Matilda and Her Visitor

When Jane Maria CORTIS married  45 year-old John Would PARKER in 1876 she still had fifteen years or so in which she might have borne his children. There is a third reason why none appeared. If you look at the two photographs of John posted a couple of days ago he doesn’t appear to be full of the joys. He had cause.

Matilda was his little sister, appearing when he was three years old. They lived on the family farm together for 25 years before she married George ROSE, who also farmed in Ludborough. She gave birth to three children in three years, Matilda Alice (1859), George Byron (1860) and John William (about August 1861).

Shortly after John William’s birth, Matilda Alice caught an infection caused by the Corynebacterium diphtheriae and she died in the middle of November. Diphtheria is a respiratory illness transmitted by droplets. Neither of her brothers contracted the disease. Her father did, and he died a couple of weeks after his daughter.

George Byron died two months before his third birthday. It is not clear if widow Matilda took her surviving boy with her when she crossed the Humber to Hull. Her state of mind may have been such that her mother and older siblings considered her unfit to look after him. In September 1864 she married John Henry LEE , a timber merchant three years her junior. The marriage was ended within a year – by divine intervention.

Had she not been taken, Matilda would have had to nurse her husband through a lingering illness until his death in January 1867, aged 31.

So much misery. But, back in Ludborough, Sarah Parker née WOULD, her eldest daughter Sarah Elizabeth, and yet to be married John Would Parker, gave infant John William Rose a home. The boy was at Manor House Farm in 1871 but when John married and brought Jane Maria home, he moved with Sarah Elizabeth to another house in the village. Sarah, a 57 year-old spinster in 1881, would surely have received help from her mother and brother in guiding the the young man towards adulthood, and perhaps Jane was an influence on him too. Whoever was responsible for his upbringing, they did a good job. He was an undergraduate at Cambridge University in 1881 and later worked as a solicitor for a number of years in London and Brentford. It appears he wasn’t a great success in his chosen profession. The 1911 census finds him at 63 Windsor Road, Ealing, working as a Merchant’s Clerk (in Condensed Milk and Starch). With him are wife Caroline Matilda and their son Wilfrid. (A second child had died in infancy.)

I have made some connections on FamilySearch. You can find John William on the Shared Tree and make your way back to John Would and Jane Maria. I think, maybe, that Jane’s husband had been so traumatized by Matilda’s experiences that he chose to remain childless. (He was executor of brother in law George’s will.) We can only guess what Jane thought of all this but it is understandable that, as a widow getting on in years, she traveled to the other side of the world to be with what was left of her birth family.

When I did some work on the Cortis family a few years ago, I thought John Would had gone to Australia with Jane and suggested as much in a note on the Shared Tree. I should have paid closer attention to the newspaper notice of her death in a Sydney newspaper.

Found at Trove

PARKER, John Wold (sic), Age at Death (in years): 63. GRO Reference: 1893 D Quarter in LOUTH Volume 07A Page 429.GRO Index Deaths

Nature Morte 15 · Seal

Jane Maria

She was the first child of Dr William Smithson CORTIS and Mary Jane née GREEN, baptised on the 5th of January 1846 in St Oswald’s Church, Filey. Her mother died when she was twelve and the household at census in 1861 shows signs of an extended family pulling together. Jane’s aunt Isabella Maria BOWES (her mother’s sister) was in residence with her second son Richard Taylor Bowes. The old salt, Richard Cortis, hale and hearty at 74, was visiting from Hull. Jane’s younger sister Alice Weddell Cortis was away on census night but her brothers were home – William Richard, 14, who became an MP in the Australian Parliament and would be tried for murder, and Herbert Liddell, 4, whose destiny was to cycle twenty miles in an hour before anyone else did. Three servants, all Lincolnshire born, completed the household in John Street.

It was in Lincolnshire that Jane found a husband. John Would PARKER was a farmer of 600 acres, employing 18 labourers and 6 boys in 1871. He was fifteen years older than Jane, in his mid forties when they married in St Mary’s Church, Newington (London) in 1876. They settled on the farm in Ludborough but were not blessed with children. They had dogs instead.

courtesy H F Morrice Collection

This photograph isn’t dated but was taken at Ludborough, I guess around 1890.

The enumerator in 1891 found the couple at “Lindens, Turnpike” near Louth. John was still farming, but possibly not 600 acres. He died  towards the end of 1893, aged 63. John’s spinster sister, Sarah Elizabeth, had lived with the couple for many years but she died a few months later. With all her surviving birth family scattered to the ends of the earth, Jane set off for Australia. Her father died in Manly on 15 September 1906 and she breathed her last in that place, 19 May 1911.

courtesy H F Morrice Collection

It isn’t certain that this is Jane Maria but the photographer was Willey of Louth, a town only six or seven miles from Ludborough. The wee dog could be significant.

Photographer C J Tear, 12 Clapham Road, London, no date, courtesy H F Morrice Collection

This is Jane and she seems to have an engagement ring and wedding band, so maybe the photo was taken in 1876, after her marriage and before she returned to Lincolnshire with her husband.

Photographer Rogers of St Leonards-on-Sea, no date, courtesy H F Morrice Collection

Jane seems to have filled out somewhat but John still looks youthful, though his mutton chops are greying. The photograph may have been taken while on their honeymoon (and Jane’s extra pounds are merely a fashion accessory).

The uncertainty about the identity of Jane in the second photograph seems justified if close attention is paid to the eyes, ears and nose of the lady with a whip. The features are noticeably different, though the overall shape of the face is similar.

What does it matter? I just hope that John and Jane’s seventeen years of marriage brought them much happiness. She was a widow for a year longer than that, and most of that time was spent in a foreign land. I wonder what her life was like in Australia.

Water 31 · Paddling Pool