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MOSS, Joseph William


Joseph William Moss was born in the fourth quarter of 1860 in Lawshall Green, a hamlet in the parish of Lawshall, in Suffolk. It is a small village situated between Bury St Edmund’s and Sudbury. Joseph was the first child of James Moss, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Matilda (née Mortlock).

James himself was born in Lawshall in 1838 while Matilda was born in Cockfield in 1841. However, at the time of her marriage in the fourth quarter of 1859, she and her family were living in Shimpling, a village about two miles from Lawshall. Matilda’s father, John Matlock, was also a farm labourer.


The family were still living in Lawshall Green at the time of the 1871 census from which we learn that Joseph’s younger brother, Alfred Walter, was born in the 3rd quarter of 1864. However, while Alfred, like his father, would become an agricultural labourer, and remain in the Lawshall area until he died there in 1937, we know that Joseph moved to London some time after 1871.


It has not been possible to ascertain if Joseph had previously worked elsewhere but in the 1881 census we find him aged 20 and working as a footman in the house of Sir John Eric Erichsen and his wife Mary at 6, Cavendish Place in Marylebone.

Sir John Eric Erichsen

Sir John was a Danish-born British surgeon who was president of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society.

In 1880, he became president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

For some years, he was surgeon-extraordinary to Queen Victoria and his reputation was world-wide. Today he counts among the ‘makers of modern surgery’.

Joseph was one of six domestic servants employed by Sir John and his wife to manage their household. As the only footman, his role would have been to serve as deputy butler and act as butler in the latter’s absence.

Usually footmen performed a range of duties, which included serving meals, opening and closing doors, carrying heavy items or moving furniture. Footmen might also double as valets, especially for visiting guests.

Joseph evidently proved more than competent as a footman. By the time of the 1891 census he had risen to the position of butler in the house of another surgeon, William Barker, and his wife Ellen, at 22, Cheyne Row in Chelsea. One of the three female domestic servants working under Joseph was Emma Barrell, the 30 year-old daughter of Benjamin Barrell, an agricultural labourer from Melton, a village in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Emma would become Joseph’s wife.

We do not know when Emma came to London but in the 1881 census, we find her working as a servant in the home of Mrs Tryphena Andrew at 24, Acklam Road in Kensington. There is no evidence that Joseph and Emma knew each other before working together for William Barker but in the third quarter of 1891 the couple married in Woodbridge, Suffolk. Their only child, Julian Wilfrid, was born in the second quarter of 1893, also in Woodbridge.

We do not know where Joseph and Emma were living or working at the time of Julian’s birth. It was rare for butlers to be married and those who were had to make separate housing arrangements for their families. Did the couple leave the employ of William Barker or did Joseph remain living and working in the house while Emma lived elsewhere? Did she – or they – move back to Suffolk temporarily?


Unfortunately, we have no information regarding their whereabouts until the 1901 census where we learn that there have been considerable changes in their circumstances.

After holding responsible positions in the households of eminent surgeons, Joseph is now living and working as a potman and barman at the Roupell Arms public house in Woolwich Road in Charlton. Emma is working as a cook at the home of C of E clergyman Archibald Ward at 38, Bolingbroke Grove in Battersea. Julian, now 7 years of age, is living with her.

We do not know why the couple were living apart at this time but perhaps the role of cook to the clergyman required Emma to live in and it would not have been appropriate or convenient for her husband to live with her.

In 1901, there is a school entry for Julian to Honeywell Road School in Wandsworth, where his address is confirmed as Bolingbroke Grove. His admission date to school was August 26th.


By the time of the 1911 census, we find Joseph and Emma living together again with their son at 25, Bramfield Road in Battersea. Joseph is described as a house painter and Julian is working as a typewriter clerk.

Four years later, on the 29th of November 1915, Julian, now an export clerk, married Elsie May Appleton at St Andrew’s Church in Earlsfield. In the marriage register, Joseph is now working as a caretaker. (Later we know, from his admission to Tower Hamlets Workhouse in 1917, that he was a school caretaker.)

Of interest, in February 1917, Julian joined the Royal Air Force.

Sadly, the next time we meet Joseph is on the 17th of October 1917 when he has been admitted to Tower Hamlets Workhouse in Stepney. The register states that he was admitted by the Thames Police Court (the former name of Thames Magistrates Court) and the reason for his admission is given as ‘mental’.

This register suggests that he was transferred from MEOT (Mile End Old Town workhouse) although no record can be found of this detail, there being an apparent gap in the Mile End records between 1915 and 1919. It also suggests that his wife is Emma (followed by a question mark) and her address is 3, West Hill Road, Southfields, which is close to Earlsfield where Julian and Elsie were married.

Although we do not know the nature of Joseph’s mental health problems, it is evident they were severe as, the following week, on the 25th of October, he transferred to Long Grove. This appears to be a very quick decline in his health.

Just two weeks later, on the 12th of November 1917, Joseph died in Long Grove, aged 57. He was buried in plot 972a in Horton Cemetery.

Joseph’s Family after his death

On 10th March 1918, Julian and Elsie’s first son, Jeffrey Weston, was baptised at St. Anne’s Church in Wandsworth. The family’s address is Cicada Road in Earlsfield and Julian is a ‘soldier RFC’.

On 7th December 1919, their son Victor Julian was baptised in the same church. According to the register, Julian is now a clerk. Sadly, Victor died within the year.

Sometime after Joseph’s death, Emma returned to Woodbridge in Suffolk. She never remarried. In the 1939 register, she is living at 9, Crown Place in Woodbridge with Anne Buller, an older woman of ‘private means’. Emma carries out ‘unpaid domestic duties’. When she died in 1947, aged 87, Emma was living at 95, New Street in Woodbridge. She left her effects, valued at £155 2s, to her son.

From the 1939 register, we learn that Julian is living with his wife, Elsie, and 22 year-old son Jeffrey at 4, Baskerville Road in Earlsfield, Wandsworth. Julian is a builder’s book-keeper and Jeffrey is a clerk to a motor dealer. Julian died in Camberwell in 1956 aged 62. Jeffery died in 1988.

Written by Stephen Munday in December 2021

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