On 5 March 1857, George Williams married Harriet Storey at Newchurch. Two days later, an announcement appeared in the Isle of Wight Observer.
“’Married’ On the 5th inst., at Newchurch, by the Rev. Alfred Cooper, M.A., Mr George Williams, gardener, to Miss Harriet Storey, both of Ryde.”
Nine months later, on 26 November 1857, Harriet gave birth to a daughter who they named Jessie Harriet. When Jessie was born, George and Harriet were living on George Street, down near the Esplanade in Ryde, not far from Harriet’s mother lived with the widowed Caroline on Pier Street.
The town of Ryde was a popular summer resort and boasted large villas and hotels near the beach where visitors enjoyed the fashionable bathing facilities. George had now been a gardener for many years and probably made a decent living working for some of the wealthier residents of Ryde. On 30 June 1860, he entered some of his plants to the Isle of Wight Horticultural Society Exhibition and won first prize for his six gloxinias and his brace of cucumbers.
On 4 March 1860, George and Harriet’s first son was born in their new home at 10 Nelson Street, a block east of George Street and they named the baby George Henry. No doubt the baby was named for his father and his middle name may have been for George’s brother Henry.
By the following year, the family had moved to St. John’s Road. They were recorded there by the census taker as George and Harriet, both age thirty-five, Jessie H, daughter age three and George H, son age one. St. John’s Road was further inland, away from the hustle and bustle of the waterfront and was a quieter place to raise a family. Two years after George Jr. was born, Harriet had another son on 16 May 1862 and they named him Arthur Sydney.
In the early 1860’s, England experienced localized epidemics of fever, scarlatina, measles, diphtheria, whooping-cough and small-pox. In the fall of 1863, three year old George Henry came down with the dreaded scarlatina. He would have had a fever, been covered from head to toe in an intensely red rash and his throat would have been very sore. In those days before penicillin, there would not have been much that Harriet could do for young George except try to keep him cool and hydrated and to make sure that six year old Jessie and one year old Arthur did not come into contact with him. Finally, on 2 November, young George could fight no more and he died at home at the age of three.
On 26 March 1865, Harriet had a second daughter who they named Florence Louise but before her first birthday, Florence had developed a case of bronchitis she couldn’t get over and died at home on 26 February 1866. The following year, Harriet and George had their last child on 19 January 1867. They named their daughter Laura Jane.
Harriet’s mother Rebecca was still living with Caroline down on Pier Street but was getting quite elderly at the age of seventy-seven and had not been feeling well for some time. On 29 September 1867, Rebecca died while her old friend Mary Ann Perkins was with her. The family buried their mother in Ryde cemetery and placed a headstone that read simply: “In memory of Rebecca, wife of Thomas Storey, departed this life, September 28th 1867, aged 77 years.”
At the time of the census in the spring of 1871, the Williams family was still living in the house at 31 St. Johns Road. George was shown as forty-six years old and a gardener. Harriet was forty-four, Jessie was thirteen, Arthur was eight and young Laura was four years old.
In 1879, George and Harriet’s daughter Jessie found herself in the family way. No doubt it was a difficult conversation when Jessie broke the news to them that she was pregnant with a soldier’s child. Even once Jessie had married William Bond, the baby’s father, in a quiet ceremony at the Wesleyan chapel on 6 August, George and Harriet must still have been worried about their daughter’s future. The couple had married without the sanction of William’s commanding officer and if he were to be transferred, what would happen to their daughter Jessie and her child? Without official sanction, Jessie would not be recognized as William’s wife by the army.
When official permission was finally given for William to marry Jessie, George and Harriet must have been very relieved. The second wedding took place in Portsea, at St. Mary’s Church on 1 October 1879. After the wedding, Jessie must have journeyed back across the Solent to her parent’s home on St. John Street because on 4 October, she gave birth there to the baby they named William George. Then two short months later, George and Harriet were saying goodbye to their first born daughter and their first grandchild as they departed with William and the rest of his regiment, off to his new posting in Delhi, India.
Two years later, when the census was taken, George and Harriet were recorded still living at 79 St. John’s Road. Their son Arthur Sydney was eighteen and working as a coach builder and their youngest daughter Laura was fourteen and still going to school. About this time Arthur began working as an apprentice to Francis Carter. Francis was a carriage and harness maker and employed about two dozen men. By early 1886, George and Harriet found themselves in a familiar situation. Laura Jane was pregnant but this time there would be no last minute marriage. On 9 November 1886, Laura gave birth to a daughter in her parent’s home on St. John’s Road. She named the baby Florence Ethel and when the birth was registered, Laura wrote “no father” in the space provided.
While George and Harriet were preoccupied with Laura’s problems, Arthur decided that he had finished with the business of carriage building and after a brief service with the Royal Navy, he joined the army. He enlisted on 19 March 1888 at Bodmin, Cornwall in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. On his attestation papers, he was described as being 5 feet 4-1/2 inches tall, 125 pounds with a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He was heavily tattooed and had a dancing sailor, a Maltese cross, and an anchor on his left forearm and a bracelet around his left wrist. There were four dots on the back of his left hand and rings on his middle and ring fingers. On his right forearm were a rose and sailor Jack, another bracelet on his right wrist, and three dots on his right hand. On his left leg was a man of war at full sail and on his right leg a tattoo of the crucifixion. On 18 October 1889, Arthur’s regiment was sent off to the East Indies where he would remain for five years.
In the spring of 1891, the census showed George and Harriet still living on St. John’s Road. Laura was twenty-four years old and her daughter Florence was just four. In 1893, George and Harriet would have heard from Jessie that William had died in London and that Jessie was taking the children to live in Canada.
Not long after Jessie left, George and Harriet’s only son returned home from the East Indies. Arthur was discharged from service as an invalid on 23 October 1894. He had contracted syphilis while abroad and despite treatment with mercury and other remedies, he was no longer fit for service. Arthur returned home to live with his parents.
It soon became apparent that Arthur was no longer the same man that left the Isle of Wight in 1888. George and Harriet must have despaired at the changes in their son during his time in the East Indies. On 25 July 1898, Arthur was brought forward on charges of theft at the Petty Sessions in Ryde. He was accused of stealing a coat and vest belonging to Henry Barnet on 23 July. During the investigation into the theft, it was discovered that Arthur had stolen the clothing from the Esplanade Hotel stables and had sold it to Mills, a shop keeper on St. John’s Road for a shilling. Arthur told the court, “I have had sunstroke in India, and I am not accountable for my actions.” He was convicted and fined ten shillings and costs or would serve seven days in gaol if he failed to pay.
On 6 February 1899, Arthur was once again brought up on charges at the Petty Sessions in Ryde. This time he was accused of forging a cheque for the payment of £5 10s, with intent to defraud. On 25 January, not knowing how to write out a cheque, Arthur had gone into the Turk’s Head bar and asked the landlord, Charles Fripp to assist him with writing one out. Fripp gave Arthur some ink and showed him how to fill out the cheque book that Arthur had from the Capital and Counties bank. Arthur made out the cheque for £5 10s and signed the cheque with the name of Francis Newman. Arthur’s father George had been gardening for Francis Newman for many years and Arthur had even assisted his father with the care of the Newman property on Thomas Street. Arthur then took the cheque and went to a store on High Street and purchased a coat and pair of trousers for £1 13s 6d, giving the cheque as payment and receiving the change in cash. When the police came to arrest Arthur at his parent’s house on St. John’s Road, Arthur said “I don’t remember nothing about it.” When he saw the evidence, he agreed, “Yes, that is my handwriting. I made it out, but I must have been mad at the time.” Arthur was committed to trial at the Assizes in Winchester. On 18 February 1899, Arthur was tried at the Hampshire Assizes and was convicted of the forgery. He was sentenced to six months hard labour.
When the census was taken in March of 1901, the enumerator found gardener George Williams still living on St. John’s Road. His age was listed at seventy-five although he was at least seventy-seven at the time. Harriet was said to be seventy-five as well and living with them was their granddaughter Florence who was fourteen years old. What became of their daughter Laura is not known.
Harriet died at age eighty of senile decay on 2 June 1906. She was buried in the Ryde cemetery on 7 Jun 1906. The following year, on 19 December 1907, George died at the age of eighty-four, also of senile decay, and was buried at her side.