Louisa is born in Warminster, Wiltshire
Louisa was born to James Pearce, a labourer, and his wife Edith in Warminster, Wiltshire and baptised at the church of St Denys with St Lawrence on 16th April 1835.
In 1841, the Pearces were living in Bread Street, Warminster. In addition to Louisa and her parents, the family included her five siblings: James b. 1827, William b. 1828, Rachel b. 1831, Eliza b. 1832 and Joseph b. 1838.
James Pearce senior died in Q2 1848 and Edith in Q3 1851. Understandably, this seems to have led to a disruption in the family and gaps in the record. Edith herself has not been identified in the 1851 census. Neither have William, Rachel, Eliza nor Joseph.
There is a possible record for James Pearce junior. A person of that name born in Warminster appears in the census aged 23, living in Holborn and working as a porter in an iron foundry.
Louisa moves to work for her brother-in-law in Yeovil in Somerset and then to Cardiff
There is an 1851 record for Louisa. She is listed as the servant of William Seward, a glover, living in Yeovil, Somerset. Her birthplace is given as Warminster and her age as 17. From birth and marriage records we have deduced that William’s wife Ann was Louisa’s half-sister.
Church marriage records from October 1826 for Louisa’s parents give Edith’s surname as Skane and further church records show that Edith had been married previously in 1821 to a Joseph Scane.
Joseph died in May 1826. When Edith married Joseph, her previous surname was given as Carr and the birth registration of Louisa’s youngest brother Joseph in 1838 confirms that Carr was their mother’s maiden name.
During their short marriage Joseph Scane and Edith had two sons – George b. 1822 and Charles b. 1823. Charles died in 1839 and George married early in 1841 which explains why they are not to be found with their mother and the Pearce family at the time of the 1841 census.
Ann was born in 1819, prior to Edith’s marriage to Joseph. By 1841, she was a dressmaker aged 25 in Yeovil. There is a Frome St John baptism record for her that names her parents as William and Edith Carr. However, it has not been possible to trace any further records for a William Carr that match this date and location. Moreover, when Ann Carr married William Seward in 1844 the space for her father’s name on the certificate was left blank.
William and Ann had four sons William (1845-1894), John (1847-1915), Samuel (1850-1941) and Edwin (1854-1924) and one daughter Ann (1859-1861). William, a science teacher and Congregationalist minister, and Edwin, an architect, were to become prominent residents of Cardiff.
Louisa Pearce is found in the 1861 census, still living with the Seward family in Yeovil, now a boarder aged 27 and a Leather Glove Finisher.
In 1871, she appears in the Wales census living in the Royal Arcade, Cardiff as a Kid Glove and Picture Dealer. Included in the same household is Edwin Seward aged 17, the youngest son of William Seward and an architect’s assistant. Edwin and Louisa’s relationships to the head of the family are stated to be son and sister-in-law which were their relationships to William Seward.
However, William is not recorded in Cardiff so we assume he was at the family home in Yeovil. Unfortunately, the page of the return that would have had his name on it is missing from Ancestry.
We know from newspaper advertisements that following his participation in a Fine Arts and Industrial Exhibition held in Cardiff in August and September 1870, William announced that he would be trading ‘for a short time’ in Old Masters and in gloves from 18 Royal Arcade starting in October 1870. His glove-selling business was last advertised on 1st May 1871, so probably this was only ever intended to be a short-term venture to use up stock left over from the exhibition.
William Seward and his family
Although William Seward had started his working life as a glover, by the time of the 1881 census he was describing himself as a Picture Collector and in 1891 as an Art Dealer. A report of his death in the South Wales Daily News at the age of 76 in 1899 said that he had been a collector for 40 years.
William was successful in his dual career and his estate was worth £4,600 (about £500,000 at 2021 values). Given that William had three sons still living it is possibly significant that the sole executrix of the estate was his second wife Elizabeth Perkins who had been first recorded in his household as a 21-year-old glove finisher in 1871.
By 1881 she was a domestic servant and by 1891 her status was ‘Housekeeper’. Ann died in 1888 and William and Elizabeth married in 1894.
Louisa in London and her marriage to James Stace
After 1871, Louisa was next sighted in 1880 some way from Yeovil or South Wales in London and she is no longer working for William.
In 1881, Ann Seward had been recorded by the census in the household of her eldest son William in Cardiff whilst William snr was at home in Yeovil with Elizabeth Perkins. We may be tempted to speculate about whether Ann was on a temporary visit to Cardiff or if there was a degree of estrangement between her and her husband which might have had some impact on her half-sister Louisa’s relationship with him.
However, if there was an estrangement it appears not to have lasted as according to the National Probate Calendar Ann died at the family home in Yeovil and William snr was the executor of her will.
In the 1881 Census, William gave his occupation as picture collector rather than glover, so he just may no longer have had work for Louisa.
An advertisement in the Western Gazette in December 1879 suggests that he had already made this change of direction a couple of years earlier.
By 1880, Louisa’s oldest and youngest brothers, James and Joseph, were both living in London so she may have decided to join them.
On the 20th of September 1880, Louisa Pearce married James Stace, at the church of St Mary, Lambeth. According to the marriage certificate Louisa was a spinster aged 42 – she was actually 45 and is routinely recorded as being two or three years younger than her actual age from this point on. James was a 50-year-old widower – he is actually 52 so also seems to have a shaved a couple of years off his age. He was a Coffee Housekeeper living in Lower Marsh, near Waterloo Station, and was previously married to Naomi Peirce who died in 1875. They had had five children born between 1855 and 1869.
The following year, the 1881 Census records James age 54 and Louisa age 44 living at 7 Lower Marsh with James’s two youngest children, James junior aged 13 and Ellen aged 10. The household also includes a female servant and four male lodgers.
By the time of the 1891 census James and Louisa have moved a mile or so eastward to Southwark Street Peabody Buildings, near Southwark Bridge. James is now at the age of 63 a labourer. Louisa’s age is given as 53.
James died in Q2 1897 aged 69.
In 1898 Louisa appears on the electoral register living in Red Cross Street, Southwark, a short distance from the Peabody Buildings.
Louisa reunited with her sister Rachel in Buckland Dinham near Frome
The 1901 census tells us that Louisa has been reunited with her sister Rachel in Buckland Dinham near Frome, Somerset. Rachel had married widower Robert Turk, a farm labourer, in 1852 and they have had four children. Robert had previously had one child with his first wife. The family lived in Frome for many years before moving a few miles north to Buckland Dinham some time before 1891.
In 1901 the household consisted of Robert aged 80, a pauper; Rachel aged 73; Emily Sparrow aged 8, the daughter of Robert and Rachel’s first-born, Louisa Mary, who had sadly died in 1896; and Louisa aged 64, also a pauper. Earlier censuses show that Rachel cared for their brother William between at least 1861 and 1891. William is described in the censuses, using the unfortunate terminology of the time, as an ‘idiot’ or ‘imbecile’.
Robert died in 1902 and Rachel in Q1 1907.
Louisa is admitted to Somerset and Bath County Asylum and then Long Grove Asylums
Louisa was admitted on 4th April 1907 to Somerset and Bath County Asylum, Mendip, Wells.
Her case notes, which include a photograph (above), are held in the Somerset Archive by the South West Heritage Trust.
Sadly, the notes tell us that she was suffering severely from dementia and that her condition was exacerbated by blindness.
The notes end by recording her transfer to Long Grove Asylum on 13th August 1907. She died there on 3rd March 1908.
1Yeovil had been a centre for glove-making from the 14th century onwards. The industry expanded very rapidly in the 1830s and 40s and continued as a major source of employment in the town until it declined after WW2 with the last major manufacturer closing in 1989.
2 Scane was the spelling used by Joseph when he signed his church marriage certificate. Records for him and his sons use both spellings.
3 State registration of births, marriages and deaths began in England in 1837.
4 Marriage certificate uploaded to Ancestry by John and Judy Fesnock, Pahrump, Nevada, USA.
5 Grateful thanks are due to Jenni Llewellen for visiting the Somerset Archive to make copies of Louisa’s case notes.