My paternal grandmother Criss Cox had a short but particularly difficult life. She was the third of fourteen children born in May 1888 to John and Harriet Cox in Bristol. Harriet was a tailoress and her husband a mason’s labourer (and reputed to be quite a drinker). In the Census of 1901 Criss, aged 11, was listed as “daughter” but this was crossed out and amended to “son”. This was presumably altered by the supervising enumerator who thought that “Criss” was a boy’s name.
By the time she was 20 Criss had moved to London and was working as a domestic servant in the house of a man who later became deputy Controller of the London Post Office. She became pregnant and her son Edward Arthur (my father) was born in July 1910 whilst she was living at her employer’s house in Cricklewood. By the time the birth was registered two weeks later she and her baby were living at the Hampstead Workhouse.
She returned to Bristol and a year later she married a man named Isaac Reach by whom she had another three children, all daughters, over a period of 4 years. In 1915 Isaac joined the Army but was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916, leaving Criss with four children, the oldest of whom was only 5 years old.
Although the tragedy of the Great War was ending, it was followed by the great flu epidemic and Criss was one of many thousands who died in 1918. The four children, Edward, Lily, Criss and Rose were taken in by their grandparents John and Harriet.
©in the text Mike Cox