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.