My great-great-grandfather, James Thomas Ashworth (1849-1890) was a cigarmaker, who lived in Bermondsey. There’s no surviving photos of him, as far as I know, but what he has left behind him (other than umpteen descendants) is this lovely handmade miniature chest of drawers, which he crafted from cigar boxes as a gift for his wife, Elizabeth.
It was my birthday and I wanted a treat, and seeing as two quite interesting exhibitions were on in London, it seemed as good an excuse as any to wend my way temporarily down south. I decided to see Terror & Wonder: The Gothic Imagination at the British Library (open until 20th January 2015), and Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die at the Museum of London (open until 12th April 2015). I’d never been to either place, so that was a bonus….
I’m very lucky that so many photos of my relatives have survived. The above is one of my favourites – a family group – and I have been trying for some time to identify all the sitters. On the back row on the left, we have my great-grandfather, John Henry Nunn (1862-1936). On the middle row, third from the left, we have John’s wife – my great-grandmother Frances Louise, née Ashworth (1876-1961). The older lady sitting on Frances’ left was identified by my grandad’s cousin Dorothy (1912-2011) as Elizabeth, née Shrimpton (1840-1915).
Dorothy remembered Elizabeth (her grandmother) as an elderly, bedridden lady, who didn’t seem to mind her young grandchildren romping about on her bed.1)Dorothy was remembering something that happened to her as a toddler, which might make people scoff, but I have oddly vivid memories from that age myself – snapshots of being at playgroup before I started school, and of my brother’s birth when I was three. Elizabeth was the mother of nine children, and grandmother to many more. Her life story is quite interesting – it turns out that she was never actually married to her second husband, James Thomas Ashworth (1849-1890), and as a teenager, she hung about in a London park with an uncle, a soldier invalided out of the Army during the Crimean War. She was illegitimate and it seems that she moved from Chesham in Buckinghamshire (where she was washed under the pump every morning in the yard outside their cottage, even in the middle of winter) to London with her aunts.
But aside from that – I wanted to see if I could date the above photograph (which might help me identify the people in it), and so analysed it for possible clues.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||Dorothy was remembering something that happened to her as a toddler, which might make people scoff, but I have oddly vivid memories from that age myself – snapshots of being at playgroup before I started school, and of my brother’s birth when I was three.|
My friend Anna asked me what I think about the DNA testing which apparently “proves” that Aaron Kosminski was the infamous Jack the Ripper. I posted a Facebook comment in reply, and it was such a long comment that I thought, do you know what, I think I may as well blog this. So here it is (slightly amended).
I should point out that Russell Edwards, a self-proclaimed armchair detective, says this is case-closed. I am a self-proclaimed chaise longue detective, who is usually more interested in the Essex arsenic panic, but I shall don my deerstalker anyway, and go for a gallop about the foggy backstreets of late 19th century Whitechapel… (a stone’s throw from where two of my great-grandparents were living at the time).