Lydia, Polly’s overpowering elder sister, makes a brief appearance in Barefoot on the Cobbles and had a part to play in furthering the relationship between Albert and Polly. Her imperious nature highlights the attraction of Polly’s less assertive personality and it is Lydia who draws Polly to Bideford. This physical separation from Albert helps Polly to reassess her feelings.
Lydia Wakely was born in Peppercombe in 1868 and was the eldest of the five surviving daughters. She moved to Bideford to work as a dressmaker, the only one of the sisters who appears to have had a trade. In the novel, her employer was Mrs Newman, who was indeed a local dressmaker but there is no evidence for the identity of Lydia’s real life employer. I tried to give Lydia a personality that matched the facts. She saw two of her younger sisters marry before her, finally securing a husband at the age of thirty. Her spouse, William Jenkins, was a carpenter and they lived initially at Wood Cottage in Landcross. By 1911, however they were living in an 11 room home in Bay View Road, Northam and employing a live-in servant. This and her childlessness, was very different from Polly’s experiences. Lydia died in 1929.
‘ ‘I’m Miss Wakely, Lydia Wakely,’ she said, ‘and these are my younger sisters, Jane and Polly.’
The emphasis on the word younger did not escape Albert. Miss Wakely was clearly expecting that Albert would consider her sisters too childish to warrant notice.’
Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.