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Maria Nascimento. 1901:

Maria : HATMAKING IN LONDON

Maria Nascimento
[Photo from Portugal.]

This is a photo of a Portuguese girl @ 1900 taken from a family album.

Name

Maria

Age

19

Place of Birth

Portugal

Gender

Female

Occupation

Milliner ( makes & decorates hats )

Place living now

Lansdowne Rd, Lambeth

Photos

Click photo for fullsize image

Good stuff : Playing with her little niece next door . Going to the theatre with Uncle Harry who works there.

Bad stuff : English food (not fresh enough) & hats to make with lots of fiddly bits, feeling cold & the dirty atmosphere of London town.

Documents. The 1901 census record for Maria's family and her in-laws when they were living in Lambeth, theatre programme for the 1900 panto at Kennington Theatre where Maria's English uncle may have worked,Betty Blythe theatrical performer in Brixton in 1905.

Maria lived in Lambeth for a few years around 1900. She was Portuguese. We found her living, with her mum and other sisters next door to an English family in the census of 1901. Looking very carefully we realized that her brother had married the English daughter of the family next door. Then it seems all the rest of the family came to live in England for a few years.

Teachers notes

London and Lambeth have long links with Portugal from Catherine of Braganza the Portuguese princess, who married Charles II in 1661, to the 18th century English wine and port trade in Madeira and mainland Portugal through to today's myriad of Portuguese cafes and shops in Stockwell and Vauxhall established more recently by Madeiran families now living in Lambeth.

Maria was a young Portuguese girl, a milliner (hat maker), who lived in Stockwell for a few years at the beginning of last century.

We found her when we were looking for Portuguese families in the Lambeth area in the 1901 census of households. As the last column of the census includes place of birth it was easy to spot a whole family born in Portugal!

Looking at the listings for 35 Lansdowne Rd Stockwell in 1901 we find Maria's family. Her mother, also called Maria, is in her 50s. She is a widow. Her three daughters, Maria is the middle one, are all nearly grown up and work making hats or clothes to sell from home. Staying in the house is the girls' uncle and a young visitor (perhaps he is a suitor for one of the girls?) as well as a Portuguese maid servant.

In 1903 Madame Nascimento, the mother of the family, is still living at 35 Lansdowne Rd. By the next year she is no longer listed at that address in the street directories. Perhaps the whole family got home-sick for Portugal and returned there. At house no.33, next door, however Mrs Nascimento Junior is still listed. Mrs N Junior we see from the same census of 1901 is a young woman called Florence. She is married and has a little daughter Floraida. Her husband is Porphirio Nascimento. He it seems was the brother to Maria and her sisters. Although we have no more details of the family we can imagine the story. The brother is a merchant. He came to London trading in the city in the last years of the nineteenth century. He met Florence. They got married and are soon expecting a little girl. His father has died. He wants his mum and sisters to meet his new family. They come over from Portugal to stay in London.

It is 1901. The old Queen Victoria has just died. London is a great busy city full of life and bustle. We can imagine that Maria loves to go to see the theatres where her brother's new father in law and his son work. She is amazed by all the sights. However at this time Portugal was a more rural country although Lisbon was an ancient and historic city. London must have seemed very dirty and noisy with all the gas works and foundries and maybe Maria and her family longed to go back home to Portugal. Probably they missed the rest of their family and the food at home. Nearly five years away in London was long enough.

Harry Potts, the man who was to become the father-in-law of Porphirio, is living at 33 Lansdowne Rd in 1892. We know most about him from 1901 when he is on the census, still at that address. At 49 he describes himself as a scene painter employing other people. His son Harry B. is a carpenter. I imagine they worked in one of the London theatres making and painting scenery. Were they up at the Old Vic theatre along The Cut by Waterloo Rd or did they take the tram over Waterloo Bridge into the West End of London where the many theatres of Victorian London were waiting for them ? Theatres were a wonderful magical world at that time when many people lived in drab, poor housing and worked long hours at often dirty or dangerous jobs. To be a scene painter in a theatre creating new worlds through paint and paper was hard work but probably more glamorous than many other jobs at that time.

However from the National Archives in 1909 we have found some court records with an application for divorce from the English wife Florence against her Portuguese husband, Maria's brother. Divorce was very unusual in those days. Perhaps it was just too difficult a match, the Portuguese merchant and the London girl.

www.Lambethlandmark.com search words: theatre, pantomime, Old Vic, Kennington theatre, costume design,

Global links. Portugal

'One foot in Each Land, the Portuguese community in Lambeth', Gabrielle Bourn, Lambeth Archives, 2006.