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Thursday, 31 October 2013

Sepia Saturday - Family Homes Down the Generations

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs.

This week's theme is ancestral homes.




My Danson ancestral home - but not quite what I envisaged!

Trap Farm, Carleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde Lancashire, c.1998. 

 
Trap Farm, c.1998
My first knowledge of Trap Farm as my ancestral home came from obtaining the birth certificate of my great grandfather' James Danson.    I found the farm on the current Ordnance Survey Map and set out to find it on a visit to the Fylde c.1998.  


Situated amidst fields on what is now a busy road, it was a sorry sight - dilapidated and overgrown.


In the 1841 Census, 30 year old Henry (my great great grandfather) was living there with his wife Elizabeth (Calvert), five daughters - Betty, Grace, Mary, Margaret and Ellen, his much older brother Peter and two servants.

By the time of the 1851 Census,  it was a household of 13. Henry was described as a farmer of 31 acres. Eldest daughter (now married)  Elizabeth was there  with her three sisters and her husband Thomas Bailey, whilst second daughter Grace had left home.  But there were now two sons - John and Henry  plus Henry's brother  Peter and two servants.   How did they all fit into what looked a small farmhouse?  My great grandfather James, born 1852 at Trap Farm, plus another daughter Jane,  later completed the family.

By the time of the next census in 1861 the Danson family was no longer at Trap.

Two years ago I returned to Carleton,  fully expecting Trap Farm to be wiped off the map and replaced by a modern housing estate.   To my surprise it was still there, but was undergoing a transformation into a modern home.

I recently made contact with a third cousin whose great grandmother Elizabeth Danson, eldest daughter of Henry and Elizabeth,  was born at Trap Farm, and he sent me a more recent photograph.

Trap Farm in 2011


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I am the baby -
with my Dad in our back garden,  

My first home was a rented end-terraced house on the edge of Blackpool, Lancashire.  My memories are of open fires,  and an  icy front room used for special occasions (birthday parties, Christmas plus my piano lessons)  when the fire was lit.   The living room at the back was the hub of family life. 
 
The kitchen was small and basic,  It was rather dark and gloomy with a solid back door and little light getting in.   A pantry with a cupboard with a mesh door was the primitive fridge!    Washing (always on a Monday when my mother donned  a cross-over overall and put her hair in a turban),  was done by hand and then put through a mangle to dry either outside on the clothes line or  on an overhead pulley. The other alternative was a steaming clothes horse around the open fire.
  
As the end house of the terrace,  we had plenty of space down the side  for my brother and I to play - he in his  pedal car and myself with my tricycle and doll's pram.  I remember tall  pink and purple lupins in the garden and I pretended they were ladies at a ball and curtseyed and danced to them - but only when my brother was not around to tease me!

It was an event when we heard the rag and bone man passing by on his horse and cart.  We also had a lorry coming around selling drinks and it was a treat was to get  in a stone jar sarsaparilla- a forerunner of Coca Cola? 

We were one of the first people to get a television in 1953, so the house was crowded around it to watch the Queen's Coronation.  We also got a phone then, largely because my father worked away a lot and it was a way to keep in touch - so we felt we were living a modern life in the new Elizabethan age.
 
My "second" home was my grandfather's house, (right) which he bought in 1924 - I have the receipt for the deposit of £67.   It looks quite big, but, with only three small bedrooms, it must have still been a squash for parents, 3 daughters and two sons who all lived at home until they married. The front door had a round stained glass window which I thought was very posh. 

Half way up the side wall was a small door which revealed the coal chute where the coal men emptied  their sacks down into a small cellar under the stairs. My uncle later took on the hard task to clear it all out to create a much needed "glory hole". The side trellissed gate was later taken down and a driveway created to take my uncle's car.  The former hen house at the back then became the garage. 

The large gardens were my grandfather's and later uncle's joy - with floral displays in the  front and vegetables and fruit  grown at the back and the scene for many a family photograph. There was one surprising feature about the house, though - it did not have electricity until the late 1950's, because my grandfather refused to have it installed. I remember my aunt standing on a chair to light the ceiling gas lights, and ironing with a heated flat iron, and the flames from the gas cooker frightened me.

In 1954 we moved to our own semi-detached house not far away and my mother was delighted to have a Rayburn - a solid fuel cooker which she loved for making stews, soups, casseroles and baking - our home for two years before we were on the move again.
The village of Upper Poppleton (try saying it quickly!) was the scene of our next  home, near York when my father was transferred with his work from Lancashire to Yorkshire.


Home 1956-1961 at Upper Poppleton, near York.
This home  (left)  was going up in the world - a new build and detached. Instead of the two small downstairs rooms we now had a through lounge (all the fashion), fitted carpets, our first fridge and cumbersome  storage heaters to get at least some background heating. From the outside it hasn't changed much when this photograph was taken  a few years ago. 




1961 saw another move, this time north  to Edinburgh to a lovely  bungalow and our first central heating - bliss!  The colour scheme was rather strong - red units in the  kitchen and a bathroom with a yellow suite and black tiles, which my mother  could not wait to get rid of.  This was the last of my childhood homes - but all left me with happy memories I am pleased to share here.  


In our garden at Edinburgh - a family group photograph taken
before I set off for a year in the USA.


Adapted from a post of 2011
 

CLICK HERE TO SEE OTHER BLOGGERS' ANCESTERAL HOMES
 



Friday, 25 October 2013

Sepia Saturday 200 - A Stretcher Bearer in the Field


Fun, quirky, informative, nostalgic, poignant  -  all descriptions of so many Sepia Saturday challenges and contributions. 

When I first saw this week's prompt,  one  of my previous posts immediately came to mind.  It is one that I was proud to write  and I valued the comments I received - what was it?   The story of my Great Uncle George. a stretcher bearer in the First World War.  He died at the Somme in 1916, a week after his 22nd birthday - and three weeks after he sent a letter home.   It seems also particularly appropriate to feature it,  as we near Remembrance Sunday.     Here it is again, with some further  images to complete the tribute.


********

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs.

This week's prompt shows the  kitchen of a hospital train in the First World War



"I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field."  

These were the words of my great uncle George Danson, written three weeks before he was killed on the Somme. 

One of the many embroidered cards sent from Flanders by her sons 
 to my widowed great grandmother, Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.  

George Danson was the youngest of eight sons (surviving infancy) of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  Born in 1894, he was followed three years later by the birth of an only daughter Jennie.  The photographs and memorabilia here come from Jennie's collection.




George (above) was the favourite uncle of my mother and aunt,  and they had fond memories of him, perhaps because he was nearest to them in age and took on the role of the big brother. I can see why in the photograph of him above.  George worked on W.H. Smith bookstalls at different railway stations in Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

George joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1916 and I was lucky enough to trace his service record on www.ancestry.co.uk  as many were destroyed  in the Second World War.  On his enlistment,  George's  medical report stated he was 5'3" tall,  weighed 109 lbs. (under 8 stone), with size  34 1/2 chest and he wore glasses - so a slight figure to be a stretcher bearer in the turmoil of war.


Also amongst the family papers were two letters written on  headed paper of the British Expeditionary Force.  A letter of 19th March 1916 to his eldest brother Robert said "I will tell you one thing it is no easy job the army life today and I am of the opinion as most of the chaps are here they won't be sorry when it is all over."

The second letter of 23rd August 1916 was to Frank, the brother nearest to him in age:

 "At present we are abut 8 miles behind the firing line. I had to assist the wounded at a dressing station and stuck to it for about 40 hours. It's blooming hard work being a stretcher bearer in the field. On Friday I was in a big bombardment and will say it was like a continual thunder and lightening going off. As I write there are blooming big guns going off abut 50 yards away every few minutes. Don't I wish that all of us could get home. Wouldn't that be great, lad, there's a good time coming and I hope we shall all be there to join in."
 Three weeks later, and a week after his 22nd birthday,  George was killed on 16th September 1916 at the Battle of the Somme, and buried in the Guards Cemetery, Les Boeufs, near Albert.
 
 


 A photograph, sent to his mother,  of George's grave.  
It conveys in a stark way the reality of war amid the mud and blood that George must have experienced - and contrasts with the pristine white of the more lasting memorials that we recognise today. 

 



George remembered on Poulton War Memoral  along with his brother John who died in 1917.

 I have written about George before on my blog but it is such a poignant tale,
that  I make no apologies for telling it again.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE 200 ANNIVERSARY MEMORIES  FROM FELLOW SEPIANS


 



Monday, 21 October 2013

The Book of Me - My Maternal Grandparents

This post was prompted by Julie at Anglers' Rest  and  her  series " Book of Me - Written by You", where she asks  us to write about our Grandparents.


 If the best family histories should be "rich in detail", my mother's Danson family fit the bill, and has been a source of many blog posts.  I grew up with my mother's relatives and regard Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire  as my spiritual home.   Also the collection of old photographs at my grandfather's house was a great stimulus to finding  out more about the people who featured in them.


 


 My maternal grandparents - William Danson and Alice English -

 in a photograph taken at my parent's wedding in 1938
 
Alice with Edith, Kathleen,
Harry  & baby Billy,
c.1916.

Grandad - William Danson (18851962)  was the fifth of ten sons and
one daughter of James Danson and Maria Rawcliffe of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  In 1907 as a 22 year old labourer, he married Alice English and then went on to have six children - Edith, Kathleen (my mother), George (who only survived six weeks), Harry, Billy and  after the First World War Peggy.  


During the First World War Grandad fought at the Battleof  Passchendaale and won the Military Medal at Givenchy. He sent back from Flanders a wonderful collection of postcards that remain among my family treasures and feature on many of my blog postings.

Like many of those who had experienced the horrors of the First World War, he would never talk about this time.  He lost two brothers  during the war - John and George.














  


In 1924 the family moved from a small terraced house in the  centre of Poulton  to a new 3 bedroomed semi-detached house, bought on the deposit of  £67 - I have the receipt.  It looks quite big, but, with only three small bedrooms, it must have still been a squash for parents, 3 daughters and two sons.  The front door had a round stained glass window which I thought was very posh. 
 
It was here, as a treat, I was shown the shoebox of old family photographs and memorabilia kept in a cupboard to the side of the fireplace - the beginning of my family history journey.  
 
Outisde half way up the side wall was a small door which revealed the coal shute where the coal men emptied  their sacks down into a small cellar under the stairs - this was great excitement to see as a child. The side trellised gate was later taken down and a driveway created to take my uncle's car.  I remember the former hen house at the back and collecting eggs there. This later became the site of the garage.  The large gardens were my grandfather's and later uncle's joy - with floral displays in the  front and productive vegetables and fruit  grown at the back.  The  front garden was the  setting for many of the family photographs in my collection.    
 
There was one surprising feature about the house, though - it did not have electricity until the late 1950's, because my grandfather refused to have it installed. I remember my aunt standing on a chair to light the ceiling gas lights, and ironing with a heated flat iron, and the flames from the gas cooker frightened me.
 
On  all official records, Grandad was described as a "labourer".   He worked in the Auction mart in Poulton, before it was closed down and I remember being taken by him there, before it closed down.  He later worked at the ICI chemical works at Thornton, near Fleetwood.   Left -  he is the seated figure.
 
 Granddad was a country man at heart, and  he would walk everywhere rather than take a bus.  He never owned a car. My main memory of him was taking my brother and I   out on a Sunday afternoon down lanes and across fields, before the land was developed for housing, showing us rabbit burrows and helping me collect items for the Nature Table at school.  Our Sunday treat from him was a bag of pear drops and I can picture  him dressed in his Sunday suit, with waistcoat and pocket watch.
 
 
Alice English - could this be a wedding photo,
given she is wearing a corsage?
Grandmother Alice English (1884-1945) I never knew,  and she remains the proverbial "brick wall" of my family history research, as I have not been able to trace her birth certificate. 
 
My mother and aunt were surprisingly reticent about her, though her photograph (right) was on display in both homes. I failed to ask the right questions at the right time, and ended up with vague and conflicting information. 

Was she born in Manchester or Bolton? There were stories that her mother had been a matron, with some Irish connections; that Alice was orphaned and her uncle went off to America with her money and never called on her to join him, as arranged. 
 
Alice went to Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire as
nursemaid to the Potts family, prominent local Methodists and was confirmed at St. Chad's Parish Church in 1904 (I have her prayer book from that occasion). 





 
I did know (from the marriage certificate) that she married Grandad  at St. Chad's Church when Alice was 22 and her father's name was given as Henry, a painter (deceased), plus I was always told we shared the same birthday - September 23rd.    Her age on the  death certificate confirms her year of birth   - and that is all I know.  

 
Despite many years of hunting and using a professional researcher, I have been unable to trace a birth certificate for Alice to find out at least the name of her mother. I cannot link an Alice born in Lancashire 23rd September 1884 with a father Henry, a painter, and have gone down several fruitless paths. 

Sadly Alice had  cataracts causing blindness - something that with today's modern medicine  can so easily be sorted - and she died in 1945.          



It would have been lovely to have known my grandmother Alice, as my mother and aunt Edith spoke so well of her.  Her home became my second  home as we were frequent callers there to see Granddad until we moved across country with my father's work.  It remained the family home for over 70 years, lived in  by my unmarried aunt and uncle until their deaths in 2001. My mother's Danson family played an important part of my own life and I am very grateful for that close link. 
 
William and Alice, c.1916

My grandmother Alice, with her three daughters
Edith, Peggy and Kathleen (my mother), c 1940
My grandparents (centre) William, Alice with their children
Edith, Peggy, Harry and Kathleen
with youngest son Billy missing from the  family group c.1940
 
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


 


Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Book of Me - My Paternal Grandparents


This post was prompted by Julie at Anglers' Rest  and  her  series " Book of Me - Written by You", where she asks  us to write about our Grandparents.

Sadly I only really knew, as a child,   my mother's father, so grandparents did not play a significant part in  my life.


My blog has concentrated very much on my mother's Danson and Rawcliffe family in Lancashire, largely I think because I grew up with my mother's relatives and regard Poulton-le-Fylde as my spiritual home.   Also the collection of old photographs at my grandfather's house was a great stimulus to finding  out more about the people who featured in them.  If the best family histories should be "rich in detail "my Lancashire ancestors fitted the bill. 


In contrast we lived some distance away from my father's family in the English Midlands  and only saw my grandmother, aunt and uncles once or at the most twice  a year.  Few in the family had a telephone which was regarded as "for emergencies only". Although my father  was a regular correspondent , and talked about his childhood, anything further back was very nebulous.  Sadly there was hardly any family memorabilia, which had been thrown out on the death of his eldest brother. 

Against this background, my father's family always remained shadowy and one dimensional with little beyond facts gleaned from basic  research.
 


My paternal grandparents - Albert Ernest Weston (1876-1945) and Mary Barbara Matthews (1876-1958)  
This is the only photograph I have of my grandfather Weston,  taken  after my parent's wedding in 1938.  


Grandfather Weston was born  in West Bromwich. Stafrodshire in 1876, the son of  John Thomas Weston, an agricultural labourer and Sarah Ann Jones.  In the 1901 census he was described as en "engine driver stationary"  at 24 years old  living at home with his parents - his father was then a bAcksman in a colliery.

In 1903 Albert married Mary Barbara Matthews.  

The  1911 census listed the young Weston family living at 33 Lunt Lane, Lunt Gardens, Bilston, Staffordshire.  In the household was  34 year old Albert  Ernest , a stationary engine driver,  born in West Bromwich,  his wife Mary aged 34, born Bilston,  son Frederick Harry aged 5 , daughter Madeleine (always known as Madge)  1 year old, both born Bilston  and Albert's brother Charles Henry, at 26 a boiler rivetter, born Wolverhampton.

My father was born a year later in 1912 and a younger son Eric Charles three years later.

The address of Lunt "Gardens" seemed to be a of a misnomer, as Wolverhampton Archives identified it as the site of the Sewerage Works.   Bilston was a heavily industrialised area.  In 1897 John Batholmew's "Gazetteer of the British Isles" described it as a

"great centre of hardware trade -- iron and brass castings, tin and japanned wares, &c., with extensive iron foundries and smelting works, and potteries. In vicinity are productive coal and ironstone mines, also an abundance of fine sand for casting, and a very hard stone suitable for grindstones."  


The Weston family seemed to move around the Midlands a lot, presumably with Albert's work, living in Leamington Spa,  Stockton, near Rugby (1915 when  Charles was born),   Broseley in Shropshire (1919),  back to Wolverhampton (1930) and then Leicester(1932).  I recall Nana Weston claiming she had lived in 17 houses.
 
For my father, growing up in Broseley was special and it is thanks to him writing down his early memories that I have this  profile of my grandfather.   Shropshire Archive's and Broseley Historical Society also provided me with valuable information on the area, though non specific to my grandfather.

The famous bridge opened in 1779, across the River Severn .
linking Broseley and Ironbridge, 
 
"Dad worked at Coalbrookdale, in the power house.  It  was a 35 minutes walk, no buses. On a Sunday if Dad was working on what he called “grinding the vales in”, I came home from church at noon and had to set off to the works with his dinner, come back for mine and the go to Sunday school and church at night.We lived in  a detached 3 bedroom house and unique since it had an indoor flush toilet. The house was next door to the Wesleyan Chapel.  Dad bought some land and it was completely walled, it made an excellent garden, as I well know.  Charles was too young, Fred was at night school,  so I was the one to “suffer”. 
 
"We had a “palace” organ double keyboard, Mum was very musical and Dad, who so far as I know, had never had a music lesson, played in Coalbrookdale Brass Band, he could also play the violin.  From time to time Mum would play the organ on a Sunday night and Dad the violin and we would sing hymns"
 
Grandfather Weston died in 1945.   According to my father, he  never got over the fact his youngest son Charles was a Prisoner of War, captured by the Japanese.

My paternal grandmother (known as Nana) - Mary Barbara Matthews  - below a lovely portrait of her as a handsome young woman.


 
 I was always told that my grandmother's parents John Matthews and Matilda Simpsonews were prominent Methodists, but my early research has not come up with any background information to confirm  this.

 


In the 1881 census, Mary was  5 years old living with her parents (above)  and sisters Alice and Fanny and brothers  John and Arthur.  Ten years on there were three more children in the family - Annie, Samuel and Harry, with 15year old Mary described as "helping in shop".  Her father was an insurance agent and mother a shopkeeper. 

By 1901  another son James completed the family and 25 year old Mary was now working as "barmaid in a cafĂ©".    Two years later she married Albert Weston.  

 


 
After the death of her husband in 1945, Nana made her home with her daughter, my Auntie Madge.  On our annual family holidays to the south coast,  we always stopped overnight to visit Nana, but I must admit my memory of her is very sketchy.  She died in 1958 at the age of 82. 

And that sums up what a know about my paternal grandparents - sad that in many ways I know so little about them, as  they are part of me, and I surely must have inherited some of their characteristics.

 

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Sepia Saturday: Dressing Up is Fun!

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs


This week's prompt invites us to put on a show and take to the stage.  I have  nothing particularly historical I my collection, but here is a photograph of my mother dressed up - for what?   I have no idea! 



My mother is the second figure in from the left - looking very trim and elegant even in that boyish costume. 
But what are they dressed up for?  There is a  clue on the back - with the name of  a photographer in Stirling (Scotland). That means it was taken  after 1961 when we moved north from England.  I do know that Mum went  to Stirling to take part in some regional events for the Townswomen's Guild - or was it WRI (Women's Rural Institute) -  and these clearly are all women.  Was it a play?  Mum was never interested in acting and I cannot see her delivering lines in a play. But she enjoyed singing and joined a choir wherever we lived.  So so was it a choral performance?    Italian or Spanish, judging by the costumes?  Is that a bride & groom in the centre with the "priest" alongside. Gilbert & Sullivan's "Gondoliers" came to mind, but there are no gondolier hats.  I shall never know! 

 **********

My first stage performance  was at a Brownie's concert when, clutching our teddies,  we sang "The Teddy Bear's Picnic". Another year we were dressed in green tights and a green tunic top with green and yellow crepe paper headdresses and collars  to do a group recitation of "Wordswiorth's poem "To  the Daffodils".  The mind boggles at what we looked like!   In those days, no photograph was taken to record this happy scene!
 

Below is a prelude to an outdoor stage performance at the village gala day at Staining, near Blackpool in the 1950's/  But it was raining, so we gathered in the church hall for a photograph.   I am the little one of the junior dancers fifth back on the left.  We were obviously very well trained, all  standing the same way - feet together and skirts held out at the same angle. 

Our dresses were apple greens satin,  with silver cardboard headdresses and our shepherd crooks garlanded with crepe paper flowers. For me, the  worst aspect was the torture the night before of having my hair put into rags, in the hope I would end up with ringlets the next day. 
 
 **********
 
High School introduced me to Gilbert & Sullivan (also a favourite of my mother's)   and I was "hooked", singing in most of the operas over the years.  Today G & S has fallen out of favour with young ones, but it was such fun, happy to sing, even better to take part in a production (I always loved playing at dressing up)  and I defy anyone not to feel uplifted afterwards. 
 

Here I am in the opening chorus of "Patience" which is a skit on Oscar Wilde and the aesthetic  movement. I am one of the  "20 lovesick maidens we " - second standing figure  on the right, plucking my cardboard lyre.
 
Our affections and affectatiosn change and by the end of the show we are have forsaken our medieval drapery  for brighter everyday garb  - mine  (third from the right) was rather a garish red stuart tartan dress with a bustle and lots of ruffles which I was told to take home and press - a pain to do. 
 
 
 At University, I joined the  Savoy Opera Group and the annual G & S performances were the highlight of my year.  I loved taking part in them - the dressing up (the girls made their own costumes), the singing and some dancing, plus the camaraderie and friendships built up over intensive rehearsals.   We thought we were great! 
 
 
 
A programme signed by the cast and production team



As one of the bridesmaids in the  opening chorus from "Ruddigore". Most of the show photographs were taken during the dress rehearsal on the Saturday afternoon (opening night Monday)  - and you can tell here that the stage crew still had a lot of painting to do to turn the set into a Cornish cottage.  
 

In "Yeoman of the Guard" with another unfinished set.
 
 

 I  am one of these "Dainty little fairies, tripping hither, tripping thither" in the opening chorus of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta "Iolanthe" -Our dresses were in  shades of blue and green chiffon with silver trim at the waist, and of course wings, plus  a cloche hat covered in petals, and heavy eyeshadow. I am in the deep green dress left of centre.  

In the public gallery in "Trial by Jury", recyling  costumes from previous productions.
 
 



My favourite "Pirates of Penzance" - and my last production


The company - In "HMS Pinafore"


The shows were such great fun to take part in and look back on  -
I wouldn't have missed  them for the worlds .
And I can still remember so much of the words and music! 

Click HERE to see other performances from fellow Sepians.