Following on from my post yesterday about the children at St Giles' School I wanted to share a photo given to my Mum and Dad 20 years ago by a man who used to live in Ashtead. Meredith Worsfold lived in Rectory Lane in Ashtead and apart from a short spell living in Effingham, was born and spent his whole life in Ashtead. When my Dad and I wrote a book on Ashtead in 2000 Meredith was an enormous help. He had written a book himself called Ashtead The Street In The 1920s, which is a lovely book, full of anecdotes and information that only a person who had been there would be able to tell so beautifully. Not only did he have such interesting tales to tell about the local area, he was really good company. A genuinely kind man we greatly enjoyed the time spent in his company. He gave my Mum and Dad this lovely photo of his Mother, Alice Jackman, sitting at the window of their house when she was a little girl.
Meredith's mother Alice Maud Mary Jackman was born in 1892 in Totten Hampshire. Her father William, a railway porter at Lyndhurst, was tragically killed in an accident being hit by a train when Alice was only a few weeks old. Her Mother Fanny remarried Arthur Dibben a train driver, and the family moved to Rectory Lane Ashtead, Alice attended St Giles School Ashtead and was one of the pupils who took turns to sit in the window of West Lodge Ashtead Park and open the gates for approaching carriages. The headmaster of St Giles School made this agreement with Thomas Lucas, the owner of Ashtead Park in exchange for renting the lodge at the cost of £40 per annum.
Alice married a local man Jack Worsfold in 1920 and gave birth to two sons, Howard and Meredith. She lived locally all her life until her death in 1974 aged 82.
Meredith walked a mile every day until well into his 80s, to keep active after a hip operation, and regularly stopped on his walk to chat with my Mum and Dad. We were all so upset to hear he had died, aged 90, in October 2012. I have included this photo of him taken as a child, as I feel if Ashtead residents are being remembered he should certainly be included.
In 1852 the original part of the present St Giles' School was built on land given by Mrs Mary Howard and erected at her expense. The school was then conveyed to the Rector of the parish and his successors for ever. This lovely old photo, taken around 1880, shows children leaving the school.
I find that both Find My Past and Ancestry.co.uk are excellent resources for researching family history. Infact it is virtually impossible to manage without sites like these. I remember spending days at public records offices and libraries in my early years of researching but now it is nearly all online. I can't help but miss those days out though. I have such fond memories of eating a sandwich in the sunshine, watching the signets on the pond outside the Public Records Office at Kew. Everyone was so chatty and you could build up quite a freindship with other regulars in those days. We offered each other advice and compared notes. The "help" section on a family history website doesn't quite seem the same. I suppose that is the price for technology!
Without the internet, I doubt I would have been able to find out anything about the family in a collection of recent photos I purchased. There were very few clues, but a magazine cutting gave me a starting point.
One of the men in the photo is in other photos of a couple identified as Mum and Dad, but how to find which is his name as they are not identified individually in the photo. Another of the photos was of two young women in the back yard of a house with the caption Doreen and Lilian 308 Boundary Road, St Helens 1952.
With this information I could search the 1939 register on Find My Past which has a really useful address search option. I scrolled to number 308 and the family who lived where the Brownbill family. I had found the family so quickly. William and his wife Elizabeth with their daughters Doreen and Lily. Without the internet I'm sure it would have been days of trawling through files at The Public Records Office. For anyone who is trying to research family around that time I have found the 1939 register to be one of the most useful resources. I can now add photos of the Brownbill family to the website in the hope that one day a family member may find them.
On this day in 1974 Bagpuss appeared on our televisions for the first time. Made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate through their company Smallfilms. The series of 13 episodes was first broadcast from the 12th February to the 7th May 1974. The title character was "a saggy, old cloth cat, baggy, and a bit loose at the seams".Although only 13 episodes were made, it remains fondly remembered, and was frequently repeated in the UK until 1987. In early 1999, Bagpuss topped a BBC poll for the UK's favourite children's television programme.
Even as a teenager, as I was when Bagpuss started, I loved him. I couldn't resist buying this lovely Bagpuss toy for just 10p at a jumble sale last year. Even though he is just a "a saggy, old cloth cat" .
I have always been so intersted in social history. Before I even knew what it really was. I can pinpoint the moment in my childhood when I became interested in collecting other peoples once loved items. I was five years old at school and our teacher told us tomorrow there would be a Bring and Buy Sale that we could attend at the end of the day and we could look round before the parents came to pick us up. I had no idea what a Bring and Buy Sale was but it sounded exciting. The next day my Mum gave me a three penny bit to put in my little school purse and off I went. I can still remember how I felt as I looked around the tables of goods that day. I couldn't believe I could possibly afford any of these beautiful items with just threepence and was too scared to speak. One kindly Mum who was serving asked me if there was anything I liked and I chose a little bead purse. She asked me how much money I had and when I told her threepence she said that was just how much it was. I was overjoyed.
I can remember clearly skipping all the way home with my Mum regaling the wonders of Bring and Buy Sales to her. When I got home I ran upstairs to examine my wonderful purchase. Inside the purse there was a little zip pocket. I unzipped it and inside was a shiny sixpence. I couldn't believe it a beautiful purse and a profit as well. I thought and thought about the person who had owned the purse and where it had been. It seemed so special to me because it had a history. I was hooked and still am.
To me social history is in every item around us. Every little item from a train ticket to an old diary is a little moment in time to be preserved. I hope other people enjoy browsing the photos of the ordinary little items from the past on this site.
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