Wednesday 29 April 2015

Family tree

April brings the ephemeral but spectacular display of blossom on the cherry tree in our garden.

I always take lots of photos of it, even though they are the same shots every year. I can't help it, the white blossom and green foliage against a fiercely blue sky look beautiful.

No apologies either for showing you this jacket again; I'm happy to be wearing the hell out of it.
It's as old as I am and still looking sharp. .

1960-70s David Butler by Pressler maxi dress - Second to None, Walsall
1960s Admyra jacket, sunglasses and bangles - charity shopped
Sandals - retail (sale)

I've been looking at old photos from my dad's side of the family, and finally got round to scanning some onto the computer.

(I've shared a few old pics and my thoughts on family before on the blog, here.)

This is Tuckey, the farm run by my great-grandfather Henry Monk in the 1850s.

According to the 1861 census, the farm consisted of 320 acres, Henry was married to Eliza with 3 children, and employed 8 men and 4 boys on the farm, plus a dairy maid, groom and nursemaid. 

This is William Readman Monk, the youngest of Henry's 7 children, born in 1871. He took over the running of Tuckey in the late 1890s. 

William and his wife Esther Curtis (the source of my name).

They had 4 children, the eldest being Norman, born in 1900.

That's my dad!

Norman and his brother Frank with their maternal grandmother, Anne (known by her maiden name as Granny Barton) in 1903.

I love this photo of Norman, Joan and Frank, around 1906.

Here are the family together in the early 1930s - siblings Norman, Joan, Rose and Frank with their parents Esther and William. Plus dogs.

Esther died in 1951, William in 1958.

Dad in 1932.

One things is clear from perusing the photos; they loved their animals.

There are endless pictures of cats, dogs, horses, chickens, pigs, and as seen above, even a domesticated fox (called Minnie). All the animals are named, in fact they have equal billing with the people. 
And yes, that is a dog sitting on a donkey (bottom right).

Dad and Rose...

and Joan riding sidesaddle.

They were part of the tennis-playing, hunting and point-to-point set, and loved their cars...

and motorbikes.
 There are holiday photos in Margate and Brighton;

Joan and Rose;
Esther striding down the prom (hope that fox fur stole isn't Minnie);

Norman on the beach in a suit and tie...

and off for a drink with his first wife Dorothy.

So what happened? 
Dad moved away from Tuckey when he married Dorothy (who died), but Frank, Joan and Rose never married and continued to live there. Dad and Frank ran the farm until it was sold in 1973. 
My mum's take on the family is that they had a high opinion of themselves and didn't think anyone was good enough for them; they disapproved of her when she arrived at Tuckey as a land girl, and were unimpressed by her marriage to Norman. I don't know if that assessment is correct, and I know you can't draw any major conclusions from photos, but the years preceding the war seem to have been happy ones. 
Mum, late 1940s.
We inherited these few photo albums when Rose died some years ago; there are no photos during the war, or indeed afterwards. It's as though life ground to a halt for them, apart from running the farm. 
But not for Norman; he married my mum and became a father in his 50s and 60s. Rather a shock to the system, I imagine.

Dad carrying me, 1965.

My sisters and I visiting Tuckey in 1965...
and 1967.

I have memories of climbing on the straw bales in the barn, and tracking down the various farm cats for a fuss (this one was called Tim). We'd clamber on the mounting block in the yard, and sometimes sit on one of the horses (which I seem to recall being a terrifying ordeal). Joan would come out of the house to give us a sweet or two while we were allowed to pick flowers from the garden to take home to mum, but we were never invited inside.

After the farm was sold, Frank, Joan and Rose continued to live together in a small semi, where my sisters and I visited them from time to time. Frank seemed to relish his retirement, and embraced foreign travel; Joan sadly developed dementia, and Rose became her carer. 

One by one, they died. 
For most of us, our legacy on this earth is short-lived; within two, maybe three generations, our personal histories are reduced to dates of birth and death, and a few photos. 
Too pessimistic? Maybe.
Still, a blog is a fantastic photographic archive, and if anyone in the future (my kids, their kids) wants to know about Granny Curtise, here I am, in words as well as pictures. 

Saturday 25 April 2015


There is so much to see and do in Manchester, I couldn't fit it all into one weekend, or one blog post.

This place is brilliant, and will require a second visit.

Cotton is at the centre of Manchester's industrial, financial and social history. In 1781, Richard Arkwright built the first steam-driven textile mill in the city, ten years after he established his factory at Cromford Mill in Derbyshire (you can read about our visit here).

By 1853, there were 108 mills in Manchester, and twenty years later, the city produced over 30% of the world's cotton. 

The ready supply of water and coal, and the development of canals and railways made Manchester the perfect location for an industrial boom. Even the copious rain for which the city is infamous was beneficial; the damp air meant the cotton threads were less liable to snap.

Many of the huge number of warehouses built to accommodate raw materials and finished products have been redeveloped.

The Cotton Exchange where manufacturers and traders came to do business is now the Royal Exchange theatre.

Children were a significant part of the 18-19th Century textile workforce; here are Uncle Gary and the kids re-enacting a moment of mill-working brutality with great aplomb.

Fabulous street art and face-pulling. 
Oh Nina...

1970s cotton maxi dress - prize from The Queen's Drawers
Cardigan, necklace and bangles - charity shopped
Sandals - retail (sale)

Here's a hidden gem which is well worth a visit; the Gallery of Costume, part of Manchester Art Galleries. It's in Platt Hall, an elegant Georgian house in Fallowfield.

 There was an exhibition of wedding dresses...

and gorgeous hats...

and examples of beautiful clothing from the 17th Century to the present day.


It's the ideal place for a vintage lover to while away an hour or so on a wet Sunday morning in Manchester.

I haven't heard yet whether I've got an interview for the charity shop job. To take my mind off the waiting, I've finally got round to starting some sewing.

And yes, of course the fabric is cotton. This isn't just thrown together, you know...

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!