A Family Group

September 16, 2014

This photo dates from about 1963. My dad was involved in building a big garage at the time and the bottom of the family garden was a bit of a mess. But this collection of visitors was clearly worth a photograph.

I look on it with a degree of sadness now, for only the youngest three shown on that picture are still alive and with it.


On the left we have my mum who died just a few years later. Next to her is Uncle Jack who I thought was a lovely man. He also died far too young. Then we have my mum’s older sister, Aunty Vera. She and Jack had the two little ones in front – Sue and David. Vera passed away in 2010. Sue and David are still with us. In the yellow dress we have my sister, Paula. She died very recently having just made it to three score years and ten. Grandad Ware stands next. He died before the 60s were out. Next is me and, guess what? I’m still alive and kicking. Granny Ware comes next. She was actually a step granny and always regarded as a bit gauche and awkward. Finally we have my brother who died aged just 33.

My goodness, it sounds like a tale of woe, but you know, I have enjoyed (and still do) a wonderful life. Of course, my mum falling ill and not surviving when I was a teenager had a big impact on me as did the death of my brother who was just 18months older than me. But between times, life has been good and mostly good fun too. I’m writing this before my sister’s funeral. I suppose I haven’t had time to miss her yet. She had been very ill and people of a practical sort of nature were relieved when she died. That sense of relief is still with me.

I still see cousin Sue from time to time. Cousin David and I have not crossed paths for years.

One thing is for sure. I don’t feel ready to be the senior member of the family. But I seem to be there!

Frederick Crosby

September 15, 2014

Meet the Relative

Frederick Crosby was my great great uncle. I never knew him.

He was born in Tunstall in Suffolk in 1845. His parents were James Crosby and Mary Ann Cullingford Smith who were my great great grandparents. Don’t get any idea that the double barrelled surname of Mary Ann implied any kind of high status. It was quite the reverse. Her father was born out of wedlock and was officially a Smith but used the name of his dad (and mum when they married) of Cullingford.

But let’s look at Frederick. By 1851 his parents had moved down the road to Butley and we can find Fred there for both the 1851 and 1861 censuses.

Frederick then became a part of the family exodus from Suffolk and in 1871 we find him working on a farm near Tillingham in Essex. Several members of the Crosby family moved there.

But agriculture was very depressed and Frederick moved to Durham to become a miner. Here he married a girl from East Anglia called Ann Smith. I say a girl, but she was already 41 when they married in 1878. She was a widow and her maiden surname was Buck.  They had a daughter, Mary Ann Crosby who was born in 1880. She died in 1960.

In 1881 Fred, Ann with children from her first marriage and baby Mary were in Consett and Fred was a miner. The 1891 address was lovely – Delight Bank in Collierley, Durham.

Ann died in 1897. There is a memorial card.


In 1901 we find just Fred and daughter Mary Ann in Collierley with Fred now working as a roadman.

Fred remarried in 1904 his wife was Elizabeth Skipper. She was a widow, nearly twenty years younger than Fred. She brought her children to the marriage. The following year they had a son, also Frederick Crosby.

I wonder if this photo of Fred senior dates from around that time.


The 1911 census shows the family in Collierley.

Frederick died in 1929. Elizabeth in 1944.

A pole legend

September 14, 2014

We have an electricity pole in our garden. It has not been there that long for it had to replace an older one when we had rooms added in our roof. The firm we employed to do the building work had not taken in (and neither had we) that a new dormer window they were building was going to need the space occupied by the mains electricity cable going to the house next door. The chaps actually doing the work knocked the hole in the roof and then asked, ‘What do we do with this cable?’

This was a black moment for the electricity board promised us a huge bill, which we could not afford and a huge delay with a big hole in our roof.

In the end, neither happened because the pole was in our garden, but serving another property and after a temporary botch to allow the workers to get on with our new rooms, a new pole was fitted.

I suppose it is thirty or so years old now – and it has this carved into it.


So my legend is using that word in the sense of something written on the pole.

But what does it all mean? Mostly, I don’t know. Maybe the 10m stands for ten metres. I don’t think the pole reaches quite ten metres into the sky, but some of it is underground so it could well be its total length. But the rest of it means nothing. SPSE – I have no idea. Nor do I know what the rest of it means C4 FH and 3.

It doesn’t really matter, but I see this pole every day and I’d like to know. Can anybody tell me what it all means?

My Grandfather’s Clock

September 13, 2014

No, this one is not too big for the shelf. Actually, at home it sits on my aunt’s piano!

This clock is very ordinary. It’s a Smiths chiming mantle clock and dates from the 1960s.


This clock has had a bit of a stop/go existence. It stopped for a while and then I spent some time on it and had it working nicely enough. Then it began a regime of stopping at five to one, every twelve hours and as a result it languished, out of use.

The other day I decided to set it going again, fully expecting that when I got up in the morning it would have stopped. But it hadn’t. So I got the hands coordinated with the strike and chime and once again, the clock is sounding out its Westminster chimes every quarter of an hour. Actually, I wonder if the air brake is a bit gunked up because the chimes are not fast enough. I had hoped they might loosen off with time, but so far they remain slow.

Yes, this clock did belong to grandfather and was one of many he had for he had a bit of a penchant for clocks, mostly acquired from his brother’s ‘junk’ shop, But this one is different. This was his long service award for work on the railway. The plaque under the face records this.


This says

B.R. Southern Region
R. F. Ware
In appreciation of 45 years service.

Grandad may have retired from British Railways Southern Region, but when he commenced his railway service, after his release from a German POW camp and return home at the end of World War One, he joined the South Eastern Railway which had arrangements with its neighbour and may have been known as The South Eastern and Chatham Railway. I can only guess that his initial job was as a carriage cleaner which led to him becoming a train guard. From 1923 to 48 his employer would have been Southern Railway and in 1948 the railways became national property and so he was in the employ of British Railways (Southern Region)

There was a career progression through guarding trains which should have seen Grandad become a guard on the most important passenger trains. But for various reasons of his choice he always preferred goods trains. In terms of being a part of the team running the train that was the more skilled job. But Grandad may also have liked night work to help him cope with a somewhat unsatisfactory second marriage.

Towards the end of his career, with failing health, he was moved to the lighter duty of passenger work. He never enjoyed it as much.

Grandad ought to have done more than 45 years but of course the First World War meant he started a bit late and then poor health (Grandad was a heavy smoker) meant he had to give up a bit early.

He’s gone, of course, but like other ancestors, he is certainly not forgotten.

Signal Number 60.

September 12, 2014

Our previous house, which we left in 1976, was a number 60. Somewhere, and I have no idea where from, we obtained a signal lever number. And it was a number 60.


This is a pleasing brass disc about 5cm in diameter. Any self-respecting signalman would be ashamed of the lack of polish and shine on that number although in this case it probably never was that perfect for it has traces of red paint on it. On the back it should have clips for fastening to the lever. The number must have been rather violently removed from its lever for such bits of bracket as remain are broken and twisted.


That red paint probably indicates that the lever this was attached to operated a stop signal. In the old days of semaphore arm signals there was a fairly standard colour code in this country. Red painted levers controlled signals at which a train had to stop if it was in the danger position. A yellow painted lever controlled a distant or warning signal – one which told the driver of a train that he would probably have to stop at the next signal. A black painted lever was for points and there were other colours for less common levers.

Now we try to start the railway enthusiasm young in our family, so here’s grandson having a go at being a signalman at Medstead and Four Marks on the Watercress Line in Hampshire. Granny stands by in case the lever defeats the little lad.


The signalman had chosen well. No strength was needed to operate this lever. The weight of the signal arm did the work!

A genealogy problem

September 11, 2014

Mostly we can zap through finding relatives who lived in the 1841 to 1911 period. The presence of the censuses clumps families together and, from 1851 on, tells you the relationship. We are fortunate to have most of our ancestors from fairly rural areas. There are just less people with the same names to add confusion.

But sometimes you hit a brick wall and we have with ancestors called Robinson who hailed from Cheshire.

Mary Ann (known as Polly) Robinson married Abraham Fisher. They are great grandparents and easy enough to find. Mary Ann was born in 1869 in Mottram St Andrew and we know her parents were John and Emily Jane. It’s these two that cause us problems.

Emily Jane was born a Robinson so her name didn’t change with marriage and we can trace her through censuses – but only after her marriage. She seemed doubtful about her origins for in 1871 she said she was born in Ollerton. In 1881 and 91 she said Warford or Great Warford and in 1901 she gave Mobberly as her place of birth.

Meanness is a family trait, but eventually, we bit the financial bullet and purchased a marriage certificate for John and Emily Jane. Marriage certificates, of course, give a father’s name and surely that would help us trace a previous generation. So here it is.


They married at Prestbury on 23rd November 1868. Both said they were 25 and they lived at Siddington. Neither were able to name a father


The witnesses were Job and Jane Lea. They haven’t helped us sort out ancestors for Emily.

We think we have ancestors for John – but that’s not 100% certain.

Has anyone out there any ideas?

A 4-LAV at Gatwick Airport

September 10, 2014

My childhood home, once in the peace and quiet of a village, got attacked on two fronts.  Crawley New Town arrived from the south and east and reached within a couple of hundred yards of our village home. And then Gatwick Airport was built to the north and the ‘country’ end of the runway was little more than a mile from the house.

Gatwick Airport train station proved to be quite a good train spotting venue although that was quite a distance from home – 3 or so miles.

I was there on 1st May 1966 which was a Sunday. This was very much at the end of my train spotting career. Twenty days later I had my first date with the girl friend who became and still is my wife. I was on the very cusp of adulthood and for once I’ll quote the bible.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

And maybe that was why I had a camera. I could pretend I was recording a passing scene which, in a way, I was. This was one of the pictures I took that day.


It shows one of the Southern Electric units that were built when the Brighton line was electrified in 1933. By 1966 these units had past their use by date. They did feel like something from a past age and I loved them for it.

They were classified as 4-LAV. The four indicated they were a unit with four carriages. The LAV indicated (would you believe) that it had a lavatory. Yet three of the coaches were plain compartments with no side corridor or anything. If you were in one of those and needed the loo you’d have to have waited until a stop and then dashed along the platform to the one carriage which had toilet facilities. And then, at one time, you’d have had a choice of two, depending on whether you were a first or third class traveller. Amazing!

These units spent more than thirty years trundling up and down the line between London and Brighton. This particular unit was on service 14 which was the hourly service from Victoria to Brighton calling at Clapham Junction, East Croydon, Purley and all stations to Brighton.

The well-constructed timetable meant you could change at key stations and get a quicker train for much of the journey.

The old 4-LAV units were soon swept into oblivion by the new gangwayed throughout trains. They, in their turn, have been swept away, having been castigated as ‘slam door trains. But these old ones live on, and are loved, in the memory.

Oh, by the way, in the background of my photo there is a 2 BIL unit. These were slightly newer than the LAVs and had 2 carriages with a lavatory in each – 2 car Bi lavatory sets.


Other things of interest in the photo are the smoke deflectors under the footbridge – Gatwick Airport Station dates from the 50s when there were still plenty of steam trains about and the rather traditional style signal box incorporated into the new station when it was built.

Wiltshire White Horses

September 9, 2014

Wiltshire is a county with a lot of chalk hills and so it has plenty of scope for chalk hill figures including quite a collection of horses.

Back in the 1980s, my son decided that he would ‘collect’ them by visiting each one and getting a photograph. He wrote a short passage about each one and pasted photo and writing in a self-made book. It earned him his Collector Badge at cubs or scouts. I can’t remember which! But he can, of course. It was cubs!

This post isn’t really about the horses. It is using son’s book to look at technological change in the last thirty years.

Here’s the book title.


I do not now know which computer this was produced on but I suspect it was my Acorn Electron. Computers offered just one font in those days. It was a simple, blocky font composed of appropriate dots on an 8 by 8 grid. To get big lettering like this, you had to use special software. The letters were straight enlargements of their normal sized counterparts. Gosh, we thought that was clever back in the early 1980s.

My printer, like nearly all printers, was a noisy dot matrix device. This banged a network of pins onto an inky ribbon. The paper, behind the ribbon thus got dots of ink on it to represent the text on screen.

Colour work wasn’t possible unless you changed the inky ribbon. I could do that fairly easily so son chose to print his paragraphs in green.


Looking at that writing, I recall that I had special software which did allow a small variety of fonts to be used. Of course, they weren’t ‘proportionally spaced’ fonts. Every letter occupies the same width whether it is a single stroke I or a much broader M. My son has chosen to justify the text so as to get a straight right hand margin. Software could just add extra spaces between words to do this.

The way these things worked really does feel like another age now. There are certainly reminders here that change is not always for the worse.

There was no opportunity, then, of printing pictures and text in one document. In any case, computers just didn’t deal with photos and digital cameras were still in the future. So son’s photos were dealt with without any computer work.


This is Westbury White Horse, some 30 years ago and of course it still looks much the same today.

Here’s my similar photo taken in April 2014.


Back then, son had to take a picture and when he had finished the film he’d have put it in an envelope and sent it off to the processor. A few days after that his prints would have arrived – and that would have been the first time he’d have seen his pictures.  Cameras had no screen on the back to see results instantly, although with a Polaroid camera the processing was built into the film and you could see your photo within a minute or two. They were expensive and we never had one. There was no chance to say, ‘hang on! I need to retake that one.’ And you certainly didn’t hold down a shutter and take dozens of shots in the hope of one good one. Each shot cost money. You had to take it once and get it right. Of course, there was no chance to instantly share with world-wide friends.

Gosh! So many changes in such a short time!


September 8, 2014

It’s a bit shocking when your records let you down so I’m going to say we went to Chateaulin in 1973 plus or minus a year. We went camping with friends who kindly provided us with a very cheap holiday in Brittany.

We stayed in several locations of which Chateaulin is the best remembered because we settled there for a while.

It’s a pretty place – a small town on the River Aulne which doubles up at this point as the canal between Brest and Nantes, It’s that river/canal that this post is about.

Chateaulin has a lock.


This is a big, broad lock, quite unlike those tiddly 7 feet wide locks on much of the UK network. This could take a large barge carrying a worthwhile load. Having said that, commercial traffic was pretty well absent.

In the UK we expect a nice hefty balance beam, to rest on whilst the lock fills and then to push on at the appropriate time. Over the channel we seemed to get a pole to pull with.


Yes, that’s me pulling on the pole. Just one slip would see me tumbling backwards into the river, beyond.

The paddle gear was quite un-English as well. There are no open cogwheels or rack and pinion. There’s just a covered red box with a rack passing through it.


Of course, we had no windlass so that was left well alone – as it would have been anyway.

The river, alongside, tumbles over a man-made weir.


There’s a sluice to help control water levels in the event of the river being in spate.

The totally up to date Wikipedia records that Chateaulin is a major place in the salmon business. No wonder a fish ladder was provided to enable the salmon, heading upstream to spawn, to overcome the change in levels caused by man’s interference. When the navigation was built, the gentle flow of the river down to the wild Atlantic had to be converted into a series of weirs and locks to maintain a depth of water for boats. But the salmon, which can actually manage prodigious jumps, were not forgotten.


There’s a series of easily managed jumps for salmon, alongside the weir.

All photos were taken on my little Canon demi using Agfachrome 64 slide film.

Lorenzo (2)

September 7, 2014

Within a year of Lorenzo John Steven’s marriage, he had a new nephew down in Sussex. This nephew was called Lorenzo David Stevens. Lorenzo was born in 1893 in Ringmer, Sussex.

Sadly, I have no photo of Lorenzo who was my gran’s cousin but we do have military records for his service in World War One.

When he signed up, on 1st November 1915 he was aged 22 and lived with parents at Swingate Cottage in Ringmer, Sussex.


We can learn, from these severely damaged records that Lorenzo had worked for F Clark in Ringmer.

The annoying thing is a record I have from the 8th March 1918 issue of the Sussex Express that Shoeing Smith L Stevens had been awarded the DCM and MM for bravery. I can’t find any more about this. Can anybody out there help?

The service records appear to report a misdemeanour – of putting his load on a wagon, but nothing about any bravery or medals.


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