Sarah Derham was born Sarah Elizabeth Calton on 23rd November 1871 at Hinderclay, the same village where my mother was born 45 years later. She was the third child of a labourer, Thomas Calton and his wife Charlotte, who had been married just over four years by then. As more children arrived in the following years, their little cottage on the green became quite crowded. By 1881 Alice, the oldest daughter, was found 'visiting' (while 12 and still a scholar) with Charlotte's friend Alice Smith (possibly her godmother) some miles away in Larling, Norfolk. Sarah, only 9, was living with a retired grocer, 73-year-old Rose Cracknell in the village. This early experience doubtless prepared her in her turn to live away from her parents.
Sarah's life in the next few years has remained undiscovered until, in Hampstead, she married William George Derham towards the end of 1896; their son was born the following summer. The 1901 census shows her named Elizabeth, living with her son in Spye Park, near Devizes in Wiltshire. There is no sign of William, but he clearly re-appeared from time to time, for ten years later, she appears with three sons, living in the same place, but now a 39-year-old widow, her husband having died the previous year.
In Suffolk, meanwhile, Sarah's sister Fanny, two-and-a-half years younger, had also left home. By 1891 she had moved to the neighbouring village of Rickinghall, where she was servant to Augusta Larsen, born in Hanover, and living 'on her own means' with a nephew and niece, both born in London but with the obviously German name of Gumprecht. From this interesting beginning to her working life, Fanny then moved to London, where she was married in 1897 to James Waymark, a railway clerk. They first lived in Hampstead, where their first daughter was born the following year; but later settled in Ilford. Here another daughter and a son were added to their family and all looked well until, towards the end of 1910, her husband died ... at about the same time as William Derham.
Fanny moved with her children to Willesden, where she took in needlework to support them. After a while, however, she became ill and was unable to look after herself and the children. She decided to move back to Suffolk where that little cottage on the green now housed (according to the 1911 census) her parents, four adult sons and their 20-year-old sister Florence. 1913 was a sad year for the Calton family. In the spring Charlotte died, aged only 64, then in August, as the local paper reported, "The death took place ... after a long and painful illness of Mrs Fanny Waymark ... at the residence of her father Mr Thomas Calton of Hinderclay. The deceased leaves three young children." Fanny was 39.
Although not mentioned among the mourners, and presumably unable to get to the funeral, was another who had experience of being a widowed mother of three at 39. It isn't known who immediately took care of Fanny's children, then aged 15, 13 and 11, but at some stage it seems likely that Sarah offered them a place in her Wiltshire home. The 1939 Register lists Sarah, living at a different house, but still on Spye Park, with two 'housemaids', none other than Fanny's two daughters. Rose, the younger daughter moved away and married in Bromley in 1942, and when her sister, Lily, married in Chippenham ten years later, Sarah - by then almost 81 - probably decided that it was time to go back to her Suffolk roots.
My interest in this family stems from the fact that Rose's second marriage was to one of my mother's uncles.