Kate Walker

Mrs Kate Francis (née Walker) b. 1895 2 Wellbury Cottages (born there)

Went to school in 1900, when 5

Walked 2 miles through woods and fields to school, with older brother (5 years old).  Took dinner – currant pasty or date pasty.  Always had a hot dinner when she got home.  It was dark before she got home in winter – mother was Martha Titmuss used to come through woods to meet her sometimes, but then wrote and asked if she could leave school at 3.30 in winter in order to get home before dark.  Thereafter school hours changed from 2 – 4 to 1.30 to 3.30.

Mr Donson had just become headmaster.  She remembers a rhyme about Mr Crowther (? from her brothers)

“Benjamin Crowther is a very good man,

Tries to teach us all he can

Writing, reading and arithmetic –

But never forgets to give us the stick

When he does, he makes us dance

Out of England into France

Out of France into Spain

Over the hills and back again

Kate was very friendly with Dorothy Donson (youngest D girl) who started to teach her the piano in the lunch hour.  Mrs D put a stop to it.  She wasn’t very kind.  (Preferred Mr. D) One day she got a splinter down her finger nail – “go home and tell your mother to get it out.”  Mr Smart, the policeman, saw her crying and he took her to his house and got it out “it would have been too swollen by the time I got home.

There were 5 older brothers and 1 older sister and a stepsister (mother was father’s second wife) who was 30 years older.

Elizabeth (s-s), Maude, Thomas Harry, Bert, Robert, Sidney, and there was another girl Mary somewhere in the middle who died aged 3 (May 1882 aged 2 yrs 10 mths) after being bitten by a dog (sheep used to be driven past house on way to Hitchin).

Kate’s grandfather (either George Walker or Daniel Titmuss mother’s father) was superintendent of Church Sunday School.  Lived in Pudding Bag Alley.  When he was older and could not work he received a loaf of bread and 3/6d relief from the Parish – on which they lived.

In 1911 (aged 16) she was sent to London (Crouch End) to be parlour maid at a Vicarage.  She was there for 13 yrs, 13 wks.  Saw the Zeppelin brought down at Potters Bar – they counted 37 bodies dropping out – vicar said “they are all human beings”.

She came home to look after Mum and Dad.  Doesn’t regret one minute of it – “they were wonderful parents and I had a wonderful upbringing.”  Got married at age 47 6 wks after mother died.  (Looked after parents for 18/19 yrs). Whilst in London she had private singing lessons with a Miss Webb who sang solo parts at Albert Hall.

She always had a thick winter coat, woollen gloves and bonnet and stockings (mother knitted them).  Later she brought them for ½ pr at Hitchin market.  Her godmother was a daughter of the Vicar (Loughborough) who had married parents and christened all the children, but when it was Kate’s turn he was ill, so Miss L was her godmother instead.  She always paid Willie Oliver the boot maker for Kate’s boots – she was measured for them and they were good leather boots and lasted a year.  Nevertheless had chilblains on hands and feet.  She walked through Highdown, across the meadow and down Shot Lane.  Always met Teddy Odell halfway down “What time is it?”  “20 to 9” (Always!)

At 7 had her tonsils out.  Mother took her to Hitchin on carriers’s cart (from Barton) to hospital.  They put her in a wooden kitchen chair – several nurses held her – the doctor tried to take out tonsils without anaesthetic, but she kicked and screamed.  In the end they gave her chloroform – very sick afterwards.  They sent her home.  Mother carried her to Taylor’s Hill where her sister lived, then to 3 Tuns to get the cart home.  She was so ill after the Dr. came out twice a day by bike from Hitchin.  Away from school 3 months – missed King Edward’s coronation celebrations at Pirton.  Mr Willie Pollard came to see her with a lady who gave her a beautiful doll, and a wide strip of satin ribbon to make a dress for it.

In Big Infants Room – tiers at one side of the room.  Boys sat in 2 front rows, girls in back rows.In Little Infants Room, 2 sets of steps, and tiers

She remembers a boy called Odell who kept looking back at the girls when they were doing needlework – so teacher made him spend time threading a needle.  He only had one eye.They knitted stockings.  Rounds were counted at the end of each session.  It was very boring.  They hemmed and back stitched.  Later made nightdresses and chemises in calico.Teacher complained to mother that Kate’s hands were dirty and made her needlework dirty.  Mother said of course, she had nowhere to wash them.  After that she was sent into School House at dinner time to wash them (the maid was grumpy!).She did very well at school – 2 or 3 times Mr D. sent note to mother asking if she would let her take Grammar School exam; but they couldn’t afford it – you had to buy everything, books etc. etc.

Two of teachers came from Lilley – lived in cottage all week – biked home at weekend.

Was away 3 months when brother had scarlet fever – the day she went back, school closed for epidemic.  She never had any contagious diseases.

Her brother took butter from farm 3 mornings a week to Offley Manor, before he went to school.  He was paid 6d. a week

The cottage was built 1849.  Has been in her family for 120 years.  Stepsister was 3 weeks old when they moved in (s-s’s mother – her parents were Gazeleys).

Mother was a cook at Little Offley.

She loved geography, but not history (all those dates!)On Empire Day they had a half day holiday.  In morning they were given big sheets of paper and had to draw a map of world and put in British possessions in pink.  She loved doing this.

Rose Handscombe, Rose Barnes and Kate were always top of class.

Liked Miss Ethel Trussell.  Hated Miss Catterall.

Remembers a really terrible thunderstorm one morning – house struck in Holwell Road.  Some children ran off to see, didn’t come back in afternoon.

Children used to go to Highdown on St Valentine’s Day.  Had to sing 2 songs – got ¼d and two small apples.

British and Foreign Bible Society.  Those who had collecting boxes used to go to tea at Highdown and there was a missionary meeting after.  (Photocopy of a/c of 1907 meeting).

Was married by Mr Hewitt.  Confirmed at St Saviours.  Went to 7 a.m. service.  Went to Sunday School at 10 a.m., church at 11, could not get to afternoon Sunday School because of distance.  Father was a bell ringer.

James Walker married Martha Titmuss on May 13 1874.  He was 33, she was 19.  His father was George Walker and hers Daniel Titmuss.  James, George and Daniel were all agriculture labourers.

He (James) previously married Emma Gazely in August 1864 (he 23, she 19).  Her father was Thomas Gazely, shoemaker.  They had one child, Elizabeth, born 1865.  Emma died in April 1871 aged 25.

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