparently she was known as Great Grandma Tee - which to my uncle, then a child was the letter T (for Tier) not an actual surname.  In 1922 she died at the house in Lombard St., having suffered from valvular disease of the heart for three years, and senility as well.  It can’t have been easy for my grandmother - her granddaughter, although at first she may have been a welcome extra pair of hands.  By then though there were lots of family members all living in Portsmouth, so no doubt the burdens were shared.  She died on 7th November, with her son in attendance - an old lady of 86.

She was another one of those remarkable women who lived through massive changes in every aspect of life, including their own status as citizens.  For Elizabeth too the changes were more personal - from a wayward young girl, through two marriages, the deaths of children and a long working life to a very respectable and apparently religious old woman.  Maybe she was atoning for the sins of her youth?


This is the ancestor my youngest aunt, who did not know her, would most like to have met.  If only one could have asked her about her life, particularly that risky youth.

bottom of page