Subject Name: Caroline Andrews (b1849 – d1945) 

Rebecca Andrews (1872-1942)
Henry Andrews (1873-1945)
Clara Andrews (1875-1951)
Joseph Andrews (1877-1944)
Infant Andrews (1881-1881)   

Researcher:  Val Pink

The married life of Caroline Andrews was fraught with difficulties due in the main part to her husband and his inability, or unwillingness, to give up his fraudulent activities.  It landed Caroline in at least two workhouses, and left her on her own to look after her family many a time.  Her children were always  with her, and remained nearby in their home town of Colchester when they left to have families of their own.  She must have been one tough lady, with a great deal of love and forgiveness in her heart.  This is the story of her journey from poverty, through destitution, to a stable family environment.

Caroline Fletcher was born on 22nd December 1849 in Manningtree, Essex, at that time England’s smallest town, not far from Colchester.  In the 1851 census, one year old Caroline was living in Manningtree with her father Jesse, a boot and shoe maker, her mother Caroline, a shoe binder, and older brothers William age 4 and John age 2.  Boot and shoe making was an important industry in Colchester and the surrounds in the second half of the 19th century.

1861 saw Caroline, aged 11, now living in central Colchester and working in a silk factory.  It was not unusual for children of this age to be employed in such an occupation and was often considered healthier than other factory jobs.  Children were employed from the age of 7 or 8 as they had nimble fingers and learnt quickly how to tie in silk threads when they broke on the loom.  However it was dangerous, often leaving young bodies crippled, and the working day could be up to 12 hours long.  Caroline’s parents were both still working in the shoe industry.  Her eldest brother William (15) was also a shoe maker, and she now had four younger siblings – Jesse (9 who died in 1865), Rebecca (6), Joseph (3), and James (1, who died later in 1861).  Caroline’s older brother John was not with the family in 1861 but appeared to be an apprentice shoe maker in Merrington, County Durham.  It is unclear why he was so far away.

In April 1871, Caroline age 22, single and still employed at the silk factory, had moved out but was still in central Colchester, boarding “in yard at back of 39 Maidenburgh St” with a widow and her daughter, another silk factory worker

The rest of Caroline’s close family were living almost next door to her at 41 Maidenburgh Street.  The head of the household was brother William (24) a shoemaker, now married with 3 sons.  Brother John (22) was also a shoe maker.  “Widow Fletcher” (47), Rebecca (17) and Joseph (14) were silk workers.  In fact, Caroline’s mother was not a widow as her husband Jesse had actually moved back to Manningtree on his own

The following year in January 1872 Caroline had an illegitimate daughter who she named Caroline Angelina Rebecca Fletcher, known as Rebecca.  The father’s name was undocumented, but on 5th August that year Caroline married Robert Andrews at St Nicholas, Colchester.  Robert was the son of a watchmaker, residing in Maidenburgh Street.  Could he be the father of Caroline’s daughter?

How and where Caroline and Robert met is not known.  He cannot be found in the 1871 census.  Ten years earlier, in 1861, 14-year-old Cambridge-born Robert L Andrews was living with his parents and siblings in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.  Neither Cambridge nor Hitchin are close to Colchester.

A notice” placed by Robert’s father in the Hertfordshire Express of 26th March 1864 when his son was 16, begins to tell Robert’s story.  

Some fifteen months after his father had set him up in business, Robert was sentenced in July 1865 to nine months imprisonment with hard labour on three counts of stealing watches which had been entrusted to him to clean.  It is not clear why this case took so long to be tried.  The court commented that Robert’s father “was a very respectable man  adding “Prisoner looked very young and respectable”.  The judge said he was disposed to look on his youth as palliating his offence to some extent.  It hoped he would never do so again”.   Robert did not take heed, so it may be that in the 1871 census Robert was either in prison, or reluctant to be named!

We don’t know whether Caroline knew about Robert’s past, but she would soon become only too aware of his character.

Two years after her marriage, on 21st August 1874, Caroline was admitted as ‘destitute’ to the Raine Street Workhouse, Tower Hamlets, Stepney. She was with her two children – Rebecca age 2, and one-year-old Henry. They left the workhouse after three days at “own desire”.  How they came to be in such dire straits, some fifty miles (80 km) away from Colchester, is not known, nor again the
whereabouts of husband Robert. 

In the 1881 census taken on 3rd April Caroline was in the Guildford Union Workhouse almost 100 miles (160 km) from Colchester, where she had given birth seven days earlier to a son.  With her were her four Colchester-born children –  Rebecca (10), Henry (8), Clara (6), Joseph (2, actually 3) – but no husband.  Workhouse rules at that time meant that Rebecca and Henry would have been separated from their mother and placed in a children’s ward in the workhouse, and Caroline would have been able to see them once a day.  Clara, Joseph and the baby would have stayed with their mother.

The baby “infant Andrews” was baptised at St John The Evangelist, Stoke Next Guildford, on 4th May as Albert Edward, father Robert Andrews a painter, mother Caroline, abode Stoke (most probably the Workhouse).  The entry noted a ‘private baptism’ usually meaning that a child needed to be baptised quickly as they were not thriving.  Indeed, sadly Caroline did lose her baby, who died not long after his baptism from pertussis (whooping cough) and convulsions.  He was buried at the same church on 12th May, aged just 6 weeks, under the name Robert Edward Andrews.

So where was Caroline’s husband Robert?  He appeared on the 1881 Census as a lodger in Portsmouth.  The reason for his absence is found in newspaper articles of 2nd and 5th May
.  Again, Robert had obtained watches under false pretences, posing as a watchmaker.  
Instead of repairing and returning them, he had pawned them.  In court, he claimed that he would have
returned the watches had he not been apprehended on another charge “that of deserting his wife and family, who are chargeable to the Guildford Union”.  The Chairman of the County Bench said there were seven other cases against Robert of acquiring watches by “telling lies, and then committing a fraud”. Robert was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment with hard labour.

Why the Andrews family was in Guildford, and exactly when they arrived there is not known.  Poor Caroline and the children stayed in the Guildford Workhouse until July 1881, when a letter to the Receiving Officer of Guildford Union from the Colchester Union directed him to make arrangements to
convey the family back to the Colchester Union, their home parish

In October 1882 Caroline gave birth to a daughter, Alice Maud, at Fisher’s Yard, Colchester

Time inside and hard labour had not reformed Robert.  In February 1884 he was once more in court, this time sentenced to 12 months hard labour for the same deception “A Watchmaker Pawning his Customers’ Watches

These gaol sentences must have put Caroline under a lot of strain as she was effectively a single mother for months at a time, and it is clear that Caroline’s life was never easy.  In July 1885 she appeared as the complainant in a Colchester Borough Court hearing :  “Harriet Taylor, a young woman living in Fishers Court, Middleboro’, was summoned for having threatened Caroline
Andrews, wife of Robert Andrews painter, Middleboro’ on July 21st  …. On the day named the
defendant threatened to cut the complainant open
”. The defendant, Harriet Taylor, was found guilty, and it does sound like the headline of the article “An unpleasant Neighbourhood” was accurate

A further daughter, Caroline Elizabeth, was born at Fisher’s Yard, Colchester in June 1889
She passed away in mid-1890 before her first birthday

In the 1891 Census the family were still in Fisher’s Yard.  Caroline age 41 now described herself as a tailoress.  Living with her were husband Robert (44, painter), and children Rebecca (19, tailoress), Henry (17 tailor’s presser), Clara (16, tailoress), Joseph (13, scholar) and Alice (8, scholar).  Rebecca, Henry, Clara and Joseph had all been with Caroline in 1881 in the Guildford Workhouse, so it is good to see that they survived that ordeal and remained together.

By 1901, 50-year-old Caroline had moved to Albert Street, Colchester, and was now a charwoman. Perhaps her eyesight was failing so was unable to continue as a tailoress?  Caroline had three children living with her – Alice (18, tailoress), Harry (Henry, 27, bricklayer’s labourer) and newly
married Joseph (23, bricklayer’s labourer) with his wife Emily
.  Husband Robert (54, painter) was a visitor in the household of George Lay in Ipswich, the location of more crime.

In fact Robert had been in and out of jail at least since his first conviction in 1865 when he was

Deservedly, his description, as Robert “alias George” Andrews, appeared in the 1909 Register of Habitual Criminals

In April 1911 both Caroline (61) and Robert (64) were listed as “inmates” in the Colchester Union Workhouse. This Census showed that Caroline had given birth to eight children, with five still living. The deaths of Albert/Robert Edward in 1881 in Guildford Workhouse, and Caroline Elizabeth in 1890 have already been mentioned, but no record can be found of an eighth child. 

Robert died on 30th May in the Colchester Workhouse infirmary of a cerebral haemorrhage
Caroline witnessed the death, and gave both her and Robert’s address as 4 Slythe Square, West Stockwell Street. This address was also the home of son Henry, and son Joseph and his family, so it appears that this was now the family home
. Caroline “made her mark”, meaning that she was unable to write.

Caroline died not long after, on 4th February 1912, age 66, at 4 Slythe Square, of chronic nephritis (kidney disease).  Her death was registered by her daughter Clara, who lived nearby in Manor Road and was present at her mother’s death. On the death certificate Caroline is named as Caroline Angelina Rebecca Andrews.  At no point have the two middle names been used or hinted at, nor are they on her birth certificate.  Perhaps Clara assumed that as her sister Rebecca was Caroline Angelina Rebecca, that her mother was too.



Caroline’s children who survived into adulthood came through a highly disrupted childhood to grow up and remain as a close-knit unit in Colchester.  Happily, it appears that their early experiences did not have a lasting effect.  The youngest, Alice Maud, was the only one to move away.

Caroline Angelina REBECCA Fletcher was Caroline senior’s oldest child, born in 1872.  She must have had memories of her early unsettled childhood.  She was only 2 when admitted to the Stepney workhouse, but 10 in the Guildford workhouse.  She would have stayed with her mother in Stepney, but been separated in Guildford.  All over sevens were placed in the children’s ward, and under the rules of the time Rebecca would only have been allowed to see her mother once a day.

Rebecca married Charles Gant, a bricklayer from Mile End Road, Colchester, in 1892.  She was age 20, a tailoress, living at 3 Fishers Yard.  Her brother Harry (Henry) was a witness.  She married as a Fletcher.  Where her father’s name should be on the certificate is left blank, so maybe Robert was not her father, even though her surname is given as Andrews on Censuses.

The Gants’ first son, Charles Thomas, was born in 1894 in Colchester but died 2 years later following a tragic accident which was reported at length in the local press.  Charles had been sitting in the playground shed of North Street School during the summer holiday on 17th August with his 13 year-old aunt Alice Maud, plus another girl.  They were to meet his grandmother, Mrs Andrews (Caroline senior) at lunchtime after she had finished cleaning the school. Charles Thomas was sitting watching Alice and her friend playing on the swings when “as he suddenly jumped up from his seat, one of the swings hit the poor little fellow, and he fell backwards to the asphalt floor.  His head was fractured in two places”.  Charles was taken to hospital but died four days later.  The verdict was ‘accidental death’ with a recommendation that the swings be removed or roped off when teachers were not present.

In the 1901 Census Rebecca (“Caroline A R Gant”, 29) and Charles (36, bricklayer) were living in Golden Square, near North Street School, which must have been a constant reminder of their son’s accident. They had three children Lily (8), Caroline A R (5), and Arthur S (1).  Another baby, Samuel
Frank, was born in 1897 but died the following year

By 1911 Rebecca (“C.A.R.”, 38) and Charles (45, self-employed bricklayer) had moved to a four-roomed house, 64 Albert Street, Colchester. As well as Arthur (11), they had four more children at home – May (9), Rosalie (6), Earnest sic (5), and Charles (2).  Although older daughters Lily and Caroline junior were listed with their parents, their names had been crossed out, and they were in fact living out and working nearby as domestic servants.  Lily (18), was at the Globe Hotel, and Caroline (15) with a family in Golden Square

Two further children were born to Rebecca and Charles – Willie in 1911, and Hilda Violet in 1914, bringing the total to 11.

The 1939 Register shows Rebecca (“Caroline R”) and Charles leading a quieter life, as Charles had retired from bricklaying and they had no children at home. They were still living at 33 West Stockwell Street.  Rebecca (“Caroline Angelina Rebecca”) died in 1942 aged 70, and Charles in 1944 age 79 .

HENRY (Harry) William Andrews was born in 1873 in Colchester. Like his older sister Rebecca, he was with his mother through a disruptive childhood, including a stay in two workhouses, before the family settled in Colchester

In 1911, when his parents were in the Colchester workhouse, 37 year-old bachelor Henry and his
younger brother Joseph with his family were living at 4 Slythes Square, Colchester
. Both Henry and Joseph were bricklayer’s labourers. 

It appears that Henry may have taken the death of his parents quite badly, as he was charged with
being drunk and disorderly a couple of weeks after the death of each of them
. No other misdemeanours were reported in the press.

In 1915 Henry married Sarah Bloomfield. Henry was not eligible to be called up to serve in World War I because of his age and marriage, and there is no record of him volunteering until and perhaps surprisingly, in July 1918, he joined the Royal Air Force at the age of 44.  The RAF was the name given when the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Services amalgamated on 1st April 1918. On his record Henry is described as being 5 feet ½ inch tall, chest 32 ½ inches, dark grey hair, hazel eyes, and a fresh complexion.  His home address was Vineyard St, Colchester.  In February 1919 he was transferred to the reserves, and discharged in April 1920. 

It doesn’t seem that Henry and Sarah had children.  In the 1939 Register they were living in Garden Court, West Stockwell Street, Colchester. Henry had retired from his job of bricklaying.  He died in 1945, age 71, and Sarah in 1963, age 82.

CLARA (Emma) Andrews, born in 1875, was also in the Guildford workhouse in 1881.  As she was only 6, she would have remained with her mother in the female ward of the workhouse

Clara married William Hockley in 1897 in Colchester – on the certificate her name was given as Clara Emma Andrews.  Before the marriage Clara had worked as a tailoress.

In 1901 Clara (26) and William (23) were living at 3 Manor Road, Colchester. William was a grocer’s carman, which meant he drove a horse drawn vehicle to deliver goods.  They had 2 children Clara M aged 5 and William H aged 2. 

By 1911, Clara (35) was working again as a tailoress, and William (33) had progressed to being
a “salesman in mineral waters”
.  Their daughter, now going by her second name of Maude, was 15 and working as a kitchen maid. Sons William (12) and Leonard (8) were at school. The family had stayed in Manor Road, now living in four rooms at number 7.  Also at the same address but living in two rooms as a separate household were William’s mother Emily and sister Alice Laura.

William’s WW1 Army record shows he enlisted voluntarily in December 1915, age 38, and was
assigned to the Army Reserve
.  He was mobilised in November 1917, serving in Chelmsford at the Royal Army Veterinary Corps depot grooming horses, until invalided out in December 1919 because of a deterioration in his health.  He had suffered from chronic bronchitis for many years, which meant he had been confined to light duties. This was most likely a contributing factor to his death in April 1937, aged 59, at 14 Popes Lane – the site of the old Colchester Workhouse. In 1930 the old workhouse had become the Colchester Public Assistance Institution, continuing to provide care for the elderly, infirm and destitute. This was the very place where Clara’s father had died in 1911.

Clara carried on living at 7 Manor Rd with her sister-in-law Alice until at least 1939, passing away in Colchester in 1951 at the age of 77.

JOSEPH (Henry) Andrews born in November 1877 in Colchester, was very young when he was in
Guildford workhouse so may not have remembered it at all.

Like many of his relatives, Joseph started out as a bricklayer. He married Emily Goodwin in 1901, and went on to have four children – Ethel May (1901), Alice Maud (1903), Joseph Henry (1907) and George Leonard (1912).  In 1911 the family’s address was 4 Slythes Square, Colchester.

Joseph would have been in his mid-thirties when WW1 started, and therefore would have been
of an age to be conscripted
.  There is no evidence that he saw active service, or had any involvement in the armed forces, but we cannot be sure as about 60% of WWI service records were destroyed as a result of enemy bombing in WW2.

In the 1939 Register, Joseph was noted as a retired Council servant. Living with him at Greens Buildings, St Peter’s Street, were his wife Emily, and sons Joseph (a general labourer) and George (a lorry driver for Colchester Corporation).

Joseph died aged 66 in Colchester in 1944.  On registration of the death, his name was given as Joseph Henry Andrews.  He appears to have acquired this middle name later in life, it was used for
example on his son George’s baptism
.  Emily died the following year in 1945, age 71.

ALICE MAUD Andrews, Caroline’s youngest surviving child, was born in 1882, when Caroline and Robert were settled in Colchester, and did not personally experience the Guildford workhouse.

Alice became a tailoress, like her mother and sister, marrying John William Elsmore Bond in July 1903. The 1911 Census showed the family living in a five roomed dwelling at 98 Harsnett Road, Colchester.  Alice Maud was 28, with four children all born in Colchester – John William (7), Theodora Alice (6), Alfred Leonard (4), and Percy Albert (1). Her husband John (29) was a metal planer. A second daughter, Hilda Annie, was born in late 1914 in Colchester

In February 1915 Alice’s husband enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in Winnipeg. He was initially assigned to a Field Ambulance workshop unit and then served in France in WWI. 

John had first emigrated to Canada in 1902 and Alice in 1903. However they had clearly returned to Colchester at some stage, as they are on the 1911 Census there, and this was where their five oldest children were born.  John had gone back on his own to Canada in March 1912 and March 1914. On his attestation form he gave Alice’s address as 45 Slythe Hill, Colchester, so it looks likely that she remained in Colchester looking after the family while her husband worked in Canada.

By 1921 the whole family had permanently emigrated to Canada and were now Canadian citizens.  They were living in the remote, small city of Prince Rupert in British Columbia. Their final child, William Elsmore Bond, was born there in January 1924.  John was a machinist, a skilled job, which is perhaps how he came to be in this developing port and railway terminus. 

John passed away in Prince Rupert in 1955 age 71and Alice also in Prince Rupert, in 1960 age 77.


November 2019, updated August 2022

Val Pink, Mike Brock, Carol Thompson

With many thanks to Neil Bertram for permission to use the photograph of Caroline Angelina Rebecca Fletcher (1872-1942), taken in in 1928. 


Sources : / Ancestry/com /


                      Charlotteville Jubilee Trust

             / British Newspapers Online

                      General Register Office





                      Surrey History Centre



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