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Mourner at the Grave, Albumen Carte de Visite, Circa 1874 | by lisby1
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Mourner at the Grave, Albumen Carte de Visite, Circa 1874

When I purchased this image, I misread the death date as 1814. This error, and the somewhat over-the-top posing of the widow, led me to believe that this was a staged image sold in multiples by the London Photographic Company. However, it has turned out, thanks to the amateur historians and genealogy sleuths who frequent, I now know that this is indeed a genuine and unique morning image.


The date on the stone is, in fact, 1874, not 1814, and this correlates perfectly with the life of Frederick William Paige, who died age 55 years on 11 September, 1874, at North Wootton, Norfolk, where he was the railway stationmaster.


Paige was the progenitor of not less than five stationmasters or railway clerks in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. These men lived the railway—dwelling and raising their children in stationmaster’s houses provided to them, pacing their lives around the timetable of trains that chugged down the steel tracks with occasional great puffs of smoke to carry people and supplies the length and breadth of Britain. A better title for this image would be “Mother of Railroads,” for every one of this woman’s sons made facilitating these transport arteries their lifework.


Frederick was born in Guildford, Surrey, England, in about 1819 and married Emma Drake (b. 1822) in St Pancras, London, in 1844. They had six children--five sons and one daughter.


Frederick Paige was buried four days after his death at age 55, on 15 September, 1874, at All Saints, North Wootton. At some point within the next year, Emma was photographed leaning woefully on her husband’s grave with her head in her hand. Her grief is evident; she is dressed in classic widow’s weeds. The stone that the family placed on his grave was a fine one, indicating a beloved patriarch, despite the rather meager fortune they held.


Frederick’s will was probated on 27 May, 1880. It disclosed that his estate was less than £200. The records note that “Administration of the personal estate of Frederick William Paige late of North Wootton in the county of Norfolk, railway station master, who died 11 September, 1874 at North Wootton, was granted at the principle registry to Charles Paige of Impington in the county of Cambridge, railway station master, the son and one of the next of kin.”


Emma Drake Paige died in the final days of December 1898 and was laid to rest on 2 January, 1899, at All Saints, North Wootton, beside her husband.

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Taken on December 22, 2011