When researching family history quite suddenly you can come across something which really resonates with you and is surprising as well.
My parents lived in the same little cottage in East Dulwich for over twenty-five years, having moved there just after World War 2. John, my brother, was born there.It was the home we grew up in.
The back bedroom window overlooked our small back yard, and slightly lower were the back gardens of the houses in Colwell Road. This road was a few yards down the main road and the first turning you came to if you turned left out of our gate. The gardens we could actually see into were probably those belonging to numbers two and three. Now read on.
On Christmas Day 1873 my great, great grandfatherâ€™s niece, Emily Noble, married Francis Paul, a shoe maker. The wedding took place at St.Johnâ€™s Church, Walworth. The couple began their married life in Reynolds Road, Peckham, moving to Oglander Road, East Dulwich, when they started their family.
Their family continued to grow so they moved to number 6 Colwell Road (off of Lordship Lane), where they had a workroom and a shop where they could sell the shoes and boots that they made. Francis taught Emily his craft, which stood her in good stead after his death in 1909.
By the 1890â€™s three of their daughters, Frances, Maud and Annie were dressmakers and another, Clara was a presser and packer. Mr Thomas Pottle, a clothing specialist had his own premises next door at number 4 Colwell Road.
In 1902 Maud married Andrew Brown and they set up home at number 2 Colwell Road and in 1903 Clara married Charles Cade and they moved into number 3 on the opposite side of the road.
Frances and Annie both married in 1906. Annie and her husband, a mathematical instrument maker moved to Adys Road, but Frances married Mr Pottle so of course lived at number four.
So there they all were making their livings by their crafts and they were by no means the first of the family to do so.
My great, great, great grandfather, Henry, in the 1830â€™s and 40â€™s had worked as a silk velvet weaver and his wife Sarah had been a tambour lace maker.
Nearly a hundred years later two of their great, great, granddaughters, my mother Violet and her cousin Rhoda were both superb dressmakers, Rhoda making my motherâ€™s wedding dress from scratch after seeing it displayed in one of Londonâ€™s top stores, and my mother making all her own clothes from lingerie to coats.
However now, these crafts, although extremely useful were hobbies.
After 1911 the years leading up to World War 1 and the war years shattered the Colwell road families, as it did many others. Thomas Pottle died on a Flanders Field.
However their time there is part of the rich tapestry of life in East Dulwich, and literally just a stoneâ€™s throw from the little house we grew up in.
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