Three Generations in Service


St John the Baptist, Midsomer Norton

Lydia Horler Emery was baptised at the parish church in Midsomer Norton on 10th January 1802, and was the third child of James and Abigail Emery. Following a brother and sister who had been named for their parents. Lydia was named after her paternal grandmother, Lydia Horler. James and Abigail (nee Rogers) had themselves been married at the same church on 31st May 1787, and although both are given as being “of this parish” in the banns, only Abigail seems to have been born and baptised in the town – in 1768.

James’ family had been settled in the parish of Ashwick, just north of Shepton Mallet for several generations. They were a literate family, James’ father and grandfather (both named James) had served as Parish Clerk. The grandfather had not been as assiduous a clerk as his son was to turn out to be. On two occasions the vicar wrote admonitions in the register blaming James for missing entries. Lydia later described her father as a farmer, but in later years her brother James appears as an agricultural labourer in the Census returns, and on his death certificate (1839) James senior was described as “Labourer”.


Just after her eighteenth birthday, on 20th March 1820 Lydia married Zachariah Gait of Chewton Mendip, again at Midsomer Norton parish church. Although heir to a prosperous yeoman family in his home village, Zachariah moved to Norton sometime between the baptisms of their first child, John (October 1820 at Chewton) and daughter Phoebe (January 18th 1824 at Norton). His occupation was recorded in both Parish Registers as butcher. Possibly there was parental displeasure on the Gait side at the marriage, although they had previous connections: at the marriage of Zachariah’s parents in 1783, Lydia’s grandfather, James Emery was a witness. We do not know the reasons why the family remained in Norton – there was a Charles Gait, also a butcher, there in 1841, possibly Zachariah worked with a cousin. In any case, they did not seem to have stayed for long. Zachariah’s death is recorded on his parent’s gravestone (in Chewton churchyard) the date being given as being 8th April 1829. The parish register lists his abode as Chewton once more.

In 1836 John and Phoebe were left £10 each in the will of their great-aunt, Sarah Pearce, although neither had been mentioned in the will of their grandfather, Jeremiah Gait the year before. The 1841 Census finds Lydia and possibly Phoebe in service in London. Lydia was at 22 Upper Brook Street in Mayfair, the eldest female servant (possibly the housekeeper?) in the household of William Wrightson, MP for Retford & Northallerton. In the Census return, William is not in residence, although his wife, Georgiana was.

The family that Lydia served were long established landowners from Yorkshire. William Battie Wrightson was born in 1789, the eldest son of another William Wrightson (1752-1827) who had been High Sheriff of Yorkshire and MP for Aylesbury. The family seat was the impressive Cusworth Hall near Doncaster, which had been built by an earlier William Wrightson in 1742. The Upper Brook Street residence was the family’s town house, and William and Georgina are found there in later Census records.

The 1851 Census for Gilmerton House in East Lothian, just to the east of Edinburgh clearly shows Lydia Gaitt as the Housekeeper, born around 1806 in “Midsummer Norton, Somersetshire”. She is given as unmarried, but this may assume she was “single” or possibly female servants were expected to have no ties, so no searching questions were asked of them for Census purposes. The House was built in the mid eighteenth century by the Kinloch family, who live there to this day. It was the largest establishment that Lydia is known to have worked in.


Gilmerton House

In 1851 the head of the family was Sir David Kinloch, the ninth baronet, who appears at the head of the return along with his two daughters, Isabella and Elenor. His wife, Eleanor, Lady Kinloch had died in 1849. Gilmerton House had a much larger staff than the Wrightsons’ at Upper Brook Street (six servants in 1841, nine in 1851). As well as three members of the family (the son & heir was away at University) and two visitors, there were thirteen members of staff living in, and certainly others living around the estate.

Ten years later the 1861 Census was to find Lydia in another interesting household, again with a Scots family, but with a very different background. We can, at present, only “see” Lydia in Census years. There is no evidence how long she stayed with each employer, or if indeed she had many more in between Censuses. It can be assumed that no respectable family would employ a servant without a good “Character” (reference), so we can only wonder why she moved regularly, presumably having no trouble finding new employment.

Lydia’s new employer was Robert Dalglish Grant of Bury in Lancashire, the son of John Grant, a prosperous cotton and calico manufacturer, and her new position (again as Housekeeper) was at Nuttall Hall at Ramsbottom, just outside Bury. The photograph below shows her new place of work as it was in the early twentieth century. It has since been demolished.

The Grant family had come down from Scotland and settled in the Bury area earlier in the century, working in the cotton mills that were expanding rapidly in Lancashire. They later went into the retail side of the business and also purchased land and factories from Sir Robert Peel’s family. By the 1840s the four Grant brothers – William, John, Daniel and Charles were cotton magnates, each with their own grand establishment. John had rebuilt Nuttall Hall around 1817 and lived there with his family until his death in 1855. His two brothers, William and Daniel were well-known philanthropists in the area and were immortalized by Charles Dickens in his novel Nicholas Nickleby as the “Cheeryble brothers”. Again, it is not possible to know how long Lydia stayed at Nuttall Hall. Her new master, Robert was to die in four years time and the house came into the possession of his aunt, Isabella.

As a Housekeeper in such important households, Lydia would have had many and various duties, as well as some freedoms not available to other servants. The Housekeeper was one of the trio of senior servants who ran the establishment: the Butler was in charge of all the male servants, as well as the day to day attendance on the master of the house in person, and the other members of the family at meals and other gatherings; the Lady’s maid was responsible to the Lady of the household, being responsible for all her wardrobe, including personal laundry, and the comfort and appearance of her mistress; the Housekeeper’s duties included responsibility for all the other female servants and the general good running of the household. She would interview any prospective female members of the staff (excluding Lady’s Maid and Cook, when the Lady would have the decision) and ensure they carried out their duties to the letter. She would liaise with her mistress, possibly on a daily basis, regarding the household accounts, which concerned the supplies of food, linen and cleaning materials. She was responsible for all the purchasing of those requirements and the storage and economical use of them. In return Lydia would probably have more freedom in her life (constrained as it was by the demands of the household). She would be allowed a certain amount of free time, even brief “holidays”, denied to the lower servants. She would have had her own bedroom and a parlour, where she may have carried out her paperwork if a separate office was not available. She would have been waited on, in her turn, by the lesser servants and not required to do any dirty or menial work. According to Mrs Beeton in the 1861 edition of her Book of Household Management, she could have expected an annual salary of between £15-£25 with all found.


Glenusk Villa now LLanwysg

On October 20th 1869, Lydia married Joseph Richard Battey at St Cattwgs Parish Church in the village of Llangattock, just outside Crickhowell in Breconshire. She gives her profession as “Housekeeper” and her address as Lanysk. Joseph was a Carrier, living in Crickhowell; both were widowed.


We can place Lydia’s last place of employment as Glanusk Villa (now Llanwysg) near Llangattock, and part of the Glanusk Park Estate, home of the Legge- Bourke family who are descended from Sir Joseph Bailey, a South Wales Ironmaster. The Villa was the residence of the Hotchkiss family, in 1871 headed by Ann Hochkiss, the widow of John Hochkiss, a retired Commander in the Royal Navy. John was a Scot from Edinburgh and in previous years several of their servants had been Scots too, including Lydia’s predecessor, Mary Ingliss (or Ingles) who hailed from Berwickshire. The marriage certificate of Lydia and Joseph has, as witnesses, Edwin Barnett and Mary Pritchard. In the Glanusk Villa Census of 1871, there is an Edmund Barnett (Butler) and Mary Pritchard (Lady’s Maid).

Joseph Battey’s profession in previous Censuses was given as Fishmonger or Fishmonger & Carrier. It can probably be assumed he was the supplier of fish to the household and dealt with Lydia in her position as Housekeeper. Following the death of his wife earlier in the decade, no doubt the two of them discussed their widowhoods – Joseph’s children were all adults and the companionship of another was no doubt an attraction. Interestingly, Joseph was originally from London – could it be they had known each other from the 1840s?


The Marriage certificate of Joseph Battey and Lydia Gait 1869

They were living in High Street, Crickhowell on the 1871 Census, Joseph still given as a Carrier, with Lydia finally in retirement. They were given seven years together – Lydia dying, possibly of cancer, on 17th May 1876. Joseph followed in 1880, aged 79. He was buried with his first wife, but had provided Lydia with an impressive headstone dedicated to “my beloved wife”.


Phoebe Ann Gait was baptised in Midsummer Norton in January 1824 and four years later her father, Zachariah died at the early age of 29. At some stage she appears to have moved to London, presumably with her mother, Lydia. The 1841 Census shows a Phoebe Gote living in lodgings in Stafford Place, St Margarets, Westminster. She is sharing lodgings with Robert Sistorn, both are described as servants, and her age is about right (shown as 15, but ages over 10 were normally rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5 in 1841).

It is possible, of course she was just a servant to the householder, Thomas Cornwall, but the single mark between the Cornwalls and Phoebe & Robert Sistorn indicate a separate “household”, so Robert and Phoebe could be servants in other houses. Stafford Place is literally “round the corner” from Buckingham Palace and several inhabitants are in Royal service. Their neighbour next door is described as “Queens Footman”. Perhaps research in the Royal household records might prove interesting!


Marriage certificate of Stephen Bumstead and Phoebe Ann Gait

Just two years later, on 26th February 1823 Phoeba married Stephen Bumstead, a painter, plumber and glazier (all three trades were linked by the use of lead) at St Mary’s Whitechapel. The first child of Stephen and Phoebe, a son also named Stephen (my great grandfather) was born on 14th January 1844 at 41 Betts Street, near St George’s Church in Stepney. Stephen senior died on 31st May 1846 of Typhus Fever. His age is given as 46 and the family had moved north to Montague Street in Spitalfields. On the death certificate Stephen was a painter and glazier. Phoebe was by then expecting a second child, who was given the name Georgina Ellen Gait Bumstead at the registration of the birth in October 1846. Poor Phoebe was to suffer further grief as baby Georgina died at the age of 8 months on 22nd June 1847, but by then she appears to have remarried as her name on the death certificate was given as “Pheby Ann Rogers”.


The man whose name Phoebe had taken was George Rogers, a fellow immigrant to London from Somerset, who was almost certainly her first cousin. George was a carpenter who had come to the capital to find work (as Stephen Bumstead had moved from Ipswich). The city was rapidly expanding in the early nineteenth century and vast areas were under construction. George had married a local girl, Hannah Coles who died in March 1847, leaving George with a young son (also George). Perhaps it was a little unseemly to move in together so soon, but Victorians were practical people and two widows with young children no doubt saw the advantages of the relationship. George and Phoebe stayed in London for a short time, a daughter whom they also named Georgina Ellen Gait (Rogers) being born in the first half of 1848. By 1850 though, they had returned to Somerset, a second daughter, Lydia Ann being born in the village of Stanton Drew where the family was to stay for over forty years.

Only five years old when her father died and married and widowed by 22, Phoebe’s path through life had many twists and turns yet to come. After her return to Somerset with George Rogers, they were to have several more children. As well as Georgina Ellen and Lydia Ann there were Jemima Emily (1852), John Gait (1857), Alice Maud (1859), Hannah Selina (1862) Mary Jane (1864) and finally Phoebe Isabella in 1869. But, despite the change of surname, Phoebe and George did not marry until 1856. It seems they attempted to wed on two previous occasions. The banns for their marriage were called at St Saviours, Southwark in 1847 and 1852, but no marriage took place. Did one of Phoebe’s pregnancies or an illness interfere with the wedding plans? And why did they continue to go to Southwark after their return to Somerset? Perhaps they thought as the original banns had been called there, they had to marry in the same parish.


Marriage certificate of George Rogers and Phoebe Ann Bumstead 1856


George’s business properered, and by the 1881 Census he was described as a “Builder and Contractor”. John Gait Rogers had moved to Bath and was employed as a Grocer’s assistant, but tragedy was to strike the family in 1888/9. As well as their son John, the youngest daughter, Phoebe Isabella (always known in the family as Bella) had obtained employment in nearby Bath in 1883. She was employed as a shop assistant, living-in as was the norm in Victorian times, at Gardiner’s drapery shop in Stall Street. On the evening of Friday 6th July Bella and a newly arrived colleague, Annie Watts joined three young men in a boating trip up the river Avon to Bathampton. After refreshments at the George Inn, the party embarked for the return journey back to Bath. It was past ten o’clock and dark by the time they arrived and William Isaacs, who had been kneeling in the stern, complained of getting wet; as he stood up the boat capsized and each of the girls let out a scream as all five pitched into the water. Despite brave efforts from the males in the party, both girls as well as Willie Isaacs were drowned. Bella’s body was recovered the next day and her brother John had to identify her at the city morgue.

Just nine months later, John, who had recently taken on his employer’s grocery business, died of peritonitis after a short illness; he was 33. Two months later, in May 1889, no doubt crushed by events, George Rogers was buried alongside his parents and three of his children (an infant daughter had died twenty years earlier) in Stanton Drew churchyard.

The 1891 Census finds Phoebe, now a widow staying at the home of Ann Bush in Stanton Drew. She is given as a visitor, so we have no idea where her domicile was. Under occupation she is described as “living on own means”, so we must assume George left her comfortably off, even though his residual estate was only valued at £221. By 1901 however, another of those dramatic changes that mark her life had occurred. No doubt Stanton Drew held painful memories for her; her surviving daughters had married and moved away, so it may seem natural that she went to live near the one who was furthest from Somerset.


61Victoria Street, Horwich

1901 finds Phoebe Ann Rogers living at 61 Victoria Road, Horwich a town near Bolton in Lancashire. She is the head of the household, which includes a granddaughter, Mabel Maud Smith, aged 21 who was born in Gloucestershire and who gives her occupation as Milliner; and three boarders who are all engineers. Victoria Road had been built in 1880/1890s by the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway Co. to house its employees – one of whom, Thomas Clayton had married Phoebe’s daughter, Alice Maud in 1890.

The 1901 Census finds them living across the road from Phoebe at No 73, with their growing family, including their eldest son, John Gait Clayton. Mabel Maud Smith was the eldest daughter of Jemima Emily Rogers, who married Samuel Smith in 1877. The family lived in Cam in Gloucestershire and Samuel was a gardener and taxidermist.

Another of Phoebe’s daughters, Lydia Ann had married a Thomas Branfield and they had initially moved to Wales, like others of the family, seeking work in the collieries. Lydia and Thomas did not have any children and 1901 finds them in Horwich too, where he is a general labourer and Lydia a Monthly Nurse. By 1911 however, Lydia had followed her grandmother into service, being a housekeeper at the country retreat of William Lever (later Lord Leverhulme) and living at the Bungalow, Rivington which lies just to the north of Horwich. Thomas is described as a caretaker and a groom is also in residence. As it was only used for weekend and occasional entertaining purposes, their duties cannot have been too heavy, but Thomas failed in his when Edith Rigby, a noted Suffragette, carried out an arson attack on the property and it burned to the ground in July 1913. At the time of the attack it seems the Branfields were living in one of the lodges on the estate. Lever rebuilt the Bungalow (in stone rather the timber of the first building),and Lydia and Thomas were still there in 1915 when she is listed on the Roll of Midwives. They appear to have moved out by 1920 though.


South Lodge, Rivington


Phoebe Ann Rogers died at the home of her daughter, Alice Clayton on 22nd April 1914 at the age of 90.


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Stephen Bumstead

I'm retired and live in Devon, England. I have been researching my family for forty years and am also the OPC (online Parish Clerk) for Chewton Mendip in Somerset. I have helped transcribe registers for FreeReg and wills for Oxfordshire FHS.

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