A NEW LIFE IN A NEW WORLD - BUT MY NORTH LONDON ROOTS WERE NEVER FORGOTTEN

"THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME"

The story of Susannah Elizabeth (Macey) Mayes : 1878-1960

 

Susannah Macey was born at Summerhill Terrace, Commerce Road, Wood Green, London in 1878 and she was one of eight children born to Arthur James Macey and Eliza Macey (nee Newton). Her early upbringing in Victorian London was very tough but she was loved by her family and enjoyed living in the friendly neighbourhood in this particular corner of Wood Green.

 

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EARLY PHOTOGRAPH OF COMMERCE ROAD- WOOD GREEN - LONDON

It is believed that her birth father, Arthur James Macey, had first moved to New York to seek work intending for his family to follow on at a later date. We are informed that Arthur was later to move back to England where he unfortunately died in 1884 aged 38 years.


But it was in 1892 that her young life was suddenly significantly disrupted because at the tender age of 14, she and her family emigrated from England to New York to begin a new life in the USA. Her once familiar way of life was suddenly turned upside down and she was now expected to make a new beginning in what was to her a foreign land. However she was never to forget her early days in Wood Green and for the remainder of her life she yearned that one day she would go back to the place that she once called home.


The family settled in Brooklyn, New York although it is unknown what occupation her mother and stepfather had at the time.
Here is a little more background regarding Susannah’s mother Eliza (Newton). She had married Arthur James Macey in 1866. Their marriage certificate shows them at 4 Guest Street in the Parish of St Leonard Shoreditch, County of Middlesex. Eliza’s mother was Elizabeth Miller and father Charles Newton, both from West Hackney Middlesex. At the time of Eliza’s birth they lived at 3 Union Street West Hackney.


We understand that Eliza Macey (Newton) was later remarried in Edmonton, London in 1888 to a Frederick Saunders who was believed to be a few years younger that Eliza; She returned to New York and in the 1900 New York Census they were living in New York with three of her children.


It was on 3rd June 1897 that a young Susannah Elizabeth Macey, aged 19 years, married Charles Henry Mayes in Brooklyn, New York. Her husband Charles‘s family had also originated from Surrey, England. His parents, John Bateman Mayes (a Bootmaker) and Mary Jane Thorpe had moved to the USA in 1882 when Charles was just 4 years old.


Susannah Elizabeth (Macey) Mayes never worked and she raised 8 children. Husband Charles Henry Mayes was a carpenter. In the 1910 New York census, they had 5 children. In the 1920 New York census they were living with the 8 children (all born in New York) and he was still a carpenter.


Susannah (now known as Susie) Mayes and her family were later to move south to Florida where she was to live for the rest of her life. Here are a few family photographs that depict her life in Florida, clearly a great deal different from her early upbringing in Victorian London.

 

 

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Pictured Left: Susie Macey-Mayes(Centre) with Mother (Eliza) and two    daughters at Miami Beach in 1924.

Pictured Above: Susie, wearing pink hat, alongside husband Charles and three of their daughters - Miami c 1945.

 

 

We understand from the family of Susie Mayes that for many years Susie had subscribed for a copy of the local newspaper from Wood Green to be mailed to her home in Florida. This was a means of keeping in touch with events and activities from her place of birth that she still yearned to return to one day.

It was then in October 1959, at the grand age of 81 years, that Susie decided to write to the newspaper in England and ask for her story to be published in the hope that it might provoke some memories from others who had lived in Wood Green at the same time as her. We have searched the newspaper archives at Bruce Castle Museum in Tottenham, North London and eventually managed to find a copy of the original article that was featured in the newspaper.

To our surprise the story had not been published in the ‘Tottenham & Edmonton Weekly Herald‘, as we had expected, but the ‘Wood Green, Southgate and Palmers Green Herald’ and we have provided below a copy of the original article, as it appeared in the newspaper in October 1959 under the title’ There’s No Place Like Home’.

 

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SCANNED IMAGE OF ORIGINAL NEWSPAPER ARTICLE - COURTESY OF BRUCE CASTLE MUSEUM - TOTTENHAM - LONDON

We have been sent a handwritten copy of the original letter that Susie Mayes had sent the newspaper. It had been re-written by one of her family members which we have now re-produced below. It is not known if she ever did receive any replies or indeed whether the newspaper itself was able to send her some pictures. When searching for the old newspaper article we discovered another article written just 2 weeks previously on the 2nd October, 1959, that announced plans to demolish large parts of Commerce Road which included the area where she had once lived. Once again we have no idea whether or not this information was shared with Susie, although it would have been an unpleasant shock for her to discover this news.

 

WEEKLY DIARY “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME’ October 16th 1959

“There’s no place like home,” says the old song. We’ve had a letter from a woman to whom Wood Green is still home, although she left 67 years ago.

She was then Susie Macey, the little girl who was born at 7 Summer Hill Terrace, Commerce Road, Wood Green. She is now Mrs. Susie Mayes, 531 East 26th Street, Hialeah, Florida U.S.A, and she is now 81 years old.

If there’s one thing that Susie want’s, it’s news from home, and if she can hear from some of the people she knew back in the old days, so much the better.

Mrs. Mayes has the ‘Weekly Herald’ sent to her every week, and she tells us. “It sure had plenty of news about the places I lived in for 14 years, when my mother and family moved to America. We never were able to get back to see old England again, but my thoughts were always’ about it. I would like to know if those old houses on Commerce Road are still standing, and I would like to see, if possible, some of the pictures of Wood Green”

(“In fourteen years I got to know a lot about Wood Green, Southgate, and other places. I remember Truro Road and the High Road.”)

“When I was five years old, I was lost all night, and was taken to Southgate police station. I stayed there until after 2 A.M. The police were very kind and tried to get me to tell where I lived, but I was afraid to talk. Then word came and the policeman carried me home under a rain coat. He had to walk all the way back, as there were no buses, and the trains didn’t run all night.”

Mrs. Mayes says she remembers hearing her mother tell of seeing Blondin walk the tight-rope at Alexandra Palace. We’d like to help Mrs. Mayes, and if any reader would like to send us word, or pictures, that might bring pleasure to his lady, we would be glad to send them on to America with our own letter, which will be sent off in a few days from now. We’ll wait until about the middle of next week, before we write.

Note: This is a letter which Mom wrote to the “Weekly Diary” of the ‘Weekly Herald” in England. You can see how the editor wrote a few lines, then used quotes from Mom’s letter.

 

The letter itself is really fascinating and clearly she had yearned for many years to return to the place of her birth. We have since informed her family that within 1/2 mile of Commerce Road there is a Mayes Road, which is well known within the Wood Green area. We explained that it had once housed a very famous sweet (or candy) company named Barratt’s. The company was established in Mayes Road, Wood Green in 1880 so would no doubt have been known to her Great Grandma at the time that she lived there. Coincidentally she was of course later to become Mrs. Mayes.

In her original letter to the newspaper Susie had recalled her mother telling her of the tight-rope walk of Blondin at Alexandra Palace. Blondin was a huge celebrity of the age who had also walked a tight-rope across the Niagara Falls in the U.S.A and many other world landmarks. We have managed to uncover a copy of the original poster for Blondin’s feat at Alexandra Palace and accompanied it with a postcard image of the original Alexandra Palace before it was severely damaged by fire in 1873.

 

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In her letter to the ‘Weekly Herald’ Susie had also asked for some photographs of Wood Green dating back to the time when she had lived there as a child. We have now sent photographs to her family of Commerce Road and several more of Wood Green in general of which three have been copied below. It is comforting to think that members of her remaining family today can take pleasure in seeing some photographs that may possibly have been denied to herself.

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WOOD GREEN HIGH ROAD c 1900

JOLLY BUTCHERS HILL - WOOD GREEN c 1905

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THE NAGS HEAD JUCTION - WOOD GREEN HIGH ROAD

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WOOD GREEN HIGH ROAD - JUNCTION WITH MAYES ROAD

 

One final nugget of information that has been shared with the family is that Alexandra Palace was later to become the place where the world’s first television broadcast took place in 1936. It is not known whether Susie was ever aware of the fact that ‘Ally Pally’, as it is more colloquially known in the area, and which dominated the skyline from her home in Commerce Road, was later to play such a significant role in the birth of television.

 

The family first contacted us because they had discovered our ‘Tottenham- Summerhill Road’ website. We have since informed them that Summerhill Terrace in Commerce Road, Wood Green bears the same name as a former terrace of houses in Summerhill Road Tottenham but they were in fact a couple of miles distant from each other. Sadly both of these locations have since been demolished. Nevertheless it presents a wonderful story and one that we are proud and privileged to publish on our website.

Alan Swain: November 2016

Acknowledgement:  Picture of Commerce Road- 'Tottenham & Wood Green-Past & Present' by Christine Protz and Deborah Hedgecock

Background Image - Wood Green Public Library- Sponsored by Andrew Carnegie -Philanthropist- (Also sponsored Carnegie Hall - New York City)

 

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