Sunday, 30 April 2017

In search of the real mother of Lily Edith Swaddling

Back in February I wrote about the tragically short life of Lily Edith Swaddling who was born to a single woman, Clara Swaddling, in 1898. After almost completing my research on Lily Edith's family I realised that I had incorrectly identified her mother as Clara Hannah Swaddling as I found a marriage certificate for another Clara Swadling. This Clara seemed a much more likely candidate as she married William Stephen Steer at the same church as Lily Edith's baptism and burial, St Mary and St John in Cowley.

This Clara was 23 years old, which made her year of birth about 1876, and her address was 176 Howard Street in Cowley. Her father was John Charles Swadling, who was recorded as deceased at the time of the marriage. So who were these Swadlings?

The marriage of Clara and William Stephen took place on the 26th December 1899 so I looked for them on the 1901 census for further clues. Strangely enough they were not living together at this time. William S Steer was residing with his brother Arthur J Steer in Kingston-on-Thames and Clara was at 176 Howard Street with a two month old daughter, Edith M Steer and six other family members. The head of the household was her older widowed sister, Harriett Biles, also at the address were Harriett's two children Eleanor L and William J Biles, together with Clara and Harriett's widowed mother Eleanor L Swadling and their younger unmarried siblings William Swadling aged 22 and Mary A Swadling aged 20.

I found Clara and William Stephen living in Tooting on the 1911 census. Edith was now 10 years old and she was their only child.

According to the British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914 - 1920 on Ancestry, when William Stephen enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry on the 7th May 1916 he was recorded as Stephen William Steer. He was described as 40 year and 7 months old, 5 foot 7 1/2 inches tall with a scar on the right side of his face. He spent the next three months training before being posted on the 19th August. The records also show that he and Clara had moved to 50 Smallwood Road in Tooting and Clara had given birth to another daughter, May Eleanor, in Wandsworth in 1915.

William Stephen Steer returned to England on the 27th March 1919 and he received the Victory and British medals. Theses medals were awarded to all soldiers who served in any operational theatre of war between the 5th August 1914 and the 11th November 1918.

Edith Mary Steer married Harry (Henry) Verrier on the 30th November 1920. They married at the newly built St Mary's Church on Wimbledon Road in Summerstown, London, which had been designed by Godfrey Pinkerton and finished only months before. This church was given Grade II listing in 1983. The marriage certificate stated that Henry's address at the time of the marriage was also 50 Smallwood Road. So it appears that he just moved in with Edith and her parents. Sadly Edith Mary and Harry didn't have any children.

According to the London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832 - 1965 on Ancestry it looks like Edith and Henry continued to live at 50 Smallwood Road until May Eleanor married Arthur John Whatley in the autumn of 1934. They didn't move far. Just three doors away to number 56!. For some reason Edith and May moved houses again in 1938. Edith moved back to 50 Smallwood Road and May moved into 56.

Clara Steer died in the first few months of 1939 at the age of 62 and this may have been the reason why Edith moved back in with her parents. She may have needed to care for her mother. On the 1939 Register on Find My Past, William S Steer is listed as a widower and he is employed as a General Labourer. Henry Verrier is listed as a Gardener and Edith is listed as a Housekeeper. Usually a married woman's occupation is listed as Unpaid Domestic Duties, which means housewife. So did her occupation mean that she was keeping house for her father?

William Stephen Steer died at St James Hospital in London S.W.12 on the 7th June 1945 at the age of 69 years. Administration for the Probate was settled in Llandudno on the 25th June by Edith Mary Verrier and the total of his estate was £234 12 shillings and 2d. It seemed strange that the probate was proved in Llandudno but from checking other probate records on the same page on the England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Will and  Administrations), many of the Surrey and London probates were  also proved there.

I found evidence that Edith and Henry were still living at 50 Smallwood Road for another two years but after that I can't find them. Henry died in 1973 at the age of 77 years and Edith Mary died in April 2002 at the grand old age of 101 years! Her last known address was Bolingbroke Grove in London.

May Eleanor and Arthur John Whatley had four children and moved their family to 27 Blackshaw Road, London S.W.17 after the war. They continued to live there until the mid 1960's. Arthur John died in 1971 at the age of 58 years and May Eleanor died in 1981 at the age of 65 years. Their four children all married.