Aunt Ellen was another minor character, in Barefoot on the Cobbles, who was fascinating to research. Like her sister, she spent time in the asylum at Exminster, contributing to her sister-in-law Polly’s dread of the institution. Although Eadie was a year old when Ellen was admitted, she was probably suffering from post-natal depression.
Ellen was the ninth child in a family of eleven and grew up in a fishing family at King’s Cottage, Bucks Mills. She was born on 11 June 1848 and married her first cousin, Thomas, ‘Crumplefoot Tommy’, in 1873. It appears that the first year of their married life was spent in the cottage now known as Mark’s, before they moved to Ivy Cottage. In the 1911 census, Ellen states that she had ten children but only nine have been identified; three of these died young. Her mental ill-health was probably a contributing factor to her willingness to hand her daughter, Eadie, to her brother to be brought up. Ellen died on 22 January 1919.
‘Polly felt frozen fingers grip her heart. She was well aware that Matilda’s sister, Albert’s Aunt Ellen, had spent nigh on a year in the asylum, when Eadie had been a year old. They’d blamed that on child bearing. Polly glanced involuntarily at Nelson in his cradle. Was she immune to this affliction that struck at mothers unawares?’
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.