My maternal grandmother may have had an artist on her side but my other grandmother had Queen Victoria’s Stockings!
Ever since I was a small child the stockings filled my imagination. Ella said that one of her Willoughby ancestors was a Lady-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria. A little bit of research revealed to me that the only people to fill those positions were Duchesses, Countesses and Baronesses. I did read that the Queen’s undergarments were distributed to various members of the household, including servants, housemaids etc. so it is possible that the stockings came into the family that way.
The next step is to determine if they are genuine. I have a photo of a pair of stockings from the Victoriana Magazine and compared it to mine. What do you think?
The stockings above are mine and the extract from an online article in Victoriana Magazine is below. http://www.victoriana.com/Royalty/queenvictoriaunderwear.htm
My stockings have a V on them, not a VR so who knows? Only an expert could tell. The feet also look awfully big! I was told the brown marks were from oils the queen rubbed on her legs but there are a lot more brown marks than there used to be! Also they were the white stockings worn before the death of Albert as she wore black from then on.
What is of more interest to me is the woman who brought the stockings to Australia. Her name was Mary Willoughby and she was born in Andover, Hampshire, England in 1836. The 1841 Census has her living in Winchester Street with her parents Charles, 45 (Labourer), Sarah, 35, and siblings Sarah,10, Daniel,6, Martha,2 and Rebecca,8 months.
The next time she appears is at her wedding in 1857. It was significant that she married on 24 March because it was only three week’s later that she and her new husband John Ridgway left England forever on the ship “Aloe” bound for Sydney.
John Ridgway appears in the 1841 Census aged 5, living with his parents, John and Joanna, sister Kezia,13 and brother George aged 8 who incidentally left on the “Aloe” with the newlyweds 16 years later. Their house is in Nash, Whaddon, Buckinghamshire. He is hard to find in 1851 but is now living with his married sister Charlotte Tims, her husband and son and is an agricultural labourer.
The wedding took place in Nash, Buckinghamshire. Where was Mary Willoughby in 1851? She wasn’t at home and would have been 15 years old. Was she in service at some great house? Is that how she came by the stockings?
Life for the couple after their arrival in Sydney can be mapped by the birthplaces of their children. Between 1858 and 1861 three children, Alfred, William and Frederick were born in Campbelltown, a village 57 kilometres south west of Sydney. They then moved to Picton, another even smaller village 93 kilometres south west of Sydney. Here Adelaide, Arthur, Beatrice, Charles, Sydney and Ella (my grandmother) were born. There was only one more child after Ella, a boy named Sydney as the other Sydney died at age 3.
I found that John leased his property in Picton so he didn’t own land. He was able to secure a contract with the Picton Railway Station to supply billets for a number of years. I imagine this would involve felling and sawing timber. Whether it was used for sleepers or for fuelling the steam engines I’m not sure. John died at the age of 60 but his wife, Mary lived to be 95.
In shaky handwriting on the back of this photo is written, “To my Dear Daughter With love December 26 1921. Mary would have been 85.
Mary’s daughter Adelaide was probably the first in the family to return to “The Old Country”. She sent several postcards to her mother dated August, 1928 of High Street, London Street and St Mary’s Church Andover. She wrote:
Dear Mother, I am spending a few days in the little town you were born. And as I walk through the place I wonder if you have walked there too.
Mary never returned to England. I wonder how different her life would have been if she had stayed in Buckinghamshire with her new husband instead of jumping on a ship? Australia did not offer the easy life some might have imagined but the next generation included an engine driver, stationmaster and a baker who travelled with CSR to Fiji for 18 years. I think some of the family stayed in the Picton area but that is an area for further research.