Named after her mother, Julia D was the daughter of a survivor of the Birkenhead Disaster – which took place when she was very young. Born on the south coast of England, she was brought up in London when her father gave up his naval career, and then married a Yorkshire boatbuilder in the mid-1870s. Their marriage produced two sons, but one died at the age of one.
It was then that things started to unravel. Her husband disappeared – family legend says that he was lost at sea – and by 1881 she was back in London working as a housemaid in the Army and Navy Club in Pall Mall, under her maiden name.
She took up with the club’s house superintendent, and produced four further children who all bore his name. However, they never married, and on every relevant census record her second life partner claims to be single – perhaps an indication that Julia’s former husband may not have completely “disappeared”, although he remains elusive on census returns.
In 1899, around the time Julia’s mother died, something appears to have gone wrong in this newer relationship too, and she and three daughters are admitted to a London workhouse twice in a matter of months. She claimed to be a widow, but her erstwhile partner, however, continued to work at the club in which they met, and but did not appear to support the family. Julia made a basic living as a charwoman, supplemented by her elder daughter’s earnings from domestic service, and when he died in 1909 his inheritance went to his sister.
Somewhere along the line, her first husband re-appeared and again lived in Yorkshire. Family legend says that on the death of her second partner she discovered that he was alive, and they reaffirmed their marriage. Certainly, on the 1911 census, Julia had reverted to her first married name, and was living with him in Yorkshire, claiming to have been married to him for 35 years. Two of her daughters from her second relationship are living with them, but given as borders.
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