Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Bakehouse Smiths

(Dear reader, if genealogy is not your thing, please do skip these posts. There are times when I use my blog as a catch all for information I want to keep. This is one of them.)

Before moving on to another genealogy post I need to fill in some background information. Virtually every relative of my father's from 1800 onwards was born in the village of Stewkley, in North Buckinghamshire. Both his parents were from Stewkley families, and there are a number of surnames that crop up on both sides of the family tree and in different generations - Faulkner, Mead, Chappell and Keen in particular. All were stalwarts of the Primitive Methodist community, and they tended to intermarry. Not surprisingly, relationships get complicated.

Looking back at Daniel and Sarah Smith jogged my memory and I remembered another Daniel Smith from my childhood. This second Daniel was another grandson of the old couple, and my grandfather's first cousin. Searching the 1911 census I found this:

  • Thomas Smith, age 35, baker
  • Elizabeth Smith, age 35
  • Louie Smith, age 13
  • May Smith, age 10
  • Daniel Smith, age 8
  • Annie Smith, age 6
  • William Smith, age 3
  • Nellie Smith, age 2 months
The father, Thomas Smith, was the younger brother of my great-grandmother Lizzie Ellen. My grandfather was close to his Smith cousins, and I remember three of them quite clearly - Aunt May, Uncle Dan, Uncle Bill and Aunt Nell. The name Aunt Louie rings bells, but I don't remember her, or Nell or Annie. We must have been particularly close to this branch of the Smith family because our families were doubly related. Uncle Dan married a Kathleen (Kath) Chappell, and Aunt Nell married Kath's brother, Edward (Ned) Chappell. Kath and Ned were my grandmother's first cousins. Those intermarriages!

I don't know at what stage Thomas Smith became the village baker - maybe the bakery grew out of Sarah Smith's grocery? - but it it was a trade inherited by his son and son-in-law. When I was a young child at school in Stewkley, I used to spend Friday afternoons at the "bakehouse", as it was known. School finished an hour early on Fridays, and I used to walk down to the bakehouse and spend some time there until my mother collected me. Aunt May's husband, Uncle Fred - I remember it being Uncle Fred, rather than Uncle Dan - would be mixing the dough and putting it to rise, presumably for an early morning baking. He would give me my own small piece to shape and take home. I treated that dough like playdough, and had a wonderful time with it ... but it meant my poor mother was always presented with an unattractive grey blob of dough, which she was then expected to cook. The bakehouse must have been a relic of the past even then. There were two rooms: the bakery, with a huge round electric mixer, wooden work surfaces and an old-fashioned brick oven; and the shop, with a red tiled floor and wooden shelves for the bread. After Uncle Dan and Uncle Fred died, the bakery closed. It was the end of an era. This picture of Uncle Dan delivering bread, c.1930, also comes from Stewkley in Camera. Like the photo of his grandparents, it was given to the editors by his wife.

I also remember Aunt May and Uncle Bill with particular affection. When I was a small child Aunt May used to look after me sometimes to give my mother a break. For some reason I was particularly attracted to her carpet, and used to like to crawl underneath it. When I was not much older than Little Cherub I was bridesmaid to her daughter, another Kathleen. Uncle Bill worked first for my grandfather on his farm, and later for my Dad. He married the local schoolmistress, but sadly they never had any children. After he died we inherited his dog Judy, a Border collie with a beautiful temperament. Every so often she used to take herself off to visit his widow, a mile or so up the road. Strangely, I had never clicked that Uncle Bill and Aunt May were brother and sister until I found them on the census.

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