This page explores the life of my grandmother who was born in Wedmore as Maud Amelia Pope Fisher, who grew up and married as Maud Amelia Pope and who, as Maude Amelia Clarke, in Edmonton, north London, went on to raise nine children and be killed in the blitz of World War II.
I never knew my paternal grandmother because she was killed in the blitz of World War II, but she has always had a special fascination for me because photos of us both at around the same age, show such remarkable family resemblances. In fact she was the motivation for me to start my research into her family history and put up this website.
My father and his brothers and sisters always knew that she (their mother and my grandmother) had a big secret. Any questions about her early life were met with prevarications. My father even went up to Somerset House, as it was then, to look at her birth certificate, but - as explained on the pages about her mother, Harriet, and her probable father Jacob Pope - this was not to be found under the Pope surname with which she grew up. I have been able to unravel the mystery only because Maud once let her grandmother's surname of Fisher drop in the hearing of her eldest son. He remembered it and logged it in a journal for his descendants. With that clue, the advantages of the internet and the availability of the census records of the time, I have been able to unravel my grandmother's early life. There was no shortage of anecdotal data about her later life.
The story told to the family was that Maud's mother (whose name was never mentioned) died shortly after childbirth. Maud's father, Jacob Pope, then moved to Paris to complete his law studies and Maud was brought up by her grandmother in Wedmore. However the reality was very different. Maud was illegitimate at a time when this was a major stigma to the child as well as her mother. Maud's mother was Harriet Fisher who remained alive until Maud was a grown woman, although her existence was kept from everyone with the possible exception of Maud's husband Jim. Three given names were on Maud's birth certificate: Maud Amelia Pope. The father's name was missing, although he probably was a Jacob Pope, as is argued elsewhere on this website.
Maud was born on 8 Feb 1882 at a beer garden in Hampton Wick, Middlesex. It was true that she was brought up in Wedmore by her grandmother, Amelia Fisher and that she grew up as Maud Amelia Pope - because she dropped the Fisher and used her third given name as a surname. How much she saw of her parents is impossible to know. She did tell her children that she used to travel round the farms with her Uncle Ocky and there is no reason to doubt that. He was Octavius Fisher, a blacksmith, and he would certainly have travelled around to shoe the local horses and ply other aspects of his trade. Maud seems to have been well educated, as her children later reported, and she played the piano well. It has not, though, been easy to find additional information about her early life, as little false leads keep popping up in the records. For example, she appeared in the 1891 census in the household of Edward Webber in Wedmore as Maud E Pope, relationship to head of household: visitor. In fact the simpler and more accurate entry would have been Maud A Pope, niece. Her birthplace was given vaguely as London, so the entry could read as if for Jacob Pope's actual adopted daughter, Maud Ellen Pope of the same age. (There is more on her on the Jacob Pope page.)
The 1901 census shows Maud as Maud Pope, a dressmaker living with her mother Harriet, a shop keeper, in Wedmore. By then, grandmother, Amelia Fisher, had died.
One wonders whether the local Wedmore community realised that Maud was illegitimate. The story goes that she agreed to marry my grandfather, James Clarke (Jim), on the condition that he took her away from Wedmore - which seems a strange basis for a marriage! Also there appears to have been some objection to the marriage in the Clarke family. Nevertheless the marriage did take place on 13 April 1902 at St Mary's Church, Wedmore, and the couple left immediately for London to stay with James' sister, Lizzie.
The marriage was a very happy one, as many personally reported anecdotes stand witness. Maud obviously and intentionally put her Wedmore life behind her. None of her children ever visited Wedmore, although the death certificate of Maud's mother, Harriet, shows that Maud did go back to take care of things when Harriet died. As a mark of her new married identity, she added an E to the spelling of her name and documented herself thereafter as Maude Amelia Clarke.
Maude fell pregnant soon after her marriage, and thus began a pattern which was to continue throughout her childbearing years. Jim would say that he only had to hang his trousers at the end of the bed for Maude to get pregnant. The couple had ten children, all born in Edmonton, of whom nine survived to adulthood:
With a distinct break from the custom of the time, none of these children were given names from Maude's Fisher family. All were either Clarke family names or, presumably, names which Maude and Jim happened to like.
The large Clarke family were regular attenders at the Tanners End Mission and appear to have been pillars of the community.
Maude was killed on 27 Dec 1940 at 82 Silver Street, Edmonton, aged 58; during a German air-raid which completely destroyed the house and rocked her family.