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Peter England


My great grandmother, Elizabeth Williams

Sepia portrait photograph of Elizabeth Williams sitting down.
A portrait photograph of Elizabeth Williams, date unknown. The surroundings - a field of crops - suggest it was taken somewhere rural, possibly back in her home village. © Peter England

Scan of the bill from Elizabeth William's funeral, 1921.
The bill from Heath's, the undertaker, for Elizabeth Williams funeral, dated 1921 © Peter England

Intrigued by a box of old family photographs at home, I have slowly been investigating the past of some of my family members and their relationship to the Pitsmoor area. One person who particularly interests me is my great grandmother, Elizabeth Williams. She appears in many photographs as a formidable Victorian matron. I have nicknamed her 'The Dragon'. She was born in 1846 in Hull, into what was to become a family of 10 children. Her father, Henry Kreeft, was a lemonade manufacturer, possibly of German or Dutch origin. Her mother, Cristiana, came from Feriby village, near Barton upon Humber and had all her children christened there.

By 1861 the family had moved to Sheffield and Henry had found work as a warehouse man. Elizabeth, now 15 and still living at home, started work as a silver burnisher. Two years later, in 1863, she married Albert Bottom, a filesmith, at Christ Church in Pitsmoor. This was the beginnings of a long family association with the Pitsmoor area which has continued until today. At the time of the wedding it appears that neither Elizabeth nor Albert could write so the wedding certificate only shows their marks.

Then a bit of a mystery develops: what happened to Albert Bottom? By the time of the census in 1871, Elizabeth has three children but is living with her mother and new stepfather in Ditchingham Street. She then has a fourth child, Albert in 1872. At some time between 1881 and 1891 Elizabeth was remarried to John Williams. By the time of the 1891 census, her youngest son Albert (my grandfather) is still living at home in Montfort Road and working as a cabinet maker. He then got married in 1894 in All Saints church and moved to Handley Street. They had two children, Albert, my father and another boy that died.

Elizabeth's life was to end in 1921. She had been ill for most of that year and died on the 20th of March. Albert arranged her funeral with John Heath and Sons who provided six coaches to her final resting place in Burngreave Cemetery. There is no headstone and the grave itself has not been found. However I still have the bill for the funeral, costing twenty seven pounds and ten shillings (with two pounds discount for 'trade commission', suggesting my grandfather had working links to Heaths).

Albert, my grandfather, lived all his life in Pitsmoor, apart from a spell in Southey when they were bombed out of the family home on Handley Street in Pitsmoor during the second World War.

As for me, I'm still living here, within a stone's throw of the cemetery.

Written by Peter England, November 2006.