Change Minds Online: William Charles Chard part 2 by Dr Nick Hervey
The Three Children
In 1926 Amelia’s daughter Grace was still married to her first husband, Clarence Ralph Rowsell, but after his death in 1927/8 and her re-marriage to George Maurice Fay in 1929, she lived with Grace and George at 62 Wynnstay Gardens in Earls Court Ward from 1833 to at least 1839, when she moved to live in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, with Dorothy Vernon (and her daughter Patricia), the Proprietress and Manager of the Tea Rooms at Dormers, 93 Burkes Road, in Beaconsfield. She died on 14th February 1941 and probate was granted to her daughter Grace, and son-in-law George.
Of all the family, the most distinguished was probably William’s son-in-law, Clarence Ralph Rowsell [see separate account of his career] a Naval Officer who eventually reached the rank of Captain, and served with distinction in WWI, eventually being awarded the C.B.E. and Commander of the Crown of Italy, in addition to the standard 1914 Star. He had already been married to Elizabeth Annie Eliza Dyke and had a 3-year-old daughter, Dorothy Mary Dyke, when he married Grace. In 1918 William was one of the witnesses to his step-granddaughter Dorothy Mary Dyke Rowsell’s marriage to a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, Guy Davenport Vernon. This would suggest strongly that he had remained well and was considered well enough to attend significant family events with no problem.
The Wider Family
William parents Valentine Joshua Chard and Mary (née Fox) Chard had 7 children, William being the third child and second boy. His father also had two maiden aunts Kate Sophia Frances and Adeliza. Both worked in the millinery and dressmaking trade, the former as a Milliner and the latter as a Dressmaker. In the early C19th when they were born, there were few options for women. These aunts generally lived in their father’s house, and subsequently their brother’s, helping out with childcare and housework.
The next generation shows slightly expanded career options for William’s siblings, but in 1911 we find Sarah Jane the eldest aged 63 as head of a household which contained her sisters Mary Louisa and Adeliza Kate, and brother Herbert George. This was not uncommon and when such close -nit arrangements broke down life was often quite difficult for women on their own. Adeliza Kate, William’s baby sister, who was a music teacher, spent the years from 1920-1946 in a series of multi-occupied tenancies, before ending her life in Nazareth House, East End Road, Finchley, sheltered accommodation for destitute children and elderly poor. In 1911 his eldest sibling, another Valentine Joshua, was boarding with a couple called the Wortley’s in St Mary Newington, Southwark. He like William was a clerk. Sarah Jane the next eldest was a schoolmistress, and later in life let apartments herself. Mary Louisa became a Lady’s Help and Herbert George worked as a clerk in a Perfumery Factory.
Only James Fox out of William’s siblings got married, in fact he married twice like his brother William. In 1886 he married Laura Jane Miller, who already had a 3-year-old daughter, Rosina Mary Chard. There was a great deal of mystery about this Laura Jane Miller, who was baptised Louisa Rachel Miller. In the 1851 Census she is Laura Miller, in 1861 she appears as Louisa Miller, and it would seem likely that this is the same Louisa Miller who appears in the 1881 Census working in the Honiball Household as a servant, which would explain how William’s brother, James Fox Chard, met her. Although if this is the same person, she was giving her age as much younger than she was. If she became pregnant whilst working in the Honiball household, it is possible that James took her and the baby on, possibly even that it was his child. In the 1891 Census Rosina appears as his 8-year-old daughter, along with a new baby, Florence Mabel Chard [7/08/1889 – 1981].
It hasn’t been possible to find William’s niece, Rosina after the 1891 census. His other niece, Florence Mabel Chard, though married Alfred George Bailey on 10th October 1909 at St John the Evangelist, in Camden, and went on to have at least one daughter Jenny Florence Bailey in 1910.
William’s family story reveals a lower middle-class family who were deeply rooted in the St Pancras area of London. The early generations of women in William’s family were in occupations typical of the limited opportunities available to women: Millinery, Dressmaking, Teaching and Ladies Helper. Similarly the men’s jobs reveal several clerks, a warehouseman, two families of butchers, a travelling salesman, and a whole network of relatives involved in the developing postal service. In time the third generation appear to have been moving towards jobs involving more pay and status: an estate agent, an optical surgical instrument maker, property letting and a piano dealer, but with the exception of Clarence Rowsell, whose family had the advantage of two generations of educated clergymen and a lawyer, most of the family were still on the cusp of breaking into a higher income social status.
Despite the alarming delusional ideas William developed, through two admissions, he appears to have recovered and went on to remain married to his wife for another 30 years. Given the social stigma associated with mental illness at the time, it seems he did not work again, but the family had enough resources for him to return his status as Own Means in the Census. The difficult behaviours witnessed by his daughters do not seem ultimately to have estranged their father from them, as evidenced by Grace and Clarence including William as one of the witnesses at their daughter’s wedding. Overall it seems the two Bethlem admissions did help prevent a family breakdown for William, and truly returned him home relieved as stated in his 1890 discharge summary.
The wider family history shows the considerable number of re-marriages caused at this time by the early deaths of women resulting from the process of childbirth, and of a general early age mortality. It also shows the close family ties at the time, with many unmarried children living together for mutual support. William clearly had a loving family and it seems his hospital admission enabled him to live on with their support for many years after his period of illness.