Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas 1910

When Albert Rebbeck travelled home to Wiltshire in 1910 the journey had been 40 years in the planning.

Albert Edward Rebbeck was born at Lockeridge, near Marlborough in 1857, the fifth child of Cornelius, a land surveyor and his wife Caroline Knight.

The Rebbeck Wiltshire family roots can be traced back to the 17th century but Caroline’s family appears to be more adventurous. In 1861 her brother James was living in India and before too long three of her sons would also fly the nest.

In 1863 eldest son James Knight Rebbeck joined his uncle in Calcutta. Six years later and the couple’s next son Frank, then aged about 15 took off for America, followed by Albert.

The two boys early period in America is difficult to navigate. It appears they may even have travelled first to Canada as in 1871 the census returns for Quebec include fourteen year old Albert Rebbick, born in England and working for Dominique Fox.

In 1883 Frank married Mary Jane Bree and spent his later working life as a landscape gardener. The 1910 US census records him living at Hamilton Avenue, Passaic, New Jersey with Mary and their only daughter Ruth. Frank also served in the US army.

The grand family Christmas get together in 1910 took place at 18 Long Street, Devizes, the home of the Knight family and where Caroline had returned following the death of her husband in 1896.

Just two members of the family were missing, James, who had died at his home in Canada the previous September and Frank. For Albert this was his first visit home in forty years.

Aged 90 and an invalid, Caroline was unable to join the family for the photo call in the garden. She does, however make an appearance in a photograph held by her granddaughter Rosa. Another of Frank dressed in his Spanish-American War uniform is held by Elizabeth Rebbeck, the wife of brother Charles.

Albert returned to America where he worked as a gardener for the Linkroum family in Hackensack, New Jersey. This would be the last time he saw his Wiltshire family. He sailed out of Liverpool on the SS Laurentic on January 14, 1911.

Frank eventually made it home for one last visit, sadly on the death of his mother in 1914. He returned to the States on the SS St. Paul sailing from Southampton on February 25.

Albert never married. The brothers ended their days living together at 171 E 21st Street in Paterson, New Jersey, cared for by Frank’s daughter Ruth. Frank died on June 4, 1941 and Albert on April 20, 1944.

Images - Christmas 1910 (top) Caroline Rebbeck (middle) Cornelius Rebbeck (bottom) courtesy of Judith Rebbeck Watten.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas 1940

Swindonians celebrated a low key Christmas in 1940 following a year in which the war had bit hard.  But the town and district made sure that the most vulnerable citizens were catered for, especially the evacuees, so far from home for the festive period.

Frank Leigh produced and starred in Jack and the Beanstalk, this year’s pantomime at the Playhouse.  Leigh scored a personal triumph in his role as Dame Durden according to the Advertiser reviewer who also commented on the ‘several pleasing specialities.’

At Lethbridge Road School, children from the infant class put on a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for their mothers with Jean Hawkins in the lead role of Snow White while local children and evacuees were treated to a Christmas tea and entertainment at the Club House, Shrivenham Road provided by the GWR Social Club.

The Mayor and Mayoress, Alderman and Mrs F.E. Allen made a Christmas Day visit to various homes and institutions across Swindon and district and distributed 165 threepenny pieces to children at Olive House and the Limes in Stratton. The couple also visited the GWR Medical Fund Hospital, the Isolation Hospital and the St Margaret’s Institution.  Following dinner, the Mayor and Mayoress spent a short time at the Victoria Hospital before moving onto the Maternity Home where tea was provided by the Matron and staff.

Somewhat late, presumably due to heavy work load, Santa Claus paid a New Year’s Day visit to children and mothers at the Great Western Sports Club pavilion where he handed out presents from the Christmas tree.  Miss Yvonne Sutton and her Kent Girls performed a cabaret show with Mr Raymond Sutton at the piano.  Miss Hedges contributed a fairy dance and C Gibbs songs and step dances.

In response to a government appeal, travel on the railways was down as Swindon reported a reduction in the number of passengers over the Christmas period. Although traffic during the previous weekend and across Monday and Christmas Eve was described as ‘fairly heavy’ overall numbers were considerably down on previous years.

Swindon GPO reported a reduction in Christmas mail, approximately 10% lower than during Christmas 1939.  Postal workers managed to shift more than 1,000,000 cards, letters and packages in the fortnight before Christmas.

“The demand on the staff was, as expected, exceedingly heavy,” a Post Office spokesman told the Advertiser, “but thanks to the splendid co-operation of the public, everything worked extremely smoothly.”

But not everyone had the Christmas spirit. Thieves were busy over Christmas and cleared out the WVS Mobile Canteen at the Town Hall, Swindon.  The canteen was closed at 5pm on Christmas Day but when Mrs R.B. Hick arrived to open up on Boxing Day she discovered the door had been completely removed and most of the stock had gone.  Tins of salmon, soup, sugar and packets of cigarettes valued at about £2 had been stolen.

And sadly some mean minded thieves were accused of pilfering parcels sent to troops in camp in the West of England.

“Many parcels are being delivered with wrappers torn open, string removed, boxes broken, and some of the contents missing,” reported the Advertiser.  One camp post orderly told a reporter that the parcels were received in such a bad condition that it was impossible to tell to which parcel the loose items belonged. “They have obviously been pilfered,” he said.

Christmas market

Christmas shopping

Christmas celebrations at Olive House

Yvonne Sutton and her Kent Girls

GWR Social Club Christmas party for members' children and evacuees

Frank Leigh as Dame Durden in the Playhouse pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk

Monday, November 18, 2013

Swindon in the Great War

Celebrate the launch of 
Swindon in the Great War
the formal unveiling and dedication of the
Sanford Street School Roll of Honour Memorial

The memorial and its significance to Radnor Street Cemetery - a talk by Mark Sutton 

Saturday November 23, 11.30 am
Radnor Street Cemetery Chapel 


The launch of the Swindon Heritage Winter edition 

Swindon Heritage subscribers – come and collect your copy of the Winter edition and pick up a copy of Mark Sutton’s book Tell Them of Us free on the day only

Have you been with us from the first issue - come and renew your 2014 subscription in the historic Radnor Street Cemetery Chapel?

Want to send a Christmas gift subscription for 2014 – we can organize this too - come and see us at Radnor Street Cemetery Chapel 11- 2 pm November 23.

Want to join our growing list of subscribers - if you love local history, come and meet us.

Other attractions include:
Mince pies & wine
Music of the era
Local authors Mark Child and Roger Trayhurn with copies of their books for sale

The Leggett brothers William (left) Ernest (right) commemorated on the Sanford Street School memorial
Mark Sutton 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

If Ye Forget

If Ye Forget

Let me forget — Let me forget,
I am weary of remembrance,
And my brow is ever wet,
With the tears of my remembrance,
With the tears and bloody sweat,
Let me forget.

If ye forget — If ye forget,
Then your children must remember,
And their brow be ever wet,
With tears of their remembrance,
With tears and bloody sweat,
If ye forget.

G.A. Studdert Kennedy.

Remembrance Day Service 2013 - Radnor Street Cemetery, Swindon.

Friday, November 8, 2013

For the Fallen

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon
first published in The Times September 1914 following the Battle of the Marne

Scenes from the Field of Remembrance at Lydiard Park.

Children from Corsham Primary School

Sally Challoner from BBC Points West

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

In which I engage in a bit of name dropping!

Quite frankly I think it's time to name names. People might not thank me for it, but I think Swindon in the Past Lane readers deserve to know who you are.

So what has sparked this outburst? Funnily enough it was having a jolly nice time at the official opening of the new Arkell's hotel at The Sun Inn, Coate overlooking historic Jefferies land. It was a super event with a posh ploughman's lunch and scrummy scones.The Swindon Heritage team were among the invited guests along with members of the press, civic dignitaries and the people who designed, built and colour co-ordinated the beautiful rooms. And quite naturally the conversation turned to all things heritage - well it would with us there!

We started talking about shared acquaintances and the valuable research work being undertaken by volunteers and I decided there and then to name on this blog just a few of the people I know who work so hard to promote Swindon's wonderful heritage.

So, let's hear it for Clive Carter, Chairman of Wiltshire Building Records, who is painstakingly plotting the former farms on which our town is built.

And put your hands together for Jan Flanagan. Jan is not only recording the history of the Wilts and Berks Canal but she is also creating an archive of Swindon's brickyards and brick makers.

Take a bow Mike Pringle, arts and heritage maestro, who in recent months secured a £30,000 Heritage Lottery Fund to help develop a dedicated Trust at the birthplace of celebrated nature writer, Richard Jefferies. Mike is also one of the key figures behind the Swindon in the Great War project with a whole raft of innovative events lined up to commemorate the 2014 centenary.

Next in the line up is poet Hilda Sheehan, the driving force of the poetry scene in Swindon, already burning the midnight oil as she plans next year's Swindon Festival of Poetry - with a dash of heritage thrown in!

Have you heard about Alfred Williams, Swindon's Hammerman Poet? If you have it's probably thanks to Graham Carter, editor of Swindon Heritage, who regularly gives talks about his own personal hero.

Students at the Commonweal School have just returned from a visit to the Great War battlefields and cemeteries in the company of Mark Sutton. Mark has spent a lifetime researching and commemorating Swindon's sons who served. Three cheers for Mark!

Next we have the unsung heroes of the local history groups and societies.

Stand up please, Andy, Diane and Bob from the Swindon Society who give talks to groups and societies across the town on subjects as diverse as the Beaney collection and A Man With A Stick. Then there's Gordon, Sharon, Brenda - and not forgetting Ernie - with their walks and talks about and around Rodbourne. 

And don't think I've finished there - let's take a trip to Wroughton where Hilary, Alan, Danny and company have garnered material for no fewer than nine books on the history of their village. And Sheridan in Royal Wootton Bassett, we salute you. Meanwhile over in Chiseldon Lynn, Elaine and members of the local history group are gearing up for the unveiling of the Chiseldon Cauldron.

From Purton to Highworth and beyond, members of the Swindon and District History Network are researching, writing and recording the history of this neck of the woods. And how much do they earn from this - the clue is in the job title - volunteer.

So there we are - consider yourself named!

A Man With A Stick - published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies, Central Library and  history super sleuths Darryl, Katherine and Jon

Jan and her brick collection

Hilda Sheehan

Andy, Diane and Bob embarking on a heritage walk with Lethbridge Primary School pupils - you should have seen them when they got back!

Gordon taking a well earned break

A collection of Carters - Graham left and Clive right - Paul Williams (middle) is custodian of the William Hooper archive
one of the beautiful rooms at Arkell's new hotel

And a poetic doorway 

Mike Pringle - read all about him!
Mark Sutton tells the story of Swindon's men who served

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Performers Without Borders (or safety nets)

These daring highline walkers are helping fund raise to send Jake Hirsch Holland to Ocotal, Nicaragua to work with Performers Without Borders. They are performing at the Spectrum Renault building until 5pm today, so if you rush over to West Swindon you might just catch them.

Young would be highliners

What it's all about