2 February 2012

'Marie Antoinette Thomas', by Robert Hughes

Marie Antoinette Goffin was the wife of Samuel Thomas (1835-1912), and the couple were grandparents of Lionel Britton, the eccentric writer who has been the subject of much of Dr Tony Shaw's work.

Legend had it that Marie came from a proud Flemish family in Belgium, who would not accept the young salesman Samuel as a suitable suitor for their daughter, and that she was banished to a convent. From there she is said to have leapt over the wall, married Samuel Thomas and lived happily ever after in wedded bliss. They had 14 children, (according to at least two accounts), 10 of whom are fully documented and five of whom lived into their nineties.

What is still unclear is who were the Goffin family? This is a common surname in Belgium, particularly in Wallonia, where Samuel Thomas himself died. (At Erquelinnes).

Elsewhere on this blog is a lovely picture of my grandfather Bob Britton with his grandmother Marie, where they are almost certainly celebrating an occasion; perhaps Marie's 80th birthday.

We know that Marie spent the last days of her life in Brussels, the supposed 80th birthday picture was almost certainly taken there, and even my mother visited her great-grandmother in Belgium as an eight-year-old child. But where was this exactly, and how can we find out about Marie's family?

Now, thanks to a remarkable coup by my cousin David Guillaume, we have new information! He has seen a way to jog the memory of another cousin, Maurice Rogers, and Maurice has provided material which is very exciting: an envelope sent by Marie in what appears to be 1928.

The address was 11 Rue Hydraulique, Saint Josse. Below is an image of this property from 1993. We hope very much that it has not been knocked down to make way for one of the European Commission office blocks! (Number 11 is on the left).Now can anyone tell us something about this property and the family who lived there? Does anyone know someone who might have been part of the Goffin family?

A further clue is in a letter from Ida Thomas, who, before she died at 102 years old, wrote in a letter that after Samuel died her grandmother Marie Antoinette had gone to live in Brussels with her sister Therese, and that a niece or grand-niece was named Mercedes.

Please may we hear from any Goffin family who know anything about this, or anyone who knows about 11 Rue Hydraulique?

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