Unexamined Lives

The story of the 20th century as lived by residents in the Derbyshire village of Borrowash


Young Marrieds – Chris & Martin Hall

Chrissie and Martin Hall live at Cloves Hill, Morley.

We’re settled here now and we shall stay here.

They bought the land on which to build a house somewhere in the country from the proceeds of the sale of 17, Princess Drive, Borrowash; their first marital home.

The £7350.00 paid by Julie and John Roberts for No 17 was a good price, reflecting an appreciation of about £6,000 in 9 years; courtesy of a modernisation grant from South East Derbyshire Rural Council and the zeal of the Halls who left the village forty years ago.

In Martin’s words: We’ve always been attached to Borrowash. Princess Drive is a memory but every time we drive through Borrowash; we always go and look at it.

Chrissie’s grandparents lived in Normanton and her grandmother’s brother, John Brereton, was a First World Ward casualty in 1916:

My mother’s family were from the potteries; Cheshire, Stoke on Trent, all potters. My father’s mother was a Riley. They were Irish; all musical. Great singing voices. My mother was an Associate of the London College of Music, which was a pretty special thing to do for a working class girl.  Both my parents played the piano and sang. My mother played piano for the Royal Ballet exams in Derby; my father was in one or two musical groups and they both sang with Ilkeston Singers in the ‘90s.

Chrissie’s father, Eric Waring, was a joiner, but both parents were notably ‘different’:

My mother was quite unusual because she worked. She worked at Pastures Hospital(mental asylum) as an occupational therapist; we lived at Mickleoevr and in those days, that meant rug-making, painting, woodwork and leatherwork. It was an enclosed community, and patients worked. They had fruit farms, patients worked in the kitchens, laundry. My mother went to work on a bike and dropped me off at school first and as I got older, her hours increased. I was a ‘latchkey’ kid for many years.

Eric’s Second World War experience (including a spell in Italy in the 8th Army Light Infantry), left a unique legacy:

He never cooked – my mother always did the cooking. One day he said, ‘Oh, I can cook Italian.’

I was amazed. He went in the kitchen and fiddled around for a while, and then there was this spaghetti dish which was delicious, but he only did it that once.

He could speak Italian too, as Chrissie discovered when her parents took her to C&A inNottingham to buy a new coat:

It was a rare thing to have a new coat. I always had hand-me-downs from an older cousin. All of a sudden, my father moved away from us and began to jabber and he was speaking a foreign language. I knew it was my dad but I couldn’t believe it was his voice! He was talking to an Italian family who were buying a coat and I never knew he could speak Italian until then, but of course he’d been in Italy for several years and he could speak Italian. How weird was that?

The Italian effect was pervasive and Chrissie narrowly missed a permanent reminder of her father’s wartime service:

When he was in Italy, he befriended a family and they had a little girl; surname Lama.

One story he told me about the little girl was that he was terribly upset by the fact that this child had a doll, one toy with no head and it broke his heart. He got permission to be out of camp and walked all night to a town and bought a doll. He went on his own and walked back and gave it to the little girl who didn’t like it at all and still clutched the old one, but her parents were overwhelmed by delight with a new doll.

When Chrissie was born (confounding all expectations because her parents had anticipated a baby boy called Kenneth), Eric wanted his daughter to be called Mirella.

New mum Freda had other ideas.

My mother said, ‘no, it’s foreign sounding,’ so Christine it was.

But Mirella Lama retained her mystique for the young soldier who had walked all through the night to buy her a doll:

After my father died, I found in his wallet a small card, printed and written in Italian, inviting him to the first communion of Mirella Lama.

Many years later, Martin and I had an Italian workman come and do some tiling for us and he translated it and that’s what he said. A first communion and he always carried the card.

The family of Christine’s husband, Martin had a less fortuitous link with Italy:

My father was one of four, the only one who had children, so we’re the last of a line.

My Dad’s brother Douglas was killed in the Second World War. The day I was born, they had a telegram saying he’d been drowned and that’s why my middle name isDouglas after him.  They found his body on the day I was born. The River Salerno inItaly. I have his last diary and his notes.

Hedley Hall, Martin’s father, was born in Ripley, served in the Home Guard in the War and spent some time based in Leeds as a joiner, repairing planes

(Can’t believe how flimsy the planes were!)

After the war, he continued in the trade and rented a workshop on Nottingham Road.

It was a business in a very small way. Hall Brothers. They had a board up outside the workshop and anything that needed making with joinery…. and it was where they stored their cement mixer. I remember a rickety worn out staircase.

Hedley decided to build a home for the family on a plot of land in Chaddesden and solved temporary accommodation problems by making a caravan in the workhouse.

It required resolution and ingenuity, and he was not deterred by less than salubrious working conditions:

I can always remember the problems he had with the workshop. It was rented.  It had very low ceilings in it – not like they have today, seven foot six,  and he had to build the caravan with an axle but no wheels and he  had to slide it out on bearers onto the main road and hitch it up and put wheels on it.

Martin’s sister moved to 23, Princess Drive Borrowash:

I can always remember on Christmas Day when there were no buses, walking from Chaddesden to Princess Drive to my sister’s for tea – and that was one of my first associations with Princess Drive.

He seems to have inherited his father’s entrepreneurial spirit because at the age of twenty, and encouraged by Hedley, he became the owner of 17, Princess Drive.

When a property came up for sale, my father thought it was a good buy. It needed a lot of work doing to it and he was in the building trade and offered to help me with this so we went ahead with the purchase. This was 24th April 1965 off Mrs Cheetham. I paid £1250.00.00. Gas lighting, no central heating and a coal cooking stove…range in the kitchen.

It was the house that Jessie Webster and her children had rented from Mrs Cheetham in former years.

Christine Waring who lived at West Hallam, worked as a local government secretary in the Education Department.

When she met her future husband, he had already been a householder for three years which was unusual for a young unmarried man in the 1960s:

I went to the Locarno dance hall in Derby with some friends and the last dance, a fella came and asked me if I’d dance. I did and he offered to take me home. I lived at West Hallam and I was amazed that he still wanted to take me home knowing where I lived!

The gallant gesture did not succeed because Eric and Freda had told their daughter never to accept a lift from strange men – but they had said nothing about phone numbers which Chrissie and Martin duly exchanged.

And from then on, M and I were a couple.

They married in 1971 and moved into their first home; 17, Princess Drive.

The Edwardian property had many original features; overlooked fields at the bottom of the garden and the neighbours were lovely.

But original Edwardian features did not fit with the spirit of the swinging sixties and the Halls set to work with gusto. According to Martin:

We took out the sash windows but didn’t scrap them. We took the centre mullions out and modernised them with one pane of glass instead of four panes. Looking back, it was totally criminal what we did to it. Same with the door. We took two panes out and made it one pane. We hard-boarded over all the internal doors to make them flush to paint. We put a bathroom in the back by knocking the coalhouse through. We took out a gorgeous fireplace – slate and we put an electric fire in! I’d be in my mid twenties and I shudder now to think why I did it. But that was the case in those days. I feel bad about it.

Some of the alterations were dictated by necessity rather than taste.

We put a central heating system in. Putting electricity in made the property habitable. I don’t know how she managed just with gas lights. I don’t know how long it was empty before we had it. There was no electricity at all. Just gas lights and I can’t remember if there were actually mantles – probably little mantles like in a caravan. We never lit one.

The garden was quite nice, long, buildings at the bottom. One was probably a toilet in the days before they had them inside; we got a grant from South East Derbyshire Council for putting these items in. The grant was £120 – a standard grant. You can fill your car up for that much now but in those days you could put a bathroom in for that!

The project was all-consuming and Chrissie set to work on the interior design:

Every room we did with woodchip paper and emulsion over the top. One of the rooms had a purple wall – we thought that was great! And we had a purple candlewick bedspread to go with the wall!

Serious money and both salaries had gone on building and wood chip paper and the Halls faced the prospect of living in a warm, well lit home with a bathroom and no furniture!

What we did have was handed on from the extended family. So there was a massive grey heavy moquette 3 piece suite that had belonged to Uncle Jeff and Auntie May; they’d bought a new one. We thought it was wonderful!

Scraps of material were transformed into curtains and cushions to match and nothing was let go to waste:

Somebody would say they’d got a rug – and we’d say ‘oh yes, we’ll have it, we’ll have it!’

Then our parents would talk to their friends and they’d say ‘I’ve got a frying pan, they can have that!’

Everything was second hand; third hand. I can’t remember buying anything new. We didn’t even have a new bed or mattress. It was a family mattress that had been handed down; a sprung base which you don’t see now. Martin’s father made us a dressing table and did built – in wardrobes either side of the chimney breast.

By 1974, 17 Princess Drive was a place transformed – which was just as well because soft furnishing trends  were about to be dislodged from their pole position in Chrissie’s mind  by matters beyond  the boundaries of fashion or taste:

Pregnancy testing- urine sample left for testing- results notified several days later (remember being at work and getting the phone call – positive!) Mixed fear and elation. I’d been married for three years and knew this would change my life forever from that moment on. I wasn’t far wrong!

Sixty years previously, another young married couple had begun their life together – in very different circumstances.

Garnett Hall, born in 1883 was the eldest of four brothers – and Martin’s grandfather.

My grandfather’s brothers cheated on their age so that they could get in to fight in the First World War. Who would do that now? There were four brothers fighting in the war and two got killed on the same day in Salonica.

I’ve kept quite a few of my Granddad’s old things from WW1. I’ve got his payslip in the army in 1914; his will; his name tags they had round their necks in the war.

I’ve got a diary showing where so and so got shot dead – quite disturbing when you read how they were. They were cavalry – Derbyshire Yeomanry.

Percy and Harry, Garnett’s two youngest brothers were the war casualties – meanwhile Garnett faithfully transcribed the daily detail of his war service in the Balkans, including items such as a list of Men proceeding with the Regiment and their occupations: stretcher bearer; cook; servant.

Amongst his possessions is a pass allowing him to be absent from his quarters for the purpose of proceeding to Cairo from 5pm – 11pm.

Pass bearers are reminded that if a General Mobilization is ordered, every soldier on pass must return immediately to his unit  without waiting for instructions.

Garnett is pictured standing to attention in his regimental photograph wearing a military helmet appropriate to the Egyptian climate.

Millions of miles away, his young wife Kate waited with their baby son, Hedley, wondering whether or not she would become a war widow.

In 1974, birth rather than death was uppermost in Martin Hall’s mind – unlike his grandfather, Garnett, who whose Will (dated 11th March 1917) survives him:

In the event of my death, I give the whole of my property and effects to my wife, Kate Hall, Lowers Hill House, Ripley, and Derbyshire.

Fortunately, this was not to be the case. Garnett, who died in 1963, aged 80 was to receive hisWar Badge for Services Rendered in H.M’s Military Forces since 1914 and an edition ofThe Balkan News dated Tuesday, October 1st 1918 chronicles the end of the war.

But although war did not separate the young marrieds of 1915, the death of their son Douglas in 1944 must have been a bitterly ironic reminder of earlier times.

It was a different world for expectant mum, Chrissie in 1974 – and her experience must seem similarly dated to the pregnant woman of today:

No scans! No opportunity to know the baby’s sex until the moment of birth! Hence everything bought in advance was white.

Hand-knitted gifts from family and friends, intricate lacy patterns, vests, matinee jackets and pram and cot blankets, mittens and bootees. And the all-important shawl! Precious family heirloom now. All in 2ply wool – nightmare to wash – always by hand and separately spun in a free standing spin/rinse machine.

Maternity clothes were flowing, floral and baggy, always designed to hide the bump. Very different from today’s fitted bump and proud of it styles!

I remember wearing trousers with zip fasteners left unzipped and an elastic loop securing the button and  buttonhole together so they didn’t fall down, covered by a ‘maternity smock’ which covered the waist arrangement up!

Christine requested maternity leave and Martin notes a covert air of disapproval:

People said she shouldn’t be doing that; she should be stopping at home with her baby but we couldn’t afford to do that because at the time, we were actually building this house.

Freda Waring had broken the mould by working whilst her child was young. Now Chrissie had breached a further frontier:

My request resulted in a lot of research as apparently, it wasn’t commonplace – hadn’t happened before within the City Council in the early 1970s. Expectant mothers had to leave work several weeks before the birth (I know women work right up to due date nowadays). I had to return to work six weeks after the birth Can’t  recall exact finances, but I do know that I was paid something while I was off, and had to sign a document saying that if I failed to return to work for at least three months after, I would  have to return the maternity pay.

Birth itself was a daunting prospect with gas and air and pethadine the sole pain relief options available for NHS patients.

Chrissie had read about spinal block analgesia; discovered that it was only on offer to private patients and decided to become a private patient with this in mind.

The concept of partners being present at the birth was about as revolutionary as maternity leaveand the subject of a lot of discussion and banter between fellas.

As it turned out, the birth of Kate was uncomplicated.

I didn’t need the spinal analgesia. I went home a few days later, sitting on a stretcher in an ambulance nursing my baby wrapped in the precious knitted shawl; no baby carrier seats and no seat belts!

Like all other babies, until the day of discharge, she had to be dressed in a hospital – provided white gown.

Giving birth was the easy part in 1974; an era defined by terries and nappy pails.

In place of a pair of disposable Huggies, Kate wore:

White terry towelling nappies secured by large, lethal safety pins with rubber pants on top. Leaks were inevitable. Some nappies were bought in a shop, some were lengths of towelling material, cut to size and hemmed by hand.

Being a maternity leave pioneer was stressful and the advantages and drawbacks were finely balanced:

It was cruel going back full time when she was only six weeks old. I was still breast feeding. I was driving and working in the School Health Service then. I’d moved on from the Education Department – someone told me it would fit in better with a family. It was domiciliary and I was visiting schools with the school doctors and school nurses, and I had time between clinics to drive to Martin’s mum at Chaddesden and breast feed Kate at lunchtime. It was cruel. I remember breaking my heart at leaving my baby at six weeks old.

Borrowash itself had a good range of amenities; Chrissie’s own GP, Dr Pavely lived locally and a supermarket had opened in 1970.

Chrissie walked everywhere, pushing her pram (in those days, they were very big and comfortable) and shopped.

But working, breastfeeding, juggling a baby, a job and a home, took their inevitable toll:

I remember walking my baby to the chemist. I also remember leaving her parked outside in the pram and – looking back, I think how incredible that was!

The shop was small and the pram was big and on my first outing with my new baby, I went to the chemist, parked her outside and came home without her! I’d completely forgotten I’d got a baby!

When I did get home, I did remember, so I ran back and there she was; still asleep in her pram, so I grabbed the pram and took her home.

Obviously something weird had happened to my brain about giving birth. I feel very guilty about it!

Childcare was undertaken by Martin’s mother who looked after the baby while Chrissie was at work.

A family car was now a necessity:

Luckily my mother could have her and the way we transported her was putting her in a carrycot on the back seat of the car. No seat belts, we didn’t have them ourselves. That was it.

Unfortunately, 17 Princess Drive had neither a garage nor any other parking facilities and this was an on-going cause of anxiety for Martin:

At night, you used to have to put parking lights on, even on a side street. I always remember when it was dark, going out, putting it on, slotted in over the windscreen with a cable into the dashboard.

If it hadn’t got one, it was bonnet up and into the battery. It was always a worry whether it would start, with it being drained. That was the first thing when you got up – take your parking light off and start your car up in case it wouldn’t go.

The starter motor sometimes jammed and you had to rock the car. I don’t think anyone now would know about the starter handles or the motor jamming. Bit of a hair – raising thing in winter, getting it started, but there weren’t many cars down there.

Hedley Hall continued keeping an eye out for a business opportunity and built two more houses on Princess Drive; moving into 1B.

The young couple decided to economise by letting No17 to one of Martin’s work colleagues:

I used to work for South East Derbyshire Rural District Council; one of the chaps in the Quantity Surveying Section wanted a property and because we wanted the money, we let Princess Drive to him and moved back to live with my mother. The rental value was £30 a month and we thought that was over the moon! We were living virtually rent free with Mum and Dad, so we could save up.

Chrissie recalls her friendly neighbours at No 15 visiting to see the new baby:

Mr and Mrs Frost were an elderly couple; no children, charming.

Mrs Frost came in and looked at the baby and there were tears rolling down her cheeks.

The young mum felt justly proud when Mrs Frost pronounced Kate to be absolutely beautifuland slightly less sanguine when her neighbour qualified the praise by adding:

She’s just like her granddad!

That was Martin’s dad, which I didn’t think was a great compliment! But looking back at the photographs, Mrs Frost was probably right because she did have a round face and a high forehead and no hair… which was pretty much what Martin’s dad looked like at the time…

Mrs Frost wrote a poem ‘for your beautiful baby and thank you for letting me see her’.

Chrissie has kept it.

Borrowash in the early 1970s was not swinging London and extremes of glamour and depravity were to be read about rather than lived.

By 1974, the contraceptive pill was well into its second decade, but for Chrissie:

I was aware that it was possible  to take a contraceptive pill, but didn’t know anyone who was taking  it and certainly  it wasn’t  something  I’d want to take. Unmarried mothers were not unknown and Borrowash had a home on the outskirts. I didn’t know anyone who had had a ‘termination’ – I didn’t even know the word!

The world of the Sunday papers; high fashion; pop stars; all night parties; drugs and sexual encounters; groupies; sexually transmitted diseases and one night stands were completely alien concepts to me in rural Derbyshire. They belonged to a totally different world!

Martin remembers the home for unmarried mothers; located in a large house on Nottingham Road:

They had a jumble sale and proceeds went to the unmarried mothers. We did go a couple of times.

But rural life in Derbyshire was quiet for a young couple who were at work all the time, didn’t participate in social clubs and as Martin recalls, rarely frequented pubs.

I’m not a drinker, so I didn’t frequent the pub; perhaps a couple of times if friends from work came round. We don’t go to the pub now, my father wasn’t a drinker and I followed on his idea of not going to the pub. Our children are completely different – don’t know where they picked that up from!’

Before they married, Martin and Chrissie enjoyed weekend walks and in 1968 answered an advertisement asking for people to audition as extras in Ken Russell’s Women in Love.

The film was shot at Elvaston Castle, a familiar haunt only a stone’s throw away from Borrowash and extras were paid – which was just one of the plus points for Chrissie:

You got to see Oliver Reed and Alan Bates and what woman wouldn’t want to do that? Only next in scale to Richard Burton – so how great!

Martin was immune to the charms of Reed and Bates and remains underwhelmed by the film:

When it came out, we went to see it. Couldn’t understand it, didn’t like it, but as you get older, you see more into it. But we thought it was a load of rubbish. D.H. Lawrence.

However, he found the work very interesting for two days and the process of film making was fascinating:

We went to a nightclub in Derby to get changed into the costumes. It was a weekend. They completely changed the essence of the castle. They brought the gates up to the castle, you wouldn’t recognise it. We were there in the morning and there was a catering van. I can always remember – it was mashed potatoes and sausages for dinner on a wobbly paper plate. We stayed there till dusk.

September: it was 9 or 10 at night.

Martin was interested in the fact that a lot of the dignitaries were people from the councilrather than star-spotting, and he and Chrissie were joined by other people they knew:

A lot of people from work were in it as well. At the audition, they asked ‘Can anyone play a musical instrument? A flute?’

A chap at work could and he was in it at the start, on the bus, playing the music.

The crucial drowning scene was filmed with meticulous attention to detail:

They had tannoys saying what you had to do. You’d got to rush to the bank where this happened. He did it twice, fell in the water. They had frogmen in the water, holding the boats still for the shot. Even in 1968, you couldn’t imagine what went into the production! All the tracks and the lighting…

In 1974, Chrissie and Martin moved to their present home in Cloves Hill. They have three children and an extended family living in Hertfordshire and South Yorkshire. Days, weeks and no doubt years pass without them thinking about Borrowash and their first marital home in Princess Drive.

Recently, Chrissie who is interested in writing projects and runs some of her own, came across the history of Jessie Webster on a website called Unexamined Lives and realised to her amazement,  that many years ago, Jessie and her family had also lived at No 17, Princess Drive.

From that discovery came this story of a young couple and their first home:

A beautiful Edwardian house

Martin remembers a photograph:

The garden. There was an apple tree that took over the garden. Chris was 21 the day of that photograph. Just a lawn, a blue brick path down. It was a nice view at the back. It was open.

Chrissie says simply:

It was the most delightful house ….. we had very happy times there.

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