Ella Maud Harsant

The following article was published in the December 1994 (Vol. 9, No. 4) issue of Roots and Branches, the journal of the Felixstowe Family History Society.

Whilst pondering on how to stretch the material I had for the December magazine I was overjoyed to welcome our president when he came to see me bearing the following article. It had been passed to him by one of his congregation who thought it might interest our readers. It was written by Mrs Ella Maud HANCOCK (nee HARSANT) a lady born 12.9.1896 and who died 10.11.1992 thus having started life in the reign of Victoria, went on through the reigns of Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and many years of Elizabeth II. Reading her story made me realise how different is the world today from those far off days Mrs HANCOCK so ably describes in her recollections. The thriftiness that she imbibed in her youth must have stayed with her as some of the paper upon which she wrote her story had been used before and one can see a stamp, and just read the address, underneath some of her writing. The photograph shows Ella Maude (front right) with other members of her family who I think are all a credit to their mother's skill with the needle.

Ella Maud was the youngest of fifteen children, the daughter of William and Esabeler HARSANT. Ella herself went on to have six children of her own; she was a staunch Baptist all her life and wrote this article at the age of ninety.

I have printed the article as it was written with just a couple of added letters where I thought it might help the reader The article was written in a strong hand with black ink, thus making it very easy to read and enjoy.



My father was a bricklayer and builder and worked for Mr. F. ALLUM builder he had two sons and one other man besides my father, he had 2½ miles to go to work from 6am to 6pm. His wages was one golden sovereign per week my two brothers worked on farms one was head horseman and the other head stockman one the Eldest Brother received 12 shillings per wk the younger one 10 shillings per week, this was my mother's weekly wage.

My mother made all our clothes the boys and fathers shirts and all the girls under linen dresses and coats as she was (a) good needle woman she worked very hard to bring in a little extra money as there was no clubs or insurance to help in the income so as a family we had to work very hard. There was no electricity or gas or anything to cook food with. We had a small oil stove which we could boil a pudding on but chiefly all our meals was cooked on the fire we had an old fashioned stove which was built with bricks, it had a large back stove which could hold 3 large saucepans or boilers but most of our food was cooked in large iron boilers which could hold plenty of water we used to go to the farm every morning with a great milk can which we could fetch filled with fresh separated milk this was our mornings breakfast a large basin of bread and milk.

We had 2½ miles to walk to school we had to take our lunch for the day and used to sit on the form in the playground to eat it and at night when we got home we had a cooked meal when we arrived home from school if the weather was fine we had to work in the garden as we had a large garden we could grow most of our own vegetables what we couldn't grow we bought from the farm all our vegetables were bought by the peck or bushel at a very low price.

When we had our summer holidays we had to work in the fields helping the farmer either stone picking in the fields or helping in the Harvest gleaning corn behind the combine helping to stack the shroves up when we had spare time we used to gather cowslips and take them to the farm the farmers wives used to make cowslip wine or alderbury wine sloe wine and crab apple wine we used to gather the fruit for them we used to get up at about 5.30am in the light mornings we used to take a hand cart with a broom dustpan and brush sweep up the acorns as they fell from the trees, fill our sacks take them to the farmer for the pigs and got a few pence for them which we had to take home to Mother to help in the food problem. We had to do every thing by candle light as there was no other fighting we only had candies or a lantern with a candle in to show us light. My Father was a very handy man he could do shoe repairing so could mend all our school shoes and I used to sew patches on the shoes if they needed in weak places and again my father used to sweep chimneys also haircutting the village people would come to my father for hair cut and a shave, 1 pence for a shave 1½ pence for a haircut and shave, in those days one could get one farthing worth of pepper tobacco was about 2 d an ounce.

My Mother used to make all home made jams so we always had a larder full of preserves also we baked all our Bread my Mother used to get a stone of flour from the millers and on Friday nights was the night my Mother baked her bread she made about 25 large loaves of bread every Friday that was the weeks allotment all cakes pies and tarts (and) sponges etc were all baked at the same time and stored away as we had to heat the oven with brush faggots and it took one hour to heat the oven and everything was baked on the red hot coals it was a very hot job also we brewed our own harvest beer and made all our different kinds of home made wine, again my Mother was a midwife so she was called out to all the Farmers wives for their confinements she went to the farmers homes and took over all the responsible work that the farmers wife done so she stayed in the house one month until the farmers wife was well enough to take over her duties. So we had to carry on whilst my mother was away.

Easter weekend everything had to be prepared over night. Baths hair washed clean clothes laid out ready to put on the Sunday morning all shoes cleaned ready. Nothing was left to do for the Sabbath day all went to Sunday school in the afternoon Morning Service attended and again the evening at 6pm. every Tuesday night. Fortnightly our Methodist chapel was used by the Strict Baptist so it meant me and my sister had to go and light the fires to warm the place up the stove was one which was fixed in the centre of the chapel with a long chimney going through the roof there were no conveniences such as cars the only thing the Farmers had were little pony and traps or little governess carts the few cycles which were used was hard cushion tires or penny farthing bikes every thing was done on foot. With all the inconveniences 1 loved the olden days as we were so happy and contented. 1 think that I've told you all I can think off.

P.S. We had no pumps for water only a pond in the meadow where we had to get our water for everything we had one reading lamp stand in the centre of the table to give light in the room. My father always kept a pig in the sty and used to fatten it up and when it was big enough a man named Mr KERRIAGE from Bruisyard used to come to the house and kill it a(nd) the butcher who bought it would allow my father one whole side of the pig to be cured into Bacon so we usually had a good supply of Bacon. We also kept chickens so we had plenty of eggs for use an also a chicken to roast when needed we also kept Tame Rabbits for breeding so we were able to have a nice Rabbit pie occasionally. My Mother also went to help a butcher to make sausages so we were allowed sausages for the help my Mother gave him and we could buy fat or lean pork from the little general store. Again my Mother used to go to a farmers house on a Monday to help in the laundry.

There used to be a traveller go round the villages with large Bales of cloth and flannelette or Prints suitable for making clothes for the children. We also had a butcher travel round with a horse and cart with joints of beef for the week end.

Sunday School treats were usually held on a meadow belonging to a farmer sometimes the children went to the seaside Aldbrough or Southwold they used to go in a large waggon driven by horses. During the Summer holidays one of the farmers wives used to go in the village and invite the children to a lovely treat at her farm we would have a real Tea games sometimes a Sunday School card to take home these were Christian Farmers not all the children had this privilege but we were fortunate.