Frank Brockett 1888 and Ellen - The Broket Archive

Frank Brockett 1888-1916

Frank’s signature in 1915:1 Frank Brockett signature 1915

4th child and 2nd son of David and Selina CLARKE, Frank was born 30 Jul 1888, Twickenham.2 His siblings had been born in 1879, 81 and 83. Frank married Ellen SMITH 21 Jan 1914 in Southsea, Portsmouth, and they had one child Frank Neil born 24 Jan 1916, see the separate page. Frank died 6 months later 20 Jul 1916.

Census records for Frank and family:+

1891: At home with parents at 21 Montpelier Row, Twickenham, Son Frank, aged 2, b Twickenham, Middlesex.
1901: At home with parents at 23 Montpilier Rd, Twickenham, Son Frank, aged 12, b Twickenham, Middlesex.
1911: At home with parents at 21 Broadway Avenue, St Margaret’s, Twickenham, Son Frank, aged 22, Single, Clerk Diamond Merchant.

Other known Frank Brocketts alive in 1911: Read more

This is a portrait of Frank c 1909 (aged c 21), probably the one bequeathed to his son Neil in Frank’s mother Selina’s Will:

Frank Brockett c 1913

Marriage and wife

Ellen SMITH was born 13 Jul 1881 in Castle Cary, Somerset, the 2nd of the 3 daughters of David Wandsworth and Lizzie Annie Smith, Booksellers and Stationers. The family removed to Southsea, Portsmouth by 1885,3 and moved into 23 Outram Rd between 1901 and 1911. Ellen lived here the rest of her life—except for the 2½ years she was married to Frank. Her son Neil lived there too, from the age of 5 months old—the time of his father Frank’s last illness in 1916—till he married in 1940.

Frank married Ellen SMITH 21 Jan 1914 in Elm Grove Baptist Chapel, Southsea, Portsmouth, he aged 25, Bachelor, Diamond Broker’s Clerk, of 47 St Margaret’s Rd, East Twickenham, she 31, Spinster, of 23 Outram Rd, Southsea, daughter of David Wordsworth—actually Wandsworth—SMITH, Retired Stationer,4 witnesses: W F [Leonard] PALMER [best man], D W SMITH [father], Mary Florence SMITH [bridesmaid and sister], Esther HODGES [bridesmaid and 1st cousin]. Two days beforehand Frank wrote a letter to Ellen from his employer’s offices in London—Sylvan Ginsberg, 95, Hatton Garden: Read more

The formal invitation to the wedding read “1 o’clock at Elm Grove Baptist Church, and afterwards at Windsor Lodge, Outram Road”. Windsor Lodge was no. 23 Outram Road, Southsea, the home of Ellen’s parents. Here is the photo of the wedding party in the back garden:

Frank and Ellen Brockett wedding party 1914

Back row: Henry Martin, Mr Bracher, Leonard Palmer, David Wandsworth Smith, Arthur Cross
Standing: ?, ?, ?, Mrs Henry Martin, Frank Brockett, Rev Hobson Thomas, Mrs Bracher, Daisy Palmer, Phoebe Hodges, Ebenezer Hodges, Ellen Hodges, ?
Seated: Violet Millard, Lizzie Smith, Ellen Smith, Mrs Selena Brockett, Grace Cross with son Ronald, Mrs Hobson Thomas
Front row: Jacinth Millard, Ettie Hodges, Dolly Smith.5
For details of the guests: Read more

Thus, Frank’s mother Selina was at the wedding, as were sisters Grace and Daisy and their husbands. But Frank’s elder brother James wasn’t, as presumed from his absence from this photograph of the wedding party.

Here is a photo of the bride, groom, best man and bridesmaids:

Frank and Ellen Brockett bridal group 1914

and extracted from this here is a close-up of the groom:+++Frank Brockett wedding 1914

And this is the photo of just the bride and groom:

Frank and Ellen Brockett bride and groom 1914

Then 18 months later tragedy struck. On “20 July 1916 at 10 St Ronans Avenue, Southsea, Frank Brockett, aged 27, of 79 Winter Rd, Commercial Clerk, died from endocarditis [inflammation of the lining membranes of the heart] and cerebral embolism, informant W L Palmer, Brother in Law, present at the death at 10 St Ronans Avenue Southsea”.6 In other words, Frank died of heart disease and stroke. On Wednesday 12 Jul 1916,7 the day before Ellen’s 35th birthday, and 6 days before he died, Frank wrote this poignant letter to Ellen: Read more

It was written hesitantly, without his former neatness and precision. Probably his last letter to Ellen, she kept it all her life, along with his love letter just before their wedding day, only 2½ short years earlier.

Frank and Ellen probably met through Frank’s sister Daisy who had married William Leonard PALMER of Southsea, formerly Twickenham. The 1891, 1901 and 1911 censuses all showed Ellen living with her parents; in 1911 this was at 23 Outram Rd, Southsea, and her occupation was ‘Music teacher – pianoforte‘. The 1911 census also showed that from then at least Frank was employed as a Diamond Merchant’s Clerk, and after their marriage Frank and Ellen lived at 8 Royal Parade Mansions, Muswell Hill, a couple of kilometres NE of Hampstead Heath.8 Within a year or so they were living at ‘Lynford’, Woodthorpe Rd, Ashford, Middlesex, where their son Neil was born 24 Jan 1916. This was between Twickenham and Staines.

The London Diamond Merchant that Frank worked for up until his death was a German called Sylvan Ginsberg. Frank couldn’t have been in robust health as he was issued with a sickness card excusing him from active war service, and when Britain declared war against Germany on 28 Jul 1914 Mr Ginsberg removed to New York, leaving Frank in the difficult situation of being in charge of a German-owned business. 6 months prior to his death, Frank gave his occupation as Engineer’s Clerk, perhaps to not draw attention to the fact.9 He spent his last weeks—at least—with his sister Daisy Palmer, who was a nurse, at her home 10 St Ronans Avenue, Southsea. Here is a letter from Mr Ginsberg in New York to Ellen: Read more

As a single mother with an infant son to look after in the days before a Welfare State, Ellen moved in to her parents’ house and trained to be a Midwife. She passed her Central Midwives Board examinations 7 May 1917,10 and continued to practise probably through to the mid/late 1930s—recorded as retired in 1939.11 She was known as ‘Nurse Brockett’. “During 1917 the length of the midwifery course was 6 months and nurses were given 2 month exemption. Ellen Brockett was probably a nurse who later trained as a midwife and hence known as Nurse Brockett.”12 In the 1911 census her occupation had been given as ‘Music teacher – Pianoforte’, so it is more probable that she was called ‘Nurse’ out of respect, while more specifically being a Midwife.

Like her parents who were Baptists, Ellen was actively involved in her church, Elm Grove Baptist Chapel, where both she and her son Neil were married. It was badly damaged during the Second World War.13 Her diary recorded some of her welfare work, for instance as an active committee member of the Portsmouth Charity Organizations Society and the Prisoner’s Aid Society.

The few images that have been found of Ellen after her marriage, her face was usually mostly obscured by the wide-rimmed hats of the day, like this one from c 1930 with son Neil and mother Lizzie:

Ellen Brockett c 1930

1932 17 Feb: Ellen’s father David Wandsworth SMITH died, aged 74, at 23 Outram Rd, Southsea, informant E Brockett, Daughter, residing 23 Outram Rd, Southsea. In his Will he had appointed Ellen co-executrix with his wife Lizzie Anne, with Ellen residual legatee after the death of Lizzie.14

1938: Ellen’s mother Lizzie A SMITH died 1938 in Portsmouth District.15 In her Will she had appointed her daughters Ellen and Violet co-executrixes and residual legatees.16

1939 29 Sep: Ellen Brockett, Widow, Midwife (retired), was recorded living with her son Frank N Brockett, at 23 Outram Rd, Southsea.17

1948. Between May and September Ellen—aged 67 and never having flown before—flew out to Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, to stay with her son Neil and family. Her diary recorded her movements and thoughts, starting from Heathrow at 6a.m. with only 12 on the plane, with her heart going “pit a pat” and going “up up up above the clouds”, and “breakfast as we were going over France”. They disembarked to spend the nights en route at Tripoli, Cairo, Khartoum, and Nairobi—where they stayed at the Norfolk Hotel: “Mostly we had breakfast & lunch on plane, dinner (wonderful) at hotels”. The final leg was a “2 hours journey from Nairobi to to Dar es Salaam”. About 4 months later, Ellen and Edith Dunne, her friend from Great Crosby (near Liverpool), returned with Neil and Doreen’s family at the end of his posting/tour in Tanganyika on the Holland Afrika Line ship the Bloemfontein, arriving Southampton 27 Sep 1948, via Mombasa, Kenya.18

Two images of Ellen in her 60s and early 70s:

Ellen Brockett in the late 1940s and early 50s

Ellen Brockett late 1940 and early 50s

On 29 Feb 1956 Ellen Brockett, Widow, died, aged 74, of congestive heart failure, ischaemic and hypertensive heart disease and acute bronchitis at 23 Outram Rd, Southsea, probate London 20 Mar to [son] Frank Neil Brockett, Civil Servant, effects £2,725 9s 6d.19

Page Last Updated: November 8, 2023


For full bibliographical details please see the sections Publications or Glossary.


[1] On his National Registration card (cleaned up).

[2] Birth Certificate.

[3] Kelly's Directory for Hampshire p 759.

[4] Marriage Certificate.

[5] These names were written on the back of the photo by Doreen Brockett, who was born in 1917 but knew Ellen and many of the guests later.

[6] Death Certificate.

[7] Envelope addressed to Mrs Brockett 23 Outram Rd, Southsea, stamps franked 12 Jul.

[8] Oral information from Doreen Brockett.

[9] Birth Certificate of son 24 Jan 1916.

[10] The Midwives Roll, 1937, p 188.

[11] England and Wales Register.

[12] Email communication from the Project Librarian (Royal College of Midwives' Collection), Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 15 Dec 2015.

[13] For an image of it in 1879 see (accessed 12 Jan 2020).

[14] Written 31 Jul 1921.

[15] GRO qtr 2, vol 2B p 739.

[16] Written 7 May 1932.

[17] 1939 England and Wales Register.

[18] Image of Passenger List accessed from 12 Jam 2020, ref 30807_A001242-00470.

[19] Death Certificate; LPR.

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