Edith May Norris’s father’s side comes from Ledbury in Herefordshire, England, her grandfather and great grandfather being publicans and innkeepers in and around Ledbury, at the southern end of the Malvern Hills.
Ledbury is a charming old market town with old, late medieval characteristic half-timbered houses in the centre painted black and white, and with lots of houses dating from the 18th century. David Norris, Edith’s great grandfather, born in 1816, was initially a timber dealer in New Street. He was clearly of sufficient substance to be registered to vote in 1857, in an age when the franchise was limited. By 1861 he was the Innkeeper at British Camp Inn, now Malvern Hills Hotel, Colwall, right in the midst of the Malvern Hills, a beautiful location and near to the Victorian spa town of Great Malvern. British Camp is an ancient Iron Age hill fort atop one of the peaks of the Malvern Hills. Thus, like his father, he was in the hospitality industry.
Stephen Norris, David’s son, born in 1848, seems by contrast to have led a far more mobile life, as a clerk and accountant. He appears as a boarder with a family in Derbyshire aged 22 in the 1861 census and marries his wife Mary Bradley in Lancashire in 1878. When they lost their eldest daughter in 1891 aged 7 to meningitis they were in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. He later appears as an auditor in South Africa when he joins the Freemasons in East London, Cape Colony, in 1899. He was at that stage employed by the Cape Government railways, and is shown when retired in the 1911 census back in England in Putney as a retired Cape government civil servant.
Again we see with Stephen’s life, the movement of people away from rural communities and from an immediate proximity to the family, a growing middle class that was finding employment in administrative activities and also the movement of people out to the British colonies, in this case not permanently. Yet it left a mark on the family since others went out to South Africa and stayed. It should be remembered that some white people from the colonial power could enjoy a standard of living not so available at home, with more servants and more opulent surroundings, a kind of upper middle class of a privileged few. A world that was not to last.
In Stephen and Mary’s case life was not always so sweet. They lost their elder daughter when very young, not untypical in the 19th century when there was a high infant mortality rate, and then their son Sydney in a diving accident when only 17, in East London in 1905. The death certificate records that death was caused by injuries to the spinal cord after diving from height of 6 or 7 ft into the shallow end (2.5-3 ft deep) of a beach swimming pool.