Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Uncovering the history of life in 1919 from the letters of Mrs Nellie Davison

Barlow Fold circa 1900
Now here is a detective story which is just at its beginning.

This is Barlow Fold in Romily sometime around the beginning of the last century.

The cottages are still there today and one of them was the home of George and Nellie Davison.

This was Birch Vale Cottage and it had been their family home from around 1911 until sometime after 1955.

Today they look attractive properties with that added appeal that they have a history and in time I will find how old the cottages were along with something of the people who lived there.

Nellie Davison circa 1916
I know that back in 1919 Birch Vale Cottage was judged “exceptionally damp .......... and the water undrinkable” by the family who had rented the property from Mrs Davison.

All of which has set me thinking about the cottage.  Mrs Davison vigorously rebutted the criticisms offering up the rejoinder that “it would not have been half so damp if you had been a little more liberal with coal.  I found it as got a lot drier since I came back with keeping a decent fire” and pointing out that the quality of the water was not down to her.

But the exchange of letters reveals much more.  I know that the rent for the cottage amounted to four shillings, that Mrs Davison was renting it out as furnished for 18 shillings and that she herself was paying 12 shillings “a week for one room while in Ireland and London.”

Added to this the aggrieved sub tenant paid one shilling and 8d for five plates at 4d each, another one shilling and 9d for a glass dish and one shilling for a teapot stand.

All of which begins to give us an idea of the cost of living in 1919.

Of course this will have to be balanced by the sort of salary George would have earned as a clerk before the war and his army pay.

Detail of the cottages
But it is an introduction into life at the time.

And what fascinates me even more is the evidence of how frequently Mrs Davison moved around.

During the early part of the war she appears to be in Romily but some of the war letters from George are addressed to Manchester and she herself refers to Ireland and London.

It maybe that she moved back to Manchester to be close to her family during part of the war and visited George who was stationed in Woolwich and Ireland.

And it may also explain the absence of any letters for 1917 which at first I put down to accidental loss but might be because she was with George for part at least of that year.

So there is still much to discovered.

Pictures; from the George Davison Collection in the possession of David Harrop

1 comment:

  1. That sounds very interesting Andrew, would love to hear more.