Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Emma Barton, Bram Stoker's 15-year-old parlourmaid in 1881

The 1881 census showed the Stokers living in Chelsea, London, at 27 Cheyne Walk. In the household we saw Bram, his wife Florence, their baby son Irving Noel, Bram's brother, George, and three servants: Emma Barton, Harriett Daw, and Elizabeth Jarrald.

Bram Stoker and family in the 1881 census (link)

In a moment, we'll take a closer look at the servants, starting with Emma, the youngest.

Looking at the censuses over the decades, and at the other records that pop up on Ancestry.co.uk without much search effort required, here's what I have pieced together.

Of course there are gaps, but my aim is not to be encyclopedic. It's more to see what we can find out from the primary sources, without much work or expense.

I have access to all the records on Ancestry because I pay for the full meal deal every year as my big Christmas present to myself. Sometimes I link to pages on there that might not be visible unless you're signed in and have access to the records. However, I won't leave you wondering. Where I can't be sure everyone can follow the link, I will include the information here.

OK, on with Emma.

Emma Barton, Housemaid to Bram Stoker and family in 1881, in Chelsea, age 15

Emma Barton was born in late 1865, it appears, in Woodford, Essex. Her birthplace is also listed as Walthamstow sometimes. Her parents were John Barton, a gardener, and his wife Sarah. Family trees that I have not tried to verify show Sarah's last name was Wilby, and that she died in 1880.

Here is the current Google Map showing Walthamstow and to the east of it, Woodford. The City of London is to the south-west.

(Map not visible? Here is a link to the same thing on Google.)

View Larger Map

Emma was christened Emma Louisa, though the name Louisa doesn't come up in the census records I've seen, so I assume she always went by Emma. She had an elder sister, Harriett, and an elder brother, William. The other six children were younger.

What I have found for Emma boils down to this. She apparently lived at home with her parents and all the other children until the 1881 census, which would have occurred just a year after her mother died. At the age of 15, in 1881, Emma was the housemaid for the Stokers in London. How she got that particular job is a mystery to me. I expect there were well-established ways of hiring servants, and I also expect that with a little research on my part, I could probably find books on the topic.

What I imagine, from whatever I've absorbed of English 19th century life by osmosis, is that "good servants are hard to find", that girls in service at this young age had to be trained up, and that the lady of the house would have been to a certain degree responsible for that training. It wasn't necessarily the job of the senior servants, though I imagine they would have had quite a big role. But Florence, Mrs. Stoker, would have been the one to set the standard she expected the servants to maintain.

I don't know for certain that this was Emma's first job. Given her age and the timing of her mother's death, I'm guessing it may well have been.

What happened to Emma?
I can only partly answer this question.

In 1891, she was single, and working as a waitress. My guess is it was at a relative's coffee house in West Ham. On census night, she was a visitor in the household of Thomas Barton and family at 280 Victoria Dock Road, West Ham. Thomas may have been a relative, though in the census, Emma is called a visitor rather than a niece, for example. Thomas was a Coffee House Keeper, hence my speculation.

The census doesn't say where Emma actually lived, only where she was on census night.

Here is a link to the Google Maps Street View for 280 Victoria Dock Road, approximately, today. There is a hotel at that address now. The Street View may open at a slightly different spot, where there are some older buildings. Whether they were there in 1890, though, I can't tell.

Here's the Street View that the link should take you to.

View Larger Map

In the 1902 business directory for the area, Thomas Barton has "dining rooms" at 280 Victoria Dock Road.

Emma Barton in 1901: More responsibility

By ten years later, it looks like Emma has moved on, and who knows how many jobs and homes she may have had in between. The 1901 census shows her as the senior servant, the Cook, in the household of a Jeweller (Leonard Reeder, or Needes, hard to make out) and his wife, in Willesden Green, still in London. There was a younger parlourmaid, age 22, working there too. Emma was still single in 1901, and by now, age 35.

What became of her after that, I don't know. I've seen at least one family tree saying she died some years later in Canning Town. I haven't seen proof of that. There is an Emma Barton who is married to a Mr. Barton, in the 1901 census, living in Canning Town. That's where the Thomas Barton Coffee House was so who knows? But, in 1901, Emma Barton formerly of the Stoker household was single and living in Willesden Green.

What happened to Emma Barton's family?

With such a large family, I took the easy route and didn't try to trace every single person. In broad brush strokes, it looks like the eldest daughter, Harriett, stayed home to care for the other children and the father, but by 1901, she was no longer with him. (In 1891, she is erroneously listed as the mother of the children who are still at home.) Some family trees (unverified) show her as getting married in 1892 and going on to have children with her husband.

The eldest boy, William, married and had a family living in Woodford / Walthamstow in 1901. He was a gardener, just like his father.

In 1891, the sixth child, Emily Mary Barton, then 20, was living in Woodford with an uncle, Frederick Barton, and also a Gardener, his wife, and their 15-year-old son.

Various family trees suggest that most of the children got married, and none died particularly young. The youngest, Florence Rhoda Barton, in 1901 was the housemaid for George Moss, a 44-year-old Jeweller, and his sister, Frances, age 38, both of whom were single. They lived at 35 Addison Road North in Kensington, which is not far from Holland Park and looks like quite a nice neighbourhood.

Emma's father, John Barton, was in 1901 living as a Boarder with an 80-year-old widow named Charlotte Stringer, who kept a confectionery shop. This was in Lancing, Sussex. John, age 63, was working as a Gardener, with none of his children under the same roof.

The Barton family did seem to maintain a presence in the Woodford area.

Emma, however, was on her own it seems, working as a servant and living in other people's homes, perhaps for the rest of her life. Or maybe she got married in her late 30s or later. It's not out of the question.

Dracula was published in 1897, after Emma had long departed the Stoker household. Did she ever dine out on stories of living with the famous author? Who knows, but I expect some of the past servants much surely have enjoyed bragging about their association, at least a little.

This article is one in an ongoing series, starting with Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, in public records.

Next: Dracula's author, Bram Stoker, and family in the 1891 English census

1 comment:

  1. I think Emma was my great grandmother's sister. My great grandmother being Floremce Barton who had my grandmother Peggy Watkins.


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