Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Margaret Taylor nee Smiles (1852-1917)

Margaret Smiles was my great grandmother. She was the mother of my grandfather William Taylor (1890-1972).

Margaret was born on 5th September 1852 at 11 Liverpool Street, Newcastle upon Tyne. She had a twin sister called Ellen. Her father was Alexander Maddison (no occupation is given on the birth certificate) and her mother was Jane Smiles.  Margaret’s parents were not married – about 6% of births in 1850 were illegitimate. The person who registered the birth was Jane’s sister, Mary Smiles, who also lived at 11 Liverpool Street. Margaret and Ellen were baptized on 8 September 1852 at St Andrew’s Church, Newcastle. The baptism record gives the parents as Alexander and Jane Smiles of Liverpool Street, the father’s occupation being blacksmith. Curiously, Margaret and Ellen were baptised again on 26 September 1852, at the same church and by the same vicar. This time the record gives Jane Smiles as the mother but no father is listed. Jane’s occupation is given as “single woman”. Perhaps the vicar found out that Jane was not married and insisted on the baptism being repeated ?

The 1851 census shows Margaret’s mother Jane aged 32, unmarried, a cow keeper living in Liverpool Street, Newcastle. Also at the address were Jane’s father William Smiles, a widower and retired tanner aged 68 as well as Jane’s siblings Mary (aged 22, occupation listed as “carries milk”) and Thomas (17, a plasterer’s apprentice). Also listed is Harriet Smiles aged 4. The census return says that she was William’s daughter although she was actually his granddaughter (she was Mary’s illegitimate daughter). All were born in Newcastle. Census data shows that Jane remained unmarried and continued to live in Liverpool Street, Newcastle with her sister Mary until Jane died in 1890.

I have found only one Alexander Maddison in the 1851 census. He was aged 30, a labourer and lived in South Shields (near Newcastle) with his wife Jane (30) and their children Joseph (3) and Ann (2). In 1871 he appears as a stonemason with 7 children and he died in 1901 aged 81. He was possibly Margaret’s father, but I can’t be sure.

Margaret was not well educated and remained illiterate throughout her life. This may explain some inconsistencies in the records for her.

In 1861, William Smiles (aged 78, a cowkeeper), his unmarried daughters Jane (38, a housekeeper) and Mary (28) were living at 3 Liverpool Court, Newcastle. Also at the address were Jane’s daughters Margaret (7) and Ellen (7).

The 1871 census shows Margaret as a domestic servant (aged 17) living at 34 Liverpool Street in the house of Ralph Nixon (55, a blacksmith), his wife Ann (60) and their two sons William (23) and Robert (20). Ann was an elder sister of Jane Smiles and so was Margaret’s aunt. 

Margaret married George Taylor, a driver in the Royal Artillery, on the 21 February 1877 in the Newcastle Registry Office. The certificate records her age as 23 (she was actually 24) and living at Leazes Lane, Newcastle. He was 27 and living in the Newcastle Barracks. His father was Daniel Taylor, an innkeeper. Her father is listed as William Smiles (who was actually her grandfather), a blacksmith.

Margaret and George had 12 children, 8 boys and 4 girls. The places of birth of the eldest children indicate where George was posted during his army career. Their son George was born 1877 in Newcastle, Ernest Edward born 1879 in Weedon Barracks, Northants, Daniel born 1880 in Woolwich, Harriet Jane born 1881 in Bengal, East India and Charles born 1885 in Woolwich. Parish records for St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich show the baptisms of Ernest and Daniel on 26 November 1880. George was then a Bombardier in the Royal Artillery 3rd Brigade

Woolwich was the headquarters of the Royal Artillery and there was (and still is) a large, impressive looking barracks facing Woolwich Common. It seems that George was posted to India late in 1880 or in 1881. The Indian Army was formed by the British after the Indian Mutiny in 1857. Prior to this time the British East India Company had their own army units, paid for by their profits. The Indian Army was used to suppress uprisings, keep order and guard the frontiers. It included British and Indian (sepoy) units.

It appears that George left the army in 1886 and the family moved to Charlton where their remaining children namely Margaret (b1886), Thomas (b1888), William (b1890), Samuel (b1891), May (b1894), Edward Albert (b1896) and Edith Annie (b1897) were born.

The 1891 census shows George Taylor (aged 41, a labourer) and Margaret (36) living at 9 West Street, Charlton with their children George (14), Ernest (12), Harriet (9), Charles (6), Margaret (4) and Thomas (2) and William (10 months). Margaret’s son Thomas died in 1898 aged 9 and her daughter Edith Annie died in 1899 aged 2. The 1893 and 1894 electoral registers for Greenwich list George Taylor as living at 9 West Street. The electoral registers for 1895 to 1904 list him at 7 West Street.

In 1901 the family living at 7 West Street, Charlton consisted of George (aged 50, a labourer local board), Margaret (47), George (24, a covering machinist), Jane (19, a covering machinist), Charles (16, a covering machinist), Margaret (14, a daily servant), William (10), Samuel (9) and May (6).

The houses at 7 and 9 West Street were close to the junction with Woolwich Road. Charles Booth conducted a survey of the living standards of Londoners in 1899 to 1901. People working for him surveyed streets with the help of the local police and classified the inhabitants by their housing and the local crime rates. Booth produced a map of London which was colour coded with 7 street classifications. West Street was surveyed on 11th May 1900. The notes read :

“ Starting at the corner of West Street and Woolwich Road.
N up West Street. This is on a lower level than the Woolwich Road. So is the character of the houses and their inhabitants. 2-storey. Poor and very poor. A few rather better off near the public house on the west side and on the east side north of York Street. Windows dirty and broken, children dirty, blinds dirty and half rolled up and pinned to prevent falling. Waterside labourers. LIGHT BLUE and PURPLE or LIGHT BLUE all through.”
The colour codes are
Purple (4th of 7) = Mixed. Some comfortable others poor.
Light blue (5th of 7) = Poor. 18s to 21s a week for a moderate family.

The houses at 7 and 9 West Street no longer exist and their site is occupied by a light engineering company. The road is now called Westmore Street and is near the Thames Barrage.

George Taylor died 29 August 1903 aged 54 in Greenwich and was buried in a common grave (E39 Con) in Charlton Cemetery. Margaret remarried on 19th Feb 1911 at Holy Trinity Church, New Charlton, which was at the junction of Charlton Lane with Woolwich Road, only a few yards from where she was living at 7 West Street. Her second husband was Morris Samuels, a widower aged 62 who was a labourer. Margaret’s age is given as 56, although she was actually 58. The marriage register gives her father as Thomas Maddison (deceased), a blacksmith.

Four of Margaret’s children were also married at Holy Trinity: Margaret Ellen (in 1910), William (in 1912), Charles (in 1914) and May (in 1915). All gave their address as 7 West Street. The church was built in 1894, declared redundant in 1974 and demolished in 1975. There is now housing on its site.

The 1911 census shows the family still living at 7 West Street. The household consisted of Morris Samuels (62, a ships storekeeper’s labourer), Margaret Samuels (56), Charles (26), William (20) and Samuel (20) Taylor, all ammunition labourers (Charles at Vickers and Maxim, William and Samuel at Woolwich Arsenal). Morris’s place of birth is given as Amsterdam and his nationality as Dutch. 

Margaret died in Woolwich on 16 March 1917 aged 64 and was buried in plot C385 Con in Charlton Cemetery. There is no headstone or stonework on the grave, which is grassed over. Morris Samuels died in 1919 aged 75 in Woolwich.

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