Annie Sear #7

In 1891 Annie’s parents, Joseph Sear, a cab driver, and Annie Sophia nee Godman, were living at 67 Goodinge Road, Camden Town. Goodinge Road led to the Caledonian Market where in those days droves of cattle were taken to the market to be sold. Joseph and Annie’s eldest son Joseph Henry was born in 1889, their daughter Annie was probably born at number 67 on 18th Oct 1891. Their son Arthur James who was killed in France in 1915, was born in 1895.

By 1900 Annie and her family were living at 47 Goodinge Road, then by March 1901 they had moved to 31 Goodinge Road, where they rented two rooms on the second floor until at least 1906.

Annie and her brothers Joe and Arthur were baptised together at St Luke’s West Holloway on March 29th 1901, along with five children of the Godman family, who were neighbours and cousins of the Sear children.

When Annie was just about to finish school in 1906, her little sister Helen Selina Sear was born. Helen was her dad’s and her big brothers’ pride and joy. Not long after Helen was born, Annie left home at the age of 14 and started work as a kitchen maid in a large wealthy household in London. A French chef was in charge of the kitchen.

Some time between 1906 and April 1911 Annie’s family moved along Goodinge Road again, to the ground floor flat in a large old terraced house, number 16. They remained here until some time between 1930 and 1937 when they moved to Wembley with their daughter Helen. All the old houses in Goodinge Road have now been demolished.

The flat at 16 Goodinge Road consisted of three rooms, and a cold dark scullery with a stone floor. The kitchen, which served as a living room, had two easy chairs, a dining table and chairs, and a fitted open dresser for the china. The room was heated by a coal fire, but this was unable to prevent the chill from the ill fitting window and two draughty doors. The cooking and the laundry was done in the scullery. Here there were no fitted cupboards, just a table, and a shelf for the cooking utensils. The scullery contained the only cold water tap in the building, so the family were often disturbed by people carrying water through their kitchen. Hot water for filling the zinc bath or washing clothes was heated by a fire under a copper. There were only two bedrooms in the flat. Annie slept in the same bedroom as her parents while her two brothers occupied the other bedroom.

In the 1911 census Annie was listed as a housemaid to Sir Evan Davies Jones at 6 Addison Road, Kensington, London, England. The house no longer exisits and the area had been rebuilt as Woodsford Square.

During her time in service Annie made two lifelong friends: Sally Whitehead, a cook, who later emigrated to America, and Valerie Victoria Strange, who later lived at the Bell Inn at Broad Hinton with her husband William Jack Tidy. When Sally’s brother Henry Whitehead visited her, she introduced him to her best friend Annie, and Henry and Annie soon became close.

During the war Annie worked as a tram conductress. When the war ended people would shout at her while she worked on the trams “Give the man back his job!” and so she did. She worked for Pullars of Perth, the dyers and cleaners.

Henry and Annie’s marriage in 1921

Annie married Henry Whitehead on 26th Mar 1921 at St Luke’s Church, West Holloway. Henry and Annie set up home at 37 Commerell Street in East Greenwich, and had three children, Arthur Henry Whitehead in 1922, Margaret Helen Fanny Whitehead in 1923, and Grace Monica Whitehead in 1924. Annie was an member of the Conservative Party, and attended their weekly meetings. She actively canvassed for them in a constituency that was predominately Labour. Annie sang and played the piano. She belonged to a choral group and took a leading role in a concert party, where the participants were also conservative members. Soon after she joined the choir, it took part in the famous 1933 Greenwich Night Pageant where they sang Edward German’s ‘Merrie England’. The family were recorded still living at 37 Commerell Street in the 1939 Register.

Annie Whitehead nee Sear in 1947

Throughout the war Annie had a ready welcome for everyone, especially the New Zealand airmen who her daughters befriended. During the war the family were bombed out several times, and Annie used her initiative, walking the streets to find empty homes for Greenwich Borough Council to requisition for the family to live in. The first move was to a large Victorian semi-detached house, 15 Langdale Road, in West Greenwich. It had three floors the lowest floor being a semi-basement. Eventually there was a direct hit from a doodlebug on the church opposite, and the house became unsafe and uninhabitable. This was probably St Mark’s Church, Ashburnham Road. Annie walked around again and found a vacant house in Halstow Road opposite her daughter Margaret’s old school. Greenwich Borough Council requisitioned it and they moved in.

In 1945 Henry and Annie were still living at 29 Halstow Road, Greenwich. Annie died of breast cancer in June 1950, in Greenwich. She was buried on 26th June 1950 in Nunhead Cemetery. She was buried in a consecrated grave, Plot 42624, square 54.

Henry remained at 29 Halstow Road until at least 1952. He remarried in 1953.

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