A puzzling postcard
“Has your #OnePlaceStudy been photographed?” As you might guess from the hashtag, this question was posed on Twitter. Pam Smith’s tweet prompted me to make another online search for old photos of Waters Upton, a search which turned out to be fairly fruitful. Not only did I find an old photo, I also happened upon an intriguing postcard sent to a young lady of Waters Upton, from someone who appears to have been a secret admirer.
The postcard was one of many being offered for sale on the British Family Tree Research website, and naturally I soon snapped it up. As you can see, the front of the card has a black and white photo of a young man standing on one side of a garden fence, looking at a young woman standing on the other side. Below the photo the following verse is printed:
GOODBYE MY LADY LOVE.
So you’re going away, because your heart has gone astray,
And you promised me that you would always faithful be;
Go to him you love, and be as true as stars above;
But your heart will yearn, and some day you will return,
Goodbye my lady love, farewell my turtle dove,
You are my idol and darling of my heart;
But some day you will come back to me and love me tenderly,
So goodbye my lady love, goodbye.
Powerful stuff, so let’s go over to the other side of the postcard for the all-important details of the sender and the recipient. The lamenter of lost love was, as I suspected, anonymous. Not only was no name given, the message is almost illegible in places! That message simply said:
Thanks for paper
hope allis [= all is] well
OK, what about the postmark – a vital clue or a red herring? Well, it shows that the postcard was posted at Watford, in Hertfordshire, on 24 February 1906. Did the sender live in Watford but visit Waters Upton, or live in the latter and visit the former (through employment, or maybe because of family connections), or did the sender live in Waters Upton but know someone who lived in Watford, who agreed to post the card to make its origins more mysterious?
The one person whose identity I knew, from the details provided on the BFTR website, was of course the addressee: Miss A Wylde of the Lion Inn, Waters Upton. Without a doubt Lucy Alice Wylde, who was known as Alice – presumably to avoid confusion as her mother’s name was also Lucy.
The life of Lucy Alice Wylde: part 1
Lucy Alice Wylde was born at Waters Upton in 1889, most likely in the Lion Inn; her birth was registered at Wellington in the second quarter of that year. She was the third child and first daughter of John and Lucy (née Strefford) Wylde, and appears with them at the Lion on the 1891 census, along her elder brothers Frederick and Joseph (twins) and younger sister Sarah Ann (aged 7 months).
Sadly, Lucy Alice and her siblings lost their father on 2 April 1900 (a headstone in Waters Upton churchyard surviving to tell the tale). Their widowed mother took on the running of the Lion, and she was enumerated in that capacity on the 1901 census, with her children Frederick, Joseph, Alice (the forename Lucy dropped by that time), Harry and Albert (but not Sarah who, as we will see, was staying elsewhere).
The Wellington Journal of 27 July 1901 shows that Alice took part in the Bolas and Waters Upton Flower Show, held on the afternoon of Friday 6 July. In the Children’s Division of the show she was awarded fourth place for her collection of grasses; if she entered a wild flower bouquet she was not placed. There were also sporting events held in conjunction with the show (reported on in the following week’s edition of the Journal), including egg and spoon races for married ladies and spinsters; Alice competed in the latter and came second.
The next event in Alice’s life that I know of was the delivery of the postcard from her secret admirer, which quite possibly prompted giggles from Alice’s siblings, and maybe blushes from Alice herself? Alice, who at that time was nearly 17 years old, may well have known who the sender was – but we can only guess. Was it perhaps William James or his younger brother Thomas, sons of Alfred James the butcher and his wife Ann, whose household was enumerated immediately before the Lion on the censuses of 1901 and 1911? Even if I had samples of handwriting to compare (sadly I don’t) it would probably be difficult to prove one way or the other. One reader of the first incarnation of this story suggested “a teasing card from female friends or [an] elder brother.”
In an attempt to find out more, I endeavoured to piece together what happened to Alice after 1906. The first part of this project was easy. By 1911 Alice had indeed left home and she was not with her family at the Lion Inn on that year’s census. Like her elder twin brothers, Alice had found railway-related work – she was enumerated at Manchester’s Central Station on Lower Mosley Street (pictured below in the 1910s) where she was one of seven single ladies working as bar attendants.
The life of Lucy Alice Wylde: part 2
Alice’s life after 1911 was something which, at first, I was not 100% certain about. With the aid of Ancestry and then also Findmypast, I tentatively pulled together the following sequence of events. As all the records I have found use her full name, I too will from this point refer to Lucy by her original given name.
In the last quarter of 1919, the marriage of Lucy A Wylde and John Crompton was registered at Wellington, Shropshire. Judging by his surname, John was probably a Lancashire lad whom Lucy met while working in that part of England; I think it very likely that the couple wed at Waters Upton, which was not only the bride’s native parish but also where her mother still lived and worked.
Very soon after their nuptials, the newlyweds emigrated. The passenger list for the Saxon, departing Southampton on 19 December 1919, included a Mr and Mrs J Crompton who were contracted to land at Cape Town. I have to point out that there are a number of things in this record which suggest that it relates to another couple – Mrs Crompton’s age is given as 20 (30 would have been more accurate), and the “country of last permanent residence” was indicated as being “British Possessions” for both parties (I have found no evidence of any previous periods abroad for either of them). However, Mr Crompton’s occupation was given as “Clerk”, and his age as 35, both of which tie in with later records.
On 31 May 1926 Lucy A Crompton, a housewife aged 37, arrived at London from Cape Town aboard the P&O Steamship Balranald from Sydney, Australia. The country of her last permanent residence was recorded as “Africa” – which of course is not a country. (As one of my former geography teachers said many years ago when someone gave “Africa” as an answer to a question, “Damnit man, Africa’s a big place!”) Lucy’s proposed UK address was the Grapes Hotel in Liverpool, but her intended future permanent residence was “Other parts of the British Empire”. Sure enough, on 2 September 1926, 37-year-old housewife Mrs Lucy Alice Crompton, whose last UK address was the Glasgow Arms Hotel in Deansgate, Manchester, departed London for Cape Town aboard the P&O Steamship Borda. Her country of intended future permanent residence was “S. Africa”.
A further brief visit to the UK was made in 1935. This time, 46-year-old Lucy Alice Crompton was accompanied by her husband, John Crompton, a Secretary, aged 50. The couple, whose last and intended future residences were South Africa and “Other parts of the British Empire” respectively, arrived at Southampton on 29 July, aboard the Carnarvon Castle (pictured below). Their proposed UK address – and these details are worth remembering – was “c/o Mr Doughty, 12 Hayes Ave, Bournemouth”. The Cromptons left just over a fortnight later, on the Carnarvon Castle’s return trip to South Africa which began when it departed Southampton on 9 August 1935.
Lucy A Crompton, aged 64, returned to the UK for what appears to have been the last time in 1954. The passenger list for the Edinburgh Castle shows that she arrived at Southampton on 9 April. John Crompton was not with her (I have yet to establish his fate, not to mention who he worked for in South Africa, and whereabouts in that country he and Lucy lived). Lucy was once again heading for 12 Hayes Avenue in Bournemouth – and she intended to remain in England permanently.
According to the National Probate Calendar for 1966, Lucy Alice Crompton of 18 Lansdowne House, Christchurch Road in Bournemouth died on 12 May that year at Christchurch Hospital. Probate was granted to the Westminster Bank, and Lucy left effects valued at an impressive £12,766.
Not a bad life for a publican’s daughter – assuming all the above records actually relate to ‘our’ Lucy Alice Wylde! How to be certain, without purchasing Lucy’s marriage certificate, or her death certificate, or perhaps a copy of the aforementioned will? I decided to follow the fortunes of Sarah Ann Wylde, the younger sister of Lucy, and see what information that turned up.
Wylde at heart: sister Sarah Ann
Sarah, as we have seen, was not with her siblings and her widowed mother at the Lion Inn, Waters Upton, at the time of the 1911 census. Instead, she was staying with her cousin William Lawrence Wylde (a son of Sarah’s late uncle Lewis Wylde) at 52 Stafford Street in Hanley, Staffordshire. William, incidentally, was a Beerhouse Manager, so his (public) house was, aside from being in an urban rather than a rural environment, ‘home from home’ for 10-year-old Sarah.
In my initial searches I failed to find Sarah on the 1911 census, but I managed to catch up with her in 1922 – on her wedding day. The marriage register of Stanmore Church in Middlesex, described by Ancestry as Harrow St John, shows that on 29 June 1922 Sarah Ann Wylde of Stanmore, a spinster aged 31 and a daughter of John Wylde deceased, married Albert Ishmael Doughty of Harrow, son of John Doughty deceased. John, who had retired from business, was a bachelor aged – wait for it – 56 (perhaps there’s hope for me yet!).
Does the surname Doughty ring any bells? If it doesn’t, how about the address where Sarah and Albert were living when the National Identity Register was compiled in 1939? Albert I Doughty, a retired pawnbroker born 26 August 1865, and Sarah A Doughty, born 19 August 1890, were – along with Albert’s unmarried sister Marion – residing at 12 Hayes Avenue, Bournemouth (Hayes Avenue lies within the purple circle on the map above). Boom! Clear evidence that Sarah’s sister Lucy Alice Wylde had indeed married clerk / secretary John Crompton and emigrated with him to South Africa.
Albert Ishmael Doughty of 12 Hayes Avenue Bournemouth died on 28 November 1942; the National Probate Calendar for 1943 shows that probate was granted to the National Westminster Bank and that Albert effects were valued at a whopping £30,883 4s. 3d. His widow Sarah Ann Doughty, née Wylde, remained at the couple’s home in Bournemouth but died at Strathallan Nursing Home in Owls Road on 12 August 1962. She had evidently been the primary beneficiary of her late husband’s will, as her effects (according the National Probate Calendar of 1962) were valued at £26,901 14s. 5d.
So far away, yet so close
Lucy Alice and Sarah Ann, two sisters from Waters Upton, led very different lives, and for a large part of those lives were half a world away from each other. But despite the distance they were clearly very close to each other. Not only did they keep in touch, they also spent their last years in the same seaside resort on the south coast of England.
What of Lucy Alice’s secret admirer? That postcard wasn’t thrown away, it was kept and it was presumably only after Lucy’s death that it found its way into the old postcard trade, so it must have meant something. Well over a century after it was posted, it came to my notice and has led to a little of Lucy Alice’s life, and that of her sister Sarah, being explored and remembered. But who sent the card?
Thanks to genealogy guru Dave Annal (Lifelines Research), I think we now have a pretty good idea. Dave did a more thorough job of searching for Sarah in 1911 than I did, and guess where he found her? Living (and working as a general domestic servant) in the household of Ellen Hester Boulter at 2 Loates Lane in Watford, that’s where!
Picture credits. Postcard sent to Miss A Wylde: Posted in 1906 and therefore believed to be out of copyright. Central Train Station, Manchester: From a 1910s postcard and therefore believed to be out of copyright. The Union-Castle Royal Mail Motor Vessel “Carnarvon Castle”: From an out-of-copyright image at State Library of Queensland (John Oxley Library), Australia. Map of Bournemouth showing the location of Hayes Avenue: Extract from Ordnance Survey One Inch map Sheet 179; reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA) licence.