James William Mills was born at Southsea, Portsmouth on 6 March 1879 and baptised at Brougham Road Bible Christians Church, Southsea more than two years later, on 20 October 1881. He was the first born of my great grandparents James and Rosina Mills.
His path in life did not follow his younger brothers, who both became teachers. My mother told me that he was known as ‘Boy’; that he was an epileptic and was ‘encouraged to leave’ the family home. If this was so, it was between 1891 and 1901, because he was then lodging at 9 Mitchell Street, Melcombe Regis, Dorset and working as a barber’s assistant.There was often a stigma attached to the unfortunate people who were epilieptic, but perhaps his condition was not too serious because, firstly, he was noted as a ‘scholar’ in the 1891 census -evidently not attending a ‘special school’, if even these existed - and, secondly, it is hard to imagine someone who occasionally became difficult to control, being entrusted with scissors and maybe a ‘cut-throat’ razor in close proximity to customers.Ten years later, in 1911, James was still in digs at 26 Bell Street, Romsey, Hants and was now described as a hairdresser. Two years later, he married C/Katherine Jane Mackrell at Romsey in early 1913. His bride’s surname was not Herring as Mum remembered- a perfect example of my mother’s uncanny ability to muddle names!Catherine was fourteen years younger than her beau, having been born at Eling near Southampton in the summer of 1865. Although never marrying, she had borne two sons, Victor Edward Mackrell (bn 1897) and George Henry Mackrell (1901). In 1901, she was living with her father (also George Henry Mackrell), a retired miller, at 9 Church Street and working as a dressmaker. Her father died in 1906 and in 1911 she was with her sons at 9 Baillie Terrace, Romsey:
James worked as a barber/tobacconist at Church Street, Romsey (which was in the centre of the town, see below) until his death. For most of the 1920s, his shop/home was at No 6, but in 1930 it was No 30 and in 1930, No 26. There were only around thirty-five buildings in the street
Although the photograph above is obviously from much later in the twentieth century, when compared with the present-day images, I beleive the Gentlemen’s Hairdressing shop is the site for James’ shop. Many of the building in the street clearly date from the nineteenth century, as shown by their brickwork. This was a prime trading location being near the Market Place.Catherine died during early September of 1939:
James’ address according to the 1939 Register was 26 Church Street, Romsey. He shared the address with a grocers:
James died in the summer of 1940. His death wasn’t registered at Romsey but in the Winchester District - which may indicate that he died in hospital.