My great grandparents Joseph Priestley Roe (1862 – 1947) and Eliza Bailey (1863 – 1959) had ten children between 1884 and 1902. All were born in East Ham, on the eastern edge of London, and though all of them except my grandmother Minnie were born in the nineteenth century, the main events of their lives fell in the twentieth. So strictly speaking, their stories fall outside the remit of this blog. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, and to bring our tale to a conclusion, in this post I’ll summarise what we know about each of their lives.
The Roe family at 92 Oakfield Road in 1911 (via ancestry.co.uk)
Born in 1884, Joseph William Roe was Joseph and Eliza Roe’s eldest child. In 1901, at the age of sixteen, he was already working as a general labourer. Four years later, at the age of twenty, he married Maud Eleanor Cuthbert, the Whitechapel-born daughter of a fruit porter. In 1911 Joseph, who gave his name as Joe to the census enumerator, was working as a builder’s labourer and living with Maud and their children Joey, Walter, Albert and George at Cleves Road in East Ham. The couple would have three more children – Charles, John and Mary Eleanor – before Joseph’s death in 1923 at the age of thirty-eight.
Jim Abbott and Maud Roe née Cuthbert (via ian2309 at ancestry.co.uk)
Maud married again in 1929, her second husband being widower James (Jim) Abbott, who already had nine children from his first marriage. Hackney-born Jim, who described himself in the 1911 census record as a ‘general dealer’, had experienced dire poverty early in his life: at the age of seven he was living in Homerton workhouse with his widowed mother, a laundress, and his sister. Jim Abbott was something of an entrepreneur: in the 1920s he set up a printing business from his home in Katharine Road, East Ham. Apparently Jim was an expert tap dancer who also performed in pantomimes. A relative of his, Frank King, lived next door to Vera Margaret Welch, who later became better known as Vera Lynn. Through Frank, Jim Abbott got to know Vera and taught her how to tap dance. Apparently this was mentioned on the This is Your Life programme for Vera Lynn, broadcast in the 1970s (my thanks to ian2309 on ancestry.co.uk for this story). Jim Abbott died in 1952 and his widow Maud in 1969.
Also born in 1884, Mary Elizabeth Roe married Mile End-born builder’s labourer William Henry Herbert in 1905. However, she died two years later, possibly from complications after giving birth to their son Henry Joseph William Herbert in 1906. William Herbert married again, to Lottie Mine, who was also originally from Mile End, in the following year. In 1911 William, Lottie and five-year-old Henry were living at Seaton Street in Plaistow. Henry would marry Laura Isabella Tunmer in 1931.
Born in 1886, Emma Kezia Roe married general labourer Frederick Wernham on Christmas Day 1906. In 1911 they were living at 68 Oakfield Road, not far from Emma’s parents at No. 92, with their three-year-old daughter Violet and one-year-old son Frederick Thomas. Frederick and Emma would have two more children: Joseph William, born in 1912, and Mabel Dorothy in 1916. When Frederick enlisted with the East Ham Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, also in 1916, the Wernhams were living at 68 Katharine Road, East Ham.
Frederick Wernham’s First World War enlistment record (via ancestry.co.uk)
Frederick and Emma Kezia’s daughter Violet married Bermondsey-born Alfred Charles Meizsner in 1934; they also lived at 68 Katharine Road. Alfred served as a Lance Corporal in the Second World War and died in 1945; their daughter, Sally, was born a few months later. Violet died in 1996. Frederick Wernham junior married Mary Ellen Head in 1933 and they had two daughters: Margaret, born in 1934, and Eileen Mabel in 1937. Joseph William married Florence Hutton in 1938 and they lived in Romford. Joseph died in 1943 as a private ‘on war service’, according to his probate record. Mabel Dorothy was married twice: first to Ronald Vaizey in 1938: they lived at the Rose and Crown Hotel in Southminster, Essex. Ronald died in 1940 and Mabel married Benjamin Smith in 1941. They had two children: Valerie and Pamela. Mabel died in 1998.
Frederick Wernham junior and Mary Head on their wedding day in 1933 (via leebee123 at ancestry.co.uk)
Walter Ellis Roe married Limehouse-born Annie Tanner, daughter of envelope cutter William Tanner, in 1913. I’m not sure what became of them after that, but I’ve found records of the births of three sons, Harry (1915), Charles (1917) and Richard (1919), and a daughter Doris (1922).
In 1911 Richard Roe was twenty-eight, working as a general labourer, and still living at home with his parents. I don’t know what became of him after that.
Flora Eliza Roe married boiler riveter George Edward Bush in 1911. They had a daughter Flora, born in 1912, and a son George, born in 1914. The Bush family lived at Friars Road, East Ham. Flora Bush née Roe died in an air raid on 24th September 1940 at the age of fifty-one. She was in an air raid shelter below a cinema in Barking Road, East Ham, that took a direct hit. Family legend has it that her daughter Flora, known in the family as Dolly, witnessed her mother’s death and that her hair immediately turned white as a result. Dolly had married Archibald Jeffries in 1936 and after the War they had two sons, Colin (1946) and Michael (1947). The Jeffries family owned – and still own – a company of funeral directors in Newham. Archibald Jeffries died at Cotswold Gardens, East Ham, in 1981 and Flora (Dolly) Jeffries née Bush in 2000.
The aftermath of an air raid in East Ham during the Blitz
Record of the death of Flora Eliza Bush née Roe in the register of World War Two Civilian Deaths (via ancestry.co.uk)
Elizabeth Roe married James Edward Brand Hoy in 1913. They had three children that I know of: Elizabeth (1914), Evelyn Minnie (1916) and Edward (1918). James Hoy died in 1962 and Elizabeth in 1977, both at Millfield Road, Faversham.
William Thomas Roe was eighteen years old in 1911 and working as an office boy for the building contractor Mowlam. He served in the Royal Navy during the First World War, having married Bessie Florence Collingwood, a hair sieve maker and daughter of a sheet metal worker, also from Oakfield Road, East Ham, in April 1914.
William Thomas Roe in the Royal Navy Register of Seamen’s Services (via ancestry.co.uk)
William and Bessie had two daughters: Bessie, who married John Walter Meikle in 1947 and had a daughter Pauline, and Emma (‘Emmie’), who married shopkeeper Horace Green in 1943 and had two daughters, Janet and Brenda. William Roe – my mother’s Uncle Bill – made his money working on the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel (his war record describes him as a ‘tunnel miner’), and he owned a number of properties, including the house that my Nan and Grandad lived in at 24 Oakfield Road, and the cottage at Jaywick on the Essex coast where we spent our family holidays when I was very young. Bessie Florence Roe died in 1964 at 30 Oakfield Road, East Ham, the house that had formerly belonged to her parents, and William Thomas Roe died in Barking in 1976.
John Roe was seventeen years old in 1911 and working, like his older brother William, as an office boy for Mowlam’s. In 1914 John Roe married Mary Ann Sullivan at Orsett, near Grays in Essex. Although Mary Ann described herself on the marriage certificate as a spinster, she had in fact been married before. I’m grateful to my distant relative and fellow family history researcher Rita Dawson for throwing light on this complicated story. At some point, perhaps in 1909, Mary Ann Sullivan had married Arthur Gentry and they had a daughter Mary Ann. However, Mary Ann gave her surname as Sullivan on the child’s birth certificate and no father was mentioned, suggesting that the marriage had ended. If I understand Rita’s letter correctly, there may also have been another marriage to a carman named Sidney Charles Girkin, who died in an accident at work in 1910, and another child named Charles.
John Roe (b. 1895)
Mary Roe (b.1915) with her grandparents, Eliza and Joseph Roe
Mary Roe (b.1915) – back row, right, at the wedding of her brother, John W. Roe (b.1917) in 1942 (?)
Arthur E Roe, presumably during the Second World War
(these four images via Rita Dawson)
What is undisputed is that John and Mary Ann Roe went on to have three children together: Mary Roe in 1915, John W Roe in 1917, and Arthur E Roe in 1920. Interestingly, Arthur’s middle name seems to have been Ellis, echoing the middle name of John Roe senior’s older brother Walter, but also continuing a family tradition going back, as I noted in this post, three generations, and based on the close relationship between the Roe, Blanch and Ellis families in the early nineteenth century.
If Rita’s account is correct, it’s rather puzzling that Mary Ann Roe née Sullivan gave a second child the name Mary, unless her first child of that name had died. It’s also a mystery why, when these three children were born, she gave her maiden name as Gentry, rather than Sullivan. The second Mary Roe married Welshman (Vivian) George Dormer in Ilford in 1949, and Rita was born in the following year. She married Barking-born Roger Dawson in 1970.
In 1925 Minnie Louisa Roe married George John Londors, a gardener at the City of London Cemetery and the son of a grave-digger, who came from a long line of farm labourers in the Barkingside area. George had served as a Private with the Royal Fusiliers in France during the First World War.
George Londors’ First World War Medal Roll index card (via ancestry.co.uk)
George and Minnie Londors lived at 24 Oakfield Road, East Ham, and had two daughters: Joyce Alma, born in 1933, and Vera Mabel in 1934. Vera Londors was married to Colin Livett and had a son, Trevor, in 1963. Vera died in 2010. Joyce Londors married Peter Robb in East Ham in 1955: they are my parents. My grandfather George Londors died in 1961 and my Nan in 1987.
George John Londors and Minnie Louisa Roe on their wedding day, 2nd August, 1925, in East Ham