Alice Maud Chase (1880-1968): Home & Family – Writing Lives

Alice Maud Chase (1880-1968): Home & Family

It is obvious that family is a large part of Alice’s life, particularly when she is a child. This is not surprising given the amount of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles she has. Families in the nineteenth-century were much larger – but the mortality rates were also greater too.[1] Alice’s family is no exception.

family tree
Alice’s family tree, sketched out by herself and included at the end of her memoir. It highlights her extensive family.

In her memoir, Alice tells the story of three generations of the Maud-Moody family and touches slightly upon the fourth. She starts by explaining her grandfather – William Maud. In 1794, he moves from Yorkshire to Portsmouth to escape his strict, religious aunts. In Portsmouth he is forced to join the Navy by the Press Gang and on one occasion William either flees or misses his ship when it sails from Belfast harbour – Alice is never sure what happened – or why he then chose to re-join the Navy some years later. When he did re-join though, he did it under his new surname – Moody – a surname he had to adopt in order to avoid being caught and hung for desertion. Under this name he went on to marry and have nine children. Reuben Moody was the youngest of the nine and is Alice Chase’s father. Reuben and his siblings grew up in a shop on College Street, Portsmouth, that his mother Hannah Moody (maiden name unknown) ran while William Moody sailed the seas in the Navy.

college st shop
College Street, Portsea. Alice’s grandparents owned a shop on this street and her father, Reuben Moody, and his eight siblings grew up there too. Alice remembers visiting her grandmother and aunt in the shop as a child.

Hence, the next generation Alice describes is of Reuben Moody’s – her father. Reuben Moody was born on the 4th October 1827. He marries twice. His first marriage, at twenty-seven years old, is to Eleanor Bewsey, in 1855. They have thirteen children together, but as the reader later learns only four survive. Eleanor dies aged thirty-five due to an abscess in the lung. She leaves Reuben Moody with seven children at this point. The causes of death for the six children are never mentioned, possibly because Alice does not know, maybe her father found it too emotional to speak about.

His second marriage, at forty-seven years old is to Priscilla Gamblin, who is only twenty. They marry on 4th October 1874. Together they have nine children, but again only five survive. Alice and her older sister Ruby are two of the surviving five. It is appropriate to note here that Ruby is the sibling that Alice is closest to throughout her life and she explains that they ‘grew up together very happily’ as children (p.11).

Alice explains her father’s childhood memories in great detail before moving onto her own. Maybe she felt it would be a tribute to him to write about them. A couple of stories that particularly stand out include her father’s day trip with his headmaster to see the new Queen Victoria ‘ride in state through London to open her first parliament’ in the summer of 1837 (p.6). And, how he also saw a public execution in London while on holiday with a friend and his brother. Alice explains how it was ‘still the common practice and his companions persuaded him to go against his will’ and how he always refused to tell her what it was like (p.7). Possibly this is where Alice’s interest in reading murder trials stems, maybe she wanted to know what her father would have seen that she could not know about. Finally, we learn that her father left school at eleven years old and went to work for a lath maker at first and later apprenticed himself to carpentry. Strangely, Alice does not speak of her mother’s childhood in the same depth, she only explains that she was born in 1854; she was one of five children and she grew up in Nelson Square, Portsmouth. This is possibly because Alice’s own daughter Christine knows enough to tell her children (Alice’s grandchildren – who the memoir is written for) the stories regarding their great-grandma and ultimately Christine’s grandma. Likewise the deaths of her parents are also omitted, again maybe she feels Christine can explain them as she would have been alive at the time, or maybe she feels it is too upsetting to mention.

It would appear that she was closer or possibly favoured her mother more than her father as she writes how her step-brothers and sisters, although resentful at first of a new mother figure in the home, eventually ‘loved her as much, if not more than their father’ (p.11). However, she explains that when she contracted whooping cough aged five she really ‘learned to appreciate her father’ (p.15). She describes how her father ‘would come home from work and come straight up to me as soon as he had had his tea and keep me amused until I was tired enough to sleep for the night’ (p.15). This appreciation is reflected in her memoir, as she writes extensively about her father, possibly she was seeking approval and attention from her father still and felt that writing his memories as well as her own satisfied her insecurities.

Although Alice was undoubtedly closest to her sister Ruby, she explains her respect for her older stepbrother too – Harry Augustus – ‘he never teased us or hurt us’ (p.17). Her admiration for her cousin Lily Daniels is also expressed, ‘we were very fond of her and I still am so’ (p.19). It is interesting to note here, how Alice uses the personal pronouns ‘us’ and ‘we’ in the above sentences. She is not only referring to her own admiration but to her older sister Ruby’s too. The two sisters come as a pair and are very close.

queen victoria's golden jubilee
Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee 1887

The only people Alice mentions disliking are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Jane, who come to England from Canada in 1887 for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Alice describes them as ‘ill-matched’ and ‘bad tempered’ and they dump themselves on her poor mother for six months (p.19). The whole family appears to share Alice’s dislike and she exclaims ‘no one was pleased to see them come and no one wept to see them go’ (p.19). And that is the only mentioning of them within Alice’s memoir.

In chapter nine the family is hit hard by grief. Her stepsister Lily Clark (married name) gives birth to a stillborn and dies herself during labour in the summer of 1893. ‘Our grief was unspeakable. Bob Clark was like a mad man, my mother’s moans and wails nearly broke our hearts and life seemed to stand still suddenly’ (p.27). The unexpected shock of Lily Clark’s death is clearly evident as it is described so vividly and extensively, as opposed to the death of her Gamblin grandparents. ‘It was his last time out’ she explains of her Grandpa Gamblin at her sixth birthday party and that is all she mentions of his death (p.17). The numerous babies and children’s deaths in her family also appear as less of a shock, probably because the mortality rates in the Victorian era amongst children was very high.[2]

Eleven years later on July 16th 1904, Ruby marries David Hucker. The following year July 29th 1905, Alice marries James Chase. Again, the two sisters appear to be in sync.

St. John's Forton, Gosport
St. John’s, Forton Road, Gosport. Alice Maud marries James Chase, July 29th 1905. Alice is also baptised here on November 29th 1905. Both ceremonies are led by Cannon Stephenson.
marriage register
Marriage register for July, August and September 1905. Alice Maud and James Wilbraham Chase’s marriage is shown.

Alice and James have three children together; May, James and Christine Chase.

1911 census
The 1911 Census of England and Wales shows the address of the Chase family at the time, and the number and ages of the occupants. It is completed and signed by James Wilbraham Chase.

On August 4th 1914, World War I temporarily tears Alice’s family apart when James Chase is called up for the Army. He was a soldier in the 6th Hants and on October 9th 1914 his regiment sailed for India where he would remain for four years and four months. Alice explains the ‘bottom fell out of my world’ (p.43). November 18th 1918, James Chase arrives home, ‘it was a joyful reunion’ (p.44). Two years later in 1920, the Chase family moves to Malta following James’ Army career. It was meant to be a three-year trip – possibly permanent when we consider that Alice said goodbye to her father and they ‘both knew it was forever’ and they gave away or burnt anything they did not want to take along with them (p.46). But, Alice became ill and they returned to Gosport after two years.

Alice is very close to sister Ruby; however her memoir also conveys a sense of competition and jealousy between the two sisters. Alice explains how ‘Ruby was good at everything’ (p.51) and how her talents were praised more; ‘I sometimes wonder why my mother was so proud of Ruby’s playing [piano] and yet so despised my singing’ (p.52). She also notes how Ruby was given pocket money from being a little girl but she never received any; mother ‘never gave me any money at any time, and nearly ran my feet off doing errands’ (p.30). This seems an unjust thing to do to your children – maybe Alice did receive pocket money too, just off her father and not her mother? Nevertheless, Alice’s final words on her family and home strengthen the notion of her strong bond with her sister Ruby. She writes Ruby is ‘my last link with my childhood, as I am hers, and we two are closer to each other than we are to our younger brothers’ (p.56). If there was a certain friction between them, I believe it possibly stemmed from Alice more than Ruby. Ruby was probably unaware that she was the favoured child – that is if she was – and Alice is not over sensitive and therefore exaggerating.


[1] Culshaw, Geoff. ‘Life & Death in the 19th Century’. Geoff’s Genealogy (2/7/2011). Web. Accessed 17 March 2013.

[2] Culshaw, Geoff. ‘Life & Death in the 19th Century’. Geoff’s Genealogy (2/7/2011). Web. Accessed 17 March 2013.


Image 1: Alice’s Family Tree, included in her menmoir, and can be found at – 

Image 2: College Street, Portsea – 

Image 3: Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee – 

Image 4: St. John’s, Forton Road, Gosport – 

Image 5: Marriage Register -Reference Number: 2b/1221. FreeBMD. England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.

Image 6: 1911 Census of England and Wales – Reference Number: 265/5630

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