It is my grandparents’ 100th wedding anniversary.
My grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Blann was married from Walsall Wood in the cold, wet summer of 1912. According to the census of the previous year, her family lived a couple of doors from the “Travellers Rest” in Lichfield Road, and her father, formerly a miner, ran a business as a trader of an eclectic range of commodities: she told us that not only was he a coal haulier, they also supplied fish and chips from a window of their very modest house, and employed a man to ply the streets with a cart of ice cream.
The day of the census does not find her at home in Staffordshire, however, but in “The Queen of Welsh Watering Places”, Llandudno. Not at leisure to enjoy its charms, but as the “servant” of John Williams and his sister Elizabeth, bakers and grocers at 46 Mostyn Street, one of the grandest thoroughfares in the resort.
“I was a cook in Llandudno,” she used to reminisce ruefully, as if wonderful things would have been possible had she not been enslaved into marriage and motherhood. It seems unlikely that between April of 1911 and her engagement and wedding the following summer that she had been promoted to a position in service worth of being looked back on with wistful nostalgia. We will probably never know.
“Lizzie” or “Ma” as she was known in my childhood, had known her husband for the whole of her life. Their respective mothers, brought up in Cartersfield Lane, Stonnall, were sisters, making my grandparents first cousins. I was vaguely aware of this, but despite the wealth of anecdotes which my father shared with me, the topic was never touched upon, and I have the impression that it was a source of embarrassment to him. Of my father’s five siblings, only Margaret May died in infancy, and his eldest sister was robust and fit well into her 90’s, and so I am happy to discount having inherited any genetic deficiencies as a result of this liaison.
Lizzie and her new husband Noah Horton began married life with his parents and brother in Fishponds Cottages, Stonnall, where their first child was born on June 1st 1913. My aunt was evidently a honeymoon baby, who nevertheless spent her long life wondering whether her untimely arrival was the cause of her mother’s resentment about the life not lived in the shadow of The Great Orme. By the time of my father’s birth, the family were to be found in Walsall Wood. Late in the 1920s, they returned to a picturesque but primitively rural cottage in Footherly, where, with a little land and a lot of ingenuity, they filled their family’s plates with home grown meat and vegetables.