I come from a long line of hoarders. The dress my Great Grandma wore for her wedding in 1906 lives in the bottom of my wardrobe, Great Great Grandma's mourning jacket hangs on a rail encased in a suit carrier and Great Great Grandpa's top hat lives in a box on top of a cupboard. You'll find the Chinese parasol my Grandma and her older sisters played dress up with as children in the umbrella stand in our hall and her collection of Victorian mourning jewellery is safely stashed away in a box in my dressing table.
|Inherited stuff - Victorian top hat, shot silk and velvet mourning jacket with jet beading and my ivory Edwardian wedding dress|
Great-Grandpa's Cheshire Rifleman's regimental jacket survived the Boer War and now lives, complete with corresponding waistcoat, on a vintage French mannequin in the dining room and occasionally worn by me.
But what of the endless paperwork and photographs my family have held on to for over a hundred years? Newspaper cuttings, party invitations, greetings cards, tickets, travel passes, identity cards, letters, postcards, holiday snaps, wedding photos and mementos of family gatherings stuffed in lidless shoe boxes and yellowing paper folders, crammed into dressers and chests of drawers gathering dust and largely ignored for most of the past century.
With my brother uninterested and our house already bursting at the seams, this week I've spent at least an hour each day trawling through all the boxes, reading letters, retrieving interesting photos from the endless envelopes and unearthing the odd curiosity, finally managing to whittle down a century of memories into a single album.
Here's Thomas William Harris, mum's dad's father (my great grandfather), outside Grandpa's childhood home, Hamble Cottage in Kings Avenue, Stone, Staffordshire.
I knew my Grandma's father worked for the railways but had no idea my Grandpa's father did, too. I found his first class rail passes in amongst the boxes of stuff. While researching them I found an eBay seller listing a specimen one for £145!
I also found this letter from the London-based chairman of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company awarding him a medal for remaining at work during the General Strike of 1926.
The Coppack family were cousins of my Grandma and also family legends. John Coppack married Sarah Ellen Davies in 1859 and had fourteen children (William, Annetta, Elizabeth, Isabella, Agnes, John, Florence, Mary, Evelyn, Fred, Ernest, Harold, Cecil and Anne) all of whom survived into adulthood.
My Grandma's mother was one of seven sisters. I'm not sure which one she is but I think the mother (my great great grandma) is wearing the mourning jacket I inherited.
Here she is again. How incredible is that dress?
This is her again, this time with my great grandpa. The scribble on the back of the photo reads "Silver Wedding 1888 - 1913". I don't think it was a happy marriage. My Grandma told us that he was a notorious womaniser.
My Dad's James Bond lifestyle - exotic places, beautiful women, fast cars, daring pursuits and mysterious foreign gentlemen. These photographs were taken in 1949.
Meanwhile, also in 1949, here's my Mum, still a little girl, off to catch a train from Chester station with my Grandma and her other sister, my amazing Great Auntie Maud.
I'm assuming one of these Victorian schoolboys at the British School in Chester is my Great grandfather. I'm loving the teacher in the bowler hat.
Here's the Crosby family (Grandma, her sisters, parents and family friends) on a trip over the border to Rhyl in North Wales, 1924 and there's my parasol!
A few snapshots from my maternal grandpa, Reg's life. He was an only child, born in 1913, qualified and worked as a chartered accountant but the love of his life was cricket, acting as a scout for Worcestershire C.C.C for many years. His mother, Mary Alice Chapman (b. 1880) was the original owner of my wedding dress.
Here's Grandpa as a boy. I loved this poem his Aunt Dorothy (b.1884) wrote to little Reg in 1919 about her recovery from Spanish 'Flu - which, as you know, claimed more victims than WWI did between 1918 - 1920.
Here's Mum with her youth club gang, busking their way around the Scilly Isles in 1963. Always a sun worshipper - just look at that tan!
Mum's mum, my grandma, was one of three sisters. This is her older sister, Florence in 1910. The kimono was a gift from a relative who travelled to Japan and was a favourite family dressing up item for years. Sadly, when Dad developed dementia in 2010 he threw it in the bin. Florrie died in 1943 after joining a religious cult which didn't believe in modern medicine.
That's my Mum introducing me to my brother, Marcus in 1968. I was so jealous I stole a pair of scissors and cut every pom pom from his clothes.
Grandma's father on a Great Western Railway workers trip. Great grandfather is the mustachio-ed chap standing at the back on the right of the photo. Aren't the boots the man seated at the front of the picture incredible?
Joan's school was scribbled on the back of this photo. That'll be my Grandma (Mum's mum). She was born in Chester in 1915 so I imagine the picture would have been taken in around 1920. She's the little girl with the brown bob standing at the back.
Can you believe that I still haven't watched Peaky Blinders? I've been trying to avoid Facebook since Wednesday night in case somebody blabs. Can't wait to catch up tonight.
See you soon!