In my last couple of blogs I have written the story of Jimmy Astin MM and what he did during the fisrt World War.
From the history of his regiment the Lancashire Regiment, and his citation in the local paper we can pin down where Jimmy Astin was when he won his medal. According to the newspaper article in the Burnley Express of 28 September 1918 he was reported as being among the gallant men who fought with distinction with the 29th Division. His certificate for distinguished service states that;
“No 203654 Pte James Astin, Lancashire Fusiliers.I have read with much pleasure the reports of your Regimental Commander and Brigade Commander regarding your gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field on 12th and 13th August 1918 near M—–, (this we now know to be Merris) and have ordered your name and deed to be entered in the record of the 29th Division – (signed) Major General Commanding.”
This is the action where Jimmy won his Military Medal:
1918: AUGUST TO THE ARMISTICE – PROBING
Signs began to multiply that the enemy’s morale was beginning to weaken even where he intended to stand his ground, which was not everywhere. It was therefore important to continue to worry him and to find out where he was prepared to give up ground and where he was prepared to resist-in other words, to establish the position of his main line of resistance if a major attack was ordered.
This was the object of a series of affrays in which the 1st Battalion (Lieutenant-Colonel F. S. Modera, D.S.O., M.C.) was concerned in the second week in August. At 10 a.m. on IIth August, Lieutenant H. Laslett and two men reconnoitred a German machine-gun post which had been located in the south-west corner of “Celery Copse,” close to the south side of the railway half a mile south-west of Merris.
An hour and a half later he reported that the post was empty. Early in the afternoon Lieutenants 1. Gorfunkle and S. J. Scurlock with two men reconnoitred the ground as far as “Abert Crossing,” a level-crossing immediately south of Merris, and reported that they had seen no Germans. At the same time Serjeants A. Tippet and W. Hillidge and another man went along the eastern edge of Celery Copse and found it unoccupied. Unfortunately, snipers from near Lynde Farm, to the south of the Copse, hit and killed Tippet as the party returned.
It was then decided to occupy Celery Copse and Lynde Farm. The left company, “B,” dribbled its platoons forward to the eastern edge of the copse and established its position there by 5.30 p.m. “D” Company, on the right, sent forward a patrol of four men under Corporal A. Amsom to examine Lynde Farm. They met with no opposition until they reached a trench containing a number of shelters, which ran from the southern edge of Celery Copse to the farm. They worked up this trench to one of the shelters, were challenged from farther down the trench and from another of the shelters, and were fired on. They returned the fire and inflicted casualties. On the way back, Amsom was wounded but continued to lead his patrol coolly and brought back information on which the trench was severely bombarded by Stokes mortars.
At 6.55 p.m. Lieutenant H. Laslett and fourteen men rushed the post and took prisoner a German N.C.O. and a wounded man. It transpired that the other twelve men of the garrison had deserted the post at dusk, but that the commander had refused to leave until he was properly relieved. “D” Company cleared up the situation at Lynde Farm, taking six prisoners and two machine guns, and enabled “B” Company to go forward at 8.30 p.m.
During the afternoon of the next day the battalion tried to advance its line by “peaceful penetration” to some trucks on an old British siding close to the Merris-Vieux Berquin road. These were shelled for half an hour, at the end of which “B” Company sent out scouts supported by Lewis guns and riflemen. No. 7 Platoon reached the road, saw an enemy post and rushed it, taking six prisoners.
It then tried to work forward, but was stopped by heavy machine-gun fire from the trucks. The platoon commander, Lieutenant I. Gorfunkle, brought up a second Lewis gun round the end of the trucks and enfiladed the Germans behind them. The enemy suffered a number of casualties and some of them retired. But others returned the fire of the Lewis gun and killed Gorfunkle. The other forward platoon of the company was unable to make any progress, and Lieutenant S.J Scurlock, who assumed command when Gorfunkle was killed and made a personal reconnaissance of the situation under heavy fire, decided to withdraw his company to its original position, which he did with skill, and to reorganize it. He also brought back very useful information as to the German dispositions. “D” Company, on the right, had little luck.
After the bombardment of the trucks had ceased, the leading troops advanced about a hundred yards before they were met with such heavy machine-gun fire that all further movement was impossible. Attempts were made to counter the German fire with five Lewis guns, but although these succeeded in silencing two German machine guns near Labis Farm, five hundred yards to the south of the trucks, the machine guns were quickly replaced, and were moreover reinforced by an artillery barrage.
This, together with the machine-gun fire from both flanks, made it impossible for the troops to maintain their position, and a withdrawal was ordered. At dusk the Germans put down another heavy barrage and delivered a counter-attack which forced the battalion’s line back to its original position west of Celery Copse.
The operation had been costly-the losses being 2 officers killed, I officer wounded and 80 other ranks killed and wounded-but it had achieved its object of locating the enemy’s line of resistance and paved the way for its capture later by another unit under cover of an intense barrage which included 8-inch howitzers. Enemy snipers were very active on I3th August, but at night Second-Lieutenant L. A. Manly and Lance-Corporal C.E. Lovewell skilfully brought back parties of seven and twelve men who had been out all day in advanced positions, Manly having succeeded in getting very close to the enemy’s position on the I2th but being unable to get back owing to the shelling.
The following received awards for this affair:-
Lieutenant S. J.Scurlock. Second-Lieutenant L. A. Manly,
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Corporal A. Amsom.
Bar to Military Medal
Lance-Corporal W. Morgan. M.M.
Lance-Corporal C. E. Lovewell. Private J.A. Astin.
We know that Private James Astin was at the Battle of the Somme, with the 1st Battalion. He is quoted as being there in his newspaper interview. Using this we can place him at the Battle of Albert n the 1st of July 1916. Details of what happened that day are in this extract from the The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers 1914-1918 Volume-1 Page 137.
After leaving Gallipoli and Egypt they embarked for France landing at Marseilles on the 29th March 1916 moving to the western front. The 1st Battalion … moved to the Beaumont Ramel district (when) it came to France. From 15th to 29th June, the majority were at Mailly Wood, practising the next attack. “C” Company, and the 10% battle reserve, took over a portion of the line on 23rd June and carried out a series of patrols and raids. They tried to discover the state of the German wire at the various stages of the preliminary bombardment and whether the enemy was manning his front line.
Part of a map contained in the British Official History [Crown Copyright]. The Somme offensive was begun by the British Fourth Army (red) and the French Sixth Army (blue), attacking the German Second Army (green). The map shows the position of the front line just before the start of the offensive.
The Attack on Beaumont Hamel, 1st July
1st and 2nd Battalions
The Lancashire Regiment were in the 29th Division, part of the VIII corp.
To the north of the River Ancre, and just to the left of the ground where the Salford battalions (32nd Division) fought on 1st July, lay another important objective, the Grandcourt-Serre ridge. This was the goal of the VIII Corps, in which the 1st and 2nd Battalions were serving, in the 29th and 4th Divisions respectively. The distance from the British front line to the ridge was about two thousand yards, and the plan of attack allowed the troops three hours and twenty minutes to cross it. The Germans had protected the ridge by a very formidable series of defences, many of which lay in valleys out of sight of British artillery observers and were consequently not touched by the long preliminary bombardment. The most deadly of these was the strongly fortified village of Beaumont Hamel, lying in a salient of the front system, which could cover with flanking fire all the ground to be crossed by the 29th and 4th Divisions. It stood right in the path of the former, the 4th being immediately on the left of the 29th.
One of its outposts was Hawthorn Redoubt, under which a large mine had been prepared. After much controversy, it was decided to explode this mine at 7.20 a.m. on 1st July, ten minutes before the attack was to be delivered. The unfortunate effect of this decision was that the Germans, who had been warned by the seven days’ bombardment that a big offensive was imminent and were uncertain only as to the day and hour of its launching, rightly interpreted the explosion as the signal for the attack and thus had ten minutes’ grace in which to man their trenches and make their final preparations. These were helped by the fact that all the British heavy artillery had to stop firing on the front trenches when the mine blew up so as to avoid the risk of hitting the parties seizing the crater. When the troops of the 29th Division came to leave their own trenches, their only covering fire was a thin barrage of 18-pounder guns, Stokes mortars and machine guns.
Before the battle, on 29th June, the main body was addressed by the Divisional Commander, Major-General H. de B. de Lisle, who said: “To you has been set the most difficult task-that of breaking the hardest part of the enemy’s shell.” That evening they went up into the line.
The battalion’s objective was the village of Beaumont Hamel itself. Between this and the British front line lay a sunken road. between ten and fifteen feet deep and running north and south, shallow at its northern end but overhung and lined with trees at the southern. Tunnels had been dug from the British front line to this natural trench, and one of these was opened up on the night before the attack, whereupon at 3.30 a.m. on 1st July “B” and “D” Companies, with the Brigade Bombing Company and eight Stokes mortars, occupied the sunken road.
Battalion headquarters moved thither at 7 a.m., at which time the Germans began shelling the road with field guns, having apparently noticed the communication trench made by the tunnels. Hot breakfasts were issued to all ranks; and several photographs were taken in the sunken road by Mr. Malins, the official photographer. Officers were dressed like the men. The latter each carried 120 rounds of ammunition, two days’ rations and two bombs; the leading companies carried fifty shovels and ten picks each; each platoon carried two trench bridges; and men of the rear companies carried engineer stores. Few could get much sleep before the attack owing to the incessant roar of the bombardment.
At 7.20 a.m. the mine below Hawthorn Redoubt exploded, and “B“ and “D” Companies lined up for the attack while the 86th Stokes Mortar Battery opened a hurricane bombardment. At 7.30 a.m. the leading sections of those companies moved forward and “A” Company began to leave the front line to support them.
The first two lines of “B ” and ” D ” Companies had not moved many yards when enemy machine guns opened fire. Their third and fourth lines were almost annihilated as they left the sunken road, and only a few wounded, including the two company commanders (Captains G. P. Nunneley and C. F. Wells), succeeded in crawling back into it. “A” Company also suffered heavily in its advance to the sunken road, but Captain E. G. Matthey managed to reach its northern end with a few men and to push on a short way before he fell mortally wounded.
“C” Company was caught by machine– gun fire as it left the front line, Captain E. M. Dawson and Company Serjeant-Major Nelson being hit as they stood up to give the order to advance. One platoon was blocked by wounded in the communication trench leading to the sunken road. But Second– Lieutenant W. R. B. Caseby and about sixty men reached the latter, though they were so encumbered with coils of wire and tools that many of them rolled down its steep banks and half an hour’s delay resulted before the remnants of “A” and “C” Companies could be reorganized for a further advance.
Serjeant Caulfield, a Lewis gunner, spotted a German machine gun firing from behind some debris in the village and pointed it out to Lieutenant-Colonel Magniac, who ordered two Lewis guns to engage it. But no sooner had they opened fire than they were shelled by field guns, one gun being hit-a tribute to the quickness and accuracy of the German observation. The machine gun, however, did not again fire from the same position.
At 8.15 a.m. Lieutenant-Colonel Magniac ordered the Stokes mortars to open a rapid burst of fire, under cover of which Caseby was to lead forward some seventy-five men who had been collected, with a view to gaining a footing in the northern end of the village, where the ground was higher and promised a good field of fire. The party dashed forward with great bravery, but were caught by machine-gun fire as they topped the crest a few yards from the sunken road and were mown down, only Caseby, Lieutenant I. Gorfunkle and about ten men reaching the German wire.
It was by then evident that the battalion could not succeed in its task and, though the brigadier issued orders for a further attack at 12.30 p.m., with an artillery bombardment, he immediately countermanded them on learning that Lieutenant-Colonel Magniac had by now only about seventy-five men and one officer in the sunken road and some fifty in the front line and elsewhere, while over one hundred wounded lay in the road. He ordered Lieutenant– Colonel Magniac to reorganize his battalion, make sure of holding the sunken road and watch his left flank. But before this fresh order arrived, an attempt was made to comply with the original message, Captain E. W. Sheppard doing very useful work in trying to collect unwounded men; and at 12.30 p.m. Major Utterson advanced with the only men he could collect, some twenty-five in all, with the intention of attaching to himself the unwounded men in the sunken road and pushing on to the German lines. Actually, he and four men alone survived to reach the road.
The afternoon was spent in trying to organize the road for defence. German shells caused more casualties; and snipers killed a good many of the wounded as they moved or tried to put on their field dressings. At 6 p.m. the sunken road was evacuated except for a party of one officer and twenty-five men detailed to hold it during the night. After dark all available stretcher-bearers and other men searched for wounded. Throughout the night wounded men crawled in and about midnight Second-Lieutenants G. R. Spencer, I. Gorfunkle, G.R. Craig and Caseby came in with about twenty men, having spent the day in a small hollow just short of the German wire, too weak in numbers to force their way through, but able to make a useful contribution to the battle by keeping up a flanking fire towards Hawthorn Redoubt.
The day had cost the battalion many casualties: 7 officers had been killed and 14 wounded; of the other ranks, 156 were killed, 298 wounded and 11 missing. The brigadier in his report recorded his opinion that he did not think that any troops could have taken the German line as held that day. Indeed, it was not captured until I3th November, 1916, and then only by two brigades, with the help of special artillery preparation and a new method of using gas.
Captain C. F. Wells, who, though wounded early in the day, remained with his men for six hours until compelled by weakness to retire, received the Military Cross, as did Captain G. P . Nunneley and Second-Lieutenants W. R. B. Caseby and E. W. Sheppard. Military Medals were awarded to Serjeant V. C. D. Froude, Corporal T. ~IdIanus, and Privates W. Brain, G. W. Capon, J. A. Dickenson, J. Richardson and J. Wilson.
The battalion remained in the front line, strengthening the defence of the sunken road, until 3rd July, when it was ordered to move to some rear trenches which were so devoid of shelter or means of cooking that Lieutenant-Colonel Magniac asked that it should be allowed to stay where it was. A small party was eventually sent to the rear trenches as originally ordered, the remainder going back to bivouacs at Auchonvillers, where it was shelled by 5.9 inch guns. On 4th July the whole battalion marched to Acheux Wood, ” a very depressed force.”
Private Jimmy Astin was in there somewhere, and was very lucky to survive the 1st of July.
My mother in law often mentions her cousin Joyce. Joyce Astin and Edna lived close to each other in Burnley. Joyce’s father was Jimmy Astin, remembered in Burnley as a war hero in the first World War.
Last year we made a trip to Towneley Hall to visit the exhibition they had put together to remember the start of that war. By the time we made it there, it had closed and all the exhibits put away. So I turned to pulling together my own version of the James Arthur Astin MM story.
Jimmy married my mother in laws aunt, Alice Cooper, in 1923. It’s possible that Edna’s mother was named after Alice. I know that name has become synonymous with the 1970’s rock group, but she is definitely part of our Burnley family..
Anyway, Jimmy was born in Accrington in 1890. His father, also James, was a cabinet-maker and undertaker. The family moved to the Rosegrove area of Burnley and Jimmy worked at the local Messrs Walmsley’s Peel Mill, where he became a Winding Master. He married Sarah Blackburn in 1912 and they soon had a daughter – Ethel.
According to newspaper reports, Jimmy was well-known in the Accrington Road district of Burnley. He was a member of the Rosegrove Wesleyan School and Chapel and a devoted worker for the (church) cause. (Burnley News 21/08/1918.)
When war started, Jimmy joined up in 1915, and after a few months wait was drafted into the 3/5th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. This was a part of the Territorial Force in Bury and East Lancashire. He did his training at Colchester and then in March 1915, moved to the 1st Battalion in the Regular army. They sailed to Gallipoli via Egypt and Alexandria. There landing was planned for 23rd April, but postponed due to bad weather. They must have felt ill staying on the ships during the storm. Eventually on the 25th April the 29th Division, including the Lancashires, landed at ‘W’ Beach on Cape Helles. They were able to overwhelm the defences despite the loss of 600 casualties from 1,000 men. Fighting was so hard a remarkable number of six Victoria Crosses were won by the Lancashires. This is popularly refered to as the “Six VC’s before breakfast” on what was afterwards known as Lancashire Landing. Battles for Kritha and the Achi Baba heights on the peninsula followed.
After the battle in Turkey ground to stalemate in January 1916, the Lancashires evacuated to Egypt due to the severe casualties from combat, disease and harsh weather. They were quartered in barracks at Abbassia, near Cairo defending Suez Canal at Darb-el-Raj and El Kubri.
They left Egypt in March and sailed across the Mediterranean, landing at Marseilles, France in March 1916. They moved up to the front France and trained for the next big push. On the 1st July 1916, the Lancashires were one of the first units over the top at start of the Battle of the Somme. They were key in the Battle of Albert which started with the giant mine explosion at the Hawthorn redoubt. Just 10 minutes later the 7:30am attack on Beaumont Hamel started.
This famous photograph shows men of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers in a communication trench near Beaumont Hamel, possibly on 1st July 1916.
The following year 1917 Jimmy was involved in the Battle of Arras (where Jack Greenwood was also involved in the cavalry) along with battles in Ypres and Cambria.
Early in 1918, Jimmy returned to England injured and suffering from Trench Foot. While recovering at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Whalley, he heard that his wife Sarah had died. That must have been such a shock, maybe she had visited before she died.
He was soon back in France, the Lancashires were in the centre of the action. They moved to northern france to support the battle against the second German drive, the Lys Offensive, where the enemy pushed back to Ypres and into France. After the Americans joined the war, the division spent a lot of effort training them in this part of France.
We can pin down where Jimmy was when he won his Military Medal. According to the newspaper article in the Burnley Express of 28 September 1918 he was reported as being among the gallant men who fought with distinction with the 29th Division. His certificate for distinguished service states that “No 203654 Pte James Astin, Lancashire Fusiliers.I have read with much pleasure the reports of your Regimental Commander and Brigade Commander regarding your gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field on 12th and 13th August 1918 near M—–, (this we now know to be Merris) and have ordered your name and deed to be entered in the record of the 29th Division – (signed) Major General Commanding.
This commendation led to the award of the medal, published in the London Gazette of 24th January 1919.
This action was part of the response to the earlier German advance towards Paris in April, known as the Battles of the Lys 1918. This offensive took place in Flanders with the Germans trying to capture key railway and supply roads and cut off the British Second Army at Ypres. The German attack initially made ground but was held after British and French reserves were found and deployed.
In August 1918 the British Army started to recapture the Lys valley, advancing across land lost in April.
Early in August, the Battalion were asked to “worry” the enemy to find out where they were prepared to give up ground. They were to find out his line so that in the event of a major attack they would know his weak points.
On 11th August, they started to investigate areas south of Merris, taking over key points before the battalion advanced its line by “peaceful penetration” on the afternoon of the 12th. They came under heavy fire and bombardment before withdrawing to their original position. Parties of men got very close to the enemys position but were unable to get back because of the shelling. On the night of the 13th these parties were brought back t their own lines. It seems that Private Astin received his award for his part in the operation being either trapped in the field or part of the party that brought them back.
A ceremony to present the medals was held at The Palace in Burnley in March 1919, where the Mayor (Ald R Hargreaves) pinned the medals on the breasts of the honoured soldiers and congratulated them on their distinction. Apparently the soldiers said they would rather fight than make a speech. The mayor called them the right men in the right place. James Astin received his award for bravery and devotion to duty.
After the end of the war he received his Victory and British Medals. The record shows he moved from the 3/5th Lanc Fusiliers to the 1st and ending in the 2nd Battalion. His exact disposition in the early part of the war I have worked out from his newspaper interview.
On his return, Jimmy will have returned to working in the mill and looking after his young daughter. When he was 32 he married Alice Cooper in 1923, becoming part of our family tree. He had two more daughters, Margaret in 1924 and Joyce in 1931. Cousins of the children, will have played around Rosegrove and Edna got to know Jimmy. She did tell me he was such a nice chap.
Jimmy is not a relative, he appears in our family tree as Gertrude Kay’s (Alisons Great Grandmother) first husband. She married James W. Walton on 8th July 1911 at Trinity Church Burnley, when she was 22 years old. We don’t know much about James beyond the bare facts. He was born in Facit, Whitworth, in Rossendale and worked in the mines as an underground pit drawer. He lived in Brush Street Burnley in 1911 just before he got married. According to Edna when she met him he always looked ill and was very thin.
Only three years after Gerturde and James were married, and just 6 weeks after the start of the war, he enlisted in Kitchener’s Third New Army on 4th September 1914. He joined the 9th Battalion of the East Lancs (Service) Corp. His unit assembled in the area of Eastbourne and Seaford and spent the first year of the war on the south coast of England where James was trained as a Bomb Thrower.
They were under the command of 65th Brigade in 22nd Division which crossed to France on 4th September 1915. Initally billeted near Flesselles north of Amiens the stay in France was a short one. Soon they were transfered to the war in the Balkans – arriving in Salonika, Macedoniaon on the 5th November 1915 . There an Anglo-French force was assembling to assist the Serbs in resisting Germany’s Bulgarian allies. Compared to other theatres of war, stalemate characterised this arduous campaign in mountainous terrain, with offensive operations largely confined to raids and patrolling. In December 1915 the 9th East Lancashires were in action at Kosturino and on 13th-14th September 1916, the same battalion saw more serious fighting at Macukovo. All three battalions took part in the first Doiran offensive, April-May 1917. After this last battle James was transferred back to France. The Division had suffered casualties of 7,728 killed, wounded and missing during the war but vastly larger numbers were sick with malaria, dysentery and other diseases rife in the Salonika theatre.
In August 1918 he transferred to the Labour Corp, probably because of his illness. James had caught malaria in Salonica and by the time he was demobbed he also had an ear infection and Bronchitis. According to Edna she remembers him coughing a lot later in his life, presumably the effects of his war illness.
James named Alice Kay as one of his dependent children, although recorded as illegitimate. He did end up with a pension for Alice. In his Army Records he at first recorded his mother Martha Anne at 15 Brush Street as his next of kin. Later he changed that to his wife Gertrude at 1 Regent Street.
He was demobbed on 27th January 1919, getting a pension on 10/3 per week, which was enhanced becuase of his illnesses – they were attributed and aggravated by the war.
From James service records (which are one of the few to have survived) we can see that he was short, 5ft 4 ¾ inches, weighing 129 pds (58 kg) and 35in chest. He was small and thin, confirming Edna’s recollection.
We didn’t have a lot to go on to find the farm where Nan, Edna Shields, spent her summers and weekends during the second world war. Edna was staying with us while she recovered from her eye operations, so we used the time to talk with her about her early life and relatives. A while ago she asked to visit Cliviger where her Step-Grandfather had a farm. So one fine day we set off there but with only a rough idea of where we were going.
Cliviger is an area south of Burnley, with a couple of villages, Walk Mill to Holme Chapel, on the Todmorden road. Parking up in the village she remembered that the farm was called Stonehouse. It was up a track on the side of a hill above a village where she used to go to the village shop. But we still didn’t know where to start. Driving through Cliviger didn’t bring back anymore precise memories. So we dropped into the village hall where some older ladies were gathering for a friendship meeting. Old Gladys was the most helpful, she knew that Stonehouse was up on the west side of the village, waving her arm at the small cliffs above the road and railway line. Gladys suggest we drive back to the traffic lights and take the sharp turn left and its somewhere up there!
Up there we did find a rough track, but with a sign – “No Unauthorised vehicles”. This track wasn’t recognised so we turned around and returned to a main road. Now she recalled getting off the bus at a pub on Bacup Road and walking down a lane to the farm.
Her step grand-father worked at the local coal mine, she recalled, making wagon wheels. We couldn’t find the right pub, many of the local inns on the road had recently closed down. But we did find the mine – Deerplay Mine, the last coalmine in Lancashire. We were narrowing the area down. It was unusual for me to be anywhere without a map, but my old map of Burnley had worn away a few years earlier, and we were now flying blind. A trip into Bacup to find one didn’t help, nothing in any of the miserable shops there. We did have a nice fish lunch there though.
Back in Cliviger we found another lane in the right area, but we ended up at the “No .. Vehicles” sign again. Convinced we were in the right place, the sign was ignored and we drove along the rough track. We soon came to Dyneley Farm, which Edna now recalled was the farm next to where she used to stay. So we were on the right track. A nice man living at the Dyneley Farm confirmed that Stonehouse Farm was further along the track, and yes it will be OK to drive up there.
Half a mile along the bumpy track took us to Stonehouse Fold, a small group of cottages. Edna sort of felt it was the right place, but recalled the place where she stayed as being in a building that was split into a few cottages. It faced onto another building, possibly a farm. As we looked around the man who lived in the farm building came out for a chat and confirmed that the cottage opposite used to be split into a couple of dwellings. There used to be trees in the courtyard of the farm where the fence was now. Although the current resident didn’t recognise the name of George Chadwick, we knew we were in the right place. We swapped stories of bad winters (1947) when the snow was up to the bedroom windows; keeping chickens and pigs there and evacuees staying there during the war.
Stonehouse was part of the estate of the Towneley family, originally of Towneley Hall just a mile and a half away on the outskirts of Burnley. Apparently this part of the estate was retained by the family when they gave the hall to the council. Some Towneley’s moved into Dyneley Hall just down the lane. Lady Mary Towneley and Sir Simon used to ride up to the farm. A current story is that our Princess Anne and Prince Charles one day came visiting, although this would be after the time Edna went visiting.
So here’s the memory we managed to piece together, using some further research and discussions.
Edna’s Grandmother Gertrude was known as the “Great One” to her family. When she was 18 she had a child out-of-wedlock, Alice, who became Edna’s mother. Alice was brought up by her grandmother and Aunt Beattie. Gertrude was a young skilled worker in the Burnley mills. When Alice was four her mother married Jimmy Walton. Not long afterwards he volunteered for the Army signing up as soon as war broke out in 1914. He saw service for the most part in Salonica, Greece where he caught Malaria and bronchitis. Jimmy never really recovered, being ill for the rest of his life. Jimmy and Gertrude didn’t have any children and it appears she left him to live with George Chadwick, a pit wheelwright at Deerplay Mine. They lived at the cottage at Stonehouse Farm, Cliviger. She even claimed on the 1939 national Register that she was married to George, but they didn’t actually get wed until after Jimmy died. The Chadwick family had lived in Stonehouse Fold for over a hundred years. Other family members living in the cottages along the lane in either direction; Stonehouse Cote; Cowside and Dyneley Farm. George lived at Stonehouse Farm before he married his first wife Susan Alice from Bacup in 1909. He and Susan lived in Walk Mill Cliviger and had at least a couple of children . Susan sadly died in 1932 and by the time Gertrude came along the children had moved out and he had returned to the farm.
Edna used to go up to the farm with her brother Alan. She would get the Bacup bus from Burnley, getting off at the Towneley Arms at the end of the lane to the farm. She has a treasured photo of the four of them at the farm. They played there and in a river at the bottom of a wooded valley, probably close to Towneley Hall. Alan sadly died in 1939, not long after the photo was taken.
During the war Edna’s father Fred would go up to the farm to butcher the pigs they kept there. She went along with him, sometimes staying there. When Colin, Edna’s other brother, came along in 1941 she had the job of pushing the pram along the lane to the farm. Gertrude and George took in three evacuees; Irene Eccles from Bradford, Irene Riddeal and Frank Timms. Frank was a bit of a scallywag, he once stole a horse from the farm and rode it hard down the lane until the horse dropped dead! Irene Riddel was 4 years older than Edna, who was remembered as being the “light Irene”.
As soon as Gertrude’s first husband Jimmy Walton died in 1943 she married George Chadwick. Gertrude and George were married for 7 years until he died in 1951. Gertrude returned to live in the terraces of Burnley, no doubt looking out for another husband. She worked as a cook, sometimes in a local cafe and at the grand UCP (tripe) restaurant.
Ten years after George died Gertrude married again. She married Ted Riley in March 1960 when she was 71. He was a couple of years older than her and a retired driver, who worked in the mines during the second world war. When Ted died five years later she moved to Lytham St Annes where she died in 1975 age 86.