Elizabeth Mitchell of Newton Abbot, Devon

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Elizabeth Mitchell is my husband's 2G grandmother and mother of his great grandfather Charlie Miller.

Elizabeth was born in April 1852 in Exeter, Devon, to Richard and Mary Ann Mitchell (nee Satterley). She was baptised on 3 June 1852 at St Sidwell’s Church, Exeter, her parents recorded as Richard and Mary Ann, and Richard’s occupation as ‘plumber’ of John Street, New Town. The present St Sidwell's is a 1950's replacement for the much modified Saxon church which was destroyed in the May 1942 bombing raid.

On the 1861 census, her father Richard is recorded as a plumber and gasfitter, unmarried and lodging with another family. No entries on the census have been found for Mary Ann and Elizabeth, nor can any further baptisms of children for this couple.

Elizabeth is recorded as a housemaid on the 1871 census, living at Inglewood, Belgrave Road, Tormoham, Torquay, working for Richard Richards, a retired merchant. Inglewood is now a hotel called Inglewood Palm Hotel and is on the beachfront in Torquay.

Elizabeth married Henry Miller on 18 May 1872 at Ashprington Parish Church, when she was 20 years old. They had four children; William Henry was born in January 1873 in Ashprington; Mildred Alice in April 1875 in Littlehempston; Elizabeth Ellen (known as Ellen) in January 1877 in Newton Abbot; and Florence May on 10 August 1879 in Littlehempston.

By 1880, Henry had deserted Elizabeth and was living in Croydon, Surrey with his new ‘wife’ Sarah Crowdy (no marriage record found but they record themselves as husband and wife on the census). Henry and Sarah had 5 children together – Charles (1881), Mildred Alice (the 2nd !) (1883), Frederick William (1889), Albert Edwin (1892) and Florence Emily (1894). These are no blood relation to Elizabeth or our Charles.

In 1881, 26yr old Elizabeth was living in Newton Abbot Workhouse with her daughters Mildred, Ellen and Florence. Her son William Henry was living with his paternal grandfather John Miller in Littlehempston.

Her son Charles Harry was born on 20 December 1887 in Newton Abbot Workhouse, Devon, father unknown.

On the 1891 census, Elizabeth is still in the workhouse, with her daughter Florence and son Charles. Her daughter Ellen is living in Littlehempston with her paternal grandfather John Miller, brother William boarding next door.

In 1894, the workhouse was involved in a huge scandal. Elizabeth was mentioned in the proceedings, and on 21 April 1894 it states that she lived at No 5 Court, Wolborough, Newton Abbot (this is close to the workhouse), and working at the workhouse as a wardwoman.

Elizabeth married George Stephens in Newton Abbot, Devon, in July 1894 when she was 39 years old.

On Saturday 8 September 1894, her daughter Florence was mentioned in the East & South Devon Advertiser. Florence was apprenticed to a lady called Mrs Crocker of Hennock. The article read 'Mr Clemas reported on three children apprenticed in the neighbourhood. Two boys with farmers were getting on satisfactorily, but a girl named Florence Miller, aged 15, sent out with Mrs Crocker of Hennock, was, according to the complaint of her mistress, in the habit of "lying about with an idle young man". No action was taken'.

On Saturday 17 November 1894, Florence was again mentioned in the East & South Devon Advertiser. It read ' A Sad Case. Mr Clemas reported that the case of a girl named Florence Miller, aged 15, of Hennock, had been brought to his notice. The girl had been with a young man and was in a pregnant condition. She had been removed to the Workhouse. Mr Alsop undertook to make inquiries as to the best course to adopt with regard to the case.'

There is no baby recorded in the GRO indexes for a Miller in 1894/5.

Florence seems to have had a hard life, as she was mentioned in the paper again on Saturday 8 December 1894, after being assaulted by an old woman. It read 'Quarrelsome Workhouse Inmates. Emma Anning, an elderly woman, an inmate of the Workhouse, was charged with unlawfully assaulting another inmate named Florence Miller. Defendant pleaded guilty, and added that if she had to go to prison she would do the same when she came back.

Henry Rogers, Master of the Workhouse, stated that about ten o'clock that morning, hearing a noise in the passage near the office, he went there and saw defendant strike complainant on the left breast with a brush. Defendant said Miller was not fit to live with. But for witness, defendant would have struck Miller a second time.

Complainant, a young woman, said defendant commenced the assault in the scullery, whilst they were washing the tins.

It was stated that defendant had been in the house six years and complainant three weeks. Defendant had previously thrown a brush at another inmate.

Defendant was sent to prison for seven days, and warned as to her future conduct.

In Oct 1900, her daughter Mildred Alice married Frank Nicholls in Newton Abbot. They had 5 children – Mildred Ellen (1901), Frederick Charles (1902), William Frank (1904), Bessie Alice (1907) and Stanley George (1910).

On the 1901 census, Elizabeth was still at No 5 Court, Wolborough, living with George and Charles.

In April 1902, her son William Henry married Kate Lavers in Totnes, Devon. Their son Cyril Henry Miller was born in 1904.

In April 1904, her daughter Ellen married Thomas Henry Stephens (whether he is related to Elizabeth’s husband George is yet unknown). They had two daughters – Hilda May (1905) and Olive Ellen (1909).

They were still at No 5 Court on the 1911 census, George recorded as an Engine Fitter in the Iron Foundry, and Elizabeth recorded as a Certificated Midwife. All her children (apart from Charles in Taunton) were living nearby – William, Mildred and Ellen with their families, and Florence with her aunt Elizabeth Miller.

Elizabeth passed away on 2 August 1927 at 7 - 5 Court, Wolborough Street, Wolborough, aged 68 years. She had been suffering from cancer of the uterus for four months. Her death was registered by her daughter Mildred, who was present at her death. George passed away a few months later at the age of 77.

LesleyShiner - avatar
About the author: LesleyShiner

I have been researching my family tree and my husband's for over 20 years. My surname interests are Puxty, Holloway, Biddlecombe, Hayward, Pemberton, Relf, Spooner, Ward, Dutton, Forward, Mansfield, Pitches, Griffiths, Jump, Titchmarsh and Braithwaite plus more, from England, Wales and Ireland.

My husband's are Shiner, Alderton, Rowe, Osborne, Miller, Webber, Gilling, Farrant, Featherstone, Lewry, Mitchell, plus more, from England, mostly Southern England.

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