My great grandfather was a good for nothing

It is some forty years since I first obtained a birth certificate for my grandfather Sidney Herbert Poulton. It shows that his mother as Ellen Poulton, a machinist of Chiswick, and that he was born in Isleworth Infirmary. The box for details of his father is blank.

Through online contacts since 2015, a bigger picture has developed.

Ellen Poulton was Ellen Miriam Poolton, the name spelt with a second ‘o’ instead of a ‘u,’ and that she had two other children George Stanley and Ida Frederica. The official documents telling the story of Ellen and her family are plentiful. They include full details of the military career of her father Hugh Henry Poolton.

For Ida, it has never been possible to find a birth certificate. Perhaps, in 1907 or 1909, her year of birth was never firmly established, it was possible for births to go unrecorded in the official records. Ida’s first appearance on an official document is on a return for the 1911 Census when she was living with Ada Poolton her grandmother in Wandsworth.

Only on the birth certificate of George Stanley does a father’s name appear. Born on 23rd September 1908, he is named as Fred Stratton who is described as a civil engineer. Under “name and maiden name of mother” there is entered “Ellen Miriam Stratton formerly Poolton.”

Fred Stratton was Frederick Robert Stratton from a family in Chelsea. Family memories recall visit by Ida to the home of her grandparents. They were not rich, but were considerably more affluent than Ellen.

Sadly, Ellen seems to have been deceived by Fred Stratton for a number of years. He could not have married her, or not done so legally, for he had married Marion Gwladys Williams of Bangor in North Wales in 1904.

The full nature of the deception is unclear. At one point, in one of the few letters that survive, Ellen writes to her mother about Ada having moved house. Ellen says that it was good of Mrs Carrington, a neighbour, to have helped Ada to move. Ellen asks, “how do you like your new flat?” and then says “you mustn’t forget to let Fred know your new address.”

Where was Fred at this time? Presumably at home with Marion, from where he went to his job each day at the railway clearing house, where the values of fares paid to travel on journeys involving trains of more than one railway company were divided between the companies concerned. It was a good job, but not as he had described himself to Ellen. What did he tell Marion when he was visiting Ellen?

Did he tell her he was working away? When did she find out that he had deceived her? Was it when she was in the workhouse again in 1911? Or when she died in 1912 at the age of 23 and a cousin had to register her death?

Fred Stratton lived until the age of 76, dying in North Wales in 1956. One wonders if Marion ever discovered the truth.

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