Saturday, 10 October 2015

Genealogy Saturday: Cousin Violet

Little is known about Violet Perrody, born in 1897, the second surviving daughter of Richard Perrody and Isabella Wynne. She grew up in Dublin city, with her parents, her elder sister Maud and her younger siblings Louis, Vincent and Clarissa.  Her father worked as a carpenter.[1]

Violet never married.  After her mother died in 1930, she continued to share the house at 2 Nelson Street with her brother Louis and her sister Clarissa. In around 1944, Clarissa followed Maud and Vincent to live in London and Violet stayed in Dublin with Louis.[2]

When she was in her early fifties, Louis decided to convert the house into self-contained flats and Violet moved out. She relocated to number 8 Henrietta Street. Henrietta Street is arguably the finest Georgian street in Dublin, lined on both sides with grand four-story mansions, each built to house the great and the good of Irish society.

But, all was not as rosy as it sounds for my grandfather’s first cousin.

Henrietta Street, Dublin, by William Murphy

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the once magnificent houses of Henrietta Street had been transformed into one of Dublin’s most notorious slums.  Abandoned by the wealthy, the houses were divided into as many rooms as possible and each room was rented out to whole extended families - tenement style. 

In 1901, ten families shared 8 Henrietta Street - sixty-three men, women and children all living in just six rooms. In the midst of these cramped conditions and the resultant squalor, dressmakers, labourers, skilled workers and even a national school teacher attempted to support their families. One thing is sure, no one had any privacy.[3]

Conditions in the tenements were further described in a government commissioned report, published in 1914:
‘Generally, the only water supply of the house is furnished by a single water tap, which is in the yard… The closet accommodation [toilet] is common not only to the occupants of the house, but to anyone who likes to come in off the street, and is, of course, common to both sexes.’  
‘The passages, landings and stairs are, in many cases, cramped and narrow, and the woodwork defective. The floors of the rooms are often out of repair, and the window frames and sashes in poor condition, those in the landing windows being not infrequently absent. The fireplaces in the rooms are small open ones, unsuited for general use.’[4]

8 Henrietta Street, Dublin
There is no indication living conditions in Henrietta Street improved in the forty years between this report and the time Violet moved in. But, by then, number 8 had become known as ‘St Mary’s House’, indicative of its status as some kind of institution. Number 9 was ‘St Bridget’s Hostel’ and number 10 was ‘Our Lady’s Home – Religious Community’.  All the residents of these three houses were female, or at least, all those who registered to vote were female.[5] 

In the early 1960s, the Sisters of Charity operated three hostels in Henrietta Street. One was a school for servant girls above the age of seventeen years; one was a hostel for girls working in business and the third was a hostel for nuns and other religious. I suspect St Mary’s House was the hostel for working girls).[6]

According to the Dublin city electoral registers, Violet Perrody lived in Henrietta Street in 1950, 1962 and 1963. She likely lived there continuously, except was not always registered to vote. During this period, Violet shared the house with an average of twenty-six other women.[7]  

Perhaps Violet’s living conditions were not quite as bad as her neighbours in the more open tenement houses. The nuns would have ensured the houses were kept pristine clean - nevertheless, having to share a room with five other ‘strangers’, or maybe more, it was still fairly bleak.

When Violet Perrody died, aged seventy-seven years, in 1974, her last address was given as Balcurris Rd, Dublin.[8]  This is where the Ballymun Flats were built in the 1960s, to accommodate many of the former residents of the inner-city slums. While the flats later suffered their own social problems, I’d like to think Violet enjoyed having her own space, in the final decade of her life.

More posts on our Perrody family:


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[1] Perrody family, Brunswick Street, Great, Dublin, 1911 Census, National Archives of Ireland
[2] Violet Perodie, 1939-1950, Dublin City Electoral Lists 1938-1964, dublincity.ie
[3] 8 Henrietta Street, Inns Quay, Dublin, Form B, House and Building Return, pp 4-5, 1901 Census, National Archives of Ireland.   
[4] 1913 Report of the Departmental Committee into the Housing Conditions of the Working Classes in the City of Dublin, (Local Government Board for Ireland, 1914), p. 4, accessed South Dublin Libraries
[5] Numbers 8, 9 & 10 Henrietta Street, 1962-63, Dublin City Electoral Lists 1938-1964, dublincity.ie
[6] Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries (chapter 9), pp 218-9, Department of Justice and equality.
[7] Violet Perody / Perrody, Dublin City Electoral Lists 1938-1964, dublincity.ie
[8] Glasnevin Cemetery burial records, Glasnevin Trust

Image Credits: William Murphy, ‘Henrietta Street, Dublin’, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons; 8 Henrietta Street, Dublin, GoogleMaps.

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© 2015 Black Raven Genealogy

7 comments:

  1. Dara, it seems incredible to think these conditions would still be the way things were, even as recently as the 1960s. But that is very possible, when it comes to inner-city situations. Considering that, what a story Violet's must have been, with all those pressures surrounding her for much of her lifetime.

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  2. Jacqi, genealogy has helped locate Violet throughout her life,but sadly I’ve not learnt much about her as a person. She would surely be able to tell the true story of what life was like in the tenements - both good and bad.

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  3. Dara, you have given us insight into the life of a single woman in early/mid 20th century Ireland. When considering the unmarried women in my own family in the period, I am always struck by how vulnerable they were, often dependent on the will of fathers and brothers to either flourish or decline. I wonder do you know was it Violet’s choice to move out of the house once Louis decided to convert it? As you say, hopefully her last years in a flat of her own were happy ones. (On a side note: I’ve a family connection to Henrietta Street as well. My maternal great-grandfather, who was also a carpenter, and his family lived at 2 Henrietta Street when my grandfather was born in 1885, moving shortly thereafter to 2 Fishamble Street.)

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    1. Jennifer, one of these days we’re bound to find a connection between our families – they lived side-by-side for generations! As always, I appreciate your comment.

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  4. Dara, I guess there was not a warm relationship between Violet and her brother. It sounds like he put her out of the house. I would say life was difficult for single women but I think it was difficult for married women as well.

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    1. Thanks Colleen, I suspect it was not Violet’s choice to move from her childhood home, but it’s hard to say what was happening in their lives. Isn’t it sad to think they may have had a ‘falling out’? Neither of them ever married, so were both probably a little lonely at times.

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  5. It is humbling to read that government report and to imagine 63 people living in 6 rooms.

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