Above: My Dad, William (3), standing outside Block D, Peabody Buildings, Lambeth, where his grandmother and father William (1) had were living in early 1905.

Below: 43 Engleheart Rd, Catford (pictured 2007), where William 1 and his family moved in November 1905.

William Charles Martin (1)

born 7 December, 1884

This William Charles Martin (1) was the 7th of 9 children of Charles Frederick Martin and Emma (or Emily) Richardson. William was born about on 7 December 1884 at 97 East Street, Lambeth - a poor cul-de-sac just off Lambeth Walk. The 1891 census shows him, living at 37 Duke Street, Lambeth, aged 7, and his birthplace as Lambeth.

The 1901 census, shows him, then aged 16, working as a painter (presumably painting houses), living with his widowed father, Charles, and his 3 brothers, Charles, Frederick & John.

He married Emily Sarah Cooper on 3rd August, 1903 at Parish Church, Southwark. The address of both Bill & Emily Sarah, at the time of their wedding, is shown as 9 Charles Street, now known as Nicholson Street, Southwark.

Their marriage certificate is interesting. His occupation is given as iron founder. His father, Charles, is shown as coal porter and her father, Henry Cooper, Emily's dad, is shown as soldier, deceased. However, the ages they gave on the marriage certificate are confusing! Emily Sarah's age is given as 20 and Bill's is given as 21. We know from Emily Sarah's death certificate that she was 82 when she died in 1965. This gives a birth year of about 1887, making her 15 or 16 when she married. This is borne out by the 1911 ceensus, which gives her age as 24 and her marriage 8 years previously. My guess is that she was a bit young for marriage (though the legal age was 12 for women at that time) and lied about her age. If so, maybe he also adjusted his age so as not to arouse suspicion!

Their Children

They had 4 children: William (2), born Cory Square, 5th Jan 1905, Emily, born 1907, Catford, and Henry (known as Harry), born Catford, 1909 and Violet, b abt 1910, Catford. After William (2) was born we know from his registration of birth that the family was then living at 22, D block, Peabody Buildings, Duke Street, Lambeth. The Peabody Trust's tenancy records show William (1) and Emily moving into number 22, D Block on 23 January 1905. Their rent was 3s 9d per week. In Jan 1905 he worked as a Warehouseman for Cockburn Iron Works, Westminster Bridge Road. The Peabody records also show they moved to Catford in October the same year, though we don't know if they moved straight to 43 Engleheart Road.

They had certainly moved there by the time the 1911 census man called at 43 Engleheart Road, Catford. The census record we hold shows William (1) as an employer in a window cleaning business. This must have been quite a change in status, and probably quite a departure from our otherwise poor family. The census also shows his wife, Emily, plus their four children. Interestingly it also shows William 1's brother, Jack (John on the earlier censuses), living there, and his employment given as window cleaning assistant. Another lodger in the 1911 census was also working in the window cleaning business.

Here's the house in Engleheart Road as it was in 2007. I wonder how it would have looked in 1905, when the Martins first moved in!

My grandfather, William (2), was only 7 in 1912 when his father gave him a new East German 'Römhildt-Weimar' upright piano. It's probable that William's window cleaning business had provided some much needed funds and had improved their standard of living. I had custody of this piano myself for a number of years, after Granddad sold his house and moved to a static caravan near Canterbury. It was an exceptionally good instrument in its day and was the centrepiece for many a Martin family sing-song at our home at 93 Glenhurst Avenue, Bexley, in the 1960s.

However William's improved financial security would have been short-lived as he died from a fall from a ladder later in 1912, aged 27, while working on his window cleaning business. My father, William Charles Martin (3), had been told that the window cleaning business had been left to one or more of the brothers (Charles, Frederick & Jack), and the 1911 census would indicate that it was probably Jack.

Emily's mother, Sarah Cooper, remarried when soldier hubby, Henry, died. Her new husband was Thomas Pratt and that gave Emily Cooper two half sisters, Hannah & Ginny. We find a Sarah Pratt as one of the witnesses at William & Emily's wedding in 1903, along with a George Trouse. Mr Trouse obligingly turns out to have been a neighbour of Charles and the boys when they were living at 36 Goding Street, Lambeth, and appears on the same page as Charles and the boys in the 1901 census. After William (1) died, Emily too remarried, to Jimmy Hay. Emily died in Yorkland Avenue, Welling, 1965.

If you have any information about any of these Martins, please contact me