Welcome back to the Celestina Christmas story. In the previous episode, we left little Celestina (born 1846) living with my ancestors, Thomas and Julia Harrington and their daughters, Hannah and Rebecca (my 2x great-grandmother).
Her mother, Celestina Elizabeth Christmas, was back with her family in their house in King Square, Finsbury, a much more salubrious neighbourhood than the Harringtons’ rented house in the Hackney/Tower Hamlets area of East London.
Whether William Foster Christmas, the older Celestina’s father and a respectable silversmith, and her mother Elizabeth had managed to keep the pregnancy a secret or not I don’t know. But I’m guessing they would have tried to, for the sake of the family’s honour and to keep their daughters marriageable.
The eldest surviving Christmas girl, Emma Mary, had married in August 1845, the same year that Celestina Elizabeth became pregnant. Emma’s husband was Henry Thomas Goldham, a nurseryman and son of John Goldham, Gent[lema]n. It looks like a good match.
By this time Celestina was four months pregnant and might have started showing, so perhaps she was sent away, or had an ‘illness’ that meant she had to stay in bed – who knows?
At the time of the 1851 census, the Christmas family was still in King Square in Finsbury. Here they are:
There they are, William, his wife Elizabeth, daughter Elizabeth (Jane), son Alfred, Sarah Wilson the servant… wait a minute, where’s Celestina?
Ah, on the next page, with the other servant. Was this a sign of how she was regarded by her father, or just the enumerator writing down the names in an odd order?
The sister, Elizabeth Jane, married in 1852. At 20 she was five years younger than Celestina, which may have been galling to the older girl, who would’ve expected to be the next to marry – under ‘normal’ circumstances.
Elizabeth’s husband was Charles Grobe, an engraver from Hanau in Germany who’d come over to London via Rotterdam in September 1849. As an engraver, it’s likely that he would’ve come to know William Christmas professionally, and perhaps that’s how he met Elizabeth Jane.
Charles Grobe doesn’t appear in the 1851 census, but since he’s shown arriving back in England in September 1852, it’s possible that he’d gone home to tie up any business he had in Hanau before settling in London for good. His father had a different trade – he was a butcher – so there was no family firm to worry about, but it seems reasonable to think that he’d returned to take a long farewell from his family and friends.
Elizabeth and Charles were married at St Matthew’s Parish Church in City Road on 9 December, 1852, three months after his return. At the time Charles was living near the Christmases, in Goswell Rd, but the couple moved to a newly built house, 18 Murray St, New North Rd.
The houses there have been replaced with modern buildings and it’s called Murray Grove now. I’d like you to keep it in your mind, because we haven’t finished with the Grobes’ house yet.
The Christmases must’ve been fairly satisfied by now. Two daughters married off, the inconvenient baby a reasonable distance away in Hackney. But what to do with Celestina Elizabeth? Even with her child disposed of, she was still on their hands and getting on a bit at 25. Were they going to be stuck with a spinster?
Enter another young man from Hanau; Grobe’s friend Charles (or Karl) Sommer, also an engraver, who made the journey to England with him back in 1849.
He’s going to be an important part of the story from now on, but as a victim or a villain? That’s for you to decide in the next episode of this #Victorianmurder
* Picture credits:
Parish registers showing marriages and 1851 census: Ancestry
Murray St: Google Maps