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Muckleston Family History Group

researching all references to the surnames Muckleston, Mucklestone, Muckelston and Mackleston please get in touch via the contact us page with any additional information or to correct any errors.

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Hannah Elizabeth Muckleston
 
by Shirley Bray
 
 

 

                                                                         Hannah in 1934

 

Hannah Elizabeth Muckleston was born on 2nd January 1914 at 36 Bartholomew Buildings, Holborn, the child of Charles Amos Muckleston and Annie (nèe Hendery). Hannah had a brother Charles William Amos born in 1907, a sister Margaret Ada (known as Maggie) born in 1908, a sister Florence Violet (known as Florrie) born in 1915 and a sister Lily Georgina (known as Georgina) born in 1921.  A brother (John) and sister (Annie) born in 1911 and 1912 both died in infancy.

 

Seven months after Hannah’s birth, the country was at war and her mother was once again pregnant, the baby being born on 23rd March 1915.  Hannah’s father was one of the first to answer Lord Kitchener’s call for volunteers and by the end of May 1915 he was in France as a private with the 6th Battalion the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry.  This must have been a horrific time not only for Hannah’s father but also for her mother who was left to cope with four children, the youngest of whom was just weeks old.  Hannah was almost five when peace finally came on the 11th November 1918 and has vague memories of her father returning home with his kitbag in the spring of 1919.  It is perhaps not surprising that although another child was born in 1921 the marriage did not survive.

 

When Hannah was a girl her father worked as a metal (silver and gold) chaser – he used to keep the scraps to resell.  He worked from home in an upstairs room.  The children had meals separate from their mother and father and “went to bed when they were told”.  The children were not allowed in the same room as their parents if their mother and father wanted to talk together.

Hannah’s parents separated in about 1923/24 when Hannah was 9 or 10 years old and were divorced in 1935.  Hannah’s father had the custody of the children but he couldn’t look after them because of his work so Hannah, Florence and Georgina continued to live with their mother. Maggie went to live with her maternal grandparents, William and Ann Hendery and Hannah’s brother Charles went into the navy when he was aged about 15 or 16.

 

Hannah received 1d a week pocket money from her father – each child had the same – they used to see who could save the most by going without sweets.  Hannah would buy nail polishers and tiny dolls with moveable arms.  She made dolls clothes and furniture for her dolls house, which was made out of an orange box (in years to come she was to make dolls furniture for her own daughters).  She did a lot of knitting and crocheting and made lace.  At Christmas she remembers receiving dolls, a needlework box and books.  She had a stocking that contained a few nuts, apple, orange and a hanky.  There was a Christmas tree.  On her birthday she just had a card and “you were lucky if you got that - they didn’t bother about birthdays”.

 

When Hannah was about 12 years old she and her sister Florrie were sent to school in Surrey where she stayed until the age of 15.  The girls were boarders and went home for holidays.  The uniform was a navy gymslip, white blouse, black shoes and stockings and a navy hat for winter and in the summer a check seersucker dress and a straw hat.

 

Hannah remembers playing hockey, netball, tennis, cricket and rounders (cricket and rounders were the only games she liked).  Other lessons were cookery, art, reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history and drama.  She doesn’t remember doing any exams.  The children slept in a dormitory, which accommodated about six children – Hannah, and Florrie slept in the same room.  The school was for both boys and girls but they were housed in separate buildings.  The meals “were not too bad”, and consisted of breakfast, dinner and tea.  The children were taught good manners there was “no larking about”. 

Hannah started work when she was about 16 years of age.  Her first job was at a dressmakers in Islington – the owners were Jewish.  They used to send her to the Whitechapel Market to buy buttons, silks, ribbons, sequins etc.  She would travel there by bus or underground train.  As she was the youngest worker she used to make tea, answer the phone and was taught to do embroidery on dresses and to sew on the sequins.  She worked there for just over a year – she enjoyed the job for which she was paid 6/- (30p) per week, which she had to give to her mother who then gave her 6d (2 ½ p).  

Unhappily Hannah’s mother became a heavy drinker and even resorted to taking articles to the pawnshop to finance her addiction – she once took Hannah’s wristwatch that had been given to her by her brother Charles.   Her mother found a job for Hannah and Florrie at the Eveready Battery Factory where they could earn more “for her beer”!  This was a dirty, dusty job and Hannah was told, “don’t let your father know that you are working there”.  

 

A few years later she went to work in a Weaving Factory making cotton canvas.  She earned more money here and worked there until she married.  The hours were long at both factories – the day started at 7am and finished at 8pm with a half-day on Saturday.  There was one-week holiday when the factory closed but no holiday pay.  Hannah says that you only had to make three mistakes and “then out”.

 

Hannah left home when she was about 19 and went into lodgings. Her father would meet her in the evening and take her out – he took her dancing once or twice – he was a good dancer.  Her father did not approve of her relationship with Robert Sinclair and did all he could to stop her from marrying him.   When she married Robert in December 1935 just before her 22nd birthday Hannah’s father “washed his hands of her” and she didn’t see him again until 1950.

 

Hannah did not want to get married in church so the marriage took place at Islington Register Office on December 28th 1935.  There was no wedding reception or cake and after the ceremony her new husband went back to work and Hannah went to their flat at Townsend Road, Tottenham.  They didn’t have a honeymoon – Hannah says that they weren’t thought of in those days.   Their four eldest children were born whilst they were living in Townsend Road, Mavis Rose in August 1936, Robert Reginald (known as Reggie) in August 1937, Brenda Olive in January 1939 and Ann Shirley (known as Shirley) in April 1940. 

 

In the autumn of 1940 the Battle of Britain was fought and nightly raids by German bombers began.  Hannah recalls one experience when she was walking home from the shops pushing Shirley and Brenda in the pram with Mavis and Reggie walking alongside when, completely unaware that German planes were flying overhead, she was grabbed by a man who scooped the babies into his arms and took the family to the air-raid shelter in his garden.  At the end of the alert, the pram and shopping were still where they had been abandoned.

 

Because she had four young children under the age of four years Hannah was advised to shelter under the stairs rather than try to reach the nearest air-raid shelter.  In the early hours of October 22nd 1940 whilst Hannah and her children, were sheltering under the stairs, an anti-aircraft shell exploded in the street.  This destroyed No. 36 opposite (which was unoccupied) and caused damage to the coal gas main.  Her husband returned home from his work as a cinema projectionist to find his home unsafe but his family unharmed and being cared for by neighbours.

 

The house was considered too dangerous for Hannah and Robert to enter and collect any possessions.  The family were given a change of clothes, put onto a train and sent away from the mad world of war to the peace of a North Devon farmhouse.    The contrast to living in London could not have been greater - no daily buses, trains or tubes only the weekly bus into the small town of South Molton on market day or shanks' pony!  Robert hated being isolated in the country but Hannah loved it and enjoyed walking the couple of miles to the small village of Bishopsnympton where there was a post office and shop.

 

After a year or so Hannah and Robert rented a two up, two down terraced cottage in South Molton, which they shared with a local woman and her four-year-old son. There was an outside toilet but no bathroom!  Robert began a part-time job as a cinema projectionist at the Savoy cinema in the town and soon after obtained another part-time job as a postman.

 

At the end of the war, many of the evacuee families returned to London but Hannah and Robert made the decision to stay in North Devon.  They had been offered a council house in 1945 with three bedrooms and the luxury of a bathroom and by this time they had five children to support as a daughter, Linda Yvonne, was born in June of that year. 

 

In 1950 Hannah received a letter from her father and sister Maggie who had traced her address through Robert’s mother who had remained in Islington throughout the war.  Until contact was made Hannah’s father and sister had no idea whether the family had survived the war.  Hannah, her eldest daughter Mavis and baby son Peter Victor (born in September 1948) made the train journey to Cricklewood where Maggie was landlady of the Crown Hotel and Hannah was reunited with her family. Sadly her father would not visit her in Devon until after her husband Robert died in 1963 after which he made regular visits until ill health prevented him from making the journey.  Hannah continued to visit her father in Islington until his death in 1974.

 

 

 

Hannah and her daughter Shirley (Bray)

 

Hannah lived independently in a warden-controlled bungalow in South Molton where she was well known and respected.  In addition to her six children Hannah had nine grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren - the youngest was born on 21st January 2003.  

Hannah lost touch with her brother Charles – she last saw him when she was in her teens - she treasured a portrait of him wearing his navy uniform.  She knows that he married, had three children and that he died in 1960.

Maggie married Charlie Silk and there are two children, Mavis and Charlie.  This marriage ended in divorce.  After Maggie re-married she went with her husband to live in Wanganui, New Zealand (in the mid 1950s) where she stayed until her death in April 1994.  Hannah stayed with her sister Maggie for three months in 1968 and Maggie visited Hannah in South Molton several times during the 1980s.

 

Florrie married Samuel Watkins in 1936 and had a daughter and two sons.  It seems surprising that although Florrie was close to Hannah in age the two girls did not keep in touch after they married and Hannah only saw Florrie once again when she visited London in 1950.

 

Georgina died aged 17 in 1938. 

 

Hannah died on 1st April 2013 at the grand age of 99 of aspiration pneumonia in the North Devon District hospital Barnstaple Devon. Her funeral/cremation took place on 14th April. She had not been too well since the previous November.

 

Sources of Information:

Hannah Sinclair nèe Muckleston - February 2001.

Shirley Bray nèe Sinclair

Family certificates

GRO Indexes

Air Raid Wardens Report, Tottenham, 22.10.40