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Odd items

I received two documents both of which obviously refer to Mary, the daughter of John Chapman of Alwent. 'The ginger headed little schoolmaster' referred to may would be an Atlay, possibly married to Esther Chapman (Mother) - or not, as the details don't quite match

Written testimony form Marion Williams (nee Atlay)

Mother’s family real old fashioned gentry.  4 boys, 5 girls of which my mother was the 7th child.  They had an old aunt Mary who had wanted to marry a man her father would not let her, so she never got married.  She had her own house and staff of servants.  She had each of my mother’s brothers in turn to live with her but they ran home.  In the end she had my mother when little and she lived with her until she died.  She paid for a good education for her but left alll her money to the boys when my mother was 18 years old who had to find work.  She got a place as governess to Major and Mrs Leggots three boys but was given notice for beating them.  She asked for another testimonial from her head who refused on finding what she had done.  Now she was at Headlam Hall and running wild.  She used to call my father ‘the ginger headed little school master’.  His home was in Winston.  He was not the only one she mess about with.  She went wild and the result a forced marriage and I was born at Granny Atlay’s who was kind to me.  She beat me so much that when I was eight my father dared her to touch me again and she had to tell him what I had done.  To the very end of her days she hated me for being born.  Two days before she died I went home to help and when I went into her room she said ‘I’ve not left you any money’.  She smacked Dad’s face in public when they were at a party and he told her if ever she did such a thing again he’d turn her up and smack her backside in public.  She was a dreadful person who never climbed down until the boys were killed in France.
Alec wanted to bring Mabel his girl for a holiday in August 1914. She was not going to have any girls in the house and in the end said he could if I would do all the work.    I said ‘who is doing it now’ as she never did any thing when I was home.  Mabel came and afterward spent her holiday with John and I.  She is dead now.
I only met two of mother’s family:- Aunt Bella and Uncle Will the rogue of the family.
Aunt Bella (Isabel) lived in Stockton and had a dairy shop and milk round.  It is from her and my Dad talking in her kitchen one morning that I first got an idea as to why my mother hated me so Aunt Bella said ‘Does she not know?’ and dad said ‘No and don’t tell her or there will be a row when we get home’.  I never had such a miserable holiday, as he seemed frightened for me to mix with them.
It is on this holiday that I met the famous Uncle William who had robbed them all.  When mother’s father died her eldest son should have settled up the estate (Uncle Jack) who was in Australia and could not come home asked Will Chapman (second son) to settle it up.  He collared the lot and even granny had nothing.  To make him give her a share they put her in the workhouse and then the authorities came down on him.  He took her out of the workhouse and put her in the cottage at Winstone and gave her some (ends).

This document also from Mark refers to the same family as Marion's document. It gives a rather different view of 'Mother' The father is Identified as 'Thomas Atlay'

Written testimony form Nancy Green (nee Atlay)

Over a year ago a niece of mine made a request of me which sadly I have been postponing from month to month after an illness which has put a break on my mental ability but at last I make an attempt to comply with her request.
He is interested in my mother’s family life and I am now the only one now alive who knew and talked to her and can fill in tracing her descent from the famous clergy man, John Wycliffe, who translated the Bible into English.
I know there was a family bible showing this, but what happened to it I do not know, but was told the descent was mainly on the female side.
I must make it clear that I was my mother’s fifth and last child and she was forty-two when I was born.  I am now eighty-eight and this information depends mostly on casual chit-chat between mother and child and must be treated as such.
The family lived and her father taught in Headlam hall, a beautiful and spacious house set, with a couple of farms, on rising ground in the scenic county of Durham.  The house was called a ‘school for the sons of gentlemen’.  It was owned and run by her proud grandfather, Rev. John Chapman.
I hate to state this but I recall my great grandfather being described as ‘ a pig-headed old man’.  However, it seems in keeping for he became involved in a lawsuit against the Duke of Cleveland over a right of way which was not terribly important and suffered great financial loss which led to his losing his home and livelihood and my grandfather his inheritance.
In the small town of Gainford, nearby, lived a great aunt in a pleasant house, keeping two maids and a coachman who drove the family coach with a family crest on the door (I have never seen a replica of this).
Being without children of her own, she unofficially adopted three of her nephew’s children in turn.  She did not like girls so two boys went in turn to live with her, but she was so strict that each reused to stay.  Eventually mother, a little girl of four, was made to stay and, I believe, lived with her until she died.  The brothers in turn ‘went to sea, settled in Australia and were little heard of again.
Apparently my mother was somewhat unhappy with someone who did not understand children, but she was cared for, clothes and privately educated but she told me that she did not mind not being left anything in her will but was hurt that she was not even mentioned.
Another thing she said was that her aunt’s ambition for her was to marry her to a curate and a number of them appeared from time to time.  Mother objected to this and took a dislike to them and whenever she could she avoided the meeting by hiding in the loft over the coachhouse and emerged when they had gone.
She was privately educated including pianoforte, singing oil painting and other lady-like skills and I was told that when she was young she had a really beautiful singing voice.
Later in life she was sent to boarding school at £90 a year (a mammoth sum at that time) somewhere in Border Country where she loved the life and was very happy and adored Scotland and everything Scottish and passed that love to her children.
One tale she told me was that when a girl had a birthday she could choose what lunch could be and one girl chose tripe which mother hated, so she wrapped it up in a handkerchief, put it inside her blouse and got rid of it in the toilet.
Another was that she had an umbrella which for some reason she hated and so she deliberately left it in the train when going home for the holidays and was annoyed when it was unfortunately returned.
The girls were only allowed to speak French at mealtime and mum said it was sometimes the strangest French imaginable.
However, mum was the one to run to by her children in later life for help with French homework.
The girls work samplers embroidered on canvas which were popular in those days.  I saw one she had done when I was small.
We were quite proud of a large picture painted in oils of a proud stag with huge antlers on a cliff top, which hang in a gilt frame on our sitting room wall.
When I was a small girl she had a dressmaker make me a coat and bonnet in deep purple tweed for which Mother made a collar and turn back for the bonnet in heavy white satin, beautifully pen-printed with purple pansies.  I was so proud of it but the trouble was it could not be washed or cleaned so it had to be kept for special occasions, mostly for church going and with my naturally wavy hair, of which she was very proud, was brushed out round my shoulders I felt very smart indeed.  There was never another one!
She was a good pastry-maker as, though, although her great aunt kept maids she thought no-one could make it as light as she could herself and Mum learnt from her.
She was busy on a Saturday afternoon when she made lovely scones quite different from any I have seen since – quite large and made with yeast.  They were about 9” across and maybe 5-6” thick, split through the middle and buttered hot.  On Sunday they were turned on their side, sliced and buttered cold.
There must have been little affection between her great aunt and her though Mum said that she was hurt not that she did not leave her money, but that she was not even mentioned in her will.  Mother was not trained for anything and had to fend for herself.  So she did the only thing open to her and went as governess for children of a colonel and his wife until they were of boarding school age.
How she met and married her husband, Thomas Atlay, I have no knowledge but she married a schoolmaster of a very different standard from her own family being the son of the village wheelwright.  He worked in a school which consisted of a large room heated by one large stove, possibly in Hull, where around 90 poor children (sometimes without shoes) congregated.  They were divided into groups and taught by pupil teachers instructed by the head.
Later they moved to a small school at Sunk Island with a house at the side where the only water supply was a tank to catch rain water on the roof where once a dead cat was found and where the great water estuary, the Humber, spread a moaning sound at certain stages of the tide.
Later they moved to the pleasant village of Keyingham and liked it.  However Dad always had a yen to learn new things and Mother taught him to play the pip-organ.  This led to Dad reading an advertisement for a schoolmaster and organist for the estate village of Hillmarton in Wiltshire where he applied and was appointed to the post at £90 a year and £10 extra for organist(?) with a cheap but pleasant house.
They settled down happily, loved the place, and brought up a family of five there.
Sadly the First World War spread its pain and suffering over the country and two of the sons were among the first to answer the call ‘Your king and Country needs you’.  By winter they were in Flanders in the mud and suffering of the trenches and in March Alec was reported ‘wounded and missing’ and the next month Keith was killed.  Nothing more was ever heard of Alec.  Later on a third son joined the forces but, thankfully, came home safely.
Gone was the family happiness as my parents threw themselves into war work and did their bit in every way they could as they dragged themselves through the war years.  My mother neglected her own health and developed cancer.
One operation after another and years of agony followed another and those were days when the doctor said ‘Don’t take too many aspirins or the effect will wear off!’
Fortunately there was morphine for the end, brought by the doctor from miles away before the last.
 A really wonderful trained nurse helped my father and me to care for her till the end and when she died my father said ‘thank god’.
She was bed-ridden for some time and unable to attend her third son’s wedding and moaned ‘I have lost two sons and now I can’t even go and see the third son married!’  But she insisted the rest of us went.
Yet she kept the family running as smoothly and cheerfully to the end.  She was white-haired when I first knew her – straight hair caught up into a bun at the back.  She was always neatly dressed in tailored suits and high-necked blouses and always looked neat even when working, but always maintained she was ugly!  I can prove her otherwise, Shortly after her death I was sent to church training college.  At first tired and miserable, I hated it, one day I lay in bed in my cubicle prostrate with migraine and the nurse sent for, she came into my room on the dressing table stood a portrait of my mother, the nurse said ‘what a lovely face – who is this?  Is it your mother?  How you must miss her!’  ‘She’s dead nurse! I gasped and it was as if an abscess burst and relief came.  Afterwards I was able to take the course and fought my way through my qualification.
Mother hated housework.  She had taken some exam at boarding school which had given her some qualifications for teaching but she had torn it up saying '‘ am never going to need that’’ But there was no way of obtaining a copy after so many years.  Spending so many years in caring for a family she wanted a change.  So when a vacancy fell in my father’s school for a supplementary teacher she took it and for years managed a class of 40 infants happily and successfully for 30 shillings a week and made a good job of it.  For less than that wage she could have home-help and relive herself of undesirable chores.
It is there, at the age of 3, I started my own school life sharing a desk with a friendly boy whom I grew quite fond of.  But that is another story.
She was always immaculate in a dark skirt or costume a high necked blouse with a brooch at the neck and prinz-nez with a cord falling in beside the nose, beside a small wart and it annoys me that I can never remember which side it was.
Always pleasant and polite it was remembered in the family ‘the only time mother aid Damn was when she was carrying a newly made jar of jam through the living room and the bottom fell out of the jar!’
She spoke well and correctly and insisted in this with all the family in the home but after living in Wilts she aid the boys had three languages Yorkshire, Wiltshire and the King’s English.
She was a lovely lady and I am proud of her!




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