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HEDINGER, Otto John

b.1854-d.1917

Born in Zurich, married in London

All we know of Otto John Hedinger’s early life is that he was born in Zurich, Switzerland in about 1854, the son of Otto Hedinger, a tailor. We do not know when he arrived in England but we first meet him on his wedding day, the 27th of April 1879, when he married Mary Jane Calton at All Saints Church in Notting Hill. 

Mary Jane was the daughter of John Calton, a farmer from Framlingham in Suffolk, and was born in the 2nd quarter of 1852. We do not know when or why she came to London or how the couple met but at the time of their marriage both were living in Thorpe Mews in Notting Hill, Otto at number 23 and Mary Jane at number 20. 

A tailor, like his father

Like his father, Otto was working as a tailor, a profession we know he carried out his whole working life. However, it has not been possible to find Otto’s name in the London Trades Directories of the period so it may be cautiously assumed that he was an employee rather than the proprietor of a tailoring business.

The birth of two sons

In the 1st quarter of 1880 Mary Jane gave birth to the couple’s first child, a son they named Otto Frederick. In the 1881 Census the family is living at 324, Euston Road in St Pancras. Later that year, on the 6th of November, the couple’s second son, Joseph Jacob was born. When he was baptised on Christmas Day at the Church of St John the Baptist, the Hedingers were living at 32, Great Marlborough Street in Soho.

A tragic death – and the birth of two daughters

Mary Jane gave birth to a third son, Ernest Henry, in the 3rd quarter of 1883. Sadly, Ernest died the following year aged just one. In the 3rd quarter of 1885 the couple’s first daughter, Jennie Calton was born. When she was  baptised in the Church of St Alphege in Southwark on the 23rd of August 1885 the family was living at 54, Wellington Street in Southwark. In the 1st quarter of 1885 Mary Jane gave birth to the couple’s fifth and final child, a daughter called Rosa Bertha.

A naturalised British subject

By the time of the 1891 Census the family had moved to 67, Camberwell New Road in Lambeth. However, when Rosa Bertha was baptised at Emmanuel Church in Lambeth on the 1st of September 1892, the baptismal register gives the family’s address as 267, Kennington Road in Lambeth. This is also their address in the 1901 Census where Otto is described for the first time as a naturalised British subject.

Admission to Long Grove and death

We do not know the nature of Otto’s mental health problems or, indeed, when they began, but on the 20th of July 1908, aged just 54, he was admitted to St George’s Workhouse, Mint Street in Southwark and three weeks later, on the 10th of August, he was transferred to Long Grove. He would remain a patient for nearly nine years, dying there on the 27th of May 1917 aged 63. Otto was buried in plot 1360a in Horton Cemetery on the 1st of June 1917. 

Mary Jane after Otto’s death

In the 1911 Census Mary Jane is living alone at 41g, Chapter Road in Newington. She is doing ‘daily work’ as a cook in a restaurant. Interestingly, the census states that Mary Jane had given birth to six children, two of whom had died. However, no Hedinger children other than the five we know about are to be found in the General Register Office births index. Is this an error, or could it be that Mary Jane gave birth to a child before she was married? Could this be the reason she left Framlingham to come to London? Mary Jane is still living at the same address in the 1921 Census with her son Joseph and daughter Jennie. She is working in ‘fancy goods’ In the 1939 register Mary Jane is still living in Chapter Road and her occupation is given as ‘unpaid domestic duties’. Mary Jane died in Wandsworth in the 1st quarter of 1949 aged 96. She outlived her husband Otto by 32 years. 

Otto’s children

  • In 1908 Otto Frederick married Beatrice Alice Sparkes and the couple had two daughters. In the First World War he served in the Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport). He later worked as a photo processor and etcher/engraver and died in 1969 aged 89. 
  • In 1901 Joseph Jacob enlisted in the army and served in the Imperial Yeomanry during the Boer War. After the war he was discharged ‘at his own request to take up civil employment in Johannesburg’. We do not know the nature of his work in South Africa or when he returned to England but in 1915 at the age of 32 he re-enlisted in the army, this time serving in the Norfolk Regiment. From his enlistment papers we learn that, in 1909, Joseph had married Alice Holmwood Potten in Wandsworth. It may be assumed that Joseph and Alice were later divorced as Joseph married Lily James in Croydon in 1932. In the 1939 register the couple are living in Mitcham and Joseph is working, like his brother, as a photo processor and etcher/engraver. Joseph died on the 12th of February 1949 aged 67. He left no issue.
  • In the 1911 Census Jennie is working as a chambermaid at the York Hotel in Albemarle Street in London. In the 1921 Census she is living with her mother and brother Joseph at 41, Chapter Road in Newington. She and her mother both work in ‘fancy goods’. Jennie died in 1833 aged 47. She never married.
  • Rosa Bertha married waiter John Henry Baker in 1910 and following their marriage the couple emigrated to the USA. We do not know when they returned to England but in  1921 the couple were living at 56, Ondine Road in Camberwell. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to trace Bertha after this date. 

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