Charles William Esam-Carter: Early Childhood, Home and Family Part Three – Writing Lives

Charles William Esam-Carter: Early Childhood, Home and Family Part Three

Not long after the suspected affair, Charles recalls ‘the water diviner had sailed for Palestine…Water was it’s greatest need.’ (41) A few weeks after his mother started to become ill. He reports that ‘most of the time she spent in her bedroom. She was not very well and the doctor said she did not eat enough.’ (42) This was the beginning of his mothers difficult pregnancy with his severely disabled younger sister, however nobody was aware of it at the time.

In terms of family life, with the exception of night times spent being educated by his father, Charles spent most of his time with Clara. There is an obvious fondness between them, especially as she was always the one to provide him comfort when he was upset.

Despite their differences, there have been a few sweet moments between his parents that Charles can remember. ‘I found a patch of violets that smelt as sweet as violets can and were the deepest purplish blue.’ (46) I find the extensive detail Charles can recall from this memory beautiful, the child-like wonder and vivid description of the flowers enables you to empathise with the small boy.

In a sweet moment he ‘I took my father by the hand and led him to the spot. He fell on his knees and started picking them… he was able to get a good, big bunch.’ (46) Those moment of complete emotion inspired in his father is astonishing. Charles knew his father would have this response to the flowers, to bring them inside for his mother. As a small child, he had the kindness to recognise a small gesture like this could help the family mend their troubles.

‘A fine array of modern shops’ (63) that Charles discusses when recalling the family’s move to Cranbrook.

For reasons that I am unsure of – possibly to do with his fathers constant change in employment – the family never stayed in one place for very long, not allowing Charles the opportunity to consistently keep people in his life. They left the Perrins, Hawkhurst in 1904 and moved to Cranbrook in Kent. With each move and the description Charles provides of the ‘new’ houses he moves to, it seems that family were living above their means in terms of accommodation. Especially with the addition of Clara while the family resided at the Perrins.

Baker’s Cross Brewery, Cranbrook, where Charles liked to watch the coach go by as a child.

As Charles grows older he is allowed to leave the house on his own. He recalls always running off to watch the coach passing through ‘with a flourish of the horn played by its guard.’ (63) He was fascinated by the movements of the horse, although surprised to find it “wasn’t very like the coaches of Charles’ Dickens day’ (63) much to his disappointment. These moments of child-like wonder and curiosity at the most basic functioning of life are a sweet reminder of a time lost in our new modern age. It also highlights how lonely Charles must have been as a small boy, most of his satisfying his curiosity of the outside world and playing with his kitten, his only consistent companion throughout his childhood.


Esam-Carter, Charles William. Autobiography of Charles William Esam-Carter, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiorgaphies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4

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