I was born a year before my great-grandmother died, though sadly and inexplicably we have no photograph of us together. Legend has it that when she saw me for the first time, she said I looked like a skinned rabbit! The women in our family weren’t ever noted for their tact…
The Clarke family lived in Horsforth until Maria was about seven years old, when they moved to Bradford, living about a mile from where I’m sitting now.
Maria married at the age of nineteen and had seven children. The youngest, Ernest, was born in 1897 when Maria was 29 years old.
This photograph was possibly taken around that time, or a little earlier. According to the photo-dating website, these type of pictures were current from 1894 to 1902 which would be about right.
The fact that Maria ceased bearing children at the age of 29 reinforces my belief that she and Hiram split up around the turn of the century. Hiram lived until 1933 but we have no photo of him, which I find remarkable.
We can find neither Hiram nor Maria in the 1901 census but Maria describes herself as “Head of the Household” in the 1911 census, when Hiram and his eldest daughter Norah are recorded in the household of Mary Elizabeth Shearer.
This is all speculation, of course.* What I do know for sure is that Maria and her unmarried daughter Mary Elizabeth (known as Cissie) lived together until Maria’s death in 1951. Grandma Shearer and Aunt Cissie were very much a part of our immediate family group. The photo below must have been taken by my Grandma. Scarborough beach in the 1930’s:
* Later note: I have perhaps found confirmation of this. One Hiram Shearer was summonsed on 13 March 1903 under the Married Women Act 1895, which gave protection to abused, deserted and neglected wives and allowed them to seek custody of their children. Good on you, Grandma Shearer!
Born Maria Clark in about 1867 in Horsforth near Bradford, Yorkshire
Married Hiram Bell Shearer on 8 March 1887
Died 7 January 1951 and was buried in Undercliffe Cemetery