Monday, 10 February 2014

Today we have two weddings to celebrate. A couple from Yorkshire and another who started off in Scotland and ended up in London.


On this day in 1844, G-G-Grandfather Henry Stephenson, a tailor of Great Smeaton in Yorkshire married Ann Lodge. Not long after their marriage the couple moved to Hornby where they lived until prior to the 1861 census when we find them in Appleton Wiske. Then later they move to Yarm where they were enumerated in the 1881 census and then sometime between the 1881 and 1891 census they have moved again to Stockton-on-Tees.

During this time, Henry and Ann welcome at least five children – four girls and a boy. Francis (named after Ann’s father) born in 1850, Elizabeth in 1853, my g-grandmother Margaret in 1857, Jane in 1860 and then Mary in 1862.

The life of a tailor was not a lucrative one and the work was grueling. Most tailors of the time were little more than piece workers or out-workers attached to the many mills throughout the north of England at the time. Most worked in poor light and for long hours.

The iconic image of tailors sitting cross legged on a table is probably not too far from the reality. Windows were often small & to get the best light available tables may have been pushed up against them and work was done from there. Sitting cross legged, apart from being quite a comfortable way to sit on a hard surface also provided support for the often heavy fabrics being sewn. I read that this practice gave its name to a particular type of bunion – “tailors bunion” because instead of the usual distortion of the big toe, sitting cross legged on the table caused pressure on the little toe joint, leading to a bunion! Older tailors frequently suffered back problems, from being stooped over their work, and poor eyesight.

An un-credited article from 1966 which interviewed tailors in their 80’s offered this interesting insight into the life of a tailor
The tailor sitting in his window on his table, saw most of what went on, and vied with the shoe maker as purveyor of local news. His shop was reasonably warm too, as his iron was always heated ready for use. The tailor sat cross - legged on the table for several reasons, to keep his work clean, to have his material at hand, and to lay his pressing board across his knees.  His pressing board was called a donkey, this was for doing seams and sleeves, the iron was called the goose, before the days of gas it was heated on an open fire, or else had its own little charcoal heater.”

Poor Henry clearly did not make a fortune from his trade however as he died a widower in the Stockton Workhouse at the grand age of 92 in 1913


Great-grandparents John & Annie were married on February 10th 1885 in East Greenock.

Greenock Telegraph announcement
Although John is cited as a boilermaker on the SS Duke of Devonshire there is no information to suggest that he was in the Merchant Service. This was a long standing family story that I remember being told but sadly there is no truth in it at all. In fact John Mackenzie seems to have a rather large number of stories attributed to him, none of which I can verify.

Very soon after their marriage John and Annie move south to London where they remained. The 1891 census finds them at 628 Barking Road, Plaistow with their young sons Ronald (4) and William Hamilton (2) and my grandma Jessie just 1 year old. Also in the household are Annie’s two brothers from Glasgow; William an 18year old Marine Engineer and 15year old Stuart who is working as a clerk.

Sadly, Annie died in 1895 of consumption. No doubt she brought this to England with her as many of her siblings had already succumbed to the disease back in Scotland. John was left a widow with 3 very small children.

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