Violet Mary Elson (nee Kinsey)

My father, Frederick Kinsey, was one of 16 children and he was born at Carden – his family had a farm there, ‘Bank Farm’. He took to farming himself, and farmed at ‘Curdlands Farm’ on Harthill Road in Burwardsley. After the death of his first wife my father was left with two daughters, May and Maud. It must have been hard work farming and looking after the girls. He took in a housekeeper, Millicent Robinson, to look after the house and the girls, and she helped around the farm where she could. They got to like each other and decided to marry. My father and his second wife Millicent (my mother) were to have 4 children, Hodson being the first child to arrive, then Herbert, myself in May 1930, and finally Margaret.

'Curdlands' at Burwardsley where Violet spent much of her childhood

‘Curdlands’ at Burwardsley where Violet spent much of her childhood (image kindly provided by John Stoneley)

Life was good at ‘Curdlands’. I can remember my father taking milk down to the Cooke’s Creamery in Tattenhall with the tankards in the back of the horse and cart. I sometimes went with him. Before she married, my mother used to make cheese for Bourne’s at Bickerton. Eventually, my father developed Parkinson’s disease and had to give up ‘Curdlands’ and the family moved into ‘Holmleigh’, a large house just down from the shop in Burwardsley. It was a lovely brick house – I have memories that it was later painted pink. I think that this was a pity, because it was a fine Ruabon brick.

I was schooled at Harthill first, and then in 1939 I went to Burwardsley School (now the Outdoor Centre), but I don’t know why I changed schools. I was happy there and the headteacher and his wife at Harthill were Mr and Mrs Pickford who later retired to Bolesworth Road in Tattenhall. At the Burwardsley School, Miss Parker was Headmistress– she lived at the top of Raw Head, and she walked down the fields every day to the school. I then went to the bottom school in Tattenhall.

I remember the evacuees came to Burwardsley from Liverpool in 1939. My mother had four staying with us at ‘Holmleigh’ – a brother and sister and two other boys. One boy did not stay long, because, I am afraid, he was a naughty boy – the powers that be sent him back to Liverpool. The remaining three were Jimmy Cheatham and Charlie and Edna Sadler. The brother and sister stayed with us probably for the duration of the war. Their mother came to see them and sometimes stayed – my mother could always find room for someone to stay. We kept in touch, Edna and I, because she was more or less my age, but the years passed by and we lost touch. They went to Burwardsley School and the Church as well.

I also remember the Americans being in Tattenhall and vaguely recall the black Americans too. I used to cycle down to school from Burwardsley, and they used to be on guard duty at Millbank. I saw aeroplanes on the Flacca. I didn’t know why they were there really, but they were.

Violet (Vi) as Company Leader with the Guides

Violet (Vi) as Company Leader with the Guides

I was in the Girl Guides in Tattenhall. I started off as a girl guide, and we met in the little cottage that lies in the triangle of land between the Rhigi Road and the Bolesworth Road. We had a room just for us there in ‘Bifur House’ – we went through the little gate on Bolesworth Road and that was our guide room for years. Miss Clayton was our Guide Leader. She lived at Wood Lake House with her parents. I was a guide even after I was married – the number in the group varied but it was popular. We used to go camping. After starting as a guide, I became a Patrol Leader, then a Company Leader and then a Lieutenant. I still have my ‘wheatsheaf’ badge which went on my hat, and I still have my ‘clover’ badge. We went once a week. After a while we moved meetings to the green shed in the Gardeners’ garden – Miss Nield came after Miss Clayton – as Captain. I also belonged to the Girls’ Friendly Society for a while – it came under the Tattenhall Church. We used to meet in the Rectory for that. I was also a member of the Women’s Institute, and I sang in the choir at Burwardsley.

I left the ‘Bottom School’ in Tattenhall when I was 14, and then went to Mains’ Secretarial College in Bridge Street, Chester. I took the train to go to College in Chester – I used to cycle to Tattenhall Station, Frog Lane from Burwardsley. I’d leave my bike at the station, got the train to Chester, went to College, got the train back to Tattenhall and then biked home.

I had lots of jobs – my first was in the offices at the Leadworks by the canal in Chester doing book-keeping and shorthand typing, and then I moved to Thomas Swift and Company, a wholesale newsagents. Later I worked as a domestic at the Masters’ at Jupiter House and the Gardeners’ in Burwardsley Road, both in Tattenhall, then with Cooke Brothers in their Calypso factory packing the cartons, and L.N. Jones & Sons (twice – before I was pregnant, and when Eric was aged nine I went back). I also worked for a while at Scientific Services when it was housed in the Congregational Chapel and in the Post Office on Tattenhall High Street for Maureen Page, but only in the shop, which was quite an Aladdin’s cave, selling everything you could think of bar groceries. There were electrical goods, haberdashery, wool, pet food and wild bird food, stationery – the list was endless! I worked there on Saturday mornings until I was 70. Everything was stored upstairs. There was also a garage at the back where we had paraffin and gardening stuff – people came in with cans for two gallons of paraffin. I bought loads of knitting wool from there.

The wedding of Ron and Vi at Burwardsley Church on 30 July 1949

The wedding of Ron and Vi at Burwardsley Church on 30 July 1949

I moved down into Tattenhall at the age of 19, when I married George Ronald Elson at Burwardsley Church. My husband, known as ‘Ron’ to everyone, was born in Tattenhall in one of the two cottages that have now been demolished, opposite Field Lane on Burwardsley Road. When we married on 30th July 1949, we moved into Yew Tree Cottage to live with Ron’s father, George Elson. His mother had died when he was abroad in the Army, serving with REME in North Africa. He was in a team of 3; an officer, a corporal (Ron) and a private.  They would travel around the various bases checking the vehicles in the different units. They were always treated well, as the units hoped they would get good reports.

Yew Tree Cottage was the end section of the property which is known currently as ‘Holly Cottage’ (formerly ‘Privet Cottage’) on Burwardsley Road. We had a big black range, no hot water, a flush toilet up the yard, no bathroom, and there was the original gas pipe in the corner which had been sealed off – the gas used to come from the gasworks down by the old mill at the other end of the village. There were two bedrooms, one small one, which my father-in-law moved into, and Ron and I were given the larger of the two. Just after I married Ron, my parents moved to Tattenhall, having bought an end house of the terrace of three black-and-white houses on Tattenhall Road near to the new police station. They renamed it ‘Holmleigh’. A couple of years after I was married, Eric, my son was born at my parents’ new house and then came back to Yew Tree Cottage. Eric was christened at Burwardsley Church. We moved out from Ron’s father’s home when Eric was aged two to move into our house in Keysbrook (the house had not long been finished – it was brand new.)

Ron was a motor mechanic at Tristram’s in Chester, which later became Henly’s. He was a skilled motor mechanic in the repair of vehicles. His father was a ‘ganger/platelayer’ (foreman) of the men who worked on the Whitchurch Line from Tattenhall Road Junction through to Broxton.

In our courting days and for many years after, Ron and I loved dancing. In the Barbour Institute the dances were very popular. Actually, we went all over the place – to Bickerton (that was a great place for dancing) – we went on the bikes – we went to Malpas, Peckforton and sometimes to Love Street in Chester. My favourite dance was the quickstep. My sister would babysit and look after Eric for us when we went out. We had the proper dance bands who came from all over. These were ticketed events which used to be around 2/6d – the blokes always came after the pubs closed because there was no bar at the dances! Ron didn’t drink so we were always there together. Posters advertised the events. The lamp on my bike was a carbide light. Little stones were in the lamp on my bike, and water dripped on the stones creating a gas, which then created a light. I probably got my carbide from Frank Pierce’s in the village (it was an acetylene lamp). Eventually I had a battery lamp and then a dynamo. My bike repairs were always done by the family. It was a Raleigh bike.

When Eric was a baby, I used to work at Mr & Mrs Masters’ (they lived in the house where Alison’s Café now is). I was working around the house, and Eric came along in the pram. One or two of us did the work at different times. I also worked at Mr & Mrs Gardener’s on Burwardsley Road (in the house now known as ‘Fairfield House’, just up the road from Ron’s father’s) – I was a domestic there too.

At LN Jones & Sons, I started my job with Mary Dutton (nee Hatton) in the small brick building at the entrance to the coalyard doing book keeping. There was a weigh-bridge, too. In time, I got to do most of the book keeping. Eventually, I moved to the reception office behind the Aldersey Arms, where the work for all the business ventures was carried out – the Aldersey itself, solid fuel accounts, fertilizer, off-licence, garden products, the brickyard (which by this time was only producing land drainage pipes) and the farm. Mr. Bryan Jones was in charge of the brickyard. In the end I used to be secretary to Bruce Jones who died quite recently – he was also Club Secretary to Cheshire County Cricket Club, and I had to do all that secretarial work, too – he dictated the Minutes to me, and I had to type them up and stick them into a book. I used my bike to get to work – there and back. I was happy there and they were very good employers. I used to do 4 days a week. Monday afternoon so that I could do my washing in the morning, then full days on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday I had the morning off to do all my housework. Occasionally we did Saturday mornings. During school holidays, my mother had Eric, so I knew he was looked after. She either came here or he went to her home, then in Hoofield.

The offices were in a strip of buildings across the yard behind the Aldersey Arms. They were two storey buildings – Mr LN (before he died), Mr Bryan and Mr Bruce had their offices upstairs and the reception area was downstairs. Eventually I was moved upstairs, because another girl came to work on the switchboard and telephone. I don’t know when the chimney of the Brickworks came down, but I do remember when the chimney at the Boneworks was blown up, as we were allowed out of the office to go to the bottom of the Coal Yard so that we could watch it. It was the spring of 1973. I took a movie camera with me, but unfortunately the film has been lost. ‘Blaster Bates’ blew it up. It was just a happening that we all watched. In its day we could smell the Boneworks up here at Keysbrook – if the wind was in the right direction the smell came right up into the village. Jones’ presented me with a silver salver for my service when I finished my work with them. I have now donated it to the Horticultural Society to use as a prize trophy.

Ron died in 2006 – his ashes are with his parents in the churchyard.

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