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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 café".    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.


  1. Very touching post. I too share the "not knowing" about my grandparents. Both maternal were gone before I was 6, and paternal were not in our lives. I like how you pulled together information to flesh them out for the reader. Great job!

  2. A most wonderful posts. You sure did an excellent job putting this together. I am very lucky to have known and lived my childhood with much of one set of grandparents!

  3. Thank you, Deb and Karen, for your lovely comments. I thought it might well be one of the posts written for my own pleasure and satisfaction, rather one that would appeal to other bloggers, . so I do appreciate you found time to give me your thoughst. Because I have focussed so much on my mother's side of the family, I am apt to forget about my father's parent and must do more research on my Weston and Matthews ancestry.

  4. This makes interesting reading.. I find that even though I was an adult when my grandparents died that it wasn't until I started to take an interest in family history that I really started to "know" them and to understand what was hidden behind the smiles. Now I wish I could just sit down and have a talk to them but it's much too late now.


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