Mary Ann Adams (nee Childs)1846--1928

Mary Ann Adams (nee Childs)1846--1928

Mary Ann Adams c.1900Mary Ann Childs was born at Hertford Heath, near Hertford, the seventh child of James and Mary Ann Childs. We could not find her in the Register, nor could we find any of her brothers and sisters, but when registration was introduced in 1837, it was not compulsory and did not become an offence not to do so until many years later. In the 1841 Census James said he was a higgler and a carter but by the 1851 Census he said he was a pig dealer and farmer with 8 acres. In the 1871 Census when Mary Ann was 25 she is not shown at the Hertford Heath address and I believe she had by then gone into service like most of her sisters and most country girls were destined to do.

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The pair of cottages at Pipers End made into one and much enlarged and modernised.She must have met Robert Adams (1850--1884) who came from Nazeing where his father was a farmer, and they married at St. Andrews, Holborn, on Nov 10th 1871, and the first child Robert James ,was born the following year. I recall a family story my mother told me that Robert took a farm in the Cuffley area but something went badly wrong and he had to go back to his parents. Robert James was joined by Francis Nathaniel 1873, Henry William 1876, Alfred Charles 1877, all at Nazeing. He then got the post of shepherd at Pipers End, near Hertingfordbury.

The family moved into a semi detached tithe cottage ( still there today much enlarged and modernised) There Mary ( later we always called her Auntie Polly )was born in 1878 and then my mother Emma in 1881. A further child Ethel Louisa is shown on the headstone who died soon after birth probably 1883.

According to a family story Robert was a big strong man and a good shepherd. As a boy I remember a cast iron bell that was hung round the neck of the lead sheep and I think this was all that was left of his shepherd days. Unfortunately it was cracked and must have been lost in one of our moves. The story goes that in 1884 for a bet he carried a heavy weight, some say a bag of corn, over a distance and in doing so hurt himself. He was taken ill and died in 1884, leaving a widow and six children, the youngest was my mother,3 years old.

We obtained a copy of the Death Certificate and this states the cause of death was “Intestinal abscess and incipient phthisis” and when I checked with a medical friend he could not see how this lined up with the family story, but there must be some truth in it.

Hertingfordburyc c.1898.Emma Adams under the round tree outside their home.Because it was a tithe cottage the family had to move out so the new shepherd could move in so they were totally destitute --no social security in those days. Lady Cowper of Panshanger sometimes went to Letty Green church and took interest in the boy who pumped the organ, my Uncle Bert, and heard of the plight of the family.. She took pity on them and arranged for the widow to have a small terraced cottage in Hertingfordbury (still there today) and it was there that my mother spent her youth.

With no money coming in Mary Ann had to find ways to bring up the family. First she used to take in lodgers in the top two rooms and I always remember being told that the Italian masons who worked on the beautiful alabaster at the local church stayed with my grannie. Among the other ways she turned to was sitting in with ill people , particularly the dying, a job that was often done when there were no old peoples homes like there are today. Then she would lay out and prepare the dead for burial, and any menial task that would provide a little money.

Robert became a gardener at Panshanger,. Francis joined the 20th Hussars. Henry became a carpenter (I still have his saw), Alfred became a printer, Mary and my mother went into service. When the Boer War broke out, Francis, by then on the reserve, was called back, and Henry volunteered for the infantry and sadly died of enteric fever out there. This was another great blow to the widow. Mary went to Canada, British Columbia, and married her sweetheart out there.

Mary Ann outside the lodge at Brocket about 1913 When Robert got married ,he and his new wife, my auntie Annie, lived with my grannie in Hertingfordbury until she obtained the job of gatekeeper at Brocket park where Lord Mount Stephen lived. She had one lodge gate cottage and another widow the other (both cottages still there).

Their job was for one of them to always be there to open the gates and the accommodation was part of their wages. It was very basic accommodation,just a bedroom up and living room down. My cousins Leslie and Arthur used to recall visiting her when she always had a tin of sweets to please her grandsons. We have pictures of the gatehouses and they dont seem to change much although they now seem to be store rooms .By a strange coincidence the lodge was shown in one of the Inspector Morse series and even showed inside. In the old days there was no gas, electricity sewage or water laid on and it must have been hard.

When my mother had my sister Mary followed by several miscarriages and finally when I was born, my grannie came to live with us at Thrush St. Later she went to live with my Uncle Bert at Cole Green and I have a picture of me with the old lady there about 1927. She died in the local infirmary in 1928.

From her picture she was quite a striking good looking woman and had lovely naturally curly hair. The loss of her husband and then her son in the Boer War must have hit her hard but she raised her family with lots of loving care and this love of family was evident in all my aunt and uncles.

She is buried with her husband and daughter Ethel Louisa in Hertingfordbury churchyard and on the stone is recorded the death of her son Henry in South Africa. The inscription reads:-

In sure and certain hope
In loving memory of Robert Adams
Died July 7th 1884
Aged 34 years

Ethel Louisa
Aged 2 years
Henry William
Son of the above
Died at Senekal
June 13th 1900
Aged 25 years

Mary Ann
Wife of the above
Died 11th July 1928
Aged 88 years
----------- Peace, perfect peace
With loved ones far away
In Jesus keeping
We are safe, and they

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