She was my great-grandmother, a daughter of Tommy Boswell/Lewis and Counseletti Smith, and in 1887 Adelaide married her first husband, Frederick Breakspear, a marine store dealer. They had seven known children together, before his death in January 1901, and their eldest child was my grandmother, Tryphena. Baptised and registered with this name, Tryphena was born in 1888, and named in tribute to one of Adelaide’s sisters, although she also used the name Alice, particularly amongst the general population. Her sisters, though, called her Faye.
Nicknames were popular in the family, and one of the couple’s sons was so dark-skinned he was known as Darkie, an honour that would not be understood now, but nevertheless referenced his Romani bloodline with pride – an old aunt told me this was this eldest son, but cousins have assured me that it was a younger boy, George, who was known as Darkie within the family; so permanently was this name used that my father, when I asked him, had no idea what his uncle’s real name was.
In 1889 Adelaide and Frederick had a son, named for his father, and in 1891 Mary Elizabeth (Polly) was born, George two years later, Belinda in 1894 (died in 1899) and Albert in 1896. In 1899 their last child was born, and was named Thomas, a family name in both families, of course. Thomas’s birth was mentioned in a local newspaper report, although it was not the central issue of the piece, it certainly suggests a dramatic entrance into the world.
The Reading Mercury of 4th November 1899 reported on the inquest of Caroline Clark, held at the Bell Inn, Grove, Berkshire, telling its readers, ‘The woman, it appears, was in the habit of acting as a midwife in the village, and between 9 and 10 o’clock on Wednesday evening was called to attend Mrs. Breakspear, a hawker’s wife, who was at the time in a tent by the side of her van. Deceased, who was apparently in her usual health went, and on the road stopped several times and complained of her heart. On arriving at the van she sat down in a chair to take a breath and was shortly afterwards found there, dead. A verdict of sudden death was recorded.’
A little over a year later Adelaide was a widow, her husband dying of heart failure, caused by alcoholism, and so by the time of the census she is found in the village of Childrey, described as a hawker, with children Tryphena, Freddie, Polly, Georgie, Albie, Tommie, and also present is her sister, Rose (known as Mirannie within the family), who had married Frederick Breakspear’s younger brother, John, as Rose Hannah Lewis in the December quarter of 1897. Her little daughter, Fairnettie Tryphena was registered in the June quarter of 1901.
The use of the surname Lewis, rather than Boswell, is traced back to Lewis Boswell, Tommy Boswell’s father. Known locally as ‘Old Lewis,’ Tommy was thereafter called ‘Young Lewis,’ and, in consequence, often chose to use Lewis as a surname, although several of his children were baptised as Boswells, of course.
Adelaide was also with her parents during the days of the 1901 census and so was recorded twice. Thomas and Counselettie give the surname Lewis here for themselves and their extended family, including Adelaide, where she is listed here as Hadley (clearly Adley, with the addition of an aspirate) and the family are living in vans and tents in Brown’s Lane, in the registration district of Wantage, Berkshire. By the 1911 census Adelaide’s life would have changed once more, with a second husband and the births of three more children.