St John's history: Charlotte's story, part 4
By Christine Camplin
This is the fourth and final part of the story of Charlotte and Mohamad (read the previous parts in earlier issues of The Gander).
Charlotte and Mohamad Ahmad travelled across India to Bangalore by train and settled down to their new life together and Mohamad’s new job as a barrister. They probably visited Mohamad’s father, Viqar-ul-Mulk, in Hyderabad on the way. They kept in touch with the family back home in England, and when Charlotte’s brother, Howard Fitch ‘of East Dulwich’ married Miss Maria Jemima Sadler at Maldon Congregational Chapel in April 1892, Mr and Mrs Mohamad, Ahmad sent an Indian carpet as a gift.
In 1895 Charlotte and Mohamad were blessed with a daughter, Hameeda. Sadly tragedy struck the little family the following year when Mohamed died on 28 August 1896, aged 28, after a brief illness, at their home at 11 Cubbon Road in Bangalore. His young widow and her one year old daughter joined Viqar-ul-Mulk in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, north India, a journey of about 1400 miles from Bangalore, and Mohamad’s father began to give his daughter-in-law regular remittances for her upkeep.
In 1901 tragedy struck again when little Hameeda died of cholera at the age of five. There was now nothing to keep Charlotte in India and she returned to England to find that her family had dispersed from East Dulwich. In 1895 her mother, Rebecca, and brother Francis had moved from 20 Kelmore Grove to 40 Dalmore Road, just off Thurlow Park Road, shortly before Rebecca died on 14 June. Brother Howard and wife Jemima had moved to Yorkshire and sister Ellen to Lambeth. It is most likely that Charlotte initially joined her older sister Rebecca who was staying with their aunt Ellen Fitch (father’s sister) at Highlands, Oakleigh Park, Friern Barnet.
In November 1904 Aunt Ellen died at Highlands. She was unmarried and comfortably off. She appointed three of her nieces, including Charlotte, executors of her estate. It was worth nearly £29,000 (almost £2,500,000 in today’s values).
In summer 1906 Charlotte took the opportunity to visit her brothers in America. (Ernest, Aubrey and Walter had emigrated there in the 1870s.) She sailed from Liverpool to New York on the Cunard steamship “Etruria”.
Earlier that year Charlotte had received a touching letter from her father-in-law, Viqar-ul-Mulk, showing the deep affection in which she was held. She had written to him on 6 January 1906 informing him that she had received an inheritance of more than £10,000 and asking him to stop his financial assistance. She added: “Let me in the fullness of my heart again express my loving gratitude to you for the fatherly care you have taken of me ever since you knew of me and during my widow-hood.”
The Nawab felt Charlotte (or “Shelley”) should give serious thought to remarrying. His affection for any child of that union would be the same as for the child of his own daughter. “My hand of friendship will extend towards any family with whom you may choose to establish such relations. All this is on account of the affection which I have naturally for you and which shall always remain thus.”
Charlotte in her turn replied: “It is an extremely kind one and shows great delicacy in that you never mentioned the subject of my remarriage whilst I depended on you for support. My dear Mian, to be perfectly candid with you, I have no wish to marry again — there is no man who can take my dear husband’s place. Probably, there are plenty of men who would not object to having me now that I have some money, and those I would scarcely marry. But under any circumstances I would prefer to die the widow of Mohamad Ahmed”.
“I shall always think with loving gratitude of your care of me during all these long years of my widowhood. No English woman ever had a better father-in-law than I, although some are very good indeed”.
Charlotte never remarried despite her father-in-law’s hopes, and little is known of her remaining years beyond a shadowy presence in censuses and a series of job adverts. Between 1909-1915 Charlotte lived at 5A Station Road, Winchmore Hill, Middlesex with a live-in servant, Florence Pauline Hall. After the First World War she moved (with Florence) to The Cottage, 12 Langton Road, Worthing, where she spent the rest of her life. This was a fairly large house with “7 rooms”.
Charlotte advertised for a cook/general servant in July 1923 and in 1938 for a “Good Working Housekeeper for old lady ; clean, honest and good cook; must be kind.” She re-advertised in September 1939 for a “Good Cook-General for invalid lady and companion; Good wages and outings.”
Charlotte Ahmad died on 21 December 1941, aged 85, at Normanton Nursing Home, Shelley Road, Worthing, Sussex.
She had remained faithful to her Mohamad to the end.