William Albert Hyde 1874 – 1968
Anne Elizabeth Hobbs 1873 – 1962
The further I’m going back with my ancestors the harder it’s getting because there’s no one around who actually has many personal memories of my Great Grandparents from my Father’s side of the family.
I myself was twelve when Gt. Granddad passed away and I do have a few very sketchy memories but of my Gt. Grandmother, who died just six years before William I have absolutely no memories at all which I find a little strange.
I’m sure I must have met her but for the moment I just have some wonderful photos and an awful lot of digging around to do to find out about her. I’ll let you know when I have something to tell.
Most of the information I have about them and their family has come from the 1881 census and of course Birth, Marriage and Death certificates which is the most obvious way of finding out things I suppose, but I have one other thing that has given me a real insight into their lives because at the grand old age of 93 William gave an interview to the local paper and I have the cutting.
So to start at the beginning, William was the youngest son of Edward and Emily (Colsworthy) Hyde.
He was born in the family home, 7 Victoria Road, Plaistow, East London on the 16th June 1874 and had three sisters, Clara, Florry and Alice and four brothers, Thomas, Herbert, George and Alfred.
They later moved to Hermit Road, still in Plaistow.
In the interview, written in 1967 by a journalist called John Graham he recalls his life’s memories.
At 93 he is a link with Waterloo
There can’t be many people around today who can claim acquaintance with veterans of Waterloo. Yet as a small child Bill Hyde knew such men and can remember to this day – well over three quarters of a century since the last of them died.
Bill is 93 now and has been retired from the London docks since just before the last war (WW2) His astounding memory for the people and events which have crowded his long life, both before and during the 45 years he spent in the docks provokes endless, fascinating tales. Some of them are personal and of no account to the historian. His early childhood for instance, when dressed in the petticoats which were standard wear for the infants of the 1870’s, he attended the first school to be built in Plaistow, in Hermit Road.
“I left school when I was eleven”, Bill said. “It was only a small place and we had to make room for other kids. They reckoned we’d learned enough by then anyhow.”
For the next nine years or so he worked as a delivery boy, at first for a baker and then for a greengrocer – for a weekly wage that never much exceeded eighteen pence (that’s just 7 ½ pence in today’s decimal currency)
For the great mass of London’s dockers employment at that time was casual and intermittent – not that most dockers have had the good fortune to see much change for the better here. But they were also unorganised and thus prey for unscrupulous bosses.
During Bill Hyde’s middle teens he often stopped outside his local church on Sunday mornings and listened to the “sprouting”-as he calls it – of a fiery young orator called Ben Tillett. Society was hardened to such firebrands, but some of Tillett’s exhortations fell on willing ears among his docker audiences.
A small union was formed, the leaders of which called for a uniform rate of sixpence (2 1/2p today) an hour for a minimum of four hours’ work in the docks.. Even thus, the lucky ones might not earn more than eight (40p) to ten (50p) shillings a week, since demand for work far exceeded its availability.
True to form, the dock companies refused the demand and to their amazement and horror 2500 men struck work on August 12 1889. Within a week the strike had extended to all of London and dockers in other large ports refused to handle ships transferred from the strike-bound docks.
Pictures of these events crowd Bill Hyde’s memory – the long protest marches through the streets of Bermondsey, Wapping, Plaistow and Poplar; the street corner and church hall meetings held by Ben Tillett, Tom Mann and occasionally by the Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Manning himself.
Bill still recalls the pleas for “tick” from the penniless housewives to whom he delivered vegetables during the dark days of the strike.
Eventually, the dockers having shown no sign of surrendering, the employers gave way, granted the “tanner an hour” and although this was far from being their intention, gave an immense impetus to trade unionism.
In a very short time, the dockers union – which had christened itself the Dock, Wharf and Riverside Labourers Union – had enrolled more than 40,000 members, among them Bill Hyde, who gave up his grocery round and started work in the “Baccy” department at the Victoria Dock at the age of 20.
“I was lucky,” said Bill. “I was taken on as a perm and from that day until I retired I was never out of work.” “Mind you, the money was bad – at one point I was keeping a family of seven children on 3s. 6d a day (15 1/2p), I don’t know how I managed, looking back”.
“But the work was all right. We were in the baccy sheds, unloading the big sailing ships and loading the baccy barges. If work was slack I used to be transferred to customs, gauging barrels of rum. I’s be sent to go round with the food inspectors examining meat.”
For the first 14 years of his life in the docks, Bill Hyde was employed by the London and India Docks Company – the PLA was not founded until 1909. Among his most treasured possessions are his work and union registration cards – the oldest being a creased and faded London and India Docks card dated 22 January 1897, naming Bill Hyde as Registered Labourer No. 1073. Slightly less old is his union card, issued at the time when Ben Tillett was general secretary.
A third card, issued in 1920 is his PLA “perm” card, stipulating his wages as 88shillings per week of 44 working hours, rising to 89 shillings after two more years and to 90 shillings after two more years, but no sick pay, no pension and just one working week holiday.
Bill, who now lives with his widowed daughter at Sheringham Avenue, Manor Park, has not seen the inside of the docks for many years.
“But my son William (My Granddad)– he has just retired after working in the docks all his life – has promised he’ll take me round in his car. I know all the docks. At one time or another I’ve worked in every one and I’d be interested to see the changes, especially Tilbury – I’ve been told I’m in for a big surprise there.”
Bill Hyde doesn’t know how big a surprise. A man whose memory can recall the old sailing clippers will be more than surprised to see containerisation in action.
But then, a man who can recall the old soldiers of Waterloo must be perfectly capable of taking the most spectacular changes in his stride.
Well I think Gt. Granddad would fall off his chair if he could see docklands today. It’s totally unrecognizable from anything he would have known and the thought of an airport actually being in one of the docks would have been beyond belief!
As for my own memories, as I have already mentioned I have few.
I can remember him living in Dartford, Kent, in the same street as his granddaughter, my aunt Peggy (Dad’s sister). His house was at the bottom of a cul-de-sac and I can remember seeing everything pulled out of the house and laying in the front garden because there had been a flood. I think Gt. Grandma must have already pass away by then because my next memories are of him coming back to Manor Park in East London to live with his daughter, my Gt. Aunt Emily because the house was no longer habitable.
I can see him now, a big man, sitting in his armchair beside the fire, wearing has flat cap and smoking his pipe, just like the picture in the newspaper article.
At the moment I’m not even sure of when Bill and Anne married but I do know that Anne had been married before because she had a sone called John Delmage. I shall be looking into this later to see if her first husband had died or if there was a divorce because at the moment I have no details at all of him. Bill and Anne went on to have six children together, Emily, Arther, Rosina, William (my Granddad) Violet, and Richard so there was a household of nine altogether.