Rose Wren 1860-1896

As an amatuer geneaologist/family historian since 2008, I am (like so many of us) quite accustomed to meeting the occasional Brick Wall. But none has been quite so frustrating as my search for the final resting place of my husband’s maternal great grandmother, Rose Seabourne. In my search to complete Rose’s story, I found a very poignant story which sadly, was not unusua l for the times.

Rose Wren was born in the first quarter of 1860 in Paddington, London, to George Wren (b 1831 in Standon, Herts) a servant and his wife Emily Steadman (b abt 1832 in Northaston, Devon).

The family were not well off at all – George was a Coachman although it is not known who his employer was. By 1881 the census recorded him as a Carman , so he may have graduated to driving horse drawn trams. George’s father, also named George, was a Bricklayer.

By 1871, Rose, now aged 11, was living with her parents and siblings David (12), Alice (9) and Walter (3) at 3 Rutland Mews, South Kensington. The area is quite upmarket now, but back in 1871 it would have been a humble abode ( see image below), and almost certainly rented.

Kensington, South London, 1860 image copyright (c) Bonhams

It’s not known where Rose was living at the time of the 1881 census; none of the records seem to match her details. But in 1883, she married Robert Charles Seaborn (1846-1900).

image from Ancestry

As the marriage details show, Robert was fourteen years old than Rose. His father, William, was a Porter; Rose’s father George is still a Coachman. The couple were living at 4, Wyndham Mews, Marylebone, which appears to have been redeveloped:

image (c) Google Maps

It is possible that the marriage was a slightly hasty one, since by the first day of January 1884 the couple had their first child, a daughter named Emily Rose (1 Jan 1884-Sept 1963). Almost four years would pass before my husband’s maternal grandfather, William Robert Seaborn came along on 14th December 1887. Florence (1890-1968) four years after William, and finally Mabel Charlotte in October 1892.

Robert did not seem to have a trade as such – he gave his profession variously as ‘Painter’ or ‘Colourman’ (mixer of paint?) and the family moved about a lot between census reports – one step ahead of the rent man, perhaps?

Then, just four years after Charlotte was born, tradgedy would strike the family, Rose was admitted to Marylebone infirmary and passed away on 16th October 1896. Cause of death was ‘malignant disease of the uterus’ – cancer.

The eldest daughter, Emily, was an adult living away from home by this time; a Servant, by 1901 she was living with her maternal grandparents George and Emily Wren in Camberwell. The Wrens also had a lodger.

Rose and Robert’s youngest daughter Mabel Charlotte was four years old when her mother died, not even at school yet; Florence was six, and William nine. Clearly Robert would not have been able to care for them and work; and we must assume that Rose’s parents did not have the room or the financial wherewithall to bring up three small children.

To add futher to the childrens’ woes, their father Robert died in April, 1900. It is not known where the children were living between their mother’s death in 1896 and Robert’s demise in 1900, but William was entered into the Poor Law School at Southall in September 1900. Aged thirteen, he went from the school institution into the Army as a boy soldier . In 1901, Florence is eleven years old, and a boarder at Sudbury Hall School in Harrow. Did the state pay for her upkeep and education there as part of the Poor Laws? It would seem so.

In 1901, the census shows Mabel, aged nine, enrolled at a different Poor Law school, St. Marylebone (originally called the Philological School) in the parish of Norwood – she appears to be in training in the Needleroom.

The Philological School, St Marylebone, London: seen from the New Road. Wood engraving by W. T. Green after [C. A. H.], 1857.. Credit: Wellcome CollectionPublic Domain Mark

So , to add to their troubles, the children were split up – but according to my late mother-in-law (William’s daughter Florence Mabel, (named after his two cloest sisters) the siblings were able to keep in touch, although contact appears to have been lost with older sister Emily at some point.

William went on to join the military, being a Batman to an officer in the King;s Liverpool Regiment (where his surname got changed from Seaborne to Seabourne!) before meeting Ethel Egerton of Frodsham (with whom he had two daughters and a son) and settling in Camberley, Surrey, where he is now laid to rest with wife Ethel.

William Robert Seabourne with Granddaughter Pamela. 1952

In the 1939 register Emily is still single at age fifty-five, and is a Cook General , living at 53a Highbury Quadrant in Islington. Florence is married to John George, a Trolley Bus Driver, and the family are living at 72 Shrewsbury Road, Willesden, with their son John George, a nineteen-year-old General Engineers Fitter.

Mabel fares less well – at age seventeen, she is a servant who, between 1908-1910 was admitted to the St. Pancras Workhouse by her master. We can only speculate about the reasons. Mabel passed away in July of 1937 without marrying. My mother-in-law had vague memories of going to her Aunt’s funeral aged twelve. Sadly, no known photographs exist of Emily, Florence or Mabel.

AND FINALLY – The Search for Rose….

It was my mother-in-law’s dearest wish to know the last resting places of her paternal grandparents, Robert and Rose Seaborne. We found Robert in an unmarked grave in St. Marylebone Cemetery, but Rose eluded us for many years. It wasn’t until after Florence’s death that I finally found the entry… but sadly, Rose was not buried with her husband, both of them being buried in unmarked public graves with other, unrelated, people. I am not sure why I couldn’t find Rose until 2021 – but perhaps that particular record had not been digitised until this year.

Rest in Peace, Rose.

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