Re: Pearl Hood and Bernard Knight dancing teachers; HOOD and BRYANT families of Bromley; DRUMMOND family of Battersea


Can you help locate my half-sister?


Over the past few years I have become aware that I have a half-sister. Despite a lot of effort, I have been unable to obtain sufficient information even to discover her name.

But I believe the key to finding her is through Violet Isabella Hood (1886 - 1972) who for many years lived in Cambridge Road, Bromley and ran a kiosk outside Sundridge Park station selling sweets & tobacco. Violet by all accounts was something of a "Dell Boy" character (e.g. she was taken to court for falsifying ration coupons).

I would like to contact anyone who knew her, particularly during 1939 / 1940 - as I am sure she was instrumental in finding a new home for my half sister.

These are the facts that we have established beyond doubt:

My mother (Violet's neice) was Pearl Jessie Violet Hood, who lived in Worthing, Sussex (as did her whole maternal family) from 1934 until her death in 1979. Throughout that time she ran a dancing school in the town. It is known the school closed for the whole Summer of 1939, during which she was visiting her father's family in Bromley. In late Summer 1939 she was seen with a young baby girl in Bromley - but by the time she returned to Worthing in October 1939 the baby was nowhere to be seen.

During 1938 my mother was involved (professionally & personally) with Bernard Knight (1938 electoral register shows him living with my mother in Upper High Street, Worthing). This personal relationship broke down around the turn of the year 1938/9 when she met Norman Cumber (who was to become her first husband in August 1940). The professional relationship with Bernard Knight lasted until March 1939, when he is believed to have left Worthing.

The marriage to Norman Cumber broke down around the latter half of 1941; shortly after Pearl's mother's death; although they did not divorce until 1948 (presumably to allow her to marry my father, Stanley Wood, later that year).

We first learnt of the possibility of this half-sibling in early 1997 when I made contact with my mother's paternal family. Since then we have located five independant sources who confirm they either had met my mother with her daughter; or my mother had subsequently confided in them that she had given up a daughter. One of these sources said they believe the child was cared for by another member of the family.

We have also been told Bernard Knight had a daughter with whom he never had contact.

Pearl would continue to visit Violet regularly until her death in 1972 - they were often observed having secretive discussions. Pearl was very upset when Violet died.

Extensive searches of birth registrations have failed to locate the birth certificate under any obvious surname.

This is our best guess of what actually happened:

Pearl become pregnant by Bernard just as she ended her relationship with him & started her relationship with Norman. By the time she realised this for certain Bernard was already committed to leaving, and she didn't want Norman to find out about the pregnancy. The fact Norman was serving in the RAF meant he only got back to Worthing every so often, which gave Pearl the opportunity to deal with the situation without him knowing. She had to go away - with all her mother's family in Worthing this meant she had to go to her father's family in Bromley. She had the baby in Bromley, and then Violet organised placing the child with a suitable couple - possibly a second cousin of Pearl on her paternal grandmother's side. Violet assisted / persuaded falsifying the birth certificate as if the child was the natural child of this couple. Violet was then able to monitor the child & maintain progress reports to Pearl.

Many members of the Bromley Hood family attended the funeral of Pearl's mother in 1941, as did Norman Cumber. Directly or indirectly as a result of this contact Norman learnt of the secret child & left Pearl.

Suitable candidate "adoptive" family: I have traced all the descendants of Pearl's paternal grandfather's family - none of them show a child arriving in 1939. Unfortunately I have had much less success tracing Pearl's paternal grandmother's family's descendants. We know Elizabeth Roper was born in Frome in 1830; moving to Bromley in the late 1870s with her four children (one of whom was Pearl's grandmother). One of these three children is believed to have died as a child, leaving two other daughters: Rosa Roper married John Drummond c1879 - this family moved to Battersea  and Jane Beatrice Roper married Frederick Bryant c1896 - this family stayed in Bromley.

Unfortunately I have been unable to trace either of these families later than 1911.

I know this is a long shot. The child would now be 75 years old. But if anyone has any knowledge of Violet Hood, Bernard Knight, or of the Drummond or Bryant families, or indeed any snippet of information that might have any relevance please contact me.

You can mail me on: genius@the-wood-family.org.uk

Pearl HOOD - biographical notes