Isaac Robinson Batey was born 1st November 1849 in Whickham, County Durham, England. He was the son of James Batey, a groom at Ravensworth Castle, and Jane Dodds from Barton St Mary in Yorkshire who had been a widow with three children (and six months pregnant) when James married her. His two full brothers became miners but Isaac would have been a tall man even today and by working class standards of the time he was enormous; working underground would have been a challenge and there were other openings for such a well-built man. Isaac took one of those when he went south to Hyde Park Barracks in London to become a guardsman. This is what he looked like before he went:
and, when they made their vows at St Mary Magdalen Church in St Mary’s Road, Peckham on 8 August 1880, she was five months pregnant. I really love this bit. There’s Isaac, happily living his soldier’s life, and along comes this middle class minx, a cheese-monger’s daughter from Bethnal Green. Look at the expression on her face. That is one determined young lady. What she wants, she has to have. She sees this good-looking giant in his soldier’s uniform and she thinks “I’m ’avin ’im” (or whatever the 19th century equivalent of that phrase was). And she knows how to do it. Here is Isaac on his wedding day:
Isaac had to leave the army when he married. First he became an omnibus driver, but that would not have suited Sarah and she got him into the police in Essex where he died in 1905. Sarah lived on for several more years; here she is in about 1920 surrounded by her grandchildren, two daughters-in-law, her son Harold and friends:
Doesn’t she look respectable? I bet there isn’t a single person in that picture, apart from Sarah, who knew how she’d landed her man. She and Isaac had four children; one died in childhood but all the others went on to become teachers — a good outcome for someone who started life where Isaac did.