Ernest Albert King was born in the 3rd quarter of 1858 to Matthew and Elizabeth King (née Barrett) in Nash, a small village in the north of Buckinghamshire, about five miles from the town of Buckingham. Matthew King was a baker and Ernest was the couple’s sixth child after Thomas (born in 1841), John (1842), Sarah Ann (1847), Matthew (1849) and George (1850).
The 1850s and 1860s
In the 1851 census the family is living in Nash with Elizabeth Smith, a nursemaid, aged 14. By the time of the next census Elizabeth has given birth to three more children, Charles (born in 1853), William (1855) and Emily Jane (1860). Matthew is still a baker and his eldest son and daughter are now also working: Thomas is a shoemaker and Sarah Ann is a lacemaker. 13 year-old John is a pupil at the Diocesan School in Cowley, Oxfordshire, a school established in 1841 by the Oxford Diocesan Board of Education, ‘for the benefit of the middle classes’.
A move to London
By the time of the next census, however, the whole family, apart from Thomas and William, has moved to London. We do not know what prompted Matthew to uproot his family from Buckinghamshire or when the move took place, but in 1871 the Kings are living at 17, Clare Street, off the Strand, a property they share with two other families. Matthew has also changed profession and he and his son John are now butchers. His other children of working age, however, Matthew, Charles and Sarah, are unemployed.
In the 1881 census Ernest is living with his now widowed father (Elizabeth having died in 1871) and his brothers Thomas, Matthew and George at 2, Malden Road in Kentish Town with a servant, Eliza James. Ernest is working as a grocer’s porter, Thomas is a coal porter and George is a general porter. Although Ernest’s father is now aged 69 and no longer working, the younger Matthew is still working as a butcher.
Marriage to Emily Jane
The following year, on the 1st of January 1882, Ernest, aged 23, married 31 year-old Emily Jane May at the Church of St Mary le Strand in Westminster. Emily, the daughter of compositor Thomas Godsave Watkinson Kemp, was the widow of Henry John May who died in 1875. Emily and Henry were married for just two years and had one child, a son called Henry John. At the time of their wedding Ernest and Emily were living at 5, Helmet Court in the Strand, ‘a narrow dingy alleyway which led from the Strand into a maze of Dickensian type houses and narrow streets’. In the marriage register Ernest is described as a grocer.
The 1890s – Ernest becomes a Freemason
In the 1891 census Ernest and Emily are living at 2, Malden Road with Emily’s son Henry John May who is now 15 years old and working as a ship’s broker’s clerk. Ernest’s father and brothers are no longer living in the property but it has not been possible to ascertain their whereabouts after the 1881 census.
On the 7th of January 1892 Ernest was initiated into the Prince Leopold Lodge of the Freemasons in the Surrey Masonic Hall in Camberwell New Road. In the register his stated occupation is grocer, but as his address is given as the Post Office, Prince of Wales Road (which intersects with Malden Road) he may already have been working as a sub-postmaster, as he would later be described in the 1901 census.
A second marriage – and admission to Long Grove
We do not know when Emily Jane died but in 1901 Ernest was a widower and living at 2, Malden Road with William Blanche, aged 25, and 31 year-old housekeeper Bella Ford. As William is described as a grocer and a postal clerk one may assume he was Ernest’s employee.
Later that year, on the 17th of April 1901, 43 year-old Ernest married Sarah Wells, also aged 43, at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Haverstock Hill in Camden. However, their married life together would last just a few years as in 1906 (or 1907 – no exact date is given in the register) Ernest was admitted to St Pancras Workhouse. We do not know the reason for this apparently sudden downturn in Ernest’s fortunes but it may be assumed he was suffering from mental health problems as, on the 11th of November 1907, he was transferred to Long Grove where he would remain for the rest of his life.
Sadly, Ernest died in Long Grove on the 30th of December 1916 at the age of 58. He was buried in plot 1418b in Horton Cemetery on the 5th of January 1917.