LIFE GOES ON: AN INTRODUCTION

MY GRANDPARENTS - I - MY GREAT-GRANDPARENTS - I - MY GREAT-GREAT-GRANDPARENTS - I - MY GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GRANDPARENTS

THE SIXTEEN FAMILIES

KNOTT - I - BOWLES - I - WATERS - I - HARRALL - I - PAGE - I - WISEMAN - I - CROSS - I - CARTER

CORNWELL - I - HUCKLE - I - MORTLOCK - I - MANSFIELD - I - REYNOLDS - I - CARTER - I - ANABLE - I - STEARN

CHRONOLOGY - I - DRAMATIS PERSONAE - I - WHERE PEOPLE CAME FROM - I - CALENDAR

MAP OF ELY - I - MAP OF MEDWAY
MAP OF CAMBRIDGE AND DISTRICT

THE WORKHOUSE

WORLD WAR I - I - WORLD WAR II

simonknott.co.uk I home I e-mail

LIFE GOES ON







Wickhambrook parish boundary greater love Waterside

The Carter family: from Suffolk to the bleak fen

My Father's Mother's Mother's Mother's family
The narrative can be read in conjunction with
the Page family tree. You can see places significant to the Carter family on the site map of Ely.
This family story includes material from, and links with, the stories of the
Page, Wiseman and Cross families. My direct ancestors are highlighted in bold the first time they appear in the narrative.

Prickwillow seems a desolate place even today, huddled on the edge of the great river in the bleakest part of the Fens. How much more remote and desperate it must have seemed in the early years of the 19th Century, a haunt of eel-trappers, poachers and cut-throats. The lonely road north out of Ely was considered a dangerous place after dark. Infant mortality was spectacularly high, and incest rife. In winter, Prickwillow would have been regularly cut off from the outside world, an island in the flooded, frozen fields. As if to suit such a forbidding landscape, my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Elijah Carter was a particularly mysterious character. He spent most of his life in Prickwillow, and he claimed on the 1871 census that he was born in Prickwillow shortly before civil registration began. But there is no record of a baptism in the Ely Holy Trinity PRs, into which Prickwillow fell, or on the 1800-37 Cambridgeshire baptism index for any Elijah Carter in the first half of the 19th Century. Because of this, Elijah is not immediately apparent on either the 1841 or 1851 censuses, and at first sight it appears that he comes into the public record with his marriage to Ann Convine in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on the 15th March 1856.

But none of this was true. In fact, Elijah Carter was not really from Prickwillow at all. One clue to this is to be found on the 1851 census. The family of Ann Convine, Elijah's future wife, were living in Padnal, Prickwillow, next door to James and Rhoda Carter and their 19 year old daughter Sophia. The Carter family were from Wickhambrook, Suffolk, and the Wickhambrook parish registers reveal that Elijah Carter was the son of James and Rhoda, and was born in Wickhambrook and baptised there on 7th July 1833. Indeed, the 18 year old Elijah was still living in Wickhambrook in 1851 and working as a farm labourer, away from his parents and sister. Wickhambrook is today a pleasant parish of scattered hamlets grouped along winding lanes and around village greens in the rolling hills of south-west Suffolk. Even in the early 19th Century it must have provided a startling contrast with the Cambridgeshire fens. However, after his marriage there are solid references to Elijah in abundance.

Elijah had joined his family in Prickwillow by 1855, because on 12th May the Cambridge Independent Press reported that one Elijah Carter of Prickwillow had been charged with willful damage to a doorlock, the property of one William Convine of Prickwillow. Carter was confined during Sunday and as a consequence discharged upon payment of court costs and the cost of the damage, which were paid. William Convine was the father of Elijah's future wife Ann Convine. Elijah and Ann were married on the 15th March 1856. Ann had an illegitimate daughter. She was probably born about a year before they married. A second girl was born and baptised a year after the marriage, along with Ann's first daughter. Curiously, the first child was baptised under Ann's maiden name and without the mention of a father. We must assume that this girl was not Elijah's. The other daughter was recorded under the surname Carter.

Elijah receives two mentions in the Cambridge Independent Press in 1858 alone for assaults on Prickwillow villagers, and there are further records of assaults in the 1860s and 1870s. The 1861 census for Ely is lost. When Elijah and Ann re-emerge on the census radar in 1871 they have three children aged between 7 and 16, and are living on the Waterside in the centre of Ely. The census claims that all the family were born in Prickwillow. Next door are the Cross family, and Elijah and Ann's daughter Sarah would later marry Thomas Chapman Cross, a son of that family, and they would be my great-great-grandparents.

These are the children of Elijah Carter and Ann Convine:

Sophia Carter
Born about 1855 in Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire. Sophia was probably not Elijah's daughter, because when she was baptised in Holy Trinity parish Ely on 8th March 1857 she was recorded with the surname Convine, and the space for the name of the father is left blank. Sophia is still at home with Elijah and Ann on the 1871 census when she is recorded as a former domestic servant. There is no record of a marriage for Sophia in the Holy Trinity records and she is not at home with her mother in 1881 when she would have been 26 years old.

Eliza Susan Carter
Born 1857 in Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire and baptised along with her (half?) sister Sophia in Holy Trinity parish Ely on 8th March 1857 . Eliza's father was recorded as a labourer of Black Wing Drove. In 1871 she was a 14 year old servant in the household of Ann Bennett, an eating-house keeper of Butter Market, Ely. Eliza married the labourer Jacob Walter Barton at Wicken in the first quarter of 1880. However, a year after their marriage at the time of the 1881 census, they were both back in Ely. Jacob is shown as a militiaman lodging on Fore Hill, Ely, while Eliza was lodging with her aunt Eliza Atkin a short distance off in Newnham Street. Thereafter, they appear to have lived in Wicken all their lives, and by the time of the 1911 census they recorded that they had been married for 31 years and had had no children. Eliza died at Wicken in the third quarter of 1924. She was 67 years old.

Sarah Ann Carter
Born in the fourth quarter of 1860 in Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire, but apparently not baptised in Holy Trinity parish. My great-great-grandmother - see below.

James Carter
Born in March 1861 in Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire and baptised at Holy Trinity parish on 8th March. By 20th March he was dead, and was buried in plot B246 of Ely Cemetery. His age in the parish registers was recorded as one week, which is probably a mistake for one month.

unnamed Carter
Born Febuary 1862 in Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire and buried on 17 March in plot B247 of Ely Cemetery - unnamed girl aged three weeks.

James Carter
Born in March 1863 in Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire and baptised at Holy Trinity parish on 19th March. By 25th April he was dead, and was buried in plot B245 of Ely Cemetery. His age in the parish registers was recorded as one month.

James Carter
Born in March 1864 in Prickwillow, Cambridgeshire and baptised at Holy Trinity parish on 10th April. He was recorded on the 1871 census at the age of seven living with his parents and sisters Sophia and Sarah. In 1881 he was at Broad Street in Ely with his mother and sister Sarah. James married his cousin Caroline Convine on 25th May 1889 in Holy Trinity parish. At the time of the 1911 census, when James was a farm labourer at Black Horse Drove Littleport, they had been married for twenty years and had no children.


Their daughter Sarah Ann was at home with her parents at the time of the 1871 census and then with her mother alone in 1881 when she was recorded as a farm labourer. Her father Elijah lived a chequered life at this time. There is a succession of reported offences and imprisonments in the 1870s, but Elijah was not at home for the 1881 census, when Ann described herself as the Head of the household, but as Married rather than Widowed. At the Bull Hotel in March, Cambridgeshire, an Elijah Carter of the right age gave his birthplace as Bury St Edmunds, the nearest town to Wickhambrook. It seems likely that this is our Elijah. Ann died in 1884, and after that there is no trace of Elijah, except for a brief intriguing glimpse of someone who is likely to be him being convicted of begging in central Cambridge in 1890.

Next door to the Carter family on Waterside at the time of the 1871 census were the Cross family, including seventeen year old Thomas Chapman Cross. Ten years later, in April 1881, the twenty-seven year old Thomas Cross was lodging in the Royal Oak public house at the bottom of Back Hill, where his occupation was recorded as a labourer on Board of Health works. Across the road in Broad Street lived twenty-one year old Sarah Ann Carter with her mother Ann and her brother James. Two important events in their lives would occur in the next twelve months: On Christmas Eve 1881, Thomas Chapman Cross married Sarah Ann Carter in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral. Sixteen days later, on the 9th January 1882, their first child was born, my great-grandmother Sophia Chapman Cross. Sophia was born in Broad Street, quite probably at the family home of the Carter family. Her father's occupation was given as a railway labourer. Sophia was baptised privately on 24th February, suggesting that she was too ill to be brought to church, and perhaps even that she was not expected to live. She inherited the middle name Chapman, her grandmother's maiden name, from her father, and it was also given as a middle name to most (although not all) of her siblings. Another child, Alice Chapman Cross, was born on Broad Street a year later, but after this Thomas and Sarah Ann moved to Potters Lane, where they would live for the rest of their lives. They would have nine children altogether:

    Sophia Chapman Cross
Born Broad Street, Ely on the 9th January 1882. My great-grandmother. see below.

Alice Chapman Cross
Born Broad Street, Ely on the 23rd March 1883. She was baptised in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 23rd May 1883. In 1901, On 12th January 1901 Alice was a witness at the marriage of her sister Sophia to Arthur Page. The other witness was Robert John Dewsbury. In April 1901, when Alice was 19, she was a live-in servant at Ely College. In the last quarter of 1901, Alice married Robert John Dewsbery of Little Thetford near Ely; this marriage was not at Ely Trinity or Little Thetford. In 1911, they were living in Soham between Ely and Newmarket. Robert was a farm labourer, and they had three children, Cissy, Florence and Margery. Alice, Robert and their family moved back to Little Thetford, but then in 1915 a terrible tragedy befell them. The Cambridge Independent Press of 9th October 1915 reported that the youngest daughter, Margery, had fallen over a fireguard and been severely scalded by an upset kettle. The following day the child was brought into Ely to the house of Alice's sister Sophia on Waterside, where a doctor attended, but it was too late to save Margery and she died.

The Dewsberry family were friends of my mother's family in Little Thetford when she was a child before she met my father (even though the Crosses are on my father's side of the family, not my mother's). Alice died in 1958, and her grave in Little Thetford cemetery is marked by a simple metal cross.

Thomas Chapman Cross
Born Potters Lane, Ely on the 13th January 1886. He was baptised in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 3rd February. The eldest son, he took his father's name, but was refered to as Tom rather than Thomas. In 1911 he was a 25 year old farm labourer, but still unmarried and living at home. By 1917 he was working at the gasworks along with his father, and on 4th July 1917 the Cambridge Daily News reported that the Ely Gas & Electricity Company Ltd applied for four men, among them Thomas Chapman Cross, single, a gas stoker at the gasworks aged 30, to receive exemption from call up to the services. Mr T A Guyatt of the Company was reported as saying that they had lost eight men since the outbreak of the War. Cross was refused exemption, the other three, all older men and two of them married, were granted conditional exemption (ie, it could be later overturned. I have not found a WWI record for Thomas yet. He was a witness at the marriage of his sister Sophia's daughter Dorothy Page to Ken Long in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 8th October 1932. He died at the age of 49, and was buried in plot F880 of Ely cemetery on 24th April 1935, a few days before the birth of Sophia's grandson, my father.

James Chapman Cross
Born Potters Lane, Ely on the 20th August 1888. He was baptised in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 12th September. He is recorded at the age of 23 on the 1911 census as unable to work with the note feeble minded in the last column. James died at 27 Willow Walk at the age of 60, and was buried in plot BB2.528 of Ely cemetery on 9th April 1948.

Herbert Chapman Cross
Born Potters Lane, Ely on the 21 November 1890. He was baptised in Holy Trinity parish, probably in the new St Peter's church which had opened the previous year, on Christmas Eve. Curiously, his father's name was misrecorded as 'Richard' in the register. Herbert is listed as a farm labourer on the 1911 census. Herbert's medal record shows that he signed up as a private soldier with the 11th Suffolks - that is to say, he signed up after the War began. As the Official History of the Suffolk Regiment records, At the outbreak of War, men of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely who enlisted for infantry were generally sent to the depot of the Suffolk Regiment at Bury St Edmunds. By the end of August, however, it was found impractible to accomodate any more recruits at Bury... From September 5th recruits instead of going to Bury were accordingly retained in Cambridge, being billetted in the Corn Exchange... within a few days the numbers had swollen to three hundred, the men being consequently transferred to the boys' county school. When I attended this school, now the Cambridge High School for Boys, sixty years later, the temporary huts installed to accomodate the recruits were still in use as classrooms. At last, on September 25th the Cambridgeshire Service Battalion, without regiment or number, was an accomplished fact, and three months later became the 11th Suffolk Regiment.

The Official History of the Suffolk Regiment continues The 11th Battalion remained in Cambridge until May 19th 1915, when it was sent up to Yorkshire, a large crowd assembling at the station to give parting cheers. At one point the 11ths were intended to take part in the action at Galipolli, but the retreat from Suvla Bay by allied forces put paid to this idea. Instead, it appears that the 5th Suffolks, who had taken part in the assault on Galipolli and suffered terrible losses, were reinforced from other Suffolk Regiment batallions, and so, probably before the end of 1915, Herbert Chapman Cross had been transferred to the 5ths, and was soon engaged in the defence of the Suez Canal in northern Egypt.

With the War in the east turning in the Allies' favour, on 1st February 1917 the Battalion left Egypt for Palestine. In April, they took part in the short but furious Second Battle of Gaza. They spent the first week of June at rest in an encampment by the sea, and the second week behind the Gaza line providing working parties for filling sandbags. During the third week of June, the Official History of the Suffolk Regiment records, the battalion moved to Samson's Ridge, the most prominent feature in that Sector, and offering an extensive view of the country beyond Gaza. Every afternoon the white houses of that town caught the sun, making them look like fairy dwellings to sand-weary eyes. Samson's Ridge naturally received a good deal of attention from the Turkish Artillery. And so here it was on June 18th that Herbert Chapman was killed. He died of wounds, and was buried in the Gaza War Cemetery in what is part of the Palestinian State. Unfortunately, the cemetery, though well-maintained, is currently not visitable from the West. He is remembered on the City of Ely war memorial and on the memorial boards in St George's chapel in Ely Cathedral, although his name is curiously omitted from the Holy Trinity parish war memorial, also in Ely Cathedral.

Ann Chapman Cross
Born Potters Lane Ely on the 9th January 1893. Registered as Ann, but known as Annie. She was baptised in Holy Trinity parish, probably in St Peter's church, on 22nd March. Ann witnessed the marriage of John Kirby and Lizzie Nicholas in Trinity Parish on 13th November 1915. She married George Layton in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 17th January 1920. Annie's brother John and her brother-in-law Tom Webb (married to her sister Violet) were the witnesses.

Sarah Ann Chapman Cross
Born Potters Lane, Ely on the 26th July 1895. She was baptised in Holy Trinity parish, probably in St Peter's church, on 24th August. Named after her mother, it is perhaps surprising that these names had not already gone to one of her older sisters. Sarah died at 7 Potters Lane, Ely, and was buried in plot G364 of Ely cemetery on 14th April 1923. She was 27 years old.

John William Chapman Cross
Born Potters Lane, Ely on the 23rd February 1898. He was privately baptised in Holy Trinity parish on 16th March, indicating that he was not expected to live. He was formally received into St Peter's church on 14th December 1898 - is this long delay an indication of a long illness? John married Margaret Rose in Wisbech in the fourth quarter of 1915. He was a witness at the marriage of his sister Ann in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 17th January 1920.

Violet Eleanor Chapman Cross
Born Potters Lane Ely in January or February 1901. Her birth date was not recorded at her baptism, but her age in the census of April that year is given as two months. She was baptised in Holy Trinity parish, probably in St Peter's church, on 21st March. The name in the register is recorded as Violet Julia Chapman Cross; however, the minister has made a note in the margin that this name [Julia] was given but Eleanor was intended! Violet married Tom Webb in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on the 6th December 1919. One of the witnesses, George Layton, married her sister Ann a month later. My fathers' generation remember that the Webbs had a scrapyard off of Broad Street. In the Holy Trinity registers, Tom Webb's occupation is given as a hawker, and his father's as a marine store dealer.

   

Sarah Ann's mother died in the Broad Street house in March 1884 at the age of just forty-nine, and was buried on 10th March in Ely Cemetery in plot Cb231. Thomas Chapman Cross's parents were also living in Broad Street, but he and Sarah Ann were by now on Potters Lane, and by the time of the 1891 census they had five children. Thomas's occupation was given as a gasworks labourer - the Ely gasworks were immediately behind the terraces of Potters Lane. It is interesting to note on the census schedule the occupations of other occupants of this typical Waterside street. As well as the expected gasworks labourers and railway labourers (Potters Lane was also near to the railway station) there are printers, cow-keepers, lamp-lighters, shoe-binders, farmworkers, and those on parish relief.

Thomas Chapman Cross's mother Mary Ann died at home in Broad Street in February 1899, and was buried in Ely Cemetery on 25th February. She was 68 years old. The last of the Cross children, Violet, was born early in 1901, and on the 12th January of that year, a few days before a remarkable period in English history drew to a close with the death of Queen Victoria, her big sister Sophia Chapman Cross married my great-grandfather, the labourer Arthur Page, in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral. Arthur Page was also from the Waterside, and was Ely-born, but his father Henry Page had moved to Ely from Great Shelford, a village to the south of Cambridge, in the early 1870s. Henry was a stone cutter, and probably moved to Ely to work on the restoration of the cathedral at that time. He married Alice Wiseman of Victoria Street in 1874, and stayed in Ely. His son Arthur was born in Annesdale on the river front in 1882.

A few weeks after their marriage, at the time of the 1901 census, Arthur and Sophia were living in Bull Lane, today called Lisle Lane, off of Waterside. The 22 year old Arthur gave his occupation as a baker's labourer. Sophia was already pregnant with their first child, a boy, who was born on 22 November 1901. He was named Arthur Thomas Harry after his father and his two grandfathers. Soon after their son Arthur's birth, Arthur and Sophia moved to Broad Street, where their eldest daughter Violet Eleanor was born on 6th August 1904.

Soon after Violet's birth, Arthur got a job as a railway porter with the Great Eastern Railway, and the family moved some 30 miles to 7 Goodyers Yard, Narrow Street, Peterborough, where their third child Beatrice Sophia was born on the 30th January 1906. Arthur and Sophia were back in Ely and living on Back Hill for the birth of Florence May on 28th May 1907. It was recorded that Arthur was still a labourer for the Great Eastern Railway. Arthur and Sophia's second son, Percy, was born in Back Hill on 10th May 1909.

Sophia's grandfather Thomas Cross, the father of Thomas Chapman Cross, died in the Ely Workhouse in July 1909, and was buried in Ely Cemetery on 31st July. He was eighty. Arthur's father Henry would also die in the Workhouse four years later. However, all of Sophia's brothers and sisters survived into adulthood, an unusual feat in the Waterside at the start of the 20th Century.

By the time of the census in April 1911, Arthur was a general labourer working for the Co-op. A few months after the 1911 census, Arthur and Sophia had a sixth child, Dorothy Louisa, known as 'Doll', who was born in Back Hill on 26th August.

On 26th April 1913, Arthur and Sophia's last child was born, a girl, my grandmother Phyllis Alice Page. These are the seven children of Arthur and Sophia Page:

   
Arthur Thomas Harry Page, born in Bull Lane, Ely on 22 November 1901. He was baptised in Holy Trinity parish on 18th December, probably at St Peter's church. His middle names were those of his two grandfathers, Thomas Cross and Harry Page. As the eldest child, Arthur must have been aware of the death of his grandfather Harry Page in the Ely workhouse in 1913, and he became the man of the family when his father was killed in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, when he was just fifteen years old. Arthur was living and working in Yorkshire in the 1920s, and in the second quarter of 1926 he married Ethel Gertrude Elizabeth Payne in Wortley, to the north of Sheffield. Ethel was pregnant at the time, and their son Arthur Percival was born in Peterborough on 24th September 1926. I'm not sure how long they lived together as man and wife, or if they stayed in Peterborough or returned to Sheffield, but my grandfather Joe Knott met Arthur in the early 1930s in Sheffield before returning home with him to Ely, where he met Arthur's sister who would become my grandmother, so he certainly stayed in the area. It did not become clear to Arthur's family for many years that he was married and had a son. The boy, Arthur Percival, married Dorothy Irenea Brooks in Poplar, London in 1946. They had five children. Arthur Percival died in 2003, Dorothy in 2010.

Arthur Page was the one of my grandmother's siblings that I knew best. In later life he lived in Ely. He would often call around to my grandparents' house while I was visiting, and I remember him as a gentle, quiet man who always had time for me. My father photographed him in the early 1980s. He died in Ely in 1988.

Violet Eleanor Page was born in Broad Street, Ely on 6th August 1904. She was baptised in Holy Trinity parish on the 31st August, probably in St Peter's church. On a photograph taken in the 1920s she is strikingly beautiful. She married Frederick William 'Bill' Cooper in the Lady Chapel of Ely cathedral on 30th November 1929. Violet's brothers Arthur and Percy were the witnesses. Violet and Bill lived at Stuntney. She was a witness at my grandparents' marriage in August 1932, and was photographed holding me as a baby in 1962. I remember her in later life as rather eccentric, given to wearing what I thought of as unusual hats. She died in Cambridge in 1978.

Beatrice Sophia Page, known to the family as Beatie, was born in Peterborough on 30th January 1906. Her father's occupation was given as a railway porter. She was given her mother's Christian name as her middle name. Beatrice appears to have given birth to an illegitimate child called Ronald Page in the Holborn registration district in London in 1925, when she was nineteen. Presumably, she was in service. She then married Frederick Pepper in Ely in 1928, probably in the registry office. However, she returned to London, and a second child, a girl, was born at Wandsworth in south London in the 3rd quarter of 1931. The baby was registered under the surname Midwinter. The father appears to have been one Wilfred Midwinter, and the maiden name of the mother was given as Page, with no mention that Beatrice's legal surname was actually Pepper.

In the early 1930s, Frederick Pepper was living in the Round House, Mepal, Cambs. And then, on 11th July 1934, he died in hospital in Chatteris, Cambs. In his will, proved on the 28th August 1935, he left his entire estate to his estranged wife, Beatrice Sophia Pepper, the value being £200. In the fourth quarter of 1935, Beatrice Pepper married Wilfred Midwinter in the Mid Surrey registration district. Does this mean that the news of her legal husband's death had taken some time to reach Beatrice? Or was she waiting for the will to be proved? A third child followed, another girl, in the 4th quarter of 1939 in the Mid Surrey registration district, and the mother's maiden name was now given legitimately as Page. Curiously though, when the fourth child, a third girl, was born in the Mid Surrey district in 1941, Beatrice gave her maiden name as Pepper. Is it possible that the registrar had asked the wrong question, or, intriguingly, that Beatrice wanted to hide her real name at this stage? It is also intriguing that all three of the girls were given the same middle name, Violet, the name of Beatrice's older sister. Was she remembering the terrible time after the death of their father in the Battle of the Somme, and paying tribute to the way that Violet looked after the younger children? When Beatrice died in the Sutton registration district in south London in the 3rd quarter of 1973, her death was registered correctly under the name Beatrice Midwinter.

Florence May Page was born in Back Hill, Ely on the 28th May 1907. Known to the family as Florrie. She was baptised on the 9th of June in Holy Trinity parish, probably at St Peter's church, when her father's occupation was shown as a labourer on the Great Eastern Railway. On 24th September 1913, Florrie was run over by a cart in Broad Street, an accident considered so serious that it made the pages of the Cambridge Independent Press (see below). She recovered from the accident, but died in Addenbrookes Hospital Cambridge at the age of 17 in 1924.

Percy Page was born in Back Hill, Ely on the 10th May 1909. He was baptised in St Peter's church in Holy Trinity parish on the 31st May. Percy was one of the two witnesses at my grandparents' marriage in August 1932. He died in Silver Street, Ely at the age of 27 in 1937.

Dorothy Louisa Page, known to the family as Doll. She was born in Back Hill, Ely, 26 August 1911. She married Kenneth Long in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on the 8th June 1932, and they lived in Stuntney.

Phyllis Alice Page, born in Back Hill Ely on 26th April 1913. Known to the family as Phyl. My grandmother. See below.

   

In October 1913, their father Arthur was recorded as a bricklayer in an article in the Cambridge Independent Press which recorded an accident which had befallen his daughter Florence:

 

Soon after my grandmother's birth, Sophia and Arthur and their family moved to a house on Waterside. But storm clouds were gathering across Europe. Sophia's husband Arthur was 35 years old when the First World War broke out. He volunteered, signing up as a Serjeant in the 2nd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment along with his brother Herbert. His medal record shows that he arrived in France on the 26th January 1915. Meanwhile, Sophia's brother Herbert Chapman Cross also volunteered, signing up with the 5th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment.

Arthur Page and the The 2nd Battalion spent their first winter and spring bogged down in the trenches of the Vierstraat area of Flanders, before being part of the force which attacked and consolidated its hold in the woods to the east of Ypres. In general, the 2nd Suffolks seem to have spent an uneventful 1915 in Flanders, with few casualties. However, in March 1916 the attack south of Ypres began in earnest, and Arthur's brother Herbert was killed at St Eloi on 2nd March.

Sophia's brother, meanwhile, had sailed for Gallipoli and taken part in the ultimately fruitless assault at Suvla Bay there. After the battle, in which so many young men lost their lives, the surviving 5th Suffolks were transferred to Alexandria in Egypt rather than being returned to Europe, and placed on protection duty at the Suez Canal, which at least gave them a respite from battle.

In June 1916, Arthur Page and the 2nd Suffolks were also removed completely from the fighting and returned to depot at St Omer for training in open warfare. On July 1st, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the 2nd Suffolks set out from St Omer for the Front. They arrived on July 8th, and were placed in reserve, and then on July 14th they were moved into the southern end of Caterpillar Wood, to the east of Albert. Not far off, on July 18th, the Germans attacked and, at great cost to them, overran Delville Wood and part of the town of Longueval. Two companies of the 2nd Suffolks were sent to support the counter-attack, and among them was Serjeant Arthur Page. The casualties in the 2nd Battalion were heavy, and among those killed in the attack was Arthur Page. He was thirty-seven years old. It seems to have been a spectacularly foolhardy action: the two companies lost no less than ten officers in the attack, one of them, a Major Congreve, later being awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Arthur's body was recovered, identified, and buried at Delville Wood cemetery in Longueval.

The Ely newspapers reported the Page family's plight. On 28th July the Cambridgeshire Times, which was incorporating the Ely Standard for the duration of the War, reported that Yesterday (Thursday) morning Mrs Page of Waterside, received a letter from the Chaplain to the 2nd Suffolk Regiment, informing her of the death in action of her husband, Sergt A. Page. He leaves a wife and seven children, for whom great sympathy is felt. On the same day, the Cambridge Independent Press reported that Mrs Page, Waterside, Ely, has received news that her husband Sergt A. Page, of the 2nd Suffolks, has been killed in action. The Chaplain of the Regiment has written a letter of sympathy to the widow, who is left with seven children.

It is said that when Sophia opened the letter from the Chaplain telling her of her husband's death, she immediately lost her hearing, and was deaf for the rest of her life. Every street in the Waterside would have had members of the Page and Cross families living in it, and the whole district must have felt a reaction to Arthur's death. Seventy years later, Sophia's son Arthur, who had been fifteen at the time, told me it was 'a terrible time, just terrible'. My grandmother, who was three, and who had in any case probably not seen her father for a couple of years, was too young to know what was going on. The oldest girl, thirteen year old Violet, looked after her, and between them there formed a strong bond which lasted for the rest of their lives.

As 1916 became 1917, there was more bad news for the Cross and Page families. Herbert Cross and the 5th Suffolks were moved north from the Suez Canal to engage in what would become known as the First Battle of Gaza in Palestine. There would be three battles in all, but between the First and Second there was a minor skirmish involving the 5th Suffolks and on 18th June 1917 Herbert Chapman Cross was killed. He was twenty-seven years old. He was buried in the British War Cemetery in Gaza City, which is today in the Palestinian State. The death of Herbert seems to have had a terrible effect on his mother Sarah, and she died at home in Potters Lane just three months later at the age of 57. She was buried in Ely cemetery on 9th October 1917 in plot F1148. Arthur and Herbert Page and Herbert Cross are all remembered on the City of Ely war memorial, and Arthur and Herbert Page's names were also proudly inscribed on the Holy Trinity parish war memorial now reset in Ely Cathedral, but Herbert Cross is not mentioned on this or the Ely St Mary memorial.

The years after the First World War were difficult times for Sophia and her family. The loss of the family's breadwinner plunged them even deeper into poverty. In 1924, Florence died in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge. She was just seventeen years old. In 1925, Sophia's father Thomas died in Addenbrookes Hospital at the age of seventy-four. He was buried in Ely cemetery on 14th October in plot G582. The same year, Phyllis's sister Beatrice gave birth to an illegitimate child in London, where she was presumably in service. She returned to Ely with the child, where she married Frederick Pepper in 1928, who may have been the father. At about this time, Beatrice and Phyllis's older brother Arthur left Ely looking for work in Yorkshire. In 1926, he married Ethel Gertrude Elizabeth Payne in Wortley, to the north of Sheffield. Ethel was pregnant at the time, and their son Arthur Percival was born in Peterborough on 24th September 1926. Arthur kept this marriage and child a secret from the rest of the family, and they did not find out about it until many years later.

By the end of the 1920s, Phyllis was living with her mother at 29a Fore Hill, a short distance from the Waterside house. They lived behind a shop called Oxford House, and shared a yard with the Clark family. Sophia and Phyllis both worked as fruit factory hands. Beatrice appears to have left Ely and Frederick Pepper behind, because in 1931 she had a child with Wilfred Midwinter in Wandsworth, London. Beatrice married Wilfred Midwinter in 1935. Two more Midwinter children would follow.

In the early 1930s, Phyllis's brother Arthur was still in Yorkshire, working on a road-building scheme. There, he met the Kent-born Vincent Helgia 'Joe' Knott, and brought him back to Ely where he met Phyllis. Joe went to work for British Sugar at Cantley in east Norfolk, but he married Phyllis at Ely Register Office on 15th August 1932, when he was 24 and she was just 19. The witnesses were Phyllis's brother Percy and her sister Violet. Joe and Phyl went to live at 9, Council Cottages, Cantley, and then in 1933 they moved to Ipswich, Joe firstly living in lodgings in Tacket Street in the town centre, before they both moved into rooms in Cavendish Street, the same street that I would live in almost exactly half a century later. They moved to 20 Fletcher Road on the new Gainsborough Estate in Ipswich, where their first child and only daughter was born.

They returned to Ely in 1935, where they would remain. They lived in Willow Walk off of Waterside, where Phyllis's grandmother Alice Wiseman had been born almost eighty years earlier. My father and his brothers were born in the house at 25 Willow Walk, but it has since been demolished. Some of her siblings were nearby. Violet married Bill Cooper; they lived at Stuntney, where he was a farmhand on Cole Ambrose's farm, and later at Ribes Court in Ely. Violet was the cook at the Bishop's Palace for many years, and Phyllis worked around the corner at the Palace School. Their sister Dorothy married Ken Long, and they also lived nearby, first at Stuntney and then at Nornea. Their elder brother Arthur eventually returned to settle in Ely. Phyllis's brother Percy died at 31 Silver Street, Ely in 1937; this house, almost opposite the Prince Albert public house, has also since been demolished.

In 1937, a great street party was held on Waterside to celebrate the Coronation on George VI. The official photograph of the occasion shows Sophia and Phyllis among the smiling crowd, as well as two of Phyllis's children: her daughter and her eldest son, my father, aged two. And then the Second World War came. It must have been with some trepidation that Phyllis waved goodbye to Joe, who went to serve as a motorcycle dispatch rider in Italy. After he returned at the end of the War, the family moved to a new council house at 37 Chief's Street in 1947. Phyllis and Joe lived in the house for the rest of their lives. Several of their children married in the late 1950s, and their first grandchild, a girl, was born in 1958. And that year Phyllis's mother Sophia died, at the age of seventy.

Phyllis is remembered by my parents' generation for being ahead of her time. Although she came from an extraordinarily poor working-class background, one where few families had aspirations, she was a great believer in education, especially for girls. She ensured that all her own children worked hard at school, all five of them winning scholarships to grammar schools. She was very proud when the first of her grandchildren went to university.

Phyllis Alice Knott née Page died of a heart condition in Addenbrookes Hospital, Cambridge, in 1990, a few weeks after she had attended my wedding. She was seventy-seven years old.

 
AT A GLANCE: DETAILS FROM REGISTERS AND CENSUS DATA
 
 
My great-great-grandparents Thomas and Sarah Cross and their family

  Birthplace 1881 census 1891 census 1901 census 1911 census married to
  (date registered) age address age address age address age address date of marriage

Thomas


Ely, Cambs (1851)


26


Royal Oak, Back Hill, Ely


41


Potters Lane, Ely


49


Potters Lane, Ely


57


Potters Lane, Ely


Thomas married Sarah Ann Carter in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on Christmas Eve, 1881


Sarah
(Carter)

Prickwillow, Cambs (1853)


21


Broad Street, Ely



32


Potters Lane, Ely


42


Potters Lane, Ely


50


Potters Lane, Ely


Sarah married Thomas Chapman Cross in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on Christmas Eve, 1881

                     


Sophia


Ely, Cambs (1882)

   


9


Potters Lane, Ely

 
20


Bull Lane, Ely

 
29


Back Hill, Ely

 
Sophia married Arthur Page in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 12th January 1901.


Alice


Ely, Cambs (1883)

     
9

 
Potters Lane, Ely

 
19


Ely College, Ely

 
28


Mere Mill, Soham

 
Alice married Robert Dewsbury in the 4th quarter of 1901.


Tom
(Thomas)


Ely, Cambs (1886)

     
5
 
Potters Lane, Ely

 
15


Potters Lane, Ely

 
25


Potters Lane, Ely

 
Tom was still unmarried in 1911.


James


Ely, Cambs (1888)

   


2


Potters Lane, Ely


12


Potters Lane, Ely


23


Potters Lane, Ely

  
James was still unmarried in 1911.


Herbert


Ely, Cambs (1890)

   


0


Potters Lane, Ely


10


Potters Lane, Ely

 
20


Potters Lane, Ely

 
Herbert was still unmarried in 1911.


Ann
(Annie)


Ely, Cambs (1893)

         
8


Potters Lane, Ely

 
18


Potters Lane, Ely

 
Annie married George Layton in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 17th January 1920.


Sarah


Ely, Cambs (1895)

       


6


Potters Lane, Ely


15


Potters Lane, Ely

 


John


Ely, Cambs (1898)

       


3


Potters Lane, Ely

 
13


Potters Lane, Ely

 
John Married Margaret Rose in the 4th quarter of 1915.


Violet


Ely, Cambs (1901)

       


0


Potters Lane, Ely


10


Potters Lane, Ely

   
Violet married Tom Webb in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 6th December 1919.

     
   
   
 
My great-grandparents Arthur and Sophia Page and their family

  Birthplace 1901 census 1911 census
  (date registered) age address age address   date of marriage

Arthur


Ely, Cambs (1879)


22


Bull Lane, Ely


32


Back Hill (1), Ely




Arthur married Sophia Cross in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 12th January 1901.


Sophia
(Cross)

Ely, Cambs (1882)


20


Bull Lane, Ely


29


Back Hill (1), Ely


 
Sophia married Arthur Page in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral on 12th January 1901.

               


Arthur Thomas Harry


Ely, Cambs (1901)

   


9


Back Hill (1), Ely

 
Arthur married Ethel Gertrude Elizabeth Payne in Wortley, Yorkshire in 1926.


Violet Eleanor


Ely, Cambs (1904)

   
6


Back Hill (1), Ely

 
Violet married Frederick William 'Bill' Cooper in the Lady Chapel of Ely cathedral on 30th November 1929.



Beatrice


Peterborough, Cambs (1906)
   
5


Back Hill (1), Ely

 
Beatrice married Frederick Pepper in Ely in 1928, probably at the registry office, and later married Wilfred Midwinter in London in 1935.


Florence May


Ely, Cambs (1907)

   


3


Back Hill (3), Ely

   

Percy


Ely, Cambs (1909)

   
1


Back Hill (1), Ely
   


Dorothy Louisa


Ely, Cambs (1911)

           
Dorothy married Kenneth Long in the Lady Chapel of Ely cathedral on 8th June 1932.



Phyllis Alice


Ely, Cambs (1913)

         
Phyllis married Vincent Helgia Knott at the Register Office, Ely, Cambridgeshire on 15th August 1932

     
   


(name) after name indicates different given name on subsequent censuses.
(number) after street name indicates more than one household in that street.

 

 

 

LIFE GOES ON: AN INTRODUCTION

MY GRANDPARENTS - I - MY GREAT-GRANDPARENTS - I - MY GREAT-GREAT-GRANDPARENTS - I - MY GREAT-GREAT-GREAT-GRANDPARENTS

THE SIXTEEN FAMILIES

KNOTT - I - BOWLES - I - WATERS - I - HARRALL - I - PAGE - I - WISEMAN - I - CROSS - I - CARTER

CORNWELL - I - HUCKLE - I - MORTLOCK - I - MANSFIELD - I - REYNOLDS - I - CARTER - I - ANABLE - I - STEARN

CHRONOLOGY - I - DRAMATIS PERSONAE - I - WHERE PEOPLE CAME FROM - I - CALENDAR

MAP OF ELY - I - MAP OF MEDWAY
MAP OF CAMBRIDGE AND DISTRICT

THE WORKHOUSE

WORLD WAR I - I - WORLD WAR II

simonknott.co.uk I home I e-mail

LIFE GOES ON