Wednesday, 2 May 2018

With Gertie on Westmount Road in Eltham in 1915

Now I like picture postcards, not just because of the image on the front but because of the message on the back.

Sometimes they are short and to the point but often they take you off in all sorts of directions and along the way tell you much about what was going on in Eltham at the time.

And so it is with this one.

It was sent by Gertie to E in 1915 from Westmount Road.

Now the house is still there on Westmount Road, and is an impressive double fronted property which according to the census return in 1911 had nine rooms.

And back in 1911 it was the home of Lewis St J R Clutterbuck, his wife Isabella, and their daughter Jessie along with their three servants, Mary and Elizabeth Jackson, and Louisa Mary Pim Casson.

Mary and Elizabeth were sisters from Essex and Louisa was from Suffolk.  Louisa was described as the parlour maid, Elizabeth the cook and Mary “child’s nurse.”

Not that there was anything much unusual in that, for Jessie was just two years old and Lewis was a Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery so I guess there was the usual degree of status to maintain and perhaps also a demanding social life for the two who had only been married  for three years.

And that is where the story could go off in all sorts of directions.

Lewis had been born in Dublin into an army family whose father in turn had been born in India.  In 1891 Lewis and his parents were stationed in Chester Castle, and a decade later Lewis aged 16  was training to be an officer in Woolwich.

So by 1915 t is possible the family had moved on again and they may not have been in Westmount Road when the young Gertie sent her postcard which announced “I like the nursery work so much better so have taken a nurse’s place 2 children."

It would be tempting to think she was now nurse to Jessie and another, but at present there is no way of knowing.

The street directories would help but I don’t at present have access to the ones for the period, nor do I have Lewis’s service record, although I think he survived the Great War to rise to the rank of Colonel in 1939.

And then there are other leads, E lived at Foxearth Hall in Sudbury which might suggest she too was a servant.

It is a simple enough piece of domestic history but which still has the opportunity to lead off down different paths.

But what I also like about the card is that little touch of humour reflected in Gertie’s after thought which just says, "Floss tells me post it now about time too?!!"

And post it she did sometime in the later afternoon.

Picture; from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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