Betty May Abram

Betty May was the daughter and youngest child of my great grandparents Joseph Charles Abram and Milly May Bowers.  She was born in Halsted, Essex in 1924 and died in 2015.

Betty served in the RAF for a time but her records show she was dismissed under Kings Regs paragraph 652 for being with child.  She later  married Geoff Bryant in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire – they met while working in the Derngate office of the United Counties bus company in Northampton.  Interestingly, this is the same company her father took on during his time as proprietor of Earls Barton Motors.  Geoff was later a Company Director at C Butt Warehousing, a truck haulage company.  He died in 2016.

Four sisters and a brother

My grandmother Deilia Eileen Clarke was the daughter of Albert Edward William Clarke, a Northamptonshire Police Sergeant and Louisa Jane Shortland. Delia (known as Dids), born in 1916, was one of  six children, having four sisters – Dorothy, born 1904, Cecily Mary Clarke (known as Molly) born 1914,  Kitty (known as Kitten), born 1920 and one brother Edward Alexander (Teddy), who was born in 1906 and died, aged four, in 1910.  However my dad believes that Louisa Jane had a number of miscarriages and if these had not occurred, there may have been 11 or 12 children.

My grandmother married Louis Bowers Abram in 1916 and my father Michael was born in 1944. Oldest sister Dorothy married Henry Grey Faber in 1960.

Born in 1914, Cecily Mary Clarke, known as Molly, was the second oldest sister. She suffered with epilepsy and did not marry.

Kitty Alexandra was born  in 1920 and married Reginald William Jeffery, known as Bill. Together they ran a hairdressers shop in Brackly, Northamptonshire.

The photo below shows the wedding of Kitty to Bill, with her sister Dorothy and mother Louisa Jane stood to her right, together with Louisa’s brother Ernest Shortland.  Sister Molly can be seen standing at the back, second from the left.

Wedding of Betty ClarkeMore photos

Henry Grey Faber

Henry Grey Faber was the husband of my great aunt Dorothy (my grandmother’s sister). Dorothy was Henry’s second wife and the couple were married at  Holy Trinity Church, Micklegate, York in 1960. Although Henry is not a direct ancestor, I was interested to learn about him, as I have a very clear memory of being told by my great aunt that his family appeared in Burke’s Peerage and I wanted to learn more about this.

My dad tells me Henry was known as Hal and that he worked as a solicitor. I have confirmed this to be correct by looking at census returns and have also found mentions of Henry’s legal career in the Gazette newspaper.

The 1891 census shows a Henry  G Faber was born in Durham in 1887, to Thomas Faber, aged 30 (born 1861 in Durham) and Ada Faber  aged 29 (born 1862 in Wimbledon, Surrey). A younger brother and sister, Frank S and Ada L are recorded too.  Aged 14 in 1901, Henry appears to have been a boarder at a school in Harrogate and in 1911, aged 24, he is recorded as being a solicitor, living again with his parents Thomas and Ada and with more sisters and a brother.

I have also located information about Henry on the 1939 register, working as a solicitor and living with Ellen G Faber and Elizabeth H F Faber. I believe Henry married Ellen Holberton in Totnes, Devon in 1916. Their daughter Elizabeth was born in Knaresborough in 1917 and in 1939 her  occupation is shown as VAD, which I have learned stands for Voluntary Aid Detachment, a voluntary unit of civilians providing nursing care for military personnel in the United Kingdom and various other countries in the British Empire.

It would be another 20 years before Henry would marry Dorothy, who was working as a school teacher at the time, living in the Morrison household at Faceby Manor Faceby, Stokesley R.D., Yorkshire (North Riding), England.

Searching for Henry Grey Faber on the Find My past website, I found details of his service, medals and awards and his first world war record.  Ellen it seems also served in the army as a staff nurse.

Henry’s father Thomas, born 1861, can be found on the 1871 census residing at Middleton One Row, Middleton St George, Darlington, Durham, England, with his parents Henry Grey Faber, aged 41 (born 1830 in Durham) and Elizabeth Faber, aged 38 (born 1833 in Durham). Also four brothers and two sisters.  The Faber family are all recorded as visitors to Sarah Moore aged 75 and her daughter Mary A Moore aged 37.

I believe that Henry’s grandfather, also called  Henry Grey Faber, was the first son of Thomas Henry and Eleanor Faber and that he was baptised on 1 December 1829 in Durham.  Henry can be found on the 1841 census, aged 11, at Shincliffe, St Oswald, Durham and Lanchester, Durham, England which appears to be a school. In 1851 aged 21 Henry can be found lodging in the household of George and Hannah Harrision at Church Street, Guisborough, Yorkshire & Yorkshire (North Riding), England and employed as a Solicitor’s Articled Clerk.  In 1871 he can be found aged 41 residing with the Moore family as described above.

Origin of the names Faber and Grey

Information about the origin of the Faber and Grey surnames can be found on the Ancestry.co.uk website.

I am interested to learn more about the surnames Faber and Grey, as the name Grey appears to have been used as a middle name by many people with the surname Faber, both male and female, including Henry and Edward, largely in Stockton on Tees. However, I have also found the name connected to  Dorset, London, Middlesex and Essex and would very much like to know more about this. See footnote about the family of Hamilton S Faber and in particular his grandparents Thomas Henry Faber and Eleanor Faber (nee Grey).

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Shortland shoemakers

In papers given to me by my great aunt Dorothy, she noted that John Shortland (the brother of my great great grandfather William Shortland) had started a shoe firm in Irthinglingborough, Northamptonshire, so I set out to investigate.

I had always known that Northamptonshire was famous for making shoes and boots and that it was likely my ancestors had been involved but I never expected to find them involved to the extent I did.

Information about the firm Dorothy referred to was initially located on The Rushden Heritage website which indicated the firm was actually started by John’s father, also called William.

In 1875 the late Mr. William Shortland left his native Harrowden to seek work in the trade at Irthling-borough where he soon established himself and was one of the first to install a sewing and stitching machine. In 1891 he built the Tower factory where he and his sons, John and James, made shoes for the wholesale market. Eventually, John Shortland started business on his own account and in 1899 founded the Express Works, which during the past 59 years have been extended many times. On his death in 1934 the management passed into the hands of his son, Mr. Hugh Shortland. The development of the well-known “Wearra” fitting system, covering slim, medium and broad fittings in men’s, women’s and youths’, started in 1936.

Information about John Shortland Ltd was located on the National Archives website and about information about William and John Shortland on the Grace’s guide website where I discovered a large selection of adverts for William Shortland, John Shortland and Wearra Shoes.

I subsequently contacted the Irthlingborough History Society and Roy York and Philip Watts told me about Wearra shoes and the Express Works factory where the shoes were made.

The Shortland family I was told were ‘very important in the town employing many local people and Hugh Shortland’s name appears on the foundation stone of the local Methodist church. The hall, coincidentally, is where the history society holds it’s meetings. A reproduction of the giant plaque, on the now demolished Express Shoe factory, is being placed on the buildings of the new development being built at the moment on the large site in the centre of the town next to St. Peter’s church.’

The society also kindly sent me the photos that appear below which show William and John, photo three is believed to be James (John’s brother) and Hugh Shortland.

They also told me about a book titled ‘Clicking to Closing’ which contains information and memories about the work of my ancestors and it was lovely to read about the contribution they had made to the town and also to read they didn’t just run a successful business but appeared to care about the welfare of their staff too, boasting the axiom ‘The best use you can make of surplus profits is to invest them in the welfare of your employees’. In a strange coincidence, the book was printed and bound in the premises formally occupied by John Shortland Ltd – The Express Works in Church Street.

Sadly, the firm, which had become known as David Scott Shoes and was one of Irthlingborough’s largest employers, closed in 1982 with the loss of 320 jobs and today not one shoe manufacturer remains in Irthlingborough – in October 2002 R Griggs Ltd announced that production of Dr Martens in the town would cease, bringing to end, an industry with which the town had been associated for many hundreds of years. I feel incredibly fortunate however to have discovered such a wealth of information about my ancestors and the work they did and to be have been able to gather it here for my family and others to learn about them too.

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There’s no place like home

Going through old family photos, I have come across photos of places my family have lived. Below is a brief history of some of the places my family have called home.

39 Woodbridge Close, Luton

My first home was 39 Leagrave Close, Luton and it was here that I was born. My mum had wanted to give birth to me in hospital as I was her first baby but the doctor felt she was young and healthy, so a home birth it was.

Woodbridge Close was my parents first home after they were married in March 1967 and I came along in May 1971. The house was a mid terrace in a block of three properties and a new build which cost £4,250. Dad told me the heating/hot water came from a coal fired back burner in living room. The house had three radiators, the coal fire had to be refilled two to three times a day and an ash box emptied each morning.

 


Langport Drive, Vicars Cross

When I was seven months old we moved to Chester. My parents bought a new three bedroom house on Langport Drive in Vicars Cross for just under £5,000, after the first buyers pulled out and we moved in on 9 December 1971.  At the time of purchase the house had just a gas fire in living room and my parents had to find a plumber to fit the central heating.

The houses were built by Thomas Warrington Homes Limited and are a mix of bungalows, detached and semi detached properties, most of which have very recogisable windows on the front of the property – one large window divided up into many smaller windows. The bedroom windows overlooking the road had two similar smaller windows, with wooden shutters and mock black iron hinges. Today the windows still remain but the shutters and black hinges have now mostly be taken down.

My friend Ian and his sister Helen lived a few doors up the road in a detached property – their house was the last house on the right of the street. I remember it had a larger back garden than the rest of the houses and to the side of their house, out the front, there was a piece of land on which the children from the street would often play. The land signalled the top of the cul-de-sac, behind which a hedge was planted to separate the road from the busy A41 which ran directly behind it.

The black and white photos below show Ian and me as bables outside of my parents house.  The colour photos show Ian and me with our sisters Helen and Rachel.


Poplars Close, Luton

Poplars Close was my grandparents house until I was about 11 when they moved to Chester. I remember visiting my grandparents and also, because it was so close, getting to visit London and go the theatre at the same time which was always a treat.

The property was a large two bedroom bungalow called ‘Robin Hill’. The property was a large two bedroom bungalow, with a large garden out the back. I remember a greenhouse where my grandfather grew tomatoes and looking at the the photos today, I am struck by the size of the garden and how pretty it was. My grandfather must have spent a lot of time out there and I wish I could have talked to him about it, as I have grown to love gardens too and I think he could have taught me a thing or two.
My great grandfathers Albert Edward William Clarke and my great grandfather Joseph Charles Abram lived about 100 yards away from one another on Earls Barton. More information about both men can be found on this website.

32 Mears Ashby Road, Earls Barton

Mears Ashby Road was the home of my great grandfather, Joseph Charles Abram. Named ‘Rockaway’, it was a three bedroom semi detached house and was one of two houses which we believe he built after he retired from the army.

My dad and granddad lived in this house for around  4 – 5 months in 1952 too because my grandmother was in hospital. Dad remembers the property had a large flower garden but also a large area for growing vegetables. He explained to me that gardens were much bigger than they are today and growing vegetables had been encouraged during the war years as part of the Grow for Victory campaign.

The Limes, Earls Barton

My great grandfather Albert Edward William Clarke lived at The Limes.  The house still stands today.  Photos of the property can be seen below.

 

The Rag Trade

My mum has always been good with a needle and thread and when she left school, her first jobs were in the textile industries.

Mum first worked for a company called Kayser Bonder in Biggleswade.  The underwear made by the company, was known throughout the world during the 1950’s and 1960’s and Biggleswade was home to one of its factories for 53 years. The letter shown below was sent to my mum prior to her starting work at Kayser Bondor. She was fifteen years old at the time.

kayser-bonder
Mum also worked as a sewing machinist for Skirtex undertaking piece work (a type of work which pays a fixed rate for each unit produced or action performed regardless of time) and at Electrolux as an armature winder, both in Luton.

The photo below was taken at Skirtex. Mum is stood directly behind Father Christmas, to the right of a woman wearing glasses, who I know was called Connie, because I met her once.  I love this photo, it reminds me of the film Made in Dagenham. Mum tells me the women had a radio and would sing while they worked and I can imagine them singing along loudly and giving hell to any man who walked across their factory floor.

mum-skirtex

Later, mum made clothes for my sister and I and also for my dolls – I still have a bag full of them, seemingly unable to throw them away, even though I am now much too old for such things.

Then, almost forty years after mum began work with Kayser Bondor, she took early retirement and began making quilts – turns out she is pretty amazing at it too and has won awards for her work. Mum’s quilts are displayed on her website below.

natures_treasures

Up in the air

When he was young dad was a member of the  London Gliding Club on Dunstable Downs. Bedfordshire. He trained as a glider pilot and was ready to go solo but never saw the training through as he needed the money to buy a home. However, he retained an interest in flying over the years and for four years he worked at Luton airport as a Duty Crewman in the airport fire service which he described as fire, security and any jobs the airport commandant requested  to maintain smooth running of the airport.

The photo below was taken at the Scottish Gliding Centre in 1962. The plane is a Slingby T31 trainer.

scottish-gliding-centre-1

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Margaret and my Australian family

Putting together these pages, I have felt incredibly fortunate to know so much and have so many photos of my family and I am indebted to Margaret Creighton (nee Abram) for sharing so much of the Abram family history with me.

Margaret is my dads second cousin once removed and the daughter of Reginald Abram, one of the many children of my great great grandparents Charles and Emily. After the first world war ended, Charles and Emily stayed in England and Charlie and Millicent (my great grandparents) settled in England too but many of the family emigrated to Australia, with Reg going in approximately 1922 – 1923.

Below are some photos of my Australian family.

Photo one: Margaret with husband Graham, mother Connie (wife of Reginald Abram, one of the children of my great grandparents Charles and Emily) and sister Joan, 20 March 1093
Photo two: Margaret and Graham with Connie aged 90 1/2 years holding her great grandson Robert, also Robert’s mother Teenga
Photo three: Margaret’s eldest child Rodney with wife Jenny
Photo four: Margaret’s middle child, Greg
Photo five: Margaret’s youngest child Andrea