Monday, 12 September 2016

A Widow as an Estate Resident

Original post:

We know that to rent a house on the estate you had to be working at the Arsenal.  The Pioneer claims the process involved writing to the Principal Architect himself.  So, whatever was involved in the process, approval was apparently needed by the employers at the Arsenal.  But were the tenancies always in the name of a man?  Where there was a married couple perhaps, but what about widows?  (Single women workers were soon able to live in the hostels in various locations around Woolwich including Well Hall.)

An example of a widow was Olive Grover living at 11 Phineas Pett Road.  She identified herself as a widow when she registered two of her children – Edward Albert and Mabel – at Deansfield School in Autumn 1915.  In 1911 she and her husband, Walter (then aged 35) were living in Welling with their seven children aged between 1 and 10 years and then had moved to Plumstead where the children attended school.

Walter was a Wheeler Sergeant based at Woolwich and, according to Olive’s great granddaughter died of Rheumatic fever in October 1914. It is believed that Olive then had to get work as a cleaning lady to try to support the family of seven children so that sounds as if she was not working at the Arsenal.  Given the date of her husband’s death, Olive must have been sub-tenant on the estate, either with or without the permission of the London County Council.  11, Phineas Pett Road looks as if it was a ‘Class 1’ house i.e. having four bedrooms and so perhaps room to spare for lodgers.

The eldest child, also called Walter, was 14 when his father died. He enlisted (illegally as he was underage) two years after his father’s death.  In those intervening two years it seems likely he was working to help support the family.  After the war, around 1920, Olive and the children migrated to New Zealand and thereafter to Australia.

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