Part 2: “What’s all the Waller about then?”


So having found out about Les’s Dad Cyril and Grandmother Emma’s origins Part 1: Finding the “Lost Temple” for an old mate, it was time to try to unravel who Les’s paternal Grandfather was.

Which brings us back to the mystery of the “Waller” surname as a middle name on Les’s Dad’s birth certificate.

The Waller Family

We know that Les’s Grandmother Emma Waller had been a young Domestic servant in the household of a widow called  Chappell, and that the widow’s daughter Jessie Chappell had married a clerk called Harold Waller, but what was the background to the Waller Family?

Blessed are the Cheesemongers

The first Waller in the line that we could find was John Waller, born around 1764 who was a Ladies’ Stay Maker, he ended up living on a private pension in the 1840s on Blackheath, then a village, now a suburb of South East London.

The Stay Maker’s son Charles Waller, was born around 1791, and was trading as a Cheesemonger during the Napoleonic War, from at least 1811, based at 176 Bermondsey Street Southwark, South East London now, Surrey in the early 1800s.  This may not sound very grand, but cheese was a staple of everyday life and also a very valuable commodity, and  Charles’s business was thriving, enough to allow him to have a dwelling, a shop, a warehouse, and stables in Bermondsey Street.  Charles had been fortunate enough to gain from the lack of foreign imports during the Napoleonic Wars forcing food prices up, as well as the demand for food supply to the Army and Navy that had the same inflationary effect on food prices at home.

Prosperous, Charles married the wonderfully named “Mary Cock” at St Antholin’s Church, st_antholin_cruseBudge Row in the City of London in 1810.  They would be together until Mary’s death in the 1830s, the couple had four children, three boys and a girl between 1813 and 1831.

Charles’s shop is no longer there, it was demolished in the mid-19th century, but the site has been mentioned in the context of an Archaeological Survey for some redevelopment work:

“176 Bermondsey Street, was insured as a cheesemonger and butcher to Charles Waller in 1819, according to Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group records. It appears the ground floor was used as a shop at this time (LMA, CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/480/953062), probably with residential occupation above”

The Archaeological survey was carried out prior to demolition of the mid nineteenth century building that had replaced Charles’s Business.  The site is now due to be developed as a Hotel in 2016: “Historic Environment Assessment ©MOLA2016 14 P:\SOUT\1646\na\Assessments\176-178_Bermondsey_St_HEA_06-09-2016.docx”

The location of Charles’s business is marked on the map below:

176bermondseyst

Charles was doing very well, thank you very much, he had a warehouse full of cheese, a shop to sell it from, and a stable for the delivery cart, albeit in an area surrounded by the smell urine and dog droppings used by the tanneries in the locality, but a good existence none-the-less.  Charles Waller’s life took a downturn in the 1830s when his wife died, but he picked himself up and life and business went on, in 1838 he married Harriett Gibson (originally Harriett Moss) a widow, and had two more children a boy and a girl.

Charles and Harriett remained in wedded bliss for ten years, until 1848 when their circumstances changed in a way that was out of their control, and that would affect the whole of Bermondsey and indeed the whole of London.

In September 1849 the great social reformer Henry Mayhew visited Bermondsey to report on an outbreak of Cholera that hit London in 1848 and lasted through 1849.  This Cholera almost certainly started in India and was transported by infected seamen coming into the London Docks.  Mayhew chose Bermondsey in particular to visit because, in his own words from The Morning Chronicle:

 “Out of the 12,800 deaths which, within the last three months, have arisen from cholera, 6,500 have occurred on the southern shores of the Thames; and to this awful number no localities have contributed so largely as Lambeth, Southwark and Bermondsey, each, at the height of the disease, adding its hundred victims a week to the fearful catalogue of mortality. Any one who has ventured a visit to the last-named of these places in particular, will not wonder at the ravages of the pestilence in this malarious quarter, for it is bounded on the north and east by filth and fever, and on the south and west by want, squalor, rags and pestilence.”cholera

Granted Bermondsey Street where Charles had his business was not as bad as some other areas, such as Jacob’s Island (where Bill Sikes made his last stand in Dicken’s Oliver Twist to die sucked into the Mud of the local creek) being several hundred yards from the Thames, but Charles’s property was only about two hundred yards from the Neckinger River which ran up to the Thames at Jacob’s Island.  The Neckinger derived it’s name from the practice of hanging Pirates at the point where this river met the Thames, hence the River’s local name of  “Devil’s Neckerchief” or “Devil’s Neckcloth” and maybe from that to “Neck-hanger” and in the Cockney dialect to “Neck-‘ang-ah” and so Neckinger or “Neck-ing-ah” as it was pronounced in the Transpontine Cockney dialect of the Surrey Side of the Thames.  The deathly associations of this River with hanged Pirates was nothing compared to the death it brought in Charles Waller’s lifetime.

Cholera is spread both by contact with infected people, and more widely by infected water sources, usually contaminated by sewage from infected people.  To all intents and purposes the Neckinger River was a partial sewer, as noted by Mayhew on his visit to Bermondsey:

“We then journeyed on to London-street, down which the tidal ditch continues its course. In No. 1 of this street the cholera first appeared seventeen years ago, and spread up it with fearful virulence; but this year it appeared at the opposite end, and ran down it with like severity. As we passed along the reeking banks of the sewer the sun shone upon a narrow slip of the water. In the bright light it appeared the colour of strong green tea, and positively looked as solid as black marble in the shadow – indeed it was more like watery mud than muddy water; and yet we were assured this was the only water the wretched inhabitants had to drink. As we gazed in horror at it, we saw drains and sewers emptying their filthy contents into it; we saw a whole tier of doorless privies in the open road, common to men and women, built over it; we heard bucket after bucket of filth splash into it, and the limbs of the vagrant boys bathing in it seemed, by pure force of contrast, white as Parian marble. And yet, as we stood doubting the fearful statement, we saw a little child, from one of the galleries opposite, lower a tin can with a rope to fill a large bucket that stood beside her. In each of the balconies that hung over the stream the self-same tub was to be seen in which the inhabitants put the mucky liquid to stand, so that they may, after it has rested for a day or two, skim the fluid from the solid particles of filth, pollution, and disease. As the little thing dangled her tin cup as gently as possible into the stream, a bucket of night-soil was poured down from the next gallery.”

So unbelievable did this seem to Mayhew and his companions, that they felt they had to test what they had seen:
” In this wretched place we were taken to a house where an infant lay dead of the cholera. We asked if they really did drink the water? The answer was,

“They were obliged to drink the ditch, without they could beg a pailfull or thieve a pailfull of water”.

“But have you spoken to your landlord about having it laid on for you? “

“Yes, sir; and he says he’ll do it, and do it, but we know him better than to believe him.”

Again Charles’s business was on the edges of this, but given the tide of Cholera that was tearing through the area, it is hardly surprising that we find Charles and his eldest son Charles Cock Waller (bearing his Mother’s maiden name), both died in 1848, quickly followed by Charles’s wife Harriett in 1849.  All carried away on the tide of pestilence that stalked the streets of Bermondsey, seeping up and down the watercourses of the area.

neckingerfolly

Where the Neckinger meets the Thames 1840

 

The deaths reveal some other interesting points about the Family.  Charles’s death must have been rapid and unexpected, as there are no signs of a will, Harriett does leave a will, and in it she leaves all of her possessions, including Linen, Furniture, Plate, and interestingly “Carriages”, as well as money, to her two children by Charles, that is daughter Harriett and son Thomas.  Although the will is witnessed by Charles’s eldest surviving son from his first marriage, John Waller, the Executors are not the Wallers, but rather the Biddle Family, Harriett’s sister and brother in law.  It as though there may have been a slight rift between Harriet on one side, and Charles’s children from his first marriage to Mary Cock on the other.

Business wise, we can see the results of the early deaths of Charles and his eldest son

176bermondseystreet

176 Bermondsey Street

Charles Cock Waller. Firstly the partners of Charles’s Cock Waller, who ran a  Provisions Merchants with him formally dissolved the partnership.   Charles’s landlords at 176 Bermondsey Street took the opportunity of the two Charles’s dieing to re-claim the lease, and knock down the building and develop it into something more modern, which is the building pictured here that is now worth £4.5M and is being demolished after over 150+ years to make way for the proposed Hotel.

 

The children from the two sides of the Waller family go their separate ways after the their parents’ deaths.

John Waller, Charles’s eldest son, and the witness to Harriett’s Will, took up the remnants of his father’s business and moved it across the Thames to Catherine Street in Limehouse, where he lived with his elder sister Emma and a live-in Shopman as an employee.

Thomas Waller, Charles’s son with Harriett, doesn’t gain much from the Biddles after his mother’s death and winds up in the workhouse between 1857 and 1859, but is lucky enough to be apprenticed to a Mr White, a Shoemaker of Bermondsey, where he learns his trade to became a Cordwainer, someone who made shoes, rather than a cobbler who simply repaired shoes.  He lived on in Bermondsey.

William Ruglys Waller

William Ruglys Waller, Charles and Emma’s youngest son, lives-in as a Clerk in a large Draper’s business in the posh shopping district of Regent Street in the 1850s.  In 1861 he married a milliner Caroline Riddett from the Isle of Wight who he may have met at work, which meant they they couldn’t afford to live together in the west End, so moved to Deptford where William took up work as a Clerk in an Iron Monger’s Warehouse.  William and caroline have a good life for many years through the 1860s and 1870s, they have six children, between 1863 and 1872, four boys and two girls, and sets up a good business as a professional Mercantile Clerk, and is able to move back north of the river to Islington, a better area than Deptford.

William also undertakes some work as an accountant, so is a very accomplished and intelligent man.  During the 1870s, despite his success, both professionally and in his private life, William starts to suffer from depression and paranoid delusions.  Things get so bad that in 1878 Caroline has to be temporarily admit William aged 47 to Bethlem Hospital (pronounced as “Bedlam” by local Cockneys, from where we get the word itself).  After some time in the Psychiatric Hospital, William recovered enough to be discharged back to his wife, and indeed carries on with his career becoming the Manager of a Trade Protection Association in 1891.

bethlemward

Bethlem Hospital Ward

Watching the Detectives

Unfortunately William’s ill health didn’t fully go away, and flairs up disastrously as the new century comes in and between 1900 and 1904 he is admitted for more lengthy spells at Bethlem Hospital, suffering from depression, and believing that he was an evil person who had let his family down, was suspected of wrong doing by his employers, and was being followed by Detectives who wanted to observe and apprehend him.  Of course, none of this was true, he was loved by his wife and children, thought highly of by his employers, and was a generally successful man, but his wife would find him standing for long periods in their hallway with his ear pressed to the wall “listening for Detectives who were following him”.  His notes from the Hospital show the depth of his paranoia.wilrugwallerbethlem

The situation goes from bad to worse.  Psychiatry was basic in the late Victorian period, but not as brutal as it had been earlier in the century.  The doctors did their best for William, but had no effective treatments for his malady.  Worse was to come, his constant “picking at his skin” had caused a large carbuncle on his neck.  The well meaning doctors decided to lance this bioil, made three incisions in it which wept puss profusely, in the days before effective antibiotics, they were really shooting in the dark.

Within a few days of the incisions being made, William takes on a sudden fever, his temperature rose to 101 degrees, and he died within a few hours. It is declared that he died due to his dementia and fever.  But without a doubt the real cause of his death were the less than expert surgery his doctors had attempted that had lead to septicaemia (blood poisoning), as witnessed by his sudden fever, which caused organ failure and death.

I have seen many death certificates from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and can confidently say that many deaths were caused by  mismanaged interventions by doctors, which the doctors then managed to cover up with weasel words and lies rather than admit to their culpability, and this was a classic case of one of them.

There is an old joke about a Doctor watching a Bricklayer at work.  After a few minutes of observing the Bricklayer’s skill the Doctor smiles and comments to the Bricklayer:

“I see that there are many errors covered up by a trowel.”

The Bricklayer turns to the Doctor, with a wry smile of his own and replies:

“Yes, and many more and bigger ones with a shovel.”

His wife Caroline was heartbroken and died soon after him in the same year of 1905.

Following their Father’s Footsteps

William Ruglys Waller and Caroline’s children did well in life, despite the trials of their father’s mental health, which further shows the tragedy of the situation, he had been a very good father.

The boys followed their father as Clerks, the eldest William Charles became a senior Civil Servant (more of him later) Sidney and Lionel, the younger brothers became Mercantile Clerks in Shipping and Banking, doing well for themselves, and Catherine the youngest daughter worked as a Milliner’s Saleswoman, no doubt picking up on the Drapery contacts of her father.

This leaves the second son, Harold, who we first saw in part one of this investigation (Part 1: Finding the “Lost Temple” for an old mate).  He married well, into the Chappell Family of well to do itinerant Teachers and Clergymen.  Jessie Chappell, his wife, was born in Sandhurst Australia, once she and Harold were married they spent their life living with Jessie’s Mother in a large house, along with their only child, Stanley Harold Chappell Waller.  Also living at in the house was Jessie’s brother, a clergyman.  This household was where the young Emma Erskine, my mate Les’s Grandmother, comes into the Waller story, as the fifteen year old Domestic Servant to the family.

Cluedo: one of the Wallers, in the pantry with the Maid

As was stated in Part 1 of this story, Emma got pregnant out of wedlock, in about February 1912, probably around Valentine’s Day.  When her baby Cyril was born, she failed to name the father explicitly, but gave us a clue by giving Cyril the middle name of “Waller”.  naming an illegitimate child with the Father’s surname as a middle name was a tradition among unmarried girls who could not legally name the father of their child if the man refused to admit his involvement.  It is therefore highly likely that one of the Wallers was Cyril’s father.  But which one?

Normally, the suspicion is that the male head of the household would be the main suspect, but in this case Harold Waller, had died in 1903 some years before Cyril was conceived.  There is a possibility that one of Harold’s brother’s could have been responsible, but that’s more of a long shot, given that they were not living in the same household.  This leaves the intriguing conclusion that Cyril’s likely father was the lone remaining Waller, Stanley, the boy she had spent some of her youth growing up with, in the Waller/Chappell household.

As we said in Part 1 of this story, Young Emma Erskine would have spent some time looking after young Stanley Waller as part of her duties.  Stanley would have idolised Emma as a young woman who took an interest in him, walking him to school, and  feeding him his meals when he was at home. A good arrangement for everyone.

Having grown up with Emma as his nearest non-related female in the household, Stanley was undoubtedly attached to her.  Emma for her part would have seen the young boy grow into a strapping young man.  As the years went on there was ample opportunity for the relationship to change, and the six year age gap would have seemed a lot less of a difference once they were older.  By 1912 Stanley was a twenty year old single man studying to be a Pharmacy Student, and Emma a twenty seven year old single woman, seeing her chances of married happiness in life slowly slipping away.

Emma and Stanley’s birthdays were within a few days of each other in January, and as we said above Cyril would have been conceived sometime between the couple’s birthdays and Valentine’s Day 1912.  All of this is circumstantial evidence of opportunity and motive.  Only a DNA test can prove the fatherhood of Cyril beyond doubt, which isn’t likely to happen any time soon.  But it does paint a picture of circumstances arranging themselves to throw the couple together.

There is one last piece of the puzzle that points in the direction of Stanley as Cyril’s Father.  Quite often when a son of a well to do family had “sowed his wild oats in the wrong field”, the family would do two things, firstly they would make arrangements to have the child financially taken care of or adopted, depending on whether the girl’s family were struggling financially or wanted to hide the shame of birth.  In the Erskine part of this story, we saw that someone had paid a not inconsiderable amount of money to allow Emma to have the baby Cyril south of the river in Camplin Road Deptford, where Emma and her mother resided for a while before the birth, it is highly unlikely that Emma’s family had the money to afford this, so there was a well off benefactor paying to keep the birth discrete.

Secondly where there was a child born “on the wrong side of the sheets” between classes, the offending randy youth (almost always the man was from the moneyed Family and the woman from the working class Family) would be married off rapidly to a suitable, or just available girl of his own class, so that he would no longer pose a danger to the working class maids of the household.

This rush to marriage appears to have happened to Stanley Waller in the same year that Emma became pregnant.  Stanley was married off to a near neighbour in Hornsey, one Constance Florence Minnie Hamilton.  Perhaps a hint of something lacking in the marriage comes with the fact that no children are born in the first six years of the marriage.  Was Stanley still pining for Emma his Maid Servant?

Oh! Oh! Oh! What a lovely War!

As we have seen again in the Erskine story of Part 1, Emma’s brothers served their country in the front line and suffered the horrors of trench warfare and hand to hand fighting in the fields of France and Belgium, indeed her younger brother Henry being awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the face of the enemy.  This type of story is common for the millions of working class men who put their lives on the line to defend their country, even though these working class men didn’t have the vote at home until 800,000 of them had been slaughtered in the War, and bought the vote for working men with working men’s blood.

However if you came from the right background it was entirely possible to have a “Good War” without exposing yourself to too much hardship.  Once again it appears that Stanley Waller’s family connections in the Church and Business ensured that his would be a “Good War” just as it appears that the issue of an illegitimate child and a “ruined” Domestic Maid would not be allowed to stand in the way of his marital stability.

We don’t find Stanley in the Trenches “up to his neck in muck and bullets” as the working class men were.  To his credit he did join up in 1915, we find Stanley serving in the East Anglian Field Ambulance Unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps.  Stanley did see some casualties from the war, and indeed parodied them in a short poem that was printed in a local paper.

poemstanleywaller

Stanley is promoted from private in the Ambulance Corps based in England, to 2nd Lieutenant in the Suffolk Regiment and shipped to Egypt, and then to Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps, in order to be taught aviation.  The strings that must have been pulled to promote a man straight from Private in a non-combatant unit to an Officer, and then straight into the newly formed and elite Royal Flying Corps can only be marvelled at.  His name is memorialised on an inscription of Metropolitan Waterboard Employees who served in The Great War, now held at the Steam Museum, Green Dragon Lane.

After the War Stanley Harold Chappell Waller had two children a boy and a girl, with Constance, and settled back into the Metropolitan Water Board, as an accountant, a revenue Collector’s Clerk, at the outbreak of World War II Stanley acted as a Volunteer Warden, and his son Gordon followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a full time Ambulance Driver, and in the Chappell family’s footsteps by becoming a Theological Student.

Stanley retired from the Water Board as a Managerial Supervisor, from where he retired on a good pension in 1955.  He would remain married to Constance until his death in 1969.  Stanley lived with Constance at 171 Higham Road, Tottenham, N17 from the late 1940s until the 1960s.  There is no evidence that he had any further contact with Cyril or Emma.

Epilogue

So we may have explained “What’s all the Waller about then” but there still remains the mystery of how Cyril came to take the surname “Temple”.  That will be explained in the next part of Les’s Family Story.

Part 1: Finding the “Lost Temple” for an old mate


Tall stories

file1

I know.  We just haven’t grown up.

I have known Les since we started our first job together at the Greater London Council’s Electronic Maintenance Section, he was sixteen and I was eighteen.  Electronics sounded like New Technology in the early 1970s, but this place was  housed and managed in a very old tech way, being based in a small industrial estate in the back streets of Camberwell, South London.

Jobs like these were what cockney boys like us did if you didn’t work hard enough at school to get your A levels and go to University, but showed more intellect than was needed to work on a building site or digging up roads.  And we had a great time.

So much so that now, more than forty years later, having both had varied careers we meet up a few times a year to laugh about exactly the same stories from when we worked together, that we dredge up to tell each other every time we meet.  It’s got to the point now where I’ve started taking my grown up sons along, just so we’ve got a new audience to tell the same stories to for the next few decades.  If they were children it would probably be considered a form of psychological abuse, and we’d have social services down on us like a ton of bricks.

However, sometimes, we tell each other a new story, and the last time we met, Les told me a corker.  Apparently his dear old long departed Dad Cyril, was a bit of a mystery in terms of his Family background.  Les had never really known his grandparents on his father’s side, Les’s sister had found their father’s birth certificate, which contained a strange middle surname that had never been discussed in the family, and there were tales from older family members that Cyril had been raised by “an Aunt”.   Having a friend that you’ve known since your teenage years is a great joy, being able to help that friend solve a family mystery is a gift of an opportunity that can’t be passed up.

“What’s all the Waller about then?”

Les’s Family the Temple’s were Londoners as far as he knew, when we were kids both of our families had lived within half a mile of each other in Peckham, in Les’s case just off of Peckham Rye, although he did once claim that this was practically East Dulwich, but no way was he going to get away with that one.  After Les’s Dad and Mum  passed away, Les’s sister found their Dad’s birth certificate amongst their family papers, this was where the mystery began.  Les’s Dad was he was christened Cyril “Waller”, as Les put it “What’s all the Waller about then?” intriguingly, Cyril’s Mum Emma Erskine, had left the space for Cyril’s father’s name a blank, invariably this indicates an illegitimate birth, and usually means that a mother wasn’t prepared to name the father rather than not knowing who he was.  In the days before Jeremy Kyle style DNA tests, naming a Father without his permission could be both hard to prove, and could lead to legal repercussions.

So the first step was to trace Cyril’s mother to see what she had been up to before, during, and after the birth of Cyril, and her family background generally.

The Erskines

Emma Erskine was born in 1885 the eldest daughter of William Dodd Erskine and Emma Suttle. The Erskines were originally from Wigton in Scotland were Gunsmiths by trade, Thomas Erskine (Emma’s Great Grandfather) had started the Company in 1795 at Newton Stewart he was succeeded at Newton Stewart by James Erskine, who invented and patented the Erskine Cartridge Loading Machine.  The Erskine Company was one of the oldest firms in the trade., specialising in Gunsmithing and Fishing Tackle Trade, and Manufacturing of Cartridge Loading Machines.

erskineshotgun

James Erskine 1866 model shotgun

John Erskine, one of the founder’s sons, and the father of William Dodd Erskine had come to England, in fact to Liverpool and was apprenticed with his brother James to the Williams Company in the 1840s when there was a demand for British shotguns for export to the USA and Germany.  Together they built a business, and won a Bronze medal in 1851 at the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace for their shotguns.

John stayed in Liverpool for nearly thirty years, married a local girl, and had three sons and a daughter, but their two elder of sons had died relatively young, leaving William Dodd Erskine to carry on the line in England after his parents retired up to Scotland.  Most histories of the Erskine Family claim that the male line died out after this generation, but Time detectives research has shown that the male line carried on in London with William Dodd Erskine.

William Dodd Erskine was a Watch Dial Painter, a skilled job, providing a liveable income, he would never get rich, but would always be able to provide for his family.  After his parents moved north of the border, William Dodd move south to London, where he found work and lived in the Finsbury area of London.

William Dodd Erskine was a creature of habit, and like stability, he lived at his first address of 37 Northampton Street Finsbury for seven years, his second address at 14 John Street for four years, and his last address of 32 Clerkenwell Green  from 1897 to 1929, over three decades.  These were humble lodgings in amongst more affluent areas.  He kept the same trade during his entire life, sitting at a workbench carrying out the careful and detailed work of painting watch faces.  It seems the only adventurous thing he did in life was to marry Emma Suttle in Emmanuel Church Camberwell in 1880.  It seems that William married Emma for love.

Emma had travelled down from Clare in Suffolk to find employment as a Domestic Servant in London, and wound up in 1871 working  for the MacLean family in Windsor Road Camberwell. Alan MacLean was a fairly well to do Post Office Clerk who could afford Emma as a general servant and another woman as a nurse to help his wife with their baby son.  This genteel lower middle class household must have seemed a far cry Emma’s dirt floored background in the family of agricultural labourers, and it seems that the vision of conspicuous consumption that she witnessed proived too much for her.

Her short lived career with the MacLean household came to an end a year later in 1872 wandsworthprisonerwhen Emma was tried and found guilty of stealing a Gown from the family and was sentenced to 6 months in Wandsworth Gaol.  Wandsworth was firm and run with military precision, women who couldn’t read when they went in would sometimes come out in a more literate state, and they would also be taught to sew and make clothes.  On the other hand there were not great opportunities for fraternisation, and women would be made to wear a veil (see picture) when taking exercise in the prison yard.  Spending time in Prison would have made it very hard for her to find work going forward and she faced a life of poverty as a result, until of course she met and married the stolid and unadventurous William Dodd Erskine, who saved her from that life.  What we know from the prison record is that Emma was petite, 5 feet tall weighing 7stone 5 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes, she could read and write a little imperfectly.slide_462874_6255254_free

Whatever trials she lived through during and after her incarceration, William was her saviour, she was still living in Camberwell when they were married, perhaps he never knew of her past imprisonment, perhaps the blue eyes and slim figure were too much for the quiet bachelor.  Whatever the varying degrees of mutual attraction, the couple had four children in the eight years between 1882 and 1890.  The only girl would be Emma Erskine born in 1885 and named after her mother.

Where the “Waller” came from

The one thing we can say about Emma Erskine, Cyril’s Mother, and Les’s Grandmother, is that she took after her mother in character more than her father.  She also went to work as a Domestic Servant, and in 1901 we find Emma as a live-in General Servant at the age of sixteen with the widow Emma Chappell and her family at 13 Wellington Road, Bromley-by-Bow, Poplar in the East End of London.

Also living with the widow Chappell were her grown up son William Chappell a Church of England Clergyman, and her married daughter Jessie.  Jessie was married to an accounts clerk named Harold Waller, with them was their nine year old son Stanley Waller.  So this is the first time that the name “Waller” appears in our story.

Young Emma Erskine would have spent some time looking after young Stanley as part of her duties.  Stanley would have idolised Emma as a young woman who took an interest in him, walking him to school, and  feeding him his meals when he was at home. A good arrangement for everyone.

By 1903 the Chappells and Wallers had moved to a large eight roomed house in Hornsey, a more salubrious area outside of the East End of London.  1903 was the year that Harold died, leaving Jessie Waller as head of the family with her son Stanley and Mother-in-Law Emma Chappell still living with her.  They now had a new servant fifteen year old Beatrice Cooper.  Stanley the son was in education as a Pharmacy Student.

Emma Erskine was back home with her parents in Clerkenwell Green, still noted as a domestic servant, but not living in.  In October the following year, 1912 Cyril “Waller” was born.  Intriguingly, the address where Cyril was born, and the address of the witness (Emma’s Mother) was given as Camplin Street in Deptford, South London.

camplinstreet

75 Camplin Street

There are no other records of the Erskines living in Camplin Street Deptford, and the address itself was one of many privately rented small houses in a well to do comfortable working class area south  of the river Thames, not that far from Clerkenwell, but far enough that you could be a stranger in the area but still in reach.  It looks highly likely that someone had paid for the renting of the place in Camplin Street so that Emma could have her baby quietly and out of sight with her worldly-wise mother in attendance to make sure she was alright during the birth.  Camplin Street, was inhabited by very respectable working class people, railway workers and junior clerks, so would not have been cheap to rent, Young Emma would not have been able to afford the rent on her own, and her father had always been very frugal in the accommodation for his own family, with four adults living in two rooms on the first floor of the Clerkenwell Green apartment, so it is highly unlikely that Emma’s father William Dodd Erskine could have paid Emma’s lodgings in Deptford.  So why was Emma living in Deptford with her mother at the time of Cyril’s birth?

The reason for this was that Cyril was illegitimate, the same reason the father is not mentioned in the relevant place on the birth certificate.  So why the “Waller”?  A mother putting a surname as a middle name on an illegitimate baby’s birth certificate is invariably a way of the mother naming the father without risking legal action against her.  If the parentage can’t be proved beyond a reasonable doubt and if the father refused to acknowledge the baby, then claiming the father’s name could lead to serious consequences for a working class girl if the father’s family were prepared to pursue a case against her.  The surname as a middle name was their legal way out whilst still pointing the finger at the culprit.  As for the rental of the Camplin Road lodgings, it seems a reasonable conclusion that that was paid for as “hush” money by Cyril’s unnamed father’s family to avoid a scandal.

Come on you Lions

200px-millwall_fc_logoThe funniest part of all this is that being born at 75 Camplin Street, Cyril was born within sight of Millwall Football Ground, as Camplin Street (as it’s now called) leads off of
Cold Blow Lane where the club was from 1910.  Les is loyal West Ham fans, this makes for a wonderful irony, but lost on anyone who doesn’t understand the bitter rivalry between the two London Football clubs.  …and just for Les, here’s Millwall’s club logo, enjoy Les.

Post Script:  War hero in the Erskine Family

At least two of Emma’s brothers (my mate Les’s Great Uncles) served in the Great War.  Unfortunately not all their war records have survived the German bombing of the Records Offices in the Second World War, but we do know that Emma’s eldest brother John William George Erskine was a Corporal in the London Regiment.  Emma’s younger brother Henry Erskine, joined up well before the Great War, and in 1911 was serving as a Private in the Bedfordshire Regiment in Bermuda and Jamaica.

The really interesting time for Henry came in the Great War, when long term professional soldiers like him were the core of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) that blunted and stopped the Blitzkrieg tide of the massive German advance across Northern France and Belgium.

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Henry’s 7th Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment WW1

 

Henry’s greatest hour came in the Battle of Thiepval and The Schwaben Redoubt in September 1916.  The commanding officer described the action that Henry took part in, and I’ve abbreviated it below:

 ” The Lewis Guns did great execution at this point.Two more strong points were taken at point of bayonet after a bomb preparation. The situation hereafter became very difficult as it was impossible to recognise any trenches owing to the intensity of the Artillery preparation which had obliterated everything. The final objective was almost impossible to locate accurately. This may account for parties of men over reaching by far the final objective. The final objective was held early on in the day and the whole of the Boche front line by parties of Lancashire Fusiliers, Bedfords & West Yorks. until the two latter were withdrawn at dawn, 29th.

The whole of this operation was carried out with great dash, personal cases of daring bravery were very numerous. The taking of strong points with a determined rush came off every time both on 27th & 28th. The fact that the right of the right attack was blotted out by machine gun fire may have led to the Queens filling in the gap and causing them to lose their real line. 

I was fully prepared to hold line won by us till day light or even later. Considering the great difficulties and the continuous barrage communication though slow was good. The work done by all the runners of the Battalion was beyond all praise. They were run off their legs from Zero until day light next morning and yet were ready to go on. As inevitable the question of later was one of extreme difficulty, by far the larger majority of the men fought on without fluid (water etc) of any sort from Zero. The courage, resolution & endurance displayed by all ranks was quite wonderful. They were out to kill and the Battlefield is a witness that they carried out to the full their intentions.

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Even when the Battalion had been relieved by the R.W.K. and volunteers were called for in the event of a counter attack being successful on the ground they had so dearly won the preceding day, every man declared his willingness to return at once if needed. I might mention the extreme need for more stretchers. The Regimental stretcher bearers were absolutely inadequate to cope with the numberless cases of all Regiments, some means might be devised to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded and perhaps save many valuable lives. As it was the stretcher bearers of every Battalion worked right through the night and into the morning still leaving many men untended, who might have been brought in were more bearers available.

During this attack Capt. Bridcutt [John Henry BRIDCUTT, DSO] who was observing the operations through a very excellent Boche periscope noticed that the Boches had run down the front and intermediate trench had lined their parados and shot into the left flank of the advancing troops. All available men consisting of servants, runners, signallers etc. were lined up in front of the Battalion Head Qrs and commenced rapid fire into the flank of the Boche doing great execution and causing them to retire hastily.”

For his part in this action Henry Erskine received the Military Medal, this medal was awarded to ordinary soldiers, not officers, for Bravery in the face of the enemy.  The report is interesting not least as it refers to the Germans as “the Boche”, and reflects the desperate and savage nature of the fighting, with great emphasis on the soldiers “intention to kill” no fannying about with limited engagements in those days, this was hand to hand combat red in tooth and claw, even the generally non-combatant officers servants, runners, and signallers taking up arms and driving off a German flanking attempt at one stage.

Next puzzle to unravel

So we’ve tracked down Les’s Grandmother, Cyril’s Mother’s Erskine lineage, but which Waller was the father?  Well, we’ll find out in the next instalment.

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