Memories of Robert and Gladys Bell
Robert Bell was born in Ulley to Thomas and Fanny Bell in 1901, he was, I am told born in a cottage opposite the local village pub. He spent the first part of his life in Ulley before moving to South Street, Thurcroft where his father worked down the newly sunk pit as a Mine Onsetter. Robert was one of 9 or 10 children, being the fourth eldest.
His sister Violet used to go to Sawn Moor Farm to laden up with two buckets of milk on a yoke round her neck, which she carried up to the shop fronts to sell.
Robert spent all his working life down the pit, he met and married Gladys Emma Booth from Wickersley in the spring of 1928 in St Albans Church Wickersley. Gladys wore a typical 1920’s wedding dress with orange blossom in her headdress. They first lived at No 14 Lime Tree, Avenue, Thurcroft and later moved to a bigger house across the road at No 21, the one I remember well! Robert helped Glady’s uncle Harry Kennen to build one of the first shops in Thurcroft, now known as Sandras Cancer Charity shop, in about 1910/20. The shop was a grocers run by Harrys wife Bessie, Harry ran a Blacksmiths from the back yard and also kept pigs.
Robert and Gladys had four children Audrey Evelyn born 1929, Geoffrey born 1931 and twins Ralph and Douglas born about 1937. The twins were very tiny when born and they were kept in shoe box’s in front of the fire, Gladys also fed them in addition to milk, beef tea from a teaspoon.
Gladys worked very hard in addition to bringing up a family she also worked in the shop, she did all her own baking and wouldn’t hear of buying shop bought bread, I remember well the dough for bread being left on the fire hearth to rise, I loved to eat this dough raw and one day while Grandma wasn’t looking I thought I’d pinch a bit to eat, but instantly as I touched it, all the air came out of it and it went flat, I quietly sat on the settee thinking I was going to get a right telling off, but Grandma never said a word, she was a very patient person and I can never ever remember her telling me off for anything, I loved her very much, I used to go and stay at my Grandparents for a week during the summer holidays, this was a special time for me and my parents had strict instructions that they weren’t allowed to visit that week, it was according to me my holidays!!
At that time late 50’s early 60’s the older people used to still have potties under the beds, when I stayed I always used to help Grandma empty these each morning, uhh!! You might think but in those days it was quite normal - there were no bathrooms as we have now. I also helped on Mondays, wash day if I was there, all the clothes were washed and then mangled and finally hung outside to dry using wooden pegs that were always bought from the Gypsies, Grandma always put something in her white wash called a blue bag which I think made the whites look whiter? The best day was Meat and potatoe pie day, this was once a week, the stew beef was left overnight in the oven at the side of the fire to cook really slowly, the smell was fantastic, my Grandma always gave me a cup of beef tea with a wedge of homemade crusty bread, ahh.. I remember it well, marvellous, Grandma always said that you would always be well if you ate well.
Grandad Robert worked shifts at the pit and would always go off with the same snap each day which was home boiled ham and mustard sandwiches and a slice of home baked cake, it never changed. Grandad had a lot of interests which included Dancing, Whist drives, Bowling, St Johns ambulance, Operatic Society, Cricket and was also a member of the working mans club known as the bottom club, one day me and my Brother were at my grandparents playing in our favourite place the pantry, the door was shut, we thought of it as some sort of den, anyway Grandad a little worse for wear having just come in from the club opened the pantry door and said to me and Steven “ Hello I’m Bob Bell” and then shut the door, we couldn’t stop laughing but poor grandma was horrified she was tee total except for special occasions when she’d have a glass of sherry, we were packed off home sharpish, while I expect Grandad got a sound telling off!! Great memories!
Grandad spent most of his spare time in the back garden which was full of fruit and vegetables, a sight to behold, he grew everything, I can remember at the top of the garden there was a hedgerow of blackberries, grandma used to make blackberry jelly from these and lovely blackberry and apple pies.
Grandad was a man of few words, but was a well known man in Thurcroft, sadly he died in 1970, my Grandma the next year moved to a flat on Cedric Crescent, Thurcroft, she passed away in 1993.
Grandads family originated from Leicestershire and Lincolnshire, while Grandmas family have always been local.
My memories of Robert and Gladys Bell are vast and to many to put down now, so perhaps another installment later?