Saturday, 1 November 2014

A suitcase of memories

My in-laws have just downsized, and as a result, hubbie has been making regular trips to Yorkshire. Each time, he returns with 'stuff' - hoarded over the years because of a war-time mentality of 'it might come in handy' and 'waste not, want not'. Which is fine, and as a result of which we're now the proud owners of an Edwardian typewriter, a canteen of cutlery for 12 people (including two sets of carving knives and forks, soup ladles, and the letter from Pappa's work colleagues who gave it him on the occasion of his marriage), a hammock, a proper oil lantern - and now, a suitcase full of memories.

Nanna's husband was an avid photographer - you might remember a post I wrote some time ago? About the glass slide photographs from the 1920's and earlier? Well, unbeknown to us, Nanna had a collection of her own...

Her father died when she was very young, and we don't know much about him except that he worked on the White Star Line in Liverpool. No, he wasn't on the Titanic! I'd done a bit of rooting around for the family tree and found the Billsdon family, but there weren't many photos in the glass slides we'd already seen because, naturally, they were mainly of Pappa's family - the Hetzels.

Yesterday, we met the Billsdons. They'd been squirreled away in a suitcase - and Nanna had labelled pretty much everything.

There's a box of letters, written between the 40's and 50's, from Billie to Babs. (Babs was Nanna - I'm not sure yet whether Billie was Grandma Billsdon or Florrie, Nanna's mum. Guess I'll have to read them all to find out.)

There are packets of photographs, including a fabulous family portrait, taken around 1900, in which Grandma Billsdon is apparently knitting socks. "I'll just finish this row while you're setting up the camera..."

There is a Japanese photograph album, inlaid with mother of pearl and (we think) ivory, its pages covered in painted silk, which is full of Edwardian and Victorian photographs of both the Billsdons and Webbs (her mum's family). It also includes several photos of Thomas Grenville Billsdon, (known as Gren): Nanna's dad.

There are paintings and a sketchbook. I thought, at first glance, they were dated 1982. Closer inspection showed it was 1892 - could it be a lady's sketchbook, then? Every accomplished young lady needed to be an artist back then... Well, that's what I thought - until I found the portrait titled 'My dear wife', and the certificate awarding the status of 'Art Teacher' to one John H Billsdon.

It's like a time-capsule. Of course, there's more recent stuff too - newspaper clippings, holiday snaps albums, wedding pics, christenings of great-grandchildren. But it's the Victoriana and Edwardian stuff I'm fascinated by.

I reckon the family tree needs revisiting - and this time round, there's a branch where I'm going to be able to put faces to names and see everyone just a little more clearly.

No comments:

Post a Comment