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Amelia Augusta Hankinson (1855-1931)

Grandmother of Henry Austin Lane - Generation 3.

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Amelia was the third of eight children born to her parents. She and her siblings were raised in St. Giles, Cripplegate, a ward in the City of London. Her family lived in the same four-roomed house (equivalent to a three-bedroomed house today) for more than 10 years until her mother’s untimely death, when Amelia was 18 years old. With ten people sharing this small home, conditions would have been overcrowded.


Her father worked his whole life as a cordwainer (boot and shoemaker) and earned a subsistence level income which provided his family with little more than an impoverished existence. Given these circumstances, Amelia was fortunate to have lost only one of her siblings, her 10 year old brother Richard Frederick Hankinson. Following her mother’s death in 1873, when Amelia was 18 years old, her father was left on his own to care for eight children aged between 3 and 23 years. It is probable that Amelia and her elder sister Emma Ann Hankinson shared the housekeeping and care of her younger brothers and sisters, so that her father could continue working.


Amelia’s future husband Henry Barnaby Bartlett Lane, lost his father in the same year as she lost her mother. Whether by good fortune or a quirk of fate, Amelia’s father Thomas William Hankinson, and Henry’s mother Elizabeth Martha Worrall, hit it off and were married in a double-wedding ceremony with Amelia and Henry. Each couple acted as witnesses for the other. Ahead of this wedding, the two families shared a large house divided into three apartments. It is difficult to imagine the chaos that must have ensued from having fifteen comparative strangers living and working together in this place.


During the early years of their marriage, Amelia and Henry struggled to make ends meet, and lost their sons Thomas Bartlett Lane and Arthur John Lane in infancy from marasmus. This chronic condition was prevalent among poorer families surviving on a diet lacking in protein and calories, and using insanitary water which caused severe infant diarrhoea. Thomas and Arthur were unable to absorb nutrients and would have slowly wasted away, an agonising death for them and their parents. It is heart breaking to imagine poor Amelia watching her babies slowly starving to death and being powerless to help them. Within 5 years, her family moved from the East End of London to Dorking, Surrey, where Henry worked as a master tailor and postman with the General Post Office (G.P.O.) to provide his family with a comfortable lifestyle.


World War I (1914-1918) would have been difficult for Amelia, since four of her sons were engaged in a theatre of war while she and Henry were keeping the ‘home fires burning’ and worriedly waiting for news. This war started on 4 August 1914 and ended with the armistice called for by Germany at 11:00 am on 11 November 1918. It decimated a generation of the world’s youngest men. Most directly affected were those families' whose male relatives aged between 18 and 41 years were compelled to fight through both voluntary and compulsory enlistment. When war broke out it was generally believed that ‘it will be over by Christmas’, however, it was finally won by the British and French allies through a long, arduous and expensive trial of strength with 6.7 million civilian and 9.7 million military casualties. The entry of fresh troops from the United States of America (U.S.A.) in 1917 was crucial in securing the final victory.


Fortunately, Amelia’s sons survived this conflict:


  • Edward Frederick Lane (1880-1953): Was aged 34 years at the outbreak of war, and served with the Royal Engineers, Special Reserve, Motorcycle Section retained on Home Service. He served from 7 December 1915 to 26 March 1919 and attained the rank of Sergeant. He returned home to his wife and children with whom he shared his life until his death in 1953 at the age of 73 years.


  • Ernest Oldridge Lane (1885-1971): Was aged 29 years at the outbreak of war, and was certainly eligible for military service during this conflict although no Military Service Records for him have been traced. In any event, he survived the war and continued to live with his wife and children in Redhill, Surrey until his death at the age of 86 years.


  • Herbert Alfred Lane (1892-1966): Was aged 22 years at the outbreak of war, and served with the Royal Volunteer Naval Reserve (R.N.V.R.) from 11 August 1914 to 12 August 1919. This was Herbert's second period of service with the British Royal Navy. He survived the war and went on to marry and raise a family before he died in 1966 at the age of 73 years.


  • Horace Harold Lane (1895-1977): Was aged 19 years at the outbreak of war, and served with the 5th Battalion, The Queens (Royal West Surrey Regiment), Territorial Force. He served from 27 April 1912 to 21 May 1919 and attained the rank of Sergeant. He survived the conflict and returned home to his wife and children with whom he shared his life until his death in 1977 aged 82 years.


Our Boys at War


In 1914 the world went to war

and few foresaw

the appalling cost

of millions lost.


With trenches for shields

across Flanders fields

the poppies of red

paid homage to the dead.


Our ancestors played their part

as their families were torn apart

whenever they sacrificed a son

before the war was won.


© Mel Hamson, 2013


The wellbeing of her only daughter Violet Elizabeth Ada Lane, was jeopardised when she was left standing at the altar on 17 February 1917 by a Canadian Corporal, Russell William Joseph Baker, who unbeknown to her, had a wife and six children back home in Canada. Fortunately, 4 years later, Violet married a man who was far worthier, with whom she had six children and an enduring marriage of 34 years.


Despite the many hardships she endured, Amelia was married to Henry for 56 years until her death from hardened arteries at the age of 75 years. Henry outlived her by 9 years until his death from heart failure and senility. Mercifully, neither of them had to endure the horrors of World War II (1939-1945), 21 years after the cessation of hositilities in the previous worldwide conflict.

Note: If you would like to know more, or have information that improves this history, we would love to hear from you.

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