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Major Ritchie (1870-1955) - An Early English Lawn Tennis Player
By Mark Ryan
Part I of V
Major Josiah George Ritchie was born on 18 October 1870 in London, England. His parents were Josiah Ritchie (b. 1841) and Elizabeth Anne Ritchie (née Edis; b. 1850). According to the Censuses of England, Josiah Ritchie’s father George (b. 1807) had been at various times a hat maker (1841), a dissenting minister (1851) and a “proprietor of houses” (1861). In addition to Josiah, he and his wife Ann (b. 1813) had two other children: another boy, also called George (b. 1833), and a girl, Charlotte (b. 1838).
In the census returns for 1861, Josiah’s profession is given as commercial clerk (Charlotte has no profession, while 27-year-old George is unemployed). The same census also states that George Ritchie, senior, was born in Blackheath in the county of Kent, while Ann Ritchie was born in the City of London. George, junior, the eldest child, was born in Margate, also in Kent, while the two youngest children were both born in Gracechurch Street, also within the City of London. At the time of their births Gracechurch Street was a bustling area that included Leadenhall Market.
The Quakers had a meeting house on Gracechurch Street; this building was burnt down in 1821, but rebuilt in later years. It is possible that Josiah Ritchie preached there, although by the time the meeting house was rebuilt, many members had moved away from the area. The Ritchie family’s movements are in accordance with these events because in 1841 they were living in Gracechurch Street. However, in the census of 1851, they have moved and are now living in George Street in the London borough of Westminster. By the time of the 1861 census, the family has moved again, this time further outside central London, to Isleworth, a small town in the west London borough of Hounslow.
Major Ritchie’s mother, Elizabeth Anne Ritchie (née Edis), was born in the county of Cambridgeshire, in the east of England. Elizabeth’s parents, John (b.1822) and Hannah (b. 1822) were both natives of the same county. According to the census of 1851, John Edis was a college servant, in other words more than likely employed as a servant within Cambridge University, then as now one of the two most prestigious universities in England.
By the time the next Census of England was taken, in 1861, the Edis family had moved from their native Cambridgeshire to Fetter Lane, a busy area located just off Fleet Street in the City of London. According to the same census, Hannah Edis is now a widow and the mother of four children. In addition to Elizabeth, these are Agnes (b. 1851), George (b. 1853) and Carrie (b. 1856). Agnes and George had both been born in Cambridgeshire, but the youngest child, Carrie, was born in the London borough of Saint Pancras. This indicates that the Edis family had moved to London at some point during the years 1853-56.
According to the “London Post Office Directory” for 1859, John Edis, a grocer, was running a business from 29 Tottenham Court Road, near the heart of the capital. This might well be Elizabeth’s father. However, John Edis’s death was recorded soon after, in September 1860, as occurring in Ely in his native Cambridgeshire. It appears that Hannah Edis moved the family – and the grocery shop – to Fetter Lane soon after her husband’s death. In the 1861 Census of England, Hannah Edis and her family are living at 220 Fetter Lane. Hannah’s profession is given as grocer, while the four children, including the eldest, 11-year-old Elizabeth, are all listed as scholars.
By the time of the next census, taken in 1871, the Edis family is still living in Fetter Lane, but at number 143, not at number 220. Hannah Edis is still a grocer, while Agnes, now aged 17, is a (private) governess; 17-year-old George is a commercial clerk and 14-year-old Carrie is still a scholar. Elizabeth, the eldest child, is no longer residing in the Edis household. At some point in the years intervening between the previous census she had met Josiah Ritchie and become engaged to him.
Elizabeth Edis had married Josiah Ritchie on 1 January 1870 in Saint John The Evangelist Church in Drury Lane, Westminster. The witnesses were Thomas Edis (probably an uncle of Elizabeth), Agnes Edis and George Ritchie. By the time of the marriage Josiah Ritchie’s profession was being given as manufacturing dentist. At this point in time he was working and/or living in Saint Anne’s parish in the Soho area of London, also located within Westminster.
Major Ritchie was born almost exactly nine-and-a-half months after his parents’ marriage. Although his mother was only twenty-two years old (nine years younger than her husband) at the time of his birth, Major would be their only child. Despite some later confusion, the boy was actually christened Major. His second name, Josiah, clearly came from his father (although some evidence points to him having being christened as Joseph), while Major’s third name, George, came from his paternal grandfather.
Like many other male children of that time from middle class backgrounds, Major Ritchie was sent off to be privately educated when still very young, probably at the age of seven or eight. When the census of 1881 was taken, the nine-year-old Major was a boarder at Laburnum House in Broadstairs, Kent. This establishment was run by one William Oak and his wife, Hannah. In the census return Mr Oak describes himself and his wife as schoolmasters. Another boarder in the house was one Maria Whittaker, a French governess. Four other boys of a similar age to Major Ritchie were also boarding with the Oaks at that point in time.
It is likely that Major Ritchie received a basic education while at Laburnum House. In addition to French, the curriculum would have included English, history and mathematics. Latin and Greek were probably also part of the curriculum, especially for boys hoping to go to university later on. But Major Ritchie did not go on to university.
It is also likely that the boys would have played some sport, such as cricket and, perhaps, the nascent sport of lawn tennis, as it was then called, the modern form of the game having first been played on lawns in the British Isles. In the early 1880’s, lawn tennis was still such a novelty that it was considered more of a pastime, or hobby, than an actual sport (the first Wimbledon tournament, consisting only of a men’s singles event, had taken place as recently as July 1877, when Major Ritchie was six years old).
Last edited by newmark401; 01-22-2013 at 10:23 AM.