Mary Elizabeth Stephenson’s life story



Mary was born on 7th December 1861 in Christie’s Square, Hodgson Street, Hull, the same street that her father was born on.  Her mother registered the birth but made a mark rather than sign her name, compulsory education for girls hadn’t been on the go long enough for her mother to have benefited.  At the time of her birth her father, Robert, was working as a cartman.  Mary was raised around Hodgson Street, living at number 54 during the 1871 census and at number 21 at the time of her marriage to Thomas Joseph Chapman (a slater) when she was 18.  According to family lore, Mary was not raised a Catholic but married Thomas (who was) at St Charles Church, the only Catholic church in Hull at the time.  She apparently converted at some point but I don’t know when (yet).  Mary and Thomas had 14 children, 8 of whom tragically died before the age of four.  They named two of their sons Thomas, both of whom died in infancy.  Two of their surviving children seem to be named after Thomas’ parents, George and Sarah Agnes.  Their first son was named Robert possibly after Mary’s dad.  Their first daughter was named Mary, possibly after Mary’s mum, or herself, or just to keep a traditional going perhaps.  The name Mary has carried on for another three generations after Mary, even if only as a middle name in some cases



waterloo st hull small

Waterloo Street, taken from four Alan Godfrey maps

The family lived in Adas Avenue off Waterloo Street for a number of years, approximately 1886 to 1900.  Unfortunately, I can’t find Adas Avenue on my Hull maps which show the original mid 1800s layout of the streets in this area.  Waterloo Street stretches across four ‘Alan Godfrey’ Hull maps and the map to the left is an amalgamation of these showing a close up of Waterloo Street in the 1890s.  The houses in Sculcoates (ie between Beverly Rd and the River Hull) were erected cheaply and hastily in the 1800s and were of very poor quality.  About half way down Waterloo Street and just to the west there is a tannery which would have been unpleasant, suggesting a very low class area, although as tanneries were usually outside of the main built up areas it may have stood there for many years (centuries?) well before Sculcoates was swallowed up into Hull. 


The map below is from a later date and shows the wider area including Hodgson Street, Norfolk Street and Providence Row where New Zealand Terrace was located.  Waterloo Street has been shortened since the 1800s. 

River Hull


Beverley Road

Bev Rd to river Hull overview

Taken from Clifford J Utting’s map of Hull


The following table shows the key events in Mary’s life chronologically.  More detail will be added as it becomes available. 







7 Dec: Born, Christie’s Square, Hodgson Street

Christie’s Square, Hodgson St



Census: 24 Hodgson Street, daughter

24 Hodgson St



21 Jun: Married to Thomas Joseph Chapman of 2 New Zealand Trc at St Charles church

21 Hodgson St



Census: 3 New Zealand Trc

3 New Zealand Trc



3 Jun: Robert Joseph born

8 Sep: Robert Joseph died (diarrhoea 38 days)

51 Hodgson St



7 Mar: Thomas Henry born

19 Mar: Thomas Henry died (convulsions)



Feb: Edward Vincent born

3 Adas Ave, Waterloo St



Feb: Edward Vincent died (Bronchitis)

Francis Stephenson born (d. 1957)



31 Dec: Mary Kathleen born (d. 1978)



George born (d. 1954)



Feb: Thomas Gilbert born



Leonard born and died age 2 months



May: Thomas Gilbert died (Measles & bronchitis)

John Alfred born



25 Dec: Sarah Agnes born (d. 1971)



John Alfred died age 3



6 Jan: Winifred born (d. elderly)



Joseph Sowerby born

22 Blenheim St



Joseph Sowerby died age 1



29 Jan: Helena born, known as Ella (died 2004)










It seems Mary was known as Polly.  The reverse of this photograph says Polly and Ella 1917.  I wonder what Polly is looking at on her lap. 

Helena & Mary 1917




And her parents

Mary’s mother, another Mary, married at the age of about 17 and over the next 17 years had 8 babies.  She died in her 34th year, the same year that her youngest child was born.  Perhaps she died in childbirth, I will eventually get her death certificate to find out.  She had been born in Stockport but the family had moved to Hull.  I found a possible explanation on a website about the history of Sculcoates {accessed 23 Feb 2006] 


“The Kingston cotton mill was one of two mills in Hull.  Hull was not a traditional textile area but it was due to the enthusiasm of some local businessmen that these mills were built.  Their lack of experience meant that initially the managers and employers had to be recruited from the North Cheshire/Lancashire area.  The Kingston Cotton Mill opened in 1845 but suffered periodic difficulties in the 1850s due to the American Civil war which restricted supplies of raw cotton.  . . . .  The workers from Cheshire and Lancashire included a considerable proportion of those born in Ireland and this may help to explain the high numbers of Catholics in Hull.”


It doesn’t tie in too well though because Mary’s father, John, was born in Marsden and a fish monger (during the 1851 & 1861 censuses), her mother was born in Salford. 


Robert Stephenson’s brothers and sisters


Robert was born on 12th March 1841 at 10.45 pm in Hodgson Street Hull, the son of a manure merchant called Edward, not the son of a steam engine inventor called George unfortunately.  I don’t know if I’ll ever recover!  For interest, George Stephenson was born in 1781 and his (only) son, Robert, was born in 1803.  Robert died childless, so George Stephenson has no descendants.  New information!  However the myth has deep roots.  I received the following e-mail in October 2012 from a great grandson of Mary Stephenson’s younger sister Lilian:


I'm really pleased to have found your family history website. Your Helena's mother (Mary Stephenson, or "Polly") was an elder sister of my great grandmother Lilian. When Helena was young, she and her sisters were close to Lilian's daughters, Clare and Marjorie. I've entries in some of their autograph books from around 1914 for Helena ("Ella") and her sisters Kathleen and Minnie (long before she became a nun). I also have several photos of Ella and Minnie that must have been given to Lilian or my grandmother (Clare). 


There was another sister, Harriet Stephenson, who married Thomas Huxtable. The Chapman, Hudson and Huxtable daughters all seem to have been good friends as well as cousins. At least 2 of the Huxtable children emigrated to Canada. 


Like your side of the family, our side also had the story handed down that we were descended from the railway engineer George Stephenson. However, when I first started researching the Stephenson family history, I quickly found this to be a myth. Perhaps it was a tall story that Robert Stephenson told his children. I've discovered that Robert and Mary (nee Dean) had 11 children before Mary died. Robert then married for a second time and had a further 6 children with his new wife. Please let me know if you'd like all the details.  


I was born and brought up in Hull, along with my brother Chris and sister Claire. My Dad, Michael was Lilian's only grandson. He died in 2001. His sisters, twins Pat and Shirley (now in their 70s) still live in Hull. They knew "Ella" many years ago - maybe you have heard of them? 


Best regards

Andrew (Smith)   



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