Henrietta Maud (in Victoria Maud’s words to begin with) “was rather smart. She was a Miss Osborn and came from Northampton. Her father was a bespoke shoemaker. It was his own business and the older girls were in the business, they made the uppers (but not the soles) and were very skilled at doing the fancy work ... with machining, and beautiful soft leather.
The girls wore black woollen stockings and lace-up boots and they wore their dresses down to the tops of their boots, and white pinafores with broderie anglaise yokes, and frills on the sleeves and at the bottom, and just the yoke buttoned at the back…
The boys wore stiff, nankeen trousers that smelt horrible in wet weather – a sort of hard velvet – and those big caps you see in photographs, and heavy, leather boots with steel toe-caps and heel irons. And they used to play games in season; hoops, iron for the boys, with a metal loop so you didn’t have to keep hitting it, and the girls had wooden ones with a stick, and tops, and marbles”.
Henrietta’s father, James Bradshaw Osborn (this photo is probably of him), was born in Northampton in 1839 and in 1862 he married Naomi Rebecca Newitt, who was 4 years his junior. They had 10 children between 1864 and 1885: Charles, Emily, Ada, Lizzie, Robert, Annie, Alice, our Henrietta, James and Harry Tom. The three older girls were in their father’s “high class bespoke boot and shoe business” (Maud) and they were educated at a Dame School. It seems likely that James’ father’s business fits Maud’s description but James never made it above ordinary ‘boot maker’.
In late 1871 or early 1872 the family moved to Colchester, where several members of the extended family already lived. A clue in Maud’s narrative, “Mum’s cousin Wilson was head of the Art School on North Hill” led to finding the link with Hal’s (mistaken) assertion that the Osborns originally came from Penrith.
But back to James…The year before his marriage to Naomi he was still living with his parents in Seymour Place, Northampton and working as a boot maker. In the next two census returns he was a ‘boot closer’, living first in Bailiff Street and then Butt Road, Colchester. At this Colchester address, in 1881, Naomi and Emily were machine operators, Charles was a clicker and Ada a boot fitter. Possibly all of this took place at home but it was not quite the ‘high class business’ that Maud wrote of… it was more a case of ‘all hands to the wheel’.
In 1891 James’ occupation was again given as boot maker and both Alice and the married Lizzie were boot fitters. In 1901 James and Naomi had moved to 12 Essex Street, the same street in which their son Robert's family lived while he was in South Africa fighting the Boer. Harry Tom was still living at home and Henrietta was back with her two children, Hettie (2) and Harry (9 months), while her husband was also in South Africa. James was a boot machinist at that time, though still working at home.
In 1910 Naomi died and James was caretaker for the Co-op in 1911, living at 25 Winsley Square which was an almshouse. Diana wrote of a photo of James with "patriarchal beard and a collection of cups he won for shooting" but this has not, unfortunately, come to light so far. One of the cups, shown below, is with one of his great grandsons and was won at Bisley in 1863. The inscription is also shown. James died in 1927.