Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Memoir of a Family: Part Four

This is episode four 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.

'In 1913, Boyatt Farm was sold with Little Boyatt, so we had to move to Lincoln’s Cottage. Both farms were bought by the government and divided into small-holdings. Lincoln's Cottage was much smaller than Little Boyatt, so it was difficult to find room for us and our furniture. By this time, my sister Bertha was married to Frederick Maidment, and went to live in Hounsdown with her husband’s grandmother. So Bertha began her married life caring for her and husband, Fred.

My brother Frank had married Elsie Hewlett and lived at Nelson Road, Bishopstoke. He was a Fireman, and later became a steam engine driver. My brother Bert had joined the army, but had finished his time and was back home again.

Brothers, Ted, Phil and I were still at school, so we were very crowded. Both Charles and Bert were on the railway, but were only home at weekends, as they had to go wherever the railway chose to send them. They had to find their own lodgings and mother had to provide them with some food.

Charles had a very bad accident in 1910. A bridge at Fareham, which he had been repairing, collapsed, and he was severely injured. A broken leg and serious head injuries; no one expected him to recover. Mother had to walk to Eastleigh, through muddy fields, to visit him. The station was over two miles away and she did these journeys for twelve weeks. The hospital was quite a distance from the station, and when she arrived, she found no facilities for visitors. She had to ask a nurse for the lavatory. The nurse showed her one for the staff, but told mum she had better hurry, because if anyone saw her, she might lose her job.

Very often, in the winter, the journeys were in the dark and no lights. When she got home, mum had to start work again. She must have been thoroughly exhausted, both physically and emotionally. The washing alone, must have been enormous, but the standard of cleanliness was far lower than that of the present day. We only bathed once a week.

The clothes were boiled in a big copper, which was heated by a wood fire. It was quite a job to remove the clothes from the copper into the baths for rinsing. At this stage, we used a ‘blue-bag’ which contained a bleach, so the clothes looked really white. The washing took all day to complete.'

Continued next week

To read from the beginning - click here

© 2010, copyright Martin T. Hodges 


  1. I love all the wonderful history that's recorded with memoirs. It often makes us appreciate our modern conveniences. My dear grandfather typed up delightful memoirs of his early years. It's such a treasure.

    Looking forward to part II.

  2. What a pain to do the wash. I can't imagine how hard of work, week after week, that was. Thanks for my electric washing machine.

    Really enjoying this bit of history.

  3. Only a mother would love someone that much and sacrifice like that. Sweet.

  4. I'm loving these stories. And oh how happy I am for the automatic washer!

  5. My Gran was widowed the month before my Mum was born, and took in washing to earn a living to support her large family. So copper boiler, blue-bags, starch, wash boards and flat irons were part of her world too.Women were made of sterner stuff in those days.

  6. Willow

    Ever thought of posting some excerpts of your grandfather's memoirs?

    You can catch up with those of Mag's great aunt by following the link back to the first post.


    When we were first married, we had a 'twin-tub' (washer on one side and spinner on the other) and it was a wonderful convenience. These days, it's hard to imagine washing the clothes in anything other than an automatic. Goodness knows how women coped over 100 years ago.


    My wife, Mags, remembers her great grandmother with a good deal of affection. She was, indeed, a sweet person.


    Thank you. The automatic washing machine is a fine invention. Even I can operate it!


    It's hard to imagine a time when a mangle was a luxury, isn't it? I totally agree, women were made of sterner stuff in those days. They had to be!

  7. A difficult and demanding life. I wonder, sometimes, where the small moments of pleasure were hiding. I'm sure there were some...


  8. Nevine

    I'm sure there were happier times too, but they were probably few and far between. I'm getting the impression that the family was close, and that in itself would have generated a kind of happiness in such austere times.


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