Ruth Elizabeth Beck, born Baggs

Ruth Elizabeth Baggs was born on the 22nd December 1882, at 32 Dover Street, Southampton, the daughter of [E2] Walter and [G1] Alice Jane Baggs.1

In 1891 she was living with her parents in prison quarters at H.M. Convict Prison, Gillingham, Kent. But following her father's transfer there, she spent most of her childhood in the Portland area of Dorset. The 1901 census finds her living with her family at 2, H. Quarters, Portland Prison. On 18 June 1904 she was baptised at St Peter's, Portland, Dorset. She wanted to be a teacher, and was in fact kept on at her school as a pupil teacher, for a time—probably until she was 15 or 16; but after her mother died Ruth, being the youngest daughter, was expected to stay to look after her father, which she did until her marriage. Eventually she found an outlet for her teaching skills at home, teaching her own children reading, writing, and cooking.2

On the 6th June 1910 she married [A2] Reuben Alexander Beck at St Mark's parish church, New Brompton, Kent; she was at that time living in New Brompton.3

Ruth Elizabeth (Baggs) Beck

In 1911 she was living with her husband in two rooms at 433 Canterbury Street, Gillingham. It must have been very soon after this that the couple moved to 31 Marlborough Road, Gillingham, where Ruth spent the rest of her life.4

Their children were: Alexander William (1911–1969), Reuben Percival (1913–1989), [A1] Sidney John Thomas (1915–1998), William Arthur (1917–1991), Gladys Ruth May (1918–2001), and Edgar Robert (1921–1944). Ruth took out life insurance policies with the Prudential, at a penny a week, after each child arrived. She looked after the children very well, making sure they were properly fed, dressed, and educated. She was very long-suffering, with the children. She repaired their clothes, made curtains, and so on—though she had a woman come in on Mondays, to help with the laundry.5signature of Ruth E. Beck

When Reuben was temporarily transferred to Scotland, in 1916, she had six soldiers billeted on her, all sleeping in the attic. Towards the end of the First World War she helped to nurse her brother Bill Baggs, who had been wounded in Palestine. The 1921 census recorded her as occupied in home duties, and living with her family and her father in seven rooms at 31 Marlborough Road, Gillingham.6

In contrast to her husband, she was short in stature, at 5'2".7

Ruth Elizabeth (Baggs) Beck

After the children reached the age at which they rebelled against saying their prayers, Ruth would say a goodnight prayer for them at the foot of their bed, or at the door. She was a very kind and gentle woman, a very motherly creature. Though she had quite a strength of character in her own way, with quite strong principles, she was not very forceful impressing them on other people—she was very quiet and unassuming, a modest sort of person.8

As regards her politics, she was a Conservative voter—she used to wonder why she and Reuben bothered to vote, as they cancelled each other's out. In religion she was Wesleyan Methodist, going regularly to church of an evening. She would sometimes play the organ at the Central Hall in Chatham, if the regular organist was unable; though she was quite pleased to do this when asked, she always found it a bit of an ordeal, because she wasn't a very good player. After her father died in 1932, she used to play on his harmonium and sing hymns, in the parlour at home. On occasions she would go to a concert of religious music—Handel's Messiah at the Methodist Central Hall, or Stainer's Crucifixion, sung by the choir at the Old Brompton church, in about 1928—it was the religious aspect, rather than the music, that attracted her. She took her son Sidney to one or two revivalist meetings at the church in Chatham.8

In 1937 her son drew rather a bleak picture of his mother, in his diary: "Worn out almost, in poor health and having had little real pleasure she clings to the idea of a future home where all is peace & perfect happiness." The 1939 Register found her doing unpaid domestic duties, living with her family at 225 Marlborough Road. In 1941 her daughter-in-law-to-be Ruth Pollard reported to her mother her first impressions of Sidney's mother, finding her ". . . particularly nice, & I'm glad to hear quite fussy over proprieties!!"10

Sidney's and Ruth's Mass-Observation diaries give occasional glimpses of Ruth E. Beck. In November 1941 she sent Sidney a food parcel for his birthday. The following month she had a slight cold. In January 1942 she complained that the presence of her daughter-in-law and her children, who were living with them, was causing tensions. At the end of January 1943 she was reportedly not at all well.11

When her son Edgar was killed in the Second World War, the shock aged her quite a bit. Later on in life she had heart trouble, and was always complaining of palpitations—perhaps having six children had affected her blood pressure. She also suffered from arthritis. There were quite a number of periods when she was unwell. On these occasions Reuben's drinking also gave her cause for complaint. She was a fairly staunch teetotaller herself, though she probably had a glass of port at Christmas.12

On the 27th March 1949, she suffered a stroke, and could no longer recognize anyone. She died peacefully at home, without regaining consciousness, at 5:20pm on Tuesday the 29th March 1949. The cause of her death was given as cerebral embolism, auricular fibrillation, and chronic rheumatic myocarditis. Her funeral took place at St Mark's church on the 2nd April, and she was buried in Gillingham New Cemetery on Woodlands Road (Class C, Section H, no. 4177).13

Ruth Elizabeth Baggs was the third child, second daughter, of [E2] Walter and [G1] Alice Jane Baggs.14

Reuben and Ruth Beck, 1937

Ruth and Reuben Beck, 1937

1 birth certificate

2 TNA: RG 12/665 f121 p44 and RG 13/1997 f79 p43; parish register (but FamilySearch gives date of baptism as 1904-01-19); information from Sidney Beck; my own knowledge; Interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells, transcript by BSB

3 marriage certificate; parish register

4 RG14PN3952 RG78PN150 RD47 SD2 ED23 SN26; information from Sidney Beck; 31 later renumbered as 225

5 information from Sidney Beck; interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; interview with Sidney Beck, begun Easter 1986

6 interview with Sidney Beck, begun Easter 1986; RG 15/4087 RD47 SD2 ED17

7 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells

8-9 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; interview with Sidney Beck, begun Easter 1986

10 Sidney Beck: Ms Diary; diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard (Ms); 1939 England and Wales Register (TNA: RG 101)

11 Sidney & Ruth Beck's Mass-Observation diaries (D 5021 & D 4247)

12 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; interview with Sidney Beck, begun Easter 1986; Ms Memoirs, Sidney Beck

13 information from Sidney Beck; death certificate; notice of death Chatham, Rochester & Gillingham Observer 1 Apr 1949; Reuben A. Beck's diary/birthday book, formerly possessed by Gladys Mills; Sidney Beck: Ms Diary; newspaper obituary cutting inserted in Sidney Beck: Ms Diary

14 information from Sidney Beck; birth certificate


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