Maud(e) Beatrice Magee The other children
We now move into a much more contentious area. Violet - just a single name, much less pretentious than the Mollett habit of two, conservative names. Violet is a little more fanciful and also simpler. She was born on March 22nd 1913 at 386 Brockley Road, Lewisham. Her birth certificate states that Gerald is her father, and indeed it seems, from an electoral roll, that Gerald and Maude were still living together. But she is not mentioned in her father’s will, made two years later, and neither is her mother. And my father never mentioned her. I guess we shall never know who her father was. It could even have been Gerald. I think she probably spent almost the first two years of her life with both Gerald and Maude, for in 1914, in the same area, another child, Harry is born - also with the same stated parentage. But either at that point or shortly thereafter the marriage disintegrated. I suppose, if I am honest, I have no real evidence of this, but, as outlined elsewhere the circumstantial evidence all points to it
Oxford has been mentioned as a place that Violet might have lived, but I find no evidence of this. Unless Violet went to live there as a young woman before she moved back to London and married. I do know that in 1934 the electoral register shows her living in what looks like a boarding house in the Catford district of Lewisham and the following year she is living and working in the Alperton Park Hotel in Ealing Road, Wembley. In that same year she married a Welshman, Percival (Percy) George Davies. Initially they lived in Northolt. Percy served in the Army during WW2 and they had five children - two boys and three girls. But times in England were tough and the family, with Percy’s father, moved back to Wales - to Hay on Wye in the Brecon Beacons area of Wales, where they remained for the rest of their lives, although most of the children migrated back to the London area. It would seem that Violet was very happy in Hay, (famous town of books) but she died just a month short of her sixtieth birthday. Percy died five years later.
I do hope that it was a happy life in spite of the traumatic discovery of her unexpected parentage - discovered in the 70s and apparently causing much distress. I am indebted to her daughter-in-law and her sons, for supplying me with this precious information and the lovely photographs. I wish I had met her.
When I first discovered Violet’s birth I naturally assumed, that both she and Harry had died as infants. But no death could be found. I then wondered whether Maude’s sister Florence who had married relatively late and was childless had taken them in. But I could find no records for this surname either. Did Maude, herself, bring them up until her death? Violet would have been 13 when her mother died, so you would think she would have remembered her - which it seems she didn’t. It remained a tantalising mystery for me.
And then, out of the blue we discover a new cousin - the son of Violet who told us that Violet had lived most of her life believing her father to be one Benjamin Brittle, bricklayer. Apparently when she found her birth certificate in the 70s, she was shocked and would not speak of it. How sad. We had grown up just the other side of the river from a woman who was at least our half-aunt, even possibly a full aunt, with children who were our cousins and we never knew them. My father never spoke of them, but he must have known about them. He was seven when she was born. Did he wipe them from his memory?
With a new name, Benjamin Brittle, to research I hit the internet and before too long came up with this story. It seems that Benjamin Brittle himself died in World War One in 1917 and I don’t think he ever married. I have yet to find a marriage anyway. His father, however, also named Benjamin was, it turns out, married to Maude’s aunt Mary Ann - her mother’s sister. So Benjamin the younger was her cousin. Was he also Violet’s father? We shall never know. Whoever the father was, the children were taken in and raised by the Brittles who gave them their name. Why did they do this? Well if Benjamin was their father the reason is obvious. If not - well Mary Ann and Benjamin had had eleven children, of whom only four were still alive in 1911, with Benjamin not long for this world. Maybe this was a chance to compensate for all those lost children. Maybe they were just good people. Again, we shall never know. The family seems to have lived at 29 Tanner’s Hill in Deptford for many years (the second house from the front in the photograph - now a launderette). Benjamin the elder died in 1919 - Violet would have only been six years old, and Harry just five. But Mary Ann and her daughters Florence and Mary Ann continued to care for them. Benjamin had been a blacksmith but Mary Ann was a wardrobe dealer and I think gradually the entire family were drawn into this family business.
Maude Beatrice Magee + ?
Harry was born about eighteen months after Violet. Again the birth certificate states that Gerald was his father, and again the address is in the Lewisham Area - this time in Blenheim Grove. Curiously, in the 1915 electoral roll Gerald is living in the same house, with four other women, none of whose names I recognise. But no Maude - she has vanished. From this I assume that when Harry was born they were still together - still leaving the possibility that Gerald was indeed the father - but for whatever reason - Maude left and went back to Southend.
As with Violet’s story I am not sure what happened to Harry, other than that at some point he and Violet found themselves being brought up by Benjamin Brittle and his wife Mary Ann. Harry very probably served in WW2 - he would have been of the right age, but there are not many records available online as yet, they are still classified - unless you were killed or taken prisoner. However, in 1945 when the war was finishing, Harry was not at home with his wife in the electoral register, so I think we can assume he was away at the war somewhere.
The other children
Maud(e) Beatrice Magee
Gerald Osmond Hubert Mollett
Hubert Stanley Mollett
It looks as if, unlike Violet, Harry stayed on at 29 Tanner’s Hill with his cousin? Mary Ann - Benjamin and Mary Ann’s daughter) until he either went away to war or married in 1941. The girl he married - Rene Levy was Jewish. They were married in Greenwich in the middle of the war, as so many people were. It is likely that they didn’t see each other much for the first few years. I do not know what relationship Rene had to Emily and Rose Levy who lived with them on and off until the 50s. Mother, sister, sisters? There were other people living in the house too, so either they owned the house and took in boarders, they themselves were boarders, or the house was divided into flats. Harry, it seems had a shoe repair business in Greenwich but I do not know where. They had two daughters, and in 1957 or 58 they left England forever to start a new life in South Africa. Harry, by now was forty three - in the prime of life I guess. Well, many English people left England around this time for the colonies. I did it myself, though a few years later. They were looking for a better life, for sunshine and prosperity. I have no idea why South Africa was chosen. After that, it seems contact was lost. One wonders whether Harry knew that his birth certificate gave his surname as Mollett. He must have had to produce a birth certificate to get a passport - so maybe he knew but never told anyone. There seem to be hardly any South African records online so I have not found out what happened to him. A cousin I never met - I am sorry I never knew you.
And last but not least - the final mystery child. At the age of 40 Maude apparently gives birth to a daughter in Southend, and puts on the birth certificate that her father was Gerald Osmond Hubert Mollett, timber surveyor. Gerald, of course was long dead and he was not a timber surveyor. Was June’s father? The baby was a month premature and probably struggled from the first, for at the age of three months, she tragically died. She was buried in the grave that was subsequently to become Maude’s own and her older sister Florence’s as well. Her mother, Maude may well have been ailing when she was born. I guess the only other thing to be said about this short life is that there is a slight possibility that she was actually Florence’s child. Florence and her future husband may both have been living with Maude.
Very sad, whosever child it was. The somewhat stylised picture above, I hope gives the feeling of a not very healthy mother and child.
A sad end to Maude’s childbearing life.
Was she a good mother? Was she traumatised by apparently having her children taken away from her? Or was she an uncaring mother? I do so wish I had asked my father more about her.
Is this Maude in the photo above? It is another photo from Phillip Mollett’s collection. It was taken in Southend and I think the face is sufficiently different from the photo I think is Florence, to assume a different person. Is this my father? She looks a little detached perhaps, somewhat sad? Not stunningly beautiful though. Even a little bit like me?
So many questions about Maude that will never be answered.