One hundred years ago today, on the 5th August 1914 my grandfather Wilfrid Arthur Stokes married my grandmother Lilian Spurling Wright, he was 27 and she was 25; it had been a long courtship as they had first met when Wilf was 19 and Lilian just 17 years old. It was not an easy relationship, they were separated by nearly 200 miles, he lived in Bridgend in South Wales and she lived in Epping in Essex and their romance was carried out mainly by correspondence daily, sometimes twice daily, via postcards and letter and occasionally they would meet, usually in my grandmother’s home in Essex.
They were introduced to one another by a method we would today call a blind date, an arranged meeting by two sisters who were friends. Wilf’s sister Ellen Alice, known as Nellie, and Lilian’s sister Sarah Ellen, also known as Nellie, thought it would be fun to introduce their two younger siblings to one another, I suspect never dreaming they would one day become husband and wife. The sisters lived in fairly close proximity to one another in the Epping area and had become friends through their love of the piano, they used to perform piano duets together at concerts and other arranged musical meetings. Sadly Ellen Alice was never to see the fruition of their endeavour to bring them them together as she passed away in 1907 leaving her husband to bring up three young boys all under the age of four.
The wedding itself was also a very unlikely combination of individuals of differing religious interests, Wilf had been brought up as a Bible Christian, an evangelical group of the period, his father was an elder of the church and devoted to the cause. Lilian meanwhile was a member of the Society of Friends, the Quakers, and her religious upbringing could not have been more in contrast with that of her intended. The marriage was to take place at the Friend’s Meeting House in Epping and on the appointed day the simple ceremony took place.
A Quaker wedding is unlike anything we are used to seeing in this day and age, there was no pomp and ceremony as we know it. As is usual with a Quaker religious service silence is the main characteristic with attendees only rising to their feet to speak if their spirit is moved. During this simple service held one hundred years ago we know the vows Wilf and Lilian promised to one another as they are transcribed onto the marriage certificate, a large document measuring 18 inches by 23 inches which lists many of the persons in attendance as well as those witnessing the event.
The reception was held at Prospect House, Epping, the home of the Wright family, a large three-storied property on the High Street where my grandmother’s sister Nellie also ran a private school at which my grandmother took art classes. I assume it may have been raining that day as the official wedding photographs have been taken indoors and show a very solemn looking Lilian and Wilf has just a hint of a smile. Despite the severity of her looks in this photograph, there is no doubt my grandmother was besotted with her husband as her dedication and devotion to him over the coming years was to prove, however, this post is about their wedding day and not about their subsequent life together.
From notes made a few years ago when my father was alive, and with subsequent observations from other members of the family we have been able to positively identify nearly all those present on the group photograph.
1. Lilian Spurling Stokes, née Wright, the bride.
2. Wilfrid Arthur Stokes, the groom.
3. Ada Lawrence Wright, sister of the bride.
4. Herbert John Stokes, brother of the groom.
5. Robert Wright, father of the bride.
6. Edith Rachel Jacob, née Wright, sister of the bride
7. William Edward Jacob, husband of (6) Edith.
8. (Possibly) Annie Stokes, sister-in-law of (17) Henry John Stokes.
9. (probably) The best man, W G Beck.
10. Eliza Emma (Elsie) Scruby, née Wright, sister of the bride.
11. John Egbert Nicholls, husband of (16) Caroline.
12. Eliza Wright, mother of the bride.
13. Emily Wright, sister of the bride.
14. Kathleen Scruby, daughter of (10) Elsie.
15. Sarah Ellen (Nellie) Wright, sister of the bride.
16. Caroline (Carrie) Nicholls, née Wright, sister of the bride.
17. Henry John Stokes, father of the groom.
18. Kenneth Robert Scruby, son of (10) Elsie.
19. Unknown but possibly the wife of (9) the best man.
20. Arnold Nicholls, son of (16) Carrie and (11) Egbert.
21. Lucy Stokes, the cousin of the groom.
22. Geoffrey Nicholls, son of (16) Carrie and (11) Egbert.
23. Robert Nicholls, son of (16) Carrie and (11) Egbert.
24. Bertha Whitmarsh Stokes, sister of the groom.
From the group photograph we can see there are a few absences, notably Wilf’s mother Mary Lavinia Stokes (née Ostler) who may have been unwell. Although all my grandmother’s six sisters are present, three siblings of my grandfather are missing, Edith, who lived in Canada, Walter, who was probably globe-trotting at the time, and Florrie, probably staying with her mother. A couple of spouses are also not seen to be present.