b. ~1849 – d. 3 October 1911
Died 3rd October 1911 – Buried: 9 October 1911 – Grave 1295b
Annie Cheesman was a mother, and grandmother, widowed in her 40s and never to remarry. Her traveller husband rarely appears, with only scraps of information available. She remained living with her son throughout life, even after his marriage, until the Asylum called in her final year. The facts will be presented chronologically reversed to show how the pieces fit together from the small fragments we know, to building her life story.
Every story starts with facts, we can’t simply jump to finding a birth based on a name and year, as that leaves us wide open to error and speculation. We need to begin with what we know and work our way back.
What do I factually know about Annie?
Annie Cheesman died on 3rd October 1911, and was buried 6 days later, 9th October 1911 in grave 1295b. The Lunacy patient’s admission registers state that Annie was admitted on 28th April 1911 and that she died on 3rd October 1911.
Unfortunately, Annie’s case notes are within Female Case Book No.13 folio 267, but this case book is one of the missing ones lost to history. We may never know what Annie looked like.
Annie did however have a single entry in the Manor Address book of relatives and visitors. The address book lists a son, S.H. Cheesman, living at 117 Longhurst Road, Lewisham.
1910s – Longhurst Road Connection
From this scrap of information, I was able to find on the 1911 census, Sidney Cheesman, a 40-year-old milk carrier at a Dairy shop, living at 117 Longhurst Road, with wife Esther, daughter Gladys (4), son Sidney (1), and widowed mother Annie Cheesman (60). The census was taken on 2nd April 1911, just four weeks before Annie was admitted to the asylum, and just 6 months before her death. As Annie is a widow, so Cheesman was very likely not her maiden name.
From these facts, I found the marriage on 24th July 1905 of Sidney Herbert Cheesman, a 33-year-old Dairyman living at 107 Gilmore Road, Lewisham, to Esther Ada Featherston, a 28-year-old spinster, her father John Featherston (Deceased) builder. The marriage certificate offered further clues as to Sidney’s father, Henry Cheesman (Deceased).
I went further back, to the 1901 Census, where residing at 35 Dermody Road, Lewisham (a 10minute walk to Longhurst Road), Annie Cheesman (widow) aged 47, with son Sydney H., aged 27, a Milk Dairyman born Clapham, and lodger Emma Francis, a single 79-year-old, living on own means.
Esther was living with her parents in Greenwich as a 23yr old clerk in 1901.
I have struggled to find any definitive evidence of Annie and Sidney in the 1890s. What we do know is that Annie’s husband Henry died (or presumed dead) at some point between 1885 and 1901. As a traveller man, with what turns out to be quite a common name, it has been extremely hard to definitively find a birth and death for this person.
Annie and her Children 1870s-1880s
Searching the GRO I found the birth of Sidney CHEESMAN, listing his mother’s maiden name as FRANCIS. Not enough in my opinion for a guaranteed match but a decent clue to follow up, especially as the surname matched their elderly lodger.
- CHEESMAN, SIDNEY Mother’s Maiden: FRANCIS
- GRO Reference: 1870 D Quarter in WANDSWORTH Volume 01D Page 549
Ordering the birth certificate, the facts began to add up. Sidney, born 24th October 1870, at 20 Pearson Street, Battersea; Father Henry Cheesman; Mother Ann Cheesman formerly Francis.
Delving further, I found that Sydney Herbert (this time spelt with a Y) Cheesman born 24th October 1870, was baptised along with a sibling, Henry Montague Cheesman in December 1870.
- Baptism Dec 4 1870 – Sydney Herbert 18 Wilton Road, Born Oct 24 1870
- Baptism Dec 4 1870 – Henry Montagu 18 Wilton Road, Born June 30 1868
I could not find a birth for Henry Montague, nor any trace of his later life, so I decided to check the death records, and it was here, in 1885, I found that Henry Montague had died at the young age of 16.
- CHEESMAN, HENRY MONTAGUE 16
- GRO Reference: 1885 S Quarter in HACKNEY Volume 01B Page 297
His Death certificate shows that he died of Measles (7 days) and present was his grandmother, Emma Francis, of 2 Alexandra Terrace, Lea Bridge. His father Henry is listed as a Commercial Traveller.
In 1871 census, the brothers are listed as Nurse Children aged 3 and 5months, staying with George and Mary Cameron. “A nurse child is a young child being brought up in the household of someone other than the parents, normally for money. Unmarried, or recently widowed mothers, travellers like actors, people with demanding jobs in unhealthy areas, or just parents of a child with health problems, might put a child out to nurse in a more comfortable area, with a family, often so that they could earn a living.”
In 1881, both brothers are listed as Wards aged 12 & 10, living with Emma Francis (46) Guardian of Children, who I now know to be their grandmother, our Annie’s mother. A ward is considered a young person under the care and control of a guardian appointed by their parents or a court. Also living with them as ward is Edith White, a 26-year-old, tagged as a cripple.
Who was Henry Cheesman?
Only appearing briefly in any records, Annie’s husband, and father to their children, Henry Cheesman rarely appears anywhere. As a traveller he could have been anywhere in the country, or even had a second life elsewhere; and so, nailing down irrefutable evidence is almost impossible. There was at the time a notorious repeat criminal called Henry Cheesman, there is also a Henry Cheesman who was admitted to the asylum system in the very early 1900s, and various other Henry Cheesman’s popping up. However, there is not enough evidence to link any of these records to Annie’s husband currently.
Annie’s Son Sidney, and Esther’s Life
Sidney and Esther married in 1905 and had two children. Their first child, daughter Gladys, was born on 24 October 1870. In 1909 they celebrated the birth of son Sidney Ernest Aug 25th, 1909, baptised Oct 24th, 1909, Parents Sidney Herbert (a Dairyman) and Esther Ada Cheesman, living at Woodside Road, Canterbury.
On the 1939 census, at 20 Heathside Avenue, Bexley; resides Sidney H Cheesman, born 24 October 1870, a retired Milk pasteurizer and Dairy worker, with wife Esther A Cheesman, born 16 May 1877, unpaid domestic duties, and Gladys E Cheesman, born 13 July 1906, a bookkeeper/cashier/typist in the printing and publishing trade. 1 entry is closed, which must be Sidney Ernest.
Sidney H. died on 8 November 1940 in Kent County Hospital, aged 70. Esther died 17 Dec 1960, at Joyce Green Hospital in Dartford, Kent, aged 83.