W is for Wicked Stepmother

My Great Grandfather was widowed when he was 47 years of age. His wife Amelia died age just 45 leaving 8 children aged between 23 and 3 years old. My Grandfather was 10 years old. Harriet was 22 and Mary Ann 20 and could have easily looked after the home. Instead Grandfather decided to remarry. Just 4 Months after Amelia’s death he married a widow Mary Ann Louisa Bannister.

My Grandfather was immediately sent away to Boarding School, but by the time the 1881 Census was taken he was back at home with the Wicked Stepmother. He was soon working and left home as did all the other children (Harriet emigrated to Australia – more on that later).

Great Grandfather died on the 25th December 1884 carving the Christmas Turkey. I have a copy of his will passed down through the family. It leaves everything to his wife Mary Ann Louisa in her lifetime but on her death all money and property is  to shared between seven of the children (Harriet having already had her share). Stepmother however lived until 1918. When she realised she was dying she piled all the household valuables into the grand piano and set it alight. The house and it’s contents were destroyed and she went to relatives in Derbyshire before passing away. In her will she left £1,733.19s 5d in todays money that is £320,000.  This should have been split 7 ways that is £45,714 for each “child”. As my Grandfather had himself died in 1912 his share should have been split between his children – £6,530 in todays money. My Mother who was 12 in 1918 and said the share they received was derisory – she remembers being bought an umbrella. What happened ?  Well we shall never know. Mum said that Stepmother was completely insane, in an evil way.

Wondering about Stepmother’s past I started my research. I found that before Great grandfather she was married to a Joseph Bannister. He was 66 she was just 29!

Before that in 1861 age 19 she had married a Thomas Mare. He was 45!

Her first marriage was in 1855. She was just 13 and the groom Thomas Wilson was 25. She had a son James from this marriage. I have not been able to find a death for Thomas or James Wilson. The other marriages may not have been legal!

On some of the census she gives her place of birth as France, some Derbyshire. She had an unmarried sister and brother  who lived with her or nearby and they helped me check I had the right person.

I have no picture of Wicked Stepmother. We did have a pile of oil paintings of the family but Mum and Dad left then in the cellar when we moved from the shop (342 Tong Road, Leeds)  in 1956. They were buried in the rubble when it was demolished and Mum always said she felt cleansed when she knew they had been destroyed.


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