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NOTES ON THE MIDDLEMISS FAMILY
PAGE 1 of 3
Revised June 2008
Written in the first person by Dr. Middlemiss.
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Alexander Middlemiss (1781- March 1866) came from Duns, Berwickshire, to Middlesex in the Napoleonic period. From about 1816 until 1861 he was Farm Bailiff to the Earl of Mansfield at Kenwood, in charge of the Home Farm and living in the Kenwood farm house which is still standing. He seems to have been still running the farm in 1861, when he was about 80, although a letter from the Steward of the estate to the Head Gardener, dated May 1845, mentions a hedge which had been planted by "old Middlemiss" - he was about 64 then. His salary as Bailiff was £135 per annum. Alexander's wife was called Martha and was a local Middlesex girl, apparently 18 years younger than he. Alexander appears to have married twice. His first wife was called Hannah and was the mother of his first 5 children. Both she and her youngest son, Alexander Jun. I seem to have died some time between 1828 and 1837. In 1837 Alexander senior married Martha Tomkins and she had two children, Alexander Jun. II and William. Alexander Senior's children were Elizabeth (1818), Thomas (1820) (a silversmith), John (1821) a farmer, Mary (1824), Alexander Junior I (1828) (who died young), Alexander Junior II (a linen draper) and William (1844) a farm servant. In 1861 the two youngest were still living at home at the farm.
Living close by was Alfred Middlemiss, also from Scotland, and presumably a younger brother who had accompanied Alexander when he migrated to the South. Alfred's wife was also a Martha, an Islington girl, and they had two sons, Alfred and William. Alexander and Martha retired to a cottage in Edmonton, where Martha died in December 1867, aged 66. Alexander's son, John Middlemiss (22nd September 1821- 20th January 1871) had a dairy farm at Swiss Cottage, then a rural area, which was ruined by an outbreak of foot and mouth disease. John's wife was Ruth Culverhouse (14th June 1828- 11th March 1875), daughter of Henry and Anne Culverhouse. The Culverhouses lived next door to Alfred Middlemiss in Finchley, near Kenwood. Henry is described as a farmer, so presumably he had a farm, at least during the 1840s, in Finchley. However, all his children were born at Wing in Buckinghamshire (between Aylesbury and Leighton Buzzard) and his wife was a Buckinghamshire girl, so he probably had a farm at Wing originally and later moved to Finchley. Their children at home in 1851 were Mary (19) and George (17?), Ruth being already married to John Middlemiss by that time. John and Ruth were married on the 13th October 1847 at Finchley New Church (the farmhouse at Kenwood was just inside the Parish of Finchley). Ruth after her marriage, while living on the farm at Swiss Cottage, had a favourite pure white cow which she called Ruth after herself. When foot and mouth disease struck she was broken hearted when her beloved "Ruth" had to be destroyed with the rest. The Swiss Dairy was situated on Finchley Road, immediately on the south-west side of the Swiss Cottage public house. It was established in 1849, presumably by John and Ruth Middlemiss as the 1851 and 1861 censuses both show them living there with their family of children. The 1854 Hampstead Directory gives John as "Dairyman, Vale of Health", so he may have kept his cows at the Vale of Health (part of Hampstead Heath, about a mile and a half north of Swiss Cottage) but there is no mention of him in the rate books for that area. The 1854 Directory also credits him with a residence at
3, Victoria Road, (now Fairfax Road)
John and Ruth do not seem to have owned the Swiss Dairy, as the rate books from 1858 onwards show John as the occupier but Frank Redmond, proprietor of the Swiss Cottage public house, as the owner. Curiously, John does not appear in the rate books until 1858; perhaps before that the property had too low a ratable value, or possibly Redmond paid the rates. John died in 1871 and in the September 1871 rate book Ruth alone appears as occupier. Frank Redmond was also dead by that time as the owners are given as "The Executors of Frank Redmond". In the March 1872 rate book William Crick had taken over the dairy and Ruth had evidently moved away.
The outbreak of foot and mouth disease therefore would appear to have occurred in 1870. John died in St. Mary's Hospital, Paddington. Ruth died at
51, Amwell Street,
Both John and Ruth were buried in Highgate Cemetery.
Hannah Middlemiss (7th July 1848 - ?)
was keeping a stationer's shop in London in 1881. Later she lived at St. Albans and had the reputation of being a rather grand lady.
John Alexander Middlemiss
(20th November 1850 - ?)
adopted the spellingMiddlemas. He was a men's outfitter and tailor in Hastings. His daughter Ruth was still living in Hastings in the 1920s.
Henry Middlemiss (24th D
ecember 1851-3rd December 1899) in the 1881 census is given as 'manager' living in Kensington with his wife Harriet (born 1853 or 54 at Milton, Bedfordshire - there are several villages called Milton around Bedford). They had three children, Maud, Gertrude and Percy. Henry was reputed to have been a bit too fond of the bottle. He was buried in Paddington Cemetery.
Edward Middlemiss (8th December 1853-10th February 1929) spent some time helping out at the Swiss Cottage dairy farm; later he was a sorter in the General Post Office. Still later he had his own plate and sheet glass business at Chilton Street, Bethnal Green. The mirrors in the overmantles at Beach Crest were produced by his firm, but later the firm fell on bad times. From 1900 he was complaining of poor business and he sold the business in late 1902 or early 1903.
Edward married Elizabeth Sarah Stone (5th November 1855- 6th January 1923) on the 17th September 1878. A favourite story of Aunt Lil's was how her parents Edward and Elizabeth first met. Elizabeth (then Stone) travelled with a Sunday school party to Chingford Plain one bank holiday. Then, as now, there was a fair on the Plain and she, goaded by her friends, visited a fortune teller. This lady foretold a sudden meeting in the very near future with a handsome man who would become her husband. While they were still giggling about this outside the tent, Elizabeth turned to walk away and bumped into a handsome young man who, of course, turned out to be Edward. The girls all cried "Oh, the gipsy, the gipsy", and doubtless Edward wanted to know what it was all about. Anyway, the story goes that he raised his hat and apologized and the acquaintance went on from there. They had four sons and a daughter at two yearly intervals and then a gap of nine years before Mabel was born. During those nine years, four babies were either still born or died soon after birth. For some time during their married life (certainly during Mabel's childhood) Grandma Stone lived with them and, presumably, helped with the household chores.
The family moved frequently. In 1879 they were living at Dalston, in 1885 at Clapton Park, in 1894 at
34, Glaskin Road, (a turning on the north side of Well Street - now demolished).
At the turn of the century they were living at
10, Tudor Road,
Thus Edward Stone Middlemiss and Hilda Bearman met and became engaged. Alexander William and Elsie Nora Bearman were also interested in each other during 1900 but this was apparently vetoed by Mrs. Bearman.
In July 1903 they moved to
next to the Bearmans.
83, Dongola Road,
from where Edward Stone Middlemiss was married in 1907. In later years, Edward and Elizabeth had rooms in Alexander William's house, first at
Tottenham and, some time between April and July 1904 to
43, Cadogan Terrace,
76, Devonshire Road, (now Brenthouse Road)
then, after Elizabeth's death in 1923, at
154, Kyverdale Road,
Grandma Elizabeth became blind in one eye later in life through glaucoma and had a glass eye which Aunt Lil used to take out and clean for her. Edward was much disabled by arthritis in his last years. He died during the great frost of 1928-29 as a result of falling down the four steps from the hall to the dining room and hitting his head against the fender.
Edward Stone Middlemiss (September 1879-9th April 1939) was born on Michaelmas Day , September 29th, at
58 Brownlow Road,
He left school at 13 and was mainly self- educated. He spent some time working in his father's glass factory (he was working there in 1901, when the census describes him as a glass silverer) but also worked in about 1902- for Ever-Ready Batteries at Tottenham. He married Hilda Bearman on the 7th September 1907. From 1903 he was in the finance department of
Yardley (soap and scent)
They gave him a handsome canteen of cutlery as a wedding present, some items from which are still in use in 2009. He remained with the firm for the rest of his life, latterly ranking as Cashier. His salary in 1931 was £600 per annum.
He was a keen gardener and fond of travel. He had a good baritone voice and was active in the Nonconformist Union Choir Festivals at the Crystal Palace and sang in several Handel and other oratorios. Although he never learned to read staff notation and relied always on Tonic Sol-Fa, he became for a time Choirmaster at Cann Hall Baptist Church, Leyton, which he and his family attended during their early years at Leyton.
However, something very unpleasant happened (I was never able to find out exactly what) and he not only resigned the Choirmastership but gave up forthwith all interest in the Church and all interest in music. This must have been some time during the 1st World War.
In 1925 he left his family and went to live with a Miss Flo Bedwell, a fellow employee at Yardleys. It is an interesting comment on the customs of the time that, although I knew her quite well, I never learnt her Christian name; I used to call her "Auntie Bed". They lived first at Pinner, later at
Thundersley (Essex) and finally at
He always fully maintained his family, visited us regularly every week and often came on holiday with us. He was bitterly disappointed in 1925 when a promised business trip for Yardleys to New York failed to materialize, but later travelled extensively on holiday (presumably with Miss Bedwell) to the Channel Islands, a Mediterranean cruise, the Rhineland and especially Switzerland, which he loved.
In 1926 he bought his first car, a Wolsley YO4854. He was the first in the family to have a car. He learned to drive but never did in fact drive, always leaving the driving to his son Edward. He underwent an operation for cancer of the colon in London Hospital (Royal Ward) but a few days later an abscess on the site of the operation necessitated a second operation, which he did not survive. He died on Easter Sunday, 9th April 1939.
Hilda Middlemiss (nee Bearman) (14th June 1880-16th July 1970) was educated at the Misses Pitman's school in Hackney until 1890, then at Lady Eleanor Holles' School, which she left in 1895. In 1894, 1895 and 1896 the family went on holiday to Margate (by "Eagle" steamer from Tower Bridge). These were the first family holidays they had had,
which suggests that Thomas Bearman probably retired from his shop in 1894.
About 1900 Hilda met Edward Middlemiss, as the Middlemiss family was at that time living next door at
27 (or 29) Winchester Road,
10, Tudor Road.
They became engaged in 1901 and married in 1907. Hilda, having a clear soprano voice, was in the choir at Mare Street Baptist Church, took part regularly in the Nonconformist Union Choir Festivals at the Crystal Palace, and sang in several Handel and other oratorios. This was with her fiance, who had a good baritone voice. In addition she was a fairly competent pianist. She was also an excellent draughtswoman and was often employed by her father to make detailed drawings of his coins. She was a keen tennis player and, in the winter, a skater on the lake in Victoria Park.
After their marriage, Hilda and Edward lived for three and a half years in rooms at
32, Poole Road,
and here their first child, Edward Thomas, was born. They moved to
38, Canterbury Road,
on the 11th March 1911. Here Edward was able to indulge his interests in gardening, carpentry, photography and in having a dog - the Airedale Bob was the first.
Hilda was a less assertive person than her sisters Kate and Edith but was a woman of strong principles and knew her own mind. She was more concerned with fundamentals than with more trivial matters; she was not worried if the house was a bit untidy or about such details as the precise time of meals as long as her children grew up with the right principles in life. Like her husband and like her sister Kate, she was very fond of animals and we grew up in close contact with dogs, cats, tortoises, etc. Many of her letters from the time of the second World War have been preserved and shed a vivid light on what housekeeping, shopping and travelling were like in the dark days of the Blitz. On reading them, the word "indomitable" comes to mind as descriptive of her.
Edward Thomas Middlemiss (13th November 1908-12th March 1975) was educated mainly at Mrs. Press's Oxford House School in Leytonstone and the Leyton Technical College. Leaving school at 16 he was first apprenticed to the plumbing firm of Alexander Grant (an old family friend) but had great difficulty in settling down and passed through many and varied jobs during the 20s and early 30s. About 1926 he started to train as a draughtsman by correspondence course, but soon gave it up. Finally, about 1935, he found his niche as a car repair fitter with Stewart and Ardern, the Morris specialist in Ilford.
In 1938 he transferred to John Knight, the soap manufacturers of Silvertown, for whom he worked until retirement. For many years he maintained their vans and lorries at their Silvertown depot, acting there as Air Raid Warden during the 2nd World War. His value to the firm is shown by the fact that his job was a reserved occupation, i.e. he was exempt from service in the armed forces. He was, however, a member of the Home Guard from 1942, in addition to his Air Raid Warden and fire-watching duties. When he became too old to climb under the lorries he was made gate-keeper of the depot until he retired about 1968.
He was a very keen sportsman, especially swimming, cycling and tennis, and claimed that there was not a sport that he had not at least tried. He was also an expert ballroom dancer.
Ethel May Smith (16th August 1907-16th February 1991), always called "Elsie" (although her husband always called her "Apple" or "Ap"), came from a rather overcrowded home at
53 Cambridge Road,
and round about 1930 moved in with us at
Walthamstow (demolished after the 2nd World War),
38, Canterbury Road.
Ed and Elsie married in July 1937 and eventually the house was divided into two flats, Ed and Elsie downstairs, my mother and I upstairs (this was in 1940). This arrangement continued when the Canterbury Road house was destroyed by bombing in 1940 and we moved to
204 Hainault Road,
Ed was a heavy smoker, as his father had been, and died of lung cancer at the age of 66. After his death in 1975 Elsie remained at Hainault Road only one year and in 1976 moved to a house at Lindfield, Sussex, close to her sister Emily (and Emily's husband Eric Ditton and their daughter Christine). For the last few years of her life Elsie was in a home at Shoreham, Sussex.
Donald Middlemiss (13th Jan. 1914-13th Feb. 1919) was a sturdy lad, much like his father and elder brother. One day in early February 1919 he went up to the snow-covered Forest with his brother and got thoroughly chilled. Unfortunately this was in the midst of the terrible diphtheria epidemic of 1919 and he contracted the disease and died within a few days.
The bill for his funeral makes interesting reading. The bill is for "An elm coffin, covered with white swansdown, with nickel fittings and ornaments and an inscribed plate, and lined with cambric. To be drawn in a glass coach by a pair of horses; undertaker in attendance". The total cost of this was £4.10. 0 (£4.50 in 1990s money) - a quite astonishing comment on the inflation of the late 20th Century.
Frank Alexander Middlemiss (25th March 1920- ) was born at
38, Canterbury Road,
and educated at Canterbury Road School, Leyton, and the Leyton County High School, along with his cousins Ernest and Douglas. He spent the 2nd World War in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in all the countries from India to Italy. He was taken prisoner on the Anzio beachhead in February 1944 and spent fourteen months as a prisoner of war in Italy and Germany. When he eventually came out of the Army he was fortunate enough to obtain a Government Further Education grant and went to London University, where he took his B.Sc. (and later his Ph.D.) in Geology.
He was taken on to the staff of his own college (Queen Mary College) and remained there for the rest of his working life, gradually rising through the ranks of Assistant Lecturer, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, University Reader and finally Emeritus Reader. He loved his job, as he always got on well with students, and went on working until he was 76. From 1981 until 2004 he was Chairman of ACE Residents' Association, the residents' association covering the whole of his part of Woodford.
In his first week at the College he met fellow student Florence Fozzard (9th February 1919- ), from Oldham, and they were married in 1949. Florence had spent the war years as Secretary, Bursar and Assistant Matron at a boys' boarding school in her native Oldham and had come to College as a mature student. Afterwards she had a variety of jobs, mainly secretarial, including being Personal Secretary to the man who ran the National Industrial Relations Court, and she finished up by being an Inspector in the Department of Health and Social Security until she retired at the age of sixty.
They had two daughters, Stella Margaret Middlemiss(18th October 1951- ) and Joan Florence Middlemiss (6th October 1956- ). Stella was educated at Woodford County High School, took her B.Ed. in Music and Education at London University, and became a school teacher, specialising
in music and later in the education of children with special needs, in which she holds a diploma. She married quite late in life Stephen Redburn (13th January 1952- ) a telecommunications engineer, and they have a daughter Lorna Redburn (5th February 1994- ). Lorna was a pupil at Forest School for three years then moved to Woodbridge School..
Joan was educated at Roedean School and went to Exeter University, where she took her B.A. in Philosophy. She did as her parents had done by meeting and marrying a fellow student, Nigel Ridgway (10th November 1956). They were married when they were both only twenty. After graduating, Joan qualified as a state registered nurse, but after bringing up her family she re-trained as a teacher and became a lecturer in Mathematics at Exeter College. She and Nigel settled in Exeter, where Nigel is financial director of a Tiverton-based firm. They had four children: Jennifer (24th January 1982- ), Felicity (24th March 1985- ), Laurence (12th April 1988- ) and Timothy (3rd March 1995- ).
Jenny took a First in Italian and French at University College, London, and later gained her LLB, again with first class honours, and is a solicitor. She married Samuel Gaskin (6th May 1982- ) at St. George's Church, Deal on 5th August 2006. Felicity also took a First, at Kings College, London, in classics and became a post-graduate research student at Exeter University where she gained her MA. She married Dominic Lott , a hair dresser, on 29th December 2008 in the Sacred Heart RC Church in Exeter. She converted to the Roman Catholic faith a few months before.
Laurence spent three months in Russia during 2007, perfecting his Russian, then went on to Brasenose College, Oxford.
Alexander William Middlemiss (30th March 1881-1965) also spent some time in his youth working in his father's glass factory. He also is described by the 1901 census as a glass silverer. He later became a Relieving Officer for the Board of Guardians of Hackney. He married Edith Augusta Pendrill on the 27th September 1909.
Alec had a good tenor voice and was a member of the supplementary choir used by the British National Opera Company at Covent Garden in the seasons 1920 - 1924. He must have had a good salary as he had a fine and beautifully furnished house at
154, Kyverdale Road,
in which his father, and his sisters and brother Reginald too until they married, also lived. He was a keen and dedicated Freemason. During the period 1921- 29 it was the custom for the whole Middlemiss family to congregate at Christmas in Alec's house, first at
76, Devonshire Road
and later (1923-29) at
154, Kyverdale Road.
Edward Stone Middlemiss was each year given a large turkey by Yardleys. He always contributed it to the family Christmas dinner at Kyverdale Road. Every year Alec, as he was about to carve, would say "Fine bird, Ed!'
From 1934 to 1948 Alec and Edie lived at
6, Forest Approach,
Alec retired in September 1940 and he and Edie immediately retreated to the cottage at Tring to get away from the bombs, saying that they intended to remain there until the War was over. In fact they left Tring early in 1941. For his very last years Alec was in a home, from which he used to entertain himself by telephoning all his relations.
Edith Augusta Pendrill (7th March 1879-15th July 1948). The Pendrill family claimed direct descent from one of the four brothers who hid the future Charles II in the oak tree near Worcester. Her sister Ada (1874-late 1950s) married Will Clifford and they were both regular attenders at the family Christmas reunions at Kyverdale Road. Edith and Ada's parents, Edward Pendrill and his wife, had a tobacconist shop in Brushfield Street, Shoreditch.
Alexander Edward Middlemiss (8th April 1911-1984) was employed by London Electricity at Hackney and was an electrician and an N.C.O. in the R.A.F. during the 2nd World War. He married Georgina Harris Whitbread who was always called 'Nien', daughter of George Whitbread and niece of Arthur Whitbread (see Elizabeth Hannah Middlemiss) on the 9th July 1938 and they lived first at
and later at
He was a keen bowls player.
Alec and Nien had one child, their daughter Christine June Middlemiss (4th October 1943- ). She married Barry Kenneth Semark on the 10th September 1966 and they have a son, Andrew John Semark (26th August 1969) and a daughter Dawn Anne Semark (21st August 1972). Andrew married Andrea Jane Symons on the 16th June 1990. Andrew and Andrea had a daughter, Rebecca Jane, on 28th July 2000 and a second daughter, Natasha Clare, on 8th August 2002 Barry and Christine are keen yacht people and mariners and spend much of their time sailing the world.
Doris Edith Middlemiss (13th June 1915- 21st March 1927) was also a victim of diphtheria - at the age of 11. When she was in the hospital her parents said goodnight to her one evening. She replied 'I'll see you in the morning'. But next morning she was dead and you will find those words inscribed on her tombstone in Chingford Mount Cemetery.
Albert Henry Middlemiss (6th April 1883-1972), like his two elder brothers, was a glass silverer in his father's factory, according to the 1901 census. He served in the Army during the 1st World War- stationed at one time in Dover Castle. In 1917, he was in Naval Squadron no. 9. He, like his brother, worked for the Hackney Board of Guardians. He married Ethel Miller (always called "Effie") on Easter Saturday 1912. He and his family settled before the 1st World War at
191, Essex Road,
The house suffered severe damage on several occasions from enemy action during WW2. In Autumn 1940, a parachute mine landed in the small hours about a quarter of a mile away and took out all their windows. They retreated to a cottage at Tring (see Mabel Victoria Middlemiss) until the house was habitable again, but more damage occurred in 1941 and they stayed for two months with George Whitbread in Epping. Finally, in Autumn 1944, a V2 rocket landed just 30
0 yards away and brought down all ceilings, windows, doors, etc. Astonishingly, they continued to live in the house together with Brian and Grace after this, without windows and without daylight. They did have an air raid shelter which they dug and constructed themselves in the garden, although at times, when the air raids were less severe, they slept in the living room, which had been turned into a sort of fortress. They moved away from 191, Essex Road after the war and lived with Bert and Grace (their son and daughter-in-law) first at
86, Larkshall Road,
and later at
34, Underwood Road,
Finally, about 1969, they moved to a bungalow at
near to Bert and Grace.
Albert Valentine Middlemiss (14th Feb. 1914-1992) served in the Royal Armoured Corps from July 1940. He was in Egypt by January 1941, spent some time in Malta during 1943, and was in action more or less throughout the North African and Italian campaigns of the 2nd World War. His civilian occupation was on the Stock Exchange. Bert married Grace Tuck in March 1937. Grace was a highly intelligent and resourceful woman, who had a responsible position in the Housing Department of Hackney Council. She used to go to great lengths to visit Bert while he was still stationed in the Army in this country, in spite of the great difficulties in the way of travel under wartime conditions. While Bert was away Grace lived at first with the others in the cottage at Tring, but by August 1941 she was back at 191, Essex Road, Leyton with her parents-in-law in spite of the daunting conditions there. In August 1942 she acquired a flat at
3, Forest View,
where she and Bert lived for a time after the War. Bert and Grace were always great friends of Ed and Elsie. They never had any children. Many years later they moved to Lyminge, Kent, from which Bert used to commute daily to London in all weathers. Here Grace died in 1983. Bert re-married and settled at Elham, Kent, with Dorothy (nee Hart).
Ernest Joseph Middlemiss (6th Jan. 1916- August 2004) worked in the office of the electricity service, latterly the London Electricity Board. He was a keen sportsman; as a boy he had been especially good at gymnastics. He was exempted from military service during the War, but took an active part as an officer in the Air Training Corps and also joined the Home Guard. He married Joan Clark and in later years they lived at
378, Larkshall Road,
Joan died on the 30th December 1992. They had no children. Towards the end of his life, Ern was in a BUPA home near Stowmarket. He died after a short illness.
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