Sunday, 23 April 2017

Rose Tozer - my great grandmother


Of course we can't know all the facts of our ancestor's lives, but as we put together the puzzle pieces of the information that we find we begin to get a small glimpse into their life.
My great grandmother's life began with sadness and ended in tragedy and in between she had more than her fair share of trials.
Rose Tozer was born on the 9th October 1871 in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire , the third child of William Frederick Tozer and Eliza Lowman Challis. Her father had his own prosperous painting and decorating business and was even chosen to decorate the interior of the new Corn Exchange in Wellingborough.
Sadly just seven months after Rose was born her father contracted an ear infection which without antibiotics spread to his brain and caused his death, he had just turned 32. William left a Testament bequeathing all his household goods, furniture books etc and the sum of twenty five pounds to his dear wife and his three children.
Even though Rose's mother Eliza was from Ramsgate in Kent she had a younger brother Joseph Robert Challis who was living in Hull, East Yorkshire. Possibly Joseph heard about someone who needed a housekeeper and recommended his sister, because in 1881 Eliza and her three children were living in Hull where she was working as a housekeeper for Prussian born merchant Solomon Henry, Rose was 10 years old. I don't know in which year Eliza and her three children moved up to Hull, if they were living by Solomon Henry in 1874 then they would have been present when a fire broke out in Solomon's warehouse next to his house on Gibson street which was stocked with Russian yarn, hemp, flax and rope. I also wonder whether Solomon was a friendly man to work for because I found an article in the Hull Daily Mail of January 1866 in which he was charged with brutally assaulting his wife and was in prisoned for 21 days. Solomon died on the 16th December 1881.
Rose's mother Eliza remarried on the 14th December 1889 to grocer and widower George Dunn, Rose would have been 18 and was probably living and working elsewhere. In the 1891 census she is recorded as being a domestic nurse and was visiting with her brother Frederick Tozer and his young family at 5 Sydenham Terrace, Hull. In March 1899 Rose was working as a domestic servant and she was lodging at 27 Strickland Street. It was here that she admitted to stealing a gold ring from one of the other lodgers but thankfully she was given a second chance as it was said that she had borne an excellent character previous to the event.
A year later on the 2nd of June 1900 Rose married a young man from Batley, West Yorkshire, his name was Harry Popplewell. Harry was 23, and 5 years younger than Rose, he had been working down a coal mine since at least the age of 14. I don't know what had brought him to Hull and how he met Rose but I remember my Nana telling me that his parents weren't happy with the marriage and resented Rose.
They married in Hull at St. Silas Parish church and Rose's brother William Henry Tozer was one of the witnesses. After their marriage they moved to Harry's home town of Batley and 6 months later Rose gave birth to their daughter, my grandmother Violet Popplewell on the 12th December 1900, maybe this was the reason that Harry's parents weren't so happy about the marriage.
Two years and two months after the birth of daughter Violet, Rose's husband Harry died of silicosis, a disease of the lungs caused by his many years of working in the coal mines, he was only 25 years of age.
As a young widow and mother Rose seems to have followed the path of her mother and taken up a job as a housekeeper to a recently widowed father of 6 daughters living in Bridlington on the East Yorkshire coast. Before the year was out on the 30th January 1904 she was married to this widower whose  name was William Whiting.
It was a busy life for Rose, not only had she her own daughter Violet but 6 headstrong step daughters ranging in age from 3 to 13 years to raise and she also had three more children to William Whiting, Ivy Maud in December of 1904, William Lloyd George in 1910 and Hector in 1914.
According to my Nana, Rose also helped to run a small Bed and Breakfast at the house they were living at, number 40 Quay Road, with all the extra work that it entailed. At the beginning of the 20th Century trips to the sea side were becoming ever more popular and Bridlington was becoming a favorite holiday address.
Rose's marriage to William was not very successful, it had obviously began as a marriage of convenience and apparently William was a ladies man and probably had some affairs, and I am sure that Rose must have felt that she was being used as a free child minder and housekeeper. Rose probably had her faults as well as I have heard from one of William's granddaughters that Rose drank and once she was so angry with one of her step daughters that she cut off her hair.
On the 25th of April 1917 William Whiting sent in a petition to divorce his wife Rose, accusing her of committing adultery on several occasions with a certain William Henry Wood. William was awarded custody of his two eldest children to Rose, Ivy aged 12 and William Lloyd George aged 6, Hector aged 2 was allowed to remain with his mother. It must have been heartbreaking for Rose to leave her children but in those days women didn't have any rights, Rose moved back to Hull with my Nana, Violet and young Hector, I have no idea whether she was allowed to have contact with her other children though I do know that my Nana kept in contact with her step sisters in Bridlington and would often visit them. William Whiting remarried shortly after the divorce came through but that marriage wasn't very successful either and didn't last long.
Rose lived the rest of her life in Hull where her mother and brothers were living, daughter Violet married in 1922 and had three children who Rose was able see. In 1927 her mother Eliza died at the age of 85 and just three years later on the 5th of December 1930 Rose decided to end her own life by putting a cushion in her gas oven and turning on the gas. She had been feeling depressed and young Hector who would have been 16 at the time had borrowed her last bit of money. At the time of her death my Nana, Violet who was at home with her three young children remembers seeing a silver rainbow on the Christmas tree, Nana would often cry around Christmas time, thinking of her mother. 
Rose was only 59 when she died maybe if she had lived I would have met her, my Nana gave me a small cut glass perfume bottle with a silver lid that was from her mother, when I open the lid I can still smell her perfume. 


  1. Not a dull story, Debra ! wish all lives were documented like that. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Oh my. Rose would have been my great grandmother. My grandfather being William Lloyd George. I am very grateful for your hard work and effort bringing this woman's experience to life. Her world must have been so harsh and difficult. Your account brought tears to my eyes. I wish I knew more about my grandfather too. He always told my father he was an only child.
    Thank you so much Debra.
    Deborah Marsh
    (Daughter of Edward Whiting)