Henrietta Augusta Hunter née Crossman was born in 1874 at Tynemouth, UK. She married John Hunter in 1900 in South Shields. She died on 27 April 1955 at the home of her daughter Ethel: 123 Hundens Lane, Darlington, County Durham, England, United Kingdom.
Henrietta was born and brought up in Tynemouth, the town or village on the north side of the mouth of the River Tyne in north-eastern England. Her father, Reuben Crossman, died in 1880.
In 1881, the census found her, aged 6, living at or near Newcastle Terrace, Tynemouth. The household also included her mother, Mary Ann Crossman, her maternal grandparents, Robert & Ann Kay, three siblings (Sarah, Eleanor and Aquariana) and a female servant.
When in her teens, Henrietta was sent to live with an uncle and aunt, William and Eleanor Clift. The practice of farming out a surplus daughter to a related family as a servant was common then. Henrietta worked in their "high class" fresh fish shop in Ocean Road, South Shields. They owned a trawler (fishing boat).
In 1900 she married Jack Hunter in South Shields, and by 1901 they had moved to Gateshead, UK, the town over the river from Newcastle upon Tyne. The house was in Rodsley Avenue, just north of Saltwell Park. He was described as a "Railway Clerk, Goods". As yet there were no children.
By the 1911, they had moved to Westbourne Avenue, just a street or two away, and Henrietta had given birth to three children: Jack, Ettie and Ethel. She would perambulate them around Saltwell Park, which she loved. Jack (the father) was still a railway clerk, now working in the locomotive department of a railway company.
Later, they moved to Darlington, UK, when LNER (London and North Eastern Railway) opened its headquarters there. The railways were booming then, and Darlington was a thriving rolling-stock manufacturing town. The family settled in its northern suburb of Harrowgate Hill, in Vernon Gardens. The fourth child, Elsie, was born there.
It was at Darlington that Jack died in 1929, after a long illness. Henrietta had a breakdown after his death, partly because he left so little money and the house was rented, not owned. Son Jack and daughter Ettie had by now married and departed the nest, but two daughters, Ethel and Elsie, remained on her hands. Elsie recounted later that her mother more or less gave up after Jack died, especially when, later, Ethel got pregnant out of wedlock. There was a stigma attached to that in those days.
In about 1934, they moved to a house in Saltersgate Road, also in Harrowgate Hill, which was rented from the father of Hughie Glendenning, Ettie's husband. It had a more suitable garden for a Ethel's child, Tony, to play in. Henrietta's son Jack and his wife Hilda lived almost opposite the house. Tom and Mabel Golightly their son Frank and daughter Jean also lived in the street – a coincidence that would become apparent when Elsie married Mabel's younger brother Wilf in 1946. The kids all played together. Henrietta looked after Tony while Ethel and Elsie went out to work as shop girls to bring in some money. Incidentally, Henrietta's female friend in this period was called Ivy.
Now World War II came on, and food was rationed. The family struggled to avoid being hungry. Elsie later complained that her mother was not very good at economising and making the food ration go as far as possible.
Ethel married Gordon Lambert in 1941 and Elsie married Wilf White in 1946, leaving Henrietta on her own. She spent 5 or more months at Whitley Bay in 1948 looking after Elsie's husband and newborn son. She later developed cancer, and was taken in by Ettie, who was now living in Lytham St Annes. She died of cancer at the home of her daughter Ethel in Darlington in 1955.
Daughter Elsie had the following impressions of her mother.
She was more modern in appearance than her other sisters, and wore her hair and skirt shorter than any of them. Nevertheless, she was very Victorian and knew little of life other than being a housewife. She disapproved for example of women going into pubs, which was out of the question for respectable women when she was young. She did not read books much, unlike her husband.
She tried to get her offspring decent jobs after their father died but wasn't very good at it, not being very astute about the ways of the world. Elsie complained that her mother, in the old-fashioned way, made all her decisions for her. Henrietta herself "never had a job", except as a housewife.
Being a housewife was not, however, a "cushy number" in those times. She cooked everything; there was no prepared food in those days. There were no washing machines or vacuum cleaners either. But she didn't go shopping: the childeren were sent out to get butter etc. Many traders came round: grocer, butcher's boy, milk (which was poured out from a big container into jugs), fish, etc.
Henrietta damaged her back whilst turning the handle of the mangle – the roller-press used to wring water out of clothes after washing. She had to get someone to do the washing for her from that time on.
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