As a youngster, Charles Hansford, like many working-class children, would play with just about anything he could find. In chapter one, The Forester’s Arms, he describes a memory he has of being a boy, when the timber yard that was often full of hand-made toys unfortunately caught fire and burnt down. After the disaster, Charles and the other children of the village would take delight in looking in fascination at the blackened rocking horses that had been rescued from the blaze (Hansford, p. 3).
It seems as a youngster Charles was quite a curious child, and someone who always liked to be busy. He describes putting on plays with a boy he had befriended in the basement of a local shop, “I became friendly with the shopkeeper’s son, George Webb, a lad of my own age. Sometimes we staged a show in the cellar under the shop, forcing smaller boys who came, to pay a farthing” (Hansford, p. 8). As well as the enjoyment of this activity, Charles also demonstrates an enthusiasm for adventure: after his mother moves him and his sister to Woolston, he decides to travel back to visit Brockenhurst with George Webb, “In the cellar we planned a camping trip to visit my old haunts at Brockenhurst; I had always hankered to go back there again” (Hansford, p. 8) I feel that this willingness to leave home and explore from a young age influenced Charles’ love of travel as he got older.
The writer develops a sense of independence and need for physical freedom from his town from being a youngster until his thirties – perhaps he found travelling to new places a form of escapism, as after the death of both his sister and father he was also starting out in a brand new environment. This is just my own speculation.
But a cultural activity that Charles does not seem to possess until adulthood is a thirst for literature and reading. In The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes, Jonathan Rose discusses what knowledge and power meant to the people of the working class, “Their aim was not to get on in the world but the disinterested pursuit of knowledge: The lover of learning, however straitened his circumstances, or rugged his condition, has yet a source of enjoyment within himself that the world never dreams of.” (Rose, p.21) Unstimulated by his education as a youngster, Charles finds a new enjoyment in reading, and by his early twenties beyond just reading books that are appropriate to his trade. He begins to develop a love for politics due to the working class identity he holds and the unfairness that his chosen career often presented him with.
As the memoir focuses primarily on Charles Hansford’s career as a bricklayer, it is evident that Charles true passion is work and construction. In Chapter thirteen, with help from his late father’s inheritance and the skills he had acquired from his trade, Charles tells his readership that he was able to build his own house. “During those four years which followed my first bout of travelling, I’d worked for various builders, picking up just enough knowledge to carry off my enterprise.
Gang of Bricklayers, pictured in the 1920s
I feel that the passions that Charles possesses allow him to better himself and create opportunity for himself, despite being a part of a lower class. He seems to be a hardworking as well as honest individual, who despite his many tribulations, remains to look on the brighter side of life at all times. I believe that his moral compass directed him to help the ones he loved the most: his family, which was the centre for his beliefs.
August, A. (2007) The British Working Class, 1832-1940. Harlow: Pearson Longman
Hansford, C. Memoir of a Bricklayer. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 1:745
Fig. 1. Gang of Bricklayers (1920s) [Photograph: Here pictured in the 1920’s we see a gang of bricklayers] At: http://www.communigate.co.uk/york/newmarske/page17.phtml [Accessed: 5th December, 2013]
Rose, J. (2001) The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. New Haven and London: Yale University Press