This is the earliest known photo of Annie that I have, or have ever seen.
I do not know when or where it was taken.
I, Annie Dean (Corbett) Ellsworth, was born June 26, 1884 in Flaunden, Hertfordshire, England. The sixth in a family of twelve children. We lived in an ivy covered house. It was two stories with two rooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs. We were very poor. My father made enough money when he worked but he worked only long enough to obtain money enough to buy drink. My mother worked as a housekeeper at times and all the children helped. Some of the children worked in the fields picking rocks out of farmers' fields or helping their father bind hay. We never had much to eat but the neighboring farmers had orchards of apples, pears, plums and cherries and many walnut trees. We ate peas and turnips out of the fields too.
I was the ringleader of the neighborhood kids. I was always the one who shook the fruit down for the others. They always scrambled when the farmer caught us, and left me up in the tree. My best friends were Kate Law and Sue Barnes. We fought a great deal between ourselves. One day Kate and Sue got me mad and I ran up to Sue and pulled her hair "for all I was worth".
My father had a pig and we used to gather gunny sacks full of leaves for bedding for it. We gathered sacks of acorns for the pigs also. Sometimes we sold them by the bushel for other farmers pigs.
Pete Reeves, a little red headed boy, found a tin box of old Roman coins. He found them in a old crumbling Cathedral. The Cathedral and a farm house were in the middle of a little forest it was surrounded by a moat. It was real spooky in the forest. Pete was climbing around on the building when he pulled down a rock. Behind the rock were the coins. He was so excited. He sold the coins to all the neighbors. When the Government found out, poor Pete had to walk miles to gather them back up.
A neighbor woman gave me a pinafore full of dry bread one day to take home. As I started home I could see my mother standing at the end of the lane talking to a neighbor. I was ashamed to be seen with the bread so I threw the bread little by little in the nettles at the side of the road. My mother had seen me and I had to go back and pick that bread out of those thorny nettles.
Schooling for English children was very good. We had religious lesson each morning. we had to memorize the Beatitudes, the Parables and all the prayers. The girls were taught to knit, sew, and crochet. One day in school my brother Reuben played hooky. The teacher got out her bamboo cane and beat him. I couldn't stand for that so I ran up to her and kicked her in the shins.
None of my brothers and sisters were able to finish their schooling because we had to leave home and got to work. All of us went to work by the age of eleven. I was only able to finish the fourth grade. My brothers all apprenticed at dairy work or in the farm fields. My sisters and I apprenticed at housework.
My first place of work was at Hayes in Kent. I received my board and room and one shilling (25 cents) a month. I stayed there for about eighteen months. A Mrs. Gillespie from London hired me next for housework. I only stayed with her for a few months. At the age of fourteen, I went to cook for a family of eight in Berkhamstead. They had four servants and one page-boy. I was their cook for two years.
When I was eighteen, I went to work in Horton's Butcher Shop in Watford. I cooked for the family and the butchers. I stayed with them for a long time. At one time I prepared to go to South Africa to work far an Officer's wife but changed my mind.
Thank goodness she changed her mind! I have enjoyed researching Flaunden and the surrounding countryside. Especially as it relates to Annie. Here are a few photos I want to share.
Here is a postcard showing Flaunden Village as it looked in 1903 while Annie still lived in England. I am sure it looked much the same 19 years earlier when she was born.
I say that because here is the same view today on Google Earth Street View. Not much has changed at all! Even the wooden street sign on the corner is still there!
As for the "spooky" forest and the old ruins of the Cathedral...
This is a very old photo of the ruins of a church "situated on the banks of the Chess River, tucked away and nearly hidden in a small clump of fir trees some distance from the road. Its peculiar interest is its somewhat unusual plan, the design of which is in the form of a Greek cross, having the distance east to west (about thirty-six feet) practically the same as that north to south across the transept. The church probably dates from about 1230 and was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene; it is now, however, in a ruinous condition, the roof and wooden tower having quite disappeared. The ivy-clad north and west walls retain much of their original height, and up to recently showed traces of early mural painting. There is a small fourteenth century doorway in the north wall and a picturesque fifteenth-century three-light window in the south wall. ... ..." This is a quote from the magazine "Herttfordshire Countryside_1946.
It is in the woods and on the River Chess which may explain the mote Annie described. Can you imagine the fun those children had playing in that countryside?
I wish I could have seen those old Roman coins!
Here is a close-up of the "spooky forest" with the River Chess running right below it.
Here is a view of Flaunden Village at the top of the photo, with the ruins site circled in white at the bottom. Those kids sure got around! It's probably only a mile or so from their homes
but what a nice walk!
I also love the insight she gives us into her fiery, spunky personality (and being the middle child of 12 children) as she describes being the leader of the gang of kids, being the brave one to be first up the tree, and being angry with her girl friends and pulling their hair! And how about the way she kicked her teacher? Reuben was just two years older than her and I'm guessing they were close. I wouldn't put up with seeing one of my brothers getting beating with a cane either! Do you have anyone in your family who has inherited that spark? Hmmm? She was also aware of their poverty and proud enough to not want to be seen with the charity from a neighbor (the dry bread in her apron). Bless those children! It was a hard life as far as eating a good and regular diet. I find it so sad that they all had to leave school at age 11 and go to work. Hayes, Kent is 61 miles away from Flaunden, an hour and 20 minutes on today's roads but probably a day or so journey back then.
She was 11 years old and might as well have been on the other side of the world.
Think about how blessed you are!
Next time I write I will share with you how Annie had questions about religion and found the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.