b.1869 – d.1909
Susan Elizabeth Smith was born in the autumn of 1869, the daughter of George Smith, a cab driver, and his wife Susan.
On the 1871 census, Susan is living with her parents and siblings in Wellington Mews, Kensington. Although ‘Mews’ today conjures up an image of rather exclusive quiet backstreets, for an 1870s cab driver the accommodation would have provided space for his horse and carriage plus accommodation above for his family. George may not have owned his own horse and carriage, many cab drivers hired them or shared them. Mews houses were usually built cheaply, aimed at workers, and the living conditions above would have been primitive.
By the census of 1881 the family has moved to Lambeth and her father had a new job. In the early 1870s a campaign had started to provide shelter for cab drivers. The drivers were not allowed to leave their horses and cabs unattended and were often on the road for long hours. The temptation for some was to ‘take refreshment’ from pubs with obvious concerns for safety. The first shelter for cab drivers opened in 1875 and George Smith’s occupation in 1881 was cabman’s shelter attendant. The family is still at the same address ten years later in the census of 1891, so it seems likely that George’s job at the shelter had given the family security.
In 1862, a few years before Susan’s birth, Charles William Crotty was born. His father was an omnibus conductor but by the census of 1881 he had become a coffee housekeeper on the Old Kent Road in Southwark. This appears to be quite a step up for the family who are even able to afford a servant to help. When Charles was old enough, he became a cab driver and in 1887 he was found guilty of being drunk while in charge of his cab. Perhaps he used the cabman’s shelter where George Smith worked and that was how he met Susan.
A new family
On the 7th June 1891 Susan Elizabeth Smith married Charles William Crotty at Emmanuel Church, Camberwell.
Their first child, Charles, was born the same year, followed by George in 1896, Walter in 1898 and Susan in 1901. The census of that year showed that the couple are now living in Clayton Street, Kennington and that Charles is still working as a cabdriver.
Caroline was born in 1904, Arthur in 1906 and their last child, Daisy, was born in 1908. The couple had a total of seven children, all of whom survived into adulthood, Charles seemed to have stable employment and the couple never moved far from the support of Susan’s parents so all would seem to be going well.
But just a year after Daisy was born, in 1909 Susan was admitted to Manor Asylum where she died a month later from chronic Bright’s disease and heart disease.
Bright’s disease affected the kidneys and caused heart problems. What caused Susan to develop Bright’s disease is unknown but it could be triggered by infection or by diabetes amongst other causes. Symptoms of the disease include apoplexy, convulsions and blindness. Susan died on the 20th August 1909 and was buried six days later in grave reference 475b.
From the 1911 census we learn that Charles has kept his family together. There was a ‘visitor’ staying with the family, Elizabeth Green, widow. Perhaps she was there to help care for the children, Daisy, the youngest was only 3 years old and Charles was still working as a cabdriver.
Three of the boys, Charles, Walter and George all served in World War One, Walter survived but Charles and George were both killed. Susan’s widowed husband Charles died in 1920.