Arthur and Diana Mary had six children, but they lost their third son, Archer Blackwell who died aged three
years of T.B. Meningitis in 1906. The children led a well ordered, secure and happy life. They had breakfast
in the nursery, then the boys, Ted and Tony (Arthur) went off to their Prep school and Peg and Diana went to
a Dame school run by two friends which was excellent.
The last baby, David was born in 1912 so was mostly
in the nursery. The Dame school was the only ordinary school
Peg went to except for Art School in London when she was 14-17. She and Diana would be home for lunch, but the whole family would be together for tea - parents, Katie and children.
Daughter Diana writes: They were lovely teas, with bread and butter and two or three kinds of jam and two kinds of cake.
After tea for at least an hour there would be games and cards etc.. We had a lot of toys.
The boys had clockwork trains and masses of lead soldiers.
My father was always bringing home some new toy which had caught his fancy, until Mother put her foot down and said "Toys are for birthdays."
I had 36 dolls because I loved them so.
My sister Peg had the big doll's house when she was seven years old.
When I was seven I had my own doll's house and everyone who came to my party brought me something for it.
Every Christmas we went to a pantomime with all the cousins.
One year we could choose which one we would go to and we divided up into two groups because Peg and I wanted to go to one and the others chose a different one.
Granny Wilson and the Aunts never had much money, but they went to all the 'Events' in London
- baby as well, wrapped in a shawl under a cloak.
Night or day, whatever it was, they all went.
Mother's sisters lived close to us and there were frequent visits and relations staying with us.
I was born the year after Archie died, so the three older ones were quite big when I remember them.
Then there was another gap of five years and David joined me in the nursery.
By this time Ted, the eldest, was in the Navy as a cadet on the Training Ship "Conway" at Liverpool. Three years later Tony (Arthur) followed him into the Navy but at Dartmouth and then, of course there was Mersea in the summer .......
Mersea in Summer
To four generations of the Wilson/Haes families, Mersea, on the Essex coast, was very important as a haven from the strain of London life.
Hannah Wilson was born there.
Charles Clark Wilson, her son, took his family to a rented cottage there for their summer holidays.
Diana Mary Wilson, his daughter, met her future husband, Arthur Edward Mount Haes there, and subsequently he also rented a cottage for his family's summer holidays.
The early days at Mersea are best recollected in Isabella Rosa Dawson's memoirs. [See MF08_006 ]
Her mother, Margaret Christina (Granny) Wilson was a good oarswoman and sailor.
Her motley crew of relatives and friends called her "The Captain".
This piratical crew was encouraged to bring friends for the weekends - especially young men - as the Captain had four daughters to marry off.
One such young man was Arthur E.M. Haes, who also worked in the City and was glad to accept the invitation of a friend to spend a weekend at Mersea.
Coming from a somewhat austere and restrictive Victorian family, he found the casual atmosphere and freedom of the life at Mersea much to his taste and continued to visit.
He expressed his delight in true pirate fashion by composing a Chorus for the pirates to sing, and by falling in love with the Captain's daughter - Diana Mary.
He asked her to be his wife.
She said she would if she did not have to do any cooking.
They became engaged by a five barred gate at as their family grew, Arthur rented two adjacent cottages - The Cabin and The Moorings - for the sum of £5 per year.
DIANA WRITES: Every summer we went down to Mersea. for two months. Wives and children for the whole time and husbands joining them for weekends and holidays.
It was a holiday for my parents too because with the other families there they had lots of 'helps' and we had Katie too, so parents could wander off on their own and have fun sailing etc..
A horse drawn Station Bus would pick us up from Colerane Road, Westcombe Park and take us, and much luggage, to Liverpool Street Station.
We went by train to Colchester where another horse drawn Station Bus picked us up and took us the 12 miles to Mersea.
Granny Wilson and Aunty Smudge lived there and the Cottons.
The Cockerells owned 'The Hall' a farm next to the church. My father rented two adjacent cottage which had very few amenities - no bathrooms - the lavatory was an earth closet half a mile down the garden, and an old fashioned
range for Katie to cook on.
We often filled up the cottages so the boys slept in a tent in the garden.
All the Aunts and Uncles and cousins congregated there in the summer.
We were free to go anywhere we liked - often barefoot
- and all the country people knew "them little 'aeses".
The only restriction was the shore.
We could only go there with adults.
I was the eldest of twelve cousins - the young lot, and there was another batch of older cousins, about ten of them with my sister Peg and brothers in that lot.
We had several rowing boats, a four oared gig and a dinghy.
The boats were rowed round to West Mersea for the winter and collected again the next summer.
It was a long row back so we young ones were not allowed to go until we were considered old enough.
I remember the occasion when my cousin Geoffrey and I were allowed to go.
It was the tradition to buy a melon at West Mersea to eat on the way back because it was thirsty work rowing all that way, but this time no one had a knife to cut it and everyone was disappointed.
Then Geoffrey produced a penknife from his pocket, the melon was cut up and handed round and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.
Then Geoffrey said "The last thing I cut with that knife was a snake."
There was a startled silence.
My mother and Aunty Smudge were excellent oarswomen and took part in many of the local seaside regattas.
They rowed in two oared dinghy races and frequently came first.
This provoked some anti-visitor feeling among the natives who tried some obstructive tactics - but in vain. They still won.
In his early days my father had his own yacht the WENONAH and a ship's cutter which he used for the scouts.
He was one of the earliest, people to get involved in scouting and started the lst Greenwich Troup who camped on the Bowling Green at Mersea which was reputedly Roman.
We used to row to Brightlingsea in the Gig for stores.
There was a general store in East Mersea.
The butcher and baker, in their horse [the store was called Underwoods] drawn carts, came twice a week from West Mersea. We fetched our milk in cans from the farm.
An Aunt had a bicycle and Granny Wilson had a donkey and cart which as not very fast - unless the boys pushed.
So we walked everywhere. In my mother's young days they used to walk the 12 miles to Colchester.
There was a slow carrier, just like the one in Johnny Townmouse by Beatrix Potter.
So there were no cars, no restrictions.
We children were allowed to run wild. Mersea meant so much happiness to us all.
The steam yacht VALFREYIA was moored at Brightlingsea.
You can see it in the background of one of the photos of Granny Wilson and the children on the beach.
This item was found in papers donated to the Museum by Martin Dence July 2011. Diana Haes, the writer of part of it, would have been born around 1910. The overall author is not yet known!
Memoirs of Mrs Isabella Rosa Dawson 1880-1972
An old lady remembers by Alan Dawson
Grace Edenborough - a Victorian orphan