The subject of today’s post is, rather unusually, a man, Charles David Strickland, who was born in 1900 in Chelsea, one of 4 surviving children of Lydia and Frank, a potman. (Potman = employed to collect up the glasses in a pub, paid a pittance.)
By 1903 Frank was dead and Lydia was trying to find rent and food for her children, working as a charwoman (a pittance but even smaller as she was a woman). She did not, could not, manage.
Aged 5, Charles was admitted to the parish workhouse and sent to the “Branch School” at Hammersmith and from there to the Exmouth Training Ship at Grays, Essex. He must have returned to Chelsea b/c the following year he was back in the workhouse, and from there sent to Banstead Cottage Schools, which cared for workhouse children from Chelsea and Kensington.
I could find only one other mention of Charles, in The Chelsea News for 18 Jan 1918, which happened to be his 18th birthday. He was up in court for speeding – he was doing 27 mph – on Chelsea Bridge Road.
We can assume he was apprenticed to a garage or similar; he may have worked for a garage like the one in the advertisement (from West London Observer, 23 Feb 1934) and would have been hired out with the saloon car for days out of town and special occasions.
By 1939 he was living with his wife Winifred in rooms at 55 Radnor Walk and working as a chauffeur. He had signed up to be an ARP ambulance driver.
This series on WW2 ambulance drivers in Chelsea is partly a study in contrasts. The “unpaid” lives of women compared to their husbands, the careers of the new class of professional women compared to their foremothers, and the fortunes of the well-off compared to their poverty-stricken neighbours. Charles died in 1968. When researching these profiles of the crews it struck me that the women, nearly all of whom were from the privileged classes, tended to live very long lives, often into their 80s and 90s. The men, and certainly the w/c men, died young. Not an original observation but one that possibly still holds true.
Visit Peter Higginbottom’s website for information about workhouses and Poor Law schools.