“Look to the past to see what the future holds.”
I like this quote from author Celia Conrad in the second of her Alicia Allen Investigates – Wilful Murder.
I often find myself looking to the past 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, 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 biography about His Lordship’s much maligned spouse!
However, one rainy November weekend and in the company of my genealogical assistant – I took a wander through the past during a visit to London as I strolled up and down Fairfield Road in Bow which was not only near the family home but also the same road in which one Hargrave Potter was strolling along on that very weekend in 1887!
Having acquainted myself with my maternal 4 x Great Grandfather Hewitson Potter, who was born in Scarborough in 1815 and blessed with an unusual first name – a boon for any genealogist, however well experienced!
Although Hewitson enjoyed an illustrious career as a Master Mariner; he was also the patriarch of an impressive number children, including Hargrave who was also born in Scarborough in the autumn of 1863.
However with Hewitson’s early death at sea in 1865, 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 remained living alongside his sister’s family and his many cousins including my 2 x Great Grandfather Charles Edward in their cozy home in St John’s Road until he made his way to London in search of work as a skilled carpenter in 1881.
Having made the acquaintance of a fellow Scarborough lass Mary Jane Duffus who had spent her childhood in Mile End with her family – the young couple were married at the Parish Church of Holy Trinity in Mile End on Sunday November 13 1887.
November 13 1887 is also a date infamous with London’s long and troubled history 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.
However 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 records that their marriage was of some duration as Hargrave lived until his 77th year.
However, I think that a return to the present is now called for as I’m off in search of those chocolate biscuits I have hidden somewhere.
TURBULENT LONDON The Historical Geography of Protests, Riots and General Mischief in London.