#100daysofbfotc Day 54: Mr Lefroy

Scales_Of_Justice.svgGeorge Frederick Lefroy appears in the court scenes at the beginning and end of Barefoot in the Cobbles. He is the solicitor for the defence, so plays a significant role in determining the outcome of the trial.

He was born in Bristol on 15 February 1882, the son of Reverend Frederick Anthony and Henrietta Lefroy née Gurney. By 1904, George was serving with the 1st Gloucesters, Royal Garrison Artillery Volunteers as a Second Lieutenant. George married Isobel Elaine May Beaman in Eastbourne, Sussex in 1908 and had one son. In the First World War he was a Lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He was invalided out and was awarded the Silver War Badge. The Lefroys lived at Orchard House, Pilton in Barnstaple and he set up in partnership with Mr Seldon. He died in 1938.

‘Mr Lefroy rearranged his papers. He wanted this strange little lady to go free and not just because it would enhance his professional reputation. He prided himself on his ability to represent and take seriously, the cases of the downtrodden and Polly was certainly that.’

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.

Advertisements

#100daysofbfotc Day 46: Mary – ‘Mrs William’

Mary, a fisherman’s wife, appears in the first chapter of Barefoot on the Cobbles. She is the first mother that we get to know in the novel and through Mary, we can experience a manifestation of motherhood that is rather different from those that are revealed in later chapters. Unlike most Victorian families, Mary has only two children, Albert and Fred. There is no evidence for any other live births but she may have suffered miscarriages. Of course, there could have been another reason for her untypical lack of fecundity. The story of how she opens her heart and home to young Eadie is a true one. Like a number of Bucks Mills’ wives, Mary was often known by the forename of her husband, to avoid confusion with others of the same surname, hence ‘Mrs William’.

St. Anne's Church (old postcard)

St. Anne’s, Bucks Mills

Mary’s post should really have been yesterday. She was born as Mary Jane on 22 September 1842 at Horn’s Cross, Alwington, Devon to Richard and Hannah Hamlyn née Lewis and she was the only child of their marriage. They were a farming family and Mary worked as a launderess; nonetheless, in 1862, Mary met and married William, a fisherman from the neighbouring parish. Theirs was the first marriage in the newly opened Anglican church at Bucks Mills. Their son, Albert arrived nine months later and his brother followed two years after that.

Mary lived at Rose Cottage in Bucks Mills for the last forty years of her life. She died in 1928.

More information about Bucks Mills can be found here.

Albert was explaining to his mother how he had rescued a distressed Eadie from the square.

‘Mebbe you stay here for a day or two maid, ’til your da calms down,’ said Mary.

There was reassurance in the words but who was the more comforted, Mary or this dark-visaged child with sadness in her soul? Mary turned to her son, who had unwittingly presented her with a few days of companionship.’

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 44: Captain Thomas Powell

Captain Thomas Folliott Powell was a gift to an author looking for interesting minor characters. He appears only briefly, in chapters 2 and 3 of Barefoot on the Cobbles, yet his behaviour has ramifications that echo through the remainder of the novel. When I first discovered that Polly had been a domestic servant at Chudleigh Villas and that the Powells had advertised for a servant in the local press at the appropriate time, I decided that they made a perfect match. On further investigation, the Powells’ story opened up several opportunities.

The position of troops during the mutiny – wikimedia

Thomas Folliott Powell was born on 3rd August 1834 in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, the son of William Powell, a solicitor and his wife, Eliza née Miller. The family descended from minor gentry. Thomas bought a commission in the army in 1853 and served in South Africa, the East Indies and India. As a Captain of the 6th regiment of foot, he was involved in the Indian Mutiny of 1857-9. Thomas retired from the army in 1865 and was able to sell his commission for £2500.

There is some confusion about the name of Thomas’ wife, who appears in the novel as Emily but who was in reality Mary Jane Winter (known as Amy), who had been born in the East Indies. They married in London in 1868. Four daughters and a son were born between 1876 and 1882. We can only speculate why there were no children during the first eight years of the marriage.

The family moved to Chudleigh Villas, Bideford in the late 1880s. Thomas seemed unable to match his lifestyle to his income and he was supported by his widowed mother, who provided the furnishings in their home and made them an allowance of £300 a year. Thomas had first been declared bankrupt in 1883, when he was living in the Plymouth area. He squandered the money he had made from his commission and it seems that a gambling addiction was a major contributor. His father had, perhaps wisely, left Thomas nothing in his will and when we meet him in the novel, Thomas is once again in financial difficulties. The family downsized to Ford Cottages, in New Road, Bideford. His second bankruptcy was annulled in 1898 and Thomas died in Portsea, Hampshire the following year.

‘ Mrs Powell regained her composure and resumed her tirade, ‘Why couldn’t you just have found enough to pay off Mr Tardrew? If you’d only done that, all this might have been avoided. Then there’s that money you owe to Tanton’s Hotel, how could you have run up such a bill? Your mother has been more than generous, we should be able to live comfortably on the three hundred pounds a year that she gives us. What on earth will she think? We cannot expect her to keep making us an allowance if you are such a spendthrift. It is no wonder that your brother has washed his hands of you.’

‘What’s done is done, eh Emily,’ Captain Powell replied. ‘Like as not I shall be declared bankrupt again.’ ’

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 40: Bertie

Bert Braund taken by Jim Willis

Taken by Jim Willis

Bertie’s presence in Barefoot in the Cobbles provides an opportunity to examine yet more facets of Albert and Polly’s brand of parenthood. Their second son, Bertie was born in 1900 and he spent much of his life in Clovelly, working on his father’s fishing boat. In today’s world, Bertie might have been labelled as having mild learning difficulties. A family story tells of how, as a schoolboy, he used to hold the donkeys and walk the unladen beasts up and down the street, when the visitors had finished their rides. Any silver coins he received as tips had to be handed to  his parents but bronze and copper were his to keep. After the deaths of his parents, Bertie went to live with his sister Violet in Bideford. He died in 1969.

‘The doctor looked at Bertie appraisingly.

‘Hello young man,’ he said. ‘You look just the age for my Scout Patrol. Have you heard of the Boy Scouts? I am sure you would enjoy the jolly times we have. We are off to camp in a week or two. What do you think of that?’

Bertie looked desperately at his mother for guidance. How on earth should he respond to this gentleman? He might have been speaking a foreign language for all Bertie understood of the words.

‘Oh no, sir,’ exclaimed Polly in horror. ‘Not Bertie sir, he’s well…. He’s not the sort for being away from home, camps and the like, no, no, no it would never do for Bertie.’ ’

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 39: King’s Cottage, Bucks Mills

King's Cottage coloured postcard

King’s Cottage, Bucks Mills is the home of Albert and Eadie’s grandparents. We get a glimpse inside in the first chapter of Barefoot on the Cobbles.

On 27 January 1845, Reverend John Thomas Pine Coffin, the landowner, had entered into an agreement with Albert’s grandfather, James, giving him permission to build ‘a house over the watercourse at the machine platform at Buckish, Parkham’. This land was adjacent to James’ father’s home. The new house was to become King’s Cottage and the rent was one shilling a year. By the time we open the front door of King’s Cottage in the novel, the family have lived there for forty five years. They were to remain there for a further twenty years. It was a substantial cottage, with a view over the bay and unique plumbing arrangements, which are mentioned in the book. Kings Cottage was described in the North Devon Journal in 1855, the house ‘at the lower extremity of Bucks, on a towering height above the beach, is a real curiosity. The rivulet that comes down between the hills, by and under part of his eagle’s nest premises, discharges itself in a cataract on the beach where it flows into the Atlantic.’

After the family left, it was tenanted by a relative of Clementine Churchill.

‘Even the gate was exciting, having, as it did, a ship’s wheel at the centre. Eadie’s small fingers would proudly trace the name that was engraved in the wooden frame: King’s Cottage. She smiled; her granfer was a king.’

More information about Bucks Mills can be found here.

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 37: Mark

Mark Braund bus conductorGrowing up in Clovelly, Mark was the fifth child in a family of eight. With so many other characters to write about, I did consider leaving Mark out of Barefoot on the Cobbles, yet I found that he needed to be there. Not only would his absence have left an unexplained gap in a run of evenly spaced children but what happened to Mark provided yet another strand that explained the subsequent behaviour of his mother, Polly.

Born in 1906, Mark resisted the lure of the sea and worked for the National Bus Company as a conductor and then a driver. In 1931, he was the conductor on a bus travelling through Horns Cross, when one of the passengers, Joseph Daniels, was killed as he alighted from the bus. No blame was attached to the driver, who was a distant cousin of Mark’s.

In 1935, Mark married Dorothy Good but he fell ill shortly afterwards and died in 1941. The couple had no children. Dorothy outlived him by over sixty years.

 ‘Polly pushed open the door to the bedroom where the boys slept. It always smelled musty, as only a boys’ room can. The clothes Mark had discarded the previous night were pooled on the floor next to the bed that he shared with Nelson. Polly passed her hand across the lad’s forehead. It felt clammy to the touch.’

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 36: Independent Street, Clovelly

Independent Street Flossie Harris on rightIndependent Street, one of Clovelly’s few side streets, first appears in the pages of Barefoot on the Cobbles when Mrs and Mrs Collins arrive as paying guests in the home of Mrs Stanbury.

There isnt much to be said about a single street, an ordinary street, yet the incidents that took place there are the inspiration for the novel. Those houses, those inhabitants and a particular set of circumstances, all contributed to an appalling tragedy.

‘The path divided; Jack and his sledge swung to the right. Amelia was roused from her musings as they drew up at the far end of a row of cottages. Bright hollyhocks framed the newly painted door and the brass knocker shone.

 ‘You there Mrs Stanbury?’ bellowed Jack, rapping vigorously with the knocker. ‘Your guests be ’ere.’ ’

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.