Saturday, 23 February 2013

Society Saturday - Green Fingers at the Marske Show

My great-aunt Lillian Barton, loved to garden and was an active member of her local gardening society right into her 70s.  Lillian may not have known it, but gardening was a long standing interest in the family of her paternal grandmother Eliza 
Ditchburn (1856-1930).

Eliza Ditchburn's family came from the village of Marske-by-the-Sea which is just south of Middlesbrough.  Her family, through her Bryden, Hartforth and Potts ancestors, can be traced back in the village right back into the 16th Century.

The Ditchburn family's gardening interests were shared by large numbers of Marske residents and from August 1875, the annual Marske Horticultural, Industrial and Live Stock Society show was a highlight of village life bringing together people from right across the class divide.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The History Hop #2

Welcome to the History Hop.

This is your chance to link up - as many as you like - of your best recent posts on any area of history. Everything from genealogy through military, political, cultural, social to archaeology and contemporary ethnography.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Thriller Thursday - Jarndyce v Jarndyce in Gedling!

The sons, grandson and great-grandson of David Palethorpe

The market garden that my family kept in the village of Gedling for over 150 years, always seemed to represent everything I thought I knew about my Palethorpe ancestors.

Independent, hard working but contented Nottingham folk who enjoyed their food!  I certainly didn't associate them with scandal.

So, I was most surprised to discover that in 1858 there was a big Nottingham legal case - Palethorpe v Palethorpe - which disputed the very ownership of the garden.

The case, reported at length in the Nottingham and regional papers, arose after Thomas Oldknow Palethorpe left the garden to his son David in his will.  The problem was, that in doing so, old Thomas overlooked two elder sons, Tom and John, and four elder daughters.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Sunday Obituary - The Advancement of Science for Girls

Hilda R. F. Cowie died in Sutton, Surrey in 1965, aged 93.  "Miss Cowie" had been a teacher and for 24 years, from its foundation to her retirement in 1943, was head mistress of Durham Girls County School

The carefully saved clip of her obituary, that I found amongst my great aunts' belongings suggested that she had been a significant figure in the lives of Lillian and Nancy Thompson and their elder sister Marjorie who had all attended the school.

Little further information is available about "Miss Cowie" but the history of the Durham Girls County School is an interesting one.  It was formed in 1918 when Durham's highly unusual mixed grammar school was split into separate boys and girls schools.

Mixed sex education at this level was very rare at the time as was the school's scientific and technical focus and endeavour to provide as much access as possible to poorer families.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Welcome to "The History Hop"

I have only been writing my history blog for the last 5 months, but I also have another blog about my life as a mum that I have been writing for longer.

One of the things that I love about the mums' blogging community are the weekly "blog hops".  There are hundreds of them every week and they provide a great chance for bloggers to share their best posts of the week and to discover great new bloggers.

As I haven't been able to find any similar blog hops in the history blogging community - the blogging prompts at GeneaBloggers and the History Carnival are great but a bit different - I've taken it upon myself to organise The History Hop.

It's very simple - every Friday, you'll be able to come and link up one or more of your favourite posts and then check out what others have shared.  Posts from all areas and ages of history - ancient archaeology, military, social, high politics, cultural, genealogy, contemporary ethnography! - are all very, very welcome!

Please, feel free to grab The History Hop button and link to it from your blog.  And if you're interested in co-hosting please do drop me a mail at wecamefrom69 at

Anyway let's get this inaugural History Hop started ...

Friday's Faces From the Past - The Unknown Bride

A beautiful bride in a beautiful dress but unfortunately I have no idea who she is.

I found the photos - which, I guess are from the 1930s - amongst my cousin Michael's belongings, so the couple may be relations of either of his parents.

Michael's mother was Lillian Thompson (1913-1989) whose parents were John William Thompson and Annie Newnham.  Michael's father was Ernest "Billy" Barton (1900-1980).

Both the Thompson and Barton families were living in the North Yorkshire / County Durham area during the 1930s.  However, Annie Newnham's family came originally from Woolwich, London and the Barton family had Liverpool connections.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Thankful Thursday - From the Civil Defence School in Dhaka

Ernest "Billy" Barton

Following his demobilisation at the end of World War 2, my great uncle, Ernest "Billy" Barton - who had been a professional solider before the war - became an instructor at the Civil Defence Training School in Eastwood Park, Falfield, Gloucestershire.

The school was originally founded in 1936 as the Civilian Anti-Gas School with the aim of training groups of civilians in what to do in the case of a gas attack in a future war.

By the late 1940s, there was little concern about gas attacks.  Two things had changed that - Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  And in 1949 the British government formed the Civil Defence Corps to train civilians in what to do in the case of a nuclear attack.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Wedding Wednesday - A Good Catch!

Louisa Beardsall Baillon (centre) in the 1920s

Louisa Baillon cuts a grand - if slightly incongruous - figure in this picture from the 1920s, in which everyone else is dressed for the sun.

By all reports, Louisa was rather grand!

She had made a "good" marriage - a very good marriage - for in 1878 aged 21, she wed Andrew Edward Louis Baillon, the eldest son of a successful Nottingham lace manufacturer.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Mystery Monday - Thompsons Thompsons Everywhere!

There really are Thompsons everywhere, which does make reliably tracking them down hard work.  And if they're called John Thompson like my great-grandfather and his father it becomes even easier to make mistakes.

I spent several years following a completely erroneous branch of the Thompson family after confusing two John Thompsons born in the same month, in the same parish.  It was very interesting researching Norfolk local history - it's just that no one in our family has ever lived there!

And now I am following the right branch - I hope! - my great-grandfather has got me stumped again.  His 1907 marriage certificate shows that John was already, at just 27, a widow.

But I have not been able to find a record for this other marriage or indeed any census record for John in 1901 which might give a clue as to where he was.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Church Record Sunday - A Parish Magazine

Esh Winning & Waterhouses Parish Magazine 1932

Parish Magazines might not be what is usually thought of as a "church record" but they provide a fascinating snapshot into parish life.  I was lucky enough to find this 1932 magazine from the parishes of Waterhouses with Esh Winning in County Durham amongst my great-aunt belongings.

The little two sided magazine contains the normal list of officers, (my great aunt Lillian Thompson was at just 19 the organist), religious reflections and parish news: communion times, the Mother's Union service, a whist drive by the choir to raise money for the church and a planned bazaar later in the year because both the church and the church hall are in need of repair.

I loved the announcement of a "Magic Lantern Service" for Lent, which would include slides of stories from the old testament.  More prosaically it was just a "slide show" but magic lantern is a delightful connection to an older world.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Shopping Saturday - Go east my son!

A bundle of 1950s hire purchase statements for a spin drier, a washing machine and a fridge might not seem the most promising starting point for an interesting bit of family and social history.  But bear with me ...

I found the carefully preserved statements amongst the belongings of my great aunts - "Nancy" Thompson and Lillian Barton.  The first thing that struck me was how expensive everything was!

The spin drier bought in 1959 was £32 - £600 today.  And they paid £68 and £71 for the washing machine bought in 1961 and the fridge bought in 1963 - that's over £1,000, ($1,500), each today.

My aunts were comfortably off but certainly not rich.   Nancy, was a nursing supervisor and Lillian, who was separated from her husband, didn't work.  These precious - to any housewife! - items represented a major outlay of money.  The statements from Roomes of Upminster, suggest the hire purchase was very quickly paid off, so there must have been some serious saving to  afford them.

Friday Funny - Well Something's Obviously Funny!

Something has obviously amused my great-grandmother - Annie Newnham Thompson - in this photograph, but quite what she's laughing at and who she is with is a bit of a mystery.

I don't think it's my great-grandfather, (John William Thompson), it looks too old.  So it's possible it's her father, William Essex Newnham, or her father in law, another John Thompson.

As to what the mystery man is wearing and what he's got in his arms, I haven't a clue!

Any suggestions?

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Thrifty Thursday - Post Office Savings

I remember Post Office savings books from my childhood in the 1970s.  They were still a big part of everyday life then, providing an easily accessible and "safe" way to save money.

And right from it's creation in 1861, "safety" was the watch word of the The Post Office's Savings Bank (POSB).  Understandably so as the previous decades had seen a number of high profile bank failures in Britain, in which people had lost their savings.

The PSOB allowed even those without sufficient money to open a standard bank account to save and to have their savings guaranteed by the government.

These savings books belonging to my great aunt - Lillian Barton (nee Thompson) -  show how actively the savings accounts were used.

The account was originally opened in Richmond, Yorkshire in 1935 after Lillian's marriage and show deposits between 3 and 6 deposits a year of never more than £7 (£200 today) at a time and sometimes less than £1 (£18).  There were withdrawals, but through small savings she had by the beginning of 1951 saved £173, the equivalent of £4,670 in today's money.

In 1951 this pattern of use completely changed and the equivalent of almost £4,000 was withdrawn from the account at branches near to the house of Lillian's sister Nancy in Upminster, Essex.  I am merely guessing here - but it appears that Lillian may have used the nest egg provided by her earlier thrift to walk away from an unhappy marriage.

If you're interested in finding out more about British postal history check out the British Postal Museum and Archive and if you enjoyed this post do come and talk history and genealogy on Twitter.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Wedding Wednesday - Till Death Us Do Part?

The 1935 wedding notice for Lillian Margaret Thompson and Ernest "Billy" Barton notes in detail the outfits of the bride and her bridesmaid.  Unfortunately, there is no photo to support the description either in the local Durham newspaper or in the hundreds and hundreds of family photographs, dating back to the early 1900s, that Lillian carefully stored.

I can only assume that Lillian destroyed any photographic record of her wedding that did exist, for this was not a marriage that stood the test of time.  Quite why I don't know, although they do seem a curious coupling.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Talented Tuesday - A Queen's Nurse

This very plain little card invites my great aunt, Lillian Barton, to attend St James's Palace - no less! - for a presentation by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother of a long service award to Lillian's sister "Nancy" Thompson.

The award from the Queen's Institute of District Nursing reflected the 25 years that Nancy had spent as a midwife and district nurse since completing her training at the Battersea General Hospital in 1936.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Mystery Monday - There but not there!

Lillian NewnhamLillian Newnham, the daughter of William Essex Newnham and Margaret Gill, was born in Guisborough, Yorkshire in 1879.  Her parents had only moved to Yorkshire from Woolwich, London a few years before her birth and  the rest of the Newnham and Gill families - apart from her mother's brother Edward who came north with them - remained in London.

Census records show Lillian living in the Guisborough area with her family in 1881 and 1891 but after that no trace can be found of her in census, marriage or death records and she effectively disappears.

Except she doesn't.  For in the belongings inherited from her nieces - my great aunts - she is ever present.

There are photos of a slightly austere but stylish woman in the 1920s, gorgeous Raphael Tuck Oilette post cards sent to her nieces in  the 1930s and beautifully inscribed books given to her nieces and nephews as birthday and Christmas presents.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Obituary Sunday - A Wartime Nurse

ObituaryMarjorieThompsonRed_optMarjorie Thompson died on August 5th 1945 aged just 35 from a heart attack caused by her asthma.  Although, still young she had had a successful nursing career and shortly before her death was appointed deputy head of district nurses and midwives across the county of Norfolk.

To die young is always cruel but to do so having just come through the second world war seems particularly so. Marjorie's death came three months after the end of the war in Europe and just 10 days before the end of the war in Japan.

Marjorie's obituary, which I found amongst her sisters' belongings, appears to be from a local newspaper in Woodbridge, Suffolk where she had been a district nurse.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Funny Friday - Champagne socialist?

This letter from my grandfather, found in my great-aunt's belongings, certainly made me smile.

The letter - which interestingly has been witnessed and stamped - is written on headed note paper from the local Labour Party and is dated 3 months after the general election that  swept the Labour Party to power just after the end of the war in Europe.  My grandfather campaigned very actively for the Labour Party in the election. Letters between his sisters say he spoke of nothing else at the time.  My father's first memory is of standing outside their cottage - which was opposite the polling station - waving his, suitably red shirted, Pooh Bear and shouting "Vote Labour!"

Treasure Trove Thursday - Light in a Dark World

The great depression of 1929-1933 was a dark time in the village of Esh Winning as it was across the industrial world.  The mining village, in County Durham in north east England, had never been affluent but in 1930 the depression closed the mine and hard lives got that much harder.

John William Thompson and his wife Annie Newnham, (my great grandparents), had established a small, single room drapers shop in the village and for a few years they had prospered moving to a bigger shop at the centre of the village only just before the recession hit and the mine closed.  Forced to sell out to their largest creditor, John had to resort to selling door to door from a suitcase.  They were better off than many in the village but it must still have been a harsh come down for them in their early fifties.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Wedding Wednesday - A Blitz Bride

Wedding of Florence Palethorpe and Sam Redpath

Talented Tuesday - A "Brown Dog" Nurse

Marjorie Thompson
Marjorie Thompson (1910-1945) was born in Hartlepool in County Durham in the north of England. Her father's family had lived in County Durham and the neighbouring county of North Yorkshire for at least 500 years, but her mother's family - the Newnhams - had only moved north from London in the 1870s.

In the late 1920s, Marjorie left Durham for London to train as a nurse.  Marjorie's motivations for choosing to train in London are not clear.  The impact of the great depression on the north east of England was severe and Marjorie's father lost the small shop he kept in the mining village of Esh Winning as a result of it, but Marjorie actually left for London at least 6 months before the stock market crash of October 1929, which is generally seen as the start of the depression and so, it may have been the still strong family ties of the Newnham family that drew her south.