Saturday, November 5, 2011


Now we are wi-fi we research Maternal Grandmother's birth certificate. Who was ALICE in her name (Kathleen Margaret Alice Clarke)? It must be honouring her father Thomas Clark's mother....

My Great Great Grandmother is from Cheshire, was 21 years of age, in mourning, had enough coin to get to Brighton hoping to make a living. 
The railways network had established itself in many British villages making it easier for folk to find a future elsewhere.
I see her in me - counting pennies, do I have enough for a fare, for food? Totally self-sufficient in the Patriarchy. 


A pattern is emerging; regular holes in the thread-bare social fabric of a Man-made-world. 
Forced to fend for yourself  because  the legal, religious and social apparatus was and is always resistant to the needs of women. 

Being first daughters, (Alice&Kath&Kath&I), the instruction comes earlier - of you having to be responsible for others - the siblings, the sick and dying when there is no anti-biotic or vaccinations.
You had to rely on wits to survive - be resourceful - getting out of sticky situations. The church primary schooled women before me.
They Didn't learn to read and write for centuries. Far too busy in The Hierarchy/Class and Certainly not get above thy station!

There is a persistance to persevere, be creative and not lack the courage to journey the uncertain terrain. For me - 

1979 At 16yrs I became independent. Home was too chaotic. My  peace and growth came when writing poetry and going to school, determined to find a way not to become factory fodder.
1956 Mum sailed to the shores of her birth country which had tried to be rid of her, make room in the orphanages after the bastard baby-boom of war-time.
1939 Nan left the wee Scottish village when a call to arms gave her the incentive to travel to the big smoke over the border to Birmingham.
1879  Then their was our Alice Clark nee Woolley, 21years with no chaperon, waiting for the train at Tattenall station in Cheshire leaving the ghosts of her parents and grandparents behind.

The train would take her into a dangerous world...from Farndon Village near Chester to the big seaside resort of  Brighton, Sussex.
There was likely to be plenty of work at the numerous Hotels and Tea Rooms for a young woman like Alice WOOLEY.
She had said goodbye to her siblings: Emma, William, Catherine and James. They all had been contributing to the household income with domestic service positions since they were 12.

Once Grandfather Woolley, the Village Blacksmith had died, they had to shut up shop...and move on.

The children had been without their Mother since she died when James was born in 1867. Their Father, Sam was dead 6 years later at the age of 38years so their care was in the hands of Grandparents who were in their seventieth year (Retirement was not a term people were familiar with).

Alice had been without her Mother since she was nine years old -  the ninth year of endings and new beginnings...
(9 when my Mum and Dad had separated and 9 when Mum was shipped away from Birmingham to Australia)

The Woolley family in 1861& 1871 Farndon-near-Chester, Cheshire.
For Victorian girls and women it must have seemed like they were forever in mourning. Death was a constant shadow until it became a shroud . Everybody knew the Church graveyard as well as the font. 
Alice's mother, Elizabeth Hughes(3xGM) born in nearby Tattenhall was 30years when she was buried leaving behind her baby son who would have to survive and thrive on somebody else's milk? 
If not would her Father, a Farmer provide milk from his cows or sheep?

Husband Samuel Woolley would have been thankful his parents were still alive, helping the family stay together. However it was only 6 years later when the Grim Reaper came to collect him too.

Day by Day 

Grandparents Samuel Woolley and Elizabeth (nee Eyton) tried to  provide for their parentless grand-children after  seventy years of labouring at the forge and family, but then the old woman died three years after her son. Three years later the old man passed away.
St. Chads Parish Church, Farndon Village and buriel ground.
painted by Paul Burrell at Farndon, Cheshire

Is it any wonder that the Welsh border, Cheshire folk created rituals around the memory of their kith and kin. As the season cycled and the air grew crisp, leaves lay crunchy underfoot, that one imagined hungry ghosts....and songs were a ritual:                                                                                        
Soul Cakes for the dead! No there are the living who want to eat! The poor and the children went knocking on the village doors begging for at treat of  a cake, and the dead would be released out of Purgatory with one bite!

 Rev. M. P. Holme of Tattenhall, Cheshire, collected the song traditionally sung during souling, from a little girl at the local school.[13] Two years later, the text and tune were published by folklorist Lucy Broadwood, who commented that souling was still practised at that time in Cheshire and Shropshire.[14] Further recordings of the traditional soul-cake song were collected in various parts of England until the 1950s.[15] Versions collected later may have been influenced by folk revival recordings of the song by such groups as The Watersons.
The 1891 song[16] contains a chorus and three verses:
A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.

[Verse 1]
God bless the master of this house,
The misteress also,
And all the little children
That round your table grow.
Likewise young men and maidens,
Your cattle and your store ;
And all that dwells within your gates,
We wish you ten times more.

[Verse 2]
Down into the cellar,
And see what you can find,
If the barrels are not empty,
We hope you will prove kind.
We hope you will prove kind,
With your apples and strong beer,
And we'll come no more a-souling
Till this time next year.

[Verse 3]
The lanes are very dirty,
My shoes are very thin,
I've got a little pocket
To put a penny in.
If you haven't got a penny,
A ha'penny will do ;
If you haven't get a ha'penny,
It's God bless you

Lantern slide of Brighton beach 1890

I imagine Alice Woolley finding a 12 hour job waitressing, sharing an attic room with a work-mate and the one thing saving her from madness, making sure she took a work-break on the West Pier. A new, grander one was being built, and it was here she first experienced a German oompa oompa band! 

Perhaps she was delighted by the brass humour of the German musicians and she would go there every day to have her spirits lifted. 
One of the Musicians was 61year old Caspar Lemmer. He had been going backwards and forwards across the channel every Summer season since he was 18years old.

What charisma Caspar must have had to woo and wed a woman like Alice; single, no family, and ripe for the pickin'! More vulnerable to kindness and temptations with no mother or grandmother to ask her why this foreigner didn't want to grow old in his own country or what kind of future could a strolling musician provide, the couple married.

When it came to her wedding day she had no Patriarch to give her away but the Brighton Registrar would have noticed the 40year age difference and the fact she was due to give birth in about a months time. 
Whether in September 1880 or 2011 people's eyebrows would be raised... 

Not to worry,  Alice was a respectable married woman.  She had found happiness with a worldly husband, who was creative and a Master of his occupation. 

Alice had probably fallen for a father(or grandfather) figure, and Caspar had made an honest woman of her in the end; their son Caspar was born legitimate - a month after their marriage. Phew!

1881 CENSUS - The Lemmer family resides at 44 Grosvenor Street but then something must have happened - did Caspar have a falling out with the other band members? Maybe got the sack for being drunk when playing his brass instrument in a posh hotel? 

Alice Lemmer was now a Bandsman's wife with 3 year old Caspar, and baby Prince Carl journeying to the biggest city in the world, London.

1883 Alice arrives in Westminster: the Capital of Power, Pleasure, and Majestic marvels.

Caspar would have been confident in finding digs and gigs with the social network of German immigrant community in London - but first they had to get baby Prince Carl baptised as insurance...High Infant mortality meant the newborn were quickly blessed at the  font to assure safe-passage to the after-life.

Mr and Mrs Caspar Lemmer would attend their local parish church, a short walk away. Not hard to miss!


1883  29 Great Barlow Street  next to Manchester St. Marylebone is now a CARPARK 
for the Farmers Markets and is called Cramer Street.
1885 92 East Street (off Paddington St.) is Very Close to the facilities of the Marylebone Workhouse.
1887 baby ALICE is born. Her father was 69years old and her mother 28years. 
If Alice could read she might have also received the birth of a fictional hero who lived just around the corner from them in Baker Street.
Caspar may have been showing signs of the lung cancer he was to die from: fatigue, coughing, shortness of breath - and thus struggled with looking and finding work as a musician. 


Alice must have worried what would become of them. This could have been the time when she became the main breadwinner as a seamstress in one of the many tailoring workshops around London. 

Caspar and/or a kindly neighbour could keep an eye on the children, but in many situations the older kids would be left holding the pram.       
If there wasn't enough money to feed and shelter the family they would be forced to go to the Paupers Workhouse or live on the streets, stealing what they could. 
In earlier Hard Times Charles Dickens who had also lived in the neighbourhood created his famous Artful Dodger. 
Conan Doyle's contemporary detective character would enlist the Baker Street Irregulars to gather information for his cases, for a shilling a day plus expenses. 

Around 1889 Alice was pregnant by another man, Henry Edward Clark (my Great Great Grandfather). He was a forty year old Bachelor and Tailor Journeyman. 
Self-preservation must have been Alice's template. Henry might have looked very dapper in his bespoke suits but he didn't have room to fit in her children from another man.
He wanted to settle-down with Alice though and have a son of his own. It was now, or never.

Caspar would be dead soon and Alice would be free to marry again. 

When their mum left home to go and live in sin with Henry Clark (and his father) in Carnaby Street, Caspar junior was 9, Carl was 6 and Alice, 2years.

Little Alice was 5years when her father died in 1892 and her mother was very busy with her other family and pregnant with my Great Grandfather Thomas Clark.
Would her daughter Alice Lemmer be an added complication in her life? It wouldn't be the first or last time a woman like Alice had to make a heart-breaking but pragmatic decision to give her child away to the authorities and hope she would be okay, leave her to God's good Providence?

The only mention of an Alice Lemmer is in the 1891 Census where there is a little girl "inmate" at the Chase Farm School(in the old Enfield Workhouse). 
Luckily there was room because the previous year many girls had been sent as immigrants to Canada. Perhaps Alice would be in the next contingent of child migrants?

Did Alice Woolley born and bred by the River Dee, who married a German brass bandsman in Brighton-by-the-Sea and became Alice Lemmer, a London working mother with a dying husband,  kiss her 5 year old daughter Alice goodbye in the uniform and shoulder badge for paupers?

 Waiting for the London train she may have envisioned her little girl playing in the fresh air of the outer London playground, thinking that her giving up her child  she would avoid the degradation that girls faced at an early age around the streets of  Soho - where she lived with Henry.
1891 Infant school, Chase Farm, Enfield
1893 Oscar Wilde's Play being advertised at the Haymarket Theatre, near where
 Alice and Henry live in the West End with their Clark kiddies, making clothes for the Hoity-Toity!

Another literary figure of this era was GEORGE BERNARD SHAW who wrote the play, PYGMALION in 1912.
As a self-taught Fabian Socialist this play on the theme of the superficial British Class System was entertaining with a bite for its mainly UPPER CRUST audience! 
FILM and T.V. would bring it to the masses with memorable songs.

The day our English teacher gave us the play of Pygmalion to read in turns, sitting around the library tables of Selly Park Girls Secondary School in Birmingham 1977  I understood the power of the written word to cross media forms - bringing joy and learning at once and into the future. I was passionate. I was literate and felt liberated!

Not Henry Higgins - I'm Julie Higgins
Rebel without a school tie. 
Ready for Selly Park Girls 1977

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