Letter written by Marion Fleet (nee Kemp)
4 Silsbury Street,
May 16th 1898
Messrs Wright & Brown
My daughter Blanche Mary Fleet will attain her twenty first year on the twenty fifth of June next – she wishes me to say she shall be glad to receive her share of money left by her Grandmother (the late Sarah Fleet) at your earliest convenience as she is in very ill health and has been for some time.
Trusting this will meet your approval.
I remain Gentlemen, Yours obediently
To Messrs Wright & Brown
There are some handwritten notes obviously made after the letter reached its recipients and most likely by the clerk who was dealing with the matter. The notes say £50 on attaining 21 then there are some calculations … 4 years and 3 months at 4%. £58 10 0
Blanche Mary Fleet was the third of 8 daughters, she was born on 25th June 1877 to Horatio Nelson Collingwood Fleet and his wife Marion (nee Kemp). Poor Marion – her husband was a commercial traveller so was hardly ever at home and she had 8 children under 7 (aged 7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and 8 months) in the 1881 census! Horatio did well for himself and was recorded as a Civil Engineer in the next census ten years later although he still worked away from home.
Whatever ill health was troubling poor Blanche at the time her mother wrote that letter, she appeared to make a good recovery and she appears in the 1901 census at 4 Silsbury Street, Leeds, along with mother Marion, Marion’s parents and brother, and Marion’s other daughters Daisy Marion, Mabel Isobel and Maggie. Marion, 40, was a laundress, Daisy, 16, was a French Ruler Stationer, Blanche aged 13 at that time was a nursemaid whilst Mabel was at school and baby Maggie was just 3 years old.
Here is a photo of Silsbury Street at the junction of Kirkland Street, off Beeston Hill in Leeds. These houses were back to back “two up, two down” houses – two rooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs so you can imagine how cramped the living conditions were for the 8 of them (and this would be 9 when Blanche’s father, Horatio, came home every now and again.
For those wondering, £58 back in 1898 would be worth roughly £5,270 today however it didn’t appear to change Blanche’s life at all.
In the 1911 census, Blanche was 32, single and still living with her parents at 10 Buckley Avenue, in Leeds – another house with four rooms. Her occupation was listed as a book sewer (binder, stationer’s assistant).
Blanche did get married – but not until she was 44. The wedding took place at St Luke’s Church in Beeston on 9th April 1923, her new husband was a chauffeur named Frank Charles Knight, aged 38, and Blanche’s mother Marion, by then aged around 72, was a witness, signing the marriage register.
At some point over the next 16 years, Blanche and Frank moved to London and can be seen in the 1939 register – Blanche was still a stationery book sewer and also a general cook. Frank was a motor mechanic but incapacitated at the time.
From the records available to me, I believe that Blanche died in London in 1969 aged 92. Rest in peace Blanche, I’ve enjoyed getting to know your story after finding your mother’s letter.
Whilst we know that Blanche didn’t have any direct descendants, we do know that Marion and Horatio had several surviving daughters and I’d be delighted to pass on Marion’s letter to any of their descendants. Please get in touch if you’re reading this.