Saturday, 23 February 2013

Sepia Saturday - Families Together

 Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.

This week's prompt was of an unknown family group.  I have chosen to focus on families together, beginning with a tale of my mystery photograph - it took 12 years for me to confirm who it was!

This photogrpah came to me  in 2000 from the  collection of my great aunt Jennie Danson, daughter of Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.  Maria was one of five surviving sisters.  Jennie had identified so many of her many photographs, it was frustrating to find this photo unnamed. But it must have meant something at sometime to have been kept.  By a process of elimination I suspected  from  the family composition and ages of the children, it could well be sister Alice, her husband John Mason, eldest daughter Jane Elizabeth who never married and two younger children. possibly Florence and Harold.   They had 11 children in total - 6 in Fleetwood, Lancashire and 5 in Brooklyn, New York.  The family emigrated to America 1886-7 but there was nothing to indicate where the photograph had been taken.
Despite a stream of pleas on  website messaqge boards,  I got nowhere, until a blog posting on my mystery photograph at long last  produced results and I was contacted by the granddaughter of Florence (above) who had a copy of the  very same photogrpah but identified as taken in New York.  My newly found third cousin Bonnie also provided me with an update of the  family group, (below)  with Florence and Harold front right, and eldest sister Jane back left.  Taken in 1920's. 
A wonderful find - so take heart, have patience and you could be successful in identifying your mystery photograph.  
Below is another sister of Alice and Maria - Jane who married George Riley.  She is pictured here with four generations of her family - son George (left), grandson Jack (right) and baby George Robert who sadly died in infancy.   The photograph came to me from internet contact  Michael, a Riley descendant.  
Here c.1908  is the third sister Maria, my great grandmother,  with her daughter Jennie - the youngest and only daughter of eleven children (9 surviving infancy).  The little child  at the front is Maria's granddaughter Annie Maria Danson, whose mother died from TB when Annie was only one year old.  and she and her father John  made their  home with Maria.  Sadly John died during the First World War, leaving Annie an orphan at a young age.
 I love this group photograph of my grandmother  Alice Danson, nee English (who I never knew) with her children Edith, Kathleen (my mother), Harry and baby Billy.  Taken 1916 when my grandfather William Danson was marching out to war.
And to bring us more up to date a typical 1950's family - my parents with myself and brother Christopher - probably taken by my aunt who often joined us on outings. By today's standards, we are very formally dressed for a picnic, with my father wearing a jacket, collar & tie and my mother a stylish dress and necklace.   I am in my school blazer and note my  Clark sandals that all little girls seemed to wear then.   


Click HERE to discover other mystery photographs and family groups  

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

My Dad's Broseley Boyhood - Sentimental Sunday

Blogging has taken a back seat recently, as I have been working on a narrative about my Dad's early years.

My father John Percy Weston was born in Bilston, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire  on 15th April 1912 -  a momentous date in many ways  as that was the night the "Titanic" sank on its  maiden voyage.    

A year earlier at the time of the 1911 census, the Weston family was living at 33 Lunt Lane, Lunt Gardens, Bilston, Staffordshire.   Despite its rural sounding name, Lunt Gardens was the site of the sewerage works as depicted in images obtained from Wolverhampton Archives.  

The family seemed to move around the Midlands a lot, presumably with my grandfather Albert Weston's work, living in Leamington Spa,  Stockton, near Rugby, Warwick and Broseley, Shropshire.    I recall Nana Weston claiming she had lived in 17 houses. 

Apart from being a lifelong supporter of the Wolves football team, Dad always regarded his home town, not as Wolverhampton which he left when he was about 3 years old, but Broseley, near Ironbridge, Shropshire. He was proud to belong to this historic centre of England's Industrial Revolution.

Dad always had an interest in journalism and it was a familiar sight to see him seated at the typewriter.  In later life he was a regular contributor of  letters to local newspapers and prepared talks on a variety of topics  to present  to local societies.  I persuaded him to write down his memories and Dad's own words form the basis of this family history narrative which concentrates on his Broseley boyhood and then his war experiences.  He would have loved the world of blogging!

The famous bridge opened in 1779.
linking Broseley and Ironbridge, 
Broseley was a thriving settlement on the banks of the River Severn near the coalfields of Coalbrookdale. In the 18th and 19th centuries it developed into a major centre  for coal mining, iron manufacture, distinctive roof and wall bricks, decorative tiles, earthenware manufacture including clay pipes. In the early 19th century ironstone replaced coal as the main product of the parish's mines. Many of the developments celebrated by the world heritage sites of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums started in Broseley or were connected to the town.

Dad wrote: "We lived in a a house that was unique since it had an indoor flush toilet.....   Dad worked at Coalbrookdale, in the power house. It was 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."
In compiling  this tribute, I was very grateful for the contribution of both  Shropshire Archives and Broseley Local History Society whose website featured transcriptions from the local newspaper at the time the Weston family lived  in the town.   Dad sung in the local choir from the age of seven, and the frequent reports on church activities present a picture of what Dad could have well been involved in.

All Saints Parish Church, Broseley
Dad's Prayer Book (left) pressnted by the
Rev. Jackson (above)

On his school life, Dad recalled " The deputy head was very good (he had been gassed in the war).  He was keen on poetry and I enjoyed it, he had us do the Merchant of Venice.  I was Bassanio.  I was very fond of him which, of course, made me listen to what he had to say".  In later life, Dad could still recite his favourite poems, often in dramatic tones.  Shropshire Archives provided me with entries from the School Log book relevant to Dad's time at school, including his role as vice-captain of the school football team.

Football was Dad's key interest and I have told his story in A Pigeon Sent the News  and  also in My Dad's Football Photo Discovered,  how a member of Broseley Local History Society provided me with my earliest picture of Dad  in 1926 (left).   

Dad remained an ardent football supporter all his life, following matches regularly on television; his favoured teams Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wolves) and Aston Villa.  He was very proud of footballer William Ambrose "Billy" Wright, who was born in Ironbridge and   known as "The Ironbridge Rocket".  Billy Wright was never cautioned or sent off by a referee and was the first football player in the world to earn 100 caps. 

For a bank holiday outing Dad wrote  "When I was about ten [c. 1922],  Charles, myself, Dad and Mum went by train to Bridgenorth.  We  had a boat trip on the River Severn and later walked the 6 miles back home".

The local newspaper transcriptions online  again  give  a fascinating insight into the lives  of ordinary people  and included    district council and county council reports, court cases, concerts, dances, whist drives, activities of local clubs, church services and social events, fulsome details of marriages and funerals. etc. I used some   typical entries to illustrate what life was like in Broseley  in the 1920's when the Weston family was  living there,  such as letters of complaint regarding the "disgracful state of the public cesspits, cleansing of the streets and state of the roads" and  a report on a Charleston dance competition to a jazz band accompaniment. 


Dad left school at the age of 14  "I went to work at the grocers, where still at school I had been an errand boy and also worked on Saturdays with time off for soccer.  The main assistant was 19 and one morning as I passed the shop,  he asked me if would help him move some bags of corn, I did and he gave me a bag of biscuits,  so that was my introduction.  I then went out with him delivering orders (we sold bags of corn 80 plus pounds).  The pony, a Welsh cob named Tommy, was inclined to be lazy.  After time,  I did the deliveries with Tommy and the trap.  At night time I rode him bareback to a field!     This was  a surprising memory as Dad never gave any indication later in life of having the slightest interest or affinity with horses!    Kelly' Directory of Broseley for 1926 listed the shop at 84 High Street  where Dad worked until the family left the town in 1929. 

Dad gave a full account of his working life in Leicester, Liverpool and then Blackpool as a commercial traveller and the "digs" he stayed in.   For a laugh,  take a look at A Hair Raising Drive  where he desribes  his first 90 mile journey behind the wheel. 

Dad (left) with his brother Charles

In Blackpool, A Dance Floor Meeting tells in Dad's own words how he met my mother. 

And the rest is another story!

Dad and Mum (left) at their wedding in 1938.

 Watch this space for the second part of this narrative which looks at Dad's account of   "My War 1940-1946." 

This has been a very enjoyable, and at times moving experience to read Dad's own words and create a story of his "Broseley Boyhood - Before  and After".  I am proud to have at long last made this tribute for myself and my brother and our own children.


Sunday, 17 February 2013

A Week of Two Seasons

Here in Earlston in the Scottish Borders we have had the delight of two seasons in a week  and I could not resist showing what a lovely part of the world I live in. 
Taken Wednesday 13th February on Speedy's Path in the Cowdenknowes Wood. Speedy is said to have been a tramp who lived in the woods.
The postman adding a splash of colour.
What a change - Sunday 18th February 
 and a lovely spring day
to bring out the gardeners and  walkers.
Speedy''s Path again in a different light.
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Sepia Saturday - Broseley Clay Pipes

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.


I was puzzling over this prompt.  I dismissed the idea of focusing on military caps, as I don't know enough about the different types (and didn't have time to research them).  I also know nothing  about tortoises, though I have a vague memory that we once had one as children, but it quickly disappeared. 

Which left "Pipes" - and inspiration struck!  Why not tell the story of Broseley Clay Pipes?  
Dad as vice captain
of Broseley School Football Team, 1926.

My father John Percy Weston) grew up in Broseley, Shropshire, near the famous Ironbridge - the birthplace of England's Industrial RevolutionBy the beginning of the 17th Century, Broseley was a thriving settlement on the banks of the River Severn near the coalfields of Coalbrookdale.   In the 18th and 19th centuries it developed into a major centre for coal mining, iron manufacture, distinctive roof and wall bricks, decorative tiles, earthenware manufacture including clay pipes.   In the early 19th century ironstone replaced coal as the main product of the parish's mines. Many of the developments celebrated by the world heritage sites of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums started in Broseley or were connected to the town. 
River Severn flowing between Broseley and Ironbridge
Photograph by my brother Chris Weston
pipe.gif (1134 bytes)Broseley's clay tobacco heritage stretched back over 400 years.  The industry prospered  as raw materials - clay and coal for the kilns - were in plentiful supply.  The town became the centre of the British pipe-making industry and achieved a reputation for quality pipes  which came to be acknowledged worldwide. The name Broseley was synonymous with clay tobacco pipes and "Will you take a Broseley" was a phrases much in use. Broseley church warden pipes, 26" to 28" in length were supplied to inns and coffee houses in London. Millions of clay pipes were produced every year, before the industry declined as late as the 1950s.
Pigot's Directory of 1828-9 lists nine pipe makers in Broseley,  including Wm Southern & Co. 
This company had been established in 1823 and by 1890 the factory employed 90 people.  It  finally closed its doors in 1957 and its  premises in King Street  are now a pipeworks museum,
Sign, Broseley Pipe Museum - Broseley photos, Broseley photography

Broseley Pipe Museum - Broseley photos, Broseley photography
Clay pipes, Broseley - Broseley photos, Broseley photography


Furher Facts About Broseley - courtesy of Broseley Local History Society.

·       A  large part of the first Boulton & Watt steam engine was made at  John Wilkinson's iron works at Willey, near Broseley. John Wilkinson described himself as Ironmaster of Broseley.
·       Many of the cannon with which Admiral Nelson worn the Battle of Trafalgar were cast and machined by John's Wilkinson's. 
·       John Wilkinson built the world's first iron boat. On its launch, it surpassed sceptics, by not sinking!
·       John Guest and Peter Onions, great names in the iron industry of South Wales came from Broseley.
·       John Randall (1810-1910), painter of Coalport china and a geolgist was born in Broseley.
My father was very proud of his Broseley heritage -
though he never smoked a pipe!

The famous 100 feet span of the Ironbridge, linking Broseley  and Ironbridge, completed in 1779.   My grandfather Albert Ernest Weston had a 35 minute walk (one way), crossing the bridge to Coalbrookdale where he worked in the Power House.  Photograph by my brother Chris Weston.
CLICK HERE to find out how other bloggers put their thinking caps
for  this week's photo prompt.    

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Sepia Saturday: Snowy Tales

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.
This week we have a snowy theme - very appropriate as it was snowing when I began writing this post.

I live in Earlston in the Scottish Borders and here is an old photograph of the Red Lion pub in the Square.  The driver of this unusual sledge seems to be dressed very formally in a top hat and is not particularly well  wrapped up against the elements.  And who was he waiting for?  There does not seem to be any path cleared through the snow from  the pub.  Or was it a promotional photograph? 
From the collection of the Heritage Hub, Hawick.
An idyllic snowy picture of Selkirk c.1925.  from the collection of the Heritage Hub, Hawick

I have no winter photographs of my childhood - cameras must have been reserved for summer and I  can't say I have any memorable weather memories from my childhood - I was too young to recollect the dreadful winter of 1947.    I grew up in north-west England where winters were relatively mild, but this was the days before tights and girls then did not wear trousers. A Liberty bodice, skirt with short socks (short trousers for my brother), homeknitted jumpers and pixie hood, wellington boots, gloves kept safe on string through my sleeves, plus a long scarf criss crossed over my chest and tied at the back - this was the ritual dress for going out in winter in my early 1950's childhood. I hated Liberty bodices - the rubber buttons were difficult to do and undo, and if the day got warmer you ended up all sticky inside them. 
My daughter was born in January so an unfortunate time for planning parties.   Here she is on her 4th birthday - not looking too happy outside our home  in Hawick in the Scottish Borders.   She follows my childhood trend of having gloves on a string1  
 I spent a wonderful  year 1965-66  working in Cambridge, Massachussets near Boston and this photograph brings back memories of the kind of winter I had not experienced before -  here in a picturesque image of  Harvard Chapel.
The pleasures of having a dog in winter 2010  in the Sottish Borders.
Winter 2010 - the frozen Rriver Teviot at Hawick, Scottish Borders


A heron - a familiar site on the River Slitrig in Hawick

And finally a fun snow picture of  me perched on top on  of my husband's  car.  It was taken in 1971 in the first flush of engagement as he would not normally countenance anyone sitting on his car. But at least he spread a blanket for me to sit on.   Note the 1970's fashion statement - peter pan collar, mini skirt, and striped coat!  
Click HERE to see how other bloggers have ploughed their way through snow this week

Friday, 1 February 2013

Sepia Satuirday - How We Got About

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.

I have no bicycle photographs in my collection  and  have exhausted hats and caps lately with previous Sepia Saturday postings.  So I have  gone along another pathway  by looking at different ways of getting about.  Some of these  photographs have appeared before in my blog, but may not have been seen by more recent readers. 

A carter in Newcastleton, Roxburghsire in the Scottish Borders. 
From the postcard collection at the Heritage Hub, Hawick.

How many of us have carter ancestors?  This was the occupation of my great great grandfather Robert Rawcliffe of Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. 
 The old Peebles Railway Station in the Scottish Borders, c. 1908. 
From the postcard collection of the Heritage Hub, Hawick.

Peebles is 27 miles south of Edinburgh and the first passenger trains ran there in 1855, ceasing in 1962. The site of the station is now a car park.  

Tommy Roger, born c. 1845, Ironbridge, Shropshire
The famous Ironbirdge, built in 1779, can be seen on the left of the picture. My father John Weston grew up in Broseley on the other side of the river from Ironbridge, and this photograph was found in the collection of his older brother Fred.

You might be wondering, where is the mode of transport is  here? Well, it is on the back of Thomas Rogers, coracle maker of Ironbridge in Shropshire. A coracle is a small, lightweight boat with a loosely woven frame traditionally covered in animal hide, but in more recent times calico, canvas and coated with a substance such as bitumen.    When the Iron Bridge was opened in 1779 locals objected to paying the tolls, so they used their coracles to cross the river instead.

Tommy Roger  was well known as a poacher and the local newspaper reported  his appearance in court on poaching charges.   He also  helped to build the new police  cells and court room in Ironbridge in 1862 - only to be one of the first people to use them.  

Waiting for the Bus
Not a very good photograph, but the man on the left in the peak cap is my great uncle Bob,  a postman in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, standing by the bus ready to take passengers into Blackpool.  I don't know if I would feel all that safe on the top of this vehicle. 

 Charbanc ride, c. 1920's
I know next to nothing about this photograph. It was in the collection of my Great Aunt Jennie of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, and judging by the style of dress e.g. cloche hats it must have been taken in the 1920's. There was no inscription on the reverse, but the photographer/publisher was identified as Arthur Hadley, Photographer, Ramsey, Isle of Man. This could be a clue, as one of Jennie's many brothers. Albert, worked on the Isle of Man ferry between Fleetwood, Lancashire and the Isle of Man.

I like it as a happy holiday photograph, though  again I wonder how safe I would find the vehicle with so many people on it. I could imagine someone might need to get out and push, if going up hills!

My father John Weston and his brother Charles c. 1936.
I cannot resist sharing again my father's memory of his first car. I was lucky that he wrote down for me stories of his life in "Family Recollections". Dad was a commercial traveller and in the 1930's got a new job with instructions to pick up a car at Derby and drive 90 miles north to a position in Blackpool. He had never driven before and here is his tale of his first hair-raising journey.

"I had never driven a car before. On Boxing Day, I went to the British School of Motoring and said I wanted some urgent lessons. When I told the instructor I was driving to Blackpool the next day, he nearly had a fit. I collected my car - a four door Morris saloon which I was expected to buy on hire purchase at 18 shillings per week. It was a traumatic journey with me being a complete novice, having had no proper tuition. There was no heating, no radio of course to help pass the time, and the windscreen wipers kept seizing up. I had also been told that the tyres were awful for punctures. Still I made it, as  it was getting dark and I did not know how the lights worked!

My elegant mother standing beside a later car of Dad's c.1938.
I get the impression that  the car was the most important feature of this photograph!

 Finally  - back to the horse - my daughter in 1974. 

Click HERE to find  out how other bloggers have  got on their bikes
with this week's theme