#100daysofbfotc Day 11: Laura Kate Cornelius

Upton Road

Upton Hill, Torquay

Kate Cornelius straddles an awkward social divide. In the Barefoot on the Cobbles, I have used her character to explore the issue of social mobility in early twentieth century Britain. She was born Laura Amelia Kate Mayers or Meyers, in January 1881, to a working-class family; her father was a packer on the railway. She spent her childhood in Upton Hill, Torquay and it is here that we meet her, in Chapters 10 and 11, as the First World War is drawing to its close.

Laura’s working life began as ‘Kate’, a nursemaid to the Gilley family; as such she was associating with Torquay’s elite. Mr Gilley, of Aylwood, ran a railway cartage business and it is likely that he employed Laura’s father. Kate moved on to work in a smaller household in Babbacombe, as a servant to Mrs Macphearson. In 1913, already in the thirties, Kate married a local butcher, Percy Cornelius. This gave her a new respectability and she was able to employ a servant in her home, back in Upton Hill. By the time of the novel, the Cornelius’ first child has been born; they later go on to have two further children. Kate also appears in the final court scene, as a discomforted witness. She lived to reach the age of 91, dying in Torquay in 1972.

‘Mrs Cornelius exhibited all the snobbery of the social climber. Kate Cornelius would be horrified if these securely middle-class matrons realised that she, Kate, was formerly one of Aylwood’s servants.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

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#100daysofbfotc Day 10: The Red Lion, Clovelly

Steps-Archway-Red-Lion-Hotel-CLOVELLY-Devon

The Red Lion is one of the two Clovelly inns that feature in Barefoot on the Cobbles. Formerly a row of fishermen’s cottages, by the time of the novel, it was a flourishing hostelry, providing accommodation for tourists and refreshment for visitors and locals alike. Its dominant position on the quay at Clovelly, meant that it became a meeting point for the elderly fishermen of the village, who would sit outside the Red Lion with their baccy and beer, yarning about their days at sea. In inclement weather, they would huddle under the archway, which also provided shelter for the Clovelly donkeys. The Red Lion housed the Mariner’s Union Club Room and although inquests were known to be held there, the inquest that features in Barefoot was held elsewhere. The Red Lion’s publican, Mr Moss and his daughter Alice, are mentioned in the book.

‘The old fishermen, ruminating in the shade of the Red Lion’s archway, nodded sagely and muttered that the dry spell would break before the week was out.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 9: Mrs Emily Powell

Western Gazette 3 July 1891 page 4 col advert for servant in Chuudleigh villas col b

Western Gazette 3 July 1891

Emily Powell is a woman whose life is beset with adversity. Her respectable, middle-class home at Chudleigh Villas in Bideford hides her struggle to maintain the illusion of gentility. Coping with her husband’s mounting debts and alcoholism is secondary to her inability to come to terms with the death of her daughter. The loss of Florence, which occurred just before we meet Emily in Chapter 2 of Barefoot on the Cobbles, pervades every aspect of her life. In an attempt to cope with her grief, Mrs Powell all but ignores her other children, who are constant reminders of her loss. Her resulting attitude to motherhood is to have a lasting effect on her young servant, Polly.

Mrs Powell was tall and thin with swept back, wispy, fair hair, and a harassed expression. She was dressed in the deep lilac of half-mourning. Polly knew, from having spent a week listening to Lydia’s raptures about the latest fashions, that Mrs Powell’s gown, although elegant, was not new.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 8: Rose Cottage, Bucks Mills

Rose CottageIn the novel, Rose Cottage is the home of William and Mary and their two adult sons. We encounter the Cottage and its inhabitants in the first chapter of Barefoot on the Cobbles. The name is used anachronistically; this small fisherman’s cottage at the top of the village of Bucks Mills was given the name Rosie’s Cottage in the mid-twentieth century. It is now known as Rose Cottage and in the absence of a contemporary name, it seemed appropriate to refer to William’s home by its current appellation. In the summer of 1890, when Eadie comes to join the family, Rose Cottage was a four roomed, thatched, cob cottage, typical of others in the village of Bucks Mills. It is set back from the road, next to the former ale house, The Coffin Arms and a small terrace of cottages known as Forest Gardens. Rose Cottage was to remain in the family for another seventy years.

More information about Bucks Mills can be found here.

‘The pervading scent of fried fish reached them as they approached the bend in the road and turned towards the path that led to Rose Cottage, near the top of the street.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 7: Captain William Pengilly

William PengellyCaptain William Pengilly has long since met with an unfortunate end by the time he is mentioned in Chapter 7 of Barefoot on the Cobbles. In the book, his granddaughter, Annie, outlines the story of his demise. A Clovelly mariner, with eight children, his wife ran a tea-shop in the village whilst Captain William was away at sea. Captain Pengilly is also believed to have been the superintendent of the Methodist Sunday School in Clovelly, as Sunday School prizes survive that are inscribed with his name. His vessel, Queen of the South, was delivering coal to the cement mills at Dodnor, near Newport, Isle of Wight, when a tragic incident led to William’s death, at the age of 43. To find out about the manner of his passing, you will need to turn to Chapter 7.

‘ ‘They say he was drunk,’ she whispered. Now Leonard was genuinely astonished, surely Captain Pengilly had been a Methodist.’ ’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 6: The Rechabites

RechabitesThe Independent Order of Rechabites is a friendly society, founded in 1835. These societies provided a form of health insurance and death benefits to members in the era before the welfare state. The village inn was often the focus for friendly societies, who might have a dedicated Club Room in the local hostelry. By contrast, the Rechabites upheld the values of the Temperance Movement. It does seem however that the Clovelly branch did have an association with the New Inn.

In Chapter 14 of Barefoot on the Cobbles, the Rechabites are on parade through the streets of Clovelly to the parish church, for the annual New Year’s Day Club Service. This was always followed by a meal. In an effort to fulfill their vow to abstain from alcohol, many of the Rechabites ate in the local tea rooms. In order to accommodate all the members however, they were also hosted by the New Inn, who were happy to serve non-drinkers.

‘Leonard, his father and brothers were to march with the Rechabites from the New Inn, up the back road through the Court gardens to the church. As they assembled in the street outside the inn, persistent drizzle curtailed conviviality and the men were keen to be on their way before their best clothes were spoiled. The heavy cloth flag of the Rechabites, proudly borne by young Billy Harding, was becoming sodden.’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.

#100daysofbfotc Day 5: ‘Crumplefoot Tommy’

Crumplefoot Tommy‘Crumplefoot’ Tommy is referred to in the first chapter of Barefoot on the Cobbles. Although we do not actually get to meet him, we form an impression of his character through his wife and daughter. The ‘Crumplefoot’ nickname is supposed to refer to an injury to his foot, that he sustained whilst at sea. I have probably used this nickname anachronistically, as I suspect he was not injured until later in life but it was too evocative to ignore. Thomas is in his late thirties at the point at which he appears in the story. His wife, who was also his first cousin, has just given birth to the eighth of their nine children. Tommy was in the merchant service and also worked a fishing boat from Bucks Mills. His injury was obviously not life-limiting, as he lived to the age of eighty nine.

‘ ‘Why tears maid?’ asked Albert, moved by the plight of one of Crumplefoot Tommy’s ever-increasing brood.

‘Me da fetched me one.’ The tone was philosophical but she scarcely stifled a rising sob. ‘He said I woke the bebby but I niver.’ ’

Barefoot on the Cobbles will be published on 17 November 2018. More information about the novel can be found here. Copies will be available at various events in the weeks following the launch or can be pre-ordered from Blue Poppy Publishing or the author.