June 25, 2015 by auntkatefirmin
Kate Maud Firmin, the first of her name, was born in 1857 in Bath. The family had moved to Wiltshire by January 1860 when she was baptized. She was the middle girl of the three daughters and I assume she was the favorite of her older brother John since he named his second daughter Kate Maud.
Because Kate is listed in the 1861 census in the home of her Uncle Henry, we have a clear connection between the families. Henry Firmin lived in Deancross Street in 1861, around the corner from the famous George Tavern (est. 1623 and rebuilt most recently about 1825) on Commercial Road. Modern Deancross Street includes heritage listed buildings on the eastern side which date from the Firmins’ era but since the numbering has changed, I’m not clear where the historic #23 stood. although I suspect it was near the bend in the street and did not survive.
There was a schoolhouse in Langley Burrell quite close to where the Firmins lived and Kate would have learned to read and write during the time the family lived in Wiltshire. It would be interesting to know how and exactly where the Firmin children were educated. Rightly or wrongly, I have the impression that the local day school was aimed at the children of agricultural laborers and taught them to respect those higher on the social ladder and just enough of their letters and numbers so that they wouldn’t get above their place.
It doesn’t appear the Firmin family could afford live-in servants such as a governess, but the other two girls received enough education that they each worked as teachers at different times so I will assume Kate received a similar education. Kate was 12 when her father died and she continued at school at least until 1871 in Islington. Since this was before the establishment of uniform education in England it might not be possible to confirm where Kate attended school.
Kate was 18 when her mother died, and 23 when she married William Beavan Baynham in 1880 at the church of St Giles in Camberwell. She was the first of the three girls to marry, followed by Emily (age 31) in 1881 and Harriet (age 21) in 1883. Kate gave her address as Lyndhurst Road, now Lyndhurst Way in Camberwell, and she most likely met Mr Baynham through neighborhood connections as her Uncle Henry had lived on Cicely Road in Peckham since at least 1875. Mr Baynham’s shop and residence was just a few blocks away on Rye Lane and a chemist would be well-known by the neighbors.
In 1881 Uncle Henry’s small house on Cicely Road was rather crowded with his widow (the Firmin’s Aunt Ellen), Ellen’s sister Clara and her two children, Kate’s sister Emily, and a lodger (Emily’s future husband Mr Trotter). Assuming the the same grouping in 1880, it is not surprising that Kate lived elsewhere. In 1883, on their marriage document, Kate’s sister Harriet and her husband Mr Blackley both gave their address as Lyndhurst Road. At this point there is not enough information to be certain where on Lyndhurst Road Kate lived in 1880 and where Harriet lived in 1883.
Mr Baynham was a widower with no children and had been living on Rye Lane since at least 1875, the date of his first marriage. All four of the Baynham children were born in Camberwell and the family appears to have lived above the shop through the time of the 1891 census. We know they moved to Woking before 1898 because there is a photograph taken in 1898 by Mr Baynham of a cat named “Tresser,” that has found its way to the National Archives in Kew.
The family was in Woking for the 1901 census and Mick’s 1905 visit, and had moved to Walton on Thames by the 1911 census. Judging by the letters from the cousins, Woking was the place they felt most connected to.
According to the census, they were able to afford a live-in general servant. Photographs of the family show them as well-dressed with fine clothes. By 1911 William was 62 and Kate was 54 and they were living on Annett Road in Walton-on-Thames.
Mr Baynham died in 1933 and the voting records show that Kate’s daughter Laura and her husband lived with her at Annett Road for a few years after she became a widow. At the time of her death in 1938, Kate’s address was the same as that of her daughter Nellie, 31 Caversham Place in Kingston-on-Thames.
Kate knew that somewhere she had an American namesake although she was unable to stay in touch as the families were divided by distance and the death of Kate’s brother John Robert Firmin.
Kate & her husband were able to enjoy the childhood of their grand-daughter Amy who lived with them as an infant and hopefully also their granddaughter Eileen who lived farther away, near Aldershot. None of the correspondents give many details of their parents’ last years.
A brief outline of each of Kate and William’s four children:
AMY BEATRICE 1881-1950. Amy married Richard Perceval “Percy” Summers in 1909. She was working as a shop assistant and Percy was described as a ironmonger although in 1911 he was working as a butler. They had one child Gwendoline Maud Phyllis, known as Gwen. Gwen married John Haden and they had one son. Amy corresponded with her cousin Kate in America. Gwen continued the correspondence with the American cousins until her death.
HORACE WILLIAM 1884-1936. Horace married Susan Ada Lawrence in 1912. They had one child, Eileen. No mention is made in the family correspondence about Eileen’s life, but research indicates that she married and had at least one child. Horace was a dentist and reading between the lines in the cousin’s letters there may have been some friction between Horace and his sisters who were not as well-off financially and did not have the same social standing. Horace predeceased his cousin Constance.
LAURA KATE 1886-1971. Laura & Nellie were twins. Laura married George Edward Price in 1914 when she was 28; she was working as a cook and he described himself as a dental instrument maker. They were living in Walton-on-Thames in 1944 when George died, and Laura later lived with her sister Amy. Laura corresponded with her cousin Kate in America. Neither of the twins had children.
NELLIE MAUD 1886-1956. Nellie married Henry John Savage in 1927 when she was 40. She had worked as a cook in schools and hospitals. Mr Savage worked as a sadler – he survived Nellie. At the time Nellie corresponded with her cousin Kate in America, she lived in Kingston-on-Thames.