An Edwardian Wedding


In ‘Tales From The Window Sills’, I featured Jackie’s heirlooms from her maternal grandparents’ wedding.

O'Connell grandparents c.1912

Alfred and Alice, née Perry, O’Connell were,of course, also Pat O’Connell’s grandparents. I made a copy of the wedding photograph from the sepia print, taken more than 100 years ago somewhere in North London, for Jackie’s cousin. The railings behind the bride and groom would be very unlikely to help us in identifying the venue, for most of such iron was commandeered for munitions in the Second World War.

Wedding headdress, corsage, and cake decoration c1912

This glass case contains the bride’s headdress, her corsage, and the cake decorations. Orange blossom, symbolic of both fertility and chastity, features in both headbands and cake decorations. Before this memento came into Jackie’s possession it also held one of Alice’s white kid gloves, which unfortunately rotted away.

When he left yesterday morning Pat forgot to take the photograph, and I failed to remind him as he had asked. We therefore posted it today. On our return home from Hordle Post Office I realised that I had left the card bearing Pat’s address and other details on the counter. So back we went for it. The teller fished it out of her waste bin and Sellotaped it back together again.

This evening we joined Elizabeth, Danni, and Andy at the Jalfrezy Indian restaurant in Totton. The establishment failed the poppadom test, but the rest of the food was good and plentiful. My choice was king prawn jalfrezi with egg fried rice. Although Jackie enjoyed her sag ponir, it was made with cheddar cheese. Mushroom and cauliflower bhajis were shared. I drank Cobra and Jackie drank Goa beers. They were slow in presenting the bill, but friendly enough.

PS. Helen has come up with this:!1s0x48761b5d091f5529%3A0x19bec7f8b12f9c13!2m5!2m2!1i80!2i80!3m1!2i100!3m1!7e115!!5sst%20john%20the%20evangelist%20roman%20catholic%20church%20islington%20-%20Google%20Search&imagekey=!1e2!2s4HKq9TK5cly06nVDMPlSkg&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjJzLW_4-TNAhVpSZoKHR-YBWgQoioIdjAK

It shows the church. She suggests they crossed the road for the photograph taken against the railings.


  1. A most dramatic wedding photo. The clouds in the background and the carpet-like pattern underfoot made me think the venue involved a trompe l”oeil painting…

        1. It’s the clouds that bother me, Becky. I’ve never seen any “real” ones quite like that. They look like the sort seen in beginners’ watercolour classes… 🙂

      1. I think they are trees. In the distance with sunlight on the leaves. But they do appear to be standing on a carpet or some sort of floor covering. Maybe it was set up outside the church?

      2. Hey! Is that a river or canal behind them? With trees on the opposite bank? And there appears to be a telegraph post to the right. At first I thought it might be a washing line but the ‘wire’ goes straight up. Hmm…

        1. Oh yes Jackie. I think I can see him on Ancestry. How sad for the family. TB was such a scourge. I can even remember the mobile screening caravan coming around when I was a young girl, and that was a good twenty years later. If I have the right family (and I feel I do), they lived at 81 Packington St, Islington North London in 1911. Does that make sense? Possibly close living quarters, which helped the spread of the disease. What a pity. I thought he looked a fine man in that beautiful wedding outfit. Ditto, of course, for his beautiful bride. How wonderful that you still have tangible memories of them. – from Garrulous Gwendoline who thinks she will be able to follow up with the venue

      1. So now we have it tracked down to the correct church – we are left with the conundrum of where exactly were they standing. I would like to say to the right of the church as you are facing it. Standing inside the railings, with the light pole which is now the black decorative version over their right shoulder and the shrubs and trees of that “park” that runs down the centre of the road forming the fuzzy cloudy backdrop and the road a little obscured. It would not have been as wide then I suppose. It does look as though the brick wall on the bride’s right could be part of the church boundary wall that supports the steps which lead up to the side entrance door. The whole fly in that theory is that (1) but why? (2) It isn’t flat ground inside those railings. It leads immediately down to the basement level for the servant’s entrance. Was this area much bombed in the war? Could it have been reworked? It all looks pretty original to me in the photograph. OR – could the railings have been moved back to widen the road? i.e. could the couple have been standing on what is now the footpath? . . . Or, as Helen has suggested, did they cross the road and stand in front of the railings which protect the park? Closer to a street corner perhaps?

          1. Local council would probably have an historian who might be able to answer that. Complete guesswork on my part, but if you are referring to WWII, I wonder if after the war, money was too tight to replace them, and then by the sixties affluence, they would have been out of fashion?

          2. Just a conjecture – no doubt one of your wise followers can scotch the theory. What a shame about the railings. At the time though, I suppose people were enthusiastic, thinking they were doing their bit to support the war effort?

  2. What an amazing and wonderful wedding photo (and how stern they both look)! I can’t believe the items in the glass case still exist. How wonderful to have these items.
    We don’t have any photos of our parents or grandparents getting married. I don’t think any of them had weddings with gowns and flowers.

  3. That’s incredible that after all these years, the headdress and corsage still look fresh. I’m curious about the backgrounds of the bride and groom, Derrick. Was this an arranged marriage?

  4. It does look like a painted backdrop, although not “pretty”. I wonder if there was a trend to realism in the Edwardian period. Perhaps a curator at the Bradford photographic museum could advise. One was very helpful with some old photographs I showed him several years back. How wonderful that these mementoes are still in the family. Such a glamorous couple. I got to thinking what he looked like in normal civvy clothes. What work did he do?

    1. He was a journalist, but died at 48 of ‘consumption’ what we now call T.B. but then it was a death sentence, no anti-biotics.

      1. Oh yes Jackie. I think I can see him on Ancestry. How sad for the family. TB was such a scourge. I can even remember the mobile screening caravan coming around when I was a young girl, and that was a good twenty years later. If I have the right family (and I feel I do), they lived at 81 Packington St, Islington North London in 1911. Does that make sense? Possibly close living quarters, which helped the spread of the disease. What a pity. I thought he looked a fine man in that beautiful wedding outfit. Ditto, of course, for his beautiful bride. How wonderful that you still have tangible memories of them.

          1. Okay, well, I can see Patrick has a profile on, so you may know a lot of this already, but here goes:

            Alfred Isidore O’Connell married Alice Sarah Perry in the Islington district in Quarter 3 of 1906.
            Ref Vol 1b, page 745 if you wish to order the marriage certificate.
            In NSW the certificate would tell you the church, not sure what the UK certificate states, but some possibilities are: Holy Trinity, Cloudsley Sq; St John, Upper Holloway; St Mary; St Paul, Canonbury.
            With your great knowledge of London that may help you place the photograph. I had a feeling there was a blurry Thames in the background, but that does not seem right.

            They went to live at 81 Packington Street, Islington, until at least 1912. A small place of 3 rooms including kitchen and a relative of Alice’s was living with them, and also their young daughter Kathleen. Occ at the time: Linotype Operator / Printer. His father (born in Ireland) was the newspaper journalist. Not sure if Alfred followed in his father’s footsteps later.

            From 1920 – 1929 they are at 34 Whymark Ave Haringey Wood Green N22

            Upon his death 11th march 1930 they were at 8 Norfolk Avenue Palmers Green – and Alice was the executor.

            Prior known addresses, each with their respective parents and siblings before marriage:

            Alfred – born in the 4th quarter of 1880 in Abersydan, Pontypool, Monmouthshire
            Son of Michael, newspaper reporter, and Annie
            Siblings: Minnie, Fergus, ALFRED, Oliver (Charles?), Thomas, Geraldine, Winnifred, Kathleen, Gladys

            17 Warner Street, Clerkenwell, Finsbury – Parish of St James
            124 Victoria Dwellings, Liberty of Saffron Hill, Holborn – Parish of St Peter
            17 Packenham Street, St Pancras, Parish of Bartholemew

            Alice Sarah Perry – born in the 4th quarter of 1879 in St Pancras, Middlesex,
            Daughter of John, surgeon’s assistant, and Julia (John then became sub medical dispenser and later dispensed from home)
            Siblings: ALICE S, Julia E, John, May, Maggie, Beatrice

            4 Rounton Rd, Bromley, Poplar?
            103 East St, St Mary Newington, Parish of St Marks
            52 Courtland Ave, Ilford, Parish of St Mary

            With my limited knowledge of London, that does not seem to have Alfred and Alice on each other’s doorstep before marriage, so no obvious hint how they met, but Islington and St Pancras seem to be recurring areas if that provides any clues.

            Of course, there is every chance I have the wrong Alice Perry as Patrick is showing a different father (Robert, I think).
            I wouldn’t mind if you let me know whether the above is accurate. The siblings names would help identify if I have the correct couple.

            cheers Gwen

      1. I also answered Jackie, thank you Derrick. I think I can narrow the location of that picture for you, provided I have the correct marriage. Don’t want to splash it all over WordPress though unless you are fine with that. Or you may already know more than that already. Anyway, let me know if I can help . If you would prefer you can email me on, best, Gwen

  5. If there’s a backdrop, It’s behind the fence, though rather than clouds, it looks like blurred blossoms. I doubt any photographer would include chicken wire and electrical work in a backdrop. In any event, this picture is a treasure. They both look somber, as though knowing the journey would require some grit. I have a wedding portrait of my maternal grandparents. A friend of mine once commented about my grandmother, “she looks like she’s just been sentenced to prison.” I hope not, but the picture is indeed somber. Nice you have the other mementos as well.

      1. Goodness, what a great 60’s wedding picture! Look at the dresses! And your grandparents in the one of your aunt look as though they’re just about ready to smile. I followed the statuesque beauty link as well. Much resemblance between that picture and the 60’s bride!

  6. I’ll wade in with my thoughts on the wedding pic background if I may – I wonder if there was some attempt at disguising what may have been a busy or industrial type environment looming behind and the photographer has done an early ‘photoshop’ improvement. To me whatever is going on is neither cloud nor plant growth – it rather resembles a giant chenille rug all bundled up and tossed about ……… it’s fascinating! I’m also amazed that the wedding mementoes have been kept so carefully and so long – it far outdoes my wedding crown and veil bundled up in a plastic shopping bag and stuffed into a suitcase somewhere because my eldest won’t let me toss it…….. 🙂

      1. I see no sign of chenille in that environment – my best guess shot down!! 🙂 Gwendolyn has done sterling work in her research – what an intriguing post this has turned into – don’t you love the info that can turn up through community help and interest!

  7. Derrick, is there any preservative in those glass covers. If he flowers and the cake decorations survive why not the gloves.
    (PS. I had to go private a little while ago so if you care to you may have to ask WP to send me a message and I will unlock the door.

      1. The collection had not been stored in the glass dome when Mum acquired it. She cleaned them up and displayed them in the dome but the gloves had not survived.

  8. What a keepsake! It is amazing that those flowers have survived after all these years. No surprise that the glove didn’t make it.

  9. I love the formal Victorian wedding photo and the one from 1968. What a wonderful addition those two photographs would make at a museum or art show exhibit on the subject. I, too, think the background is an novice’s rendition of a tree. I think the telegraph pole was added to make it look more realistic. (To our eyes now, it just looks questionable.) At the time, it must have made sense or they wouldn’t have accepted that backdrop. Did she remarry after her husband passed away?

    1. Thank you, Ginene. She did remarry, but she also died young by today’s standards (62). Her second husband cared for his step-family and outlived her by more than 30 years

  10. Excellent exploration of family history and media artifacts. 🙂
    Blinge Flinschers ?

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