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The struggles that went on next to the Goldsmith's house in Westminster

Link to the girls' education story click to view


According to the 1921 Census there were over one and three-quarter million 'Surplus Women' living in Britain, most born between 1895 and 1905. Three quarters of a million soldiers were slaughtered on the Western Front and elsewhere. They were known as the 'Lost Generation' and the 'Flowers of the Forest' , many of them left behind widows and orphans.
It was therefore not unusual to see a young widowed mother with her children having to be taken in by family. So under the circumstances Harry Bird's story of Gertrude being the wife of his dead brother would not have raised any suspicions.
Many remained Spinsters throughout their lives, becoming teachers, nurses and nannies, looking after other peoples babies to fulfill their maternal instincts." We adored her; she was in every sense a member of the family" one of these children remembered in later life. 'Universal Aunts' was set up and many of these women stayed with their families for the rest of their lives.
Many travelled and became active in politics, the Unions and were journalists, authors and writers, hardly known before this generation.

A vaudeville song summed up the options

I think we would all prefer
marriage with strife
Than to be on the shelf
As nobody's wife....

We all loved her ( Gertrude ) and the rich knowledge and extra dimension she brought to our house. Education skipped a generation , my mum managed very little with all the troubles. Perhaps Harry didn't enjoy all the finer things that Gertrude's education gave her, or maybe he was threatened by it. I think Gertrude was with us ( at least) from 1945 until she died '53. Apparantly she lived with Thora too at some point before that possibly from about 1932 then Maurice picking it up as above. A grandson 2003

(Note - we now know Gertrude left school at the age of 12, all her knowledge must have been gained in later life. Thora married in 1934 and in 1932 the whole family were living in Adyar)


"Despite the sentimental glorification of motherhood, childbirth during the early 1900's was a serious risk for women. Contraceptive information was relatively hard to obtain. In 1913 more women between the ages of 15 and 44 died in childbirth than from any other cause except tuberculosis. Childbirth regularly threatened a mother's life and health - yet left the father physically untouched. Witholding of sexual favours put a wife in jeopardy of losing her husband and it was not unusual for a man to seek physical fulfillment elsewhere.
It could be difficult for many husbands to understand the apprehension with which some wives approached sex and possible pregnancy.
In return for simple housework - cooking, sewing etc - the wife could expect to receive food, shelter and a clothing allowance. Yet if a wife failed to perform her duties, she was the legal chattel of her husband - he could beat her rape her or divorce her as he willed. If a husband failed to perform his duties, the wife had little recourse, for a married woman was almost entirely dependent upon the generosity of her husband."

Extract taken from 'Sunshine for Women'

Was this Gertrude's real story and why she turned Harry away and appeared to be happy to bring up and nurture another woman's children? She became involved with the Suffrage and Women's Movements, very progressive for her time.

Link to Harry Gertrude and Dorothy's story.... ... Click to read story

Mother always said they had a 'governess' when they were young
could this have been Gertrude? Janice
Other people's babies
That's my life!
Mother to dozens
And nobody's wife.

Other people's babies
Other people's prams
Such little terrors
Such little lambs!

Gertrude with Norman

Gertrude with Norman
A new infants hospital moved to Vincent Square in 1906 just around the corner from Esher Street where Gertrude's first child was born at Harry's parents' house. It was run by voluntary contributions and as well as treating children it trained doctors and nurses and furthered research into infant mortalility. It is doubtful whether Gertrude or Dorothy had access to its services.
An important aim was to teach women to be good mothers. Photo dated 1908

Perhaps one of the greatest “inventions” for childbirth was the invention of anesthesia. It was in 1853 that Queen Victoria of England gave birth to her 7th baby. Her doctor gave her chloroform to ease the pain. This was a great success and the Queen quickly spread the ‘word’ about how wonderful it was to have relief from the pain!

So it is really only in the last 150 years that pain relief has been available to women. Before that time there was no anesthesia available and childbirth pains were greatly feared by women. Young girls were encouraged to witness and hear women birth their babies so that they could “mentally prepare” for their turn to give birth to their own baby!

Three of Dorothy's daughters who were brought up as Gertrude's own. They genuinly thought she was their mother until Dorothy 'announced ' herself to them when the youngest was ten.

Frederick Brotherton Meyer (1847-1929) was a leading Christian and respected Baptist minister of his time. He attended Brighton College and graduated from London University in 1869. He studied theology at Regents Park Baptist College.
He based himself for 15 years in Christ Church Lambeth where William Charles Goldsmith was a vestry worker, it was a walk across the river from the Goldsmith's home in Millbank Street. Meyer refused to be a mission church just for the working classes and insisted on integrating different classes. Charles Booth noted " Meyer has developed a spirit of camaraderie between rich and poor which before was unknown". He was unusual in expressing admiration for members of other faiths. In 1909 he called for state action on housing and condemned the power of the House of Lords. He spoke of the wrongs which make the few rich and the many poor. He also supported striking dockers in London in 1889 and in 1898 he supported the ILP candidate in North Lambeth and was described as 'virtually a Christian socialist'. He sought out Gandhi and spoke of him as "pure and elevated" Meyer was part of the Higher Life movement and preached often at the Keswick Convention.
He was a supporter of Britain's participation in the first world war yet campaigned for the rights of conscientous objectors. When 34 of them were condemned to death, his national standing was such that he played a crucial role in having their sentences commuted. He proposed a boycott of traders who paid low wages to women, and denounced the treatment of black South Africans.
Why has Meyer almost been 'airbrushed' out of history? The horrors of the war prompted many evangelicals to retreat from wordliness of which social involvement was seen as one symptom.
Only Meyer the holiness preacher has been promoted.

F B Meyer 1899

F B Meyer 1899

Christ Church Lambeth

Christ Church Lambeth

George Lockie 1883

George Lockie 1883

George Lockie

George Lockie
One of the Goldsmith's sons Charles Leonard (ii) married Rachel Norah Lockie. Her family came from Greenlaw Scotland and her father George was tailor by trade, he joined the Scots Guards on 28.04.1900 Scotland's senior regiment and was stationed firstly in Windsor and later in Petty France Westminster where the family lived in barracks. Rachel was born there, mother Agnes was born in Brighton, sister Agnes in Windsor. We have traced the family back to 1810. George was born on 6.11.1865, his mother was Margaret Dickson Lockie, no father on George's birth certificate, so he took his mother's surname. He was brought up by his grandparents George and Rachel whilst his mother worked as a Servant in various households. Margaret's mother was Rachel Dickson born Smailholm Roxburgh., her parents were William Dickson and and Margaret Lumsden .Rachel Norah Lockie married Charles Leonard Goldsmith (ii) in the 1st Quarter of 1913 in Brighton Sussex. An Anthony Charles Lockie was born in the summer of 1912 in the District of Fulham to Rachel Lockie, he died on 2.7.1924 and features on the Goldsmith family tree.
Re George Lockie : Did you know that after serving in the Scots Guards he eventually reenlisted in the South Wales Borderers in 1915 and became Regimental Sergeant Major of the 10th Battalion South Wales Borderers 1st Gwent Pals. Gavin Rees

Scots Guards 1900

Scots Guards 1900