A trip back to Brazil and beyond

As the sporting world looks to Rio this year for the Football World Cup and for the Olympics in 2016, it certainly has me thinking more and more about my grandfather’s early years spent living in Rio de Janeiro. A while ago I posted about how my grandfather and his parents made the journey over to Brazil from Hyde in Cheshire in The Brazilian Connection. That post ended with the death of my great grandfather Harry Marshall in 1919, leaving his widow Mary and only child Philip.

Harry’s wife – my great grandmother, Mary Swann was born in Mellor, Derbyshire on 9th May 1878 at Longhurst Lane, the daughter of Elisha Swann and Sophia Stafford. She was baptised on the 24th November that same year.

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An original copy of Mary’s birth certificate from 1891 – presumably for proof of age for work or vaccinations.

In 1881 Mary was with her family at School Row, Longhurst Lane, Mellor. Her father was an Agricultural Labourer, her mother was a Domestic and her 8 year old brother Joseph was a scholar. She also had her 15 year old half brother William Stephen Stafford with them who was a Cotton Operative.  Mary’s mother Sophia had two sons prior to her marriage to Elisha, John Thomas Stafford born in 1858 and William Stephen Stafford born in 1866. It is likely that they had different fathers and were not Elisha’s sons. Sophia and Elisha had a son Robert in 1870 who was buried just 11 days after he was baptised. By 1891 the family had moved to a little road called Barlow Fold in Romiley, Cheshire. This was a quaint little street with a number of whitewashed cottages. The 1901 census expanded a little more to say that they lived at 3 Barlow Fold.

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Although my grandmother had written on the back of this postcard that her mother in law had lived at the first cottage, this doesn’t seem to be correct, unless the houses were renumbered over the years – which is possible, or that perhaps in 1891 with the house number not being given on the census, that she had started living at that house but then moved. Currently number 3 is actually opposite this line of houses – facing the house in the middle of the postcard. The porch is probably a more modern extension.

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Image from Google StreetView

In 1891 Mary was a scholar and living with her parents, by now her father had become a Platelayer on the railway as had her half brother – but there is a note next to his name to say that he was actually not at home on census night. Her brother Joseph was a Labourer at a Print Works. By 1901 her father was a General Labourer and it was just him, his wife Sophia and Mary living at home. By then, Mary was working as a Chamois Leather Machinist. It is likely that Mary worked for James North, a well renowned chamois glove manufacturers who were commissioned to make Shackleton’s gloves for his polar expedition. Their Bottom Street mill in Hyde suffered greatly during floods in 1900 and 1906.

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The flood damage to the James North mill – image from http://hydonian.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/james-north-company.html

At some point Mary met her future husband Harry Marshall who lived and worked in Hyde for Slack Mills. Between 1901 and their marriage in 1908 she lost her father Elisha who died in 1904 and then just over a month after her marriage her mother Sophia died.

In 1911 she was living at 10 Woodbrooke Avenue in Hyde with Harry and at the end of that year they had my grandfather Philip. The following year Harry set off to Rio with Mary and Philip following on some months later.

From the photographs we have of their time over there, life seemed quite an interesting time for them (apart from the rather morose looking photo on my previous post.)

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Two rather posed photographs of Mary in Brazil. In the second one it looks like she is picking oranges.

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My grandfather as a small boy with a bunch of bananas almost as tall as him and one of Mary and Phil seemingly in the depths of the jungle!

I rather like this photograph of my grandfather on the beach. Although it is quite faded I like the boats on the shore and the mountains in the distance.

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Mary stood with Phil in front of her with some friends and another child.

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Mary stands looking out of the window in this photograph.

However, after the death of her husband on 2nd December 1919, Mary returned to Cheshire. She came back relatively quickly arriving on 12th January 1920 – giving an address of 64 Chapel Street, Hyde, travelling aboard the Deseado.

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I am very fortunate in that the family had Mary’s passport from this trip. It folds out into a massive document.

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The passport gives a good description of Mary – being 5 foot 4 inches tall, with a regular forehead, grey eyes, regular mouth and nose, round chin, brown hair, fair complexion and an oval face.

You can see the sadness in Mary’s face for her passport photograph, newly widowed and heading back to England.

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So Mary and Phil returned and came to live in Chapel Street. Presumably someone back home had sorted out this home for them, maybe friends lived there and opened their home to them to come back to while they sorted themselves out. Between 1920 and 1923 they had moved from Chapel Street to nearby 42 Church Street.

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64 Chapel Street and 42 Church Street, Hyde today – from Google StreetView.

While living at 42 Church Street, Mary received a postcard from some friends – perhaps friends she had previously lived near in Brazil who had since moved on and had gone to Bombay.

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The card reads: “Rachael Bungalow, Patel, Bombay, India. June 3rd (year unknown as the stamp and accompanying postmark have been removed.) Dear Friend, We have arrived a month ago & are just getting settled down a bit, the weather is very hot just now but we are expecting the rains in a few weeks. The kiddies are A1, we have a lovely verandah for them to play. Best love to Philip ? yourself. Yours sincerely C & S Spencer.

In 1923 Mary and Philip decided to go to Australia. In 1912 Mary’s brother Joseph and his family had emigrated to New South Wales and had eventually settled in Victoria. They departed from London on 25th July 1923 aboard the Hobson’s Bay. Philip may have had a passport photograph taken for this journey as it is endorsed on the back.

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By the look of him he looks quite young here, in 1923 he would have been almost 12, so it is possible this photograph was taken not long after they arrived back in England from Brazil a couple of years before.

The family say that Mary had thought they were going to live out in Australia but apparently found it too hot, so they returned from Melbourne on 12th December 1923 aboard the Euripedes to Southampton, giving the address 25 Henry Street, Hyde.

Either on the way there or back they had stopped off at South Africa and took some photographs. The one below I am unsure whether it was taken in Brazil or South Africa, it looks like it might have been taken earlier than 1923.

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The photograph on the left is Phil and his mother, Phil looks like a rather spoiled little boy in this photograph. The one on the right must have been of two fellow travellers. I find it quite interesting that their local tribal rickshaw man is in the exact same pose in both photographs like he hasn’t moved at all.

After their travels Mary and Phil ended up living at 20 Deal Street, Hyde – this address was given when Mary applied for Premium Bonds for Phil from the Royal Liver Insurance Company in 1927.

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Mary and presumably her dog. This might have been taken when she was living in Hyde. The original is in sepia but is quite faded, so I have changed it to black and white to make it easier to see.

In 1929 Mary was living back in Romiley again, just yards from her childhood home in Barlow Fold, in Birchvale Drive. She had a bungalow built by J & T Rhodes Ltd. and named it ‘Lembranças‘ – Portuguese for souvenirs. Here is the plan for the property – the road is marked as Birchvale Avenue but it was Drive not Avenue and the bill for the build which came to £394 7s – which in 2005’s money would come to £13,179.18:

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This bungalow is situated at 39 Birchvale Drive – and is next to a pathway that runs between it and 1 Barlow Fold.

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Photograph from when the house was sold in 2008.

According to family stories Mary ran a sweet shop or a haberdashers in Hyde. I’ve not been able to find any mention of her name as a shop owner in the trade directories from the 1920s up until the 1940s – but this was a search performed by the kind people at the Tameside Local Studies Library. It may be that she had worked at a shop for other people, rather than owned it herself. Perhaps one day I might find some details to back this information up.

Between 1940 and 1944 Mary moved from her bungalow to another bungalow on 16 Gotheridge (often spelled Gotherage) Close in Bredbury, Romiley. It was also said that Mary was the first woman to own a car in Bredbury. She sounds like she was a fairly well off woman, having a house built and having her own car. Whether this was from the estate left by the death of her husband, or from perhaps running her own shop, it is unclear. We do not seem to have any photographs of Mary as an older woman.

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16 Gotheridge Close from Google StreetView

Mary died when my mother was almost two on 20th August 1949 of Myocardial Failure and Myocardial Dequesation. She was cremated at Stockport Crematorium six days later. According to the bill from the Cooperative Society, the cost of her funeral came to £28 7s 6d which in 2005’s money would be worth £646.38

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Her will was written in 1944 and favoured my grandfather’s daughters from his first marriage and had appointed her neighbour Hugh Sharples as her executor. He lived at 1 Barlow Fold. The witnesses were Ruth and Margaret H Hackney of 7 Gotherage Close and the gross value of her estate was £530 4 shillings and 2 pence, net value £501 16 shillings and 8 pence. The gross value in 2005’s money would be £12,078.15 and net value would be £11,431.76. It was proved in London on 22nd December 1949 in London by her son Phil, who was a Builder’s Labourer at the time living round the corner from her in Compstall Road.

In some ways I look up to Mary, she seems a strong, independent woman to have done well for herself after the death of her husband, to make the journey back home a widow, to then embark out to the other side of the world in search of a new life, only to return back to Cheshire but having a house built for herself and her only child. But on the other hand she was very unkind to my grandmother while still doting upon her son like he could do no wrong. In fact, in most photographs of her she rarely smiles, even before she was widowed. Mary was apparently quite a proper and stern woman who did not curry favour with illegitimate children, despite the fact she had two older half brothers who were illegitimate.

One day I hope to learn more about her life both in Brazil and in Cheshire, and perhaps see if her brother’s family in Australia might have any photographs of her, or their parents. Plus if anyone out there has any relatives who worked for Slack Mills and had also spent some time living in Rio during the 1910s I would love to hear from you!

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4 thoughts on “A trip back to Brazil and beyond

    • Thanks. Mostly I would like to find out whether she really did have her own shop or not. Plus it would be nice if someone descended from the Spencer’s who were in Bombay came across this post that would be nice too!
      I wouldn’t be surprised if they had been in Rio with them, perhaps been in some of the other photos I have. It seems a shame I have no other names of their friends to help identify them.

    • Thank you! Isn’t it just? I think when you know that some people barely ventured more than 5 miles from where they were born, but then you have some who travelled thousands of miles it is pretty incredible.
      You imagine the journey by boat to a new country – with no idea what it will be like, quite incredible!

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