My maternal ancestors
Grtx2 grandparents: William John and Lucy (nee Smart) Dee
My greatx2 grandfather, William John Dee, was baptised at All Saints Church Upper Clatford, Hants on 22 July 1820. He was the first-born son of the farrier, John Dee and his wife Ann. He didn’t follow in the hoof-prints of his father as the 1841 census described him as a agricultural labourer. Six years later, on his wedding day, he described himself as a carrier. On 7 October 1847, also at Upper Clatford, William married a local girl, Lucy Smart, who had been baptised in the parish on 10 November 1816. Lucy’s father was a labourer on the local canal and a trusted Hayward appointed by the parish officers. Both husband and wife signed the register, and the witnesses were William’s brother, Robert, together with Joseph Hayward and a lady who was probably left-handed and who ended the ceremony with ink on her sleeve. As a consequence, her identity is lost forever.
Their first child, a son also William John, was born at Upper Clatford on 24 December. Shortly afterwards, the young family joined the stream of people who were migrating from the countryside to London. They settled initially at Frances Stahl yard (red-starred below) Nine Elms, Battersea. This was beside the new London and South-Western Railway terminus, close by the Thames with a coke works immediately downwind of them. It was a dirty, noisy environment, far removed from the quiet, picturesque Hampshire countryside. It is hard to escape the mental picture of the couple with a baby, stumbling off the train and searching for the first available home in the metropolis.
According to the 1851 census, William found work nearby as a brewer’s labourer - probably at Nine Elms Brewery, which was close to the terminus and a short distance from their home. It is hard to believe that the description of his two-year-old son as a labourer is anything but an error by the enumerator. At least the family had a roof of sorts over their head and were earning some income.
It was in this environment that a second son was brought into the world, Robert Henry Dee who was born on 11 December 1851 and baptised on 14 March 1852 at St George’s Battersea (aka John Garwood Chapel, Battersea Fields), which was to the west of Nine Elms (shown right).
Although continuing to work in the brewery trade, William and his family moved to Lambeth, about a mile south of Nine Elms - 1959: 5 Alfred Place, Dorset Place A and in 1861, William Street B:
It says much about the dilapidated quality of their homes that two of these streets were flattened shortly after the moved out as part of the modernisation of the district. At the end of the century the area around William Street was coloured blue, indicating the poverty of the folk who lived there - the rent of Nos 8 and 9 was £62 pa in 1860. The 1861 census revealed that two more sons had been born:
The brothers, Thomas and George James Dee were baptised on the same day, 14 August 1859 at St Michaels, Stockwell (right). William was still in the brewing trade Thomas was born in the first quarter of 1856, but George’s birth does not appear to have been registered. A later source gave 27 August 1858 as the day he was born.
During the 1860s, William left the world of brewing to work as a railway policeman. When his sons’ married in the 1870’s, their father was variously described as, ‘railway servant’, ‘railway policemen’ and ‘railway inspector’. (He was also said to be a ‘farmer’ in 1882 - I suspect he was posthumously promoted when his youngest sons married.) I eventually found a news report that featured him:
Towards the end of July 1869, William was working as a railway police constable at the Hammersmith (Grove Road) station which had been opened on the first of January by The London and South Western Railway Company. As the map below shows there were two stations at Hammersmith which were connected by stairs. The reported incident happened after passengers got off the train onto the Up Platform and crossed the line, attempting to use the station owned by the Metropolitan line.
Hammersmith (Grove Road) station after it closed in 1916. The ‘Up’ platform is on the left.
The West London Observer of 24 July 1869: ‘THE QUESTION OF CROSSING A RAILWAY. Mr Arthur Cooper of 13 George Street, Mansion House was summoned for obstructing William Dee, an officer of the South Western Railway Company while in the execution of his duty. The complainant said that he was a constable stationed at the new station in the grove, Hammersmith. On Tuesday the 29th July, on the arrival of a train from Richmond, he directed the passengers down the stairs to the Metropolitan line. The defendant and a lady came by the train and he directed them down stairs. He was passed by the witness not taking any notice. Witness told him that no-one was allowed to cross the line. After the train had started the defendant and the lady commenced to cross the line. He went in front of him and told him he was not allowed to cross. The defendant used an expression, struck him on the breast, knocked him down and kicked his helmet about the line Witness got up and took him by the collar and asked him for his address. He refused to give it, twisted from him and got on the down platform. The porters came to his assistance or he would have struck him again. He again refused to give his name and address and Inspector Copus came to his assistance. The defendant then gave his address very reluctantly. Cross-examined: The defendant struck him. The porters must have seen him. Another gentleman was with the defendant and he ought to have been summoned. It was not the custom for persons to cross the line. He may have seen other persons cross the line - if he did they had been cautioned. He did not place himself in front of the defendant and push him. He was ordered to stop people not take them by the collar. He took him by the collar after he struck him. He accused Mr Smith, the other gentleman, with attempting to rescue Mr Cooper. He said they should not leave the station that night unless they gave their address. He saw the defendant the following Wednesday and he then told him that he should cross the line again and that if he interfered he would serve him worse. Mr Drayman: Which is the usual way of crossing? Witness; By going down the stairs and passing underneath the line. Mr Potter then asked the witness how many caution boards were at the station and he relied, ‘Three’. Three porters were called and their evidence was a little contradictory with reference to where the helmet was lying. Mr Williams said the defendant was a gentleman in a good position and he would be the last to resist an officer. What Mr Cooper said was this: that he was in the habit of crossing the line and the complainant referred to his not crossing until the train had left. As soon as the train had left, he proceeded to cross with the lady. The complainant then rushed onto the line and stood in front of him. He merely pushed the complainant on one side to protect the lady and then he was collared. Mr Cooper denied committing any assault. Mr Smith, a solicitor of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, said the complainant stepped back and was tripped up. Witness did nothing but was inclined to assault the officer on account of his conduct. He did not refuse to give his address. Mr Dayman thought the case was made out. It was a dangerous thing to cross the line and the Company was right to enforce their rules. He fined the defendant 5/- and 2/- costs.’
Lucy (a widow and a charwoman, or cleaning lady), her son, George and a nephew from Andover, William Carver, were sharing 40 Gee Street, Holborn with three other small families - ‘the Dees of Gee Street’. They had moved north of the River Thames. Ten years later, in 1881, mother (now sixty-four) and George were still together, but had moved to 85 Glenarm Road, Lower Clapton (right) which they shared with a young couple and their seven-year-old son. George, a dyer of ostrich feathers, was supporting his mother. They probably occupied the top floor.
This news report confirms William’s occupation as a constable employed by the South Western Railway Company, as mentioned later in documents. Crucially, the episode establishes that William was alive on 29 July 1869. However, by the time that the 1871 census was taken on 2 April, William had died as Lucy was described as a widow. The window for when William died is therefore between 29 July 1869 and 2 April 1871 or around twenty months. Frequent scouring of records has not revealed details of his demise or burial, even allowing for alternative surname spellings.
Lucy died from senile decay and cerebral effusion (fluid around the brain) on 6 October 1889 at George’s home (who advised the registrar of his mother’s demise) above the shop at 119 Church Road, Stoke Newington. The following day, she was buried less than a quarter of a mile down the road at Abney Park Cemetery.