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Maud Lillian Bremer was born on the 25th April 1891 in the St Giles area of Northampton. Her elder brother Henry was born in Poplar, East London two years earlier and it was in the east end of London that her parents were married. Her father, Henry, was one of the youngest of a large family of about 14 children. The whole family was born at the same address in Greenfield Street, Mile End, Stepney (now called Greenfield road) between 1849 and 1874.
Maud's Grandfather was a German immigrant boot maker named Gerhard Bremer. Gerhard was the son of Frederic Bremer, a carpenter. In June 1848 Gerhard married Lydia Wing at St Philips Church, Stepney. Lydia claims to have been born in Cambridge or Cambridgeshire but finding a record of her birth has proved difficult. She was born about 1827, before the introduction of civil registration and a search of the Cambridgeshire Parish records has so far failed to turn up a baptism. The name "Wing" however, is prevalent in Cambridgeshire so it may simply be a case of missing records, or a baptism in another location. Her father's name is recorded on her marriage certificate as Elijah and he was a shoemaker by trade. It is likely Elijah and Gerhard worked together, their respective addresses on the marriage certificate are very close, New Street, where Lydia lived (presumably with her father) was a turning off Fieldgate Street. However, the 1873 ordnance survey map pictured below shows another road called New Street less than three hundred yards away alongside St. Philip's Church. It is easy to understand why so many streets were renamed around this time.
Lydia was about eight years younger than her husband. In 1851 Gerhard Bremer was a bootmaker employing one man (possibly a fellow German by the name of Ludwig Rothlien who was lodging with the family in 1851). Greenfield Street was, at that time an area well populated by German immigrants and Gerhard himself was alleged to have come to England to escape conscription in his own country.
As well as Ludwig Rothlien, the census of 1851 lists two children, Gerhard age 2 and Alfred age 1. It is not clear if Gerhard worked from home or had premises elsewhere. By 1861 the younger Gerhard (now age 12) appears to have anglicised his name and was now called George, Alfred was 11. Joining the two first born were Arthur age 9, Louisa age 3 and another Gerhard age 1. All the children apart from the youngest are described as scholars. The census of 1871 is curious as many of the children appeared to have been entered with different names. George is missing but by now would be 22 years of age so may well be working away from home somewhere, the first listed son is William C, aged 20, an unmarried bootmaker. The next listed son is Everard, age 18, a perfumer and then Walter age 7, scholar. Two further children were Henry age 6, scholar and Alice age 1. There is no mention of Louisa who would be age 13, I assume she would be working as a servant somewhere. It appears, purely using the ages of the children as a guide, that Alfred and William were the same person. In September 1850 Alfred Conrad Bremer was Christened at St Mary's Church Whitechapel but curiously the same child appears to have been registered as Konrad William Bremer. This also appears to be the case with Arthur, who was born in April 1852 and registered as Everard Elijah Bremer in June of the same year. Arthur/Everard was not Christened until November 1865 again at St Mary's Whitechapel.
Gerhard Bremer died in 1879, age about 60. The 1881 census shows Lydia Bremer as a widow, age 52 years and listing the children as follows:
|George||age 31||Unmarried, Restaurant proprietor.|
|Alfred||age 30||Unmarried, Bootmaker.|
|Arthur||age 28||Unmarried, Mirror frame maker.|
|Louisa||age 22||Unmarried Restaurant cashier|
|Walter||age 17||Unmarried Cigarette maker|
|Henry||age 16||Unmarried Errand Boy|
Baptism records also show further children of which there is no mention in the census records. Jacob Gerhard Bremer was was born in January 1856 and Christened in August of the same year. He died in 1858. Another child born to Gerhard and Lydia in June 1862 and Christened at St Mary's Whitechapel in May 1863 was named William. Civil registration records also show a child named Gerhard Ernest as dying almost at birth in 1867, we have little doubt this was also a child of Gerhard and Lydia.
About 1888/9 the widowed Lydia left Greenfield Street and moved to Connaught road, Walthamstow. Henry Bremer had by this time met Kate Caroline Bouch and in early 1889 they were married in Poplar. The first child born the Henry and Kate was a son named Henry James registered in Mile End in December 1889. Curiously the second child, Maud Lillian, was born in April 1891 at 12, Wood Street in the St Giles area of Northampton. Her fathers occupation was given as an electrician. After Maud there were two more children, Florence in 1894 and Arthur in 1895. Both children were born in Walthamstow.
The 1901 census gives the family's address as 53 Coppermill lane, Walthamstow and lists Henry senior as a wire worker and Kate as a homeworker. We first assumed that Henry would be working at the coppermill from whence the road takes it's name, but this was not the case. The coppermill dates back to the early 1800's when the mill and some surrounding marshland were purchased by the British Copper Company. The company, based in Wales, brought copper from Swansea to be rolled and prepared for the production of coins. Prior to this early records show that a mill of some nature had been recorded on or near this site from the time of the Doomsday book. Paper, leather and linseed oil are all known to have been processed here. Copper ceased being processed here in 1857 and the mill was purchased by the East London Waterworks Company. They converted the mill to a water pumping station adding a tower in the process and built an aqueduct across the marshes. Henry's occupation as a wire-worker is rather vague, there was an Electrical Works in Blackhorse lane, alongside that was an Engineering works and of course the London Omnibus works. As a wire-worker or electrician, it is possible he found work in any one of those factories.
During this time in another part of Walthamstow, Henry's brother Frederick was busy in his mother's back yard making history. Sometime after the death of her husband Gerhard in 1879 Lydia moved to number 1, Connaught Road in Walthamstow. It was at this address that Frederick Bremer aided by his sister Louisa's husband, Herbert John Dowsing1 built was is claimed to be "the first British four wheeled car with an internal combustion engine".
There are many claims and counter claims about the early pioneers of British motoring. The red flag act did much to stifle the creativity of the British allowing the French and German manufacturers to lead the way. However it is recognized that Frederick Bremer was beyond doubt one of the first four British car manufactures to build and operate a car on the public highway. The car was offered to the Walthamstow Museum in 1929 and went on display in 1933. Prior to this it had been exhibited at the very first Motor Museum in Oxford Street, London in 1912 where Frederick Bremer actually took part in the opening ceremony and later at Crystal Palace in 1914 before the Admiralty took over the site at the outbreak of hostilities.
A photograph of the car's arrival back at Bremer's house in Walthamstow in 1918 on the back of a small lorry can be seen at the Vestry House Museum Walthamstow where the Bremer car holds pride of place. Frederick Bremer is pictured above seated in his car between two unnamed men. The photograph, taken at the rear of the Connaught Road address in Walthamstow, was copied from a short article on the BBC's History of the World website.
The car was restored in 1962 to save it from rusting away. Much of the original car was retained and treated to aid preservation and it was painted using special pigments dating from the cars original era. A special petrol was also used to as modern refinements proved unpalatable to the ancient engine. The newly restored car took pride of place in the 1963, 1964 and 1965 London to Brighton runs. Legal restrictions resulted in the withdrawal of the car in 1963 but in 1964, boasting the proud number 1 as the oldest vehicle participating, the car covered 17 miles before breaking down and completing the journey on the back of a lorry. The following year the car completed the 54 mile journey in the time of 7 hours and 55 minutes, using three gallons of fuel, 12 gallons of water and half a gallon of oil.
Much less is in known about Bremer's three wheeled vehicles although they were certainly built. A comment in the letters page of The Motor Cycle magazine about the lack of British built runabout vehicles prompted a reply from the Bremer Engineering Company of Walthamstow. The response, pictured alongside, included a photograph of the Bremer three wheeled car that was demonstrated at the Agricultural Hall Motor Show around 1904. The piece finished with the line "Demand at that time was not enough to continue manufacture". The date this article was printed was January 1911. In April of the same year a national census was taken and Frederick Bremer, still unmarried, was now living with his elder brother Alfred, also unmarried, at 27, Grosvenor Park Road in Walthamstow, Alfred had followed his father's trade as a boot maker but Frederick described himself as a self employed Motor Car repairer, something of a specialised trade in 1911.
Although this little piece of motoring history is interesting there is no blood link between the Bremer family and the Gowing family, consequently it is not strictly a part of the Gowing family history. There is no evidence that Henry Bremer ever helped his brother during this time but it would make little difference if there was and he did. Henry's daughter Maud married George Albert Hollings in Walthamstow in 1916. George Albert Hollings is of course my grand uncle.