Ellen Welch was born in Tottenham in 1878 and by 1896 she was married. In common with the custom of the period, no profession is given for the bride on her marriage certificate. What is interesting about her entry on the certificate was that her age was given as 21, the age of majority at that time. Brides who were not of legal age needed parental permission to marry but that would have been difficult in her case as her last remaining parent, her father, had died the month before the marriage. It seems her marriage at the age of 18 had the blessing of her family as her brother was one of the witnesses. But what had she been doing before she became a wife and when did her association with the serving side of pubs begin?
At the time of their wedding Henry Booth’s profession was given as waiter. In the previous census taken in 1891, about five years before the wedding, Henry was working as a barman at the St James Tavern in Westminster. How had Ellen and Henry met and then married in West Ham, a place remote from where they both started out? The mobility of serving staff as well as the proximity of men and women spending long hours in the common work of waiting on bar patrons makes it seem likely that they met in a pub where they were both serving staff. The theory of how their connection started out is also supported by the documents that trace Ellen and Henry’s lives together after their marriage as they moved through a series of public houses; a path that sheds light on the working life of people behind the bar.