My grandad, Robert Bell, always referred to my grandma Jane as Ginny. That name must have gone back a long way because, delving back into my family tree on Find My Past, I’ve found that she was entered on the 1901 census as ‘Jennie Bagshawe’ (in fact, that should be Bagshaw, but I think that extra ‘e’ adds a certain cachet).
Then aged 22, she was working as cook in the household of Helen Taylor, widow, alongside Clara Holmes, 21, housemaid, who was born in Eckington, Derbyshire. Also resident at Mrs Taylor’s was her son, Joseph G Taylor, aged 37, a saw manufacturer.
Sheffield was heavily bombed during the World War II Blitz so many of the homes of my ancestors, including my mum’s family home and my great-grandma’s home next door, were destroyed, so I was delighted to find that the house where grandma cooked so many meals was still intact, along with its gateposts.
I can imagine Jennie and Clara sharing the attic room. I once asked grandma what was involved in domestic work and she recalled that it was a long day, starting with setting the fires very early in the morning.
I remember that she was a good cook and it was amazing how she and Robert could create a Sunday dinner, Yorkshire puddings included, for seven at Vine Cottage with just a single ring on a paraffin primus stove and the oven in the cast iron range, heated by a coal fire. The kettle, with its handle insulated by string wound around it, went on some kind of a rack in front of the fire.
In 1975 or 76, I cooked her my signature dish at the time, lasagne, and I think that she was quite impressed. As she made her way back down the stairs from my first floor flat, she fell and rolled down several steps at the bottom of the first flight but just picked herself up on the landing, giggling. She was in her nineties at the time!
“Because a certain young lady had gone there!” he replied.
It’s all rather romantic and I’m glad he made the journey as, otherwise, I wouldn’t have been here today.
Now, thanks to Google Maps and Find my Past, I know where she worked at the time. Did she ever look out of that arched window and spot young Bob coming to call on her on her day off?