The faces of history – Elizabeth Plucknett

Elizabeth Plucknett, my great great grandmother was born in Devon in 1829 and died in Birmingham in 1888

Elizabeth Sternberg née Plucknett about 1880
Elizabeth Sternberg née Plucknett about 1880

Elizabeth Plucknett was the daughter of Thomas Loaring Plucknett and Harriet (née Tootell). She may have been born in Thorverton, but her mother Harriet was from Exeter and Elizabeth’s address at the time of her christening was Cowick Street, Exeter, in the parish of St Thomas the Apostle. She spent her early years in Thorverton, but her mother, Harriet died when Elizabeth was 12. Harriet had at least six children, but only Elizabeth and Emma (b 1832) survived beyond childhood.

Her father Thomas remarried a few months after Harriet’s death. His second wife was Emma Babbage and they had three further children. It may be that the relationship between the two older girls and their stepmother was not easy, since both Elizabeth and Emma left Thorverton. In 1851, Emma was in Bridgewater and Elizabeth in Bristol, living at 56 Wine Street, (Christ Church Parish) along with 11 other shop assistants; described as draper’s assistant, aged 21.

In the same year she met Francis George Sternberg, who wrote the Valentines day poem to his ‘Fairest Lizzy’.

They were married in Bristol Register Office on 6 February 1853. Her address at time of marriage was Peter Street, Bristol (Hospital Workhouse). Note that the marriage did not take place at Thorverton and that Lizzy’s father Thomas seems to have been absent, although a month later,when her sister Emma married William Clout in Thorverton, Thomas was a witness.

Franis George Sternberg's poem to 'Fairest Lizzy' 1851
Francis George Sternberg's poem to 'Fairest Lizzy' 1851

Francis George and Lizzy had no less than ten children between 1854 and 1870, but two died in infancy.

In 1860 the family was at Bradley Terrace in Wandsworth. Let my father’s words from 1993 tell a bit more of that story.

Another thread in the story concerns my gt.grandmother Elizabeth. She was married in Bristol in 1853 and four children (one of them my grandmother) were born there, but only two of them appeared in the 1861 census. There was a death in Bristol that tallied for one of them, but
the only name that fitted for the other was in 1860, in Wandsworth. My recent research on Thomas Loaring P. led me to think that this was not, after all, impossible, so I sent for the death certificate, and sure enough, there he was, son of  Francis George and Elizabeth Sternberg – at
1, Bradley Terrace! So all the family seem to have been together in 1860, (In the 1861 census the Sternbergs were in Birmingham, where their next son, then 2 months old, was born, and where they lived for the rest of their lives)

Sadly the rest of Francis George’s life was not that long, since he died in 1869 at the age of 40 at 155, Sherlock Street, Birmingham, leaving Lizzy pregnant with their tenth child, Charles.
Causes of death on FGS certificate are given as Alcohol and ‘Brain disease

By the time of the 1881 Census, Lizzy was in Summer Road, 2 Terrace,  Edgbaston (Birmingham), Warwickshire. A widow, living with four of her children. Her second daughter (my great grandmother) Alice was by this time married,  so Lizzy had several grandchildren. In fact, by the time she died she had nineteen,

Lizzy died at 175, Great Colmore Street, Birmingham in 1888;

Her death Certificate records that:

‘Death Certificate was received from H. Hawker, Coroner for Birmingham. Inquest, held 8th May 1888’. Coroner’s enquiry reveals (on the testimony of her daughter, Marion) that she had had a stroke nine years previously ‘which took the use of her left side, but she was able to get about the house daily and eat and drink well’. On Sunday 29th April she fell downstairs while on her way to bed. Her son, Francis George Sternberg, who had just retired to bed ‘ran downstairs and picked her up’. Dr Johnstone of Bath Row was sent for, came and attended to her until her death.

She died on Friday 4th May 1888.

Lizzy died intestate and a Grant of Administrationwas made on 20 June 1888. The value of her personal estate was £75, to William Sternberg, son.

Photo album dedication to Marion Sternberg from Lizzy about 1887
Photo album dedication to Marion Sternberg from Lizzy about 1887 "To My darling Marion, with her loving mothers prayers for her happiness, here and hereafter"

This is the dedication from Lizzy to her daughter Marion, probably for her 21st birthday in 1887.

Lizzy died the following year. It is from this lovingly compiled photo album that I copied many of the portraits that I have used in the ‘Faces of History’ series.

As an amateur family historian, I acknowledge with gratitude and thanks my Great Great Grandmother’s efforts.