Enoch Barratt (sitting) with Maria Barratt (right) out the front of Windsor House.
The story of Maria Barratt and her store ‘M. Barratt – Wardrobe Dealer & Registry Office’ essentially began when she married Enoch Pearson Barratt on 25 October 1877. Both were widowed (she was 52 and he was 65) and the idea of children being born from the marriage (I can safely assume) was never even considered. It’s therefore incredibly likely that the marriage (like so many others may have been) was one of convenience. Nevertheless, Maria became my Step Great x 4 Grandmother.
A Barratt by marriage (her previous married name was Church and her maiden name was Clarke) it is probably the reason why she tends to be overlooked by the majority. It is something which is both understandable and undeserving. From all appearances, Maria was an incredibly successful businesswoman who, far from being an ordinary housewife, in her own right, may have in fact further enhanced Enoch’s success in Western Australia.
Advertising for Maria’s business first appeared in the newspapers in July 1879, only two years after her marriage. She initially began as a wardrobe dealer and offered to buy, sell or exchange ladies’, men’s and children’s clothing as well other items.
Her store was located on Murray Street and the building itself was eventually called ‘Windsor House’ with advertisements featuring regularly in the newspapers. Five years later, along with conducting her business as a wardrobe dealer, Maria decided to try her hand at running the refreshment rooms at the Perth Railway Station. She acquired the unexpired lease to the rooms on 26 March 1884 at Mr George Thompson’s sale.
The lease was to expire in November of the same year but Maria wasn’t ready to give it up. She tendered (or, more likely, Enoch tendered) to the Western Australian Government to continue running the rooms and was successful; leasing them for an annual rental of £30. It seems she was the popular choice and much praise was given as to how she had previously conducted them.
She began advertising the railway refreshment rooms (calling herself the very personable name, Mrs B) but also sought to remind the public that her first business as a wardrobe dealer was still in existence.
By March of 1885 the advertising for the railway refreshment rooms had disappeared. It is presumed that Maria still ran the rooms up until November 1885 (the end of the lease) but it seems after this she may have given them up or was unsuccessful at tendering for them.
Not much is currently known about Maria’s childhood or her life with her first husband. With the ‘class’ system very much in existence during the 1800s and with the fact that she married Enoch (a labourer in his younger days and, although successful later on, still a convict) it’s assumed that she probably came from a background similar to his own. Perhaps her first husband was a convict? Perhaps she was a servant? For the moment I do not have the answers but evidence of her future actions leads me to believe that the possibility of her having once been a servant is incredibly likely. On 3 April 1888 it was reported in The Daily News that…
A long-felt want in Perth has at last been supplied by Mrs. M. Barratt, in the shape of a Female Servants’ Home and Registry Office.
It appears the Home that Maria established was the first of its kind in Perth. Located on Murray Street (close to the Barrack Street intersection) she provided lodging and board for female servants out of work and also had suitable premises which allowed ladies who were seeking domestic servants to interview candidates in comfortable surroundings.
Such an establishment surely would’ve been a blessing to servants who, while out of work, would’ve needed a safe place to sleep which, at the same time, didn’t cost them all that they owned. To me, it shows that Maria may have had some understanding and was empathetic towards the plight of servants.
From this point, future advertising for her business as a wardrobe dealer also included a brief line that she operated a registry office.
Throughout the years, just like any person who ran a shop, she also had to deal with thieves who would steal the items she placed on display out the front of the verandah. Blankets, clothing, crockery and even matches were found to have “disappeared” during the course of her business.
Apart from theft, the only other major event to occur was a fire which broke out on the night of 14 December 1892. She was 67 years old at the time and remarkably, still working as a wardrobe dealer from Windsor House. Though no explanation was given as to how or why the fire started, the fact that neighbours were quick on the scene may have saved both the building and the stock within.
Not to be deterred, Maria continued running her shop for another two years. It wasn’t until 6 October 1894 that notices from both Maria and Enoch were placed in the paper stating that the business had been sold and Maria was retiring.
She had successfully operated her business for about 15 years. The entire contents of Windsor House (including stock and fittings) was sold without reserve; it was the end of an era.
Enoch passed away on 14 December 1895 and it was perhaps because of his illness that the decision was made to sell. Maria lived for another 17 years after his death and throughout that time worked as a lodging house keeper at 676 Wellington Street. Old age resulted in her eventual retirement (this time for good) and she spent the remainder of her days in the Home of Peace in Subiaco. She passed away on 6 June 1912 and was buried beside Enoch in East Perth Cemetery.
No one that I’ve known has ever really spoken of Maria besides briefly mentioning that she had a shop. Because she is Enoch’s second wife and no children came of the marriage it is easy for her to be forgotten. Research however proves that her contribution to Enoch’s life, the Barratt family and Western Australia is far too interesting and great to be left behind on the shelf. She was a woman and instead of being delegated to housewife duties (like most women during this time), she took on business and was quite enterprising in all that she did. She may not have been my blood ancestor but I am still immensely proud to call her my Step Great x 4 Grandmother and more than happy to sing her praises of all that she achieved during her lifetime.
1879 ‘Advertising.’, The Inquirer & Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 6 August, p. 1 Supplement: The Inquirer., viewed 12 July, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article65956930
1884 ‘The Daily News. FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1884.’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 21 November, p. 3, viewed 13 July, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76214930
1884 ‘Advertising.’, The Herald (Fremantle, WA : 1867 – 1886), 18 October, p. 4, viewed 13 July, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109666409
1888 ‘NEWS OF THE DAY.’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 3 April, p. 3, viewed 26 July, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77396040
1892 ‘OUR SPECIAL MESSAGES.’, The Inquirer & Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 21 December, p. 7, viewed 26 July, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66310745
1892 ‘GENERAL NEWS.’, The Inquirer & Commercial News (Perth, WA : 1855 – 1901), 17 December, p. 5, viewed 26 July, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66305054
1894 ‘Advertising.’, The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 – 1950), 6 October, p. 1, viewed 26 July, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article76469532
The Western Australian Police Gazette (various).