I am going to start with my Great Grandmother Jane (Ginny) Walker, my mother’s mother’s mother.
She was born on 7th April in Featherstone, Yorkshire, her parents were Sam Townend a miner and Hannah Shaw. She had three older sisters, Harriet, Elizabeth (Lizzie) and Clementine (Clemmie) and a younger brother called Seth, Harriet’s son, Wilfred, was brought up with the family as a younger sibling to Jane (although really her nephew). Jane and Seth had fair complexions, the other siblings were darker, I think the fairness was from the Shaw side.
I don’t know anything about her childhood except that her mother was a strict Methodist and wouldn’t let her go to the fair, so her boyfriend, (later my Great Grandfather) brought a ladder to her bedroom window and she escaped through it and went to the fair with him!
She married James Walker when she was 19 on 24th December 1900, on the 1901 census they are living in Purston Jaglin (near Featherstone). In July 1902 their daughter Hannah Elizabeth (my Grandmother) was born and two years later, the family moved to Clowne, Derbyshire, because James (Jim) had been promoted by the gas board. In 1905 Jane had a son called James (Jimmy) but sadly he died in 1912 in a flu epidemic that also killed his father’s sister Harriet. The next day, Jane gave birth to her third and last child, another boy called Leslie.
I don’t know where or if Jane worked before she married, but she was probably in service. After marrying she made extra money by taking in lodgers and the census in 1911 shows a Robert Smith boarding with them, a regular short term lodger was a jewish man called Lewis Lichtenstein, he was a jewellery salesman. At first the family lived in a house owned by the gas board at 7 Station Road Clowne, but later moved to a larger house, again gas board owned, at 71 Creswell Road, Clowne. Jane kept chickens and from time to time, a pig, which she would fatten up for slaughter, She gave up keeping the chickens when she no longer had access to a field for them to run around in (obviously an early free-range advocate).
She was a great cook and food lover and family from Yorkshire would often visit. Her legs gave her a lot of pain, so she would often prepare the meals (peel potatoes etc) sitting down. She would also eat the meals in the living kitchen, while the rest of the family would sit round the table in the dining room. Her sister Clemmie’s Grandson Geoff, who was a picky eater would sit with her in the kitchen and she would let him eat what ever he liked. She tended to take a child’s side over an adult’s, “leave the poor kid alone” being her general philosophy. She wasn’t one to be bossed about by people, when her granddaughter Joan was in service and wasn’t given leave to attend a family wedding Jane told her to attend the wedding anyway (so Joan lost her job). When her daughter Hannah had been in labour for a long time, she told the Doctor in no uncertain terms “that poor lass has had enough pain to bring an elephant into the world, put her out!” (he did) the baby weighed 12 lbs.
She wasn’t an early riser and when my mother got up for school as a small child Jane would shout downstairs “give that babby an egg”, (the babby never wanted one). She made custard with six eggs and trifle with “bottoms”* in it. She sharpened her own knives!
Despite her strict Methodist upbringing Jane never went to church but would happily bake for them if the occasion demanded. She would sing Old Time Music Hall songs to her granddaughter Mollie in bed “the man that broke the bank at Monte Carlo”, it is unclear how she ever learnt the words. She employed a woman to help with the washing each week and another woman who would decorate a room each year in slightly garish wallpaper. The woman who delivered the milk would come in and play the piano from time to time. Jane’s corsets were specially made by Mrs “corsetière” Rogers
When a mole on her leg became cancerous Jane was sent to hospital in Sheffield, it was wartime and during her stay the hospital was bombed and she was sent back home with the dirt from the rubble still on her face. She would try knitting from her sick bed, having to call on granddaughter Joan to unravel her mistakes. Jane was doted on by her Grandson Ron who used to try and sit on her knee when he was about 15 and would slide off her sloping lap o to the floor.
Jane never returned to hospital and died in bed at home, she was visited daily by the doctor who would come and dress her wound, letting himself in by the back door if nobody was around. She died when the cancer reached her liver, she was 59 years old.