Fred Worrall (1890 – 1976): Culture, Habits and Belief

 In Fred’s memoir, despite the lengthy descriptions of his work life and his time in World War One, he does give some detail into his recreational habits and what life was like in 20th century England, Fred’s habits and beliefs give us an indication into what life was like for a working class individual. In his memoir, the first activity that can be considered a cultural past time is when he writes about him and his friends going to evening classes in order to pass an exam at the Institution of Chartered Secretaries. He writes “I went in the evening with one or two friends to the Central High School in Whitworth, Manchester.” (P. 2) This gives the reader some indication into what could have been considered a working class, early 20th century past time.

In the early 20th century, there was a rise within the working and lower middle classes in independent learning, where groups of people would attend evening or weekend classes in order to boost what education they had already. In Fred’s case, he used this time as a way of socialising with his friends as he attended these classes with people he knew. As well as being a sociable time for them, these classes also increased their abilities in the working world. The Institute of Chartered Secretaries is a professional body that was founded in 1891, and granted a Royal Charter in 1902, that certifies company secretaries in a variety of work places. For Fred and his friends, this was a chance to socialise and be together, and it was also a way for them to boost their educational and occupational skills.  

Before Fred and his friends went to their morning classes, he writes that they would go for a meal in “The Clarion,” a socialist cafe in Whitworth Street, Manchester. I found this part of his memoir interesting, as going to cafes was a popular past time for the working class in the early 20th century, due to the cafes being a place where someone could hear local news, socalise with friends, and have a meal and drink. Fred also went to “The Clarion”  because he mentions it was a socialist social club, indicating that as well as going to the club as a social event, I believe Fred was a socialist. Soclialism is a political movement which was popular with the working class, due to upholding worker’s rights and seeking fair human rights in a variety of fields.

Fred discusses his weekend activites: “On Saturday evenings we would go to the Manchester Hippodrome to see a lavish show with a water spectacular… Or we would go to the Gaiety to see one of the plays produced by Miss Herniman with tip top actors.” (P. 2) This is another clear example of Fred’s shift from working to lower middle class, as a popular pastime of the lower middle classes was to go to weekend shows and to plays. Plays were considered a cultured experience. Unfortunately, despite extensively researching I was unable to find information on Miss Herniman, Perhaps the plays Fred saw were done locally with actors and possibly plays hailing from the region.

Manchester Hippodrome

Fred’s memoir also gives the reader some indication as to how devout he was as a religous man. He writes “Sometimes we would go to the dance at the Parish Hall, We were good Church Members… No fancy dances then – Barn Dance, Waltz, Military Two Step and Lancers. The men all wore white gloves so as not to soil the ladies dresses, and you all had cards with a pencil attached to book your dances. Happy Days!” (P. 2) Fred was part of a close parish community and his vicar wrote job references for him. Fred attended church regularly on Sunday, as was the norm within working and lower middle class communities. It was also a normal activity to go to local Parish activities, as it was a popular socialising place, and where many people met their future partners. Fred may have met his future wife at the Parish Hall, though he did not marry her till leave during World War One.

Canon Pyon in Herefordshire


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