Emily Rebecca Morris (1865 - 1936)

22nd November 1865 - 16th October 1936

Emily Rebecca Morris represents the meeting point of two cultural traditions and two social developments. On her father’s side are several generations of John MORRIS, solid Kentish stock;

The hop fields and oast houses of Kent

but her maternal line goes back a similar number of generations to DELASAUX, DUTHOIT, BATAILLE, equally solid HUGUENOT stock living in Canterbury and London.

Emily Rebecca MORRIS, mother of Mabel Victoria DAY, and the maternal grandmother of the present writer, was the second of eight children born to John MORRIS and Mary Jane ELLIS in and around Canterbury, Kent, between 1864 and 1878. Her forebears were mainly Kentish families going back several generations to the early 18th century; yet Emily Rebecca married a Londoner, all of her seven children were born in the East End of London, and she remained a Londoner for the rest of her life. At the time of her marriage to Charles John DAY in August 1889, her family was living, apparently, in Latimer Street, Stepney; and it was in the parish church of St Peter, Stepney that she married.

This picture shows a wagon turning into Cornhill – St Peter’s church is visible further down the road.

Described as a 21-year old spinster at her marriage, Emily was actually 23; but there is no suggestion that she intended to deceive anyone about her age. She was just a little vague about it, as she was about where she was born, and even her own name! By the time of the 1891 census the MORRIS family is back in Kent, at Whitstable

1891 Census: 17 Church Road, Whitstable, Kent. RG12/711 f.81a
MORRIS John Head M 52 Bricklayer’s lab. b. Petham
MORRIS Mary J. Wife 50 b. Canterbury
MORRIS William Son Un 23 Groom b. Littlebourn
MORRIS Henry Son Un 16 Baker’s App. b. Littlebourn
MORRIS Albert Son Un 12 b. Ickham
MORRIS Millicent Dau Un 18 Dressm’r App b. Littlebourn

where they remain until 1901.

The Old Neptune Pub on the seafront at Whitstable
1901 Census: 18 Church Road, Whitstable All Saints, Kent. RG13/799 f.18
MORRIS John Head M 64 Jobbing Gardener b. Petham
MORRIS MaryAnn Wife M 62 b. Canterbury
MORRIS Millicent Dau S 25 Dressmaker b. Littlebourn

and indeed until John MORRIS’s death in 1905 (see end)

Not much is known about Emily Rebecca’s life apart from the details that can be recovered from official records. Indeed, elusive might be the word to describe her since she led her grandson researcher a merry dance to begin with. Just to locate her officially was frustratingly difficult, since Emily was not born Emily, but Emma; and she was somewhat vague, moreover, about her birthplace and age. An early sighting of her as a married woman with her family suggests that she was born in Woolwich:

1901 Census: 21 Florence Road, St Luke’s, West Ham, Custom House
Charles J. DAY Head M 32 Dock labourer b. London
Emily R. DAY Wife M 34 b. Woolwich, London
Daisy DAY Dau 11 b. Poplar, London
Charles Wm. DAY Son 9 b. Plaistow, W. Ham
Frederick J. DAY Son 8 b. Essex, West Ham
William H. DAY Son 5 b. Essex, West Ham
Mabel V. DAY Dau 3 b. Essex, West Ham
Jessie E. DAY Dau 11 months b. Essex, West Ham

A painstaking search of the birth registers for Woolwich, and indeed for all of the adjacent registration districts, produced no Emily Rebecca MORRIS born c1867. It was not until she was located in the 1891 census that her Kentish origins came to light:

1891 Census: 27 Kelland Road, St Andrews, Plaistow, West Ham. RG12/1324 pp.45/46
DAY Charles J. Head M 22 Gen. labourer dock b. Stepney
DAY Emily Wife 24 b. Littlebourn, Kent
MORRIS S. Sister S 26 b. Canterbury, Kent
DAY D. Dau 1 b. Stepney, London

Note: S MORRIS is Sarah Ann, Emily’s sister, while D.DAY is Daisy, listed in the 1901 census as having been born in Poplar; the registration has not been found.

It was then relatively straightforward to find her birth in Littlebourne (see end) and to follow the MORRIS family in the 1871 census

Entrance to St Vincent’s Church Littlebourne, Kent
1871 Census: Littlebourn Village, Eccle, District of Canterbury & Deanery of Bridge, Kent
MORRIS John Head M 33 Butcher journeyman b.Waltham
MORRIS Mary J. Wife M 32 b . Canterbury
MORRIS Sarah A. Dau 6 Scholar b. Canterbury
MORRIS Emma R. Dau 5 Scholar b. Littlebourn
MORRIS William Son 3 Scholar b. Littlebourn
MORRIS Bertha Dau 2 b. Littlebourn
MORRIS Fanny Dau 3 weeks b. Littlebourn

Interior of St Vincent’s Littlebourne

and in the 1881 census on Ickham and Wells

1881 Census: Lincis dwelling, Ickham & Wells, Kent. RG11, Piece 0956, f. 36, p.23
MORRIS John Head M 43 Groom, dom. servant b. Petham
MORRIS Mary Wife M 42 b. Canterbury, St Pauls
MORRIS Emma Dau 15 b. Littlebourne, Kent
MORRIS William Son 13 Ag. lab. b. Littlebourne,Kent
MORRIS Bertha Dau 11 b. Littlebourne, Kent
MORRIS Fanny Dau 9 b. Littlebourne, Kent
MORRIS Millicent Dau 7 b. Littlebourne, Kent
MORRIS Henry Son 5 b. Littlebourne, Kent
MORRIS Albert Son 3 b. Ickham, Kent.

Note that Emma remained Emma until her marriage in 1889 to Charles John DAY. Exactly when, or why, she switched from Emma to Emily we can never know; probably as a young adult she simply decided that she wanted to be known as Emily; possibly Charles had something to do with it, though neither Emma nor Emily is prominent in his background. Whatever the reason, she remained Emily for the rest of her life.

Like her daughter, Mabel Victoria, Emily died of bronchial pneumonia. Aged 70, she ended her days at Central Home, Leytonstone, the death being registered by husband Charles.(see end)
Charles, for his part, living at 371 Romford Road, West Ham, was earning what one can only imagine to be a rather precarious living as a “commission agent”. He would have been 67 at the time of Emily’s death, and his own death has not been found. Of their children, what we know about two of their daughters, Mabel and Millicent, has been told in the DAY section of this family history. Of their sons, at least two survived the Great War because, on the 18th July 1920, William Victor, then aged 25, living in East Ham and working as a clerk, married Elsie Eliza FRY, aged 22, in Ilford, one witness to the ceremony being his older brother, Charles William (see end).

Charles himself, then a Royal Artillery Gunner, had married a few years earlier, in 1915, Ruby SIMPSON, aged 21, in the parish church of Southwark, the event witnessed by his mother Emily and sister Mabel. Almost inevitably in a family of this size, there were infant and child deaths. Jessie Edith, born 1900, died the following year, aged 13 months, of gastro-enteritis; and the second son, Frederick John, born in 1891, died in 1905, aged 12, of appendicitis.