Elizabeth Ann

Elizabeth Ann Turrell (sometimes Tyrrell) was born in the Beach Village, Lowestoft on January 19th 1845. Her father, John, was a Beachman.

The history of Beachmen on the east coast is a story in itself but, briefly, this means he was a member of a Beach Company which entitled him to a share of the catch when he was part of the crew deep sea fishing.

The companies were also salvagers and were the forerunners of the lifeboats. John later became a lifeboat man. Elizabeth’s mother, Ann (nee Bultitude) was a braider. Braiders made fishing nets, as opposed to Beatsters, who mended them. Elizabeth was the second of 11 children, all of whom lived to adulthood so their tiny cottage must have been very crowded.

She is my 3rd cousin twice removed, which may seem a tenuous link, but she is also my great grandmother. On December 21, 1865 she married her 3rd cousin twice removed, Benjamin Garner Edmonds. Elizabeth’s great grandmother was also an Edmonds. Benjamin (Buno) and Elizabeth were both descended from John Edmonds and Ann Tungate who married in 1739.

I heard a lot about Elizabeth Ann from my godmother, my Aunt Lena, who said I looked very much like her. Aunt Lena had lost her only daughter, Valerie, to asthma only 2 months before I was born so she thought we had a special bond because Valerie also resembled Elizabeth Ann.

Benjamin and Elizabeth lived in the Beach Village close to both sets of parents. Benjamin had served an apprenticeship as a painter and plumber but didn’t stick at it long because by 1871 he was a fisherman. Elizabeth was a mender of nets. Benjamin later went on to be a ransacker, in charge of the nets, and it was while he was loading the nets onto the cart that he had the accident that led to his death in 1879, when he was only 35 years old. Elizabeth Ann was left a widow and 7 months pregnant with her seventh child.

Elizabeth was not one to rely on the parish and, as well as mending nets, she became housekeeper to a widowed neighbour looking after his house and children as well as her own. She ensured that all her children stayed at school until they were 12 and all her sons served apprenticeships. Her daughters “married well” and the family prospered.

Elizabeth’s son, Robert, stayed with her at home. He was unable to work at his trade after the age of 20 because he had chronic asthma – the family curse. He made models of boats which made him a tidy income and some of his models are in museums. Robert and Elizabeth had moved off the Beach Village to a posher part of Lowestoft by 1901.

Elizabeth also took in two orphaned boys when she was in her fifties. They were, according to my aunt, relations but I haven’t been able to find out who they were. Aunt Lena died long before I became interested in family history and my father can’t remember their surname but he does remember meeting them over the years.

Elizabeth had a hard life, widowed so young, but she worked hard to make a better life for her children and reaped the rewards in her later life when she was living comfortably in a nice house in a nice area of Lowestoft.

One of her sons, James who was a butcher, went to live in London and Elizabeth and Robert went to visit him and they had their photograph taken in a studio in London.

Elizabeth died of pneumonia at the age of 66 at her home with her sons and daughters around her. My grandfather was the informant on her death certificate.

From the Lowestoft Journal Saturday March 20th 1909

The funeral of Mrs Elizabeth Ann Edmonds took place on Monday at Lowestoft Cemetery. Mr Rome of the Bethal officiating before a large concourse of people the deceased having been much respected. The coffin was of pitch pine panelled and polished with heavy brass fittings the inscription being

Elizabeth Ann Edmonds ………….

The mourners were Mr and Mrs C Brittain, Mr and Mrs B Edmonds, Mr and Mrs W Edmonds, Mr J E Edmonds, Mr J W Edmonds, Misses Clara and Agnes Brittain, Mrs Larkman, Mr and Mrs C Rose, Mr and Mrs James Tyrrell, Mrs W Forster, Mrs T Strange, Mrs W Saunders, Mr and Mrs C Rose jr, Mr and Mrs S Turrell, W T Turrell, Mrs Coleman and Mrs Grice.


Clara and Charley, Agnes and Ben, Willie, Gertie and the children, Jim and Mabel, Clara, Ethel and Agnes (grandchildren), Hilda and Jackie, Sister Jane, Mrs H Painter and Mrs Balls also an anchor “from Bob to our dear mother”

Adams Bros Whapload Road – Carriage and Coaches Gage

Her son Robert died 8 years later at the age of 41, the cause of death was chronic asthma.

My interest in Family History was partly inspired by curiosity about the “asthma gene”. Many members of my father’s family are afflicted, some very badly, and there have been several premature deaths.

Our son was diagnosed with chronic asthma at the age of 18 months and my Aunt Lena was a great support to me, having gone through it all herself with Valerie. B used to miss about 6 weeks of school every year because of his asthma. We had a nebuliser at home so hospital visits diminished as he grew older.

Sometimes when I was sitting with him as he was using the nebuliser I used to think about Elizabeth Ann and how hard it must have been for her to see her son Robert suffering the same thing, but without the medical intervention available for our son.


© Guinevere 2008