A Victorian Woman of Substance

William and Annie with baby Jeanie

A Victorian Woman of Substance

Some talk of Alexander, and some of Hercules, of Hector and Lysander, and such great names as these. But of all the world's great heroes and heroines, there's none that can compare with my Nana.

Nana of course was not born a Nana she was born Annie in 1895 while Queen Victoria was still on the throne and she married my granddad William somewhere before 1919 when my mum was born.

It is almost impossible to imagine the changes that Annie would have witnessed in her lifetime.

This is a photo of William and Annie taken sometime in 1919 with their first born Jeanie.

The first thing you notice is that they were an extremely attractive couple and some of my female cousins have been blessed through inheriting her good looks.

Unfortunately the scribble that you can see on the photograph was put there by me as a small child.

As you can imagine scribbling on this precious photograph with the then new ball point pens that were coming into common usage did not make me very popular with my mum.

If only it had been a pencil it could have been erased. I am working at the moment to clean this image up and restore it.

When ever I think that times are hard for me I only have to remember this remarkable woman and of how she overcame things that would seem to most impossible to overcome.

Unlike in my life when trying times come along every now and again, Annie had to battle all her early life just to keep her family together and healthy.

Every day was a battle nothing that happened to her was trivial because of the times that she lived in.


Only source of water in the house was a cold water tap in the scullery.
Only source of water in the house was a cold water tap in the scullery. | Source
The outside toilet this looks very similar to the one at my nana's house.
The outside toilet this looks very similar to the one at my nana's house. | Source
The outside toilet this looks very similar to the one at my nana's house when not in use it normally had a lid that went over the hole though not on the night of the rat encounter..
The outside toilet this looks very similar to the one at my nana's house when not in use it normally had a lid that went over the hole though not on the night of the rat encounter.. | Source

1 Brook Street

When Annie and William married they moved into a small two up two down terraced house on Brook Street in Birkenhead. When I say a two up two down I mean this literally.

Granddad at some point added a small lean-to to the back of the house to give nana some much needed space.

The lean to granddad added gave nana a scullery that housed a gas cooker and a cold water sink. There was no indoor plumbing in the house except the cold water tap in the scullery.

The toilet was outside and down the bottom of the backyard and it was a place that I did not like to have to visit. I put this down to the encounter I had with a rat on one of my visits to the toilet.

The rat had come up out of the toilet and was sat on the wood that formed toilet seat well it actually was just a hole cut into the wood that stood over a cesspit of some description.

When I entered the outside toilet holding an old oil lamp to see by the rat promptly jumped back into the toilet and disappeared from view.

Never again were my visits to the toilet to be carefree from that day on I lived in fear that a rat would come up out of the toilet while I was sitting on it and bite my bum.

It never did and truth be told I only saw a rat that once, but once was enough to put me off going to their outside loo at night.

It somehow didn't seem such a daunting place in the daylight but even so my visits were a very hurried affair, I never tarried.


Standing outside number the house

My mum Jeanie and with her two of her brothers Billy and Tommy standing outside nana's house
My mum Jeanie and with her two of her brothers Billy and Tommy standing outside nana's house
Tommy standing in the Street wearing a tophat the top of which cannot be seen properly
Tommy standing in the Street wearing a tophat the top of which cannot be seen properly

The Stairs

The stairs were very narrow and opened onto a small landing.
The stairs were very narrow and opened onto a small landing.

Ten Children and only two bedrooms

In this small two bed roomed terraced house in Birkenhead Annie gave birth to ten children, my mum Jeanie being the eldest.

The stairs that led to the bedrooms were very narrow and they opened out at the top to a small landing about two feet square.

From this square you stepped right into one or the other of the two bedrooms. I remember sleeping as a young child in the front bedroom of this house and there was a crack so large that you could see daylight through it.

The girls slept in one bedroom and the boys slept in the other and some of the bedding was known to have pockets. In the cold winters it was not unusual to have the bedding augmented by adult overcoats.

Nana and granddad didn’t have the luxury of a bedroom instead they had a settee in the parlour downstairs that converted at night into a double bed.

Originally there was no electricity in the house and the lights were run off mains gas. One of my uncles lived a few streets over from my nana and I can remember that right up until the 1950’s they still had gaslight instead of electric.

Just try to imagine the hardships of Annie’s way of life, ten children who had to be kept warm, fed and clean in a house with only two bedrooms, one wage coming in it is hard to imagine managing those things today with all the help you get from the state and modern appliances.

Nana had no Hoover, no washing machine, no electric iron, no carpets on the floor, no Health Service as if that was not enough she lived through both World Wars which was no easy feat in Birkenhead because it was an area that was bombed heavily during the war because of the Docks.

I never heard mum moaning about how hard they had it or what they had to do without. Mum told me stories that were funny and full of things that they did not full of things they did not have. Mum enjoyed being from a large family especially being the eldest.

A real Woman of Substance

Annie was just like so many women of her time, she lived into her nineties stayed married to the same man celebrated a Golden Wedding, and she was a joy to know she was also loving kind and funny.

Annie was not the sort of person that the world seeks out to laud and honour, nor the sort that the world would call a heroine.

However, if it were in my gift, I would give her and all the other Annies like her a medal, she is in my opinion a real woman of substance and my heroine.

Other Similar Hubs

If you enjoyed this hub I have put links to some of my other hubs that deal with similar material below.

All these Hubs have the common theme of coming from a Working Class perspective which differs quite a lot from that of the Middle Class and which has virtually nothing in common with the Upper Class perspective.

There is one period in modern times when all three classes had experiences in common and that was during the second world war.

I hope that enjoyed your foray into Working Class England if you did please leave a comment perhaps some feed back or if I didn't cover what you were looking for let me know and perhaps I can do another hub about that,

More by this Author


Comments 13 comments

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother and her positive attitude! It takes a special person to bear and raise 10 children in a 2 BR house with no modern conveniences and keep her spirits up through two world wars. Your Annie was definitely a "Woman of Substance"!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thank you so much for your comments, she was a special lady


Tom Cornett profile image

Tom Cornett 7 years ago from Ohio

I love stories like this. Your Nana sounds like mine. They are wonderful human beings with amazing strenghth and heart. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed this.


Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 7 years ago from California Gold Country

Yes, indeed, a true heroine. Wonderful pictures-- the smiles tell much. Looks like you got one of your own for part of your special heritage.

Please tell us more.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

hi Tom and Rochelle thank you both for talking the time to visit and read this hubpage. Nanas are indeed a real special breed and wonderful human beings. Thanks for your kind comments they are really appreciated


christine almaraz profile image

christine almaraz 7 years ago from colorado springs

Ten kids in a two bedroom house! Wow. Your pictures are something special that you can hand down to your young ones over the years. I loved this hub. Thanks for giving us an insight on such a wonderful family. You are very blessed.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

I am indeed blessed Christine and ten kids and only two bedrooms I just don't know how they coped and remained so upbeat. This was a happy family that stayed close while my mums generation was alive, and a lot of that was down to mum mum Jeanie's influence.


lxxy profile image

lxxy 6 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

I enjoyed this thoroughly--it's interesting to see the differences between cultures throughout space-time.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thanks for your kind comments, as always you are a great encourager. By the way congratulations on your one year anniversary yeah!!!! I loved your videos.


roseb profile image

roseb 6 years ago from Va.

Such an inspiring woman.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

You are so right Rose, and I think that many women of her generation were. The obstacles that they had to overcome by today’s standards are almost unbelievable.

The only way they could borrow money was either at the Pawnbrokers or what was commonly called the Tallyman. The Pawnbrokers were not too bad but the Tallymen were moneylenders that would charge extortionate rates that soon spiralled out of control.

This lead to the Tallyman coming round for his money and when they couldn’t repay, he would take everything of value from the house. It didn’t matter to him that your family had no money for food or rent and that you had no bed or cups and saucers-

The Tallyman would take anything that could be sold. Many working class children of this time ended up malnourished with rickets and ordinary childhood illnesses would take the lives of young children because of their weakened state. Others literally starve to death because they had no money for food or they ended up in the Workhouse.


Seakay profile image

Seakay 6 years ago from Florida

Great Hub! I just love the old black & white pictures. It was an incredilby different time and place. I love listening to my mother talking about the old days, weathering the depression in the US and raising chickens! Sometimes I get a bit weary of the latest, greatest "whatever". Sometimes, the simpler times seem better to me.

Great Hub bringing Great Memories! Thank you Maggs224!


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

You are so right Seakay it was an incredibly different time back then, in lots of ways I think it was a better time to live in, but in other ways now is a much better time. Health wise is the first that springs to mind, my Gran lost three of her children due to the poor housing conditions that they lived in and the fact that they didn’t have the money to pay for a doctor. Fortunately to day if you have a sick child in the UK at least you can get to see a doctor without worrying about the cost of the visit to the doctor. Also workers today have the benefit of things like the minimum wage, paid holidays, health and safety procedures to protect the workers from hazardous conditions in the workplace to name but a few. Thanks for the comments I appreciate them so much.

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