[1GGP] Ernest Benjamin MAYHEW & Amelia Elizabeth COWLEY

My maternal great-grandparents were Ernest Benjamin MAYHEW and Amelia Elizabeth COWLEY.

Ernest Benjamin MAYHEW was born on 19th July 1885 at Joyce’s Yard, High Street, Kempston, Bedfordshire. He was the third of eleven children born to Walter Charles MAYHEW, a general labourer, and his wife Elizabeth FINDING, a lacemaker. Amelia Elizabeth COWLEY (aka Millie) was born on 4th Feb 1887 at Priory Street, Bedford, Bedfordshire. She was the second (but most likely third) of six children born to Joseph James COWLEY, a coachman and groom, and his wife Eliza KEETCH, a former domestic servant and nurse.

Newspaper articles reproduced with the permission of the British Newspaper Archive and The British Library BoardMaps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Ernest was working as a non-domestic groom (eg. for a business rather than a family) in 1901 aged 15 and likely how he met Millie whose father was a domestic coachman. The MAYHEW family was living at 222 Bedford Road, Kempston New Town whilst the COWLEY family was living to the west of the old village at The Stables (aka grooms cottages), Kempston House, Green End.

Ernest and Millie married on 20th May 1907 in Kempston, Bedfordshire when they were age 21 and 20. They had four children between 1908-1927, my grandfather Cecil being the first, followed by Ernest 7 years later, Samuel just over 5 years after that, and lastly Marjorie another 6 years later (my granddad was nearly 20 years older than his sister).

  1. Joseph Benjamin Cecil Mayhew, aka Cecil (b.01 Feb 1908 in Kempston, Bedfordshire)
  2. Ernest Frank Mayhew (b.14 Nov 1915 in Biddenham, Bedfordshire)
  3. Samuel John Mayhew, aka Johnny/Jack (b.13 Apr 1921 in Kempston)
  4. Marjorie Dorothy Mayhew (b.15 Dec 1927 in Kempston or Biddenham)

The young family of three were living at Church End, Biddenham by 1909 where Ernest was working as a domestic groom for Roger Estcout BUCKNALL of Biddenham Manor where he worked for many years.

Ernest enlisted as a Private in the Army Service Corps M2/097890 before Jun 1915 (as per the letter Millie received regarding her separation allowance application) which kept the British Army in supplies. His work prior to this was as a domestic chauffeur which was likely why he ended up where he did. In 1918 Ernest was assigned to the 357th Water Company, Royal Engineers which was stationed in Palestine in Apr 1918. He was still in Haifa, Palestine in early 1919 as confirmed by his daily pass dated 12th Feb. Sadly his military records were destroyed along with so many others in the bombing of 1940, so it has not been possible to discover any more. He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal after demobilization in 1919.

Whilst Ernest was away, Millie and their two children moved in with her parents at The Stables, Green End. On his discharge, the family remained in Green End and Ernest found employment with Cryselco (an electric lighting company) in Kempston as their lorry driver. When the 1921 census was taken their third son Samuel was 9 weeks old. Their fourth and final child, Marjorie, was born in 1927 and by 1937 the family were living in a groom’s cottage at Church End, Biddenham (just south of Green End up the River Great Ouse) where Ernest was employed at Biddenham Manor next door. Millie became a member of the local Women’s Institute, Mothers’ Union and Village Hall Committee.

Millie had been in failing health since about 1935 and died of pernicious anaemia (a B12 deficiency) at home on 12th Apr 1937 aged 50 with her husband present. She was buried three days later on 15 Apr in the Parish Church.

Ernest swiftly remarried just over a year later to 38-year-old Ida Mary WHITTEMORE on his 53rd birthday on 19th Jul 1938 at St. Neots Church, Huntingdonshire (Ida was born close by in Eynesbury). Ernest’s daughter Marjorie was only 9 when her mother died which no doubt played a part in Ernest wanting to get married again, and the speed with which it happened caused much speculation as to their relationship prior to Millie’s death. Ernest and Ida had worked together at Biddenham Manor for some years. Ida had worked for Roger Estcout BUCKNALL between at least 1921 to 1931 as the family’s domestic servant in another of their homes at Sheringham, Norfolk and the couple were given a bedstead as a wedding gift by Mr and Mrs Bucknall.

When the 1939 Register was taken, Ernest (54) was working as a groom whilst  Ida (39) was performing “unpaid domestic duties“. Also living with them was his son Ernest Jnr (age 24) who was working as a labourer and tractor driver, and his daughter Marjorie (age 12) who was at school. They also had one unknown redacted child living with them along with Ronald Arthur John JENNINGS, age 8. The whereabouts of their son Jack, who would have been 18, is unknown. Households were usually grouped by family and age, then other occupants listed. Jack would likely have been listed above Marjorie had he been at home and not described as being “at school” by the time he was 18.

Ernest, Ida and his adult children Ernest Jnr and Marjorie continued to live at 18 Church End, Biddenham for many years. Ernest died at the Three Counties Hospital, Stotfold, Bedfordshire on 30th Jan 1965 at age 75 leaving Ida, Ernest Jnr and Marjorie at 18 Church End until Marjorie married widower Eric Jason HILL in 1970 (more below). Ernest Jnr continued to live with Ida until 1945 when he moved to 26a St. Michaels Road, Bedford, Bedfordshire where he remained until he died in 1986 aged 70, living on his own. Ida lived on her own at 18 Church End until at least 1986 then moved into Fenwick House Care Home, 1 Cowper Road, Bedford, Bedfordshire where she died aged 92 on 26th Mar 1993.

Ernest & Millie’s Children

My grandfather Joseph Benjamin Cecil MAYHEW married Daisy ELINKINS on 6th Apr 1931 when his little sister Marjorie was just 3 years old. Their first child was born in 1933 and their second in 1945.

Ernest Frank MAYHEW never married or had any children.

Samuel John MAYHEW (aka Jack) married Madelaine Joan BRADLEY in 1953 when they were in their 30s and did not have any children.

Marjorie Dorothy MAYHEW married Eric Jason HILL on 4th Apr 1970 in Biddenham. Up to this point, Marjorie had been living at her family home at 18 Church End (also called Church Road). Eric, a highly qualified music teacher, was seventeen years older than Marjorie, and recently widowed. His first wife, Stella Narcissa Kathleen ELLIS had died the previous year on 21st May 1969 aged 61 at their home of 12 Elger Close, Biddenham where they had just moved. Marjorie (aged 42) joined Eric (aged 59) at 12 Elger Close after they married (they had no children together nor had Eric any from his first marriage). Eric died on 17th Oct 1994 aged 84 and Marjorie continued to live at 12 Elger Close until 2003 when she moved into Kimbolton Lodge, 1 Kimbolton Road, Bedford, Bedfordshire. She died there on 1st Dec 2006 aged 78.

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