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James John Dearman  Bridgend  ca 1883-1913

How did they meet and why was James John in Cardiff?  I think it is possible that Cardiff was as far away from Nottingham/Mansfield (and Enfield) as James could imagine.  It was another growth area, so plenty of work to be had building homes for the burgeoning population, and maybe he knew someone going there.  Cardiff was a real melting pot, with people from all over the British Isles and overseas, seeking their fortune in this booming new town.  I suspect he lodged with Margaret’s brother William, who took in boarders, whilst he found his feet.  Her address on the marriage certificate - 50 Woodville Rd., Cardiff, (shown above) is the same as James’s, so she was probably living with William whilst working somewhere in Cardiff.  It would be nice to think that she offered him solace for his woes, brought him back to life.  That’s how a novelist would paint the situation probably - but the truth might be much more depressing than that.


Soon after the marriage they must have moved to Bridgend, specifically to no. 8 Meadow St., which is where their first son Arthur is born, and where they are found in the 1901 census.  Intriguingly in 1891 they seem to be at no. 1.  Maybe they liked the street, and just moved when/if their tenancy came to an end.  It isn’t a transcription error - I have checked.  The street below, is not Meadow St, but as far as I can gather, is pretty typical of residential streets of the town.   Meadow St. is almost in the centre of Bridgend (towards the south of the aerial view).  It is a north/south running road at the bottom left of the triangle formed by the yellow road and the north/south running railway.  Mackworth Street, where they moved late in life is the north/south running road the other side of the railway.  The green open space at the left is the Bridgend Rugby Club ground.


As you can see from the picture and the plan of the Cardiff houses, these houses were not large.  They seem to be three bedroom maximum, and more usually, just two.  Can you imagine housing a family of nine children - or even worse - teenagers, and mostly boys too, in such cramped circumstances.  James John, being the man of the house, obviously didn’t have to spend as much time there as his wife, and maybe it was so cramped he escaped at night to the pub - or the rugby field.  At least one of his sons played for the Bridgend Ravens.  Maybe he did too.

On Monday, September 13 1886, just four years after Agnes’ death, James John Dearman  married Margaret Louisa Jenkins at St Andrew’s Church, Cardiff - now the centre of the Welsh speaking Anglicans of Cardiff and pictured above.  James says he is a bachelor (not a widower) and he also says he is 28 (though he is now 32).


The disconnect and apparent denial of the earlier marriage still troubles me occasionally.  Do we have two different people here?  However, I have searched long and hard for a parallel James Dearman, plasterer, born in Enfield to James a bricklayer and there is none to be found.  So I am forced to conclude that they are indeed the same person.  There are two possible theories (probably more) as to the denial of his earlier life.  One is that he was traumatised by it all and ran away, heartbroken, distressed, who knows - and that he then hid it from view - both from his new wife and family and also from himself.  Or - he had just run away from his commitments, and didn’t want anyone to know about it.  I wonder whether he told Margaret?  I suspect not.  I suppose I think that, being a woman, she would have wanted to include James’ children in their own marriage, but maybe I am being too generous.  We shall certainly never know, and the two children certainly never turned up in Bridgend. If someone in Bridgend knows please tell us.


And why did he lie about his age?  Was this another ploy to avoid questions about earlier liaisons?  A 28 year old is probably less likely to have been married before than a 32 year old, though only marginally I would have thought.  Perhaps he was just vain, perhaps he couldn’t count and had no idea how old he was!


Margaret was only 20, so underage and 12 years younger than her husband (the marriage certificate says just eight).  But, guess what - she was pregnant - though only three months or so - their first son Arthur John, was born the following March, so I suppose she would have known.  The witnesses at the wedding were two of her brothers, so we can only assume the family agreed to the marriage - maybe even insisted upon it.

He always describes himself as a plasterer, but I have so far found no mention of him in the trade directories of the time - Piggots of 1895 is one example - but then, one may have had to pay for an entry and so perhaps he felt that business was so good he didn’t need to.  These directories were rather like the Yellow Pages of today.  At least two of his sons, Arthur and William probably began their working lives working for their father and in the 1901 census he is described as an employer rather than as an employee, though whether his workers included others outside of the family I really don’t know.

I think the reason for the move to Bridgend from Cardiff where they were married, was probably to be near Margaret’s parents who lived in Green St. which is just around the corner from Meadow St.  Whether this was to be near them to look after them, or to have them help out, I do not know.  Whatever the reason, they moved there and stayed there in the same district of Bridgend for the rest of their lives. 


After Arthur was born there seems to have been a pause in the baby producing saga as the next child, William Ewart, was not born until 1890 - three years later.  Of course, there could have been miscarriages.  Arthur must have enjoyed a blissful three years or so of undivided attention.  But then, almost every year until 1896 a new baby came along - Alfred James (1891), Grace (1893), Sydney Alban (1894), Blanche Winifred (1896).  So as the century came to end the Dearman household had five living children under the age of 13 - I think Sydney died, because after a break of four years, another Sydney Alban is born in 1900.  The last two children, George Oswald and Netta Louise were born in 1902 and 1907, by which time the older boys had probably left home. Indeed Netta Louise is born almost at the same time as Arthur’s first child - I thought at first he had had twins!  All of which is pretty typical of the time - no birth control with any real effect available then.


So James would have had to work hard to put food on the table.  I wonder whether he was a loving father or whether he was the stereotypical Victorian patriarch who ruled the roost with terror.  The picture at the top of the page shows a father who was obviously loved and one has to hope that the was like this, but then - what about the family he left behind in Mansfield? 

James John Dearman



The children

I must confess I find myself with not much of an impression of the man.  What else can we glean from what we have?  His second son’s name is William Ewart - the same names as Gladstone’s the eminent Victorian social reformer.  Was his son named after him?  If so it would imply an interest in politics and social justice perhaps.  The two sons named Sydney Alban might signal distress at the death of the first, and a determination to remember him by naming a second son the same.  As far as I can tell the name Alban is not used by anyone famous at the time - it’s the name of the first British Christian martyr and saint, but it could just have been fashionable at the time.

The only other thing I know about James John Dearman is that he died on December 28th 1913, just after Christmas, in the King Edward VII Hospital in Cardiff of post-operative shock after an operation for bowel cancer - which would probably have killed him anyway.  His death certificate clearly states that he was 49 years old - when he was actually 59 - so now he is claiming to be ten years younger than he was - or somebody is.  If you accept his ‘new’ Welsh age, he should still be 55!  Still I guess even 59 is not all that old.  It’s definitely the right man - he is described as a Master Plasterer (which means that he is fully qualified and is an employer) and the death is registered by his wife - M. L. Dearman.  Their address is now 32 Mackworth Street - which I have talked about above.  There was no National Health in those days, so presumably the family would have had to pay medical and hospital fees.  Surgery and general hospital conditions were still very risky as well, though much improved from earlier in the nineteenth century.


He was buried on New Year’s Day in the year the Great War began in St Mary’s Church, Coity.  Perhaps fortunately, he missed the anxiety of having three, maybe four sons away fighting in a war that destroyed a whole generation of young men.  It looks like a peaceful place to come to rest.  Maybe one day we’ll make a pilgirmage to Bridgend to find the grave.  


An eventful life in its way, although the final chapter seems to have been very stable, very normal and totally uneventful other than the continual arrival of children, and the daily grind of work.  His boyhood would also have been similar to that of his own children I would guess, though far away on the other side of the island that is Great Britain.  The drama in his life occurred in his youth in Nottinghamshire, and seems to have been so traumatic that it caused him to cut and run, breaking all ties and possibly eliminating a whole chapter of his life from his memory. It just goes to show that even the most ordinary lives have secrets.

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