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Sunday, 5 June 2011

Tragedy and Carelessness

This is autobiography

To lose some of your relatives suggests a tragedy; all of them, carelessness.

My mother was 40 when I was born in 1947, her only child apart from a still birth, and her mother was 40 when she was born in 1907, the youngest of seven surviving children.

As a result I grew up with dead grandparents, ageing and dying aunts and uncles, and cousins all much older than me. But my mother talked a lot about her family and as a child I took an interest; this is what I can do from memory (I haven't even looked at the family photographs - Note added 14/02/2012: but as I happen upon them I will add some photographs at the end of this Blog post):

My maternal grandfather, Thomas Redsell Stevens 1861 - 1925, born Crayford, Kent. Father a carpenter who did the carvings in the Parish Church, mother Irish (maiden name Redsell). Joined the Royal Navy, served during the Battle of the Nile (1881 - 2?), employed as a gun tester by Vickers, Crayford, working at the Butts in Sutton at Hone, lost an arm in this job. Lived in a (tied?) house at Shirehall Road, Hawley.


Eliza Turner 1867 - 1941, possibly born in Buckingham, some family connection to paper mills - father posibly a wheelwright or mill wright.


Thomas Turner Stevens, eldest son, died about 1945 in his 50s (heart). Travelled in South America selling armaments in the 1920s -1930s, working for Vickers, later (previously?) Landlord of a Pub [the Lamb?] in Shoreham, Kent. Married Mabel, alive when I was a young child, no children.

Leonard Stevens, died 1950s (stroke), lived in the Dartford - Sutton at Hone area, worked for Garretts agricultural engineers, twice married (first wife died; second wife, Ethel(Auntie Ethel)). One son from first marriage, David.

Godfrey Victor Stevens (Uncle Goff), died 1960s (heart), worked in paper mills ending his working life doing shift work as a gatekeeper. Lived in a tied house at 42 Green Walk, Crayford [ where I lived for a year in 1961 - 62]. Married Lavinia (Auntie Lena),a nurse at Stone House [mental] hospital, where my mother was [twice, I think] a patient. Two sons, John and Roy, both of whom married and had children. Roy was my cousin nearest to me in age - about 10 years older.

Blanche Evelyn [ Queenie] Stevens, died 1950s (heart), married about 1918 John [Jack]Ashton,an Armenian who had changed his name from Mostichian. Lived in India where her husband worked for the Indian Railways. In retirement, lived in Birchington, Kent where he built model trains. One daughter, Dorothy, married Pat[rick] Mather, an architect, and emigrated in the 1950s to Phoenix, Arizona.No children.

Gertrude Nellie Stevens (Auntie Nellie), born about 1898, died 1979 (senile dementia), married about 1920 Benjamin Streeton (Uncle Ben) whose family came from Northumberland Heath / Erith in Kent. Lived at Delma, Howbury Lane, Slade Green, Kent where I spent happy parts of my childhood [see my Blog, "Uncle Ben" for his life]. No children. Ben and Nellie were my favourite Aunt and Uncle and my mother remained close to this sister.

Wilhelmina Stevens (Auntie Winnie), died 1960s (cause unknown), married Jack Burke (Uncle Jack), lived at Eynsford, Kent where Jack worked in a mill producing expensive hand made paper, the edges so sharp that they cut your fingers. One daughter, Eileen, married a Royal Navy officer in 1953, he served on Christmas Island during the 1950s nuclear bomb tests,divorced, three children.

Hilda May Stevens, 1907 - 1978, my mother, worked as a paper mill girl in Hawley after leaving school, lived with her widowed mother in Shirehall Road before (and after) marrying my father, Albert George Pateman, 1912 - 1997

It may be that I still have cousins living and, no doubt, children of those cousins. But I have sought no contact with any of them for around thirty years.

Added 31/08/2012

Thomas Redsell Stevens and his wife Eliza (née Turner), backyard of 1 Coles Cottages, Shirehall Road, Hawley, probably about 1920

My mother Hilda May Stevens, 3rd from left in the back row, with other Horton Kirby Paper Mill workers, early 1920s

Mill Girls, Horton Kirby Paper Mill, about 1918. Nellie Stevens, back row, second from left with large necktie; Winnie, seated, second from left

Added 14/02/2012:

The Two Brewers at Shoreham, Kent, standing in front Thomas Turner Stevens, his wife Mabel and their cat and dog (they had no children), postcard to Tom's parents postmarked September 1921


Added 24 July 2018: I have now published memoir of my childhood, I Have Done This In Secret (degree zero 2018), freely available from Amazon, Waterstones and other booksellers

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