What is it about some old photographs, that makes you return to them again and again? I wrote some weeks ago about one such photograph – of Charing Cross, home of my 3 x great grandparents. Here’s another one, which was kindly sent to me by my distant relative in New Zealand, Sheila Hailstone:
First, the facts. The photograph was taken on 18th September 1921 in Mile End Old Town, at the wedding of Sissie Emma Lydia Robb and Arthur Kemp (Sheila’s grandparents). That’s Sissie in the middle of the front row, in the floral hat, with Arthur on her left.
Sissie, born in 1893, was the daughter of Emma Sophia Judd and David Enoch Robb, who in turn was the son of my great great grandfather William Robb and his second wife, Marianne Mansfield Palmer. (I’m descended from Charles Edward Robb, William’s son by his first wife, Fanny Sarah Seager.)
Various Judds can be seen in the photo – mostly aunts, uncles and cousins, including cousin Elsie, the bridesmaid, sitting on Sissie’s right (the little girl is the daughter of a friend).
The marriage certificate notes that Sissie’s father David was ‘deceased’ by this date. However, there are a couple of other Robbs present, including Sissie’s sister Winifred, seated two places to her right. Behind her is ‘Mrs Rose Smith’, described as ‘aunt (paternal)’. According to Sheila, this is David Robb’s sister Rose Emma Tunstall Robb, whom I wrote about in this post. – and who I speculated had two children by someone with the surname Poulides, but I may have got that wrong (or perhaps her second husband was a Mr. Smith?)
Winifred Alice F Robb was born in 1898 and was the youngest child of David and Emma Robb. A year after this photograph was taken, she would marry George Langdon, who can be seen in the back row of the photo, second on the left. According to Sheila Hailstone, they had a daughter Evelyn Winifred Langdon who is still alive and living in Essex (she would be about 85 now).
Why do I keep returning to this picture of an ordinary working-class / lower-middle-class wedding in the East End of London in the 1920s? Is it just the usual wistful appeal of old family photos – the fact that we know how these people’s lives would turn out, but they don’t, not to mention the realisation that nearly all of these smiling, fully-alive people are now gone? Maybe it’s because Sissie’s outfit and Arthur’s jaunty hat make it seem less stiff and formal than many other wedding photos of this period. Or because, despite the Edwardian collars and slicked-back hair on display, the main characters look so relaxed and contemporary. I like Sissie’s quizzical, sideways glance at the camera, while Winifred’s pose and smile are charmingly natural – these look like modern young women, not people who were born in the Victorian era. And of course, although these people are not my direct ancestors, we share a common ancestor in William Robb, and I search their faces for some trace of resemblance, some hint of what he and our other forebears might have looked like.
If anyone recognises any of the people in the photograph as their own ancestors, then please do get in touch.