Grace Churchward (1843-1897)

I have been researching and building my family tree for about 25 years. In that time I have have discovered that most of my blood (and first generation married) relatives were generally regular working and lower class folk. Some of them aspired to really get on in life, many remained where their ancestors had stayed for generations. A lot embraced the then modern age especially as the industrial revolution gripped Great Britain.

Grace Churchward was my 3rd great grand aunt. Born in Newton Abbot in Devon of a large Victorian family. Her father, my 4th great grandfather, was a Lime Burner from Newton Abbot who married Mary Christopher in 1826. By 1861, aged about 18, Grace had moved all the way to London, leaving her Devon life behind, staying a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace as a boarder with Robert and Martha Pottinger in Palace Road, Victoria. Mr. Pottinger who was also originally from Newton Abbot, was a ‘Plate Man, Servant’ at Buckingham Palace.

Grace Churchward in 1871 working at 83 Eaton Place

By 1871 Grace soon found herself a good position as a Housemaid at the prestigious address, 83 Eaton Place, Kensington. In July 1876 she married Alderman John Lilley and lived with him and their family of three sons in Poplar until her death, aged about 46, in July 1897.

Although ‘movement’ after the middle of the 19th century was wasn’t so rare with men and women finding employment away from the countryside to the factories and many to the growing railways, it was unusual for a ‘Devon girl’ to find opportunity in the city.

Grace’s family obviously knew Robert Pottinger and it was he who gave Grace the break and the new life she led in Victorian London.

Ian Waugh