Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Memoir of a Family: Part Three

This is episode three of the serialised journal, written up by my wife's great aunt, entitled, ‘Memoirs of my family and my parents, George and Louisa’. This hand-written journal offers a wonderful personal account of family life spanning more than 100 years from around 1863 onwards.

'The cottage had a large kitchen with a coal fire, side oven and small hob over the oven. How my mother managed to cook for such a large family, with such slow and difficult facilities, was marvellous.

She used a very large, oval-shaped, cast iron pot into which she cooked meat, usually rabbit, and all of the vegetables. To keep everything separate, she used string nets.

We had a large garden, irregular in shape, with a steep slope leading to a brickyard and surrounded by fields.

A pig was kept in a sty, under a yew tree, quite a distance from the house. It was an important event when the pig was slaughtered by a local butcher, and it was hung up under the tree after it had been gutted. It then had to have a small fire lit under it, to burn off the hairs.

This was a very busy time for my mother, who had to clean the chitterlings, which was a very unpleasant job, and needed large amounts of water. They were delicious when fried, and the pig fat was rendered into lard. The liver was also used. The pig was then cut into joints, but the sides had to be cured, as there were no freezers then.

We had a back kitchen with a large bench where the sides were salted. This process took some weeks and the flavour of the bacon depended on how it had been salted. It was then cut into large joints and stored for the winter. This was the only meat we had besides rabbit; and hens, when they had finished laying.

The feeding of the pigs and chicken was usually mother’s job, amongst all of her other tasks, her growing family and the anxiety from dad’s bouts of drinking.

The village school was in Allbrook, about a half a mile away. It is still standing and is called ‘The Old School Theatre’, where the Eastleigh Dramatic Society put on plays. At present, it is out of use. This used to be the infant school, consisting of one room. There was a head teacher and one assistant.

Whilst I was attending, 1909-1912, one end had a platform which was curtained off and used for church services, until a Mission Church, built of corrugated iron, was erected in a children’s playground in the village. It was replaced in 1970 by a brick building, and is now used by the Scouts and a Free Church group.

We had to attend Otterbourne school when we were eight years old. There were separate parts of the building for the boys and the girls.

A Mr Rolfe was the head of the boys, and Miss Francis Collins of the girls. Miss Collins was a wonderful teacher, and gave herself entirely to her pupils.

Scholarships were the only opportunity that ordinary, working class children had of going on to secondary school. Miss Collins was successful in getting a large number of girls through the examination which allowed admission to Eastleigh Barton Peveril School, where I attended from 1920-1923. It was entirely due to her influence that I became a teacher'.

Miss Collins and her elderly mother lived at The Post Office. She was a protégé of Miss Charlotte Mary Yonge, the Victorian novelist, but she is not remembered as she should have been, considering the great influence for good she had on so many pupils. She died in 1957.

Continued next week

To read from the beginning - click here

© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges 


  1. What a lovely snapshot of a time! We have butchered pigs ourselves though we are lucky enough to have a large freezer so didn't cure the meat.

    MMiss Collins makes me thinnk of the fictional Miss Read.

  2. Oh, this sort of thing just gives me goosebumps, and a sort of reassured contentment. How our Grandmother's coped is beyond me.I have nothing but admiration and awe for them. And it is actually something I do think about a lot.

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Martin. It is a precious thing to have. A number of years ago my Dad and his siblings all wrote down their memoirs which were then bound together and we all received a copy. I have often thought it would be a wonderful thing to continue, even thinking about how different my childhood is to my own children's. How fast life changes.

    I think I might just pursue that!

  3. Martin H.,
    I greatly enjoyed those excerpts. Looking forward to reading more.

  4. Vicki

    Every time I write up an extract, I'm reminded of how tough it was back then. But I'm also conscious of the fact that we've lost something special over time. I wonder if there are any modern-day Miss Collins teaching today?


    Thank you. So nice to have you along. And I'm really pleased that you're enjoying these extracts.

    Like you, I'm amazed at what people coped with in their everyday lives in times gone by, especially the women. Life was so hard for them then.

    To record your life and times for future generations is a great thing to do and a wonderful gift for them.

  5. Paddy

    Welcome to Square Sunshine. Thanks for your encouraging comments. I really appreciate them. I'm aiming to post extracts weekly, and there's quite a bit more to come.

  6. It's unbelievable how I feel like I've stepped into an almost virtual time machine and witnessed, and shared, and experienced, how those before us lived, and how life has changed. I am always amazed with these excerpts. There is no fiction, here. This is the true event of a life as it was lived. A pleasure to read, Martin, as always!


  7. Wonderful the journals have been saved. A lovely post.

  8. How wonderful to have these journals to be able to get a glimpse of life all that time ago...

  9. Nevine

    It's tempting to do a bit of editorial tidying, but I love the way it reads, straight from the source. So glad that you're enjoying these posts.


    Thank you. It has turned out to be a little treasure and a delight to share.


    I agree, it's wonderful to be taken back to another time and place, especially to be guided by this personal account.

  10. Sorry I've not been here to comment, Martin. I do so enjoy your posts and it's just been a busy week.

    They certainly did know how to use every scrap of meat off the pig, didn't they? Nothing was wasted; that's for sure!

    Having seen "The 1900 House" and more recently a British reality program about life on a Victorian farm, I can appreciate the work it took to keep things running smoothly in a household of the time.

    These journals are fascinating.


  11. Kat

    Please don't apologise. It's nice have your company as and when. Your comments are always appreciated.

    Yes, this account, written by my Mag's great aunt, is proving to be a real 'eye opener'. As I'm reading the material more closely now, it really is coming to life.


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