Gerald OsmondHubert Mollett The children
Gerald Osmond Hubert Mollett
+ Maude Beatrice Magee
Maude had more children than we knew about. And mystery surrounds the births of the last three. Moreover her oldest child, lived considerably longer than we knew and who brought them all up and why is still a bit of an open book. The lovely painting by Dorothea Sharpe conveys the feeling of the first family in happier times I hope. And I suppose there is still a remote possibility that two of the other three were, in fact Gerald's children. It was difficult to know where to put them - should they just be attached to Maude? And maybe I shall do just that as the evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of them not being Gerald's..
We ought to know so much more about these people. They are just a generation before me. Her oldest son was my father. Some of them were alive for much of my life. And yet their early years are a bit of a mystery A prime example of not asking the right questions at the right time, as there is no longer anyone to ask. Here is what I know now.
The next fact we have is that in January 1924 June is born. June’s birth certificate states that her mother is Maude and her father is Gerald (long dead). When Florence marries later in the year (in September) her bridegroom gives his address as her home with Maude. Apparently this was often done to establish residency in the area, but I suppose one cannot rule out the possibility that June was Florence’s baby, and that Maude, nobly claimed parentage. Whatever the case, June was premature and died, which was, sadly, perhaps just as well.
Florence seems to have survived this trauma though and later in the year, at the tender age of 19 she marries George Leonard Chalk, known as Len apparently. He was a young man who had served his country in WW1 although he was underage. I think he had been in the navy, and also worked as a Thames Lighterman for a time, but once the children came along he found work in the gas works. Their first child Leonard George was born in the first quarter of 1925 - so was most probably conceived before the marriage. This must have been a bittersweet event for in the same quarter, in April, Florence’s mother died at home. I hope that she lived long enough to see her first grandchild.
Florence and Leonard were now living in Westcliff-on-Sea - the posher part of Southend, and in 1927 their second son Peter was born. However, this baby tragically died, either at birth or soon after - in the same registration quarter anyway. I do not know whether Florence’s own health contributed to this death or whether the trauma of the birth contributed to Florence’s own ill health, for by now she must have been quite ill herself. Just over five months later she died at the tender age of 23 of TB. Unlike her mother, who died at home, she died in the local sanatorium. How long she was there I do not know. She was buried with her mother and baby June.
My father told me that his sister died young of TB, and indeed she was young - tragically young - but I had somehow assumed that young meant as a child. I had no idea that she had lived long enough to have children of her own. Her young husband doubtless mourned her loss, but a few years later inevitably remarried. The Chalk family seems to have kept her memory alive though, for she was spoken of at her husband’s death many many years later. She was an aunt that I never knew.
Florence Elsie 1904-1928
Florence was born just nine months after her parents’ marriage. I do not know for sure whether the photograph at left is really Florence, but it seems very likely that it is. It was taken in Southend and shows a young girl of about the right age in the right time. It comes courtesy of our new-found cousin Phillip’s collection of Mollett memorabilia., and as there are no other members of the Mollett family who lived in Southend we think that it must indeed be Florence Too young to be Maude I feel. I hope it is Florence - she is rather lovely.
Until around 1911 the young family lived in small, probably shared houses, or flats in the Dulwich, Peckham sort of area. Her father was only an accountant’s clerk and probably did not have much family support because of his unsuitable marriage (though I have to confess that this is supposition, not fact). Both sets of grandparents lived nearby (well, the paternal grandfather was dead). So genteel poverty - I think this is how my father described his youth.
However, around 1911 the family moved to Southend. I still really don’t know why - maybe for Gerald’s health, maybe he just got a job there. Whatever the reason at the age of seven Florence found herself living at the seaside. And now she had two brothers, and the family had sufficient funds to have a live-in servant. So life must have, at least temporarily, taken a turn for the better. Southend is not really on the sea - it’s on the Thames Estuary - at low tide there the mud flats stretch out almost to the end of the pier. It is not a fashionable place, although there is a posher part - not where the little family lived., but it haas long been popular as a seaside escape for Londoners. For a while they may well have been very happy here. Children don’t mind mud and the pier is a great attraction, not to mention all the other kinds of amusement that exist in Southend. But this stay in Southend is short-lived for the years 1913-1915 find them back in the Dulwich, Brockley kind of area and two more children are born. Although Gerald was still living with Maude at that time, in 1915 he makes a will in which neither Maude nor the two new children are mentioned, which leads one to suppose that they were not his. Whatever the reason the family seems to split and at the age of eleven I think Florence finds herself back in Southend with her mother whilst her brothers, are with their father and grandmother in Dulwich. More about their fate later.
Actually I have no evidence for this other than that she definitely was living with her mother when she married. Whose decision was this? Was it the compromise position that arose when Gerald and Maude split? And why did Maude return to Southend? It wasn’t her family home. Was there a significant other there? Did she like it there? Was it for her health? Were those family legends of music hall connections what she did in Southend.? Is this how she made her money? All of which is only relevant to Florence in that she seems to now be an only child living with a mother in a very difficult situation. They must have been close. Or if I have got that all wrong - she maybe went to live with her grandmother and aunts in Dulwich with her brothers, until she was old enough to leave home and return to her mother.
Hubert Stanley (Stan) 1906-1978
My father. His story has its own page.
Roland Harold 1911-1981
My Uncle Roland was born several years after his two older siblings in Southend. There are five years between he and his brother, my father, and seven between he and his sister. We have very few photographs of him but those we have imply that he was close to his brother. Which may well have been the case because I think the two of them found themselves alone, first of all without their mother who seems to have become estranged from her husband when Roland was a mere three years old, and then, when their father died two years later. They were, I think, alone with their, admittedly loving aunts, and a slightly forbidding grandmother by all accounts. I have no idea what their relationship, if any with their mother was. Did they ever see her? Did they see her occasionally? Was it worse for Stanley who was slightly older - eleven when his father died, or for Roland who was only six? My guess is that Roland would scarcely have remembered his father as he grew up.
However, my Uncle Roland also contracted TB - although we have yet to find out when, and so one wonders whether there had been contact with his mother. My father told me that all of his family had TB and that he had been told by the doctor to go to sea or be a farmer, or contract it himself, and since he went to sea at the young age of 18 just after his mother’s death, one has to assume that Roland had contracted it by then. I think he must have first spent some time in hospital and eventually he was transferred to Darvell Hall Sanatorium in Robertsbridge, Sussex - where he spent most of the rest of his life. Well to be fair I do not know where he lived in later life, but certainly for most of his adult life he lived there - first as a patient and then as an employee on the administrative side. We used to visit him there and it was there that we met Margaret (Russell) - the sanatorium’s matron, whom Roland married in 1956 at the age of 45. We were all so pleased for him. He was a gentle, kind man, but our contact with him was intermittent and as I grew older and moved away from home, I did not see him again. I do not know how often the brothers met either, as my father moved to Southampton.
By all accounts though, Roland and Margaret, though childless were happy and well suited. I gather, from relatives of Margaret who have made contact, that he was known as Bob to them. How this came about I have no idea. He died in 1981 at the age of 69.
Maud(e) Beatrice Magee
Hubert Stanley Mollett
Gerald Osmond Hubert Mollett
Gerald Osmond Hubert Mollett
Hubert Stanley Mollett