“Look to the past to see what the future holds.” I like this quote from the author Celia Conrad in Wilful Murder, the second of her Alicia Allen Investigates.
I find myself looking to the past on most days at the moment for if I’m not in search of an elusive ancestor for a client or trawling through the 1911 Census for a few of my pesky relatives who still appear reluctant to reveal themselves some 106 years later; I could either be immersed in the year 1815 as the work on my Lord Byron abode continues or otherwise curled up in a quiet corner somewhere with Lady Byron and Her Daughters; and before you ask, it is the title of a new biography about His Lordship’s much maligned spouse!
However, one rainy weekend and in the company of my genealogical assistant, I literally took a walk in the past during a visit to London for as I trekked up and down Fairfield Road in Bow which is not only the road that my family live near but also the road that Hargrave Potter, the son of my 4 x Great Grandfather was trekking along on that very weekend an incredible 130 years earlier!
I have only recently acquainted myself with Hewitson Potter, my 4 x Great Grandfather who was born in Scarborough in 1815 and with the blessing of an unusual first name (a boon for any genealogist, however well experienced!) and an illustrious career as a Master Mariner; Hewitson was also the patriarch of an impressive number of off-spring.
However in 1865 with Hewitson’s early death in Nova Scotia, little Hargrave along with his mother Susannah and siblings Mary and John would make their home in Scarborough with his older sister Ann Stephenson and her husband John Edeson.
And there Hargrave was to remain living alongside his sister’s family and his many cousins (including my 2 x Great Grandfather Charles Edward) in their cozy home on Seamer Road until after his eighteenth birthday in 1881 and when shortly after as a skilled carpenter, he would make his way to London and make the acquaintance of one Mary Jane Duffus, who despite sharing the same birthplace as Hargrave, was to spend her childhood with her family in Mile End.
November 13 1887 is a date infamous with London’s long and troubled history and known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ when over 30,000 protesters including the playwright George Bernard Shaw marched around Trafalgar Square in a demonstration against rising unemployment, the poor living wage and the British government Coercion Acts that gave rise to the suspension of a number of civil rights including imprisonment without trial.
Despite the violent clashes that took place between the police and the protesters with over 400 arrests and many badly injured, the demonstrations were to continue until February 1888 when the political landscape began to eventually change for the better.
Sunday November 13 1887 also witnessed the betrothal of Hargrave and Mary Jane at the Parish Church of Holy Trinity in Mile End.
And despite the inauspicious date of their union as man and wife and the early death of their first-born James Hewitson Potter before his second birthday in 1889; history indicates that their marriage was of some duration and Hargrave lived until his 76th year.
However, I think that a return to the present is now called for as I’m off to search for those chocolate biscuits that I have hidden somewhere…
For an interesting read about ‘Bloody Sunday’, why not pay a visit to TURBULENT LONDON The Historical Geography of Protests, Riots and General Mischief in London… Enjoy!