By the time Lois Cook (née Drake) had reached the age of 35, she had married, given birth to five children, suffered the heartache of the deaths of three of those children, and experienced the despair of widowhood, when her husband, Alfred Cook, died of tuberculosis in 1894.
However, Lois was not the only woman in Great Ellingham to be widowed at seemingly an early age, and at a similar time.
Robert High & Richard Carter
Robert Henry High and Richard Kerrison Carter both died in Great Ellingham during December, 1891. All three men and their respective wives likely knew each other, and may well have been friends rather than just acquaintances.
34 year old Robert High left a 29 year old widow, Mary Ann, and two young daughters. He also died from tuberculosis.
31 year old Richard Carter left his 33 year old widow, Anna, with three young children. Anna was also likely pregnant with the child who was born within nine months of her husband’s death.
Richard Carter’s cause of death was ‘apoplexy’. Although ‘apoplexy’ is often used to describe a stroke, it was also used to describe any kind of sudden death. For an example, a sudden loss of consciousness from a heart attack, a burst artery or clot in the lung. Accordingly, we cannot be sure what caused Richard Carter’s death.
Lois Cook’s Story
Life must have been difficult for these three Great Ellingham women in the 1890s. However in this blog, we look at Lois’s story.
Who was her husband, and what became of Lois after his death?
The notice of the death at Great Ellingham of “the beloved son of James and Ann Cook” appeared in the Norwich Mercury on the 26th May, 1894. However, the name of “the beloved son” was omitted. Nonetheless, the notice tells us that the deceased was 30 years old, died on the 11th May, 1894, and that he left a wife and two children “to mourn their loss”.
Church of St James Great Ellingham. Postcard courtesy of Attleborough Heritage Group
Burial of Alfred Cook
I found a corresponding entry in the Burial Register for the Church of St James, Great Ellingham. Alfred Cook was buried in the churchyard on the 15th May, 1894. Accordingly, Alfred Cook must be “the beloved son of James and Ann Cook”. However, who was Alfred Cook’s widow with two children?
Eight years earlier, 23 year old Alfred Cook married 27 year old Laura Elizabeth Drake in the same church on the 16th January, 1886. The marriage register was later amended to show the bride’s name as Elizabeth Lois Drake. At the time of the marriage, both Alfred and Lois were single and living in Great Ellingham.
Accordingly, we can be certain that the Alfred Cook buried in the churchyard at Great Ellingham in 1894, was indeed the husband of Lois Cook (née Drake).
Baptism of Elizabeth Lois Drake
St Peter’s Church, Little Ellingham
Elizabeth Lois Drake was born on the 13th April, 1859, in Little Ellingham. A daughter of Charles and Charlotte Drake, Elizabeth Lois was baptised in the St Peter’s Church, Little Ellingham on the 9th November, 1861.
Baptism of Alfred Cook
Alfred Cook was born in Carbrooke to James and Ann Cook. Together with four siblings, Alfred was baptised in the Parish Church at Carbooke on the 6th September, 1868.
Row of semi-detached cottages on the Watton Road. Photograph taken October 2019
The 1891 census captures 29 year old Alfred Cook with his 30 year old wife, Lois Elizabeth, with children William 4 and Emma 2 in Great Ellingham. They are living in one of the three semi-detached cottages (now known as No.4) along the Watton Road. Alfred is employed as a groom.
It is very likely that Alfred had already contracted tuberculosis at this time.
Cause of Death
Alfred’s death certificate records that he died of ‘Phthisis Pulmonalis’, which is tuberculosis. Consumption was another name used to describe tuberculosis.
The certificate also tells us that Alfred had been suffering with the disease for three years. We do not know, of course, how the disease initially affected Alfred. Did he have mild symptons which he ‘brushed off’. When did the symptons become acute? Did he experience any periods of remission from the disease? Nevertheless by 1894, it would have been evident that the disease was chronic.
The second cause of death was exhaustion. This is not surprising as Alfred would have become extremely ill, suffering with prolonged bouts of coughing.
Alfred and Lois had five children: William born in 1886, Emma in 1888, Walter 1890, James in 1892 and Annie born in 1893. Some (if not all) of the children were born in the cottage in Watton Road.
James and Annie were likely born after Alfred had contracted tuberculosis. However, his symptoms may have been mild, and, perhaps, Alfred was not even aware of the illness.
Sadly, Walter died in 1891. James died during the first few months of 1893, and Annie died during the last quarter of the same year. Did Alfred and Lois’s infant children also have consumption?
Alfred Cook succumbed to tuberculosis the following year. Lois was left a widow with two young children – William 7 and Emma 5.
We can only imagine the difficulties Lois may have endured losing her husband who, no doubt, would have been the ‘breadwinner’ of the family. With two young children, was Lois able to find work to support herself and her children? Did she look to the parish for financial support? Was Lois and her children able to continue to live in the cottage at Watton Road? Perhaps not, as it may well have been ‘tied’ to Alfred’s job.
Widow Lois Cook
In any event, Lois Cook moved to Long Street by 1901 and, it seems, found employment.
The census finds 40 year old widow Louise Cook with her daughters 12 year old Emma and 4 year old Hilda with the household of 37 year old agricultural labourer Daniel Sizeland in Long Street, Great Ellingham.
Lois is described as Daniel Sizeland’s housekeeper. What was the arrangement between Lois and Daniel Sizeland? By Lois ‘keeping house’, did Daniel provide Lois and her children with a ‘roof over their heads’ and sufficient money for Lois to feed and clothe herself and her children? Was their relationship more than this?
As it happens Lois Cook gave birth to Hilda May, on the 10th December, 1896 in Great Ellingham. The child was later baptised in the Church of St James on July 8th, 1900. Was Lois already housekeeping for Daniel Sizeland when her daughter was born in 1896?
Marriage to Daniel Sizeland
In the event, Daniel Sizeland and Lois Cook were married around the beginning of 1902. Their daughter, Louisa May (or Mary) was born within a few months of the marriage – most probably whilst the couple were still living in Great Ellingham.
However by 1911, Daniel and Lois Sizeland had moved out of the village. The census of 1911 finds the couple with their 8 year old daughter, Louisa, at Long Drift, Morley St Botolph. The census describes Rockland born Daniel as a 45 year old farm labourer. Lois’s age is stated to be 54.
Within weeks of Britain entering WW1, Elizabeth Louise Sizeland was buried at Morley St Botolph on the 31st August, 1914. The burial registers gives the deceased’s age as 55.
Morley St Botolph Church. Photograph taken July 2021
However, I have no doubt that the Elizabeth Louise Sizeland buried in Morley St Botolph in 1914 is Elizabeth Lois Drake who was born in Little Ellingham in 1859, married Alfred Cook in 1886 and, as a widow, married Daniel Sizeland in 1902.
Great Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Rercord Office. PD 609. Also available at www.familysearch.org
Little Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD 568. Transcript of Little Ellingham Baptisms 1813 to 1928. Norfolk Family History Society. www.norfolkfhs.org.uk
Carbrooke Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD 124. Transcript of Carbrooke Baptisms 1529 to 1893. Norfolk Family History Society. www.norfolkfhs.org.uk
Norwich Mercury 26th May 1894. Accessed via www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk 15th June 2021
1891 census RG12/1549/71, RG12/1549/74, RG12/1549/78
1901 census RG13/1867/78
1911 census RG14/11341/49
Morley St Botolph. Church of England Bishop and Archdeacon Transcripts of Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office, Norwich, Norfolk, England.Reference: BT ANF 1919. Viewed online via www.ancestry.co.uk 17th June 2021
Death Certificates for Alfred Cook, Robert Henry High & Richard Kerrison Carter obtained from GRO Southport https://www.gov.uk/general-register-office
Willis, Simon. (2013) How Our Ancestors Died. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., Page numbers 96 to 97 and 169 to 175.