Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sepia Saturday - The Doors in a Long Life

This week’s Sepia Saturday(SS) prompt is of a lady standing in a doorway. The main suggested theme is to share a photo of someone framed in a doorway but other suggested themes are windows, number 11, and small fat old ladies.

I won’t be insulting about the latter as the prompt photo is of the grandmother of Alan the SS administrator but I will write about my 3x great grandmother – a small fat old lady!

Mary Elizabeth LEWIS nee BLACKMORE (c1812-1898) was a remarkable woman. I would have liked to have met her.

In a nutshell: she was born in Devon, 
married an Irishman in London, 
emigrated to Australia in 1855, 
was shipwrecked (and rescued) with eight of her ten children on the Schomberg
settled in Melbourne and 
outlived her publican husband by 27 years, 
living to the amazing age of 86 years.

I’ve written a little about the shipwreck before here (and with this same photo) so in keeping a little with the theme, I’ll try to focus a bit on the locations of doors she would have walked through and perhaps stood in:

1837-51: Lambeth, Kennington, Surrey (on 1851 census, husband was a hairdresser).

1855: Schomberg set sail for Australia.

1859-60: Joiner’s Arms, Cardigan Street, North Melbourne.

1860-61: Royal Railway Hotel, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne (husband granted the licence April 1860).

1861: Golden Age Hotel, La Trobe Street, Melbourne (husband gained transfer of licence December 1861).

1864-66: Mechanics Arms Hotel, Little Collins Street, Melbourne (husband the licensee).

1871: Curzon Street, Hotham (now known as North Melbourne) where her hotelkeeper husband, Robert LEWIS died.

1898: Leslie Estate, Were Street, Brighton Beach where she died. From what I can find, this was an estate of residences and villas developed in about 1887 on the site of Leslie House next to Brighton Beach railway station.

There are still a few gaps, but thanks to Trove and the digitised newspapers, I’m sure I’ll fill them all in eventually.

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find photos of the pubs yet.


  1. What a resilient looking Lady, there is such a physical and emotional strength in that small frame to survive any number of shipwrecks. Harriet Ellen (my grandmother who is featured in the prompt) would have been proud to be mentioned in the same blog post as her.

  2. A formidable lady indeed. Hope you can find those pubs.

  3. Shipwrecked and rescued - what an adventure! I love looking at photos and reading stories about ladies like her.


  4. Short & plump or not, she looks nice in her stylish gown. She also looks a bit weary, however, & who could blame her! She lived through a lot, but obviously persevered & living to 86 was quite a feat in those days, too. A spunky lady!

  5. Oh I would love to have a doll that looks like her. I have one of Queen Victoria bought long ago in London that would be a close model.

  6. How wonderful to have a photograph of an ancestor who was born as long ago as 1812. I liked the way you focussed on the doorways she passed through in her long eventful life. A great post. . .

  7. Do you know when the photograph was taken? She doesn't look that old to me, and maybe she was pregnant rather than fat. Ladies probably disguised their 'condition' pretty well back then, unlike now!

  8. I'm with Jo, she might have been "with child" in this photo, and the voluminous dress certainly adds to her size. Marrying an Irishman is no mean feat, as my mother could attest. Ha!

  9. Thanks Kat and Jo, I looked up and she had two children in Australia - at age 45 and 47! So she possibly is pregnant and at those ages and already with 8-9 children, yes, she would look tired!

  10. Oh my what a woman! Bravo. My two greatest fears are fires and shipwrecks! To ever survive either of them, just imagine the power of strength that would give anyone! Great photo.

  11. That’s a remarkable lady. She certainly deserved a rest after all that adventure.

  12. I totally missed the idea of little fat ladies as a prompt, but I'm glad you picked up on it because you have such an interesting story to tell. I like the contemplation of the many doors she would have walked through.

  13. My mother-in-law told me about her great-grandmother who was born in Devon. Her husband called her his 'Devon dumpling' because she was short and stout.
    It's a lovely photo of your Mary Lewis. I bet she could have told you a few stories!