When Grandma worked in London

Mollie and Stella in London in the 1920's
Mollie with her friend Stella

My family rarely travelled in the past,  but I knew my Grandmother Mullins (Mary Margaret Bowditch, known as Mollie)  worked in London in the 1920’s having been trained by her Grandmother and then loaded on a train to head to London when she was 14.

I’d often wondered where she had worked and the other day, while looking through the Ancestry Catalogue I spotted the “London Electoral Role”,  and thought “Why not?”  and as luck would have it there was an entry for Mary Margaret Bowditch,  I was doubly lucky as she only made it as she only got the right to vote when the suffrage age for women was dropped in 1928, to match that of men at 21.
James Smith and Sons Umbrellas
James Smith and Sons Umbrellas
That not only gave me an address.  but also her employers, Robert Ernest and Edith Sarah Smith. In 1911 the Smiths had been living in 38 St Gabriels Rd, Blomesbury, Cricklewood, and Robert was shown as an Umbrella manufacturer, tracing him back he was the son of James Smith, an Umbrella and Walking Stick manufacturer originally born in  Bloomsbury, who in 1881 was living in a Farm house on Milkwood Farm, in Woodford Essex. Robert died in Golders Green on the 14 April 1930, in Hayes Crescent Nursing home, but his addresses were given as 31 The Ridgeway and 53 New Oxford Street, as of 2014 “James Smith & Sons” still operates from the same premises on New Oxford Street and it probably looks much as it did in 1929.  Robert left over fifteen thousand pounds in his will,  around one million pounds today.  My Father remembers Molly telling him that she worked as the housekeeper for the Family and she does appear to be the only servant resident in the house, but this of course may only be that any other live-in servants were under 21.
The 1931 Electoral role still shows Molly in Golders Green with Edith along with Kathleen Edith and Marjorie Evelyn Swinstead-Smith (most likely her daughters), but by 1932 a new housekeeper is living at 31 Ridgeway.
The Probate for Edith Sarah in 1951, sees her leaving £5227 18s 3d to Marjorie as the only named beneficiary.
31 Ridgeway, Golders Green from Google Street View
31 Ridgeway, Golders Green from Google Street View


  1. “London Electoral Register 1931 Hendon, 31 The Ridgeway”.
  2. “London Electoral Register 1929 Hendon, 31 The Ridgeway”.
  3. “RG14 Piece: 7002 Schedule Number: 168 Tregarthen, 38 St Gabriels Rd, Brondesbury, Cricklewood NW Robert Ernest  Smith”.
  4. “RG11; Piece: 1734; Folio: 53; Page: 2 Woodford, Essex Robert E Smith”.
  5. “Ancestry Tree davidthorp1952 Throp 2012”.
  6. “National Probate Calendar 1930 Robert Ernest Smith”.

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