Friday, March 16, 2012

My nanna Emma

How could I have left her until now? This is my lovely maternal nanna Emma, born in 1891 in Stow Bardolph, Norfolk (you already know about two of her sisters Daisy (the postmistress) and Ada (sweet shop). Their parents were Robert and Eliza. (Note to self, Robert hasn't had a post yet either).

You HAVE met Emma before, here and here, but she hasn't had a posting all to herself. She went to primary school in Wimbotsham with Daisy and cousin Frank, walking along country lanes. Today the two villages are divided by the busy A10 trunk road., and is difficult to cross on foot. She is at home on only one census; in 1901, as a nine year old.

Stow Bardolph church

By 1911 she is 19 and in London, at 449, New Cross Road, Deptford and is described as assistant in a confectionary shop (not another one!) The puzzle is that the shop is owned by Griffith Cleaver Jones and his wife Laura Blanche, and Emma is apparently a cousin? Try as I might, I've not been able to find the Jones family anywhere on my family tree. Laura's maiden name was Smith (and she was a spinster so no clues there). They married in 1893 in Peckham.

By the end of February 1915 she is getting married to my grandad Richard (the photographer) at the  church of St Anne's in Bermondsey. I've chosen a photo of the church on a snowy day, as it's likely there may well have been snow on 28th February. Can you find out these things online?.... Pause for research........Apparently, yes you can! Ok, 28th Feb 1915 was a Sunday, that's the first surprise. I found an online diary set near Sheffield, and it snowed there that day but maybe not in London). 

Emma in doorway of The Chalet c1940

I now lose track of Emma in official records. There's a jump to October 1919 when she gives birth to my mum's only sibling, Ray. I have lots of photos of Emma when Ray was a small child. She gave birth to my mum in December 1922, but that was her last baby as far as I'm aware. In 1926 the Electoral Register shows them in Lewisham, and in 1932 in Hackney. The family lived in London until 1938 when it was obvious that war was coming. The story goes that when she married my grandad, it was on condition that they would 'one day' return to Norfolk. They moved back in 1938 to Downham Market (just 2 miles from her birth village). All I know nothing about her wartime experience is from the photos I have at their rented house, The Chalet.

This is how I remember my nan. She would have been 87 here. After my grandad died in 1974, she floundered for a long time. He had done everything that needed doing. She was lost without him. But, gradually, very gradually, she found that inner strength that allowed her to start to organise her life. She would get a taxi into town , get her hair done, then come on to our house for the weekend. On a Monday a taxi would pick her up, take her shopping, then home. I'm sure she felt very lonely for these four days each week. (I remember her saying she didn't see anyone from one day to the next) I loved her being at our house at weekends if I was there. It made a huge difference. She was kind, always genuinely interested in what I was doing, and always wanted to know the next morning,  if I'd gone out the night before, what I'd been up to.  How I wish I'd made notes about her life (I'm sure we all do!).

I did lose track of her towards the end of her life, and when she was dying, I refused to go and see her, for selfish reasons. For years I've agonised about her final demise, until my sister recently reassured me that even on the day she died she was alert and happy, (and even ate fish and chips). She died of kidney failure, at my mum's home, in January 1982, aged 91. Sadly, there's no grave to visit, as she was cremated in Norwich (Mintlyn wasn't yet open), and her ashes were scattered there.


SheilaMatilda said...

Another lovely and well researched story Sheila. What a beautiful portrait of your nan when she was young.

Sheila Pratt said...

What a beautiful lady your Nan was, and the story is, yet another, testament to the strength and resourcefulness of women, when there were no safety nets.

No more feeling badly about not being there when she was dying. Your Nan was apparently smiling right to the very end.

How much more important that you are honouring her in this special way.

I remember my favourite aunt, my Auntie Rose. I grew up with her, and when she died, I found myself writing about her in a short story.I shared this story with her only child, a daughter, and other family members who said I truly captured her. I no longer have that story with me, after so much uprooting, in my life, but she lives on, as a grand dame, in my mind and heart.