The topics for the May weeks include Social, Food & Drink, Textile and Yearbook. In this post I look back at the details I have gathered about my Welsh ancestor. The places they lived, worked and worshipped; and imagine their social lives.
Mary Ann Robinson (Evans)
Great Grandmother Mary Ann Evans was born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales in May 1833. I have been researching her life to build a picture of this welsh woman with whom I instinctively feel connected. When she was baptised on 24 May, the family was living at Shut Street, and her father David was a Laborer. Shut Street is a short walking distance from St Mary’s Church where the baptism took place. It was the baptismal place for most of Mary’s six siblings.
My own birthplace was at the Cardiff Hospital, Wales in 1945. My very early childhood was spent in Eglwys Brewis near St Athan in South Wales in a modest but comfortable house – so I was told. (Note: Eglyws = Church. Eglwys Brewis is a village in the Vale of Glamorgan in south Wales.) This was at the end of World War 2 and we were soon to travel back again to England to our home in Kingston. My Dad was stationed at the RAF base at St Athans, so this village was ideally located for the family.
Mary’s mother, Lettice Day, was born on a farm at Pantygarn, Eglywawrw in 1808. Lettice’s husband, David Evans was born in Sutton, in the Vale of Glamorgan, in 1807 and was listed as an Ag Lab in the 1851 census. Lettice and David married in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire in 1828. It took me quite a while to trace their marriage certificate and to then trace their Welsh heritage further back in time. Mary was the eldest child of their family living in Haverfordwest.
Mary’s family background is peppered with references to those in manual labour occupations, prevalent in Wales in that era. Her grandfather, George Evans, was both Mason’s Labourer and Rope Maker. Her siblings were Shoemakers and her husband was a Gamekeeper.
After searching in vain for more details about Mary I resort to researching her name and birthplace. I recently received a little story of the history of the Evans name from a fellow Ancestry.com genealogist – here it is:
Evans is of Welsh origin. In its anglicised form, the name means “son of Evan”. Regarding its Welsh roots, it is a derivative of the name Ifan, a cognate of John.
It is a misconception that the name Evans is a patronymic name. The name does refer to Evan-S, meaning son of John, however, in this case, the name refers to the fact that many Welsh were late converts to Christianity, and around the 3rd Century AD, a huge evangelical conversion began. Converted followers took the name of Son of John (the Baptist), in reference to the John the Baptist as the baptiser of Jesus Christ, and considered it a cornerstone of Christian conversion. It is possible that later some did take it as being the son of their father called Evan (John), but the extended use of religious forenames being converted into surnames by the addition of “s” of Son (Jackson, Johnson, etc) does not account for the huge popularity of this name in this part of the world (South Wales).
In the Welsh language the patronymic “ab Evan”, results in the surname “Bevan”, which is also common in Wales.
Mary’s Occupation and Social Life
Research for Mary indicates she was employed as a servant prior to her marriage.
There is little to tell of Mary’s life between the 1841 and 1861 census except for her whereabouts and her occupations in and around Pembroke. It seems that at the age of 17 she was employed as a House Servant at one of the large farms in Warren, Pembrokeshire.
According to Wikipedia, Pembroke literally means lands end. The main point of interest in the town is the magnificent Pembroke Castle, the remains of a stone mediæval castle which was the birthplace of King Henry VII of England.
Mary is later recorded in the 1861 census as an unmarried visitor at 60 Black Horse Inn, in St Michael’s, Pembroke. Could this possibly be the place where she met my Great Grandfather, George Robinson? My imagination now creates a picture of such a meeting and begins to fill in the missing pieces of the history puzzle. Perhaps Mary was returning to Pembroke whilst taking leave from her live-in job at Warren, an ancient parish in the community of Stackpole and Castlemartin, in the most southerly part of Pembrokeshire, Wales.
I wondered if anyone in Mary’s family was a singer? In searching for interesting snippetts from the old Welsh Newspapers I found reference to a David Evans, a singer, however this was not the David Evans in our family. The newspaper article was of interest though, and I include it below for your enjoyment. (Note: I needed to translate from the Welsh to English language, using Google Translate.)
Mr. David Evans. More than one Welsh singer bears this name, but there is only one David Evans, a superior Welsh Baritone, at Llund31 ^ Here we find an example of a singer who has built a coal mine, and through hard labor and study, we are forced to a great deal of England and Wales 1 admit its excellence. Mr. was born Evans of Ponterwyd, near Aberystwyth. His father’s miner y ^ ° ffv. When work became scarce, the family moved to Blaengarw (Morganwg), where there was a romantic scene. David worked in the colliery until 1896, when he went 1 London. His father was a singer, and he conducted the song in the rugged Methodist chapel. Mr. David Evans belonged to Go Glyndwr Richards, until the leader moved to Mountain Ash. He often competed at this time, and attended for successJI rarely lost, as he did not apply unless “the song suited him. (This is the important lesson of competitors I). He was victorious in the IS” Merthyr National Eisteddfod in 1901 , and through this he gained considerable attention about broadleaf, all over the country. He sang at the Queen.0 Hall, and other important places with Davies, Ffrangcon Davies, & c. After that1 he devoted all his time to music calls »and went to the Royal College. He studied recitation, & c., Under Francis Davies, and in 190 the Gilbert Betjemann won a Gold Medal for 4 operas. Falstaff, with regard to the singer and the ‘az’ Q Mr. Evans, in this way, has proved his passion and the highness of his objectives in the Devolution world.https://newspapers.library.wales/view/3226644/3226648/22/David%20Evans
Mary Ann in England
Marriage Banns were posted for Mary Ann Evans and George Robinson in Croydon, Surrey, England where George Robinson was born. This would have been quite an adventure for Mary Ann to leave her home county in Wales and travel the 270 miles to Croydon, England.
The marriage date for George and Mary was 5 June 1859 and the marriage took place at the All Saints Church in Croydon, Surrey. The occupations of both their parents; fathers George Robinson and David Evans are listed as Labourers. It is clear that Mary Anne was not formally educated and could not write her name. Her mark is shown on the marriage certificate instead. One of the witnesses to their marriage is the sister of George Robinson, Ellen Dolling. Her story is included in this past post: Week 11: Flowers.
The 1861 census reveals the young couple, George and Mary, living at 108 St James Road, Croydon. George Robinson is employed as a Railway Inspector for Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate according to the 1871 and 1881 census records. More details about the men and women employed by the Imperial Railway can be located online but I need to know which company. More research reveals the history of railway development in Wales. This site offers a couple of short videos on the two main lines Ffestiniog and the Welsh Highland Railway.
Married Life in Croydon
The 1871 census reveals Mary aged 37 living in Croydon with George aged 32 and it lists their children as follows: George aged 9, Elizabeth aged 3, and Edith Mary aged 1. My Grandmother Mary Jane was born the year after this census was taken, in 1872. The social scene in Croydon in the 1870s was typical of the Victorian period – romanticism, mysticism, and a resistance to rationalism. In 1871, just a year after the France expelled its emperor, republican sentiments grew in Britain.
After Prince Edward recovered from typhoid, the Queen decided to give a public thanksgiving service and appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. This was the start of her return to public life.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_era
The 1881 census shows George as a Railway Inspector and their son George as a Builders Clerk. Their address is now 180 Gloucester Road, Croydon, a two-bedroom terraced house. Mary Jane, their eldest daughter, is not included in this census return.
Industrialisation brought with it a rapidly growing middle class whose increase in numbers had a significant effect on the social strata itself: cultural norms, lifestyle, values and morality. Identifiable characteristics came to define the middle-class home and lifestyle.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_era
By 1891 George and Mary had moved to number 70 Gloucester Road, Croydon, a two storey semi-detached town house. Just the two of them appeared on this census.
Ten years later we see them still at number 70 Gloucester Road, living on their own means and a boarder by the name of John Baker. This suggests to me that they were living comfortably without the need for government pensions.
George died in 1907.
In the 1911 census, Great Grandmother Mary Ann Robinson was living alone and records the number of children born to her at six, and the number still living by 1911 as four; and the number of children deceased as two. New research to find out which two of her children had died revealed that sons George Edward and William Howard died prior to the 1911 census.
By 1921 Mary Robinson (widow of 88 years) was living with her (widowed) daughter Edith Howells (Cutting) at her home at 70 Gloucester Road, Croydon; along with Edith’s daughter Evelyn, Mary’s grandson Frank.
Grandmother Mary Ann Robinson died about Feb 1926 at the grand age of 94 years in Croydon, Surrey, England. She had come a long way from her birth place in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, Wales. I wished I had known her!
I have been researching the lives of her parents, Lettice Day and David Evans. Some detail is included in this past post: Week 10: Worship.