A sad story lies behind this 1913 photograph of Clematis Cottage (94 Well Cottage).

The lady is Ann Polden, nee Lucas from Alderbury, widow of Augustus Polden who died in 1907. The men are her grandchildren Hector, on the left, and Harold Down, sons of Ann’s daughter Frances. Their father was James Down from Stockton.

Frances had married James Down in Bournemouth in 1882, but he died from smallpox in 1894 leaving her with six children, aged 10 to 2 years. After James’s death the family split up, the three eldest children to orphanages in London, the three youngest to live with Ann and Augustus in Chitterne.

Hector and Harold in the photo were the two eldest, they went to the Jersey Home for Boys in Lambeth. Their sister Ellen, known as Mabel, born 1886 was also in an orphanage in London. Ann and Augustus, both in their 60s, took in the three youngest of Frances’ boys, Douglas 6, Leslie 4, and Bertie 2, and brought them up, but presumably couldn’t take in the whole lot. Frances carried on working in domestic service in the Bournemouth area until her father died when she moved back to Clematis Cottage with her mother.

So here are the two older grandchildren with their grandmother in Chitterne in 1913. Hector born 1883 was a career soldier and sergeant in the 1st Wilts. He served in South Africa in 1911 and was killed in March 1918 at the battle of Fremicourt.

Harold born 1884 was in the Royal Navy, aboard HMS Contest in the battle off Jutland in 1916 but survived the war and in 1929 came to Chitterne. In 1950 at the age of 66 he married Charles Mould’s widow Florence. Florence was the landlady at the White Hart pub. Harold and Florence carried on at the White Hart until 1955. Harold died aged 84 in 1969.

Clematis Cottage had been in the Polden family for years, first leased by Augustus around 1880 and bought by him at auction for £38 in 1896. After his death in 1907, when the grandchildren had left home, three of the rooms were let to Harry Poolman and family, with Ann and Frances living in the remaining four rooms. After Ann’s death in 1915 the cottage passed to Frances who, with her unmarried daughter Mabel, occupied the whole cottage but took in a schoolteacher lodger in 1920s and later Frances’ son Harold. Frances died in 1944 and Mabel married Harry Dicks in Salisbury in 1946, at the age of 60.

It’s amazing to me to finally have a picture of this family as I know quite a lot about them. Such a sad story, Frances Down widowed so young with her fractured family, whose descendants nevertheless have been in touch, keeping the family history alive.

Thanks to TH as ever for his tremendous work on the Feltham archive from 98.

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