Hainault Forest Website

 Designed by Brian Ecott


Annie Shean

  by Raymond Small & Elaine Wiltshire


The Shean Family gather in Hainault Forest at Whitsun in 1938.





Annie Shean 1938




John Shean lived in Bow and built boats and barges. He married Susanna Bailey and later re-married her sister, Caroline. The family had a strong nautical background. John and Caroline had a son called Josiah, who was born in Bow on 29th September, 1861. Josiah was listed in the Thames Watermen and Lightermen records of 1878, but by age 19, had found employment in a chemist's warehouse.


Josiah married Annie Azubah Horton on 17th September, 1882 in St. Leonard's St May, Bromley in the Borough of Tower Hamlets. They had five daughters and two sons; Florence, Beatrice, Annie Miriam, Ivy Barbara, Elizabeth Althea, Josiah Henry William and Horace Horton. Sadly, the 1911 Census shows that two other children died, but no further details are known. While Mother stayed at home to look after the children, Josiah changed from being a warehouseman to a gas attendant. By 1901, he was an artificer (archaic term for 'skilled craftsman') at the Royal Mint. Twenty years on, he was still working at the Royal Mint, based in the Electrical Department.


Josiah and family moved homes a lot and lived in Aldgate, Tottenham and Ilford High Road. Annie, his wife, died in 1927 and it is uncertain if she actually moved into the New North Road cottages. However records show that in the 30's, three members of the Shean family were now occupying 12 New North Road, Chigwell Row, which was the place where they would settle. Josiah, now receiving a Civil Servant's pension, moved there with his two daughters Beatrice and Annie. Beatrice was incapacitated and Miss Shean was doing unpaid domestic duties. The address changed to 692 New North Road, Hainault when the new estate was built after World War II.


John E Bowen also lived at the premises in 1939. He made nautical and aeronautical items. There was a Hainault company specialising in this type of work. They were originally clockmakers that began making sextants and chronometers for ships in the River Thames. Their factory produced marine and aircraft instrumentation including sonar. This company would later become 'Kelvin Hughes'. Similar work was done by Plessey, a firm that took over a three-mile stretch of tunnel from Gants Hill to Leytonstone during World War II, converting it into a factory to make aircraft components. The tunnel gave protection against air raids to ensure that the production line was not hindered when bombs fell. This tunnel became part of the Central Line Underground network afterwards.


A tree blocks the light getting into Miss Shean's front room window. 1971


Josiah Shean passed away in 1949 and Beatrice in 1966, aged 79. This left Annie Shean in the cottage alone. Annie, or 'Miss Shean' as she was commonly known, was a quiet, reserved lady. Born in Stratford in 1889 and baptised in the Parish of St. Marks, Whitechapel eight years later. She worked as a Domestic Servant when younger and remained a spinster all her life.


The living room in Miss Shean's cottage was always dark. This was due to a tree outside the front window blocking the light. Once when wasps were proving to be a particular nuisance, our mother made Miss Shean a wasp trap. A piece of string was tied around a jam jar neck to form a handle. The jar was then half filled with water and a tablespoon of sweet strawberry jam dropped in. It was then hung outside on a tree. The next day, 6-7 wasps had drowned while attempting to get the jam. This procedure was repeated. Quite a few flying pests met their demise this way. Before aerosols this was a common way to kill wasps and better for the environment than using poisonous sprays.


Miss Shean taught Elaine (author) how to make beads from wallpaper which were strung together to make bracelets and necklaces.


This was once a traditional craft, revived in the 1920's, where wallpaper was rolled around knitting needles and paste applied to stick it together. The shape and size of the beads could be varied by altering the triangular cut of paper being rolled. When dry, the beads were polished with vanish. This helped protect the paper  from moisture, but it wasn't a good idea to get the beads too wet. In Victorian times, when this craft probably started, wallpapers coloured green, contained the highly poisonous element, arsenic.


The shape and size of the wallpaper beads could be varied,


It is likely that a few Victorian ladies fell ill due to arsenic poisoning caused by their handmade jewellery. Luckily, Miss Shean's were made when modern wallpapers were safer. During the 1960's, wallpaper shops were found in most High Streets. These gradually disappeared when the large D-I-Y stores started emerging. Shopkeepers would discard outdated wallpaper sample books and children would sometimes ask for these because they could use the plain side as drawing paper.


When the New North Road cottages were due for demolition, Miss Shean moved to new accommodation next to St. Paul's Church in Arrowsmith Road, where she lived out the rest of her days.



Beatrice Shean receives a postcard celebrating New Zealand's first Balloon Post. This letter eventually got to number 692 after several tries.