Narrative by (DS):
WIilliam Thomas GUMMET, born on the 3rd September 1808 in Wapping, seemed destined for a life of relative poverty and hard work amidst some grim living conditions. One can only hope that happy times arose through the sea journeys he undertook as a Mariner and courtesy of his two marriages and six children.
When his widowed mother remarried in 1827, William would have been 19. An unclear scribbled signature at the bottom corner of the marriage ledger entry could just have been his in his capacity as a witness.
By this time, he could well have been an independent young man, following his late father into a mariner's livelihood as had his younger brother John who had made his home in the north-east. With one of his younger sisters married to a mariner and the other destined also to marry one in the future, the pattern was becoming well-set.
No doubt such a life away from home restricts and delays the development of a land-based conventional life and unsurprisingly William remained single into his thirties. However, on the 25th June 1841 at St. Ann's Parish Church in Limehouse, William married Catherine Agnes MARTIN.
Following his mother's death in April that year, a happy event was much needed and one hopes that a degree of family drawing together may have occurred upon William and Catherine coming to live in Betts Street with his younger two sisters and his mariner brother-in-law.
Two children were soon born - Mary Frances GUMMET on the 10th July 1842 and Henrietta Agnes GUMMET on the 13th May 1844. However, this was the nineteenth century and things could not continue as well as this. Mary Frances died on the 19th January 1846 of 'brain fever' aged only three.
On the 15th November 1846, a daughter Ellen GUMMET was born. Three daughters thus far and no doubt there was much joy at the addition of a son on the 31st May 1849. This was William Thomas GUMMET (just like his father). Another son was to follow. On the 5th September 1851, James Selby MARTIN-GUMMET was born. Four surviving children out of five was good by these early Victorian standards.
How sad that it should all change! The first change was Catherine's death on the 19th January 1853 at the age of 36 of 'Phthisis' (pulmonary thrombosis) 'accelerated by cancer of breast'. Catherine was buried in St. George-in-the-East churchyard. The records reveal that the cost of her burial was eleven shillings and six pence.
Yet again, and no doubt repeated throughout the land, a mother had died tragically young leaving infants. The broader family at Betts Street no doubt absorbed the impact and assisted the widowed William but things worsened. On the 18th August that same year (1853), William's youngest child, James Selby, died aged two.
The next change involved the widowed William. Whilst no doubt periodically away at sea, William nevertheless was home often enough to have been able to develop a new relationship with one Ann McCARTNEY. Ann was also widowed and was 41 years old (to William's 48) and came originally from Yorkshire where her father, Thomas GAMES, was a Farmer.
On the 26th August 1856, a daughter Mary Ann Jane GUMMET was born to them at 4 Fen Court in the Parish of St. Gabriel, Fenchurch in the City of London.
William and Ann married on the 13th October 1856 at the Parish Church of St. Margaret Pattens in the City of London. A witness to the wedding ceremony was William's younger sister, Ann Frances BENDING (now a widow herself at only 35).
At a different church (St Botolph Without Aldgate where, in 1845, William's sister Mary Ann had married), Mary Ann Jane was christened on the 18th November 1856.
Quite what reaction this big change provoked within the Betts Street household can only be imagined in these times of strange conventions but the upshot was inevitably a marriage. Clearly a close bond remained with Ann Frances and, the following year when she remarried, it was William and Ann's address at 4 Fen Court which she used as her own. It is not clear, however, where this change left William's three surviving children - Henrietta Agnes (12), Ellen (10) and William Thomas (7). One suspects that they continued to live at Betts Street.
Ellen GUMMET would have left home soon after her father's remarriage in order to 'go into service'. When she was 15 (claiming to be 19!), Ellen was a 'house servant' in the household of Thomas MOGG and his family in Gravesend in Kent, a good way from home. Thomas was a customs officer who came from Stepney and thus may have hired Ellen there before removing to Kent.
William's new life looks to have rolled along happily at Fen Court as he moved into his fifties. He looks to have forsaken his sea-faring life and become a 'labourer'. His young daughter was approaching her tenth birthday, having enjoyed a settled life thus far, when inevitably (for we are in these Victorian times of turmoil), tragedy struck. Her mother, Ann, now 51, developed Hepatitis and she died on the 25th February 1866.
One is fearful of opening one's heart to the pain of these Victorian folk so afflicted by the devastating mortality rates and tragic events of their time. It is only too possible to imagine William's devastation, aged 58, following the loss of two wives and three children. Unsurprisingly, he never recovered.
In 1871, he suffered the fate of many old folk of the times - he entered the workhouse. On the 28th April 1871, he went to live at the Union Workhouse in Homerton. In the admissions register, he is described as a 'widower' and a 'labourer' and not 'able-bodied'. It looks as though his 14 year old daughter, Mary Ann Jane, went with him although, in the ways of the workhouse, they would have been separated.
On the 6th May 1871, William died there, aged 63, of 'Nephritis'. Six weeks later, on the 21st June 1871, Mary Ann Jane died there of small pox.