Mary Denison (1906 -1997): Biographical entry.

Mary Denison. “Church Bells and Tram Cars; a Vicarage Childhood”. 70pp. 9 chapters.

Narrator grew up in St Chad’s vicarage – it had been a farmhouse. Cold in winter and rare to have fire in bedrooms. Domestic staff, with maids. Writes about her father, the Vicar, and her mother, who kept parrots and told ghost stories.

Caught scarlet fever when she was 5 and stayed in a Fever Hopsital. While there she made fiends with other sick children from poorer areas of Leeds – society was very aware of class distinctions.

Waifs and Strays home near to Vicarage – it supplied the house with maids – narrator sent there to play with children in the nursery before going to school.

Schooling – at Private school. Lessons, in French, art and piano. Also interesting walks through the streets to school.

Church. Attendance at church services. Playing in churchyard being taken up bell tower.

Life in the area – lamplighter, hurdy gurdy man.

Home life – her nurse. Life in the nursery. Visitors. Reciting poetry to her godfather. A paying guest. Clothes. Whitsun processions. Harvesting, Christmas. Exploring the gardens.

Children were kept in ignorance of facts of life. A baby sister born, but died after 3 hours, and was buried while the other children were out of the way at school.

She writes of fascination with books, and the time she spent making up her own stories.

Trips to Leeds with her mother – shops, café. A visit to the Roman Catholic Cathedral, and also to a Wesleyan chapel.

Memories of World War 1. Cartoons in Punch; Belgian refugees; bereavements; Miliatary hospital,wartime songs; food shortages. Narrator writes about life at home, and in doing so illustrates the social changed brought about by the war. There was no young men working in the area; their places were taken by older men and women. The Vicarage maids left to find other work. The family had to look after themselves, i.e. cleaning knives. Her father joined the special constables and the Auxiliary Fire Brigade. Account finishes with the end of the war.

Main themes.

Childhood memories of growing up in a vicarage in Far Headingly, near Leeds, before World War 1. Gives domestic details. Society aware of class distinctions. Memories of World War 1. Illustrates the changes in society brought about by the war.

Bibliography:

Denison, Mary. ‘Church Bells and Tram Cars; a Vicarage Childhood’. Burnett Archive of Working-Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 1:250, available at http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/10895

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