Waters family: coming home to the Medway
My great-great-grandfather George lived in Lower Halstow and Newington throughout his childhood, and by the time of the 1871 census when he was 22 years old his parents were both quite elderly. A few months after the census, on 15th October 1871, he married Mary Ann Harrall at Newington parish church. The Harrall family were from Higham, some ten miles away on the other side of the Medway Towns.
When Mary Ann Harrall married George Waters, both their fathers' were recorded as being labourers, but at the age of 22 George could describe himself as an engineer, a cut above the ordinary working classes in the mid-Victorian period. Engineers were in great demand during the height of the Industrial Revolution, and it is perhaps no surprise that a year after their marriage we find George and Mary Ann living hundreds of miles away from Kent in the slate mines of north-west Wales, at Llanferres in Denbighshire, where George worked as a stationary engine driver, probably in a quarry. They lived in a house called Tyn y Cornel, and it was there on the 11th August 1872 that their eldest daughter, my great-grandmother Mary Ann Waters was born. A second daughter, Beatrice, would follow soon after, and these would be the only two children that George and Mary Ann would have. A small family is often a mark of prosperity in later Victorian times. Interestingly, George and Mary Ann always gave 'North Wales' as the birthplace of their daughters on census returns, but in 1901 and 1911 Mary Ann stated her place of birth as the next door county of Flintshire, not Denbighshire, and in 1911 Beatrice gave her birth place as the mysterious-sounding 'Granamina'. However, about a mile from Llanferres, across the border in Flintshire, lies the large village of Gwernyminydd. To English ears this must sound very like Granamina. The two most likely possibilities are that their father George was working in Gwernyminydd, and Beatrice was remembering his workplace, or that the family actually moved to Gwernyminydd after the birth of both girls and they lived there for a few years, although they had left Wales by the time of the 1881 census. George and Mary Ann's children were:
Mary Ann Water's birth was registered with the four-letter form of the second name, Mary Anne, just as had been the case with her mother. Perhaps this was a mistake on the part of the registrar, or perhaps a sign of my great-great-grandparents aspirations. However, in the register when she married and on the self-referred 1911 census, Mary Anne would call herself Mary Ann; again, like her mother. The family moved back to Kent soon after Beatrice's birth, and were there for the 1881 census. The elder Mary Ann's mother Mary Harrall née Marten died in Higham in 1880 at the age of 55, and in 1881 the family were living in Faversham. George's father Thomas Waters died in Newington at the age of 86 in 1887. In the same year, Mary Ann's father John Harrall died in Higham, at the age of 70. John was buried beside his wife in Higham churchyard on the 17th November.
By 1891 the Waters family were living in the new upmarket houses of Bryants Terrace in Strood, a short walk from the home of the Knott family in Grange Road. On 3rd December 1892, Mary Ann married William Knott at St Mary's church, Strood, Kent, which was about halfway between their homes. Mary Ann was 20, and it was William's 23rd birthday. William's occupation was given as a factory labourer, and his father George's occupation was a labourer. Mary Ann's father George gave his occupation as an engine driver. Both signed the register, Mary Ann spelling her name without the final e. Mary Ann's witness was her sister, Beatrice Louisa. It is possible that the Knott and Waters families already knew each other before meeting in Strood. Twenty-one years earlier, at the time of the 1871 census, when the Waters family were living in Low Halstow, the Knott family were living in the next village of Upchurch, and they moved to Low Halstow shortly afterwards.
After the marriage, Mary Ann and her new husband moved into a house in Cuxton Road on the other side of Strood High Street, where their eldest daughter was born nine months later. William worked as a labourer in a cement factory. Another daughter was born in Cuxton Road, and then the family moved right into the centre of Strood on London Road. They were there for the birth of a daughter and for the 1901 census, before moving back to Cuxton Road. These are the children of William and Mary Ann:
At some point in the 1890s, George's mother Mary Waters née Vokes died, probably in Newington. Her grand-daughter Mary Ann Knott did not leave Kent again, but Mary Ann's parents George and Mary Ann did. At the time of the 1901 census, they were running the Horse & Jockey public house at Hitchin in Hertfordshire. George's occupation was given as a steamroller driver, but he appears again in the 1902 Kelly's Directory for Hertfordshire as a beer house keeper at the same address. Living with them was their grand-daughter, the 7 year old Daisy Mary Knott. George and Mary Ann Waters and their grand-daughter were back in Kent in 1911, and running the One Bell public house in Wilmington, just outside of Dartford.
This is interesting, because in the early years of the 20th Century, their daughter Mary Ann and her husband William Knott took their family some fifteen miles west from Strood to Dartford, for William to work in the vast cement works there. While they were there, their youngest son was born, Vincent Helgia Knott, my grandfather. He was born on the 15th of February at 34 West Hill, Dartford in Kent. The house still exists, on the main road into the centre of Dartford from London. Vincent Helgia was baptised at Holy Trinity, Dartford on 22nd April 1908. As a very young child, he would be put on the bar of the One Bell, the beerhouse then run by his mother's parents, and asked to sing. As a result, he acquired the nickname 'Joe' among the customers. He was called Joe by everyone who knew him for the rest of his life.
By the time of the 1911 census Mary Ann and her family had moved to Providence Street in Greenhithe on the outskirts of Dartford, on the edge of the cement works where William Knott worked. This is now the site of the Bluewater shopping centre. However, a few weeks after the census, Mary Ann's father George Waters died. He was buried in Wilmington churchyard. There is no headstone, and neither was there any at the time of the Duncan survey of memorial inscriptions in 1921, but the 1911 burials are collected together just to the north-west of the church, under an old redwood tree.
Before the start of the First World War, the Knott family were back in the Strood district of Rochester, living at 96 Temple Street, not far from William's parents in Grange Road. George Water's widow Mary Ann Waters was with them, because she died at the Temple Street house on 27th November 1914. Her daughter notified the death. Mary Ann was buried in plot A237 of Strood Cemetery, to the south of the cemetery chapel and end on to the Knott family plot.
Mary Ann Knott and her husband William would remain in Rochester for the rest of their lives. Joe 's family lived at 96 Temple Street throughout his childhood. William Knott's parents George and Mary Ann Knott were close at hand, and, while George was still working as a labourer, they opened a small sweetshop and general store in their Grange Road terraced house. The shop was in business at the time of both the 1901 and 1911 censuses, and is mentioned in street directories throughout the period.
Joe may have worked as a labourer in a cement works after he left school, but in about 1931 he left Rochester looking for work. The family continued to live in Temple Street, but it was badly bombed during the Second World War and finally demolished in the 1960s. The photograph above was taken just before the final demolition of the street - the houses on the left hand side are already boarded up. The identity of the woman is unknown. The location is now the site of Strood Tesco. In February 2011, while wandering around this area, I met an old couple who had both been children on Temple Street at the time Joe was growing up there. They were able to point out exactly where 96 Temple Street had been (now within the Tesco car park) and they gave me a vivid picture of life in the street at that time. They had not known the Knotts by name, but it felt like a remarkable touchstone.
Joe would not go back to live in the Medway Towns. In the early 1930s he worked on road-building projects in Yorkshire where he met Arthur Page, the brother of his future wife Phyllis. Arthur was another migrant worker, and Joe came back with him to East Anglia, where he met my grandmother. Joe went to work for British Sugar at Cantley in east Norfolk, but he married Phyllis Page at Ely Register Office on 15th August 1932, when he was 24 and she was just 19. Joe's address was 9 Council Cottages Cantley. Interestingly, he gave the occupation of his father as Greengrocer. The witnesses were Phyllis's brother Percy and her sister Violet.
They went to live at Council Cottages, Cantley, and then in 1933 they moved to Ipswich, firstly living in lodgings in Tacket Street in the town centre, and then in a rented house in Cavendish Street, the same street that I would live in almost exactly half a century later. Joe worked for Fisons on Cliff Road, who were constructing a new factory. They moved to 20 Fletcher Road on the new Gainsborough Estate in Ipswich, where their first child and only daughter was born. The factory was completed the following year, and they returned to Ely in 1935, where they would remain.
Joe and Phyllis lived at 25 Willow Walk off of Waterside, where my father and his three brothers were born - Joe and Phyl had five children in all. The house is now demolished. Joe Knott rarely spoke about his family in Kent, and his children were told almost nothing about them, although they did on occasion in the 1940s receive visits from his sister Gladys and his brother William. Joe was 31 when the Second World War broke out. He spent the War as a motorcycle dispatch rider, mostly in Italy. After he returned to Ely, the family moved to a new council house at 37 Chief's Street in 1947. They lived there for the rest of their lives. In the 1940s and 1950s Joe bred racing pigeons and canaries.
Joe's parents, my great-grandparents, both died in the early 1950s. William Knott died on 27th July 1951 of exhaustion and internal haemorrhage. Mary Ann Knott died on 15th April 1952 of heart failure and senile decay. They both died at 143 Maidstone Road, Rochester, the home of their daughter Gladys Violet Allen, who notified both deaths. William and Mary Ann were buried in the same grave plot as William's parents, plot A192 in Strood Cemetery.
Joe worked for British Sugar until he retired in the early 1970s. For a while, Joe and Phyllis owned a caravan in Heacham, and enjoyed holidays on the Norfolk coast. He had a great pride in his garden at Chief's Street, spending hours tending his fruit and vegetables until he was well into his eighties. I would regularly visit them at Chief's Street in the late 1970s and 1980s, and Joe was aways keen to show me around his garden. I am pleased that I have a photograph, taken in 1987, of him doing this. I particularly remember his gooseberry bushes - he would take great delight in watching his grandchildren trying to eat the sour fruit! Joe's children were near at hand, one son living a few streets away and all the others within 15 miles or so. His wife Phyllis's brother and sister also lived nearby. Joe is still remembered for his fondness for the horses, and his friendships with prominent sportsmen. He never went back to Kent. He outlived my other grandparents, lived to hold my son as a baby, and died in Ely in the Princess of Wales Hospital in 1996 at the age of 87.
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
WORLD WAR I - I - WORLD WAR II
simonknott.co.uk I home I e-mail
LIFE GOES ON