Family life in a Brighton backstreet

These small two-up/two-down Hanover houses (well, three-up with no bathroom) were crammed full of people in the early part of the 20th century. The 1901 census shows a couple with six children whereas next door there were a couple with her mother and a cousin. However in the 1911 census the families had changed. Now there was a couple, John and Ann Hyder, with their nine children (three in their twenties, three teenagers and three under 10). Next door there were George and Lydia Brackenridge with their five children.

That sounds full enough, until you look further. There were actually three families (or households) next door. The Brackenridges only occupied three rooms. In the other rooms were William and Ellen Cooler (aged 65 and 51) and Ellen Alcom, a widow, with her three children. A total of 13 people were in that house!

Without the census we would have had no way of knowing this. The electoral rolls of the time just gave the vote to the one male householder and the street directories the same (although the directories do name a woman if she was the householder.

Once the voting was extended after the First World War, not just to women but to grown up sons, boarders and lodgers, then we get a better picture. In the 1920’s we see extended families living in the houses rather than apparently unrelated households.

In 1920 the Hyders were joined by their son Alfred Thomas Hyder. He is replaced in 1926 by their son-on-law Harold Victor Cobbett and then their daughter Lilian Cobbett and daughter-in-law Alice Hyder (Alfred’s wife). Children of course are not shown on the electoral roll but six were born to a Cobbett in Brighton where the mother’s name was either Hyder or Hider. The two eldest were born in the 1920s when they were living here.

The Hyders last appearance on the electoral roll is in 1929. The Pages’s Brighton Directory for that year shows the householder as John Evans. The Hyders both appear to have died in 1936 (surname shown as Hider) but have not been in this house for some years.

The family which replaced them in 1929 was John Evans and his wife Alice. John Evans and Alice Maud Breden had been married since 1910. However John Evans died the following year leaving his wife and children in their new home. FreeBMD shows that Alice and John Evans had two children: Charles H was born in 1920 and Olive A in 1924. Mrs A M Evans is shown as the tenant in the Kelly’s Directories; however electoral rolls show the Cobbetts continued to live there and by the time they leave the electoral roll in 1936 five of their six children had been born. There was also Edward William Goldsmith who had also lived there with the Hyders (possibly with a son Ernest)

The children would not show up on electoral rolls until after the Second World War. Then Charles Evans is shown living with his mother between 1945 and 1947. In 1947 his wife also appears; he married Daphne D Andrew that year. Ernest W Goldsmith appears this year as well. Olive Evans had married Frederick JE Alford in 1941.

So, looking back to 1935 for example, there were three “households” living in one small house: 4 adults and 7 children. Alice Evans with two children; Harold and Lilian Cobbett with up to four children; and Edward Goldsmith and maybe his son This was only slightly less than the 1911 occupancy.

After the war Alice stayed there. She appears to have had to have boarders or lodgers until 1968. Edward Goldsmith stays until 1952 but the rest appear to be single men. I can only assume that she has been supplementing her pension, if she had one, by taking in lodgers. She is replaced on the electoral roll a (married) couple and there is no sign of multiple occupancy for this house after that.

It is a similar picture next door. After George Brackenridge died in the first world war his widow, Lydia, married the younger John Hyder. After his death she continued to live in the house, presumably with her five children. Her eldest son appears with her on the electoral roll from 1920. Then other names start to appear: Richard Dawes was there in 1928 (he marries Emily Brackenridge that year) and Charles and Rose King in 1929 (Rose Brackenridge had married Charles King in 1925). They were replaced in 1930 by Alfred and Dorothy Smith (yes, Dorothy Brackenridge married Alfred Smith in 1929!) and they would have had their son Stanley with them. So daughters married and then came back to live with their husbands for a year or so. Arthur Brackenridge was the constant though and in 1933 they were joined by his wife Rose Wheatland.

A similar pattern to next door then: multiple occupancy in 1911 is replaced by extended families in the 1920’s. And although some probably unrelated names appear in the 1950’s, suggesting they are taking in lodgers, it is mostly the one family over three generations. Lydia died in 1947 but the electoral roll shows that her family continued to live there until 1991.