Monday, December 31, 2007
This morning, my wife Isobel had a hospital appointment and I went with her. In addition to providing company and moral support, I had a reason for making the journey as the appointment was at St Lukes' Hospital Bradford. This is the hospital where I was born some 59 years ago and - to the best of my knowledge - I hadn't been back since. And just twenty years before I was born there it had been Bradford Workhouse. The building has changed little - the above photograph was taken just a couple of hours ago - and as soon as you enter the hospital gates you know that this was built as a serious institution.
According to the excellent http://www.workhouses.org.uk/, the Bradford Workhouse in Little Horton Lane was built in 1852 at a cost of £7,000. Designed by a celebrated firm of Workhouse architects it had that severe, institutional look of all such buildings. However, shortly after it was opened it was described as "a spacious, handsome, and admirably arranged building. It has room for about 350 inmates, and attached to it is a spacious infirmary". Within the next thirty years it must have expanded somewhat as, at the time of the 1881 census, there were 725 residents listed. Reading through the 1881 list you get a true feel of the tragedy of such places : women and children living their lives out in poverty and shame. The full list (which can be found on the above mentioned site) also provides a clear indication of why people ended up in such places. It is made up of three main groups : widows or unmarried women with children, the old and the disabled. The census list records the "disability" : the largest group being "inb" (or "imbecile"), but there is also a fair smattering of "deaf" and "blind" as well. Further research reveals that the workhouses themselves came to an end in 1930 when the various Boards of Guardians were abolished by the 1929 Public Health Act. But many of the institutions continued as "Public Assistance Institutions" with few changes right up until the National Health Service was introduced in 1948 (the same year, and indeed the same month, that I was born in St Lukes).
So the answer to that question which has been at the back of my mind for the last thirty years is "yes", Jim could well have started his working life in a "Public Assistance Institution" or workhouse. Indeed, had I have been born a few weeks earlier maybe I would have been born in the workhouse! Looking back at that list of 1881 inmates, looking back at that list of deaf, blind and disabled people, I feel a kind of bond with them. In a way it's part of my roots : a part I am quite proud of.
Friday, December 28, 2007
When we got home, I looked Frampton up on the Web, trying to find out what the house was called. There was a village web-site with a similar photo of it, but unfortunately the pictures weren't labelled. However I clicked on 'properties', and that showed that the photographer had called it 'Theorangeryfromthegreen'. I remembered seeing an 'Orangery' page when I was looking up the website for Frampton Court (http://www.framptoncourtestate.co.uk/orangery.htm) so I went back. And there it was:
The house I'd glimpsed the back view of from the road just happens to be 'the prettiest garden building in England', one of the most unusual examples of 'Strawberry Hill' gothic architecture in the country, it belongs to the local stately home, - and they let it out as a holiday cottage! Spooky, or what? I know one thing, I'll have to write the book now.
Anyway, I had a phone call from my Aunty Doris over Christmas. Like Isobel's Aunty R, she is an indomitable lady. Now in her late eighties she only stopped working a few years ago : and only then because the Washerama she worked in closed down. She is the widow of my fathers' eldest brother - John Arthur - and the last member of that generation of my family still alive. It must be getting on for forty years ago that my Uncle John died, but I remember him quite well. He was a jolly, good-humoured man with a typical Yorkshire countenance who would occasionally take me to watch Bradford Park Avenue play football. Whether it was the phone call from Aunty Doris, or the memories of Bradford Park Avenue beating Halifax Town, or the fact that I had just gained access to a series of World War I war records, I'm not sure. But for whatever reason, I went in search of what information I could find about his time in the Great War. The family story says that he served in the war, and he obviously survived it, but little else is known.
John Arthur Burnett was born in Great Horton, Bradford in 1899. He enlisted in the Army in May 1917 - one assumes on or around his 18th birthday - and after a short period of training was sent to active duty in the trenches in France. According to his war record he seems to have managed to keep his head down - that is until the battle of Aisne/Chemin Des Dames in May 1918. On the 27th of May, amidst heavy fighting, he was captured by the Germans just outside the village of Pontavert. He was held prisoner in Stuttgart and didn't find his way back to England until 1919. According to the records he was listed as "missing" and it was some time later that it emerged he was a prisoner of war.
The picture at the head of this posting is of those same field outside the village of Pontavert. One can only try to imagine the thoughts of that 19 year old lad on that May morning as he went into battle. One can only imagine the emotions as his parents - my grandfather and grandmother - were later told he was missing in action. And one can imagine these things because the records were kept and later made available. Those records contain a mass of personal information. But my Uncle John - and thousands of others like him - didn't care too much about that. They had more important things to worry about.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Monday, December 24, 2007
I go into full investigative mode, if there is one thing I love it is what the press nowadays calls a "backstory". It turns out that Aunty R was a member of a troupe called the Winstanley Babes when she was young. They must have been reasonably professional and well-known as she was recalling performing for a week in Leicester which is a fair distance from her native Liverpool. The date - as best we were able to track it down - must have been in the late 1920s or very early 1930s. A little bit of web-based research when I got home revealed that the Winstanley Babes was not a figment of an old lady's imagination but a professional troupe active from the twenties up until the fifties and based in the North West. Jimmy Clitheroe - who went on to find fame on the radio - was an early member of the troupe. And so - it would seem - was Aunty R. I even tracked down an old theatre poster advertising a show featuring the Babes.
Aunty R will be coming for tea on Boxing Day. She might think that she is coming for a rare trip out of the Home and a chance to be with all her family. In fact she is heading for a session of detailed interrogation that would not be out of place in Guantanamo Bay. I want to know more about the Babes and the time they spent on the road. I want to know what she did, what she sang, what she danced. Aunty R will know it all - I doubted her memory once but now I have learnt my lesson. She might not know what day of the week it is or who the Prime Minister is (indeed, I've been having trouble with these two questions recently), but she will know all about the Winstanley Babes. And that's good enough for me.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Take, for example, today. I came across a site where you could look up the passenger lists of emigration ships of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. I tested it out with one of Isobel's uncles (Samuel Usher) who we knew had emigrated to Canada as a young man. I eventually tracked him down, on board the White Star Liner "Doric" bound for Montreal, Canada from Liverpool in August 1923. Then - in the best traditions of a good wanderer - my focus of interest shifted to the ship itself. I managed to find a postcard depicting the ship and it looks quite magnificent. Furthermore, I discovered that when Uncle Sam travelled on it, it was only a few months old - its maiden voyage was June 1923. Even the history of the ship is fascinating. Here I am quoting from a wonderful site called lostliners.com
WHITE STAR LINER : DORIC
Built by: Harland & Wolffe
Year Built: 1923
Length: 576 Ft
Width: 68 Ft
Displacement: 16,484 Gr Tons
Propulsion: Steam Turbines - Twin Screw
Passenger Capacity: 2,300 600 Cabin Class 1700 Third Class
Oil-burning single-reduction-geared turbines geared to twin screws gave Doric a top speed of 15 knots, making her rather slow. Following the drop in passenger travel during the Depression years of the early 30's, Doric was refit for cruising in 1932. In September 1935 while returning from a Mediterranean cruise, she collided off the Atlantic coast of Portugal with the French cargo ship Formigny and was severely damaged below the waterline. Passengers were offloaded onto the P&O liners Orion and Viceroy of India. Doric's crew managed to get her to Vigo where temporary repairs were made. She then sailed for Tilbury where it was determined she was worth more as scrap, as the cost of repairing her was exorbitant. So ended her life at sea.
Now, you must admit, that's far more interesting than wrapping Christmas presents.
Friday, December 21, 2007
As a result(?) JGC can scarcely speak - (although it's probably an unrelated bug) - two carols at every lampost makes a lot of singing on a cold night.
"We wish you a merry christmas, we wish you a merry....."
AB introduced me to photography, as to so many other things (boxing, football, pubs), and it was feeling his influence behind me that I took this, when we were supposed to be Christmas shopping. I liked the mixture of shapes and colours.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
But if this is the case it simply raises another problem. Why were my parents there? Who had invited them? At a guess, the photograph must have been taken about 1936 - the time of the abdication. Were my parents somehow involved in that? Were they being considered for the succession. Were we close to getting King Albert and Queen Gladys. And what about Prince Alan? What a different future we would have been mapping out for the old country if that chain of events came about. But for some reason it didn't. And my mother and father took a quick snap, hopped back on their tandem and cycled all the way back to Bradford.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
So my search for the real father of my wife's Aunty Mary must now take on the guise of a scientific expedition. I need to exhume the grave of the dear departed lady, get hold of some of her DNA and determine whether or not it contains any of the typical Berry DNA markers. As far as I can make out from the Berry DNA Blog (indeed, such a thing exists) I need to look for "haplogroup K with CRS differences in HVR1 at 093C, 224C, 249C, 311C and 519C and in HVR2 at 73G, 195C, 263G, 309.1C, 315.1C, 497T, 524.1C and 524.2A". Questioning my wife about where her late Aunty Mary was buried or whether - by any strange chance - she might still have one of her old hair brushes has resulted in nothing but odd looks and those whispered telephone conversations with her cousin Carrie which normally involve the phrase "he's gone funny again".
I know she died about 25 years ago and the home she had been confined to for most of her life was somewhere near Chesterfield. I assume that there must be records of where they buried the residents - all that is needed is good, old-fashioned research ..... and a decent spade ..... and a dark moonless night.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Sunny Vale Pleasure Gardens - known by one and all as "Sunny Bunces" after the founder of the gardens, Joseph Bunces - was located in a valley just outside Lightcliffe, midway between Halifax and Brighouse. It was one of those "inland resorts" which blossomed all over the north of England in late Victorian and Edwardian times. With the coming of charabancs and trams and half-day holidays from the mills, such "pleasure gardens" became the destination of hundreds of Sunday School Treats and Friendly Society Trips. And Sunny Vale liked to think of itself as the finest of them all, it liked to market itself as "the playground of the north".
The book is a pleasure to read. It is in not "heavy" in any way. It does not attempt to tell a chronological story or provide a sociological analysis of the rise and fall of Pleasure Gardens. It is nothing more than a collection of photographs and reminiscences strung together with a light text : a series of amusements and diversions, a bit like Sunny Vale itself.
Sunny Vale just managed to survive the Second World War but even in the thirties it was spinning into decline, replaced in people's affections by Blackpool and Bridlington. In 1947 the park was sold and in the mid-fifties the various rides and attractions were auctioned off. By the early sixties it had become a site for go-kart racing and stock car racing but that didn't last long either. By the late 1960s much of the grounds were overgrown and forgotten. It was at this time that I took my photograph. It was of what remained of the smaller of the two lakes - the Victoria Lake - strewn with rubbish. I would show it to you but, as I say, I can't find it. Somewhere in my garage or attic it lies lost and forgotten. A bit like Sunny Bunces.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
The 1901 Census has by far the best on-line resources and this provided a good starting point for investigating the Berry-Shaw connections. In 1901 - four years before his marriage to Sarah Ann - Kaye Holroyd is listed as living with his parents (William and Martha Berry) in Elland. Aged 19 when the census returns were completed, he was listed as being a chimney sweep. There are a host of brothers and sisters and one granddaughter listed at the same address. I will return to the granddaughter in a little while. A few streets away,Sarah Ann Shaw was living with her family. Her father, Henry Shaw, a stonemason's labourer, is listed as the head of the family. He was born in 1849 and his wife Emma was born in 1852. There are five children listed, William (born 1975), Sarah Ann (born1878), Fred (born 1886), Edith (born 1899) and Mary (born 1901). The curious thing, of course, is the spacing of the birth of the children and the age of the mother at the birth of these last two. To have two children in quick succession, after a gap of fourteen year, and at the age of 47 and 49 is stretching believe a little too far. The obvious explanation is that Mary (listed as a daughter of Henry and Emma and therefore sister of Sarah Ann) is, in fact, Sarah Ann's illegitimate daughter. And it would appear that the second illegitimate daughter (Edith) was also passed off in the 1901 census as a legitimate daughter of Henry Shaw rather than an illegitimately granddaughter.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
However, this is not a posting about economic theory : rather one about images. I often think that you could put together a decent history of the last fifty years based on nothing but images. Part of the story of 2007 will inevitably be the financial crisis resulting from unrealistic mortgage sales. Until yesterday the image I would have selected to illustrate this little bit of UK economic history would have been the well-known one of queues outside the beleaguered Northern Rock Building Society. However, yesterday I was reading a copy of Arkansas Democrat and Gazette (PressDisplay is a wonderful service) and was intrigued to see several pages at the back of the newspaper filled with columns of tightly packed legal notices. On investigation these turn out to be official foreclosure notices, announcing that poor devil after poor devil has defaulted on their mortgage agreement and the property will now be auctioned.
"Now notice is hereby given,
That at the front door of Sevier County Courthouse,
On the 11th January 2008 at 1.15pm,
The following property will be auctioned.
Part of NW1/4 of NE1/4 of Section 24,
Township 8 South Range 32 West, Sevier County,
Beginning at the NW corner of said NW1/4,
Thence south 0 degrees 19 minutes 33 seconds,
East along the forty line 410.24 feet,
Thence north and west back to the point of beginning.
Otherwise known as 146, Glasgow Lane
Otherwise known as home"
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Friday, December 07, 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
The best fears are the rare ones. Take aibohphobia (fear of palindromes - think about it) for example. Or aulophobia (fear of flutes). Or even deipnophobia (fear of dinner conversations). Come to think of it, I suspect I suffer from that last one.
At the end of the day I didn't include any questions about phobias. I don't like them very much. In fact I am a bit frightened of them. I must have phobophobia.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Monday, December 03, 2007
What happened, was that I cheated. My normal Yorkshire Pudding trays are a good five inches in diameter. I won't get into the fluid mechanics of it in too great a detail, but - believe me - to get something with such a large surface area to rise satisfactorily requires a powerful (and well-blended) mixture. Only the very best Yorkshire Pudding mixture can do it. That kind of surface area really does separate the men from the Walter Softies. As Saturday evening drew nearer I got more and more nervous - and we all know what effect that has. Would the first course be stunning Yorkshire Puddings or public humiliation?
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
You can probably make out the message from the reproduction at the top of this posting. Discovering it just a few days before we head up to the North-East to take Alexander for the first of his university interviews provides an opportunity to examine some of the social changes that have taken place over the last 39 years.
The first thing to note is that, back in 1969, I was sat on a train and not been driven up to the interview by my interfering and over-fussing father. I have to say that the current arrangements are at my insistence rather than Xan's : he would far prefer to catch the train. However I remain convinced that he would get the wrong train to the wrong city on the wrong day. Thus poor Amy is going in kennels for a couple of days whilst the whole bloody family decamps up to Newcastle to make sure he makes it to the interview on time with his shoes properly shined.
But just has you think everything has changed you spot the final message - written in capital letters to ensure that my parents didn't miss it. "MAY BE RUNNING OUT OF MONEY SOON WITH ALL THESE RAIL JOURNEYS - HELP!". Ah, plus ça change.
Monday, November 19, 2007
It is the hypochondriac accusation that hurts the most. ("Yes Doctor, it hurts, here just below the knee, it's a kind of driving pain which to me suggests something very wrong with my bone marrow"). The large number of tags relating to Healthcare, Infection, Disease and Death and nothing more than my attempt to help my son, Alexander, prepare for his forthcoming Medical School interview. To ensure that he is up-to-date with current medical goings-on I have been appointed his "information stream manager". My job is to digitally clip stuff out of the world press so he can sound a clever-clogs when he gets in front of the interview panel. Which is fine for him but quite distressing for me. The knowledge of all that ill-health out there is a little alarming. Whilst in no way can I be called an hypochondriac, I can't help worrying that I might pick up some kind of infection from it all.