Paternal and maternal grandparents

Father lost a leg in World War 1. Mother died when I was two years old.

So said my friend Reg.

My story is more boring. So, starting with my grandparents.

My mother’s father – my maternal grandfather was a tailor working for a master tailor in Warsop, near Mansfield. Born in 1853 he married Mary Ann Annabel who it was said had a little Spanish Blood in her. They had four daughters and a son. The eldest daughter Maud married a farmer from Shirebrook. The second daughter Lillian married a council worker and had a son and two daughters. My Mother Katherine Emma came next and the other daughter was called Minnie. The son Joseph was killed in the First World War.

Grandfather Barlow came to live with us when his wife died – I was six years old. He was then approaching seventy and I remember him as a grand old gentleman with a short white beard.

He had been a tailor all his working life and was a staunch member of the village Church. Being a churchwarden, his code of conduct and morals were of the highest. I have a clouded memory of my Grandmother and the cottage in which they lived. She dressed similarly to the last pictures one sees of Queen Victoria.

William Barlow apprenticeship from 12th April 1866
William Barlow apprenticeship from 12th April 1866

The tiny cottage has faded from my memory yet I have a clearer picture of the tiny glass conservatory filled with herbs and plants that had a wonderful aroma I can recapture to this day.

Grandfather died at home with us when I was eleven years old. My brother Will was very good to him and sat with him in his last hours. I remember the several days when the house was hushed and the funeral that followed a horse and long line of horse carriages on the long five-mile journey to the cemetery in Warsop. I was too young. I did not go. He was a grand old gentleman, as poor as a church mouse but always a gentle man.

My father’s father Job William Hill died some years before I was born. His wife Elizabeth removed from the large three story stone built house near the old market place in Mansfield where all family had been reared. Richard, Edward, the twins, William and Henry and the youngest, Arthur. The girls being Frances, Catherine, Edith and the youngest Agnes – Agnes outlived them all, dying, aged 96, in 1988.

Grandfather Hill made his money from a good butchery business. He is said to have ruled his sons with a rod of iron, so to speak. His daughters had an easier time and grandmother although appearing to bend to grandfather’s will did as much as she liked.

After grandfather died at an early age grandmother retired with Edith and Agnes to a solid Victorian house on Woodhouse Road. Richard carried on the business for some time; Edward who worked on the Midland Railway was posted to Sheffield. William the elder twin set up his own butchery business in Ipswich then Bedford, prospered, sending his two sons to a minor public school. My father married mother, Kate-Emma, who had been a nanny then cook to the Barringer family.

They started up a shop in a tall three story building (long gone) on the old Nottingham Road. Father began by selling house decorations, wallpapers, and paints for the up and coming in town, gradually building up a team of house painters and decorators. The 14/18 war tore that apart.

Father did not serve in the forces. He served part time as a special constable and managed a local bus company of charabancs, which should have made a great deal of money as it ferried soldiers into town from the Clipstone training camp.

It would have; father had scant regard for the care of money. Ever open handed he would give away his last penny at the call of any old sob story.

He re-started up his business at the end of the war and did well until the end of the twenties. The six or seven years of the thirties were tough. There were highlights of course when good contracts came along. But there were lean weeks, months at a time when mother had to fall back on her little nest egg.

Towards the end of the thirties he was a licensed builder only to be thwarted by the Second World War. He spent much of the Second World War working as agent and site manager for a large construction company working on a government contract in South Wales.

Early childhood in Mansfield >>>