The origin of this website was seven substantial and closely written volumes
penned by my mother, born Florence Edith Cole. In them she recorded what she
saw around her as a child in a working class family
on a working class Victorian-style terraced
housing estate in the early 1900s.
The scale of what my mother wrote of her recollections
of life as a child in a working class household in the early years of the
I believe that her recollections are unique. Although quite a lot is known
about life above and below stairs in the big houses of the time, very little,
as far as I know, encapsulates so comprehensively the lives of the working classes
who lived on Victorian-style housing estates without paid help. The reasons
are not difficult to see because anyone with such knowledge would be an unlikely
author. My mother, like most children of the time from such estates, left school
when she was 14 and received no formal education afterwards. Her excellent powers
of observation and memory are without doubt, as is her obvious enjoyment and
satisfaction in what she called 'jotting things down'. However, her punctuation
and spelling were not all that they might have been, and she had the habit of
taking her recollections off along sidetracks as thoughts occurred to her. So
not only have I been faced with transcribing volumes of the spidery writing
of her generation and social class, I have also had to identify recurring themes
and edit them together into topics which I thought would be interesting as web
pages. The fact that this was possible is the result of two things quite unusually
working together: (1) that my mother, with her elementary schooling background,
bothered to write so much even though she was fully aware of its grammatical
and structural shortcomings; and (2) that I have been in a position to put her
writing into a form that is available to the wider public.
If you have an old photo which illustrates the way
of life that my mother describes, I would very much appreciate a copy.
In places, to add clarity, I have added information that I remember my mother
talking about but which she omitted from her written recollections.
Where my mother left unanswered questions which I believed significant, my
cousins, John Cole and Anne Cole (now Anne Davey) have been generous in coming
to my rescue with their own recollections of old people's houses in Edmonton
in the 1930s and 40s and of my mother's mother (our mutual grandmother) in her
later life. I am also grateful for additional information that has come in from
visitors to this website and its companion website on the
Cole Potteries of my
mother's paternal grandparents. All contributing individuals are acknowledged
on the pages concerned.
More recently, when tidying out old boxes, documents kept by my father
from the 1930s came to light, and I have used these as a basis for
additional pages to add insights into life at that time. These pages have a
different colour scheme within the same general housestyle.
I have felt it important to illustrate the pages but suitable
illustrations are slow to locate. There are two reasons why it is not just a
matter of going round to historical displays and photographing reconstructions.
One is that photography is not always allowed and the other is that my
work has enabled me to see reconstructions through the eyes of the past.
The result is that although they do add an emotional feel for
the times, they are all-too-often far from accurate. What I need are either new photographs
of still-existing 'time capsules' or old photographs - whatever their condition
- taken in the final years of the nineteenth century and the early years of
the twentieth century.
The process of making available the full scope of my mother's recollections 9
is still on-going, and all help with additional information and pictures will 9
be gratefully received.
There is advice on how to find your way around the recollections.
This website Join me in the 1900s is a contribution to the social history of everyday life in early to mid 20th century Britain, seen through personal recollections and illustrations, with the emphasis on what it was like to live in those times. It is © Pat Cryer.