The Hammerson family, from Harold Kean Hammerson, husband of Doris Ellen Edge, divides into the maternal line of Harold’s mother, Mary Catherine Kean from Kent, and the Lipson Hammerson paternal line from Liverpool. This page will first explore the Hammerson line.

The Hammerson line

So far, this line runs back to a William Hammerson, a mariner in Liverpool, as he is designated on his son’s marriage register in 1847. His son William Lipson Hammerson (1816-1885), was a baker in Toxteth Park, Liverpool and married a Sarah Powell in Lancaster in 1847. He seems to have moved about a bit, appearing in Chester in the 1861 census, but returning to Toxteth Park. Later he calls himself a salesman and in his son Joseph’s marriage record he is shown as a confectioner.

Liverpool in the 19th century was one of Britain’s most important ports, with a massive trade across the globe but particularly with America, and with the strong boom in the cotton manufacturing industry in Lancashire. It was also the chief passenger port for travel to the US and Canada as huge numbers emigrated to start a new life there. Toxteth Park was on the edge of Liverpool in the early 19th century but Liverpool was expanding at a very fast rate and urbanisation, with back-to-back terraces, spread around the area.

His son, Joseph Lipson Hammerson (1862-1895) moved to Limehouse St Annes, in present-day London’s Tower Hamlets, another major port area, and married Mary Catherine Kean (1861-1949) in 1888. Having started as a cabinet maker, in the 1891 census for West Ham, we find that Joseph is an “outdoor officer” with HM Customs. Customs officers were employed in a wide range of activities checking boats along the coast, coming into port and unloading, and thus a lot of their work was very much outdoors.

Tragedy strikes

Mary Hammerson and children
Mary Hammerson and children

Joseph died in 1895 of consumption (TB) at the age of 32 leaving a widow and two small children, Harold Kean (1891-1972) aged 4 and Mary Pauline (1892-1984) aged 2. It might sound an absurdity to say that death was a very prevalent part of life in the 19th century but in the age before modern medicines, a Welfare State and a National Health Service death rates were high and every family would experience frequent deaths in the family in a way we are not used to in the West today. Having said that, Mary seems to have been badly affected, on the evidence we have, at least by today’s standards.

In the 1901 census we find her apart from her children, living with a family in Maidstone, Kent, and the record has her down as a nurse but “sick”. Her employer is the County Surveyor for Kent, and thus a very middle class family. Her son, Harold, is to be found in the same census at Reedham’s Orphanage in Purley, Surrey. Reedham’s was more than just an orphanage. It provided boarding schooling for children from families where one parent had died and gives testimony to how philanthropy provided fillers in the gaping gaps in the social provision of Victorian Britain and in this case perhaps enabled a family to avoid the widely detested fate of having to go and live in the workhouse. It is not clear what happened to Mary Pauline, but she is found in the 1911 census with her aunt Eleanor Emma Kean and uncle Albert Thomas Nash, and her work is given as a draper’s assistant, in Swanscombe, Kent.

Mary Catherine seems to have somewhat recovered her situation by the 1911 census since she is now in Sunderland, Co. Durham, married to James William Chambers, who is a “fish merchant”, while Harold in the same census is in Portsmouth as a soldier. Her family seem to have re-joined her in that by 1915 Mary is in Sunderland and marries Arthur Edwin Swan (1882-1965) and Harold is also in Sunderland by 1918 at the end of the First World War, after service in the Lincolnshire Regiment and Royal Engineers. He was affected by a gas attack and was in convalescence in England for a period. Mary died in 1949 in Sunderland. Harold soon joined HM Customs, the same service as his father and remained with them until he retired.

Harold married Doris Ellen Edge in 1921 in Sunderland. They had three children, Daphne, Denis and Maureen in Sunderland. However the children suffered from a succession of illnesses including scarlet fever, pneumonia and polio, and thus later partly for health reasons they moved to Dartford, and then Bexley, Kent by 1939 where they are found on the pre-war register in 1939 at Glenhurst Avenue, Bexley.

The Kean family and Kent

Mary Catherine Kean’s maternal family came from Kent, the Collings line, while its paternal side, the Keans, were from Ireland, coincidentally from the same town, Tralee, as the Smith/Gloster family line covered in another part of this site.

Oast Farm Frittenden Kent
Oast Farm Frittenden Kent

If one traces the family as far back as is possible at the moment, we get to a triangular area in the Weald of Kent  between Cranbrook, Maidstone and Ashford, and the family seem to have moved about a bit within this area. A Thomas Collings was born in Boughton Malherbe, in 1715 and there married an Eleanor Weeks. He was a cordwainer, a maker of fine, soft quality leather shoes and other luxury footwear. His son, John Collings (1740-1811), married a Martha Weeks there, but he lived in Hunton and died in Frittenden in 1811. His son, also a John (1772-1852), also lived in Hunton where he shows in the 1851 census as being a carpenter and employing four people. His son, another John (1804-1889), was born in Frittenden, married a Barbara Neal in 1830 in Hunton and lived and worked as a farmer there. His daughter, Mary Ann Collings (1835-1892) was born in Hunton but married Thomas James Kean, a customs officer, in Stepney, Middlesex, in 1861 and lived in Denton and Milton, Gravesend. It is their daughter, Mary Catherine Kean, born in Paddock Wood, who married Joseph Lipson Hammerson in 1888, as described above.

The Kean family and Ireland

Thomas James Kean (1837-1883) was from Ireland, born in Rock Street, Tralee, Co. Kerry. He appears in the 1861 census in London as a customs officer from Ireland and a lodger but later that year married Mary Ann Collings in 1861 in Stepney, London and his first daughter, Mary Catherine was born later that year. In the marriage register he gave his father’s occupation as clerk. In the 1871 census he is listed as on board an HM Customs vessel at Gravesend, working as an Outdoor Officer. He was economical with the truth since he is down as being from Maidstone in Kent. In later censuses he is listed as living in Gravesend. He died in 1883 aged 46.

Here is a tree to show the Hammerson-Kean-Collings line (click to enlarge)