Thomas Foreman 1838-1901
Emily Louisa Miller 1848-1922
Soon after the family moved back down to Faversham, Thomas aged about 21 decided that his prospects would be better served in The Royal Navy than working on dry land in Faversham. In 1861 we find him sleeping overnight as part of the skeleton watch crew onboard HMS Plover on the Medway River. On the night of the 1861 census, Thomas now a Stoker 2nd Class, was onboard with Fred Smith another Stoker, the Assistant Engineer, the ship’s boy, and an able seaman who had brought his wife and four sons onboard for the night (a common occurrence in home waters with local families nearby).
Being a Stoker 2nd Class onboard this small gunship, was about as low a rank as you could get, but guaranteed a quick recruitment for those physically fit enough to live up to the job as the Navy had a tremendous need for Stokers now that steam was taking over from sail. Thomas having trained as a Blacksmith, would have been brawny, and used to hard work in hot environments, a perfect qualification for a life below decks stoking the ship’s boilers, probably the least glamourous job on the ship.
The Plover was one of the hybrid transitional ships in Navy service at this time rigged with both sails and a steam engine powering twin screw propellers. It looks as if a life in the Navy suited Thomas for a while, but not for long, as in 1866 he is back on land in Lambeth, South London working again at his old trade of a Blacksmith.
In his late twenties he obviously decided that it was time to settle down, and on 4th November 1866 in St Mary Lambeth, he married Emily Miller, seven years his junior, and technically a minor at the time being barely 18, who married with the permission of her father a local Carpenter.
The marriage was a fruitful one with seven children born between 1867 and 1888, although there is a gap of seven years between 1882 and 1887 when no children are born to the couple, perhaps they had children that died too young to reach the 1891 census, or perhaps there were other reasons for the gap, a separation or an illness? The children we do know about are Thomas Joseph born 1867, Herbert Arthur 1870, Louisa Emily1873, Ernest Alfred 1875, Edward James 1879, Lillian Emma 1881, and Nelly 1888.
During the 1870s and 1880s he worked as a smith on coach works, an job that guaranteed work at this time in a city awash with private coaches and carriages for hire, the taxis of their day. Also during this time the family moved from Kennington in South London to Battersea, also in South London, and Battersea would be the home of the Foremans for generations to come. During this time they saw the old wooden Battersea Bridge come down and the new Iron Bridge go up. A major undertaking and a sign of the times.
They lived in Acre Street and Sussex Srteet near the Railway. Small two story houses had been put up by speculators especially from the 1870s onwards who followed the Railway, building over the old Market Gardens that had produced Pumpkins and asparagus for the gentry in the city, replacing them with workers keeping the railways and factories running. In 1889 we find Thomas working as a Fitter, which was a logical move for a blacksmith, from horse drawn coach repairs to repairs for steam powered trains and machines in this industrious area of South London. A skilled job which would have produced a comfortable living if Thomas was careful with his money. It is most likely that Thomas used his smithing skills on the railways, given the fact that he lived right in between The London Chatham & Dover Railworks, and The London and South Western Railworks in Battersea, with several rail lines clattering alongside the streets he lived in. Things looked good for the family until Thomas, at the age of 63 in 1901 died leaving his wife to look after the two youngest girls, supported and helped by their older siblings who were at work.
After Thomas’s death, Emily and some of the family stayed in the area when Sussex Street changed to Wadhurst Road, having taken the house over from her son Herbert Arthur who had lived there in 1894. It lead directly into the Railworks.
Eldest son Thomas Joseph had found work as a Fishmonger, a good trade that guaranteed food on the table, at least fish that is, and was living in Clapham with his family. Living till 1940 in the Wandsworth area.
Herbert Arthur was less fortunate and worked as a Bricklayer’s Labourer, an unskilled job that meant long days outside in all weathers, carry bricks and mortar in a hod up and down ladders all day. He and his family moved frequently, mostly in Battersea, but lived for a while in the early 1890s at Canal Bank in Peckham, literally alongside the Surrey Canal. They only stayed in Peckham for a couple of years, long enough for their first two children Ethel and Annie to be born, and soon moved back to the family home turf in Battersea, and initially into what would become the family’s HQ in the area for some years’ 82 Wadhurst Road.
Ernest Alfred took a similar line to Herbert as a labourer, married Florence Holloway in 1901 and moved away from the area to Croydon, where he stayed for the rest of his life, dieing there in 1944.
Edward James worked as a Brewer’s Labourer, a slightly better job than his two labouring brothers as much of the work was inside, and he would get a beer ration along with his wage. He had married in 1900 to Helen watson and they stayed in Battersea living at 82 Wadhurst Road with other members of the family.
The roads the family lived in in Battersea were working class, but not slums, the further you moved from Lambeth towards Clapham, the better the area generally became, many slums had been pulled down to make way for new estates of small terraced houses in the 1870s and 1880s. So the family managed to keep it’s head above water at the turn of the 1900s, despite the shock of Thomas’s death, mainly by mutual support, grouping together in and around Wadhurst Road; there was safety in numbers. Supporting each other Herbert, Ernest, their Mum Emily, and the younger girls, plus the boys wives, and some of the grandchildren made sure the rent was always paid, the kids went to school, and any trouble could be sorted out quickly. The elder brother Thomas wasn’t that far away in Clapham, just a tram trip away, and Ernest in Croydon could always get back on the train if needed.