Banburyshire Family History

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Mary Elizabeth PARRITT née PORTER

The other day I gaily invited others to write in about their grandma, following up on Joe's splendid and loving piece about a Grandma of his[1]. Of course there are some of you who may have been denied those memories, through time or circumstance. I really feel for you, as a grandma can, and usually does, add a dimension to family relationships, quite different and complementary to, that of the parents. It is all part of the rich fabric of our lives.

Well having more or less challenged you to participate I am having great difficulty myself, knowing where to begin. It serves me right, doesn't it?

Which Grandma to write about --- as I was fortunate enough to know both? They were poles apart in temperament and appearance.

Mary Elizabeth PARRITT née PORTER

Mary Elizabeth PARRITT née PORTER

Mary Elizabeth PARRITT née PORTER

Mary Elizabeth, in a dark, very military styled dress is very young. I would put her age in the vicinity of 18.

Mary Elizabeth PARRITT née PORTER, my paternal Grandma, born in Sowe in 1871, was a fine looking woman with patrician looks and the whitest of hair dressed high, in a bun. I have one photograph of which I'm immensely fond, and that is the picture of her I carry in my mind. Photographs that survive of her when younger show a too thin face dominated by her eyes, but in later life she grew into her looks!

She was a proud woman, with wonderful deportment, (a feature of her family, evidently --- and which my father inherited), and a lovely porcelain complexion. Her clothes were old fashioned, rather long in the skirt, and she appeared to wear fearsome corsets, (as revealed in one photograph by the dress fabric), and usually she wore an enveloping apron when at home. To her dying day she wore boots, and my mother said that she would not have them removed during her final illness.

Mary Elizabeth PARRITT née PORTER

Mary Elizabeth PARRITT née PORTER

I always found her to be rather unapproachable but whether that was because it was dinned into us that we had to be on our best behaviour when we visited, I don't know. I remember sitting quietly, looking at the farming family picture dominating one wall, entitled "One of the Family", where a horse was being handed a titbit through the kitchen half-door. I was also intrigued by her red willow patterned dinner service. Surely the latter was a wedding gift from her last employer?


Mary Elizabeth PARRITT

The group photo is of her with her employers children. Their surname may be STOKES, as that is the name on the back. Whether she was a nurse/nanny for the children or their general servant we don't know. She did demonstrate skills such as the tissue thin cutting of bread, dainty serving and other refined practices that you would not expect from her humble upbringing.


George and Mary Elizabeth PARRITT

George and Mary Elizabeth PARRITT in the
garden of their home in Kingfield Road,
Foleshill, Coventry.


I do remember her wafer thin bread and butter, and that she held the loaf to her bosom and cut slices horizontally. She had been in service at one time and it showed in the high standards she tried to maintain in her working-class terrace house. My cousin remembers her pantry stacked with examples of her winemaking, but I can't remember that. So many made their own wines in those days --- Dandelion, Orange, Rhubarb, Parsnip and many others, as did my mother in her early married life. And very potent they were!

Well, on memories alone that is a poor showing. But in recent years I have been fortunate to see the three surviving letters which she wrote to my father whilst he was serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in India in the 1920s. What a treasure trove they are! They reveal a strong minded, spirited woman, rather, (to my mind), possessive of her sons. (That, of course did not endear her to her eventual daughters-in-law --- and explains such a lot about our relationship with Dad's parents!).

She enjoyed a joke, and a drink or two at the gatherings and musical evenings with older family and friends, still current at that time. With everyone contributing to the entertainment they seemed to be very lively affairs, and no wonder, with the liquid refreshment circulating!

Above all I am indebted to her for this mention of the names of family and friends, and I have been following these up, and untangling relationships in the extended family, and am still doing so. Free BMD has been particularly helpful for that. The letters also provide insights into her likes and dislikes and some familial interactions too personal to mention here. They have been a real eye-opener --- and aren't we lucky to have such a record?

Grandma died in the early years of the war and is buried in the London Road Cemetery, Coventry, which is unfortunately on the far side of the city to where I lived, so we weren't in the habit of visiting her grave. Grandad joined her there about 10 years later.

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Memories of Grandma

Contributed by Muriel Wells
Email: pollyp(@)xtra.co.nz
To contact Muriel, copy and paste the address and remove the brackets around the @ - thank you.