St Helena Island (above) is where Margaret Evelyn Maud Leo is recorded as having been born

     Margaret Evelyn Maud Leo was born about 1881-1885. We do not have her correct birth date and can only judge her age by that given at the time of her death and as that listed on the census returns and the Poor Law documents. These all differ so we can only estimate her age to within five years. We do not even know who her parents were except the 1911 Census (below) says Margaret Yarker was a British Subject due to parentage and that she was also born at St Helena. Margaret was living at 17 Padstow Place, Grenade Street in Limehouse along with four children in 1911.We have not been able to find marriage records for her and John Henry Yarker and it may even be possible that they never legally married but the 1911 Census lists them as having been married for nine years - so the marriage year can be estimated for about 1902. The birth certificate for daughter, Edith Evelyn Maud Yarker, lists her mother Margaret's surname as being formerly Leo (as seen below on extract of Edith's birth certificate of 1904).

 Edith Yarker's 1904 birth certificate showing father as
John Henry Yarker & mother as Margaret Evelyn Maud Leo

(Above) 1911 UK Census lists Margaret E Yarker as married with six children and five who were still alive - son Albert is not present in the home at this time. Husband & father of the children,
John Henry Yarker, is listed on the NZ Electoral Rolls for 1911 which indicates he intended to reside permanently in NZ and not return to the England

John Henry Yarker's 1875 Baptism Record (bottom left of form).
NOTE:  There is also a baptism for 
Annie Elizabeth Yarker and also one for my husband's MacDuff family

   John Henry Yarker was born in 1875 and Baptised on the 20th October 1875 (Baptism record above) by parents Henry Yarker and Margaret Yarker (nee Spruce) in Toxteth, Lancashire, England. At the time of his baptism his parents Henry & Margaret were living at 195 Mill Street, Toxteth Park near Liverpool, England. Henry Yarker's occupation is listed as mariner and his son John was later to follow in his father's footsteps when he also became a mariner. It is thought that one of John Yarker's merchant seaman voyages took him to St Helena and that is where he meet his future wife Margaret Leo. We do not know if they married on St Helena Island but there is mention of a child being born to them there named Richard and the 1911 Census does list six children with one child having previously died. We know that Albert is the only child missing from the 1911 census and we know he was very much alive in 1911 and lived to go New Zealand. We do know from this there was another child and perhaps he was named 'Richard Yarker'. If there was a marriage and birth it must have occurred about 1902-1903. By 1903 Margaret had given birth to her first child in England and four other children were born and only daughter Irene died young. Something, possible work as a mariner, took John Henry Yarker to New Zealand where he decided to stay, leaving behind his wife and children. Margaret was left to fend for herself and the children as best she could. This is where John & Margaret's lives together ends and their separate lives and struggles. First we need to know what happened to Margaret following John's departure and what life was like for her.

Above & Below: The Causeway is one street away from Grenade Street - was Gun Lane - as can be seen in the 1703 map above and below

ABOVE: The row of houses on the right side of the street in Gun Street - as you turn right off of Three Colt Street - became known as Padstow Place or House - and this is where Margaret & her children lived in 1911 Census at Number 17)

MARGARET EVELYN MAUD YARKER remained behind in England following her husband, John's departure for foreign shores. The 1911 Census (above) shows Margaret E Yarker aged 29 living at 17 Padstow Place (Padstow House) in Grenade Street, Limehouse. This is in close proximity to the East Indian Docks. Margaret's children are listed as Evelyn aged 6, Irene aged 5, Francis Victor aged 2 and John Henry who was recently born. John Henry Yarker (junior) was born illegitimate as John Henry Yarker (senior) was in New Zealand at the time of his conception and birth. There was no such thing as a pension for a deserted wife or the unemployed. Margaret most probably existed with hand outs from Parish relief. If she did seek work, which is unlikely with under school aged children, then she would have queued for hours along side men in the hope of obtaining some casual work. At the end of Grenade Street, is Three Colt Street which was a shopping neighborhood with Market stalls and barrow in the middle of the street. It is said that the humble housewife, of the district, whose allowance from her lord and master (husband) compelled her to buy in the cheapest market. (This appears to be a nice way of saying that she made do with what little she was given.) The odours in the district are overpowering. It is an industrial area and the sound of clanging hammers can be heard as they descend on ringing iron. It is a land of labour from morning till eve and the streets are deserted. Husbands, wives, sons and daughters are all toiling. The only life on the streets are children going and coming from school. Limehouse is a village in which every body knows everybody else's business or hasten to learn it at the earliest possible opportunity (taken from In Limehouse 1911 - by George R Sims - originally published in The Strand magazine in 1905). Although described as dirty, dreary, desolate and coloured grey it is also a district that seems to have entered the heart and soul of it's inhabitants who's stories seem to colour it. For Margaret there seemed to be no such colour.

Above: Toxteth Park slums in Liverpool where the Poor Law Parish Laws thought Margaret & her children belonged. Right: Toxteth Park near Liverpool - Lancashire where four of Margaret & John Yarker's children were born

As bad as life was for Margaret, living in the squalor of the Limehouse slums, it was to become even worse for her and her children. Parish authorities began trying to have her and the children removed from the district of Poplar back to Toxteth Park in Liverpool, Lancashire. To Margaret this must have been an unbearable thought. Four of her five children were born in Toxteth Park. Albert Edward in 1902, Edith Evelyn Maud in 1904, Ethel Florence Irene in 1905 & Francis Victor in 1908. Margaret has spent a number of years in Toxteth Park and knew how bad the slums where there in comparison to London. We do not know why she ended up in Poplar but records lists her settlement there as not being legal. This meant that the Parish of Poplar did not want to be responsible for her and felt the Parish of Liverpool should be. Hence a battle to have her removed from Poplar back to Liverpool began between the Parish Poor Law Authorities. Margaret's own battle for survival included refusing to enter the Parish of Poplar Borough Workhouse. Workhouses had a notoriously bad reputation (just think of Oliver Twist). Reports lists that the Poplar Workhouse was "almost revolting", it was dirty and the inmates were ill clad, with poor diet, and there was little or no discipline. Families were separated, death rates were relatively high due to over crowding and poor sanitary conditions. Work was often dangerous or laborious and even the youngest of inmates were expected work in return for their keep. Some children, usually orphans, were sent to other Parish's and might find themselves in Cotton Mills in Yorkshire or the like. The Poplar Borough Workhouse had this to say about Margaret Yarker and her children on the 4th July 1910 " Dear Sir, Attendants and Police tried to persuade the above (Margaret Yarker) to be removed or come inside the Workhouse but she absolutely declines and prefers deserting her family first. The children are without boots or stockings also wearing scanty clothing and before they could be removed in any case they ought to be fitted out for the journey" (see letter below). The journey referred to Margaret and her five children removal back to Toxteth in Lancashire.

ABOVE: Margaret Yarker's Poor Law Book entries - from and National Archive records (Curtousy of David Campbell)

Above: Poplar Borough Workhouse & Right: Women in the Leeds Union Workhouse - this is what life held for Margaret

ABOVE: Poplar Union Workhouse on left and a plan of a Workhouse which shows how everyone is separated.

Other entries in the Poor Law Books records Margaret and the children's plight. But as we know from the census in 1911 (above) Margaret and her family, excluding the oldest son, Albert Edward, and of course the vanishing husband John Henry, are still within the Poplar parish. Margaret had her children, Albert and Edith, registered at the Ricardo Street School in Poplar on the 6th April 1909. It would appear that this must be the date, or close to it, that Margaret began living in Poplar having moved from Toxteth Park in Liverpool. Margaret's survival battle continued for her throughout the following years as can be attested to by the Poor Law records. To add to her woe's her seven year old daughter Ethel Florence Irene died in 1912 in the parish of Stepney. Authorities must have stepped in sometime following Ethel's death because the remaining children can be found on The Rangatira passenger list, alone and without parents Margaret or John, departing England on the 9th January 1914. The oldest was Albert aged eleven, Edith was aged nine, Francis was aged 5 and the youngest was John aged 3. They were bound for New Zealand. The Poor Law Guardians most probably had the children sent to New Zealand to be with their father, having tracked John Yarker down, using funds set aside especially earmarked for this reason. In the long term it reduced the cost burden of caring for the children under their Parish derestriction. It is thought that at this time Margaret had become to ill to look after the children. The poorly nourished urban working glass who were living in insalubrious and overcrowded conditions were venerable to disease. Tuberculosis was an endemic disease associated with the urban poor. In 1916 it was said that fifty percent of those who had TB, even under the best conditions, died within five years. The Whitechapel Infirmary records 199 deaths for the first half of the year of 1916. On the 25th March 1916 Margaret Evelyn Maud Yarker lost her final battle of survival when she died in the Whitecapel Infirmary reserved for the seriously ill at only 31 years of age. Her cause of death is listed as Pulmonary Tuberculosis. The Poor Law Guardians probably paid for her burial in the Ilford Cemetery as there was no one else to do so.

Left: The Whitechapel Infirmary (on right in photo) where 
Margaret Yarker (nee Leo) died in 1916
 & Right: Margaret's death listed in the Whitechapel Infirmary register of March 1916

The Rangatira & Above: 1914 & passenger lists which lists the four Yarker children at the bottom of this page & in the clipping
NOTE: The date on the passenger list says 1913 but there are various dates on pages - and 1914 was the correct date

   Here we leave Margaret's sad life and even sadder death. We follow the four Yarker siblings to New Zealand and enter the life that 
John Henry Yarker had forged for himself in New Zealand ... a life that really was not meant to have children in it but eventually did ...


Albert Yarker (1903-1976)
Edith Evelyn Maude Yarker (1904-1939)
Ethel Florence Irene Yarker (1907-1912)
Francis Victor Yarker (1908-1996)
John Henry Yarker (1911-1985)

Above: (left-right)