Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Showing posts with label Cable Street. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cable Street. Show all posts

Friday 5 January 2024

Job Sweeney and Eliza Louisa Tompson

Globe Road, Bethnal Green
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Stephen McKay -
Very much a part of the traditional East End, Globe Road runs north from Stepney Green station to Roman Road, and then on to this northern stretch up to Old Ford Road. 

Job Sweeney (b. 6 Feb 1870), son of John Henry Charles Sweeney and Susannah Harvey, married Eliza Louisa Tompson (b. 24 Aug 1868), daughter of Dan Tompson and Mary Ann Green, on 5 Jan 1893, at the Parish Church of St Anthony, Globe Road, Stepney. (The church of Saint Anthony stood in the borough of Bethnal Green, but was part of the rural deanery of Stepney. It closed in 1936 and the building was demolished in 1937.) Both claimed to be 24 and both gave their address as 3 Monteagle Street, Stepney. 

Their only son, Job Thomas Sweeney (right), was born at 25 Monteagle Street, Stepney (which further research suggests was a boarding house) on 27 Aug 1897 (registered Job Thomas Sweney 1897 D Quarter in MILE END OLD TOWN Volume 01C Page 499, with mother's maiden name TOMPSON) and baptised at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, on 19 Sep 1897.

In 1901, Job Sweney (sic) (33) Warehouseman, Eliza Sweney (sic) (32) and Job Sweney (sic) (3), were living at 8, Repton Street, Limehouse

My mother always claimed that her father and grandmother, Eliza Louisa, had been living in Sidney Street at the time of the Siege of Sidney Street, or Battle of Stepney that took place in January 1911. Improbable, though not impossible, but I can find no records to support this. Eliza Louisa was well away from the area when Cable Street (where she was born) had it's own battle in 1936.

By the time of the census on 2 April 1911, the family were living at 102 Fore Street, in the City of London. They lived in a flat above the warehouse that came with the job, where Job Sweeney (41) was employed as Packer and Caretaker; Eliza Louisa Sweeney (41), Job Thomas Sweeney (13) and Amy Dobson (19) Domestic Servant, Friend (Amy Dobson b. 1892, was the sister of Ruth Christmas Dobson, wife of Job's brother Charles Sweeney.) 

In 1921, Job Sweeney (51) Packer, was still living and working at 102, Fore Street, City of London, for Hoffnung & Co Shipping Merchants; with wife, Eliza L Sweeney (52) and son, Job T Sweeney (23) Warehouseman, working for Wills & Co (W.D. & H.O. Wills) at their Holborn Viaduct factory (for whom he eventually worked for around 36 years.) (Calling herself Amy Margaret Dobson (29) Charwoman, in 1921 - no idea where the Margaret came from - living at 102, Hind Street, Poplar, this census tells us she was working for Messrs Hoffnung & Co Ltd at 102 Fore Street, City, E C.)

Press Gangs and the King’s Shilling: Job Sweney (sic) died, on 6 December 1924, aged 54 (1924 D Quarter in HENDON Volume 03A Page 374), and as family stories go, this has to be one of the best (as in the myth is about as far away from the truth as it's possible to get), but also one of the saddest. 

My mother won't have known her grandfather, as he had died when she was only a few months old, but throughout her life, she recounted this story so many times it would be impossible to count: The story went that Job Sweeney had been "press ganged" into the navy no less than three times. Once would be unlucky, you'd have thought. Anyway, this account, undoubtedly passed down to her by her grandmother, Eliza Louisa Sweeney, was further embellished with the assertion that Job liked his drink rather too much, hence was always in the pub and the worse for wear and, therefore, had been tricked, in serial fashion, into taking the King's Shilling

All absolute poppycock, of course, like most family stories are.

As I say, I'd heard and nodded along to the retelling of this story umpteen times, but never really considered or questioned it. It wasn't until I met the current 'him indoors' who knows his military history, who immediately said "wrong century", that it became obvious the whole thing was invention.

With hindsight, I can see where it will have come from. Job's father was a dock labourer (sometimes listed as a stevedore); his great-grandfather a mariner and many of their ancestors were sailors, ship's carpenters and shipwrights. Eliza Louisa's family ran pubs around the London docks. They'll have grown up with 'press gang' stories and other seafaring folklore.

Having spent his entire life in the East End, it was finding that his death had been registered in Hendon that made me dig further in order to solve the mystery. It even crossed my mind that holidays 'At His Majesty's Pleasure' might well have explained these absences that we were all led to believe were when he was 'at sea', but it was not so. Having ordered his death certificate, this confirmed that the actual place of death was Colindale Hospital.

Built originally as the The Central London District Sick Asylum in 1898-1900 - to provide care for the sick poor in London, separate from the workhouse - in 1919, it was taken over by The Metropolitan Asylums Board and used as male TB sanatorium. The cause of Job Sweeney's death was given as 'Pulmonary Tuberculosis, Certified by Marcus Patterson MD.' 

Dr. Marcus Sinclair Paterson (1870–1932) was the medical superintendent of the Colindale Hospital for Pulmonary Tuberculosis, Hendon. "Here Paterson made valuable innovations in the symptomatic treatment of advanced cases", says his obituary in the BMJ. He developed a system of treatment called 'graduated labour'. "He has described how his observations on out-patients led him to the idea of introducing manual work, as well as walking, into the sanatorium regime, with the hope of fitting his patients for immediate return to their work, and of successfully meeting the charge that sanatoriums turned out work-shy loafers." (Not unlike attitudes today, because victim blaming is a whole lot cheaper than doing research and actually treating the sick. Looks like we can see who was originally responsible for ideas that led to the much maligned, ineffective and harmful Graded exercise therapy (GET) too.)

So, we can deduce that the "press gang" story was made up to explain a series of absences, which were probably stays for 'treatment' - forced work when you're already too ill to do your normal work - at the sanatorium. And the saddest part is this tells us that, so strong was the social stigma attached to TB that families preferred to paint their nearest and dearest as 'feckless, drunken, work-shy', etc., rather than admit they had an infectious, then incurable, disease undoubtedly contracted through no fault of their own. 

Eliza Louisa Sweeney with her granddaughter, Ivy. Edited with ImageColorizer

The internet isn't just useful for looking up dry-and-dusty old genealogy records, there is so much more to discover. Take this for example. Among lots of family photos I inherited from my mother and hers before her was one of my mother and her grandmother, Eliza Louisa Sweeney (née Tompson), taken in the 1930s (my mother was 15 in 1939, so I estimate this is close to then). Only because there was a distinctive looking window on a building that looked like a church in the background behind them, it peaked my interest and I thought I would try to find out where the photo had been taken.

At that time, my mother, her parents and grandmother, still lived in the City of London, in Fore Street. It didn't look like anywhere I knew around there, but then it got a bit altered in the interim. I'd also tried the facility to Search with an image on Google, but it just told me it was a snapshot. Duh! 

Eventually, I asked the The East of London Family History Society Group for help, but whilst they weren't able to answer, members made many useful suggestions that led to more searches ... that finally turned up images of the Trinity Methodist Church, Clacton-on-Sea, which perfectly fit the round window, as well as other elements of the architecture. As confirmation, they sent me a link to this map of Clacton (Revision of 1939), which shows the position of the post box (marked L.B.) that you can see behind them. 

Trinity Methodist Church, Clacton-on-Sea
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © JThomas -

So, from this, we can deduce that, since this church is in the background, then they must be walking down Pier Avenue (shown here in c. 1925), in the direction of the sea front and pier and, as they lived in the East End, they can only have been on a day trip (no, I don't suppose they were flush enough for a whole holiday!) to Clacton-on-Sea. I'd wondered what they were up to that was special enough - in those pre-selfie days - for a photo. Now I know.

Mind you, "... if you stood where they were walking now you'd get mown down by the traffic, those trees, hedges and post box long gone too."

In 1939, Eliza Louisa was still living at 102 Fore Street with her son Job and his wife, Elizabeth (Bet) and granddaughter, Ivy, and remained there until their home was destroyed in WWII, thought to have been on or around the night of 29–30 Dec 1940, the so-called Second Great Fire of London.

Eliza Louisa Sweeney, otherwise Sweney (as it says on her death certificate), died on 13 Feb 1953 (1953 M Quarter in ROMFORD Volume 05A Page 846) from coronary thrombosis, influenza, chronic bronchitis and old age, at 84.