Sunday, July 5, 2015

Grandmother: Mary Jane Cutting

As I look back over my research into the Cutting line, I realised that I have very little data for my Mother's mother, Mary Jane. More research is required.

First I will give you the facts as I have them recorded in Ancestry.com - the following from the 1891 England Census.

Mary Jane is the fourth child of George Robinson and Mary Frances Evans, the youngest of the three daughters, born in Croydon, Surrey, England on the 28 March in 1872. She lived with her family at 180 Gloucester Road, Croydon - her father George was in the Railways. 

In her late teenage years she was employed as a servant in a Coffee House in Lambeth. According to the 1891 census, Mary Jane is listed there as a waitress, aged 19, working at 45 Lower Kennington Lane in Lambeth. 

Life as a waitress in the 1890's was not an easy job. Long hours and few breaks, and all for a small weekly wage - she may have received Tips to help eke out her meager existence. It was in the London Cafes that Tipping was first introduced: Tipping—which may have originated in the taverns of 17th Century England, where drinkers would slip money to the waiter “to insure promptitude” or T.I.P for short.

The Coffee House, owned and operated by Frances Rivers, also offered accommodation for boarders, and at the time Mary Jane worked there, three boarders are listed: Thomas Price, William Pettitt and William Saunders. These three young men were all listed as Policemen. Another person living at number 45 was Esther Meinshein, Widow of independent means and a young child listed as Ad: Son, Frank D Stone. I imagine that Mary Jane knew these people as patrons of the Coffee House, and most probably would have waited on their table from time to time.

Just down the road from the Coffee House, at no 55 Kennington Lane, was the Printers Arms owned and operated by Elizabeth Lancaster, listed as a Widow and Beer retailer. This may have been a favourite 'drinking hole' for many of the young men who lived and worked in Croydon and surrounding towns.

Meanwhile over in Kennington, the man she was to marry (Charles Harry Newland Cutting, born in Middlesex in 1878) was employed as a Decorator and living as a lodger with the Phelps family at 2 Blenheim Court Two social forces were at work in Kennington at different times during the twentieth century: decline, and – later – gentrification. Decline began in the early part of the twentieth century. Middle-class households ceased to employ servants and no longer sought the large houses of Kennington, preferring the suburbs of outer London. Houses in Kennington were suited to multiple occupation and were divided into flats and bedsits, providing cheap lodgings for lower-paid workers.

Charles served his country in the Boer War, and was awarded the 'Freedom of the City' for the "City of London Imperial Volunteers" in 1900.
Freedom of the City is an ancient honour granted to martial organizations, allowing them the privilege to march into the city "with drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed". 
The Freedom of the City is an honour bestowed by a municipality upon a valued member of the community

The next significant change in Mary Jane's life was her marriage to my grandfather, Charles Harry Newland Cutting. She was six years older than him and I suspect that she was already pregnant with their first child at the time. They were married at St Andrews Church, Enfield, Middlesex on 16th June 1901.

According to the marriage certificate Charles is listed then as a Plumber residing at Southbury Road, Enfield. His father is Harry Cutting, listed as a Builder. Mary Jane is listed as a Spinster, also living at Southbury Road, Enfield. Her father is George Robinson listed as Retired. (My other research showed that George had been a Railway Porter prior to his retirement, and had resided in Croydon most of his life.) 

Mary Jane's husband Charles provided well for their growing family, moving from his small business in Enfield to expand his Plumbing business in the High Street in Kingston in 1911.  Charles served his country again in World War 1 and earned his British Military Roll honours on his return. Mary Jane would have brought up the children by herself, during those turbulent war years of 1914-1918. Seven children under the age of 14 would not have been easy to care for. I imagine my own mother would have been of great help to Mary Jane, as the eldest of her daughters, and her training in early years helped prepare her for her own large family later on.

Mary Jane gave birth to seven children. Her child rearing began in October 1901 with her first born son Charles Reginald, next was Winifred born on 18 March 1903, then Frank in 1905, next the birth of the triplets, Harry, Ronald and Frank in 1906 and finally Violet Annie Daisy in 1907. My connections with Genealogy discussion groups around the world, lead me to questioning whether Mary Jane was given any special assistance at the time of the multiple birth. 
You find occasional references to Queen Victoria's gifts to mothers of triplets and upwards in local newspapers, some of which are now searchable online. These were known as the Queen's Bounty. From 1849 there was a payment of one guinea for each child of a multiple birth above two. The grants were begun by Queen Victoria in 1849, after a visit to Ireland, "to enable the parents to meet sudden expenses thrown upon them". To qualify, the births had to be live and in wedlock, and the parents British subjects.


By 1924 Charles had become a Master House Decorator employing others in his business and Mary Jane was a lady of good standing in the community.

I did not know my grandmother Mary Jane - perhaps we did not have much to do with our grandparents in the 1940's. I do wish that I had known this grandmother as it is through her that my mother's heritage is passed down to me.

I do recall my older sisters, Pam and Pat, talking of their favourite Auntie Edie, she was my grandmother's only surviving sister. Edith Mary Robinson was born two years before my grandmother and lived four years longer than her. I know that we visited her home in Croydon more frequently than we visited Grandmother Mary Jane - further information about our relationship with her remains a mystery for the time being. 

My next step is to search for more information about Mary Jane from my extended genealogy networks.