Battersea Girl

Battersea Girl

Tracing a London Life


A couple of years ago, Martin Knight began a quest to delve into his family history. He had a head start on many amateur genealogists, as 30 years earlier he had produced a school project on the very subject. The project was based on the papers and oral history of his then elderly grandmother, Ellen Tregent. Martin dusted this off and began to assemble the chain of events that shaped his grandmother's life. He even made contact with several living relatives who had known Ellen or some of the people and events she described.

Ellen Tregent was born in 1888 and died in 1988 - her lifetime encompassing an unprecedented century of social change and world upheaval. She was born into a poor working-class family in Battersea, London. Her grandfather had arrived from Ireland 40 years earlier to escape almost certain death as potato famine ravaged his country.

In Battersea Girl, Martin Knight charts Ellen's long and eventful life and the lives of her siblings. They encounter abject poverty, disease, suicide, murder, war and inevitably death, but, equally, the spirit of stoical people who were determined to make the most of their lives shines through in this enchanting book.


  • By the end of the book I knew Nell so well, and I admired and loved her. I also knew what it was like to be a working-class woman before feminism had kicked in...absolutely fascinating
    Neil Dunn, author of Up the Junction

About the author

Martin Knight

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