MISS GEORGINA WINTER
The Educated House-Maid
(f) Georgina Winter (1855- ) was born to parents (e) Charles Winter (1827- ) and Sarah Willmott who were cousins. Charles and Sarah married on the 2nd August 1852 in Upton Cum Chalvey, Buckinghamshire. Georgina was christened on the 21st October 1855 at Leyton, Essex. Georgina and her two younger sister's, Elizabeth and Mary, were born in Leyton, Essex. Charles Winter had come from Wexham in Buckinghamshire to take up a position as a gardener at Elton Hall. Many of the Winter family members also came from or entered into this profession following in the foot steps of their fore fathers. It was very common for young women to become Domestic Servants working for the 'higher class' families. Georgina was to devote her life to being a domestic servant and it is obvious from correspondence that it was a life she attained success within. Georgina obtained positions in some very prestigious households. One might say that she was of the Manor born.
Readers Digest Map showing Elton Hall near Peterborough
In 1834 (d) James Winter, Georgina's great Uncle, was a Gentleman Gardener. By 1841 he was living in Battersea Rise, Surrey. James was said to be a part owner of the famous 'Cremorne Pleasure Gardens' (This cannot be confirmed and this legacy of information is probably the result of a wishful imagination. James, most likely, employed as a gardener in Cremorne Gardens). It can, however, be confirmed that the 'Winter' family were employed by some very well-to-do families of their time. Charles Winter (Georgina's father) was one of the gardeners employed at 'Elton Hall' (See second picture down for picture of Elton Hall below).In the 1861 Census we find Charles Winter, his wife Sarah and his three daughters, Georgina, Elizabeth and Mary, living in the Lodge House at Elton Hall, Leyton, Essex. The house was most probably like, if not, the Garden Cottage that can still be found on the Elton Hall estate (See Garden Cottage picture below).
The Garden Cottage in the grounds of the Elton Hall estate
We can presume this was a position held over many years due to the fact that all three daughters were born in Leyton. Their ages in 1861 ranged from six years old to 3 months old with Georgina being the eldest. In 1861 Georgina was a scholar. It appears Georgina mastered her three R's because at the age of thirteen she was already writing letters to her Uncle John Winter in Australia. The 'Elton Hall' estate would have been a grand place to have grown up in and pictures of Elton Hall always view it very favorably giving the Hall the appearance of being very light, bright and picturesque . The gardens are invitingly cheerful and beautiful. The gardens on the estate, that would have been tended by Charles, no longer remain and were replaced in more recent times. In 1861 Elton Hall was the home to Admiral Granville Leveson Proby - 3rd Earl of Carysford. His father, John Joshua Proby married twice. His second marriage was to Elizabeth Grenville the daughter of the Prime Minister George Grenville. Granville Proby died on the 3rd November 1868 at the age of 85 and is buried at Elton Hall.
Elton is in the district of Huntingdonshire and was known as Athetintone. Huntington was the birth place of Oliver Cromwell in 1599. In the 12th century Chronicler of Ramsey Abbey described it as Elton and the description remains today. The parish of Elton lies in the north west corner of the old county of Huntingdonshire on the border of Northampshire, into which the southern portion of Elton Park extends. The common fields of Elton were enclosed by an Act of Parliament in 1779, when the first Earl of Craysford was lord of the manor. Elton Hall was built by Sir Richard Sapcote and was subsequently extended by his successors. The house was originally surrounded by a moat, now long since filled up, but in 1894 indications were found that it was 13 ft deep. Robert Sapcote, who died on the 4th January 1600/01, was probably the last of his family to live here, for in 1617 the property was finally sold coming into the possession of Sir Thomas Proby. In 1665, because of it's ruinous condition, it was pulled down and a new house built in it's place. Subsequent alterations were undertaken by other owners of the property including the Earls of Carysford. Elton Hall lies at the heart of a 3,800 acre estate made up of farms, houses and cottages, commercial property and woodlands.
In 1871 Census Georgina had left home and entered into the 'Domestic Servant' service. At the age of 16 she had obtained a position of Domestic Housemaid for an elderly eighty two year old widow by the name of Jane Legge. Also present in the house were her 46 year old son Henry Joseph Legge and her daughter. Henry Joseph Legge was the son of Jane and Richard Henry Legge and their residence was Hollyfield in Ewell Road, Kingston On Thames, Surrey, England. After the widowed Jane Legge died her son Henry inherited this property and he lived here with his sister Mary Anne Legge for many years. Henry was still living at Ewell Road at the time of the 1901 Census aged 76. When John Winter wrote to his niece, Georgina, in 1874 she was still working for Henry Joseph Legge in Ewell Rd, Kingston On Thames. Her letter has not survived but John's reply to her letter has. It reads as follows:
Franklinford December 1874
Georgina must have enjoyed writing letters to her Uncle John in Australia. It seems that, at times, life made it impossible to find the time to write and a gap of one or two years appears to take place between their letters. Only one of the letters that Georgina wrote to her Uncle John Winter in Australia seems to have survived. She must have treasured her correspondence. In 1926 Georgina wrote a letter to descendants of John Winter (In Australia), Jessie Morse, and forwarded her letters from John Winter to herself on to Jessie. They give us a very good insight into her life. Luckily, for us, John was an equally good letter writer and his replies, to her letters, mentions subjects of employment that she must have written and told him about. Her Uncle John was very well pleased and proud of his niece. The cousin John Winter , mentioned in his letters,was married to Sarah Neale and the family sailed to New Zealand on the 'Conflict' in 1874. Cousin John was the son of James Winter who was brother of (Australian based) John & George Winter's father, Thomas Winter.
My interest in the old Mansion houses in England lead me to purchase a book called 'Our Vanishing Heritage' by Marcus Binney. Little did I know, at the time of my purchase, that Georgina Winter had been employed as a servant in one of these Mansions, The Grange, when it was the glorious family home of Lord Ashburton and his wife Leonora. Upon searching the 1881 Census, to see if I could find out were Georgina was employed, as mentioned in John Winter's letter, I found that our 25 year old Georgina was a Housemaid - Domestic Servant at the time Lord Ashburton and his wife, Leonora, were living at The Grange. Only part of 'The Grange' remains standing today. The main part of the building, on the right of the photograph shown below, survives. The rest of the building had fallen into ruin and had been demolished before Marcus Binney and John Redmill, as trustees of The Save Britain's Heritage Trust, made moves to safe the rest of The Grange from complete destruction. On the 13th March 1974 the Department of the Environment had issued a press notice announcing that the owner of The Grange, the Hon. John Baring, had offered the house " in voluntary guardianship, along with a contribution to the cost of repairs." Two days later the Department had written to John Redmill confirming the position. In 1979 it was announced The Grange would be preserved. Both the house and the conservatory were roofed and made structurally sound. On May 26th 1983 the house was opened to the public. In later years it become the home of 'Opera in The Grange'. (Information obtained from Our Vanishing Heritage by Marcus Binney - pages 46-55)
(Left to right) Lady Leonora Ashburton, The Grange near ruin, The Grange Dining Room
100 years prior to the announcement (In paragraph above) that The Grange would be saved, Georgina aged 25 had obtained a position as a domestic servant as House Maid to the 4th Baron Ashburton, Alexander Hugh Baring and his wife Leonora Ashburton. Leonora's parents were Edward St Vincent Digby, 9th Baron Digby and Marie Fox-Strangeway. Uncle John Winter sent her a letter addressed to The Grange as follows:
Franklinford 4th July 1879
The Mrs Rutledge (Refereed to twice in above letter) was John's cousin Anne Winter, sister to his New Zealand cousin John Winter. The mention of the misplace letter Georgina sent from Epsom is most probably still the residence of Henry Legge. John wrote another letter to Georgina in February 1882 enclosing a letter from his wife that was also written in 1882. He mentions that the last letter they had from received from Georgina was dated December 1880. The 1881 Census shows that Georgina was still employed and in domestic service at "The Grange'.
In 1891 Georgina returned to Elton Hall aged 33 as a domestic servant. In the 1891 census there appears to be only servants present in Elton Hall at the time the Census was taken. This included the head Housekeeper, Maids and Grooms. With a large contingent of servants at Elton Hall (at the time of the 1881 Census) it would appear that the Earl and his wife may have been in residence but perhaps called away on business. Generally if the larger residences were unoccupied there would be a skeleton staff left to manage the household. The 4th Earl Carysford, Sir Granville Leveson Proby (2nd) died in 1872. He was succeeded by Sir William Proby who became the 5th Earl Carysford. Sir William married Charlotte Mary Heathcote, daughter of Robert Boothby Heathcote and Charlotte Sotheby. Sir William Proby was born in 1836 and died in 1909. He was buried at Elton Hall on the 9th September 1909. Upon his death his titles became extinct. Georgina had been employed by two generations of the 'Proby' family.
Readers Digest Map showing 'The Grange' near Alresford
In the 1901 Census for Petersborough, Northampshire Georgina appears as aged 47. She is no longer a domestic servant, an occupation she has been in for thirty years or more, and has become a Boarding House Keeper in Petersborough. Georgina's Uncle, John Winter, tragically ended his own life on the 24th April 1892. It is not known if Georgina ever learned of her Uncle's fate, as such a thing as suicide was not freely spoken of during this era. Georgina's letter to her cousin Jessie Elizabeth Winter (1877-1964), who married Frederick Morse in 1912, indicates that Jessie and her sisters had kept in touch with her. On the 28th January 1926 Georgina wrote a letter to Jessie Morse (nee Winter) and returned the letters written by John.
94 Talbot Road - Westbourne Grove Sr 2 - Jan'y 28th 1926
Lizzie (refered to in letter above ) was Elizabeth Winter, Georgina's sister. Elizabeth had been employed as a Domestic servant in 1881 in Kingston On Thames and in 1891 was a Cook Domestic living in St George Hanover Square, London.