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Julia and Sarah Gilbert

by their Great Great Nephew, Brian Chaplin

Image by Anne Nygård

My Great Great Grandfather was David Gilbert, who married Rebecca Cuthbertson in 1859 in Wellingborough, Northants. They had 12 children, one of which stayed in Wellingborough - my Great Grandmother. All the rest went to London; men worked in the docks and women in a variety of jobs, including, according to the 1881 census, the match factories. Julia and Sara Gilbert, my Great Great Aunts, aged 20 and 15, were both match workers. They still lived at home at that time, at 5 Pitt Street in West Ham, with their Mother and Father, and younger siblings; Elizabeth, David, Nellie, Charles and Annie. Julia was born in Wellingborough and Sara in Plaistow.

There were a number of match factories in the East End of London in the nineteenth century, so we are not absolutely sure which factory Julia and Sarah worked in but nevertheless, the conditions in most Victorian factories was grim.

Julia went on to marry Henry Bacon on 5 February 1882 in Plaistow. They had at least four children (Henry b.1883, William b.1884, Rebecca b.1887 and Charles b. 1890). She died in July 1930 in West Ham at the age of 69.

Sarah married Charles William Eade on 25 January 1885. They had at least two children - those I have found are James b 1886 and Ellen b. 1892. In 1891 they lived still lived in West Ham and then I cannot see anything until 1939 when Sarah and William are still in West Ham.

When I discovered the girls on the census and read about the strikes at Bryant and May, I was filled with horror and sadness. Horror that they, we assume, were working in dreadful conditions to line the pockets of wealthy factory owners and, sadness, that I don’t know much more about their lives. Writing this has prompted me to investigate further.

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