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Sunday, October 25, 2015

New life in Australia: Robert Sydney George Tucker 1914-2011

Although my dad was born in England, he came to Australia when he was just 11 years old, but being agile and sporty, he quickly assimilated - it was either that or find himself on the outer.  And he was the first and only member of his Tucker family to join the Australian army.

Robert Sydney George (Bob) Tucker was born just before the First World War, on 30 June 1914, the third child and only son of Sydney George Tucker and Edith Annie Reed of Southampton. The following year, his father, a former territorial, joined the British Army and by 1916  was serving in France.  My first post in 2011 described his dreadful war and my father's only memory of his father who died when Bob was not yet five years old.

Left without a war pension after her husband's suicide, Robert's mother struggled to keep the family together, but by 1920, his sisters Jessie and Cecily were in care in London, and whilst he remained with his mother, his aunts had to come to the rescue and provide warm clothing and extra love. A complicating factor was that Edith and her children no longer had the security of rent free accommodation at the comfortable Tucker family home at 67-69 Waterloo Rd, Fremantle, a suburb of Southampton.   It is unclear why, but I suspect her landlord and father-in-law's young second wife had something to do with it.  She certainly made sure her elderly husband changed his will, and Edith Annie no longer had the promise of the family business.

In 1923, Robert's sisters Jessie and Cecily Tucker, just 12 and 14, were encouraged by Barnardo's Homes to emigrate to Australia and work as domestic servants, and they were given permission to do so by their mother. But she missed them and the girls pleaded for their mother and young brother to migrate as well because they loved their new climate.  Edith and Robert spent six months living with her sister Alice Bayford in Shepherds Bush, London preparing for the trip. He enjoyed the company of his cousin Norman Bayford who was just two years older.

A Boys Home camp - Bob thrived outdoors
So by 1925, young Robert - soon to be known as Bob - was admitted to Barnardo's for a day, and given a free passage to Sydney, with his mother accompanying a group of boys bound for Western Australia.  Edith found it difficult to obtain work and accommodation with young Robert in tow.

So, within a few months, Bob was admitted to the Church of England Homes at Carlingford, where he thrived, mainly due to a wonderful   superintendent and matron, Mr & Mrs Hill, English quakers who championed each boy and recognised their interests and talents.
Working boys' hostel near Moseley Lane,
demolished in 80s for Mormon Tabernacle

Although his young world was rocked by the sudden death at 19 of his sister Jessie, he loved the outdoor life and the sporting opportunities - and continued these until he went to war in 1941.  At 15, having completed his intermediate certificate at Carlingford Rural School, he obtained a job at Rosen's nursery just opposite the Homes and lived in the working boys' hostel, a two storey house on the corner of Moseley Lane.

Later Bob went to live with his mother at Homebush, and by 1940 had put down a deposit on a new two bedroom house in Buller Street, North Parramatta.  His mother lived there and paid the rates and utilities and Bob paid the mortgage from his army pay.

Twenty odd years later, this property was useful when my father changed jobs and lost accommodation with a peppercorn rent.

Bob was knocked back on medical grounds (poor eyesight) when he tried to enlist in 1939, but by
A handsome Bob Tucker 1941
1941 the Army was desperate so off he went to war.  He trained as a signaller and was sent to New Guinea - Lae, Milne Bay and later the Kokoda Trail in 42-43 - followed by another mission to Bougainville in 1945.  Whilst there, he undertook a courageous act, crawling to fix a broken cable right near the Japanese camp.  His close mate Hugh Belling told us this in 2010 - not the sort of thing my dad mentioned.  His senior officers were grateful, although it was totally against the rules to undertake such dangerous activities on one's own.

During the war, whilst on leave, his sister Cecily introduced Bob to her friend Freda Smith, and before long they were engaged.  Bob returned to his prewar job at the citrus nursery and received a promotion to overseer with a house on site.
Austerity post war wedding group

Being in a position to marry, he did so in March 1946, and three children - Margaret in 1947, Jim in 1950 and Kathleen in 1951 - soon followed.
Margaret off to school 1953

In 1952 the nursery, having been sold by Rosens to Andersons Seeds, changed hands again, this time being purchased by the Church of England Homes.
Touring our 45 acre playground
We were fortunate to stay where we were because Bob became the farm manager, looking after 45 acres from Pennant Hills Rd to the creek at the dip of what is now Carlingford Rd, and bounded by Orchard Rd.

Every Sunday in the 50s, we went to Granny's place at North Parramatta for high tea - cakes, cream buns and biscuits; later when Granny moved to a nursing home, we took her for a drive, usually to places where we children could play.  Mum enjoyed an afternoon to herself.

Bob had qualified as a horticulturalist in the late 40s, and followed this up by studying landscape gardening.  At weekends he took on small contracts working at residences in Pennant Hills and elsewhere.  He and Freda also cut and budded rose cuttings and our kitchen table was often taken over by these activities on weekday nights.  In those days, most women did not work outside the home.

Fernhill, Pennant Hills Rd, Carlingford
site manager's cottage, built in 1800s
In 1959 Bob received a small legacy from one of his English aunts, enough to purchase a new car, so with a station waggon and trailer, we travelled throughout NSW and Victoria during the school holidays.  Bob loved visiting Freda's relations in country towns and his army mate Hugh on his farm outside Gunnedah but was not keen on the dry, dusty countryside that Freda loved.

Big changes came in 1961 when Bob resigned from the Church of England Homes.  The 45 acres on the north side of Pennant Hills Rd had been sold to Lendlease for a shopping centre (Carllingford Court) and housing in 1960.  Our house, Fernhill was moved across Pennant Hills Rd to Moseley Lane, and we spent six months living in the coach house at Havilah, the home for preschoolers, situated opposite Orchard Rd.
Havilah on Pennant Hills Rd,
now privately owned

The Homes now expected him to manage the dairy as well as a smaller vegetable farm on the remaining Boys Home property..  However, dairy farming didn't interest him.   So he went to work at Rumseys Seeds, later Yates, and managed the trial grounds at Baulkham Hills.  No longer having a house with the job, the family moved into the Buller Street property and within six months had sold that and purchased a rambling "gerry-built" house in Linton Street, Baulkham Hills.

During the seventies, Yates moved its operations to the other side of Sydney, so Bob took a job as Garden manager at the Anglican Retirement Villages (usually known as Mowll Village) at Castle Hill. Over the years, the work and number of garden staff expanded, but Bob was still expected to supply his own vehicle and trailer.  Contractors undertake this work now.  He finally retired in 1981 and spent his time gardening at home and pruning the neighbours' roses.
On his way to the ANZAC march

By 1988, Bob had convinced a somewhat reluctant Freda to move into the village where he'd been the head gardener - Mowll Village - where they were actively involved in activities both inside the village and elsewhere.  Bob's hearing was very poor and he joined SSSH - Self Help for the Hard of Hearing.  In 1989 he participated in the annual city ANZAC march for the first time, and renewed friendships from his army days.  He started opening up about the war and his experiences in New Guinea from this time on.

Back garden with first grandchild, 1981

For 20 years post retirement, Bob and Freda spent much time with their three grandchildren and pursued their many hobbies.  Bob played his electronic organ and went to organ recitals.   He sometimes contentedly stayed at home when Freda travelled, but joined her when the focus of the trip was staying with friends and relatives.  He volunteered for meals on wheels with his younger daughter Kath right up till his late 80s.

Freda's health became a concern in the mid 90s, and he spent three years visiting her every day at the village nursing home.  Not so long after her death in 2004, he had a second stroke, leaving him unable to bear weight on his legs, but with his mind as active as ever.  But having already exchanged his retirement village for low care residential care at Donington Court at ARV, he was now reliant on a wheelchair and the ageing facility had not been designed with wheelchairs in mind.  So he spent the next five years at the Donald Coburn
Bob and Freda 50th wedding anniversary
Centre, where Freda had lived, passing away on 7 July 2011 at the age of 97.  His first great grandchild had been born just five weeks earlier.

Due to many circumstances and ill-timing, Bob never returned to England, unlike his sister Cecily who visited her homeland in the 1980s.

He considered himself a proud Australian, even wanting a new flag and a republic.

However he remained ambivalent thoughout the cricket series, whenever the Ashes was being decided.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Remembering Jessie Tucker 1908-1927

The charity Barnardo’s served as the backdrop to my father Bob Tucker’s life.  His sisters were sent to Australia by Barnardo’s in 1924 and their mother and brother emigrated the following year. In 2006, I obtained my aunt Jessie’s records from Barnardo’s After Care Service in Barking, Essex.  I eventually received records for my aunt for the period 1922-1927, together with a phone call asking whether my 92 year old father was aware of his sister’s tragic death.  Using this material, public records of the incident and genealogical records, I have been able to reconstruct much of Jessie Agnes Tucker’s life.

The records included:
  • Admission record and history of Jessie Agnes Tucker, born 18th July, 1908
  • Record Book entry, Book 5, page 244.
  • Correspondence between Barnardo’s and Jessie’s mother Mrs E.A.Tucker regarding permission to emigrate to Australia, dated 21st, 28th and 29th November 1923;  later asking whether mother would be prepared to migrate (September 26th 1924)
  • Certificate of character (intelligence, cleanliness of body and mind very good; quick temper, special likes and dislikes – netball, animals, flowers) - and recommendation for occupation – kitchen hand.
  • Correspondence with an aunt who wished them to stay for two weeks over Christmas (refused for health reasons, but given a visitors’ pass for 4 people)
  • Correspondence to Barnardos UK from Jessie & her sister Cecily
  • Regular visitor’s reports by Barnardo’s Sydney office outlining Jessie’s domestic work and relationship with her two employers
  • A report by Barnardo Sydney’s welfare officer on the circumstances surrounding Jessie Tucker’s tragic death in her place of employment, the investigation and funeral; together with correspondence between the Sydney and UK offices of Dr Barnardo’s Homes.
Dr Barnardo’s Homes, a well-known English charity set up a branch in Sydney in 1921, specifically to support the immigration of the sons of British Servicemen who had died in World War 1 and place them in farm work.  The first batch of Barnardos Boys arrived in September 1921, and the first girls in 1923.  Girls were placed in domestic service.

Charitable organisations such as Barnardo’s had been sending children to Canada and Australia since the 1860s[1].  “Orphan” children included those whose remaining parent could not provide for them. Under the White Australia policy, English children helped populate the nation, whilst England was considered crowded with dependent children.

Jessie Agnes Tucker was the oldest child of Sydney George Tucker (1882-1919) and his wife Edith Annie Reed (1884-1973).  Both came from well-established upwardly mobile families of small tradesmen in Southampton.  Their life was comfortable prior to World War 1.  Siblings Cecily Mary and Robert Sydney George Tucker were born in 1910 and 1914. 

Their father Sydney worked for his father for low wages and free housing. However, three events changed their fortunes: Jessie’s maternal grandfather died suddenly in 1915, and the bank foreclosed on his three bakeries.  His wife and three daughters spent the next 10 years trading out of debt with their remaining tearooms.  Secondly, Jessie’s paternal grandfather, a widower, married a 22 year old woman who forced him to change his will. Finally, her father was severely injured and shell-shocked in France and took his own life in hospital in 1919[2].  Probate was just £294/11/6[3].

For a long while, his widow, Edith Annie was ineligible for a war widow’s pension, and the civilian pension was based on his small wage, not his in-kind wages.  Edith sought assistance from the parish of All Saint’s, Southampton and was advised by the vicar, Rev. James Kyrke Watkins to send her girls to St Pauls Church Home at 63 Sydney Street[4], Chelsea in London on the grounds of destitution.
It is unclear when Jessie and her sister Cecily were admitted to the Chelsea Home.  However, it must have been prior to October 1921, when Rev Watkins was replaced.[5]  St Paul’s closed in 1922, with the girls transferred to Barnardo’s Homes in Barkingside, where Jessie, aged 15, was approved for emigration, subject to her mother’s approval.  She would not go without Cecily. 

On 4th January 1924, they boarded the SS Euripides bound for Australia, where they settled happily into service together outside Sydney.  They missed their mother and brother however, persuading them to migrate the following year.  Barnardos enabled that by admitting my father as an “outsider” the day before he sailed, and asking Edith to chaperone a group of Barnardo’s boys.
In January 1926, Jessie was employed by a Mrs Bone at Abbotsford, Sydney.  Cecily was working elsewhere.  Jessie was considered a reliable and good worker, although by July 1927 she was reported as insolent by her mistress[6].

On 14th November 1927 she was found in the master’s bedroom with either one[7] or two[8] bullet holes in the head.  An unaddressed vague note was found in her bedroom. Her belongings were immediately given to her mother. There was no autopsy.  Edith explained that her father had committed suicide, so despite Barnardo’s bewilderment, the death was put down to suicide, wholly at her own hand.  She had saved £76 from her wages of 15/- to £1 per week.

We shall never know whether Jessie was murdered or committed suicide.  Was she pregnant to the master of the house?  That might explain the insolence.  She was reported as coming back from a short holiday depressed and unhappy just two weeks before.

I am grateful to Barnardo’s Homes for providing me with Jessie’s records.  Undoubtedly this was as a result of a policy change after the social worker Margaret Humphrey’s highlighted the shameful history of the migration schemes in her book /film Oranges and Sunshine[9].

NOTE:  This story about Jessie Tucker was written this week as an assignment for a Pharos course called The Poor, the Parish and the Workhouse.  Pharos Teaching and Tutoring is at 

[2] Death certificate, Sydney George Tucker, Southampton Military Hospital, 3rd April 1919.
[3] England and Wales, National Probate Calendar  (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1861-1941 Record for Sydney George Tucker
[4] London Metropolitan Archives, St Paul’s Church Home: Receipt for proceeds for sale of 63 Sydney Street, Chelsea in accordance with the agreement between Dr. Barnado’s Homes and the Trustees of the above Church Home P84/PAU/41 23 June 1923
[5] Hampshire Records Office: Archdeaconry of Winchester: induction mandates: 35M48/6/2854
[6] Ms Wedlock’s supervisor’s report (Barnardo Homes,  Australian Branch), July 1927
[7] New South Wales, Australia, Registers of Coroners' Inquests, 1796-1942, Record for Jessie Agnes Tucker, dated 21st November 1927
[8] Daily Telegraph, Sydney , 22nd November 1927

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

George Tucker 1802-1886 - a man with no luck

Hamptworth and Landford in George's time
My 3rd great grandfather, yet another George, is the ancestor for whom I feel sorriest.  The poor man was born in the wrong county, at the wrong time, and at the wrong end of his family.

George Tucker, born on 27th November 1802 and baptised at Landford on 12th December.  He was the ninth child and youngest son of William Tucker and Mary Rice, who married on 23rd April, 1788 in St Laurence Church, Downton.  He had two brothers, William (1788-1861) and John (1797- ) and eight sisters, at least five of whom lived to adulthood.  At least one sibling died in infancy.  All the children were born in Hamptworth, which was a small rural settlement within walking distance of both Downton and Landford.

George's siblings married into local families - Pratt, Moody, Eldridge, Cooper and Harrison families.  Although they were all baptised in Landford, they preferred to marry in Downton.  This was probably due to the dilapidated state of the Landford church, which was rebuilt in 1858.

A church school was not opened until 1848, although a dame school had been operating since about 1818.  So George and his siblings did not have the opportunity for schooling.  (Note: Older brother William must have had some opportunity for education since he was a churchwarden at St Andrews, Landford later in life.)  By 1851, some of the children in Hamptworth were described as scholars, but most children over 10 were working with their fathers.  Lace making was a common home industry for the women and girls during this time.

On 31st August 1825, George married Hannah Isaac from Rockbourne in Hampshire.  She was the daughter of George Isaac and Sarah Biddlecombe.  Rockbourne is located on the western side of the New Forest, within walking distance of Downton.  I wonder if George and Hannah met each other at the annual Market Fair?  (Farmers and other employers often engaged labourers and domestic servants at the annual fair in those days.)

A research paper 
Agricultural labourers early 19th century

contains one of many accounts of the poverty and hunger being felt in Wiltshire during the late 1820s, 30s and later, the very time that my 3rd great grandfather was establishing a family.  In the late 20s, the crops failed and the Enclosure acts resulted in many rural workers losing the right to grow their own produce and  graze their animals on common land.  Additionally, with larger land holdings, the landowners engaged fewer permanent workers, and men such as George Tucker who in earlier times could rely on their yeoman and copyhold farming relatives for work were forced to take on casual employment.  This meant that for long periods during the winter months they were unable to find work.  And with mechanisation of farming methods, wages were reduced - Wiltshire wages were much lower than in the north.

From the early 30s to the 50s, there were mass migrations of Wiltshire labourers and their families, not only to the cities but also to Canada and Australia.

Mid 19th century farm workers
But for whatever reason, this George stayed put.  The 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 census showed him remaining in Hamptworth, even though his sons George (b 1832) and William (b 1834) had moved to Southampton and London long before.  In the 1851 census, a daughter Mary Tucker aged 10, a scholar is listed, but her survival or whereabouts in later years is unknown.

Doorway to the Cuckoo Inn at Hamptworth near Downton
I visited Hamptworth in 2008 and found it a rural area with scattered cottages.  The most obvious building is the Cuckoo Inn, where we had lunch.  I was invited to pull a beer with the landlord, after I explained that my great great great grandfather probably sat in the same room.  The pub is over 200 years old.

George's wife Hannah died of "decay of iodine" on 1st May 1872 in Downton.  Her husband George was described on her death certificate as a (general) labourer, suggesting that he may have retired from farmwork.

Union Workhouse at Britford near Salisbury
By 1881, George Tucker was a resident of the Alderbury Union Workhouse at Britford, just outside Salisbury.  He died on 14th February 1886, aged 83 of senile decay.  He was described as a domestic gardener - everyone who was able had to work, probably engaged very cheaply by local residents.
In 1869, an official reported on the Workhouse:
 Inmates.— The paupers are classified according to the order, and are divided into nine classes. The men wear coats, trousers, and waistcoats, of army cloth or fustian; the women, chambray and print cotton gowns, and all have the proper under clothing, stockings, &c. The men work at the pump, the will, gypsum pounding, and garden work.

For more information, see the following web link:

And so ends my Tucker links with Wiltshire.  From the 1880s, none of my close ancestors lived in Hamptworth, Landford or Downton - they were engulfed by the industrial revolution and had moved to Southampton and London.

The only exception was George's daughter Ann (1829-1882), who married George Dibden of Nomansland, near Hamptworth.  It is understood Dibdens still live around that area.

Monday, November 21, 2011

George Tucker 1832-1914 - from agricultural Wiltshire to industrial Southampton

Linda and Margaret outside St Laurence's Downton

Great-great grandfather, George Tucker (1832-1914) brings alive a period of English history where great changes took place. By the time he was ready for work, the economic life of the nation was centred around great advances in transport and manufacturing rather than agriculture.

Downton during the Cuckoo Fair, May 2008

George Tucker, grandfather of Sydney George (1883-1919) and Albert Arthur William Tucker (1885-1964) was born in Hamptworth, Downton, Wiltshire in 1832, in a period of great turmoil. His parents were George Tucker (1802-1886) and Hannah Isaac (1800-1872).

Downton, eight miles south of the cathedral city of Salisbury and on the northern border of the New Forest, is a very pretty place – still just a small market town - which I visited in May 2008, together with my new found cousin Linda, the grand-daughter of “Bert” Tucker.

However in 1832 when George was born, Downton was a place of misery for many of its inhabitants, especially for the agricultural labourers such as George Tucker senior (b 1802) and his family, wife Mary and sons and daughter Ann, George and William.

Swing riots - contemporary etching
In the 1830’s Wiltshire was in the grip of a severe depression, caused mostly by the enclosure of common land – causing loss of farming rights of villagers; poor harvests between 1828 and 1830; and the introduction of farm machinery, which took away the jobs of many farm labourers.

Burning a hayrick
Riots spread to Downton, with machinery attacked. These riots were just some of the “Swing Riots”, which commenced in Kent and spread across to Wiltshire and further west. They were widespread in Wiltshire. The government response was harsh, and many of the rioters were sentenced to transportation to Australia, although later pardoned. Although some of those transported to Australia came from Downton, the Tucker family was not amongst them, nor amongst those convicted.

But living conditions must have been hard for the Tuckers. According to George junior’s marriage certificate, his father was a woodsman. Wages for Wiltshire farm labourers were 8/- per week, much lower than elsewhere in the country.

Many families were on parish relief at the time, and in 1835 a small group of families left for Canada. They wrote with enthusiasm to their families and neighbours back in Downton.
The parish vestry members were concerned about the high levels of relief being paid by the Downton parish to families. At this time, about 50-100 family men were permanently out of work. They saw emigration as a solution to their problems.

The following notice was published:
Downton February 28th 1836
Notice is hereby given, that all Fathers of Families, and all single persons, who wish to emigrate to Canada, are to attend a meeting of the vestry, tomorrow at three o'clock in the afternoon, at the vestry room ,at the church, for the purpose of securing their passage and other necessary arrangements
By order of the Select Vestry.

About 220 people from Downton took up the parish offer to go to Canada. This represented 1 in 10 of the population.

However, again the Tucker family was not represented amongst the emigrants.

In 1841 , the Tucker family was split into two households. George Tucker senior and his widowed mother Mary (nee Rice, a pauper), his sons George (9) and William (6) and niece Caroline (16) were living at Hamptworth, a hamlet between Downton and Landford where George senior had been baptized.

Meanwhile, his wife Hannah Tucker (nee Isaac) was living at Landford Lodge with her daughters Ann (11) and Mary (1). Daughter Mary (born in 1840) disappears without trace in later census records.

The household was back living together in 1851. George junior was listed in the 1851 census as an agricultural labourer, living with his parents and sister Ann, who married the following year. However, work cannot have been plentiful because when he married in Southampton in 1854, he was living at 29 Union Street, Southampton and described himself as a labourer.

In 1852, George’s sister Ann Tucker (b 1829) married George Dibden at Downton, and by 1881 was living at Nomansland, just to the south of Landford. She had five children. There are still Dibdens in the area.

Brother William became a servant with a distant relative at West Wellow, and by 1857 had moved to London to become a fireman. He died in West Ham, Essex in 1881, having fathered two daughters to his wife Emma (nee Arden, formally Garbett) - Alice (1867) and Ellen Elizabeth (1869).

George married Sophia Jefferis, a 20 year old from Fordingbridge, Hampshire in the Southampton registry office on 6th June, 1854. She too was living in Southampton at 85 James Street. She gave no occupation. Two of her siblings were her witnesses.

High Street, Southampton in 19th century
In 1858, Sophia gave birth to George William, the first of three children and the only boy. He was our great-grandfather. Kate Louisa followed in 1862 and Ellen Jane in 1869. Ellen was known as Nellie as an adult.

By 1861, the family was living at 9 The Back of the Walls, and George was a “shopman”. He then became a coal porter, an occupation he gave in every census from 1871 to 1901. On his death certificate he was described as a “retired stevedore” so it is likely he worked as a coal porter on the docks.

Needless to say, George was a man who personified the industrial revolution, seeing great changes in both his lifestyle and his occupation over the second half of the eighteenth century.

Coal porters in London at same time
He appears to have been a very stable man, living in the same house at 9 Bell Street, Southampton until his death in 1914. Unadventurous maybe? His wife Sophia lived there until her death in 1922. My father vaguely remembers visiting his great-grandmother there, probably not long before she died.
George's Bible, 1879
Sophia presented him with a bible in 1879, for his 47th birthday. She describes herself as his affectionate wife. So in all probability, they had a good marriage. The birthdates of their children were also listed.

They had plenty of sadness though. Their elder daughter Kate Louisa died at age 17, and Sophia lived to see her younger daughter Nellie die before her in 1918. Their daughter-in-law Agnes Mary Tucker also died before them in 1912.

Her son-in-law Donald McInnes (Nellie’s widower) was present at her death. Maybe he lived with the old lady. My father Bob remembers him, prior to Bob’s departure for Australia in 1925. He left Edith Annie Tucker (Bob’s mother) his few possessions. Certainly, Nellie (Ellen Jane) was living with her parents in 1901, probably whilst Don, a seaman was away. She was also living there in 1911 , with her employment listed as a fruiter’s assistant.

George Tucker died at home on 6th November, 1914 of chronic bronchitis. His daughter Nellie McInnes was present at his death.

During his lifetime he would have seen the movement of the population from village to industrial towns, the growth of the railways and the sea ports, the devastation from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and the beginning of the Great War. He lived through the reign of three monarchs – Victoria, Edward VII and George V. Even though he was a general labourer (as described on his wife’s death certificate in 1922) and probably lived very simply in poor housing, his living standards would have increased significantly since his childhood in Hamptworth, Wiltshire.

In common with most towns in the early 19th century Southampton was dreadfully unsanitary. The improvement commissioners only paved and cleaned the main streets and the back streets were very dirty. Out of 230 streets in the 1840's 145 were without sewers. In one case 77 people shared one toilet. Not surprisingly in 1849 there was a cholera epidemic in Southampton, which killed 240 people. 
Life in Victorian Southampton gradually improved. After 1850 the town council took over the duties of the improvement commissioners. From then on all streets were cleaned and sewers were enlarged and improved. Nevertheless there was another epidemic of cholera in Southampton in 1865, which killed 151 people. At first poor people obtained their water from conduits, wells or pumps but in 1888 a new water works opened at Otterbourne. By that time most people had piped water.  Quoted from:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

George William Tucker - 1856-1924 - a foolish old man?

Born on 24th October 1856 to George and Sophia Tucker at 15 Manchester St, Southampton, Hampshire, George William Tucker was the first of our Tucker ancestors to be born in that thriving port city.  Two more generations of Tuckers were to do so.  George William Tucker was our father Bob Tucker’s grandfather.  He is the common ancestor to our recently discovered second cousin Linda (nee Tucker) of Sussex, UK.

George William’s mother Sophia (nee Jefferis) hailed from nearby Fordingbridge, but was working as a servant in Southampton.  Father George started life as an agricultural labourer in Hamptworth, Wiltshire but moved to Southampton in about 1850 to obtain a job as a stevedore in the port.  George and Sophia lived at 9 Bell Street, around the corner from their son’s music shop for almost 60 years.


George William Tucker was the first of our Tuckers in the nineteenth century to become somewhat prosperous, working his way up from being a pawnbroker at age 18 to a music shop dealer by the eighteen nineties. Ten years later in 1901 he had acquired two properties at 67-69 Waterloo Rd, Freemantle, a suburb of Southampton, whilst his sons Sydney George (aged 18) and Albert Arthur William (aged 16) lived above the shop in 10 Canal Walk. Sydney was his father’s assistant whilst Albert (Bert) was still at school. He sent both boys to the Taunton’s School in Southampton, where they excelled in sports – football and cricket.

George William was a sergeant in the Hampshire Regiment Volunteer Battalion.  He entered many a rifle competition in the 1880s and 90s.   Dad remembered a portrait of George William in his scarlet uniform.   I have not been able to determine if he served during any conflict.  Certainly by the outbreak of the Great War, he was too old to do so.

George William also did his bit for the community by making pianos and other instruments available for charitable events. There are a few mentions of him in the Hampshire Advertiser.


George William had married Agnes Hardy (1858-1912) on 14th April 1881 in the parish church of All Saints.  Agnes was a school teacher, born in Southampton to Aaron Hardy a mariner and his wife Amelia Mary Billet.  Both of them came from Dorset.  However, Agnes died suddenly of heart disease in 1912.

In 1916, George William decided to remarry, and he chose a woman 38 years younger than himself. He was 60. Her name was Edith Eliza Hainsworth, born in Guernsey in the Channel Islands in 1894.  However, she grew up in Southampton.

Later life

George William and Edith continued to live at 69 Waterloo Road, where first wife Agnes had died.

Meanwhile, Sydney George and his family lived next door in number 67, rent free in return for a low wage. In 1915 Sydney went off to war. The monetary situation was to have severe repercussions after Sydney’s death in 1919 since the government only recognized Sydney’s low wage when calculating the value of a civilian widow’s pension. (It was years before our Granny Tucker was able to claim a war widow’s pension due to Sydney George committing suicide in hospital three days after he was demobilized.)

George William’s second wife Edith gained a reputation as a “gold-digger” being so much younger than her husband (isn’t that always the way) and being heard to scream at George William to change his will.  He did so, and the whole estate was left to Edith, although it is understood that younger son Bert did contest it on his own behalf.

After the war, Edith must have worked with George William in the music shop, since she inherited it and ran it until it was destroyed during the bombing of Southampton in 1940.
He died at the Old Manor (mental hospital) in Salisbury of "softening of the brain". He had been there about seven months. In the 1920s and 30s, the Old Manor Hospital was said to be the largest private mental hospital in Europe. His estate of £2551 18s 6d was granted to his widow Edith Tucker.

A finale to this is that although Edith buried him next to his first wife Agnes, she inherited the grave of my grand-father Sydney George Tucker, who had pre-deceased his father in 1919, and she then buried all her relatives (mother, step-father, cousin, second husband Tom Chester Herring) in Sydney’s grave.  Her ashes – she died in Droxford, Hampshire in 1983 - are also spread there.