Saturday, February 5, 2011

Harriett Daw, Bram Stoker's Cook in 1881. The problem of a small spelling error.

Bram Stoker was the author of Dracula, the famous vampire novel, published in 1897. From the early 1880s he lived in Chelsea, London, with his wife Florence.

Bram Stoker and family in the 1881 census (link)

The household in 1881 included Bram and Florence, their infant son Irving, and three servants. The youngest was Emma Barton, the 15-year-old Housemaid. I posted her story the other day.

The story of Emma Barton, Housemaid to Bram Stoker in 1881 (link)

Today I'll continue with the Cook, Harriet Daw, who was 21 and single in the 1881 census.

The problem with Harriett and spelling

I haven't found a matching Harriett Daw in the census or in the other easy records to find on Almost immediately, though, a Harriett Dew appeared. Off by one letter. Matching, sort of, as to place of birth. Matching as to age.

Other people's non-verified family trees have a Harriett Matilda Dew traced from birth to death, including marriage in 1882. Missing: an entry for the 1881 census. These gaps are also suggestive that the two Harrietts are actually one.

So, with a giant flashing red light warning that we may be talking about two different people, here is the story of Harriett Matilda Dew, as found in the public records on

Daughter of a Carman

Harriet was named after her mother, Harriett. Sometimes there is one "t" in "Harriett", sometimes two. Harriet Matilda was baptized on June 13, 1858 in St. Paul's District Parish Church, Lisson Grove. Her mother's name was Harriett Eliza, and in the baptism register, although both parents are named, only the occupation "Laundress", a word that would only apply to a woman, is given.

Harriet Matilda had a brother, John (full name, John Thomas Henry Dew), two years older and named for their father, John Thomas Dew. Both John and Harriett were christened at the same church, on the same day.

In 1861 the young family was living at 10 Upper Lisson Street, Marylebone, London. The father was a Carman.They lived reasonably close to Paddington Station, and he worked for the Great Western Railway for a good part of his life, it appears.

I can't get to 10 Upper Lisson Street on Google Maps today; perhaps the street no longer exists, or maybe this part of it has been taken up by later road-building, or destroyed in the Second World War. However, on Lisson Street as it now is, I found this charming Google Street View picture. Possibly the best one I've found to date.

(Link in case picture does not display properly below)

View Larger Map

Ten years later, in 1871 on census night, they had a "Nurse Child" in the house. Her name is hard to read and probably misspelled. Literally, it looks like Lousia Cate, but my guess is Louisa Cole may be closer. She was 6 years old, and the only other thing we know is she was reportedly born in Notting Hill.

I have looked for a connection between Louisa (using either surname, Cole or Cate) and the Dew family. I can't find one strong enough to mention.

The phrase "Nurse Child", in the most general sense, means a child in the care of a woman who is not the child's natural mother. It's more of a fostering arrangement than what we would think of as babysitting. If the child had only been there for a day or two, on the census I would expect her to be called a Visitor.

Women could earn money by looking after children, often while their (not uncommonly unmarried) mothers went out to work. In desperate situations, that was what a mother had to do to feed herself and her child.

This is another piece of social history that would be interesting to know about, but it doesn't advance our understanding of Harriet Dew particularly, since Louisa and Harriet were not in the same house in the next census. Any speculation that there may have been a close relationship between Louisa and the Dew family is just that: speculation.

Marriage in 1882
In 1882, so within about a year of Harriett's appearance in the census as the Stokers' Cook, she left to become the wife of William Edmund Frid. They were married on Christmas Day. On the marriage certificate, Harriet's father is John Dew, deceased. Unverified family trees say her mother had died earlier. Her only sibling, John, was married in 1876 and, like their father, worked as a Carman for the railway.

Mr. Frid was a Carpenter. Before marriage, he was apparently living with an aunt and uncle in London and was unemployed. I am only guessing that his fortunes changed, at least I hope so. In 1891, Harriett and William had four children, three girls and a boy.

Although the Frids lived in Marylebone at the time of Harriett's marriage to William, (both at Welling's Place on the marriage certificate) and were there in Marylebone again in the 1891 census, all four children were born in Mortlake.

That's not how I personally got my vampire bloodline, but it does have a personal connection, because for two years, about a hundred years later, we lived in the same part of town. I hope the Frids liked it as much as I did.

An early death in 1895

Her little children were still young when Harriett died in 1895.

Did William remarry? What became of the motherless children?

It's not far-fetched to speculate that Harriett died in childbirth, given her age. That is pure speculation. The death certificate would give a cause of death, but you have to pay for those.

The family in 1901

Six years after their mother died, Harriett's children and their father were still living together, in Marylebone. William, the father, was a Carpenter Joiner, and his son William working for a Butcher. No occupation is listed for any of the three girls.

Because of the misspelling (or to be more clear, the assumption that there is a misspelling), the descendants of Harriett Dew may not know their ancestor cooked for "Dracula" himself. I hope they see this post and do some further research to see if my hunch about Harriett Dew and Harriett Daw being the same person is correct.

This article is one in an ongoing series, starting with Bram Stoker, author of Dracula in public records: BMD (Birth, Marriage, Death).

Next: A brick wall: Elizabeth Jarrald, widow, Nurse to Bram Stoker's baby son in 1881

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