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WRIGHT, Eliza

b.1861-d.1910

1860s

Eliza’s maiden name was Rhodes and her parents were Richard and Sarah Rhodes. I have been unable to accurately trace their marriage, although it could have been prior to the birth of her older sister Mary Ann, in the quarter of June, 1860, in Rotherhithe. This has been verified by tracing her sister Mary Ann Rhodes’s story as she is the person named on the workhouse records as will be seen later.

Eliza’s birth was registered in the September quarter of 1861 in Rotherhithe. No trace of her baptism can be found or that of her siblings so they may have been non-conformists, although all seem to have married in Church of England churches.

1870s

In April 1871, by the time of the Census, it can be seen that the family had grown further. They were living at 58 Cross Street in Deptford. Father Richard, aged 43, was a bricklayer from Leeds, and her mother Sarah was aged 40, from St Andrews, Middlesex. The area contained mixed housing and was neither poor or affluent.

The children of the family are listed as Mary Ann (10), Eliza (9), Frederick (8), Henry (7), Emma (5), Elizabeth (4), and Charles (1), all from Rotherhithe.

1880s

By the time of the 1881 Census, Eliza had left home and was working as one of two domestic servants for a Mr Isaac Berrow at 14 Shardeloes Road in Deptford. She was 18 years old. Mr Berrow was, according to newspaper accounts, a musician from Malvern in Worcestershire and a Representative of Pianoforte for Pleyel Piano’s. To have two servants, it seems he was a fairly successful man.

1890s

On 9th February 1890, Eliza married John William Wright, aged 29, who was a coal porter of 6 Salisbury Row, Walworth. They married at St John The Evangelist Church. Eliza’s sister Emma was one of the witnesses. John states his father was James, who was deceased. It has been difficult to establish who his family members actually were. Eliza’s father had died the previous year but is not shown as being deceased on the marriage certificate.

The following year, at the time of the Census, finds the couple at 41 Rotherhithe New Road sharing a property with another couple. This area appears to be mixed. John is shown as a dock corn labourer from Bermondsey. This is the last we see of John being associated with Eliza.

1900s

The next time Eliza can be traced is in the 1901 Census at 40 Rotherhithe New Road, living with her widowed mother Sarah, who is now aged 70. Eliza is aged 39, described as married and a worker at a jam factory. This was probably E & T Pinks in Staple Street, Rotherhithe. This was, in 1894, the largest jam manufacturer in the world. There were many accidents there and the woman worked long hours and were poorly paid. Glass jars would explode and many women were scalded by the boiling hot jam. There is no sign of John Wright and Sarah has given her surname as Rhodes.

On 8th July 1906, Eliza is a witness at the wedding of her widowed sister Mary Ann to Henry Arnold at All Saints Church in Rotherhithe, so she seems to be close to her sister at this point.

1910s

Eliza’s mother Sarah dies in January 1910 and it can be assumed that shortly afterwards on 25th January 1910, Eliza is admitted to St Olave’s Workhouse in Southwark. Her relative being named as her elder sister Mary Ann Arnold of 17 Oldfield Road, Rotherhithe. She is described as “alleged insane”. She is discharged a week later on 31st January 1910 to Horton Hospital, so they must have assessed her and quickly ascertained she needed long term help. It is here on 25th August 1910 she sadly dies and is buried on 1st September 1910 in the Horton Estate Cemetery Grave number 849b.

Author’s thoughts

Eliza seems to have had a fairly uneventful life being born into a working family who lived in what was described as “mixed” areas so not desperately poor but not wealthy either.

She went into service which was what was expected at that time and there was nothing remarkable about her marriage in 1890 to John Wright. He appears as a shadowy figure, difficult to trace with any certainty. I cannot find any evidence of children born to the marriage and within ten years, Eliza is with her mother.

In 1901 she is employed and no doubt working in a tough environment. There is no sign of what is to come. In 1906 she was a witness at her sister’s wedding which suggests she was still well at this time.

It appears that her mother’s death had something to do with her admission to the workhouse on 25th January 1910. The mental decline could have started before her mother’s death or it could have been as a result of her mother’s death. We cannot tell. It only took a week to consign her to Horton Hospital for the remainder of her life so she must have been in a poor state of health. She died seven months later on 25th August 1910, being buried in Horton Estate Cemetery on 1st September 1910.


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