Eliza DENHAM née WHEELER
Eliza sat at the oilcloth-covered kitchen table, her hands clasped around her cup of tea. The kettle hissed gently on the black kitchen range as drops of hot water escaped the ill-fitting lid and dropped upon the hot metal. The oil lamp flickered and, had there been anybody to notice, they would have seen the light reflected in the tear that rolled slowly down her cheek.
"What am I to do now?" she thought. It was a bleak prospect. She had been sixteen when she left her job as servant to John Wilkes, the butcher in Hook Norton, and moved with her father, mother and her sisters to Kilburn in North West London. Life had become very hard in North Oxfordshire for her father William Wheeler and her mother, Mary, and she remembered the excitement as they all made plans for a new start in the big city.
Alas things soon went wrong.
Her father died soon after they moved and left his Wroxton born wife Mary to cope with looking after the five girls. Everybody did what they could. Mary took in laundry and the older girls went out as servants. Another source of income came from taking in a lodger. That was how Eliza had come to meet and wed William Denham, a cooper, who had taken their room to relieve pressure on his own family who lived a few streets away. It was a pity that their parents didn't approve but they were married anyway at St James' Church in Westminster and nobody noticed that William had lied a little about his age and she didn't care anyway. They were in love and a girl had to take her chance when it came and she had been past twenty-five years old.
Love or no love, she had soon realized that she had stepped out of the frying pan into the fire. They had produced six children over sixteen years and nobody knew how many that could have been. Her training as a servant had stood her in good stead when looking for work but pregnancies and looking after the family had meant taking employment as a charwoman. She had spent so much time cleaning for other people it left precious little for her own home. Not that there was much of it to clean. And now William was gone. She had seen it coming as his chest got worse and worse but it was still a blow.
Young William, her eldest, was married now but he could not be expected to help. He had a wife and three young daughters to look after and living in one room, too. Rebecca was all set to get married next year. She was a good girl and it was not fair to stand in her way but she would miss her. That would leave her with the other four boys. Still, "God's good", she thought, "if he don't come he sends. And sitting here feeling sorry for myself won't get me anywhere. I'd better get those beds made a bit sharpish."
Eliza Wheeler 1836 - 1917 Born: 1836 in Swerford Died: March 1917 in Willesden m. William Denham 1840 - 1888 Born: December 29, 1840 in Kilburn Married: November 24, 1861 Parish Church of St James, Westminster Died: Probably Dec 1887 Hendon